Friday, March 26, 2004

Lost In Translation 

The Yankees have arrived safely in Japan, as have the Devil Rays, who unlike the Bombers, have set their roster already. I'll take a look at their 25-man before Tuesday (I'm still kidding myself about finishing my division-by-division previews, if nothing else I'll get the AL East up before the Yankees and Rays play in Tokyo . . . I hope). In the meantime, here's an amusing diversion from ESPN that teaches us two things. 1) The conventional wisdom on Derek Jeter's fielding has taken a complete 180 since A-Rod came to the Yankees; 2) the CW still has it wrong--it's not errors that are the problem, it's range.

And, as my guitar player says, that's all I got for ya.

posted by Cliff at 3:05 PM

Thursday, March 25, 2004

In like a lion, out like a Lamb 

The Yankees have traded Mike Lamb to the Astros for 23-year-old A-ball reliever Juan DeLeon. Scott at YM&tR, gets the scoop there. Impressive that the Yankees were able to trade Lamb rather than simply release him. Also good news for Lamb, as I'm sure Jimy Williams is dying to give some of Morgan Ensberg's at-bats away, which makes this bad fantasy news for some folks.

Meanwhile, in their final state-side game of the spring (sorta), the Yankees pounded the Phillies 9-0 on the back of a two-out, three run dinger by Enrique Wilson. (What is up with this guy?!). Kevin Brown started allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out five in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Here's the rest:

9 - 12 - 1 Yankees
0 - 3 - 1 Phillies

Starting Line-up:

Kenny Lofton (CF)
Jorge Posada (C)
Ruben Sierra (RF)
Tony Clark (1B)
Hideki Matsui (LF)
Andy Phillips (3B)
Enrique Wilson (2B)
Felix Escalona (SS)

Think that's bad? Check out the list of subs: Darren Bragg (CF), Jeff Deardorff (1B), Homer Bush (RF), Joe Girardi (C), John Rodriguez (LF), Caonabo Cosme (C), Ferdin Tejada (SS), Bubba Crosby (PH)

John Rodriguez went 2 for 3 with a triple and an RBI. Enrique Wilson added a double and another run scored to his three-run dinger in three at-bats. Escalona made the lone Yankee error.

Gabe White, Jim Mann, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera (doing more than his share of traveling this spring) followed Brown allowing one hit (Mo) and one walk (Mann) in 3 1/3 innings. Gordon struck out two in the eight, Mo one in the ninth.

The Yanks will be on a plane bound for Japan in just a few hours, while I'll be at the Baseball Prospectus Pizza Feed in Brooklyn in exactly 60 min. Hope to see some of you there.

posted by Cliff at 5:48 PM

Not the face! Anything but the face! 

The Yankee regulars beat the Red Sox bench at home yesterday in one of the most boring baseball games I've ever seen. Here's the usual:

6 - 10 - 0 Red Sox
8 - 12 - 1 Yankees

The one error was a harsh ruling on a play made by Erick Almonte at third that would have been an out had Tony Clark read the bounce of Almonte's throw better.


Kenny Lofton - CF
Derek Jeter - SS
Alex Rodriguez - 3B
Jason Giambi - 1B
Gary Sheffield - RF
Hideki Matsui - LF
Ruben Sierra - DH
John Flaherty - C
Enrique Wilson - 2B

Wilson showed no ill affects from the sprained ankle that kept him on the bench over the past few days.

Subs: Darren Bragg (LF), Felix Escalona (SS), Erick Almonte (3B), Tony Clark (1B), Mike Vento (RF), Bubba Crosby (CF), Sal Fasano (DH), Joe Girardi (C), Homer Bush (2B).

Bush made a nice play at second. Matsui continued his hot hitting going 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored. Giambi was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Lofton and Matsui tripled, Wilson, Almonte, Escalona and Fasano doubled. Twelve of the combined 22 hits in this game went for extra bases, yet it was still dull. Maybe I'm just sick of games that don't count at this point.

