Future looks bright for three young outfielders
This is my final spring training mailbag, which means:
Worst of all, it means no more opportunities to log on and look at my picture, glowing against the heroic backdrop of my Emmanuel Lewis screensaver. Thanks for the mail and the remarkably sub-mediocre questions. I'd especially like to thank my mother, who sent in 80 percent of the queries. Peace out.
On with the questions:
Hey Jeff, do me a favor and breakdown the following young players in terms of potential? They all claim to have a chance of starting on their respective clubs, but I'm not sure who is legit, and who is just hype.
It's always tough to rate guys who haven't tasted much Major League stew, but right now Brown is probably the most promising of these three very, very highly rated guys. Wherever he's gone, Brown (only 23 years old) has put up huge power numbers, with good speed digits, too. (Case in point: At two stops in '99, he hit .331 with 25 homers and 30 steals.) A few weeks ago, Royals manager Tony Muser was mentioning Brown as a possible fourth or fifth outfielder. That's unlikely, for now. Wells, 22, is Toronto's centerfielder of the very near future, but the Blue Jays have probably rushed him a bit. He was 20 when he debuted in '99, and pitchers at the major-league and Class AAA levels have found him to be something of a guess hitter. In 493 at-bats at Syracuse in 2000, he hit .243 with 16 homers and 88 strikeouts. Still, he's a five-tool prospect with plenty of time to develop. Bradley, also 22, has Andruw Jones -esque potential as a hitter, but the maturity isn't quite there. Last season he ticked Felipe Alou off by not running hard, and his minor league rep is one of an ornery complainer. If he keeps cool and calm, the Expos believe they have another young star.
Jeff, a lot of people were really impressed by the White Sox last season, but
I think their season was somewhat of an aberration. James Baldwin can't last a
whole year and I bet Cal Eldred hasn't pitched a full season since tee-ball.
Last year the defense looked like it was trying to catch some Z's in the field
instead of baseballs. They can't possibly be considered a contender in the AL
this season, can
Because you're from Carmel, I'll cut you a break. But to suggest the White Sox aren't contenders is idiotic. Chicago was a bad defensive team last year (12th in the AL) and it has taken steps to go the other way. Royce Clayton is a huuuuuuge upgrade from Jose Valentin at shortstop, and, if healthy, Sandy Alomar calls a very smooth game. Valentin's move to center field is semi-iffy, but the man is a remarkable athlete who should be better in the outfield than infield. As far as pitching, how can you dump on the Sox arms and not even mention David Wells? Left-handed 20-game winners are as easy to find as pink squirrels and Chicago landed one atop its rotation. The White Sox are contenders, no question.
What team has looked the best this year in spring
Chris, unless you were born within the last week, it should be obvious by now that the three most meaningless things in life are:
Instead, I'll just say that I -- and half the world -- have been dazzled by the Marlins' bevy of young arms, which should do the organization well for the next decade. There are nine or 10 Grade-A pitching prospects in the Florida system, including three (Ryan Dempster, Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett) who will bolster the Marlins' rotation this season.
When will the Tigers get wise and dump general manager Randy Smith? He's put
the Tigers right where he put the
Tom, how do you think Randy feels, knowing he's failed you? I mean, have some compassion. He traded for a superstar (Juan Gonzalez) who didn't want to spend five seconds in Motown. Jeff Weaver , the organization's best pitching prospect since Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, has taken his lumps. And first baseman Tony Clark struggled. The stadium -- a power hitter's poison ivy -- is the size of Dan Patrick's head. In the modern era of baseball, we all have to be a bit realistic. GMs like Smith, the Padres' Kevin Towers, the Phillies' Ed Wade - - they can't be judged along the same lines as the Yankees' Brian Cashman or the Rangers' Doug Melvin . Detroit does not have the coin to be a year-to-year contender, and so, Smith has been forced into creative management (See: Cedeno, Roger). Clearly, he hasn't been Billy Beane. But neither have 15 other guys in the same boat.
