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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL GETTING TO KNOW: RYAN RUA OUTFIELDER TEXAS RANGERS

There was a bit of a surprise coming out of Texas Rangers camp on Tuesday when it was announced that previously unheralded Ryan Rua had claimed a starting outfield spot on the team to open the 2015 season.  The 25-year-old minor league veteran has all of 28 games of major league experience under his belt which came in 2014 when he batted .295 with 2 home runs and a stolen base.  Rua is well off the beaten path when it comes to the fantasy baseball community but now it might be time to take notice due to the fact he is now guaranteed a decent look by the team in one of the best hitting parks in baseball.  As far as Rua and his skills are concerned, his strength lies in his decent contact skills and solid batting eye that led him to bat .300 in Double-A and .313 in Triple-A last season before his late Rangers promotion.  Rua takes walks at a nice rate and also keeps his K's to a manageable level as well which allows him to be a decent batting average guy.  In addition, Rua has some pop to his game as he hit 29 home runs in A-Ball in 2013 and than swatted a combined 20 across the three levels last season.  Not much of a stolen base guy, Rua is going to make hay as a possible outfielder 3 who can hit for a solid average and contribute 15-20 home runs with a few steals thrown in.  Those numbers will not make you run out to pick him up but Rua at the very least should be monitored to see where this goes.  Now it is up to Rua to show whether or not he is worthy of our attention this season. 





 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: AROLDIS CHAPMAN SUFFERS ONLY MILD HAMSTRING INJURY, IS DAY-TO-DAY

                                             

Updating and earlier item, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman tweaked his hamstring in his Tuesday outing and he was removed only for precautionary reasons.  Chapman is being listed as day-to-day and could get back into a game this weekend.

Analysis:  Big exhale Chapman owners.  He looks like he will be just fine here and truth be told Chapman was arguing to stay in Tuesday's game so this is not a big deal.  He should once again be a top 2-3 closer this season with insane strikeout numbers.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: COCO CRISP (ELBOW) TO START SEASON ON DL

                                         

Oft-injured Oakland A's outfielder Coco Crisp will begin the 2015 season on the disabled list after feeling more soreness in his right elbow while playing in a minor league game on Tuesday.  Crisp has been dealing with pain in the elbow for the last week and he felt it again when swinging in Tuesday's game. 

Analysis:  Crisp is falling apart before our eyes.  While he always has been injury-prone, Crisp is losing his speed which was his greatest attribute.  Since his days of even 30 steals are finished, Crisp is more of a bench outfielder than anything else.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: AROLDIS CHAPMAN EXITS OUTING TUESDAY WITH INJURY

                                        

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was removed from his spring outing on Tuesday after one batter due to an apparent injury.  Chapman gave no noticeable sign of any discomfort but soon the training staff headed out to the mound for a conference.  The move to take Chapman out was made despite the closer protesting he wanted to stay in the game.  An updated is expected later on.

Analysis:  Hmmm.  Could be just a precautionary thing as Chapman seemed all right in watching this and he clearly wanted to stay in.  There is literally nothing but a guess at this point as to what it could be but obviously you want to check back for an update as soon as it arrives. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ANTHONY RENDON SEARCHING FOR WHAT AILS HIS KNEE

Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon was a popular target as a late first round/early second round pick in drafts this season due to his tremendous breakout season in 2014 when he posted five category numbers.  Only 23, Rendon has some more years ahead of him as far as ceiling was concerned and since he was already a top 12-20 player overall, his value soared.  However a March 9th injury to his left knee that was diagnosed as an MCL sprain has kept Rendon completely off the field since and his very slow progress in healing has gotten to the point that he saw none other than Dr. James Andrews for answers.  Andrews backed up the team's diagnosis of the sprained MCL but Rendon was apparently not satisfied as he will seek another opinion.  The bottom line in all of this is that Rendon will begin the 2015 season on the DL and currently has no plan for when he could possibly return.  This of course is a huge problem for Rendon's owners who used that late first round/early second round pick looking for five category greatness.  Rendon missing games obviously stunts that thinking and the fact he has now yet recovered from the injury three weeks later is very worrisome.  Right now we are in murky waters here as Rendon may even require surgery if things don't improve which would be a total disaster.  If you are a Rendon owner, the best thing is try and stay patient and hope for a breakthrough.  The fact Andrews backed up the team tells us it could be simply just waiting for the pain to subside.  Whenever that may be of course.  Either way there is nothing but frustration surrounding a guy who had nothing but expectations attached to his name just a month ago.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: LUKE GREGERSON OFFICIALLY NAMED ASTROS CLOSER

                                          

The Houston Astros have officially named Luke Gregerson as their closer for the start of the 2015 season.  Gregerson was a signed as a free agent by the team as a major piece of their bullpen makeover and he takes over for veteran Chad Qualls who will now pitch in setup.

Analysis:  If you were holding Qualls, now would be a good time to drop him.  Gregerson has been one of the more dominant setup men in baseball the last four years but he has struggled to close games in the past.  Still there are only 30 closers at any given time and Gregerson has the stuff to succeed. 

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: JOC PEDERSON OUTFIELDER LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Lost in the amazing home run barrage that Chicago Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant showcased in spring training prior to his Monday demotion has been the just as amazing performance of top Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson.  Going into Monday's spring games, the multi-talented Pederson had 6 home runs of his own to go along with 12 RBI and batting .389.  Pederson has been locked in since the start of spring training and he is set to post a tremendous breakout season as a rookie in 2015.  Pederson of course put himself at the top of all prospect lists last season when he smacked 33 home runs and stole 30 bases in Triple-A while batting .303.  Clearly the power/speed game is extremely potent and makes Pederson one of the most desirable young players in baseball that points to immense future fantasy baseball success.  Based on how locked in Pederson has been this spring, he certainly looks ready to put his name right towards the top of the outfielder rankings.  Truth be told it is this type of performance that we have been waiting for all along with Pederson and those who picked him up in drafts this season could be rewarded handsomely. 

Now as far as what Pederson can do this season, clearly the power and speed combination is at the center of what he could supply.  We don't know yet where Pederson will bat in the order and that will determine who many stolen base chances he will get.  Still Pederson has terrific speed to pick up steals no matter where he bats and the power is developing along nicely based on his spring output.  The one area we would have some concern is in the batting average department as Pederson struck out a ton at 26 percent last season in Triple-A despite the rest of his gaudy numbers.  Pederson may not hit much better than .270 this season based on that number but again the power/speed numbers could be very impactful.  Ultimately I am thinking George Springer 2014 here right on down to the mediocre average and gaudy power numbers.  We would sign for that in a second without blinking an eye.

FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: MONDAY

-Carlos Martinez was officially named the fifth starter for the St. Louis Cardinals after a very solid spring.  Once Jaime Garcia hurt his shoulder again, the job was pretty much Martinez' due to his power upside.  Marco Gonzales pitched well this spring as well but he doesn't have the K rate of Martinez and will begin the season in Triple-A.  Martinez meanwhile has very solid upside as he has struck out batters at a high level both in the bullpen and as a starter in the minors.  The control is lacking at times but Martinez makes for a perfect late round grab.

-Everth Cabrera will take on some value as J.J. Hardy's replacement at shortstop and he is now batting .283 after going 3-for-4 Monday.  Cabrera has tremendous speed but he was a complete disaster last season in coming back from his PED suspension.  Only worth of a pickup in AL-only leagues until we see signs of the pre-suspension Cabrera.

-Michael Wacha continued with his big spring in giving up only 2 runs in five innings against the Washington Nationals.  He now has a cumulative 1.77 ERA on the spring and looks all the way back from his past shoulder problems.  There could be sizable upside here.

-Kolten Wong is driving us crazy again.  His 0-for-2 outing on Monday has hit spring average at a ghastly .139.  Wong of course was demoted to the minor leagues midway through 2014 after similar struggles but his power/speed upside is significant if he can just make consistent contact.  Another slow start could be in the offing but the Cardinals will be more patient this time around after seeing his big finish last season. 

-While he has never been a guy I ever wanted to own due to his annually rough batting averages, I have never had any issue with Pedro Alvarez' power.  He went yard twice on Monday and drove in six batters in the Pirates' win over the Phillies by a score of 18-4.  Alvarez moves to first base full-time in 2015 but he retains third base value for another season where most of his value lies.  30 home runs are very likely if he stays healthy but they will go along with a .250 batting average.

