The first day of the NFL free agent period has been extremely active with many players changing locations or re-upping with their current squads. Notable movers and shakers thus far include the Jets who traded MLB Jonathon Vilma to New Orleans and acquired DT Kris Jenkins from Carolina as well as the Raiders made Tommy Kelly the highest paid DT in NFL history (yikes).
Friday, February 29, 2008
The first day of the NFL free agent period has been extremely active with many players changing locations or re-upping with their current squads. Notable movers and shakers thus far include the Jets who traded MLB Jonathon Vilma to New Orleans and acquired DT Kris Jenkins from Carolina as well as the Raiders made Tommy Kelly the highest paid DT in NFL history (yikes).
The Phillies made one of the greatest comebacks ever down the stretch last season, overtaking the Mets in the final week of the season to win the NL East crown. They will try to build on that success this year, however, their Spring Training got off to an inauspicious start when closer Brad Lidge went down with a knee injury. He will be out 3-6 weeks. Without further ado, let's take a look at the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
SS- Jimmy Rollins
CF- Shane Victorino
2B- Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF- Pat Burrell
RF- Geoff Jenkins
3b- Pedro Feliz
C- Carlos Ruiz
Ace- Brett Myers
2- Cole Hamels
3- Jamie Moyer
4- Kyle Kendrick
5- Adam Eaton
Closer- Brad Lidge
Setup- Tom Gordon, Ryan Madsen, J.C. Romero, Scott Mathieson, Clay Condrey
Hitters to Draft
Ryan Howard, 1B - One of the best sluggers in the game, and a guy who has the potential to hit 50HR every season he plays. He was awful to start last season and STILL hit 47HR and had 136RBI. In reality with Pujols' elbow injury Howard should be taken ahead of him, but in fantasy drafts, I get the feeling he won't. Howard is definitely a first round pick, and is inline for another monster season.
Jimmy Rollins, SS - 30HR, 41SB, 94RBI, 139R, plays SS. One of the best things about Rollins is that he gets better nearly every season, and is constantly developing. Probably the second SS taken over all after Hanley Ramirez.
Chase Utley, 2B - Most rank him as the best 2B in all of baseball, and even though I don't I had to put him here because this is where he would be in a 2B popularity contest. He is a lock for a .300BA, 30HR, 100+RBI and 12SB.
Shane Victorino, CF - Speedster, will play center and can motor with the best of them. He will put up some better numbers than guys like Juan Pierre and will probably still be drafted after him, based on Pierre's past reputation.
Pat Burrell, LF - A fine power hitter who is constantly overlooked because of the media scrutiny he endures playing in Philadelphia. He had a huge second half last season proving he still has it in him. He is no longer the elite slugger he was, but he is better than a guy like Raul Ibanez, who I have seen go before him in a few drafts already.
Pitchers To Draft
Cole Hamels, SP - Young stud lefty, can win games and strike guys out. He should get plenty of run support and win about 17 games when all is said and done.
Brad Lidge, CL - He will more than likely start the season on the DL, trying to rebound from knee surgery he had early in spring training. I think at worst he misses 2-3 weeks of the season, and could still wind up with 35 saves or so. We broke the injury down more thoroughly here.
Brett Myers, SP - I am nervous about the fact that he closed all of last season and now he returns to being the ace of the Phillies' staff. I realize a season of closing might have helped him build strength, however, he got hurt last year while closing and will be leaned on to pitch 200 innings in 2008. I have him listed here because he is a solid fantasy starter and people will draft him in those middle rounds. Be weary of him breaking down at some point.
Kyle Kendrick, SP - Kendrick came up and saved the season last year for the Phil's winning 10 of the 20 games he started. Kendrick could have been a rookie fluke, but I think he will be able to post stellar numbers similar to what he did last season.
Players to Avoid
Adam Eaton, SP - Awful.
Jamie Moyer, SP - I like Jamie Moyer. Veteran, terrible stuff, tons of moxie, battles, earns every victory, but he bring little to the table in the fantasy world. Moyer's High ERA, high WHIP and lack of Ks should take him off your draft board. He is no longer in his prime; don't let his name fool you.
Geoff Jenkins, RF - He is like the Nicholas Cage of baseball. He keeps on sucking and keeps finding work like he is an elite player.
Carlos Ruiz, C - A catcher with a little speed and a bit of pop played his way into a starting role last season, and never let go. He is my second favorite sleeper catcher (after my boy J.R. Towles on Houston), and I think given a full season he will put up numbers at about a 12/12 clip with 70RBI. The stolen bases is an added bonus and outside of the top 3-4 catchers, the batting average is on par with what every other catcher will do.
