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Articles from March 2010

Reflections and Opening Day

March 31 , 2010


Sox/Yanks.  CC/Beckett.  On paper the matchup is just another game.  One of the 162 everyone signed up for.  Still, the first one means more.  I personally can’t wait, and my eyes will be glued to my TV from the first pitch until the last.  This Opening Day is a little different for me, though.

This is the first season in which I will be enjoying the game as nothing more than a fan and friend of the game and the people in it.  Prior to this season I was still somehow involved in the game, as either a player or a coach.  The thought of what the game means to me now – and what I should mean to it – are quite prominent in my self-reflection nowadays.  Truthfully, I don’t think I have ever cared as much about the game itself.  One thing about being personally removed from the competition inside the gates is that I have no personal ties to any particular team.  Sure, I still root heavily for all of my friends still playing at college as well as all the kids I coached in either high school or club ball, but my fix can no longer be satisfied by anything that I can actually do on the field.  I think that is the primary reason that Arlo and I started this blog.  He is in the same boat I am and has the same love and longing for the game that I do.

My guess is that like me, he sees the game as much more than just a game and much more than just a thing to do.  I still feel as though I have some kind of responsibility to the game, much the same way a player grabs an extra lift in August or takes a few extra cuts in the cage after an 0-for day.  Baseball is a part of my life, and I feel as though I owe it something.  Maybe that something is simply paying the ticket price to watch a high school game or playing in a fantasy league with old friends, or anything really.  The responsibility we all have is simply to care.  Deep down I feel as though the game in many ways brought me my opportunity in dental school, many of my closest friends, and greatly improved my relationship with my father, among countless other things.  It never asked for anything in return except that I care.  I’m endlessly fortunate to have the game.  We all are.

So let’s all tune in Sunday with hope for the season ahead.  Even if you can’t stand either team, realize that their roles in the game are unique.  These two organizations drive the baseball economy, and everyone benefits from them as a consequence.  Personally, I am rooting for the Sox all season because of the one-day contract they gave Nomar so that he could retire in the uniform he was meant to.  Nomar was my favorite player growing up, and as a fan, that gesture meant an awful lot to me.  Unfortunately, I have never and likely will never meet Nomar, but the game taught me to care about and believe in something bigger than any of us.  It’s nice when the people actually in it show us how much they appreciate our love and admiration for our heroes.  Thanks, baseball.

Finding Value in Relief Pitchers

March 29 , 2010


Regardless of which fantasy references you frequent, I’m sure that you have been beaten upside the head with theories as to how to draft relief pitching.  I have both read and experimented with advice that has ranged from the conservative, waiting until the 3rd round to draft the best available closer, to the experimental, “I won’t pay for relief pitching/saves.”  While I must admit that I don’t subscribe to either of these strategies in full, I have found the latter to be the most efficient, exciting and rewarding.  Daniel “Dee” Clark, a fellow blogger on the site, is about as strong of an advocate of this philosophy as any fantasy enthusiast I have read.  For three consecutive years he has excelled in our league due to his knowledge of the game, it’s players and their statistical relevance.  Each year he has compiled a lethal offense under the belief that there will always be an array of relief pitchers that, at the end of the year, will have been more valuable than the game’s top closers; in layman’s terms, relief pitching is far too unpredictable.  Every season, Major League Baseball is riddled with controversy surrounding the security of closers(see Brad Lidge circa 2008 & 2009).  The excessive scrutiny on “closers” really only yields one positive result, the emergence of fresh, young arms that have been anxiously awaiting their opportunity to shove it down hitters’ throats(see Andrew Bailey, Leo Nunez circa 2009).  With the 2010 season a mere week away, it’s important to note several talented, young guns who appear to be in line to produce huge years for their organizations and fantasy owners alike.

