First Base Fantasy Tiers of a Rotoman

Tiers help us group players who are close enough alike in value so we can better see where the talent lies during our fantasy baseball drafts. They’re also a way to talk about player values without relying on draft dollars amounts, which vary depending on a league’s rules.

I’m going through the positions these days, one by one, looking for places where my rankings and prices can be improved. And I share them in hopes they help you, and that if you see something that you think looks wrong you write it up on that player’s page at pattonandco.com.

Or in the comments here. Thanks.

TOP TIER (The best players in the game)

D-backs_first_baseman_Paul_Goldschmidt_takes_batting_practice_on_Gatorade_All-Star_Workout_Day._(28042717673)Paul Goldschmidt is here because he’s always the most valuable first baseman in fantasy leagues. And always will be forever more, or until he gets older and stops running so much and someone better comes along. That’s what happens. A thirty year old can stop running at any time, almost certainly will stop running sometime soon, especially when he’s hauling around 225 pounds or so and some fair height, as Goldschmidt does. Which is a reason to try to lowball, as it were, on him. He’s dropped out of the Top 4 in draft leagues for that reason, which is not a reason to avoid him. But the quality that gives him extra value, the steals, can’t be counted on this year (though it can still be hoped for).

SECOND TIER (Solid players who in any given year might be the best at their position)

It’s very hard to downgrade Miguel Cabrera to the second tier, but that’s the goon squad calling. He’s a marvelous hitter, arguably the best we’ve ever seen, but he’s at an age where the bat has to start a little sooner, or will in short order, and his hitting smarts can only take him so far to offset that.

Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, and Freddie Freeman are all professional hitters with great on base skills, decent power and (except for Votto) primetime on their side. Votto is older, for sure, but he also has the most stable skill on the planet: He knows when to swing, or not, more often than not. Which makes him an OBP god, and first tier in leagues that use OBP instead of BA. These guys will all be expensive, because they’re reliable as well as good, and they’re most likely worth it. Um, because they’re reliable.

THIRD TIER (Solid, but not quite as accomplished as the tier above)

Most of these guys are boring, fairly reliable but not immune to the occasional bad year. Once upon a time Eric Hosmer looked like he might have the kind of career Freddie Freeman is having, but Hosmer hasn’t quite reached that height. He’s young enough to still have a big career-year type of season in the next few years.

Hanley Ramirez is coming off a fine season, one that followed a disaster, and another that followed what looked like a down year but turned out to be his cue to descend from the superstar stratosphere. He’s got a good high ceiling, but we know how slippery his floor can be.

Wil Myers has one good season under his belt in his so far disappointing career. Though not if you owned him last year. There’s ample reason to suspect that he’s going to have a hard time repeating that, but if he doesn’t there is good reason to think he’ll slot into this group easily.

Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, and Carlos Santana are all solid veteran hitters. Gonzalez is getting old, Davis has a whole lot of whiff (and power), and Santana makes more contact than Davis but has a lot less power. I’ve got Brandon Belt in this group, too, though he could easily be in the next one. Injuries have made him unreliable, even if his power is real.

FOURTH TIER (If they’re solid, they’re flawed, if they’re less flawed they’re flaky)

Tommy Joseph is flaky. He was called up, played 101 games last year, and hit for power. As a prospect he was a hit-first catcher whose career as a backstop was derailed by shady defense and too many concussions, which cost him playing and development time. I think he’s going to hit for power and be able to make enough contact to be solid, but there is a decent chance he’s got a hole somewhere in his swing that ML pitchers are going to figure out how to exploit, and that could be a problem. But for right now, he’s the Phillies full-time power-hitting first baseman.

Chris Carter, and Lucas Duda are big guys with lumbering games and some dark clouds in their recent pasts. Solid enough, but not to pay up for. These are guys to settle for if the best first basemen are too expensive. This is assuming that Carter will play regularly, either for the Yankees or someone else this year. As the reigning home run champ he’s be a lock, but see, he’s flawed.

Josh Bell is also somewhat big and lumbering, but he’s young and coming instead of desperately trying to tread water. He showed last summer that he belongs in the major leagues as a hitter, but he is plagued by lack of defensive value, to say the least, and lack of a home run stroke, to hit the nail on the head. He should play this year, he’s a top prospect, and he should produce a fine batting average, but right now he looks a little like James Loney without the good glove. Hard to see how that plays in the long run.

