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Monday, March 31, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ ANNOINTED CLOSER IN MILWAUKEE

                                                       

On the same day that Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura surprised us all by announcing that Matt Lindstrom and not Nate Jones would be the team's closer, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke looked like he tried to one-up his counterpart by reporting that veteran Francisco Rodriguez would be the team's ninth inning man over presumed closer Jim Henderson.  Come again?  Exactly as all of Henderson's fantasy baseball owners are still trying to process this news right about now.  Rodriguez successfully closed out the team's opener with a scoreless ninth and Roenicke said after the game that the move was made in order for Henderson to fine-tune his stuff after a rough spring.  Needless to say the closer carousel is already in full spin mode as Opening Day has already brought two changes from the consensus presumptive ninth inning guys.  Henderson's owners need to stick by him however as Roenicke could go back to him soon enough and we all know Rodriguez is no given in the ninth inning at this stage of his career.  Strap in as the 2014 season is already nutty.

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: JOSE REYES TO HIT THE DL WITH ANOTHER HAMSTRING STRAIN

                                                         

Updating an earlier item, Toronto Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes suffered a setback with his previously strained left hamstring and a team source indicated he will be placed on the DL as a result of it.  Reyes had his first inning at-bats and than failed to come out of the dugout for the bottom of the inning to play the field.  Reyes was seen limping in the locker room and will now head for more testing to see the severity of the injury.  For Reyes' fantasy baseball owners, this is "here we go again" territory when it comes to the oft-injured Reyes.  His legs are as fragile as can be and playing on the artificial turf is a huge red flag for his 2014 fantasy baseball value.  Reyes is also no longer a young man at 31 and he now has now recorded four years out of the last five on the DL.  It will only get worse the older he gets and Reyes right now is looking like a major headache with his season only a week old.  His days of first round production are long over and the same can be said about even 40 steals.  Downward we go.  For Reyes' owners, start lining up a backup by the waiver wire or through a trade if you haven't done so already.  Start by looking up Seattle's Brad Miller as a possible replacement.  Failing that, looking into Arizona's Chris Ownings or hoping for a bounceback by the Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro make sense.  In addition Jonathan Villar or Alicides Escobar should be on the wire as well.  Either way it is a step down from what Reyes could have given you.



FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CONFLICTING REPORTS ABOUT WILSON RAMOS' HAND, TEAM SAYS X-RAYS NEGATIVE

                                                    

Updating an earlier item, the Washington Nationals are refuting a report made by James Wagner of the Washington Post who reported he suffered a broken hand in the team's opener against the New York Mets.  The Nationals countered b saying that X-rays performed on the hand were negative and that he will see a hand specialist for a follow-up.  Either way Ramos hurt the hand in some form but more clarity should be given Tuesday after his visit to the doctor.

Analysis:  Not sure what the deal is here but we are looking into it.  Just because X-rays were negative doesn't mean Ramos is out of the woods when it comes to a break.  This could be spin doctoring by the team but also Wagner might have a bad source.  A hairline fracture can be tough to pick up on an X-ray so the more invasive testing with the hand specialist should decide this once and for all tomorrow.  Ramos's immediate fantasy baseball value hangs in the balance.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: WILSON RAMOS BREAKS HAND IN OPENER, COLD BE OUT AWHILE

                                                                 

Amazing.  It just defies explanation sometimes with injury prone players how the next ailment seems to always hunt them down.  Just minutes after Toronto Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes failed to make it through the first inning of his team's opener Monday, it was learned that Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos suffered a broken hand in the team's opener versus the New York Mets.  Ramos left the game in the seventh inning for at the time undisclosed reasons and replaced by backup Jose Lobaton.  It was not until extra innings when the news was announced by the team that Ramos suffered the break and it served as a huge gut check to his fantasy baseball owners who were expecting a breakout year from the power-hitting catcher like yours truly was as well.  However Ramos' inability to stay healthy is well-established but to not even make it through the opening game is a joke.  Ramos hit for very good power when he was on the field last season but he has yet to put in a full campaign due to his health issues.  Right now his fantasy baseball owners are scrambling with no decent options likely on the wire.  Travis D'Arnaud could be an option given his upside or a veteran like A.J. Pierzynski.  Still this is a decent hit already with Opening Day still underway.  Wow.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BLUE JAYS SS JOSE REYES EXITS AFTER FIRST INNING WITH UNDISCLOSED INJURY

                                                         

Already.  Toronto Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes failed to make it through one inning of the 2014 fantasy baseball season as he exited the team's opener with an undisclosed injury.  Reyes had just recently returned from a spring training hamstring injury which could have flared up in the top half of the inning.  There has been no updated given yet.

Analysis:  Unreal.  Told you all to stay far away from Reyes this season as I did a long bust post on him earlier.  He has now gone past the age of 30 and is playing half of his games on turf which is about as bad a matchup someone with bad legs can have.  This could be ugly.  Stay tuned.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: JUSTIN VERLANDER SP DETROIT TIGERS

                                                          Justin Verlander

Much has been said by yours truly and others in the fantasy baseball industry about the red flags seen from Detroit Tigers ace SP Justin Verlander in 2013.  Widely considered the top starting pitcher the last three or so years prior, last season saw Verlander supply from numbers that were less than optimal and suggested some issues that were going on with his makeup.  For the third season in a row, Verlander saw a decrease in his fastball velocity.  While the drop in velocity didn't do much to hurt Verlander's numbers in 2011 and 2012, last season was a different story.  His WHIP shot up dramatically from 2012's 1.06 to last season's 1.31.  The ERA followed suit as well, going from 2.64 to 3.46.  Verlander also walked 15 more batters from the year prior in 20 less innings.  In my opinion, it was the continuation of a very bad path that Verlander was taking and in my mind I concluded that all those 220-plus innings (not counting some deep postseason runs) had finally sapped some juice from Verlander's arm.  Despite not being old, there is only so much abuse an arm can take and we have seen how former aces Dan Haren and last season's horror show in C.C. Sabbathia fell victim to this trend as well.  Other argued to the contrary however, pointing out how terrific Verlander was last September and into the playoffs as well. 

Opening Day 2014 brought some more evidence supporting my claim though as Verlander was mediocre to say the least.  He tossed six innings while giving up 6 hits and 3 walks.  He also struck out ONLY 2!!!! batters while throwing only 64 of his 105 pitches for strikes.  Not good by any means and while it was only one outing, it was starts like this that we saw so much of from Verlander last season.  This is why I told you all to avoid drafting Verlander this season as he is clearly trending in the wrong direction.  The arm has lost juice and he is looking like another guy who is fading right before our eyes. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: BOBBY PARNELL CLOSER NEW YORK METS

                                                            Bobby Parnell        

As of this writing the game between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals remains tied 5-5 but our second CRISIS POINT feature of the 2014 fantasy baseball season centers on closer Bobby Parnell who blew the save in the top of the ninth inning, ruining the home opener for his team.  This was no ordinary blown save either for Parnell who is making his return from last season's invasive neck surgery.  Let's get right to the disturbing details and what it means for his fantasy baseball owners.

