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I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone. If you're reading today, you're a die-hard!

Anybody get any cool presents?
John Sickels is one of the best sources of evaluations of minor league players. His evaluations tend to be a little more statistically oriented compared to Baseball America, but they certainly aren't the only basis for his evaluations.
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Okay, seriously ... time to vote. One e-mail address, one vote, just like the MLB Some-Star Game. And this time, it's for Box History ... the premiere award of the first Andujar YouNeverKnow, to be announced right here on Da Box Dec. 26 ... Boxing Day, natch.

It's time to Joaq the Vote. If you're new here, go back and read the original announcement and rules, then pop over to meet the 12 finalists (and one significant write-in suggestion) ... the voting so far is shockingly close.

You just pick your favorites any time before the extended Dec. 24 deadline (that's tomorrow at midnight Eastern time) ... vote for up to 5 ... and wait for the announcement of the winner. It's easier than trading a quarter-billion-dollar shortstop, more interesting than a Brewers/Rays twi-night doubleheader in August, and more important than who Roger Clemens will pitch for next year.

Voting not limited to "regulars" ... lurkers welcome. Vote now or David Wells will return to Toronto!

Just don't drive after.
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What could that title possibly mean? The first part refers to a Diamond Mind 2004 projection disk that Baseball Primer's Dan Szymborski has created, using his own projection system called ZiPS. Dan has produced 5 builds of the disk so far. I have added transactions up to and including the Javy Lopez signing (with Baltimore). The "Dudek" part refers to my own efforts to create Manager Profiles for all the AL teams.

[More] (398 words) offers rankings of how teams have fared in their offseason moves. Obviously, they were unswayed by Richard Griffin's "stuck in neutral" propaganda, as the Blue Jays are rated third in all of baseball. No credit is given for improving the bullpen with Ligtenberg and Speier, but we're told that Toronto has "quietly added some solid starters to complement a dangerous offense."

The Phils, who acquired Billy Wagner, Eric Milton and Tim Worrell without losing much, are accorded the top spot. Their divisional rivals in Atlanta, clearly moving in the opposite direction, are ranked 26th. I think the Red Sox, with Schilling and Foulke, have improved more than anyone, and I don't understand the reference to 5th-rated Boston's "overall loss of offense," but I love the comment on the 25th-place Bronx Bombers:

Yankees' players thought '03 was a dysfunctional mess; they ain't seen nothing yet.

These lists aren't scientific, just fun. Whoever compiled this one thinks that the Mariners haven't slipped, which is amusing, and they seem to be giving credit for moves that haven't happened yet, especially in Baltimore, L.A. and San Francisco. When the music stops and another 150+ free agents scramble for jobs, we'll have a better idea of the real winners and losers, but no matter what else happens, the Jays' efforts have put them near the top of the pack.
Rich Aurillia's name seems to have been forgotten as Geoff Baker talks to J.P about the latest potential shortstop additions. Chris Gomez, Damian Jackson or Frank Menechino could be in T.O next year as partners for Woody. Gomez would seem to be the most obvious fit as he has played short more often recenly than Jackson, while Menechino's Major League time has been mostly at second.

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I'm delighted to announce that six new authors have been added to the Batter's Box roster. Please join me in welcoming (in alphabetical order, trust me) Pistol, Scott Lucas, Gerry McDonald, Mike Moffatt, Jonny German and Spicol. To our regular readers, they need no introduction.

As we prepare for our second season, with plans for expanded minor-league coverage, a bigger, better BBFL and many new features, it's the right time to make changes. Expect an improved site design soon, and there might even be one more free agent signing. We're counting on this influx of talent and rookie enthusiasm to complement the veteran leadership, not to cut into our playing time. Just ignore those rumours about Burley being non-tendered if the trade talks break down.

Pistol, Scott, Gerry, Mike, Jonny, Spicol: all of us have enjoyed your comments and pinch-hits over the past year, and we look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks for joining our team.
It's another key milestone in Hot Stove Season. Today is Non-Tender Saturday, also known as the quiet cousin of the July 31st trade deadline.

