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March 20, 2007

Prospectus Today

Being Christina Kahrl

by Joe Sheehan

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Christina Kahrl is on the road this week signing books and talking baseball up and down the East Coast. I'm going to take advantage of this to spend a day perusing the transaction wires, focusing mostly on cuts.

  • Not surprisingly, the Devil Rays sent Joel Guzman to their minor-league camp. Guzman's prospect status has taken a massive hit over the last year, as he struggled to make the transition to the outfield at Las Vegas, was dealt to the Devil Rays, and played poorly at Durham (.193/.228/.386) after the deal. He's gotten so big-6'6" and listed at 250 pounds-that it's hard to envision him playing anywhere but an outfield corner or first base, which means he now has to hit to live. Just 22, there's still a pretty good chance he will. The Devil Rays haven't had a real power source at first base since Fred McGriff; Guzman, left alone over there, could become that player. He's still just a year removed from raking at Double-A at 20. It's far too soon to give up on him.

  • The Dodgers sent down D.J. Houlton. I'm stubborn on this point, but I still think Houlton could help an MLB team in the back of the rotation as kind of a Jon Lieber Lite. He throws strikes, works shallow counts and gives up a lot of fly balls. For a team with either a good outfield defense or a pitchers' home park, he'd look all right. For a team with both, he'd look pretty good. Now, though, he'll start in Las Vegas.

  • Pitchers Colby Lewis and Luis Martinez were both cut by the Nationals. Guys, a tip: if you can't make the staff of the 2007 Washington Nationals, it's time to update the resume and buy some interview clothes, because the baseball thing doesn't look like it's going to work out.

  • After the Mets let Alay Soler go, the Pirates snapped him up. This is interesting in that the Pirates signed two Cuban pitchers over the winter, one of whom, Yoslan Herrera, could contribute later this year. Soler was rushed to the majors last year after a handful of strong starts in the minors, pitched ineffectively and claimed to have suffered a calf injury that hampered his performance, a claim that helped sour relations between him and the team. In the end, the Mets spent more time chasing him-nearly two years-than they eventually did owning him, something of a red flag. I don't think it's clear what he is as a pitcher yet, and the Pirates have nothing to lose by trying to find out. This is another good low-risk signing by David Littlefield.

  • Frederick Lewis was demoted by the Giants. This decision, while not surprising, reflects choosing yet another dance with Todd Linden instead of a player who can run, who plays defense, and who gets on base at a better clip. Maybe Linden, who reached Triple-A back in 2002, really has turned the corner. The Giants would still be better off with a fourth outfielder who can cover for the three old guys and both hit and run for Bengie Molina. Jason Ellison will be the fourth outfielder, and he's basically an inferior version of Lewis. Spring performance doesn't change that. Lewis should be in the majors.

  • The Rangers cut John Koronka, completing a very odd cycle for the left-hander. He tripped into the Rangers' rotation last year, making 23 starts, including some decent ones. For reasons not entirely clear, he then ended up in the Arizona Fall League, making him one of the most experienced players to ever do so. Now, after being third on the team in starts and innings and finding himself in a prospect showcase, Koronka heads back to the minors. It's a completely defensible decision, with the Rangers having upgraded their rotation over the winter and Koronka coming off a 5.69 ERA. I just think it's a strange place for Koronka to find himself.

  • Less defensible is the Blue Jays starting the year without Adam Lind, leaving them with seven right-handed hitters in the lineup, eight on the days Gregg Zaun doesn't play. Reed Johnson's career year was nice, as was Alexis Rios's strong first half, but the Jays need an OBP injection and some kind of productivity from the left side. Lind is no kind of glove, but he would have, should have, been an asset in the lineup.

    I'm fascinated by the Blue Jays, who may be the slowest team in baseball and also the most right-handed. It will be very interesting to see how this team plays, and how it's perceived, given just how obvious its flaws are.

    The Jays also decided to start the season without their third-best starter, sending Dustin McGowan to Triple-A. McGowan is one of their few starting pitching options who actually misses bats, and while the Jays' defense should allow them to support John Thomson and Tomo Ohka reasonably well, there's something to be said for having pitchers with above-average strikeout rates in the room. McGowan needs to contribute to this team in '07 for it to contend.

That was kind of fun, actually. I couldn't do Transaction Analysis-I tried to pinch-hit a long time ago, with disastrous results-but it is fun to take that role once in a while.

--

I have my AL Tout Wars auction on Saturday. This is a 12-team, AL-only league, so the pool is incredibly deep. Throw in that the competition is basically a who's-who of fantasy, and I need all the help I can get. So send in your deepest AL sleepers and the reasons for them. I'll run the best of them on Friday and pick one or two to target in the auction or reserve draft.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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