Tag:Albert Pujols
Posted on: March 13, 2009 12:59 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2009 3:57 pm
 

Cardinals-Orioles, March 13

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Albert Pujols is in the lineup today. He has a future in this game. Adam Eaton is making his Orioles debut. They need him to eat innings to save their precious young arms. He fits the bill, but won't have much Fantasy value.

-- Skip Schumaker is playing second base and leading off. Khalil Greene is playing shortstop. David Freese is on loan from minor league camp as the DH. He had already been sent out and ruled out of the mix to start at third. Colby Rasmus is hitting ninth and playing center. Catcher prospect Bryan D. Anderson is in the lineup, too.

-- Schumaker singled to center. Joe Thurston singled to right. Pujols RBI double. Frozen rope to left. Pujols never ceases to amaze.

-- Orioles have all but Nick Markakis, Melvin Mora and Cesar Izturis in their lineup. Matt Wieters is catching and Gregg Zaun is DHing. Wieters is hitting .409 but still hasn't done enough to win a job yet. I am still hopeful he can. Wieters threw a ball into center on a John Jay steal attempt. There was no advance, but Wieters missed by a wide margin.

-- Adam Jones, who told us early this spring he has designs on 30-40 steals (Why not? he says), stole second in the first inning. It wasn't close. He is 6-for-6 in steal attempts and now leads all of baseball in spring training. Beat writer says, "Spring training, pal." I responded: "Hey, you have to show it now to do it then. You practice how you play." I am upgrading Jones' projected steals from 12 to 20. I won't be surprised to see myself to upgrade it to 25 sooner than later.

-- SS Greene came up against left-hander Jamie Walker in the fourth with a runner on. Emack says to beat writer: "I am going to predict a homer to left here." Crack! Emack: "I am a Xod-XXmned genius, Gump." Beat writer: "Good call."

Greene has serious power potential for a shortstop and I wouldn't mind him being my Fantasy shortstop in any league this season. Wait on the position and take Greene. La Russa has a way of getting the best out of his guys. Ryan Ludwick, anyone? Greene is his next project. So far, so brilliant.

-- Chris Perez pitched the ninth, but he certainly didn't impress in his bid to close. He served up a walk, RBI double and RBI single, nearly blowing a three-run lead. He clearly has work to do. Those O's bats of Adam Donachie, Justin Turner and Lou Montanez were not really much of a challenge.

-- I am picking up John Mayberry in the NL-only analysts league tonight. He has proving to be a diamond in the rough. That is a great ballpark for him to get his feet wet as a reserve. The son of the former Royal, Mayberry can earn at-bats and with someone like Werth starting there -- and never having been a full-season regular before -- Mayberry could get more at-bats than you might think. Hopefully no one in my league reads this message. If they do and pick him up, I will laugh uncontrollably at them for not being independent thinkers. I never read their stories. :-) Seriously, I would take it as a compliment if they scoop him up on me.

Emack.

 

Posted on: March 19, 2008 1:45 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2008 3:41 pm
 

Wireless Cards at the Fort vs. the O's

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Cardinals at the O's today. Adam Loewen vs. Brad Thompson. Albert Pujols, shaky elbow in tow, is here. I have finally sequestered a wireless card, so I can blog LIVE from the Fort now. I will try to update you as we go.

-- Skip Schumaker is leading off and the likely opening day man in that spot. I am not a Schumaker guy. He might get on base, but he is the David Eckstein of outfielders -- ie, he won't do much for you.

-- Brian Barton hit second and walked. There is a talent I can dig. He is toolsy and a nice sleeper in NL-only leagues. There is no way the Cardinals let this Rule-5 pick go back to the Indians.

-- So much for that sore elbow. Geez, Pujols hit a monster blast to center off Loewen. He has such easy power. I might have to rethink my avoiding him in Head-to-Head leagues. He is such an incredible talent.

-- Melvin Mora laced another double to left center, clearing a diving Schumaker. Mora has had an awesome spring. I might start thinking he has more value than nothing more than an AL-only option. Hitting in front of Nick Markakis certainly helps him get pitches to hit. And as for Schumaker -- he hustled, sure, scrappy Eckstein-like player -- but Brian Barton might have run that down without having to dive.

