Thursday, January 1, 2009

Erik: Cliff Lee Is A Keeper

After back-to-back playoff appearances, the Phantom Menace’s will attempt to get over the hump in 2009 by constantly reminding everyone how they drafted Cliff Lee in the 27th-round last year.

Possible Keeper – Round Drafted

Manny Ramirez – 4
Jose Valverde – 10
Jered Weaver – 11
Phil Hughes - 12
Scott Kazmir – 15
Shane Victorino – 16
Scott Baker – 24
Cliff Lee - 27
Ryan Doumit – Undrafted
Jorge Cantu – Undrafted
Nate McLouth – Undrafted
Denard Span – Undrafted
Josh Johnson – Undrafted

Something tells me that Kimball might keep Cliff Lee. Assuming that does happen, the Phantom Menace’s have four open spots and a lot of high-ceiling players who are unproven at the major-league level.

I don’t believe Kimball will keep Manny or Valverde because of their higher price tags in terms of the round they were drafted. I also don’t think keeping Hughes would be a good decision given the uncertainty of his situation going into 2009.

That leaves Weaver, Kazmir, Victorino, Baker, Doumit, Cantu, McLouth, Span and Johnson to fill the remaining four slots. Weaver is a solid third starting pitcher but doesn’t offer outstanding value in the eleventh round. Instead, I expect Kimball to take a hard look at Baker who offers many of the same attributes as Weaver but for a fraction of the cost. Kazmir was kept by Kimball last year and shows very good value in the 15th-round. However, I see Kazmir being released because of his inconsistency and past arm troubles.

Victorino is an interesting player in that he is not the superstar people look for but he managed to score nearly 700 points last year. Add in a full-year of a healthy Jimmy Rollins and Victorino’s numbers should only increase.

With the final few spots, I expect Kimball to look to his undrafted players. Nate McLouth came out of nowhere last year to hit 26 bombs and steal 23 bags. If he can come close to those numbers again this year, he would be an absolute steal for the Phantom Menaces. Finally, I think Kimball will take a chance on Josh Johnson with his last keeper spot. Johnson came back from arm surgery last season and posted an impressive line of 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA. Assuming his health improves, Johnson should only improve on those numbers next year.

Expected Keepers for the Phantom Menaces

Shane Victorino – 16
Scott Baker – 24
Cliff Lee – 27
Nate McLouth – Undrafted
Josh Johnson – Undrafted

Ranking of Possible Keepers: 2 of 3: Kimball’s possible keepers fall right in line with the keepers from Andrew and Tony’s teams. Victorino and McLouth offer great value in the outfield for Kimball much the same way Ludwick and Ellsbury do for Tony. What makes the Phantom Menaces’ situation so interesting is the pitching. I don’t think anybody knows what to expect out of Baker, Lee or Johnson this year. Baker is a younger pitcher who has never replicated numbers at the major-league level. Lee had never really come close to Cy Young status before last year and Johnson is still not that far removed from surgery. So far, the keeper possibilities from Andrew, Kimball and Tony all line up very similar to one another with Sabathia and Martin nudging Andrew to the top of the heap.