Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Brewers’

The Five Best Free Agent Pitchers Left On The Market

February 7, 2010

While everyone is getting ready for the big game, I am writing about baseball. Such is the life I have chosen.

Yesterday, I wrote about the five best hitters left on the free agent market, so today I will focus on the five best pitchers who have yet to find a home for the 2010 season.

Here are the top-five free agent pitchers left on the market:

1. Kiko Calero, Relief Pitcher. At 35-years-old you would think that Calero has been around for forever, but he hasn’t. Kalero has only been in the majors for seven years and perhaps his 2009 season was his best.

In 60 innings pitched with the Florida Marlins, Calero had a 1.95 ERA, 69 strike outs, and only allowed 36 hits in those 60 innings. Those are some impressive numbers.

What was just as impressive was that Calero was equally effective against righties and lefties. He held lefties to a .187 batting average and righties to a .176 average.

Calero would be a valuable addition to any bullpen. The Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays were rumored to be interested earlier in the offseason.

2. Jarrod Washburn, Starting Pitcher. Washburn was off to a fast start in 2009 and then he was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the trading deadline and things fell apart.

Washburn may be forced into retirement

Washburn suffered a knee injury down the stretch and stumbled to a 1-3 record with a 7.33 ERA with the Tigers. His last start was Sept. 15 against the Kansas City Royals and lasted an impressive one inning and gave up four runs.

Washburn is 35 now and is now even considering retirement if he can’t get an offer from either the Minnesota Twins or Seattle Mariners.

3. Joe Beimel, Relief Pitcher. Beimel is the youngest of any pitcher on this list (32), but his value is not really strong. He is coming off a year where he had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP with the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies, which is not bad at all.

However, there is one is problem with Beimel–he doesn’t do anything particularly well.

He doesn’t strike anyone out and as a left-handed pitcher, he isn’t that effective against left-handed batters. Lefties actually had a higher OPS (.781) against Beimel than righties did (.741) in 2009.

A lefty who can’t get left-handed batters out is like a pass rusher, who can’t sack the quarter back. Beimel is like the Vernon Gholston of baseball.

4. Chan Ho Park, Relief Pitcher. It seems like Park has been around forever. It was a really long, long, long time ago that Park was an up-and-coming pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Park is 36 now and is coming off a year where he had a 4.43 ERA in 83.1 innings with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was actually used as an old-fashioned swing man last year. He was used in relief and made seven starts.

Park is much better suited to be a reliever at this stage in his career. Park had a 2.52 ERA last year in relief and pitched rather well for the Phillies out of the bullpen in the playoffs. He had a three ERA in nine innings during last year’s World Series run.

I wouldn’t trust him in a big spot to save my life, but he should find a home pretty soon.

5. Braden Looper, Starting Pitcher. Looper went 14-7 with the Milwaukee Brewers last season, but don’t be fooled by those 14 wins and his 194.2 innings pitched. Looper was pretty bad last year.

Looper was not impressive with the Brewers in 09'

Looper led the National League in runs allowed (113), home runs allowed (39), and finished fourth in hits allowed (216). He also had an ERA of 5.52. It was like he was going for the anti-triple crown of pitching.

I think Looper will have a hard time getting a major league contract and will most likely sign a minor league deal with incentives.

That’s all for today. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone!!!

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Let the Adrian Gonzalez To The Red Sox Rumors Start…Again

February 4, 2010

Yesterday was a pretty sad day for a special group of people. Around 4:00 PM est yesterday, it was announced that Monster Worldwide purchased Hotjobs, a place I had called home for four plus years, from Yahoo!

As I wrote on my Facebook page, I had the privilege to work with some truly great people and few companies can say they had the talent that walked through those doors all those years. It was a great place to work.

I compare Monster buying Hotjobs to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) buying World Championship Wrestling (WCW) back in 2001. WWE was the established brand like Monster and WCW was an upstart trying to take over the top spot like Hotjobs.

Sure, there were times where WCW and Hotjobs claimed the top spot, but you always felt that no matter what happened WWE and Monster were still No.1. Like WCW (AOL/Time Warner), Hotjobs was purchased by a large media company and that media company treated Hotjobs–just as AOL/Time Warner treated WCW– as an afterthought.

In the end, both WCW and Hotjobs were sold for a fraction of what they were actually worth to the top players in their industries just so the poorly run media companies can get rid of them. A very sad day.