Overall in Parnell's innings, he gave up two hits and a walk with one earned run as the Nationals got the run they needed to tie it at 5.  However the underlying metrics were unnerving for Parnell's owners to say the least.  The big red flag in the outing was the fact Parnell struggled to throw********THE REST OF THIS FEATURE IS RESERVED FOR FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2014 FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.  TO GET ACCESS TO ALL INSIDER FEATURES FOR THE ENTIRE BASEBALL SEASON, USE THE BUY NOW TAB BELOW TO GET ON BOARD FOR ONLY A ONE-TIME DISCOUNTED PAYMENT OF $39.99.  PAYS FOR ITSELF BEFORE APRIL IS THROUGH.*****



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FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDER CLOSING TIME: LINDSTROM OVER JONES? SERIOUSLY?

         

It is Monday which means for 2014 Fantasy Sports Boss Fantasy Baseball INSIDER subscribers, a new look at the world of the ninth inning in Closing Time.  Those who are not yet INSIDER subscribers can do so by using the BUY NOW tab below to make your one-time payment of $39.99 for a season worth of access to all INSIDER features. 

-The Fantasy Baseball world was literally tossed a curveball on Monday when Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura names veteran Matt Lindstrom as the team's closer to start the season over the much more explosive Nate Jones and rookie Daniel Webb.  Both Jones and Lindstrom had very good spring training results but Ventura preferred the experience of Lindstrom, who has closed games for four different teams.  This despite the fact Jones has the better K rate and whose stuff profiles as a better fit for the ninth inning.********THE REST OF THIS FEATURE IS RESERVED FOR FANTASY SPORTS BOSS 2014 FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDER SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.  TO GET ACCESS TO ALL INSIDER FEATURES FOR THE ENTIRE BASEBALL SEASON, USE THE BUY NOW TAB BELOW TO GET ON BOARD FOR ONLY A ONE-TIME DISCOUNTED PAYMENT OF $39.99.  PAYS FOR ITSELF BEFORE APRIL IS THROUGH.*****



OR JUST PURCHASE THIS ARTICLE ALONE FOR $1.50 USING TRHE BUY NOW TAB BELOW.



FANTASY BASEBALL BRIEF: JUSTIN VERLANDER STRUGGLING ALREADY

Verlander looking like garbage already. 3 walks and 4 hits with 1 K in 4 IP. Stand by my belief he will be giant bust.  Could very well be this season's version of C.C. Sabbathia from 2013 due to all those giants innings totals on his arm the last 8 years.  Velocity has dropped three straight seasons, K rate is up, and walks getting high.  The arm can only take so much.  I warned you. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: MATT LINDSTROM NAMED WHITE SOX CLOSER

                                                         

Didn't see that coming.  Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura surprised many on Monday by naming veteran Matt Lindstrom the team's closer for Opening Day over Nate Jones and Daniel Webb.  Lindstrom has closed games for four other organizations and had a solid spring which likely won over Ventura compared to the inexperienced Jones and Webb in the ninth inning.

Analysis:  Wow.  Go to the wire and pick up Lindstrom I guess.  Shocked that Jones didn't win out but MLB managers always lean toward experience.  We have seen Lindstrom fail on more than one occasions when it comes to closing and this may not be any different so hold Jones close by.  More on this later in Closing Time for INSIDERS.



FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BRYCE HARPER (HEAD) STAYS IN GAME

Updating an earlier item, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper stayed in the game after being checked out by trainers in the dugout after taking a knee to the head while sliding into second base.

Analysis:  Whew!  Nothing further to discuss here.  That is until the next Harper injury.  It is likely to be a high-wire act all season for Harper's owners.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS OUTFIELDER BRYCE HARPER KNEED IN HEAD ON SLIDE, OUT FOR GAME

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper took a direct knee to his head while trying to make a takeout slide into second base in the second inning of the team's opening game.  Harper stayed down on the field for a few minutes and than was taken off the field.  He went right into the locker room for testing.

Analysis:  Uh-oh.  Here we go again with Harper whose reckless play has gotten him injured in the past.  We could be looking at a concussion deal here or maybe nothing at all.  Stay tuned for an update,

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NICK MARJAKIS (NECK) IN LINEUP FOR ORIOLES MONDAY

                                                       

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis is in the lineup for the team Monday for Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox despite being limited with a neck strain.  Markakis will bat leadoff for Orioles as he made it through the pre-game workout with no problems.

Analysis:  Markakis has really fallen off the map in terms of fantasy baseball value since 2009 when he was looking like one of the brightest young hitters in the game.  Now he is just a light-hitting outfielder who will collect good counting stats in runs leading off with a solid batting average.  You can do much better.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RED SOX OUTFIELDER SHANE VICTORINO HAS GRADE 1 HAMSTRING STRAIN, OUT 3 WEEKS

                                               

Updating an earlier item, Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino has a Grade 1 right hamstring strain that will keep him out around 3 weeks.  Victorino was already placed on the DL earlier in the day and was replaced by Jackie Bradley Jr. in rightfield.

Analysis:  Lots of injuries already in 2014 fantasy baseball and we are barely underway.  It will be towards the end of April now until we see Victorino in a game so right off the bat his fantasy baseball owners are losing a chunk of potential production. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: GRADY SIZEMORE'S RETURN TO FANTASY BASEBALL

                                                        

The Boston Red Sox took a gamble and it looks like it might be ready to pay off.  After a series of devastating injuries took Sizemore completely out of the MLB picture for both the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons, the Red Sox inked him to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training based on a positive report on a workout the outfielder took part in.  Despite being older and less athletic at 32 than he was back in his early dominant years with the Cleveland Indians, Sizemore shocked maybe even himself by hitting .310 with 1 home runs in spring training games and stayed completely healthy which is half the battle.  Now Sizemore is set to bat sixth and man centerfield in the team's Opening Day lineup against the Baltimore Orioles.  So at this point we have to wonder what in fact Sizemore could supply his fantasy baseball owners this season after so much time away? 

The answer to that question is a complicated one for sure.  Again at 32-years-old and with a ton of leg surgeries and injuries under his belt, it is likely Sizemore's days of running and stealing bases are finished.  No sense risking more injury and it is likely he lost more than a step.  In addition we can't bank on Sizemore staying healthy.  Basically what he does for his owners this season will all be considered a bonus and nothing more.  Going back to his Cleveland days in moving away from the speed portion of the game, Sizemore had good power with four straight 20-plus home run seasons under his belt.  Playing half of his games in Boston and Fenway Park will help there as well.  Hitting sixth in the lineup also will place him in position to collect a decent number of RBI on a per game basis.  However Sizemore was never a good average guy, with a career mark of only .269.  With so much time away from the game, look for Sizemore to hit somewhere between .260-.275.

Overall Sizemore is a lottery ticket worth buying given how good he was in the past.  However this will be a scaled-down version of Sizemore at his age and his season will be one big question mark due to being out for so long with his injuries. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RED SOX PLACE OUTFIELDER SHANE VICTORINO ON DL WITH STRAINED HAMSTRING

                                                          

The Boston Red Sox placed outfielder Shane Victorino on the 15-day DL Monday due to a right hamstring strain.  He was headed to Boston for an MRI late Sunday in order to determine the severity and Jackie Bradley Jr. was added to the roster in his place.