TIER FIVE (Limited expectations from platoonists, the contact challenged, the unknown)

In a 12-team mixed league, these guys don’t get rostered. In a 15-team mixed you hope to get your choice for a buck. But in an AL or NL only league, these guys can be gold, because they don’t cost much and they might earn a profit. In order of slight preference:

Justin Bour, Eric Thames, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, CJ Cron, and Mitch Moreland are professional hitters with successes in their past (though Thames’ were mostly in Korea), who will help in a deep league if they’re not paid too much. And have little chance of a big season, which should motivate you to stay cheap. Cron would be a Tier Four guy, if he wasn’t blocked by Luis Valbuena at first base and Albert Pujols at DH. Napoli had his huge season last year. Thames is intriguing because of the giant numbers he put up in Korea.

TIER SIX (The crummy and the unproven)

Matt Adams, John Jaso, Kennys Vargas, Marwin Gonzalez, Yonder Alonso, Adam Lind, Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Rodriguez, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, James Loney, Justin Smoak. These guys are crummy. They occasionally have a good year, as Mark Reynolds did last year, but generally they struggle for playing time, they pop an occasional homer, and then struggle for playing time anew. Even when they’re decent, as Marwin Gonzalez has been the last two seasons, they are always in danger of being replaced, have to scrap for playing time, and may not get it. Sean Rodriguez is out for the season after labrum surgery.

AJ Reed, Greg Bird, Jefry Marte, Dae-ho Lee, Dan Vogelbach. These guys are unproven. Each has a story.

Reed was supposed to break out last year and win a regular job, but was instead superseded by Alex Bregman and struggled in the chance he got. The Astros now have Yulieski Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez at first, as well as Tyler White. I’m still a believer, but at least some of that thinking is magical.

Bird missed all of last year after shoulder surgery, and struggled in the AFL, which is understandable given his rust. The Yankees have now signed Chris Carter, who would seem to slot in ahead of Bird at first this year, probably, and may mean Bird will start the year in Triple-A working to regain his game. He will be a major league regular, eventually, with some chance that he’ll be a contributor this year.

Marte did a good job last season hitting for power in limited at bats, but starts this year behind Yunel Escobar at third base. Even if Escobar were to go down, Luis Valbuena might move across to third from first, and block Marte again. He could conceivable see few at bats, or spend time in the minors, but still, I sense deep sleeper potential here on a bad team that has no reason not to try to develop their future.

Lee is old, and is looking for a job in his second major league season. The Korean import seemed to show excellent platoon power and contact abilities, on the short side, but the Mariners kept finding ways to bench him. He’s here so that we don’t forget him, in case he does sign with a team that really has a need for a good bat against lefties.

Vogelbach is the guy who pushed Lee to the curb in Seattle. He has the terrific ability to draw walks and the corresponding ability to strike out. Alas, he doesn’t have a big power stroke, though some believe that will develop. A good spring could drive his price up, a bad one could knock him from the board.

Names for reserve lists, or guys you might like to move ahead of some listed above are Mark Canha, Tyler Austin, Chris Parmelee. Or not.

You can read about Catchers here.

 

 

Tracks of Rotoman’s Tiers at Catcher 2017

People say I’m the belle of spring training
Because I answer questions here
And I won’t say I’m ever complaining
Because I have readers, words, and good beer.

But take a good look at my face
Gary Sanchez might be out of place
If not it’s easy to displace
Devin Mezz-or-a-co.

The process of getting the Patton $ Online projections and prices out the door is iterative. I make different lists and try to locate rankings and projections relationships that don’t make as much sense as they should, and then I change them.

The more I wash-rinse-repeat, the more I fix things. I’ll be the first to admit that while my formulas capture a lot of “talent” in the stats, quirks in playing time, age, injury and development, as well as nutty performances, can screw things up a little, and sometimes a lot. Massaging the projections and prices manually leads to better overall results always.

