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Guest Juanky

In baseball, it is extremely hard not to accept what

you see today as an indicator of the way things will

be tomorrow. A 5-1 start by the Tigers? Clearly they

are going to pull off the greatest turnaround in the

history of the sport and carry the division. A 1-5

opening by the Mariners? It's hopeless. They might as

well have a fire sale and see what they can get for

their core players. Fans and media alike have to

respond to what is going on at the moment. After all,

that is the nature of news. Nobody is going to want to

read a story that has this as its headline:

 

LOCALS WILL REGRESS TO MEAN BY MEMORIAL DAY

 

It's just not going to sell papers. Instead, when you

peruse the MLB Insider site lines, you're going to see

stories about sophomore slumps, breakouts seasons, new

attitudes, new approaches working wonders, dramatic

downturns and miracle turnarounds. In a few cases,

some of these early results are actually indications

of things to come. In most, though, they will not

stand the heat of late spring and summer and will be

completely forgotten by the first frost of autumn.

 

Today, with a whole week of the season under our

belts, let's look at the top ten players in OPS in

each league and try to figure out who the imposters

are in their midst.

 

American League

 

Javy Lopez Baltimore Orioles:Last year, Lopez had one of the

best offensive showings of any catcher ever. Had he

not sat down for Greg Maddux's starts so that he could

use his personal catcher, his counting stats would

have been even more alarming. To think he could repeat

what he did is hoping for a lot, but here he is,

starting off like he's going to do just that. Anything

over .900 is gravy. If he cracks 1.000, it's gold.

 

Travis Hafner Cleveland Indians: Hafner deserves a full-time

major league job. No, he's not going to hit like this

all year, but doing so in the first week might be just

the thing to ensure him the playing time he should be

having anyway.

 

Troy Glaus Hi, I'm Troy Glaus. You might

remember me from such seasons as "Angels of 2001" and,

"My Big, Fat 1.000 OPS of 2000."

 

Jose Offerman, Minnesota Twins:No.

 

Jose Cruz, Tampa Bay Devils Rays: He's 30 and has a career high of

.857 three years ago. I think he might be keeping the spot warm for teammate Aubrey Huff

 

Carlos Pena,Detroit Tigers: When Pena was a prospect in the

Rangers system and when he was in his early days with

the A's, this is just where people were projecting he

would end up. Now that he's here, what to make of it?

The one walk in 25 plate appearances is troubling. If

he ends up improving on his career mark of .775 by ten

percent, that would be nice.

 

Rondell White, Detroit Tigers: Can a player hit for enough

power in Comerica Park to maintain a 1.000-plus

slugging average? I don't think White is the man to

answer that question, but if he can approach .900,

he'll do a lot for this team.

 

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox: He'll be here in the end,

especially if he can avoid the lefties, against whom

he's off to a .636 OPS start so far.

 

Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox:Yes, when the others are

gone, he will still be here. By coincidence, he's

ninth right now, just where he finished last year.

 

Hank Blalock, Texas Rangers: Room must be made for Manny

Ramirez (who is lurking at 11th right now), Carlos

Delgado, Alex Rodriguez Jason Giambi and Carlos

Beltran, so somebody like Blalock could be forced out.

However, if he can improve last year's number of .872

by just five to seven percent -- which is not

unreasonable -- he'd end up in top ten territory.

 

National League

Charles Johnson,Colorado Rockies: He's not going to post the

best OPS at the end of 2004, but he could match what

he did in 2000 when he had a career-high .961 when

playing with the White Sox and Orioles. The

combination of playing half his games in Coors,

staying healthy and a new, more compact swing could

well return Johnson to the spotlight.

 

Adam DunnCincinnati Reds:With his skill set, he is

supposed to be a top ten OPS player. Remember, it was

the loss of 35 points on his batting average that

killed his season last year. The power skills survived

intact. He's not going to hit .381 as he is right now,

but if he hits .275, that's going to prop up his OPS

very nicely.

 

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants: Voted Most Likely to

Maintain a 1.430 OPS by his classmates at SBC Park.

 

Ray LankfordSt. Louis Cardinals:Woh! What year is this? Mr.

Lankford has not played enough to qualify for a

batting title since 1998, so it's highly unlikely

he'll still be on this list come September. However,

when you've been away for over a year, it's got to

feel great to get off to a start like this. If his

playing time is regulated properly, he can contribute

to the Cards. 502 plate appearances is a long shot.

 

Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles Dodgers: Four years ago, the

concept of Beltre in the top ten in OPS someday would

not have raised an eyebrow. Now it seems like destiny

delayed. Obviously, he won't crack 1.000 in 2004, but

if he could use this start as a pacesetter and better

that career high of .835 from 2000, it would be an

incredible boon to the Dodgers.

 

Richard Hidalgo, Houston Astros:He's looking like a top

tenner. He's had the career spike (2000) and tumble

but he's in his prime now. Another season like last

one's .957 will land him right about where he is now:

sixth or seventh in the league.

 

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals: Just biding his time until

the gravity starts pulling the pretenders down past

him.

 

Paul Lo Duca, Los Angeles Dodgers:A nice start but that's all

it is. However, if the 2001 Lo Duca has shown up with

the 2000 Beltre, and the 2002 Shawn Green makes an appearance joined by the 2003 Milton Bradley

(pre-injury), then the Dodgers will rule the west.

 

Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros: Yes, he is still top ten

material.

 

Lowell, Florida Marlins: Lowell just nipped Brent Mayne

of the Diamondbacks to sneak into the top ten, a place

he has the talent to stay for the rest of the year.

Mayne just had a good 21 at bat run is all. Kaz Matsui

is lurking too, courtesy of drawing as many walks as

Barry Bonds.

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