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February 15, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

Winning the Winter, NL Edition

by Tommy Bennett

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Happy pitchers and catchers! In honor of the first real sign of spring, we're trying something new with the Hit List, namely this feature's first-ever offseason report card. Our PECOTA-driven Projected Standings will be along soon enough, but here we've subjectively graded each team while attempting to answer the question of who "won the winter" by best filling their needs via free agency, trade, and internal promotion, with an eye towards the future as well as the present, and a heavy dose of first-run PECOTA metrics. Our "we" is more than simply the royal kind this time around, as Tommy Bennett will share the Hit List responsibilities with me this season; we'll alternate coverage of each league to keep things fresh. Welcome aboard, Tommy! â€"JJ
RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Brewers
A
.000
Flat
Skinna-Greinke-a-dinky-dink: Zack Greinke (3.52 ERA, 4.6 WARP) becomes a symbol of the team's hope, while Shawn Marcum (3.88, 3.0) gives him more support than he is used to; both shore up what's been the league's worst rotation over the last two years. Even if Greinke can't escape Yuniesky Betancourt (.235 TAv, 0.0 WARP) and his defense, he can at least rely on Takashi Saito (2.92, 1.0) to help finish off opponents. On rare occasions, Greinke throws to backup catcher Wil Nieves (.211, -0.1), who isâ€"let's sayâ€"handy with the glove.

2


Phillies
A-
.000
Flat
But What About the Peanut Rotation? The best problems to solve are the ones you don't have in the first place. Cliff Lee (3.17 ERA, 5.8 WARP) nonchalantly catches the Phils' offer to join their crackerjack rotation. That at least opens the possibility that they'll need to carry only 11 pitchers, which is good since the team simply brings back Jose Contreras (4.36, 1.8 as a swingman) and J.C. Romero (4.72, -0.3) instead of pursuing further upgrades. Much of the uncertainty surrounding the offense comes from top prospect Domonic Brown (.268, 0.4), who's charged with filling the departed Jayson Werth's shoes.

3


Cardinals
B
.000
Flat
85 Wins Ain't Gonna Cut It Any More: As the Pujols negotiations swirl, GM John Mozeliak has to devise a way to sneak past the Brewers and the Reds. Lance Berkman (.299 TAv, 3.4 WARP) and Jake Westbrook (4.27 ERA, 1.8 WARP) look like reasonable gambles for their prices, but it'll take more than Brian Tallet (4.92, -0.2) and a fiver to buy a playoff hot dog in St. Louis. Ian Snell (4.73, 1.0) and Miguel Batista (5.28, -0.8) sign on the same day, which doesn't augur well, but Jim Edmonds (.260, 1.1) has a chance to be more than just a mascot.

4


Padres
B
.000
Flat
New Look Up the Middle: The loss of Adrian Gonzalez means the offense will take a hit, but the Pads are banking that defense will carry them, and this team may win more games than last year's 90-win model. The capable double play tandem of Orlando Hudson (.260 TAv, 1.6 WARP) and Jason Bartlett (.257, 2.0) plus new center fielder Cameron Maybin (.261, 1.9) all profile well with the leather, and could prop up even relatively marginal newcomers like Chad Qualls (3.81 ERA, 0.1 WARP) and Dustin Moseley (5.08, 0.3). Brad Hawpe (.285 TAv) is the new first baseman, and while he's no glove whiz, he couldn't be worse than the -11 FRAA work in right field that suppresses his PECOTA WARP total.

5


Mets
B
.000
Flat
Guaranteed Rate of Return: Now that the stingy Sandy Alderson is in town, the money faucet gets turned off. Out drip deals for risky commodities like Chris Capuano (4.50 ERA, 2.1 WARP) and Chris Young (3.43, 2.8), and either or both could end up being worth significantly more than the cost. They told three of their friendsâ€"Scott Hairston (.260, 0.8), Taylor Tankersley (4.80, -0.3), and Taylor Buchholz (4.30, 0.1)â€"who will in turn tell their friendsâ€"Chin-Lung Hu (.238, 0.7), D.J. Carrasco (4.50, -0.5), and Ronny Paulino (.250, -0.1)â€"and so on, and so on, and so on, leaving the Mets with more bodies, but without the big contracts.