The reason I bring this up during this post is A. because it just happened and B. it reminds me of what is going in San Diego.

When former Boston Red Sox Assistant GM Jed Hoyer took the GM with the San Diego Padres, many assumed that at some point Hoyer would get together with his old team and strike a deal that involved star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

With the Red Sox going in a different direction this offseason, many of the Gonzalez to Boston rumors died down. Now, thanks to a couple of interesting quotes, I am guessing those Gonzalez to Boston rumors are going to heat up again during the season or next winter.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad had this to say about the future of Gonzalez:

“I think the fairest description of our point of view is that we continue to be committed to doing what’s best for the long-term interest of the organization,” Padres CEO Jeff Moorad said yesterday. “As a result, no player is untouchable. And while we’re mindful of players’ individual popularity, we won’t put one player ahead of the long-term interests of the club.

“I’m confident that (General Manager) Jed (Hoyer) and John Boggs will have a discussion at some point about Adrian and his future. While I’d be thrilled to have him part of the organization for the long term, the early signals indicate his cost will be greater than our ability to pay.”

I appreciate Moorad’s honestly and candor, but where is his bedside manor? About 12 days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, he is telling his fans they most likely won’t re-sign their star player when he becomes a free agent in two years.

Way to excite your fan base or what’s left of it Jeff.

If you are a Padres fan (all 20 of you), it has to be beyond frustrating to continue to support this team. This team plays in the 28th largest market in the America, the nicest city in America, and has a new ballpark (PETCO opened in 2004) that should create additional revenue streams.

On the surface, there is no reason for the Padres not to have a payroll hovering around the $80-$90 million mark. But thanks to almost always shaky ownership, the Padres have been in cost-cutting mode for as long as I can remember.

It seems like for every step forward this organization takes, it takes two steps back.

Just look at a team like the Milwaukee Brewers. They play in the smallest market in baseball, but have a great owner, who does his best to make sure the Brewers put a winning product on the field.

I don’t think there is a person on the planet would rather call Milwaukee home than San Diego, but the Brewers are constantly making moves and attracting players to the home of George Webb Restaurants.

The biggest difference between the Brewers and Padres is ownership. Now Moorad might turn out to be a good owner in the future. He has only been the Padres owner for a little more than a year, but at some point he is going to have to make a commitment to the players and the fans.

A commitment that Yahoo! and AOL/Time Warner never made.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Minor Moves Highlight Monday In Baseball

February 2, 2010

Yesterday was my first day at my new job. First days at a new company are always fascinating. Everybody is your best friend, you do the typical HR stuff, and all the papers on your desk are all in a neat pile.

By the end of the week, you become less popular and all the papers on your desk look like a tornado (Kerry Von Erich perhaps?) just hit it. However, it took me just one day to become the least popular guy in the office.

During lunch I decided to buy a box in the company’s Super Bowl pool. And on cue, I draw the numbers four and seven. The Holy Grail of Super Bowl numbers.

I felt like George Costanza when he gave the going away speech on his first day when he was working on the Penske File. Everyone was like “Who is this guy?”

While I started a job on Monday, there were a lot of baseball players who either found a new home or were left looking for a new job or in one players case, found and a new home and in a matter of hours, needed a new home.

Here are some of the minor moves that took place on Monday.

Florida Marlins sign Seth McClung. The Marlins are desperate for bullpen help, so signing McClung to a minor league deal makes sense. McClung finished with a 4.94 ERA in 62 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009.

In order for McClung to be effective, he needs to lower his walks. He almost had a one-to-one (39 BB’s/40K’s)  strike out to walk ratio in 2009. His WHIP and ERA have increased three years in a row.

Garko has a new home in Seattle

Seattle Mariners sign Ryan Garko. The Mariners signed Garko to a one-year, $550,000 contract on Monday. Garko had two productive years in 2007 and 2008 for the Cleveland Indians, but didn’t do much for the San Francisco Giants when they acquired him in July.

Garko hit only .235 with two home runs in 127 AB’s with the Giants last year. Look for Garko to be the Mariners pinch-hitter off the bench against left-handed pitching.

San Francisco Giants sign Horacio Ramirez and Byung-Hyun Kim. The Giants signed Ramirez to a minor league contract. Remember when the lefty was considered the next great Atlanta Braves starter? Yeah, that was a long time ago.

