Saturday, April 09, 2005

Josh Willingham Report

Josh Willingham, C/1B/LF, Florida Marlins
Drafted 491st Overall (17th Rd), 2000 Draft, University of North Alabama
Bats R/Throws R
26 YO, 6'1", 200 lbs

He's a hitter, pure and simple. He's not a bad defensive catcher, but not a particularly good one either. He's also blocked at the position by Paul LoDuca. The Marlins also blocked his other main position when they signed Carlos Delgado to be their first baseman. They've toyed with play him on an outfield corner, though he has exactly the kind of footspeed that you'd expect from a catcher, so range will probably be an issue there as well. His bat deserves attention and playing time.

2004 Carolina: .281/.449/.565, 24 2B, 24 HR, 91 BB, 87 K, 18 HBP, 338 AB
mL Career: .272/.412/.493, 101 2B, 72 HR, 306 BB, 379 K, 1506 AB

He obviously has some power and a lot of patience. He's an OBP machine. If you're a team like Tampa, wouldn't YOU want a chance to spot a bat like that in at catcher, DH, first, and left field on an everyday basis?

The comps run from converted catchers like Matt LeCroy and Craig Wilson to general bat-only thumpers like Erubiel Durazo and Dmitri Young. I know I'd rather carry around Willingham than a stiff like Juan Encarnacion or an overpaid, aging Jeff Conine. The argument for now is moot as Willingham will start the season as an Isotope. Any sane team should be clamoring for him at some point this season. While he's not a good defender anywhere, his defensive versatility combined with his bat should provide a pretty valuable player given a manager willing to be creative with his lineups.

ETA: Any Day Now
4 Stars

Friday, April 08, 2005

Willy Aybar Report

Willy Aybar, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, Dominican Republic
Bats B/Throws R
22 YO, 6'0", 185 lbs

Aybar is the brother of Angels infielder Erick Aybar. He's a very different player though. Erick is a defensive force at short, while Aybar is average at second base. Erick is a free swinger who rarely walks, while Willy has a fairly nice walk rate for his age and level. Willy doesn't have his brother's speed, and scouts don't like him nearly as much. Statheads on the other hand like him a lot, and it is easy to see why.

2004 Jacksonville: .276/.346/.425, 27 2B, 15 HR, 50 BB, 77 K, 482 AB
mL Career: .254/.335/.386, 114 2B, 45 HR, 240 BB, 312 K, 2003 AB

The Southern League is a tough place to hit a baseball, and a 21 year old second baseman who hits that well there has something going for him. Just as hitters who smash their way through the California League tend to become somewhat overrated, batters who do a better than average job in the Carolina League, Florida State League, or Southern League tend to fly under the scouting radar.

Like Delwyn Young, there's been a lot of noise about moving him to third base or an outfield corner. He's probably more capable of staying at second than Young. As with Young, if he sticks at second base, his upside is something on the order or the guy that he's looking to succeed, Jeff Kent. A more modest comparison would be maybe something on the order of a better version of Keith Ginter or in other words, Chase Utley. Maybe Ron Belliard with a less dysfunctional career path?

ETA: Mid/Late 2006
4 Stars

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wilson Betemit Report

Wilson Betemit, IF, Atlanta Braves
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1996, Dominican Republic
Bats B/Throws R
24 YO, 6'3", 190 lbs

He's not the stud that prospect hawks like me thought he would be back in 2001. He's stagnated and is out of options, meaning he stays on the Braves roster this year.

2004 Richmond: .278/.336/.466, 24 2B, 13 HR, 32 BB, 99 K, 356 AB
mL Career: .279/.338/.426, 149 2B, 26 3B, 56 HR, 230 BB, 586 K, 2511 AB

The power has increased a little bit over the last couple years. And he's become a very capable defensive third baseman, but he's still stuck. He doesn't hit well enough to make himself a real option at third base, and he generally isn't good enough to force his way past Raffy Furcal. For this year, he rides the pine most of the time, barring injury to Chipper Jones or Furcal.

