Riding the Pine


Welcome back.

First off – Mail Call
I just read your column, and I found a few things to be a bit, well, off.

(1) – The A’s have NOT made a Cameron-for-Byrnes-and-Bradford offer. This was a bit of misreporting. Billy Beane denied this up and down, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Firstly, I don’t think he wants to add Cameron’s payroll, especially when he’s not going to start the season completely healthy. Secondly, this may be a “rebuilding” year for Beane, so I don’t think he wants to make the two-year Cameron investment and have that hanging over his head, especially if new management comes in.
Oh, and Mike Cameron’s surgery was on his wrist, not his knee. And no, he won’t be playing full time three weeks into spring training. That’s when he will be able to swing a bat for the first time, as it stands now. Right now it looks like he’ll be PLAYING in May, after the season starts.

(2) – Kevin Millar is NOT defensively equivalent to Doug Mientkiewicz. Mientkiewicz, just this year, had only 5 errors in 124 games at first base with Minnesota and Boston. Millar had 6 in 69 games. Not to mention the statistical superiority Doug has in range factor and fielding percentage. And this is just for last year, which to be honest, wasn’t D.M.’s best defensive season. D.M. is in the elite range of defensive first basemen…it’s why Boston brought him in in the first place. Heck, he won the Gold Glove in 2001! Millar is average or below-average, and should stick to the outfield when he can.

(3) – Albert Pujols’s injury IS important. You made the claim that it didn’t hurt his numbers, but it quite possibly did. Pujols has come out and said that he doesn’t want to experience the kind of pain he was playing in last season…and that it bothered him all season. We could’ve seen a 55-60 homer performance from him if he was at 100%. The guy’s a gamer…I wouldn’t expect a super-significant power decrease this year unless it gets really bad, but his RBI numbers might be down if Edmonds and Rolen don’t play QUITE like MVP’s again, which is more than likely.

At any rate, those’re a couple of things I caught or had opinions on and wanted to comment about. Thanks for the time.

Thanks for reading Bryan. I just wanted to quickly respond:
1. My column as of right now has been a baseball rumor mill. I gather rumors from various sources and write about the interesting/most important ones. Cameron has been in the rumor mill since Beltran was signed. One of the rumor was to Oakland. I agree that Beane would not take the salary on, but it is still a major rumor at this time. Cameron’s contract, which I just found out, has a limited no trade clause that includes Oakland.

Thanks for pointing out the injury. I had seen that before I wrote it, but between a brain fart and not remembering where I had seen it, I wrote it wrong. I will point that out this week.

2. I based my decision that I would keep Millar over Mientkiwicz on stats. One thing I found out at Baseball Prospectus is that they were both below average defenders last year. He is a clip of what they said:

Defensively, one is inclined to think, at least on reputation, that Mientkiewicz is superior defensively. According to FRAA, though, both were slightly below average, Millar at -1 runs and Mientkiewicz at -5.

I was also thinking of this from a fantasy perspective, since I am a big fantasy baseball player. Millar, IMO, is a better player.

3. What I was trying to say about Pujols is, according to him, the injury was not as bad as the media made it out to be. He spoke to a local journalist saying it was blown out of proportion. Last week, he got a new treatment that worked well. He should be back at full strength, but if it were to bother him again, his stats should match last years.

This week I am looking at some players you should sneak onto your roster (I don’t want to call them underrated, but they are guys coming off injuries that should rebound and young guys you may not know). If I could build a roster to perform, while not selecting some of the big name players (i.e. Pujols, Beltran, etc.), this would be it.

