Petco Park Factor: NA (first season)
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: NA 2002: -$3 2003: $4
Peavy, whose minor league ratios (Hit Rate = .75; K/BB Ratio = 3.58 with a 1.26 K/IP Rate; HR Rate = .053) promise great things, skipped AAA and has been inconsistent since his call-up. However, his numbers in the second half last year improved, so there's a good chance the time invested in having him face major league hitters is about to pay off. His eyesore of a HR rate had not been a problem in the minors, so there's reason to hope he can overcome that problem. He has a low 90s sinking fastball, slider and change. Peavy has had a strained oblique this spring, the same problem that hampered him last summer.
Values ~ 2000: $3 2001: $3 2002: -$2 2003: $2
Eaton missed most of 2002 following Tommy John surgery; but turned in an encouraging year last season, pitching slightly better in the second half. His minor league career was very atypical in that his hit rate was much higher in the lower minors than it has been at the AA and AAA levels. Eaton throws a low 90s fastball and curve. This is a good time to add him to your staff.
Values ~ 2000: $19 2001: $1 2002: $16 2003: $10
Wells throws strikes. As his K/BB ratio indicates, his plate command is outstanding. Wells relies primarily on a 92 mph fastball that he moves around the plate well and a curve with a huge break. He also throws a slider and a change. When I last watched him, he kept hitters guessing, but would get hit when he made a mistake. He turns 41 in May and is coming off back surgery to correct a problem that hampered him late in the year. Since 1996, Wells' only good season have come as a Yankee. Whether he will be able to focus as well for his hometown team adds to the challenge for owners trying to appraise Wells. Wells, who had off-season back surgery and reportedly lost 30 pounds to take some of the strain off his back was reported to have had some tightness early this spring. Owners intending to bid on Wells should monitor this situation.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: $6 2002: $4 2003: $4
Lawrence has a mid-80s 2-seam fastball with late left-to-right tailing movement and a slider that also has late movement. He's also said to have a change, but relied on the sinker/slider combination when I saw him. He works both sides of the plate and had excellent control in the game I watched, hitting his spots and getting ahead of hitters. He also keeps the ball down well as he gets a lot of groundball outs and doesn't get hurt by the home run. Last year his ratios were mixed; while he improved his hit rate 11%, his K rate dropped 22% and his HR rate jumped 68%. Assuming he can get his HR rate under control again, he looks like a solid if unspectacular buy and could offer a little upside. Lawrence, who doesn't throw hard to begin with is reported to have lost velocity and to struggling with his command this spring. This could be a red flag.
Values ~ 2000: -$1 2001: -$3 2002: -$4 2003: $1
Hitchcock, whose career has been plagued with injuries in recent years and who had difficulty getting consistent work in NY, pitched well after a mid-season trade to St Louis except for giving up quite a few HRs. Hitchcock has a high 80s fastball and an assortment of off-speed and breaking pitches - slider, splitter and change. When I last watched a game he pitched, he did little to establish the inside of the plate and hitters were looking for the off-speed stuff and feasting on mistakes in the zone. His hit rate has been above average for each of the last four years and his HR rate has always been on the high side. However, his K rate never dropped off the charts, which I always thought was encouraging. I think this return to SD, where he had prior success is a good move for him. I like him as a late roster addition. He's apparently won the #5 starter job, but is expected to open the season at AAA to get work in until he's needed.
Values ~ 2000: -$7 2001: $2 2002: $6 2003: -$6
Valdes struggled through an injury-plagued 2003, DL'd with shoulder tendinitis in the first half and patellar tendinitis later in the season. The result was a very disappointing season. He throws primarily a high 80s fastball and curve with absolutely pinpoint control and will mix in a change. I've liked Valdes in the past, but he had been living on the edge for a while and with the deterioration of his ratios over recent seasons, he's reached a point where he's better regarded as a bench pick or free agent.