Donovan Osborne didn't do much to impress, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks in five innings while striking out five. Jim Kaat protested, saying that you couldn't really get on Osborne for the one pitch that turned into a three-run Dave McCarty home run. I don't see why not, and why where there two men on anyway? The door just opened a bit wider for Jorge DePaula, whom I am now hoping will nail down the fifth spot this weekend in Japan. The latest Pinstriped Bible makes a gentle, but convincing case for relative youngsters DePaula and Crosby to make the team over vets Osborne and Bragg.

Speaking of those final roster spots, despite my listing him among the contenders for the final two bench spots on Tuesday, it sounds as if Miguel Cairo, as I had previously assumed, has his spot wrapped up, leaving just one spot for Crosby, Bragg, Bush, Lamb, Escalona, and Vento to fight over. Sal Fasano has been reassigned to minor league camp. Erick Almonte, unable to find a home on any of the Yankees minor league teams, was released after yesterday's game. I'm a bit disappointed about the loss of Almonte. Not that he is any great shakes, but he showed some competence at third base and can hit a bit more than your typical futility infielder. I saw him as a valuable guy to keep in Columbus to use as they did last year in the event of an injury in the infield. Perhaps the Yankees feel that Andy Phillips is ready to fill that role.

Alex Graman is still hanging around and gave up one run on two hits and a walk while striking out two in two innings. Quantrill allowed just one hit while striking out one in a scoreless eighth. Scott Proctor got himself in a jam in the ninth with a walk and two hits, allowing one run to score on a two-out bloop by Brian Daubach to shallow left, before striking out Adam Hyzdu to end the game.

The big news, however was that Alex Rodriguez took a ball off the face early in the game and was immediately taken out of the game. No worries folks, he'll be fine. The play came on a hit to left that sent runner Brian Daubach to third. Matsui fired to Alex covering the bag but the throw tailed into the sliding Daubach, careening off his foot and into Alex's left eye. Alex immediately covered his face, turned toward the dugout and knelt down in obvious pain. When he was taken out of the game, the swelling was already significant (A-Rod, feeling fine at camp today, was dubbed "Puff Daddy" by his teammates), but a CAT scan revealed nothing more than a bruise. Hopefully his vision won't be effected short-term and he will be cleared to play on Tuesday. On an interesting side note, Rodriguez was struck in the face by a ball in that exact spot while sitting in the dugout during a high school game. That time his cheekbone was broken and required surgery.

In other news, Bernie went 1 for 5 with a double as a DH in the Clippers' afternoon game against Syracuse. Mike Mussina started that game allowing one run on four hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings while striking out five and throwing over 60 percent of his 78 pitches for strikes.

posted by Cliff at 12:37 PM

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The International Date Line is a toll call 

My jet lag concerns about the Yankees' impending trip to Japan are addressed in Tyler Kepner's latest New York Times piece. Sounds like Gene Monahan will have his hands full (though Monahan deserves better than the article's headline--I had assumed his position was already important). There are some interesting factors that I hadn't considered, including possible dehydration during the 17-hour flight. Dehydration, of course, leads to cramping. Bad stuff for a team coming off a shortened spring.

Monahan has already passed out a booklet to the players that includes four pages on jet lag, and is bringing three massage therapists on the trip. During the flight he'll be carefully monitoring the players' fluid intake (no alcohol, but 16 ounces of water per hour), and sleep patterns. The dates in the article are a bit confusing ("after midnight on Saturday," I finally realized, means 12:xx am on Saturday morning), but here's how it breaks down:

Japan is 14-hours ahead of us here in New York. As I'm writing this, it's 3:30pm EST on Wednesday and 5:30am Thursday in Japan. Thus it will be 10:00am Friday EST when the Yankees arrive in Japan "after midnight on Saturday." Given the 17-hour flight time that means that the team will be taking off at about 8:00pm tomorrow. Monahan wants everybody to stay awake for two hours followed by six-hours of sleep, then stay awake for the remaining eight hours of the flight. The plan is for the team to arrive in Japan just after midnight and get a full-night's sleep, probably from 2am until 10:00 or noon. They've got a 3:00pm practice on Saturday in Japan (1:00 am Saturday EST). Sunday morning some players will visit a military base and then their first exhibition game, which will be broadcast live at 10:00pm Saturday EST on YES, will take place Sunday at noon in Japan. The Yankees remaining games are all 7:00pm starts in Japan, and are thus on at 5:00am EST.

