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Saturday, February 28, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: CHRIS SALE FRACTURED FOOT THREATENS OPENING DAY

Oft-injured Chicago White Sox ace SP Chris Sale suffered a fractured left foot in a home accident Friday that officially will have him missing three weeks of spring training.  The missed preparation time threatens Sale's availability for the start of the season as he will essentially have to start over again in ramping up his conditioning.  No stranger to injury, Sale has been a guy whose appeal centers on him perennially being a top five starting pitcher in fantasy baseball, one who combines one of the stingiest hit rates in the game to go along with immense 220-plus strikeout ability.  Over the last three seasons as a member of the White Sox rotation, Sale has compiled the following monster numbers while seemingly fighting through at least one injury per year:

2012:  17-8 3.05 ERA 1.14 WHIP 192 K/192 IP
2013:  11-14 3.07 ERA 1.07 WHIP 226 K/214.1 IP
2014:  12-4 2.17 ERA 0.97 WHIP 208 K/174 IP

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why Sale is deserving of praise as a slam dunk fantasy baseball power ace starter and a guy who is right there in the conversation of the next four guys in the pecking order behind Clayton Kershaw.  The strikeout rate is ridiculous at times and the stuff beyond potent.  The problem of course are the injuries as Sale has dealt with ongoing shoulder/elbow trouble over that three-year span.  In fact there was once talk of moving Sale to closer in order to lessen the strain on his shoulder/elbow.  The move was held off however and Sale proceeded to toss only 174 frames in 2014 due to some DL time. 

Heading into 2015, Sale once again was a boom or bust kind of guy along the lines of Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes due to his immense ability but also very high injury risk.  This time around it was his foot and not his arm which was nice but still is a situation that now threatens Sale's Opening Day and possible early April.  Consider the fact that after three weeks it will be around March 21 which gives Sale only two weeks to get himself ready to go for Opening Day.  Not going to happen.  Figure on Sale missing the first week or two as he ramps up his workload in extended spring training.  The White Sox want to go places this season after a massive overhaul this past winter and they won't do anything to jeopardize their aces health. 

As far as how this impact's Sale 2015 fantasy baseball value?  Push him down past the top ten as a result.  Sale figures to miss 2-3 starts and that doesn't even factor into the threat of more shoulder/elbow trouble flaring up during the next 5-plus months.  We love the arm but not the body.

 

LOOKING FOR TEAM REPORTERS

With the 2015 season quickly approaching, we are putting the call out for more help at the fantasy baseball desk.  Specifically speaking, we are looking for good writers who are also super fans of the 30 respective teams to act as a sort of "beat reporter."  Post news items about the given teams and their players and than write an Analysis piece as I do on a daily basis.  This would be an unpaid position to start but have advancement opportunities where money can come into play.  You would also get to share your Facebook or Twitter pages to gather followers and gain attention to your work.  If you are interested, e-mail us at rangerfan28@yahoo.com 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: MATT CARPENTER 3B ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

For the second season in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter makes the BUST list but this time it comes at a different position on the diamond.  Specifically, Carpenter earns the bust status at third base only in 2015, wheras he made the list at second base also a season ago.  While we could live with Carpenter at second base considering how shallow the position remains, at third base he stands out as a sizable draft bust for more than a few reasons.  So with that said let’s dig in a bit more on Carpenter in order to see why he made the bust team yet again.

It was only a few years ago in the 2013 season where Carpenter became a sensation as he almost won a batting title while hitting .318 for the Cardinals while primarily playing second base.  The fact he also scored a monstrous 126 runs helped push Carpenter to upper tier status at his position.  Unfortunately there were some red flags associated with that 2013 season which we used to put Carpenter on the bust list a year later when he would transition into the team’s starting third baseman.  What we correctly pointed out during this time was the fact banking on such a terrific batting average to repeat itself is always a recipe for fantasy baseball disaster.  Batting average is THE most volatile stat in the game, prone to swings due to poor BABIP luck and slumps.  Most of Carpenter’s value came in his batting average and the runs which also made him doubly risky.  Despite the fact he hit 11 home runs in that magical 2013, Carpenter came up the minor league ladder showing little home run pop which made those dingers look suspicious.  Finally, Carpenter has little to no speed which is a big negative when you consider that you want to get a large amount of your stolen bases from your middle infielders. 

So it was no shock when Carpenter pretty much went with the bust script in 2014 as he lost the precious second base eligibility and proceeded to see his batting average sink to a shaky .272 as opposing pitchers were much more careful throwing to him.  The power was sketchy as well as Carpenter hit only 8 home runs and stole all of 5 bases.  Thus when you broke it down, the 99 runs Carpenter scored were pretty much the only category he made an impact in.  When you throw in the fact he now no longer carries second base eligibility going into 2015 and one can easily see how overrated Carpenter is. 

The fact Carpenter carries only third base eligibility is a major deal for his fledgling value as his lack of power really stands out in a bad way there.  You at least want to get a 15-20 home run guy from your third baseman but Carpenter won’t come close to that standard.  Since he still doesn’t steal bases, Carpenter has to rely on a batting average rebound and his 100 runs scored to make another impact. 

When you put things all together, Matt Carpenter is a major bust waiting to happen at third base.  You could have gotten by with Carpenter’s shortcomings at second base but at the hot corner he is a major liability.  There is no reason to bother here as Carpenter won’t change his ability as a hitter at this stage of his prime.  What you see is what you get and right now that is not very impressive.

2015 PROJECTION:  .293 5 HR 53 RBI 104 R 4 SB

Friday, February 27, 2015

FANTASY FOOTBALL NEWS: HARRY DOUGLAS AND BRIAN HARTLINE BOTH SENT PACKING

Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons WR’s Brian Hartline and Harry Douglas have both been released on Friday in order to clear salary cap space.  The Dolphins are trying to work through contract issues with Mike Wallace which is why they made the move on Hartline.  Meanwhile the Falcons are trying to sign Julio Jones to a new long-term deal and the money freed up in Douglas’ release will help the matter.  Both are expected to look for a starting spot elsewhere.