Injuries have derailed Ramirez’s career and he has been toiling in mediocrity with the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Washington Nationals.

I would be very surprised if he made the Giants’ Opening Day roster.

Kim hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2007 and quite frankly, I didn’t even realize he retired. No matter what Kim accomplished in the majors, he will always be remembered for giving up those home runs in back-to-back games in the World Series against the New York Yankees.

I thought he would retire on the mound right then and there. That was brutal to watch.

Oakland A’s sign Gabe Gross. Another day, another outfielder on the A’s roster. It seems like the A’s have 10 outfielders on their roster.

The former University of Auburn quarterback hit .227 with six home runs and a .326 OBP in 115 games with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009. Gross could be the A’s fourth outfielder in 2010 and his signing could spell the end for Travis Buck in Oakland.

Oakland A’s trade Aaron Miles and a PTBNL to the Cincinnati Reds for Willy Taveras and Adam Rosales. The Reds needed to shed payroll in order to sign Orlando Cabrera, so they shipped Taveras to Oakland. Taveras’ stay with Oakland lasted about two minutes as the A’s promptly designated him for assignment.

These things happen when you have a .559 OPS.

Miles, who was traded to Oakland along with Jake Fox from the Chicago Cubs earlier this offseason, is expected to be Brandon Phillips’ primary backup next season.

One guy who didn’t sign yesterday was Johnny Damon. I got to be honest, I like Damon a lot, but I can’t take it anymore with him this offseason.

It’s getting very annoying reading article after article about what teams may or may not have an interest in him. Just sign with a team, cut your losses, and get it over with.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Jim Edmonds Ends Unofficial Retirement, Signs With Brewers

January 28, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about Jim Thome and whether or not he will be a Hall of Famer five years after he retires. The Thome HOF debate is certainly a fascinating one.

Another potential HOF candidate that will strike up a debate five years after he retires is outfielder Jim Edmonds.

One of Edmonds' many great catches

Edmonds is known as one of the better defensive center fielders of all-time. His acrobatic catches are stuff of legend. I still believe his back to the ball, giving catch against the Kansas City Royals as a member of the California/Anaheim Angels is the best catch I have ever seen by a center fielder.

Offensively, Edmonds has quietly amassed 384 home runs, a .284 average, and a .377 OBP. He is a four-time All Star and has two, top-five MVP finishes in his 16 year career.

It’s a classic argument of is the player SO great defensively, that it elevates him to HOF status even though his offensive numbers might not be there?

If you ask most St. Louis Cardinal fans, they will tell you Edmonds is a first-ballot HOF’er. The reality is, while Edmonds has had a nice career, the only way he will ever see the inside of Cooperstown will be if he goes with his family on a visit.

Now, I am sure I will get some less-than-friendly comments from Cardinal fans telling me how Edmonds is worthy of HOF consideration. Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal day without Cardinal fans crying or whining about something.

But Edmonds is not a HOF’er. He doesn’t have the offensive numbers. They are not even close. Defensively, while Edmonds was great, was he better than Devon White, Torii Hunter, or Andruw Jones?

The reason why Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith made and Omar Vizquel will make the HOF is because they were so much better defensively than anyone else who ever played their position. You can’t say that about Edmonds.

Whether you believe Edmonds is a HOF’er or not, there is no denying he was a very good player, for a good period of time. I thought Edmonds was going to be forced into retirement after not playing the entire 2009 season, but Edmonds isn’t done yet.

According to Tim Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via Twitter, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed the Fullerton, CA native to a minor league contract. Edmonds can make $850,000 if he makes the team and another $1.65 million in incentives.

Edmonds last played in the majors in 2008 with the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs. It looked like his career might have been over with the Padres after hitting only .178 with one home run in 26 games.

Edmonds was released and found is second wind with the Cubs and was really good for them. He hit .256 with 19 home runs and had a .937 OPS in just 86 games. He certainly gave the Cubs a spark and helped them to the best record in the National League.

Why the Cubs or any other team for that matter didn’t at least give Edmonds a shot to make the team in 2009 always was a mystery to me. A team could have certainly used him against righties in a pinch-hitting role.

If Edmonds makes the Brewers out of spring training, he could be used in a pinch-hitting role against righties and a fourth outfielder. Edmonds really slipped defensively in 2008 (-14.1 UZR), so I would doubt the Brewers would use him in a platoon with newly acquired center fielder Carlos Gomez.

