- Jamey Wright is the answer, but only if the question is, "What would Russ Ortiz's career numbers look like if he had played in Coors Field?" I'll give anyone a free pass after pitching in Coors, but Wright showed nothing in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Omaha, Oklahoma, or Colorado Springs to indicate he'll ever be more than a below-average pitcher. I hope to be proven wrong, and the free pass given to Coors victims does extend quite a bit.
A lot of my anti-Wright sentiments come from his yicky K/BB ratios, and from the fact he strikes out less than five batters for every nine innings he pitches. He has, however, been able to parlay those awful peripherals into three full major-league seasons with an ERA under 5.00, all in hitter's parks. Maybe walks and strikeouts aren't the best way to measure a wild groundball pitcher like Wright, just as they often shortchanged the best years of Ortiz's career. I have absolutely no interest in watching a pitcher who averages a walk every other inning. That's just boring baseball. But with a spacious ballpark and renewed confidence, maybe Wright can approximate the performance turned in by Brett Tomko last year. Doubtful, but March isn't the time to completely write a player off.
- Hey. That's kind of fun. With a new workout regiment and a clearly defined role, maybe Jason Ellison can approximate the performance turned in by Dave Roberts last year. Doubtful, but...well, just doubtful. I'm a sucker for the puff stories that include things like, "Player X decided to get stronger in the offseason," and Ellison has certainly been backing it up with his spring stats. However, I'll keep the cynicism up until June. Were it up to me, Linden would make the team and Ellison would be starting for the Marlins, a team desperate for any sort of center fielder.
I also wouldn't trade Linden. Yes, he looked like a bastard child of J.R. Phillips born without thumbs in his major league time the last two seasons, but Linden led the minors in slugging percentage. I don't care if a player is repeating a league for the 17th time, and I don't care if the player is in the Pacific Coast League, you can't just discard that kind of power before making absolutely sure it isn't going to translate to the majors. His trade value isn't going to be any higher, but that doesn't make a difference when the value is negligible to begin with.
- With new hamstrings taken from a decathlete's cadaver and twenty less pounds, maybe Armando Benitez can approximate the performance turned in by Brad Lidge last year. Doubtful, but March isn't the time to completely write a player off.
Wait, no, I think I've filed the initial paperwork which allows me to completely write Benitez off. When pitchers like Matt Cain or Matt Morris have lofty ERAs in the spring, it isn't a big concern. Nothing should be in spring training. The case of Benitez is different, however. At no point in his young Giants career has he shown even a glimmer of the talent which made him rich. The injury he had was serious, and it's understandable if the road to recovery is a long one, but it's disconcerting when Felipe Alou is getting excited about low-90s fastballs. Benitez didn't look like much of a pitcher before the injury, he didn't look so hot when he was rushed back, and the trend is continuing into April.
I remember going to Arizona in March of 2000, and watching a post-surgery Robb Nen warm in the bullpen. It was a sad and depressing event. The fastballs couldn't get past the typical community college benchwarmer, and the sliders never came close to the plate. He came in to pitch in the game, and was slapped around by Milwaukee's Z-team for six batters. At that point, I wouldn't have picked Nen in a fantasy draft if it were a choice between him and an injured Rich Loiselle. Nen shut me up, and done shut me up right, having one of the best seasons of his career.
The moral of the story? I'm still ready to write off Benitez, even after that heartwarming anecdote.
Panic-free time allotted to Wright: Ten starts
Panic-free time allotted to Ellison: 100 at-bats
Panic-free time allotted to Benitez: One double allowed. It ain't fair, but it's the truth.