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Thursday, March 31, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSEER NEWS: KEN GILES TO BE NAMED ASTROS CLOSER

According to MLB.com's Brian Taggert, Ken Giles will open the season as the Houston Astros closer despite a terrible spring that saw him post a horrific 7.56 ERA.  Luke Gregerson excelled as the Astros closer last season but he will now pitch the eighth inning at least for the start of the season. 

Analysis:  Anyone who owns stock in Giles MUST back him up with Gregerson given the awful spring.  While no one doubts the potency of Giles' fastball, his control is an issue and he has never closed for a team with expectations.  You also have to wonder how long his leash will be with the very solid Gregerson behind him.  If you find Gregerson on the wire in any of your leagues, make the add. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: A.J. POLLOCK (ELBOW) TO START OPENING DAY

Despite missing almost all of spring training coming back from an elbow injury, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock will be ready to go for Opening Day.  Pollock comes off a colossal breakout campaign in 2015 where he became a five category outfielder 1 in fantasy baseball circles and that should continue on barring any more injury woes this season. 

Analysis:  All Pollock owners can breath a bit easier here as he is ready to go.  Pollock has tremendous contact skills which makes him hitting .300 a given and he also has the power and wheels to be a 20/30-plus guy.  He will be worth whatever you paid at the draft table. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ZACK COZART TO BAT LEADOFF FOR REDS, BILLY HAMILTON EIGHTH?

The Cincinnati Reds will bat shortstop Zack Cozart out of the leadoff spot to begin the season while speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton is expected to bat eighth.  Hamilton has struggled this spring with injuries and he is not even a .250 hitter through two Major League seasons which necessitated the move. 

Analysis:  Hamilton's value takes a huge hit by this news and even if he were batting leadoff, he was just a one-category specialist with his extreme stolen base numbers.  Count on the steals to ebb back a bit as Hamilton will get fewer chances to run hitting so low and his already ugly average could even get worse. 

 

2016 UPDATED CLOSER RANKINGS

With closer battles being set as the season gets ready to launch, here are the updated rankings from those who man the ninth inning. 

1.  Craig Kimbrel:  Aroldis Chapman suspension puts Kimbrel back on top.
2.  Wade Davis:  The best setup man hands down in baseball the last two years, we expect nothing but more unittable dominance. 
3.  Trevor Rosenthal
4.  Kenley Jansen:  Got new life once the Chapman deal fell through.  Only knock here was ill health.
5.  Aroldis Chapman:  Only reason Chapman not ranked number 1 is due to the month-plus he will sit out. 
6.  David Robertson
7.  Mark Melancon:  Was not touched last season from May onward. 
8.  Jeurys Familia:  Velocity was back to normal his last spring outing so no worries there. 
9.  Zach Britton
10. Jonathan Papelbon:  Still as good as ever as he successully became a different closer on the fly due to dropping velocity. 
11. Cody Allen:  Massive strikeout rate terrific but needs a tad more consistency.
12. Ken Giles:  Worried how long the leash is here with Luke Gregerson close behind.  On pure stuff though few compare. 
13. Glen Perkins
14. Francisco Rodriguez:  Still getting it done despite his own dropping velocity.  Will get tons of chances in Detroit.
15. A.J. Ramos:  Leash a whole lot longer now and K rate checks out nicely. 
16. Hector Rondon
17. Santiago Casilla
18. Sean Doolittle:  Just has to stay healthy and top ten numbers guaranteed.
19. Huston Street:  Never a fan of his due to career-long health woes and now the K rate dropping. 
20. Jake McGee:  Very good sleeper closer due to very high K rate despite Coors Field. 
21. Roberto Osuna:  Did a terrific job last season but have to see Osuna do it again to move him up.  Drew Storen breathing down his neck. 
22. Shawn Tolleson
23. Brad Ziegler
24. Brad Boxberger:  Has the high K rate needed to be a weapon in the ninth inning but walks and home runs a problem.  Also starts season on DL. 
25. Steve Cishek
26. Arodys Vizcaino
27. J.J. Hoover
28. Jeremy Jeffress
29. Fernando Rodney
30. David Hernandez












 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: YANKS AND ANDREW MILLER AT ODDS OVER HOW TO PROCEED WITH WRIST

After a chip fracture was discovered on his right wrist after taking a batted ball off the bone during his exhibition outing on Wednesday, New York Yankees closer Andrew Miller is vowing to "tough it out" and pitch through the ailment.  The Yankees on the other hand want Miller to get whatever corrective measure is needed so that he will be 100 percent healthy for the crucial second half of the season.  With Aroldis Chapman suspended until early May, teh closing gig now falls to Dellin Betances who is obviously more than capable in doing the job given his 100-mph heat.  Now as far as Miller, he will have to give in to what the Yankees want him to do as he is their employee and that means either a long wait on the DL for the chip to heal or a surgical procedure to remedy it.  Either way, Miller may not even get one save this season in that he would likely return once Chapman's suspension in through.  While we wouldn't cut him loose yet, Miller is looking like a sizable bust. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: TRAVIS SHAW 3B BOSTON RED SOX

The Boston Red Sox made a surprising move on Thursday when they named Travis Shaw their starting third baseman over veteran Pablo Sandoval.  Well in actuality maybe the move should not be looked at as a major surprise given the complete disaster that was Sandoval in 2015 in hsi first season with the team and with his continued weight fluctuations.  Shaw meanwhile went out and hit .333 in 19 spring games which included 2 home runs and that built on a surprisingly good debut in 2015 when he came up during the second half of the season to hit 13 more home runs in just 248 at-bats.  Already eligible at first base and the outfield, Shaw becomes a person of interest now that he will be adding third and also for his underrated power. 

Digging in a bit deeper here, Shaw was never considered a top prospect in the Red Sox system but he took full advantage of the oppoprtunity to play during the awful 2015 season by the team.  At the very least, Shaw has shown that he is not overmatched against major league pitching and that means 20-plus home runs is not out of the question.  There are drawbacks here such as a 23 percent K Rate that could make the average a bit iffy and not much of a minor leageu pedigree but with three positions to his name and a chance to take aim at the Green Monster, Shaw should be added in all formats. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS FEAR ANDREW MILLER COULD MISS FIRST HALF OF SEASON

After a chip fracture was discovered in the right wrist that was hit by a comebacker on Wednesday, a Yanks official connected to the team front office reports there is a fear Andrew Miller could be out until the All-Star break.

Analysis:  Wow.  Now the Yanks are down both Miller and Aroldis Chapman.  Dellin Betances will be the new closer for the Yanks and he easily has the ability to be a top five ninth inning guy.  All in all however, this is not looking good for Miller.  

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: IAN KENNEDY SUFFERS HAMSTRING STRAIN IN FINAL SPRING START

Kansas City Royals hurler Ian Kennedy suffered a strained hamstring during his final exhibition outing on Wednesday but the team was calling his removal just a precautionary move.  Kennedy will still get some testing on the hamstring later in the day on Wednesday and an update is expected before the day is through. 

Analysis:  Terrible timing here as Kennedy could begin the season on the DL as most hamstring injuries require such a move.  Kennedy has been a guy who has struggled badly in April and May before turning it on and pitching better as the season moves along.  His move to the AL with the Royals is a knock on his overall value but he retains decent SP 4/5 value. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ANDREW MILLER HEADING FOR X-RAYS AND CT SCANS, DELLIN BETANCES ON DECK

The New York Yankees thought they had built an all-time dominant bullpen for the 2016 season, with their trade for consensus number 1 closer Aroldis Chapman joining fireballing Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to give the team a frightening back end of arms for opposing bats to deal with.  Well Chapman was able to come to the Yankees at a very cheap price due to a domestic issue that ultimately resulted in a suspension that will go until early May.  The result was that Miller would move back into the closer role until Chapman's return where he was named the most dominant stopper in the game in a very successfully 2015 debut with the team.  Well a comebacker could change those plans as Miller took a hit pitch off his wrist that had him writhing in pain and heading immediately to the locker room.  While the Yankees came out and initially labeled the impact a "bruise," Miller will undergo X-Rays and CT scans which tells you that the team is far from ready to exhale on this.  Obviously it is hold your breath time for Miller and his fantasy baseball owners and that also means those who own Dellin Betances could find him closing real soon.  If there is a break, Betances will likely hand off to Chapman as Miller could be out until June under that scenario.  Betances meanwhile was looked at by the fantasy baseball community as the closer favorite for 2015 before Miller came in and stole the gig away.  Be that as it may, Betances has been an All-Star each of the last two years behind a tremendous K rate.  Betances would be a big difference-maker in the ninth inning but his clock would only run with that role until Chapman returns.  Either way check back for updates on this situation as things could change quickly. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: IS TREVOR BAUER WORTH ANOTHER LOOK?

Even though it seems as though he has been around forever, hard-throwing Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer enters into the 2016 season only 25 years of age.  Having debuted back in 2012 with the Arizona Diamondbacks where he came up as one of the more hyped power pitching prospects in the game, Bauer has gone up and down more than an elevator since then in terms of numbers.  In fact Bauer's production has swung wildly from start-to-start, with one game resulting in a 2-hit/10-K gem followed by a 5-earned run bombing in 2 innings.  As a result of all the volatility, Bauer has become sort of a toxic guy in fantasy baseball circles as there is a growing faction that believes his horrific career-long control will never allow him to be the ace he was once thought to be destined for.  Well if 2016 spring training is any indication, maybe just maybe Bauer is ready to unleash that potential as he finishes the Cactus League campaign with a 2.25 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 19 K's in 20 innings for the Indians.  By now it is common knowledge not to read too much into spring training results but at least it is encouraging to see Bauer posting a low WHIP which is where he has hurt his owners the most in his career (never below 1.30 in his four years in the game).  However even in looking at his 2015 numbers, there were signs that Bauer was perhaps making that jump from erratic youngster to potent veteran.  Yes the 1.31 WHIP was ugly but that mark was the lowest of his career which at least is something.  In addition, Bauer posted his best hit rate by a wide margin as he gave up just 152 in his 176 innings.  As always, Bauer struck out a high rate of batters with 170 whiffs in those 176 innings pitched.  Thus it stands to reason that Bauer is starting to make that jump and that at the age of 25, he is ready to further cement himself as a top-of-the-rotation arm for 2016.  While we have been big critics of Bauer in the past, his price has dropped so low that the upside is worth paying for.  Bauer has the type of power arm that could result in an easy 200 strikeouts if all breaks right and that alone makes him very interesting.  We are not holding our breath here but at the same time we also are willing to give him another shot. 