Is there something about Seattle that we don't know about? Why is it that
athletes never seem to want to stay here? We have one of the best ballparks in
all of baseball, we have one of the top five pitching staffs, and a great
manager. Is the fact that Safeco is a "pitcher's" park enough for no
one to want to come here? Is there anything the Mariners can do to get a couple
offensive threats this
Really Dan, don't take it too personally. Like Steve Francis refusing to play for the Vancouver Grizzlies, a big problem is location. Seattle is a beautiful city with the world's best fish tacos, but it's waaaaay away from the rest of us. Ken Griffey Jr. wanted to be closer to home. A-Rod liked the idea, too. Also, if you're a slugger, the idea of a team closing down Homer Central and erecting a -- egads! -- pitcher's park is as appealing as a Justin Timberlake box set.
The M's have David Bell starting at third base, but if his bat doesn't exceed expectations (and last year's .247 average, 11 home runs and 47 RBIs won't cut it), don't be surprised if a Phil Nevin or Todd Zeile or Joe Randa finds a snuggly fit in a Seattle uni.
Although no one talks about him, I think Jermaine Dye should be a preseason
candidate to win the AL MVP. What do you think? Also, will the Royals make a
move to acquire more starting pitching help before they break
Kevin, I would be shocked if K.C. looks to snag another arm for the rotation, because, for one thing, very little pitching help is available. Never mind the fact that the Royals are hoping Jose Rosado will be back sooner than later.
With Rosado, a healthy Mac Suzuki, a full season of Brian Meadows and the nasty stuff of Dan Reichert (an electric sinking fastball and an above-average slider), Kansas City has the makings of a pretty solid group. As for Dye, his 2000 numbers (.321, 33 homers, 118 RBIs), along with the Gold Glove, certainly make him one of the league's 20 or so possible MVPs. But with Johnny Damon gone, it'll be mighty tough for him (as well as first baseman Mike Sweeney) to drive in so many runs.
With Jerry Hairston in at second base, is Delino DeShields done in Baltimore?
Why are the Orioles so willing to move
The Orioles are in the midst of a serious, serious rebuilding movement. A big part of that process will be Hairston, the team's top young prospect and their brand new No. 9 hitter. Last season DeShields was Baltimore's best player. He's very smooth at second and his .296 average, 86 RBIs and 37 steals were more than the O's could expect. Still, good wasn't good enough. DeShields is, unhappily, now playing left field. Baltimore would gladly move DeShields since he's in the final season of a three-year deal. If he's not gone by the end of 2001, he walks.
Maybe I've been living in a burlap sack, but it seems to me that the Mark
McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run hype has died down over the last year. With St.
Louis favored in its division and Sosa having a better lineup around him, don't
you think they both have a chance to chase the record
I'm not sure what kind of news access you have there in Burlap Land, but the homer frenzy died because Big Mac played just 89 games last year. There wasn't much to roar about. That, of course, provides a point. It's still possible for McGwire-Sosa III to erupt, but age (Mac is 37, Sosa 32) equals injuries equals DL equals 40-50 homers equals Pat Burrell, your 2001 NL home run champ (with 52).
Is Livan Hernandez an ace in the making or is he just a phenom when the umps
give him the corners? I am a die-hard Giants fan and I need an ace. Shawn Estes?
He has great stuff. Could you see him or any other Giants pitcher stepping up to
match up with Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson to give San Francisco a chance in
Tony, considering that Hernandez is just 26 years old (we'll, ahem, assume his Cuban birth certificate is accurate), there are clear ace indicators. Hernandez throws three great pitches, he hits the low-to-mid 90s and, since his days in Florida, he's really learned how to think through a game and avoid costly, absent-minded mistakes. He's great at Pac Bell (12-3 in 2000), too. Estes is one of those Scott Sullivan , Has-Great-Stuff guys who seems unwilling to put up successful back-to-back years. At his best, he's a legit No. 2 starter.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pealrman covers the baseball beat for
the magazine and is a regular contributor to