Tag:spring games
Posted on: March 25, 2008 10:56 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:50 pm

Spring fever

I am so over Scott Olsen.

I said those exact words to a friend in a fantasy baseball draft room over the weekend -- right after that friend drafted the fiery Marlins left-hander of the 1.76 WHIP last year -- and then I found myself saying them again, to myself this time, in a wind-chilled press box Tuesday as the Orioles hosted the Marlins.

Yeah, yeah ... I know what you're thinking.

I am so over spring baseball.

I am too. Believe me, I am. The Red Sox-Athletics game in Japan on Tuesday gave us the rush of opening day already, but pretty soon we'll have to go right back into exhibition mode. And stay there. Forever.

OK, not forever. The end is in sight. But for now -- for 28 teams, anyway -- we can still only look at spring performances and wonder what to make of them.

Which brings me back to Olsen. The 24-year-old, who looked on the verge of becoming a staff ace in 2006, gave up his first six runs of the spring Monday at the Orioles, which sounds both good and bad at the same time. He also surrendered his first walk in only 12 innings -- a good sign after control issues plagued him part of last year. Now the bad news: He threw two wild pitches, allowed eight hits and recorded more than a few of his outs on hard-hit balls.

I just didn't see anything from him that gave me the impression of dominance. He put together a decent enough spring, I guess, but nothing to make you think he's going just to snap his fingers and make that 1.76 WHIP go away. You could take worse gambles in NL-only leagues, but for the money you'd have to pay to get him, I'd look elsewhere.

On another note, don't look for Aubrey Huff to play third base much this season. The Orioles gave him a look at the hot corner Tuesday, probably just to see if he could handle the position in a pinch during the season. He left me thinking a resounding "no." On his first opportunity of the game, he made a weak through to first base, forcing 1B Kevin Millar to dig the ball out of the dirt. Then in the second inning, he had an easy ground ball bounce right off his glove, avoiding an error only by virtue of the official scorer's generosity. On the very next play, he let a little blooper fall just beyond his glove in shallow left field, apparently unsure whether he or the shortstop should field it.

It was not pleasant. I swear, you almost felt bad for the guy.

Huff, who began his career as a third baseman, played only 15 games at the position last year, and I bet that number drops a bit more this year. He'll remain nothing more than a first baseman in Fantasy, which, in these days when he struggles to hit 20 homers, should pretty much limit his Fantasy appeal to AL-only leagues.

That's all for now
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2008 6:47 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:54 pm

Great Scott

I made my way over to the Orioles-Nationals game Sunday, excited about the prospect of seeing a few of my favorite Fantasy sleepers from one of my favorite sleeper teams, the Nationals. I'm still trying to figure out the parking situation and got misdirected two or three times by people wearing orange vests, but we eventually figured it out. Oh, and I got the obligatory "you look about 16" from the senior citizen guarding the press box.

The uphill battle continues.

Anyway, most of my favorite sleepers -- Nick Johnson, Lastings Milledge and the like -- kind of let me down, but the teams treated me to a matchup of deeper sleepers John Patterson and Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera impressed more than Patterson. He didn't walk a batter through five innings and allowed two runs only because the team tried to stretch him to six. He's always had talent and has a 3.46 ERA now this spring, but he also has eight walks in 13 innings. I'm more likely to trust him in Head-to-Head leagues because he has the potential to kill your WHIP if you stick with him too long in Roto.

Then again, after the game, I caught this juicy nugget on the wire ...

"One morning this week, Cabrera and pitching coach Rick Kranitz reviewed videos of a 2005 stretch when Cabrera pitched well. They decided Cabrera was best when using a more erect delivery that allowed him to use his 6-foot-9 frame to his advantage. 'You saw (Cabrera) today,' Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. 'He never slouched, he never hunched over. He was tall all the time on the mound, and his tempo was very good. He got the ball and threw it. There was not a lot of time between pitches and he was good out of the stretch.'"

You judge for yourself.

As for Patterson, he struggled, giving up rockets left and right as his ERA ballooned from 1.80 to 7.00, but he didn't do anything to convince me not to take a chance on him late. Health is more the concern than ability with him.

Speaking of ability, I'm starting to wonder about my own -- in the ESP sense, I mean. After waiting around for Andruw Jones' final at-bat just to watch him hit a home run -- which he did -- Monday, I had a similar experience with Luke Scott on Sunday.

Already in the starting lineup against the right-handed Patterson, Scott, a left-handed batter, strolled to the plate even with lefty Arnie Munoz on the mound.

I've liked Scott as a Fantasy sleeper from the moment the Astros traded him to Baltimore. He has a nice OPS bat (.855 last year), but since he happens to hit left-handed, the Astros always stuck him in a platoon role. I worried the Orioles might ultimately do the same, so I felt a little better seeing him step into the box against Munoz.

"Great," I thought. "They're letting him bat against lefties."

Munoz delivers pitch.

"Wouldn't it be great if he hit a home run here? Gee, that'd give me something to write about."


As the ball towered over the right-field fence, I couldn't help but give a little fist-pump. How's that for content delivered right to my doorstep?

So yes, the Orioles, in all their perceived silliness, seem to be making the right move here by offering Scott everyday at-bats. They suggested they would even going into the spring, and his home run Sunday only gives them further justification. For the record, he hit .271 against left-handers last year in 59 at-bats. Target him as a late-round sleeper, even in mixed leagues.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 10, 2008 5:34 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2008 7:58 pm

Old friends

I made my way over to the Orioles spring training complex Monday to watch them play the Dodgers, and they treated me to a classic 1998-style pitching matchup between Steve Trachsel and Chan Ho Park. Ask me which one I'd prefer in Fantasy, and I'll respond with a question of my own: What?

Obviously, I want neither, but I couldn't help but notice how good Park looked. He pitched three perfect innings and struck out Brian Roberts looking at three straight pitches to open the game. Through seven spring innings now, he has yet to allow a run. I'm not about to predict any sort of rebound for the 34-year-old, but he could open as the team's fifth starter with Jason Schmidt sidelined. He only has to beat Esteban Loaiza.

Oh, and the O's just happened to start playing offense as soon as he left. I'm just saying.

But back to some players the other 99.5 percent of Fantasy owners can care about. Rafael Furcal, who suffered an ankle injury last spring and never quite recovered, looked plenty recovered legging out a stand-up triple in the third inning. He drove a ball against the wind deep into the right-field gap, hitting the wall on one bounce. He made the turn at second just as the outfielder was reaching for the ball and eased into third base. Honestly, how many players in a given season get a chance to ease into third base? Furcal clearly has full use of his legs again, and I expect him to get back to 12-15 home runs and 30-40 stolen bases. He belongs more in the Miguel Tejada than the Orlando Cabrera range of Fantasy shortstops.

And finally, Andruw Jones hit a home run Monday, which wouldn't mean much on its own except that I happened to be attending the game. As a Braves fan growing up in suburban Atlanta, I often saw Jones play in person, and he somehow managed to hit a home run every time -- or at least close to it. It happened with such regularity that I made myself wait for his final at-bat in the eighth inning before I made my way back to the office. Sure enough, as I gathered my notes and pushed in my chair, he drove a ball into the left-field palms and proceeded to trot around the bases.

Whatever. I still don't want him in Fantasy.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
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