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January 11, 2008
Missing the Cut
If you haven't already seen it, our MLB Draft Kit is live on RotoWire, including projections for over 900 players and player outlooks for over 1,500 players. This is the culmination of three-month process in getting our magazine off to the printers. I've blogged about many of the players I projected, but today I'm going to turn my attention to some of the players that missed the cut and didn't get projections.
Before discussing any individual players, let's note a couple of things. There will be a handful of players every year that will emerge beyond their low current expectations that we won't predict or even have any sort of projection. Maybe the player in question is a struggling prospect that finally puts it together, or he's a 28-year-old "Four-A" masher that got a chance and ran with it, or he's coming back from injuries and beat all expectations. Perhaps one of the guys listed here will do it. At any rate, it will happen, and it's one of the reasons why I love baseball so much. Also, as events unfold in spring training and even before that, I'll be adding more projections, possibly including some for those players listed here. One more dump trade by either Billy Beane or Andy MacPhail could set off a shock wave of changes in lineups and on rosters, both real and in your fantasy league.
This week I'll focus on the pitchers that didn't make the cut, and in the future I'll address some hitters in the same boat.
Josh Banks: Banks was a September call-up last year and pitched in three games for the Jays, starting one. If you look at his career, he has put up some pretty eye-popping control numbers, most notably a 147:11 K:BB ratio for Double-A New Hampshire in 2005. Yet a closer look reveals a rapidly declining strikeout rate the higher Banks advances: in that 2005 season, his K/9IP was 8.1, but the last two years in Triple-A it's dropped to 6.6 and then 5.4 last year. A low strikeout rate isn't everything, but it's a red flag, especially when a high ground-ball rate and/or a low homer rate do not accompany it. The comparison between Banks and Josh Towers is inescapable. Like Towers, it's possible that Banks will have a couple of good major league seasons, but if so it's going to be because of a good defense behind him, and a little bit of luck on balls in play. Looking at the Jays' depth chart, at best he's their sixth starter right now, behind Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Jesse Litsch, and arguably he's behind Gustavo Chacin, who's recovering from a shoulder procedure still. It looks like Banks will spend at least a good portion of this season in Syracuse again.
Kevin Hart: Hart spent most of 2007 as a starter between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, but got a September call-up and pitched well enough in relief to make the Cubs' post-season roster. Unless the Cubs decide to permanently switch him to the bullpen, however, he's ticketed for a trip back to Iowa. With Ryan Dempster converting back to starting, the Cubs already have four guys competing for the last two spots in the rotation: Dempster, Sean Marshall, Jason Marquis, and Sean Gallagher. The losers of that battle will probably spill over into the bullpen, which is crowded enough in its own right, particularly after the trade for Jose Ascanio from the Braves. If injuries strike, Hart might merit a call-up, but we see him getting only limited major league action this year.
Josh Kinney: Kinney was a playoff hero, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings in the Cards' World Series run in 2006. He missed all of 2007, however, after first undergoing Tommy John surgery and then fracturing his arm in rehab last year. He's already expected to miss the first two months of the season, and given the setbacks he had in his rehab last year, we're going to take a cautious approach with him for 2008. Usually pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery struggle with their command even after they regain their velocity. Given the small sample size that a reliever like Kinney will have, it's just too hard to produce any sort of reliable projection.
Adam Miller: Miller is the marquee name on this list, and perhaps the one most likely to have a projection added later this spring. He's the Indians' best pitching prospect and still perhaps one of the top prospects in the game, but he's had a really hard time staying healthy. He's lost good portions of two of the last three seasons due to elbow and finger injuries. Those finger injuries cropped again in the Arizona Fall League this November, and he ended up with a 9.00 ERA in five outings there. He has yet to master Triple-A or show that he's overcome his finger injury. Until that happens, I don't see a reason to expect much out of him this year. That said, I still plan on protecting him in the BP Kings Scoresheet League, where we can keep minor leaguers without them counting against our cap of players protected.
Dennis Sarfate: Sarfate's short trial with the Astros in September leaps off the page statistically-a 1.08 ERA and a 14:1 K:BB in 8 1/3 relief innings. Of course, that's just a small sample size, so his Triple-A numbers in the Brewers' chain before his trade to the Astros are just as important, and that's where we see the problem: in 61 2/3 innings, he walked a whopping 47 batters, highlighting what's been the major handicap to his professional career. Now that he's with the Orioles, he'll have a fresh opportunity to win a spot, and could even be a dark horse to close given how wide-open the competition is for that role in Baltimore. Still, his historical lack of control will probably rear its ugly head again this spring.
Kevin Mulvey: Mulvey might very well end up in the Mets rotation by midseason, or he could be in Minnesota as part of the compensation in a trade for Johan Santana. I held off on projecting him, however, because he's only had one start above Double-A, and he's had a pretty tepid strikeout rate as a professional since being drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Villanova. I suspect he'll scuffle a little at the Triple-A level and have his major league debut delayed until later in the season.
Philip Humber: The 2004 draft class of pitchers from Rice-Humber, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Townsend-hasn't quite turned out as expected. Humber is now two years removed from his 2005 Tommy John surgery, so there's still hope that he takes the next step. If the Mets don't trade for another starter, or if they do and don't include Humber as part of that deal, he's still behind Mike Pelfrey for a shot in the rotation. Coincidentally, Pelfrey went to Wichita State, a school that had a number of pitchers drafted in the early rounds in the '90s, only to see them get hurt and/or fall short of expectations, as this class of Rice pitchers has.
Devern Hansack: Put this guy in a different organization, the Reds for instance, and he'd receive serious consideration for a rotation slot. But with the Red Sox, Hansack is buried as the seventh or eighth option for a deep starting rotation. Even looking at the bullpen, he's behind Julian Tavarez for the opportunity to be a long reliever. I think that there are some skills worth looking at here, but an opportunity is probably going to have to come in another organization.
Henry Owens: Owens took over the closing duties early last year after the oh-so-predictable Jorge Julio meltdown, and did reasonably well before a shoulder injury initially disabled him in early May. He briefly came back off of the DL, only to suffer a relapse, and he then needed surgery at the end of August. The latest reports on him suggest that he'll be back by May or June, but the information on him is razor-thin right now. Given the nature of the injury, he'll probably need time to regain both his velocity and command, so you can scratch him off of your closer-in-waiting lists for draft day, even if the Marlins trade Kevin Gregg between now and your draft.
This is just a small sampling of those players who didn't earn a projection for 2008 yet, but might still contribute. Are there others that you'd like to see discussed? I'm open to suggestions.