April 2006

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Loney Nights At First Base

I'm noticed various outlets recommending Dodgers rookie James Loney as a good NL-only pickup while Nomar Garciaparra is out.  I'm not so sure.

It's true that Loney, a left-handed first baseman, will get most of the ABs against righthanders in April.  Maybe it's because I have never seen him play in person, but I can't understand why anyone would be high on him.  Last year in Double A Jacksonville, Loney hit .284/.357/.419 in 504 at-bats.  Granted, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville rates as one of the best pitchers' parks in the Southern League.  But just 11 HRs in 500+ Double A at-bats can't be explained away by park effects.

At least he'll hit for average in L.A., right?  Well, no.  As a player with a contact rate of about 83% and a walk rate of 10%, Loney looks like a .270 hitter at best for the time being.  And that's .270 if his minor league skills don't erode in the bigs.

Loney still hasn't hit his 22nd birthday, so he gets plenty of points in prospect rankings for holding his own at a young age.  Think Adrian Gonzalez circa 2003.  Loney has battled finger and wrist injuries in recent years.  His .438 spring average was nice, though he didn't homer in the 32 ABs.  He sounds like a good kid and he's a defensive whiz.  But in what kind of fantasy league can a no-hit rookie first baseman be an asset?   

(Watch, he hits .350 with 5 HR in April because of this post).

If you owned Nomar and you were strangely playing him at first base in a 12 team NL-only league with 5-deep benches, Loney might be the only guy out there who will actually get playing time.  So I guess that's the situation in which he has a little bit of value.   

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The Busts

No, not the good kind of busts.  The bad kind.  Here's a snapshot of my March 29th Top 20 Busts list:

1.  Alfonso Soriano
2.  Miguel Tejada
3.  Armando Benitez
4.  Bobby Jenks
5.  A.J. Burnett
6.  Tim Hudson
7.  Mark Mulder
8.  Robinson Cano
9.  Josh Beckett
10. Mike Lowell
11. Jeff Francoeur
12. Edgar Renteria
13. Brian Roberts
14. Corey Patterson
15. Bartolo Colon
16. Mike Mussina
17. Jorge Sosa
18. Jose Guillen
19. Francisco Rodriguez
20. Chris Carpenter

Since that list was published a week ago, some further thoughts on some of these guys.

Soriano:  Frank Robinson had him hitting fifth in the Nats' opener.  I'm told watching him play in left field can be quite entertaining.  In a month, though, Soriano should settle into his new position.  It's not his defense I worry about in fantasy baseball.  I think that even hitting fifth he won't top 90 RBI, and his batting average may come down to the .250 range.  He's even flailing at pitches out of the zone in my video game, MLB The Show 2006!  Look!


By the way, this game is really cool.  The realism is unparalleled.  I'm going to include some screen shots from time to time to accentuate my points.

Tejada looked A-OK opening day, going yard off Scott Kazmir.  It's not that I expect him to be bad, but an average below .290 and less than 30 HR probably means you drafted him too early.

Benitez has already pulled up lame with knee bursitis, but thinks he'll be off the DL in the minimum two weeks.  Once he returns, you can expect to see a lot of this:


I think his ERA will be over 4 this year.  View the full projection here.

Hudson and Carpenter were hit hard.  I don't expect ineffectiveness from Carpenter though, just a slight regression and maybe a trip to the DL.  Patterson's PT is in question. 

Colon didn't impress against Seattle - is his velocity still down?



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