Pedro Feliz, 3B - Not a whole lot was made of the Feliz signing, but I think it was a very good move that strengthens an already formidable Phillies lineup. Last season while playing on one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, in one of the worst hitter's parks in baseball Feliz managed 20HR, and 72RBI. At .253 the batting average is nothing to write home, but we are talking about a sleeper here, not an All- Star. I personally think Feliz has the potential to hit 30HR, with 85RBI hitting for this team, in this line up, in that ball park. A fine pick for later in your draft to fill out your 3B or U hole, and put up better numbers than many others would expect.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
NBA injuries are piling up so fast that we at FSE are being forced to start stacking multiple guys into injury analysis columns just to get by! Let's take a look at the recent injuries to Golden State center Andris Biedrins and Portland guard Brandon Roy with a focus on the underlying fantasy impact it will have on the rest of the guys on the roster.
I think the off season saw more action for the Orioles than their regular season of 2007. They finished the 2007 campaign with a 69-93 record. The lone bright spots of the 07 season were Erik Bedard and Nick Markakis. Fast forward to the off season and what do we find in the Orioles locker room? Three players named to the Mitchell Report and the biggest bat in the line up in Houston. As if losing the best bat in the line up wasn't bad enough, they traded away their ace to Seattle. They may have gotten rid of their best players, but they did get a lot of young talent in return. Sounds like a youth movement to me and what do we use youth for in MLB? If you answered to rebuild, you are correct!
Acquired LHP Troy Patton, OF Luke Scott, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Dennis Sarfate and nonroster 3B Michael Costanzo from the Astros for SS Miguel Tejada
Acquired OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Chris Tillman, RHP Kam Mickolio and LHP Tony Butler from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for LHP Erik Bedard.
Projected Positional Starters
1B- Kevin Millar
2B- Brian Roberts
CF- Adam Jones/Jay Payton
RF- Nick Markakis
DH- Aubrey Huff/ Jay Gibbons
Projected Starting Rotation
Ace - Jeremy Guthrie
2 - Adam Loewen
3 - Daniel Cabrera
4 - Troy Patton
5 - Garrett Olson
Closer- George Sherrill
Middle Relievers - Dennis Safarte, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford
Hitters To Draft
Nick Markakis, RF
The prize of the Orioles franchise will give your fantasy team 30 Home Runs and at least 100 RBI. He will bat around .300 and shows no signs of slowing down. People expected the sophomore slump from him in 2007, but he silenced his critics with a solid season. Last season Markakis also accumulated 18 stolen bases. This adds value to him since many players who hit 30 HR and get 100 RBI do not steal bases.
Brian Roberts, 2B
He will bat around .290 and will steal you a ton of bases, since he is on the Orioles,FOR NOW, expect him to keep stealing bases since the offense in Baltimore isn't exactly the '27 Yankees. With any luck and a power burst maybe Roberts will have a 20/20 season? Keep an eye on Roberts, rumors of him heading to the Cubs have been running rampant throughout the Internet.
Melvin Mora, 3B
Has value at many positions and will be available late in your draft. He isn't a brand name baseball player and should fall to the late rounds. Provides value, he will give you around 20 HR and can steal a bag for you here and there.
Pitchers to Draft
Adam Loewen, Jeremy Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, SP
These three pitchers remind me of Verlander, Bonderman, and Robertson in Detroit. They are young, maybe even too young to be in the bigs but are taking it on the chin and learning on the job. Any of these three pitchers could emerge as an ace. Even though Cabrera had 18 losses last season you can't deny his ability. Loewen and Guthrie should compete for the opening day start, but that doesn't really make them an ace. Both of these young men had decent years last season on a team going nowhere. Look for these two pitchers to improve and maybe even develop into all stars down the road.
George Sherrill, CL
I would wait until it is official but I think Sherrill will be named the Orioles' closer during Spring Training. Sherrill had a solid season in Seattle last season posting and excellent ERA and WHIP as one of the Mariners key middle relievers. The Orioles should be pretty bad this season so Sherrill may not get many save opportunities. However, he will go late in your draft and should be a good source of cheap saves now and then.
Players to Avoid
Ramon Hernandez, C
I apologize to the fantasy owner that gets stuck with Ramon Hernandez, he doesn't really do much with the bat. Hernandez is injury prone and is coming off a poor season where he hit only 9 HRs to go along with 62 RBI. In 2008, he will hit towards the bottom of a poor Orioles lineup so I don't see him improving all that much.
Aubrey Huff, OF/DH
Huff's Power numbers have been going down every year since 2004. He was once a promising fantasy player with Tampa, but now he is fighting for playing time with Jay Gibbons and Kevin Millar. Over the past 4 seasons, Huff's HR totals have dropped from 29 to 15 while his RBIs have fallen from 104 all the way down to 72. The fact he is splitting playing time won't help his output.
Danys Baez, MR
Orioles reliever Danys Baez will undergo elbow ligament replacement ("Tommy John") surgery and will probably miss the 2008 season. The right-hander hoped to avoid surgery through an extensive rehabilitation program. However, it appears that Baez has decided to have an operation.
