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Monday, April 28, 2003
Updated: May 7, 4:46 PM ET
Ask the Gamer

By Brandon Funston

Brandon "The Gamer" Funston takes your fantasy questions every week. E-mail him your question.

Corey Patterson
Chicago Cubs

Jon, Arab, AL: Corey Patterson is hot right now -- leads the Cubs in RBI. Is this his breakout season? Is he going to produce this well all year or should I look to trade him while is stock is high? What kind of value would Patterson bring?

Gamer: I certainly want give Patterson props for what he has done, thus far. But I'm still not buying into a major breakout season. Remember, seven of his 22 RBI came in one game. Yeah, take those away and he still has a respectable 15 RBI. But April has been his month as a member of the Cubs. His batting average in the first month of the season is roughly 40 points higher than any other month and his OPS is about 125 points higher than in any other month.

Hitting sixth in Chicago's batting order is going to help his RBI opportunities, no doubt, and he's almost assured of at least improving upon last season's totals. But I'm going to remain mostly pessimistic until he proves he can keep it up for more than a month.

Chris, Syracuse, NY: Damaso Marte picked up the save for Chicago yesterday, how close is Billy Koch to losing the closer role?

Gamer: First, let me offer my congrats on that Orangemen national title. Now, on to your question ...

Given that Chicago went out and made a deal to get Koch this offseason, I don't think they'll use a quick hook with him. But, he's certainly been awful -- 9.00 ERA, and .298 BAA. Marte's save the other night was of the two-inning variety, which offers less to be enthusiastic about. Multiple-inning saves don't generally come from closers as it makes it tough for a closer to come back the next night when he's pitched extra innings. That said, if, at some point, Chicago does tire of Koch's failures, Marte is most likely to be next in line. He saved 10 of 12 chances last season and has a nice 2.61 ERA after 11 appearances in '03.

John, NY, NY: Is it time for me to start worrying about Pat Burrell ? With Bob Abreu and Jim Thome sandwiching him in the order, I expected him to at least put up last year's numbers. What do project his numbers to be now?

Last season, Burrell hit .265, 6 HR and 15 RBI in April. He went on to hit .282, 37 HR and 116 RBI. With three games left in April this season, Burrell is hitting .230, 4 HR, 12 RBI. Really, he's not that far off last season's numbers in the first month. Point is, Burrell can turn things on in a hurry. In fact, he's a career .322 hitter in May. Sure, past performance is no guarantee of future return but, like you said, with Abreu and Thome surrounding him, you have to still like his chances.

My expectations for Burrell are that he'll compare roughly to what he did a year ago. Can you really ask for much more, even with Thome around?

Marcus Giles
Second Base
Atlanta Braves

Nish, State College, PA: If I had a choice between Marcus Giles and Mark Ellis, who would you recommend I take?

Gamer: For me, this question was basically answered in '98. That was the year that Giles hit .329, 37 HR, 108 RBI, 111 R and 12 SB in his first season of Single A ball. I don't care who you are or where you are, a second baseman who hits 37 home runs at any level is a rare commodity. Giles' minor league numbers were really solid -- .322 BA, .938 OPS. Ellis also put up promising numbers in the minors, but to a lesser degree. And he didn't show near the power potential that Giles did.

Giles has impressed Atlanta brass with his defense this year to the point where they no longer feel like second base is a question mark. It looks like Giles is settling in for the long haul. He's currently on pace for 26 home runs and 123 runs scored. He's also second in the NL with a .362 batting average and has been moved up in the lineup from No. 8 to No. 2. That should keep him stocked in the runs department.

Ellis is also having a stellar '03 campaign, but his upside seems more on the "solid" side and not the "potential All-Star" side that I deem Giles to be.

Chuck, Philadelphia, PA: I was just wondering how much potential Tim Redding has and how good could he be this year?

I think Redding can be very good. Along with Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller, Carlos Hernandez and, before injuries forced him into relief, Brad Lidge, Redding was to be part of an arsenal of young arms that would rival any in the league. The interesting thing about Redding is that his minor league strikeout numbers, BAA, walks, home runs allowed and hits allowed were excellent. Considering this, his ERA of 3.66 was a little on the high side. It's not something I'd worry about though. Especially the way Redding has pitched this season. Four of his five starts have been quality starts (at least six innings and no more than three runs allowed).

Redding can hit the mid-90's with his fastball and he mixes in a power curve among a couple other pitches. But, given the number of quality good young pitchers that have emerged this season -- Jake Peavy, Runelvys Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Adam Eaton, Gil Meche, Tony Armas, Zach Day, Ted Lilly, Damian Moss, Kyle Lohse, Ricardo Rodriguez, Casey Fossum, Kurt Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert, etc. -- Redding is going to have a hard time cracking the rotation of a 10- or 12-team ML universe team. I'm not saying he doesn't have the ability, but he seems best suited as a spot start option for the time being. He's a guy to keep on your radar screen, though.