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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

FANTASY FOOTBALL TRADE FALLOUT: EAGLES SELL HIGH ON LeSEAN McCOY

In an absolute shocker that caught the entire NFL off guard, the Philadellphia Eagles traded All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy while flat in his prime to the Buffalo Bills for LB Kiko Alonso.  Turning only 27 this July, McCoy comes off a 2014 season that saw his average rush per carry drop to a pedestrian 4.2 after an insane workload in Chip Kelly's first year with the team in 2013.  In fact it was that massive workload that many blame for the falloff in McCoy's numbers last season as he also was being removed on goal-line carries as well.  New Bills head coach Rex Ryan didn't seem to be bothered by McCoy's drop as he now has his prime running back to lead his run-heavy offense.  It will be crucial for Ryan to have McCoy rebound in 2015 as well since his QB is still unknown at this point and likely will be a retread veteran or a rookie.  This also spells the end of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller with the Bills.  Meanwhile the Eagles get a burgeoning star in Alonso and will now turn to Chris Polk who impressed when given time last season.  Polk immediately takes on sleeper value as an aging Darren Sproles doesn't figure to be much of a threat.  Of course the Eagles could address the running situation in the draft as well so this could change.  Still the move is a stunner considering how productive McCoy has been.  His 2013 season was remarkable and made him the number 1 overall pick in many leagues last season.  Unfortunately it was that workload that has many wondering if he is on the decline already like we saw in the past from Eddie George and Jamaal Anderson at young ages after similar insane totes. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: HAND CONTUSION TO KNCOK OUT NICK CASTELLAOS FOR A FEW DAYS

                                             Nick Castellanos

Detroit Tigers outfielder/third baseman Nick Castellanos suffered a left hand contusion after getting hit by a pitch on Tuesday but the team is only calling him day-to-day.  Castellanos is slated to be the team's everyday third baseman and build on a rookie season in 2014 that saw him underwhelm with a .259 average and 11 home runs.  While mentioned prominently as a bright prospect coming up the Tigers' minor league system, Castellanos ultimately lets down his owners due to a light stick when it comes to natural power.  That is a decent-sized negative at third base where you ideally want to get a decent amount of home runs and RBI from.  Castellanos can do better than that .259 average though as he put up some nice numbers there in the minors.  Of course Castellanos has seen his K rate spike since coming up to the majors so anything more than .280 is not a given either.  Overall Castellanos profiles only as a bench third base option with some more upside. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYAN HOWARD TALKS UP WEIGHT LOSS

Philadelphia Phillies 1B Ryan Howard claimed on Tuesday that he has lost 15-20 pounds as he attempts to stop a vast decline in both his health and hitting numbers the last three years.  GM Reuben Amaro seconded the weight loss in saying that Howard showed up in the best shape of his tenure with the team.  The Phillies are still desperately trying to unload Howard and the massive amount of cash still left on his contract.

Analysis:  Howard drove in over 90 runs last season and can still pop 20-25 home runs but his average will struggle to top .230 and his body is failing him at every turn.  We wouldn't touch Howard as anything but a bench bat at the very best and that is not saying much. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TIGERS 1B/DH VICTOR MARTINEZ (KNEE) SAYS HE WILL BE READY FOR OPENER

Detroit Tigers 1B/DH Victor Martinez reported no soreness early on Tuesday after he did on-field work for the first time on Monday.  Martinez is running on a treadmill and took 60 total swings in his debut and said he feels he will be ready to go for Opening Day as he recovers from knee surgery.

Analysis:  All systems are a go with Martinez so continue to draft him as a lower-end first baseman or more ideally as your UTIL or CI bat.  As long as you scale back the power some, Martinez should supply solid value once again this season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS SP MATT HARVEY (ELBOW) TO MAKE FIRST REGULAR SEASON APRIL 9TH

New York Mets ace Matt Harvey will make his first start of the regular season on April 9th.  After 18 months of recovery from Tommy John surgery, Harvey was given that particular start in order to avoid both the overall opener and the home opener.  The Mets feared that Harvey would amp up his throwing if given those assignment and so the more lower-key start was given to him to lessen that risk.  He has reported no issues with his elbow this spring.

Analysis:  Harvey again should be considered a pure power ace who only has to deal with a 180-200 inning cap this season.  Pitching coach Dan Warthen said as much Monday in talking about the innings but the fact Harvey has been out so long should ensure that his power stuff is back in fine working order.