-- Right after I type that, Schumaker beats out and infield bleeder that Mora backhanded but couldn't get him out at first. Skippy dove head-first into first base. Looks great to the fans eye and shows hustle, but Colby Rasmus would have beaten that out running away. OK, enough Skippy bashing. You can tell I am more than a bit bitter Rasmus didn't make the team.

-- Troy Glaus booted one at third, but they ruled it a hit. He most certainly is not Scott Rolen. More power, but even worse injury woes and far more inconsistency at the plate.

-- Looking at the thick of the Cardinals lineup, Pujols looks better protected than he has been in years. Chris Duncan in the two-hole is about to take off, while Glaus and a burgeoning slugger in Rick Ankiel follow. Yet another reason to perhaps roll the dice on Pujols' elbow after the top five are off the board. Pujols is the greatest hitter of our generation ... better than A-Rod and better than a younger Barry Bonds at the same stage. Getting a piece of that talent later this year could be a blessing in disguise -- if he can only fend off elbow surgery.

-- Loewen gets bounced with two out in the second. Ouch. Not a great return from a sore shoulder. He is a nice young talent, but you cannot count on him this year. Talk to me next year or in 2010 and you will have a superb Fantasy sleeper, perhaps an ace.

-- Ankiel's line-shot RBI single to right surrounded by walks to Pujols and Adam Ludwick and an HBP on Troy Glaus did Loewen in. Pujols also tried to score from second on the Ankiel liner, but Markakis starred him down between third and home and forced him to retreat. Markakis has a solid, accurate arm. Not quite Ankiel-quality, though. Ankiel threw a pea in one Mora's first-inning double.

-- OK, I am obessed with Pujols and his elbow. I watch his every move. He warmed up free and easy before the game. He shook the hand of the O's first base coach with his right arm -- very sternly, in fact. He makes quick, sharp throws around the infield after putouts. Also, he doesn't wear an ace bandage or any brace on his elbow. Teammates Adam Kennedy and Ludwick do, by the way.

If Pujols' elbow hurts, it certainly doesn't show.

How torn can that ulnar ligament actually be? Heck, has played threw it since 2003 -- mostly spectacularly. I have had a sore elbow, sans torn ligament, and not capable of making max-effort throws Pujols appears to be making here.

Granted, 10 percent of Pujols doing anything exceeds me, but there just doesn't appear to be any holding back with the elbow that we could expect with tendinitis, inflammation and bone spurs. His doctor said those symptoms are getting progressively worse and won't be correctable without surgery. Pujols said he still expects to avoid ever having surgery. So far this spring, he looks more right -- and brilliant -- than his doctor.

Pujols came into the game hitting .350 with four homers and a .775 SLUG. He also has five doubles. Nine of his 14 hits are for extra bases. He is a one-man wrecking crew. But, of course, we know that already.

-- Luke Scott is not in left for the O's for his defense. He has a nice OPS bat. But his arm is weak, weak. He made no attempt to nail Kennedy at home on a Cesar Izturis single to left center. It looked like he could have had a chance, instead, he two-hopped one to second.

-- Man on second, no outs, Schumaker bounced to short and didn't advance the runner. OK, I lied, more Skippy bashing. Barton up, a good player. Darn it. Strikeout. Pujols will make up for it off Jim Johnson. Laser shot past shortstop Brandon Fahey. That one came in at 90 MPH, went out at about 120.

-- Speaking of Scott's lollypop-maker ... Glaus doubled to left. Pujols ran all the way around from first. Sliding into home past Fahey's long relay. Pujols avoided the catcher to the inside of the plate and swiped with his right arm. Best part about the sequence of events: No torn ligament on the play. Even when he slides into home, he angles to show how healthy his right elbow is (smiley face).