Analysis:  Hartline is just a borderline fantasy football WR 3 at best but Douglas has some upside due to the fact he has played very well when given the chance to start in the past.  In fact Douglas should be very pleased about the move as he now can shop on his own terms for a team where he can be a starter.  More of a possession guy, Douglas has nice appeal for those who take part in PPR setups. 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: WASHINGTON NATIONALS

By Eric C. Wright

Lakeland, Fla.—The Washington Nationals’ mantra for 2015 should be “World Series or Bust.”  It really is that simple for the team after the inked prized power ace starting pitcher Max Scherzer in the offseason to join a stellar quarter in Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Jordan Zimmerman.  The Nationals have one of the best rotations 1-5 in the game’s history which means the pressure is one a lineup that has sometimes run hold and cold in the past.  Adam LaRoche is now in Chicago with the White Sox which means some home runs need to be replaced by Anthony Rendon is already a start infielder coming off his first full MLB campaign.  This is a team that is on the short list of 2015 World Series Champions.

LINEUP

1.  Denard Span

2.  Anthony Rendon

3.  Bryce Harper

4.  Jayson Werth

5.  Ryan Zimmerman

6.  Ian Desmond

7.  Danny Espinosa

8.  Wilson Ramos

9.  Pitcher

ROTATION

1.  Stephen Strasburg

2.  Max Scherzer

3.  Jordan Zimmerman

4.  Gio Gonzalez

5.  Doug Fister

CLOSER

Drew Storen

 

5-STAR PLAYERS

Anthony Rendon:  Yup already.  The multi-talented Washington Nationals infielder was already well-regarded coming up the farm system as a guy who could hit .300 in his sleep.  What was a nice surprise in 2014 however was the power that finally showed up in the form of 21 home runs and the speed that showed in the form of 17 stolen bases. The result was that at the age of 24, Rendon became that rare five-tool talent that can be plugged in at either second or third base.  The kid is completely legit and well worth an early second round pick.

Max Scherzer:  When you consider that Scherzer was already a Cy Young winner and 250-K monster in the American League, one can only imagine how impossible he will be to deal with in the National League.  Scherzer should lead baseball in strikeouts this season and he has an outside shot at clearing the 275 mark now that he can feast on pitchers and weak number 8 hitters.  Already one of the toughest pitchers to get a hit off of, the fact Scherzer has curbed his walks makes it unfair.  Should be the number 2 starter off the board in all setups.

Stephen Strasburg:  I have been critical of Starsburg in the past but that was only due to his rough delivery and penchant for injury.  That was not an issue in 2014 as Strasburg tossed 215 innings as the kid gloves were taken off.  242 strikeouts in those 215 innings is a reminder that few are better when it comes to picking up whiffs and everything else checks out as excellent.  We will continue to worry a bit about injuries though as Strasburg had a decent workload jump last season.

Ian Desmond:  There are only a few who realize that Desmond has gone 20/20 in each of the last three years which no other infielder can claim.  While his very high K rate results in sometimes shaky batting averages, Desmond is entrenched in his prime and aiming for a new contract which means another 20/20 campaign is a certainly.  Throw in the fact he has durability that Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes don’t have and one can understand if you have Desmond rated as the most valuable shortstop.

Jordan Zimmerman:  We did a big piece on Zimmerman the other day so we won’t go into it too much in order to not be repetitive.  However a 5-star player Zimmerman is as his ERA has been below 3.25 in each of the last four seasons to go with an improving K rate that passes the 180 mark in 2014.  This guy is tremendous and needs to get his due. 

4-STAR PLAYERS

Gio Gonzalez:  Getting snared in the Biogenesis mess was a bit disconcerting but Gonzalez was cleared of any wrongdoing.  Once that was off his plate, Gonzalez resumed his strong SP 2 status in 2014 as he struck out more than a batter per inning, while posting a mid-3.00 ERA and a WHIP of 1.20.  Gonzalez still walks way too many batters but his hits per nine is very low.  Terrific SP 2 for any staff.

Bryce Harper:  One name value alone, Harper would be a clear 5-STAR guy.  The hype machine has been out of control since Harper came up at 19 and hasn’t abated much despite two disappointing seasons in a row.  Still very young at 23, Harper is changing right before our eyes already in that he seemed totally disinterested in stealing bases in 2014 and his penchant for injuries are undermining his overall development.  The power is immense and natural and could still results in that monster campaign we have always expected.  However we have to start seeing results soon because so far Harper has performed like an outfielder 3.

Doug Fister:  Fister’s first season in Washington didn’t go as smoothly as one expected as he missed April with injury and returned with not much of the K increase that you had to think would materialize going from the AL to the NL.  Still Fister has been criminally underrated for years and he always posts very tidy ratios and enough K’s to be worthy of even SP 2 status.

Ryan Zimmerman:  I thought of pushing Zimmerman down to 3-STAR status due to all the missed games from injury but when on the field the guy is still a very good power hitter.  Zimmerman will move to first base full-time in 2015 which means his third base eligibility will expire after this season.  Still if he can scratch out 450 at-bats, Zimmerman could supply 25 home runs and a .280 average.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Denard Span:  Span is a nice player and one who really carries more value in real-life baseball than in fantasy baseball.  He has historically been a guy who can help a bit in all five standard ROTO categories but not excel in any of them.  2014 was his career season though as he hit .302 with 94 runs scored and 31 stolen bases which is certainly nothing to sniff at.  If Span can repeat those numbers, he works again as a nice outfielder 3.

Drew Storen:  The Nats will turn to former first round pick Drew Storen to close games after saying goodbye to both Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard.  Storen imploded in the playoffs while working the ninth inning in 2014 which calls into questions if he has the mentality to close games but for now the hard-throwing reliever should get a ton of chances on a great Nationals team. 

Jayson Werth:  Talk about a rough offseason.  Werth spent five days in jail on a reckless driving charge which followed shoulder surgery.  He is expected to be ready at or shortly after the start of the season however and Werth has quietly posted very solid outfielder 2 numbers at a nice price the last three seasons.  While he is aging, Werth still can squeak out another useful campaign. 

Wilson Ramos:  I have been apologizing about Ramos the last few seasons and will do so again in 2015 as I still believe in his 20-home run power and decent average potential.  Injuries continue to dog Ramos and his eighth place in the order is a drag however.  You should take chances at catcher more than any other position though and Ramos could yield some terrific value if he can just log enough at-bats to do so.

2-STAR PLAYERS

Tanner Roark:  After an excellent rookie season, Roark finds himself out of the rotation due to the arrival of Scherzer.  The K rate is nothing to write home about but Roark proved very tough to hit last season when given the chance to be a member of the rotation.  He will be the first guy on-call if anyone gets injured.