6


Pirates
B
.000
Flat
With Roster Liberty For All: Give them your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to play corner spots. Failed prospects Andy Marte (.255 TAv, 1.1 WARP) and Josh Fields (.259, 0.7) join more established (if not much more distinguished) corner players Matt Diaz (.264, 0.7), Garrett Atkins (.263, 0.5), and Lyle Overbay (.264, 0.9) and create a crowded roster. With the exception of Overbay, though, none of the offensive additions looks to displace any of the younger players in the near future. Scott Olsen (5.25 ERA, 0.8 WARP) and Kevin Correia (4.50, 1.9) join the rotation behind a full year of James McDonald (4.34, 1.8), and at least you can say none of them is Zach Duke. Quantity is not always quality, but at least it isn't total ignominy.

7


Braves
B-
.000
Flat
Flash: Braves fans' fantasy teams now feature 50% more puns, as Dan Uggla (.288 TAv, 3.0 WARP) yuk yuks his way into town $62 million richer and pushes Martin Prado to left field, where his value is less obvious. Scott Linebrink (4.45 ERA, -0.1 WARP) brings more experience than talent to an otherwise young bullpen, while George Sherrill (4.11, 0.1) is the new constable in town (Lefty Trainwreck Rehab Junction, pop.: 1). Minor league deals prove that Yohan Flande (5.69, 0.0) is not an alcohol-based sauce sold at klezmer festivals and that Rodrigo Lopez (5.70, 0.4) is still a baseball player.

8


Reds
B-
.000
Flat
Put on Your Walt-zing Shoes: GM Walt Jocketty spends most of his money on players who had already signed his dance cardâ€"Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Bronson Arroyo. At the fringes Jocketty adds twinkletoe Fred Lewis (.263 TAv, 0.8 WARP) and World Series hero Edgar Renteria (.246, 0.9) to shore up the bench, assuming Paul Janish (.237, 0.6) knows how to lead at short. Otherwise this is largely a reprise of its division-winning predecessor, albeit with significantly more Aroldis Chapman (3.44 ERA, 2.9 WARP) to dance el vals.

9


Cubs
C+
.000
Flat
Grammy Night Performance, Here We Come: Jim Hendry strikes early by booking the club's option on Aramis Ramirez (.288 TAv, 2.3 WARP) and inking Carlos Pena (.287, 1.7) to a one-year gig. Between the two, PECOTA projects 54 home runs, or 36% of last year's team total. In the comeback artist of the year category, Kerry Wood (3.92 ERA, 0.3 WARP) returns to the scene of the crime via another one-year deal; he's joined by Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper in the new alt-country band Ghosts of NL Central Past on their full-length debut, Ode to Lady Marmol-ade.

10


Rockies
C+
.000
Flat
Money for Nothing: Extensions galore give the impression the team is spending like crazy, but the Rockies add few new players. Jorge De La Rosa (5.09 ERA, 2.0) re-ups for another round of promising peripherals, but PECOTA just wants its MTV. Matt Lindstrom (5.10, -0.2) arrives and immediately gets an extension, which makes less sense than most Eighties music videos. Ty Wigginton (.260, 0.6) comes to town to fill in as necessary, and Jose Lopez (.243, 1.3) makes for a decent fallback option in case Ian Stewart (.277, 2.3) or Eric Young, Jr. (.246, 1.1) don't work out in the infield, but with all the splashy spending, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Rockies are paying to preserve the standing of a team that finished in third place.