Analysis:  Tough start for Victorino who is looking to reprise his surprisingly good 2014 fantasy baseball season.  A bum hamstring is terrible for a guy like Victorino who gets a ton of his value through his legs.  Bradley Jr. failed to impress this spring and is not worth adding in anything but AL-only formats.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYAN ZIMMERMAN HITTING 2ND FOR NATS, WILSON RAMOS CLEANUP

                                                                             

The Washington Nationals will try third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in two spot for Opening Day Monday and in turn will have catcher Wilson Ramos batting cleanup.  Zimmerman will follow leadoff man Denard Span and than following him will be Jayson Werth and than Ramos.  Bryce Harper will bat fifth. 

Analysis:  Interesting move here for Ramos and his fantasy baseball owners as this is a prime spot for their catcher to collect RBI.  Ramos hit for big power when he was on the field last season and he could be primed for a breakout season if he can stay healthy which has always been an issue. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS OUFIELDER CHRIS YOUNG OUT WITH QUAD STRAIN

                                                       

New York Mets outfielder Chris Young will not be in the team's Opening Day lineup due to a strained right quad.  No word on when Young hurt the quad but he joins Daniel Murphy, who is out on maternity leave, on the sidelines for the Met opener.  Andrew Brown will replace him in the lineup.

Analysis:  Rough start for the Mets and Young's fantasy baseball owners.  Once a 20/20 stalwart, Young is trying to resurrect his career in New York after dealing with bad injuries the last two seasons.  This is not the way he wanted to get going in his initial New York foray and he could land on the DL as most quad injuries ended up going there.  Stay tuned.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: 'PHILS SS JIMMY ROLLINS IN LINEUP AFTER BIRTH OF BABY

                                                       

Philadelphia Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins is in the team's Opening Day lineup after getting back to team after being with his wife for the birth of their child.  Rollins has been embroiled in a dispute with manager Ryan Sandberg and the front office this spring to the point where the team tried to trade him.  In response Rollins invoked his 10-and-5 rights which give him no-trade protection.

Analysis:  Rollins is no longer an everyday fantasy baseball shortstop in mixed leagues as his power is severely eroded and the speed is following suit.  The issues with the team are also a major problem as Rollins could be benched for continued run-ins with Sandberg and the front office.  Move on for good..

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS 2B DANIEL MURPHY OUT OF OPENING DAY LINEUP DUE TO BIRTH OF CHILD

                                                       

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy will not be in the Opening Day lineup for the team Monday against the Washington Nationals due to birth of his baby.  Murphy is expected to return in time for the team's game Wednesday.

Analysis:  Get Murphy out of the lineup pronto.  As of this writing snow is falling heavily in New York but is expected to clear by the 1:00 start.  While Murphy is short on power, he figured out how steal bases last season and is always a good average guy.  He is getting close to top ten second base territory this season.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BILLY HAMILTON BATTING LEADOFF FOR REDS IN OPENER

                                                        

Cincinnati Reds speedy rookie outfielder Billy Hamilton is penciled in to lead off for the team in their opener Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Hamilton comes off a terrific preseason performance where he hit .327 with 9 stolen bases and if he can maintain a good on-base percentage and keep the average above .260, 100 steals could be in the offing.

Analysis:  Buckle up as this should be fun. I spoke as highly of Hamilton as anyone in the industry this spring training and told you all to reach for him in drafts as he can single-handily win your the steals category which is huge.  His big spring was key in that there were serious questions regarding whether Hamilton could hit enough to be an everyday guy.  He could steal 15 bases in April or more. 

FANTASY BASEBALL DAILY WRAPUP: SUNDAY 3/30/14

                                                       

The in-state 2014 fantasy baseball regular season got underway last night as the Los Angeles Dodgers went at it with the San Diego Padres.  Pitching ruled the day so let's get right to all the action before Monday's full slate.

-Andrew Cashner got the Opening Day start for the San Diego Padres which was symbolic since the team has very high expectations for his power arm in front of the rotation.  Despite a penchant for getting hurt, Cashner has shown a nice combination of low hit rates and high strikeout totals which has painted him as a prime fantasy baseball sleeper the last two seasons.  Well Cashner lived up to the hype for one game at least as he threw six innings of 6-hit ball while giving up only one earned run and striking out five.  Sometimes Cashner's control gets out of whack but he walked only 2 in this one.  Overall it was a nice debut that will lead to more in the fantasy baseball community paying attention to his next start. 

-On the other side Hyun-Jin Ryu is already hinting that he is on the verge of a big time breakout season.  After throwing a five inning shutout in Australia, Ryu was in firm control again stateside Sunday night as he threw seven more scoreless innings while giving up only 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out seven.  Overall now Ryu has given up only 5 hits in 12 innings while striking out 12 and not surrendering a run.  Big time stuff despite it only being two starts.  The Korean import was very good his rookie year last season when he posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 30 starts with 154 K's.  Ryu could be boosted his K's in his second MLB season like Yu Darvish did, although not to the extreme the Rangers ace did in 2013, due to the fact he is getting more comfortable both in the States and against MLB hitting.  The best part is that Ryu didn't cost a much more than an SP 3 draft price.  This could get interesting.  Hell it already is.

-Not much of anything happened on the hitting side for both teams.  No Jordan Schafer moments (you know a mediocre player who goes off on Opening Day which sparks a swarm to the waiver wire to pick him, only to see said player dropped a week later when everyone realizes he stinks) unless you could the home run Seth Smith hit.  Smith is a perennial tease who has solid pop and a bit of speed but who is a David Murphy platoon hitter.  Leave him on the wire.

-Yeah so the leash on Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got a bit longer on Sunday after setup man and former All Star stopper Brian Wilson gave up two earned runs which included Smith's homer on two hits and a walk with no outs achieved.  While Jansen went into the season as a top five closer, his history of heart trouble and Wilson's dominant return to the game last season after Tommy John surgery gave some thought that maybe the latter could end closing at some point.  That point is not anytime soon.

-Yasiel Puig went 0-for-3 and his average sank to .231.  Yeah I know only three games have been played by Los Angeles but his early season performances will need to be watched closely.  Management had a sit down with Puig a few days ago regarding his behavior and lackadaisical play and if he struggles badly out of the gate, don't be surprised if the team tries to make a statement to him by sending him to the minors.  This is the risk I talked about when it came to Puig this season.  Terrific talent but his head is not right yet.

There you have it.  Let me hear your thoughts on this.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: CASEY JANSSEN HITS THE DL WITH MORE SHOULDER WOES, WELCOME BACK TO THE NINTH INNING SERGIO SANTOS

                                                   

Another day and another big injury to talk about in 2014 fantasy baseball and the season hasn't even gotten underway for 28 of the 30 squads.  With all teams setting their rosters for Monday, a boatload of players landed on the DL.  One of them was Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen who once again will be sidelined but this time for a sore back and not his shoulder.  Janssen has had shoulder problems for the better part of three seasons now and in spring training he dealt with another flareup.  He was very limited in spring training but the back injury was what cropped up the last few days.  There is no word on how long Janssen will be out but up steps old friend Sergio Santos into the ninth inning.  Originally Santos was signed by the Jays to be their closer before the 2012 season but he missed virtually that entire year with injury which opened the door for Janssen to grab the job.  The Jays held onto him for insurance purposes which looks like a nice move given what has happened with Janssen.  There is no word on how long Janssen will be out which makes Santos a must add right this minute.  Santos pitched well when he returned from the DL last season and was very good this spring as well.  He should be a very solid closer for the Jays until Janssen returns.  That return date is unknown however.  Welcome to the new season.  Here we go.