1-STAR PLAYERS

Danny Espinosa

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: MICHAEL SAUNDERS OUT UNTIL ALL-STAR BREAK WITH TORN MENISCUS

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders will be out until the All-Star break after he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee when he stepped into a sprinkler hole while shagging fly balls on Wednesday.  Surgery will be performed and the rehab will take Saunders about five months to complete.  The fallout here is not a major one when it comes to 2015 fantasy baseball as the decent 15/15 ability Saunders brings is offset by annually ugly batting averages due to a very high K rate.  Still there was some anticipation Saunders could possibly increase his ratios to near-20/20 levels due to his ballpark improvement after leaving Seattle but that is now a moot point.  Feel free to cut Saunders loose in all but the very deepest of leagues.  Dalton Pompey is now likely to have already shored up a starting spot in the outfield which will increase his own sleeper value.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: JOSH HAMILTON LIKELY TO BE BANNED FOR 25 GAMES

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will likely get docked 25 games for his admission to relapsing with cocaine according to multiple reports.  The latest news to come out about the situation is that Hamilton initiated the chats with MLB about the drug use due to the fact he knew he would likely fail a drug test.  Hamilton has technically only had one reported positive in his history despite being suspended for two whole seasons due to past drug abuse which is why he gets only the 25 games.  No statement has been made by the Angels about the issue.

Analysis:  You have to feel for Hamilton a bit as he clearly is a sick man who just can’t seem to get past the drugs.  The fact he is already out until May with injury and the 25 games added on to that timetable means he won’t be back on a field until June.  Avoid entirely. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: BREWERS 3B ARAMIS RAMIREZ TO RETIRE AFTER 2015

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is likely playing his last MLB season in 2015 according to a team source.  At 37-years-old and with a long history of injuries to his name, Ramirez has hinted in the past that retirement was imminent. 

Analysis:  One of my all-time favorite players to own, Ramirez was a .300-hitting/25-HR stalwart for over a decade.  The man has a very nice career despite a lot of missed time with injury.  Despite his age, Ramirez can still be a starting third baseman in 2015 fantasy baseball but a low-tier one at that.

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: TAMPA BAY RAYS

By Eric C. Wright

Tampa Bay, Fla.—The Tampa Bay Rays are a team in clear transition mode.  One of the greatest organizational successes the last five seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays made more with less than any other team in baseball.  Despite a payroll that was half that of division rivals New York and Boston, the Rays were always in thick of the race for the AL East and were guided with a steady hand in manager Joe Maddon.  Unfortunately the good times seem to be over for now as Maddon defected to the Chicago Cubs, with GM Andrew Friedman flew the coop to run the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This just months after the Rays were forced to trade ace power pitcher David Price.  Despite still having a young roster with solid talent, the Rays look like they could be headed for some trouble.

 

LINEUP

1.  Desmond Jennings

2.  Asdrubal Cabrera

3.  Ben Zobrist

4.  Evan Longoria

5.  James Loney

6.  Kevin Kiermaier

7.  Steven Souza

8.  Nick Franklin

9.  John Jaso/David DeJesus

 

ROTATION


1.  Alex Cobb

2.  Matt Moore

3.  Chris Archer

4.  Drew Smyly

5.  Jake Odorizzi

 

CLOSER

Jake McGee

4-STAR PLAYERS

Evan Longoria:  Yup we were right.  We engaged in quite a few battles the last two seasons when we went on record saying Evan Longoria was overrated.  The former first round pick never should have been chosen that high but his name outstripped his actual numbers supplied.  Now at 29-years-old, Longoria is coming off his worst season as a regular in 2014 when he hit only 22 home runs and batted a mediocre .253.  The drop in batting average is directly related to the very high K rates Longoria continues to put up and he also has lost total interest in stealing bases as he has a grand total of only 8 the last three years combined.  Thus what we have here is a 3-category guy and nothing more as Longoria can help in home runs, runs and RBI.  His name continues to carry more weight than his production though.

Alex Cobb:  Cobb is a guy I have slobbered over the last two seasons and rightfully so.  Despite rampant injuries, when on the mound in 2013 and 2014, Cobb has been as good as any other starter in baseball.  Consider the fact that Cobb has registered ERA’s of 2.76 and 2.87 the last two seasons while calling the brutal AL East home.  Coming close to averaging a K/IP and with top-notch control, Cobb is one healthy season away from Cy Young contention.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Jake McGee:  One incredibly annoying habit of Joe Maddon was his penchant for spreading saves around his bullpen.  It was more of the same early last season until he could no longer ignore the monster breakout campaign of the hard-throwing Jake McGee.  McGee would strike out 90 batters in only 71.1 innings last season while nailing down 19 saves in 23 tries.  Offseason surgery on his elbow could have McGee out the first few weeks of the season but he is clearly the top dog in the saves hierarchy. 

Jake Odorizzi:  Yet another hard-throwing young Tampa Bay starter who seems on the cusp of stardom, Jake Odorizzi began that process in 2014 by upping his K rate by a decent margin while also showing off potent heat.  Odorizzi’s control is still shaky and he tends to leave some baseballs over the plate that get sent over outfield fences but those are issues he will surely improve on as he gains more experience.  This is a guy on the upswing and whose solid draft price makes him doubly attractive. 

Matt Moore:  Moore could be back on a mound in May as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery.  Prior to the surgery, Moore was in the same boat as Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as hard-throwing strikeout pitchers who had shoddy control.  A decent stash for late in the draft but Moore’s lack of control even before the procedure will likely be worse when he gets back at least early on. 

Chris Archer:  Speaking of good and young Tampa Bay pitchers, Chris Archer falls squarely into that category as he has now put back-to-back eye-opening seasons together.  Consider that during the last two seasons, Archer has registered ERA’s of 3.22 and 3.33 to go along with decent strikeout rates.  There are some issues with walks and the gopher ball but Archer is already a terrific SP 3 even without improvement there. 

Desmond Jennings:  We are now well past the development portion of Desmond Jennings’ still young career and needless to say we can only categorize him as a disappointment.  Showing an utter lack of plate discipline, Jennings has gone past the 100-K mark each of the last three years which coincides with some ugly batting averages.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the slide in stolen bases from Jennings who has gone from 31 to 20 to 15 the last three seasons.  Jennings does have mid-teens power which would go nicely with a rebirth in steals but by now Jennings has to be considered what he really is.  That is an outfielder 3 and one who is on the lower-end of that scale at best.

