Joe Sheehan checks in as camps break and another Opening Day appears on the horizon.
Due to travel delays, Joe's chat has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
Joe Sheehan: Monday can't get here fast enough. Let's get started.
Jarod (Buffalo): You were on ESPN recently and stated you think this is the year that Felix breaks out. What do you expect his numbers to be at year end, health provided?
Joe Sheehan: 210 innings, 200 strikeouts, 60 walks, 12 homers allowed, 2.75 ERA.
braden23 (madison WI): You are pretty high on Rickie Weeks. After his 20 stikeout spring are you still there and what is your projection for him this year?
Joe Sheehan: Weeks is going to strike out a lot, which is why projections for him limit his BA upside to .290 or so. Even if he hits .270, he'll have enough walks, power and steals to be a very good player. I'm calling .280/.375/.475.
Daniel (SF): Was Billy Beane mistaken in trying to punt this year? I never thought the '08 Angels looked unbeatable, and that was before the rotation started springing leaks. Is he going to be kicking himself when the Angels crawl across the finish line with a 90-win effort and the A's finish right behind with 88 wins or so?
Joe Sheehan: I don't think Beane believes he punted, at least not in 1998 Marlins kind of way. The A's could have enough pitching and random bats to finish in range of .500, although further deals involving Blanton and Harden would change that assessment.
The Angels obviously look much different now that Kelvim Escobar is probably out for the year. It's almost impossible to replace 180 innings of 3.40 ERA ball at this point. However, that's not the kind of thing you can predict, and when you consider that the A's are still trying to have a great core in place when they go to the new park, I suspect he would have made the same moves.
Wrigleyviller (Chicago): Thanks Joe,
Shouldn't Murton be trade bait now? Maybe the Cubs can finally close the Trade That Shall Not Be Named by packing Murton, or get involved in a three way deal?
(I like Gallagher and Veal from the Cubs, with Niese from the Mets to BAL; Roberts to CHN; Murton to NYM.)
Joe Sheehan: Well, sure. It's been clear for a while, or at least since Soriano was signed, that Murton had no role in Chicago. There are five or six teams he could start and bat fifth or sixth for, and 20 others on which he'd be an asset. Then again, the Cubs have no real motivation to move him.
The case of Murton is the flip side of all the money some guys make. The Cubs' refusal to play him the last few seasons, despite his skills, is extremely expensive to him, on the order of millions. It's possible he'll never see that money.
ironcityguys (work): Is Ronny Cedeno now ready to start for a ML team? If so, why didn't the Orioles make the often discussed trade? It seems that even if Roberts is currenly more valuable, a Roberts-Cedeno deal gives the age advantage/salary advantage to the Orioles and the rest of the package is gravy for Baltimore? What am I missing?
Joe Sheehan: That Cedeno is a serviceable MLB regular, not much more. You don't make progress trading for guys like him; you make progress replacing guys like him. I can see getting him as the third guy in a deal for Roberts, but if he's the primary element, it's not worth doing.
I think the Orioles should trade Roberts, but there's not much desperation for them to do so.
ironcityguys (work): Eric Chavez has always been a pleasure to watch play. He is sometimes frustrating when an opposing LH takes the mound, but now his frustration is completely wrapped up in his inability to stay healthy.
What chance do you give Chavez to have a repeat of 2004 - 276/501/397 in 475 ABs before his career is over?
Joe Sheehan: 15%. Chavez has been all over the place as a hitter in his career, making him a tough player to pin down. Throw in the injury problems and him now being 30, and you'd have to be pretty happy if he just put together some .270/.340/.460 years with plus defense.
uptick (st. louis): Hey Joe,
Do you see either Andrew Miller or Jonathan Sanchez breaking out this year?
Joe Sheehan: Young pitchers with command problems on bad teams in bad organizations pitching in front of bad defenses. That's not a growth fund, is what I'm saying.
R.J. (Beyond the Boxscore): Do you see Matt Garza breaking out this year?
