MLB Lightning Strikes 8.4.2011

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

The trading deadline was not the finish line.

Soxfinger is about to press the button.

Amid all the threats from White Sox GM Kenny Williams (AKA the James Bond villain known as Soxfinger) that he was going to blow up his roster for underperformance, there wasn’t much of a chance of him doing it while the team was at or near .500 and within 3 or so games of first place.

Now, after the trading deadline, the White Sox have lost every game they’ve played and looked awful doing it.

Their veterans are putting out the aura that they’ve relaxed with the passing of that arbitrary date of July 31st.

In case they hadn’t noticed, most of them have contracts which will allow them to get through waivers. The others who’ll be claimed—Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Matt Thornton—had probably better prepare themselves to be moved.

Soxfinger might even do something drastic with Gordon Beckham.

They’re 6 1/2 games out of first now and have lost 5 straight.

Williams is going to blow it up. Soon.

Red Sox evaluation validation.

With the news that the Red Sox made an aggressive and substantial offer for Ubaldo Jimenez, his value was validated.

Whether that’s accurate or not remains to be seen and judged. The Red Sox have made mistakes in their evaluations, especially with pitchers. But the Red Sox have such industry-wide respect for intelligent analysis that the perception will mute the worries about his performance over the past calendar year. It was so with Jose Bautista when the Red Sox tried to pry him from the Blue Jays and it’s the same with Jimenez now.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Perhaps if I alter my familiar rant regarding A.J. Burnett—“THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!”—and added statistics to prove the point of “THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!” people will start to get it through their thick skulls that THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!.

Here are Burnett’s career numbers and averages.

Year W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP ERA+
1995 2 3 .400 4.28 9 8 33.2 27 16 16 2 23 0 26 2 4 7
1996 4 0 1.000 3.88 12 12 58.0 31 26 25 0 54 0 68 7 3 16
1997 3 2 .600 4.39 12 11 55.1 36 34 27 3 43 0 63 8 0 12
1998 10 4 .714 1.97 20 20 119.0 74 27 26 3 45 0 186 8 2 6
1999 6 12 .333 5.52 26 23 120.2 132 91 74 15 71 0 121 5 2 16
1999 4 2 .667 3.48 7 7 41.1 37 23 16 3 25 2 33 0 0 0 126
2000 0 0 2.19 3 3 12.1 4 3 3 0 9 0 12 0 2 2
2000 3 7 .300 4.79 13 13 82.2 80 46 44 8 44 3 57 2 0 2 92
2001 0 0 1.93 2 2 9.1 4 2 2 0 4 0 10 0 0 0
2001 11 12 .478 4.05 27 27 173.1 145 82 78 20 83 3 128 7 1 7 105
2002 12 9 .571 3.30 31 29 204.1 153 84 75 12 90 5 203 9 0 14 122
2003 0 2 .000 4.70 4 4 23.0 18 13 12 2 18 2 21 2 0 2 91
2004 0 0 4.91 2 2 7.1 9 5 4 1 4 0 10 1 0 3
2004 7 6 .538 3.68 20 19 120.0 102 50 49 9 38 0 113 4 0 7 112
2005 12 12 .500 3.44 32 32 209.0 184 97 80 12 79 1 198 7 0 12 116
2006 2 0 1.000 1.89 4 4 19.0 11 5 4 1 6 0 22 2 0 1
2006 10 8 .556 3.98 21 21 135.2 138 67 60 14 39 3 118 8 1 6 115
2007 0 0 1.80 1 1 5.0 3 1 1 0 1 0 7 0 0 0
2007 10 8 .556 3.75 25 25 165.2 131 74 69 23 66 2 176 12 0 5 119
2008 18 10 .643 4.07 35 34 221.1 211 109 100 19 86 2 231 9 2 11 104
2009 13 9 .591 4.04 33 33 207.0 193 99 93 25 97 0 195 10 1 17 114
2010 10 15 .400 5.26 33 33 186.2 204 118 109 25 78 2 145 19 0 16 82
2011 8 9 .471 4.54 23 23 142.2 129 78 72 21 63 1 123 7 0 14 93
13 Seasons 118 109 .520 4.03 304 300 1912.2 1725 940 857 193 806 26 1741 96 5 113 106
162 Game Avg. 13 12 .520 4.03 34 34 215 194 106 96 22 91 3 196 11 1 13 106
FLA (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
NYY (3 yrs) 31 33 .484 4.60 89 89 536.1 526 295 274 71 238 3 463 36 1 47 96
TOR (3 yrs) 38 26 .594 3.94 81 80 522.2 480 250 229 56 191 7 525 29 3 22 112
NL (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
AL (6 yrs) 69 59 .539 4.27 170 169 1059.0 1006 545 503 127 429 10 988 65 4 69 103
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2011.