Mike Adams, Padres –
2009 Statistics: 37 IP, 0-0, .73 ERA, .59 WHIP, 5.63 K/B
Why haven’t you heard about Mike Adams? Well, it’s most likely because he has literally been under the knife since 2006.  However, he reappeared towards the end of last year and was nothing short of nasty.  Barring another injury, he should accumulate a respectable amount of wins as it seems he will be trusted to keep games close before giving way to Heath Bell.  Should Bell(or Pocket Broxton as I like to call him) get traded this season, I would expect Adams to get the promotion over teammate Luke Gregerson.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers –
2009 Statistics:  31 IP, 1-0, 1.74 ERA, .68 WHIP, 4.88 K/BB
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you haven’t seen Mr. Happy pitch yet, you must, because he is dominant.  Whether the Rangers eventually use him as a starter or reliever, he will put up similar numbers to last year.  A coveted prospect of the organization, he responded nicely to being thrust into pressure situations at only 21 years of age.  If Frank Francisco either gets hurt or charged with another felony assault, look for Feliz to step in as closer.

Matt Thornton, White Sox –
2009 Statistics: 72.1 IP, 6-3, 4 SV, 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 4.35 K/BB
Matt Thornton throws the most effortless 96-98MPH fastball I have ever seen.  The 6’5″ left hander has been one of the best set-up men in baseball over the past two seasons as indicated by his .198 BAVG in 2008 and .217 BAVG in 2009.  While it is important to note that he hasn’t exactly excelled in the closer role when given the opportunity(1 SV/6 SVO in 2008 and 4 SV/9 SVO in 2009), it definitely does not mean that he won’t be the front runner if Bobby Jenks gets hurt.

Daniel Bard, Red Sox –
2009 Statistics: 49.1 IP, 1-1, 1 SV, 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.86 K/BB
If anything were to happen to Jonathon Papelbon, I don’t think the Red Sox would miss a beat.  Young, flame thrower Daniel Bard is their closer of the future.  With a high 90’s heater and a devastating slide piece, Bard has as bright of a future as any young pitcher in baseball.  Any control problems that worried fantasy owners last season are sure to wane with more experience and confidence.

Sergio Romo, Giants –
2009 Statistics: 34 IP, 6-3, 5 SV, 3.17 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.73 K/BB
With so much focus on the Giants starting rotation, the excellent arms in their bullpen seem to be perennially overlooked.  After the All-Star break in 2009, Romo showed that he is the real deal and a fixture in the Giants bullpen.  He accumulated 6 wins and 5 saves in only 34 IP last season, which seems weak compared to his sheer dominance across the minor leagues.  Complimented by left hander Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants should have a great bridge to closer Brian Wilson this season.

Brandon League, Mariners –
2009 Statistics: 74.2 IP, 3-6, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.62 K/BB
You might as well just ignore his stats from last year because League is not the same pitcher.  With a new pitch added to his already potent arsenal, this is going to be League’s breakout season.  Although I repeatedly predicted his breakout seasons to happen while on the Blue Jays, it’s never too late for a guy with such great stuff(see Mike Adams above).  26 year olds League and teammate Mark Lowe are sure to be a deadly duo within the Mariner’s bullpen and worthy of consideration in deep fantasy leagues.  If incumbent closer David Aardsma were to hit the DL or revert to his wild tendencies, League should have no problem filling in.

Joba Chamberlain, Yankees –
2009 Statistics: DOES NOT MATTER
We have all seen what this guy can do as a reliever.  He is as dynamic and dominant as any closer in baseball and should get a chance if Mo’s fountain of youth runs dry.  While, I’m sure that a Mo injury would only ignite another season long debate on Joba’s importance as a starter or reliever, the guy will do whatever is asked of him day in, day out.  Look for Joba to have a monster season out of the Yankee bullpen.

