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Thursday, December 9, 2004
FLB: Karabell Random Thoughts

By Eric Karabell
ESPN Games Fantasy Edge

It's the second week of December, and while the fantasy football playoffs begin this week, I've got the fever for fantasy baseball. I'm thinking about both Kenny Lofton and Kevin Jones, can't decide between Trent Green and Troy Glaus. ... anyway, here are some random fantasy baseball thoughts.

All news and information is as of Thursday, Dec. 9.

  • Phillies don't get any younger by signing Jon Lieber and trading for Kenny Lofton, but both these guys will help fantasy owners out more than they did last season. For Lofton, he is probably the Phils' leadoff hitter five days a week, and for at least 400 at-bats. The Yankees didn't use Lofton nearly enough, or the right way. Watch him get on base - the last three seasons his OBP was always around .350 - and the Phils will score runs behind him. Could be 100 runs coming if he stays healthy. And with Lieber, he's not going to give up the 43 homers Eric Milton did. Lieber is a groundball pitcher - like Cory Lidle - and while each of these fellas should allow more hits than innings and strike out maybe 120 guys, either could win 15 games. Lieber walked 18 batters last season. Back in the NL he'll lower that ERA as well.

  • The White Sox have replaced Magglio Ordonez with ... Jermaine Dye? Ugh, not the same player, fellas. Ordonez may not be the same player as he was now that he has the knee injury, but Dye isn't exactly Cal Ripken Jr. either. Dye reached highs of 24 homers and 86 RBI the last two seasons. I could see the homers go up to 30 now that half the games are in that Chicago launching pad - no stadium saw more homers hit - but he's still not durable and won't be any more recommended by me in the spring as a top 30 outfielder. Meanwhile, the White Sox did make a good move, letting batting average killer Jose Valentin walk, and giving the SS job to Juan Uribe. This is good for fantasy owners. This means Uribe, who all of a sudden learned how to hit for power AFTER leaving Coors Field, will play more, and could be a 30-homer threat, and Willie Harris should be the only second baseman on the team. Let's hope that great speed actually translates into stolen bases next year.

  • Good for the Yankees, I suppose, for replacing Jon Lieber with Jaret Wright and Miguel Cairo with Tony Womack. But I don't like the moves for real life or fantasy. Wright had a very nice season for the Braves, and he is younger than Lieber, but three years? Can Wright do this again? As a fantasy owner, I'm avoiding him. Womack is really nothing special for fantasy. He's more valuable than Cairo, but probably won't hit for as high an average, and he's no longer a big basestealer. Strange moves, and fantasy owners would be wise not to overrate them.

  • Not sure why Troy Glaus would want to go to the Diamondbacks, a team not expected to contend, but this could be proof that Randy Johnson is staying put. Why would Glaus choose Arizona if Big Unit were to be traded? Would nobody else cough up that money? Glaus is a dangerous fantasy hitter, one who could be a 40-homer type and hit .250, but there is certainly room for guys like that, especially at third base. I like Glaus more than Pat Burrell, that's for sure. This also means that Chad Tracy, a nice contact hitter who had some fantasy potential, is no longer the third baseman in 'Zona. Look up his fielding numbers, it may help explain why.

  • The Expos ... um, I mean the Nationals, made an immediate splash with a few moves. First of all, Jose Guillen is a masher who can hit anywhere, but watch him do some special things in that little park in D.C. Just DON'T try to remove Jose from a game, for he may throw a little fit and force you to trade him. Really, the guy was very good for the Angels and his stats will translate well as the Nats' cleanup hitter. However, the guys they've signed around him are odd choices. Yeah, I know Vinny Castilla led the NL in RBI, but a lot of that was Coors inflated. On the road Castilla hit .218 last season, .321 at home. Am I the only one who sees this? Castilla will benefit a bit from a small park and his 300-foot fly balls will result in homers, but he's not going to be the same guy. As for shortstop Cristian Guzman, if the Nationals want him to lead off and expect even a .320 on base percentage, they're crazy. Guzman can field, but he's not a basestealer and it's hard to score runs when you don't get on base. Think Doug Glanville, the Phillies years (the first time).

  • Closer news: Armando Benitez is the new man in San Francisco, and that's a good thing. Really, the complaints that Benitez wasn't a good closer were unfounded. Even in those Mets years, he was a fine fantasy closer. The problem was in big games and in the playoffs. Benitez is reliable and could be an annual 40-save guy on the Giants. ... But his signing meant that Dustin Hermanson had to go. He wasn't a closer for the Giants for long, but he did have success. He signed a two-year deal with the White Sox. Will he close? No, I think Shingo Takatsu will close, and Hermanson will set him up. But Hermanson could still have value and would be one of the top 10 setup men with save potential. ... Rumor has it both the Braves and Rockies could move their closers into the rotation if they need to. My bet is John Smoltz remains the Braves' closer, but Shawn Chacon would probably be a start again, and thus lose all his value. I mean, his ERA was 7.11, ratio was 1.942.

  • Nothing changes: Brad Radke goes back to the Twins, and this isn't really news for fantasy owners. The guy walks nobody, the Twins will score runs, it's more good news for fantasy. When it comes to Al Leiter going back to Florida and Woody Williams back to San Diego, again, not much to say. Reliable guys, good pitcher's parks, teams that should win 85-90 games, either of these guys could be 14-game winners. They're not young, but remember them when Jaret Wright comes off the board five rounds too early.