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: MOOKIE BETTS AND RUSNEY CASTILLO BATTLING FOR CENTERFIELD SPOT

A prime sleeper battle is now underway in Boston Red Sox camp as manager John Farrell announced late Monday that rookies Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will get equal playing time in spring training in order to see who will be the team’s starting centerfielder.  With Hanley Ramirez entrenched in left and with a healthy Shane Victorino being promised right, centerfield is the only spot up for grabs for Betts and Castillo.  Surely this is not the sort of news you want to hear if you already are owners of either guy as it looks like the lose could head to the minor leagues to get seasoning.  With the Red Sox also having Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Allen Craig outfield eligible, this is one crowded spot for the team.  The big crowd also removes any chance of the loser getting enough work to remain fantasy baseball viable.

So what do we do with this as a current owner and for those interested in drafting either guy?  Well those who do own Betts or Castillo already need to start planning in case their guy ends up the loser.  The fact Betts is five years younger than Castillo is a problem for him as the Red Sox will look at that as an opportunity to send him back down to the farm and in turn not totally stunt his progress.  Castillo meanwhile is a Cuban veteran who already has hinted at an impressive power/speed/average game.  Betts has a world of talent himself but his additional second base eligibility is useless right now with Dustin Pedroia holding fort there.  I think Betts has incredible skills that can make him a future 20/20 with a .300 average but he could go bust early on if Castillo wins out.  However all is not totally lost for the loser given the fragile nature of both Ramirez and Victorino, and in the case for Betts, the growing injury woes of Pedroia.  It doesn’t figure to be long before some malady strikes one of them and in that case Betts would be right back in the mix as would Castillo. 

As far as those who haven’t drafted yet, the competition should drop the prices for each a bit.  Betts is being drafted a good deal higher than Castillo so if you want to take a shot with one guy, the Cuban is it given there is much less to lose as far as draft value. 

Again this is something that has to be watched very closely this spring.  Both guys can be stars if they develop correctly but there will be a loser here that sees their immediate value shrink to almost zilch.  Stay tuned.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JIMMY ROLLINS TO LEAD OFF FOR DODGERS

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that new shortstop Jimmy Rollins would be the team’s leadoff batter to begin 2015.  While his on-base percentage has been poor the last four seasons, Mattingly hinted that Rollins is their best option there right now.

Analysis:  Despite his advanced age, Rollins was actually very good last season.  His move to a pitcher’s park though will knock a few homers and RBI from his 2014 total but his legs still seem capable of 25 steals.  Just don’t look for a batting average anywhere over .260. and even that could be a stretch. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: INDIANS 2B JASON KIPNIS (FINGER) TO GET INTO GAME THIS WEEKEND

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (finger) will get into a game this weekend according to manager Terry Francona.  Kipnis is recovering from December surgery on his left ring finger to fix some ligament damage. 

Analysis:  Kipnis was horrific in 2014 which is something we had predicted given his sky-high K rate.  He has to get that issue under control in order to unleash his power/speed potential which can still be very potent.  We like the cheaper draft price to find out but also wouldn’t go overboard.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: BLUE JAYS KEEPING CLOSER GIG OPEN FOR NOW

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons went on record Tuesday saying that he does not have a clear-cut closer yet as spring training games begin to get underway.  Gibbons did mention both righty Aaron Sanchez and lefty Brett Cecil as candidates but failed to clear up if he would use a committee if one guy didn’t emerge.

Analysis:  Ugh.  This could go either way but if we had to draft one guy, Cecil would be it.  He has put up some impressive K rates and ratios the last two seasons and has much more experience than does Sanchez.  Still if Gibbons has a preference for a righty in the role, than the deck is stacked again Cecil.  Ultimately this could be a dreaded matchup play.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JUNG HO-KANG HITS HOME RUN IN SPRING DEBUT

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Korean import SS Jung-Ho Kang cracked a home run off Marco Estrada in the team's spring training opener.  Ho-Kang comes off a monster home run campaign in his native country last season and was signed to a sizable free agent seal despite major questions of if he can hit major league pitching.

Analysis:  Nice start and the hype will only grow.  Ho-Kang drew the homer happy Estrada which was a perfect matchup for a nice start.  Only one game of course but you can't argue with the results so far.  

FANTASY FOOTBALL FRANCHISE TAG DAY: SUH SET FREE, WR'S STAY OFF MARKET

Monday was otherwise known as "Franchise Tag" day for the NFL and the free agent status of some of the biggest names in the game.  The predictable pretty much took place when it came to these players with the exception of one giant name that was an utter shock.  Let's take a look.