-Josh Harrison is looking to show his 2014 out-of-nowhere breakout in 2014 was legit and his second home run of the spring helped in that endeavor Monday.  He is hitting .300 overall and will get to bat in the precious leadoff spot for the Pirates where he will collect a nice amount of stolen bases. 

-Jace Peterson is now up to .352 on the spring after his 3-for-5 day for the Atlanta Braves.  Peterson will claim the second base job for the Braves this season and he has 25 stolen base speed and the contact skills to post a decent batting average.  It is not too late to see if Peterson is still available as his name is far from a household brand yet.

-Joe Nathan tossed a scoreless inning on Monday while giving up only a meaningless infield single.  Nathan overall has been good this spring but has also taken a few poundings as well.  His velocity is a major issue now at his advanced age and that means there is a very small margin for error this season.  Have Joakim Soria close by.

-Lucas Duda is red-hot right now after cracking a home run and driving in five runs Monday.  Duda has two home runs and 9 RBI in his last three games and he also has hit well against lefties this season which is incredibly encouraging.  30 home runs is very repeatable as well and an uptick in batting average is likely as well if Duda can continue to hit lefties.

-Rafael Montero is making a late push to take the fifth starter's job for the New York Mets over Dillon Gee.  Montero struck out six in throwing six scoreless innings Monday.  The Mets are rumored to be looking to move Gee and if that happens, Montero and his intriguing stuff will move to the rotation.  He would have only SP 5 value initially but Montero could be a 4 due to his solid arsenal.

-Dan Haren was brutal in giving up 7 runs in 5.1 innings Monday for the Miami Marlins.  Before the start Haren had a 1.93 ERA and he figures to be a trustworthy SP 5 again in a nice ballpark.  Just don't look for any K's from the past.

-Tajuan Walker finally gave up a run this spring on Monday but it was only one in seven strong innings for the Seattle Mariners.  Walker gave up only three hits and one walk while striking out five.  This could be some breakout season for Walker whose has a major power arm and imposing stuff that reminds some of Felix Hernandez. 

-Robinson Cano hit his first spring home run for the Mariners.  Cano saw his home runs sink under 20 for the first time in his career last season in his first year with Seattle in their big park but an uptick back upwards is likely now that the lineup is stronger.  He remains the number 1 second baseman in the game by a sizable margin.

-Mike Zunino is begging to be picked up this spring as he hit yet another home run on Monday as part of his 2-for-3 day.  Zunino is hitting at a level he has never shown before as he batted only .199 last season but he is now up to 7 spring home runs.  If the contact can stay somewhat steady, Zunino has a shot at 25 home runs.  All we need is for an average of .260 and that will work just fine for us.
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: J.J. HARDY ON ICE FOR TEN DAYS, COULD HIT THE DL

                                          

Baltimore Orioles SS J.J. Hardy will be completely shut down for the next ten days due to a muscle strain in his left shoulder.  While Buck Showalter has not said that Hardy will begin the season on the DL, the Orioles first game is in seven days and their shortstop is not doing well with the shoulder by any means.  He will be evaluated again once the tens days are through.  The fallout here of course is that the Hardy's 2015 cheap draft price will not be able to supply value right out of the gate due to the shoulder.  One of the more underappreciated hitters in the game, Hardy has been a consistent source of rare 20-plus home runs from the very shallow shortstop position.  While Hardy had a down power season in 2014, he was being counted on to make a push back above the 20 mark with his standard .265 batting average this season.  Unfortunately the shoulder was to blame for Hardy's power outage last season and the fact he already is dealing with problems there with 2015 officially not underway makes a rebound even more hazy.  Those who own Hardy should hold onto him until the ten days are up to see what his status is but this is not a good situation by any means.  Stay tuned.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: EDDIE BUTLER EXITS OUTING WITH WEAK SHOUILDER

                                         

Colorado Rockies SP Eddie Butler was forced out of his spring start Monday with a bout of right shoulder weakness.  Butler dealt with shoulder problems last season for the Rockies and he will be evaluated again on Tuesday.  He was in line to claim the fifth spot in the Rockies rotation before the start went awry.

Analysis:  Not good since the season is just a week away.  That could open up the fifth starter spot for someone else but either way Butler was nothing but a borderline SP 5 due to his ballpark.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS OUTFIELDER JAYSON WERTH HITS IN MINOR LEAGUE GAME MONDAY

                                      

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth took another step in his comeback from offseason shoulder surgery by hitting in a minor league game.  Werth is still not allowed to play the field but that is expected to come next week.  He will begin the season on the DL and return around mid-April.

Analysis:  Good step here for Werth but we are not home free yet.  He is making nice progress but simply will run out of time to get back for the opener.  If all goes well, Werth could miss as little as 10 games. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DREW STOREN EXITED WITH FOOT BLISTER

                                     

Updating an earlier item, Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen was forced out of his spring outing on Monday with a blister on his left foot.  Storen is expected to rest for two days and than make another appearance as he ramps up for the season.

Analysis:  Whew!  Good news all around here for Storen and his fantasy baseball owners fore sure.  The fact nothing is wrong with his arm is all you need to concern yourself with here.  Storen is set to be a very solid closer for 2015 who will get a ton of opportunities on a tremendous Nationals team.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: BRAD BOXBERGER, EDWARD MUJICA GETS INJURY NODS



Monday as always is when we take a look at the worth of the ninth inning in our popular feature “Closing Time.”  Here we take a weekly look at the most pressing news stories and happening in this always volatile group of players.  For our first report of the 2015 season, let’s take a look at some injury replacements.

-Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell made it official over the weekend that veteran closer Koji Uehara simply won’t have enough time to get himself ready for the opener due to the hamstring injury he suffered almost two weeks ago.  Uehara truth be told has not done much of anything other than play catch since the injury which no doubt can be blamed on a 42-year-old body.  In addition to health, Uehara was a major question mark coming into the season after he was beyond horrific the second half of 2014.  Seemingly every time Uehara pitched from August 1 on last season, he got his brains beat in.  With a fastball that now barely touches the upper 80’s, Uehara’s margin for error is razor sharp.  Very few pitchers can post good numbers in their 40’s and Uehara is trying to buck that well worn trend.  Meanwhile veteran setup man and part-time closer Edward Mujica steps into the closer role and he thus immediately takes on solid value.  Mujica did a very nice job closing games for the St. Louis Cardinals for the majority of 2013 when Jason Motte was lost to Tommy John surgery but soon he faded late which opened the door for the Trevor Rosenthal era.  Mujica found a home with Boston prior to 2014 and wound up notching another quality season with a 3.90 ERA which was actually very high for him.  The K rate works at closer and truth be told Mujica could have the gig for a decent part of April as Uehara is a slow healer and facing many obstacles this season.

-With the promising Jake McGee out until May after recovering from elbow surgery, the hard-throwing Brad Boxberger has been anointed the closer interim.  Boxberger carries quite a bit of intrigue due to the fact his 2014 debut was very impressive and highlighted by an extreme strikeout rate that went north of 11.00 K/9.  On stuff alone, Boxberger passes the eye test as a closer but McGee should be able to reclaim the job when he gets back.  McGee himself was tremendous last season both before and after he was given the closer job.  Always having the K rate to make it a seamless transition, McGee was shaping up as a major closer value play until the elbow flared.  He has had no setbacks in his rehab however so hold McGee if you are a current owner.  Now of course there is always the chance Boxberger can hold the job if he is absolutely dominating hitters when McGee gets back but that is not currently part of the plan. 

-Tyler Clippard will close games for the Oakland A’s at the start of the season for the Oakland A’s as lefty closer Sean Doolittle continues his rehab from a slightly torn rotator cuff.  Doolittle was as dominant as one could be in his 2014 breakout season as the A’s closer, combining a very high K rate and impeccable control.  Still the rotator cuff is a potentially big deal and right now Doolittle is not expected back until May.  The fact Clippard is a righty and has been one of the most dominant setup men in baseball the last five years gives him a chance to hold onto the closer role himself when Doolittle does finally make it back.  We don’t have to remind you how managers hate lefty closers and this could fall under a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” scenario if Clippard is doing well.

