Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lance Parrish Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

First Round Matchup: 1. OF Brian Giles (4) vs. 16. IF Rich Aurilia (61)

Brian Giles is the best available hitter on the free agent market even though he’ll be 35 this upcoming season. That’s just too much for Rich Aurilia to compete with. Aurilia peaked somewhat late to begin with, so his resurgence in 2005 could be the beginning signs of another short stretch of above average ball. Either way, he is no Brian Giles.

VICTOR: Brian Giles

Hall of Famer Hack Wilson is the number one comp to Brian Giles through their respective Age-34 seasons. All Giles has done as a major leaguer is hit. He is without a doubt making up for lost time (first full-time job at the age of 28) by putting up as good a stretch of peak years of any player during the same time frame (1999-2002). Little known fact about Giles – he isn’t the first Brian Giles to ever play in the majors. That honor goes to Brian Jeffrey Giles and not Brian Stephen Giles. So there you go.


Aurilia could make a very good utility guy in 2006 – whether he or any of the 30 major league teams agree with this remains to be seen. Aurilia is entering his Age-34 and is coming off a four-year stretch of below league average performances. Nothing about his recent history shows him deserving of anything but a one-year deal and a chance at a utility/super-sub role. Teams will surprise you though. What teams though? Aurilia had his $2 million option declined by Cincinnati and the Reds have already expressed interest in bringing him back at a cheaper rate. Aurilia will almost certainly get more than $2 million on the open market – teams will make these mistakes. If a starting job is what Aurilia seeks then potential landing spots could be St. Louis (depending on Grudzielanek), New York (depending on how the Mets 2B situation shakes out or whether the Yanks deal Robinson Cano or not), or Minnesota.

Prediction: Signs with Kansas City, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

First Round Matchup: 8. SP Esteban Loaiza (31) vs. 9. RP Julian Tavarez (34)

Loaiza is a guy I’d stay away from. He turns 34 on New Year’s Eve and has a remarkably up and down career to this point. As a fourth or fifth starter being paid like a fourth or fifth starter, he is fine. Anything more is a concern. Julian Tavarez has had three excellent years in row. Overpaying for bullpen help is one of the big mistakes teams make; if there is a position that can be filled from within an organization, it is often in middle relief. That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Tavarez has proved to be a very good late inning reliever that can help a team shorten a game. Overpaying for any reliever can be very damaging, but Tavarez has proved he is worth a good chunk of change for his services. Tavarez will get less cash than Loaiza and do more.

VICTOR: Julian Tavarez

Tavarez, like Giles, was originally an Indians farmhand. It is astounding to think about all the talent those mid-90s Cleveland teams had. Incredible. Tavarez is a bit of a nutcase, but, to my knowledge, he has no history of attacking people with machetes. So how bad could he really be? His ERA+ over the past three season: 116, 176, 125. How he fits in with the overcrowded relief and, big picture, how that relief market shakes out throughout the offseason, will be one of the interesting things to watch in the coming weeks.


Esteban Loaiza is another one of the guys I lump in the growing group of back of the rotation starters available this offseason. The problem with Loaiza is the fact he won’t get paid like that. He’ll get second/third starter money (think anything over $5 million per) and, for that price, he is a big time gamble. Loaiza enters his Age-34 season coming off a strong year with Washington. Washington offered him 2-years, $8 million and he countered with a 3-year, $21 offer. He’ll probably get paid closer to what he wants than what the Nats initially offered. Whether he gets a third year or not will be a very interesting development to watch (to me anyway) as it unfolds. Loaiza has earned almost $23,000,000 in the major leagues to date; he has a decent shot to match that with one big contract depending on how the market plays out. Teams with a need for a starter and that could make a move like signing Loaiza include Cincinnati, Colorado and Baltimore. Do the Reds make a move for pitching after getting burned by Milton? Does Colorado even bother? Baltimore will probably have their sights on other pitchers first. A return trip to Washington is not out of the question. My dark horse candidate is Tampa. Call it a hunch.