Teams have until midnight tonight to offer contracts to unsigned players on their respective 40-man rosters. Any player not offered a contract by his old team is granted free-agency. Some big names have been axed already. A few, like Jay Payton and Shawn Wooten, were expected. Others, like Mark Redman, are the kind of surprise that makes one cock an eyebrow.
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Alexis Rios hasn't had time to concern himself with trifles this year. After being briefly sidelined with injuries at the beginning of the season, he reported to New Haven and hit .449/.481/.653 in April. He started the Futures Game, finished the year with a .352/.402/.521 batting line, and was the batting champion and MVP of the Eastern League. Since the end of October, he's been laying waste to the Puerto Rican League. Through games of December 18, Rios was hitting .345/.371/.739 in 119 AB; he was second in the league in batting average and first in slugging percentage (minimum 80 AB), home runs (12) and RBI (32).

But how impressive is this performance, anyway? As Coach astutely pointed out in an earlier thread:

I'm not trying to diminish what Rios is accomplishing in Puerto Rico, just giving it some context. His teammate, aging (and as far as I know, MLB-unemployed) utility infielder John Valentin, has 8 HR in 91 AB (297/407/648) and our own LF/1B/3B/DH Simon Pond, yet to sip SkyDome coffee, is tied for the league lead with 10 HR in 112 AB (286/355/607). It makes a guy wonder if all the estadios are as hitter-friendly as Hiram Bithorn, and question the depth of the pitching staffs.

I decided to investigate the question:

What is the significance of Rios's performance in the PRL this fall?
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The Winter Meetings are over, most of the dealing is done, and many of us are wrapping up our jobs and getting ready for next week's Christmas break. In the meantime, here's a fresh Hijack Central to catalogue any late-breaking pre-holiday news.
"The proposed trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers is dead," says Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, and although there are still rumblings of making something happen later on, so it appears to be. Had it gone though, the mega-trade and its aftershocks would have seen HOF-calibre players like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra, along with major figures like Magglio Ordonez and as many as two top-rated Dodgers pitching prospects change teams. It would have shifted the balance of power in the American League for at least a decade (especially the Eastern Division) and likely would have reduced George Steinbrenner to finding a strand of Babe Ruth's DNA in order to get the last word. And it would have had a serious, long-term impact on the competitive fortunes of your Toronto Blue Jays. But when a deal is this big, even a failed attempt is going to have ramifications.

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It was almost two years ago when Kent Williams, Craig Burley and I ran into each other online at Baseball Primer, the Grand Central Station of baseball blogs. Because we'd never likely have met otherwise, Batter's Box owes at least some of its existence to Primer, which is just one reason why you should visit and sign the guest book today for the 10,000th Clutch Hit celebration at Baseball Primer. There've been highs and lows, triumphs and Petco threads, but in the end, if Primer didn't exist, someone would have to invent it. Sincere congratulations to Primer from Batter's Box!
Few ballplayers earn a nickname from their new team's fans before they even touch down in the city, but the Blue Jays' newest starting pitcher, Miguel Batista, is already firmly entrenched in the local lexicon as "El Artista." I forget who came up with the rhyming moniker -- step forward, forgotten Bauxite! -- but it's as good a description of his passion for poetry, literature and "a great chat" as it is of his crackling fastball and excellent strike-zone command. Thanks to Jason Robar for catching this profile of Batista in the latest Star. "Not everyone in Toronto will like me," predicts Batista -- personally, I can't understand why he won't become one of this city's most popular and sought-after athletes in short order. Bienvenido, Miguel!
Josh Boyd has, very simply, a great job. He writes about minor-league baseball for a living, and as a National Writer with Baseball America, he does it for the Bible of the minor-league baseball world. Heís young (31), recently married (to Michelle, last fall), and filled with tremendous enthusiasm for the game of baseball. How can you beat that?

So when we went looking for an expert to comment on the Blue Jaysí farm system, we didnít have to look very far. And when Josh responded to our cold-call e-mail asking for his time and insight, he didnít hesitate in agreeing. Pleasant in conversation, deeply knowledgeable about his subject matter and unafraid to offer strong opinions, Josh was great to correspond with, and weíre delighted that he agreed to become the latest person to sit down for a Batterís Box Interview.
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