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: YU DARVISH JOINS CLAYTON KERSHAW ON THE DL WITH NECK SORENESS

                                                            

Not even 24 hours later, I am basically writing the same piece on Texas Rangers ace SP Yu Darvish that I did on Los Angeles Dodgers ace SP Clayton Kershaw.  After the Dodgers placed Kershaw on the 15-day DL Saturday due to an inflamed back, the Rangers did the same on Sunday with Darvish due to a bout of neck soreness that has impacted him for the last week.  The move was backdated to March 21st which means Darvish may only miss one start but again like with Kershaw, this is about the last thing his fantasy baseball owners needed with the season getting underway.  Unlike with Kershaw though, Darvish was able to throw a 32-pitch bullpen session on Sunday with no problems and is scheduled to toss another on Tuesday.  If all goes well Darvish should be able to pitch next weekend when he is eligible to come off of the DL.  While this doesn't seem like a major deal for Darvish's fantasy baseball owners, it is telling that the TOP TWO consensus starting pitchers for 2014 are already injured.  Once again it never pays to draft a starting pitcher early due to their penchant for getting injured and this is a stark reminder of the trend.  Darvish should be just fine in a week or so but again check back for updates on his progress.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: REDS OFFICIALLY PLACE CLOSER AROLDIS CHAPMAN (EYE) ON DL

                                                      

The Cincinnati Reds officially placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 15-day DL Sunday due to the facial fractures he had to have surgically repaired two weeks ago.  Chapman was nailed directly in the face with a comebacker off the bat of Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez which resulted in a broken nose and a fractured orbital bone.

Analysis:  We all knew this was coming so this is a non-story.  What is a bigger story is how the Cincy bullpen will shake out at closer as the presumed replacement J.J. Hoover has not pitched well at all this spring.  A committee could be in place here and Chapman is not expected back until May.  Overall this is one big mess.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JEAN SEGURA (SHOULDER) TO START OPENING DAY

                                                      

Confirming an initial report from last Friday, Milwaukee Brewers SS Jean Segura will start on Opening Day for the team despite dealing with a sore shoulder for the better part of the last two weeks.  Segura was able to throw with no issues on Friday and that gave him the official green light to be out on the field Monday.

Analysis:  Great news all around as Segura's owners at this point don't have to worry about him missing time.  Shoulder injuries can re-occur however so we are not totally out of the woods yet.  Still Segura is primed for another big season at a shallow spot on the diamond.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: CAN WE FINALLY TRUST FRANCISCO LIRIANO OF HIS TERRIRIC 2013?

                                                                

Fransico Liriano.  Just mentioning the name is enough to make more than a few fantasy baseball players spit on the ground in disgust.  After all Liriano has burned more than a few of us over the years and sometimes on more than one occasion.  This after Liriano put up one of the most electric rookie seasons in recent memory way back with the Minnesota Twins in 2006 when he was the current day version of Jose Fernandez as an instant pitching star.  One season later Liriano went under the Tommy John knife which began a procession of yearly campaigns that did nothing but lead to disappointment and hard feelings all the way around.  Just when it seemed like Liriano would become a permanent member of the fantasy baseball community's "Do Not Add To Your Roster Under Any Circumstances" club, he proceeded to turn in one of the quietly good campaigns of any pitcher last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Pirates brought Liriano aboard on a one-year deal with an option for 2014 at a dirt cheap rate in thinking maybe getting out of the American League would help him finally rediscover his formerly top notch stuff.  Well even the Pirates couldn't imagine how good Liriano would be as he pitched to a splendid 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while striking out 163 batters in 161 innings.  In short Liriano was one of the best values of any player in all of fantasy baseball in 2013 which helps set the stage for what he could maybe provide his current and prospective owners for 2014.  With that said let's take a deeper look at the current version of Liriano in order to see if he can replicate his numbers from last season and for the first time in his career become a trusted starter from your rotation.

On the surface, clearly getting out of the AL and being able to pitch in the perennially weak NL Central was a boon to his overall numbers.  Liriano had always put up very low hit rates in his career through all the bad ERA's and that trend was even better in 2013 with the Pirates.  Overall Liriano gave up a ridiculously low 134 hits in those 161 innings which shows you just how good he was and how he got a boost from his new league.  In addition Liriano also saw his sometimes high home run rate shrink which also helped lower his ERA and WHIP.  The problem with Liriano however has always been his wacky control which really wasn't that much better last season as he walked 63 batters which was not far off his career trends.  The only difference is that he can get away with the walks better in the National Leagues, especially in the Central which is key. 

Perhaps the biggest issue Liriano has to fight through is his health which has never been good.  Liriano has never thrown for 200 innings which is a big red flag right there and even last season he only amassed 160 which is a very low number for a starter.  This spring training Liriano is already hurt as he has been dealing with a groin problem which is a reminder of how fragile he can be.  You won't be able to benefit from anything Liriano does if he is hurt and that is the biggest factor that can burn owners now that he is with the Pirates. 

Overall I like Liriano's chances of replacing his 2013 numbers overall as long as he stays in one piece.  He has found a home in Pittsburgh and seems much more relaxed in getting away form the expectations he held in Minnesota.  The stuff is terrific and Liriano remained an affordable starting pitching option this drafting season due to his rough past with previous owners.  As long as you don't depend on Liriano being more than an SP 3 on your team, you will do just fine.  Amazing we can make such a statement now about the guy due to his rough past.  How  things can change from one season to another.



FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: WHITE SOX PLACE 2B GORDON BECKHAM ON DL WITH STRAINED OBLIQUE

                                                    

The Chicago White Sox placed starting second baseman Gordon Beckham on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique.  Beckham has only recently begin some light baseball activities and may not be able to return to the team until the end of April.  Marcus Seiman will start in his place.

Analysis:  Gordon at one time had some serious fantasy baseball sleeper appeal but now he is just another mediocre name.  This shouldn't affect anyone outside of AL-only formats so don't waste any energy here. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDER STARTING PITCHERS I WILL AVOID

It has been a few days since we delved into a position as yours truly identifies which players I will be avoiding this season both in draft terms and during the season when it comes to trades.  Today I bring you the starting pitchers I have zero interest in having on my roster from both angles.

1.  Justin Verlander:  Last season we saw perennial top ten starter and ace C.C. Sabbathia turn into one of the worst pitchers in baseball almost overnight.  A very noticeable drop in velocity and injuries were prime factors but all of his seasons of 220-plus innings clearly took a toll on his left arm.  Even this spring Sabbathia's velocity continues to lag and his days as an ace are likely finished.  I now present to you a possibly similar case in Verlander who has seen his velocity drop three straight seasons and in 2013 we saw some red flags.  For one Verlander's control was ugly at times and his hit rate went up as well due to the lost fastball mileage.  While he still misses bats, Tim Lincecum and Sabbathia are two prime examples and similar cases of what high usage does to a pitcher's stuff.  While I am not saying Verlander will crash and burn in 2014 like Sabbathia did last season, I also wouldn't be surprised if he continues to see his numbers shoot upward.

