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With all the focus on players who’ve moved due to expansion, trades, or
free agent lunacy, some players whose roles have increased dramatically
have received less attention. Here’s a quick review of several players
whose ’98 values may rise due to all the recent activity.

Mark Kotsay, Cliff Floyd, Todd Dunwoody (Florida of/1b types)

If you paid attention to the expansion draft and ensuing hot stove
activity, this isn’t news to you. Kotsay, Floyd, and Dunwoody will most
likely reap the playing time vacated by the departed Moises Alou, Jeff
Conine, and Devon White. The impressive part is that all three of those
guys look pretty good, although Dunwoody’s plate discipline could use
another year or two of improvement. Floyd may never recapture all the
power he had before that horrible injury, but he still has a strong eye,
great speed, and enough wrist strength to put up moderate power numbers.
Kotsay projects to do it all – he hit .306/.405/.514 unadjusted as a
21-year-old in AA Portland last year with 17 steals and 20 homers. The
power will increase as he ages, and his strike zone control is
reminiscent of Jim Thome’s.

Roger Cedeno and Todd Hollandsworth (Los Angeles of)

Long a stathead favorite for his incredible plate discipline at a very
young age, Cedeno has been ready to play every day in the majors for two
years now, but never got his chance as the Dodgers inexplicably sat him
and played all sorts of chaff in his place. With Karim Garcia lost to
Arizona, Otis Nixon gone, and Brett Butler retired, Cedeno may finally
get a clean shot at the job. He should eventually hit .300 with
excellent speed and a little more power than speedsters usually provide.
However, there are a few centerfielders available in trade (e.g.,
Marquis Grissom), and I wouldn’t be shocked to see one land in LA by the
spring. Caveat emptor.

As for Hollandsworth, the leading candidate to steal his job (Garcia) is
gone. If Cedeno lands in center, Hollandsworth would have to be simply
awful to lose his starting job. That, of course, could happen, but the
guaranteed playing time increases his value anyway.

Freddy Garcia and Aramis Ramirez (Pittsburgh 3b)

With the slightly surprising departure of Joe Randa, the Pittsburgh
third base job is wide open heading into the spring. Lamont will most
likely use Doug Strange as a utility infielder a la Dale Sveum, which
leaves just two major candidates for the everyday job at third. Freddy
Garcia, a Rule Ver who struggled when promoted from A-ball to AAA this
year, is the leading candidate by default. However, the future at third
base is right behind him in Aramis Ramirez, whom the club expects to see
at third base on Opening Day ’99. Garcia will probably get the job out
of ST, simply because the club will be reluctant to jump another player
from class A, but Ramirez could be up this season to challenge for the
job. If he’s not already owned in your league, Ramirez should be one of
the top three picks in your farm draft.

Jose Hernandez (Chicago Cubs 2b)

Hard to believe that the Cubs seriously thought Miguel Cairo was the
answer at second base; fortunately for Cub fans, the Devil Rays
eliminated that option by choosing Cairo in the first round of the
x-draft. Although the Cubs are reportedly looking at external options
for second base, they have begun to acknowledge the presence of a
perfectly adequate in-house option: Jose Hernandez. Hernandez is a solid
fielder with some pop in his bat; while his plate discipline is too poor
for him to get a long-term grip on the job, he could easily pop 20
homers with a decent batting average given a full season at 2b.

Curtis Goodwin (Colorado of)

Goodwin hit the lottery. He essentially moves into Quinton McCracken’s
role as the guy who plays center whenever Ellis Burks gets hurt (which
is always either sooner or later). Goodwin had started to show some
improved plate discipline in the last two seasons, and while he’s still
a hazard to his team on the basepaths, that combination and his likely
.300+ average in Coors give him a rotisserie value far in excess of his
actual baseball worth. If he can keep his attitude in check, he’ll be a
great bet to earn $20.

Brian Rose, John Wasdin, Bret Saberhagen, or Robinson Checo (Boston sp)
(or anyone who might theoretically enter Boston’s starting rotation)

The good news is twofold: first, Suppan’s departure opens up a spot for
someone else; and second, Pedro Martinez’ entrance at the top of the
rotation pushes everyone else down a notch. Wins are a fickle thing for
starters, but all else being equal, a starter will win two or three more
games pitching against opponents’ #2 pitchers more than against their
#1s.

Jose Cabrera and the Astros’ bullpen

The losses of Tom Martin and Russ Springer via the x-draft and Manuel
Barrios and Oscar Henriquez in the Alou trade ripped a huge hole in the
Houston bullpen for ’98. One likely candidates to step into a new role
is Jose Cabrera. Cabrera becomes the top lefty setup man, which could
mean a handful of saves but more likely just means a fatter innings
total, complete with low ratio (he only gave up 39 H in 61 AAA innings
last year) and ERA.

Several candidates could emerge to take the top RH setup spot. John
Hudek is always in the picture, but is hurt just as often and probably
shouldn’t be counted on. Jose Lima has the stuff and the control, but
simply hasn’t taken the last step up; he’s worth a $1 flier to find out
if this is the year. John Halama and CJ Nitkowski will fight for the 5th
spot in the rotation with Scott Elarton, but one or both of the first
two could wind up with the consolation prize, a spot in the bullpen.
Both should be starters long-term, but could succeed in a yearlong
internship in a long-relief/spot-starting role, a la Hampton/Reynolds in
1994.

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