Update:  Bauer apparently will begin the season in the bullpen which is quite a shock.  Be that as it may, it is only a matter of time before an injury puts him back in so the same deal applies.  Also if Bauer were to somehow find the ninth inning, he could be insanely good.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JAYS NAME ROBERTO OSUNA CLOSER

In a mild surprise, the Toronto Blue Jays named Roberto Osuna the team's closer over veteran Drew Storen.  While many assumed Storen would get the gig after being acquired from the Washington Nationals, Osuna held him off with a good spring.

Analysis:  Cut Storen loose as he had almost zero value now.  We have to say that we thought Storen would get it due to his experience edge but Osuna was terrific last season as a rookie nf if it is not broke, don't fix it.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: GET TO KNOW DALIER HINJOSA (A.K.A PHILLIES CLOSER SLEEPER)

While there were a few notable closer battles that have been taking place during 2016 spring training, one of the more chaotic ninth inning spots was in Philadelphia where the Phillies were looking for someone to step into the giant stopper shoes of both the traded Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles.  With the Phillies looking like one of the worst teams in the major leagues, they did the smart thing in unloading Papelbon and Giles as a top closer on a losing team is virtually worthless to the team.  Still someone has to try and finish off the few wins the team will have this season.  While we incorrectly tabbed promising youngster Hector Neris as a possible Roberto Osuna in Toronto-type option, rampant reports had fading veteran David Hernandez as the lead man for the role.  As camp went on, minor league invite and former All-Star closer Andrew Bailey became an overnight waiver rush after some good early results.  However as spring training has moved on, Bailey began getting pounded as ERA rose sharply to an ugly 5.14 which eliminated him.  Hernandez meanwhile has battled some injuries this spring and over the last few years has seen his once promising career derailed by serious health problems.  He has registered a decent 3.00 ERA this spring but in only a 3 inning small sample size.  A new name has emerged this spring however and the sleeper tag certainly applies here.  Having just shown up in the player registry in many fantasy baseball leagues, few know much about hard-throwing 30-year minor league veteran Dalier Hinojosa.  Having not made it to the States from Cuba until 2014, Hinojosa registered some very impressive K rates while first in the Boston Red Sox and then later the Phillies farm system.  While his control leaves a lot to be desired, Hinojosa has struck out 7 batters in 8 spring innings but with a shaky 4.50 ERA.  There is now talk that Hinojosa will be every bit a part of the committee that the Phillies will unveil at the start of the season as the organization wants someone a bit younger and with some upside compared to Bailey and Hernandez.  Again the control is a problem for the ninth inning but Hinojosa has the guile and velocity to overcome that issue there.  For now pick up Hinojosa in all formats where available as we have seen guys come out of nowhere before and turn into an overnight closing weapon. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: TREVOR STORY THE STORY OF SPRING

Confirming what was obvious all along, the Colorado Rockies officially named Trevor Story the team's starting shortstop for Opening Day after a torrid spring training that saw him scorch the baseball to the tune of a .378 average and 6 home runs.  From the very start of camp, Story has been locked in at the plate and with Jose Reyes banished from the team due to his involvement in a domestic abuse issue, he could very well take the job outright for the remainder of 2016.  While Story has had contact issues in his minor league career, he comes off a Double-A and Triple-A campaign in 2015 when he hit a combined 20 home runs and stole 22 bases.  Again Story has problems with the strikeout as he whiffed at over a 24.0 percent clip in the minors which major league pitchers no doubt will take advantage of when they get more of a read on him but for now this is one guy who has everyone's full fantasy baseball attention for the start of the 2016 season.  We all know the thin air of Colorado turns many formerly unknown players into stars and Story's shortstop eligibility makes him one of the best upside plays in our fake game. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: JAVIER BAEZ TO BEGIN SEASON ON DL WITH SPRAINED THUMB

Chicago Cubs infielder/outfielder Javier Baez will begin the 2016 season on the disabled list due to the thumb he injured a little less than two weeks ago.  Baez had only recently returned to swinging a bat for the team and the move will be backdated so that he is eligible to return on April 11. 

Analysis:  Baez remains a polarizing fantasy baseball figure due to his terrific speed and power but he continually is undermined by gaping holes in his swing that leads to a crazy amount of strikeouts.  We are willing to five Baez another long look this season but he has some work to do to shed the Quad-A player tag. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: VICTOR MARTINEZ (HAMSTRING) BACK IN LINEUP, WILL PINCH-HIT FIRST TWO GAMES

Detroit Tigers DH Victor Martinez returned to the exhibition lineup on Tuesday after sitting out since March 14 with a strained hamstring.  The current plan is for Martinez to play the rest of the spring training slate in order to get enough work for the start of the season.  Martinez is expected to be on the bench and only take part as a pinch-hitter due to the Tigers playing the Miami Marlins in their park and with NL rules. 

Analysis:  Good news for those holding stock in Martinez as he should be ready to go after the Miami series but his health has been a constant source of furstration for years.  That is what happens when you have the mileage Martinez has given his past as a catcher.  He is nothing but a low-end first base option where he qualifies and even a lower tiered UTIL guy. 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: BROCK HOLT EARNS STARTING LEFTFIELD JOB, RUSNEY CASTILLO LOSES ALL VALUE

The Boston Red Sox had no choice but to give super utility man Brock Holt the starting leftielder's job to begin the 2016 season as he grossly outperformed expensive Cuban import Rusney Castilllo.  With Castillo batting a listless .213 and showing none of the power/speed ability he has hinted at in the past, Holt's promotion pretty much takes away any potential fantasy baseball value his counterpart may have.  The plan is for Castillo to stay up with the Red Sox as an expensive backup but that too is not great for his value as he won't get the chance to further develop with more playing time and at the same time force the team's hand with a solid stretch of hitting in the minors.  While we have been big boosters of Castillo in the past, the fact of the matter is that he is starting to join recent Cuban busts such as Alex Guerrero and Yasmany Tomas.  Cut him loose.  Meanwhile as far as Holt is concerned, he is what he is in terms of an empty .300 average who can score a high amount of runs.  He retains shortstop eligiblity which is where his best value lies but you can do better. 



 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: MATT HARVEY AVOIDS DISASTER, READY FOR OPENER

After putting a major scare into both his fantasy baseball owners and the New York Mets, ace starting pitcher Matt Harvey avoided any sort of medical disaster when it was revealed early Tuesday that he was dealing with blood clots in his bladder which won't keep him from making his Opening Day start Sunday night.  The rumor mill was in overdrive Monday when manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson said that Harvey's Opening Day availability was in question due to an "ailment" that was discovered and things got more concerning when reports surfaced that he may have to go back to New York for further testing.  Well apparently all is well with Harvey and that means everything to his owners who breathed a collective sigh of relief this morning.  A slam dunk top ten fantasy baseball starter, Harvey could be even BETTER then he was in 2015 when he returned from Tommy John elbow surgery.  As long as Harvey doesn't suffer any sort of "bounce" from his high innings total a year ago, all systems appear to be a go for the ace. 

 

Monday, March 28, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MATT HARVEY SHUT DOWN REST OF SPRING TRAINING, COULD BE HEADING FOR BLOOD TEST

Updating an earlier item, a source connected to the New York Mets front office reports that ace starter Matt Harvey has been shut down for the rest of spring training and that he will head to New York to receive a blood test for some sort of "ailment."  While not getting into specifics, the source reiterated Harvey's arm is "fine." 

Analysis:  Wow.  This sounds somewhat serious but maybe the Mets are just doing their due diligence.  There are whispers that this "ailment" cropped up Sunday and that the Mets thought it serious enough to get testing.  We won't even try to predict or guess what ailment we are talking about but either way plans should be made by Harvey owners for at least his first turn in the rotation. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ANTHONY DeSCALFANI LIKELY GOING ON DL AFTER SUFFERING OBLIQUE STRAIN

The last week of spring training is always a trying time for manager across Major League Baseball. After having already survived five weeks of tedious exhibition play, the 30 respective MLB managers cross their fingers that they could get their squads through the final week of games without any injury.  Well there was no such luck for Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price who saw one of his better starting pitchers in Anthony DeScalfani go down Monday with a dreaded strained oblique.  While much more pronounced among hitters, a strained oblique is just as debilitating and unpredictable in terms of recovery time for a pitcher.  Generally it takes about two weeks or more for a player to get back to work after suffering the strain and so that means it is only a matter of time before the Reds place DeScalfani on the DL to start the 2016 season.  DeScalfani was actually in line to start the opener for the team after a surprisingly good rookie campaign in 2015 when he pitched to a 4.05 ERA and put up a very impressive 77-14 K/BB ratio during the second half of the season.  As far as fantasy baseball is concerned, DeScalfani is your classic SP 5 who has some upside to be a 4 by the end of the season.  Stash him in deeper setups. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MATT HARVEY COULD HEAD BACK TO NY FOR TESTING

Updating an earlier item, New York Mets ace SP Matt Harvey could need to go back to New York for testing for a non-orthopedic issue according to GM Sandy Alderson.  While again not being specific over the type of medical issue at hand, the Mets apparently seem concerned enough to send him back home. 