-The New York Mets are set with Jenrry Mejia at closer after he seemed a natural for the ninth inning after he was moved there from the rotation where he was struggling.  Mejia could not hold up physically under the demands of a starter and his hard stuff made for a good fit as closer.  Still the Mets have former closer Bobby Parnell currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and he could be ready by mid-April.  However Parnell’s velocity is still lagging, sitting in the 92 range compared to his 99 mph fastball before the surgery.  With Jeurys Famila struggling this spring, Mejia seems locked in right now at closer.

-Major concerns right now for the awful spring training by potential New York Yankees closer Dellin Betances.  The fireballing 2014 All-Star struck out almost every batter he faced last season in posting a monstrous debut campaign in setup.  Thus it seemed a given Betances would be the next closer after David Robertson left as a free agent.  However Betances has been simply awful this spring in pitching to an ERA over 7.00 and giving up a bunch of home runs.  The velocity has lagged from Betances all spring and this is concerning due to the fact he has a long history of injuries in the minor leagues.  To make matters more complicated, Andrew Miller and his own ridiculously dominant 2014 campaign came aboard as a free agent.  Miller has pitched well this spring and has the same type of ridiculous K rate that Betances has.  With Betances pitching so horribly, manager Joe Girardi at least has to consider a co-closer deal with Miller.  If Betances is brutal the last week of spring training, Miller could get the nod.  Take a quick look to see if Miller is still available in your league as he could be a tremendous closer if he does get a chance.

 -Speaking of Robertson, he sent up some major red flags when he complained of forearm pain last week.  This on the heels of Robertson getting hit around all spring to the run of an ERA north of 7.00.  One of the most dominant strikeout pitchers in the game since his debut, Robertson has looked nothing like that type of pitcher this spring.  The Chicago White Sox badly need Robertson to be the guy in the ninth inning this season after the MLB-worst collective performance they got there last season.  Jake Petricka would be the logical handcuff but he too is also battling injury problems this spring.  Robertson did throw a scoreless inning and had no reported physical problems on Sunday but still we have to see a bit more of that before we exhale there.  Ultimately Robertson should be a top closer this season but he has to stay healthy.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DREW STOREN EXITS MONDAY OUTING WITH INJURY

Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen left his outing on Monday with an apparent injury after issuing a two-out walk to St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong.  Storen called for the trainers and within seconds walked back to the dugout.  An update is expected shortly.

Analysis:  Already injuries are making things chaotic in the world of the closer and Storen could beaded to this list.  He has a history of injuries and so this is something to watch.  The logical replacement would have been Casey Janssen but he is headed for an MRI for yet another shoulder issue.  Craig Stammen in that case could be the next guy up.

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: JAVIER BAEZ’ LACK OF CONTACT INTERRUPTS SLEEPER TAG



Prior to the start of the 2015 fantasy baseball drafting season, it was yours truly who labeled Chicago Cubs top shortstop prospect Javier Baez a bust candidate.  This despite the fact Baez lit the world on fire in the minor leagues with both his power and speed game.  That performance got Baez promoted during the second half of last season where he did go out and crack 9 home runs.  However Baez batted a pathetic .169 as he struck out in almost half of his at-bats.  The lack of contact was a huge issue for Baez and at the major league level, was a blaring red flag that I couldn’t ignore.  Still the allure of the power/speed production at the very shallow shortstop spot pushed Baez’ 2015 draft price steadily upward which is why I called him a bust in the first place.  I noted correctly that Baez stood a very good chance of being sent back to the minors early in the season if his lack of contact continued. Well Baez didn’t even make it out of spring training as he was demoted to the minor leagues on Monday after hitting only .173 with 20 strikeouts in 16 games.  In other words what I said would happen all along.  While Baez continues to hold some impressive abilities, the fact he can’t make contact consistently is a major problem at the major league level.  His power/speed game is neutralized under the weight of the strikeouts and now Baez will have to work that out in the minors.  While I wouldn’t drop Baez outright just yet, I would also accept the fact he may not give anywhere near the numbers his owners expected this season.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARLOS MARTINEZ TO BE NAMED CARDS' FIFTH STARTER


Carlos Martinez is expected to be named the St. Louis Cardinals fifth starter despite a very good spring from main competition Marco Gonzales.  With veteran Jaime Garcia having suffered another shoulder injury, the hard-throwing Martinez will get a chance to show his powerful fastball in the rotation after a solid spring.

Analysis:  Martinez is a solid sleeper due to the fact his 98-mph fastball could lead to a bunch of K’s.  His control comes and goes though like most other young power pitchers but the upside here is sizable. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: DEVIN MESORACO (HAMSTRING) COULD RETURN TUESDAY


Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco reported great improvement in the hamstring injury he suffered Sunday and he said he can play again as soon as Tuesday.  Mesoraco sat out Monday’s exhibition game as a precaution but both he and the think believe his hamstring is nothing major.

Analysis:  Mesoraco is coming off at tremendous power-packed 2014 breakout but health has to be part of any repeat conversation.  His average tumbled badly in the second half as opposing pitchers adjusted and truth be told Mesoraco is more a .265 hitter than a .280 one.  Be that as it may, Mesoraco has natural power to where he could swat 25 home runs which is very potent at catcher. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RED SOX DEAL FOR CATCHER SANDY LEON, REMOVE BLAKE SWIHART FROM CONSIDERATION


The Boston Red Sox found a replacement for injured catcher Christian Vasquez early Monday when they completed a trade with the Washington Nationals for backstop Sandy Leon.  The addition of Leon to veteran Ryan Hannigan now means that the Red Sox don’t have to rush top catching prospect Blake Swihart.

Analysis:  Well that optimism went quick.  Swihart is now no longer an option so those who picked him up yesterday can feel free to let him go unless you have an N/A spot to use.  Swihart will be a factor sometime this summer but Leon will hold him off until at least June 1.

FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SUNDAY

-It was confirmed by Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell that Edward Mujica would close games in Koji Uehara's absence from a hamstring injury.  Mujica has good stuff and can be a helpful fill-in closer until Uehera's return which is looking now like mid-April.

-Andrew Heaney got hit hard in giving up six runs in five innings as he looks to grab the fifth starter spot for the Los Angeles Angels in place of the injured Garrett Richards.  Heaney now has a 9.00 ERA and simply doesn't look ready.  In fact later Mike Scoscia said Heaney would start the season in the minors which surely was a decision made easier after witnessing this start.

-David Robertson allayed some fears Sunday in tossing a scoreless inning and reported no issues health-wise afterward.  We are still not completely out of the woods yet here but at least things are trending in the right direction from the forearm issue.

-Brad Boxberger looked good in retiring Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz in order to start Sunday's game for the Tampa Bay Rays but he has yet to be named the closer replacement for the injured Jake McGee.  Still Boxberger has the high K stuff to be very good in the ninth inning and he should be considered the favorite. 

-Shane Victorino went 0-for-3 as he continues to struggle in all facets of the game.  Rusney Castillo picked up a hit meanwhile and he has outproduced Victorino by a sizable margin even though he just returned to game action a little more than a week ago.  At this point Jackie Bradley Jr. and Allen Craig are looking like better rightfield choices than the fading Victorino. 

-Nice signs from Jung Ho-Kang Sunday as he hit a home run and picked up another hit.  The home run was Kang's first since the Pittsburgh Pirates' spring opener.  He is slated for utility work for the Pirates this season which mean he currently has little fantasy baseball value.

-Shelby Miller was virtually unhittable Sunday in giving up one hit and a run in six innings of work.  Miller has now given up only 3 earned runs in his last 18 innings but he has a ton of work to do to get back into the fantasy baseball community's good graces after 2014's horror show.

-Oswaldo Arcia is a nice looking power sleeper for the Minnesota Twins and he showed that skill in cracking a home run in Sunday's game.  Unfortunately Arcia strikes out way too much which caps his overall possible value due to the .250 average that will be arrive with the power.

-Doug Fister continues to get hammered this spring as he gave up six runs in 4 innings in Sunday's game.  Overall Fister has now given up five home runs in his last two starts as he could be tipping his pitches.  Fister has put up very good ratios the last four seasons though and in Washington's ballpark should be right on line there again. 

-Bryce Harper hit his second home run in two games as he bats .278 for the spring.  The average won't reach .300 the way Harper strikes out but that 30 home run season will eventually get here if he can just stop running into walls. 