Joe Sheehan: Yes, I do. Garza has about as much talent as Miller, but with more command. Everything about his context is better. I like him for 30-odd starts with an 3.80 ERA.
ericturner29 (Chicago): Indians or Tigers?
Take a stand, Joe.
Joe Sheehan: I will this weekend. My complete picks will be up Saturday and Sunday.
bob (boston): What's going on with hacking mass, is it running this season or what?
Joe Sheehan: Hacking Mass and Predicatron will be up this weekend.
psychdoc777 (Milwaukee): Why does it seem like everybody is cutting their prospects this year? Does Alex Gordon's experience last year have anything to do with it? Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: I don't think it's a trend so much as a cluster of unrelated events. Teams are certainly aware that a month spent in the minors means an extra year before free agency. Unless a team is contending--I put the Reds in this category--that tradeoff is well worth it. So Longoria, Rasmus and others--and Gordon last year--should spend a month in the minors. It's business.
packerfan0042001 (mia): what do you think of my boys boog sciambi and dan le batard?
Joe Sheehan: I can't say I know le Batard other than his writing, which I enjoy. Boog is a terrific broadcaster and show host, and an all-around good guy. A man for others, too.
mikeduin (Seattle): Hey Joe -- Always great to see your name on the chat list. Two closer questions: Do you think Gagne holds on to the job in Milwaukee all year long? And how much confidence do you have in CJ Wilson in Texas? Thanks a lot.
Joe Sheehan: Those might be the two shakiest spots in the game. With the Brewers having a fairly deep bullpen, but containing almost exclusively one-inning guys, I'd love to see them just abandon the closercentric pen completely and use Gagne, Riske, Shouse and Turnbow as situations warrant. I do think non-Gagne relievers will pick up 15 saves, although I can't say which ones, when or why.
I don't see Wilson being effective enough against RHBs to hold the closer job. Joaquin Benoit will eventually take over.
bflaff (Phila., PA): Hi Joe. Is Brandon Lyon going to survive as the D'Backs closer, or are they going to have to try someone else before too long?
Joe Sheehan: No, I suspect that it won't last for long. Pena, Cruz and Qualls are all better pitchers, and by midseason one will have the role. Again, with a number of similarly-talented hurlers, I fail to see the need to fall into the "closer" trap. "Your role? Get guys out."
Jessica (NYC): ________ should start the 5th game of the season for the Mets.
Joe Sheehan: Mike Pelfrey. Time to find out what he is by giving him the job and getting out of the way. The Mets' front four is very good, and the only candidate for #5 who has any upside is Pelfrey. Diddling with the Jorge Sosas of the world is silly.
Ryan S (Vancouver): Any thoughts on Zack Greinke for this year? I think I need a more non-biased opinion after reading too much Rany.
Joe Sheehan: I was actually annoyed by Greinke's performance at the end of last season, because I liked him as a 2008 sleeper, and his late-season rush kind of put him on everyone's radar. For my money, he's the Royals' best starter, and a top-15 guy in the AL this year.
Not that I would have wished it upon him in advance, but Greinke's complicated last few years had the effect of saving him a ton of innings. That's a long-term benefit.
grainyduck (Buffalo): Who is the player that you think will have the biggest fall from grace (you've already used Ichiro)?
Joe Sheehan: I could see Jason Isringhausen losing a lot of his value in a hurry.
Brian (Madison, Wi): What's the news from Cin regarding 1B? Is Votto starting, platooning, sitting, AAAing?
Joe Sheehan: I was digging around for that about two hours ago while writing today's piece. It does appear, just looking at the boxscores the last week, that Votto is going to be the starter. I don't know if that survives a 1-for 15, but it does seem to be the case at the moment. I've killed Dusty for his decisions so far, but he seems to have made the right one here.
BiffWellington (Chicago): Joe - Care to explain why you went so high in bidding for Carl Crawford in Tout Wars? Also, is this the year your Tout team wins the whole enchilada? Thanks!
Joe Sheehan: He's a five-category player with a very good offensive context. Throw in the hell that is the AL outfield situation, and I think he's worth the bid.
