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April 11, 2005

ESPN Column

Infield Runs Hot And Cold
ALFONSO SORIANO’s hamstring problems clearly have not poisoned his bat. Although he’s hitting only .229, he has six runs, three homers and four RBI in seven games. He also has a steal, nice news to those worried about his gait. Not that you care, but his defense is as bad as ever. HANK BLALOCK and MICHAEL YOUNG have gotten off to their typically fine starts. MARK TEIXEIRA, on the other hand, hasn’t done much since Opening Day. If you own him, relax. He’ll hit any day now. Don’t put too much into one week of performance. The panicky owner is a losing owner. Regarding the Texas infield, I don’t normally write much about them because they’re so boringly reliable. Email me if you have questions.

Hidalgo Hot, Matthews Chilly
Outfielder RICHARD HIDALGO acclimated quickly to the American League by hitting .276 with two dramatic homers in the first week of play. Should he continue to hit for power and get his average up to around .300, that’s when his owners ought to consider trading him. Hidalgo should have a pretty good season, but he’s always been horribly inconsistent and prone to minor injuries. GARY MATTHEWS, all alone in center field with Laynce Nix in AAA, is batting only .207/.233/.241. He’s had opportunities to start elsewhere and failed. He has time to improve, but improved play by Nix will have him looking over his shoulder in a week or two. Hold on to him for now in AL-only leagues.

Mench Even Chiller
Outfielder KEVIN MENCH has doubly aggravated his owners, once by starting only five of the first seven games, again by batting only .182/.217/.182 with no runs and two RBI in his opening week. With most batters, the presumably temporary doldrums wouldn’t mean much of anything, but in Mench’s case there is some cause for concern. For a variety of reasons, most of them seemingly silly, Mench has never been a management favorite. Buck Showalter has already given backup DAVID DELLUCCI two starts and might be inclined to give him more if Mench continues to struggle. Don’t worry about him yet, but keep a hopeful eye on a breakout during this nine-game homestand.

Gonzalez and Allen(?!) Share DH duties
ADRIAN GONZALEZ has started only three of the first seven games. Showalter withheld him from starting Opening Day against putative ace Bartolo Colon, and since then, Gonzalez has started every game against righties and never against a lefty. As long as Delucci steals one or two starts per week from Mench, Gonzalez should continue to start consistently against righties, so expect Gonzalez to make 4-5 starts per week. Meanwhile, alleged fifth outfielder CHAD ALLEN has started at DH in all three games against a lefty. Allen has batted well so far (.364 with two runs and one RBI) but is a career .268/.321/.391 hitter and an option only in the largest of AL-only leagues.

Starting Pitchers: Keep On Avoiding
PEDRO ASTACIO parlayed one astonishingly good start into 33% ownership in ESPN’s AL-only leagues. Grab him if you enjoy queasy thrills, but understand that Astacio last pitched well in 2000 (from a real perspective, not fantasy). Is he a safer bet than CHAN HO PARK or CHRIS YOUNG? Trick question. It’s like asking which finger you’d like chopped off: every answer is unpalatable. I suppose Astacio has the most upside, in the sense that he’s utterly unpredictable, and I would take my chances with him over Park. As for RYAN DRESE and KENNY ROGERS, both have nice WHIPs, and Rogers has a spiffy 2.77 ERA, but neither has a win in four starts thanks to a porous bullpen and they’ve combined for four, FOUR, strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. Hence, limited value.

Bullpen Struggles
Last year, Texas featured the best bullpen in the American league. This year, with both CARLOS ALMANZAR and FRANK FRANCISCO missing, they’ve already blown four leads and have an ERA in the range of 6.00. Getting the lead to closer FRANCISCO CORDERO is but one issue, as he himself has blown two save opportunities. Cordero will be fine, but the overall shape of the pen is a concern. While some of the Ranger rotation does have value in AL-only leagues, much of it is a function of getting a win despite a mediocre performance. A weaker bullpen saps that value. Almanzar, coping with the deaths of his mother and brother, should return by the end of the week. Francisco will begin a rehab assignment before long and could return by the end of the month or soon after.

Posted by Lucas at April 11, 2005 09:31 PM