Decoding the Depth Charts: Rangers Closer

There are a number of tenuous bullpen situations this spring, but entering the last two weeks of camp none is more unsettled than the closer order in Texas. For the record, I have CJ Wilson projected for 7 saves, Eddie Guardado with 14, Joaquin Benoit with 10 and Kazuo Fukumori with 3. This is major ass covering that probably makes things seem more clear cut than they are. Let’s see how the other see it. says Wilson, Benoit, Guardado, Fukumori. has Guardado and Wilson as co-closers, backed up by Benoit. Fukumori ranks down their list. has Guardado and Wilson as co-closers, with Benoit and Frank Francisco as setup guys. Fukumori isn’t listed. has them listed Wilson, Fukumori, Benoit, Guardado. has Wilson listed as the closer, and Guardado, Benoit and Fukumori as the setup guys. gives Wilson 70 percent of the saves, Guardado and Benoit 10 percent each and Fukumori five percent. The remaining five percent is out there, waiting. reports that CJ Wilson, who has been hurting this spring, is healthy, while Eddie Guardado’s bum knee didn’t help him make his case to be closer when Wilson was down. Still, they’re listed as co-closers. Benoit is the setup guy, though he’s been hurt this spring, too, with Fukumori behind him. has them listed as Wilson, Benoit, Guardado, and Fukumori.

All of which tells us that Wilson is probably the closer if his arm is okay (he was hurting with biceps tendinitis), and it’s anyone’s guess who will take his place if he can’t go (or if he fails, which I think his walk rate last year suggests could happen).

Guardado’s numbers last year don’t look so hot, but most of the damage came around his DL time. He finished strong and while that earn him a ringing endorsement because of his age and the wear and tear he’s endured, he’s got more potential than you might think. I like Benoit but he’s not going to move ahead of the other two unless they go down. And Fukumori is the wild card. A successful closer in Japan, he’s got the head for the job.

The mistake here wouldn’t be taking any few of these guys, but paying more for them combined than you would for the Texas closer. If it looks like Wilson’s the one he’s likely to go for closer money. Backing him up with the other guys, who will all have value in 4×4 leagues, will probably each cost you a little premium because of the chance that they’ll end up in the closer’s seat. And you’ll end up paying too much for the Texas closer and some setup guys.

But for cheap? Get on ’em all. You just might win the lottery.

Decoding the Depth Charts: Rockies 2B

I at least in part wrecked two fantasy teams (Tout Wars NL, Rotoman’s Regulars) because of too much love for Marcus Giles. Not that there didn’t used to be a reason for admiration and optimism, but last year he languished for no apparent reason and you have to question his mental conditioning as much as anything. Slumps happen, but you have to stand up to them. Injuries have hurt him in the past, but this seemed different.

When he signed with the  Rockies I assumed he’d be the front runner for the second base job in Colorado, but it is increasingly obvious that he’s not even the second choice there. So I’m giving up. Let’s look at who reigns on the depth charts: likes Jeff Baker, Jayson Nix, Clint Barmes, Giles, Omar Quintanilla and, finally, Ian Stewart. goes Nix, Quintanilla, Stewart, Barmes, Giles. Baker is listed as the backup at first and third base. goes Nix, Baker, Giles, Stewart, Quintanilla. picks Nix, Giles, and someone new. Meet Matt Kata.  (They have Stewart as a backup at third base, Baker as a backup in the outfield.) comes through again! Giles, Nix, Stewart, Quintanilla, with Baker backing up in the outfield. sez: Nix, Giles, Quintanilla, with Stewart backing up third base and Baker behind six guys in the outfield.

and finally, the finely tuned, which lists players with percentage of playing time. They like Baker (40), Nix (30), Giles (20), Stewart (15), Quintanilla (5) and Barmes (5).

My projections before I started this escapade gave Nix 200 PA, Baker 375, Giles 330, Stewart 125, Quintanilla 100 and Matt Kata 125. Barmes got 335, mostly based on the idea that he’d be traded.