Joey Devine, Athletics –
2009 Statistics: DNP(Tommy John surgery)
Before the emergence of Andrew Bailey, Devine was the closer on paper headed into the 2009 season.  However, his ongoing elbow troubles forced him to have Tommy John surgery and surrender his whole season.  One year later, Devine is said to be healthy and ready for the season where he will be setting up games for AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey.  Devine’s closer like repertoire makes him the leading candidate to close for the A’s should anything happen Andrew Bailey.  Although, from what I have seen, Bailey looks like a pretty durable young hoss

The Yankees Ever-Improving Pitching Staff

March 29 , 2010


It was announced a couple of days ago that Phil Hughes had won the battle with Joba Chamberlain for the fifth rotation spot in the Bronx.  It would have been tough to imagine this competition four years ago when Phil Hughes and Matt Garza were fighting for Minor League Pitcher of the Year awards and Joba was a fresh face in professional baseball after a good – not great – collegiate career at Nebraska.  Nevertheless, Joba quickly ascended through the Yanks farm system occasionally touching triple digits with his fastball while using multiple 70-grade breaker variations.  While he was a tad high effort, most scouts within the organization seemed to think he could retain those numbers through 100 pitches.  Unless Joba was hiding an injury last summer, I think it’s time those thoughts were laid to rest.  His fastball very rarely reached the mid-90’s on any consistent level and his breaking stuff was flat and easily detectable.  Nothing changed this spring, and now he finds himself back in the bullpen looking at 60 innings this season.  Hughes was absolutely electric during the second half of 2009 and was impressive enough this spring to secure a place in one of the top 3 rotations in baseball.  I expect New York to be fairly conservative with his usage this season, especially through the break, primarily because Hughes has never even approached 200 IP’s in a season.  No big deal with the Yanks pen.  With the addition of Chamberlain, the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings should be real yawners for the Yankee defense.  Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera all have huge strikeout stuff that should lock down many tight W’s for the defending champs.  Honestly, and I hate saying this sort of thing in March – especially given that the Sox and Rays are the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the league – but the Yanks should run away with it all this season in even more casual fashion than in 2009.  They may be old, but they did get younger in the offseason, and I tend to think that exceptional athletes in the Jeter, Rodriguez, and Rivera mold age very gracefully.  Girardi must realize that these players will need days off more frequently than their younger teammates, but he knows that.  I like Brian Cashman, but he is making that division more predictable than any fan outside NYC wants.

The Next Ryan Braun?

March 26 , 2010

After spending a couple of weeks with Stephen Strasburg this spring, Nyjer Morgan decided to nickname him, “Jesus.”  It seems nowadays like every organization, especially those in dire need of a savior, tout their young prospects as though they will one day absolutely be middle-of-the-order smashers with Ozzie’s skills at whatever positions they play or frontline aces in the Roy Halladay mold.  Consider these names: Dominic Brown, Justin Smoak, Buster Posey, Desmond Jennings, Brian Matusz, Yonder Alonso, Dustin Ackley, Aroldis Chapman, Jason Heyward, etc.  Any club in baseball would/should want any and all of these players.  Remember these names, however, Cameron Maybin, Alex Gordon, Brandon Wood, Delmon Young, Fernando Martinez, Homer Bailey, etc?  It’s easy to understand what drives such lofty expectations with young talent.  When was the last time the Yankees put a decent amount of stock into what any rookie might accomplish?  Joba does not count.  Desperate and poorly funded teams tend to spend a lot more time praying than those who can so easily write massive checks.  It’s almost as though the first mention of a talented player’s careful development and steady promotion leads to Ryan Braun-esque expectations.  Ryan Braun is obviously not on the second list nor do I truly think any player in the minors will one day be as good as Braun is now.  Justin Upton may grow into a similar type of player.  Maybe.  Of all the prospects mentioned, there are three who I think will be all-stars within 5 years.  The others are destined for mediocrity for one reason or another.  Strasburg is in a different class altogether.  He will be Josh Beckett.  We won’t consider him.

