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Saturday, March 25, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SATURDAY

-A fast start to his spring has pretty much kept up for New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto who went 2-for-3 Saturday, including his third home run. Conforto had not homered in weeks but his smooth and compact swing is obvious.  Right now there is still not path for consistent starting status for Conforto given the crowded Mets outfield but the outlook overall remains very bright.

-Tanner Roark was very good on Saturday as he gave up 1 run on 3 hits in his 5.1 innings versus the Houston Astros.  Roark did a long stint in the WBC but he has been terrific overall this spring as he continues his upward plane in his young career.  While you would like some more strikeouts out of Roark, he has more than proven his worth a solid SP 3.

-Lance McCullers did not have his best stuff on Saturday as he gave up 4 runs and 6 hits in 3.1 innings versus the Washington Nationals.  That inflated his spring ERA to a nasty 6.00 but McCullers is still missing a ton of bats and likely working through some rust after all the games he missed a year ago.  Still love the vast power upside here but again the threat of injury is very high.

-Greg Bird is simply insane right now as he the hulking first baseman slammed his seventh spring home run on Saturday and is now up to .444 in exhibition play.  I have to admit that I am surprised at how well Bird has done considering how much time he has missed previous to the new season but it now looks like we could be looking at the new Mark Teixeira.

-Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-3 with his third spring home run but the average concerns persist at he has hit just .244.  Bradley Jr. struggled badly in the second half of last season with his average and that is something I have talked about as an issue for his 2017 value.

-Corey Dickerson continues his spring tear as he swatted his fourth home run and totes a .367 average.  I have said it countless times this spring about the dirt cheap 25-home run potential of Dickerson and that should never be overlooked no matter the fact he doesn't call Coors Field home anymore.

-Tyler Glasnow tantalizes with his strikeout ability which he showed on Saturday versus the Detroit Tigers.  Collecting 9 strikeouts in just 4 innings, Glasnow gave up just two earned runs with just one walk.  That makes it two starts in a row with Glasnow showing good control and once that happens consistently, his top-end stuff could vault him into top-20 territory among starters.

-The prospects of Blake Snell starting the season with the Tampa Bay Rays grew more dim on Saturday as he gave up 4 runs in 4,2 innings.  Snell has walked the ballpark all spring and his big strikeout ability is being completely overshadowed by that problem.  I spoke highly of Snell leading up to the spring training but even I can't make excuses for how rough he has been on the hill.

-Jason Heyward still stinks but at least he went yard in his 1-for-3 day Saturday.  It is amazing that this is the same guy who looked like a future stud when coming up with the Atlanta Braves but Heyward can't hit anymore.  He should not be drafted.

-Albert Pujols is rounding into form after a slow start to spring training due to offseason foot surgery.  He went 1-for-3 with his second spring home run Saturday but his fantasy baseball outlook at the age of 37 is of Pujols simply being a power specialist.

-Taijuan Walker got blasted for six runs (4 earned) versus the Los Angeles Angels Saturday and he remains homer-prone which is a bad matchup in Arizona.  I drafted him very late in the Experts League but I don't plan to use him initially.  He remains a clear enigma.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: DAVID PRICE LIKELY DOWN UNTIL MAY

A beyond rough spring has now evolved into the realization that Boston Red Sox ace David Price will be out of commission until May.  Having already missed almost all of spring training with the elbow scare that has pretty much shut Price down, he faces likely all of the month of April to tune up for the regular season.  Having already seen his 2017 fantasy baseball draft price sink like the Titanic, Price is looking like one big mess who is not worth getting involved in under any circumstances.  Last season Price saw his fastball velocity decline and his ERA and home run rates soared.  Years of heavy usage early in his career could already be catching up to Price by the looks of it and so he is one you still want to completely avoid this spring.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: SHOULDER A NON-STORY FOR GREGORY POLANCO

With the 2017 fantasy baseball season just a week-and-a-half away, the last thing you want to see if one of your prime hitters or pitchers come down with a physical ailment.  That is why it was somewhat disconcerting to see Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco scratched from his exhibition start Saturday with what the team is calling left shoulder soreness.  It appears as though this is just a precautionary move and that Polanco is simply going to be day-to-day, which means alarms should not be blaring when it comes to his prospects to begin the season on time.  Of course you always have to check back on things like this and Polanco carries quite a bit of hype this season as many feel he is sitting on a major breakout.  I like Polanco as much as the next guy and was willing to pay to get him but overall this seems like nothing to concern yourself with.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: COLBY RASMUS (HIP) WON'T BE ABLE TO ANSWER BELL OPENING DAY

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus will begin the 2017 season on the DL with a stubborn hip injury that has impacted a large portion of his spring training preparation.  The Rays made the news official Saturday as Rasmus still has not played the field yet in exhibition games but they also said he could return somewhere between 7-14 days into the season.  While he was once a highly touted prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, Rasmus has become a journeyman slugger who can only help in home runs and RBI, while also destroying your team batting average.  In other words, only draft him as a backup in deeper mixed leagues.