Ben Zobrist:  Now 33-years-old, Zobrist is starting to hit that point in his career where the numbers are going in an irreversible direction.  Always possessing big-time eligibility, that part of Zobrist’s game is starting to become more valuable than his actual numbers which is a concern.  Sneak him in as your starting shortstop one more season and then get out. 

Drew Smyly:  By now we sound like a broken record in discussing the very similar abilities of all the young Tampa Bay starters.  Smyly fits right in there as he registered a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts with the Rays last season after being the main return on the David Price swap.  There is solid power ability here to where Smyly can be a strikeout help while also posting intriguing ratios in both ERA and WHIP.  The word is not totally out yet on Smyly which means a nice profit could be there for the taking.

Asdrubal Cabrera:  Cabrera had to settle on a one-year deal by the Rays which was evidence that few teams are impressed with his current level of hitting.  Still Cabrera has hit 16, 14, and 14 home runs the last three season to go with around 10 steals in each which works good enough at the shallow shortstop spot.  Unfortunately Cabrera has never come anywhere near his 2011 breakout which goes down as a major outlier campaign.

Steve Souza:  Sleeper alert!  The Rays will give the leftfield job to the intriguing power/speed game of Souza who was a put up some very impressive totals in those two categories in addition to hitting a ridiculous .350 on the farm in 2014 before a late season promotion.  Talent like that is always on the front-burner for value hawks and Souza at the very least will get every chance to realize his potential. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

James Loney:  Loney is a great example of a guy who is better in real-life than in fantasy baseball.  Always showcasing a bat capable of hitting .300 and driving in enough runs to be useful, Loney’s impact ends there.  There is very little power to speak of which is a huge drawback considering his first base position where home runs reign supreme.  Best left as a bench UTIL or CI bat.

Brad Boxberger:  It was an incredible rookie performance by the fireballing Boxberger in 2014 as he showed closer-like ability in punching out a ridiculous 104 batters in only 64.2 innings with an ERA of 2.37.  With Jake McGee out possibly for the first few weeks of the season as recovers from elbow surgery, Boxberger figures to be in line for saves along with veteran Ernesto Frieri.  He could very well run with the gig if he dominates so have him on your late rounds list. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Kevin Kermaier-Ernesto Frieri-David DeJesus

Thursday, February 26, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ANGELS ACE GARRETT RICHARDS THROWS 50-PITCH BULLPEN SESSION

Rehabbing Los Angeles Angels ace SP Garrett Richards threw a 50-pitch bullpen session Thursday without incident.  Richards is making his way back from the gruesome torn left patellar injury suffered last August which cut short a major breakthrough campaign that had him pitching like a power ace.  Barring any setbacks, Richards could be back for the start of the season.

Analysis:  Great news here as Richards is looking like he will be able to give as full six months of action which is tremendous.  He finally reeled in his past issues with walks and his 98-mph heat began picking up a bunch of strikeouts as well last season.  There is still some discount to be had here so be sure to jump in with both feet. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: CARDS SP ADAM WAINWRIGHT DODGES INJURY BULLET, OUT ONLY 5 DAYS WITH ABDOMINAL STRAIN

St. Louis Cardinals ace SP Adam Wainwright was a guy who already made our 2015 BUST lists due to the fact he has had very high innings totals the last three seasons for the team and for the fact all those innings could have contributed to a late case of elbow soreness in 2014.  While Wainwright pitched through the soreness, there is always a huge red flag attached to any big name pitcher who has issues there.  And than camp opens and right away Wainwright is heading back to St. Louis to get seen by a doctor after complaining of sharp abdominal pain.  After an appendicitis was quickly ruled out, the next worry was an oblique strain.  Fortunately for Wainwright and his owners, that too came back clean as he was officially diagnosed with just a simple abdominal strain that will sideline him for around 4-5 days.  After sitting for the 4-5 days, Wainwright is expected to be a full participant again in camp. 

The bigger picture here of course is the elbow which is something that we have to watch closely.  Along the same lines as Masahiro Tanaka with the New York Yankees, Wainwright has the bust label attached to him due to the increased risk of injury.  We saw the same scenario develop with Wainwright years ago where he came down with late season elbow trouble and that resulted in a quick Tommy John surgery diagnosis the next spring training.  So clearly there is a history here and thus it is recommended you steer clear of Wainwright given how deep the starting pitching class is. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: JONATHAN PAPELBON ASKS TO BE DEALT TO BLUE JAYS

Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is not happy with the team after they failed to complete the rumored trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and instead has asked to be dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays.  With the Brewers re-signing Francisco Rodriguez earlier in the day to close games, Papelbon now focused in on the Blue Jays who still are without a proven closer.

Analysis:  This situation is starting to get ugly with the Phillies and Papelbon.  Clearly the Phils are rebuilding and have no need for Papelbon, especially with the very capable Ken Giles waiting in the wings.  Still they are being reportedly too greedy when it comes to how much money a trade partner has to take on in a deal which ruined the Brewers talks.  No matter where he ends up, Papelbon once again will be a top ten fantasy baseball closer.  Giles meanwhile should be drafted due to the high probability Papelbon gets moved. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: BRAVES SS ANDRELTON SIMMONS TO SIT FOR A WEEK WITH STRAINED OBLIQUE

Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons will take a week or so off from spring training workouts after he strained his oblique early in camp.  Simmons complained of pain in the area late Wednesday and it soon was determined that the oblique was the cause.  The defensive whizz will still be on track to be more than ready for Opening Day barring any other setbacks.

Analysis:  Simmons is a terrific player whose main asset is his glove which doesn’t help you much in terms of fantasy baseball.  Still in very deep leagues he can hit enough to be somewhat useful. 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: K-ROD BACK TO CLOSING GAMES IN MILWAUKEE

It was a more drawn-out process than expected but the Milwaukee Brewers and closer Francisco Rodriguez finally came to an agreement on a new contract early Thursday.  Rodriguez inks a two-year deal worth around $13 million guaranteed and he will immediately move back to the ninth inning where he had a major comeback season for the Brewers in 2014.  After almost being run out of baseball after becoming more hittable than ever due to lost velocity and poor control, Rodriguez found some lost mileage last season and proceeded to look like his old dominant self for a Brewers team in desperate need of closing help.  Still the two sides struggled to come to terms on a new deal for much of the offseason as veteran Jonathan Broxton was being told to prepare to close games.  Now that the deal is completed, Rodriguez goes back to mid-tier status among all closers.  There is a bit of bust potential here as Rodriguez was pretty horrific in 2012 and 2013 but as long as the velocity holds, the chances of continued success are likely.  Meanwhile those who drafted Broxton can safely cut him loose.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS SP MASAHIRO TANAKA THROWS 40-PITCH BP SESSION

New York Yankees ace SP Masahiro Tanaka threw a successful 40-pitch bullpen session Thursday.  Tanaka continues to throw with a partial tear in his UCL but so far will try to pitch through it.