-- In the something you won't read in the box score category: The O's brought in promising reliever Dennis Sarfate in the middle of the fifth with one on and one out, facing Pujols, Glaus and then Ankiel. They apparently wanted to test their burgeoning late-inning reliever against the best. Four pitch walk to Pujols, walk to Glaus and Ankiel ... well, Ankiel wasn't going to walk with the bases loaded -- he rarely shows much patience ... Ankiel singled sharply to center. Ankiel gets away with being aggressive and Sarfate sinks lower on the relief depth chart behind closer George Sherrill, lefty Jamie Walker and righty submariner Chad Bradford.

-- Duncan came in to pinch hit in the seventh. Lefty vs. Sarfate, still in the game. Homer off the left-field power pole. A lefty going line to line. Duncan is an impressive hitter. Line to line power. He could have been a .300-30-100-100 player last year if not for the hernia issue in late July that basically crippled him the final two months.

-- Damn! Egg on my face and foot in my mouth -- at least stamping on my keyboard. Two-run homer Skip Schumaker. He also doubled to deep left off Scott's glove. Scott almost brought the double back from going over the fence. To keep up our Skippy bashing... there is a stiff wind blowing out to left -- failed to mention that on the Duncan homer, by the way (smiley face).

Emack.

Posted on: March 12, 2008 6:10 pm
 

Injuries are piling up

I sometimes like injuries to Fantasy players -- especially if it allows talent to fall to me.

But even I am losing faith.

I have decided Albert Pujols' plan of potentially shutting it down for elbow surgery will keep me from drafting him in a Head-to-Head league. Sure, he can be outstanding for four or five months, but I won't win my Head-to-Head league's playoffs without my No. 1 pick healthy and ripping down the stretch.

I almost always make the playoffs in Head-to-Head leagues. Pujols can be picked to get you there, but it is my guess the Cards -- with their terrible starting rotation -- will be out of the race come August.

Then, if Pujols' elbow hurts -- he has a torn ligament, bone spurs and tendinitis that won't go away without surgery -- he can decide to lose as little time from his career as possible and shut it down for the final weeks of the season. Surgery requires seven or eight months of rehab for a position player. Shutting it down a month or two early could potentially have him ready for opening day 2009.

I hate late August and September in Fantasy because of all the stars in operation shut down.

Now, I know a first-rounder who is candidate No. 1 for that.

I won't pick him now -- unless he falls into Round 2, of course :-)

Speaking of injury-risk sleepers... poor Rocco Baldelli. One of my favorites for a breakthrough now has a strange illness that causes him fatigue after just a short workout. There is no cause or cure in sight and Baldelli even had to ask the question of whether he would retire.

Ouch. The R word for a 27-year-old.

I still think Baldelli can be a factor in Fantasy leagues at some point, but that is getting harder to see it coming any earlier than the second half of this year. This makes him relatively undraftable right now.

Pujols and Baldelli, two of my favorites, are changing even the most stubborn of Fantasy writers: yours truly.

Emack.

Posted on: March 6, 2008 2:36 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2008 2:41 pm
 

Elbow grease: Update on Pujols

Albert Pujols is falling in drafts because of an elbow everyone is afraid will cause him to shut it down early this year. Let me first say, a first baseman makes few throws, so a bad throwing elbow is not as big of an issue. Also, Pujols has played with this for years, so obviously it doesn't completely keep him from being effective.

Our player update from this MLB.com story: 
Cardinals team physician Dr. George Paletta had an interview with MLB.com on the status of Pujols' elbow. According to the website: Pujols has a "high grade" tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, as well as bone spurs, inflammation and arthritis in the joint -- all of which have likely developed as a reaction to the ligament tear. "I think now our options are really likely down to two," Paletta said. "If his elbow condition can't be successfully managed (playing through it with treatment) and gives him significant problems again, then I think the horse is out of the barn and he should probably consider having the whole thing done (Tommy John surgery)."

That means: 1. Play through it and treat it before ... 2. It blows out and requires reconstructive surgery that will take a position player eight months of rehab.

"This is not a curable problem without a reconstruction. What we hope is that it's a manageable problem," Paletta told the website. "We've been managing this problem since 2003, when he first tore it. So we've been managing it fairly successfully for five seasons now. But there comes a time when it's not manageable anymore. And if it's not manageable anymore, the best answer for Albert probably, long-term, is to consider having the reconstruction done."