C – Joe Mauer (Twins) – .308/83/28/79 – I have him as underrated because he will be forgotten around the time of fantasy drafts. He will be ranked off of what he did, so he will be low on the list of catchers. His listed stats are a projection based off of last seasons spread over 162 games.
1B – Justin Morneau (Twins) – .259/75/33/105 – Morneau is the prototypical first baseman, but he should become more. Right now, he has the power and the ability, but he is lacking plate discipline (I wouldn’t say he is horrible, but he will improve). He is also a viable option for keeper leagues at age 24.
2B – Mark Loretta (Padres) – .303/78/9/62 – Loretta has been one of the best kept secrets in baseball for years. While in Milwaukee, he was used only in a part time role. Last year, as a starter in San Diego, he easily became one of the elite second baseman in the National League.
3B – Aaron Boone (Indians) – .270/80/21/88 – Boone will drop in most leagues because since he didn’t play last year. Many will also be cautious due to the injury (he tore a ligament in his knee last off-season). Boone will be a good second tier third baseman this season, so he is worth a flyer in the mid to late rounds.
SS – Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) – .269/99/12/65 – Rollins will be the second best shortstop in the NL this year (behind Nomar). He has battle inconsistency in the past, but has speed to make up for his lack of power and discipline. He should be taken in the mid-rounds and would make for a solid keeper.
OF – Aaron Rowand (White Sox) – .290/68/16/55 – These numbers are deceiving. Last year he put up career highs in every state (.310/94/24/69, 17 stolen bases) at age 26. He has a high ceiling and should get closer to it this year. He says his goal is to be the White Sox’s first 30/30 man.
OF – Brad Wilkerson (Nationals) – .259/94/23/67 – Wilkerson is normally overshadowed because he was up in Montreal. He puts up solid numbers each year and is still young. He will be a middle round draft pick, but should be start in most leagues.
OF – Carlos Lee (Brewers) – .288/98/28/102 – Lee is here because he will now be the star of a team (he always paid second fiddle to Magglio Ordonez). In Milwaukee, he will lead the offense for years to come and should be a good veteran presence for all the young players that will becoming up in the next few years.
DH – Dmitri Young (Tigers) – .293/80/20/81 – Young will slip in most drafts, again, because of injuries last year. He is consistent with the bat and would be perfect for a late round pick up. Also, his stock should rise if they bring in Ordonez.

SP – Oliver Perez (Pirates) – 3.86/1.33/231/9 – Perez should be the ace of the Pirates for years to come. He is young, has some nasty pitches, and can strike out anyone. He will be an early pick, but will worth it in keeper leagues.
SP – Jake Peavy (Padres) – 3.53/1.29/187/14 – Much the same as Perez, but with fewer strikeouts. He will anchor the Padres in on of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball. He, again, is a solid keeper.
SP – Joel Pineiro (Mariners) – 3.66/1.26/151/14 – Joel Pineiro is another young pitcher with much to offer. He has been a solid contributor with the Mariners for a couple of years, but last year ended early due to injury. Pineiro should rebound, and with the upgraded offense, should get back to where he was.
SP – Brandon Webb (Diamondbacks) – 3.24/1.34/179/9 – Webb could have had a great year last year, but the offense came up lame. This year should be better, but Webb will have to carry more weight with Randy Johnson gone. I think he will rebound and should be a good sleeper pick.
SP – Zack Greinke (Royals) – 3.97/1.16/141/11 – If Greinke were on a better team, he would be the next big thing. The only problem is he is in Kansas City. Greinke will have some tough times without decent run support, but for a keeper league, he is worth riding it out.
RP – Scott Linebrink (Padres) – 3.39/1.33/74/3w – Middle relievers have little value in fantasy baseball unless the league you’re in has holds as a category. Baseball Prospectus says “A Hold is credited any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a Save Situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead. Linebrink is had one of the best middle relief seasons last year, and should continue for years to come. He is the third best reliever on the team, but is the youngest, so his value in keeper leagues should increase, a la Fransisco Rodriguez. (Middle relievers are not something that an early round draft pick should be used on. They are easily replacable.)
RP – Yhancy Brazoban (Dodgers) – 2.48/0.96/59/13w – Brazoban, one of the names involved in the original Randy Johnson trade deal (you know the one that was happening until the Dodgers wisely pulled out), and would have been a steal for the Diamondbacks to get. Brazoban will be a solid set up man again, and has plenty of years to develop into a closer.
CL – Bob Wickman (Indians) – 3.70/1.42/66/16s – This is more of a gut feeling than anything. Wickman has been a decent closer in the past, but has had injury problems since he has been in Cleveland. I wouldn’t recommend anyone take him early in a draft, but he is a good option for a back up closer.
CL – Eddie Guardado (Mariners) – 4.41/1.30/62/12s – Again, these numbers are deceiving. Guardado’s career began as a starter for the first 2 years, then set up man for 7 years. The last 3 have been as a closer. Since then, he has averaged 35 saves (only 18 in an injury shorten season).

That’s it for this week – read the other columns.

Eugene Tierney