Adam Jones, CF
The prize in the Bedard deal looks to be the opening day starting centerfielder. He is a 5 tool player and playing next to Markakis should only make him better. He dominated the minor leagues, but had little success in his two cups of tea in the big leagues. He will turn 23 in August so it would be wise to wait on him and store him away if you are in a deep keeper league. He will be a great baseball player, but it may not be this year. Keep an eye on his spring training stats before committing to him.
Dennis Safarte, MR
Was one of the young arms included in the Tejada deal. In his limited time in 2007, he put up solid numbers. In 7 games out of the bullpen he only allowed 1 ER and struck out 14 batters. If he can have success like this over the long term in Baltimore, maybe he could be their top set up man with Baez out for the season.
Troy Patton, SP
Another quality arm acquired in the Tejada deal and looks to be in the starting rotation come April. He put up decent numbers last year in his September call up, keep an eye on him in Spring Training.
Luke Scott, LF
Never really had a position in Houston but in Baltimore will be the Orioles' starting LF. He hit 18 HR last season and with a full season has a good chance to break the 20 HR mark. Could be worth your while late in the draft as a 4th outfielder.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Mike Piazza's agent has said that the FA catcher will make a decision on if he wants to play next season and if so, for what team. Piazza has narrowed his choices down to two teams, but if he finds either not to be an ideal situation, he could choose to retire instead.
Piazza should make his decision before most drafts begin, so keep an eye on him. If he is a full time DH for an A.L. team he could put up some decent numbers, for a catcher, of course. He couldn't stay healthy in 2007, but the injury he had last season was sprained right shoulder, caused by a collision with Boston 3B Mike Lowell. If he can stay healthy this season, expect about .275AVG with 20HR with 75RBI. Tampa Bay seems like one logical choice, as does Seattle, but thats just pure speculation on my part.
Billingsley Bounced Back
The L.A. Dodger's Chad Billingsley will miss his first scheduled spring training start on Thursday, with tightness in his right groin. He will be replaced by non-roster invitee Jason Johnson
Billingsley started 20 games last season, went 12- 5 in those starts and struck out 141K in 147 innings. The Dodgers did a great job in not pushing the 24 year old too many innings last season, starting him in the bullpen and then moving him to the rotation (Look for the Yanks to do something similar with Joba Chamberlain this season). The tight groin doesn't seem like too serious of a thing, in fact manager Joe Torre said he would still throw in a simulated game on the same day. Draft him where you normally would, in that middle tier of pitchers. The biggest loser in this news is Jason Johnson getting the start for him, where he'll be knocked around and once again exposed as being horrendous.
Westbrook Misses Start
Jake Wesbrook was pulled before his scheduled spring training start Thursday because of soreness in this right (throwing) arm. Westbrook said this sort of soreness is normal for him at this time of spring training, because of the amount of bullpen sessions pitchers throw
Westbrook probably is not on your draftboard, and I don't blame you. He doesn't strike a ton of guys out, and has the ability to get lit up, and let games get out of hand quickly. He can also go on runs where he pitches very well, and can handle a line up well. Do not bother to draft Westbrook, but keep an eye on him during the season and look out for a Westbrook Hotstreak.
Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said that early on Bartolo Colon seems to be a bit ahead of where they expected him to be this soon into spring training. He will probably start his first spring game on March 9, and we should have a better idea of where he really is in his rehab/ workout program. Keep in mind he will still be a long shot to be healthy enough to travel with north (or I guess east) with the team when the season starts.
I still don't like Colon. He has never been one to workout, or even attempt to lose weight. His large frame, and lack of physical conditioning have finally caught up to him. Credit the Red Sox with taking a chance, but in this case don't expect great results.
I didn't want to do this one. I was hoping to dodge, duck and avoid this post at all costs. I was hoping we could split up the pitching and hitting. It didn't happen. So here I am, just me, the fantasy-loaded Tampa Bay roster and trusty Miller Lite. Something has got to give.
2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Rocco Baldelli/ Cliff Floyd
DH Jonny Gomes/ Cliff Floyd
3B Evan Longoria
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett
Ace- Scott Kazmir
2- James Shields
3- Matt Garza
4- Andy Sonnanstine
5- Edwin Jackson
Closer- Troy Percival
Setup- Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, Gary Glover, Grant Balfour, Juan Salas
Hitters to Draft
Carl Crawford, LF - Had another spectacular season last year, despite not showing the growth as a hitter we had seen in his previous 3 seasons. His power dipped a bit, but he is still a lock to hit .300, with 50SB, 80RBI, 90R and 10+HR. I think his power numbers will improve a bit this year and he should safely reach the 15HR plateau. Expect the RBI totals to rise a little this season, but he is a front of the order type who you shouldn't really be counting on for RBIs. He is a late first or second round pick at worst.