Friday, March 24, 2017

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JON GRAY FORCED OUT WITH APPARENT INJURY

After giving up 7 consecutive hits in the third inning versus the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray was forced out of his Friday exhibition outing.  Gray's velocity was also down which added to the alarms as he was soon headed to the dugout after the seventh hit. There was no obvious pain or pointing to any joint on Gray but this is something that needs to be watched closely.  Gray has been one of my favorite sleepers for fantasy baseball this season but this could derail those thoughts.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: J.D. MARTINEZ OUT 3-4 WEEKS WITH LISFRANC SPRAIN

Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez will miss the next 3-4 weeks with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot which was officially diagnosed on Friday.  Martinez will need to be in a foot for 7-10 days and will not be cleared for full baseball activities until mid-April.  Throw in a rehab stint and it could be May before we see Martinez again.  This is what we have been anticipating all along and so at least the shock is muted.  Still this is a big loss as Martinez is a 30-home run bat with a nice average thrown in.  This is not how you want to start the season with any of your players and this marks the second season in a row Martinez has been dealing with injuries.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: CARLOS RODON LIKELY DL'ED TO START SEASON

It has been a strange spring for Chicago White Sox emerging power pitcher Carlos Rodon.  Right at the start of camp and into the first batch of games, the White Sox held Rodon out in order to baby his young arm a bit like with what the Mets did with Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndegaard.  Unlike Rodon though, 3/4th's of the Mets' arms were coming off surgery and so there was speculation that maybe something was up.  The White Sox and Rodon never revealed anything though and so spring training went on as scheduled.  Only now we have learned that Rodon is headed for an MRI due to "tightness" in his left biceps.  The White Sox did their best to tamp down any worries here as they said they don't believe there is any structural issues but until the MRI comes back, Rodon is not out of the woods.  Even without any structural damage, Rodon is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season and so a DL stint is in the cards here.  Rodon is one of those classic young and very hard-throwing arms that make for a classic Tommy John case and while this is not the issue here right now, it lends credence to the fact he is quite risky this season.  In addition, Rodon is one of those speculation picks where we anticipate a jump in production but that is not obviously guaranteed.  For now check back for some updates on Rodon's progress but downgrade him if you haven't drafted yet.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WRAPUP: MIGUEL CABRERA (BACK) MAY NOT BE READY FOR OPENER

Some news and notes on the injury front with the season less than two weeks away.

-Some potentially big news was shared Thursday when Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera admitted he played through a back injury during the WBC and that he may not be ready to go for Opening Day.  Cabrera hit just .190 during the tournament as he was clearly hampered physically and so yet he goes down as another casualty of the exhibition.  Getting up there in age at 34, Cabrera's big body is always prone to breaking down as we have seen from other hefty sluggers like Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder.  This is something to watch closely over the next ten days.

-Luis Valbuena is only of interest in AL-only leagues but he will be down 4-6 weeks with a Grade 1 hamstring strain.  The Los Angeles Angels third baseman has always hit for solid power but his annually horrific batting averages make him an option just in AL-only and very deep mixers.

-Yasmany Tomas continues to say he will be ready to go for the opener despite still being limited by an oblique strain.  Tomas is scheduled to do some higher intensity work in the cage on Friday which will go a long way in determining how ready he is for game action.  A very underrated outfielder in fantasy baseball, Tomas can hit 25-30 home runs for a quite affordable draft cost.

-Having not played since March 12, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock has stressed out his fantasy baseball owners once again.  Coming off a lost 2016 on account of injury, Pollock was a popular buy low outfielder at the draft table.  However his groin injury is a reminder that he always seems to be nicked up and so Pollock is no guarantee to make good on that draft cost.  He still has time to get himself ready to go but he needs to start getting at-bats soon.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS: 81-100