This week I’m going to be going through the tiers position by position, and see what’s what. Feel free to follow along and comment if you see something awry, on the player pages at pattonandco.com. (Feel free to comment here, if you prefer, but I find the pattonandco.com player pages a better way to chat about players, with more people who know more things about them.)

busterposeyTOP TIER: Buster Posey

Some are bumping Jonathan Lucroy into Posey’s league, partly because Posey himself dropped down into the area where you might expect to find a healthy Lucroy this year. My take is Buster bounces back up a little after a down year, and LuCroy, who is older, coming off two down years, doesn’t bounce back up quite so far. Even in Texas. And even if Posey hangs tight where he was last year, Lucroy is no lock to catch up to him. Buster stands along, at least for one more year.

 

TIER TWO: Jonathan Lucroy, JT Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Sal Perez

These guys are good hitters, have some power, and Realmuto has some speed to make up for the power he doesn’t quite have as much of. I can see any of these guys having a year as good as Posey’s, if they get a little lucky. Each could be a disappointment, too. The challenging question here is why Sal Perez and Willson Contreras are in this tier and Evan Gattis and Yadier Molina are in the next one. For me, it’s all about youth and playing time. Perez and Contreras are in the prime of their youth, while Gattis and Molina are moving past it.

TIER THREE: Gary Sanchez, Yadier Molina, Evan Gattis, Stephen Vogt, Brian McCann, Welington Castillo, Yasmani Grandal

So, why is Sanchez down here, and Contreras in the level above? For me it’s about the hit tool. Contreras has it, for sure, which should make him a better bet to improve this year and a better bet not to struggle. Sanchez was incredible last year, and he should get a chance to play even if his batting average falls some because of his good batting eye (Contreras has a pretty good eye, t00), but as his average falls so will his value, even if he hits a lot of homers. That makes him extra valuable in OBP leagues. And if he doesn’t hit as many homers and struggles out of the box? That makes him a little riskier. Not that his struggles are a sure thing, but you have to be aware of them. The rest of these guys are veterans, each with a pretty good track record, but Yasmani Grandal resides here as a reminder of how Sanchez might struggle going forward.

TIER FOUR: Matt Wieters, Devin Mesoraco, Russell Martin, James McCann, Yan Gomes, Derek Norris, Wilson Ramos

One of these guys is really not like the others. That would be Wilson Ramos, who had a terrific 2016 and would be ranked in Group 2 or 3 except that he is rehabbing from ACL and meniscus surgeries late last year. He has said he’ll be ready in May, as a DH. If that’s true he might end up in Tier 3, but the initial prognosis had him back at mid-season, and catchers rehabbing knees have an extra long way to go. I’m bidding him as a half season of a $14 player, considering last year a career year given his past history and age. One other player with caution. Yan Gomes was hurt last year, and the year before. He looks like he should bounce back to being a decent power-hitting catcher with a challenged batting average, but the longer a player struggles with injury the more chances there are for other things to go wrong.

FINAL TIER: Some of these guys will do well, some will crash and burn, or fade away. And the problem is that opportunity isn’t going to be the difference maker. These guys earn their checks with their gloves, for the most part. If they hit, good for their teams, good for their families, great if they’re up for a new contract next year, but if they don’t they likely still have some playing time left. And that can be a double-edged fantasy sword. Still, they should be cheap, and there is some chance

Travis D’Arnaud had Tier Two potential once upon a time, and could land in Tier Three this year if all goes well. But all hasn’t gone well for him, he has a chronic and degenerative hip condition, and that makes him a tough guy to bet on to stay healthy.

Cameron Rupp is coming off a pretty good season, but he probably isn’t really quite that good and he’s blocking, right now, one of the best catching prospects in the game. Will he get a full season? Will he be able to hit .250 again? A lot of questions here, which should knock down his price.

Jett Bandy has a cool name and hits fly balls, which might make him a power hitter at some point. Right now he’s a somewhat wild and undisciplined hitter and better as an idea than an offensive weapon, which he’s going to need to be to continue to earn playing time.

Tucker Barnhart came up as a defense-first catcher, and hit enough when called on last year to remain a viable option if Mesoraco gets hurt again. Or should I say when Mesoraco gets hurt again. But he doesn’t have enough power to be a real force, and there is a good chance he won’t hit .250 again. Which makes playing time concerns disqualifying except late in the endgame.

