Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Treasure Hunting written for Sportsblurb.com

posted by Jon Williams

Have you ever been broke? Have you ever been so broke that you go searching through the pockets of clothing you haven’t worn in months for forgotten dollar bills? Ever tip over the sofa hoping some loose change might fall out. Ever hit the jackpot doing so? I’ve done all of the above at one time or another. When you desperately need to find a player on the waiver wire, when you pull out your 1993 Baseball America Prospect Guide you’re doing the fantasy equivalent of digging in the cushions. Hey, there’s no shame in it. Finding hidden gold is what treasure hunting is all about isn’t it? This is the nothing to lose version of treasure hunting. These guys are gold for 2007 but passing the canary test in 2006 will require you have patience and nothing to lose.

Rich Hill SP Cubs

Rich Hill has not been impressive in his major league stints thus far. Believe it or not this may be to his benefit. Young pitchers in Chicago tend to get hurt. Yeah, I’m blaming it on Dusty Baker. Here’s the Jon Williams Guarantee, Dusty Baker will not be manager of the Cubs in 2007. If he is I’ll eat Trot Nixon’s nasty old baseball cap. Jim Hendry has announced that Baker will finish the 2006 season. GMs don’t make announcements like that unless the manager is in trouble. Dusty Baker is in trouble. Dusty Baker ruined Kerry Wood and Mark Prior; he deserves to be in trouble. Here’s the advice Baker has for Rich Hill according to mlb.com:

"He just has to pretend he's in the Minor Leagues," Baker said. "Sometimes you have to trick yourself. Just tell yourself it's the same game. You've got better hitters, quality hitters, but it's basically the same."

Rich has been dominating in the minors for a couple of seasons now. Extremely dominate. He is 26 years old now so if he doesn’t dominate in the minors he gets released. But Hill hasn’t been just good enough to keep pitching, he’s been outstanding.

2006 AAA Iowa: 100IP/ 15GS/ 1.80era/ 1.03WHIP/ 1.94BB9/ 1.52HR9/ 12.74K9

2006 MLB CHC: 19.1IP/ 4GS/ 9.31era/ 1.97WHIP/ 6.46BB9/ 1.14HR9/ 7.99K9

He’s done this for two seasons now. His 135K are leading the Pacific Coast League. When Hill is in the majors for some reason he completely changes his attitude towards pitching. In the minors he dares guys to hit his best stuff. In the majors he becomes a nibbler trying to pitch on the edges of the plate. As soon as someone clues him in that it is okay to let it loose in the majors he’s going to have success.

Hill has an unhittable 12-to-6 curveball. That combined with a low 90's fastball that he's learned to control (he attributes it to greater mental focus, the coaches say he cleaned up his delivery - whatever, as long as he has, right?) His change-up is constantly improving. And he's a lefty, which guarantees the opportunity will be there. Like I said he's 26 so the time is now. The Cubs should give Hill the chance to finish the season in the majors. He has nothing left to prove in the minors and the Cubs stink and have nothing to lose. It may take him a few starts to find himself so be patient. I could make you a long list of starters that stunk in their first few outings in the majors.

Shin-SooChoo OF Indians

You can call him Big League Choo. Choo, whom the Indians acquired in the Ben Broussard trade, will start in right field against right-handers. Casey Blake will play first against right-handers. Choo doesn’t have amazing power but he seems to be developing adequate power. Adequate power with his ability to get on base, his good speed and very good base stealing ability should make him a very valuable fantasy player. If he’s available grab him. The Mariners only gave him 18 at-bats in the majors.

2006 AAA Tacoma: 375AB/ 70R/ 121H/ 21dbls/ 3tpls/ 13HR/ 48RBI/ 26SB/ 4CS/ .323/.393/.499

The only downside I can see is his lack of experience. The Indians are another team without much to lose. The team is hoping that Choo will allow them to move Grady Sizemore down a bit in the order. Sizemore owners will hate hearing that as it will likely cut into his stolen base totals. Jhonny Peralta owners can be happy that Mark Shapiro didn’t get his first choice for Broussard, SS Erick Aybar.

My bonus nugget for reading this far is Joe Inglett. The man has no real power or base stealing ability. He’s a destitute man’s version of Wade Boggs. He can hit for average and is pretty fair at getting on base. He has a minor league career line of .303/.379/.419.

2006 AA Akron: 64AB/ 20R/ 33H/ 9dbls/ 3HR/ 9RBI/ 7SB/ 3CS/ 11BB/ 4SO .516/.587/.767

2006 AAA Buffalo: 157AB/ 21R/ 47H/ 7dbls/ 2trpls/ 1HR/ 13RBI/ 3SB/ 2CS 13BB/ 24SO

.299/.358/.389

2006 MLB CLE: 46AB/ 8R/ 15H/ 2dbls/ 2trpls/ 1HR/ 6RBI/ 1SB/ 0CS/ 4BB/ 8SO .326/.380/.522

The Indians are looking for a spark and Inglett is providing it right now. The Indians see him as a future utility infielder but with Ronnie Belliard nursing his hamstring injury Inglett is getting an opportunity to prove he can handle full-time responsibility.

Last Week Revisited

Last week Mark looked at Stephen Drew and Jason Windsor. Jason Windsor blew his rotation opportunity by allowing 9 hits and 4 earned runs in just 2 innings. Windsor was sent back to the minors and replaced on the roster by LHP Randy Keisler. Windsor still has a future but the A’s are in a dog fight for the AL West and they can’t afford to develop pitchers right now.

Stephen Drew is probably making Craig Counsel the Arizona version of Wally Pip. Thus far Drew is hitting .302/.348/.512 in 43 at-bats. If you didn’t pick him up it’s too late now.

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