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December 22, 1997
Some ramifications from the Hot Stove LeagueWith all the focus on players who've moved due to expansion, trades, or free agent lunacy, some players whose roles have increased dramatically have received less attention. Here's a quick review of several players whose '98 values may rise due to all the recent activity.
Mark Kotsay, Cliff Floyd, Todd Dunwoody (Florida of/1b types)
If you paid attention to the expansion draft and ensuing hot stove activity, this isn't news to you. Kotsay, Floyd, and Dunwoody will most likely reap the playing time vacated by the departed Moises Alou, Jeff Conine, and Devon White. The impressive part is that all three of those guys look pretty good, although Dunwoody's plate discipline could use another year or two of improvement. Floyd may never recapture all the power he had before that horrible injury, but he still has a strong eye, great speed, and enough wrist strength to put up moderate power numbers. Kotsay projects to do it all - he hit .306/.405/.514 unadjusted as a 21-year-old in AA Portland last year with 17 steals and 20 homers. The power will increase as he ages, and his strike zone control is reminiscent of Jim Thome's.
Roger Cedeno and Todd Hollandsworth (Los Angeles of)
Long a stathead favorite for his incredible plate discipline at a very young age, Cedeno has been ready to play every day in the majors for two years now, but never got his chance as the Dodgers inexplicably sat him and played all sorts of chaff in his place. With Karim Garcia lost to Arizona, Otis Nixon gone, and Brett Butler retired, Cedeno may finally get a clean shot at the job. He should eventually hit .300 with excellent speed and a little more power than speedsters usually provide. However, there are a few centerfielders available in trade (e.g., Marquis Grissom), and I wouldn't be shocked to see one land in LA by the spring. Caveat emptor.
As for Hollandsworth, the leading candidate to steal his job (Garcia) is gone. If Cedeno lands in center, Hollandsworth would have to be simply awful to lose his starting job. That, of course, could happen, but the guaranteed playing time increases his value anyway.
Freddy Garcia and Aramis Ramirez (Pittsburgh 3b)
With the slightly surprising departure of Joe Randa, the Pittsburgh third base job is wide open heading into the spring. Lamont will most likely use Doug Strange as a utility infielder a la Dale Sveum, which leaves just two major candidates for the everyday job at third. Freddy Garcia, a Rule Ver who struggled when promoted from A-ball to AAA this year, is the leading candidate by default. However, the future at third base is right behind him in Aramis Ramirez, whom the club expects to see at third base on Opening Day '99. Garcia will probably get the job out of ST, simply because the club will be reluctant to jump another player from class A, but Ramirez could be up this season to challenge for the job. If he's not already owned in your league, Ramirez should be one of the top three picks in your farm draft.
Jose Hernandez (Chicago Cubs 2b)
Hard to believe that the Cubs seriously thought Miguel Cairo was the answer at second base; fortunately for Cub fans, the Devil Rays eliminated that option by choosing Cairo in the first round of the x-draft. Although the Cubs are reportedly looking at external options for second base, they have begun to acknowledge the presence of a perfectly adequate in-house option: Jose Hernandez. Hernandez is a solid fielder with some pop in his bat; while his plate discipline is too poor for him to get a long-term grip on the job, he could easily pop 20 homers with a decent batting average given a full season at 2b.
Curtis Goodwin (Colorado of)
Goodwin hit the lottery. He essentially moves into Quinton McCracken's role as the guy who plays center whenever Ellis Burks gets hurt (which is always either sooner or later). Goodwin had started to show some improved plate discipline in the last two seasons, and while he's still a hazard to his team on the basepaths, that combination and his likely .300+ average in Coors give him a rotisserie value far in excess of his actual baseball worth. If he can keep his attitude in check, he'll be a great bet to earn $20.
Brian Rose, John Wasdin, Bret Saberhagen, or Robinson Checo (Boston sp) (or anyone who might theoretically enter Boston's starting rotation)
The good news is twofold: first, Suppan's departure opens up a spot for someone else; and second, Pedro Martinez' entrance at the top of the rotation pushes everyone else down a notch. Wins are a fickle thing for starters, but all else being equal, a starter will win two or three more games pitching against opponents' #2 pitchers more than against their #1s.
Jose Cabrera and the Astros' bullpen
The losses of Tom Martin and Russ Springer via the x-draft and Manuel Barrios and Oscar Henriquez in the Alou trade ripped a huge hole in the Houston bullpen for '98. One likely candidates to step into a new role is Jose Cabrera. Cabrera becomes the top lefty setup man, which could mean a handful of saves but more likely just means a fatter innings total, complete with low ratio (he only gave up 39 H in 61 AAA innings last year) and ERA.
Several candidates could emerge to take the top RH setup spot. John Hudek is always in the picture, but is hurt just as often and probably shouldn't be counted on. Jose Lima has the stuff and the control, but simply hasn't taken the last step up; he's worth a $1 flier to find out if this is the year. John Halama and CJ Nitkowski will fight for the 5th spot in the rotation with Scott Elarton, but one or both of the first two could wind up with the consolation prize, a spot in the bullpen. Both should be starters long-term, but could succeed in a yearlong internship in a long-relief/spot-starting role, a la Hampton/Reynolds in 1994.