Analysis:  This is sounding worse and worse.  Our best guess is a leg, knee, back, or foot problem since the Mets seem to be making it a point to say it has nothing to do with his arm.  Either way ill health hurts Harvey and his fantasy baseball owners no matter where so again stay tuned. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MATT HARVEY OPENING DAY START IN JEOPARDY?

New York Mets manager Terry Collins held a cryptic news conference late Monday when he noted that ace pitcher Matt Harvey may not be ready to make his Opening Day start next Sunday night.  Collins noted that it was not health-related but that "something was going on" without elaborating. 

Analysis:  What the........  The Mets have opened up a huge can of worms with this and now every Harvey owner is on the edge of their seat.  Harvey has had repeated run-ins with the front office so maybe it is discipline related but there also is an appointment that the ace pitcher is having Monday as well which adds to the mystery.  Stay tuned. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: DEVIN MESORACO C CINCINNATI REDS

One of the more debatable players entering into 2016 fantasy baseball was Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco.  After a big breakout performance in 2014 that turned Mesoraco into an overnight sensation when he cracked 25 home runs in just 384 at-bats, expectations went through the roof for 2015 fantasy baseball.  As a result, Mesoraco found himself being selected as high as the fifth round in standard mixers as visions of 30 home runs danced in his prospective owners' heads.  Well as often happens in cases like this, disappointment was theme as Mesoraco came down with a hip problem in spring training that only grew worse once the season got underway.  After trying to hold on as even a pinch hitter, Mesoraco finally succumbed to hip surgery which made his 2015 campaign one monster bust.  It was easy to forget about Mesoraco and not trust him if you were one of his burned owners and that made his stock sink very badly as 2016 fantasy baseball drafting season got underway.  Still if you looked through the muck that was 2015, it was easy to see that Mesoraco represented a very key buy low opportunity as a rare catcher who can handle the bat and hit for power.  Having been given a clean bill of health by the teams doctors entering spring training, Mesoraco looked like a terrific value play.  Well if his spring training numbers are any indication, Mesoraco is making good on his bounce back potential as he has hit .500 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in just 12 at-bats.  While the Reds have been careful with him this spring, Mesoraco looks fit and ready to reclaim his standing as a top five fantasy baseball catcher.  Upward we go. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YADIER MOLINA SCRATCHED WITH SORE FOOT

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has been scratched from Monday's lineup due to a bruised foot.  Molina is working his way back from last year's thumb surgery and until the scratch, was on schedule to be ready for Opening Day. 

Analysis:  This doesn't seem like a big deal as the Cards are likely being cautious here with the season days away.  While Molina could be in uniform Opening Day, he offers little in terms of fantasy baseball numbers that will help you at this late stage of his career. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MATT WIETERS (ELBOW) SHOULD BE READY FOR OPENING DAY

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters should be ready to go Opening Day if he can get through a game catching for the team on Monday.  Wieters did successfully take part in an intrasquad game on Sunday but he will be tested against opposing players during Monday's outing.  If all goes well, he will be pointed toward Opening Day. 

Analysis:  Wieters' fantasy baseball stock has taken a massive hit the last few years with his Tommy John elbow surgery and a batch of setbacks since.  Also Caleb Joseph did a very nice job with the bat last season for the O's and is pushing for at least a split of playing time.  Unless you play in an AL-only format or use two catchers, Wieters is a guy you might want to avoid. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS : KEVIN GAUSMAN TO START SEASON ON DL

The Baltimore Orioles will place SP Kevin Gausman on the 15-day DL to start the 2016 season as he continues to work his way back from tendinitis in his pitching shoulder.  Gausman is throwing again however and will aim to return during the first two weeks of the season.

Analysis:  Gausman has a live arm and really started to show some signs in 2015 but overall is just a shaky SP 5 investment.  His K rate has dropped the last two years and his division is a big negative which adds to the uncertainty about his stock. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: AARON SANCHEZ EARNS ROTATION SPOT WITH JAYS

After a very impressive spring training where he registered a 1.35 ERA and struck out 19 batters in 20 innings pitched, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that Aaron Sanchez has claimed a spot in the team's starting rotation.  Gavin Floyd was also in the running for the spot but he now moves to the bullpen. 

Analysis:  Sleeper alert!  Sanchez should be picked up immediately in all leagues due to his power arm and knack for the strikeout.  The ballpark is beyond rough but Sanchez had a decent 0.88 HR/9 a year ago and as we said the arm is capable of firing fastballs somewhere in the upper-90's range. 
The one potentially giant negative though is an utter lack of control as Sanchez posted a very ugly 4.29 BB/9 in 2015 which has to be remedied in short order while pitching in the rough AL East. 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: TYLER MOORE FINDS NEW LIFE IN ATLANTA, LATE ROUND PROSPECTING

It was a move that didn't garner much attention in fantasy baseball on a bust Easter Sunday but the Washington Nationals cleared up their glut of first baseman/outfielders by shipping the power swing of Tyler Moore to the Atlanta Braves where he figures to get a clear crack at consistent playing time for the first time in his career.  Originally a 16th round draft pick of the Nats in 2008, Moore was seemingly always on the bubble as he played parts of four seasons with the team.  The most at-bats Moore ever received was the 187 he got a year ago in part-time duty and he would smack 6 home runs and collect 27 RBI but with an ugly .203 average.  The lack of consistent playing time no doubt helped stunt the growth a bit on Moore and he older then you might think at 29 as he begins a new phase of his career with the Braves who are desperate for any type of power they can find.  With Freddie Freeman at first base, Moore will likely man an outfield spot for the Braves in due time or maybe even as soon as Opening Day depending on how quickly he could get up to speed.  Now as far as ability is concerned, Moore was always known as a power prospect but his awful career K rate of 27.4 has always held him back.  There was decent production from Moore on the farm for the Nats but again he will likely be a big batting average liability which will offset whatever he gives you in power.  Ultimately in NL-only setups, Moore is worth a late round upside grab but in mixers he should be ignored. 

 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: HIP "NOTHING MAJOR" REGARDING BUSTER POSEY

Despite being scratched from Sunday's exhibition game, a San Francisco Giants team official reported that the hip soreness catcher Buster Posey was dealing with is "nothing major."  Posey was scratched as a precaution and he could get back into a game as soon as Monday. 

Analysis:  Nothing to see here as the stud hitting backstop should be ready to go for Opening Day despite the fact the Giants have really cut back with workload this spring in order to keep him fresh.  Blessed with batting title ability and 20-home run power, the buck stops with Posey in the catching fraternity. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: COREY SEAGER (KNEE) TO BE READY FOR OPENER

On the heels of playing six innings of a minor league game on Saturday, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop prospect Corey Seager is expected to be ready to go Opening Day for the team.  Seager suffered a sprained left knee earlier in the month that originally was looking like it would threaten his opener but he has suffered no setbacks since and is now taking part in games. 

Analysis:  Other then maybe a slow start with the bat to the season due to a lack of preparation, Seager should be fully ready to go for the opener and thus start realizing his crazy good potential.  With shortstop being so shallow, Seager could finish as a top 20 guy by the end of 2016 is all breaks right. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MICHAEL CONFORTO (BACK) RETURNS TO LINEUP

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto has returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing a few games with soreness in his back.  Conforto is still scheduled to be ready for Opening Day and will play the majority of games as the starting leftfielder. 

Analysis:  Very good fantasy baseball potential and upside here as Conforto has future 25-home run power and can hit for a .280 average right away.  He may sit against some lefties and has to deal with the shift but Conforto looks ready for the Opener. 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS

1.  Clayton Kershaw:  Coming off a season where he struck out more than 300 batters, there is nothing else to say that hasn't already been talked about regarding how ridiculously awesome Kershaw is.  Worth a late first round pick. 
2.  Max Scherzer:  Threw not one but TWO no-hitters last season and was right there with Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrietta in terms of pure dominance.  Best strikeout pitcher in baseball as well behind Kershaw. 
3.  Madison Bumgarner:  Lots of mileage already on Bunmgarner's arm and an oblique issues and mechanical problems at least mildly concerning.  Still until he struggles in the regular season, we won't go there. 
4.  Zack Greinke:  Goes from a prime pitcher's park to a launching pad in Chase Field and obviously there is no repeating the crazy ratios Greinke had a year ago.  Still despite dropping velocity, Grienke's stuff is as good as anyone in baseball. 
5.  David Price:  Not keen on Price going back to the AL East, this time with the Boston Red Sox but the guy has been a Cy Young winner in the division and was tremendous with the Toronto Blue Jays the last two months of last season of all places which lessens any concern about the environment. 
6.  Jake Arrieta:  Classic late bloomer here as Arrietta took a few seasons to get going.  Second half of 2015 as awesome a pitching performance as we have ever seen. 
7.  Gerrit Cole:  ERA will rise a bit this season as Cole got a ton of BABIP help in 2015 but everything else checks out in terms of him being a fantasy baseball ace. 
8.  Jacob DeGrom:  Velocity down a full 2 mph which is concerning but otherwise DeGrom has looked great this spring. 
9.  Chris Sale:  Starting to show some durability the last three years which is nice and Sale already is a top five strikeout artist.  ERA will come down from last season as he got some rotten BABIP luck that will turn.  Terrific value when compared to the price of some of the other guys in his tier. 
10. Matt Harvey:  It was like Harvey never left in terms of being a top fantasy baseball ace after returning in 2015 from Tommy John surgery.  You have to feel a bit leery of the high innings total from last season however. 
11. Stephen Strasburg:  Had a very tough first half of 2015 due to injuries and some poor BABIP luck but Strasburg was back to his ace self from the summer onward.  Starting to leak some velocity though which bears watching. 
12. Felix Hernandez:  All of those massive inning totals are starting to take a toll on King Felix as pretty much every number and ratio went the wrong way last season.  Tread carefully here.  Could be the next Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain/James Shields. 
13. Corey Kluber:  2014 was not to be repeated but 2015 was pretty darn good.  Another strikeout gem of a pitcher whose price tag is decent relative to the numbers. 
14. Jon Lester:  Clearly Lester's 2014 campaign is not to be repeated but he also was just fine in terms of SP 1 numbers after his usual April issues. 
15. Dallas Keuchel:  Tough call here as Keuchel seemed to pitch way over his head last season.  His K rate and other ratios were never approached by Keuchel even going back to his minor league days but the guy was also just reaching his prime in 2015 which could add some validity to his haul.  Dial back the ratios slightly and take away 20 K's and that should be where Keuchel finishes around this season. 
16. Jose Fernandez:  Looked like his old fireablling and ace pitcher self upon returning from Tommy John surgery last season.  Will be on an innings limit this season but Fernandez' has arguably the best pure stuff of anyone in the game not named Clayton Kershaw. 
17. Chris Archer:  Even Chris Archer's biggest fans couldn't have foreseen the monstrous numbers the Tampa Bay Rays starter put up in 2015.  Everything jumped by a wide margin for Archer, especially his K rate as he struck out well over 200 batters for the first time in his career.  While the K rate is in outlier territory, Archer was still young enough to think he simply matured. 
18. Noah Syndegaard:  Meet the righty version of Randy Johnson.  From the long hair all the way down to the blazing 100-mph fastball, Noah Syndegaard is the real deal and could easily finish as a top five starter this season.  When you AVERAGE 98 on your fastball, you have some special stuff.  200-plus K's on the way.  Also Syndegaard has been completely dominant all spring with 19 K's in 17.2 IP while hitting 100 more than once. 
19. Johnny Cueto:  Great move to the San Francisco Giants and their spacious ballpark after a very rough run with the Kansas City Royals the last two months of 2015.  Cueto's has been criminally underrated for years with some of the best WHIP's and ERA's anywhere showing how good he is and that should be especially in the cards now that he gets such a cozy ballpark. 
20. Sonny Gray:  Since his very first start in the major leagues has pitched like a fantasy baseball ace.  While his K rate is not of the 200-K variety, his ratios are stellar and he still comes in around 180 whiffs. 
21. Carlos Carrasco:  Yet another young power arm who stopped walking the ballpark and all of a sudden was a star.  Kid is here to stay as a borderline fantasy baseball ace. 
22. Lance McCullers:  This power arm is the real deal but the shoulder setback was a bummer.  Still McCullers is slated to only miss a turn or two at this point which is about as good a result as one could ask with that type of injury.   
23. Yu Darvish:  Returning from Tommy John surgery but we have seen countless cases of guys coming back close to their old selves right away which means Darvish could be a swell value play. 
24. Adam Wainwright:  Been telling you to avoid Wainwright for a few years now as he continues to age and leak velocity.  The K rate is dropping sharply and Wainwright is also becoming quite injury prone.  Pass him by. 
25. Carlos Martinez:  Late season health trouble alarming but previously Martinez showed himself as another future ace with his power stuff. 
26. Cole Hamels:  Was a longtime proponent of the always dependable Hamels but now that he will be pitching full-time in the AL and in Texas of all place, we are leery. 
27. Jordan Zimmerman:  Zimmerman was pretty disappointing last season as he aimed at free agency and maybe some very high inning totals the last few years were to blame for the subpar showing.  Moving into the AL won't help matters. 
28. Danny Salazar:  Monster strikeout artist who finally figured out how to reign in the free passes a bit.  Look out MLB hitters. 
29. Francisco Liriano:  Amazing that we an no say that Francisco Liriano is a consistently good SP 2.  The numbers don't lie. 
30. Michael Wacha:  Didn't turn out to be the bust we predicted Wacha would be.  In fact Wacha was terrific the first half of the season before fatigue ruined his last two months.  Still proceed cautiously here as Wacha has a past with shoulder issues and his K rate dipped a bit last season. 
31. Marcus Stroman:  Vast upside here as Stroman insane five pitch arsenal all grade out highly.  Small in stature but a future fantasy baseball ace. 
32. Jake Odorizzi:  Could make the Chris Archer 2015 leap in 2016.  Compare the two and their numbers their first two seasons and you can see why this argument works. 
33. Hisahi Iwakuma:  Always have a soft spot for Iwakuma who continues to put up very good SP 2/3 numbers at a very affordable price.  Will go back to the well again despite age being an issue. 
34. Tyson Ross:  Outside of poor control which puts a hurt on his WHIP, Ross is one of the better power arms in the game.  If he ever works on that control, Ross could quickly elevate to ace level. 
35. Gio Gonzalez:  Some value to be had here as many will be down on Gonzalez after his ratios rose up in 2015.  Some of that had to do with awful BABIP luck and overall Gonzalez' advanced metrics showed him to be the SP 2 he was previously.  I am buying. 
36. Garrett Richards:  Overall Richards was solid but not as good as we anticipated in his 2015 return from his gruesome knee injury the season prior.  The K rate in particular didn't match his 2014 rate, with the latter now looking like a bit of an outlier. 
37. Scott Kazmir:  Like the fact Kazmir signed in a prime pitcher's park in Los Angeles with the Dodgers but remember he is a major sell over the summer when fatigue always take a bite out of his numbers.  Also left his last start with an abdominal issue which is a reminder of how fragile the guy is. 
38. James Shields:  Like with Cole Hamels, we were once big fans and boosters of James Shields as a value play fantasy baseball ace.  Unfortunately all those years of very heavy usage have taken some bite out of Shields' stuff as his WHIP rose sharply in 2015 and his home run problems will only grow.  Move on. 
39. Marco Estrada:  Shocked everyone with his best season ever in 2015 despite taking his home run tendencies to Rogers Center.  Still Estrada looks like a prime bust candidate for 2016 as he benefited from unrepeatable BABIP help a year ago and the gopher problems is about as bad a match as a pitcher can get operating in Rogers Center. 
40. Steven Matz:  Not much of a sample size here but Matz was lighting up the minors with a K rate over 9.0 prior to his debut with the New York Mets.  Showed terrific ability in his time in New York going into the postseason and upside is vast.  Be aggressive here. 
41. Jeff Samardzija:  Some potential MAJOR value here as Samarzija is back in the NL where he belongs after a disastrous one-year stint with the Chicago White Sox last season.  His velocity has dipped a bit from his Chicago Cubs near-ace levels but being able to pitch half his games in spacious San Francisco could thrust Samardzija back to SP 2 status despite the ugly spring. 
42. Shelby Miller:  Not liking the move to Chase Field despite staying in the NL but at least Miller will get a chance to win more games.  He has now been very good two of the last three seasons but the K rate is lacking a bit. 
43. Kenta Maeda:  For starters, Kenta Maeda is not Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish in terms of ace-level strikeout stuff.  Maeda instead is a top control artist who is more Tom Glavine in terms of being very tough to hit. 
44. Kyle Hendricks:  This youngster is developing nicely for the Cubs as Kendricks has a decent K rate hovering near 8.00 and his secondary stuff is solid.  Has a bit more ceiling left as well. 
45. Justin Verlander:  Been bashing Verlander for three years now and rightfully so as he was a complete disaster for much of that time due to decreased velocity and growing control problems.  However it looked like Verlander began to adjust in a Dan Haren 2015 mode by relying less on his heater and more on his secondary stuff the second half of last season.  Still I really want no part of this given the very high uncertainty. 
46. Michael Pineda:  Pineda remains a riddle as a guy who looks like a monster ace one start and then gets bombed the next time out.  Another guy whose slight frame leads him to tire over the summer but Pineda is also very injury prone.  Too much of a headache to deal with as anything more than an SP 4. 
47. Yordano Ventura:  Has been right a or near the top of the majors in average fastball velocity the last two years but it has not translated into high K rates and ace numbers.  The fact of the matter is that Ventura's fastball comes in a bit too straight and his light frame leads to injuries.  Stop chasing potential that looks like it may never be realized. 
48. Masahiro Tanaka:  Told you all to avoid this mess heading into last season as Tanaka began pitching with a torn ligament in his elbow.  While Tanaka did make it through the season, his K rate dipped, home run rate rose sharply, and he still spent time on the DL with trouble with the elbow.  Remember the elbow could blow at a moment's notice. 
49. Julio Teheran:  Was truly horrific the first half of last season before rallying late  to finish with respectable numbers.  Has not taken that extra leap to SP 2 status like it seemed Teheran was on track to do. 
50. Jose Quintana:  We can argue that Quintana is one of the vest best fantasy baseball pitcher values in the entire game the last three seasons.  A lock for a mid-3.00 ERA and around 175 strikeouts for often the price of an SP 5.  Tremendous value. 
51. Luis Severino:  Very high upside here as Severino had ice in his veins as a rookie pitching at a high level last season.  Could be a future 200-K kid with tidy ratios but don't overpay as enters in his first full Major League campaign. 
52. Ian Kennedy:  Signed with the Kansas City Royals which puts Kennedy back into the AL.  Disappointed greatly with the San Diego Padres last season but Kennedy's K rate still was very good. 
53. Chris Heston:  Threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2015 and generally was very good throughout the season.  Could firm himself up as an SP 3 which will be helped pitching in San Francisco. 
54. Joe Ross:  Yet another young kid who has a bright future in a spacious park in Washington.  He doesn't have the K rate of brother Tyson but better control. 
55. Aaron Nola:  Top pitching prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies' organization who has top control and a vast pitching arsenal.  K rate not at ace level but Nola is a tremendous late round upside play. 
56. Jason Hammel:  Very strong first half pitcher who has truly excellent K/BB ratios season after season.  Be sure you sell at the same time you see Scott Kazmir put on the block in your league. 
57. Andrew Heaney:  Great control here as well from former top prospect Heaney and K rate good enough for him to move to SP status. 
58. Drew Smyly:  Check out the numbers from Smyly when he has been healthy the last two seasons and you will find excellent ratios and a very potent K rate.  His health has been frightening lately but give him another try. 
59. John Lackey:  Has had a nice late-career renaissance but Lackey goes to a more offensive park with the Chicago Cubs this season and his mediocre K rate makes him quite boring to own. 
60. Andrew Cashner:  Good arm here but Cashner can't stay healthy and his K rate is simply disappointing considering the power of his fastball. 
 61. Colin McHugh:  Came back to earth in 2015 after a spectacular 2014 campaign which was not a shock since the former was in outlier territory.  Grade out as SP 4 only. 
62. Raisel Iglesias:  Very intriguing and powerful arm here as Iglesias looked tremendous for a short spurt over the summer as he showed some major K stuff.  Very raw kid but take advantage of the how the word is not totally out on the kid yet. 
63. Mike Fiers:  Once again Mike Fiers does the opposite of expectations.  Tossed a no-hitter last season and still has knack of striking out guys despite a fastball only in the high-80's. 
64. Tajuan Walker:  Take away a brutal April and Walker was very solid the last five months of the 2015 season.  Walker still has the strikeout stuff that made him a big prospect in the first place and the ballpark puts him in prime position to be a big asset.  Give him another chance. 
65. Hector Santiago:  Not a fan of Santiago who doesn't have the stamina to make it through a full season due to his slight frame and long history as a reliever.  From April to July though, he can help you with a good K rate and stuff that is hard to hit but with ugly control. 
66. Carlos Rodon:  Solid sleeper here as Rodon has immense power stuff that picks up strikeouts in a hurry but who also has the classic young starter control problems.  Looked like he started to make headway in the second half of last season and Rodon has absolutely been locked in this spring. 
67. Alex Wood:  Yeah we were wrong on Wood last season but so were many others after his eye-opening 2014 raised expectations a bit too high.  Gets a fresh starts with the Dodgers this season but we are still looking for all the 2014 strikeouts and control. 
68. Mike Leake:  Leake has proven himself as one of the better SP 4's in fantasy baseball with his better then you think hit rate and nice control.  Puts himself in a nice spot after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in free agency where he gets to pitch in a spacious park. 
69. Jimmy Nelson:  Lots to like here as Nelson can strike guys out and is improving his deep pitching arsenal.  Just has to keep the baseball in the park more. 
70. Nathan Karns:  Surprised he got traded at such a young age but the late blooming Karns goes to spacious Safeco Field where he can build off his nice 2015 campaign. 
71. Jaime Garcia:  Always been a very good and dependable back end fantasy baseball rotation but Garcia's ill health caps his impact. 
72. Henry Owens:  Lefty was surprisingly poor with his control as a rookie in 2015 since that was what he was known for in the minors but decent upside still in play. 
73. Yovani Gallardo:  Has not signed yet but either way Gallardo has dropped a clear level or two over the last few years as his K rate sinks due to all of his past high inning totals. 
74. Clay Buchholz:  Always have hated on Buchholz since he has been beyond brutal at times the last few seasons and still is getting credit for one big breakout season that is becoming more of a memory. 
75. Patrick Corbin:  Like the sleeper potential here as Corbin has a K rate over 8.0 in his short MLB career and is stingy with the hits.  Keep a late round selection ready for him. 
76. C.J. Wilson:  Veteran generally reliable but age is now taking hold as his always poor walk rate rises more and now the hits are piling up also.  Get off the train. 
77. Wei-Yin Chen:  Lands in a nice spot in Miami with the Marlins where his always decent ratios and K rate will do even better in such a nice ballpark. 
78. Jake Peavy:  Can help you still as an SP 5 in pitching in a good ballpark in San Francisco but Peavy is now on his last legs. 
79. Edinson Volquez:  Generally Volquez was solid with the Royals in going to the American League last season but he is pretty much in SP 4/5 territory as the K Rate is sinking and the control is always dicey. 
80. Nathan Eovaldi:  Throws as hard as anyone in the game but fastball way too straight which doesn't result in the expected strikeouts one would anticipate. 
81. Jerad Eickhoff:  Liked what I saw from Eickhoff the second half of last season when he debuted.  Will have a rotation spot waiting for him in 2016 and arm capable of a K rate over 7.00. 
82. Daniel Norris:  Has beaten cancer and retains decent prospect status with new life in Detroit. 
83. Tyler Lyons:  Bright future here as a St. Louis Cardinals arm given the massive success of their farm system. 
84. Doug Fister:  Not signed yet and poor health have hurt his stuff the last season or so. 
85. Phil Hughes:  Was brutal in 2015 after a shockingly great 2014 campaign.  Still surrenders among the highest amount of home runs in baseball which makes any one start a risk. 
86. Matt Shoemaker:  Simply can't keep the ball in the park which undermines some good strikeout potential. 
87. Jesse Hahn:  Quietly has been a very good back end starter in fantasy baseball with solid enough ratios and K rate.  Ballpark also a bonus. 
88. Jesse Chavez:  Avoid all Toronto pitchers if possible. 
89. Jon Gray:  If not for Colorado, Jon Gray would be a much more attractive young arm. 
90. Tanner Roark:  Has been very solid as a back end rotation guy in a nice ballpark but Roark's poor K rate makes him best suited to non-inning capped formats. 
91. Kevin Gausman:  Has ability given past status as a top draft pick and high mileage fastball but Gausman's control continues to undermine him. 
92. R.A. Dickey:  Avoid all knucklers. 
93. Cody Anderson:  Stream candidate but nothing more. 
94. Anibal Sanchez:  Health taking a major bite out of Sanchez' previously solid stuff.  Becoming just another guy. 
95. Brett Anderson:  Back with the Dodgers and always worth a look due to decent ratios.  K rate sunk to shoddy territory last season though. 
96. Matt Cain:  Yet another early career heavy innings usage victim.  Cain's is shot both in health and stuff. 
97. Bartolo Colon:  Back for another year with the New York Mets and Colon continues to post a decent NL-only ERA.  Only holding a spot for Zach Wheeler though and terrible K rate make him one to use just in NL-only formats again. 
98. Trevor Bauer:  Perhaps the biggest enigma in the game in terms of having big time power stuff but some of the worst location of any starter.  Simply not worth the headaches. 
99. Jered Weaver:  Weaver is now a human batting practice machine as his fastball has sunk to 84 and his K.9 rate is under 6.00 which is simply horrendous.  Salute the earlier numbers in his career and ignore. 
100. Zack Wheeler:  Add this power arm to your bench for a July return and nice second half boost. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: TORN LCL ELIMINATES WILL SMITH FROM CLOSER TIER

