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April 29, 2005

Fantasy Focus

AL East Busts

by Jeff Erickson

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We're past the point drafting, but a player doesn't cease to be a bust just because we have a month's worth of data for each team. We'll finish off our "Busts" series today, but we'll avoid classifying them in levels, in light of where we are in the season. Instead, use this as a bit of a primer on who to avoid trading for and who to think about getting rid of.

Baltimore Orioles

Sidney Ponson: Here's the fish. There's the barrel. Take this shotgun and fire away. In all seriousness, Ponson's three wins and the O's potential to give him steady run support all season might persuade some owners to invest in him, but beyond his well-chronicled anger management issues, his performance on the mound is lacking. While all sample size caveats about this season still apply, Ponson has walked a hitter every other inning. That pace is well above his career average and won't continue, but at the same token he hasn't had better than a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his career and that ratio has been getting worse over the last two seasons.

Daniel Cabrera: While there's potential for growth here, it's going to take a while for Cabrera, who walked more hitters than he struck out last year. Erik Bedard is a much better choice if you're looking to take a flyer on a young Orioles starter.

Javy Lopez: Lopez is off to a fine start and the Orioles seem more willing to give him time off to rest his back than they did last year, but there's a strong risk of a breakdown over the second half of the season. Enjoy the ride now if you have him, but don't be afraid to explore potential trades around the All-Star break.

Boston Red Sox

David Wells: The news on Wells' injury keeps getting worse. While there are still some mixed reports on the exact nature of the injury, the Red Sox "confirmed as much" that Wells has a sprain of the plantar fascia ligament on the bottom of his foot [http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2005/04/28/piniella_keeps_swinging?pg=2]. Wells will be immobilized for three weeks before beginning his rehab. While manager Terry Francona has estimated his absence to be four to six weeks, expect the latter end of the estimate to be the minimum here.

New York Yankees

Carl Pavano: It's too late to warn you away from Ed Whitson, er, Jaret Wright, but while Pavano doesn't have the same risk level as Wright, it's still prudent to be wary of him. Not only is he making the transition from the NL to the AL (always a reason to be wary), but also Pavano relies on his defense quite a bit to get the job done, striking out fewer than 6.0 batters per nine innings. That works fine when you have Juan Pierre, Alex Gonzalez and Luis Castillo behind you up the middle. It's a steep drop down to Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Tony Womack.

Kevin Brown: The Yankees have a real problem on their hands. Jaret Wright is already out, Mike Mussina is off to a slow start, and Brown has been both injured and terrible this season. Coming on the heels of his high-profile implosion last fall, there's a legitimate concern that he'll never be able to return to form. It's highly doubtful that he'll be able to last the entire season without his wonky back putting him on the DL again. Yankee fans should get familiar with Chien-Ming Wang--you'll be seeing a lot of him this summer.

Tony Womack: Resist the inclination that Womack's counting stats will improve by virtue of joining the Yankees' lineup. Setting aside the fact that he already benefited from hitting in the Cardinals' excellent lineup last year, one quick comparison between Womack's 2004 numbers and his career line indicates that he overachieved last year. In particular, his batting average isn't likely to hold up and at the same token his walk rate didn't improve, meaning that he'll be on base less frequently this year. Don't be surprised if he scores 20 fewer runs than he did in 2004.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Alex Sanchez: The Devil Rays were bailed out by the retirements of Roberto Alomar, Danny Bautista and Marty Cordova this spring, and in the case of Alomar were actually forced to play the better player at second base in Jorge Cantu. They still managed to resist the urge to do the right thing in the outfield, however, and picked up Sanchez after the Tigers released him. They compounded that error by demoting Joey Gathright as soon as Sanchez's 10-game suspension concluded, then batting him third upon his return. How does a player steal 19 bases and bat .322 yet score only 41 runs for the season? Said player also drew all of seven walks on the season, in over 300 plate appearances. Factor in Sanchez's questionable decision-making on the basepaths, and you have a player whose job security is quite low. If he doesn't lose his job in short order, the Devil Rays deserve every loss that they get with him in the lineup.

Scott Kazmir: First, let's acknowledge that the Devil Rays made a great trade to acquire Kazmir in the first place. That said, why did they feel the need to rush him to the big leagues last year and keep him up this year, when he had all of eight career starts at Double-A or higher? There's no disputing Kazmir's stuff, but his command hasn't quite caught up yet, and he's at an age where he's still developing physically. A quick look at his walk rate (21 walks in 33.1 IP last year, 14 walks in 28 IP this year) demonstrates he still has room on the learning curve. Factor in that he has to face the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles so often and you have a pitcher that you can't use in a significant portion of his starts. If you're in a non-keeper league, talk up his potential and package him in a deal that lands you an upgrade at a position where you need it.

Toronto Blue Jays

Gustavo Chacin: A mantra that you'll often hear this time of year from those of us in the fantasy baseball industry is "Buy Low, Sell High." It's good advice, but rarely followed when a fantasy owner has a player whom they acquired on the cheap get off to a good start. There's a natural desire to show off what a great job they did in getting that player, more so if the league in discussion is a keeper league. Chacin fits the profile of a pitcher who's over-performing his expectations and is due for a regression in short order. He doesn't dominate hitters, but rather gets by with his deceptive delivery to keep batters off balance. Once he gets exposed to opponents who can study his motion, he'll become more hittable. He's at his peak value right now--look to see what you can get for him.

Gabe Gross : For those of you speculating that Gross will be promoted in quick fashion following his hot spring training, keep your expectations in check. Alexis Rios is off to a good start at the plate, cutting off one potential avenue of playing time. At the other corner outfield spot, the Jays tied their own hands by giving Frank Catalanotto a two-year deal last fall, so barring injury it's unlikely that they'll supplant Catalanotto with Gross. Also, after hitting eight homers in spring training, Gross has yet to go deep (albeit in a limited sample) in 61 at-bats with Triple-A Syracuse. Those counting on his revamped swing resulting in more power may be disappointed.

Jeff Erickson is the senior editor at Rotowire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Focus," heard every weekday at 2 p.m. ET on XM Channel 175. He can be reached here.

Related Content:  The Who,  Gustavo Cabrera,  Year Of The Injury

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Premium Article Crooked Numbers: The I... (04/28)
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