The three of interest are Buster Posey, Desmond Jennings, and Jason Heyward.  Why these three?  They walk and make contact.  Both Jennings and Heyward walked as many times as they fanned last season, and Posey was not far off.  These players all possess outstanding athleticism, but in baseball all that truly translates to when young is the ability to learn positions quickly in order to get to the big squad sooner.  Exceptional talent means something different in baseball.  This is not the NFL.  Morons who can run fast and jump high do not necessarily translate into all-stars.  Athleticism never hurts, but it only goes so far in understanding what to expect from rookies.  In 2007 the folks at Baseball America, right before Braun exploded onto the National League scene, ranked Cameron Maybin 20 places ahead of Ryan Braun.  How could they have missed by so much?  Simple.  Bad teams and bad scouts place way, way too much stock into athleticism.  Baseball America is certainly quite reputable, but they tend to see the game as it was and not so much as what it is and what it could be.  Would Cameron Maybin have a better NFL career than Ryan Braun? Likely.  So what?  Big fastballs and fast 60’s mean nothing in the minor leagues and the big leagues.  What does?  Baserunners.  Posey, Heyward, and Jennings already know how to do the most important thing in sports.  Getting on base.  Strasburg already knows how to prevent this.  His fastball/slider combo is dazzling, but the single aspect of his collegiate stats that stand out the most is his otherworldly K/BB ratio.  For baseball purposes, it may make more sense to simply consider it infinity and move on.  Sign them all up now.  Or wait if you have no interest in winning (Braves and Rays).  Either way, when these players do begin their big league careers (Posey’s dozen or so AB’s in September excluded) they will continue to do the things they did in the minors.  Play baseball with the realization that first base is the new plate.

I told a friend in lab today that I would talk a little about the Rangers in my next post since I’m living in Dallas now.  As I don’t want to give the impression that I have anything serious against Baseball America, I will make mention of the fact that they have given Texas the top organizational review for the second consecutive season.  They are absolutely right on in doing so.  Texas has talent in every position, and for the most part it tends to be young.  Their farm system is as stocked as any in the game except possibly Tampa.  All this being said, they are essentially a lineup of question marks.  I project it to look something like this whenever Ron Washington gets off the cocaine and moves Nelson Cruz up in the order.

  1. Julio Borbon
  2. Michael Young
  3. Josh Hamilton
  4. Vladimir Guerrero
  5. Ian Kinsler
  6. Nelson Cruz
  7. Chris Davis
  8. Elvis Andrus
  9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Taylor Teagarden

It should look like this:

  1. Michael Young
  2. Josh Hamilton
  3. Ian Kinsler
  4. Nelson Cruz
  5. Vladimir Guerrero
  6. Chris Davis
  7. Elvis Andrus
  8. Catcher
  9. Julio Borbon

There is injury risk top to bottom here, and not very many of these guys have truly demonstrated the ability to get on base all that frequently, but they have ungodly thump here and easily the best lineup in the AL West.  The rotation is worse, but why would a team build around arms in Arlington?  Even so, young guys like Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland possess considerable upside, and Martin Perez, likely the best pitching prospect the Rangers have had this decade, is not too far away from arrival.  These guys catch the ball very well, and the addition of Borbon in center will only prevent more runs.  The Mariners made a lot of improvements this winter, and the Angels are still the team to beat, but I personally think the West will be very tight, and I expect these three teams to be very active in the trading market in June and July.  I think the Rangers have a slight edge if everyone is healthy.  Maybe by a game or two.

I just want to give a shout to young Grinnellian rightfielder, Paden Roder.  His slashes right now read .440/.559/.840.  The Ivy League-bound senior has had quite a career for the Pioneers.  Let’s wish Paden and the other Pioneers a strong finish in Florida free of injuries and full of sun and W’s.

R.I.P Ted Denslow

March 23 , 2010


Ted Denslow, deceased former owner of the Milwaukee Beers baseketball club, fought to prevent unionization, free agency, and corporate tie-ins from contaminating his league.  In the process he allowed his players to develop the brotherhood and camaraderie that can only come through shared experiences together on the field of battle, as both friends and foes.

