January 19, 1998
This week's patient: the AL East
An aging, overrated team whose offense should continue sliding. The fragility of corner outfielders Jeffrey Hammonds and Eric Davis should create yet another opportunity for Tony Tarasco, while shortstop Augie Ojeda could be ready by midseason. Danny Clyburn could also have an impact as a platoon DH.
There's a lack of a good #3 hitter; using Alomar there against right-handers means the #2 slot is a little weak. Tarasco has some upside there.
And, no, we didn't forget about Mike Bordick or Joe Carter.
vs. RHP vs. LHP Anderson CF Anderson CF Tarasco RF Clyburn DH Alomar 2B Davis RF Palmeiro 1B Hammonds LF Baines DH Hoiles C Hammonds LF Palmeiro 1B Surhoff 3B Ripken SS Hoiles C Surhoff 3B Ripken SS Alomar 2B
BOSTON RED SOX
The lack of good platoon partners in left field, right field and at designated hitter is a big problem for the Sox, and one that should be easy to remedy. People like Patrick Lennon are still available. Having to use Jeff Frye as a left fielder, and play Damon Buford at all, is a sign you're not paying attention.
Having so-so corner outfield platoons also negates much of the benefit derived from having the best offensive middle infield in the game, along with a pretty good catching platoon. If the Sox can find even one good corner outfielder by April, they could score 900 runs.
The lack of good outfielders also means there's a lot of pressure on Michael Coleman to be for real. Right now, he is the team's best CF option.
vs. RHP vs. LHP Naehring 3B Naehring 3B Valentin 2B Valentin 2B Vaughn 1B Vaughn 1B Garciaparra 2B Garciaparra 2B Jefferson DH Leyritz C Coleman CF Coleman CF Hatteberg C Pozo DH O'Leary LF Frye LF Bragg RF Buford/Hyzdu RF
NEW YORK YANKEES
The big surprise in the lineups below is Rudy Gomez. Gomez is a 23-year-old second baseman, a 1996 draftee, who has hit ever since he was drafted, with no problems adjusting to the wooden bat. He looks a bit like Quilvio Veras, circa 1995, and is the Yankees' best second-base option. He is listed below as a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but his skills really would make him a leadoff hitter if he can make the jump from Double-A to the majors.
Third base is a problem, but the Yankees should get enough offense out of 2B/SS/C that they can carry Scott Brosius' glove and hope he reverts to his 1995 form, a happy medium between his 1996 and 1997 seasons.
vs. RHP vs. LHP Williams CF Jeter SS Jeter SS Curtis LF O'Neill RF Williams CF Davis DH Davis DH Martinez 1B Martinez 1B Ledee LF Brosius 3B Gomez 2B O'Neill RF Posada C Posada C Brosius 3B Gomez 2B
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
A horrific offense. Really, really bad, and there are really no better options in the system than the ones we list below. Players like Steve Cox and Robert Smith might be better than Fred McGriff and Kevin Stocker, but it's close. If the Devil Rays score 700 runs, it's a major upset.
vs. RHP vs. LHP Boggs 3B McCracken CF Martinez CF Stocker SS Butler RF Kelly LF Sorrento 1B Trammell DH McGriff DH McGriff 1B Kieschnick LF Martinez RF Ledesma 2B Boggs 3B Flaherty C Ledesma 2B Stocker SS Flaherty C
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
It's fairly obvious who is most deserving of playing time in Toronto. It's simple: if Tom Evans and Jeff Patzke play, the team can win the division. If Ed Sprague plays third base and Tony Fernandez gets the bulk of the time at second base, the 75-80 runs that would cost the Jays will probably be enough to keep them home in October.
vs. RHP vs. LHP Stewart LF Stewart LF Patzke 2B Fernandez 2B Cruz CF Cruz CF Stanley DH Stanley DH Delgado 1B Evans 3B Evans 3B Santiago C Green RF Delgado 1B Fletcher C Green RF Gonzalez SS Gonzalez SS