Trying to build a winner

This was a big week for the Pierpont JDAMs of the Original Gold Coast League.

You probably don’t care about any of this, but I want to write about it anyway.

The JDAMs are my fantasy team in a deep NL-only league. This is one of three leagues I’m in, but this is the only one that costs serious money, pays winners, and has a large pool of keepers, so I take this league pretty seriously. I’m trying to build a winner. I joined the league, which was established in 1984, and was handed a crappy team that’s never won.

My strategy is to stock up on as many kids as possible and shun veterans.

To that end, this was fire sale week. I made four trades, dumping four old guys and getting younger players, and mostly players that I want.

Here is my new roster and information on each player:

Sean Casey, 1B — Acquired in an off season trade right after I took over the team. I forget now who I gave up to get him. Casey is a good hitter without a lot of power. I’m leaning toward keeping him because there are few good first basemen available, and few coming up through the minors.

Bo Hart, 2B — Waiver claim. He’s been setting the NL on fire the last two weeks. He’s always been a decent hitter in the minors, but nothing like he’s been recently. My knock on him is that he strikes out more than he walks. That is warning sign that he may not pan out. It’s unclear if he’s going to keep his job with St. Louis once some injured players return, but for now, I’m enjoying the ride.

Barry Larkin, SS — Acquired in the draft. When he’s healthy, he’s decent, but he’s at the end of his career. I haven’t traded him because he has no trade value. When Ramon Vazquez returns from the DL, I’ll probably waive Larkin.

Morgan Ensberg, 3B — Acquired in a trade for Shane Reynolds. Ensberg is a potential stud. He should hit for power and average. He’s also solid defensively. The only problem is, for some reason, Houston manager Jimmy Williams wants to platoon him with Geoff Blum, who’s a total stiff.

Mark Loretta, CI — I’ve always liked Loretta. He just hits. He gets on base. He’s not an RBI guy or Run guy or even SB guy, but good fantasy teams benefit when they have roster fillers like Loretta, because while Loretta doesn’t contribute a lot, he doesn’t hurt you either.

Matt Kata, MI — Waiver claim. Kata is putting up some good numbers with Arizona right now. One of a number of surprising rookies that are helping Arizona win. The D’backs have a spate of injuries to veterans, so Kata is probably headed back to the minors in a couple of weeks when the veterans return, but if I have room on my minor roster when he’s sent down, I can squirrel him away.

Russell Branyan, Util. — Waiver claim. Branyan was considered a stud prospect at one time, but has never worked out. He’s also young and hasn’t completely worn the luster off his prospect label. He strikes out too much, and is on a team where too many guys strike out too much, which could hurt his numbers, but as a last place team, my JDAMs can take a chance on him.

Mike Matheny, C — Draft. No takers in trade offers. Matheny is a decent hitting catcher. He won’t be a keeper for me, but I’ll probably ride out the season with him on my roster, unless some kid comes along that I want more.

Todd Pratt, C — Waiver claim. I picked Pratt up this week as best of available options after trading Benito Santiago. Roster filler is all Pratt is.

Xavier Nady, OF — Trade (Jose Reyes). I worked hard to get Nady. He was my number one acquisition goal all season. Potential stud outfielders are hard to come by, and prior to this week, my OF was looking dismal. Also, I need some guys with power potential. Nady shows good plate discipline and his hold his own at the major league level despite being rushed. Nady should work out well. I traded Oliver Perez (who I hated to give up) and Rod Beck to get Reyes so I could get Nady for Reyes.

Scott Podsednik, OF — Trade (Ray Durham) A product of the Oakland A’s farm system, he was never considered an A-list prospect, but he’s proving to be a late bloomer. He has speed and is hitting for average. I originally claimed him on waivers, saw him lose playing time, so dropped him. The next week he was handed Milwaukee’s starting center field job. I hated trading to get him back, but he was a throw in in a larger deal.

Miguel Cabrera, OF — Minor league draft. Cabrera was my number one pick this spring. He’s had the potential stud label since he was 16. He’s now 20. He’s Mike Lowell’s eventual replacement at 3B, but for now Flordia has him playing LF.

Stephen Smitherman, OF — Waiver claim. Smitherman was called up just yesterday from AA. He has good minor league numbers, but isn’t likely to play much. He’ll be sent down in a week or two. In the meantime, I can maybe reserve him. You’ll be able to see him in the All-Star Futures game.

Raul Gonzalez, OF — Waiver claim. Just called up by the Mets. He should be in their starting outfield. He has put up great minor league numbers and has an outstanding K/BB ratio. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t seem to value him as they should, which is a shame, because the Mets really need the OF help.

Dontrelle Willis, P — Waiver claim. This guy is the phenom of the summer. If he stays healthy, he’s going to dominate for a long time.

Adam Eaton, P — Trade (Mark Prior). Eaton is just coming off Tommy John surgery, but he has great stuff. He projects as a low ERA high strikeout guy with good control.

Brian Lawrence, P — Trade (Armanis Ramirez). Not working out as well this season as I would like, but still a good pitcher worth holding onto. He’s got the stuff to become an eventual Cy Young winner.

Vicente Padilla, P — Trade (Mark Prior). Another young pitcher with great stuff who should be a major contributor for several seasons.

Aaron Heilman, P — Minor league draft. Just called up. Good outing last Thursday. Great stuff. Ground ball pitcher. He should be a 20-game winner at some point. He was the Met’s number one draft pick a couple of years ago.

Oscar Villarreal, P — Waiver claim. Young kid with good stuff, but more of a roster filler, unless he gets a bigger roll in Arizona at some point.

Brian Fuentes, P — Waiver claim. If Jose Jimenez losing his closer job in Colorado, Fuentes is his potential replacement.

Paul Shuey, P — Waiver claim. Roster filler.

Denny Neagle, P — Waiver claim. Roster filler.

In the Minors, I have:

Johnny Estrada, C — Waiver claim. He was up for a short stay this season, forcing the owner who drafted him to cut him (or lose one of his established catchers), so I grabbed him before he got sent back down. He should be the Braves starting catcher next season.

David Kelton, OF — Trade (Brad Nelson). Here I traded a good first base prospect for an OF prospect, but he OF prospect is much closer to being an everyday major leaguer (probably next year).

Garrett Atkins, 3B — Draft. He’s ripping the cover off the ball at Colorado Springs, and should be a much better option for the Rookies than Chris Stynes, yet he isn’t getting the call up.

Jose Castillo, SS — Draft. The Pirates could call on Castillo to play 2B this year, but if not, he should be the starting SS next year. Castillo is a potential five tool guy and I like him better than Jose Reyes.

Chad Tracy, 3B — Trade (Kenny Lofton and Steve Traschel). Tracy should be in the major now. He’s a better hitter than Shea Hillibrand, but the D’Back’s acquisition of Hillibrand may be blocking Tracy’s advancement now. Still, he has a great K/BB ratio, which is why I traded for him.

Brandon Larsen, 2B — Trade (Eric Young, Benito Santiago). He strikes out too much, but since the Reds are moving him to 2B, it increases his value. He lost his starting 3B job earlier this season, but he’s been making good progress at AAA.

Jason Marquis, P — Waiver claim. At one time, a highly regard prospect. Apparently, there’s no room for him in the Braves rotation right now, but he’s been lights out at AAA.

John Vanbenschoten, P — Trade (Ray Durham). Great, great prospect. He could be in the Pirate’s rotation next year, but probably two years away.

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