Sandy Leon did something really silly last year, something that shows you just how misleading baseball statistics can be, at least in a small sample. And good for him. He’ll always be able to say he hit .300. But he’s not hitting .300 again. Doubtful he has another .250 season in him. He is a good defensive catcher and will get some at bats, which in a normal year (unlike last year) would not be a good thing for your fantasy team. The reason he is here is that he hit the ball a lot harder last year than in the past. That sort of thing persists for the best hitters, but fluctuates for the bad ones. There is some chance he could have gotten better last year, which makes him a fair endgame play.

Austin Hedges hasn’t hit in the majors yet, in short stints the last two years, and he comes with the reputation of a good field no hit catcher. Still, he put up breakout numbers in bandbox El Paso last year, good enough for an MLE of .268 and 15 homers in 350 at bats. Don’t bet the gardening budget on that this year, but he should be cheap and if he does do that he’ll be a fantasy plus.

Francisco Cervelli is what he is, to coin a phrase. Good defender, not a total zero with the stick. Totally uninteresting.

Miguel Montero had some good years in Arizona, but he’s not the best catcher on the Cubs and so is unlikely to get enough at bats to contribute much.

Nick Hundley is in a similar position in San Francisco, which will also not have the juicy effect that playing in Coors had.

Tom Murphy! An interesting young catcher who should get a shot at playing time, and may have the bat to contribute, especially playing in Colorado. There’s a good chance he’s going to strike out so much it will be hard for him to stay in the lineup, so take advantage of his low price and hope he figures out how to keep the power while working with a shorter swing.

Tony Wolters was a bit of a nifty pickup last year, because he hit a few homers and stole a few bases. The problem was that three of those steals came in two games in mid April, when he was probably not active for anyone, and after that he didn’t steal another until July. Not cool Tony. Playing time this year is going to depend on just how interesting Tom Murphy turns out to be. There should be enough AB for Wolters to have a couple more good games running, which makes him a viable second catcher, and if Murphy stumbles an uptick is, well, an uptick in PT.

Kurt Suzuki arrived in Minnesota as a no-hit catcher and leaves as a no-hit catcher, but in between had some decent seasons with the bat. Surprising! He might help the Braves this year, in real life, but likely playing mostly against lefties isn’t going to play enough to be more than a fantasy placeholder.

Tyler Flowers will face righties in Atlanta, and will continue to have the career that Tom Murphy seems on track for. Good power, but lots of swings and misses.

Jorge Alfaro is the top catching prospect in the game right now. Fortunately for Cameron Rupp, Alfaro has been contact challenged coming up, which might buy Rupp more time as a starter. Fortunately for Alfaro, Rupp hit enough last year that the Phillies can let Alfaro mature at his own pace. Once Alfaro starts to hit, however, he’ll get the call up and Rupp will sit down.

Jason Castro landed in Minnesota, and has a shot at lots of at bats unless John Ryan Murphy surprises. He’s been pretty feeble the past couple of years, but does have some slight success in his past.

Less Than Zero Tier: John Ryan Murphy, Tomas Telis, Chris Iannetta, Mike Zunino, Josh Phegley, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila, Tony Brown, Dioner Navarro, Geovanny Soto, Carlos Perez, Andrew Susac, Austin Barnes, Brayan Pena, Chris Herrman.

These guys are likely to be negative earners if you play them all year in leagues that value opportunity cost at -$4, as I do. If you don’t they’ll probably on average earn a buck each, and a few have a chance to do better than that if there are at bats for them. If you pay a buck for one of these guys and earn $5 you’ve got yourself a steal.

Mike Zunino deserves special mention. He has terrific power, but he also has an amazing swing-and-miss stroke and not great plate discipline. He’s earned a total of $12 the last three years, including a $5 and $9 year. But his bat is so weak when it isn’t blasting, and his organization knows it and is troubled by it, that he isn’t going to be on any sort of long leash. The minors is always a little breeze away for Zunino. Worth a dollar, could be a great addition to a team dumping BA, but could also see 60 at bats and a bus ticket to Korea. Good luck with that.

 

ASK ROTOMAN: White Sox Position Battles

Hey Rotoman:

When the White Sox resigned Paul Konerko and traded for Adam Eaton, they seem to have ended up with way too many players for OF, 1B and DH. What’s going to happen there?