He’s consistently inconsistent. That makes him consistent.

He might pitch as he did last night again in his next start.

Or he might pitch a no-hitter.

That is A.J. Burnett.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Accept it and stop complaining.

//

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MLB’s James Bond Villain Issues A Threat And Other Deadline Stories

All Star Game, Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!!”

With Kenny Williams as Soxfinger; Jack Zduriencik as Dr. Evil; Joel Sherman as Mini-Me; and Billy Beane as Brad Pitt as Billy Beane.

An empty threat?

I put nothing past White Sox GM Ken Williams, so despite the fact that his statement of possibly “turning over the entire roster” seems crazy, it’s possible that he’s going to do something drastic.

The White Sox are currently 50-51 and 3 1/2 games out of first place in a bad division. I can’t see him cleaning house with them that close to first place even if they do play poor-to-mediocre baseball over the next week.

As the linked MLBTradeRumors piece says, he could trade Edwin Jackson, Matt Thornton, Carlos Quentin and other pieces; but he’s not going to be able to move Adam Dunn or Alex Rios.

In other words, what’s the point?

The one thing about Williams that can be seen as simultaneously good and bad (or evil) is his single-mindedness. He had his sights set on Jake Peavy two years ago, Peavy rejected a trade to the White Sox, Williams tried again and got Peavy. They’d have been better off taking Peavy’s no for an answer.

He was also enamored with Ken Griffey Jr., traded for him and Junior was winding down by the time he got to the White Sox.

In other circumstances, he loved Gavin Floyd when there was no reason to love Gavin Floyd and Floyd’s become a solid and sometimes spectacular starter.

Warnings aside, I can’t see the White Sox blowing it up unless they lose all their games this week. Then everyone should duck.

A cheaper patch-job.

Varying reports have the Giants still after an outfield bat—B.J. Upton (WHY?!?); or Carlos Beltran—but they’d be better-served in filling their current hole in the lineup and behind the plate by going after the Mariners’ Miguel Olivo.

Olivo has power (14 homers); handles the pitchers well and can throw.

Yes, he’s signed through next year at $3.5 million with a club option for 2013, but so what? The Giants don’t know when Buster Posey‘s going to be ready to return and Olivo is a good replacement considering the weak market for catchers.

One would assume the Mariners will be very willing to move Olivo.

Then again, the Mariners wanted an “impact bat” for journeyman reliever David Aardsma before he got hurt, so reality might not be part of the plot in Seattle.

After 16 straight losses, it’s just as well.

Tra-la-la-la-la!!!!

Wag the dog.

If you check out the clearinghouse websites with writers attributing their “rumors” to various sources—and are truly reading what they’re writing rather than indulging in fast food for the mind while you’re sitting at your desk at work or staring at your smartphone—you’ll notice something interesting: within one piece, you’ll see 7-10 different reporters quoting 7-10 different “insider” sources saying 7-10 radically different things. Many times, they’re diametrically opposed to what the other “experts” and “insiders” have said.

Are you getting my point?

It’s circular self-indulgence and is likely to be completely inaccurate but justified as a “fluid situation”.

What that means is the stories are planted to maintain attention, keep the readers coming back to see what happens next (which won’t, in most cases, actually happen in reality), or gauge the reaction of the public-at-large.

But you keep on eating your Big Macs; go to Subway because it’s where “winners eat”; drink your Big Gulp.

You’ll be fine.

(No you won’t.)