The news started trickling in on Friday when prospective Milwaukee Brewers closer candidate Will Smith was spotted wearing a wrap on his knee and then later was seen on crutches.  Despite dominating this spring with seven scoreless innings to his name, Smith was headed for an MRI on the knee which immediately threw a dark cloud over his immediate value.  Well the results are in and they are not good as Smith was diagnosed with a torn LCL in his right knee which will necessitate a DL stint to begin the season.  Now we turn to how long Smith could be out and the severity of the injury.  If surgery is recommended, stick a fork in Smith for the majority of 2016.  If he can rehab the injury, an early June return could be possible.  The bottom line now however is that Smith is out of the closer battle in Milwaukee and that means righty Jeremy Jeffress is the favorite for saves despite him dealing with his own injury issues this spring with a hamstring problem.  Feel free to cut Smith loose as either way his stock is destroyed by this.  Corey Knebel would be next in line behind Jeffress but either way this is now a big mess for the fantasy baseball community to digest. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: KYLE SCHWARBER NOW STEALING BASES FOR HIS NEXT TRICK

After a minor knee scare at the start of spring training, Chicago Cubs outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber is back on track as quite possibly the most hyped and sought-after fantasy baseball sleeper for 2016.  The Paul Bunyon-esque slugger took the league by storm as a rookie in 2015 when Schwarber came up to crack 16 home runs and drive in 43 batters in just 232 at-bats.  The power was of the tape measure variety and it was easy to project Schwarber to the 30 home run mark for 2016 now that he would be starting the season with the Cubs from Opening Day.  While Schwarber would be moving almost exclusively to the outfield for 2016, he reportedly will remain the personal catcher for Jason Hammel.  While Schwarber still carried precious catcher eligibility for this season, working as Hammel's personal catcher would likely eligible for another year.  Now as far as this spring is concerned, the hype meter continues to churn as Schwarber picked up two more hits on Thursday along with his second stolen base of the spring.  That's right his second steal.  While not known for being fleet of foot, Schwarber does have enough speed to pick up some steals as we are seeing this spring.  That would add even more potential value for a guy whose stock has soared in drafts this spring as everyone and their mother wants him on their roster.  Now as far as the numbers this spring are concerned, Schwarber is hitting just .250 with zero home runs but we all know the small sample size is the key here and that the bombs will start soaring out of ballparks real soon.  While Schwarber will likely struggled to post a decent batting average due to a very high K rate, again 30 home runs and 80-plus RBI are very likely given the natural power.  While he will cost a bunch at the draft table, Schwarber looks like he will be worth whatever you need to pay to get him onto your roster. 

 

Friday, March 25, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: NOAH SYNDEGAARD LOOKING VERY BIT THE FANTASY ACE

It was another dominating day at the spring training office for New York Mets young stud starting pitcher Noah Syndegaard on Friday versus the St. Louis Cardinals.  Once again unleashing his 100-mph fastball to devastating effect, Syndegaard struck out 9 Cardinals in 6 innings while giving up 5 hits and no walks.  That brings Syndegaard's total for the spring to a tiny 2.04 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17.2 innings as he seems set to become a fantasy baseball ace from the jump of 2016.  On a team that already boats ace pitchers in Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom, Syndegaard is a guy we have been on record saying could be the best of the bunch.  His average fastball was second in all of baseball last season as it routinely sat in the 98-100 zone and the strikeouts will flow at a crazy Chris Sale or Clayton Kershaw rate this season and beyond.  As long as the elbow holds up (Syndegaard has the classic Tommy John profile), the guy looks poised to be a top ten overall fantasy baseball starter this season easy. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYAN BRUAN TO SIT THROUGH WEEKEND, DL LOOMING

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will be shut down from the lineup through the weekend and is now looking more likely to need a DL stint after he felt more pain in his back on Friday.  The current plan was for Braun to return to exhibition play on Saturday but there was no improvement to his back early Friday.  Whispers in the front office now are circulating that Braun will begin the season on the DL as a result. 