Analysis:  All positive signs so far but again it is very early.  Tanaka has a world of talent but the bust potential is as high as any pitcher in fantasy baseball this season.  Proceed with caution for now and only draft him as your  SP 2 at best.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARDS SP MICHAEL WACHA FACES HITTERS WED.

St. Louis Cardinals SP Michael Wacha faced live hitters in a batting practice session on Wednesday which the team marked as a positive step in his comeback from last year's stress reaction in his pitching shoulder.  Wacha will be handled with caution in camp but so far he has not reported any renewed discomfort.

Analysis:  I was a huge Wacha fan the last two years but I won't invest in any pitcher with a bum shoulder.  These issues almost always linger and we have seen the rapid decline of Josh Johnson and Timmye Hanson as evidence of how detrimental this is.  Great talent but right now Wacha is radioactive.  

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MATT HARVEY TO MAKE SPRING DEBUT MAR. 6

New York Mets ace SP Matt Harvey will make his spring debut March 6 which will be his first outing in 17 months since Tommy  John surgery.  Harvey will be on a strict pitch count but will not be held back from throwing his full arsenal.

Analysis:  It is all good news surrounding Harvey right now and he should be drafted as an ace starter.  The stuff is as potent as any starter in the game and only a 200 inning cap is a minor issue.  

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: ALICIDES ESCOBAR SS KANSAS CITY ROYALS

It goes without saying that shortstop has been and remains an incredibly shallow position for the better part of the last ten years.  That trend continues for 2015 as shortstop once again lacks enough players to adequately fill a standard 12-team league.  Once Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Ian Desmond are off the board, the dropoff is sizable and steep.  That means you as the drafter need to look for value plays or shortstops whose price is lower than it should be based on the numbers they provide.  One such case for the last three seasons has been Kansas City speedster Alicides Escobar who found a home with the Royals whose team mantra of emphasizing speed fits perfectly with his ability.  Now the firm leadoff man for the Royals going into the 2015 season, Escobar is ready to reprise his role as the sparkplug for the American League champions.  So with that said lets revisit Escobar in order to determine what he could provide his owners this season.

As we noted earlier, speed is the clear name of the game here as Escobar has hit a grand total of only 12 home runs over the last three seasons combined.  His high in RBI during that span as well is a very low 52 which means Escobar is not going to move the needle much when it comes to those two categories.  Where he makes his hay however is with the runs and stolen bases, not to mention having the ability for his for average as well.  Once Esocobar finally got his timing down on the basepaths before the 2012 season, he proceeded to unleash his speed of 36 stolen bases in that campaign.  Escobar followed that up with 22 and 31 steals the last two seasons as he settled in as the leadoff guy.  In addition to the steals, Escobar has run for between 57 and 74 runs in that span which is not a tremendous number but one that should rise in 2015 now that he is set to be the clear leadoff guy from the outset which wasn’t totally the case in the past.  With the Royals once again emphasizing small-ball, look for Escobar to approach or even surpass the 30 steals plateau again to go with a career-high in runs that could go past a total of 80.  Finally, Escobar is only a .261 career hitter but he batted .285 last season and .293 in 2012 which shows his improvement there.  At the still young age of 28, Escobar is still in his prime years which means there should be no falloff in any category. 

YAHOO'S ANDY BEHREN'S WRITES ABOUT ALICIDES ESCOBAR/ELVIS ANDRUS UNDERRATED/OVERRATED SNIPPET I DISCUSSED YEARS AGO

1. Alcides Escobar - He solidly outperformed Elvis Andrus last season, yet we're taking him nearly 100 picks later than the Texas shortstop in 2015. Don't get it

The above is a quote from Yahhoo's Andy Behren's which caught my eye since this was something I talked about with the same two players a few YEARS ago.  Love it. 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: THE JOSH HAMILTON FALLOUT

Sad.  That is the only word to describe the current plight of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton who is facing a lengthy suspension from major league baseball after it was discovered he relapsed when it came to his past cocaine habit.  Hamilton was at MLB headquarters in New York on Wednesday discussing the matter and the possible ramifications of the relapse.  Already out until May after undergoing offseason surgery, Hamilton is now facing a suspension which could be for a wide ranging amount of games.  Already having been suspended for two whole seasons in the past for drug use, there is no telling how long Hamilton would have to be punished for this offense.  The bottom line however is that the man just can't seem to put his demons behind him and clearly baseball should be the least of his worries.  Obviously don't touch Hamilton in any fantasy baseball league this season and that was pretty much true even before the suspension as he was fading quickly after a short prime where he was one of the best power hitters in the game.  Right now Hamilton needs to focus on his family and himself and baseball will come later. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BRANDON MOSS "SHOULD BE" READY TO GO FOR START OF SEASON

Cleveland Indians OF/1B Brandon Moss took batting practice on Wednesday which was an important step in his recovery from October hip surgery.  Manager Terry Francona has refused to speculate on whether or not Moss could be ready to go for the start of the season but a team source said the expectation is that he will be in the lineup.  Moss has plenty of time to get ready for the season according to Francona as along as there are no more setbacks. 

Analysis:  Moss is a terrific and underrated power hitter who always comes cheap on draft day and that should be the case again for 2015, especially with the hip news.  The fact he is already taking BP is indicative that he will be ready for the start of the season but of course we have to watch this closely.  Take advantage of the discount. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: NATS OUTFIELDER JAYSON WERTH (SHOUDLER) LIMITED EARLY IN CAMP

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams met with reporters on Wednesday and reported that outfielder Jayson Werth will be limited early on in camp as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.  In addition to the surgery, Werth spent five days in jail for speeding.  Williams did say that Werth has more than enough time to be ready for the start of the season is all goes according to plan.