//

Your Idiot Rumor/Stupid Idea Of The Day 7.24.2011

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

It was a close call. The near winner was the rumor that the White Sox and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would sent White Sox pitchers Edwin Jackson (a pending free agent) and reliever Matt Thornton to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

Supposedly the White Sox were also going to send young players to the Cardinals or a third team was going to be recruited to help facilitate matters.

Do the White Sox even have any worthwhile young players past Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo? And why would the Cardinals want to rent Jackson and take Thornton, who was a total disaster as the White Sox closer for Rasmus, who’s taken up residence in Tony LaRussa‘s entrance only doghouse?

Rasmus is 25 and under team control for the next 3 years. If they’re going to trade him, they’d better get a substantial amount more than Jackson and Thornton and don’t do it in a fit of pique for a manager like LaRussa who’s going year-to-year and is notoriously prickly with anyone—especially a young player—who dares rub him the wrong way.

It’s lunacy.

But there was another rumor that was even more deranged.

The worst of the worst is reserved for the Nick Cafardo weekly piece summed up here on MLBTradeRumors.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering “offering the moon” for him.

The “moon”? For B.J. Upton?

The same Nationals organization that thought they were going to straighten out Lastings Milledge, Scott Olsen and Elijah Dukes is going to somehow get through to Upton?

Have they learned from their mistakes in the attempted nurturing and maturing of the aforementioned problem children and the failures? Do they have a new strategy that the Rays haven’t tried?

The Rays have benched, yelled at, physically challenged and fined Upton. They’ve had leaders like Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Gabe Kapler and Evan Longoria in their clubhouse and not one has gotten through to Upton. Joe Maddon is probably the easiest manager any player is ever going to play for while according him a modicum of respect. Short of sticking him in a room alone with Kyle Farnsworth and telling Farnsworth to do whatever he has to do short of killing Upton to get him in line, I don’t know what else they can do.

So what gives the Nats the idea that they’re going to unlock the secret to Upton’s massive talent? Who came up with this concept and why would they surrender the “moon” to get him? Is this the same line of thought that spurred them to give Jayson Werth $126 million? Because if it is, maybe they should do the exact opposite of what they think is a good move now.

//

Early Season Blues And Blahs

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

This morning I focused on the “oohs and ahs”; now it’s time for the blues and blahs.

The Yankees starting pitching holes:

You can go on and on about Bartolo Colon‘s stunningly great work so far (he has been great); and Freddy Garcia‘s craftsmanship and intelligence (he’s been really smart); but it’s 16 games into the season and they’re not—N.O.T.—not going to keep it up past May-June.

A.J. Burnett is 3-0 and hasn’t pitched particularly well; Phil Hughes is on the disabled list with a “dead arm”. All they have to rely on in the starting rotation is CC Sabathia.

It’s a problem whether you face it or not.

They’re going to have to find a starting pitcher somewhere.

And maybe Brian Cashman is right to keep asking the Mariners about Felix Hernandez.

Buster Olney wrote a piece about the Mariners last week (it’s ESPN Insider access, so no link), but here’s the crux:

If the Mariners’ decision-makers determine for themselves that Hernandez is getting fed up and bored with the losing, then the best time to trade him will be this summer. His value is extraordinary, and similarly, their trade leverage will never be higher, because of what he would immediately mean to any interested team, whether it be the Yankees or the Braves (who could put together a heck of an offer) or the Red Sox.

It’s a longshot, but maybe the Mariners will put Hernandez on the market.

Short of that, the Yankees will have to wait to see who comes available and hope that Colon and Garcia are still of use and Hughes comes back to do….something.

Speaking of the Mariners…

In that same ESPN piece, Olney wonders whether GM Jack Zduriencik will survive the continued losing that the Mariners are going to have to endure for the foreseeable future. The old standby excuse of “there wasn’t much talent there when he arrived” is actually a viable excuse; I can’t fault him for the slow starts of bats who should’ve improved the offense in Jack Cust and Miguel Olivo; but Chone Figgins is batting .162 and, so far, is one of the worst free agent signings in my memory. Giving Figgins $45 million was ridiculous and I said so at the time.

