Rob McQuown gives bonus coverage this week, expanding the value picks list to nine outfielders
Returning: Rick Ankiel's RBI possibilities should get a boost with the shift in leagues, even if manager Bobby Cox keeps batting him behind Alex Gonzalez, since the players batting in front of Gonzalez have some of the better on-base percentages in the National League. Brian McCann is 7th, with a .388 OBP and Chipper Jones (.373) and Troy Glaus ( .355) are also among the top 31 qualifiers. He started against Johan Santana, but Johan has historically been tough on right-handed hitters, and it remains to be seen whether Ankiel will start against lefties who are tough against left-handed hitters. Given Cox's history, it seems most likely that Ankiel will start as often as he's physically able to play.
Hitters generally don't improve their walk rates dramatically, but maybe there's something about right field in Wrigley, as Sammy Sosa did so, and Tyler Colvin is now coming off of a 5-walk week, and is up to 22 in his 278 PA. For a player whose minor-league walk rates could best be called “Francoeurian” (as in 105 walks in 1868 PA), this is cause for guarded optimism in Chicago. There wasn't much other good news for the week with Colvin, but he's become a safe enough fantasy option for the rest of the season – he'll play every day, and his power will continue to make up for his low batting average. His L/R splits are catching up with expectations, and even if Lou Piniella starts him against lefties, this practice should be avoided wherever possible in fantasy leagues.
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Rob McQuown tracks the shifting outfielders of the Cubs, Brewers, and Indians.
The big news in the Cubs outfield this spring isn't on the radar (or Heater's Radar Tracker) yet, and that's because former first-round pick Tyler Colvin is still a longshot to make the opening-day roster. PECOTA forecasts him hitting .231/.289/.400 if given playing time, which seems somewhat pessimistic, given his .300/.334/.524 performance at AA last year with a reasonable .328 BABIP. Manager Lou Piniella is tempted, however, since Xavier Nady won't be able to throw well enough to play the outfield until June.
That turns the outfield spotlight on Sam Fuld. Fuld is a good defensive centerfielder. He bats lefty with enough of a platoon advantage that he could probably survive as a platoon leadoff hitter (his career minor-league OBP is .370 and he's hit righties with a typical platoon split) and could almost certainly play frequently as fourth outfielder for a team overloaded with righty bats. Despite his age, he's risen through the minors at a good pace after making his professional debut in 2006 at high-A ball. Obviously, hitting .150 in spring training so far is undermining his chances to grab the available playing time.
The top and the bottom of the powerhouse division can build from within, leaving the AL East's middle class in an precarious spot.
This is the fifth of six-part preview of the impending off-season. I had been holding off on the two divisions involving World Series combatants until the games had concluded, but with the Series' hasty conclusion on Sunday--and Scott Boras' equally quick declaration that it's A-Rod Huntin' Season--now is the time to cover the AL East, where all five teams will have some very interesting decisions to make.
Time for the Bill James-style test now that the Joe Torre era is over in New York.
In 1984, looking to find a way to characterize managers beyond the then-meager statistical record, Bill James introduced the "manager in a box" questionnaire. Assuming one answers the questions accurately, James's list of questions remains a good way of making visible those aspects of a manager's background and habits that he may not carry on his sleeve, but nonetheless influence the way games in his charge play out.
Can the Indians take the Bombers, or will baseball's best offense rock on?
A repeat of a matchup which produced some thrilling postseason baseball back in 1997 and 1998, this Divisional Series matches the American League's two hottest teams since the All-Star break, two teams that didn't earn their postseason berths until putting together a finishing kick that separated them from the rest of the pack. For the Indians, this marks a return to glory, their first division title since 2001 after a run in which they'd made the playoffs six years out of seven. For the Yankees, though their nine-year run atop the AL East came to an end, this marks their 13th straight postseason appearance, a streak that predates Joe Torre.
We're not talking about Derek Bell, but out-of-contention teams sending young and/or banged-up players home early to mitigate injury risk.
There's one part of the Mitchell Investigation that no one is talking about, a part that is, to me, vitally important. Since Watergate, the Howard Baker question--"What did he know and when did he know it?"--has led to damning implications, no matter the answer. Even being asked that question is problematic, forcing many to drop an "I don't recall." That might prove to be the case for Bud Selig. It would be an ironic turn if the investigation he set in motion ended up turning on him, but it seems that Selig was aware of this risk, so credit him for putting his own reputation on the line. As proxy for all owners, Selig certainly could have "done more" in the early years of what some now call the Steroid Era. Even just a better PR strategy could have helped, as the NFL demonstrates day after day. With more names coming out of Albany, and the Mitchell Report seeming to take on new significance with each passing allegation, Selig appears calm in the eye of the hurricane. Problem is, those of you that have been through a hurricane know that the calm comes before the storm.