The Brewers have to grant Edmonds his release if he’s not on the major league roster by March 25th.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ thghostofmlg

Oakland A’s Sign Ben Sheets

January 26, 2010

There were a lot of teams interested in Ben Sheets. Rumor had it there were at least 15 teams that watched Sheets workout at the University of Louisiana at Monroe last Tuesday.

I thought the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, or maybe even the Seattle Mariners were his most likely landing spots. However, it was another team that swooped in and signed the 31-year-old right-hander.

Sheets is headed to Oakland

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Oakland A’s have signed Sheets to a one-year, $10 million contract. The deal will also include performances bonuses that can net Sheets an extra $2 million.

Well, I am going to have to admit I am a little surprised by the amount of money Sheets got, but I understand the signing for both parties.

For the A’s, this is the same move they pulled last year when they traded for Matt Holliday and signed Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi during the offseason. These moves weren’t made so the A’s can win the AL West, they were made so the A’s can get top prospects back.

The A’s are a young team right now and won’t be competing for the AL West crown in 2010. The A’s signed Sheets in hopes that he comes back next year healthy, so they can trade him for some top hitting or pitching prospects.

Pitchers hold more value at the trade deadline than hitters, so if Sheets stays healthy in 2010, then the A’s can get a significant return for him. If Sheets gets hurt again next year, then he is only on a one-year deal and the A’s aren’t stuck with a long-term disaster.

For Sheets, the A’s make sense for a couple of reasons.

For one, I don’t think any other team was willing to go to $10 million for one year of his services. That is a lot of money for a guy who has made 30 starts just once in the last five years and missed all of 2009.

Sheets took the most money offered and who can blame him? I would have done the same thing.

Secondly, pitching in Oakland is probably good for a pitcher trying to make a comeback. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a pitcher’s ballpark.

With its large foul territory and pitcher friendly dimensions, any pitcher wouldn’t mind pitching in that stadium. Also, the air at night in Oakland gets pretty heavy and a lot of home runs go to die, which helps. Sheets can make some mistakes in Oakland that won’t cost him like they would in let’s say Milwaukee or Texas.

Sheets will be entering his ninth season in the major leagues and has a career record of 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA and is a four-time All Star with the Brewers.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Starting Rotation: National League Central

January 22, 2010

Today, I am going to take a look at the starting rotations for each National League Central team.

Pitchers like Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Roy Oswalt call this division home. This division has quality pitchers throughout.

Here are the starting rotations for each National League Central team as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Chris Carpenter, RHP

2. Adam Wainwright, RHP

3. Kyle Lohse, RHP

4. Brad Penny, RHP

5. TBD

Quick Take – This rotation is very top heavy with Carpenter and Wainwright leading the way. Carpenter’s health is key. If he is healthy, the Cardinals will be favorites to win the division. I like the Penny signing. The Cardinals don’t have a candidate for the fifth starter right now, so look for them to sign someone.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Yovani Gallardo, RHP

2. Randy Wolf, LHP

3. Dave Bush, RHP

4. Doug Davis, LHP

5. Jeff Suppan, RHP

Quick Take – With the additions of Wolf and Davis, this rotation is vastly improved from 2009. Wolf and Davis will give the Brewers innings. Look for Gallardo to continue to develop into an ace. Suppan will battle with Manny Parra for the No.5 starter spot.

Chicago Cubs

1. Carlos Zambrano, RHP

2. Ryan Dempster, RHP

3. Randy Wells, RHP

4. Ted Lilly, LHP

5. Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

Quick Take – This might be the most overrated pitching staff in baseball. Dempster has had one good year in the last seven years and was not worthy of his contract. It’s up in the air whether or not Lilly will be ready for Opening Day. I am starting to wonder if all those innings Zambrano threw earlier in his career is coming back to haunt him now?

Cincinnati Reds

1. Bronson Arroyo, RHP

2. Aaron Harang, RHP

3. Johnny Cueto, RHP

4. Homer Bailey, RHP

5. TBD

Quick Take – This rotation will really miss Edinson Volquez in 2010. Volquez might pitch in 2010, but not until towards the end of the season. Arroyo and Harang are prime trade candidates. The Reds’ No.5 starter spot is open right now. I don’t think it will be Aroldis Chapman to start the season.