Derek Jacques, who had most of the control of my draft this year, did a good job. I'm probably happier with this team than I was with my own last few drafts. I think it can win.
Clueless (How would I know?): Rank for 2008: McGowan, Lincecum, Cain, Hughes
Joe Sheehan: Assuming we're just talking about their performance, and not caring about "wins": Lincecum, Cain, McGowan, Hughes. And Hughes will be pretty good.
Otto (Halifax): Christina puts the Astros as the franchise in the worst shape. Agree?
Joe Sheehan: Them or the Giants, I'd say. The Astros have some slight edge, to me, in that they could be marginally competitive this season, which at least puts window dressing on things. The Giants are just lost.
Ryan (Milwaukee): What do you make of Clayton Kershaw's spring? Do you think he'll be in the bigs around the same of the year that Lincecum made it last year?
Joe Sheehan: As good as Kershaw has looked this spring, I think you have to send him back to the minors. He turned 20 two weeks ago and has 25 innings above the Midwest League. He had pretty lousy walk rates last season, not the kind of performances that demand a promotion.
If he performs well at Double-A, there's a decision to be made. Putting him in the rotation now is just setting him up for failure.
Folks, a reminder: shorter questions have a much better chance of being answered.
Tommy (OPS,FL): The Rays have been rumored to be looking at Murton, Willits, and Reed from Seattle. Which seems more likely? And in ease case what do you see the Rays having to give up?
Joe Sheehan: None of those guys are a great fit given that what the Rays really need is a right fielder, and those three are either hitters or more left field types, lacking great arms. Of them, I'd probably choose Willits, who can provide some OBP and is the best defender of the group.
Jeremy Reed was our #3 prospect three years ago. That'll be a fun segment when they get around to us on "Behind the Music."
Matt (Chicago): Will's preaching some caution with Hanley's shoulder(reduced power early). You're not too worried though, right?
Joe Sheehan: Define "worried". If Will thinks it'll effect his power, then I'd tamp down expectations of 35 homers. I don't think, however, it would knock him too far down my fantasy lists.
Just move him to the outfield already, guys, and let him get on with his career.
gerry (San Diego): Joe -- thanks for the chat. Can you update us on your analysis of the Padres outfield situation. Since you wrote your piece, Headley has been sent down to work on defense, DaVanon released, Paul McAnulty given a real looooong look, and Justin Huber acquired from the Royals. Does any of this look like a solution in the making? (Also, any idea when can we expect the next updates of PFM and depth charts?)
Joe Sheehan: I don't have an answer on the PFM/depth charts question, but I'll see if I can get one.
As to the Padres, there's not a center fielder in that question. Or camp. Or the system, as far as I can tell. At this point, moving the fences in (hi, CS) might be the best idea. The Pads are going to allow more hits and more doubles than they have in a while.
Mike (Fort Worth): Jarrod Saltalamacchia will start the season in AAA. Considering the Rangers are rebuilding and Gerald Laird's performance as the team's #1 catcher last season, is there any upside to sending Salty to OKC?
Joe Sheehan: I don't mind the decision. Laird is a significantly better defensive player, and Saltalamacchia won't be helped by not playing every day. If Salty hits his way back to the roster, you can make a decision on Laird--including trading him--then.
Long term, I think Salty has to hit enough to play 1B or DH, because at least one of Ramirez or Teagarden will be a good hitter and much better catcher.
jphan44 (boston): what kind of year to you think lastings milledge will have?
Joe Sheehan: He'll be an above-average outfielder on both sides of the ball, with a pretty complete offensive game--shy a few walks--but maybe a six-WARP player overall.
Getting some slowness here when I post things, will move as quickly as I can.
sodbuster (Wagner, SD): The Twins seemed to be a making a risky call by keeping CF Carlos Gomez up while making him their starter AND their leadoff man. And that's coupled with their decision to demote every other single player on the 40 man with significant CF experience. What's your take on this?
