One of our peerless leaders had a good idea for a bit of a debate among his noble scriveners before the beginning of the season. EP wanted us to select a few players that we had concerns about entering this season. So I sat around one early morning at work muddling through another Cold Case on TNT (We love drama!) I’ve seen 100 times (as a side note, the chick from Cold Case might be the worst actress in the last 25 years but I digress), coming up with a list of some guys to write about.
I got a cold feeling as I was beginning to realize that once I really thought about it, I drafted a lot of guys that I have concerns about. The other problem is a lot of the guys I like but didn’t draft might be questionable as well.
Let’s start with my top pick and overall No. 1-selection in our draft in the newspaper league, Hanley Ramirez, shortstop of the Florida Marlins. I already can see the quizzical look on your face as you read that, but listen for a second. The biggest question mark heading into last season was the state of Albert Pujols elbow. His arm could blow at any time. If the Cardinals’ season was shot in August, would they just shut him down? Was the reward worth the risk? It turned out to be much ado about nothing.
With much less fanfare, Ramirez enters the 2009 season facing the same sort of questions. He’s had problems with both shoulders in his young career, including last year’s injury that sapped a lot of his power in the second half.
He had surgery on his shoulder in the off season and all signs in the spring point to him being healthy. Despite his youth, I just fear these shoulder problems are reoccurring. I also thought about how many people missed out on the typical Pujols season last year because of the injury concerns. I would Gus Ferrotte my head into a wall if I passed on Hanley Ramirez and he had the kind of season he’s capable.
Continuing on the theme of shoulders brings us to the next player I drafted, center fielder B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays. Upton might be the best young talent in the game, but lost a lot of luster last year with his long power due to a shoulder injury. He seemed to answer those questions with his showing in the playoffs, but that was a small sample size and I still have concerns on how his shoulder will hold up.
The scariest guy currently to me on my roster is catcher Joe Mauer of the Twins. Word started coming out early this year that the surgery Mauer had on his back as soon as the season ended might not cleared everything up. As we head to end of March, Mauer had played a bit and seemed to be coming around. Our draft was Saturday morning and I picked Mauer over Geovany Soto of the Cubs and in retrospect, I believe I’m going to be paying for that for the rest of the season. Reading John Perotto’s column on Baseball Prospectus, word around major league baseball is that Mauer is looking at missing significant time early in the season due to his back condition. Those of you lucky enough not to have drafted, I must recommend that you be smarter than me and ran away from Mauer.
The next player I’d like to talk about is Alex Rodriguez, but not in the way you think. Yes, I know he’s out for least the first three weeks of the season, but I think that makes him undervalued. While A-Rod isn’t one of my favorite people and seriously, what dude in his right mind gets his picture taken kissing his reflection in the mirror in a non ironic way, creepy, too creepy for word even, but still the guy’s an offensive machine. I say pay attention to the waiver wire third baseman that gets off to a good start and ride that wave in A-Rod is healthy. While any third baseman not name David Wright is going to need a whole season to give you 30 homers and 100 RBIs, A-Rod will do that for you from May until the end of the season. A shrewd early season pick up might give up 35-38 homers and 120-125 RBIs or A-Rod’s normal numbers from a late second to late third round pick.
Others of note
There were several other guys I wanted to talk about, but damn, I can be verbose, so I’ll try and wrap it up in a couple of sentences. Lance Berkman of the Astros is still a good pick, but don’t overrate him because of the steals last season. His running greatly curtailed later in the season and it was his career high at the age of 33. Brandon Morrow of the Mariners was supposed to go the Joba Chamberlin route and became a starter after closing most of the season last year. Some spring training nicks have taken that out of the equation for now and it looks like Morrow starts the year in the pen. Luckily for those that drafted him as a started, he’ll most likely be the closer, so at least you’ll get some saves.