I'm sure I messed that up somewhere. Good thing they have five days off between the second game against the Devil Rays in Tokyo and their first regular season game back in the states, I have jet lag just from writing that.

Three bits of Other News:

1) Turns out Bernie will DH tonight, but in a minor league game. Not the Red Sox game broadcast on YES. Ratz.

2) The Alex Rodriguez trade was finally completed today as the Rangers selected infielder Joaquin Arias as the player to be named later. Arias is a 19-year-old A-baller who made 34 errors in Battle Creek last year. Good job by John Hart there. He traded one of the five best players in baseball and didn't get a single pitcher in return, not even a back-of-the-rotation throw-in.

According to Yankee-prospect watcher Fabian McNally, this is a good thing for the Yankees. Arias is supposedly a genuine prospect with a bright future, but with Jeter and A-Rod signed through 2010, the Yankees are much better off letting Arias go and holding on to outfield prospect Rodolfo Guillen. I'm not sure any of this is really worth much attention, but it seems to me that Jeter just has to move into centerfield in the next few years, so the Yankees will have just as much need for middle infielders as they will outfielders. However, Fabian points out that Ferdin Tejada and Hector Made might just be those middle infielders. Ferdin was in camp this spring, but I'm going to have to take his word on Made, who has just one rookie-league season under his belt.

3) The YES vs. Cablevision fiasco has finally come to a meaningful end as three arbiters have ruled unanimously that the YES Network be made a part of Cablevision's basic cable package. The decision is good for six years. As a resident of North Jersey, I'm a Cablevision subscriber myself. I switched to DirecTV in April 2002, primarily to get the Yankee games. In March 2003 I moved to a complex that doesn't allow dishes, so I was once again without YES in the spring. Fortunately, the two-sides came to a one-year compromise on the first day of the regular season, though I found out too late to watch Derek Jeter separate his shoulder in Toronto. The compromise, however, made YES a part of a delux digital cable package. Having become addicted to my DirecTV, I had the package, but my mom, who sticks to the networks for the most part, did not. Hopefully now she, along with countless other die-hard Yankee fans who refused to spend $60-plus on cable, will finally be able to see the broadcasts. Shame on everyone involved for shutting them out for two years.

posted by Cliff at 2:39 PM

Eight Ks to Hold You 

I've been doing game summaries this spring for two reasons. 1) most of the games are neither on television nor radio, and box scores and game summaries are far less prevalent than they will be during the regular season. 2) while the outcomes don't matter in the spring, the individual performances have a lot to do with how the opening day roster shakes out, plus it's our best opportunity to get a look at some players who could find themselves in the Bronx either later this year due to injury or trade, or in not-so distant future.

Once the regular season starts, I won't be doing detailed game summaries like I have been, listing the line-ups and subs etc., and I certainly won't be doing detailed inning-by-inning recaps like I did during the playoffs and will again this fall. Actually, having started this blog in late August of last year, and having really locked in during the playoffs, I'm not entire sure what I am going to do once the regular season starts. My impulse is to do something like what I did last September, taking the season series-by-series rather than game-by game. Of course, I'll write on larger (or smaller) topics as they strike me. But since opening day is now less than a week away, I'd like to know what you, my loyal readers would like to see in this space come next Tuesday, April and beyond. Drop me an email and let me know.

With that out of the way, there are still a few spring training games left. Tonight the Yankees defeated the Reds in Sarasota:

3 - 9 - 1 Yankees
2 - 4 - 2 Reds

Starting Line-up:

Kenny Lofton - CF
Derek Jeter - SS
Alex Rodriguez - 3B
Tony Clark - 1B
John Flaherty - C
Bubba Crosby - LF
Darren Bragg - RF
Homer Bush - 2B

Subs: Felix Escalona (SS), John Rodriguez (LF), Sal Fasano (C), Erick Almonte (3B).