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FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: INDIANS PLACE OUTFIELDER MICHAEL BOURN ON THE DL WITH HAMSTRING STRAIN

                                                    

The Cleveland Indians placed outfielder Michael Bourn on the 15-day DL on Sunday due to a strained left hamstring.  The move was backdated to March 21st and Bourn will be replaced by speedy outfielder Nyjer Morgan.

Analysis:  Bourn is looking like a prime fantasy baseball bust candidate this season due to his aging body, increased risk of injury, and erosion of steals.  If Bourn is not stealing bases, he has little to no value and starting the season with leg problems is not the best way to get started. 

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Well gang the 2014 fantasy baseball season has already officially begun with the Australian series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.  With that our fantasy baseball coverage goes into overdrive as for the next seven months we will post our regular features in addition to the following which make up OUR YEARLY INSIDER PACKAGE WHICH YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO FOR A NOW ON SALE ONE-TIME PAYMENT OF ONLY $39.99 WHIHC IS TEN DOLLARS DOWN FROM JANUARY! (THOSE WHO DON'T SUBSCRIBE CAN PURCHASE EACH ARTICLE FOR $1.50 EACH DURING THE SEASON)  Included in this season's package are the following weekly features which will be delivered to subscribers via e-mail.  -Sunday ADDS/DROPS: We are moving the ADDS/DROPS feature to Sunday for those who play in weekly formats. Stay on top of the latest adds and drops each week.-Monday Closing Time: All the latest news and notes out of the world of the ninth inning. -Tuesday PROSPECT WATCH: We delve into the latest news and notes coming out of the minor leagues so that we stay on top of all the upcoming promotions which are always key to winning your league. -Wednesday Fantasy Sports Boss Expert League Moves: Follow yours truly in BOTH of the Experts Leagues as I share all my adds/drops/and trades during the previous week so that you can follow along with my league activity. -Thursday Advanced Stats Corner: Delve into the all-important world of advanced stats such as strand rate and BABIP in order to see which players have been lucky and which have been unlucky. This package pays for itself many times over and we can guarantee success if you follow along all season.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STAT OF THE DAY: MARK TEIXEIRA'S AVERAGE

Spring training batting average of New York Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira in spring training:  .086.

No that is not a misprint.  Temper those expectations of a major comeback season by the freefalling Teixeira. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: CAN NICK CASTELLANOS BE A STARTING EVERYDAY THIRD BASE OPTION?

One of the hottest hitters this spring has been Detroit Tigers converted third baseman Nick Castellanos who roped two more doubles on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves which brought his Cactus League total in that category to nine so far in just 54 at-bats.  Castellanos has also contributed two home runs as well, clearly doing his best to get the hype meter pointing upward when it comes to his 2014 fantasy baseball potential.  Considered the top hitting prospect in the Detroit system the last two seasons, Castellanos was blocked at third base one certain MVP in the form of Miguel Cabrera last season who of course had to relocate there himself in order to get Prince Fielder onto the roster to man first base.  When Castellanos did get a late season call to the Tigers in 2013, he was forced to move to the outfield in order to get his intriguing bat into the lineup.  It was assumed the same setup would be in play for 2014 as well until the Tigers dealt Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler, thus opening the door for Cabrera to go back to first.  And for Castellanos to go back to his natural position of third base where he is most comfortable.  That feeling on comfort no doubt could be playing a prime role in Castellanos' big spring and many fantasy baseball owners are already starting to think they may have a breakout candidate on their hands.  With all that said let's dig in a bit deeper into order to see if in fact Castellanos is ready to be an everyday fantasy baseball third baseman and figure out what kind of numbers he could provide this season. 

When it comes to Castellanos and his 2014 potential, there is little debate regarding his ability to drive the baseball and collect hits due to a very solid approach at the plate.  The vast amount of doubles he has already collecting this spring is evidence enough of this but the two-baggers are key in that Castellanos is more likely to collect those than the long ball.  Castellanos possesses good but not great natural power and most of his home runs are not the towering variety.  This is borne out when you look at Castellanos' 2013 numbers at Triple-A when he hit .only 18 home runs and 76 RBI in 595 at-bats.  Thus one can't imagine Castellanos hitting much more than 20 home runs for 2014 which takes into account some growth physically and professionally.  In addition Castellanos batted only .276 in Triple-A last season and .264 in Double-A in 2012.  If Castellanos can't hit .300 in the minors than projecting him to reach that number in 2014 in his first full MLB season is foolish.  Somewhere along the lines of .265-.280 is much more likely.  Finally, Castellanos has very little speed when it comes to stealing bases.  His ceiling there is the line mid-single digits so David Wright he is not.

When you put things all together, Nick Castellanos is a very borderline starting fantasy baseball third baseman.  He is looking like a player clearly on the upswing developmentally and his big spring makes him doubly intriguing.  However with a lack of top end power for at least 2014 and an average that may not reach .280, there is a not a whole lot to get the juices flowing yet.  He absolutely is worth using a bench spot on though as Castellanos' ceiling alone makes him a decent enough investment.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: BACK SENDS CLAYTON KERSHAW TO DL

                                                        

Every single season yours truly goes on and on to the point where I annoy myself about the foolishness of drafting starting pitchers before at the very least Round 4.  The volatility in the statistics and the extreme risk of injury make starting pitchers incredibly scary investments and that doesn't even take into account how deep the position is which adds to the stupidity of taking a hurler early on.  No pitcher is immune to the risk of injury and the 2014 season showed this in spades when a back injury landed consensus numbers 1 starter in all of fantasy baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, on the 15-day DL.  Kershaw had already been scratched from his scheduled Sunday start at the end of last week and I noted how tricky back injuries can be for a starter and how the DL was a possibility.  Well now that we have the official confirmation, all we can do now is take a closer look at the situation in order to see how long Kershaw could be out. 

By the initial looks of things and after hearing both Kershaw and the Dodgers discuss the matter, it appears as though the back injury is a minor one and that the team is being extra cautious with their ace who they just invested a ton of dough in.  Of course once again I have to note how unpredictable back injuries can be as a bit of a warning for Kershaw fantasy baseball owners.  This is a situation that obviously needs to be looked at closely but from the looks of things it stands to reason the Dodgers ace could be back after the 15 days are through.  Overall though not the way Kershaw's owners wanted to begin the season.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS PLACE SP DOUG FISTER (LAT) ON DL

                                                      

As expected the Washington Nationals placed SP Doug Fister on the DL on Saturday due to the last strain he suffered last Tuesday.  Fister will not do anything for up to a week and it is possible he could miss all of April.  He will be replaced by Tanner Roark in the rotation.

