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May 8, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

The Banny Man and the Manny Ban

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
21-9
6-1
.669
Up
Unlucky 13? Less than 24 hours after the Dodgers break a 98-year-old major league record by winning their first 13 home games of the season, Manny Ramirez is suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy. Ramirez is hitting .380/.490/.710 in 80 games since being traded to LA last July, and now won't return until July 3, but even with Juan Pierre in the lineup, the team is unlikely to lose its frontrunner status in the Mild Mild NL West.

2


Blue Jays
20-11
5-2
.620
Up
While the sustainability of their hot start remains in question, the Jays simply keep padding their AL-best record and run differential. They shuffle their decimated rotation, recalling Brett Cecil and Robert Ray, and sending Ricky Romero on a rehab assignment while shipping out David Purcey and Brian Burres, who had combined for a 7.76 ERA and one quality start out of seven. Despite the perpetual patching of their pitching, the Jays are third in the league in SNLVAR.

3


Cardinals
19-10
3-3
.614
Down
The Cardinals continue to fly high, but Rick Ankiel is grounded after crashing headfirst into a wall; he avoids the worst-case scenario but lands on the DL with a deep shoulder bruise, an absence that opens the door for Colby Rasmus to take over his natural position. Eighth on our Top 100 Prospects list, the 22-year-old Rasmus is hitting .257/.349/.351 in part-time duty.

4


Royals
18-11
6-1
.605
Up
Banny's Back: Brian Bannister blanks Seattle for six innings, his third quality start out of four since being recalled from the minors. He's carrying a 1.48 ERA, thanks in large part to a .230 BABIP that's bound to regress, though it's worth noting his career mark is .280. Zack Greinke, who lowers his ERA to 0.40 after tossing his second shutout of the year, is at a comparatively normal .286.

5


Red Sox
18-11
4-3
.566
Down
The Red Sox take two in the Bronx to run their record to 5-0 against the Yankees this year, but only after dropping three of four in Tampa Bay. While the offense is humming despite David Ortiz's meager performance (.229/.336/.333 without a homer thus far)-hell, they bash out an AL-record dozen runs in one inning without Big Papi, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Kevin Youkilis-the rotation manages just three quality starts in a nine-game stretch and now ranks second-to-last in both SNLVAR and Fair Run Average. Tim Wakefield's the only starter with an ERA below 5.11, and Daisuke Matsuzaka's only just begun his rehab stint.

6


Mets
14-13
5-1
.559
Up
Heating Up: The Mets regain some ground in the NL East, with Carlos Beltran punctuating a 16-game hitting streak with a two-homer game; he's hitting .382/.479/.598, good enough for the league's top batting average and second-best OBP. David Wright shows some muscle, collecting five extra-base hits in six games after managing just six in all of April. Meanwhile, the team banishes Oliver Perez first to the bullpen and then to the DL with patellar tendonitis; Jon Niese will take his place, though he's been bombed for a 6.55 ERA in Triple-A.

7


Rays
14-16
5-2
.538
Flat
Double Trouble: Carlos Pena belts a decisive late-inning home run to down the Yankees on back-to-back nights, one in the 10th inning off of Phil Coke, the other in the ninth off of Mariano Rivera. The latter is Pena's fourth homer for the week and MLB-best 13th for the year, and it's immediately followed by Evan Longoria's second shot of the game and 10th of the season. It's also the first time the venerable closer has yielded back-to-back shots in his major league career. Longoria is hitting .368/.416/.754 and leading the league in slugging, with Pena's .688 ranking third in that category.

8


Brewers
16-13
4-3
.537
Up
The Brewers climb to second place in the NL Central thanks to a 12-3 run. Ryan Braun takes time out from battling a lingering intracostal strain to stroke a two-run pinch double which keys a late comeback against the Pirates, then homers and drives in six runs to lead a 15-3 drubbing of the Reds. He's hitting .320/.431/.557 and-perhaps due to his injury-is walking at nearly double his previous career rate.

9


Rangers
15-13
5-2
.525
Up
Cinco de Mayo: With five straight wins, the Rangers claim first place in the AL West, and they continue to reap the benefits of Elvis Andrus' promotion. While the young shortstop's hitting (.259/.286/.407) isn't much to write home about, the team ranks third in the league in Defensive Efficiency, an MLB-high 31 points better than last year. That's particularly helped the shaky rotation, which ranks seventh in SNLVAR after bringing up the rear by a wide margin a year ago.

