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April 12, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

Get Your Phils

by Tommy Bennett

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

1


Phillies
7-2
4-2
.709
Up

With BABIP Like This, Who Needs Pitching? The Phils don't have a sub-.350 OBP in their lineup, as Ryan Howard (.346/.414/.538) and Shane Victorino (.306/.375/.528) are off to hot starts. The left side of the beast with four backs isn't so lucky, as Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels suffer one brutal outing apiece—the team's only two losses to date. This upside-down way of winning will not last long: the team sports a .384 BABIP on offense and a .325 BABIP against the pitching and defense. Jose Contreras looks dandy so far as the team's new closer, a role he is likely to fill through the All-Star break.

2


Rockies
7-2
6-1
.643
Up
Where Is The Busy Bullpen?! Closer Huston Street (9 IP) and setup man Rafael Betancourt (6 IP) are the big Colorado pen names, but Matts Belisle (5 1/3 IP) and Lindstrom (4 IP) each appear in at least five games as well. They pick up the starters, who battle injury and quick exits en route to a pedestrian 1.7 K/BB ratio. Ubaldo Jimenez hits the 15-day DL with a cuticle cut on his thumb, thankfully not serious, as Jorge de la Rosa battles blister issues. The team isn't much tougher on offense, as only Troy Tulowitzki (6 XBH) and Seth Smith (6 XBH) have their power strokes working.

3


Reds
7-3
4-3
.641
Up
Votto von Bismarck: Joey Votto continues his MVP season apace, leading his merry band of Junkers to unify the NL Central through blood and iron as the Brewers and Cardinals flail around them. Edinson Volquez's third time out (6.0 3 2 2 3 5) is at least nominally more successful, but overall mediocre starting performances make Cincy faithful yearn for Johnny Cueto (on the DL with shoulder inflammation). Veteran closer Francisco Cordero finds himself surrounded by a young bullpen (average non-Coco age: 26), and the staff only has one other guy north of 30: Bronson Arroyo, who has been a revelation. With some of the team's success attributable to Paul Janish's surprising ranking among the league leaders in batting average, the pre-war period may not bring peace to Cincinnati for that long.

4


Giants
4-6
3-3
.520
Down
Kids These Days: Brandon Belt blows his first two weeks of service time by delivering just five hits in his first 39 plate appearances, a far cry from last year's sizzling rookie debut. Belt's presence pushes Aubrey Huff into right field, where he combines with Pat Burrell to terrorize the very idea of defense. Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval once again flirts with making contact with the baseball. The top three in the rotation have been as advertised: Tim Lincecum's velocity is up, Jonathan Sanchez's strikeout rate stays off the charts, and Matt Cain keeps doing whatever it is that he does. The question mark is Madison Bumgarner, who has battled control issues in his first two (lousy) starts. For his part, Brian Wilson rejoins the team after recovering from an oblique injury and promptly sets fire to his first save opportunity.

5


Marlins
5-4
4-2
.497
Down
Legs Cut From Under: Hanley Ramirez misses consecutive games to a leg contusion suffered on a Bill Hall breakup slide, but his cold bat (.207/.281/.310) isn't much better than that of the alternatives. Second-year players Logan Morrison (9 BB, 5 XBH) and Gaby Sanchez (.415 OBP) provide much of the fuel for a team that will play Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms for significant time at third base. Ricky Nolasco tries on his new $26.5 million deal and finds he likes it (15 IP, 6 K, 0 BB) so far. Javier Vazquez is clearly still a work in progress, as his fastball sits in the high 80s and he has more walks (7) than strikeouts (5) in his two starts.

6


Diamondbacks
4-5
3-3
.482
Up
Desert Mirage: The Diamondbacks ride Miguel Montero's (5 XBH) hot start to a 4-5 record, but a team with question marks at first base (Russell Branyan and Juan Miranda), third base (the ghost of Melvin Mora), and wherever the heck Kirk Gibson decides to write in Willie Bloomquist's name has some serious flaws. The rotation after Ian Kennedy (12 K, 4 BB) and Daniel Hudson (13 K, 5 BB) is a bunch of bums who won't get any help from their home park. With two lefties inexplicably splitting duties at first base, this is a team without clear direction and without many places to go but down.

7


Padres
4-5
2-4
.475
Down
Typesetting with Latos: The return of young ace Mat Latos (6.0 4 3 3 2 7) falls short of triumph but is a good sign for a team in need of one. The offense will always look worse than it is—which is still quite bad—but it gets useful performances out of Chase Headley's discipline (7 BB) and Nick Hundley's promising start. Aaron Harang (12 IP, 8 K, 4 BB) so far looks like an inspired pickup, especially next to guys like Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley. The top five in the bullpen, though, are sensational: Bell, Gregerson, Neshek, Qualls, and Adams each have the talent to be among most teams' top two relievers. The question is whether the starters and the offense can keep games close enough for them to matter.

8


Dodgers
6-4
3-3
.467
Down
Oh, But The Offense: On pace to score barely more than 500 runs, the Dodger offense is underperforming. Lackluster performances from Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe, and James Loney (none world beaters even when swinging well) are offset by unsustainable starts from guys like Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp. The rotation is perhaps baseball's most underrated: Clayton Kershaw (19 2/3 IP, 24 K, 4 BB) continues to become the pitcher he is going to be and Hiroki Kuroda does nothing but strike out three times as many guys as he walks. The Jon Broxton rollercoaster is back for another season, and the games are going to be close. Hang on, folks.