Every March I am blessed to participate in a fantasy draft with a mixture of childhood friends, ex-college team/roommates, and a couple of the owner’s girlfriends (they must really love us).  This is the league’s 6th season and my 5th year participating.  In the last five years, the league has evolved considerably with some owners retiring, others taking their places, and all of our lives evolving with the league.  When the league was in its infancy, some of the current owners were underclassmen in high school while others were approaching undergraduate graduation day.  A lot has changed since those early days of our league, and most of the owners now are college graduates and embarking on new adventures both professionally and personally.  One owner is married.  Another has left the country to attend something called the Royal Veterinary Academy, and our newest member recently began a post-baccalaureate pre-med program in St Louis where she lives with one of the league’s original owners.  The champions from the past four seasons now reside in London, Washington D.C., Iowa, and Chicago.  The Iowan was born and raised in Honolulu, and I suspect he will return there upon his graduation in May.  Who wouldn’t want to return to tropical paradise?

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have fantasy baseball in my life.  When I tried explaining to my fellow student dentists how I could take an afternoon out of a Saturday to drop all of my studies (we had a big physiology test Monday) to play fake sports, I began with how much time and effort goes into preparing for the draft and how important it was that I am comfortable with the draft kit.  We use ESPN, and the folks there seem to alter it annually.  My classmates naturally questioned what I win if my team were to come in first.  I enthusiastically replied “Albert Pujols in 2011!”  They were expecting some monetary sum.  I began telling them that none of the owners actually have any money, which was my default response in yesteryear.  That is no longer even the case.   I had forgotten that some of the owners do indeed have positive income.  This dialogue reminded me of what I love the absolute most about fantasy: the opportunity to continue to share something I love with many of the people I love with who I otherwise might lose touch due to jobs, families, or distance.  While I may lose track of some of the other league owners from October through February, I have March through September to catch up with them and reinforce the friendships that were built away from the laptop, smartphone, and television.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly do prepare for the draft.  I currently own Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster for this season as well as the two prior to this one and Rotoworld’s guide.  I have a very firm grasp on their discrepancies and reasoning behind their projections.  I find Shandler to be very convincing, but I can understand why others might prefer Rotoworld’s style.  I read Hardball Times, Baseball America, and every day.  The point is that I care if I win.  A lot.  I never have before, but have also never finished outside the top 4.  I check my team a minimum of 15 times daily during the season, but I tend to behave compulsively.  Five would probably be sufficient.  Either way, I believe that some day I will win.  Maybe it will happen this fall.

Win or lose.  First or last.  It really matters little in predicting what I will be doing next March.  Now that our 2010 draft is finalized and the season is set to begin, I have a six-month roller coaster to ride into October.  When I exit the coaster, I will bid farewell to the Denslow Cup 2010 and the other owners for the winter.  I will then begin preparing for the upcoming draft, like I have done for the last five years and intend to do for the next fifty.  I can’t wait to pick the conversation back up.  My bet is it will begin right where it left off five months prior.

You know, I think to some extent that’s what Mr. Denslow wanted out of his league too.

Alright.  Now let’s discuss some real baseball.  One of the biggest question marks of the spring – and it seems like there are a few more than usual this March – has been hovering around the campus of the College of Southern Nevada where 17-year old Bryce Harper is leading the school in every meaningful offensive statistic while handing the bulk of the team’s backstop duties and spending a handful innings in the outfield and at third.  It took the phenom just two weeks to move himself into the JUCO’s cleanup role on offense.  With a line of .413/.505/.875 (as of March 13th) to go along with his six stolen bases and sub-2.00 pop-to-pop time, Harper is in the process of justifying the media hype that began when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was touted as little less than a messianic figure soon to be a household name.   While most players his age are fighting to make their varsity high school teams, Bryce Harper is working to solidify his status as the consensus number one prospect headed into this June’s MLB amateur draft.  Is he doing that?