Joe Sheehan: Bad call. Gomez was rushed last season, and the time he spent on the Mets' bench didn't exactly help his development. He's not ready to play in the majors, and he has to work on pitch recognition and patience. The performance difference between Gomez and either Span or Pridie wouldn't have been enough to worry about, and Gomez would have better long-term prospects had be been allowed to play half a season or more in Triple-A.
Chris (Harrisonburg, VA): Hi Joe, quick question: Will a team lose 100 games this year? And if so, who?
Joe Sheehan: The Giants are the worst team in baseball, and they have a pretty decent shot to lose 100. If Cain or Lincecum gets hurt, they're a lock.
dcpopp (Syracuse, NY): Extending Joe Nathan's contract: good move, or an ill-fated attempt to placate Twins fans?
Joe Sheehan: Hated it. Just hated it. I don't know how you decline to sign Santana and then sign a guy who throws a third the innings for that much money. The 2008-2010 Twins will need an expensive closer like I need size 32 pants.
Tim (DC): Worst full-time positional player to start the season: Luis Hernandez?
Joe Sheehan: Brian Bocock, who was one of the worst players in the California League a year ago.
The Giants are going to set some kind of record for Cha-Cha Bowls to go.
Steve Newton (Delaware): If most players have their names on the backs of their uniforms why do they have numbers there, too?
Joe Sheehan: The numbers came first, the names later, so tradition is part of it. Some unis don't have numbers. Also, in amateur ball, the unis don't have names, and guys get attached to their numbers.
So all of those reasons, I guess.
ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, are we seeing more top-notch pitchers taking it easy this April? Smoltz, Kazmir, Pettitte, BJ Ryan... Perhaps it's a realization that cold-weather pitching is not the best idea?
Joe Sheehan: Nah, just a cluster. It's not like those four guys come from the Livan Hernandez School of Taking the Ball, either.
It's been a pretty mild winter so far. I suspect that means next week will be 27 and snowy in eight different cities with ballgames scheduled.
Barb (NY): Best farm pick this year - The following are available - is this the right order Maybin, LaPorta, Schafner (braves), Heyward (braves)
Joe Sheehan: Heyward, Maybin, LaPorta, Schafer. I'm not convinced the Marlins won't screw Maybin up. Heyward might be better even if they don't.
Mattymystique (Waltham, MA): is Bocock actually going to start? Now that Durham is back on the field won't he and Velez hold down duties until the Viz returns?
Joe Sheehan: As of today, it still seems that Bocock is the starter. I got that from both the MLB.com depth chart and a related story about how playing time will go. I admit, I was surprised myself.
MB (Boston): Joe, love your analysis. You have mentioned in a couple articles that you're worried about Jim Edmonds in Petco's outfield. Do you have any evidence that Petco's outfield (or center field, specifically) is that much larger than the average outfield and/or that it's that much more difficult to play defense out there (again, than the average park)?
Joe Sheehan: Well I don't have square footage, but it's 404 to the gaps, deeper than anywhere else. When you go there, it really is disconcerting how big it is. We also know that Petco kills runs and homers, in part because of its dimensions.
So I'm comfortable describing it as one of the toughest CFs to play.
denny187 (WI): Releasing Vargas - correct decision? With Capuano done for the year, or the career, there's basically only two of Parra, Villanueva, and Zach Jackson to fill in when Sheets goes down for a month or two.
Joe Sheehan: Vargas is a replacement-level starter, basically, just a guy. He doesn't have tactical value in the bullpen, and he's not better than Parra or Villaneuva, and might not be better than Jackson. The roster spot can be better used.
It's making the right decision like that on the margins that really makes me like Doug Melvin. I don't think he's made all the right moves, but he's made more good ones than bad ones.
Chris (Ottawa): Keeper Strat league. Lincecum or Gallardo?
Joe Sheehan: Lincecum, big time.
lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Will Detroit's lineup, if healthy, slug their way to the post season w/a small resurgence in their rotation? Or will their organization's lack of depth make it too hard to fix their bullpen or deal with injuries to their aging lineup? Thanks.
Joe Sheehan: Like the Mets, injuries are the big threat to the Tigers' chances. They have a bit more positional depth, but it would be hard for them to replace more than one guy for any length of time.