Analysis:  Werth should once again be an affordable five-tool guy as he has been for the last four years.  While he is injury-prone and overpaid to say the least, Werth can still deliver 20 home runs and 10-15 steals with a .280-plus average.  Sounds like another outfielder 2 season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: REDS SP HOMER BAILEY (ELBOW) LIKELY TO START 2015 ON DL

Cincinnati Reds SP Homer Bailey is slated to throw off a mound in the next week or so as he continues to recover from the flexor tendon surgery he underwent last September.  Bailey has had some stops and starts in his rehab but he has not reported any discomfort over the last month.  However it is likely Bailey will begin the 2015 season on the DL as the team is extra cautious with his rehab this spring. 

Analysis:  Even if Bailey is not ready for the start of the season, he may not need more than a week to get himself in shape.  Beyond that, Bailey comes off a disappointing 2014 where he reaffirmed his status as one of the more aggravating players to own.  With the elbow always being a dicey situation, proceed with extra caution with Bailey this season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ANGELS OUTFIELDER MIKE TROUT AIMS TO STEAL MORE BASES IN 2015

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is aiming to steal more bases in 2015, a vow that he made while speaking to reporters early on Wednesday.  After twice stealing 49 and 33 bases from 2012-13, Trout dropped off to only 16 last season as he was permanently moved out of the leadoff spot.  In addition, Trout also aimed to cut down on the 184 strikeouts he amassed last season which was a noticeably spike from his earlier years.

Analysis:  This is music to Mike Trout owners’ ears.  Already the number 1 player in the game by a mile, Trout can distance himself even more by going back up to the 30-stolen base plateau and boosting his batting average as he cuts down on the whiffs.  A remarkable player in every sense of the word.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JOSH HAMILTON IN NEW YORK, FACING SEVERE PUNISHMENT FROM MLB

According to a source connected to the team, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is currently in New York to meet with commissioner Rob Manfred about an issue that could lead to "severe punishment."  Hamilton has a long history of alcohol and substance abuse and he has not been seen once at Angels camp as he rehabs from surgery.  The source was unable to say if it was steroid or substance abuse related but that a ruling would come down "within hours."

Analysis:  Ugh.  The demons that Hamilton has always carried around looks like they are about to show themselves again.  In his short prime, Hamilton was as dominant a power hitter as the game has seen in decades.  The last few seasons have been filled with injury and poor hitting as he ages but nothing was indicative of any problems until now.  Stay tuned. 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JORDAN ZIMMERMAN SP WASHINGTON NATIONALS

So who is the best starting pitcher on the Washington Nationals?  Has to be Stephen Strasburg right?  What about Gio Gonzalez?  Now it surely has to be Max Scherzer?  Well if you took into account the last four seasons combined, you could say that it is Jordan Zimmerman who always seems to be forgotten when mentioning the best starting pitchers in the game.  Despite not having had a 200-strikeout season like most of the other top guys, there is no debating the fact Zimmerman has been one of the toughest starters to hit over the last four seasons as evidenced by his top-notch ratios.  So as 2015 dawns in fantasy baseball, let's revisit Zimmerman in order to see what he could supply to his owners again this season. 

Now for those ratios.  Here are the numbers from Zimmerman over the last four seasons when he firmly established himself as a top starter.

2011:  8-11 3.18 ERA 1.15 WHIP 124 K
2012:  12-8 2.94 ERA 1.17 WHIP 153 K
2013:  19-9 3.25 ERA 1.09 WHIP 161 K
2014:  14-5 2.66 ERA 1.07 WHIP 182 K

No matter how you slice it, those are ace-type numbers from a guy who may now be talked about as the fourth starter on his own team.  Still the fact of the matter is that Zimmerman is a tremendous pitcher who has successfully come back from early Tommy John surgery to stake his claim as one of the best in the game and in reality one of the most affordable fantasy baseball ace-like pitchers in the game.  The numbers don't lie and if you want to get technical, you can say that Zimmerman is only getting better as evidenced by the career-low 2.66 ERA last season and also the career-high 182 K's.  What is really interesting is the increase in strikeouts since Zimmerman came back from the Tommy John surgery.  Before the surgery, Zimmerman was considered one of the best power pitching prospects in the game as he punched out 92 batters in 91.1 innings as a 2010 rookie.  The surgery followed a year later and when Zimmerman came back, he was diminished in terms of his strikeout rate.  However the raw stuff was still very potent and tough to hit as Zimmerman proved by posting ERA's of 3.25 or better for the last four years.  And now the strikeout rates is climbing as it has done in each of those seasons during that span as well.  Specifically speaking, Zimmerman's K rate has gone from 6.92 in 2011 to last season's 8.20.  He has latched onto some additional velocity over trhe years to go along with his spot on control.  When you throw in the fact Zimmerman's home run rate has never climbed over 0.83 the last four seasons and you can see that he is the complete package as far as ace-ability is concerned. 

When you put it all together, Jordan Zimmerman is absolutely an ace starter for 2015 fantasy baseball who only gives up some strikeouts to others in that class.  If he can replicate the 180-plus K's from last season, than really this is not even worth debating from this point going forward considering how terrific his other numbers are.  This is a guy who can easily anchor your pitching staff and hold his own as the best starter in his own rotation this season. 

2015 PROJECTION:  17-5 3.07 ERA 1.06 WHIP 181 K

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL OVERRATED/UNDERRATED/PRICED RIGHT: CATCHERS

We are going to roll out another feature today as 2015 fantasy baseball drafts continue unabated.  Starting with the catchers, we have grouped the fantasy baseball worthy guys into three different categories of overrated, underrated, and priced right.  By now we have gone into depth on most of these players already but it is always good to understand which guys can give the most value based on lowered than they should be draft prices and those who won’t supply the type of pop they are expected based on a higher than it should be draft cost.  So with that said let’s take a look at how things break down at catcher.

OVERRATED

Buster Posey:  Great hitter but second or third round price tag too rich for any catcher. 

Yadier Molina:  Aging and rate hitting stats starting to slide.  Plus Molina dealt with injuries that took away a chunk of 2014.

Salvador Perez:  Used to be a fan but Perez’ average is sinking after being a .300 guy from 2012-13 and his plate discipline is horrific. 

Jason Castro:  Ongoing knee problems, high K rate, and looming threat of Hank Conger make him not worth even drafting. 

Russell Martin:  Got a huge and ridiculous contract from Toronto and small 2014 rebirth will have Martin overrated in many leagues.  Can’t hit better than .250 without BABIP help and speed is looking shot. 