-Nathan Eovaldi looks like a steal for the New York Yankees as he struck out five in 4.2 innings Sunday while not giving up a run.  In 13.2 innings Eovaldi has struck out 14 and given up one run.  Just like with Garrett Richards, Eovaldi just has to get some movement on his fastball to pile up the strikeouts.  Richards made that breakthrough last season and became a star and the way things look, Eovaldi could be on the same path.

-Chase Utley turned back the clock in smacking two home runs on Sunday.  Utley is batting .423 and giving notice that he is not going to fade away just yet.  Still it is tough to depend on Utley's health at this stage of his career and his ratios continue to slip.  A borderline starting option at second base this season.

-Anibal Sanchez struck out ten batters as he continues to pick up the K's in high numbers this spring.  Sanchez did give up four runs in 6.1 innings and he has given up a ton of home runs.  He remains the same SP 3 he has been for awhile.

-Yoenis Cespedes slammed his fourth spring home run Sunday and he is now firmly slated to bat sixth this season behind Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez.  There will be a slew of RBI opportunities for Cespedes who could reach the 100 mark.

-This should be a monster power season for new Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson who hit his fourth home run of the spring.  Moving from the pitching haven in Oakland to the launching pad in Toronto, Donaldson in my opinion is sitting on a 30-plus home run season with a ton of RBI.  He is the second-best third baseman in fantasy baseball.

-Dillon Gee gave up only two runs in seven innings in his Sunday start for the New York Mets.  Gee has looked very good since going back into the rotation in place of the injured Zack Wheeler,  The lack of K's make him only for non-innings capped leagues though.

-Margo Gonzales is now battling only Carlos Martinez for the fifth starter spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation and he responded by giving up only one run in 4.2 innings but Martinez is likely going to win this battle due to his higher upside.

-Howie Kendrick picked up a steal as part of his 2-for-3 day and is now batting .419.  Kendrick is pretty much a cheaper Daniel Murphy in that he will help everywhere but not do any one thing tremendously.  We like the value here as Kendrick will never hurt you at a tough spot on the diamond.

-Brandon McCarthy gave up three runs in 5.2 innings and he now has an ERA that sits at 6.75.  While it was interesting McCarthy went back to the NL and in a prime pitching park, he pitched over his head last season with the New York Yankees and looks like a guy who will take a step back by the looks of it.

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: CHRISTIAN VASQUEZ ELBOW SURGERY COULD ACCELERATE BLAKE SWIHART’S ARRIVAL


It was revealed late Sunday that Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez would most likely be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and thus miss the entire 2015 season.  This news is not much of anything when it comes to Vasquez in fantasy baseball parlance but what it does do it possibly bring top catching prospect Blake Swihart to the show for Opening Day.  Swihart is widely considered the number 1 catching prospect in the game and he was recently sent back down to the minors despite tearing it up this spring in showcasing his potent bat.  Swihart had no spot however with Vasquez teaming up with veteran Ryan Hannigan to handle the catching duties but now things have obviously changed.  The loss of Vasquez likely means that Swihart will get recalled and thus have a spot for Opening Day.  This is potentially big news despite the fact Swihart will surely split time with Hannigan at least early on.  Swihart has good contact skills and solid power that remind some of a poor man’s Buster Posey.  He batted .292 with 13 home runs last season between Double-A and Triple-A and ultimately looks like a top ten catcher due to his bat.  We would pick up Swihart where available despite the part-time duty initially on the outset of the season.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: GARRETT RICHARDS (KNEE) TO RETURN TOWARDS END OF APRIL

                                            

Los Angeles Angels SP Garrett Richards will return to the team's rotation at the end of April according to multiple reports.  Richards has met all of his benchmarks in his return from last August's gruesome knee injury and in fact is well ahead of schedule.  The Angels want to put the brakes somewhat on Richards though in order to avoid any setback.  He has already started pitching in spring games and should be back in the rotation the third or fourth week of April.

Analysis:  Richards on average threw one of the hardest fastballs in baseball last season which helped in his monster breakout.  The guy has always had top notch stuff but finally got his control in order to make it that much more powerful.  He should be a great value place as an ace-like starter who can punch out 180 batters if all breaks right. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TAJUAN WALKER NAMED MARINERS' FIFTH STARTER

                                             

Confirming the obvious, the Seattle Mariners will go with power arm Tajuan Walker as their fifth starter this season.  A former top prospect for the team before serious shoulder trouble almost completely ruined his 2014, Walker has not been scored upon this spring as he has racked up the strikeouts like he did prior to last season. 

Analysis:  The buy low window is closing fast here as Walker is reclaiming his past luster as a prime power arm.  Based on his spring outings, Walker is looking like the real deal again. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: MICHAEL BRANTLEY (BACK) RETURNS TO GAME ACTION

                                        

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing a few days with minor back pain.  Brantley does have a history of back trouble but both he and the manager Terry Francona don't believe it will be a chronic problem.

Analysis:  Brantley is coming off a big-time breakout season in 2014 where he blew past his previous levels in all categories.  Some regression is expected to around 20 home runs or so but overall Brantley makes the grade as a low-end outfielder 1.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JAYSON WERTH (SHOULDER) TO BEGIN SEASON ON DL

                                            

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will start the 2015 season on the disabled list as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery.  Werth has made incremental progress in coming back from the procedure but not fast enough to where he can be ready to go for the opener.  Manager Matt Williams has continually hinted that a mid-April return is more likely.

Analysis:  This was obvious from the beginning as Werth was just too far behind the other players to get himself ready to go.  We still would buy low on the guy as his cost will be dirt cheap after this news and Werth is still capable of 20 home runs and 10-15 steals. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: KOJI UEHARA TO START SEASON ON DL WITH HAMSTRING, GO GET EDWARD MUJICA

                                       

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed the obvious on Sunday when he reported that closer Koji Uehara would not be ready when the opener came around next week due to the hamstring strain he suffered ten days ago.  While Farrell did not confirm who would close games in his place, it is widely assumed that veteran Edward Mujica will get the first crack at it.  Mujica has the most experience closing games in the remaining Boston pen and he has been pretty decent at it during stints with the team and with St. Louis.  Junichi Tazawa is also a possible option but Mujica is the one to go get if you have one roster spot to use.  Now as far as Uehara is concerned, the guy is coming off a horrendous second half in 2014 and now is getting way up there in age at 42.  He has not responded well to treatment thus far and so there is a scenario in place where he may not get back until mid-April at the earliest.  That makes picking up Mujica and even smarter proposition and a potentially difference-making one as far as saves are concerned for April.  Even before the injury Uehara was a big risk give his declining stuff and age and this only magnifies that issue. 

FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SATURDAY

-Gregory Polanco had done next-to-nothing this spring on the heels of his very shaky 2014 debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates but he hit a home run on Saturday which at least lends some hope he could make good on his potential.  Polanco had a ton of trouble making consistent contact last season as his average sank but his minor league numbers prior showed a five-tool potent star-in-the-making.  The lowered expectations and draft price this season made Polanco a very solid investment but we want to see more extra-base hits before the season gets going.

-Xander Bogaerts continued to struggle Saturday as he went 0-for-3.  Bogaerts was a guy I told you to avoid last season as he was severely overrated and remains so this season as well.  He doesn't run much and the power is still sketchy.  The average was supposed to be a plus but it was terrible last season.  Until we see some consistently positive signs, Bogaerts is nothing but an overhyped Red Sox prospect.

-Delin Betances was awful again on Saturday as the Andrew Miller talk as closer grows by the day.  For the third outing in a row, Betances gave up a run and he velocity remains down despite saying before the game he found what the problem was.  This is not looking good right now with the season on tap.  Pick up Miller where available.
-Alex Rodriguez went yard for the third time this spring and is now batting a shocking .306.  Rodriguez of course has been away from the game since 2013 which makes it even more startling he is hitting this well.  Playing time still looks a bit unclear but Rodriguez is looking like he could help in the power categories. 

-Miguel Cabrera looks more than ready for the season to start as he smacked a home run for the second game in a row.  Nothing to see here.  The guy is a monster.

-Joe Mauer hit a rare home runs as part of his 2-for-3 day.  With no catcher eligibility anymore and 10 home runs representing a lot for Mauer, he may not even get drafted in some leagues.

-Ervin Santana was good Saturday in giving up only one run in six innings.  Santana has had a solid spring but he has been as inconsistent as a pitcher can get in his career so good luck figuring out what he could supply this season.

