Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Season Preview: Paging Dr. Rumack

Look, I'm not going to lie to you: this preview isn't going to be very good. As you can probably tell by re-reading past years' final previews, the process tends to break down around preview #10 or so. I've been trying to think of a theme along the lines of "Songs of the '90s" or even the "Prophets" theme I broke out earlier this year. So far, all I've come up with is "Fantasy Baseball Team Preview." So, yeah.

That's too bad on several fronts, because this owner and this team deserve serious attention. They hit the board last year without making any major win-now trades, and a disconcertingly large percentage of their roster was cheap to keep.  Logically, then, they have to be considered threats to hit the board again this season.


To my mind, this is the toughest area to predict for this team. They're all set at catcher with Buster Posey, and have assembled three reasonable power/whiff darts to throw at 3B in the form of Will Middlebrooks, Brett Lawrie, and Trevor Plouffe. But there are questions in the other slots.

Jimmy Rollins is only 34, but it feels like he's 106, and he plays on what is looking like a death ship of a team in Philly. Early results have indictaed that he hasn't lost his speed, which means that he should still hold fantasy value if healthy. Those last two words give us, pause, though. And 1B Billy Butler magically converted 10 or so doubles into HRs last year; we are slightly suspicious that he will repeat. Justin Morneau provides some cover for Butler, but he's also plugged in at DH now, so he's not really in a position to back Butler up.

Finally, there's the one-man show at 2B. Single-word summaries of Aaron Hill's past four years would go something like this: terrible, terrible, hurt, unstoppablesharkbear (I've translated from the original single-word German  on that last one). Probabilty would thus seem to dictate that this year is less than likely to culminate with more sharkbearing, although he's off to a great start.
The thing is that despite all of these qualms, this IF would produce really solid aggregate totals based on last year's numbers. So while you can poke holes in a number of the individuals, it still feels like the collective performance should work.


Just so many dudes. Desmond Jennings, Jay Bruce, and Adam Jones are starting now, but Smooth Dexter Fowler, Drew Stubbs, and (starting in May) Curtis Granderson give the team an entire backup OF. I will be perfectly honest and admit that I have no idea which three of those six guys will give the best collective performance this year. But the presence of so many reasonable options means that it's tough to see this unit tanking.

Starting Pitching

Last year's solid staff returns stalwarts Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain, so the team was off to a good start before drafting anybody this year. The team supplemented those two aceswith an early-round investment in Jon Lester, whose performance in the early going is a great sign for the Fightin' Neilsens. Kuroda Zone vets CJ Wilson, Clay Buchholz and, yes, Hiroki Kuroda, round out the rotation.

it's worth noting that all of these guys, even the ones who don't really make your hair stand on end, are durable. Only Buchholz has missed signficant time to injury in the past three seasons; the others have made at least 30 starts each year during that time. So even if none of the Kuroda Zone folks make a leap up to join the aces, they should allow the team to avoid wading through the waiver pool for innings.


If the rotation is dependent in part on avoiding injuries, the bullpen is dependent on injuries befalling a bunch of incumbent closers throughout baseball. Only Brandon League is a current closer, and nobody seems to think that he's LA's best reliever. Behind League there are a bunch of setup men, including David Robertson, Greg Lukerson, and Aaron Crooooooooow!, each of whom will need to hear the sweet snap of a teammate's ulnar collateral ligament before providing saves. There's help for the rate stats here, but the team enters the season staring at 2-3 SV points unless things break their way.


This is one of those teams about which my eyes and my spreadsheets differ. I think the team has a lot of flexibility, enough to overcome the likely cratering of at least one infielder. The projections I've seen don't really like the roster, though. Still, this feels like a first-division, who is some bullpen luck away from making a run at the board.

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