UNDERRATED

Wilson Ramos:  Can hit 20 home runs if he ever stays healthy which of course is the rub.  Cost never too high to find out. 

Matt Wieters:  Comes off Tommy John surgery and has the out of sight/out of mind card working.  Was having career season before elbow went last season. 

Wilin Rosario:  Many are running for the hills here after rough 2014 which is somewhat understandable since Rosario swings at everything.  Still he plays in Colorado and could move to outfield or first base which would allow him to play every day. 

Travis D’Arnaud:  Was a different player for the better when he returned from demotion to minors.  Has very good hitting talent that started to showcase itself the second half of 2014. 

Yasmani Grandal:  Major sleeper here who I want on all my teams.  Throw out the low outlier batting average last season and bank on the developing home run gains.  We are strong buyers of this kid. 

Stephen Vogt:  Carries catcher eligibility and can play outfield and first base.  Glaring hole behind dish for A’s and Vogt has hit for both average and power in the minor leagues. 

PRICED RIGHT

Yan Gomes:  You can’t go wrong with current power and draft price.  Some doubt he is for real which helps with the cost. 

Carlos Santana:  Hits for great power and has eligibility at three spots.  Plays everyday which is very valuable.

Miguel Montero:  I wouldn’t bother here unless you take part in two-catcher leagues.  Still Montero was pretty good the first half of last season at least. 

Carlos Ruiz:  Aging and has zero power when not on juice.  Still won’t cost you much of anything. 

Jonathan Lucroy:  Slightly high cost but Lucroy has five-category eligibility which is unheard of at catcher. 

Devin Mesoraco:  Power breakout in 2014 was completely legit as Mesoraco was a prime first round prospect for a reason.  Buy in. 

Brian McCann:  Gets knocked and downgraded for awful average which is valid.  However 23 home runs and calling Yankee Stadium home is nothing to sniff at.

Evan Gattis:  Could swat 30 home runs as a regular DH with catcher eligibility for the Houston Astros.  Just has to stay healthy.  Look for major breakout season. 

Mike Zunino:  Can hit 20 home runs but the average is disgusting. 

Derek Norris:  Gets a new start in San Diego to build on All-Star 2014 campaign but last season could be as good as it gets for the guy.

There you have it.  Post your thoughts below. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BREWERS INCREASED PURSUIT OF FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ

The Milwaukee Brewers have reignited contract talks with free agent RP Francisco Rodriguez after the Jonathan Papelbon trade discussions with the Philadelphia Phillies have almost completely collapsed.  Rodriguez is looking for a closer role which he would get to do again in Milwaukee after he posted a nice comeback campaign in 2014 by nailing down 44 saves in 49 chances.  The Miami Marlins are the other team involved with K-Rod as well.

Analysis:  A completed deal is expected soon here as Rodriguez is likely leaning toward the Brewers due to the save chances he would get. Time is also running out on the Brewers to get a stopper or else they will have to go with an untested Will Smith or Jim Henderson. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GIANTS SP TIM HUDSON (ANKLE) TO THROW OFF MOUND WED.

San Francisco Giants SP Tim Hudson will attempt to throw off a mound on Wednesday which will mark his biggest work since undergoing ankle surgery in January to remove bone spurs.  Hudson will take it slowly early on in camp according to manager Bruce Bochy but he has more than enough time to make the first series of the season for the team.

Analysis:  Good news here as Hudson is a class act and should be able to finish his career without injury issues if he can.  Despite his advanced age, Hudson still fools hitters at a high level but his lack of strikeouts leaves him as only an SP 5 at best in non-innings capped setups. 

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER AUCTION VALUES

The closers are up next as we continue to take a look at the updated auction values for 2015 fantasy baseball.

1.  Craig Kimbrel-$27
2.  Greg Holland-$26
3.  Aroldis Chapman-$26
4.  David Robertson-$24
5.  Jonathan Papelbon-$22
6.  Steve Cishek-$20
7.  Glen Perkins-$19
8.  Dellin Betances-$19
9.  Kenley Jansen-$18
10. Huston Street-$18
11. Cody Allen-$18
12. Fernando Rodney-$17
13. Trevor Rosenthal-$17
14. Zach Britton-$16
15. Sean Doolittle-$16
16. Koji Uehara-$13
17. Mark Melancon-$13
18. Jenrry Mejia-$12
19. Santiago Casilla-$11
20. Drew Storen-$10
21. Hector Rondon-$10
22. Joaquin Benoit-$9
23. Jake McGee-$8
24. Neftali Feliz-$7
25. Joe Nathan-$7
26. Brett Cecil-$7
27. Luke Gregerson-$7
28. Addison Reed-$6
29. LaTroy Hawkins-$6
30. Joel Peralta-$6
31. Tyler Clippard-$5
32. Bobby Parnell-$5
33. Francisco Rodriguez-$5
34. Will Smith-$4
35. Rafael Soriano-$4



 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: ZACK GREINKE (ELBOW) ADVANCES TO THROWING BULLPEN SESSION TUESDAY

Los Angeles Dodgers SP Zack Greinke threw a bullpen session on Tuesday which marks another step forward after he received a lubricated injection into his pitching elbow last Thursday.   So far Greinke has had no issues with the elbow after throwing off flat ground Monday and then the mound on Tuesday.  He remains on track for Opening Day.

Analysis:  Good news all around now for Greinke and it looks like all the talk of this being a minor deal are spot on.  As long as he doesn’t feel anything else out of the ordinary, Greinke will be in the conversation as a top ten fantasy baseball starting pitching ace. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS 1B LUCAS DUDA DEALING WITH STRAINED OBLIQUE, WON'T HIT FOR A FEW DAYS

New York Mets 1B Lucas Duda is restricted from swinging a bat for a few days after he received a cortisone shot for an oblique strain.  Duda suffered the injury, which is being called an intercostal strain, at the end of last week and reported no improvement once camp officially began which necessitated the shot.

Analysis:  Well it didn’t take long for the first oblique issue of the season.  Duda is an immense power hitter who really came into his own in 2014 for the New York Mets but he obviously need to be healthy to build off of that campaign.  As long as this doesn’t prove to be a lingering problem, Duda should be able to come close or exceed 30 home runs and 80 RBI in 2015 as he fully ascends to a first baseman 1. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ADAM WAINWRIGHT HEADED BACK TO ST. LOUIS DUE TO ABDOMINAL PAIN

St. Louis Cardinals ace SP Adam Wainwright is heading back home to find out the source of abdominal pain that cropped up at the start of spring training.  Wainwright has still been able to throw without issues but he was in quite a bit of pain Tuesday which gave the team reason to fly him back to St.Louis.