-The Dallas Cowboys clearly casted their lot with WR Dez Bryant in deciding that he and not RB DeMarco Murray was the more indispensable player.  That was the correct call all the way given the short shelf-life of all running backs and that is especially true for an injury-prone way like Murray is.  In addition, Murray's workload was pure insanity last season and we have almost always seen dramatic drops in production the following season like with LeSean McCoy last season and Eddie George and Jamaal Anderson before him.  Murray is always a given to leave now and the Colts, Jaguars, and Jets all figure to be involved.  Meanwhile the Cowboys have to feel confident that Bryant will not be in any trouble with the rumored Wal-Mart video where a young lady was dragged out of a vehicle.  As long as that doesn't lead to trouble, Bryant is a late first round pick next season.

-The Denver Broncos predictably put the tag on WR Demaryuis Thomas who is right there with Antonio Brown and Calvin Johnson as the best wideout in the game.  There was already strong chatter that tight end Julius Thomas was a goner and the move to tag Thomas is likely to final nail in the coffin there.  The key here now is for Peyton Manning to come back in order for Thomas to retain his first round value.  If that does not happen, Thomas slips clearly behind Bryant, Brown, Johnson, Odell Bekcham, and Julio Jones.

-Justin Houston was not going to go anywhere as the Kansas City Chiefs put the tag on their ferocious pass rusher.  Same goes for the Giants and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Now both teams have to work out new deals or else the cap hit will be horrific.

-The New England Patriots surprisingly put the tag on kicker Stephen Gostowski instead of CB Devin McCourty.  Gostowski is the best kicker in the game and should be the first name off the board among his fraternity next season. 

-Ndamakung Suh was not tagged by the Detroit Lions which will set off a feeding frenzy, with the Jaguars, Jets, Giants, and maybe even Patriots involved.  This move pretty much finishes his time with the Lions which he hinted at anyway at the end of last season.  The price tag will be tremendous.

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: MATT ADAMS 1B ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

One of the more popular sleepers leading into the 2014 fantasy baseball season was St. Louis Cardinals hulking first baseman Matt Adams.  Clearing looking the part of a slugger, the 6-3 and 260-pound Adams opened some eyes in his first extended look in the majors in 2013 when he hit 17 home runs in only 296 at-bats while batting a solid .284.  And Since Adams would be turning only 26 in 2014, the ceiling and potential for 25 home runs and 90 RBI seemed very likely.  Part of the scouting report on Adams that most had as well was that while the power would continue to take off, the .284 batting average would fall due to a high K rate that went back to his minor league days and struggles against lefties.  Well when all was said and done, that scouting report was completely flipped last season as Adams put up the following hitting line:

.288
15 HR
68 RBI
55 R
3 SB

In looking at the numbers, Adams disappointed by hitting two fewer home runs than 2013 despite almost doubling his at-bats.  He also improved his batting average with his .288 mark despite continuing to strike out at a high rate.  So as Adams gets set to begin his age-27 season, it is quite the challenge to try and figure out where he will go from here.

First let's look at the power.  Going back to his minor league days, Adams has always showed himself to be above-average in the home run department which was shown by the 32 bombs he slammed in 2011 while in Double-A.  His 2013 debut went right along with the script as well.  However Adams was way off the pace last season as he seemed to concentrate more on making contact and not swinging for the fences.  The average was solid as a result but the home runs fell off the map.  We can say though that the low home run output last season was a bit of an outlier in the context of Adams' overall career going back to his minor league days.  What is interesting is that Adams' slugging percentage in 2013 (.503) was not tremendously higher than last season's mark (457) which means again there was some fluke at play here when it comes to the low home run output.  I believe there is a lot more home runs where that came from where Adams is concerned and it would not surprise me in the least if he shot back up above the 20 mark and even closed in on 25 now that he is so much more experienced hitting in the pro game. 

As far as the average is concerned, Adams has been shockingly good with his .284 and .288 marks his first two seasons.  However he also has gotten tremendous BABIP luck as his .337 and .338 marks there reflect.  Adams's K rate has always hovered at the 20 or higher mark which is not a number that jives with a good batting average.  With all things being neutral, Adams would be more of a .265 hitter which speaks more to his actual K rate. 

When you put it all together, Matt Adams is looking like a solid value play this season as many were disappointed in his overall output last season which is causing his draft price to sink.  We tend to rush to judgment too quickly on young players if they let us down early and that is what is happening to Adams.  This is especially true at a deep position like first base.  That means you should draft Adams ideally as your UTIL or CI bat and enjoy the improvement in numbers he is likely to produce this season.