10


Cubs
16-12
6-1
.523
Up
Alfonso Soriano bashes two homers to help carry the Cubs to their sixth win in seven games. Amid the litany of injuries that have helped knock the team off their preseason pedestal, Sori's nine dingers tie him for second in the league. Alas, the injury list grows longer, as Carlos Zambrano hits the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

11


Tigers
14-13
3-3
.518
Flat
Justin Time: Pounded for 21 runs in his first 21 innings, Justin Verlander's allowed just one run and 12 baserunners in his past 14 frames while whiffing 20. He's second in the league in strikeouts, and his K/BB ratio is 3.75, exactly twice what it was last year. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello rebounds from last week's Bronx bombing by throwing seven scoreless innings against the Twins.

12


Phillies
14-12
3-3
.499
Up
Raul Roolz: Raul Ibañez's eighth-inning homer carries the Phillies past the Mets, but it's their lone victory in four games against their NL East rivals this week. Despite the losses-not to mention a staff that's second-to-last in the league in run prevention-they're in first place in part because Ibañez, the team's only major offseason acquisition, is hitting a sizzling .343/.405/.676 with the league's second-best slugging percentage.

13


Braves
13-15
3-4
.496
Down
You're a Dull Boy, Frenchy: After supposedly finding the religion of plate discipline over the winter, Jeff Francoeur is back to his old ways, drawing just four walks in 118 PA, and getting on base at a .305 clip that's actually seven points below his career rate. "If on-base percentage is so important, then why don't they put it up on the scoreboard?" he muses, indicating that yes, there are questions so dumb they shouldn't be asked.

14


Angels
13-14
4-2
.494
Up
Nap Time At Last: Just three days shy of three full years in the majors, Mike Napoli finally gets a start at DH-three of them, in fact-and responds by going 8-for-11 with 13 total bases. You'd think such a move would have been glaringly obvious by now given the presence of a defensively superior catcher and the absence of Vlad Guerrero, the lone Angel with a higher OPS since Napoli hit Anaheim back in 2006. Alas, old-schooler Mike Scioscia labors under the notion that there are only two positions for a backstop: a-squattin' and a-sittin'. Napoli is hitting .328/.444/.642, just two points of batting average shy of leading the team in all three triple-slash categories.

15


Rockies
11-16
3-4
.493
Up
Beltin' Helton: Though the Rockies have alternated wins and losses against the Giants and Padres over their past 10 games, Todd Helton is on a tear. He's collected 19 hits in that span, with eight multi-hit games, and he's now batting .355/.406/.505, Meanwhile, Brad Hawpe returns to the lineup after being KO'd by an errant throw and bashes two homers for the week; he's hitting .321/.418/.603.

16


Pirates
12-16
1-6
.487
Down
The First 'Yeearrrrrgh' of the Year: With nine losses in 10 games, the Pirates' ship sinks below .500. They've now lost 17 straight to the Brewers dating back to last May 22, the longest team-versus-team streak of futility in the majors since 1969-1970. During the skid, they've homered just three times and are averaging a meager 3.1 runs per game.

17


Reds
15-13
4-3
.484
Up
Cleanup in Aisle Nine: The Reds win four straight games via shutout, and they now have six blanks on the year, double their total of the previous two seasons. Alas, they scatter three losses amid that streak, including a 15-3 drubbing that sees Bronson Arroyo chased in the second (1 7 9 9 3 0) and shortstop Paul Janish on not-so-effective mop-up detail in the ninth (1 5 5 5 0 2). Janish, who last pitched at Rice University in 2003, is the first Reds position player to take the hill since Lenny Harris in 1998.

18


Mariners
15-14
2-5
.484
Down
The last time Adrian Beltre faced free agency, he responded with a 47-homer, 334/.388/.629 performance. This time around? Not so much. He's hitting just .207/.242/.276 with a .182 EqA, which marks him as just one of six regulars below .260 on a team that's last in the league in scoring. Just as their bid for relevance was starting to look real, the Mariners have dropped eight out of 11 and fallen out of first place in the AL West.

19


Yankees
13-15
1-5
.474
Down
The Yanks lose five straight and fall to 3-10 within the AL East after defeats by Boston and Tampa Bay, and they lose Jorge Posada to the disabled list due to a hamstring strain along the way. The good news is that Alex Rodriguez will rejoin the lineup on Friday; in his absence, Yankee third basemen have hit .202/.248/.283. The bad news is that he can't do anything about the MLB-worst 6.3 runs per game the pitching staff is allowing.

20


Marlins
15-14
1-6
.468
Down
Rotting from the Head Down: Emilio Bonifacio was the face of the Marlins' hot start as he collected 14 hits in the season's first five games, but since then, he's hitting just .170/.224/.180, with all 22 of his starts coming in the leadoff spot. Unsurprisingly, the not-so-fresh Fish are just 4-13 since their initial 11-1 kick, and thanks to another bad week, they've been washed out of first place in the NL East.