Nor is it Zduriencik’s fault that he was anointed as a genius based on an overachieving/statistical correcting season from 2008 to 2009. The 2008 Mariners weren’t 100-loss bad; the 2009 Mariners weren’t 85-win good.

That said, after last year’s on-and-off the field embarrassments, I would’ve put Zduriencik on notice that the team had better look more passionate on the field and no….controversies….off….the….field!!

Here’s what I would do if I were the Mariners. I’d call the Yankees and offer them Felix Hernandez for: Joba Chamberlain; Brett Gardner; Jesus Montero; either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances; and the Yankees have to take Figgins and his contract back.

Take it or leave it.

The key for the Mariners is deciding who’s going to be running the club. If they’ve lost trust in Zduriencik, they have to make a change before trading season gets underway.

Your 2011 Minnesota Twins:

I find it laughable that the likes of Mike Francesa have the audacity to make “predictions” by uttering such inanities as, “I’m pickin’ da Twins because I always pick ‘da Twins”.

Um. Okay.

With that kind of expert analysis, it was a legitimate question as to why I wasted my time and energy writing my book…until the season started.

How about looking at the team before coming to such a conclusion?

The Twins bullpen is awful; their starting pitching predictably mediocre; their defense is shaky; their offense pockmarked by injuries; and I’m convinced there’s a hangover from last season when they put everything they had into finally beating the Yankees and were swatted away like an irritating mosquito.

They’re going to have a long year.

The A’s imported some hitters; so why can’t they hit?

What’s the problem in Oakland?

They bring in three good, professional hitters in David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui and none of them are hitting. Their starting pitching has been masterful; the revamped bullpen mediocre. If they want to contend, they’ve got to coordinate their performances a bit.

As much as I wish I could blame Billy Beane for the meager offense, I can’t. They’re not hitting and it’s not his fault.

I’m still ambivalent about the A’s—I don’t think their starting pitching can sustain this pace—but Willingham, DeJesus and Matsui are going to hit eventually.

The staggering White Sox:

Ozzie Guillen‘s job has been “teetering” how many times now? And he’s never gotten fired.

It’s not his fault that Matt Thornton hasn’t been able to close games; that the overall bullpen is killing them. Could Guillen be in trouble? Real trouble with the potential to be fired?

I doubt it, but I’ll say this: in my book, before Guillen’s 2012 contract option was exercised, I speculated that the expectations for this team were high; that they spent a lot of money and pretty much maximized the limits of their payroll—they have to win. If the relationship between Guillen and GM Kenny Williams deteriorated any further, Williams might pull the trigger on his longtime cohort.

I also suggested that Cito Gaston might be a viable replacement; Williams nearly hired Gaston to manage the team before he hired Guillen; I didn’t get the impression that Gaston wanted to stop managing after last season with the Blue Jays.

Then when the White Sox exercised Guillen’s option, I deleted what I’d written.

But could they make a move if the team’s fall continues?

The obvious new manager would be Joey Cora, but Williams thinks outside the box and Gaston is a calming voice with two World Series wins to his credit.

Don’t discount the possibility.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.



//

Those Last Three Outs

Books, Games, Management, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Tony La Russa, when scoffing at the suggestion that “anyone” can close games has said something to the tune of, “those last three outs are different”.

It’s not something that can be equated by stats or stuff. Closing is a mental endeavor more than anything else. It helps to have a power fastball like Goose Gossage; a bat-destroying cutter like Mariano Rivera; or a split-finger fastball like Bruce Sutter, but what all three of these pitchers and the other great closers of past and present have had is that they’ve been able to handle the mental and physical stresses of the job.

This phenomenon is being played out in front of our eyes as we’re seeing another quality arm who should be able to do it, one who I specifically pointed out as a winning choice—White Sox lefty Matt Thornton—imploding in his first week as the full-time closer.

Thornton has a high-90s fastball and good slider; he strikes out tons of hitters; has historically handled righties and lefties; doesn’t allow many homers; and throws strikes. His demeanor is indicates a closer’s mentality with the aura of “gimme the ball”.

But he’s been awful so far this season. So awful that while manager Ozzie Guillen is sticking with him, he’s come out and said he wants to see better results—ESPN Story.