Analysis:  Tough break for all Fister fantasy baseball owners who will likely have to wait a month to try him out in the National League.  Fister has turned himself into one of the best SP 3's in all of fantasy baseball due to his good control and low ratios.  The only thing that previously held him back from anything more is a lack of an above-average K rate but in the NL he was likely to see an uptick there.  Stay patient. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BREWERS SS JEAN SEGURA (SHOULDER) WILL PLAY OPENING DAY

                                                      

Milwaukee Brewers SS Jean Segura will be able to play for the team on Opening Day after successfully being able to throw without any restrictions on Saturday.  Segura had been limited the last two weeks with a sore shoulder which at one point had Opening Day in doubt but the fact he was able to throw pain-free gave him the green light to play.

Analysis:  Terrific news for all Segura fantasy baseball owners who no longer have to sweat out him missing any games to start the season.  One of the rising stars of the game, Segura is set to possible hit .300 with around 10 home runs and 40 stolen bases.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: JOSE BAUTISTA OUTFIELDER TORONTO BLUE JAYS

                                                            

Perhaps the hottest hitter in spring training, whether we are talking about Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues, was Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautisa who swatted his sixth home run Friday against the New York Mets.  That brought Bautista's RBI total to 12 while his average jumped to .375.  Needless to say the veteran slugger is reinforcing his reputation as one of the most productive power hitters in all of fantasy baseball when he is healthy.   The last part of that previous sentence is the key however as Bautista has had a very tough time staying healthy the last two seasons, having finished both 2012 and 2013 on the DL with some serious health ailments.  Turning 34-years-old in 2014, Bautista's penchant for getting injured will only grow the more he ages which makes him somewhat of a risk for fantasy baseball purposes.  A few months ago I did a piece calling Bautista a 2014 draft bust, with his health woes being a major reason why.  The fact Bautista couldn't stay on the field the second halves of 2012 and 2013 were major problems for his owners who didn't have his powerful bat when they needed him the most in their attempts to clinch their league's championship.  However Bautista is healthy and looks great this spring so at least for now that is not an immediate concern. 

In addition to the health worries, Bautista's hitting profile has gone in the wrong direction as well.  This spring notwithstanding, Bautista's home run rate has dropped from once every 1.4 at-bats in 2012 to once every 16.14 at-bats last season.  This is something to keep an eye on as sluggers start to leak home runs as they age which makes sense.  When combined with his injuries, it is easy to see why Bautista makes for a somewhat risky investment.  The guy has had a monster spring training no doubt and 30 home runs and 100 RBI is very likely if Bautista can net 500 at-bats.  However his days of hitting 40 home runs are likely finished for good which means fantasy baseball owners needs to temper their expectations with regards to not looking for his numbers from just a few seasons ago.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GIANTS SP TIM LINCECUM SUFFERS LEFT KNEE CONTUSION, X-RAYS NEGATIVE

                                                      

San Francisco Giants SP Tim Lincecum suffered a left knee contusion in his spring training start on Friday.  Lincecum took a line drive off the knee and had to be helped off the field before X-rays were conducted.  The X-rays came back negative but there was no word from the team if Lincecum could miss a start as a result.

Analysis:  Lincecum finishes his spring with an ugly 5.79 ERA which doesn't inspire much confidence that he can be anything more than an SP 3 or 4 at this point.  Heavy usage and the fact Lincecum never iced his arm after starts going back to high school likely combined to take some juice out of his arm as his last two ugly seasons showed. 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: SHANE VICTORINO OUTFIELDER BOSTON RED SOX

If it appeared as those Shane Victorino's days as a useful fantasy baseball outfielder were over once the 2012 season went into the history books, one only had to look at the ugly numbers he compiled the previous six months as evidence that his best days were a thing of the past.  Whereas Victorino was once a very solid outfielder 2/3 during his prime Philadelphia Phillies days due to his ability to hit double-digit home runs and steal 30-plus bases, 2012 was filled of red flags that culminated in a massive drop in his numbers across the board.  At 33-years-old, Victorino was losing his youth and heading into some scary territory for a guy who a lot of his value is yielded from his speed.  The Phillies decided they had enough and proceeded to deal Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers who had to be disappointed themselves when their new investment hit only .245 for them.  Despite the ugly season, the Boston Red Sox came calling once the free agency began and the team earned more than a little ridicule for giving Victorino a three-year deal worth $39 million.  The Red Sox talked about Victorino's defense and how the fact that he stole 39 bases the year before (which was the only positive number he provided in 2012) as why they felt comfortable in presenting him such an offer.  Well both the Red Sox and Victorino got the last laugh in 2013 as he seamlessly fit right into the number 2 spot in the order behind Jacoby Ellsbury and proceeded to post a nice comeback campaign by batting .294 with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases.  Victorino thrust himself back into outfielder 3 territory in fantasy baseball parlance in the process which is where he graded out in 2014 drafts.  As he now turns a frightening 35, let's dig in and see what the present version of Victorino is in order to find out what he could do with his fantasy baseball production this season.

In looking deeper at Victorino's 2013 numbers, a few things stands out.  The first is that Victorino successfully reversed a recent downward trend in his ability to hit righties.  It was Victorino's troubles against righthanded pitching that made such 2012 a struggle in the first place but he bucked that trend last season which was primarily responsible for him batting an unexpectedly good. 294.  However Victorino has never hit that high since 2009 when he bated .292 so don't expect him to stay in that area code when it comes to his average this season.  In addition, we also noticed the drop in steals from 30 to 21 which needs to be watched due to the fact that at 35 it is likely Victorino will see his speed dwindle.  This means it is unlikely Victorino will get back to his days of stealing 30 bags. 
Moving right along to the rest of the numbers, Victorino's 15 home runs last season and 61 RBI are very repeatable in that ballpark as well as the 82 runs since he will be hitting near the top of the lineup. 

When you put the whole collection of numbers together, Victorino shows himself as a guy who can be an outfielder 3 once again this season.  However at 35 he could once again reprise his rough 2012 campaign as Father Time can't be beaten.  We always like to avoid investing in players who arr older than 33 and so Victorino does carry bust potential.  However his draft price or trade price is no longer elevated so he overall won't ruin your squad if things go sour.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: C.C. SABBATHIA SP NEW YORK YANKEES

One of the most talked about fantasy baseball topics when it came to the starting pitching fraternity the last season-plus centered on the lost velocity of New York Yankees ace SP C.C. Sabbathia and his subsequent meltdown on the mound last season with horrid ERA's and WHIP's that overnight turned him into a waiver wire guy.  During the height of his ability while with the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees, Sabbathia's fastball hovered between 95-97 mph which netted him 200-plus K seasons with Cy Young-type ratios.  However beginning in 2011, Sabbathia began to lose ticks on the fastball to the point where he struggled to reach 92 last season and the results were catastrophic for his numbers.  Many pointed to Sabbathia's lost velocity as evidence his days as a top flight fantasy baseball starter were finished and many also swore off of him entirely as the prevailing thinking was that the Yankee hurler would only get worse as he continues to age.  Well Sabbathia had other ideas as 2014 spring training got underway.  For one he showed up to camp 40 pounds lighter which was designed to help take stress off his body.  Secondly, Sabbathia introduced a cutter that he learned from Andy Pettitte which was a concession that he needed to change his approach due to age.  The red flag with the velocity remained however as Sabbathia saw another dip there in spring games as he barely hit 90 and was more habitually in the 88 range.  While alarming, Sabbathia went out and proved he can make it work by putting together a terrific string of Grapefruit League performances that resulted in him finishing up with 16 consecutive scoreless innings to finish up his fake game run.  Clearly Sabbathia figured something out along the way to help him get batters out and keep himself on the surface as a useful fantasy baseball starter. 

