Greetings again as we start another season of baseball and Hotpages. Though this year we are now under the broader banner of Mastersball, it is indeed still the same old Hotpage, now entering our 15th season.
As we start the year it is a head scratcher that two players, each of whom belted at least 27 dingers last year, are essentially without a home. That would be Jermaine Dye and Jack Cust, the latter just waived by the Athletics in a move that is only surprising in that Oakland signed Cust to a one-year deal not that long ago.
I have to think both will be snatched up before too long since each hit with as much power as last year. But, especially for Cust, where if a team can hang long enough, will force Oakland to eat the bulk of his salary. I have Cust on a couple of AL only teams, and Dye on my Strat-O-Matic squad. I am surely keeping Cust, while looking to replace Dye by next year, but, for now, panic should not be the word.
On the other hand there are some players who made their team's rosters who are either sneaking into getting some early season playing time, or simply guys not getting any respect.
To start, St. Louis second sacker/outfielder Skip Schumaker, who was not even selected in the NFBC draft I oversaw two weeks ago, and whom I nabbed as a reserve pick as part of Todd's and my Classic Team. This is a player who has bagged virtual identical seasons in 2008-09, hitting .303-4-34 last year with a pair of swipes and 85 runs scored. His first full season Schumaker hit .327-2-14 over 177 at-bats, and is clearly a .300 hitter. True, he does not do a lot besides hit for average and score runs, but, as a reserve pick, filling in for an injured players (and he does qualify at both outfield, second, and middle infield) he won't hurt you a bit. Plus, if you have him on your reserve list, that means someone else cannot take him should a spot open.
I had really written of Oakland's start, Justin Duchscherer, thinking the combination of injury probability and lack of endurance would just not be worth it. Well, I scored Thursday's exhibition game and Duch was a revelation, changing speeds and hitting spots and mowing down batters despite never throwing anything I saw clocked at more than 84. When Jason Grey was questioned at LABR as to why he would take the Oakland rightie for $2, he noted that Duchscherer did not have to do much to recoup the investment. True enough. Four starts like Thursday and Jason nets a profit. You might want to pick him up if avaiable and ride it out as long as possible.
On the other side of the diamond, Barry Zito started the game on the SF side and was simply awful. Everything that Duchscher was, Zito should be, but alas. Through three innings Duchscherer tossed 38 pitches, and in the third inning, Zito threw 36, and that pretty much tells you what you need to know. Still, Zito is interesting as a reserve pick, but limit it to that for now.
While we are in the bay area, Chad Gaudin, is my guess to pick up the No. 5 spot in the Athletics rotation with Trevor Cahill going to the DL. Gaudin, who enjoyed his best success in Oakland in 20007 (11-13, 4.42 over 199 innings) has become more of a strikeout pitcher since then, and at age 27 could still make a step towards completeness as a pitcher.
Matt Tuiasasopo made the Opening Day Seattle roster, and "Tui" could be a nice surprise source of pop for the team. Tuiasosopo went .261-11-35 over 266 at-bats last year at AAA Portland, and knocked a pretty well clubbed third spring homer. Seattle can similarly use the pop as much as any of us.
How long have we been waiting for Austin Kearns to actually deliver something? Long enough to no longer think it is worth it, and well, that is sometimes exactly when players deliver. No one ever doubted Kearns' talent, but the stats, let alone health, have long been lacking. Still, Kearns is a fourth outfielder in Cleveland and in a deeper league, in a quiet role, he could do ok. Think Gabe Kapler or Matt Diaz.
Those same Indians also held onto Mark Grudzielanek, in deference to Luis Valbuena struggling with stick and injuries. Long on my under-rated team, Grudz is 40, but with KC a couple of years back he still hit .299-3-31 over 331 at-bats. In a deep league that is a god-send, and again, even in a shallow league, if he gets everyday at-bats and hits .290, and does nothing else this stabilizes your average and at least affords an opportunity for run production. That has to beat an empty spot, or a wild speculation in most leagues.
For example, Texas is giving Andres Blanco the everyday job at second for now, until Ian Kinsler returns from the DL. At 26, Blanco has career totals of .251-1-31 over 349 at-bats. Surely, in a deep league, you have to take what you can get, and taking a gamble on Blanco is not unreasonable. But, Grudz is a better selection. However, if you had Kinsler in the NFBC, and Schumaker is still among the available reserves, shame on you.