The short list of subs makes me think that Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui and Posada (who went 2 for 3 yesterday) didn't make the trip. In their starting face-off, Bubba Crosby went 0 for 3 while Darren Bragg went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, including a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth. John Flaherty went 3 for 3 with a double, and RBI and a run scored. Derek Jeter made up for an error, his second in as many days, with two hits in four trips and a run scored.

On the mound, the big story was Jose Contreras who allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in five and two-thirds while striking out eight. He was actually even better than that, no-hitting the Reds through 5 1/3, allowing his only baserunner on Jeter's error. Then, with his pitch count in the 60s (he finished at 85), Jose collapsed, giving up a walk to Adam Dunn, a single to D'Angelo Jimenez, striking out Ryan Freel, giving up a two-run single to Ken Griffey Jr and walking Austin Kearns. Mariano Rivera, shiny new contract sticking out of his back pocket, got the last out of the sixth. Contreras now has 15 Ks in 9 innings pitched this spring and a tidy 2.00 ERA. Of course he also has five walks. White, Heredia and Marsonek pitched one scoreless inning each, with a K a piece. White's two hits were the only two allowed by the Yankee pen.

In other news, ESPN reports that Contreras and Osborne are expected to start the Yankees' exhibition games in Tokyo this weekend. I find this unlikely. Contreras could start Sunday on normal rest, but would be on short rest on Saturday. Osborne is starting tomorrow against the Red Sox (in what should be Bernie Williams first game of the spring), thus putting on short rest on Sunday. What's more, reported that DePaula, Proctor, Marsonek and Jim Mann (I incorrectly said Alex Graman in place of Mann in my previous post) will be traveling to Japan with the team, but made no mention of Osborne. Taking Graman (oops) out of the picture, I would still expect Jorge DePaula to get the Saturday start, though Contreras might get the start on Sunday. I would also not put it past Torre to assign Osborne and/or DePaula to the minors until a fifth starter is needed and keep an extra reliever, such as Marsonek, on the 25-man in the mean time.

ESPN also reports that Darren Bragg will travel to Japan, where he'll get two more games to battle it out with Bubba Crosby, who has clearly won the final roster spot in the minds of most objective fans.

One last note, I failed to mention yesterday that Alex Rodriguez is looking much more comfortable at third base these days. I've saw him smoothly make a difficult play charging a ball in on the grass in front of short on Sunday, and yesterday he supposedly made is first great play at third base. I still think the Yankee infield defense will actually be worse this year than it was last year (Ventura and Boone were excellent, experienced defenders at third and Enrique Wilson is likely worse than the league-average Soriano). That's a scary thought, but it's good to see that Alex is improving so rapidly.

posted by Cliff at 12:58 AM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Catching Up. 

Okay, so what's gone on since Saturday?

First off, some roster moves. The Yankees have eliminated several hangers on by reassigning or optioning starters Alex Graman and Ramon Ramirez, relievers Sam Marsonek and Jim Mann and catcher Steve Torrealba. Torrealba only made it into two games, good for two at-bats this spring. Marsonek only pitched in three games, while Mann, much to my surprise, actually appeared in five games. Graman and Ramirez both got solid looks.

Scott Proctor is now the last reliever in camp who didn't have the team made in February. Seems like he's a lock to make the team in Steve Hearsay's absence. Jorge DePaula, who has recovered from his "cranky back," pitched well on Sunday (one run on two hits in five innings against the "rival" Devil Rays) and may give Donovan Osborne a late scare in the run for Jon Lieber's fifth starter spot. Proctor, DePaula and Osborne are the only three non-guaranteed pitchers left in camp.

On the other side of the ball, things remain crowded. Assuming Tony Clark will get the back-up first base job with the injury to Travisty Lee (thanks Fabian), there are twelve spots taken in addition to the eleven pitching spots. That leaves two roster spots for this list:

Miguel Cairo
Homer Bush
Bubba Crosby
Darren Bragg
Mike Vento
Mike Lamb
Felix Escalona
Erick Almonte

I'm not counting catchers Joe Girardi and Sal Fasano. I'd take Cairo and Crosby from that list without much second thought.

