Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spring Training Fantasy News and Notes: Cincinnati, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington

Lots of great Fantasy News in today's Buster Blog. Let me give you the run down and sort out the important stuff.

Dusty Wants to Go To Votto

Dusty Baker has given an early endorsement to 1B Joey Votto to win the 1B job this season for the Cincinnati Reds.

"What's Hatteberg? Thirty-eight?" Baker said. "Votto's the future here. I talked to Hatteberg about Votto. He thinks he's going to be a heck of a player. He's not conceding his position. ... I think he understands to be part of the club that Votto might have to be a major part of it. It might be Votto's time."

The quote makes it sound like Votto is going to have to play poorly enough to lose the job, and won't have to worry about winning it.

I love Votto as a sleeper this season, and the early endorsement from Dusty only strengthens my case for him. Last year in AAA he went 20/20, with a .294AVG and 92RBI in only 133 games. To show it was not just a one season fluke, he has averaged 24HR and 21SB in his last two minor league seasons. He took his success from the minors to the majors in September last season to the tune of a .321AVG, 4HR and 17RBI in only 24 games.

Don't expect the gang busters hotness he had in September to carry over all season in 2008, but expect very good numbers. He showed he can hit the majors and said that that really helped him realize he belongs in the majors and can hack it with the big boys.

"It gives you confidence," Votto said. "If I had done poorly, I don't think I would have doubted myself. But it was good to do well."

Take that quote and run with it on draft day. Enjoy a 20/20 season from a 1B, not something we've seen since Derrek Lee a few season's ago.

Teahan Is All Over the Place

Teahan came up in 2006, and hit like gangbusters, slugging 16HR in 316 at bats. Following the fanfare, Teahan was a sleeper in 2007, and did just that all season, slept. He was a bust, hitting only 7HR in 544 at bats, and striking out an characteristic 127 times.

The good part is Teahan and hitting coach Mike Barnett can both point a variety of reasons for the drop off, and explain why Teahan should be able to bounce back this season.

“Moving to the outfield and running around more … just figuring out how to keep my legs (fresh) throughout the season," was one reason Teahan gave for his drop off. Teahan then pointed to major shoulder surgery he had at the end of 2006 as another reason for his 2007 decline. He was unable to lift weights in the off season, so he lost a bit of power in his upper body and that translated to his swing.

Hitting coach, Mike Barnett added, that the lack of power, caused Teahan to start pressing at the plate, and he began trying to hit homeruns, only furthering his struggles.

The fact that Teahan can point to certain things as reasons for his struggles makes me think he is a good candidate to improve his numbers this season. If he had said, "I can't figure out what is wrong, I'll just keep doing what I am doing," I would be concerned. That is not the case here, he knows why he struggled and is making way to correct the struggles.

Look for Teahan to bounce back this season and hit 2o-25HR, to go along with 85-90RBI. He will also gain multiple position eligibility, as he will be playing leftfield, rightfield, and filling in at times as 1B, and 3B this season, depending on where the Royals need him to play that day.

Baker Ready to Cook

I really love Scott Baker as a sleeper pitcher this season for two reasons. First, I want to look at his month by month numbers:

May-5.94 10K
June-5.64 22K
July- 4.02 27K
August- 2.59 26K
September/ October- 5.16 17K

The numbers show an improvement throughout the season, until September when he probably tired after his first season in the majors leagues.

The second reason I like Baker is this quote I found, that more or less speaks for itself.

"Good is great's worst enemy,'' Baker said. "I could have had a good season and just have gone about my business, but that's not what I want to do. I don't want be just an average pitcher. I want to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. I want to be the very best I can. I feel that my best is being one of those top guys.'' I do not need to further clarify anything.

Washington Mash-onals

National's GM Jim Bowden looked on with awe as his three young outfield sluggers put on a batting practice performance that left many wondering, "What if?" What if Wilt Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge can put all their past issues behind them and flourish as everyday players? Can Lastings grow as a player and put the immaturity that plagued him with the Mets behind him? Can Elijah Dukes get over various legal problems? Can Wily Mo Pena flourish now hat he is an everyday player, with a home?

Dukes and Pena exchanged bombs all of the ballpark, while Milledge was hammering line drives all over the outfield. "I felt sorry for Lastings," teammate Dmitri Young said. "He was tagging the ball, too, but his balls were just scraping the wall. The other two were hitting cars."

It looks like Milledge and Pena will begin the season as everyday players in center and left respectively, with Austin Kearns in right. If Kearns continues to struggle, it wouldn't be uncharacteristic of GM Jim Bowden to deal Kearns for pitching and hand the rightfielder's job to Dukes. There are various reasons to draft any of the three. Pena probably has the greatest power potential, while Milledge will be a better power/ speed combo. Dukes would be a high power, low batting average pick, who must first get over his legal issues and then earn playing time.

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