Analysis:  This is what we said yesterday and now it looks more and more likely that Braun will need the DL.  He didn't even get out of spring training with his health as his body continues to fail him and those who already are invested clearly didn't take out advice. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: MRI ON TAP FOR WILL SMITH

Prospective Milwaukee Brewers closer Will Smith will head for an MRI on Friday due to some sort of problem with his right knee.  The Brewers have not said much publicly about the knee but Smith was seen sporting a wrap on the knee early in the day on Friday.  Smith is battling it out with Jeremy Jeffress for the team's closer job this spring. 

Analysis:  Uh-oh.  This could be nothing or it could be something to worry about.  Smith has been lights out this spring which made him the favorite for the team's closer gig but now all that gets thrown into chaos if there is an injury.  Jeffress meanwhile has battled a bad hamstring this spring so all of a sudden the ninth inning looks shaky for the Brewers. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY REPORT: JACOBY ELLSBURY/MICHAEL BRANTLEY/RYAN BRAUN THROWING OUTFIELD INTO CHAOS

Lots of injury issues to talk about with the season just days away.  Let's get to the latest.

-New York Yankees Jacoby Ellsbury was hoping to return to exhibition action on Friday but he still was feeling soreness in his wrist when taking part in some limited activities on Thursday.  Ellsbury was hit in the wrist by a Bartolo Colon pitch almost a week ago now but Ellsbury says the area is still swollen and giving him trouble.  This is nothing new for Ellsbury who is one of the slowest healers in all of fantasy baseball when it comes to injuries and his advancing age and declining stolen base numbers throw his outlook into further chaos. 

-The Cleveland Indians have backed off on having outfielder Michael Brantley taking part in daily activities as his surgically-repaired shoulder has not "bounced back well enough" from the increased work.  Manager Terry Francona says he is still holding out hope Brantley could be ready for the opener but that is looking very unlikely.  The original prognosis was that Brantley could be out until May but now mid-April seems about right which is about as well as you could have hoped for if you are a owner. 

-After a big scare with his back on Thursday, it appears as though Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will try and get back into a game on Saturday.  On paper this is good news for Braun and his fantasy baseball owners but we all know to take any injury report on the guy with a grain of salt given his history.  It is disturbing that Braun is still dealing with back trouble after having major surgery last October and it calls into questions how effective he will be in 2016.  Once again Braun has some major red flags attached to his name. 

-A blister won't stop Chicago Cubs ace SP Jake Arrieta from throwing a bullpen session on Saturday.  It appears as though the blister is not major deal and that Arrieta won't have any issues going forward.  This is not Josh Beckett we are talking about here. 

-St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina could be ready for Opening Day according to manager Mike Matheney if he doesn't suffer any sort of setback with his surgically-repaired thumb.  While Molina is a Hall of Fame player, his days as even a low-end fantasy baseball catcher look shot due to his old age and slipping offensive numbers. 

-A late report indicated that Indians third baseman/outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall is still dealing with pain in his forearm which first cropped up a few days ago.  Chisenhall will be re-evaluated by the team in order to figure out what is going on in the joint but his fantasy baseball value is very limited regardless. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: HUNTER PENCE OUTFIELDER SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

To say it was a tough go for San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence in 2015 would be a gross understatement.  A longtime source of outfielder 1 consistency due to his durability and solid power/speed game, Pence took a fastball off his forearm early last spring training which fractured a bone and sent him to the DL for the start of the season.  When he did return, Pence would up suffering a dreaded oblique problem later on during the year that hobbled him at times and hurt his numbers.  The result was the worst season of his career offensively since he became a regular and with his age creeping into the mid-30's, Pence was now all of a sudden a guy who many began to be leery of investing in again. 

It certainly looked like history was beginning to repeat itself at the start of 2016 spring training when Pence came down with a strained Achilles just days into workouts as the theme of him being all of a sudden prone to health woes began to take on more steam.  Pence insisted it was not a big deal though and he proved that was the case by returning to the lineup after a week on the sidelines.  Since that time, Pence has been locked in as he launched his third home run of the spring on Thursday and overall has picked up hits in 8 of his 19 at-bats overall.  Pence clearly looked ready for the start of the 2016 fantasy baseball season and he carries with him some very interesting bounce back upside despite being in his 30's.  While the steals may vanish for good, Pence is still capable of 20-plus home runs to go with a high amount of runs and RBI.  He also can hit .280 in his sleep as he has been around that number through his entire career.  In short, Pence seems prepared to be a good value considering how his draft price sank this spring as long as his body stays in one piece.  We are betting this will be the case. 

 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RYAN BRAUN SCRATCHED FROM GAME WITH BACK SORENESS

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was scratched from the team's Thursday exhibition lineup due to a renewed bout of back soreness that sent up alarms throughout the team given his history.  Braun is still trying to work his way back from major surgery on his back last October and some testing might be in sore now as a result of the flareup.  Braun was considered to be on track to play Opening Day but now that plan might go by the wayside. 

Analysis:  This is potentially very bad here as Braun can't seem to get his back in order.  He has been nothing but a health trainwreck over the last three seasons and now doubt a bunch of the blame can go on his steroid past.  A DL stint to start the season now seems likely and Braun's immediate stock is looking quite shaky. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DANIEL NORRIS TO START SEASON ON DL

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris will start the 2016 season on the disabled list due to the back trouble that forced him out of his last exhibition start Tuesday.  The Tigers have not said how serious the injury is but Norris was expected to see a specialist on Thursday in order to get a better read on the situation. 

Analysis:  It has been a rough go for Norris the last year or so as he had to deal with cancer and now the back injury.  The kid has a power arm that points to a future high-K guy but for now he is nothing but bench fodder until we get a clearer picture on how serious the injury is. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TROY TULOWITZKI TO RETURN TO LINEUP FRIDAY

After X-Rays revealed no breaks in the hand that was drilled by a Bartolo Colon pitch Wednesday, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was expected to return to the lineup as soon as Friday.  Tulowitzki has hit very well this spring but he comes off a tough 2015 campaign where his power dropped off as he got back from hip surgery.

Analysis:  Tulowitzki is taped up like a mummy but the guy is still arguably the best hitting shortstop in fantasy baseball outside of Carlos Correa.  It will be interesting to see if the power comes back to pre-surgery days but the ballpark in Rogers Center will certainly help in that venture. 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: LEAKING VELOCITY CONTINUES FOR MASAHIRO TANAKA, LOOMING FOR JACOB DeGROM

Velocity.  For a staring pitcher or even a reliever, any drop-off in that area always sets off alarms when it comes to a fantasy baseball stock.  So far this spring training, we have seen a few big-name pitchers lacking in that department.  Two them reside in New York in the form of the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and the Mets' Jacob DeGrom.  As far as Tanaka is concerned, this is sort of old news as he began showing decreased velocity prior to last season as he began the process of pitching with a slight tear in his UCL.  Instead of the 95-97 Tanaka showed as a rookie before the tear, he instead sank to the 90-92 range for almost all of 2015.  We have seen those numbers get even worse this spring as Tanaka's fastball has sank to an average of 87-89 which makes the guy even more of a red flag.  As a result of the dip in velocity last season, Tanaka started giving up home runs at a very high clip which inflated his ERA.  Another dip like he is showing this spring will make Tanaka even more susceptible to the home run ball and thus make his ERA shoot up again.  We have been on record way too many times going back to 2015 in terms of telling you all to avoid the headache that is Tanaka and that is even more so now. 

In terms of DeGrom, he too has seen a drop in his velocity this spring which is something that first started showing up in the postseason last year.  DeGrom reached new heights in innings last season for the Mets as they made the World Series and his fastball habitually sat in the 95-97 range.  However once the World Series arrives, DeGrom was down to 92-94 as he had some difficulty with the Kansas City Royals.  So far this spring, we have seen DeGrom stay in that 92-94 range which has made him somewhat more hittable.  Now his drop in velocity is not extreme and DeGrom is very young which means he could ramp up that number soon enough.  However it is something to watch as DeGrom did have a very heavy workload at a young age last season and he could be paying for it in the short-term now.  It could push him from ace level to SP 2 if the home runs fly out at a higher rate.  Already a bit homer prone, this is something to keep an eye on here when it comes to DeGrom's outlook this season. 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: GREGORY POLANCO THROWING AWAY CHANCE TO BAT LEADOFF

Coming into spring training, the Pittsburgh Pirates made it known that there was a golden opportunity at hand for developing multi-tooled outfielder Gregory Polanco to take hold of the team's leadoff spot for the 2016 season.  Compared both to outfield mates Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte due to his combination of hitting ability and speed, Polanco started to real show off those tools in 2015 during his first full MLB season.  Polanco showed off his lightning quickness by swiping 27 bases and scoring 83 runs while spending a lot of time hitting near the lineup with Josh Harrison injured.  The batting average was not pretty at .256 as Polanco struck out 121 times but he started hinting at the power that could coming soon by smacking 9 home runs.  Thus it was understandable that the Pirates would want to take advantage of Polanco's speed by putting near in the leadoff spot for the upcoming season but Harrison was going to challenge for it also now that he was healthy. 