The Yankees will play two exhibition games against Japanese teams in Tokyo before the season opener against the Devil Rays one week from today. Thus, they're taking a few extra players to Japan (but not Bernie or Javier Vazquez, both of whom will be on the opening day roster).

Crosby claims he's making the trip, and Girardi will join the team as an extra catcher. No word on the other position players, however.

DePaula and Proctor are making the trip. As are Marsonek, Mann and Graman. No word on Osborne going. I'm assuming Proctor's made the roster. DePaula's going to get one more start this upcoming weekend in an exhibition game in Tokyo. Graman will likely get the other exhibition start, making Jose Contreras available in the pen for the two games against the Rays in Tokyo. A good performance by DePaula in Japan could make the fifth starter decision very difficult for St. Joe.

But then the stakes aren't that high. Most recent word is that they're going to shut down Lieber until May. According to Mark Feinsand at, Lieber would miss three starts if he was out until May 1. But looking at the schedule, Torre could pitch his first four men on a minimum of full rest and only need a fifth starter once in all of April. Check it out.

3/30 - 1
3/31 - 2
five days off
4/6 - 3
4/7 - 4
4-8 - 1 (home opener)
4/9 - 2
4/10 - 3
4/11 - 4
day off
4/13 - 1
4/14 - 2
day off
4/16 - 3
4/17 - 4
4/18 - 1
4/19 - 2
4/20 - 5
4/21 - 3
4/22 - 4
4/24 - 1
4/25 - 2
day off
4/27 - 3
4/28 - 4
4/29 - 1
4/30 - 2
5/1 - 5

As I said before, Bernie Williams will not make the trip to Japan. He's expected to DH in Wednesday's game against the Red Sox (on YES!). That gives him just two games before the team heads east (not north this year, east). There remains a chance that he will be DL-ed until the home opener on the eighth. But if he looks good in his extended spring, he'll join the team along with Javier Vazquez for their first state-side game, conveniently enough in Tampa, on the sixth. Actually, the Yanks have two more exhibition games in early April (crazy schedule, I suppose it's a cool thing, but I wish it was some other team going to Japan), one against the Tigers and one against the Yankees' "Future Stars," which basically means intra-squad. That's two more games for Bernie to show his stuff.

That's almost all of the injury/roster news. Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo both have minor tweaks that kept them out of the past two games. Cairo's is a hamstring, Wilson's is a sprained ankle. It doesn't seem like either is anything to worry about, except for the fact that they're giving Homer Bush an extra chance to make the team, which I honestly hope he doesn't. I like Homer, but I don't see how he would be valuable to this team.

As for game action, I already mentioned DePaula's fine performance against the Devil Rays on Sunday: five innings, two hits, one run (a homer by Jose Cruz, Jr.), no walks and one K. Hideki Matsui went 3 for 3 in that game with a two-run homer, adding in another RBI and run scored.

Bubba Crosby continues to perform, going 2 for 2 with 2 RBI in that game and then hitting an inside-the park Grand Slam (!) in yesterday's affair with the Tigers. Ruben Sierra, Tony Clark and Matsui also homered in yesterday's game. Darren Bragg went 2 for 2 with a triple. Derek Jeter also tripled (apparently the Tigers bring Comerica with them to Florida).

On the mound yesterday, Javier Vazquez bounced back from a rough outing against the Yankees minor league campers, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five in five frames. The Yankees remaining relievers seem to be holding down the fort just fine, though White and Proctor allowed a run in their lone innings yesterday. Tom Gordon struck out the side in the ninth.

Oh yeah, and the Yankees resigned Mariano Rivera for two years at $21 million plus an option, based on number of games finished during the first two years, good for another $10.5 million. Mo will make $8.85 in 2004, the final year of his current contract. By way of comparison, John Smoltz will make $11 million this year, Robb Nen $9 million and Billy Wagner $8 million. I suppose I'd be more excited if I had ever thought there was a chance he wasn't getting an extension.

posted by Cliff at 2:12 PM

It's all a part of my hardball fantasy . . . 

