Friday, February 23, 2007

Analysis of Spring Training Outfielders

The Rangers have 11 outfielders in major league Spring Training camp. Below, I will rate each outfielder and give their chances of making the 25-man active roster at the end of Spring Training.

Jason Botts:
Jason is competing for the 5th OF/DH role. He has dominated the minors, but hasn’t done too great yet in the majors, batting .247 with 1 HR and 9 RBI’s in 77 AB. He won’t need to play great, but to play well to get the job out of camp. Sammy Sosa is his biggest competition.

Percentage: 33.5%

Marlon Byrd:
Marlon hasn’t reached anywhere near his potential and he’ll need to, to make the team. He’s very speedy and fields well, but his hitting isn’t that great. His career stats are a .263 AVG with 20 HR in 1302 AB. He started for the Phillies in 03-04 but ever since he has split the center field position. He had a great minor league career batting over .300 4 out of 8 years and never batted below .260 but hasn’t gotten it done in the majors. If he can play like he did in the minors, I think he will make the team as the 5th outfielder.

Percentage: 32.8%

Frank Catalanotto:
Frank is the DH/back-up outfielder for the Rangers, unless he gets injured, or Sammy Sosa does great. If Sammy makes the team than he will be just the DH or a starting outfielder, depending on how Sammy fields.

Percentage: 100%

Nelson Cruz:
Nelson is the starting right fielder unless he gets injured or has a terrible camp.

Percentage: 98.9%

Victor Diaz:
Victor is not one of the major runners for the outfield job although he has a better chance than most people give him. He had been having a great career until he fell apart last year, batting .224 with Triple-A Norfolk and .182 with the Mets. Also, he didn’t have anywhere close to his normal power getting fewer home runs in more at-bats than the previous 3 years. He will have to get his hitting back up to where it used to be to make the team.

Percentage: 15.2%

Freddy Guzman:
Freddy is a really speedy guy who was great in the minor leagues but hasn’t done that well in the majors. He’s only gotten 83 at-bats but his batting average is .217. He needs to have an outstanding camp to win the 5th outfielder job.

Percentage: 12.3%

Jerry Hairston:
Jerry is a very good fielder. He’s competing for an outfield job and the utility job. He’s been declining over the past few years and he’ll need to stop declining to win the job.

Percentage: 23.4%

Matt Kata:
Last year Kata was with the Triple-A Louisville Bats. He hit .263 with 9 HR and 34 RBI in 331 AB. He’s spent parts of three seasons in the majors in 2003-2005. He played for the D’Backs and Phillies, batting .308 with 9 HR and 42 RBI in 487 AB. He is the least likely of anyone on the outfield Spring Training roster to make the team.

Percentage: 7.6%

Kenny Lofton:
Kenny is the Rangers’ starting center fielder.

Percentage: 100%

Sammy Sosa:
Sammy has had a great career, but has been suspected of using steroids. He has also corked his bats. He very quickly declined after his great year in 2003, although his power numbers were still good in ’04. In 2005, he had a .221 batting average, only hitting 14 HR and 45 RBI’s with the Orioles. He didn’t play in 2006. He will need to play at least in between what he did in ’04 and ’05 to make the team.

Percentage: 34.9%

Brad Wilkerson:
Brad is our 4th outfielder or may platoon with Cruz.

Percentage: 100%

Projected outfielders at the beginning of the year:
Kenny Lofton-center fielder
Nelson Cruz-right fielder
Frank Catalanotto-left fielder/DH
Sammy Sosa-DH
Brad Wilkerson-4th outfielder

Next in line:
Jason Botts
Marlon Byrd
Jerry Hairston

Come back next week for the infielders and catchers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Analysis of Spring Training Pitchers

The Rangers opened Spring Training this week with 32 pitchers in the major league camp. Below, I will rate each pitcher and give their chances of making the 25-man active roster at the end of Spring Training.

Rick Bauer, RHP:
Rick had a very good season last year, but ended it badly. He will probably make the team unless he either gets injured or plays awful.

Percentage: 86.7%

Joaquin Benoit, RHP:
Benoit’s a clinch at the long reliever position.