80. Alex Wood:  Always interesting given the strikeout ability and worth a late round stab again coming off decent 2016 comeback.
81. Ivan Nova:  Re-upped in Pittsburgh which was smart since Nova pitched great there after coming over in a deal with the New York Yankees.  Soft-tosser for sure but Pittsburgh has turned struggling pitchers like Nova into useful players in the past.
82. Mike Foltynewicz:  Control has been the main issue holding back Folty and his impactful strikeout ability.  Showed signs late in 2016 that he could be breaking through a bit there.
83. Adam Conley:  While the ERA was decent, Conley doesn't strike out many guys and his lucky BABIP last season means his ratios will go up.
84. Trevor Bauer:  Stop chasing the breakout that looks like it will never arrive.
85. Tyler Skaggs:  Returned from Tommy John with decent results and don't forget the fact Skaggs was once a decent prospect.
86. Jharel Cotton:  Joins Sean Manaea as pitching prospect for the A's that are worth checking out.
87. Colin McHugh:  Still capable of 175 K's but McHugh's ratios have been all over the map.
88. Drew Smyly:  Let us down royally as a sleeper pick for 2016 as Smyly couldn't keep the baseball in the park.  Still has a live arm though.
89. Francisco Liriano:  Fell flat on his face last season aftre a string of three terrific years with the Pirates.  Now in Toronto full-time?  Forget it.
90. Jordan Zimmerman:  Was a total disaster for Tigers in 2016.  Velocity continuing to dip and always had mediocre K rate even prior to that.
91. Mike Fiers:  Strikes guys out still but Fiers is old and fading news.
92. C.C. Sabbathia:  Came back with an ERA under 4.00 for the first time in years last season but Sabbathia can't keep the baseball in the park and his overall fastball struggles to hit 90.
93. Dylan Bundy:  Once again carries sleeper intrigue but Bundy has had a rough spring to say the least.
94. Miguel Gonzalez:  Boring but useful ratios.
95. Jose Berrios:  Was not ready for major league hitters in 2016 but Berrios worth another look.
96. Luis Severino:  Could land in the bullpen again but Severino will be given one last chance to stick in the rotation this season.  
97. Anthony DeScalfani:  Injuries have completely derailed DeScalfani thus far with no end in sight.
98. Robert Gsellman:  Will take the fifth starter's spot for the New York Mets but likely as a placeholder for Zach Wheeler.
99. Jaime Garcia:  Solid veteran who always supplies decent ratios.
100.Dan Straily:  Capable of some strikeouts and maybe a decent ERA if all breaks right.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: SCRATCH ANDREW SUSAC AS TWO-CATCHER POTENTIAL SLEEPER

Another day and more injuries in and around the world of fantasy baseball as the new season is now less then two weeks away.  This time we have Milwaukee Brewers prospective starting catcher Andrew Susac heading for tests on his neck which has been bothering him since camp opened.  Susac complained of worsening pain in the neck on Thursday which prompted the battery of tests and the Brewers apparently don't feel good about the situation as evidenced by the announcement that third-string catcher Manny Pina will make the team.  Susac was not on a bunch of fantasy baseball sleeper lists this spring but in two catcher formats he had some value as a guy who can run a bit and also hit the odd home run.  Forget that now as Susac will likely open the season on the DL and both Pina and Jeff Bandy have little to no value.


2017 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHING UPDATED RANKINGS: 41-80