Sorry for the radio silence, folks. I got wrapped up in draft prep for my fantasy league.

I'm not much of a fantasy player. I've never actually had my own team before. But I got so many offers to join leagues this year that I just had to give 'er a whirl. I'm in a CNN/SI league with several of the guys from The Hardball Times (Ben Jacobs, Larry Mahnken, Bryan Smith and Vinay Kumar), JD Arney of Reds Daily, as well as Seth Speaks' Seth Stohs and his partner in crime, Kirk Beller, plus four other guys I haven't met yet. Our league, which is 5x5 rotisserie, is called The Hardball Fantasy. In conjunction with a little project Seth has thrown together analyzing our draft on his site. Here's how the draft went from my end.

Disclaimer: Apologies to all of those who (like me before this year) couldn't care less about fantasy baseball. I promise a real-life post later today (Tuesday).

On with it . . .

Draft night for the Hardball Fantasy. I’ve never participated in a fantasy league before, though I did draft a team for a friend once. I’ve spent the past several days making lists of the players at each position and their roto-relevant stats (AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB; W, K, ERA, WHIP, SV). My team, the Madison Avenue Mercenaries, picks sixth in a snaking draft. I’ve ranked what I believe to be the top six players in the draft as I’m guaranteed to get one of them:

Alex Rodriguez
Albert Pujols
Vlad Guerrero
Alfonso Soriano
Todd Helton
Bret Boone

After three rounds I want to have one masher, one top hitter at a shallow skill position (probably 2B or SS), and an ace pitcher. My general philosophy is to be mindful of rate stats (AVG, ERA, WHIP) as someone who can’t run won’t help my SB totals, but he won’t hurt them either, whereas someone who hits .220 or has a 5+ ERA could kill my team rate stats. The second part of my philosophy is this:

Player A) .320-40-120
Player B) .290-30-100
Player C) .250-10-60

There are players at least as good as player B available at every position. Using player B as a base, player C will hurt me more than player A will help me. Thus my goal is to try to get something close to player B at every position, even if it means sacrificing a chance at the odd player A. Looking over my position charts, catcher, short, second and third are, predictably, shallow positions. Assuming A-Rod will go before I get to pick, Soriano and Boone are the most valuable hitters from among the top players at those four positions. Thus my above draft order. As for Pujols, Guerrero and Helton, they’re just *that* strong in average, power and runs created that I couldn’t pass them up if they were available. Vlad has the back concern, but he also has the potential for 40 steals and hit .330 despite his back in 2003.

Oh, I don’t expect to get any of them, but Gagne is obviously the top closer and the top three starters in my opinion are Curt Schilling (who I hate and half hope he’s not available when my second pick comes around—he’s probably the only player I don’t want to have to root for), Mark Prior and Pedro Martinez in that order.

I’ll be back after my first pick.

Okay, so that was far too frantic to write as I went. Here’s how things played out:

The first five picks were Alex Rodriguez (of course), Alfonso Soriano (he’s gonna go 40-40 in Texas), Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran—a bit of a surprise to me, he’d have to improve on his 2003 season to be worth a pick that high, but he just might—and Todd Helton. That means I could choose between Bret Boone and Vlad Guerrero. No contest. Vlad. Schweet.

That meant that I needed a guy at a skill position for my second pick. Nomar, Chavez and Tejada went before things snaked back to me, as did Pedro and Mark Prior. But Curt Schilling did not. My worst nightmare come true! I had to take him. Schilling could win 25 and strikeout 300. I had to take him. I hate Curt Schilling.

Now I really need a skill guy. Renteria, Rolen, and Hank Blalock all go. Then just three picks before my turn Bret Boone is finally picked. Ugh. That’s a body blow. So the top two second basemen, top three shortstops and four of the top five third basemen are already gone. But wait! No catchers! Jorge Posada, welcome home. Nice.