2015 PROJECTION:  .275 23 HR 86 RBI 77 R 4 SB

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL OVERRATED/UNDERRATED/PRICED RIGHT

The first baseman are up next as we continue our look at the overrated/underrated/priced right prime players for the 2015 season.  Let's see where the top guys currently stand. 
 
OVERRATED

Victor Martinez:  Knee surgery knocked Martinez down a peg but the latest has him ready for the start of the season.  The bigger issue is the outlier home run total Martinez put up last season which was far and away the best output of his career in that category despite being 37.  Always avoid outlier numbers. 

Joe Mauer:  He can’t hit for more than 10 home runs,he lost catcher eligibility,  the strikeouts are increasing, and he can’t ever stay healthy.  Nothing else needs to be said.

Freddie Freeman:  No matter how you slice it, Freeman was a disappointment in 2014 as his home runs cratered and now the Braves have stripped the lineup of any type of support.  Opposing pitchers will be extra careful around Freeman this season and that makes 20 home runs a challenge again.  Stop chasing potential. 

Joey Votto:  Votto has taken a quick and nasty slide from first round territory as his body is completely betraying him.  Continued reports of a degenerative knee problem hound Votto and his extra patient approach takes away counting stats as well. 

Eric Hosmer:  For the second time in three years, Hosmer was a gigantic bust.  The home runs are just not there and now Hosmer is entering his prime with no signs of a bustout.  Enough.

Mark Trumbo:  Trumbo does provide rare home runs but that is about it as he is a major average liability.  You can get Chris Carter a few rounds cheaper. 

Buster Posey:  Posey is much better off in your catcher spot but his second or third round price is still steep.

Mark Teixeira:  Name brand completely overshadowing reality now which is that Texeira is an injury-marred and aging shell of his old self. 

Chris Davis:  A complete bust in 2014 in every sense of the word as he lost almost half his home runs, the average sailed under .200 due to a massive amount of strikeouts and he got pinched for PED’s.  No reason to bother here as 2013 was nothing but a complete fluke. 

Ryan Howard:  Like with Texeira, Ryan Howard is an aging and injury-prone former star who can’t even hit .230 now.  Ugly. 

Allen Craig:  What a quick fall that was as Craig went from being one of the better natural hitters to a complete joke who went through two organizations in 2014.  With just average power, the drop in average and counting stats pushed Craig way down the first base list. 

Jon Singleton:  Likely slated for the minors now that the Houston Astros smartly brought in Evan Gattis.  Singleton is basically a younger version of Chris Carter, right on down to the massive strikeouts and .230 average. 

Nick Swisher:  Injuries and age claim another victim. 

Steve Pearce:  Was nothing but a journeyman for almost ten years before finally latching on with an everyday role with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014.  After ten years of poor play, don’t go overboard with Pearce’s renaissance. 

UNDERRATED

Todd Frazier:  Anyone who can go 20/20 at first or third base deserves any draft price they yield. 

Adam LaRoche:  Already an underrated power hitter who can swat 25 home runs for a song of a draft price, now LarRoche moves from a prime pitcher’s park to a prime hitter’s haven in going from Washington to the Chicago White Sox.  Yes please. 

Yasmani Grandal:  You want to play Grandal at catcher but this kid has some massive potential now that he has moved away from the PED issue. 

Adam Lind:  As long as you sit Lind when a lefty is on the mound, this could be among the cheapest 25 home runs in baseball. 

Prince Fielder:  A truly horrific 2014 that was filled with poor hitting and than a season-ending neck surgery have sent Fielder’s draft price sinking.  Still in his prime, Fielder in a full season in Texas could be a nice comeback campaign. 

Brandon Moss:  Moss may not be ready to go in April as he recovers from hip surgery but he was already one of the more underrated power hitters in baseball.  With first base and outfield eligibility, Moss can be that again this season. 

Adrian Gonzalez:  Gonzalez continues to get dinged at the draft due to the fact he no longer can swat 40 home runs like in his San Diego days but few are better at driving in runs and combining that with 20-25 home run pop and a solid enough average.  Will gladly take AGONE as my first base anchor. 

David Ortiz:  Age is always a concern and the slip in batting average could finally be a sign that it is starting to take its toll but the power remains immense.  Never doubt Big Papi. 

C.J. Cron:  Reminds me of Billy Butler with more power. 

PRICED RIGHT

Paul Goldschmidt:  Top five guy overall and absolutely deserving of it. 

