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U.S. Cellular Park Park Factors: Hits 99; Runs 101; HRs 130

(100 is average, under 100 is favorable to pitchers)

Estaban Loaiza

Values ~  2000:  $5     2001:  -$3     2002:  -$7     2003:  $27

Loaiza's 2003 season was completely unexpected. He added a more effective change and movement to his fastball and as a result, his K rate was 51% above his previous 8-year career figure and his hit rate improved by 28%. Loaiza mixes a fastball, curve, slider and change. Loaiza was less effective late in the year which, along with his 8 preceding seasons of mediocrity should give owners pause from bidding him up to last year's value.

Mark Buehrle

Values ~  2000:  $4     2001:  $24     2002:  $16     2003:  $7

Buehrle's key ratios declined for the second consecutive year. His hit rate went up 10% after sustaining a 16% increase the year before and his walk rate increased 4% following a 17% increase. His K rate meanwhile declined 8% on top of a 2% drop. Buehrle is a control pitcher and needs both to locate his pitches and to mix his assortment well to be effective. He complements his high 80s fastball with a curve, change and cut fastball that keep hitters off-balance. He pitched better after struggling throughout May. His low K rate in particular is an indication he may not be the top of rotation starter he appeared to be in 2001, but he's probably a good mid-rotation pick and may deliver value higher than last year.

Jon Garland

Values ~  2000:  -$6     2001:  $2     2002:  $1     2003:  $4

Garland is just 24 and was rushed through the system. He features generally low walk rates in the minors but his other ratios have been unspectacular and has struggled to achieve consistency with the White Sox. Having said that, his numbers for 2003 look an awful lot like 2002. He throws a low 90s sinker that has been compared with Kevin Brown's and is working to improve his slider and change. When I watched him, I felt that the movement he was getting was inconsistent; on one pitch it looked great, then the next few would seem very ordinary. Although the ratios don't recommend him yet, I would gamble that he's about at the point where he should start gaining more confidence and command.

Scott Schoeneweis

Values ~  2000:  -$4     2001:  -$6     2002:  $1     2003:  $3

Schoeneweis proved in previous years that, despite his wishes to start, he's more effective out of the bullpen. He showed good control in the game I watched him pitch, getting ahead of hitters and not walking a batter. He has an effective sinker to go with his fastball and got a tremendous number of ground ball outs and a couple of timely DPs. His attempts to add an offspeed pitch were unsuccessful and probably caused the switch to relief. Inexplicable, Chicago appears to be counting on Schoeneweis to start. No value until he does a Loaiza..

Danny Wright

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  -$5     2002:  $0     2003:  -$8

Wright had an inflamed elbow to start the season on the DL and he failed to pitch well after his return. He has an average to above-average fastball and an excellent knuckle-curve when he's healthy. Wright is having a strong spring and appears to have won the #5 starter role.

Billy Koch

Values ~  2000:  $32     2001:  $16     2002:  $33     2003:  $5

Koch's fastball used to hit the century mark but reports this spring put him in the low 90s. He will mix in a slider, change and splitter. He's criticized for not having movement on his fastball, and has tried to adjust his delivery to correct the problem. All of his key ratios were worse with the move to Chicago last year and he lost his job as closer. Koch can have difficulty locating his pitches and his walk rate continues to be very high. He's going into the season as the White Sox closer, but he's not going to command the prices he once did. Anyone taking the gamble here will need a contingency plan for saves.

Damaso Marte

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  -$2     2002:  $12     2003:  $19

Marte is a journeyman lefty who has twice assumed the closer role in Chicago mid-season. He throws a low 90s fastball that he sometimes cuts and a slider and is very tough on lefties as a result. The very favorable HR rate may be deceptive, he's a flyball pitcher.

Cliff Politte

Values ~  2000:  $5     2001:  $4     2002:  $5     2003:  $5

Politte has a fastball and an excellent slider. His lack of an effective off-speed pitch is thought to make him better suited to relief and possibly to closing. He apparently had the job after Escobar abdicated the role last season, but a strained shoulder limited his effectiveness and ultimately landed him on the DL. If he's healthy he will probably set-up and could come in for some saves if Koch struggles again, so he's worth monitoring this spring.

Shingo Takatsu

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  NA     2002:  NA     2003:  NA

Takatsu has been a closer in the Japanese Leagues. He's 34 and is primarily a sidearming sinkerballer. Over the last three years, his ratios have been: Hit Rate = .95; K/BB Ratio = 2.07; HR Rate = .118. These numbers are nowhere near Sasaki's numbers nor even Otsuka's in the Japanese League. Using the relationship of Sasaki's numbers in Japan to how he did in the US and projecting them onto Takatsu's numbers suggests something like this: Hit Rate = 1.29; K/BB Ratio = 1.11; HR Rate = .222. I can't imagine that he would actually be that bad, but I don't think we're looking at the next Sasaki. Takatsu's spring has been sufficiently poor that he could be sent to the minors.

Kelly Wunsch

Values ~  2000:  $10     2001:  $0     2002:  $3     2003:  $4

Wunsch appears to be fully recovered from his 2001 shoulder surgery, although he missed some time last year with a strained muscle in his side. He's a sidearming lefty with a high 80's fastball who can change speeds. He keeps the ball down and gets an extraordinary number of ground balls. He's effective against LH batters, but RH hitters get a better look at him, so he's used as a situational lefty. Little chance to build value. He'll be on the DL to start the season.

Mike Jackson

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  $2     2002:  $4     2003:  NA

Despite being out of baseball last year, the 39-year old Jackson appears to have won a spot in the Chisox pen.

Neal Cotts

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  NA     2002:  NA     2003:  -$2

Cotts was putting up outstanding numbers at AA (Hit Rate = .58; K/BB Ratio = 2.34 with better than a strikeout an inning; HR Rate = .019) when he was promoted to the White Sox. However, his walk rate was very high and putting him into the midst of a pennant race in just his second full professional season was the kind of poor judgment the White Sox have frequently displayed toward their young pitching prospects. Chicago has a history of this sort of thing and their track record of rushing young arms to the majors has more debits than plusses at this point. He's said to have a good slider and average fastball.

Jon Adkins

Values ~  2000:  NA     2001:  NA     2002:  NA     2003:  $1

Adkins' minor league career has been characterized by high hit rates and low strikeout rates. Last year at AAA he recorded a hit rate below 1.0 for the first time in the upper minors, but his K rate was an abysmal .48. There's little chance he'll succeed at the major league level with that.


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