I’m eyeing another skill guy or a favorite pitcher for the next round but two of my fave hurlers, Mussina and Vazquez, are gone, as is Roy Halladay. The last of the top-tier middle infielders go when Jeff Kent, Marcus Giles and Derek Jeter are picked. Even Jim Thome, Jason Giambi and Richie Sexson, three 1B who hit so well I’d overlook their position are gone. Gotta get a skill guy before they’re all gone and second base is the shallowest pool. Jose Vidro.

Furcal, Cabrera and Lowell go before my next pick. 3B and SS pools are looking bad, but I notice that Aubrey Huff is unclaimed. He can play 1B or the OF and he’s on the rise with a .311-34-107 season in 2003 and a better offense around him for his age-27 season in ’04. I have to take him.

The next round sees a load of starting pitching taken off the block. Since the cream is gone but starting pitching is a deep pool, I worry about my skill positions taking Angel Berroa, the last man standing before we get into Jimmy Rollins/Alex Cintron territory. Now I just have to hope he can build on his rookie season rather than pulling a Rollins of his own.

Following that pick the run on closers starts. I was hoping to be in the middle of it, but instead I’m at the end. Gagne went with the fourth pick of the second round, way too early. Wagner went in the fifth. I’d say it was good timing by Ben, but Wagner was the first pitcher he drafted. Mariano started off the sixth, prior to my Berroa pick. But after I took Berroa, Foulke, Smoltz, and Dotel (whom I was eyeing most after Gagne and Wagner) went. Oddly, Arthur Rhodes, whom I had ranked much lower, went just before my turn, which meant that Everyday Eddie Guardado, the last of my top-ranked closers was mine for the having.

So now I’ve got a middle infield, a catcher, and a closer to add to Vlad, Schilling and Huff. Time to get more pitching. I’m weighing the respective merits of Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux (what’s more likely, Zambrano continues to improve or Maddux bounces back?) when Zambrano goes four picks before my turn. Greg Maddux it is.

Now I need a thirdbaseman. Bad. Lowell, Ensberg, Glaus, and Teixeira have all gone in addition to Chavez, Rolen and Blalock. It’s between Shea Hillenbrand, Aramis Ramirez, and Corey Koskie. Koskie is an injury concern and really can’t compete in terms of power and run production. Hillenbrand’s numbers fell off quite a bit after leaving Fenway. That brings Aramis Ramirez to my hot corner. (Koskie goes three picks later, Hillenbrand six *rounds* later).

Okay, I’ve got someone at every position, two starting pitchers and a closer. Now I need more bats. Of course, it’s the tenth round and pickings are slim. I’ve got room in the outfield or at first base. Hmm. Hey look! Bernie’s getting no respect. He’s going to hit over .300 with 100+ runs and RBIs if healthy, and getting time at DH should keep him healthy. And it’s Bernie! Yay! (with Jorge and Bernie on my team, my girlfriend has completely forgiven me for ignoring her this evening).

The next few rounds are about getting the best bats and pitchers that I can to flesh out my outfield/1B and pitching staff. Jamie Moyer goes four picks before my turn, so I go for Matt Clement and his higher strikeout totals. Rafael Palmeiro and Joe Nathan both go within three picks of my turn in the twelfth, so I settle for Francisco Cordero, who’s a great pitcher, but might not get as many save opportunities as I’d like on the lowly Rangers. That’s two pitchers. Need another bat. It’s between Reggie Sanders and Torii Hunter. I go with 28-year-old Hunter figuring he’s got a better chance to increase his numbers after an off year in ’03.

Damaso Marto goes in the 13th. A great sleeper pick gone, but I still need some bats and Ryan Klesko is waiting for me. Both he and Huff can play 1B or the OF (once Klesko gets 10 games in left in April). Makes for some nice maneuverability with my outfielders, increasing my ability to go with the hot hand. I expect Klesko to come back from an injury-shortened off year in ’03, and he’s got more offense around him to boot.