Analysis:  Wainwright was on our bust list even before this cropped up due to the elbow trouble that flared at the end of last season.  This is certainly concerning and will likely be updated soon.  Cross your fingers.  

2015 SPRING TRAINING AROUND THE CAMPS: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

By Eric C. Wright

Clearwater, Fla.--The Philadelphia Phillies could be in the running as one of the worst teams in the major leagues in 2014, especially when you factor in payroll.  The rebuilding plan is in full force in the City of Brotherly Love as the team has pretty much tried to sell off anything that is not nailed down.  The cleaning of the clubhouse began in the offseason as the team's all-time hits leader in SS Jimmy Rollins was jettisoned to the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Marlon Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds.  The Phillies have also pretty much tried to give away fading 1B Ryan Howard, closer Jonathan Papelbon, and ace lefty Cliff Lee but to no avail so far due to the massive contracts of all three.  Flat out this team is in salary hell right now and Cole Hamels will be the big fish they will likely move to get the prospects needed for a rebuild.  With that said let's check in on the teams as a whole as the 2015 gets closer.

LINEUP

1.  Ben Revere
2.  Freddy Galavis
3.  Chase Utley
4.  Ryan Howard
5.  Domonic Brown
6.  Cody Asche
7.  Grady Sizemore
8.  Carlos Ruiz
9.  Pitcher

ROTATION

1.  Cole Hamels
2.  Cliff Lee
3.  Aaron Harang
4.  Chad Billingsley
5.  Jerome Williams

CLOSER

Jonathan Papelbon

5-STAR PLAYERS

Cole Hamels:  There is a ton of trade rumors surrounding the veteran lefty but for now Hamels will be toeing the rubber for the only team he has ever known.  Hamels often gets forgotten when the discussion turns to be top ace power pitchers in baseball but that is a clear oversight as the guy is as good as hurler as anyone out there not named Clayton Kershaw.  In fact Hamels did wonders for his trade value in coming off his BEST season ever in 2014 when he pitched to a career-low 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while striking out 198 batters in 204.2 innings.  While the occasional injury may crop up and while the guy tends to struggle in April, Hamels is deserving of being the ace starter on any fantasy baseball roster.

4-STAR PLAYERS

Jonathan Papelbon:  Everyone tried to write Papelbon off prior to 2014 due to decreased velocity and an increased hit rate going into the season.  A blown save in very ugly fashion right off the bat only fueled the talk.  However we went on record fully buying in on the value Papelbon provided prior to last season and were rewarded with arguably one of his best seasons ever as he recorded a 2.04 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while closing out 39 saves in 43 chances.  The K rate has come down sharply as Papelbon starts to age but his offspeed stuff is still tremendous.  If he gets dealt, even better for his still closer 1 value.

Cliff Lee:  Lee is one of the toughest players to gauge heading toward 2015 fantasy baseball due to the fact he comes off a season in 2014 ruined by injury.  A flexor strain in his pitching elbow was the cause and Lee rehabbed the issue instead of opting for surgery which is always risky.  Now aging at 36, there is a big question about whether Lee can hold up for a full season anymore and whether the drop in velocity we have seen from him will make the guy that much more hittable.  There are too many question marks here for us to recommend Lee at this stage of the game.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Chase Utley:  Tremendous career no doubt as Utley at one time was a first round fantasy baseball pick with his power/speed game.  However like pretty much every other big-name Phillie, age has robbed Utley's game.  While Utley was not bad in 2014 in hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 10 steals, he is now 36 and in one of the most injury-prone players in the game.  Salute the career but this is a stock heading south quick.

Ben Revere:  Revere is the classic speed demon stolen base specialist but he is certainly excellent at it.  It actually is selling Revere short as bit as well since hit at or near .300 each of the last three seasons with solid run totals to go with all the steals.  A one-trick pony Revere is not and he makes an solid outfielder 3 who will provide your squad a major dose of stolen bases.

Ken Giles:  We place the fireballing Giles here due to our belief that it is only a matter of time before Papelbon is dealt and thus he moves into the closing chair.  Giles was unhittable at times in his 2014 rookie debut and his stuff has the classic high K potency that will make him a perfect fit for the ninth inning.  Absolutely worth drafting as a handcuff and future value stash.

Domonic Brown:  Not a fan of Brown in the least as he got exposed in 2014 just as we said he would.  We correctly predicted that opposing pitchers would no longer feed Brown fastballs down the middle of the plate due to his horrible plate discipline and very high K rate.  The result was an abomination last season with a drastically reduced home run rate and awful average.  The book is out on Brown now and it is up to him to adjust.  So far there has been only one good season out of the guy and many bad ones.  Go with the trends in avoiding him altogether. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

Aaron Harang:  Harang is back with yet another team after he pitched reasonably well with no one paying attention in 2014.  The days of 200-K's are long over and now Harang really is only a stream guy at best who won't supply much in the way of strikeouts or ratios. 

Ryan Howard:  Yes 23 home runs and 95 RBI was a nice haul for the perpetually injured Howard in 2014 but they were joined by a pathetic .223 average.  Howard is a tremendous average liability now as he continues to age in ugly fashion.  While he can still drive the baseball, the home runs will only top out at 20-plus which is a drastic drop from his 40-plus heyday.  Again avoid aging players whose name brand outpaces their results.

Cody Asche:  Asche is just keeping the seat warm for top third base prospect Maikel Franco but he was decent enough last season to be worth a small look.  The kid can pop a few homers and steal the odd base but there is a clock here that is moving toward the Franco arrival.

Maikel Franco:  We put Franco in the 2-star realm due to not knowing how long until he gets promoted.  The kid can hit with power but he was clearly not ready when given a chance last season.  Look for a June arrival and get ready to add him to your squad in quick fashion if you can. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Grady Sizemore, Carlos Ruiz, Jerome Williams, Chad Billingsley, Freddy Galavis, Darin Ruf

HEARD AROUND:  The Phillies will give away Papelbon and Howard if they can.....Look for the talks between the Phillies and Brewers to be rekindled soon and finally complete the swap for Papelbon....The plan is for Franco to be up sometime in May or maybe June 1 depending how he does early on in the season.