Lucas Duda:  This 30 home run bat is still developing and pretty much is a better Adam Lind right on down to the issues against lefties.  The low average will keep his price down another season or so. 

Mike Napoli:  Yeah you miss his catcher days but Napoli will never cost you much to help at your UTIL or CI spot. 

Chris Carter:  Ugly average no doubt but Carter supplies the one previous stat in home runs that is becoming very rare.  The new Adam Dunn. 

Michael Morse:  Always been a fan as Morse can churn out 15-20 home runs with a good average for very cheap prices. 

Billy Butler:  Not a fan anymore as Butler’s power is vanishing quick.  Still he remains a professional hitter who can help in his new home in Oakland with the runs and RBI. 

Kendrys Morales:  Gets a fresh start in Kansas City after a few washout seasons but Morales still can hit the baseball a long way.  Try him once more if you can. 

Anthony Rizzo:  Going in late first round in some drafts and I concur.  Natural power could take another step into the 35-plus range. 

Miguel Cabrera:  Right behind Mike Trout as the number 2 guy in the game.

Edwin Encarnacion:  Another guy who deserves his first round grade even if he no longer is eligible at third base.

Jose Abreu:  The Cuban import is already a star and can challenge 40 home runs in 2015. 

Albert Pujols:  Aging and slipping with his rate stats but Pujols proved in 2014 he is not finished yet. 

Carlos Santana:  Play him at catcher if you can but Santana’s natural power is priced well enough since he has eligibility at three different positions on the diamond. 

Brandon Belt:  Still waiting for a breakout that may never arrive but so many are tiring of the kid that his price is cheap.   

Matt Adams:  Adams reversed the scouting report in 2014 as he hit for a good average but saw his power drop.  Maybe it reverses again in 20145. 

Justin Morneau:  Like the cheap value Morneau provides as he comes off a batting title in 2014 during his first season with the Colorado Rockies.  While the power may never come back to his old days, Morneau can yield one more useful season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARLOS GONZALEZ AND TROY TULOWITZKI BOTH SUCCESSFULLY RUN BASES MONDAY

                                       

Both Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki successfully ran the bases with no pain on Monday which marked the first step for both after 2014 knee and hip surgeries respectively.  Both guys are being brought along at a deliberate pace by the Rockies but both are on pace to be ready for the start of the season.

Analysis:  Gonzalez has seen his draft value sink going into 2015 and rightfully so after his disaster that was 2014.  Meanwhile Tulowitzki still is making it in the late first round in some drafts after his monster first half of last season before the hip went out.  Hip injuries are a major deal and could impact Tulo's power in a negative way this season.  The price is way too high on Tulowitzki to bother, even at shortstop.  Meanwhile Gonzalez has sank so far down list that he could make is as a value play. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JOSE IGLESIAS (SHINS) RETURNS TO FIELD MONDAY

                                     

After missing the entire 2014 season with serious shin injuries, Detroit Tigers SS Jose Iglesias went 0-for-1 at the dish and made a put-out in his one inning debut Monday for the team in an intrasquad game.   Iglesias pronounced himself fit and ready to be the everyday shortstop for the team in 2015.

Analysis:  Iglesias has an empty bat that can hit for a decent average.  In other words you can do a lot better, even at a shallow spot like shortstop. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ALEX RODRIGUEZ TO MAKE SPRING DEBUT WEDNESDAY

                                       

New York Yankees 3B/DH Alex Rodriguez is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday as the team continues to try and figure out what if anything he has left in his bat.  Rodriguez has been the clear center of attention at Yankee camp and so far has pronounced himself 100 percent healthy after two serious hip surgeries.  Perhaps an even bigger issue is knocking off the rust after a year being suspended.  The Yankees continue to maintain that if Rodriguez plays in 2015, it will be as a part-time DH and a fill-in for a resting Mark Teixeira.

Analysis:  The name is as big as it gets but not even the gross discount Rodriguez provides this season is worth looking into.  The guy is just a gimmick right now and even the Yankees want to see him fail. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TIGERS 1B VICTOR MARTINEZ (KNEE) ACTIVE ON FIRST DAY OF CAMP

                                         

Detroit Tigers 1B/DH Victor Martinez took 30 swings from both sides of the plate Monday which marked the first day he arrived at camp for the team.  Martinez is also continuing a running program on a treadmill as he makes rapid progress in his recovery from February 10th knee surgery.  Both Martinez and GM Dave Dombrowski reiterated that he will be ready to go for Opening Day based on his current schedule.

