Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Nathan, R. Martin, Playing Time Changes, Prospect Week

Since this weekend's projection set was published, we learn that Joe Nathan may be facing season-ending surgery because of a torn ligament in his elbow.  The gap between Nathan and every other reliever currently under contract with Minnesota is incredibly wide and there isn't a true "future closer" here who seems ready for 2010.  Jon Rauch and/or Matt Guerrier could close for now but Nathan has been one of the best closers of the past 5+ years and a guy like him is impossible to replace.  Jesse Crain's less than steller 2009 will likely cost him consideration.  There's the chance that Nathan doesn't opt for the surgery but we won't know anything for sure immediately and this could even cause a ripple effect involving another team.  In other words, maybe the Twins go out and trade for someone else's closer and open up a closing role elsewhere for another team that has a more ready closer in waiting.

Also since this weekend's projection set was published, we learned that Russell Martin has a strained groin that could keep him out for the next six weeks.  Though his exact recovery time is unclear, the official team site has reported that Martin was unlikely to play on opening day.  We were already projecting a lower-than-usual games played total for Martin, not because we could possibly anticipate this injury, but because we believed it would be quite difficult for him to maintain the incredibly high games played totals he's been getting as a catcher, if for no other reason than he would start needing more rest than he's normally received.

By the way, I briefly want to clarify that constant modifications in our projected playing time throughout spring training are not exclusively based on events that you read about in the news.  We've hit a point close enough to the season now where we're trying to examine how a roster shapes up and how the presence of certain players impacts the playing time of others.  We don't force balance the way we used to back five years ago when we forecasted exactly 162 starts for pitchers and the right number of plate appearances for the hitting side of the ledger and so on.  We discovered that attempts to insist on so-called realistic totals actually hurt the accuracy of our individual forecasts even if it helped the appearance of team summary information.  Still, we cannot deny that certain players do clearly impact another player's playing time or job security, especially in cases where options on the bench are arguably superior to the starting player and so on.  I wanted to emphasize that because not every change we make at this stage is about a battle won or lost in the spring or the result of an injury.

Finally for today, I'm pleased to confirm that this is "prospect week" and that means you'll see the return of our dynamic prospect ranking lists, with the first hitter list for 2010 coming by Friday morning and the first pitcher list by Saturday morning.  As we did last year, we'll identify 50 players (25 hitters, 25 pitchers) along with some additional names you need to know about and this will define the baseline prospect set for the 2010 season.  Once this baseline is established, as we did last year, starting in the final week of April and through to the end of the full minor league season, we'll revisit these lists every Friday, alternating between hitters and pitchers.  We're going to try to build on what we started with this trend last year and if you weren't here last year, you can still check out the final 2009 hitters list and pitchers list, which is in a similar format to what we'll do again this year throughout the season.