B.J. Upton, CF - After playing 4 positions the last few years, it looks like Upton finally has a home in centerfield and he put up the numbers to prove it last season. Upton is only 23 and already has a 20/20 season under his belt with a .300AVG to boot. He is listed as a centerfielder, but Upton will have another fantasy season of 2B eligibility, which makes him a top 3 2B pick. He is very young and is still developing in all facets of the game so look for him to build upon his 2007 campaign. He could legitimatly be taken ahead of teammate Carl Crawford.
Carlos Pena, 1B - Carlos, is what we like to refer to as a "late bloomer." It took him a while, but Pena finally lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a minor leaguer. He hit .281AVG with 46HR, and 121RBI, a very good season for any first baseman, let alone one who has bounced around from organization to organization over the last 3 seasons. Despite the great numbers, I am not sold on Pena, I need to see another season like this before I believe in him. He could drafted right after the Big 3 first baseman, or toward the end of the middle tier first baseman like Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko. I would take either of the aforementioned players ahead of Pena, because they are proven and dependable. If Pena is around in the 7th round or so, I'd take a flier on him, but I wouldn't go out of my way to draft him.
Akinori Iwamura, 2B - He showed last season he can hit a bit, and should be dependable for double digit HR and SB. He is making the move from 3B to 2B, meaning he will have multiple infield position eligibility in most leagues. He missed some time last season, so expect his second season in the majors to be better than the first given his added experience.
Pitchers To Draft
Scott Kazmir, SP - Lots of Ks, good ERA, good WHIP, not a ton of Wins and disgruntled Met's fans wondering, "What if?" Kazmir is only 24 years old and has had double digit wins for the last 3 seasons, despite his bullpen doing their best to prevent that. If Kazmir pitched on the Yankees or Red Sox he'd be surrounded with an immense amount of hype and pre- season Cy- Young predictions. Some are quieting Kazmir's stats, saying they doubt he can stay healthy, because he has been pounding on the innings at a younger age than most would like. While he has battled injury in his career, I wouldn't avoid drafting Kazmir because I thought he might get hurt.
**Injury Note - Kazmir was pulled before a Spring Training start with elbow soreness and MRI results are pending to determine the severity of the injury. Be weary of drafting Kazmir until the results come in with a diagnosis. For further analysis of the potential fantasy impact, click here.
James Shields, SP - Young arm who posted a sparkling WHIP of 1.11 and a decent strikeout rate K-ing 184 batters in 215 innings. Shields is a solid 2 starter and should improve upon his numbers in his second full season pitching in the bigs.
Troy Percival, CL - I cannot believe I am encouraging people to draft Troy Percival. Thought he was finished and left for dead, Percival came back last season and pitched remarkably well as a set up man for the St. Louis Cardinals. He managed to parlay that success into landing the closing gig for the Rays, and with 3 solid starters and an improved bullpen in front of him Percival should manage a decent amount of saves for an improving Rays team.
Matt Garza, SP - Oh.. look.. another young talented starting pitcher on the Rays... what are the chances. Garza was involved in the Delmon Young trade this off season, so he better put up good numbers considering the talent that Young is. Garza had some (what I would consider to be) weird numbers last season. He posted a solid ERA of 3.69, but also had a poor WHIP of 1.54. To be honest I don't know a ton about Garza, but I do know he should be a decent starter on a solid offensive team, making him good for 12-14 wins. Just had this thought, he might put up numbers similar to those of Greg Maddux, only with a few more Ks.
Players to Avoid
Rocco Baldelli, OF - Oft- injured outfielder, who is capable of putting up solid numbers across the board. Injuries have zapped him of a lot of the hype and potential numbers he should be able to put up. He could go into 2008 and he could hit .320AVG with 25HR, 25SB, 100RBI and 100R. Of course that would not be taking into account that he manages to hit the DL with a minor injury every year, that some how costs him the season. He is the hitting equivalent to Mark Prior. If you really want to draft him, do so late, like last round late, but please do not draft him hoping for him to contribute anything serious to your team.
Cliff Floyd, OF/DH - Uncle Cliff, the elder statesman of the group will be looked at to help out in the outfield and take some at bats as the DH. Cliff, is one of those guys who is always banged up and has put up good numbers in the past when he is completely healthy, and the older he gets, the less that happens.
Jonny Gomes, OF/DH - Combine the previous 2 postings, stir them together and you have Jonny Gomes.
Evan Longoria- Young 3B with power is being hyped as the next coming to Alex Gordon and Ryan Braun. Expect to see some numbers somewhere inbetween what those two did last season, with less stolen bases. He seems like he could be the new Eric Chavez, pre falling apart.
Dioner Navarro, C - The catcher who seems like he has been around for ever, is really only 24, and a switch hitter and had a big second half last season. I was reluctant to put him here because he is the popular sleeper pick for many fantasy previews, but he cannot be ignored. Personally I would wait later in the draft and take J.R. Towels from Houston, the uber- sleeper. If you don't want to believe me, trust everyone else and take Navarro late, he should put up some fine numbers for a young catcher.
