Around the Diamond: The Top 30 First Basemen, the Royals Winning, and More

Josh BAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2009

The most boring part of the baseball year has become a little more entertaining.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a couple weeks, the most overhyped part of the baseball season. Seriously, what is there to do?

But this year is different. Above average pitchers such as Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, and Randy Wolf still find themselves jobless. And position players like Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson, and Adam Dunn may be screwed over once everyone else reports.

More offseason fun along with this weekly addition of "Around the Diamond" should help you get through this time which should prevent you from going through desperate measures like looking up the preseason's ERA leaders or religiously watching hot stove reports on ESPN.

The biggest winner: The Royals

Weren't the Royals gonna try to be competitive in 2009? I can't say that Coco Crisp, Mike Jacobs, and supersub Willie Bloomquist will put you over the top.

Why are the Royals the winners out of all teams this week? Two words: Zach Greinke.

Greinke has agreed to a four-year deal worth $38 million, buying out his arbitration years and extending him for two more years.

At 24 last year, Greinke finally lived up to the hype he received as the sixth overall pick of 2002, with a 3.47 ERA as a full-time starter and a K/BB ratio of 183/56.

The Royals making a good move deserves a celebration and that's what they get with the honor of this week's biggest winner.

The biggest loser: Anyone involved with Jason Varitek or Joe Torre

Both of the "evil empires" are having a bad week, whether the second one realizes it or not.

Torre's new book "The Yankee Years" is all over the media and it has made both him and the Yankees look bad.

Many Yankee fans have lost respect for Torre and the Yankees have become this year's Patriots as the team that the media loves but finds lots of negative stories that aren't really that big.

Stories from "The Yankee Years" probably happen all the time. Normally, no one would care, but it's the Yankees.

The Red Sox aren't doing too well either, with a one year deal to Jason Varitek worth $5 million with a team option. This is a rare kind of deal where both the player, the team, and the agent lose.

Even after Varitek declined a deal worth up to $12 million, he's still being overpaid as an offensive catcher with a 73 OPS+.

He's often praised for "game calling ability" and "clubhouse leadership," but game calling ability is too impossible to judge to declare Varitek superior.

Top 30 First Basemen

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Lance Berkman
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Justin Morneau
  6. Ryan Howard
  7. Prince Fielder
  8. Adrian Gonzalez
  9. Aubrey Huff
  10. Kevin Youkilis
  11. Joey Votto
  12. Carlos Delgado
  13. Carlos Pena
  14. Derrek Lee
  15. David Ortiz
  16. James Loney
  17. Chris Davis
  18. Jorge Cantu
  19. Jim Thome
  20. Adam LaRoche
  21. Jason Giambi
  22. Hank Blalock
  23. Conor Jackson
  24. Ryan Garko
  25. Garret Atkins
  26. Paul Konerko
  27. Mike Jacobs
  28. Casey Kotchman
  29. Lyle Overbay
  30. Billy Butler

Fantasy Sleepers of the Week (or however often I feel like doing this)

With hitting so hard to come by at second base, you might try hard for an Utley or a Kinsler. If you pass on the big names, you might end up feeling good with Jose Lopez of the Mariners. Lopez hit 17 homers last season and his power numbers keep increasing at 25. Thanks partly to Ichiro, Lopez was third among second basemen in RBI with 89.

Take a moment to compare the numbers of Jesse Litsch of the Blue Jays and Matt Cain. Both are 23. In 2008, Litsch had a lower ERA, less walks, and a lower WHIP. What sets Cain apart is his strikeout numbers (186 to Litsch's 99), but how many drafts will you see Litsch close to Cain?

Keep the A's Travis Buck in mind on draft day. You could probably get him in one of the last rounds. Buck had a monster rookie year in 2007 with a 130 OPS+. Injuries and early inconsistency made for an unimpressive 2008. He spent most of the season in the minors.

But when the 2005 first-round pick was called up in September, his September splits were .367/.415/.673.

Big Deal: this week's really big news

Civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois once said, "The slave went free, stood for a brief moment in the sun, then moved back towards slavery."

You think he was talking about new Mariner Garret Olsen? Traded from the Orioles to the Cubs a week earlier, Olsen had a chance to win. But Olsen was sent with Ronny Cedeno to Seattle for Aaron Heilman.

Seems to me like a good trade for both teams. The Mariners get two more young players for the rebuilding process and the Cubs get another starter to complete the rotation.

Heilman was a consistent relief pitcher before 2008, when he had a 5.21 ERA. But reliever to starter transitions seem to have worked well in the past. Other examples are Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster, and Justin Duchscherer.

Two more long-term deals are reached with the Rockies' Ubaldo Jiminez and the Pirates' Paul Maholm.

Jiminez managed to have a 3.99 ERA while playing in Coors. In fact, he had a 3.31 ERA at home. He also has one of the hardest fastballs in the majors. The deal is worth $10 million over four years with two club options.

Maholm was one of the lone bright spots of the Pirates rotation. The 26 year old had a 3.71 ERA. Control has always been his problem, but if the new pitching coach is competent, Maholm will be less streaky. The deal is worth $13.75 million over three years with a club option for 2012.

The Lightning Round

Sean Casey has retired. He only made the postseason once as an everyday player and that was with the Tigers in 2006. His career postseason average is .410. But Casey may be most remembered for being a great teammate, voted the best teammate in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll.

But if you think Casey was on crappy teams, you can't feel too good about Mike Sweeney signing with the Mariners. Sweeney has never made the postseason and he probably won't make it next year. His career 119 OPS+ is more than respectable, but being on the Royals for 13 years really held him back.

Jon Garland signed with the Diamondbacks on a one-year deal with a club option. Garland's walk totals and WHIP have steadily increased since his championship season with the White Sox, but perhaps his new spacious home park will help the cause.

Russ Springer has signed with the A's. Springer's ERA was 2.32 last season at 39 years of age. He would have been a type-A free agent, but the Cardinals didn't offer arbitration.

I don't know if it's because the Cards have done hardly anything since Walt Jocketty left, but when a relief pitcher is a type A, you need to offer arb, especially when you need a relief pitcher.

Eric Hinske signed with the Pirates. There goes his streak of consecutive World Series appearances. Hinske hit 20 home runs with the Rays in 381 AB's.

At 5'11", Juan Uribe is a Giant. They are without a proven player at second and third, so his versatility will contribute to a possible playoff run for San Francisco (anything's possible in the NL West).


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