There's a number of ways he can go from here. He could ride down the Enrique Wilson career path and become a mediocre utility infield, never living up to the expectations that were generated by his early rise into the upper minors. Or he could luck his way into a starting gig by way of injury, perform well, and become a league average shortstop. Or he could mark time for several years before one year finding a big power spike in his late 20's/early 30's and become a Tony Batista type.

ETA: Now
2 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Willy Taveras Report

Willy Taveras, CF, Houston Astros
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'0", 160 lbs

Taveras made the opening day roster and is starting in center field while Lance Berkman is out. He's probably in a fight to the death with his friend and fellow outfielder Luke Scott for a starting spot in the big leagues. Taveras might win for his defensive abilities. He'd be a much better center fielder than Jerome Lane, even if he doesn't have the same ability to hit for power.

2003 Kinston: .282/.381/.350, 9 2B, 6 3B, 2 HR, 52 BB, 68 K, 57 SB, 12 CS, 397 AB
2004 Round Rock: .335/.402/.386, 13 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 38 BB, 76 K, 55 SB, 11 CS, 409 AB
mL Career: .296/.379/.381, 74 2B, 24 3B, 15 HR, 212 BB, 361 K, 257 SB, 1981 AB

He's another one of these guys with serious speed and little or no power. Given he can reclaim some of that 2003 walk rate that he gave up last year, he's a traditionalist's wet dream of a leadoff hitter. He won't hit for the kind of average he showed in Round Rock, but I don't think that minor league career line is out of the question, which given his flycatching ability in center field and his deadly effectiveness on the basepaths, would make him a pretty valuable player. It would make him Juan Pierre or Scott Podsednik with more walks. In other words, it would only make him a decent outfielder, but an extremely valuable roto property.

ETA: A Couple Days Ago
3 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Callix Crabbe Report

Callix Crabbe, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 349th Overall (12th Rd), 2002 Draft, Manatee Community College
Bats B/Throws R
22 YO, 5'8", 190 lbs

What a great name. This is the kind of name that makes me really hope the player works out and ends up a major league regular just for the novelty of having a player with that name bouncing around the league. Wouldn't you want a Callix Crabbe on your fantasy team? I would.

Crabbe is another slap hitting middle infielder who loves to use his legs. He isn't going to hit it over the fence, but he hits a lot of triples.

2004 High Desert: .291/.367/.419, 26 2B, 11 3B, 7 HR, 59 BB, 64 K, 34 SB, 11 CS, 13 GIDP, 540 AB
mL Career: .287/.371/.402, 67 2B, 21 3B, 12 HR, 156 BB, 150 K, 81 SB, 29 CS, 27 GIDP, 1255 AB

You have to love the batting eye here. He has a great walk rate and a reasonable strikeout rate. Even if he doesn't hit home runs, he hits some doubles, so he might be able to avoid the trap where hitters with no power and great batting eyes get a steady diet of strikes just because the pitcher isn't scared of what will happen if he does make contact. Still, I want to see him turn on a pitch or at least hit some more liners in the gaps. A .128 isolated slugging percentage in the California League is pretty weak, even for a second baseman.

Crabbe can obviously steal a base. His defense at second is also pretty good, so he won't be forced to move to the outfield by his glove. He has a pretty interesting mix of tools and skills. He's blocked by Rickie Weeks, but he should be a good trade target or a fallback in case Weeks doesn't work out. At worst, he's Christian Guzman playing 60 feet closer to the first baseman. To me, he looks like a David Eckstein starter kit.

ETA: Late 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Predictions

With the start of the season, I asked some friends of TYBITF to make some predictions.



Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing, reprinted.