Andy Sonnanstine, SP - Control pitcher, who had a fine WHIP of 1.35 last season, but was bitten relentlessly by the HR ball, as most young pitchers are. He posted consistently good ERA and WHIP number in the minors, but as the trend shows in the majors, was prone to the HR ball. The developing youngster is penciled into the 4 hole in the rotation, and could be a decent guy to take later in your draft but expect to see growing pains and inconsistency at times.
Justin Ruggiano, OF - Had a big season last year in AAA, and should get some at bats in right field this season by default. Gomes, and Floyd are both injury plagued wastes and Baldelli should be a DH. Ruggiano went 20/20 for AAA Durham last year, with a .300AVG and an OPS of .888. If he can get the at bats he could be in for a fine season.
Al Reyes, MR - Late/ last round pick, could be in line for saves if Percival can't stay healthy.
Dan Wheeler, MR - Late/ last round pick could be in line for saves if Percival can't stay healthy. At worst, is a good set up man if your league counts holds.
The season ending injury to Yao Ming, a consensus first or second round pick, has left many fantasy rosters in a state of disarray. Unfortunately, the center position is not particularly deep and the waiver wire tends to be absent of quality big men at this point in the season.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Spring Training Fantasy News and Notes: Closers On The Mend, (Baltimore, Toronto), Oakland, Minnesota
Going His Ray
Baltimore Oriole's closer Chris Ray said his rehab is going well and he expects to stick to his current throwing program. He said he was pleased with how his elbow was feeling and hoping for a late season comeback.
While it is good that Ray feels his rehab is going well, it does not look like he will be worth drafting this season. Best case scenario calls for an August return (at best) for the O's closer, meaning most of the season will be over by then. George Sherrill, obtained in the Erik Bedard trade, is the preseason favorite to get saves for the O's this season. Keep an eye on Jamie Walker as well on Baltimore, as he might gather a save or two as well over the season. If you want, keep an eye on Ray's health, grab him in July, stash him on your team's DL and hope he returns by the season. Of course even if he does comeback by the end of the year there is no guarantee he will get saves.
Ryan Could Be Ready
Only ten months removed from Tommy John surgery it is looking more and more like B.J. Ryan could be ready for opening day. Manager John Gibbons said, "We're being cautious about it. We've got the okay from the doctors. But I'll tell you what, from what I've seen, he hasn't missed a beat."
If Ryan's surgeon gives him the go ahead he could throw batting practice Thursday and work a simulated game as early as Sunday. While it may seem like the Jays are rushing him along, it should be noted that Gibbons also stated, "...we're being smart about it... we don't want any setbacks."
For the next few weeks, Ryan will only be allowed to throw every once every three days.
As he comes back more and more and proves he is healthy and ready, he will be allowed to throw the ball more often. As of right now, I think he is a decent late round pick for a closer, most people will avoid him because he has been hurt, but he is healing quickly and by season's start he might be able to throw every other day. Draft Jeremy Accardo also, who was the closer last season when Ryan got hurt, if you want to "handcuff" the closers on Toronto.
Bobby Bubbling For Season to Start
Oakland A's SS Bobby Crosby says he is completely healthy for the first time in a while and is looking forward to getting the regular season underway. Crosby has battled numerous injuries over career. Amongst other things, Crosby's five stints on the DL include a chronically bad back, broken left hand, and a stress fractures to his ribs.
Crosby is a disaster. He has never hit above .276 in a season, and has not played in more than 96 games in the last three seasons. He appears to be more of apart of the Oakland A's Hypemachine, than the All-Star player many thought he would become just a few years ago. The injuries are many, the games are few, and batting average is low.
If he wasn't on the A's I doubt anyone would even consider drafting him. He is is not a good fantasy option. Please do not draft him.
Overbay Hopes He Is Over It
Toronto 1b Lyle Overbay hopes to know soon if his fractured right hand is fully healed yet. Overbay broke his right hand last June and limited to only 122 games. He hit only.240, well below his mark of .312 that he hit in 2006. "My strength is there," said Overbay, "so its just a matter of making sure it doesn't flare up too much."
Overbay could still be a solid fantasy 1B, if he can over come the broken hand form last season. He will go under the radar in most drafts, and could be a decent sleeper. Do not expect anything overwhelming from him, but .300m with 17HR, 85RBI, isn't totally out of the realm of possibility.
A Lamb In Minnesota
The early word out of Minnesota has many predicting that Mike Lamb will be the team's most productive 3B since Corey Koskie. Lamb has been around a while, and has been able to produce at almost every team he has played with. Last season he hit 311 with 11HR, 40RBI and 45R. If you roughly double the at bats, to account for a full season you are looking at 22HR, 80RBI and 90R.
I love Lamb as a sleeper this season at 3B. He is awful defensively but (in most leagues) Errors don't count against players. Minnesota even signed defensive whiz Adam Everett to play SS, to help account for some of the shortcomings they will have to deal with from Lamb. He should fit in well in Minnesota, and should be counted on to put up very respectable by season's end.