Fast forward to present day as Polanco has hit a pathetic .206 with no extra-base hits in his last 30 at-bats this spring to pretty much throw away any chance he has of hitting in the leadoff spot.  The plan now is for Polanco to bat toward the bottom of the order and Harrison to be in the leadoff slot.  In the process, Polanco loses a sizable amount of prospective fantasy baseball value if he bats seventh or heaven forbid eighth.  Obviously Polanco would not get nearly as many good pitches to hit there, the plate appearances would drop, and he also would not have as many chances to steal bases.  Put it all together and Polanco's once burgeoning fantasy baseball value is now looking a bit murky for at least the beginning of the season. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: EVAN GATTIS TO BEGIN SEASON ON DL

Despite taking at-bats in minor league games over the last week, the Houston Astros will likely begin the 2016 season with outfielder/DH Evan Gattis on the disabled list.  Gattis was forced to undergo surgery for a hernia back in February and his recovery has not gone as quickly as the team hoped.  He comes off a productive first season with the Astros in 2015 when he slammed 27 home runs and drove in 88 batters.  Even going back to his days with the Atlanta Braves, Gattis has been no stranger to injury as his checked past with substance abuse no doubt has been a contributor to his body breaking down.  As far as his value is concerned, Gattis lost a ton of it once he stopped donning a catcher's past.  Not having catcher eligibility is a big downer but Gattis still showed he could help in the home run and RBI columns last season as an outfielder 3.  The average though is never pretty as Gattis hit just .246 last season as he struck out at a high clip as he has done throughout his professional career.  Try to hold Gattis is you have the roster space as he should only miss a few weeks and return sometime in mid-April.  Power is tough to find in today's fantasy baseball so Gattis still retains some value. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: TROY TULOWITZKI HEADED FOR X-RAYS ON HAND AFTER HBP

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is headed for X-Rays on his hand after he got drilled by a Bartolo Colon pitch during a Wednesday exhibition game. 

Analysis:  And the 2016 fantasy baseball season is officially underway.  After all it wouldn't be a normal season if Tulowitzki did not get hurt.  While Colon couldn't break glass with his pitches, you always have to assume the worst with Tulowitzki and his long injury history.  On top of that, Tulowitzki's power never came back to pre-hip surgery days last season which is another major concern. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: JEFF SAMARDZJIA GETTING LIT UP ALL SPRING

When the San Francisco Giants signed free agent starter Jeff Samardzjia to a very generous free agent deal over the winter, we immediately praised the move and did a long piece on how the guy was an excellent bounce back value play for 2016 fantasy baseball.  It was not that long ago when Samardzjia looked like one of the best young power arms in the game while with the Chicago Cubs but soon trades to the Oakland A's and Chicago White Sox send his stock spiraling as his ERA and WHIP soared in the much tougher American League.  Signing with the Giants however remedied that threat on the surface as Samardzjia was now going to benefit from moving back into the much easier National League and in one of the best home ballparks as well in San Francisco.  Thus our reason for great optimism surrounding Samardzjia. 

Well if spring training is any indication, it may not matter the location where Samardzjia pitches.  He was absolutely bombed on Monday as he gave up 6 earned runs in 6 innings against the A's which followed him giving up 7 earned runs in just 4 innings in his start prior to that one.  The result is that Samardzjia is toting around a ghastly 8.53 ERA and his stuff has looked as hittable as ever.  Even more concerning, Samardzjia is not picking up much in the way of strikeouts as the slight loss in velocity he began showing in 2015 has not improved.  So all of a sudden we have at least some cause for concern when it comes to Samardzjia as he is not fooling anyone with the season less than two weeks away. 

In taking the guy apart a bit, maybe the drop in velocity is a bit of a bigger issue than we first thought.  Samardzjia only was down a 1-2 mph on his fastball last season but maybe he is that razor-thin in terms of being more hittable with such a slight loss.  The drop in K rate is very sharp here from the start of 2015 and it is not getting better this spring despite going against weaker competition.  Yes the thin air in Cactus League play is a factor but Samardzjia has to be even somewhat better then this. 

So as far as where we are with the guy, obviously you don't want to be rash and drop of dump the guy based on spring training results.  There have been way too many cases such as this where a veteran guy struggles for a time before finding himself in the regular season.  At the very least however, we have to think that maybe that automatic bounce back may not happen as anticipated. 

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ANDRE ETHIER OUT 10-14 WEEKS WITH FRACTURED TIBIA

Heading into the 2015 fantasy baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier was nothing but another boring and aging veteran hitter who nobody wanted at the draft table.  While Ethier had some very good power seasons a few years prior, injuries and a crowded Dodgers outfield that included hotshot newcomer Joc Pederson left his stock out in the cold.  Well Ethier decided to take matters into his own hands in terms of engineering a very nice comeback campaign that saw him smack 14 home runs in just 395 at-bats to go along with a tidy .292 batting average.  Still young enough at 34 in April, Ethier was slated for another season of decent at-bats for the Dodgers in 2016 where he could wind up being a cheap source of 15-20 home runs. 

Unfortunately that narrative has to go in the waste bin as it was found out on Tuesday that Ethier will be forced to miss the next 10-14 weeks due to a fractured tibia in his right leg.  Ethier suffered the fracture in Monday's exhibition game but there was no hint of something this serious.  As a result of Ethier's absence, the Dodgers have plenty of fill-in options that includes Trayce Thompson, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, and Alex Guerrero.  Guerrero and Thompson have some slight sleeper appeal but nothing that should make anyone race to the waiver wire.  As far as Ethier is concerned, cut him loose if your league carries a very thin bench.  You can do without him. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER NEWS: WILL SMITH UP TO 7 SCORELESS INNINGS

While Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell refuses to name a set closer to begin the 2016 season, the evidence is becoming compelling that lefty Will Smith is the best option for the ninth inning.  Smith threw another scoreless inning on Monday which brings his spring total of shutout frames to seven with  five strikeouts.  Meanwhile Smith's prime completion in righty Jeremy Jeffress has tossed just one inning this spring as he battles back from a hamstring strain.  Whether Counsell says so publicly or not, Smith is the better bet right now to get the first save chance for the team but the manger is leaving himself open to making a change is his lefty struggles with the chance.  Yes it seems like a chaotic situation but Smith will likely end up being the guy officially or not officially real soon. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER TIME: KEEP AN EYE ON BRANDON MAURER IN SAN DIEGO BULLPEN

While the move by the San Diego Padres to shift pitcher Brandon Maurer from the starting rotation to the bullpen made not even a ripple on the surface of the fantasy baseball community, there is at least some possible fallout here from a closer standpoint.  While clearly showing himself not to be a good fit as a starter as Maurer was lit up all spring to the tune of 16 runs in just 5.2 innings pitched, he was coming off a very good 2015 campaign where he pitched to a 3.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 51 innings out of the bullpen.  Now that Maurer is back in the bullpen, he becomes somewhat of a person of interest as a possible replacement for Fernando Rodney at closer.  We all know it is just a matter of time before Rodney implodes again like he did a year ago in Seattle and Maurer now should be in the conversation along with Kevin Quackenbush as a possible solution.  While Quackenbush has better strikeout stuff, Maurer has better control which is also a very important attribute in the ninth inning.  There is no actionable move to make at this point but going forward Maurer could be a person of interest in the saves picture. 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: JUST DRAFT ALL METS PITCHERS

When it comes to drafting pitchers for 2016 fantasy baseball, there are many varying strategies and methods to collect the best possible rotation in your league.  Whether it is grabbing an ace early or building on the extreme depth of the position in the middle rounds, there are more than a few modes of attack here.  However if you really want to think outside the box, there is on team in particular where fantasy baseball owners should be looking closely for top line starters.  In fact if you really want to be bold, just draft the entire staff.  We of course are referring to the New York Mets and their beyond dominant rotation that is filled with a slew if young studs who can throw in the upper-90's with pinpoint control.  Whether it is Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndegaard, Steven Matz, or in due time Zack Wheeler, you can't go wrong with anyone on this staff.  So what did we do?  We went out and undertook this venture in a standard Yahoo mixed league draft in order to see how it would turn out and to see if it was in fact possible.  When it all was said and done, we did in fact draft the entire Mets rotation and in the process gave ourselves a frighteningly great stable of arms.  After going Bryce Harper and Joey Votto in Round 1 and 2, we tabbed DeGrom in Round 3, Harvey in Round 4, Syndegaard in Round 8, and Matz in Round 11.  We also grabbed Wheeler in Round 17 and even Bartolo Colon in Round 22 to round things out.  With said that, here are some quick snippets on each.

Jacob DeGrom:  While Harvey gets all the hype due to his pop culture habits, it can be argued that the DeGrom is the true ace of the Mets staff.  After a crazy eye-opening breakout in 2014 (2.69 ERA/1.14 WHIP/144 K), DeGrom even bettered those numbers last season (2.54 ERA/0.98 WHIP/205 K) which was a Cy Young-worthy campaign.  While he did fade in the postseason, DeGrom has shown himself to be durable and dependable above all else.  We think DeGrom's 2015 numbers are about as good as he can do as this is not a Chris Sale or Clayton Kershaw 240-K arm but DeGrom can be a sure ace on any fantasy baseball staff.

Matt Harvey:  A clear lover of the limelight, Harvey gets much more attention then his rotation-mate DeGrom.  Despite that, Harvey is every bit the ace DeGrom is and he does it with a bit more flash.  Harvey is all power and his comeback from Tommy John surgery last season was a tremendous success as he pitched to a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts.  Yes there was that whole issue over his innings and the Mets arguing publicly with his agent Scott Boras but Harvey pitched as well as could possibly be expected coming off the surgery.  What is scary is that Harvey should be even BETTER this season another year from the surgery and already this spring we have heard reports of his slider and curveball having more bite now that there is more flexibility in the joint.  Harvey very well could be the top pitcher on the team this season and a sub-2.50 ERA is possible.

Noah Syndegaard:  Wow.  That is the only word we can use to describe the monster potential of Syndegaard who reminds us so much of a righthanded Randy Johnson it is scary.  From the flowing locks, to the massive height, to the 100-mph fastball, to the nasty demeanor, Syndegaard has it all down pat being a Big Unit clone.  The fastball velocity is pure insanity as Syndegaard had the second best average speed on that pitch last season and the sky literally is the limit.  Syndegard is very capable of striking out 250 batters when he gets up there in innings as he further develops and he too can end up being the top pitcher numbers-wise on the Mets this season.  The only fear.....and it is a big one....is that Syndegaard is the classic future Tommy John victim which is a procedure Matz, Harvey, and DeGrom have all had.  That is a very real concern here given the youth and velocity but the ability is so amazing that we have to try and look past this threat. 