-Mike Napoli is up to three spring training home runs and is batting .370.  You can forget about Napoli hitting even .300 but he could give you very cheap home run numbers.

-It was a much better outing for Mat Latos Saturday as he gave up only one run in 5.1 innings.  Latos was coming off a brutal Monday shelling but even though he gave up only one run, he still yielded 6 hits and two walks.  With his velocity still down, Latos is nothing but an SP 5 even in Miami. 

-Jacob DeGrom has been sharp all spring and that continued on Saturday when he gave up only one run and 4 hits in seven innings.  DeGrom has continued to strike out batters at a high clip this spring after being in outlier territory last season compared to his previous minor league campaigns.

-Todd Frazier belted a home run which was his fourth of the spring.  Overall Frazier is batting .262 and his high K rate indicates he will be in that average area code this season.  The power is tremendous however and Frazier showed the wheels to be the very rare first-base eligible hitter to pick up steals.

-Joc Pederson smashed his fifth spring home run as he continues to be one of the biggest stories in all of spring training.  Pederson is up to five home runs now and has a collective average of .373.  Let the breakout begin.

-San Diego Padres ace SP Tyson Ross was ridiculous in striking out 12 batters in only six innings Saturday.  With a collective 2.89 ERA on the spring, Ross is set to pick up where he left off as a tremendous 2014 breakout power pitcher.  The only concern I have here is that Ross throws the slider up to 40 percent of the time which puts a ton of stress on his elbow. 

-Jason Kipnis is putting his finger surgery aside as he hit his first spring home run.  This is a crucial year for Kipnis who needs to put his ugly 2014 behind him and reclaim his past as a top tier second baseman.

-Jake Arrieta struck out five batters in four innings without allowing a run.  Arrieta has now punched out 15 batters in 14 innings and is set to be a top SP 2 this season for the Chicago Cubs.

-Scott Kazmir pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in giving up two hits and two walks while punching out four.  He shocked us all with his out-of-nowhere comeback last season after pitching in Independent ball.  The key for Kazmir was finding his lost velocity prior to last season and he can absolutely reprise his 2014 numbers as long as he can stay healthy. 

-Mike Zunino hit two more home runs to up his total to six.  Even more impressive is Zunino's .310 batting average.  After straddling the .200 mark last season, Zunino has to do much better there to be a solid every day fantasy baseball catcher.  The power is very good though. 

-Kyle Seager hit his third home run of the spring as he sits with a .300 average.  Always underrated, Seager can swat 25 home runs and collect 90-plus RBI in the heart of a vastly better lineup.

 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: DAVID ROBERTSON (FOREARM) TO PITCH SUNDAY

Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson is expected to pitch on Sunday which will mark his first outing since admitting to battling some forearm pain this spring.  Robertson has been hit hard all throughout the exhibition schedule but both he and manager Robin Ventura expect him to be fine for the opener.

Analysis:  It is crazy to me that an MRI has not been done here as forearm pain is a major red flag for a pitcher.  The fact Robertson has had his head beaten in this spring is also another major red flag considering how dominant a pitcher he always has been.  I would be holding my breath right now if I am a Robertson owner and am hoping for a clean appearance tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DANIEL MURPHY (HAMSTRING) TAKES AT-BATS IN MINOR LEAGUE GAME

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took five at-bats in a minor league game on Saturday but he still has not been cleared to play the field due to his ongoing hamstring issues.  With the season fast approaching, Murphy is not likely to get enough work in to be ready for the opener.

Analysis:  Even if Murphy starts the season on the DL, he is only expected to miss a few games.  He still has very solid value as a top ten fantasy baseball second baseman but doesn't excel in any one category. 

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: SHOULDER PROBLEM FOR JAIME GARCIA OPENS DOOR FOR CARLOS MARTINEZ

                                       

One of the more talked-about pitching battles this spring training centered in the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training complex where the fifth spot in the team's rotation was to be between three arms.  Those arms included veteran Jaime Garcia to go along with control-artist youngster Marco Gonzales and power-arm Carlos Martinez.  All three men had pitched good to very well leading up to this weekend when decisions would need to be made about that fifth starter spot.  The decision got a bit easier for manager Mike Matheney Saturday when it was learned Garcia had to be scratched from his scheduled outing due to a setback with his surgically repaired left shoulder.  If all things were equal, Garcia was expected to win the job due to his experience and solid performances in the past.  However Garcia could be facing an indefinite amount of time on the sidelines with the shoulder which leaves Gonzales and Martinez as the two dogs left in the fight.  As I noted earlier, Gonzales and Martinez are two different pitches.  Gonzales has very good control but is more of a pitch-to-contact guy.  Meanwhile Martinez sometimes loses the strike zone but he also has extremely good power stuff that centers on a blazing fastball which can net a bunch of K's.  Ultimately it comes down to what Matheney prefers but it is a great idea to pick up Martinez where available due to his power upside.  Gonzales is a nice pitcher but his lack of K's doesn't play as well in fantasy baseball.  Martinez could very well realize his sleeper potential this season. 