It was revealed today that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. The news comes at a time when the Rockets are enjoying a 12 game winning streak and playing their best basketball of the season. This injury is a crushing blow to the Rockets playoff chances in the loaded and super competitive western conference.
The D-Rays shut down ace Scott Kazmir for a few weeks after he experienced discomfort and swelling in his elbow warming up for a spring training start. The Rays went ahead and scheduled an MRI for later in the day and his status will be updated on Wednesday.
I would move Kazmir down on my draft board a bit. He has had chronic elbow soreness, and battled injury for a few years now. When healthy, he is an elite strikeout pitcher and an ace, but it looks like his small stature and frame, might finally be catching up with him. Generally elbow and forearm soreness are a clear indicator of one thing, a need to ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery.
This reminds me of what happened a few season ago with Francsico Liriano. He experienced elbow soreness and they tried to rest it to get it better. Eventually all it did was wind up delaying the inevitable Tommy John surgery.
I might be wrong and he might be healthy the entire season, and put up his normal dominating numbers. But, going into your fantasy draft, is it really worth it to risk to have a potential ace go down in the middle or end of the season needing surgery? I would go with a safer pick like Roy Oswalt or John Lackey instead or risking it on Kazmir, when there is really no need to take him. No one would bash or mock you for avoiding Kazmir or skipping over him come draft time.
The Houston Rockets might be the NBA's hottest team having won 12 games in a row, but just suffered a big loss. All-Star center Yao Ming has suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and will miss the rest of the season. Yao was having a career year averaging 22 points and near 11 rebounds a game on the season.
The only other center listed on Houston's roster is 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo, and it is doubtful they would want to turn to him in anything more than in a reserve role.
We recently praised the work of Joakim Noah and if he is available in your league we say go out and get him. We explain more in the aforementioned link.
If he is available in your league, we have also talked up Josh Boone. Boone is a bit inconsistent, but can be good for 13 points and 7 boards on any given night
Much more on Yao's injury and the fantasy implications in a few minutes when we get out of work and don't have to worry about bosses seeing us...
ESPN is reporting that Gerald Wallace continues to experience post-concussion symptoms and is scheduled to see a neurologist later in the week to undergo a new battery of tests. Wallace was knocked unconscious in Friday's game against Sacramento, catching an elbow from Mikki Moore. He was originally expected to be out 2 weeks, but after continuing to feel lingering effects of his fourth concussion in four seasons, the timetable for his return has likely has been extended to at least a month.
When Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They are a Changin", maybe just maybe he was writing about the 2008 Twins. Gone are the faces of the franchise, Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and young starter Matt Garza. In are a mix of reliable journeymen and young potential superstars. The Twins were one of the most active teams this off season, we will try to match the names to the faces for you kind of like Bob Uecker in "Major League".
Acquired OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Philip Humber, RHP Kevin Mulvey and RHP Deolis Guerra from the New York Mets for LHP Johan Santana.
Signed RHP Livan Hernandez to a one-year contract.
Acquired OF Craig Monroe from the Cubs for a player to be named.
Signed SS Adam Everett to a one-year contract for the 2008 season.
Signed 3B Mike Lamb to a two-year contract with an option for the 2010 season.
Traded RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Barlett and RHP Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay for OF Delmon Young, IF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie.
Projected Positional Starters
C- Joe Mauer
1B- Justin Morneau
2B- Brendan Harris
SS- Adam Everett
3B- Mike Lamb
LF- Delmon Young
CF- Carlos Gomez
RF- Michael Cuddyer
DH- Jason Kubel
Ace- Francisco Liriano
4 - Livan Hernandez
5 - Kevin Slowey
CL- Joe Nathan
Middle Relievers - Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes
Hitters to Draft
Justin Morneau, 1B
Back to back 30 HR 100 RBI seasons makes him one of the top first basemen in baseball. You really can't go wrong with the 2006 MVP, he is one of the bright stars in MLB today.
Joe Mauer, C
If he stays healthy he should bat around .300 and give you decent power numbers. His career high in HR is 13 and hasn't driven in 100 RBI yet in his career. The only question mark with Mauer is his health. The catching position is thin and Mauer is an upper tier catcher.
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Solid Fantasy outfielder will put up decent, real life baseball numbers and will be a good late round pick up if you ignored your outfielders during your draft.
Delmon Young, LF
Young was the AL runner up in Rookie of the Year Balloting, batting .288 with 13 homers and 93 RBI in his first season. It will be hard to replace Torii Hunter's 20/20 seasons and solid RBI numbers. Young could turn into a Torri Hunter type in the Twins outfield. Hopefully his off the field problems remain off the field.
Pitchers to Draft
Joe Nathan, CL
Probably the best closer in the game, he averages 3 blown saves a season over the past 4 years! Last season he had 77 K's in 71 IP and he racked up 37 saves. There are a lot of rumors of Nathan leaving Minnesota at some point in the season. He will probably be the first closer drafted in you league, if you are lucky to get him go for it! He is a low risk stud out of the pen.