Prediction: Signs with Tampa, 2-year deal worth $13 million (mutual option for 3rd year)

First Round Matchup: 4. 1B Erubiel Durazo (15) vs. 13. 2B Mark Bellhorn (50)

Erubiel Durazo had an awful, injury filled 2005 season. It was his worst year as a major leaguer by far. Again, things like this can actually help teams on the free agent market. Durazo could be a very good buy low guy. In four seasons of part-time play in Arizona, he excelled and when given the chance the play full time in Oakland. His 2004 was top notch by any statistical measure and he is a good bet to have another year or two close to that in his future. Mark Bellhorn is another buy low guy. His 2005 was awful. The difference is he hasn’t had quite the success of Durazo. He hasn’t been nearly as consistent stringing together successful years and his peak seasons haven’t been nearly as good. Both intriguing guys with their similarities, but Durazo is a better bet.

VICTOR: Erubiel Durazo

Before 2005 Durazo had never had anything but a significantly above average major league season. Billy Beane had long coveted him for his on base skills and he has not disappointed (until that bad injury filled 2005). In his first year as a regular player, Durazo hit 21 homers, walked 100 times, and put up a line of .259/.374/.430. The next year he changed his approached (only 56 walks), but compensated by hitting .321/.396/.523. There were always rumblings that he was a tad too picky at the plate, but any concerns there were put to rest by his 2004 numbers. The name of the game is to not make an out and Durazo has done a good job of avoiding outs since getting a chance full time.


Bellhorn has played every position in his career thus far except catcher. Problem is, he plays none of the particularly well. Teams may be down on him after his awful 2005 season and he might not be able to find any starting 2B jobs out there. Maybe if Toronto deals Orlando Hudson a spot could open up there, but otherwise the choices are limited. He could be a last resort for the Mets, a possibility for St. Louis if Grudzielanek bolts, or even an option for Minnesota depending on how their pursuit of infielders works out. How about another dark horse team (and a familiar one at that)?

Prediction: Signs with Tampa, 1-year deal worth $2.2 million

First Round Matchup: 5. C Kenji Jojima (18) vs. 12. RP Ugueth Urbina (47)

Kenji Jojima is a great unknown. He has posted three straight years of batting averages over .300 and 144 homers over the past five seasons. He has an excellent reputation as a defensive player and is by all accounts a very good teammate. He’ll be 30 in June which may worry some teams as he could begin to enter his decline phase. The years of wear and tear often slows down catchers sooner than most. The adjustment to the major leagues will also be a big one; Jojima is the first Japanese catcher to come to the States and how he performs will be a test for future generations. So much of catching is communicating and the language barrier will be in effect. With the dearth of good catching currently in baseball, Jojima, based on his strong offensive numbers and defensive reputation, should be a solid starter in the majors for at least a year or two or three. Urbina could wind up in jail for lighting people on fire and wielding a machete. Not good.

VICTOR: Kenji Jojima

Jojima has been a good hitter, good fielder, and good teammate in Japan. Outside of his stats and fractured stories from Japanese newspapers though, he is a bit of an unknown. Take a look at the combined numbers of the catchers in Seattle last year and tell me that even the unknown of Jojima wouldn’t be a significant upgrade. Jojima will instantly be a top-30 catcher when he signs his first American contract. All signs point to that contract being with Seattle and I’ll opt to go with the consensus on this one.


No player heads into the offseason with more questions than Ugueth Urbina. The guy really has had an excellent big league career – 10 straight seasons of ERA+ over 100. Take away one league average season and his lowest ERA+ in that stretch is 114.That’s impressive stuff. Urbina actually started 21 games in his first two years in the majors winning 10 games in 1996. His Age-24 season was off the charts – in his second season as the Expos full-time closer, Urbina saved 34 games while posting a 1.30 ERA. Those are sensational numbers. Urbina has been very good for a long time now and there is little doubt in my mind that he can still be an above average closer somewhere. The situation has to be right as Urbina is an extreme fly ball pitcher who has a style that will play better in certain ballparks than others. This relief/closer market is impossible to figure out. Of all the positions that I’m guessing at here, these bullpeners are my most out there choices. Bowden likes taking chances, RFK is a big ole place, I don’t think there will be any closer jobs out left for UUU when the market settles, so why not? Dark horse: Kansas City. It’s better than jail anyway.