Percentage: 100%

Bruce Chen, LHP:
He is very home run prone and had a very bad year last year. He had a 6.93 ERA for the Orioles last year, a 3.83 ERA in ’05 and a 4.60 ERA in his 9-year career, playing for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, and finally the Orioles. The Rangers might be the 9th team on that list. But he does have a decent chance because he’s had a decent career and he would be the only lefty in the rotation. He will also be competing with two other left-handers (John Koronka and John Rheinecker) who is more likely to win the job. Even if Chen isn’t the 5th starter, he could become a long relief pitcher. If he doesn’t make the Rangers out of camp, he’ll probably be brought up during the season.

Percentage: 39.7%

Francisco Cruceta, RHP:
The Rangers acquired Cruceta off waivers from the Mariners after last season. He was a starter with AAA Tacoma last season, where he went 13-9 with a 4.38 ERA in 28 games. Cruceta is probably not going to make the team with our strong bullpen. He has a pretty low chance although he probably will be called up in September, since he’s on the 40-man roster.

Percentage: 2.1%

Thomas Diamond, RHP:
Thomas probably won’t make it to the bigs until September this year, much less out of camp. He’ll spend the year at AAA.

Percentage: 2.1%

Willie Eyre, RHP:
Willie’s only year in the majors was last year with the Twins, where he had a 5.31 ERA in 42 games, all in relief. He’ll probably get called up in September if he has a great year but not out of Spring Training.

Percentage: 1.4%

Scott Feldman, RHP:
Scott has proven himself in the bigs and has almost clinched a middle relief spot.

Percentage: 98.9%

Frank Francisco, RHP:

Frank can be a good pitcher if he stays healthy. I think if he is healthy, that he gets a real shot at a middle relief role or the seventh inning role.

Percentage: 89.6%

Eric Gagne, RHP:
Eric’s our closer unless he gets injured.

Percentage: 100%

Armando Galarraga, RHP:
Armando struggled with injuries last year and went 1-6 with a 4.61 ERA in 9 starts with Frisco. He isn’t going to the majors this year and will probably be gone by the time Spring Training is halfway through.

Percentage: 0%

Franklyn German, RHP:
Franklyn has a chance of making the team, although not a very good one. He has a 4.60 ERA in 137 IP spread throughout five years. Last year, he had a 3.00 ERA in 12.0 innings pitched. He is not home run prone nor is he great against home runs. He has 99 strikeouts in his career. He doesn’t have bad stats but he’s coming off of shoulder surgery, which could really limit his effectiveness.

Percentage: 19.4%

Daniel Haigwood, LHP:
Daniel won’t make it to the bigs this year. He had a 3.63 ERA with Frisco last year in 62 innings. He allowed 4 HR and had a record of 1-2.

Percentage: 0%

Eric Hurley, RHP:
Eric Hurley isn’t ready for the majors nor is he going to be in the majors. The Rangers probably brought him to big league camp to show him how highly they think of him.

Percentage: 0%

John Koronka, LHP:
John Koronka, John Rheinecker and Bruce Chen are the left-handers competing for the 5th starter and will be the only lefty in the rotation if they win the 5th job. Koronka is the most likely of the three since he pitched so well at the beginning of the season last year.

Percentage: 45.6%

Wes Littleton, RHP:
With Wes’ performance last year he is going to make the team if he doesn’t do awful.

Percentage: 95.8%

Kameron Loe, RHP:
Kameron is going to compete for the 5th starter role but probably won’t make it. He also could be a reliever but probably not out of spring training. He struggled last year in both the majors and the minors and probably will need to pitch well in AAA before getting called up.

Percentage: 25.4%

Ron Mahay, LHP:
Mahay was 1-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 62 appearances last season, his fourth in Texas. He has a guaranteed contract so probably will make the team.

Percentage: 92.9%

Brandon McCarthy, RHP:
Brandon is the #3 starter no matter what, in my opinion.

Percentage: 100%

Kevin Millwood, RHP:
Kevin is the ace of this team and the ace makes the team.

Percentage: 100%

AJ Murray, LHP:
AJ has had a decent minor league career but has struggled with injuries (he didn’t pitch in 2004 or 2006). He won’t make the team for at least two more years.

Percentage: 0%

Alexi Ogando, RHP:
Alexi can’t come to camp because he can’t get a visa.

Percentage: 0%

Akinori Otsuka, RHP:
Aki’s the set-up man unless he gets injured.