Analysis:  Martinez is an interesting player in drafts this season as we all know his amazing 2014 home run tally was a major outlier.  At his best for the previous decade-plus from 2014, Martinez was a 20-home run/90-RBI/.315 hitter and that is where he should be graded as 2015 fantasy baseball gets underway.  The best part about Martinez right now is the discounted rate he continues to supply which should be fully taken advantage of. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: D-BACKS CLOSER ADDISON REED (SHOULDER) TWO WEEKS FROM TAKING MOUND

                                       

Arizona Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed is expected to finally get up on a mound in about two weeks as he continues to recover from a bout of soreness once camp got underway.  No structural issues were found in the shoulder and Reed is being handled cautiously by the team.  He still is expected to be ready for Opening Day unless a setback occurs.

Analysis:  Reed is one of the closers I will avoid at all costs.  For a guy who has the kind of top-notch natural stuff that he has, Reed is incredibly hittable at times and is one of the worst closers in the game based on his numbers the last two seasons.  Now his shoulder is acting up which is something that tends to re-occur.  Avoid if you can. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: REDS TAKING IT SLOW WITH JOEY VOTTO (QUAD)

                                        

Cincinnati Reds 1B Joey Votto is being eased into spring training as the team wants to be extra cautious with last season's quad injury.  After not even logging 300 at-bats last season due yo the quad, Votto said Monday he feels good and expects a nice comeback season.

Analysis:  It all sounds good but Votto has a lot of work to do to get back in the good graces of the fantasy baseball community.  His power and average were down sharply in 2014 and his ultra-patient approach is a drag on his counting numbers.  Solid chance of a decent bounce back but that is certainly not the lock it once was.  

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARDS SP ADAM WAINWRIGHT THROWS BULLPEN SESSION

St. Louis Cardinals SP Adam Wainwright threw a successful bullpen session early Monday which was his first work since suffering an abdominal strain last week.  Wainwright has reported no new pain since the end of last week and is now fully back on schedule.

Analysis:  It looks like the abdominal was just a minor annoyance and nothing more.  Wainwright's elbow issue at the end of 2014 is much more concerning and adds some bust potential for those who pick him in their draft.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

By Eric C. Wright

Dunedin, Fla.--The Toronto Blue Jays are a team that is as imposing as any other lineup in the game as far as power is concerned.  Anchored by monster sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays take full advantage of the home run tendencies of Rogers Center.  Add recent arrival Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays have arguably the fiercest middle order in the game.  The pitching side is where the trouble lies which has kept this team from the postseason but there is hope for 2015 in the form of the young, hard-throwing duo of Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchinson.  Add in veteran Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey who are still fully capable of winning games and the Jays stand a decent chance to finally cracking the postseason. 

LINEUP

1.  Jose Reyes
2.  Josh Donaldson
3.  Jose Bautista
4.  Edwin Encarnacion
5.  Justin Smoak
6.  Russell Martin
7.  Maicer Izturis
8.  Kevin Pillar
9.  Dalton Pompey

ROTATION

1.  R.A. Dickey
2.  Mark Buehrle
3.  Drew Hutchinson
4.  Marcus Stroman
5.  Daniel Norris

CLOSER

Brett Cecil

5-STAR PLAYERS

Jose Bautista:  After three straight years of steady decline in his home run rate, Bautista rebounded in a big way in 2014 as he once again reaffirmed his status as quite possibly the best power hitter in baseball by slamming 35 home runs while crossing the 100 mark in both runs and RBI.  No longer eligible at third base, Bautisa added first to go with his usual outfield standing.  At 34 Bautista is still young enough to be able to repeat last season's haul as long as you don't buy into the BABIP-fueled .286 mark in the batting average category. 

Edwin Encarnacion:  We argued forcefully prior to last season that Encarnacion was a first round pick and than took a ton of heat when he was simply horrendous in April.  However from May onward, no one hit home run at a better rate than Encarnacion as he finished with 34 total to go with 98 RBI.  That made it three seasons in a row now where Encarnacion has passed the 30-home run mark as he remains a premier power guy.  However a few things to note center on the fact he no longer carries third base eligibility and Encarnacion's past ability to steal double-digit bases look finished as he took only 2 last season.  Still the guy is a monster and should still be graded as such.