My analysis:

So, Pujols will play as long as he can tolerate pain, perform and the Cardinals are in the race. If, come July, the pieces fall the right way (wrong way, really), Pujols will shut it down. July 31 is the cutoff date (after 105 games) for a player to have Tommy John surgery and be ready for the 2009 season.

Luis Gonzalez was one that had the surgery after July and made it back for spring training and he was an outfielder, which makes far more throws than a first baseman.

Pujols will be a risky first-round pick, but there is no reason yet to not take that chance after the top five players are off the board.

Now, will I still pick him third overall? After reading this story, it is harder to do so. But, from what I saw last Friday, Pujols can still be a beast for 105 games.

Stay tuned. I should see him a few more times this spring live.

Emack

Posted on: February 29, 2008 1:30 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2008 1:28 pm
 

Oh no, Johan!

PORT ST. LUCIE -- Well, our pregame blog might have proved prophetic. And Johan Santana looked pathetic.

Keeping the ball in the park might be problematic for the $150 million ace.

Juan Gonzalez has been out of baseball for years, but it didn't stop him from hitting a three-run homer in the first inning. Santana's first pitch was a strike. His first batter was retired on a lazy fly to left.

It was all downhill from there.

Chris Duncan, batting in the comfy spot in front of Albert Pujols, blooped a single to left -- a jam shot. Pujols smashed a ground double down the third-base line. Then Juan Gone, who was underwhelming in batting practice, hit the first pitch out to left for a three-run homer. In the press box a Cards beat writer says Gonzalez is 6-for-7 with two homers off Santana in his career. Interesting. I have to look that up to confirm it.

Santana settled down and struck out Ryan Ludwick to end his disasterous first inning.

The second inning was easier, three easy fly outs, but he did give up a gapped triple to left center by light-hitting infielder Brendan Ryan.

Santana threw strikes, but a few balls were hit quite hard. He is out of the game after two innings and 30 pitches. Can't wait to hear what he has to say.

-- Jose Reyes looks spry as ever, beating out an infield hit, going first to third on a ground single to center and scoring on a slap to right. He looked a bit more ripped in the clubhouse. We once said Hanley Ramirez was a Reyes-clone when he was a rookie, albeit a tad bit stronger and a step slower. Reyes' speed is still there -- he has a sprinter's body -- but the stronger upper body made him appear even more Hanley-like.

-- This is a great spring game. Three of the top picks in Fantasy. Pujols, Reyes and Santana.

(Actually -- thanks to the blog commenter that reminded me about David Wright -- FOUR of the top picks in Fantasy. How could I leave him out of the conversation for the top pick?)

It might help an early first-rounder sway their pick. I pick third in a Head-to-Head money league with my friend that figures to see Santana and Alex Rodriguez go 1-2. I might also trade up to No. 1, if I feel I need Santana. I was scared to pick Pujols because of the elbow, but strikeouts are minus-1 and I could make a big mistake if I am wrong on Pujols. I might not be able to pass on him.

Pujols doesn't strike out much, especially for a slugger. That is a huge difference between him and the likes of Ryan Howard and even Prince Fielder. (Pujols, who looked great in BP (see BP blog below), hit a homer in the game off Duaner Sanchez. Pujols indeed looks ready to make up for arguably the worst season of his career -- at age 27, no less.

-- Before the homer, Aaron Heilman got Pujols out in front on a nice changeup. That's the changeup that gets ripped for homers when Heilman doesn't set it up right. When he does? He gets Pujols out in front... and then he did it again and got him to pop up.

Heilman looks good. As a setup man for a top contender, he should post a lot of relief victories again. He is one of the best setup men in Fantasy Baseball for that reason alone. He also happens to be a real good pitcher, a former first-round pick out of Notre Dame. Heilman retired Duncan, Pujols and Glaus on eight pitches. The first two torched Johan.

-- Adam Wainwright is on the other side. He is working into the third inning after a six-pitch second. Wainwright is a favorite of mine and could be a great pick after the top 25 aces of Fantasy. I see a future Cy Young winner, a young Chris Carpenter. I said that last spring. Talking to him, he seemed way too cocky, but I guess that is a trait the good ones have.