So can Sabbathia be trusted?  One has to examine the whole picture of his spring starts to get a better understanding of that question.  The velocity still remains a big concern and the negatives there are showing up in the drastically reduced K rate Sabbathia has yielded even this spring.  For example despite throwing four hitless innings Thursday, Sabbathia did not strike out one batter.  That would be unheard of in any Sabbathia start just two years ago and it reinforces how he is a changed pitcher.  Gone for good are the days of 200-K seasons and maybe even 180.  The ratios could still be solid as Sabbathia is a very smart and crafty pitcher whose body is in much better shape.  His elbow is also healthy after he dealt with some issues there as well the last few seasons.  However if you are looking for Sabbathia to be anything more than an SP 3 at this point is ridiculous.  You can't  let the name value influence how you project a player.  Living in the past is always a horrible way to play fantasy baseball and in the case of Sabbathia the past is never going to come back again.  I would move on unless you got him dirt cheap in a trade.  There is just not much left to go on.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JOSE ALTUVE TO HIT CLEANUP FOR ASTROS VERSUS RIGHTIES

                                                             

Houston Astros manager Bo Porter reported on Friday that speedy second baseman Jose Altuve would bat cleanup for the team when a righthander is on the mound.  When a lefty is pitching, Altuve will switch to third spot in front of catcher Jason Castro.  Despite being only 5-5, Porter believes it is an advantage having their best hitter, in his estimation Altiuve, hitting cleanup.

Analysis:  Seriously?  Well this is why the Astros are who they are as quite possibly the worst team in all of baseball.  Altuve will be lucky to hit more than 5 home runs this season which makes him as anti-cleanup as one can get when looking at a player's profile for each spot in the order.  This is not the greatest move for Altuve's fantasy baseball value either as it will take away some runs and steals. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS KEEPING JACOBY ELLSBURY (CALF) IN MINOR LEAGUE GAMES IN CASE HE NEEDS TO GO ON DL

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been restricted to playing only in minor leagues games the last two days instead of with the team in order to preserve the option of being able to backdate a DL stint.  If Ellsbury were to play in a minor league game with the Yankees and need to go on the DL due to the calf, the 15-day clock would start that day.  Ellsbury has deemed himself pain-free and has played without any issues the last two days but the Yankees remain wary given his injury history.

Analysis:  There is the rub when it comes to owning Ellsbury in fantasy baseball.  As dynamic a player as he can be, Ellsbury is one of the of riskiest annual investment due to his penchant for injuries.  The calf seemed like a minor deal when he first complained about it but now it is two weeks later and still a hot button topic. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RANGERS SS ELVIS ANDRUS (ELBOW) TO RETURN TO GAMES FRIDAY

                                                               

Texas Rangers SS Elvis Andrus will return to game action on Friday according to manager Ron Washington after his shortstop missed the last week and a half with a sore elbow.  Andrus was able to throw without any issues on Thursday and thus was given the green light by Washington to play on Friday in order to get some work in before the Opener. 

Analysis:  Andrus' elbow was more of an annoyance than an injury but still you wanted to se him get some games in before the season began.  Andrus is slated to hit at or near the top of the Rangers lineup this season which could mean a career-high in runs and 40 stolen bases.  He is right on the border of top five shortstop status.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL GETTING TO KNOW: MIKE OLT 3B CHICAGO CUBS

                                                                 

It was just a few short years ago when Texas Rangers 3B prospect Mike Olt was considered one of the best hitting gems in all of baseball.  The power hitting Olt was on the fast track to the Rangers due to his home run happy ways and he became a highly anticipated fantasy baseball sleeper due to his vast ceiling.  However some unexpected struggles, injuries, and a subsequent trade to the Cubs dulled a lot of that excitement when it came to Olt and when spring training camp got underway for the team, he wasn't even the most talked about third base prospect on the field.  That honor went to Kris Bryant who many in baseball think is a can't miss future star at the hot corner.  Be that as it may, Olt went into spring training games with a determination to reignite his name and with the Cubs not having plans to promote Bryant until at least midseason, the opportunity was there for him to break camp as the starter.  Well that is just exactly what Olt was able to do as he got the official word from the team on Thursday that he in fact would be the team's starter once camp broke and in the process he once again became a person of interest in fantasy baseball circles.  So with that said let's once again revisit Olt the player in order to determine what in fact he may be able to supply his fantasy baseball owners this season.

First let's go back to 2012 when Olt was playing at Double-A for Texas.  Reinforcing his status as a top power-hitting third base prospect, Olt slugged 28 home runs and drove in 82 runs while batting a solid. 288.  There were issues with strikeouts and injuries but Olt overall was terrific.  However 2013 was not as kind once Olt got promoted to Triple-A as he hit only .213 with 11 home runs in 268 at-bats.  Olt looked overmatched at the dish and the red flags with his very high K rate pushed the Rangers to no think twice about dealing him.  The Cubs bought low in the hopes he would be able to figure things out in their system.  However Olt hit the baseball hard right from the get-go in camp and the result was 5 home runs and 12 RBI while batting .275 in 51 at-bats.  The home run swing was still intact but so were the strikeouts.  However the Cubs were desperate for any sort of offensive push and so Olt did enough to grab the starting gig.  Now we must determine what he could do at the major league level once the games start to count which is the key.  Olt has to prove he is not a Quad-A player and his high K rate will make that task difficult right out of the gate.  The power is intriguing no doubt but guys who might struggle to hit .260 like Olt will this season are big no-no's for me.  Olt fits the profile of a guy who could be back in the minors by May or even if he does stick, will hit around .255 with 20-plus home runs.  And that average might be generous.  If you want to take a shot on Olt as a sleeper for your bench give it a shot.  However to do so with Olt as anything more than a bench guy would be silly.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: HUNTER PENCE TO HIT 2ND FOR GIANTS

                                                               

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy reported on Thursday that outfielder Hunter Pence would bat second to begin the 2014 season.  With shortstop Marco Scutaro out with an injured back which will require a DL stint, Pence will slide into his number two spot.

Analysis:  This is not a major deal for Pence who will gain in some runs and lose some RBI.  Overall he is a 20/20 outfielder who will hit around .285 with about 25 home runs.  Pence is annually one of the most underrated hitters in all of fantasy baseball and he clearly likes playing in San Francisco based on his terrific 2013 campaign. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ARCHIE BRADLEY OPTIONED TO MINORS BY DIAMONDBACKS

                                                                

The Arizona Diamondbacks finally optioned top pitching prospect Archie Bradley to the minor leagues on Thursday, removing the idea of him replacing the injured Patrick Corbin in the rotation.  Bradley got off to a great start in spring training before hitting the skids a bit which likely cost him the chance to break camp with the team.  He remains one of the top power pitching prospects in the game however and will likely be up soon after June 1.