Francisco Liriano, SP
Even though he missed all of the 2007 season due to an elbow injury, Liriano still is the sexy pick of all the pitchers in MLB. He was dominant in his rookie season before his arm failed him. He threw in 34 games, started 20 and won 13. He struck out 177 batters in his 34 games in 2006. Look for him to become a big time strike out pitcher in the AL.
Scott Baker, SP
He showed marked improvement late in the season in 2007 and looks to be one of the Twins top starters. Don't put too much stock in his final numbers from 2007, break it down monthly to see how well he really pitched.
Players to Avoid
Adam Everett, SS
Hopefully you don't paint yourself into a corner during your draft and forge to draft a shortstop. Adam Everett is not a reliable pick at shortstop. A very Vanilla player with a career .248 AVG.
Mike Lamb, 3B
Very underrated third basemen, he will give you an average around .290 and will hit double digit home runs for you. He's not a sexy name at third, but he could fill a blank if you have an injury or a poor draft.
Carlos Gomez, CF
Was acquired in the Santana deal and his speed could make him the everyday center fielder in Minnesota for a long time. He once stole 64 bases in the Minors and playing on turf will help his batting average. He has blazing speed and could have a break out year.
Kevin Slowey, SP
In 2007 at AAA Slowey was 10-5 with a 1.89 ERA and a WHIP of .89. He started 20 games and complete five. He rocketed threw the Twins system and came up for a few starts in 2007. He went 4-1, but his ERA was over 4. Remember this is his 4th year is pro ball and he has a lot to learn. But if you look at his learning curve, you can see he has learned a lot and could be the future of the Twins rotation.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Manager John McLaren wants All-Star centerfielder Ichiro Suzuki to run more this season, telling reporters he believes he can reach, 80 steals for the season.
We all know Ichiro is great for Hits, AVG and SB. Well, if his own manager is telling him to run more, that might be something to note and get excited about. I doubt he'll reach 80, his previous high was 56), but it shows he'll always have the green light to do what he wishes on the base paths. With the amount of times Ichiro gets on base, it wouldn't be surprising to see him challenge the previous Mariner's record for SB in a season, held by Harold Reynolds with 60.
Mike Hampton Feeling Good
It's February and March is quickly approaching, which can only mean one thing. MIKE HAMPTON IS ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL AGAIN!! Hampton has battled elbow injuries, and more recently a hamstring injury while playing winter ball but finally looks like he is ready to give it a Major League go again. Hampton said his elbow feels fine, but his hamstring does give him some problems when throwing. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger just a bit, and if Atlanta plans on being cautious and pace Hampton along they might hold him back a bit in Spring training until he is totally healthy.
Hampton might actually be a decent bet to bounce back if he can stay healthy, and as always thats a big IF. If you are one of those drafters who wants to take a flier on a late round veteran, instead of a younger pitcher with upside, than take Hampton. I think he has the potential to better than a guy like Bartolo Colon. Colon is an aging power pitcher, who has lost a lot of his power. Hampton is more of a finesse guy, who relies on control and movement to get hitters out.
Kevin Millwood... Not So Good
Kevin Millwood was scratched from his first scheduled spring training start because of... get this... a hamstring injury. Millwood had a career high 5.16ERA last season, to go along with two stints on the DL. At 33 he mght be aging quickly, and his years of being a workhorse, might finally be catching up to him.
Millwood has been a decent pitcher for most of his career, Millwood might be on the downside at 33. Playing in a hitter's park in Texas certainly won't help his numbers either. Avoid Millwood at draft time. Let someone else take him, too early, because of his past accomplishments on far better teams.
Wells; Have Arm Will Pitch
David Wells' agent Greg Clifton has apparently contact the St. Louis Cardinals, asking if they would have interest in signing the 44-year-old lefty. The Cardinals declined the offer, showing they have more of a desire to use their young pitchers to fill any spots vacated by injury.
Always good to see Boomer Wells looking for work. If he does wind up signing with a team, avoid him at draft time. He is useless.
Brian Roberts Rumors to the Cubs
The Brian Roberts to the Cubs rumors are quickly becoming like the villain in a horror flick. They just won't die. SI.com's Jon Heyman says that the potential trade still has a little life, and that the Orioles' are monitoring different players in the Cub's farm system. Other rumors have the deal being closer than that. Some say all Baltimore has to do is select the players they would want from Chicago to get a deal involving the 2B completed
You have to wonder if this is some how tied to Mark DeRosa recently being hospitalized with a rapid heartbeat during spring training drills. We have said here that the thing keeping the Cubs from getting to that next level as an offensive team, is having a bat like Roberts at the top of the order.