-- Carlos Delgado lined a single to past second. He struck out looking in his first at-bat. The wrist bothered him last year, inability to turn on inside heat. That single looked sharp.

-- Santana might be available now. See you in a bit.

-- A few of the things jotted from the Santana news conference:

"We figured out they were swinging right away. They were very aggressive, so in the second inning we started throwing changeups and sliders. For my first spring game, I feel pretty good."

"I had planned to throw 45 pitches and just two innings. I threw 30 in the game (22 strikes) and finished up with 15 in the bullpen."

"I focused on my release point. The difficulty with the changeup is to get it to look like a fastball."

"(Juan Gonzalez) has always been a very good hitter. I have followed him through his career.  Today he was very aggressive and swung at the first pitch." 6-for-7 with two homers.

About the fans and teammates amping him up in spring training ... "I gotta get used to it. It is gonna be like that all year. But I have to control my emotions and take it easy right now."

"It's always good to get the first one out of the way. I know how important it is important for you guys and the city. This is just the beginning."

"I would rather leave it here in spring training, so when we get to New York, we're ready to go. Even though the numbers will say something different, I am very happy with the way I feel right now. We'll see where we are at the end."

-- The Mets clubhouse has been open for a bit now. Gotta go down and ask the questions that have already been asked four times.... see you in a bit.

-- Catcher Ramon Castro, who might have been Santana's catcher to aid communication, shed a little bit of light on the difference between the first-inning Santana and the second-inning Santana.

"He left a couple of mistakes up."

"He called to me, 'Let's go change things up.' He started throwing first-pitch changeups and sliders. It is spring training, but he wants to do good, too."

The pitch Gonzalez hit was a "Sinker." A sinking fastball. "But it didn't sink. It stayed straight."

The Mets closed the clubhouse until after the game, right after I got there. Figures. In-game blogging really hamstrings a reporter. The stars are likely gone. But at least Willie Randolph will have some comments to make.

This it it for my game blog. Sorry I didn't get more on the other Fantasy guys. But, after today, I am leaning more toward Pujols than Santana, Reyes or Wright in that Head-to-Head league I mentioned above. In Rotisserie, my pick is clearly Reyes.

As far as why I left Wright out originally (I have to try to explain the inexplicable): I have a general unsubstantiated gut feeling Wright is a very, very good first-rounder -- just not an elite one. I don't see 40 homers and 125 RBI from him like I can see with A-Rod and Miguel Cabrera at his position. The 30-plus steals help close the gap in Rotisserie, but if I am looking for a speed guy, it would be Reyes over Wright anyway.

Emack.

Posted on: February 29, 2008 11:32 am
Edited on: February 29, 2008 12:56 pm
 

Say Yo Johan...

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA -- Sitting down at Mets camp for the Cardinals game that marks the debut of Johan Santana. Should be entertaining, especially since Albert Pujols and Troy Glaus are here taking batting practice as I type.

Worried about Pujols' elbow? Uh, does a guy with a bum elbow hit .327 and play 158 games like he did last year?

And, watching batting practice from the press box, I can still hear the ball begging for mercy as it flies away. Pujols hit everything on the nose -- most of them well out of Tradition Field, which has adopted the dimensions of Citi Field. The Mets will open that park in 2009 and it should remain pitcher friendly, much to Santana's delight.

Pujols looks completely fine in BP... No worries about that elbow. He was easily the most impressive in his batting group that included big Troy Glaus and a somewhat slimmer Juan Gonzalez. Watching Pujols hit BP, which I have done numerous times in the past springs and seasons, reminds me more and more of Mark McGwire. Easy, easy, easy power.

I will blog periodically throughout the day and file a story on Santana and how much Fantasy owners might need to be concerned about his poor second half and the fact he led the AL with 33 homers allowed. Javier Vazquez, another hard-thrower, was second with 29 allowed. Only Woody Williams (35) and Livan Hernandez (34) allowed more and they pitched in more notoriously homer-happy parks. This might surprise you, but the NL parks are smaller and more homer happy.

Santana should be pleased Shea is not, and neither will be Citi Field.

Emack.

 
 
 
 
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