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SI FOR KIDS
Draft day hits and misses
Posted: Wednesday April 14, 1999 08:50 AM
By Dan George, CNN/SI
Anniversaries can be tough. Loved ones' birthdays, too. But most fantasy players can recall their worst Draft Day selection in an instant.
For me it was Mark Whiten. After the Red Sox acquired him before the 1995 season, I was convinced that friendly Fenway - not to mention Mo Vaughn in the same lineup - would turn him into the next Jim Rice. Uh huh.
You may know Whiten for once hitting four home runs with 12 RBIs in one game. I remember paying $34 for him, then watching him hit .185 with one dinger and 10 RBIs in 32 games before Boston shipped his sorry bat back to the National League.
On the other hand, I also recall picking up a middle reliever near the end of the 1988 draft as a $1 afterthought. Stepping into the closer's spot, he saved 28 games that season, then added 44 more saves the next. His name was Mark Davis. I still sigh when I think about him.
The point? You can study and research and short-circuit a dozen calculators compiling formulas, but anyone who claims to have a foolproof method for projecting player performances is a ... statistician. And you know what Mark Twain said about statistics. Yes, knowledge is good and you don't want to go into your draft without it. But sometimes luck is even better.
That caveat out of the way, here's a list of players to keep an eye on - or watch out for - as you assemble your teams on that most glorious of days for fantasy players, Draft Day:
Don't Get Carried Away
Jay Buhner, Mariners - He says the elbow is fine, but you've got to wonder if he's back in right field too soon. If he gets hurt again, he's suddenly in the first base-DH mix with David Segui and Edgar Martinez, and somebody's going to lose at-bats.
Jose Canseco, Devil Rays - Last year was his first without a stint on the DL since 1994. He's 34. What do you think?
Bernie Williams, Yankees - Solid player on a very good team, but he ain't in the same class with Frank, Mo, Junior or A-Rod.
Brian Jordan, Braves - See Jose Canseco.
Ken Caminiti, Astros - See a pattern here?
Kevin Brown, Dodgers - He's 34 and has pitched nearly 500 innings the last two seasons. Just because the Dodgers are nuts doesn't mean you have to be.
Worth A Couple Bucks More Than You Think
Tim Salmon, Angels - He sometimes gets lost in the long roll call of AL sluggers, but you've got to think Mo Vaughn's presence is going to boost his numbers.
Kelvim Escobar, Blue Jays - The Jays have plenty of solid starters. What they don't have, even when Robert Person gets healthy, is a good closer. Until Jim Fregosi gets smart and returns Escobar to the bullpen, where he had 14 saves in '97.
Russ Davis, Mariners - He's 29, he's had a great spring, and he can't be as bad defensively as he was last year (34 errors), can he? It says here he finally breaks out.
Mark Wohlers, Braves - Personal problems hurt him more than he wanted to admit last season. He's back throwing well, and not a moment too soon for Atlanta.
Fernando Tatis, Cardinals - Just 24 with a lot of upside. Finished strong after his trade to St. Louis last season. Don't be surprised if he doubles 1998's homer total of 11 this season.
Be Careful Out There
Chuck Finley, Angels - Fourth in ERA and strikeouts in the AL last season. That's good. His 11 wins? Not so good. He's 36 and his back seems to act up more and more. If he's your ace, you've got pitching problems. Like the Angels.
Wil Cordero, Indians - The Indians have given him new life, and at 27 Cordero could be ready for a breakout season. Or, with Richie Sexson looking over his shoulder, he could be with his fourth team in four years in 2000.
Todd Hundley, Dodgers - The elbow is still a big, big concern. If he can't catch every day - and that seems likely, at least at first - his 30-home run seasons are over. At least in the NL.
Tony Womack, Diamondbacks - He's hurt (starting the season on the DL with a broken wrist), he'll be playing a new position (outfield) when he comes back and he doesn't walk or bunt nearly as much as he should. Still, he can fly.
Pete Harnisch, Reds - Another guy whose back has bothered him this spring. Was on the DL four straight seasons till 1998, which was, not coincidentally, the first time he won more than eight games (14) in that span.
Run Away! Run Away!
Jaime Navarro, White Sox - Don't be fooled by his spring won-loss record. High ERA, high WHIP and he doesn't strike out anyone. Truly an awful pitcher.
Andy Sheets, Angels - For now, the starting shortstop in Anaheim. Unless batters' strikeouts is a category in your league - Sheets has 137 in 393 major league at-bats - keep silent when his name comes up.
Denny Hocking, Twins - OK, so Andy Sheets isn't that bad.
Mark Langston, Padres - There's some question as to whether he's officially retired. There's no question, though, that he's done.
Bobby Bonilla, Mets - Already on a slide the last couple of years, and now he's got a bad knee. Think the fans in Queens will be patient if he's slow to heal? Somebody'll gamble on him. You shouldn't.
Cal Eldred, Brewers - DL has appeared in front of Eldred's name so many times that a lot of people think Cal is his middle name.
Not Bad For a Buck
Rich Amaral, Orioles - Probably won't even get drafted in your league. But he's got a solid bat, some speed and great versatility, which comes in handy when people get hurt. Have you checked the Orioles' average age?
Darren Bragg, Cardinals - Another guy often ignored on Draft Day, but he'll get enough at-bats as a left-handed batter to help you.
Dante Powell, Diamondbacks - Surprised some by making the Opening Day squad, but he had a nice spring and is just 25. Ready to fulfill his potential as a former No. 1 pick?
Darryl Kile, Rockies - Given last season and his rocky spring, he's not without risk. But Kile actually had a fine September in 1998, and he's still Colorado's No.1 starter.
Young and Ready
Eric Chavez, A's - Three years ago, he was in high school. This year, most think he'll be the AL Rookie of the Year.
Gabe Kapler, Tigers - Consensus minor league player of the year in '98, and he absolutely murdered spring training pitching. Larry Parrish will find a place for his bat in the Detroit lineup.
J.D. Drew, Cardinals - Perhaps you've heard of him.
Michael Barrett, Expos - He may play third, he may catch. Either place, he'll hit.
That's it. Good luck in your draft. And just in case you're wondering, my anniversary is October 2 and my wife's birthday is January 4. Wait a minute, that's my birthday. Oh, heck ...
Dan George, a senior producer at CNNSI.com, has been playing fantasy baseball since 1985 with sporadic success. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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