21


White Sox
13-14
2-4
.461
Down
Hurly Mark Buehrle tosses 6 1/3 perfect innings against the Tigers, yielding just a lone single in eight innings. He's 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA and the league's second-ranked starter in SNLVAR behind only Zack Greinke. The Sox are undefeated in his six starts, but they're just 6-14 when anyone else takes the hill.

22


Giants
14-13
4-3
.457
Down
Mo' Molina: Bengie Molina bashes three homers in a three-game span, powering the Giants to a pair of wins. He's got seven of the team's NL-low 16 dingers, but through 104 PA, still hasn't drawn a walk, and yes, the Giants are last in that category as well as scoring. Sadly, Molina's .308 OBP is just the fourth lowest among the team's eight regulars, and it's two points above the team's rate.

23


Indians
11-18
3-4
.453
Down
Mired in last place since the second day of the season, with their corner outfielders hitting a lukewarm .257/.356/.423 and Travis Hafner on the DL, the Indians recall Matt LaPorta despite his having just 85 PA of Triple-A experience (.333/.414/.640). The key player acquired in last summer's CC Sabathia deal, LaPorta makes his presence felt by homering in his second game, helping to spark a comeback.

24


Padres
13-16
2-5
.434
Down
One Run at a Time, Please: Jake Peavy chips away at a 5.75 ERA by dominating the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, yielding just two runs and ten baserunners in 15 innings while striking out 20; alas, the Padre offense scores just once and the team loses both starts. The team was cranking out a solid 5.0 runs per game as it opened the season 9-3, but amid their 4-13 skid, they're averaging just 3.1. Six of their eight starters have EqAs below .260, with both Brian Giles and Kevin Kouzmanoff below .200.

25


Athletics
10-16
2-5
.433
Down
Four straight losses and 11 in their last 15 games send the A's tumbling into the basement of the division they were forecast to win. They snap the streak courtesy of a Jack Cust grand slam and a three-run homer by Matt Holliday. After hitting just three homers in their first 13 games, they've hit 12 in their last 13, four by Holliday, but they're still slugging a major league-worst .339.

26


Diamondbacks
12-17
3-4
.432
Down
With the Diamondbacks falling to 9½ games out of first, Bob Melvin becomes the season's first managerial casualty; he'll be replaced by A.J. Hinch. The Snakes have gone just 74-89 since the end of April 2008, and while the wheezing offense-last in the league in EqA, batting average, and OBP-is to blame, it's worth noting that aside from Chris Young (.177/.233/.333), the primary culprits are in the two lineup spots Melvin tinkered with the most, left field (.180/.254/.288) and first base (.176/.254/.333).

27


Twins
13-16
2-5
.420
Down
Mauer Power Activated, Now What? Joe Mauer homers on his first swing of the season and goes 10-for-21 for the week, but it's not enough to keep the Twins from sliding below .500. Their run differential is now an AL-worst -34, thanks largely to bad pitching; they're third-to-last in SNLVAR, and Glen Perkins is the only starter with an ERA below 5.19.

28


Nationals
8-18
3-2
.419
Up
The Nats' snap the Dodgers' seven-game winning streak and send them to their first home defeat of the year by overcoming a six-run first inning. Lost amid their abysmal pitching (an NL-worst 6.1 runs per game) is the fact that their offense has been robust. Their eight regulars all boast EqAs of .288 or above, with Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, and Nick Johnson all above .300. An astute GM might be able to spin their surplus of outfielders into pitchers and prospects, but then an astute GM might not come near this job with a 10-foot trading pole.

29


Astros
11-17
2-4
.408
Down
Magic Wandy: The Astros' continuing efforts to burrow further into the NL Central basement are overshadowing the performance of Wandy Rodriguez. Through six starts, he's fourth in the league in SNLVAR thanks to a 2.19 ERA, and he has yet to yield a homer in 37 innings. That's a byproduct of a ground-ball rate that's risen from 41.3 percent last year to 51.0 percent thus far, and a double-play percentage that ranks seventh in the league.

30


Orioles
12-17
3-4
.393
Up
Pie in the Sky?* Like the Cubs before them, the Orioles appear to be giving up on Felix Pie, who's hitting just .158/.238/.228 through all of 64 plate appearances. The 24-year-old's career line now stands at an unflattering .211/.276/.312, but he hasn't had more than a couple of weeks to establish himself in any stint since mid-2007. Pie is out of options, but with the Orioles going nowhere at their usual brisk pace, it would hardly kill them to give a player who ranked 42nd on our top 100 Prospects list just two years ago a longer look.
*Yes, I know it's not pronounced the way it's spelled.


The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

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

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