While still smarting from having the Colts and the under in the Superbowl, here are a few random MLB thoughts as we are less than a week from pitchers and catchers. I should note on a personal level, that this will be the first year I've taken my eight year-old sons to Arizona for spring training. They are obviously too young to know who Tommy Lasorda is, but they will get a picture with Tommy in his golf cart if it's the only thing I do there next month. Meanwhile...
It's pretty clear that Tim Lincecum settled low when he and the Giants agreed to a two-year $23 million deal Friday. I wouldn't put it past Lincecum to three-peat this year, though it is worth noting the average velocity on his fastball dropped from 94.1 mph to 92.4 last year. Don't read too much into that, but if you're sitting with the sixth or seventh pick in your draft, that is a data point worth noting. Continuing the Giants theme, no, Madison Bumgarner isn't a lefty version of Lincecum. The drop in velocity last year is disturbing.
I knew Delmon Young looked heavy last year, but it was reported Friday that Young has dropped 29 lbs. since the end of last season, going from 239 to 210. Now normally I don't put a whole lot of stock into the "best shape of his life" stories, but Young is at a crossroads this year. A former #1 overall pick, there's no way he's going to be tendered a contract by the Twins next year if he repeats 2009. In fact, a minor league deal might be in the cards should he again post another .308 OBP. Now Young does hit lefties well, but a poor spring training, and he's looking at being a platoon guy in 2010 given the presence of Jim Thome. As a side note, I used to work across the street from Young's High School in Camarillo, CA...not that anyone cares.
Kyle Farnsworth as a starter? Eh, okay. I suppose when one fails as a reliever, you might as well try him elsewhere. Farnsworth did strike out 42 in 37.1 innings in relief for the Royals last year, so it's tempting to project 160 strikeouts over 150 innings in 2010, so at least keep an eye on him this spring.
So I see Corey Hart won his arbitration hearing Friday. I do like that Hart increased his BB|PERCENT| from 4|PERCENT| to 9|PERCENT| last year, but if Hart won his hearing, I'm guessing Lincecum would have as well.
Frank Thomas called it a career on Friday, finishing with 521 home runs, a .419 OBP, and a career OPS+ of 156. I have to think he's a first ballot guy, but then again, I'm still scratching my head at the exclusions of Barry Larkin, Robbie Alomar, and Tim Raines.
Nice work by Felipe Lopez today firing agent Scott Boras. I'm guessing the news was met with a yawn by Boras himself, but Lopez is clearly frustrated at his current employment status after batting .310/.383/.427.
Juan Francisco is an interesting guy to watch this spring given the obvious hole in left field for the Reds. The plate discipline borders on the Reggie Abercrombie level, but that hasn't stopped Dusty before. Keep an eye on Francisco in NL-only leagues.
At this point I really have no idea who the Yankees are going to slot as their No. 5 starter. Philip Hughes seemed to "find himself" as a reliever last year and news this week that the "Joba Rules" are no more would seem to indicate that Joba Chamberlain has the inside track to open the season as starter, but we really have no idea at this point. Either guy as a starter has top-25 starter upside in fantasy leagues, but we may not know Joe Girardi's decision until late-March.
Anyone else notice that per the Bill James Handbook, that Howie Kendrick's home runs averaged more distance than anyone in the game? Now that doesn't mean Kendrick is going to be a .320-40-120 guy anytime soon, but it's an interesting data point. Speaking of interesting, Brandon Wood is several years removed from slamming 51 home runs in a single minor league season, but he's now got a shot at full-time duty for the Angels for the first time. Now I heard a rumor last year from someone that would be "in the know" that Scioscia wasn't a big Brandon Wood supporter, so that could hurt Wood a bit should he say go 4-for-25 with 10 strikeouts in the first week of the season. The Angels have Kendrick, Macier Izturis, and Wood essentially for two positions (2B and 3B) assuming Aybar's OBP holds up at short, so Scioscia does have options should Wood struggle in April.
I'm normally not big on guys with hyphenated last names (MJD excluded), but I'm a big Shin-Soo Choo guy this year. With his skillset, I consider him a candidate for .300/.400/.500 with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. Those numbers could leave him as a top-five fantasy outfielder. Think Justin Upton without the hype.
No one in either league had a higher line drive |PERCENT| than Jason Bartlett last year. As if you needed any more evidence that the Delmon Young / Bartlett / Matt Garza deal wasn't a heist of epic proportions for the Rays. Bartlett's .368 BABIP probably isn't sustainable, but despite Bill James projecting just eight homers (down from 14 in 2009), I still like Bartlett quite a bit. I'll go against the company line and disagree with Rotowire ranking Bartlett tenth among shortstops behind the likes of Orlando Cabrera and Yunel Escobar. In fact, I might have him as high as sixth.
The Dodgers would love to see Blake DeWitt win the starting second base job with a big spring both offensively and defensively. DeWitt has quite a bit of competition with Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll in the mix, but there's far more upside with DeWitt. Believe what you want about Joe Torre's propensity for veterans, but he reportedly loves DeWitt.
Coming off a 5.06 ERA, Ricky Nolasco is a popular sleeper pick among astute fantasy owners. Why? Well, he had a very good 2008 and followed that up in 2009 by increasing his K/9 rate from 7.9 to 9.5. Nolasco was hurt greatly by a .336 BABIP and 61.2|PERCENT| strand rate, but look for improvement there in 2010. I like him quite a bit.
Geovanny Soto and Russell Martin are generating considerable debate headed into 2010. Have they both already had their career seasons, or is the best yet to come? I'm certainly of the mindset that both will improve over 2009, but I'd probably rather roll the dice on Chris Iannetta or Kelly Shoppach a little later in drafts.
David Wright and Evan Longoria are 2 and 3 at third base, and if you polled a randon group of Rotowire subscribers, there might be close to a 50/50 split in terms of preference. Personally, I go with Longoria until Wright proves to me Citi Field won't play head games with him again in 2010.
10-team 5 X 5 NL-only league. Do I keep James Loney for $2 for one year or extend for a year or two at $5 per? Thinking $7 for two years, but any thoughts? I think the power is there for 20 homers, but will that be this year or 2012?
Same league as the comment above. Am I justified in being excited about retaining a $2 Homer Bailey? Is this really "his year"? One positive sign would include a fastball that clocked in at 94.5 mph in 2009, three mph above that of 2008. Another would be a drop in his LD|PERCENT| from 25.4|PERCENT| TO 20.7|PERCENT|. Bill James has Bailey projected to go 8-11 with a 4.87 ERA and 140 strikeouts, but I'm hoping my league members buy those projections because I find them far too pessimistic.
Aroldis Chapman may very well turn out to be the best Cuban pitcher of all time, but the hype surrounding him is too much. I don't expect much of anything from him this year and going forward, he's far too much of an unknown for me to invest heavily.
Guys, don't forget the significance of this Sunday. Buy your significant other something nice - perhaps a subscription to Baseball Prospectus? Really though, some flowers and a screening of "Dear John" should suffice. Better yet, if you've been married as long as I have (12 years), take a day off work and give her a day off from kids, chores, and making dinner. Trust me, that's better than dropping $40 on some flowers that will be dead within a week.
Note: I'll be debuting the 2010 edition of Mound Musings sometime in the next week or so. If you have any thoughts around what you want to see in that space this year, feel free to comment here or send me an email. I'll probably kick things off with the standard "Guys I Like More Than Most and Less Than Most" type piece. Throughout the year, I'll talk undervalued and overvalued guys, prospects, two-start starters, streaming strategies, and whatever else comes to mind.