Percentage: 100%

Vicente Padilla, RHP:
Padilla’s the #2 starter.

Percentage: 100%

John Rheinecker, LHP:
John is going to compete for the 5th starting pitcher job in Spring Training, but with his shaky finish last year, I don’t think he’ll win the job.

Percentage: 10.6%

Scott Rice, LHP:
Scott is a middle reliever who will compete for a job at Spring Training. He had a 3.86 ERA in 65.1 innings last year. That was his first year in Triple-A. If he wins the job, he’s going to be one of the least used relievers.

Percentage: 11.4%

Josh Rupe, RHP:
Josh was held back from injuries last year, and he probably would have been the 5th starter. When he got back he posted a 3.41 ERA in 29 innings pitched for the Rangers.

Percentage: 31.9%

Robinson Tejeda, RHP:
Robinson is our #4 starter unless he really struggles in camp.

Percentage: 99.9%

Jose Vargas, RHP:
Jose spent the last two years in the Triple-A Mexican League. Last year, he went 6-4 with a 1.36 ERA in 73 innings. He had 70 strikeouts and only allowed one homer. He also had 27 saves, leading the league. He seems like a very good player who could win a relieving spot.

Percentage: 45.9%

Edinson Volquez, RHP:
Edinson is probably one of the least likely of the competitors for the 5th starting job because he has options and has really struggled in the majors so far in his career.

Percentage: 9.7%

CJ Wilson, LHP:
CJ has clinched a bullpen job.

Percentage: 100%

Mike Wood, RHP:
Wood has career stats of a 13-20 record with a 5.52 ERA in 293.1 innings pitched. He has given up 45 HR’s, becoming more and more home run prone each year. He probably won’t make the team.

Percentage: 6.1%

Jamey Wright, RHP:
Jamey has 11 years of MLB experience. His career stats are a 67-98 record with a 5.14 ERA in 1461.2 IP. Last year he had a 6-10 record posting a 5.19 ERA in 156 IP. Jamey hasn’t had a good career so far and probably will not win the job.

Percentage: 8.6%

Predicted pitchers at the beginning of the year:
1. Kevin Millwood-starter
2. Vicente Padilla-starter
3. Brandon McCarthy-starter
4. Robinson Tejeda-starter
5. John Koronka-left-handed starter
6. Joaquin Benoit-long reliever
7. Scott Feldman-middle reliever
8. CJ Wilson-middle reliever
9. Ron Mahay-middle reliever
10. Wes Littleton-middle reliever
11. Akinori Otsuka-setup
12. Eric Gagne-closer

Next in line:
1. Rick Bauer
2. Bruce Chen
3. Josh Rupe
4. Jose Vargas
5. Frank Francisco

Come back next week for outfielders and the one DH. I’ll continue my analysis of the divisions after this series.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

AL Central Off-Season Analysis

This week, I will analyze the off-seasons of the teams in the AL Central.

White Sox:

Players gained:
Toby Hall
Luis Terrero
John Danks
Nick Masset
Junior Spivey
Darin Erstad
John Lujan
Rusty Tucker
Bucky Jacobsen
Gavin Floyd
Gio Gonzalez
Mike MacDougal
Andrew Sisco
Jacob Rasner
David Aardsma
Carlos Vasquez
Ross Gload

Players lost:
Dustin Hermanson
Jeff Nelson
David Riske
Cliff Polite
Freddy Garcia
Brandon McCarthy
Neal Cotts
David Paisano
Eduardo Sierra
Chris Stewart

They have gained plenty of decent young people but lost some very good players.

Grade: B-

Cleveland Indians:

Players gained:
Joe Borowski
David Dellucci
Aaron Fultz
Roberto Hernandez
Mike Rose
Keith Foulke
Trot Nixon
Jason Michaels
Keith Ginter
Luis Rivas
Jeff Harris
Mike Rose
Josh Barfield

Players lost:
Kevin Kouzmanoff
Andrew Brown
Aaron Boone
Danny Graves
Ramon Vazquez

The Indians have not lost much at all but have gained plenty.