This is not a question anyone would even have to answer had Harper not dropped out of Las Vegas High School in hopes of beginning his professional career a year early.  MLB demands that dropouts sit out a year before they can be drafted.  Harper’s route to the draft is unprecedented but indeed justified given his virtual lock on a team’s top pick.  The question is whether or not that pick will be the Nationals’ first overall pick.  Imagine this: Stephen Strasburg tossing to Bryce Harper in 4 years.  Some scouts have voiced concern over Harper’s unorthodox hitting mechanics, which likely leads to his rather large collection of strikeouts.  He currently has 19 through 80 AB’s.  Scouts may use Harper’s 16 walks to suggest that he has some understanding of the strike zone as well as his justifiable immaturity relative to the 19, 20, and 21-year old pitchers he is facing at Southern Nevada.  While the strikeouts are worrisome, his power is jaw-dropping.  Already with a HR rate of one in every 10 AB’s, Harper’s power will only grow as his body matures and he spends more time in a gym.  He is currently regarded as the number one power option in the draft ahead of UT-Arlington’s Michael Choice, the collegiate junior who led Team USA in slugging percentage last summer.  Choice currently outweighs Harper by twenty pounds and is approximately four years older as well.  Always with players like Harper, signability questions arise.  Given the $15.1 million dollars that Strasburg was awarded in last year’s draft, Harper’s wishes still likely be even greater.  Given his age, he probably has more room to bargain than any American born player in history, which only equates to an even higher price tag.  Driving up his cost even further is the fact that Harper is represented by Scott Boras.

Another question surrounding Harper is what position he will play in the big leagues.  Like all players of Harper’s mold, the risk of spending big money on a player likely to accrue less than 500 AB’s per season can scare scouts and front offices, especially given that lower body injuries are much more common with catchers.  Additionally confusing is the speed Harper possesses that would ultimately be wasted behind the plate.  Harper is not the first talent to face these issues. The Giants have been barraged this spring with questions regarding where Buster Posey will eventually log the most innings as a big leaguer.  In an utterly baffling move, the Giants signed the aging Bengie Molina to receive the majority of pitches this season while Posey again proves his worth in the high minors.  Fans and media have suggested that Posey should slide over to another position on defense to get his massive bat in the lineup, but the value of a slugging catcher has forced them to deny such possibilities.  Harper may follow a similar path to the big leagues full of positional and time-of-arrival question marks.While a great deal of uncertainty remains with Bryce Harper, one thing is certain.  It seems impossible that a team like the Nationals would pass on the potential superstardom of a player with Harper’s endless upside.  Unfortunately for them, it also seems impossible that an organization that has never finished about .500 could spend in the neighborhood of $20 million on a player so far from big league arrival.  Don’t be surprised if Harper falls out of the top few picks in June.  When he does, however, realize that he is not falling because he is anything other than the premier offensive prospect ever.  Despite the strikeouts, Bryce Harper has the athletic tools and, at least superficially, the drive to win to justify this claim.  At his current homerun rate, he may break a number of records at Southern Nevada this spring.  Barring injury, come this June, he likely will break another record: that for amateur price tag.