“Chicago River Jam”

CT ct-met-Patricks-79992.jpgDear River Jam,

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, when the Chicago River runs green with blarney, this is not a bad time to try to figure out what the south side squad has in mind.

Here are the players in the mix (I’m going to cross them off as we determine their role): Jose Abreu, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Paul Konerko, Dayan Viciedo.

Here are the positions: DH, 1B, LF, CF, RF. Looks like seven players for five positions

Let’s start with DH. Adam Dunn will hit (or walk) against righties. He was not great against righties last year, but not good against lefties. Paul Konerko was not good at all, overall, last year, but was very good against lefties. That seems like a nice match.

1B. Jose Abreu has been solid during spring training, which seems to be increasing confidence that his move into the majors is going to be a smooth one. Maybe. But what happens if he struggles? Success during the first couple of weeks of games in spring training is pretty meaningless. Keep an eye on Abreu’s health and effectiveness through the rest of camp (he’s having physical issues with his feet and ankles). When he can’t play, it looks like either Dunn or Konerko will be backing him up.

LF. This would seem to be a battle between Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. De Aza doesn’t have a big platoon split in his career but has generally been protected against left-handed arms. Viciedo has been much better against lefties in his career, but was a little better against righties last year. De Aza is coming off two fine fantasy years, but he’s more of a liability in real life baseball, making plenty of outs while he’s stealing bases and hitting homers. Viciedo is the youngster, the potential power source who has yet to erupt. It’s tempting to see this as a head to head matchup, or a straightaway platoon, but Viciedo’s potential development and De Aza’s usefulness playing center field mean that there could be room for both men, at least some of the time.

CF. Adam Eaton was supposed to take the league by storm last year. He was a fantasy darling before camps even opened, the sure source of scores of stolen bases, except that he wasn’t. After hurting his elbow in spring training and deciding not to have surgery, he did not run wild in the second half of the season. He then found himself traded to Chicago in the offseason. No one knows whether he can be an everyday centerfielder or whether he can hit and run enough to help a team batting leadoff. He is far from proven. He’s ripping it up in spring training so far, but that’s just 26 at bats. De Aza was the team’s center fielder last year and is insurance this year should Eaton stumble at the plate or have his elbow unravel under stress.

RF. The White Sox traded Jake Peavy last summer to the Red Sox in a three-way deal that returned the excellent outfield prospect Avisail Garcia from Detroit. Garcia hit .304 after landing in Chitown last summer, raising hopes that Little Miggy (his Motor City nickname, based on body type, not hitting profile) will step into the right field job without issue. Could happen, but the youngster (he turns 23 in June) is pretty unseasoned, walked just 9 times in 249 at bats last year, while striking out nearly 25 percent of at bats. Garcia’s success this year is far from guaranteed. Some contingency has to be available should he struggle. That would be De Aza, too.

370px-Dayán_Viciedo_on_June_26,_2012CONCLUSION: What looks like a mountain of alewives piling up at the south end of Lake Michigan doesn’t look that bad under closer examination. At least in terms of planning. There are some potential success stories brewing, including Viciedo, Eaton and Garcia, and valedictory turns positioned for success, in Dunn and Konerko. De Aza’s versatility will be utilized, one way or the other, and the door is open for Jose Abreu, who has the talent to explode onto the scene. To my taste, the sweetest anchovy in the box is Viciedo, whose price has been dropping because of the uncertainty (and his own slow development). He is just two years older than Garcia, approaching that age where smarts and experience best complement a player’s natural physical gifts.

 

LINK: Strength of Schedule is a Little Thing.

soslightsAs the editor of a fantasy football magazine, I’m aware that schedule strength is a big thing in the make believe pigskin racket. But we don’t talk about it much in baseball because it is a little thing.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

Jeff Sullivan, at FanGraphs, took a look at the relative strength of the divisions today. That’s a little interesting, especially the historical chart, but really, didn’t we all know that already?

Commenters also pointed out that division strength is meaningful but unevenly distributed. The best team in the division plays the four weaker teams, it doesn’t have to play itself. And the worst teams plays the four stronger teams, it doesn’t get to play itself.