Steven Matz:  Yes Matz has had a rough spring but he too has done nothing but dominant since the start of last season.  Matz toyed with hitters in Triple-A Las Vegas and the thin air of all places before coming to the Mets and pitching to a 2.27 ERA.  Now Matz does not have the pure heat of Harvey, DeGrom, or Syndegaard but the movement on his pitches is as good as anyone on the staff and he gets a bunch of swings and misses anyways with it.  There are some clear health concerns here as Matz went on the DL twice while with the Mets last season but the upside is tremendous. 

Zach Wheeler:  It will be sometime in June when Wheeler return to the Mets rotation and many forget how the hard-throwing righty was right there with anyone else on the staff in terms of hype.  Wheeler can really dial the fastball up and he started getting movement on the pitch the second half of 2014 that helped to yield more K's.  Then the elbow went bad and Tommy John was the result.  Wheeler has had pronounced control problems in his young career which will likely continue to be a problem when he returns but his stuff can be a handful for batters.  Could be a nice value play considering the cheap draft price. 

There you have it.  As always let us hear your thoughts.  Post below please. 

FANTASY BASEBALL TREND OR MIRAGE: JUAN NICASIO SP PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Sometimes there are stories that emanate out of the blue that all of a sudden come to the forefront of the fantasy baseball community.  Whereas spring training often centers on closer/position battles or young prospects trying to stick with the big club, on occasion you get a veteran that demands some attention from the masses.  Such a case is percolating in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation in the form of discarded Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Juan Nicasio.  After posting ERA's over 5.00!!!! in every season with the Rockies from 2012 through 2014, Nicasio transitioned into the bullpen for the Dodgers a year ago where he looked decent in pitching to a 3.86 ERA.  That ERA though was uplifted greatly with a ton of luck as Nicasio's BABIP was a staggering and unrepeatable .360.  Be that as it may, the Pirates brought Nicasio in over the winter and gave him a shot to win the fifth starter's job.  With no one paying attention, Nicasio has gone wild and looked like an ace this spring.  After striking out 10 batters in only 4 innings in his last start, Nicasio kept it going during his outing on Monday as he fanned another 8 batters in 5 scoreless innings to lower his Grapefruit League ERA to a puny 0.00 as he has yet to give up a run in a total of 15 innings.  So what do we make of all this?  Has Nicasio somehow unleashed his power potential and is now a possible diamond in the fantasy baseball rough?  Let's take a closer look.

Now clearly Nicasio was nothing but a batting practice pitcher in Colorado as many other hurlers turned out to be in the thin air of Coors Field.  ERA's over 5.00 from 2012 through 2014 bear this out.  Nicasio constantly struggled with horrible control and his hit rate was not ideal either.  Yes he did do better in Los Angeles with the Dodgers but that was out of the bullpen and again was due to some very generous BABIP luck.  However Nicasio has looked like a different guy this spring and now he is becoming a big topic of discussion as he looks certain at this point to win the fifth starter's job in Pittsburgh.  While making a stab on Nicasio in terms of only using a waiver claim on him is not the worst idea in the world, keep in mind how dangerous it is to buy into any spring training statistic.  Yes 24 strikeouts in 15 innings is a tremendous rate but Nicasio is also taking advantage of weaker spring lineups filled with minor league hitters and batters are also tinkering with their approach.  When we dig in on the numbers, Nicasio didn't even have a 7.00 K/9 during his Colorado days in the rotation but in fairness that number jumped to a splendid 10.03 in the Dodgers bullpen.  Nicasio can dial the fastball up but his horrible control and penchant for getting himself in trouble make him unlikely to carry that number as a starter with the Pirates.  At 29, Nicasio is pretty much who he is in terms of his numbers and when the 2016 season gets underway, it is much more likely he will go back to his old rate statistics across the board.  While he may post a decent amount of K's, Nicasio looks like he is more apt to disappoint then being someone who can help your roster.  Keep him on the bench early on in the season to see if his spring numbers are legit but we think Nicasio's 2016 spring is a giant fluke.

TREND OR MIRAGE:  MIRAGE

 

Monday, March 21, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: SEAN DOOLITTLE COMES BACK FROM INJURY EDGE

The closer battles are coming down the stretch and those already in the role are trying to fine-tune things prior to the beginning of the 2016 season.  Let's check in on the latest from the world of the ninth inning.

-After yet another injury scare this past week, it appears as though Oakland A's closer Sean Doolittle at least for now is in the clear.  Doolittle admitted that he came down with soreness in his triceps that brought back some bad memories from his lost 2016 when he missed virtually the entire year with shoulder trouble but he was in fact able to throw 25 pitches Monday in a pen session.  That likely means Doolittle is no longer being held back by the triceps and instead will be ready to go for Opening Day.  Ryan Madson is the must own handcuff for anyone who is invested in Doolittle as it seems like only a matter of time before the latter goes down again.

-While Craig Kimbrel is the clear closer for the Boston Red Sox, a potential handcuff in Carson Smith could be falling by the wayside as he heads for testing on his forearm.  Smith complained of tightness in the forearm during his outing on Monday and we don't need to remind anyone that issues there often lead to Tommy John surgery.  Ancient Koji Uehara got more leash as the main backup to Kimbrel. 

 

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: YOENIS CESPEDES/J.D. MARTINEZ

Time for another 2016 fantasy baseball draft debate as we look to work through some last minute decisions before we launch the new season.  Today we go to the outfield and look at two power-hitting specialists in the New York Mets' Yoenis Cespedes and the Detroit Tigers' J.D. Martinez.  Both make their living on the long ball and RBI and both are being drafted in tight with one another.  As always let's compare the two in order to see which guy comes out on top.

AVERAGE:  Last season Cspedes took this battle as batted .291 to Martinez' .282.  Still the season prior, Martinez was at .315 and Cespedes in the mid-.250 range both with Oakland and Boston.  Both guys need some BABIP luck to post a good average due to their high K rates which makes projecting a call here very tough.
ADVANTAGE:  EVEN

RUNS:  Cespedes has outscored Martinez each of the last two seasons and he went over 100 with 101 in 2015 to his counterpart's 93.  Both guys had around the same OBP in their careers but the Mets lineup looks a bit better this season then Detroit's which gives Cespedes the slight edge.
ADVANTAGE:  Yoenis Cespedes

STOLEN BASES:  When Cespedes first came into the majors, he stole 16 bases as a rookie and looked like a perennial five-tool guy.  Since then though Cespedes has not reached double-digits and in 2015 took just 7 bags.  That still was better then the 3 Martinez picked up and in his case, there has never been much of any speed.
ADVANTAGE:  Yoenis Cespedes

HOME RUNS:  Both guys reached new highs in home runs in 2015, with Cespedes coming in at 35 to Martinez' 38.  Those totals for each were in outlier territory but Martinez profiles to have more raw power.  Both ballparks are rough on home runs but Comerica is a bit better for hitters then Citi Field. 
ADVANTAGE:  J.D. Martinez

RBI:  Cespedes came out on top here as well in 2015 with 105 to Martinez' 102.  The better lineup for the Mets should keep Cespedes on top again this season but only slightly. 
ADVANTAGE:  Yoenis Cespedes

WINNER:  Yoenis Cespedes

As you can see, the debate was very close but Cespedes gets the nod.  He has more dynamism to his game and that should make him the choice. 

 

FANTASY BASEBALL TRENDING UP/DOWN

The season is less than two weeks from getting under way and there are some clear stock movements concerning some key players worth discussing.  Let's see who makes the list this week.

TRENDING UP

Albert Pujols:  For a guy who many thought would be out until May after foot surgery, the Los Angeles Angels first baseman has done nothing but mash this spring with 3 home runs already in the Cactus League.  Pujols is set to go for Opening day and coming off his first 40-home run season in a years, is primed for another big power campaign. 

Nolan Arenado:  It is downright crazy what the Colorado Rockies third baseman is doing with the bat this spring as he goes into Monday's game with a ridiculous .606 average with 20 hits in 33 at-bats and 2 home runs.  Arenado is the epitome of a monster power hitter and his first round grade is well earned.  We could be easily looking at another 40-plus home runs and 110-plus RBI to go with even an improvement in batting average. 

Brandon Belt:  Speaking of hot, San Francisco's Brandon Belt is now batting .374 after a 4-for-4 day Sunday.  We have heard the narrative before about Belt being primed for a big breakout season but injuries always have interrupted the proceedings.  Still the guy has some terrific ability with the bat in his hand when he is right physically and so many have been disappointed with Belt in the past that his draft price this spring is very affordable. 

TRENDING DOWN

Jacoby Ellsbury:  Yes he is hurt AGAIN.  This time it was a fastball to the wrist that had many thinking Ellsbury suffered another unfortunate health problem.  Well subsequent MRI's and testing showed no breaks which is good news but already we are hearing Ellsbury may not be back until the end of this week due to the bruising.  This is a guy who is as slow a healer of injuries as you can get in fantasy baseball and we also have to be worried about soreness in the wrist hurting his swing as it has done to teammate Brett Gardner going back to last season.  We already told you all to avoid Ellsbury this season as he is now 32, always hurt, and is seeing his average and steals slide.  No thanks. 

Sean Doolittle:  We are not even out of spring training and Oakland A's closer Sean Doolittle is dealing with injuries yet again.  After missing almost all of 2015 with persistent shoulder trouble, Doolittle is now dealing with a triceps strain.  While no alarms are being sounded by the team, this is a reminder of hos fragile Doolittle is and that anyone who owns him needs to back the guy up with Ryan Madson.