11


Diamondbacks
C
.000
Flat
The Towers, the Towers, Rapunzel! The prince of bullpens has yet to pull off a splashy act of gallantry, but he adds healthy arms in Armando Galarraga (4.69 ERA, 1.5 WARP projected as a starter) and J.J. Putz (3.25, 0.9), while also letting down his hair to retain the fringy services of Aaron Heilman (4.60, -0.1). A better bullpen will be more than useful when Joe Saunders (4.97, 1.9) discovers opposing hitters don't need locks of hair to scale the left-field wall at Chase Field. Rapunzel's hair won't be quite so windswept now that the air-moving powers of Mark Reynolds have decampedâ€"the Diamondbacks replace his projected .280 TAv with the apparently ageless Melvin Mora (.248 TAv, 1.1 WARP). Despite the downgrade, it's a better idea than overpaying aging mid-market sluggers on multiyear deals, particularly given this team's 2011 outlook.

12


Marlins
C
.000
Flat
Heads Up! The Marlins waste no time getting a head start on the offseason by making sure no other team has a shot at prize commodity . . . John Buck (.255 TAv, 1.2 WARP)? That Beinfest and Co. are willing to go to three years to get the deal done just makes it more of a head-scratcher. The Marlins also acquire one of last year's biggest head cases, Javier Vazquez (3.79 ERA, 4.4 WARP), for whom PECOTA has something of a soft spot. Trouble is, you never know which Vazquez you're getting, which means relying on him in your rotation is an activity best left for the headstrong. The team rounds out the roster with the additions of NL East castoffs Greg Dobbs (.242, -0.1) and Shawn Hill (4.62, 1.1)â€"not exactly heady times in Miami.

13


Dodgers
C
.000
Flat
Community Property: As Frank McCourt's problems mount, the biggest impact signing is Juan Uribe (.255 TAv, 1.4 WARP), which says as much about the Dodgers' bevy of other minor moves as about Uribe's abilities today (never mind his abilities in two years). Marcus Thames (.265, 0.5) is at least capable of hitting lefties in a limited role, and Matt Guerrier (3.63, 0.5) is durable if overpaid, but there's also Rod Barajas (.237, 0.5), who gets an obscene $3.5 million when a year ago he was roster flotsam, and Dioner Navarro (.239, 0.6), who dares fans to spot the difference. The exception to the rule is Jon Garland (4.37 ERA, 2.5 WARP), who completes the lap back to underratedâ€"it only took him about five yearsâ€"and fits in nicely at the back of a Dodgers rotation further fortified by the re-upping of Ted Lilly (3.51, 4.6).

14


Giants
C-
.000
Flat
To the Winners Go the Roster Stability: The only additions to the championship club are Miguel Tejada (.249 TAv, 1.5 WARP), whom the Giants imagine will play shortstop, and Jeff Suppan (5.74, -0.3) who is just brutal at this point. Elmer Dessens (4.21, 0.4) is cheap enough to be useful, but otherwise this is an example of a winning club standing Pat and getting worse in the process.

15


Nationals
C-
.000
Flat
The Failure of PAYGO: $126 million nets a player in Jayson Werth (.295 TAv, 3.0 WARP) who doesn't even get to keep his beard, and his supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired given that outlay. Mike Rizzo hopes Werth and Adam LaRoche (.273, 1.8) can fill the void in the offense left by departing slugger Adam Dunn. Perhaps a bigger concern is the real possibility of extended playing time for Jerry Hairston, Jr. (.242, 0.3) and Alex Cora (.224, -0.4) in the infield. Tom Gorzelanny (4.73 ERA, 2.3 WARP) is a neat enough addition, but apparently PECOTA and the Nationals are together in holding onto delusions that Chien-Ming Wang (4.33, 2.2) will be useful again.

16


Astros
D
.000
Flat
The Good Guys Lost: A bad team with a bad farm system is at least a relatively blank slate. Onto it, Ed Wade paints a trade for Clint Barmes (.242 TAv, 0.9 WARP), who could barely hit in Colorado. He also adds "utility" man Bill Hall (.244, -0.5), who combines with Barmes to provide just about nothing up the middle. The team acquires Ryan Rowland-Smith (4.78 ERA, 0.7 WARP) and promises to bury him at the bottom of a weak starting pitcher depth chart, because Nelson Figueroa (4.00, 1.5) is still hanging around! Brett Wallace (.257, 0.0) gets his chance to impress. The best you can say here is that not much money was expended.


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.

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