Prediction: 5-10 year contract with shady Venezuelan prison cell…. Or 1-year contract with Washington worth $3.6 million

First Round Matchup: 3. C Ramon Hernandez (12) vs. 14. Joey Eischen (53)

Every year the market works out well for one position above all the others (besides pitching, everybody always needs pitching no matter the year. A handful of teams need catching this year and there are, you guessed it, a handful of worth free agent catchers looking for homes. Ramon Hernandez is the best catcher out there and will be able to set his price when talking to the 4 or 5 teams desperately in need of catching. Joey Eischen has been an underrated reliever for a while now, but this is a loaded year for relief pitching. So many of these first round matchups come down to position. In this case, starting catcher beats relief pitcher.

VICTOR: Ramon Hernandez

Hitting is secondary for catchers. So long as a guy can catch and throw and communicate well with the pitching staff, a catcher will get work. Hernandez has a fantastic reputation as a receiver dating back to his days in Oakland. Pitchers like throwing to the guy. That is a big, big plus for any catcher. Hitting is secondary, but not completely forgotten. Hernandez has been above average the last 3 seasons (his theoretical peak years by the way) putting up OPS+ of 112, 116, and 109 with 51 homers in that span.


Eischen has been around. By my count, he has been the property of ten major league teams. He’ll be 36 next year so it appears the dream of pitching for all 30 teams will be just a bit out of reach. I’m still holding out hope for Bruce Chen to set that record. Eischen is a solid LOOGY ((L)eft-handed (O)ne (O)ut (G)u(Y)) although not necessarily used as one who is coming off of 3 very good years out of the past 4 (his 2004 performance was above league average, but he was hurt and only pitched 18.2 innings so its thrown out). As good as those years have been, the fact remains that Eischen is a limited pitcher. Big money can not be spent on such a one trick pony. He is the kind of luxury a good team (with a nice sized payroll) can afford. There should be lots of options for Eischen as he gets to decide where he wants to play for the first time in his career, but I see him going to safe, boring St. Louis route as so many ballplayers like to do.

Prediction: Signs with St. Louis, 2-year deal worth $4.2 million

First Round Matchup: 6. RP Bob Wickman (21) vs. 11. OF Preston Wilson (44)

Again, these first round matchups tend to come down to position. In this case a good reliever emblematic of a good year for relievers opposes an inconsistent, boom or bust type outfielder in a year full of similar OF talents. This does expose a bit of a weakness of the tournament format. It would be far more interesting to judge Wickman up against all other free agent relievers. It would be definitely more beneficial to stack up Wilson against the other outfielders on the market. Hmm maybe I’ll do that at some point in here. Anyway, Wickman is the man, but by a much smaller margin than you might think. I know Wickman has been successful for a long time, but a 37-year old closer who only struck out 41 guys last year makes me very nervous.

VICTOR: Bob Wickman

Wickman is coming off his second All-Star appearance and his second best overall season as a professional. He had 45 saves, an ERA of 2.47, and an ERA+ of 116. He has eerily similar stats to another closer on this crowded market. Any guesses who?


Preston Wilson – why did I have him 2 overall spots below Juan Encarnacion? I don’t like that and I’m not sure why I did it. Preston Wilson has been a much better player than Juan Encarnacion. I’d rather pay Wilson whatever he’ll get than Encarnacion whatever he gets. Hopefully time will allow a closer look at this group of FA relievers and outfielders so they can be sorted out and compared about like players in a more organized, useful way. Until then, we’ll have to judge Preston Wilson on his own merits. Wilson has amazingly similar career numbers to Richard Hidalgo. Hidalgo is a free agent outfielder who barely missed out on the top-65 list. This gives you an idea of how thin a line separates all these outfielders. It comes down to personal taste more than anything else. Wilson has been a very consistent player since reaching the majors. His injury plagued disaster of a 2004 season aside, he has put up OPS+ numbers over 100 every full year since he debuted. Wilson may very well be the cream of the crop amongst the second tier of outfielders. He isn’t a star player by any stretch (the strikeouts are far too high and he never has put up strong OBP), but he is a useful guy who still has some power that can help a ball club.