Houston Astros

1. Roy Oswalt, RHP

2. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP

3. Brett Myers, RHP

4. Bud Norris, RHP

5. Brian Moehler, RHP

Quick Take – From where this rotation was at the beginning of 2009, the Astros have come a long way. Astros need Oswalt to have a bounce back year. Norris showed potential last season, but needs to cut down on his walks and needs to show development next season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Paul Maholm, LHP

2. Zach Duke, LHP

3. Ross Ohlendorf, RHP

4. Charlie Morton, RHP

5. Kevin Hart, RHP

Quick Take – I really feel bad for Maholm and Duke. If they were on better teams, they would be more recognized and people would know how good they are. Morton came over to the Pirates in the Nate McLouth trade and at 26, he needs to step up and prove he belongs in the major leagues.

Tomorrow, I will have the final installment of this series and take a look at the division where pitching dominates–the National League West.

Brewers Continue To Add Pitching, Sign Doug Davis

January 21, 2010

In 2009, the Milwaukee Brewers’ starters finished last in the National League in ERA (5.37) and last in innings pitched (891). Determined to improve their starting rotation in 2010, the Brewers have aggressively pursued starting pitchers this offseason.

Earlier in this offseason, the Brewers signed LHP Randy Wolf to a three-year contract and today, they have signed another left-handed pitcher to bolster their staff.

Davis is returning to Milwaukee

According to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, the Brewers have signed Doug Davis to a one-year, $5.25 million contract. There is also a $6.5 million mutual option for 2011.

Davis, 34, will be making his second stop in Milwaukee in his career. He pitched for the Brewers from 2003-2006. He compiled a 37-36 record with a 3.92 ERA.

Last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Davis was 9-14 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 203.1 IP (34 starts). While Davis’ WHIP was less than stellar, it’s the IP and starts the Brewers care about the most.

The Brewers desperately need their starters to eat innings in 2010 and Davis can certainly do that. Davis has made 30+ starts five out of the last six years and has pitched 200+ innings four out of those six years.

According to Fangraphs, Davis pitched like a $7.8 million pitcher last season, so at $5.25 million, this is a good deal for the Brewers.

With the additions of Wolf and Davis, along with staff ace Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers pitching staff looks to be much improved in 2010. If the Brewers can get anything out of Dave Bush (kind of useless), Manny Parra (somewhat useless), or Jeff Suppan (completely useless), the Brewers will be back in the playoff hunt next season.

Davis will be entering his 12th season in the majors in 2010 and has a career record of 90-97 with a 4.31 ERA with the Texas Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Brewers.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Ben Sheets Impresses Infront Of Scouts

January 21, 2010

As I wrote in a post last week, former Milwaukee Brewers’ ace Ben Sheets was going to work out in front of scouts from at least 15 teams on Tuesday at the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Sheets threw well on Tuesday

The results of this workout have been reported and Sheets didn’t disappoint.

According to a report on AOL Fanhouse, Sheets first threw 20 fastballs in the workout, topping out at 91 mph. He then threw another 20 pitches, half of them curveballs. In his third session, Sheets’ fastball topped out at 88 mph and the pitcher looked “gassed,” the report said. Sheets is believed to be seeking a two-year deal.

Even so, the scout said, Sheets “looked good physically and was in good shape” and should be equal to or ahead of other pitchers when spring training opens.

“No red flags,” the scout said. “No restrictions. He threw nice and loose.

“It couldn’t have gone any better.”

“I had a good showing today and I showed them what I got,” Sheets said. “I welcomed them to stay because a big part of being healthy is being able to recover … At this point now, I’m only getting better. Each day, I’m only getting healthier. I’m bouncing back really good.”

I am really not surprised Sheets threw well and appeared healthy. As I wrote in the post last week, there was no way on earth Sheets’ agent (Casey Close) would have let Sheets throw unless they both felt he was ready to go.

Expect Sheets to sign with a team in the next couple of weeks. I am still of the belief that the Chicago Cubs will be that team who eventually signs Sheets.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Starting Nine: National League Central

January 15, 2010

Next up in our Starting Nine series is the National League Central. Outside of the St. Louis Cardinals re-signing Matt Holliday, there haven’t been any big-time offensive additions to this division. As a whole, this might be the weakest offensive division in baseball (yes, even passing the NL West).