 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL TOP 100 OUTFIELDERS

1.  Mike Trout:  The slam dunk number 1 pick in all formats.  Don't overthink things with Trout and Bryce Harper.
2.  Bryce Harper:  Harper realized the insane potential that landed him on the cover of SI as a teenager by batting a ridiculous .330 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI.  The key here was that Harper stayed healthy and cut into his strikeouts which yielded the video game numbers.  Still just 24, Harper is now the new number 2 behind Trout. 
3.  Andrew McCutchen:  A few things on McCutchen need to be said here.  Yes he is still a first round lock but his home runs have stayed in the 20-25 range the last three years which is a clear step below Trout and Harper.  Also McCutchen's steals are sliding sharply as he nears 30 which has to be factored into his projections as well. 
4.  Giancarlo Stanton:  If only Stanton could just avoid the freakish injuries, he would explode past 40 home runs.  There is no debating the fact Stanton is the best pure power hitter in the game and his injuries are not the type of recurring ones that should keep him out of consideration of Round 1 of drafts. 
5.  Ryan Braun:  Yes I am as big a critic of Braun as there is but I can't argue with the very good comeback campaign he engineered in 2016.  Keep in mind though that the "New and Post-Steroid" version of Braun is 25 and not 35 home runs; to go with a .285 and not .315 average.
6.  A.J. Pollock:  Best call we made for 2015 fantasy baseball was telling you all to reach a few rounds early for the burgeoning Pollock.  20 home runs and 39 stolen bases to go with 11 runs scored and a .315 average put Pollock into Round 2 territory. 
7.  Adam Jones:  Jones is starting to age a bit and his stolen bases look finished for good but the 25-30 home runs and 90 RBI with a .280 average are still a lock.
8.  Jose Bautista:  Power is still as good as ever but the average is slipping badly. 
9.  Nelson Cruz
10. Starling Marte
11. Mookie Betts:  Had a slow April but Betts was a borderline outfielder 1 who put up Carlos Gomez 2014 numbers the last five months of last season. 
12. Yoenis Cespedes
13. Charlie Blackmon:  I am now fully on board the Blackmon bandwagon as he ran wild all season and continued to put up a decent amount of home runs.  As long as Blackmon doesn't get traded out of Colorado, he is well worth an early round pick. 
14. Justin Upton:  You always want more when you own Upton but the fact of the matter now is that the guy is a very good but flawed outfielder 2 in fantasy baseball.  No more ceiling. 
15. George Springer
16. Lorenzo Cain
17. Hanley Ramirez:  Ramirez is now absent of shortstop eligibility and his body is betraying him.  Can still pop some homers but the steals are done and the average is slipping.  Avoid. 
18. Carlos Gonzalez:  Unbelievable power numbers from CarGo last season as he changed into a pure home run guy who no longer steals bases.  The guy is always dealing with injuries though so he looks like a decent bust candidate for 2016.  Also you never want to buy on any career season. 
19. J.D. Martinez
20. Carlos Gomez:  Horrific season for Gomez in 2015 as he battled leg injuries throughout that robbed him both of power and speed.  Still in his prime years, Gomez is a decent bounce back candidate who is just a season removed from first round numbers. 
21. Corey Dickerson:  Tough season for Dickerson in 2015 as he dealt with the dreaded plantar fasciitis but that shouldn't overshadow what a terrific hitter the Rockies outfielder is.  Dickerson in fact was headed for a big bustout last April before the foot went bad so take advantage of the slight discount this season. 
22. Hunter Pence:  Like with Corey Dickerson, Hunter Pence had his 2015 season ruined by injuries.  First it was a broken forearm and than an oblique.  Age is becoming a bit of a factor but Pence still is good for 20 home runs and 90-plus runs and RBI with a .280 average if he stays on the field. 
23. Jason Heyward:  Eyebrows were raised over the contract Heyward signed with the Cubs and he is surely a better real-life player then a fantasy baseball one given his excellent defense.  However Heyward has developed into a guy who can help across the five standard ROTO categories without blowing up any one statistic. 
24. Jacoby Ellsbury:  Downward we go.  Never tapped into more power despite moving to Yankee Stadium as a lefty swinger, the steals are sliding, and Ellsbury was as injury-marred as ever in 2015.  Stay far away. 
25. Kole Calhoun:  This guy has really developed into a very good player, putting up more power than anyone could have expected.  You will never get much in the way of steals here and the average was somewhat disappointing last season but Calhoun has now moved up to outfielder 2 territory. 
26. Gregory Polonco:  Just the latest five-tool outfielder gem from the Pirates system and one who has already perfect the art of the stolen base and scoring runs.  Polanco also is trending in the right direction in terms of power just like teammate Starling Marte. 
27. Christian Yelich:  Overall it was a very disappointing season for Yelich in 2015 but the guy started doing his thing when he came back from injury in the second half.  Give him one more try and Yelich is very capable of hitting .290 with 25 steals and 15 home runs. 
28. Brett Gardner:  It has become a trend now where Gardner is excellent in the first half of a season followed by performing like a complete bust in the second half.  The 40-steal days are now five years in the rearview mirror but Gardner has upped the home run rate the last two years as a counter balance.  All in all though, Gardner is a major sell in July. 
29. Jay Bruce:  Never a fan of Bruce as his 25 home runs are always accompanied by a .250 or worse average.  Never fully fulfilled his lofty expectations. 
30. Adam Eaton:  After two years of waiting, Adam Eaton finally unleashed the numbers many thought he was capable of coming out of the minors.  What is interesting though is that Eaton hit more home runs then expected while at the same time not swiping as bases as anticipated.  Still Eaton is now firmly a top outfielder 3. 
31. Michael Conforto:  Major upside here as Conforto is Jay Bruce with a much better batting average.  Reach for him. 
32. Stephen Piscotty:  Really like the future for the smooth-swinging Piscotty who is a lock of a .300 hitter whose power is developing. 
33. Gerardo Parra:  Has not signed yet but Parra was tremendous during his 2015 breakout as batted for a very good average, scored a bunch of runs, and stole a bunch of bases. Wherever he ends up, Parra is a solid outfielder 3. 
34. Yasiel Puig:  Continues to let everyone down with awful behavior and disappointing numbers. To think we all drooled over Puig when he first debuted.  I want no part of this and neither should you. 
35. Billy Hamilton:  Can't argue with the crazy stolen bases numbers here as Hamilton has no peer there outside of Dee Gordon.  Unlike Gordon though, Hamilton is a .230 hitter who is pretty much as clear of a one-category specialist as one can get.  We would avoid but understand the allure of those steals. 
36. Alex Gordon:  As he ages a bit, Gordon is changing in terms of losing his speed but he still helps in runs, RBI, and home runs. 
37. Joc Pederson:  Wow what a colossal joke Peterson was from June onward after he unleashed some terrific power numbers the first two months of the season.  Also where were all of the minor league steals?  Very hesitant to go back to the well here for 2016 as even at his best, Peterson will struggle to bat .260. 
38. Shin-Soo Choo:  No one wants Choo anymore as he is not nearly as exciting as he used to be now that the stolen bases have completely dried up.  Still Choo can hit 20 home runs and score and drive in enough runs to work as a dirt cheap outfielder 3. 
39. Dexter Fowler:  Fowler also has not signed yet since the outfield market is crawling.  However he had a nice 2015 campaign that had Fowler stealing a decent amount of bases, scored a solid amount of runs, and did enough in the home run department to be worthy of everyday outfielder 3 status. 
40. Michael Brantley:  Out until late May or now sometime in June due to surgery on his shoulder.  Likely will see his name dropped even more the next time we update the rankings.  As far as the statistics are concerned, Brantley showed last season his 2014 breakout was not completely legit as the power went back to his mediocre levels. 
41. Matt Holliday:  Age is really dragging Matt Holliday down as he is completely into the twilight of his career.  While he can still hit for average, everything else is falling by the wayside.  More name brand than anything else. 
42. Curtis Granderson:  Was quietly very good for the New York Mets last season, upping the home run rate back near 30.  Still batting average problems and the steals are always all finished but Granderson can be trusted as an outfielder 3. 
43. Matt Kemp:  Once again Matt Kemp rallied with a big second half to make us forget a putrid first.  23 home run in Petco Park is nothing to sneeze at and Kemp stole enough bases (12) to at least stay afloat there.  Still Kemp is just an outfielder 3 at this stage after being a top tier guy at the position just three years ago. 
44. Kevin Pillar:  Another guy who was quietly very good in 2015 and unlike Curtis Granderson, Pillar has youth and upside staring back at him.  In fact with 12 home runs and 25 steals last season, we are probably underranking him. 
45. Rusney Castillo:  The Cuban outfielder remains very talented but like with Yasiel Puig, the numbers have not flown yet.  Still willing to give him another shot as the Red Sox will likely give him a crack at a starting spot right away unlike prior to last season. 
46. Jorge Soler:  Very disappointing season for Cuban import Soler for the Cubs last season and now the Jason Heyward arrival has the guy possibly on the bench to start 2016.  Still goo potential but all of a sudden Cuban outfielders who are letting us down is piling up. 
47. Ender Inciarte:  Gets a big shot as an everyday outfielder with the Atlanta Braves in escaping the crowded Arizona outfield.  Could do a 2015 Gerardo Parra impersonation this season. 
48. Billy Burns:  Lots of cheap speed here as Burns swiped 26 bags and hit .294 a year ago. 
49. Wil Myers:  Been saying for years that Myers is overrated and now his draft price has come down to reflect that off two ugly seasons in a row.  No thank you. 
50. Odubel Herrera:  Herrera did a nice job in his first go-round as a regular player in 2015, using his speed and good batting average to carve out outfielder 3 status. 
51. David Peralta:  Really high on the powerful Peralta as a sizable breakout candidate for 2016.  Snag him a round or two early.  Our A.J. Pollock breakout pick for this season. 
52. Marcell Ozuna:  Demoted to the minors early on last season as Ozuna's power was non-existent after a big 2014 rookie campaign.  Willing to look past that sophomore slump and buy back in as an outfielder 3. 
53. Ben Revere:  Revere has been incredibly solid in his still young career, solidifying his three-category contributions in average, runs, and steals. 
54. Avisail Garcia:  Garcia has shown some ability in fits and starts but has not been consistent at all.  Still quite young and power starting to show.  Draft him for your bench with some upside. 
55. Denard Span:  Still unsigned and coming off an injury-marred 2015 campaign.  If he latches onto a team where he gets a shot to lead off again, will cut the check at a cheap rate. 
56. Steven Souza:  Awful batting average offset by nice power/speed numbers. 
57. Yasmani Tomas: The third base experiment was a disaster which is likely somewhat responsible for a rough start at the dish.  Look for a lowered average in 2016 and more power. 
58. Khris Davis:  Was a big second-half value play for anyone who took advantage as Davis hit a high rate of home runs.  Can still pop 20-25 as a late round stab which makes Davis attractive. 
59. Carlos Beltran:  Almost ready to walk off into retirement, Beltran should not be owned as anything but bench help. 
60. Randal Grinchuk:  Like the upside here as Grinchuk can hit for power and average. 
61. Josh Reddick:  Nice comeback season from Reddick in 2015 after two years in the statistical abyss.  Shortening his swing boosted the average out of the gutter and Reddick hit 20 home runs and swiped 10 bases which is not anything to sneeze at. 
62. Cameron Maybin:  Back in Detroit after an offseason trade, Maybin looks to build on finally putting up a decent season in 2015 when he hit 10 home runs and stole 23 bases.  The average will always be an issue due to a very high K rate but Maybin can work as an outfielder 3 again. 
63. Jayson Werth:  Looked like he was toast for almost all of 2015 as years of injuries looked to have finally caught up with Werth.  Still we have doubted him before and he always seems to do the opposite of what is anticipated. 
64. Marlon Byrd:  Can still crack 20 home runs but the average is sinking fast to ugly territory. 
65. Melky Cabrera:  Was a letdown in Chicago with the White Sox last season after coming over as a free agent.  Just not enough category juice in the home runs and stolen base columns to be worth owning. 
66. Anthony Gose:  Another case of cheap stolen bases that show up each and every season which is why we again will tell you never to draft steal specialists early on. 
67. Alex Guerrero:  Love the power potential here but Guerrero couldn't hit a lick the second half of last season.  Looks like yet another Cuban outfielder who is struggling to find his stride. 
68. Jackie Bradley Jr.:  Bradley Jr. was terrific the second half of 2015 as he showed off the wheels and cracked some home runs.  Another guy like Cameron Maybin though who struggles with the average.  At the very least Bradley Jr. is locked into a spot in the outfield for Opening Day. 
69. Aaron Hicks:  Right now is a fourth outfielder on the New York Yankees but Brett Gardner could still get moved and it is only a matter of time before Jacoby Ellsbury gets injured.  Hicks has 15/15 ability so keep him close by. 
70. Jarrod Dyson:  The Royals brought back Alex Gordon so that means Jarrod Dyson will remain an outfielder 4.  Blazing speed who can really rack up the thefts when playing time surfaces though so keep him on the bench. 
71. Colby Rasmus:  Back with Houston after accepting the qualifying offer and has proven he can hit 25 home runs, albeit with a shoddy batting average. 
72. Byron Buxton:  Still trying to find his way in the majors but the athleticism and top-end raw talent could explode at a moment's notice. 
73. Rajai Davis:  Back in a platoon with the Cleveland Indians but Davis always seems to find his way to 20-plus steals. 
74. Domonic Brown:  Been saying for years Brown is overrated and we never said that louder then after his "breakout" a few years ago.  When you never take walks and strike out a bunch, it is only a matter of time before the bottom drops out. 
75. Desmond Jennings:  It has been a very disappointing development from Desmond Jennings who has shown he can't hit for average and his stolen bases are even coming in under expectations.  Include ugly health and there is little incentive to own the guy. 
76. Andre Ethier:  Ethier showed last season that his power is still solid and so is his batting average.  Should have carved out an every day job again for 2016. 
77. Jarrett Parker:  Interesting potential here as Parker has some Joc Pederson in him in terms of power/speed ability to go with a horrible average. 
78. Chris Coghlan:  Has settled in as a nice outfielder 4 with the Chicago Cubs with good versatility. 
79. Kevin Kiermaier:  Potential is there to do some more but Kiermaier at the very least has decent upside. 
80. Delino Deshields:  Good source of stolen bases who is showing he is every bit like his father there. 
81. Nori Aoki:  Aoki joins the San Francisco Giants lineup where he will bat leadoff and do a fair impression of his solid 2015 statistical haul.  One of the last outfielder 3's in the rankings. 
82. Alex Rios:  Still unsigned and for good reason as Rios looked completely shot last season, with his rate numbers down more than a little across the board.  Age does not discriminate. 
83. Coco Crisp:  Another old and vastly fading veteran whose biggest asset in terms of the stolen base looks completely finished. 
84. Austin Jackson:  Very boring veteran outfielder who never lived up to early hype. 
85. Carl Crawford:  The Dodgers almost have to play Crawford on the rare times he is healthy due to his stupid contract and that is not saying much in terms of his value. 
86. Dalton Pompey:  Capable of some steals but Pompey needs playing time to even be remotely interesting. 
87. Nick Markakis:  Still scratching our heads in terms of why the Braves signed Markakis in free agency prior to 2015.  Is as big an empty average as one can get. 
88. Angel Pagan:  Injuries and more injuries here as Pagan can be lumped in with Crisp, Crawford, and Rios. 
89. Alejandro De Aza:  Will play against righties in center for the Mets and was decent in spurts last season.  Still has next-to-no overall value. 
90. Chris Young:  Signs for two years with the Red Sox where he will mash against lefties and sit versus righties.  Not the split you want in terms of having any value. 
91. Jake Marsinick:  Was surprisingly decent the first two months of 2015 before turning back to the garbage he always was. 
92. Juan Lagares:  A once intriguing future looks very bleak as Lagares just can't hit for any power and his good speed has not translated into steals.  Will only play versus lefties. 
93. David Murphy:  Can drive in runs in short bunches but Murphy is always seemingly trying to latch onto a starting job somewhere. 
94. Seth Smith:  Another veteran who can destroy lefties but do nothing against the more plentiful righties. 
95. Brandon Guyer:  Made the most out of a chance to play last season for the Tampa Bay Rays but Guyer was a career minor leaguer prior for a reason. 
96. Will Venable:  Still unsigned himself and coming off an awful 2015 campaign.  Nothing to see here. 
97. Michael Bourn:  Hated the guy even when he was in his prime as a one-category steals specialist.  Now that category is destroyed as well. 
98. Franklin Gutierrez:  Nice story here as Gutierrez overcame some serious health woes to perform like a terrific outfielder 3 the second half of last season but consider that a small mirage. 
99. Jeff Francoeur:  Another story that got a lot of attention as the always popular Francoeur hit some home runs for the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies.  Just a gimmick now. 
100.Melvin Upton:  One of the worst everyday players in all of baseball. 