I see close to two dozen teams that are actively shopping for outfielders, but movement will be slow until Brian Giles and Johnny Damon find homes. The second-tier (J.Jones, P.Wilson, J.Encarnacion – you know the names by now) will wait, see who misses out on the stars, and base their moves on that. If St. Louis misses out on Giles, they could turn to Wilson. He could also be the answer to the Yankees CF dilemma. A club like the Royals could swoop in early and offer him more money to help them out. Florida could have a hole in center if they deal Juan Pierre. There are plenty of teams out there that I failed to mention, but you get the idea of how in demand these mediocre outfielders will be this offseason. The guess here is that the new, out of touch management (unless it is Dayton Moore of course) in Boston jumps on Wilson to fill Damon’s hole in center.

Prediction: Signs with Boston, 2-year deal worth $10.75 million

First Round Matchup: 2. OF Hideki Matsui (5) vs. 15. SP Jason Johnson (60)

Matsui is a star. Johnson is back of the rotation filler. Next!

VICTOR: Hideki Matsui

Matsui is coming off back to back years of OPS+ values at 139 and 125. He’ll hit put up a .295/.365/.490 for you and is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield. He also brings 20+ homer potential and is a consistent extra base hitter (over 40 doubles in 2 of his 3 seasons). Even entering his Age-32 season, Matsui is deserving of a 3-year deal and might even live up to the standards of a 4-year pact. He’ll stay a Yankee, you can count on it.


I wrote a lot about Jason Johnson. It got deleted. So if this is short, I advise you to not take it as an indictment of how I personally feel about Jason Johnson. He is a lovely man I'm sure. Good back of the rotation filler. Steady ground ball pitcher. Did you know he is a diabetic who keeps an insulin pump handy at all times?

Prediction: Signs with Colorado, 2-year deal worth $7.5 million

First Round Matchup: 7. OF Jacque Jones (28) vs. 10. RP Bob Howry (37)

I personally like Jacque Jones. Very good defensive outfielder and hits well against righties. He is a guy that could be very useful if used properly (i.e. not playing for a dunderhead who doesn’t believe in platooning like Ron Gardenhire in Minnesota). His value should be given a boost by the fact that he can play all three outfield positions and would be a plus defender anywhere you put him. Howry is a big time sleeper candidate for teams searching for closers this offseason. It’s been awhile since he last exclusively pitched the ninth (1999), but there is no real reason to why he couldn’t get the job done late in games again. Toughest matchup yet. I thought the upset was imminent for sure, but the low K rate of Howry freaks me out enough to stick with my higher ranked guy. Jones by a whisker (upsets are coming people, I didn’t plan this thing too far out in advance so as I write about a matchup it’s the first time I even think about two random players going head to head. I had assumed there would be more upsets (otherwise why do a tournament), but in taking a brief look ahead I see some potential for surprises in the remaining two regionals).

VICTOR: Jacque Jones

Jacque Jones is an excellent defensive outfielder and a competent everyday major league outfielder. His career year of 2002 may never again be duplicated (or approached for that matter), but he is a steady, veteran player capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 10 bases. He is just about a league average player for his career and should remain steady for another few years.


Howry has had two very good back to back years with Cleveland and should be sought after by a number of teams with holes to fill in the back end of their bullpens. The question surrounding Howry is similar to the one surrounding Urbina (not the machete thing, the baseball thing) – will he find somebody who thinks he can close again? I’m willing to bet no, but mainly because of the oversaturated closer market. Teams with shaky closing situations (ineffectiveness, injury history, age) would be wise to invest in Howry as an 8th inning guy and closer insurance.

Prediction: Signs with San Francisco, 2-year deal worth $5 million


Post a Comment

<< Home