So Jeff did some math stuff, I’m not sure what, and came up with a strength of schedule for each team. Assuming he got the math stuff right, we get a little more granular on the way strength of schedule affects baseball teams.

Some folks in the comments created and posted images that add info, like hitting/pitching splits to the graph.

This summary of team WAR in the site’s Depth Charts pages could be a good way to find systemic imbalances that might affect fantasy value and is worth checking out, too.

I’m pretty sure we’ve got most of these things priced in, but it can’t hurt to have more information.

 

AL Random Roster Notes, March 14, 2013

I’ve been polishing the projections in the software, and going through some of the playing time issues on various team. What follows are some thoughts as things start to get real:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Considering the disrespect shown to Jim Johnson, none of the other Orioles relievers is getting much CIW status. Pedro Strop is the obvious name here, while Darren O’Day is probably the best arm. That said, Steve Johnson has control issues, but also throws a ton of strikeouts (and bases on balls, and home runs). All should be available in the reserve rounds unless soomeone in your league has a similar thought. Note that Johnson is working as a starter in spring training.

The Orioles have a lot of live arms and veterans with some success competing for the fifth rotation slot. Arrieta, Britton, Matusz, Bundy and Jurrjens, might contribute, especially given Buck Showalter’s usual success with pitchers. Any one of them could be a reserve pick winner.

Brian Roberts has looked healthy. Given his age and his time on the shelf he’s not going to bounce back to former glory, but has a chance to outearn his price if he stays healthy. Alexi is the obvious go to if he doesn’t, but Ryan Flaherty survived a year on the big league roster last year as a Rule 5 draftee.

BOSTON RED SOX

John Lackey has been showing health if not exactly effectiveness this spring.

The presence of Andrew Bailey obscures the presence of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, who promise to at least throw lots of outs, if not any saves.

I bumped up Mike Napoli a few bucks, though still to less than CBS/LABR paid. If you can stand the BA risk he could prove very productive.

Pedro Ciriaco is the likely backup at 2B, SS and 3B, which given Drew’s solidity and Middlebrooks’ limitations could lead to beaucoup AB. He’s a source of steals and his BA should not hurt, if he plays.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

There’s nothing wrong with Chris Sale except his age. I’m not a believer in the Verducci Effect, but young arms that throw a lot of innings are always at risk. I’m not predicting it, but I’m not bidding him up to the first tier either.

Jeff Keppinger is a good hitter, but has no speed and little power, plus he’s not a defensive plus. If he plays all the time he can be productive if you pay $10 for him, but there are plenty of reasons to think his playing time will be limited.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Scott Kazmir is surprising everyone in camp. The fifth starter battle is multi-headed. I like Carlos Carrasco but he’s not proved himself any more than Kazmir.

I’m downgrading Drew Stubbs, who has athletic skills but can be replaced usually by other talents on this team.

DETROIT TIGERS

CBS/LABR paid a ton more for Max Scherzer than he’s ever earned. I don’t really understand that given some of the other pitching prices, though of course we all love his strikeouts, but I’m not going to say they’re absolutely wrong.

Closer in Detroit is anyone’s guess. My strategy is to buy the cheapest one, who might be Al Albuquerque, though Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel are strong, too. I see zero chance that Bruce Rondon will hold the job because of his control problems.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Jared Cosart has the skills to close now, but he’s seen as a starter in the long term, once he stops walking so many guys. He’s already been sent to the minors, but has a live arm.

The more you pay for Carlos Pena the bigger a problem you’re going to have. He’s virtually all floor, no ceiling, if his price pushes his projection. CBS/LABR are pushing Chris Carter higher, but in my book he has a lot to prove.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Greg Holland is the closer, but his backup, Kelvin Herrera is just as good. If he comes at a stiff discount he’w worth targeting.

I like Salvador Perez and my projection likes him, too, but so do a lot of other people, too. I wouldn’t push him much past he last year’s earnings. He’s young and still has to show he can adjust.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM

Ryan Madson is working his way back slowly. Very slowly.

Andrew Romine is looking like the utility guy, a role that has had some value in recent years, though he is not a big power or speed guy.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Glen Perkins did a fine job closing last year, despite throwing from the port side. Jared Burton is the likely CIW.

