Monday, March 20, 2006

Guessing game, Part I

I report to spring training Friday -- two weeks after the Tampa Bay minor-leaguers started -- so this is a good time to make some wild guesses as to who will be in Montgomery this year. (Again, before those e-mails roll in about how much of an idiot I am for what follows, note the use of the phrase "wild guesses.")

I'll start with the pitchers. I hope to get back with some hitters before Friday.

Jeff Niemann is scheduled to start the year late because of offseason shoulder surgery. Once he gets back, I'd say it's a safe bet that he'll be in Montgomery.

Andy Sonnanstine tore up two Class A levels last year -- he was the pitcher of the year at Visalia in the hitter-heaven California League. Look for him here.

Jarod Matthews was a Southern League All-Star two years ago for the Biscuits, but missed last season with an injury. He's had success at this level and will need to get reacclimated, so Montgomery is the prime place for him to be.

Tony Peguero made nine starts here last year. He was 5-1 with a 4.01 ERA, but needs more time at Class AA. Hitters had a .285 average against him, so he still has something to prove.

My safest pick is Juan Salas. He'll be in the bullpen. Salas has a live arm and serious velocity, but needs another pitch to complement the fastball. This will be only his second full season pitching.

Brian Henderson, one of the quietest, yet smartest players in Tampa Bay's system, should at least start the season here. He had solid numbers, but wasn't dominating in 2005. He seemed to be on a short leash last year. If he got in trouble, he was pulled out of the game, rather than being allowed to work out of the jam himself.

That's enough for now. There's still a long way to go before the roster will be set.

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