Grade: A+

Detroit Tigers:

Players gained:
Jose Mesa
Gary Sheffield
Yorman Bazardo
Joey Eischen
Timo Perez
Edward Campusano

Players lost:
Dustin Mohr
Troy Percival
Matt Stairs
Jamie Walker
Dmitri Young
Alexis Gomez
Humberto Sanchez
Kevin Whelan
Anthony Claggett

The Tigers didn’t give up any starters but they got one of the best players in the league in Gary Sheffield.

Grade: A-

Minnesota Twins:

Players gained:
Carmen Cali
Randy Choate
Jeff Cirillo
Ken Harvey
Mike Venafro
Sidney Ponson
Alejandro Machado

Players lost:
Willie Eyre
Brad Radke
Mike Smith

They haven’t gained anything big and they lost a big part of their rotation, especially with the fact that Francisco Liriano is out for the year with an injury.

Grade: D+

Kansas City Royals:

Players gained:
Dewon Brazelton
Octavio Dotel
Wayne Franklin
Gil Meche
Jason LaRue
Russ Haltiwanger
Alex S. Gonzalez
Max Pierre
David Riske
Brandon Duckworth
Zach Day
Joakim Soria
Rich Lewis
Brian Bannister
Ken Ray

Players lost:
Steve Andrade
Paul Bako
Ken Harvey
Doug Mientkiewicz
Mark Redman
Jeff Keppinger
Andrew Sisco
Ambiorix Burgos
Runelvys Hernandez
Donnie Murphy

The Royals haven’t lost much but haven’t gained much either. They have gained more than they lost, though.

Grade: B+

Off-Season Rankings

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins

Projected Standings

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Kansas City Royals

Come back next week for an analysis of the off-seasons of the teams in the AL East.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

CJ Wilson Interview

This week I did an interview with Rangers relief pitcher CJ Wilson.

1. Who are the three toughest hitters you’ve faced and why?

Little guys like Chone Figgins and Ichiro used to give me a headache, but my favorite 'tough hitters' to face now are Vlad Guerrero and Derek Jeter. They're very aggressive and can hit the ball to any part of the field.

2. Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?

Kameron Loe, Mark DeRosa, and Chris Young. Since DeRo and C.Y. are gone - I'd say Aki and Josh Rupe.

3. What did you think your role would be for the team you were drafted by heading into the 2001 draft (starting pitcher, relief pitcher, or hitter)?

I was drafted as a starting pitcher, although some teams wanted me to be a hitter in later rounds of the draft. The Rangers picked me before other teams, so they gave me some good money and said, ‘We want to see you in the starting rotation for us in a few years’.

4. What was your first thought when you found out you were going to need Tommy John surgery in 2003?

I was relieved actually. It was an excruciating pain every day just to play catch. I threw for almost a month with no ligament and it was terrible. Once I found out that's what it was, I knew I'd come back stronger just like John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, and some other guys have.

5. What was the recovery process for your Tommy John surgery like?

The worst part is just not being able to play baseball for so long. ObviouslyI really enjoy competing and being on the field, and you have to get somenew hobbies to deal with all the extra energy you're not used to having. I spent a lot of time working out, and getting my body stronger and moreflexible so that it would handle throwing harder when I came back.

6. During your first major league season in 2005, why do you think you were so much more successful as a reliever (2.73 ERA in 18 games) than as a starter (12.05 ERA in 6 games)?

That summer I wasn't ready to be a starter. My pitch count and stamina were so low I really had no chance to succeed. It was a great experience though, and I learned a lot of things not to do. I really enjoy relief pitching – it's a lot more adrenaline,more my natural style.

7. What is the best thing about being a major league ballplayer and why?

The best things are being able to play every day, and facing guys like Jeter who I know will end up in the hall of fame one day. It's the ultimate challenge.

8. What is the biggest adjustment you had to make when you started facing major-league hitting?

The best hitters on the team in AA and AAA are about as good as some of the hitters in the majors, so you just have to remember that nobody hits .400, not even Albert Pujols. I do the same things I've always done – I just have to do it more often.

9. What was it like to be called up to the Rangers in June 2005 in Florida?

I was really surprised because I knew I wasn't ready physically. I had only been pitching for about 8 weeks or so after missing 20 months. But I was very excited because it was my dream since I was about 8 years old.