Josh Donaldson:  You better believe that Donaldson is a five-star guy as he was in the MVP consideration in 2014 as he slugged 29 RBI while going past the 90 mark both in runs and RBI for the Oakland A's.  The fact Donaldson was able to hit so many home runs in a pitcher's park in Oakland leads to great anticipation of what he can do in a full season in Rogers Center.  30 is a given and 35 is not out of the question.  Just be aware that Donaldson is more the .255 hitter he was in 2014 than the .301 guy two seasons ago.

4-STAR PLAYERS

Jose Reyes:  Reyes is aging well enough as he still stole 30 bases in 32 tries in 2014 while also scoring 94 runs atop the order.  Still the fact Reyes turns 32 in June is not something to take lightly as he has seen his steals dip consistently since his early 20's.  Reyes remains a major injury risk as he was already a guy who suffered a bunch of leg problems even before he played half his games on the turf in Rogers Center.  If you can get 500 at-bats out of Reyes, you will be handsomely rewarded with around 10 home runs/90 runs scored/a .290 average/and 30 steals which his a tremendous line, especially at the shallow shortstop spot. 

Marcus Stroman:  I am extremely high on the prospects of hard-throwing youngster Marcus Stroman for a number of reasons.  Blessed with a vast five-pitch repertoire that induces a high number of strikeouts, Stroman also has top-notch control which is rarely seen in such a young pitcher.  I continue to compare him to a young Houston Astros version of Roy Oswalt and stardom is imminent. Take advantage of the cheap draft price as it will only go up from this point on.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Brett Cecil:  The Blue Jays failed to address the closer spot in the offseason after letting Casey Janssen walk.  That means the lefty Cecil is looking like the front-runner for the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen and the guy certainly has the stuff to succeed there.  Cecil has put up some impressive K rates the last two seasons but he has some home run tendencies that are a bit scary.  For now he is the guy to target and the upside is sizable. 

Dalton Pompey:  The Blue Jays are very excited about what the speedy Pompey can bring to the bottom of their order in sort of a second leadoff kind of guy.  Pompey can run like the wind and he will go crazy on the basepaths if he can only hit enough.  The Jays are ready to give him every chance to succeed there and those looking for cheap speed should look in this corner.

Russell Martin:  Martin ideally has much more value in two-catcher formats but he proved in 2014 that he still can contribute as a single league guy by hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI.  Now 32, Martin is on the back nine of his career and his past as a stolen base guy looks finished for good.  The arrival to Toronto should keep Martin in the double-digit home run area code but there is also some bust potential given the fact 2014 was the best season he had in years.

2-STAR PLAYERS

Mark Buehrle:  What an underrated and amazingly effective career Buehrle has had.  Despite struggling to throw 90-mph throughout most of his tenure in the majors, Buehrle continue to churn out monster inning seasons with ERA's in the mid-3.00 range.  He made another All-Star team in 2014 due to a terrific first half and he would finish with a tidy 3.39 ERA.  The 1.36 WHIP though indicates that Buehrle got a ton of luck in the advanced statistics department and it also shows that he really is worth using in only non-innings capped leagues as an SP 5 at the very best. 

R.A. Dickey:  Like with Mark Buehrle, Dickey continues to make himself somewhat useful by posting decent ratios.  Unlike Buehrle however, Dickey can help out with the strikeouts.  Still a knuckleballer who is over 40 is not someone you really want to own.

Drew Hutchinson:  The 4.48 ERA was ugly but the 184 strikeouts were nice.  Hutchinson overall was decent in 2014 which was his first full season as a starter in the majors.  Rogers Center is a tough play for any starter and you really want to ignore the K's given the ugly ratios. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Justin Smoak-Marco Estrada-Kevin Pillar-Daniel Norris Dioneer Navarro

HEARD AROUND:  The Blue Jays will audition the fifth rotation spot between the veteran Estrada and youngster Norris.....Could go either way.....Dioneer Navarro is expected to get DH at-bats in a platoon with Justin Smoak.....The team expects the rookie Pompey to swipe 30 bags at least if he can hit even somewhat. 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: GARRETT RICHARDS TO MISS 2-3 WEEKS WITH KNEE RECOVERY

When Los Angeles Angels ace SP Garrett Richards went down with a gruesome season-ending knee injury last August, initial thoughts and reactions were that it would be around at least the All-Star break of 2015 before he would be able to make his way back.  In the midst of a tremendous breakout season, Richards suffered another setback to stardom that many had predicted when he was coming up the Los Angeles farm system.  Richards attacked his rehab however and soon thoughts of him being ready for Opening Day began to circulate.  This idea only grew when Richards was able to throw off a mound as spring training got underway.  However manager Mike Scoscia finally gave a firm timetable for Richards on Sunday as he said his ace would likely miss the first 2-3 weeks of April as he continues to ramp up his conditioning.  No setbacks were suffered by Richards but Scoscia maintains that the team wants to be cautious with Richards.  When Richards suffered the injury last August, his ERA stood at a splendid 2.61 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while striking out a batter per inning.  After three seasons prior of ugly pitching, Richards finally stopped walking guys and also figured out how to use his 98-mph fastball to get outs. 

