Turner Field Park Factors: Hits 96; Runs 96; HRs 96
(100 is average, under 100 is favorable to pitchers)Russ Ortiz
Values ~ 2000: -$4 2001: $17 2002: $7 2003: $13
Ortiz looks like a different pitcher from what I remember seeing a couple of years ago. The velocity on his fastball is down to the 90-91 range and he throws with more of a short-arm motion. However, he still has an excellent late-breaking curve and a change-up he uses infrequently. His hit and K rates improved slightly with the move to Atlanta last year but he continues to walk a lot of batters (he's averaged over 100 walks per season over the past 5 years. That he has been effective in 4 of those 5 years is remarkable. I would expect him to be bid up in most leagues based on recent accomplishments, but I'll recommend a more conservative price.
Values ~ 2000: $16 2001: -$17 2002: -$33 2003: $5
Atlanta's reclamation of Hampton after the Coors disaster was a modest success. Although he delivered modest value to owners, he fell short of his Houston/NY years. He brought his hit rate under 1.00/IP and even made a 19% improvement in his walk rate. Hampton has an impressive arsenal of pitches - low 90s fastball, sinker, cutter, change, slider and curve. It's worth noting Hampton pitched better as the year progressed so it's possible he's regained some confidence and could offer a little additional increase in value in 2004.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: $4 2002: -$6 2003: $4
Thomson works up and down, mixing an 88-91 4-seamer with a sinker that arrives about 5 mph slower. He also has a slider that he didn't add in until the later innings in the game I saw. He worked mostly to the outer half, coming inside occasionally to try to keep batters honest. I've always been impressed with Thomson when I've seen him pitch and, to his credit, he's managed to deliver positive values pitching in the most extreme hitter's parks in each league. I like him to build value this year.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: NA 2002: NA 2003: $2
Ramirez blew out his elbow in 2001 and missed most of the year. However, he rebounded well and after having an impressive spring earned a spot in the Atlanta rotation. He's a finesse lefty, doesn't overpower anyone and needs to locate to be effective.
Values ~ 2000: $3 2001: -$4 2002: -$10 2003: -$12
Wright has had repeated surgeries, and his once-promising career was pretty much in tatters until he emerged as a reliever last year. It wasn't an unqualified success as the value and ratios graph show. When I saw him last, which admittedly was a while ago and may therefore no longer be relevant, Wright was depending too heavily on his mid-90's fastball in the early innings and hitters were jumping on it. After getting into repeated trouble, his pitching coach visited the mound and he began to mix in sliders, curves and changes to much greater effect. Wright's ball has great movement and he has trouble throwing it for strikes at times. Wright is emerging as the likely #5 starter and claims he's able to get better extension to get sink on his pitches.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: $4 2002: -$4 2003: -$7
The Cubs have been concerned that Cruz lacks durability (he reported to camp last year barely weighing 150). That, plus a lack of control has kept him primarily in the bullpen last two years despite the impressive debut he made in eight late season starts in 2001. He's been considered a top prospect and dominated AAA hitters during a demotion last year. His minor league hit and K rates are outstanding, so the stuff (mid 90s fastball, late-breaking slider and change) is there even though he hasn't had success with it at the major league level. Cruz has pitched better in his starts than in relief so far but last year was pretty much a lost year in Chicago. I still think there's a good pitcher here.
Values ~ 2000: -$7 2001: $1 2002: $16 2003: NA
Byrd has to command the plate to be effective. Byrd has a lot of movement on his pitches and when he is effective, he moves the ball around well being sure to take command of the inner half of the plate. In '99 he led the NL with 17 HBP, but after triggering a bench-clearing brawl, the deeply religious Byrd became a different pitcher. I didn't see him pitch in 2002, but I assume he used both sides of the plate more effectively. His fastball is high 80ís and runs in on RH hitters' hands, he works breaking pitches to locations and throws a lot of change-ups. Byrd had ligament transplant surgery and is reported to be coming along faster than expected with a return in May/June possible.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: $11 2002: $30 2003: $34
Smoltz lost all of '00 to elbow surgery but returned with his velocity intact. He had another procedure done on the elbow at the end of last season but should be ready to return. Smoltz has at least 4 outstanding pitches and can throw them all for strikes. His fastball is in the mid-90s, he has outstanding break on both his curve and slider and mixes in an occasional splitter. Smoltz' ratios have been outstanding. He took like a duck to water to closing and should be a premier value again this season. Although he's made some noise about returning to the rotation, the Braves have no plans to start him. There's been some speculation that Smoltz will be used on a more regular basis this year, appearing in some blowouts and missing some save opportunities; if true, some other members of the Brave pen should pick up a few dollars in value and Smoltz will be overvalued at this price.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: -$13 2002: $0 2003: $10
I watched Reitsma pitch impressively in a minor league game in 2000 on his comeback from a broken elbow. He has a low 90s fastball, good curve and change and has shown excellent control but his stuff isn't overpowering. So far during his career, Reitsma has had greater success working in relief than as a starter (.93 hit rate vs. 1.15; .79 K rate vs. .51; 3.3 K/BB Ratio vs. 1.74) and he was successful closing games at the end of the season. He is prone to giving up HRs.
Values ~ 2000: $24 2001: $17 2002: $5 2003: -$6
Alfonseca opened the season on the DL with a strained hamstring. When he returned he never regained his closer's role. His ratios have been in general decline anyway and last year's 17% increase in his hit rate helped to justify Baker's decision. He throws a high 90s fastball, slider and change and gets a lot of groundball outs. Mazzone and Cox have gotten mileage from apparent lost causes in the past, plus it's nice insurance to have a former closer on staff in case Smoltz' elbow acts up again. Toward that end, Mazzone has been working on improving Alfonseca's change this spring. Possible back-up buy for Smoltz owners; otherwise little cause for interest at this point.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: NA 2002: -$3 2003: $3
Has a fastball that reaches 95 and a sinker with good movement. He was used last year increasingly in situational match-ups and improved some of his ratios as a result. He's been hampered this spring by shoulder pain.
Values ~ 2000: $0 2001: -$3 2002: $2 2003: -$5
Almanza throws a 88-92 mph fastball, a slow curve and possibly a change. Almanza noticeably slowed his delivery on his slow stuff when I saw him so if Cox and Mazzone can get him to quit tipping what he's throwing he could develop. No interest until he shows more. Almanza had elbow surgery in the off-season and it has slowed his return this spring to the extent that he may not be ready on opening day.
Values ~ 2000: $1 2001: -$10 2002: -$3 2003: $6
Cunnane signed as a NDFA, consequently, he's a guy to root for since he wasn't expected to make the majors. He's been something of a journeyman in recent years and spent most of 2003 at AAA, consequently it was completely unexpected when he stepped in to close 3 games while Smoltz was on the shelf late in the year. He has a pretty good fastball but he's been hittable most of his career and is very susceptible to the long-ball. I'm going to assume last year's brief showing was a fluke until he does it over a longer haul.
Values ~ 2000: -$4 2001: -$4 2002: $1 2003: -$2
Nitkowski's numbers had been trending the wrong direction for a few years and he toiled in the minors for most of the last two years. He's got a low 90s fastball and good breaking pitch but his walk rate has been trending higher and he's given up better than a hit an inning in recent major league seasons. He's pitched his way into the Braves bullpen to start the season but he'll have to pitch better over some length of time before anyone should take interest.