There are a lot of starter possibilities, but none of them are very good.

I like Josh Willingham’s talent, but I don’t like guys in their mid 30s coming off a career year.

Unless he wins a regular job Darin Mastroianni won’t cost too much and should steal a lot of bases whenever he plays.

NEW YORK YANKEES

How can you not pay Mariano Rivera as the best closer in baseball, though obviously his age is risky.

Edwin Nunez could get plenty of playing time, but his defensive weakness may limit his chances. He is fast and can hit, if he drops to the endgame.

If Travis Hafner is healthy he could thrive with the long ball in that park.

Don’t forget Austin Romine on reserve. Cervelli and Stewart are not going to block him if he’s ready.

Andy Pettitte made his spring debut this week.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

I don’t like Dan Straily this year. Make him a pick to miss.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Stephen Pryor is the hot arm, but he may well not be ready yet.

Kendry Morales is going to be a test of the shorter fences.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

It’s time for Desmond Jennings to break out, if he’s going to break out. I have doubts, but the market is betting on the come.

Matt Joyce is a platooner who could earn nicely and not cost too much. But you’ll be frustrated by the cold stretches and days off.

Jason Bourgeois is another speedy guy who could get swipes if he plays. But might not play.

TEXAS RANGERS

Lance Berkman will DH as much as he’s able to, but he has to be considered a high-risk high-return buy this year. Definitely don’t want to ignore him, but you don’t want to chase him either.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Josh Thole should be cheap, might get regular at bats.

Depth Charts

I started doing team by team depth charts here last week, part of my process for fine tuning projections, and then I stumbled on the site mlbdepthcharts.com. Jason Martinez does a fantastic job keeping up with transactions, posting expected lineups and rosters for all major and minor league teams.

He also sells a subscription service that offers additional information and charts and lists, that I haven’t yet seen.

Once spring training gets rocking I’ll post stories here about roster battles and questions, but if you want to see projected starters and lineups, go to mlbdepthcharts.com.

Depth Charts: Atlanta Braves

C: Brian McCann is one of the top catchers in the game. David Ross doesn’t play much, and won’t hurt your batting average.

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Depth Charts: Arizona Diamondbacks

C: Miguel Montero will see all the at bats he can. Henry Blanco is coming off a career year, but at 41 this year he can be expected to repeat. Craig Tatum was recently claimed and is less of an offensive presence than Blanco.

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Decoding the Depth Charts: White Sox 2B

This is a tricky one, because a lot has happened in the last couple of days.

What was a Battle Royale (think Pulp Fiction) has suddenly become a Media Noche (think Memories of Underdevelopment). Alexei Ramirez is suddenly catapulted into the White Sox starting job because yesterday the team waived Juan Uribe and today Danny Richar discovered a stress fracture in his ribs. Or is he?

Just so you know, I hadn’t projected (in Patton$onDisk08) Ramirez yet because absent a role and absent context it’s really hard to do any work at all. He’s been a very good player in Cuba and could be a major leaguer, or not. There’s really no way we can know with anything but the certainty that comes from saying that he’s a good athlete, he can hit but his defensive rep is weak, and we’ll see.

I had Richar down for 400 at bats, with three homers and three steals. He was a placeholder, at best, if he ended up getting that playing time. The reason he might have…

Is because Juan Uribe, who can hit a little, also can’t resist swinging. So he makes plenty of outs while occasionally whacking the ball. I had him down for 375 at bats, too many for the two of them combined, but again, each probably with fewer than one of them would have. If one hadn’t been released and the other injured.

So what do we do with Alexei Ramirez? Let’s look at some depth charts.

Rotowire.com has Ramirez as the White Sox starting 2B, with Pablo Ozuna as the backup. Danny Richar? Is out.

BaseballHQ.com gives Ramirez 40 percent of the playing time, with Richar and Uribe splitting the other 60 percent.

Over at sandlotshrink.com they like Richar, but note his injury, backed up by Ramirez.

ESPN.com has Uribe down as the starter, followed by Richar and Ozuna (they have Ramirez as the backup at shortstop behind Orlando Cabrera and Juan Uribe).

The usual quirky Rototimes.com has Uribe as the starter, Richar as the sub and Ramirez as the sub sub.

