I have long been a fan of both Kelly Johnson, the former Braves flychaser cum second sacker, and Justin Duchscherer, the Athletics reliever cum starter.
I remember when the Athletics traded for Duchscherer, in 2001, for the pitcher actually fared pretty well in the 2000 and 2001 Top 100 prospect list (it started as 100 before we expanded to 250 a few years back) because he had terrific control for a young pitcher.
I was excited to ask then Athletics pitching coach Rick Peterson about Duch, but he poohed poohed the pitcher, saying he would never make it.
"Why?" I asked?
"Doesn't throw hard enough. Can't hit 90." said Peterson, dismissively.
I learned a couple of things from that interchange. That looking at certain stats, like control, can be a barometer, and that just because someone was in the game, or played the game, did not necessarily mean he or she could predict success any better than I could. Or, any of the rest of us who have a critical means of looking at stats and performance, and objectively applying those means in a practical way.
By the same token, I knew Duch would have trouble as a starter because he was not a power pitcher, and more important, because he had had injury issues, and because he had been a reliever for so many consecutive years that the transition would be harder on him in concert with the control.
On the other hand, Kelly Johnson, who also fared well on our prospect list, because he could get on base, just needed a chance I felt, and he got it with the Braves, moving from the outfield to the infield.
Both rewarded with a couple of good years going into 2009, and then both tanked due to injuries, and both were just signed, Johnson in Arizona, and Duch still with Oakland.
I do think Johnson will return to form in 2010, and be a good under the radar pick. That is because despite the horrbile offensive fall off, his strikeout to walk totals were very close to his 2007 totals (34 walks to 52 whiffs last year) which tells me a combo of balls not falling in, combined with injury simply hampered his hitting. He is a great gamble in an NL only league for a scheckel or two going into spring. If you can cop him on the reserve end, so much the better.
Conversely, I would not take much of a flier on Duchscherer save a reserve pick or maybe $1 tail end pick up because, if he starts, he will still be vulnerable due to suspect durability. And, if he hits the pen, and he could be fine as a set-up guy, he won't be worth more than a buck.