Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obviously our pitching staff needs a lot of work this off-season. But the outfield is also a bit up in the air. As it stands right now, we have Taveras, Scott, Pence, Lane, Palmeiro, and sometimes Berkman and Burke who can play outfield. I'd really like Taveras to work on a few things over the winter, namely, improving his patience and shortening his swing. He turns 25 in December, so there's no reason to assume he can't improve his abilities. For better or worse, I want Taveras to be our lead-off man all year. Tell him to get on base, and hope he can 35 percent of the time.

Luke Scott has shown he can hit major-league pitching. That's not to say that he's a proven starter. He never really slumped last year, which I suppose is a good thing. But it'll be interesting to see how he deals with a bad week. Will he adjust his swing? How will he respond to getting dropped in the batting order or benched for a day or two? Scott's very good, but he probably will struggle mightily against lefties. His OPS was still .777 against lefties, but that was 354 points below his OPS against righties. I don't expect him to go .336/.426/.622 again, but I do expect a similar lefty-righty split. In short, he would make an excellent platoon player with a right-handed bat — someone like Lane or Pence. Lane had a prett horrendous year last year, but he still has something to contribute. I wouldn't mind seeing him in this platoon role while Pence plays another year in the minors. Of course, I wouldn't fault the organization for calling Pence up ASAP. A platoon role is a good way to introduce rookies to the big show.

Basically, there's an opening for a corner outfield position. But I don't see the point in signing anyone long-term. If Scott and Pence show that they're both big-time sluggers, they should be our corner outfielders for the next 4-5 years. We have a history of "ruining" outfield prospects while they're at their peak abilities. Daryl Ward and Jason Lane both rode the pine during their prime years, and they both seemed to burn out when they finally got a chance to play full-time. I'd hate to see Pence be nothing more than a spot-starter or defensive replacement for the next 3 years, especially if he proves he's ready to play.

I think it makes much more sense to sign a 1-year veteran. It makes so much sense considering our roster and our payroll. Some options are Alou, Catalanotto, Dellucci, Gonzo, Klesko, Trot Nixon, Jay Payton, Shannon Stewart. At this point, I'd be happier signing one of them and using the extra money to pull some decent pitching and/or catching help. I'm still excited about a return to the Juicebox for Moises Alou. If he does get hurt, we got decent outfielders who can fill in. An outfield of Scott/Lane/Pence, Taveras and Alou would be decent offensively, decent defensively, but most importantly: cheap.

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