How about a little fantasy news?  Since Joe Nathan is likely out for the year, word around front offices is that the Twins are actively pursuing a number of seasoned late-inning veteran aces.  Among those mentioned are Toronto’s Jason Frasor, San Diego’s Heath Bell, and a couple of guys from within including (unfortunately) Francisco Liriano.  Let’s address Frasor first.  Last season with the Jays, Frasor posted essentially a 1 WHIP and a 1:1 K/IP.  These are very comparable to the Mo Riveras and Joe Nathans of the closing ranks.  Bell was also elite, but has more strikeout stuff (not by much).  The Blue Jays and Padres are both deeply entrenched in the rebuilding phase, and neither team will be relevant in their respective divisions for the foreseeable future.  The Twins, however, absolutely must be relevant and must at the very minimum challenge for their divisional title.  The opening of Target Field and the contract negotiations with Mr. Twin, Joe Mauer, mean that games cannot be blown in the 9th this season.  So who should fantasy owners be picking up off of free agency or trading for in deep mixed leagues?  With Frasor and Bell already atop their current clubs’ bullpen depth charts, these players are likely owned in all leagues.  In San Diego, a very intriguing young hurler named Mike Adams deserves some consideration by all owners needing saves.  Last season Adams posted a 0.74 WHIP while striking out nearly 3 times as many guys as he walked with a K/9 of nearly 9.  So he pretty much checked off all the categories we care about.  Monitor what the Padres do with Bell all season, because as soon as his dealing becomes imminent – and it will – Adams needs to be owned.  Toronto’s situation is less certain.  Yeah, they signed Kevin Gregg this winter, but should we care?  Gregg, as flyballer, is often at the mercy of the environment he is throwing in.  He had a decent level of success in Miami because the Marlins play on a football field, but Gregg’s subsurface numbers last season were better than a casual glance would suggest.  Personally, I anticipate him getting the nod in Toronto if Frasor is traded over Scott Downs.  Downs is frankly a better pitcher than Gregg statistically, but his handedness and lack of ninth inning track record make him more of a darkhorse to accumulate any noticeable number of saves this year.  I hate that we have to even consider this, because the Twins have other good late inning options in Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, and Pat Neshek (if he is healthy and happy), but the idiots in the Twin Cities have actually suggested using Liriano in a bullpen role.  Liriano was spectacular this winter and may be the Cy Young of the Grapefruit League.  Why not let young pitchers heal from TJS at their own pace?  No wonder these guys built a stadium outside in the Arctic.  Anyway, just pray this doesn’t come to fruition, not because of fantasy value, but because Liriano is so exciting and Minnesota needs a true ace in a year that Minnesota just needs.

Spring Training stuff.  Strasburg was sent down.  No surprise here.  Just wait, though.  From what we saw from him this March, he is the real deal and will immediately become the ace the Nats need.  The Braves have mentioned the possibility of using newly acquired Melky Cabrera at the top of the order occasionally while moving Nate McLouth out of the role and into something resembling a weighted platoon situation.  Melky has proven one thing since becoming a big leaguer: he has a great chance to hit fungo grounders once his career as a AAAA player ends.  Literally half the balls he hit last season were GB’s.  This guy sucks.  That being said, I have to give some love to the Braves for the deal that sent the harmless hitter to Atlanta because it also brought lefty bullpen arm, Mike Dunn, over.  Mike Dunn went to high school about 3 minutes from where I live, and I always have love for clubs that give my old teammates/rivals opportunities.  Dunn would have stood a tougher chance of making the big squad with the Yanks.  Now the Braves have two young New Mexicans throwing for them (the other being 24-year old 4th rounder, James Parr).  Other New Mexicans standing a chance to make some noise this season are Moriarty High grad, Kyle Blanks, and Carlsbad High grad, Cody Ross.  Both of these players have already had varying degrees of success at the big league level, and both look like they may have some nice careers ahead of them, especially if they can both make contact a little more frequently.

I got to visit a new venue last night.  I was able to catch a game between Dallas Baptist and Lafayette at Patriot Field in Dallas.  The venue was very sweet, especially for a smaller college.  Baptist thumped Lafayette, but that was to be expected from the perennial D2 powers.

Back home in Farmington a potential meeting between rivals and annual state title front-runners FHS and Piedra Vista was thwarted when PV was unable to top Monument. Colorado’s Fruita High.  This is disappointing.  Neither Farmington squad – both of which are under new management – has looked terribly sharp this spring.  Expect that to change come April and May as both squads return a lot of talent and experience.

Grinnell College is on their way to Vero Beach for their annual spring break trip.  We all wish them luck.  They will suit up against Amherst tomorrow in what’s sure to be an all-out nerdfest.  Maybe afterward the two teams can go toe to toe in a spelling bee or science fair.  Sophomore and reigning co-Midwest Conference player of the year, Mike Nodzenski, has been a little banged up this March.  Word on the street is that he may have been injured during a team-building exercise that may or may not have involved combat.  Here’s to Nodz’s speedy recovery and another great season for him and the Pioneers.