I’ve now got five men for OF, 1B and DH, so I can go back to pitching. Vicente Padilla goes the turn before mine, so I settle for Tim Wakefield, a second Red Sox pitcher. Ugh. At least Wakefield is a likeable guy who gets no respect. Man, I hate Schilling.

I take a flier on Rafael Soriano with my next pick. This was the hardest pick I made all night. It was him, LaTroy Hawkins, or a starter such as David Wells (I wound up with all three as it turns out). Not many non-closer relievers were picked, and perhaps it’s my lack of experience that made me chose two of them, but I figure that there’s still a chance that Soriano could wind up starting if there’s an injury in the Mariners’ rotation. And even if he doesn’t, he should contribute some great rate stats and decent strikeouts for a reliever. He could also be good trade bait. Or something.

Kip Wells goes before my next pick, which makes taking David Wells easier. A gamble here, but I think he’ll stay healthy and win at least 16 for the Pads. I might sit him early on just to make sure he doesn’t get shelled, though.

It’s risk taking time. Ken Griffey, Jr., Robb Nen, Ugueth Urbina, J.D. Drew all go before my next pick. I think it’s time to stock my bench with utility men, but look, Edgar Martinez is undrafted. I *have* to take him! He’s far too productive not to take the risk in round 18. He may even start over Bernie until Bernie gets hot.

I had Aquilino Lopez in my queue, figuring he could put up some strong numbers as the Blue Jay’s closer, and give me three guys racking up saves, but he and my “he’s still around?” back-up shortstop choice Rich Aurilia go four and three picks before my turn. LaTroy Hawkins it is. I had been hoping Dusty stayed with Borowski as the closer. Now I’m hoping LaTroy gets a shot.

Another worthwhile risk goes when Juan Gonzalez is taken with the pick immediately after mine. In retrospect, that was probably a better pick than LaTroy. But I’m on to backing up second (where I have Jose Vidro, the infielder I’ve decided is most likely to get hurt). It’s Mark Loretta, the ghost of Roberto Alomar or Todd Walker. Loretta goes two picks before my turn. Realizing that Walker will likely platoon with Grudzielanek, I decide to take Alomar and hope he can pull his career out of the crapper. If he does, he could be even better than Vidro (not that I think that will happen). Worth a shot.

Next I decide that Aramis Ramirez is the most likely to forget to show up this season, so I back him up with Joe Randa, choosing Joker Joe’s steady production over Edgardo Alfonzo’s less predictable output.

Two picks left. Jorge at catcher and Berroa at short don’t have back-ups yet. But I figure my super sleeper behind the plate, Victor Martinez, won’t get picked, so I can skip the back-up catcher. I figure it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to take any of the shortstops that are remaining, so I look for one last insurance starter and find Mark Redman, who will do quite nicely, thank you.

To my shock and dismay, Victor Martinez is picked in the final round. That’s okay, there’s still some decent emergency catching out there in free-agent land. I go with Julio Lugo, a decent hitting shortstop for round 23, to back-up Berroa and there we have it.

Here’s my final roster:

1B/OF: Aubrey Huff, Ryan Kleso
2B: Jose Vidro, Roberto Alomar
SS: Angel Berroa, Julio Lugo
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Joe Randa
C: Jorge Posada
OF: Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Bernie Williams
DH: Edgar Martinez
SP: Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, Matt Clement, David Wells, Tim Wakefield, Mark Redman
RP: Eddie Guardado, Francisco Cordero, LaTroy Hawkins, Rafael Soriano

Pretty well rounded. Speed from Berroa, Guerrero and hopefully Hunter. Power and runs all around as planned. Strong averages everywhere except perhaps Ramirez at third. Strikeouts from Schilling and Clement. Low ERAs and WHIPs from Schilling and Maddux. Wins from everyone except maybe Wakefield (all of my starters should find themselves on winning teams if not playoff contenders). Two closers and two unhittable middle men to bring down the rate stats who could close (Hawkins) or start (Soriano) as injuries require.

I wonder what everyone else has?

posted by Cliff at 1:30 AM

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