Analysis:  Again not a surprise when it comes to top prospects like Bradley whose teams always love to delay promotion until June in order to reset their arbitration clock another season.  Bradley has big time stuff who has been compared to an early version of Clayton Kershaw between his high K rate and lack of control.   He is a terrific stash weapon.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS SP DOUG FISTER SUFFERS LAT STRAIN THU.

Washington Nationals SP Doug Fister was forced out of his spring start due to straining a lat muscle.  Fister was just returning from elbow trouble and will now likely go on the DL to start the season.

Analysis:  Fister is now all lock to go on the DL which is a shame since his owners thought they got away lucky with his elbow issue.  We could be looking at late April for his return.  Stay tuned.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BREWERS SS JEAN SEGURA TO AVOID DL AFTER THROWING THURSDAY

Milwaukee Brewers SS Jean Segura is expected to avoid the DL for his sore shoulder after he was able to play catch on Thursday.  Manager Ron Roenicke was pleased with how Segura threw and he reported no issues afterwards.

Analysis:  Terrific news as this story looked more troublesome just yesterday.  Segura will likely try to get into a game before camp breaks and at least for now the woat is avoided.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BLUE JAYS SS JOSE REYES TO PLAY SS FRIDAY

Toronto Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes is slated to start at SS for the team on Friday as the hamstring issues he had earlier in the week have subsided.  Reyes had said the strain he suffered over a week ago was mild and vowed to be ready for Opening Day.

Analysis:  Great news as it looks like Reyes will be just fine which comes as a huge relief to his fantasy baseball owners.  Despite dodging the injury bullet Reyes remains a huge risk due to his increasing age and the turf he will be playing half of his games on.

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL GETTING TO KNOW: CHRIS OWINGS SS ARIZONA DIAMONBACKS

                                                                  Portrait of Chris Owings

One of the more fiercest battles of spring training this season resides in the desert where Arizona Diamondbacks shortstops Chris Owings and Didi Gregorious engaged in a competition to win the starting job for the team once camp broke.  The loser was reportedly going to be ticketed to the minors leagues or traded outright.  According to a team source, Owings has already privately been declared the winner and since he plays the always shallow shortstop position, he instantly became a name that carries some intrigue among the fantasy baseball community. So with that said let's get a closer look at Owings the player in order to determine what in fact he could supply his owners this season and if in fact he can be an everyday starting option.

Owings is a virtual unknown among the fantasy baseball universe due to the fact he has only amassed a grand total of 61 major league at-bats which he collected with little fanfare the second half of last season with Arizona.  Owings batted a solid .291 with two stolen bases but other than that his impact was negligible.  However Owings certainly is interesting due to his minor league production and for the fact he will be playing half of his games in hitter-friendly Chase Field.  There is a nice combination of power and speed here to whet fantasy baseball owners' appetites and one can see what potential Owings carries by examining his 2013 minor league numbers.  In 575 at-bats while with Arizona's Triple-A squad in 2013, Owings batted a red hot .330 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  If I didn't have your attention prior about Owings I am sure I do now.  While the .330 average was fluky due to a lucky BABIP, Owings possesses that power/speed game I discussed earlier which is even more interesting at such a shallow shortstop position.  The ballpark will certainly help Owings in his quest to reach double-digits in home runs and his speed is very solid to where 15 steals is likely and possibly more.  The average however will come down as Owings strikes out a lot which will be something opposing teams go to town on. 

Overall when you look at Chris Owings the potential fantasy baseball shortstop, there is a decent amount to like.  We already touched on the solid enough pop and even better speed and playing in Chase Field will exacerbate those talents.  We are always looking out for the next breakout candidate at shortstop and while I won't go so far as to say Owings will be that guy this season, I also won't say he won't be it either.

FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: CLAYTON KERSHAW'S BACK

                                                                 

It was a bit of ominous news for fantasy baseball owners of Los Angeles Dodgers ace SP Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday as it was learned he would be scratched from his scheduled Sunday start due to inflammation in his back muscle.  With the start still four full days away, it was telling that the Dodgers already decided that Kershaw would not be a go.  Instead Zack Greinke will make his first start of the season on Sunday as he returns from a calf strain.  Now in getting back to Kershaw, little was said about the back after the announcement was made that he wouldn't start on Sunday which is also a but puzzling and worrisome as well.  Of course this could be just a precautionary move which would be understandable considering how much money the Dodgers have invested in Kershaw to be their ace for the next decade.  However we all know backs can be a tricky thing and that is especially true for a pitcher who has to wind up and bend forward when throwing up to 100 times a game.  An MRI was conducted which showed the inflammation and nothing more which is good but again a back is notoriously difficult to forecast given the delicate nature of the injury.  More should be yielded by the Dodgers on Thursday as far as news is concerned so those who own Kershaw need to check back for updated later on today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: JOSE VALVERDE TO SEE SAVE CHANCES EARLY WITH BOBBY PARNELL

                                                               

New York Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday that Jose Valverde could see some save chances early on during the season due to the fact he won't pitch closer Bobby Parnell three straight days.  Parnell is making his way back from neck surgery that ended his 2013 season early and Valverde has already locked up a roster spot after a good spring. 

Analysis:  Not a shock here as Parnell is physically not up to pitching that type of workload yet.  However Valverde is not worth adding in anything but the deepest of leagues as he is likely to only get a save chance or two.  Parnell has looked good this spring overall but his velocity has only reached 94 which is contrast to the 100 he hit before the surgery.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GIANTS SS MARCO SCUTARO TO BEGIN YEAR ON DL DUE TO ONGOING BACK TROUBLE

                                                               

San Francisco Giants SS Marco Scutaro will begin the 2014 season on the DL due to ongoing back trouble that has hampered him for almost all of spring training.  Scutaro has a procedure done to alleviate pain in the back on Tuesday but it apparently didn't improve the situation all that much.  He received a cortisone shot on Wednesday as another means of trying to remedy the pain.

Analysis:  Scutaro has very little fantasy baseball value as he is very old for a shortstop and doesn't offer much as far as numbers are concerned outside of average.  Move on.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ALL TESTS NEGATIVE ON FOREARM OF JAYS 1B EDWIN ENCARNACION AFTER HBP

                                                            

Toronto Blue Jays 1B Edwin Encarnacion avoided injury on Wednesday after getting hit in the forearm with a pitch during the team's Grapefruit league game.  Encarnacion came right out of the game after getting hit but all tests came back negative.  He is listed as day-to-day with a bruise.

Analysis:  Nothing to worry about here.  Lots of HBP's lately but at least in Encarnacion's case he avoided major injury.  Encarnacion is one of my favorite players going into the 2014 fantasy baseball season as he could hit 40 home runs with 100 RBI and 15 stolen bases.  In other words numbers that could be better than Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NO CONCUSSION FOR ROYALS CATCHER SALVADOR PEREZ AFTER BEANING

                                                              

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez did not suffer a concussion after he suffered a beaning to his ear while at the plate on Wednesday.  This just two weeks after Perez sent the line drive that hit Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the skull which caused fractures that needed surgery to correct.

Analysis:  Not the best spring for Perez all the way around but at least he dodged a major issue here.  Perez remains one of the brightest young hitting catchers in all of fantasy baseball and while his power may never translate to the 20 home run mark, the average will hover at or above .300 with a solid amount of RBI.