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March 27, 2005

ESPN Column

Soriano Hits But Doesn’t Run
ALFONSO SORIANO is finally hitting better, and he bopped two doubles in Saturday’s game against the White Sox. He still has yet to run at full speed. His substandard stride might lead Buck Showalter to move Soriano out of the leadoff spot for while until he shows he’s fully recovered. For those drafting in the next few days, consider Soriano’s bat to be at 100% stretch but cut back on his steals. At the beginning of the month I projected a season of .295, 100 runs, 33 homers, 90 RBI, and 25 steals from him. That still seems reasonable overall, though the upside of 30-35 steals has dropped to 20-25. He still towers above his competition at second base, perhaps the weakest position in fantasy ball.

2005 PROJECTIONS: Position: Closer. Saves: 40. Wins: 4. Strikeouts: 75. ERA: 3.05. WHIP: 1.30. Upside: Low. Saves are fickle. He might match last year’s 49, or he could end up with “only? 30-35. Downside: Low. I’m already predicting a regression from his 2.13 ERA of a year ago. He was a little lucky in 2004. Injury history: Trouble-free until this spring, when a sore shoulder kept him out of Spring Training games until very recently. He is not 100% but is pretty close. Owners might want to downgrade him ever so slightly. Outlook: Cordero is not in the class of Gagne, Lidge, or Rivera. He belongs in the next tier of closers with fine stats and secure jobs. Cordero is not a one-inning closer and can give you a healthy number of strikeouts.

2005 PROJECTIONS: Position: Starter. Wins: 11. Strikeouts: 115. ERA: 4.85. WHIP: 1.45. Upside: Low to moderate. Wins are flakier than saves. Rogers won 18 games last year and could get 15 or so this year. He is not fazed by the offense-happy Ballpark. Downside: Moderate to high. He’s 40 and tailed off badly in the second half of last year. Injury history: Stricken with the flu this spring and hasn’t pitched many innings. Otherwise in good shape for a 40-year-old. Outlook: Rogers doesn’t give owners much to go with his wins. He is a bend-but-don’t-break pitcher that allows plenty of runners and doesn’t strike many out. I wouldn’t bother with him in most mixed leagues. He’s an adequate back-end starter in AL-only leagues. Better in real life than in fantasy ball.

2005 PROJECTIONS: Position: Starter. Wins: 12. Strikeouts: 105. ERA: 4.65. WHIP: 1.45. Upside: Low to moderate. I think his high side would be a repeat of last year’s 14 wins and 4.20 ERA. Downside: Moderate. Last year’s success was without precedent or forewarning. Career ERA is 5.18. Injury history: Healthy. Outlook: Like Rogers, Drese is more valuable to the Rangers than to your fantasy team. His strikeout rate is extremely low and he lives off inducing groundballs and minimizing damage rather than preventing it. Also like Rogers, he’s potentially useful in AL-only leagues but not worth the trouble in mixed leagues with twelve or fewer teams. Odds are that someone will draft him on the basis of last year’s stats. Don’t be that person.

CF and DH: A Mess
With Opening Day barely over a week away, the Rangers don’t know who will be playing in center or at DH. The original plan was for LAYNCE NIX and DAVID DELLUCCI to bat and righties with GARY MATTHEWS and GREG COLBRUNN against lefties. Nix has not performed well this spring and might actually visit AAA to get back on track. If that happens, Matthews would become the primary CF, possibly backed up by non-roster invite ANDRES TORRES. Meanwhile, young 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ and 2B/SS IAN KINSLER have played well enough (and Colbrunn poorly enough) to merit consideration as backups and part-time DHs. I’ll keep interested parties posted, but for now, the combination of so-so production and uncertain playing time makes none of these guys worth drafting except in large AL-only leagues.

The Rest
Closer FRANCISCO CORDERO pitched well in his first Cactus League game. He was lit up two days later in a minor-league games, but more importantly, he has suffered no ill effects from pitching in anger. He should start the season with the club and with minimal worries. Setup man FRANK FRANCISCO hit the DL with a sore elbow. He could return by April 9, but mid-month or later seems more likely. Texas will be patient with him. Potential starter PEDRO ASTACIO has missed action with a pulled groin, not that you’d want him. His injury might open the door for RICARDO RODRIGUEZ despite his horrific outing a few days ago. CHRIS YOUNG’s spot in the rotation seems secure. Young and Rodriguez are players to watch, not to draft.

More Rangers / Questions and Answers

Read my Rangers preview for The Batter’s Box here. I also wrote previews for Houston and Colorado that you can find in the archives. The Box holds several fine writers including A’s correspondent John Gizzi, former Toronto correspondent Kent Williams, former Yankee and Ranger correspondent Mick Doherty, and a host of others.

Posted by Lucas at March 27, 2005 11:05 AM