So as 2015 fantasy baseball draws nearer, the draft strategy with Richards remains the same from this peanut stand.  Take advantage of the discounted price here as Richards can absolutely pitch like an ace again given that his 2015 output was completely legit.  This is a guy who can be drafted around the SP 3's and will likely only miss 3-4 starts which shows you how great a value pick he can be this season.  You always want to have maximum value with your draft picks and when it comes to Richards this season, he could be one of the best under that category. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: SEAN DOOLITTLE COULD BEGIN THROWING NEXT WEEK

Oakland A's closer Sean Doolittle passed a strength test in his left pitching shoulder Saturday which could open the door for him to be able to throw for the first time in spring training next week.  Doolittle is still slated to begin the season on the DL but he could return within the first two weeks based on the schedule he is on.  Tyler Clippard will finish games in his place until the return.

Analysis:  It looks like Doolittle avoided the worst here and the hard-throwing lefty should be in line to reprise his incredible breakout in 2014 when he walked hardly anyone and was one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the game.  Clippard meanwhile is seeing his value fall more and more as the good news keeps arriving for Doolittle. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ROCKIES SS TROY TULOWITZKI (HIP), OF CARLOS GONZALEZ (KNEE) TO RUN BASES THIS WEEK

Both rehabbing Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez will attempt to run the bases for the first time in spring training this week which are positive signs in their recoveries from respective hip and knee surgeries.  In the case of Tulowitzki, the shortstop has already been fielding grounders but the team has been extra cautious after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.  Gonzalez meanwhile tore the patellar in his left knee last August but has had no setbacks in his return either.  Both currently are on track to be ready for Opening Day barring any other issues developing. 

Analysis:  Good news for both but Tulo and Gonzalez remain among the most injury-prone big-name players in fantasy baseball.  I would recommend not bothering with either one, especially Tulowitzki whose hip surgery has been known to rob a player of power and lead to arthritis.  Gonzalez meanwhile looked like a shell of his former All-Star self even before the knee issue last season, showing little of the past speed he had.  His draft price is much cheaper though and he can work as a bounceback guy under the right draft situation.  Proceed with caution as this could turn ugly again in a second this season. 

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: SHANE VICTORINO COMPLICATES OUTLOOK OF MOOKIE BETTS

One of the more popular sleepers for the 2015 fantasy baseball season undoubtedly is Boston Red Sox second baseman/outfielder Mookie Betts who is being drafted on average in the 10th round despite having had just a cup of coffee stint as a part-time player for the team last season.  Blessed with advanced hitting skills highlighted by a low K rate (which is especially impressive for a young player) to go with top-end speed, Betts seems destined for five-star superstar status.  He is certainly being drafted with that expectation in mind this winter but things are starting to get a bit complicated as far as Betts' imminent ascent is concerned.  That complication falls in the form of outfielder Shane Victorino who has pronounced himself healthy this spring training and who aims to be the team's starting rightfielder.  Now in the last year of the three-year/$39-million contract he signed prior to 2013, Victorino endured a horrific 2014 campaign due to never being healthy and showing diminished skills when on the field.  However with all the money Victorino is owed, there is some indication the Red Sox will side with him in rightfield as long as he is healthy.  That is a big problem for Betts because than all of a sudden he doesn't have a position to play as Rusney Castillo is in center and Hanley Ramirez in left.  Second base of course belongs to Dustin Pedroia so that is out too.  The worst case scenario outside of Betts starting 2015 in the minors would be that he would turn into a super utility guy that may not be in the lineup on a daily basis.  That certainly would be a major downer for Betts' owners who spent a pretty penny getting their hands on him in the first place.  Not much has been said on the subject definitively so far in camp but this is something that has to be watched closely.  If Betts struggled in spring games, the Red Sox have their opening to send him back to the minors in favor of Victorino.  If he is red hot, the Red Sox have immense pressure to play him over his fading counterpart.  Every season we see guys who get drafted incredibly high on potential alone and that has been the case with Betts.  Unfortunately the bust degree is very high here and that could already be showing its ugly face in Betts situation.