Rotoworld.com has Danny Richar alone at second base, with Ramirez listed as the third string center fielder.

Yahoo.com lists Uribe, then Ramirez.

The comprehensive Sportsline.com goes with Uribe, then Ramirez, then Richar, then Ozuna, then out of left field, literally, Jason Bourgeois.

So, how to sum it up? The Richar injury gets the obvious guy to fail out of the way. But does it mean the job is Ramirez’s? Indications are that the waivers on Uribe are revocable, so let’s leave the last word to Ozzie Guillen, who deserves it:

“Why have we not named Uribe the second baseman? I mean, he’s a great spring-training player, then all of a sudden spring training is over and we see a different player. If the season starts tomorrow, who pitches for Cleveland? Sabathia? Well, then the starting second baseman will be Pablo Ozuna. The next day? We’ll see.”

I’ve cut Richar’s projected time in half, left Uribe the same, and given a slight bump to Ozuna, who apparently will play against lefties. Alexei Ramirez? I’m leaving him blank. He may well earn a role this summer, probably as a utility player, but there seem to be too many bodies ahead of him right now to project him for playing time.

If he’s on the White Sox on opening day he’ll be worth a bid in the end game, unless he emerges from the scrum with the job. Then bump him to $6.

Decoding the Depth Charts: Florida Centerfield

If you saw Cameron Maybin in his cup last year, and in Arizona later in the fall, you would not though he would be ready this summer to play in the major leagues. An awesome physical talent, yes, a ready major leaguer, no. But having traded away Miguel Cabrera, their star, the Marlins have to be inclined to put on display what they reaped.

Right?

Rotowire.com has him ranked No. 1, noting that he’s hit some opposite field homers with a decent average this spring. They have Alejandro De Aza, not a hitter but having a better spring, second, and Cody Ross, not a regular but he can hit, third. Finally, there is Alfredo Amezaga, the speedy supersub who is so far down the depth chart at each position you don’t even think about him. He’s averaged 350 AB the last two years, with a bunch of steals.

MLB.com has them ranked Ross, De Aza, and Maybin, which is why we’re doing this.

Rototimes.com likes Ross, Amezaga, De Aza, and has Maybin in Albuquerque.

Sandlotshrink.com digs ’em Maybin, Ross, De Aza.

Rotoworld.com has Maybin and De Aza and that’s it.

You can count on ESPN.com to get original. After Maybin and De Aza, yawn, they go for Brett Carroll, and then Ross. Carroll is coming off something of a Triple-A breakout season, but he’s old, his BB/K numbers aren’t so good, and, well, isn’t that enough?

BaseballHQ.com has Maybin with 55 percent of the PT, Ross with 30 percent, De Aza at 10 percent, and long lost speedster Eric Reed at 5 percent.

Yahoo.com is all over the Maybin, Ross sequence.

CBS Sportsline.com is kind of dull, with the Maybin, Ross, De Aza start, but then chimes in with Alexis Gomez, a country heretofore unheard from.

Going into this little survey I had Maybin for 299 fairly weak at bats. Lots of strikeouts, but a comforting number of walks and plenty of steals.

I had De Aza for a similar number of AB (297) but no power and no speed and no contact.

I had Cody Ross for a similar number, too, (266) because nobody is the front runner.

Remember, too, that these three aren’t limited to center field. With the injury prone Jeremy Heredia in left field and the ancient Luis Gonzalez in right, there will be blood out there.

Amezaga, who will play everywhere and no where (fish fans hope) gets 380 AB from me, splitting the difference of the past two years. I put Brett Carroll down for 96 AB, and Eric Reed for 194.

Indecision breeds a mess, that’s for sure. In spring training De Aza has 42 PA, Carroll has 38, Maybin has 35, Ross has 38, Gomez has 29 and Eric Reed didn’t make the cut.

I’m going to cut Eric Reed to nothing and leave the rest of them right where they are. My guess is that neither De Aza nor Maybin can hold the job this year, and Ross will end up with the most AB. But with 10 days left it’s better to remember what they cannot do then to underestimate their PT and create the illusion there is something they can do.

My prediction is that Maybin and De Aza each get a quarter of a season to show what they can’t do, and probably Cody Ross gets the most playing time.