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April 16, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Opening Up in the AL

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Twins
7-3
81-81
.646
Up
Out of the Bag: The Twins reel off a five-game winning streak during the season's first week before returning home to open Target Field, reintroducing outdoor baseball to Minneapolis for the first time since September 30, 1981. On a balmy 65-degree day, Joe Mauer fails to homer to inaugurate The House That Mauer Built, but he does collect three hits (two doubles), while Jason Kubel does the honor of launching the first homer.

2


Yankees
6-3
91-71
.635
Up
The defending champions rack up road series wins in Boston and Tampa Bay before returning home to ring in a celebration which includes a classy tribute to the departed World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui (now the Los Angeles Godzilla of Anaheim). New arrivals Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson fare well, but Javier Vazquez isn't feeling the love; he's booed in the Bronx, perhaps because his ERA in pinstripes dating back to the 2004 All-Star break now stands at 7.52 (101 2/3 innings including postseason).

3


Blue Jays
7-3
72-90
.589
Up
Near No-Nos: Recovered from Tommy John surgery, Shaun Marcum returns to a major-league mound for the first time since Sept. 16, 2008 and tosses 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball on Opening Day before unraveling. Not to be outdone, Ricky Romero offers seven innings of no-hit ball as well before former teammate Alex Rios ("Dear Irony: thanks for that") connects for a two-run homer, though at least this time the Jays hang on to win. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells homers five times, one for every $23 million he has remaining on his deal.

4


Rays
6-3
92-70
.558
Down
The Rays jump out to their best start in franchise history thanks to their rotation, which produces a 2.88 ERA through their first nine starts, six of them quality start-grade spins (and another prevented by injury). Leading the way are Matt Garza (1.13 ERA, 7.8 K/9) and David Price (2.45 ERA, 8.6 K/9), both dominating like the guys in the catalog. Alas, the bullpen's 6.85 Fair Run Average is undoing some of that good work, with Randy Choate's Maddoning ineptitude (2 1/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, -0.6 WXRL) magnifying the loss of fellow southpaw J.P. Howell.

5


Athletics
7-4
83-79
.557
Up
It's the Pitching, Stupid: Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer make uneven returns to the major leagues after missing all of 2009, but amid the stingy run prevention (3.1 per game) that helps the A's grab the AL West lead, the real story is Brett Anderson. He tosses 12 innings of shutout ball across his first two outings, both against the Mariners; alas, the A's fail to score in one of them and lose anyway. Ranked 24th on our Top 100 Prospects list last year, Anderson put up a 5.45 ERA through the end of June (16 starts), but his 2.71 mark dating back to last July 1 ranks seventh among major-league starters, five of whom placed in the top three in the two leagues' Cy Young voting.

6


Rangers
5-4
83-79
.547
Up
Cruz Control: Nelson Cruz jumps out to an early lead in the home run race, belting six through his first eight games-the fastest start in the Retrosheet era-including a three-run Opening Day shot which spoils Shaun Marcum's just-foiled no-hit bid and a 10th-inning game-winner. He's hitting 375/.447/1.063 thus far, but the rest of the team is at .244/.301/.332. Meanwhile, Frank Francisco is temporarily tossed out of the closer chair in favor of Neftali Feliz after blowing consecutive save opportunities.

7


Tigers
6-3
79-83
.544
Up
Renowned for wretched starts in recent years, the Tigers get off on the good foot for a change. At the plate, Miguel Cabrera (.412/.524/.618) works to rebuild his reputation after last October's alcohol-related debacle, Magglio Ordoņez (.368/.455/.658) turns the page on a frustrating season, and Austin Jackson (.306/.375/.472) gets off to a flying start. On the hill, Jeremy Bonderman makes a solid return from last year's injury woes, and Dontrelle Willis keeps it together for a change, though his second outing offers cause for concern.

8


White Sox
4-6
79-83
.518
Up
Hitless Wonders? The White Sox offense gets off to a slow start, scoring just 31 runs through their first eight games before breaking out for 11 runs against the Blue Jays. The early returns on the newcomers are mixed; Juan Pierre (.194/.293/.194) has been a cipher atop the lineup, and Mark Kotsay (.158/.238/.316) hasn't done much either, but Andruw Jones (.304/.429/.739) appears to be alive and well; his three homers in 28 PA match his 2008 output with the Dodgers in 238 PA.

9


Red Sox
4-5
95-67
.491
Down
Big Papi, Big Problems: Despite coming from behind to win on their opening night, the Sox drop their season-opening series to the Yankees in Fenway, then play the patsies as the Twins open Target Field as well. Amid their slow start, concerns mount regarding David Ortiz, who starts 4-for-26 with no homers and 13 strikeouts, including two or more in five straight games. Colorful in expressing his frustration, Ortiz is at least somewhat vulnerable given the presence of Mike Lowell on the bench. PECOTA isn't terribly concerned, forecasting a .274/.368/.514 weighted mean (a .290 True Average) for the 34-year-old slugger, but Jay-Z has beef.

10


Royals
4-5
76-86
.463
Down
Moore's Mad Money: It hardly undoes the .257/.305/.415 showing which cost the Royals $24 million in 2008-09, but Jose Guillen starts 2010 on the right note, popping five homers in a four-game span. Guillen's eight extra-base hits through 39 PA are nearly half of the 17 he had in 312 PA last year. Also making Dayton Moore look good thus far are Scott Podsednik (16-for-45), Jason Kendall (13-for-34), and Rick Ankiel (10-for-32). In other words, it's early yet.

11


Mariners
4-6
82-80
.399
Down
About That Offense: Concerns about the remade Mariners' ability to score runs take little time to manifest themselves. Likewise for concerns about Milton Bradley, who begins the year 1-for-22 and again at the center of controversy. Bradley does break out for a three-run homer to snap the Mariners' 20-inning scoreless streak, but he's just 4-for-30, and the team is averaging 2.8 runs per game.

12


Indians
3-6
79-83
.386
Down
Famed for their slow starts under former manager Eric Wedge, the Indians aren't faring much better thus far under new skipper Manny Acta. The offense is sputtering at a .211/.303/.322 clip, TJS returnee Jake Westbrook has been lit twice, and Fausto Carmona's spring revival is living on borrowed time. Though he's allowed just five runs and six hits in 14 innings, his 5/10 K/BB ratio suggests he'll wind up on the wrong end of this Fausto-ian bargain soon enough.

13


Angels
3-7
78-84
.376
Down
Bad Wood: Charged with taking over for the departed Chone Figgins after three years of cooling his heels at Triple-A and hitting just .192/.222/.313 in 236 big-league PA, Brandon Wood is off to another troubling start, going 3-for-30 and running his career K/BB ratio to 84/8. Meanwhile, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders are having a hard time shaking off last year's disappointments; through two starts apiece, they've combined for a 7.15 ERA and 3.2 HR/9 as the Angels begin the year just where PECOTA projected.

14


Orioles
1-9
78-84
.312
Down
The O's stumble to their worst start since their record-setting1988 debacle. Not that they don't have excuses, starting with the 4-for-26 performances they've gotten from second basemen Brian Roberts (now DL'd) and Julio Lugo, and ending with two blown saves (and a near-miss) from Mike Gonzalez, who himself winds up sidelined due to a shoulder strain.


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

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