AL East:
Boston
New York
Baltimore
Toronto
Tampa Bay

AL Central:
Minnesota
Cleveland
Detroit
Chicago
Kansas City

AL West:
Oakland
"Los Angeles"
Seattle
Texas

NL East:
Philly
New York
Atlanta
Florida *I already regret this
Washington

NL Central:
St. Louis
Chicago
Houston
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee
Cincinnati

NL West:
San Diego
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Arizona
Colorado

AL Playoffs:
Boston Over Minnesota
Oakland Over NYY
Boston Over Oakland

NLDS:
St. Louis Over Philly
Chicago Over San Diego
Chicago Over St. Louis

World Series:
Boston Over Chicago

AL MVP:
Johan Santana

NL MVP:
Albert Pujols

AL Cy Young:
Johan Santana

NL Cy Young:
Ben Sheets

AL ROY:
Jeremy Reed

NL ROY:
Jeff Francis

Minor League Player of the Year:
Ian Stewart




Brad Dowdy of No Pepper

AL East
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees*
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
 
AL Central
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
 
AL West
Anaheim Angels
Oakland A's
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
 
NL East
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins*
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
 
NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
 
NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies

AL Playoffs
Boston over Minnesota
Anaheim over New York
Boston over Anaheim
 
NL Playoffs
Atlanta over Los Angeles
St. Louis over Florida
Atlanta over St. Louis

World Series
Atlanta over Boston, 4-3
 
AL MVP
Manny Ramirez

AL Cy Young
Randy Johnson

AL ROY
Jeremy Reed

NL MVP
Albert Pujols

NL Cy Young
Pedro Martinez

NL ROY
Anthony Reyes

Minor League Pitcher of the Year
Chad Billingsley

Minor League Hitter of the Year
Delmon Young 




Ryan Richards of the Indians Compendium

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL East
Boston
New York (WC)
Baltimore
Toronto
Tampa Bay

Ho hum. I threw in a bit of a twist, giving the Red Sox the division,
but both Boston and New York make the playoffs.

AL Central
Minnesota
Cleveland
Detroit
Chicago
Kansas City

The Twins have too much pitching for the other teams to overcome.

AL West
Los Angeles
Texas
Oakland
Seattle

Texas didn't really build on their 2004 success with any meaningful
acquisitions beyond Richard Hidalgo, and if you take into account the
park effects of TBiA, didn't have a very good offense to begin with.
The Angels might run away with this division.


AL MVP
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Miguel Tejada.

AL CY YOUNG
Roy Halladay - yep, another limb.

AL ROY
Jeremy Reed

AL MOY
Mike Scioscia

NL East
Atlanta
Florida
Philadelphia
New York
Washington

I had a tough time picking 1-4 in this division. The Braves look like
the most well-rounded team, and how can you pick against them given
their history? The combination of Carlos Delgado, Miguel Cabrera, and
their rotation should keep the Marlins in contention for the Wild
Card, but the tougher schedule will hurt them.

NL Central
St. Louis
Chicago (WC)
Cincinnati
Houston
Milwaukee
Pittsburgh

As far as I'm concerned, this is a two-team race, contingent on the
health of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. The Astros offense took a huge
hit in the offseason, plus they won't have Lance Berkman for a while.
Will this be the year Ken Griffey Junior stays healthy? I'll say no,
but the Reds offense will still be potent, with Pena and Kearns
improving from a year ago.

NL West
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco
Arizona
Colorado

I'm going with the Dodgers almost by default. If I knew Barry Bonds
was completely healthy, I'd probably pick the Giants. The Rockies on
paper look like the worst team in baseball.

AL PLAYOFFS:
Boston over Minnesota
New York over Los Angeles
New York over Boston


NL PLAYOFFS:
Atlanta over Chicago
St. Louis over Los Angeles
St. Louis over Atlanta

WORLD SERIES
St. Louis over New York in 6

NL MVP
Albert Pujols. It's finally his year.