1,000 PA for the other guys is a little too much considering that Stewart will play some third base, Baker will play some first and outfield, Quintanilla or Barmes will see some time at SS and somebody has to play in Colorado Springs. So let’s go through the possibilities…

Jayson Nix had a pretty good year in Colorado Springs last year and he’s a good second baseman. That has to count for something here. I don’t think he’s a major league regular, but he does enough to hold onto a job when there isn’t a better alternative.

Jeff Baker hasn’t much hit righties, which is a problem, and he isn’t really a second baseman, working on the position this past fall in the AFL.  He might make the Rockies but I don’t see him winning this job.

Marcus Giles was a good second baseman once upon a time, and he used to be able to hit for some power, get on base, and run. He isn’t so old that his time should be up. He’s been quiet but effective in spring training.

Stewart, Quintanilla, Barmes and Kata are all backups at this point. There is some hope that Stewart will end up being a major league regular but he’s not there yet.

Who do I like? I think Nix will win the job, will fail to impress with his bat, while Giles–having worked hard on his physical condition and attitude (I don’t know that this is true, but how could he not given how awful he was last year)–will eventually get a shot and win the job for the rest of the year. Except that he’ll then, after I’ve blown all my FAAB on him, wreck his hammy. Bah!

Decoding the Depth Charts: Reds 1B

When Dusty Baker landed in Cincinnati thoughts turned immediately to all that young talent bubbling up in the city of seven hills. While there is some question whether the bigger bat belongs to Joey Votto or Jay Bruce, the hiring of Baker and the re-signing of Scott Hatteberg raised the question of when the bats would boom at the GAB.

Now, the signing of Corey Patterson seems to relegate Bruce to Triple-A to start the season, which may be the right idea, but what’s going to happen in the battle between Votto (400) and Hatteberg (300) at first base?  The numbers in parens indicate my projected PA as I started this survey.

And the depth charts say: says Hattieberg, then Votto. goes for Votto, then Hattieberg, then Javier Valentin. Why not? says Hattieberg, then Voto, then Adam Dunn. Why not? They also say Jay Bruce is the centerfielder, and don’t mention Corey Patterson. says Votto, Hattieberg, then Andy Phillips. Why not? says Votto, Hattieberg, and that’s enough. likes Votto, Hattieberg and Phillips. likes Votto, Hattieberg and then can’t make up its mind between Phillips and Craig Wilson.

I guess the nod goes to Votto at this point, but be a little wary, since a slow start for him paired with Baker’s vet-o-philia could quickly cut into Votto’s PT.

Decoding the Depth Charts: Red Sox CF

When Jacoby Ellsbury roared past Coco Crisp as the Red Sox centerfielder in the World Series last year, change seemed inevitable and irreversible. Yet it also didn’t feel quite right. Crisp is a bonafide major leaguer who went cold at the wrong time. Ellsbury may prove to be a star, but he isn’t going to stay as hot as he was during that short stretch.

So, how to project them this spring? I’ve been assuming that Crisp is going to be a regular, with 560 plate appearances projected. But I’ve got Ellsbury projected for 470. If they’re both Red Sox that’s way too many at bats. But if Crisp is traded then it’s probably too few. How do the depth charts show it?

Rotowire has Crisp as the Red Sox starter, and Ellsbury as the reserve at all three OF positions.

BaseballHQ has Crisp down for 85 percent playing time. Ellsbury for 50 percent.

The ever contrarian Rototimes likes Ellsbury as the centerfieler, with Crisp the backup.

Sandlot Shrink goes for Ellsbury as the starter, Crisp as the backup. likes Crisp as the starter, Ellsbury as the reserve at all three OF positions (which could mean a fair amount of playing time on a team starting the fragile JD Drew and the aging Manny Ramirez).

USA Today likes Ellsbury to start, Crisp to back him up, but Brandon Moss and Bobby Kielty to backup the corners.