9


Brewers
5-5
5-1
.467
Down
Got an Axford To Grind . . . ford: After a brief flare-up in his first appearance, John Axford notches three straight saves to ease the latest set of concerns about Brewers pitching. Behind Axford, Kameron Loe has to prove last year's amazing season wasn't a fluke, Takashi Saito has to prove he can stay healthy at age 41, and Sergio Mitre has to prove he deserves a roster spot. The starters are relatively successful in the absence of Zack Greinke; if you predicted Chris Narveson (14 K, 4 BB) to have the best K/BB ratio of any Brewers starter after two starts, please collect your winnings. After battling shoulder stiffness, Shaun Marcum has struggled with his command (10.2 IP, 11K, 7 BB). The offense swings a big club, and the trio of Ryan Braun (4 HR), Prince Fielder (6 XBH), and Rickie Weeks (5 XBH) lead the way. If they can hide Yuniesky Betancourt's vortex of suck long enough for Greinke to get back, they have a good chance to move up and fast.

10


Cardinals
4-6
3-3
.455
Down
Dropping the Ball: Colby Rasmus drops what was scored a game-winning double in San Francisco, and he's the guy having a hot start. Lance Berkman turns it on to fuel an otherwise morose (Albert who?) offense past a weak Diamondback pitching staff. Kyle McClellan is effective if not always pretty in replacing the injured Adam Wainwright, and Matt Holliday turns around a nine-day recovery from an appendectomy. How long can Pujols (just one XBH) stay silent?

11


Braves
4-6
1-5
.443
Down
Missing Bobby: Martin Prado and his career 7% walk rate bat leadoff against the Phillies starters; Prado has still taken only one walk all year. The madness of George Sherrill's usage continues: he's faced as many right-handers as he has fellow southpaws, despite a staggering .237/.383 lefty/righty OBP split for his career. Derek Lowe continues to take the ball successfully—he hasn't thrown fewer than 32 starts in a year since he converted back to a starter. Freddie Freeman's ROY campaign starts off no better than Brandon Belt's, but Jason Heyward continues in his wild .400+ OBP ways.

12


Cubs
5-5
3-3
.443
Down
His Name is Darwin Barney: The middle infielder with the funny name comes through big time to save Ryan Dempster the shame of losing to the Astros. Starlin Castro (.364/.391/.500) was the catalyst on Monday, aided by Barney, whose two hits and two walks raised his batting average and on-base percentage to .381 and .417, respectively. New first baseman Carlos Pena isn't so lucky: the .174 batting average isn't as surprising as the power outage. On the mound, Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells both hit the 15-day DL, leaving starts for untested and middling guys like James Russell and Casey Coleman. Any dreams the Cubs may have harbored of being a sleeper team had better get realized soon, before things get worse.

13


Nationals
4-5
3-3
.419
Down
The Zimmerman Telegram: The team's star third baseman hits the DL with a strained abdominal muscle, which he aggravated after first injuring in spring training. The team is well lost without him: only Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos currently sport a slugging percentage over .400. The onus is on the $126 million man, Jayson Werth (.200/.333/.371), to pick up the slack in Zim's absence. Meanwhile, the Zimmermann by any other name smells as sweet: Jordan's second start was even more promising than the first.

14


Pirates
5-5
2-4
.414
Down
Ignominy: Arguably the Pirates best pitcher, Kevin Correia, he of the 5.40 ERA as a Padre, waltzes through two starts on guile alone. Still, the rotation has the inside track for the worst in baseball—top to bottom there isn't a guy who doesn't make you feel a little uncomfortable on the mound. Joel Hanrahan (6 1/3 IP, 8 K, 1 BB), on the other hand, looks like the natural choice to close games. What fun part there is comes from the offense, where Jose Tabata (5 SB in just 10 games) and Neil Walker (grand slam on opening day) have shined.

15


Mets
4-6
2-5
.386
Down
A New Dawn: Nearly all the question marks from the offense are looking positive. Josh Thole maintains a solid walk rate, Ike Davis and David Wright have shown off their power, and this Carlos Beltran fellow seems oddly familiar. Jose Reyes steals and puts the ball in play, same as always, but with better results than in some occasions past. On the other hand, Brad Emaus avoids being cut from Major League spring training on his birthday for the third straight year, only to open the year hitting .167 and with no secondary value. Angel Pagan has similarly yet to find his stroke. But the reason this team struggles to contend in 2011 is the rotation: R.A. Dickey is a lovable pitcher but no ace, and Mike Pelfrey is just two effective pitches away from being the great starter everyone in Queens always hoped he would become.

16


Astros
2-8
2-5
.294
Down
Star-Crossed Rovers: Hunter Pence plays to his strengths and shows ability to hit for decent average and moderate power. Trouble is, that's where the good news mostly ends. Michael Bourn gets on a base a little, and Brett Wallace's power isn't entirely impossible to project. Wandy Rodriguez continues to toil in decent-peripheral above-averageness amidst a throng of meltdowns eager to let opposing hitters put the ball in play. Jordan Lyles, at Triple-A, has an uninspiring debut (4.0 7 3 3 2 1).


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.

Related Content:  The Who,  Offense,  Year Of The Injury,  Hot Starts

3 comments have been left for this article.

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