 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARLOS GONZALEZ DEALING WITH KNEE SORENESS

                                           

A day after being removed from the team's exhibition game with left knee soreness, Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez complained of more pain in the joint early Saturday.  The Rockies have downplayed the issue but Gonzalez is coming off knee surgery that ended his 2014 season early.  He is considered day-to-day.

Analysis:  Already.  No injury with Gonzalez is every minor and this is obviously something that needs to be watched closely.  He knees continue to betray him and that means his speed may never come back to his past 20-stoleb base abilities.  Gonzalez is as big of a boom-or-bust player as you can get this season.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: BOBBY PARNELL TO RETURN AT END OF APRIL

New York Mets SP Bobby Parnell is expected to return to the team by the end of April from last season's Tommy John surgery.  Parnell is already throwing in games but his velocity remains down.  Parnell has been around 89-91 in his spring outings which contrast to the 98 he threw before the surgery.  Jenrry Mejia us set to serve as the closer at the start of the season but manager Terry Collins has said multiple times Parnell could vie for the gig at some point.

Analysis:  Parnell is really just a speculative add at this point.  His lack of velocity is a major concern and Mejia was more than good last season so he has a decent leash. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DENARD SPAN (ABDOMEN) THROWING OFF FLAT GROUND

Washington Nationals outfielder Denard Span threw successfully at 150 feet as he continues his rehab from abdominal surgery.  Span is still expected to return sometimes around the end of April.

Analysis:  Span is a decent outfielder 3 who can steal 20-plus bases and bat .300 while scoring a ton of runs at the top of a potent Washington lineup.  A buy low is a good idea as his price is never that high to begin with. 

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL TOP PROSPECT WATCH

Over the last week we have seen some big name fantasy baseball pitchers and hitters get their tickets back to the farm as major league teams pare down their rosters with the regular season approaching.  Noah Syndegaard, Maikel Franco, Alex Meyer, and others have already begun the journey but Kris Bryant and his Mickey Mantle impersonation remains.  So with two weeks to go before the games count, let's take a quick gander at the top prospects for 2015 and what their outlook is for the season in terms of promotion and possible impact.

1.  Kris Bryant:  Now up to 10 home runs and counting as Bryant continues to take batting practice against major league pitching.  What the kid is doing is amazing right now and the debate is reaching epic levels now about what the Cubs will/should do with Bryant to start the season.  The Super 2 status always comes into play here and the latest reports still have the Cubs starting Bryant in the minors for at least April.  Still the way Bryant has destroyed major pitching, the latest he should be up is May 1st and not June.  I still maintain that the power is off the charts but the average could lag just a bit due to a high K rate.  Big deal.  Major regret in my part for not reaching for him in the Experts Draft.