In other words, time’s running out on Thornton’s foray as the White Sox closer.

Can it be explained by dissecting Thornton’s games and finding a reason why he’s gotten off to an atrocious start in his star turn? He’s had three save opportunities this season and blown them all including the April 8th game against the reeling and winless Rays in which he got tattooed for 5 runs. His defense certainly didn’t help him, but that’s no excuse.

Is it a slump? Or is being the designated “closer” in his head?

Some pitchers have been very good as set-up men and, when asked to pitch one inning later, have faltered. LaTroy Hawkins and Guillermo Mota were two solid relievers who simply could not do it.

La Russa always chafes at the implication that he destroyed the game with his specialization and role-based strategies.

The accusation is a misnomer. La Russa was simply doing what was best for his club at the time—the Athletics—and used Dennis Eckersley in a way that was best suited to what Eckersley could and couldn’t do.

The suggestion that “anyone” can get the outs in the ninth inning is contradicted by the qualified pitchers who’ve failed.

It’s not as simple as going out there and recording three outs. It’s an exercise in mental toughness more than a lights out fastball or sharp breaking pitch.

It’s important for one new to the situation and designation as the “ace” out of the bullpen to get off to a good start. Thornton’s already gacked that test. Next is whether he can overcome adversity and regain his bearings—another prerequisite.

Can he recover?

Judging from the statements of his manager, Thornton had better get a move on or he’s going back to the set-up role and Chris Sale will be closing sooner rather than later.

****

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here (coincidentally, it’s the section about the Mets).

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve started a Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Fantasy Man

Fantasy/Roto

Regarding the title, I mean that in all possible connotations in relation to me.

I don’t play fantasy sports. I don’t get it. People tell me they make money at it, but I prefer watching and analyzing the game for the actual play, strategy and drama; not to interpret the numbers so I can make my own lineups, pitching staffs and whatevers.

Whether or not I’d be any good at it if I did play is hard to determine. I don’t really know the rules; apparently they vary from league to league with certain stats more important than others among many other factors.

With that in mind, here’s a non-partisan list of names who might help you in your baseball fantasy leagues.

And no, I’m not naming Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, C.C. Sabathia or any of the in-demand players who everyone knows are going to put up numbers.

I’m digging through the muck.

Yunel Escobar, SS—Toronto Blue Jays

It’s not a good sign when the former teammates on the club that traded you—the Braves—stood up and applauded when your replacement Alex Gonzalez walked through the clubhouse doors.

No, Escobar wasn’t popular in the Braves no-nonsense clubhouse and Bobby Cox wanted to murder him; but his talent is unmistakable. He played reasonably well after joining the Blue Jays, but nowhere close to what he was in 2009 when he looked to be an emerging star.

Perhaps the presence of Jose Bautista mentoring him will have a positive affect.

Kyle Farnsworth, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

You read that right.

It may sound insane, but think about it.

He’s always racked up the strikeouts; he still throws very, very hard; the Rays don’t have a defined closer and a history of rehabilitating failed talents like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit.

Because of the absence of an ironclad “known” closer, there’s a chance that Farnsworth will get a chance to rack up some saves.

Matt Thornton, LHP—Chicago White Sox

He throws gas; like the Rays, the White Sox don’t have a defined closer and Thornton’s a likely candidate. The White Sox don’t have a fear of trying a youngster like Chris Sale in the role, but Thornton, now, is the better option and he handles both lefties and righties.

Billy Butler, 1B/DH—Kansas City Royals

His full name is “Billy Ray Butler”; can he sing?

He doesn’t need to. At least until after his career’s over and he decides to write and record a song like Bobby Murcer did with his “Skoal Dippin’ Man”. Somehow I doubt that would play well today in our politically correct society.

Butler has gotten better every single season he’s been in the big leagues, racks up the doubles, has 15-20 homer power, hits over .300 and gets on base.

The right-handed Butler was far better hitter vs righties than lefties, but that was probably a freak thing for one year and all the more reason he’s going to have a massive season in 2011.

Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics

The team behind him is better both offensively and defensively. Just make sure you stay off his mound and remember the way they roll in the 209.