The Rotoworld depth chart is identical to the USA Today. I suspect there is a good reason for that.

Sportsline goes with Ellsbury in center as the starter, Crisp as the backup, but Ellsbury as the backup in left field.

Yahoo’s minimalist depth chart features Ellsbury as the starter, Crisp the backup.

I have to say that I’m not swayed. The sites I know are thoughtful agree with me (Crisp the starter, Ellsbury the backup) and really the only argument I see for Ellsbury being the starter is if Crisp is traded.

Given the potential injuries to JD Drew and Manny Ramirez, and the reasonable chance that Crisp will be dealt, I’m going to stand pat for now. I’ve got too many AB in the Red Sox OF, but not too too many. For now it makes more sense to stick with the talent, and let the roles (and all important injuries) work themselves out.

The most important thing is that Crisp may be a bargain based on the feeling he’s lost the job and the chance he’ll be traded (and being hurt during spring training hasn’t helped him, for sure), and Ellsbury may be overpriced because he looks like a phenom speedster. That may be a good reason to invest in a cheap Crisp.

Decoding the Depth Charts: Royals 1B/DH

A friend asked me the other day about depth charts, and wondered which had the most reliable information. I said that I didn’t really know about the best, but that I used Rotowire (because I pay for it) and (because I’m there) mostly. He wrote back that he wasn’t a Rotowire subscriber, but checked out some others and couldn’t understand why had Schilling as the Red Sox second starter and other inconsistencies with the spring news, which got me to thinking…

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to look at some of the spring’s positional and role battles through the lens of the various depth charts available to me. That means free services and Rotowire and BaseballHQ are in play.

I hope we’ll learn something about depth charts, the services, and most important, who’s going to play this season. Let’s start with the Royals’ first base/dh battle.

The candidates are Billy Butler (535), Ross Gload (477), Ryan Shealy (162) and Justin Huber, who is converting to the outfield this year because of the logjam ahead of him. My playing time totals reflect the conventional wisdom, with Gload and Butler the putative starters and Shealy a sub or elsewhere.

Rotowire has Gload as the first baseman, Butler his backup, followed by Teahen and then Shealy, with Butler as the DH with Gload as his backup. For some reason they have Esteban German as the third string DH. has the same order at first base, but doesn’t include Gload at DH (just Butler and German).

Yahoo’s minimal approach puts Gload and Shealy at first, and Butler at DH.

ESPN, which is maximal, has Gload followed by Butler, Shealy and Teahen at first, and Butler, German and Gload at DH. comes to the rescue of creeping boredom, listing Shealy as the starter against lefties and righties (so far the only service to include platoon info), with Gload and Huber as subs at first base, and Butler as the DH. They also list the Triple-A guy at the position, if there is a meaningful one. has Gload the 1B starter and Shealy his backup, with Butler as the DH. also has Gload and Shealy at 1B, with Butler the DH. has the same. has Gload and Butler as the starters and doesn’t rank reserves. has the neatest information, as it were. They give playing time percentages for each player. At first base Gload (60), Shealy (20), Butler (10) and Teahen (10). At DH Butler gets (65), Huber (10) and Guillen (5). I assume DH doesn’t add up to 100 because of interleague games, though that wouldn’t account for 20 percent of the plate appearances as implied here. throws us a little curve, putting Butler, Gload, Shealy at first base (in that order) and Gload, Butler, Huber (in that order) at DH.

What did we learn? Everyone except Rototimes is lock step on this one. They’re declaring their affection for Shealy out front. I like him this year, too, though as a sleeper pick who could emerge if there’s an injury or either Gload or Butler gets off to a bad start. As a result I’ve knocked Butler and Gload down about 120 plate appearances total in my projections, and given those to Shealy.

1B: Gload, Shealy, Butler

DH: Butler, Shealy, Huber

And, it should be noted, that the Royals have too many players. Huber is out of optioins, I believe, and German becomes expendable with the arrival of Callaspo, so either Shealy or Huber could end up elsewhere.