41. Steven Matz:  Health is the only thing that holds the lefty Matz back as he has averaged a K/IP and posted 2.27 and 3.40 ERA's his first two years in the league.  Honestly though Matz can't be counted on to supply a full season which means he can't be ranked any higher than this.
42. Jameson Taillon:  Now two full years out from Tommy John surgery, the big strikeout potential of Taillon could start to show up this season.  Big upside.
43. J.A. Happ:  Yes Happ has been a different pitcher since overhauling his approach beginning in 2015 but he got a very lucky .268 BABIP to help him post a tough to repeat 3.18 ERA.  Add in the awful home park and Happ is a very solid bust candidate.
44. Tanner Roark:  Take away Roark's brutal bullpen stint at the start of last season and what we have is a 3.00 ERA starter.  The K rate is mediocre but Roark will win a bunch of games in Washington with solid ratios.
45. Carlos Rodon:  Starting to put it all together now as Rodon pitched like a number 2 the second half of last season.  With improving control, Rodon's explosive stuff could really launch him into something special.
46. Robbie Ray:  I bet you didn't know Ray struck out 218 batters in just 174.1 innings last season.  Yes the 4.90 ERA was ghastly but Ray was unlucky BOTH in his strand rate and BABIP.
47. Sean Manaea:  Batters hit just .263 against the lefty last season and Manaea recorded a splendid 2.44 ERA his last 13 starts.  This is one stock heading upwards and you have to love the home park.
48. Matt Shoemaker:  Has been a quietly impressive strikeout artist since becoming a starter with the Angels and the draft price will be low coming off that scary HBP to the head at the end of 2016.
49. Jerad Eickhoff:  Doesn't get talked about as much as Aaron Nola or Vince Velasquez but Eickhoff might have the best polish of the three.  While he doesn't have the K rate of those two, Eickhoff's control is very impressive for a young pitcher.
50. Marco Estrada:  Has now beaten the BABIP curve two years running and somehow is carving out good numbers in Toronto of all places despite a tendency to give up home runs.  You get the feeling a blowup and correction is on the way.  I won't go near him this season.
51. Kevin Gausman:  Hate the AL East which is why I have Gausman here despite some continued growth in 2016.  Upping the K rate as he goes along as well which adds to the positive outlook.
52. Joe Ross:  Dealt with injuries which hurt his 2016 campaign but Ross has registered ERA's of 3.64 and 3.43 each of the last two years.
53. Lance Lynn:  Great buying opportunity here for a guy who always wins games and has struck out 200 batters as recently as 2014.  Lynn has looked great this spring as well to add to the upside.
54. Vince Velasquez:  Another young kid who can really deliver the heat.  Unfortunately Velasquez may not be able to physically hold up as a starter given his health woes.
55. Taijuan Walker:  Gets a fresh start in Arizona but that is not a good match for a guy who gives up home runs.  Walker was very hyped coming up but that light has dimmed.
56. Michael Pineda:  Struck out 207 batters last season and dealt with some horrid BABIP luck as well which points to a turnaround.
57. Daniel Norris:  Overshadowed by Michael Fulmer but shouldn't be.  Jon Gary clone who could really take off this season.
58.  Jeff Samardzjia:  The old high-K rates from his Chicago Cubs days are no more but Samardzjia works well in a spacious park as your SP 4.
59. Eduardo Rodriguez:  Once over his knee problems, Rodriguez looked like a different pitcher for the better last season.  Hate the division however.
60. Matt Moore:  Moore has some of the old bite back on his stuff moving further away from TJ surgery but control woes still undermine him.
61. Sonny Gray:  I sounded the alarms here starting in early 2015 as Gray began to lose velocity.  The bottom completely fell out last year and while it is impossible to imagine such a horrid repeat, Gray's K/9 has dropped each of the last three seasons.  Look on by.
62. Julio Urias:  Likely will start the year in the minors as the Dodgers look to keep Urias' innings down but the outlook is very bright for this strikeout-inducing kid.
63. Gio Gonzalez:  Still striking guys out at a solid clip but Gio is becoming more hittable than ever.
64. Jeremy Hellickson:  Quality back-end arm who won't hurt you.
65. Zach Davies:  Opened eyes with very solid pitching for a bad team in 2016.  K rate better than advertised as well.
66. Jason Hammel:  Made a career out of being a first half gem and a second half dud.
67. Ian Kennedy:  Getting into the boring but effective veteran hurlers now.
67. Jake Odorizzi:  See above.
68. Drew Pomeranz:  Had a typical drop across the board going from San Diego to Boston and had elbow woes as well.  Yet another scare took place this spring so Pomeranz is sinking fast.
69. Adam Wainwright:  Age and severe drop in velocity now make Wainwright nothing more than a back-end innings eater.
70. Blake Snell:  It simply has not happened for Snell who continues to walk the ballpark and now his rotation spot is not a given. Big disappointment thus far.
71. Joe Musgrove:  Poised and polished pitcher who lacks to-end K stuff.
72. Steven Wright:  Do you really want to trust a knuckleball pitcher?
73. Chris Tillman:  Always good for wins and a modest ERA  but Tillman has to get back onto a mound which has not happened this spring.
74. Ervin Santana:  Santana pretty much the same pitcher as Tillman but just older.
75. Alex Cobb:  Another year removed from TJ surgery could help Cobb go back to being the interesting sleeper he was prior to the surgery.
76. Hisashi Iwakuma:  Losing velocity and numbers inching up everywhere.
77. Tyler Glasnow:  Another young hurler for the Pirates who can strike guys out.  Needs to stop walking so many hitters though as Glasnow is in the same boat as Snell.
78. Scott Kazmir:  Is is past time to move beyond this guy.  Always injury prone and starting to get hit hard again.
79. Bartolo Colon:  We have learned never to doubt Colon's ability to post useful ratios but he will struggle to strike out 125 batters.
80. Junior Guerra:  Former Mexican League product surprised with his overall 2016 results but he screams out one year wonder.