Values ~ 2000: $32 2001: $25 2002: $21 2003: $2
Hoffman had surgery last spring to remove part of his clavicle and although he missed most of the year, he returned late to show enough to encourage owners that he'll be able to return in 2004. Hoffman has lost something off his fastball as the erosion of values in recent years shows. It peaks at about 90. He has a terrific change that starts in the middle of the plate and falls down and in to RH hitters and is clearly his out pitch. The fastball and occasional slider vary his repertoire. He's expected to reassume closing duties this year.
Values ~ 2000: $7 2001: $8 2002: NA 2003: $18
Beck had had Tommy John surgery and missed 2002 but returned last year in midseason to bail SD out of their closing predicament. When I saw him last (before last year), he was still getting good movement on his pitches, but his velocity was down to 86. His ratios subsequently improved and may suggest he regained some velocity. Beck is a great competitor and a good guy to root for. He's resigned to set up Hoffman and provide insurance and is worth a bid. Beck will miss time to deal with personal problems. No timetable has been given for his return, but it makes bidding on him dicey.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: NA 2002: NA 2003: NA
Otsuka has been a closer in the Japanese Leagues. Over the last three years, his ratios have been: Hit Rate = .67; K/BB Ratio = 8.35 with a stellar .16 walk rate; HR Rate = .106. These numbers, as impressive as they are, pale in comparison to the numbers Sasaki posted in the three years prior to his joining Seattle. Using the relationship of Sasaki's numbers in Japan to how he did in the US and projecting them onto Otsuka's numbers suggests something like this: Hit Rate = .83; K/BB Ratio = 4.21; HR Rate = .165. The outlier here is of course the high HR rate and may be a factor of park effects which I have not attempted to take into account. Sasaki's HR rate in Japan was about half Otsuka's and Sasaki's doubled in the US despite having Safeco as a home ballpark.
Values ~ 2000: -$11 2001: $7 2002: $6 2003: $2
Signed to serve as injury insurance for Hoffman, Witasick himself went down last spring with a strained forearm and missed out on a chance to serve as closer. When he returned, his ratios regressed to his poor pre-2001 levels. When I last saw Witasick, he had reduced his repertoire to a fastball in the 92-94 mph range and a power slider that made him very effective. Filler pick.
Values ~ 2000: -$1 2001: $1 2002: -$6 2003: $3
Linebrink was claimed off waivers last spring and gave SD a serviceable year in middle relief, but there's no fantasy value here.
Values ~ 2000: $4 2001: -$2 2002: $12 2003: $1
Osuna was thought to be the Dodgers' closer-in-waiting before elbow problems cost him most of the '99 season. His '00 season was delayed, but I saw a midseason appearance and Osuna has good stuff. His fastball was in the low 90s with good movement and he mixed in a slider and change. He missed most of 2001 following shoulder surgery but returned last year to pitch effectively both as a set-up man and part-time closer. He struggled again last year with injuries and didn't return much value, so by now we know what we're going to get here: effectiveness when healthy but cannot be relied upon to stay that way. Free agent pick-up candidate as a result.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: -$2 2002: -$11 2003: -$3
Oropesa defected from the Cuban national team and did not see his wife or the son that was born after his defection for three years. His path to the majors was even longer. He was in the minors since '94 and has made side trips to Taiwan and Mexico before unexpectedly making the Phils in 2001. He throws a 90ish fastball and a breaking pitch with a funky delivery that makes his stuff difficult for LH hitters to pick up. He's a good guy to root for, but not worth adding to your list.
Values ~ 2000: NA 2001: NA 2002: NA 2003: NA
Szuminski is a Rule V pick who will have to stay on the SD roster all year to be retained. He throws a sinking fastball. Last year, working primarily at A/AA levels his ratios were: Hit Rate = .94; K/BB Ratio = 2.52; HR Rate = .010. In 283 minor league innings so far Szuminski has given up just 10 HRs, indicating he can keep the ball in the park and get a lot of ground ball outs. Although he could probably benefit from some additional time in the minors, it's possible he can help here.