NL CY YOUNG
Pedro Martinez

NL ROY
Gavin Floyd

NL MOY
Jim Tracy

MINOR LEAGUE POY
Delmon Young



Dyehardfan from RoyalRevival

AL EAST
Boston
NY*
Baltimore
Toronto
Tampa Bay

AL CENTRAL
Minnesota
Cleveland
Chicago
Detroit
Kansas City

AL WEST
Oakland
Anaheim
Texas
Seattle

NL EAST
Atlanta
Philadelphia
Florida
New York
Washington

NL CENTRAL
St. Louis
Chicago*
Houston
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee
Cincinnati

NL WEST
LA
San Diego
Arizona
San Francisco
Colorado

World Series
Twins Over Cubs

AL MVP
Alex Rodriguez

AL Cy Young
Johan Santana

AL ROY
Ruben Gotay

NL MVP
Albert Pujols

NL Cy Young
Tim Hudson

NL ROY
Garrett Atkins

Random comments:

Hudson + Mazzone = lock
The Nationals are better than a 68 win team… just not in that division.

The Cardinals will simply outscore everyone on the way to another division title

The NL West race may not be that close.. The Giants are projected for half a season of Barry.

I wanted to pick Morneau for MVP.

The White Sox may lose 100 games.. that’s how much I hate what they’ve done to their offense.

Seattle would win 85+ games if they played in the Central.

Texas is a maverick team.. but their pitching was both bad and lucky last year so I don’t see any real improvement.

Oakland will have a disaster of a first half, only to rise up and steal the division away from the Los Angeles Angels of whatever.

Atkins is a pretty weak pick for NL ROY, but I don’t see Francis putting up pretty numbers.. It will be a Rockie most likely.



My Picks

AL East
Boston
New York
Baltimore
Toronto
Tampa

The Yankees are a troubling team. They have a great core, but quite a bit of it is aging fast and as the Diamondbacks and Orioles have proven in the past, the bottom tends to fall out of old teams far faster than the general public expects. If anybody from the Posada, Jeter, Sheffield group gets hurt for an extended period of time, their offense starts looking pretty ordinary. Bernie Williams is decaying before our eyes. Their defense is one of the 5 worst in baseball. And their bench is embarrassing. And I haven't even touched tea fact that this so-called juggernaut is honestly going to give Tino Martinez and Tony Womack 600+ plate appearances. And despite what the Baseball Tonight goons said last week, their pitching staff is not the best in a long time. It is instead a truly great, but old #1 starter, a merely good Mike Mussina, an old, fragile Kevin Brown, a slightly above average, overpaid Carl Pavano, and the ticking time-bomb known as Jaret Wright. The odds against Wright being a Yankee at this time next year have to be about the same as the chances of my being hired as the new PR director in the Bronx, which after this paragraph will be surely nil. The only scenario I can envision where he's on next year's roster is if they can't find a team to dump him on. It isn't like he has Javier Vazquez's track record of competence. Once you get past last year's flukey, Mazzone-inspired run, it's a whole lot of ugly.

AL Central
Minnesota
Cleveland
Detroit
Chicago
KC

Minnesota improved its team in the offseason by letting Guzman and Koskie go. Bartlett is a better player than Guzman at a fraction of the price. And while Koskie is a much better defensive third baseman than Cuddyer, he's also fragile and doesn't carry the offensive upside that Cuddyer does. The Twins also have nice bullpen, the best pitcher in baseball, and stealth MVP candidate Justin Morneau.

The more I look at the Tigers team, the more I like it. The opposite is true of the White Sox. And I think that my Royals will improve from last year if for no other reason than because the little moves I've liked should all add up. Don't get me wrong, there's still a long way to go, but last year's outfield was an abomination, the pitching staff was a huge mess, and they played Ken Harvey and Desi Relaford far too much. I like players like DeJesus, Gotay, and Buck. None of them are stars, but they won't be liabilities, and that's enough for a small boost. Look for around 70-75 wins.

AL West
Oakland
Anaheim
Texas
Seattle

I think Oakland will surprise a lot of mainstream fans and journalists. Their starting staff won't be as strong as it has been, but it will exceed expectations, and the improved offense and bullpen will counteract the gap between the 2004 and 2005 rotations. Also, barely anybody noticed that Oakland has put together possibly the best defensive squad in baseball.