10. What’s it like to room with Kameron Loe? Do you ever have to feed his snake?

He's a great guy, and we've grown to be like brothers. We laugh at the same movies and hang out all the time. We have a lot of fun together and it's good for both of us. He's the funny one and I'm the responsible one I guess. I've fed the snake a few times, the hardest part is just going to buy the rat. You feel bad feeding a live animal to another live animal. It's usually over really quick.

11. How did it feel to make it all the way to double-AA during your first full pro season?

My main goal when I got drafted was to get to the big leagues as fast as possible, and I told myself I'd buy a Porsche 911 if I got to AA n my first full season as an incentive. I wasn't really surprised, because I worked so hard and it meant more to me than anything to learn as fast as possible. The low minors are very hard to understand until you live through it, but you don't want to spend a lot of time thereif possible. So instead of 'enjoying' myself with the guys, I just sat at home and thought of ways to get better.

12. What is your best pitch and how was it developed?

My best pitch is my fastball. I guess the key ingredient is having a lot of confidencewhen I throw it. I've worked for over 15 years to try and build arm strength, smooth out my mechanics, and gain velocity. When I was 16 I threw about 75 mph and now I can throw 95. I went to Alaska in 2000 as a closer and a centerfielder. I worked out really hard and read a lot of pitching books. Before the summer I topped out at 87 mph and after I could hit 91. I gained about 10 lbs of muscle in my shoulders and back and that's probably the biggest reason. After Tommy John surgery my elbow was stronger than ever and my velocity went up again, but this time it was probably because of better use of my mechanics.

13. What do you think your long-term role with the team will be and why?

Eventually I will either be a starting pitcher or the closer. Some of the coaches think I should do one or the other, but I think being the closer is a great job.

14. What was the key to your success in the second half of 2006?

I had some nagging tendonitis when I got sent down to Oklahoma City in June, and when it healed I was concerned more with my location for my pitches. When I got sent back up, I stopped walking people and my ERA went down a lot. Walks really hurt relievers because the coach usually pulls you out of the game when you walk guys, so they're on base and the next guy doesn't always strike out the first hitter. Usually if you walk a hitter as a relief pitcher, they score.

15. What’s been the best game so far of your professional career andwhy?

I had some really good games in the minors, but I would say in the majors, my first save against the Twins, or my first win against the White Sox in 2005 were really awesome. For the save, Kameron and I combined to shut out the Twins on only 6 hits I think. The win against the White Sox was great because it was about 5 days later, and I was really sick that day. I pitched 5 innings and only gave up one run. It was my first win since June or July of 2003 - that's a really long time.

16. What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?

I played soccer, basketball, golf, and I also swam and surfed. I was a better golfer than the rest, but I wish I would have played more soccer. I still play soccer with my friends back in California when I go home. I really hope Tom Hicks decides to buy the Liverpool team so I can go to England and watch them play next off-season.

17. What was your favorite team growing up?

My favorite sports team was the L.A. Lakers, but I really liked baseball and was able to watch a lot of it with both the Dodgers and Angels always on TV.

18. What are you working on in the off-season?

Baseball wise, I've been working on a new windup, and also getting my change-up and curveball back to where they were before 2005. Having more weapons as a pitcher just means I can be even better. This off-season I am working on being a more complete part of the organization by doing as many media events and charity projects as I can. The better player you are, the more you can help people, and also the more demand there is for your time. Being able to juggle all the phases of thatis very difficult for most players.

19. The Rangers website lists one of your hobbies as traveling. Where do you like to travel?

I like to go to the beach, so San Diego, Newport Beach, and Mexico rank really high. After 2005 I went to Japan and China. Tokyo is a great city. This off-season I am going to Europe, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and maybe England if Mr. Hicks buys Liverpool.

20. How much time do you spend on the computer in an average day? Whatare your favorite sites?

During the off-season I probably spend three or four hours a day online. I maintain my myspace fan site ( as well as post on message boards like the Newberg report and lonestarball. I try to see what's going on in the world with news sites, and stay in touch with my friends with email. I also read a lot about cars, movies, and video games, and my friends forward me funny links.,,,,,, and And of course I search Google a few times a day.

I would like to thank CJ for giving me so much of his time to do this interview. I’ve gotten to talk to CJ a lot at different Rangers events and he is always very friendly and willing to spend time with fans.

Come back next week for an analysis of the AL Central off-season.