Joel Pineiro, RHP—Los Angeles Angels

I’m going there again.

Much was made of how I told people how Pineiro’s success with the Cardinals was going to translate to the American League and the Angels. The thought was that switching leagues and being away from the protective nuzzle of Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa would revert Pineiro to the pitcher he was late in his time with the Mariners and brief days with the Red Sox.

It was nonsense.

Surface-wise, the numbers back up that claim. In truth, Pineiro’s ERA was blown up by starts in which he got blasted; before an oblique injury sabotaged him, he was on his way to a very solid season. When his sinker’s not sinking, he gets rocked; but if his time with Duncan taught him anything, it’s how to battle his way through when he doesn’t have his best stuff.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year too, which should inspire a healthy, productive season; you just have to be careful which teams you use him against. (That’s how Roto works, right?)

Raul Ibanez, LF—Philadelphia Phillies

Amid all the talk that Ibanez was “done”, it was conveniently missed that for a player who’s “done”, he had 58 extra base hits!

Assisted by a better Jimmy Rollins and healthier supporting cast, he’ll give you your .800 OPS.

Eric Hinske, INF/OF—Atlanta Braves

He might have to play more than is expected. The Braves are going with a rookie first baseman, Freddie Freeman; don’t know whether Chipper Jones will be able to come back and it’s certain he’ll need frequent rest days; they don’t have competent big league backups besides Hinske. When he’s given a chance to play regularly, he always hits the ball out of the park.

Javier Vazquez, RHP—Florida Marlins

Back in the National League and freed from his prison Pinstripes, Vazquez is still young enough that a big year will get him a substantial payday. In a world where Carl Pavano was in demand after everything he pulled, Vazquez will want to have a similar renaissance. And his stuff is far better than Pavano’s.

Jonathon Niese, LHP—New York Mets

With Johan Santana out until the summer and the sudden rise of R.A. Dickey still in doubt, the Mets will need to lean heavily on Niese. Mike Francesa’s expert scouting report that he’s not all that impressed with Niese aside, I am impressed with Niese in stuff and competitiveness.

Mike Morse, OF/1B—Washington Nationals

With the Nationals lack of offense, I have a feeling we’re going to see Jayson Werth playing a lot of center field and Morse in right. Morse is a huge man (6’5″, 230) and had 15 homers in 293 plate appearances last season in his first legitimate chance to play semi-regularly. The Nationals haven’t shown the intelligence with Morse-type players as they repeatedly underestimated the value of Josh Willingham, but they might not have a choice in 2011.

Lance Berkman, RF—St. Louis Cardinals

He’ll be an adventure in right field, but in the Cardinals lineup with Pujols and Matt Holliday, plus looking at another chance at free agency a year from now, he’s going to hit.

Joel Hanrahan, RHP—Pittsburgh Pirates

He’ll get the chance to close and throws bullets. Naturally, being a Pirate, it begs the question as to how many save opportunities he’s going to get, but he strikes out a lot of hitters (100 in 69 innings last season).

Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres

I said this a year ago and those who got credit for “holds” thanked me. If the Padres fall from contention this year, Heath Bell is going to get traded and Gregerson will presumably take over as the closer and you’ll get your saves.

Brad Hawpe, 1B/OF—San Diego Padres

He was horrible last year with both the Rockies and Rays, but he consistently batted over .280 with a .380 on base and 20+ homers in the three seasons prior to 2010.

Kenley Jansen, RHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Barely a year removed from being a minor league catcher with no future in the big leagues, the 6’6″, 220 pound Jansen made it to the big leagues and was lights out with a blazing and moving fastball. Hitters looked frightened when he was on the mound and he’s going to be a key to the Dodgers season.

Brandon Allen, 1B—Arizona Diamondbacks

Allen has put up power/on base numbers at every level in the minors; the Diamondbacks are going to be terrible and have Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady as the first basemen ahead of Allen.

By May, it’s not going to make sense for Allen to be sitting on the bench in the majors or playing in the minors; the Diamondbacks should just play him every day and see what they have.

Tomorrow I’ll have a look at players from whom you should run like infected zombies from 28 Days Later for fear that they infect you with their dreaded disease!!