I'm not calling the Angels LA-A or anything like that. I'm holding out.

NL East
Atlanta
Philly*
Florida
New York
Washington

Is there a more interesting race this year? If there is, I can't find it. There are certainly no knock-out teams that look like they can win 100 and take the pennant by storm, but there are 4 competent teams with strengths and weaknesses. The Cards are clearly the best team in the NL, but these guys run second through fifth. I wouldn't be surprised if they finished exactly the opposite of what I predict here.

NL Central
St Louis
Chicago
Milwaukee
Houston
Cincinnati
Pittsburgh

The Cards are followed by a whole lot of mediocre. I'm picking the Cubs second, but if things in their rotation break the wrong way, they could slide down to the middle of this group. It will take a breakthrough from Corey Patterson and good health in the rotation to give the NL East foursome a real race for the wild card.

Milwaukee could surprise with an improved lineup and rotation with some potential. If they bring up Prince Fielder at midseason, it could get really, really interesting. I thought the missed out on an opportunity to capitalize on Lyle Overbay's career year by not trading him and filling the spot temporarily. There would have been some puzzled look in some corners, but Fielder is coming on fast, and nobody is under the delusion that this team is competing for a playoff spot this year. It keeps you from having to sort out a real logjam and it puts you in a position to sell high.

NL West
LA
San Diego
Arizona
San Fran
Colorado

This is an ugly division IMO. The Padres and Dodgers have some nice players, but I'm not in love with either team. The Giants without Barry Bonds are the Washington Nationals with more gray hair. The Snakes improved their team in the short term, but tied themselves to long term albatross deals in the all encompassing goal of getting to 75 wins. That doesn't exactly make my heart beat any faster. I will say though, that Jose Cruz was a great pickup and is horribly underrated. The Rockies are just marking time until Ian Stewart comes to town.

AL Playoffs
Minnesota Over Oakland
Boston Over Anaheim
Boston Over Minnesota

NL Playoffs
Atlanta Over LA
St Louis Over Philly
St Louis over Atlanta

World Series
Boston Over St Louis

AL MVP
Eric Chavez

AL Cy Young
Johan Santana

AL ROY
Jeremy Reed

NL MVP
Albert Pujols

NL Cy Young
Jake Peavy

NL ROY
J.J. Hardy

Minor League Player of the Year
Daric Barton

Game on!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Jason Bourgeois Report

Jason Bourgeois, 2B, Atlanta Braves
Drafted 56th Overall (2nd Rd), 2000 Draft, HS, Houston, TX
Bats B/Throws R
23 YO, 5'9", 185 lbs

2004 was a lost year for Bourgeois, who failed to show that his .329/.416/.473 half season in the California League in 2003 was anything more than a hot streak punctuated by park factors. He's a speedy guy who doesn't really try to hit the ball deep. At his best, he's Joey Gathright with an infield glove. At his worst, he's a generic speedy infielder.

2004 Frisco: .256/.315/.330, 19 2B, 7 3B, 2 HR, 44 BB, 81 K, 30 SB, 10 CS, 530 AB
mL Career: .271/.341/.377, 84 2B, 21 3B, 25 HR, 178 BB, 291 K, 102 SB, 26 CS, 1897 AB

He's a very effective baserunner and he's no stiff on defense, so even if he doesn't hit, he still has a small chance of catching on as a utility player. However, a lot of teams demand that a player with his skill set also be able to play a credible shortstop in order to earn a job on their bench.

For the most part, I think the Bourgeois of 2004 is the real one. He's only had 2 samples where he's looked like a real hitter, one was in the friendly confines of the California League and the other was in 2001 in short season ball. He could surprise us and turn back into a legit 3 1/2 star prospect, but I wouldn't put any of my own money on that. The Braves will give him a shot as they claimed him off waivers from the Ranger, who clearly lost their patience.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
1 1/2 Stars

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