I need to take a closer look at the pitching staff--AL preview up tomorrow--to make a final call. I've been picking them over the Tribe all March, and don't expect that to change.
airjakub2 (Atlanta): First manager to get fired/resign? McLaren is 40:1.
Joe Sheehan: Wow, really? Those are great odds. He doesn't have a track record or a name, expectations are high and unlikely to be met, and the GM is playing for his own job.
Good bet. Er, if gambling were legal.
I'd say the first guy to go is...hmmm...good question. John Gibbons.
O's fan (San Francisco): How does Troy Patton's injury affect his longterm projection? He was being labeled as a potential #3, but a safe bet to reach his ceiling. Does this still hold?
Joe Sheehan: The combination of Patton's limited upside and a shoulder injury effectively renders him a zero until further notice. That's harsh, I know, but he's off the radar until 2010, in my opinion.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): How worried should the Yankees be about getting Joba too few innings this season?
Joe Sheehan: At his age and with his history of injury issues at Nebraska, I think that's the least of their concerns. He's going to be, by far, their second-best reliever; not overworking him will be the issue.
Buff (Austin TX): Indians LF: Dellucci/Michaels is abhorrent. Choo? Francisco? Both? When?
Joe Sheehan: A year ago, I thought that was an acceptable platoon. That didn't really work out. I still think there's the potential for a top-tier platoon there, but honestly, I'd rather see Choo than Dellucci. Choo's inability to get noticed is aggravating.
The Tribe's big hole, to me, is the corners, excepting first base. If Gutierrez and Marte are for real, it might not matter what happens in left.
David Wright (Queens): Don't I deserve the 8 year $153 million contract more than Miguel? I'm not in danger of eating a buffet table in five years
Joe Sheehan: HR and RBI tend to drive those numbers, David, you know that. You may have signed too soon, because your deal--six years and $67.5 left, assuming the Mets pick up the '13 option--looks like a bargain.
This is the tradeoff you make when you sign the pre-arb deal. Everyone takes some risk.
Mattymystique (Waltham, MA): Joe, do you see Schierholtz give the Giant's a reason to trade one of their wizened corner outfielders this season?
Joe Sheehan: Oh, god no. 125 walks and 66 homers in more than 2000 career PAs? He's the new Lance Niekro.
Alan (Mass): You mentioned that Isringhausen is one of your 'favorites' for a dropoff this year. Who do you see stepping in for him? The Cards don't seem to have a lot of obvious closer candidates.
Joe Sheehan: I heart Chris Perez, who is your basic college closer who's just about ready already, save some control issues. Converted catcher Jason Motte could deserve a look at some point.
The Cards won't really need to worry about the closer role until 2009. They're unlikely to be relevant this year.
tschiera (Brooklyn): I realize this is impossible to answer with any certainty, but do you have any gut feeling on Harden's health this year?
Joe Sheehan: I think he'll throw 80-120 innings around a couple of DL stints. I put him in a category with guys like Prior and Wood, and suggest that a complete year off will help. Sometimes you just need to heal, and the cycle of surgery to rehab to pitching and back is wearing.
Troy Percival and Jaret Wright are two guys who come to mind who took a year or more off and came back with the ability to pitch.
nickojohnson (Los Angeles): Hi Joe. Enjoy your contributions to the Fantasy 411. What do you think about Cory Schwartz's philosophy that it's worth it to spend a high pick on a top catcher this year? He supports taking Martin/Martinez in the 3rd round…
Joe Sheehan: Catcher has thinned out again after a period in which it was pretty good. I know that the debate about positional scarcity rages among fantasy analysts, but I tend to think it matters, so catchers have more value in a weak year.
Thanks for the compliment. I'll be on the show Monday with Mike and Casey.
bateman19 (boston): Joe, you said earlier that you hated nathan's new deal...but dont you think it also makes him easier to trade at the deadline, as he comes with some cost certainty?
Joe Sheehan: I may have this wrong, but I'm pretty sure that a player traded in the middle of a multi-year deal retains the right to demand a trade at the end of the season, or become a free agent should he not be accomodated.