2.  Byron Buxton:  Buxton continues to possess some off the most off-the-charts athleticism and overall ability as any prospect in baseball but he needs more seasoning in the minors after having 2014 tremendously impacted by injury.  Buxton reminds me of Jacoby Ellsbury the way he can contribute across the fantasy baseball hitting board with a heavy emphasis on speed but this is a summer promotion at the earliest.

3.  Joc Pederson:  Lost in the Bryant drama is the amazing performance of Joc Pederson for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Pederson is up to three home runs, running like crazy, and putting up five-category numbers.  Unlike Bryant, Pederson is a lock to begin the season in the majors and he is coming off a remarkable 2014 campaign on the farm with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases while batting .303.  The 26.9 percent K rate is a concern as Pederson may not even bat .270 but he could do a swell Chris Young circa-2008 impression if all breaks right.

4.  Javier Baez:  I do love the power/speed potential here, especially at the middle infield but Baez has incredible holes in his swing that may not allow him to stick with the Cubs for long this season if it doesn't improve.  He could barely get the bat on the ball at times during his second half promotion last season but again he can hit the baseball a mile and run very well which is very rare at either second base or shortstop.  Just be aware you are getting a .250 average with those ratios.

5.  Jorge Soler:  Meet Yoenis Cespedes 2.0.  The latest Cuban masher comes with 25-30 home run power and the cleanup spot already in the Chicago lineup.  He too strikes out a bit too much but this is not a .240 deal here.  Soler makes enough consistent contact that he could approach .280 to go with all the power.  Will break camp with the team.

6.  Maikel Franco:  Franco is stalling no doubt.  With the Phillies rebuilding and having no need to stash him away, Franco went and did next-to-nothing with the bat this spring which promoted his demotion.  The Phillies will call him up quickly if Franco shows signs of his above-average power but even in the minors last season he was underwhelming.  The shine is starting to come off a bit. 

7.  Joey Gallo:  Gallo has opened some eyes this spring with his power and wheels.  The Rangers could use his thump and will likely open the season with him at first base or even the outfield.  Like with almost all the other top prospect hitters, Gallo has a very high K rate that may not allow him to hit even .260. 

8.  Noah Syndegaard:  The latest fireballing New York Mets pitching gem following Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob DeGrom, Syndegaard has already been demoted.  Dillon Gee took the injured Wheeler's spot in the rotation but the next injury will have Syndegaard in play where he can unleash his power 98-mph fastball that should generate a good deal of K's.  Control is a bit of an issue though but pitching through the dry air in Las Vegas figures to help Syndegaard when he gets to the majors like it did DeGrom.

9.  Steven Matz:  The other half of the top two Met pitching prospects, the control-heavy Matz can also dial up the fastball as well.  I actually like Matz more than Syndegaard as a prospect due to his control.  On the fast track to the majors, Matz could post usable ratios right away.

10. Andrew Heaney:  Heaney has had an up-and-down spring but the talent is evident.  Like with Steven Matz, Heaney has terrific control for a young pitcher and he can generate some strikeouts with solid movement like Michael Wacha despite not having a blazing heater.  Right now Heaney is 60-40 to make the Los Angeles Angels rotation and I would place him in SP 5 territory under that situation if he breaks camp with the club.

11. Addison Russell:  Yet another monster Cubs prospect, Russell is not generating much buzz yet in camp but the ability is immense.  Russell can do it all, from hitting for power, to stealing bases.  Not much has been said with regards to his status so we have to assume a May/June deal here like with Bryant.  Will be quick to make the add when the promotion arrives.

12. Carlos Rodon:  Meet the next Justin Verlander in his prime.  Rodon is the real deal when it comes to power pitching monsters in the making but he will likely spend the while season on the Chicago White Sox farm.  There is a chance he could sneak in a late September call but Rodon is more of a 2016 story.

13. Yasmani Tomas:  So far the Arizona Diamondbacks' third base/outfield prospect has struggled badly so far in spring training with poor hitting and atrocious defense.  The raw power is there but Tomas is not given right now after what we have seen.  The numbers will eventually arrive but Tomas could be in for an extended learning curve at the major level which could tests some of our patience.

14. Blake Swihart:  The top catching prospect in baseball got sent down to the minor leagues already as the Boston Red Sox have Christian Vasquez and Ryan Hannigan already.  Those two names don't impress anyone while Swihart carries immense potential.  The bat looks major league ready as shown in his very good spring training but a summer promotion is the best we can hope for at this rate. 

Dylan Bundy, Carlos Correia, and Francisco Lindor could also be factors at some point this season but all look to be late summer deals at best. 

There you have it.  As always let us hear what you think. 



Also if you haven't done so already, head over to the message board and register where I answer questions all season.

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JACOBY ELLSBURY (OBLIQUE) TAKES BP FRIDAY

                                       

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice on Friday as he continues to be a good bet to start the season on time despite suffering an oblique strain last week.  Ellsbury has maintained all along that he would be good to go and the fact he now is taking batting practice indicates that the oblique is not much of an issue anymore.

Analysis:  Great news here as Ellsbury looks almost all the way back.  He should once again have immense five-category impact but the next injury is always around the corner. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: DANIEL MURPHY STARTING SEASON ON DL WITH HAMSTRING

                                           

Running out of time.  It is a common refrain spoken this time of years as spring training beings to wind down and injured players face the prospect of beginning the season on the DL.  Such is the situation of New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy who is likely going to start the season on the DL due to the hamstring strain he suffered last week.  This is exactly what we predicted when the injury first came down as hamstring injuries are typically a multi-week deal.  Murphy has not done much since suffering the injury and manager Terry Collins said the "running out of time" quote Friday in doing the math.  Murphy has to get back into spring games and get his swing back in order before he can play but the DL stint can be backdated to the point where he will miss only 6-8 games.  The loss is not a major one as Murphy is not a star top-level fantasy baseball hitter but he is one that has sizable impact since he contributes in all five standard ROTO categories.  While Murphy doesn't do any one thing well, he clearly is a top ten option in the shallow second base region.  Matt Reynolds will start in his place and he has little value.  Go to the wire for a quick and short-term solution.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER NEWS: TYLER CLIPPAED TO FINISH GAMES UNTIL SEAN DOOLITTLE RETURNS


The Oakland A’s made it official that Tyler Clippard will serve as the team’s closer until injured Sean Doolittle makes his way back from earlier shoulder trouble.  Doolittle is just now starting to throw off flat ground after he was found to have a slight tear in his rotator cuff and is not expected back until May.  Clippard meanwhile will close out games until his return.

Analysis:  Clippard is fully capable of doing a nice job in the ninth inning as he has been one of the most dominant setup men the last four years.  His K rate also jives well for success there as well.  It will be interesting to see if he gets the chance to formally hold the job even when Doolittle gets back but that is a debate we can discuss later on.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CHRIS SALE TO START APRIL 12TH


Chicago White Sox ace SP Chris Sale is expected to make his first start of 2015 around April 12th.  Sale is throwing bullpen sessions after suffering a fractured foot at the start of spring training but he still has to work up his pitch count in order to be ready to make a start. 

Analysis:  All in all Sale could miss as little as one start if that projection is accurate.  There is no question that on stuff alone, Sale is a top five starter in fantasy baseball.  The strikeouts are that potent.  However his penchant for injuries is well-established and make Sale a decent risk in fantasy baseball circles.

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS" JOSH REDDICK (OBLIQUE) TO START SEASON ON DL


Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick is expected to begin the 2015 season on the disabled list due to the oblique strain he suffered earlier in camp.  Reddick has made good progress since the injury in taking batting practice and getting close enough to game action but he is still a bit off schedule to be ready for the Opener.

Analysis:  Not unexpected.  Oblique injuries for a hitter are likely shoulder issues for a pitcher.  They are incredibly frustrating and slow to heal and Reddick has been no different.  He has decent power that can go past the 20 mark but Reddick’s high K rate make him just an option in five outfielder formats.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MARINERS TO NAME TAJUAN WALKER FIFTH STARTER


The Seattle Mariners are expected to name rookie SP Tajuan Walker as their number 5 starter to begin the season.  Walker has pitched very well this spring after his 2014 was almost completely wiped out due to a persistent shoulder problem.  So far Walker not given up a run in 18 spring innings while punching out 19 batters.

Analysis:  Walker was once considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball due to his power repertoire and he certainly looks like he retains that ability after his shoulder issues.  He makes for a terrific sleeper considering his home park and strikeout ability.