Let’s take a look at the starting lineups for all six teams in this division as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Skip Schumaker, 2B

2. Brendan Ryan, SS

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Matt Holliday, LF

5. Ryan Ludwick, RF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Colby Rasmus, CF

8. David Freese, 3B

9. Chris Carpenter, P

Quick Take – Re-signing Holliday was crucial to this lineup. Despite having Holliday and Pujols in the three-four spot, this lineup will only be as dynamic as Rasmus and Freese takes them.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B

2. Alcides Escobar, SS

3. Ryan Braun, LF

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Corey Hart, RF

7. Gregg Zaun, C

8. Carlos Gomez, CF

8. Yovani Gallardo, P

Quick Take – The Brewers sacrificed some offense for defense in 2010. This isn’t the powerful Brewers’ lineup of the last couple of years. There are a lot of automatic outs from seven through nine.

Chicago Cubs

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF

2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF

3. Derek Lee, 1B

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

5. Marlon Byrd, CF

6. Geovany Soto, C

7. Ryan Theriot, SS

8. Mike Fontenot, 2B

9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Quick Take – This lineup is getting old in a hurry. If Soriano, Ramirez, and Soto can come back from disappointing 2009 seasons, the Cubs could be in business in 2010. However, I still think they are going to be hard pressed to score runs in 2010.

Cincinnati Reds

1. Drew Stubbs, CF

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B

3. Joey Votto, 1B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Scott Rolen, 3B

6. Ramon Hernandez, C

7. Paul Janish, SS

8. Chris Dickerson, LF

9. Bronson Arroyo, P

Quick Take – This lineup looks good for now and even better for the future. If Bruce can stay healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2010. I would like someone better than Janish at SS, but top prospect Todd Frazier isn’t ready to take over just yet.

Houston Astros

1. Michael Bourn, CF

2. Kaz Matsui, 2B

3. Lance Berkman, 1B

4. Carlos Lee, LF

5. Hunter Pence, RF

6. Pedro Feliz, 3B

7. J.R. Towles, C

8. Tommy Manzella, SS

9. Roy Oswalt, P

Quick Take – This six through nine is brutal. It’s hard to have a top offense when the bottom part of your lineup is this bad. Top catching prospect Jason Castro is not too far away, so this is Towles’ last stand with the Astros.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF

2. Akinori Iwamura, 2B

3. Garrett Jones, 1B

4. Ryan Doumit, C

5. Andy LaRoche, 3B

6. Lastings Milledge, LF

7. Ryan Church, RF

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. Zach Duke, P

Quick Take – I think in order to maximize their offense’s potential, the Pirates will play Jones at first and Church in right instead of playing Jones in right and Jeff Clement at first. The Pirates’ offense will be better in 2010, but will still have a hard time scoring runs on a consistent basis.

Last, but not least, tomorrow we will take a look at the National League West.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Ben Sheets To Hold Audition Next Tuesday

January 14, 2010

Hoping to attract more interest on the free agent market and perhaps a bigger contract, former Milwaukee Brewers’ ace Ben Sheets is holding essentially what becomes an open audition next Tuesday at the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe according to ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian.

According to Kurkjian’s source, six to 10 teams will be in attendance scouting Sheets. I think this is a pretty smart move by Sheets and his agent.

Sheets will throw for teams on Tuesday

Sheets is perhaps the highest risk and highest reward pitcher out of all the high risk pitchers left on the market. At least Erik Bedard pitched last season.

Sheets was on the shelf all of last year.

Sheets missed the entire 2009 season with a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. Sheets thought he might be able to come back after the All-Star break, but never made it back.

In 2008, Sheets made 30+ starts for the first time since 2004. He went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA and struck out 158 in 198.1 innings. However, it was in his final start of the 2008 season trying to get the Brewers in the playoffs, where Sheets torn his flexor tendon.

If Sheets’ arm does feel “fantastic” as he said, then he has everything to gain with this audition. If Sheets shows he still has the velocity and the “stuff,” he and his agent can engage in a bidding war, which will only raise his price.

I would highly doubt Sheets would hold this audition if he wasn’t ready to go. If he is not ready, then him and his agent are the two dumbest people involved in the baseball industry. Well, they would be second and third behind Mark McGwire.

One of the six to ten teams that will view Sheets on Tuesday will be the Chicago Cubs. And that’s where I think Sheets ends up. Ted Lilly won’t be available until late April, early May, so the Cubs could use another pitcher to add depth in their rotation.

However, no matter how well Sheets throws on Tuesday, don’t expect him to get anything more than a one-year, incentive laden deal.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg