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March 15, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Ides Ideas

by Jim Baker

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There are a number of things on my mind on this, the Ides of March. So, beware:

Those Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I did a chat on the BP site last night. They're always a lot of fun and this one was no different. One of the questions was about the damage Darin Erstad was doing to the Angels by playing first base. My response was that they could go to the World Series in spite of having him there. As we all know, the trick is getting to the postseason in the first place. Once you're there, lady luck is often your dominatrix and all bets are off. Teams have made it that far with greater albatrosses than Erstad.

I'd be willing to concede the division to the Angels right now if they would install Casey Kotchman as their first baseman instead of Erstad, but that isn't going to happen. That could be worth two or three wins, but it's hard to bench a player who makes what Erstad does. If the Angels lose the division to the A's by one or two games, then this will be a crucial error. If nobody else runs at them, though, then their success will be, at least partially attributed to Erstad's anchoring the infield. Strange, that.

More Angelic Musings

According to the latest depth charts, the Angels' fourth and fifth outfielders will be Jeff DaVanon and Juan Rivera. I'm wondering if these are the best combined fourth and fifth outfielders in the game. My guess is that they are. Who would be better (understanding that some situations might change between now and the start of the season)?

B.J. Surhoff and Jay Gibbons, Baltimore
Bobby Kielty and Charles Thomas, Oakland
Marlon Byrd and Jason Michaels, Philadelphia
Eric Young and Xavier Nady, San Diego
Pedro Feliz and Michael Tucker, San Francisco

How to Read BP 2005

When one takes possession of the new BP, there is a tendency to dive right in and start reading at random. This is a mistake. I know, because I did it and I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to recover from it. The problem with reading a book of this nature randomly is that you are going to miss a lot of stuff, maybe 15%-20% of the content. For those of you who haven't gotten or started reading your copies yet, do not do what I did! Read the book systematically. I'm not saying you have to read it like a novel from front to back, marking your place with a $100 bill. I'm saying you need to work a system that will ensure total coverage. If you feel that the back-to-front thing is too repressive, devise a system of your own. Start with your favorite team and work their division from there, then their league. Do it geographically. Keep a checklist, though, otherwise, you'll end up like me, skipping around randomly and never getting the proper coverage.

Will Carroll on The Big Idea

Will Carroll appeared on Donny Deutsch's Big Idea on CNBC last night. I liked it when the Mr. America guy said he could tell when a person was juiced and when he wasn't and Will suggested that baseball should hire him in lieu of instituting a testing program. Speaking of steroids, I'm wondering if Jose Canseco's book will go into a special printing after he dies prematurely in the not too distant future. I mean, I don't want him or anyone else to die earlier than usual, but isn't there a pretty strong chance that he's already punched his own ticket?

Promise Left to Ripen

I swore I wouldn't discuss PECOTA projections anymore, but I thought it would be fun to look at the rookie position players who have the best shot at making a splash in 2005 who probably won't get a shot at making a splash in 2005. Keeping in mind that PECOTA relies on statistical (three-year weighted averages where available) and physical (height, weight, age) information to make its predictions, without the benefit/curse of human input on playing time. That said...

33.1: Dustin Pedroia, Boston (ss)
The best projected VORP for any player with no previous major league experience, he's behind Edgar Renteria (37.7) and Hanley Ramirez (8.1) on the depth chart of life. He's had just four spring at-bats while the other two have split the majority of the playing time. Not even half the teams in the majors had a shortstop with a VORP over 30 last year; if baseball were run like a hippie food co-op, he'd be redistributed to a team with a pressing need at short instead of being sent to the minor league complex for reassignment.

28.9: Carlos Quentin, Arizona (rf)
You would think that a team coming off a 51-win season with a talent like this on the way up (he's 22) would break camp with him in the van. Another injury to Luis Gonzalez, and you may yet see Quentin in Phoenix as early as this year, in which case he'd be in a position to grab a Dontrelle Willis-style Rookie of the Year award.

25.9: Justin Huber, Kansas City (lf)
This guy or Terrence Long: You make the call. He's only got nine spring at-bats so far, so it looks like he'll be playing for the Omaha Steaks come April.

22.4: Ben Zobrist, Houston (ss)
The jump from the New York-Penn League (where he led the loop with a .439 OBP) to Minute Maid Park is like escalating a war from muskets to A-bombs. He's got a higher projection than Adam Everett (12.4), Eric Bruntlett (3.2) and Jose Vizcaino (2.3) put together. It's academic, though, as he's not in big league camp this year.

22.4: Daric Barton, Oakland (c)
He doesn't turn 20 until August and already he's projecting higher than many millionaire ballplayers. He came over from St. Louis in the Mark Mulder trade and has had two at-bats so far this spring, so he's very much on the radar. There could come a day when Mulder is the answer to the trivia question, "Who did the Cardinals get when they gave up Daric Barton?"

Skroo Upps (Skroo Upps is a copyrighted feature of this author)

In my last column, I discussed four-decade players and managed to leave Tim Raines off the list. I don't know which is more embarrassing: that I made this oversight or how I made it. While a lot of players barely played on the back end of their fourth decade, Raines had an incredibly short stint on the front end: just six appearances in 1979. All six were pinch-running stints. He ran for, in order: Gary Carter, Tony Perez (twice), Rusty Staub, Larry Parrish and Ellis Valentine. That's two Hall of Famers, a player with Hall of Fame talent (Valentine) and a guy who would have 3,000 hits with a slightly different career arc (Staub). Raines stole two bases in two tries, scored three times. The Expos went 5-1 in those games. At the time of these appearances, his son, Tim Raines, Jr., had only been alive for two weeks. A couple decades later the two Raineses would roam the same outfield.

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