So no, Nathan's trade value doesn't increase. If you trade for him, you basically have to negotiate an extension.
Ed (Philly): How bad is the Phillies rotation?
Joe Sheehan: Bad enough to make me not really understand the hype around the team. I have a hard time seeing where the Phillies will be better in 2008 than they were in 2007. I can see a lot of spots where they'll be worse.
Dexter Fishmore (New York, NY): UCLA-Xavier prediction, s'il vous plait?
Joe Sheehan: UCLA 65, Xavier 58. You know, we haven't seen UCLA play a good game in this tournament yet.
Have to brag...I have both Saturday's matchups in my bracket, and three other of my Elite Eight teams playing tonight. (Yes, I was a homer moron for picking USC.)
Mattymystique (Waltham, MA): When you say Joba will be the second best reliever in stripes, are you projecting a rebound year for Mariano or a big drop off in Joba's production?
Joe Sheehan: "Rebound year"? Rivera was terrific last season, and if he repeats it, everyone should be happy.
And no, I don't think Joba Chamberlain is a 0.xx ERA pitcher.
For one season, you'd have to take Rivera over Chamberlain, right?
Lightning round...if you're in Indianpolis, you can hear me at 4 p.m. on 950 AM with Greg Rakestraw and Brad Wochomurka. I'll be the guy coughing a lot.
ndubby (sfo): Does the size of a ballpark's foul ground have a significant effect on a pitching staff's performance?
Joe Sheehan: We can debate the word "significant," but yes, foul ground affects batting averages to some extent. Globally, the reduced foul ground across MLB in the last 30 years has been a factor in higher offense.
raygu1 (burlington, nj): What kind of numbers an Torre expect out of Ethier if he is the starting LFer?
Joe Sheehan: .280/.345/.450. I think we need to be careful not to overrate Ethier. He's a lot better than Pierre is on both sides of the ball, but he's not a star.
dave (DC): what's the harm in starting Bocock? the giants aren't going to be good anyway, its not like he's taking them out of contention... maybe the giants think they see something that nobody else does (a la Dan Uggla two years ago).
Joe Sheehan: He was one of the worst players in the California League, completely overmatched. He's probably not one of the 2000 best players in professional baseball. It's a ridiculous decision. Dan Uggla circa 2005 was Joe Morgan compared to Brian Bocock in 2007.
Buff (Austin TX): 12 pitchers: dumb in April, or dumb all the time?
Joe Sheehan: Dumb all the time. I can't wait for the first team to go back to 10 pitchers, abandoning the pursuit of platoon advantages on the mound and gaining offensive flexibility. That team will win a lot of extra games.
Mike K (Athens, GA): Old Yankee Stadium--do you regret its passing or ready for a new ballpark?
Joe Sheehan: Both. Yankee Stadium II was where I grew up, and no park means as much to me. At that, it's not a great place to attend a game, or enter and leave one.
Mike K (Athens, GA): What would Barry Bonds be worth if you could guarantee 140 games out of him?
Joe Sheehan: Conservatively, six wins. That's $18 million or so, more to the right team.
If I could get Bonds to sign a deal for a base of $10 million and minimal incentives, or a base of $5 million and potentially much greater incentives, I'd do so in a heartbeat.
ericturner29 (Chicago): Was "if Marte is for real" a serious comment?
Joe Sheehan: Sort of. He had a weird spring--no BA, great everything else, which is somewhat consistent with his track record. I think at some point, he'll get another chance to win the 3B job, and he has more chance to impact a season than Casey Blake does.
Tim (DC): Did you get word about PFM/Depth Chart updates?
Joe Sheehan: Tonight, I've been told.
Big Steve (St. Louis): Am I stupid for thinking the Cards could win 90 games this year if things go right?
Joe Sheehan: Not at all. I can concoct a scenario in which that happens. It's just fairly unlikely; a hell of lot of things would have to go right.
Joe Sheehan: That's it for today, folks. Thanks for all the great questions, and check back all weekend for BP's season-preview material!