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April 15, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Opening Salvos in the Senior Circuit

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Phillies
7-1
90-72
.695
Up
The two-time defending NL champs get off to a banner start behind their marquee off-season addition, Roy Halladay. Through two games, our staff pick to win the NL Cy Young has allowed one earned run and struck out 17 while yielding 13 hits and walking two, though it's fair to note that neither the Astros nor the Nationals-the two teams he's faced-are offensive juggernauts. The Phils, on the other hand, are bashing out eight runs per game.

2


Giants
7-2
82-80
.665
Up
Doc Halladay may be the trendy pick, but two-time defending NL Cy Young winner Tim Linceum won't just hand over the honors. Lincecum breezes through his first two starts, allowing just two runs in 14 frames while whiffing 17 and walking just one. The runs come on a Brian McCann homer at Whatever Network's Renting The Name Today Park, his first dinger allowed there since Seth Smith on September 23, 2008, a span of 103 innings.

3


Cardinals
6-2
88-74
.637
Up
Bash Brothers: Albert Pujols homers twice on Opening Day and adds three more over the team's next six games, while Matt Holliday adds three in a four-game span. The team's 13 homers in eight games are second in the majors, a standing they'll have to enjoy while it lasts; the Cards haven't led the league in that category since Big Mac's 70 helped them do so in 1998, and last year Busch Stadium III featured fewer homers per game than any other park.

4


Rockies
5-3
86-76
.627
Up
Jorge De La Rosa tosses a gem against the Padres (7 1 0 0 1 9). Strong early-season outings have been rare for the 29-year-old lefty, who put up a 5.97 ERA in 28 first-half starts in 2008-2009, but a 3.29 ERA in 27 second-half starts. The Rox have allowed just 30 runs thus far, the fewest they've allowed to this point in the history of the franchise.

5


Diamondbacks
5-3
82-80
.561
Up
So Much For the New Guys: With Brandon Webb nowhere in sight, a big part of the Diamondbacks' bid for relevance hinges on Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, both acquired in the Granderson blockbuster. So far, so-so; the two have been cuffed for a combined 6.75 ERA in four starts despite an 18/6 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 frames. The Snakes are 2-2 in those games despite not getting a quality start, though Jackson's second turn is mitigated by his hitting a two-run homer amid a 13-run fourth-inning outburst.

6


Braves
4-4
86-76
.539
Up
The J-Hey Kid: Jason Heyward lives up to the legend built in spring training by becoming the 105th player to homer in his first major-league at-bat, bashing a 476-foot, three-run shot off Carlos Zambrano on Opening Day. He adds two more during a series against the Giants and is off to a .267/.371/.600 start.

7


Dodgers
3-5
83-79
.522
Up
Staff of the Undead: Given the choice for an Opening Day assignment between Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, Joe Torre opts for-wait for it-Vicente Padilla, who pitches as though suffering from a gunshot wound (4.1 6 7 7 3 2). He's not the only retread on this pitching staff, either; Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz and Jeff Weaver have allowed 10 runs in 12 1/3 innings over 15 appearances thus far, with an 8/9 K/BB ratio. At least Torre deserves props for anointing knuckleballer Charlie Haeger his fifth starter; he whiffs 12 in his first turn, albeit in a losing cause, and even adds an inning of scoreless relief.

8


Marlins
5-4
80-82
.494
Up
Cantu Can Do. Can You? Jorge Cantu becomes the first player to collect at least one hit and one RBI in each of his team's first nine games of the season since at least 1920, when RBI became an official stat. His 14 RBI represent nearly one-third of the team's 45 runs thus far, but even so, he's only eighth in the majors in OBI%-a strong reminder that RBI have everything to do with opportunity.

9


Padres
3-5
73-89
.487
Up
Who says you can't score runs in Petco? The Padres plate a park record 17 while routing the Braves in their home opener, including 10 in the fourth. Will Venable and Kyle Blanks both come one hit short of the franchise's first-ever cycle, with the former missing a double, the latter a triple. Venable scores four runs, including two in the fourth, while Blanks doubles home two runs in the fourth, then bops a three-run homer one inning later. The outburst nearly equals the team's scoring in the other seven games (20 runs).

10


Reds
5-4
77-85
.475
Flat
Dueling Debuts: The Reds' wealth of young pitching comes to the fore as a pair of top prospects inaugurate their professional careers on the same day. Aroldis Chapman dazzles in Triple-A (4.2 5 1 0 1 9) while Mike Leake grinds through an effectively wild outing (6.2 4 1 1 7 5), collecting two hits as well. Leake is the first player to jump straight from the amateur ranks to the majors since Xavier Nady in 2000, and the first pitcher to do so since Darren Dreifort in 1994; here's hoping he can avoid the latter's fate, particularly with Dusty Baker minding him.

11


Cubs
4-4
78-84
.474
Down
It's a Ricketts epidemic at Wrigley Field as the new owners take over, inheriting a franchise that hasn't won a World Series since 1908. This may or may not not be their year, but at least a smile and a song can do something to erase the memory of Carlos Zambrano being torched for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings on Opening Day in Atlanta, a game in which the Cubs surrender 16 runs.

12


Brewers
3-5
78-84
.438
Down
Dynamic Duo: Not Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, but Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee, who both homer in the same two games, including a pair that bookend their April 11 contestagainst the Cardinals. Rebounding from a 2009 campaign which ended in mid-May due to a wrist injury, Weeks (.357/.514/.607) hits a leadoff homer off Chris Carpenter, one of three dingers the lineup collects off the Cardinal ace. After the bullpen squanders a 7-3 lead-with Trevor Hoffman blowing his second save opportunity in as many days-gulp-McGehee's walkoff shot sends the Brew Crew home happy.

13


Mets
2-6
79-83
.419
Down
Hope springs eternal as David Wright's homer backs Johan Santana's strong Opening Day start en route to a win. Alas, the reality of a patchwork rotation soon sets in; the starting five has a 7.82 ERA and 4.5 BB/9 since, with Oliver Perez up to his usual tricks, and John Maine (13.50 ERA in eight innings) looking unfit for big-league consumption. Perhaps Omar Minaya should have spent that extra cash on players instead of a rope ladder, not that we can blame him for wanting to escape.

14


Pirates
4-5
70-92
.373
Down
Garrett Jones celebrates his first major-league Opening Day in 12 seasons of pro ball by crushing a pair of homers against the Dodgers. He adds another in the team's second game, and makes a spectacular game-ending catch in their eighth. PECOTA doesn't think much of the 29-year-old journeyman (.251/.321/.439 forecast), but he's right there among the heavy hitters in terms of homers since last July 1, when he arrived in Pittsburgh.

15


Nationals
3-5
74-88
.358
Down
Mirror Image? While Stephen Strasburg, the much-awaited top prospect in the land, debuts in Double-A, econo-sized rotation filler Livan Hernandez shuts out the Mets for seven innings. The last time the eminently hittable Hernandez pitched seven scoreless was June 7, 2009-two days before Strasburg was drafted first overall-for the Mets against the Nationals.

16


Astros
0-8
79-83
.205
Down
Houston, We Have A Problem. Again.


The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Tim Lincecum Strong Start

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