Brandon Phillips will be settle in the 4hole in the Cincinnati Reds lineup next season and will be counted on less to hit in the 2 and 3 spots in the lineup. Manager Dusty Baker wants to break up the devastating homerun tandem of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, who both bat lefty. The line up would put Griffey in the 3hole, Phillips in the 4hole and Dunn in the 5hole.
Most people don't realize it but Phillips went 30/30 last season for the Reds, and is only 26-years-old, so it's not like they are putting some veteran castoff like Rich Aurilia or Scott Hatteburg in the cleanup spot again. Phillips hit .288AVG. with 94RBI and 107R. He should be able to not only duplicate these numbers, but build on them. He said some advise he got from Griffey Jr. really helped him last season.
"Griffey told me, 'Don't limit yourself because you don't know how good you are,"' Phillips said. "Honestly, I didn't know I was capable of doing things like that. I know I can play this game. I never doubted myself. My goal was to be 20-20. I didn't think I would exceed my goal by that much. I knew I could hit 30 homers, I knew I was capable, but I didn't think I was going to do it last year."
Griffey Jr. giving him this advise is a bit ironic, because some of Phillips' success next season will depend on Griffey staying healthy and in the lineup on a consistent basis. Look for Phillips to have another fine season, with perhaps less steals. A 30/25 100-100 season should be a near lock for Phillips', who I have ranked as the top 2B in baseball.
Barry Bonds might not be sitting out Spring Training too much longer. Tampa Bay Manager Joe Madden admitted recently that the Rays have had internal discussions about pursuing Bonds to play for the Rays in 2008. We will go through the positives, the negatives and of course dissect all of the Fantasy Implications.
Positive- The Rays get a patient hitter in the middle of their line up, that the rest of the young line up can learn from. The Rays have a very formidable offense now, but they strikeout too often and draw enough walks, not often enough. Having a guy like Bonds in the lineup could really help some of the younger hitters to be more selective when going to plate, in an attempt to draw more walks.
The Rays line up with Bonds would probably look something like this:
- 2B Akinori Iwamura
- LF Carl Crawford
- CF B.J. Upton
- DH Barry Bonds
- 1B Carlos Pena
- RF Rocco Baldelli/Cliff Floyd
- 3B Evan Longoria
- C Dioner Navarro
- SS Jason Bartlett
It was pretty clear that with the trade of Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes the Rays were trying to rid themselves of some of the bad apples they had in their system. Bringing in a guy like Bonds would bring back all the negative media attention they had from last season and then some.
This is a best case scenario for Bonds. He would be going to an A.L. team where he would be allowed to DH, as well going into one of the best lineups he has played in, in his entire career. His protection would be 1B Carlos Pena, who clubbed 46HR last season and had 121RBI. Hitting in front of him would be Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, two young speedsters also have a decent amount of pop and would thrive having a guy like Bonds to protect them in the lineup.
If Bonds signs with Tampa Bay, think you should expect 30HR, and 100RBI. If he was just going to be a DH with a decent team it would be one thing. But he is going to have a lot of protection around him and would also be giving protection to Tampa's young core of studs.
Bonds will go in the middle rounds if this deal happens, and he would be worth it there. Infact, he might even be a bargan there
Last season the Pirates finished the season at 68-94 and had the second to worst record in baseball behind the Tampa Rays. Does this team have any players with fantasy value? The answer is yes!
Notable Off-Season Moves
Signed Doug Mientkiewicz to a minor league deal. Doug adds leadership, a great glove and post season experience to a very young team.
Traded Solomon Torres to the Brewers, solidifying Matt Capps as the closer and Damaso Marte as the set up man.
Projected Positional Starters
C- Ronnie Paulino/ Ryan Doumit
1B- Adam Laroche
2B- Freddy Sanchez
3B- Jose Bautista
SS- Jack Wislon
LF- Jason Bay
CF- Nyjer Morgan/ Nate McLouth
RF- Xavier Nady
Projected Starting Rotation
Ace- Tom Gorzelanny
2- Ian Snell
3- Paul Maholm
4- Matt Morris
5- Zack Duke
Closer- Matt Capps
Set Up Men- Damaso Marte, Byung-Hyun Kim, and John Grabow
Also Invited to Camp:
Jaret Wright - Has a lot to prove, check his numbers this spring and see if he still has it.
Casey Fossum- He was once traded for Curt Schilling so he must be good...
Hitters to Draft
Adam Laroche, 1B - If you get overwhelmed during your draft and look at your sheet in the 18th round and see you don't have a first baseman, Adam Laroche will save the day. Look for LaRoche to give you 20 HR and about 80 RBI.
Xavier Nady, RF - The X man can hit for power and will give you numbers similar to LaRoche. X is a good fifth outfielder or bench guy you can plug into the DH/U spot of your lineup from day to day.
Freddy Sanchez, 2B - Underrated second basemen here. The second base position is deep with studs, however, don't worry if you don't get one, Sanchez will be around after the dust clears. Hollywood Freddy will give you an average around .300 with some runs scored and RBIs and will not hurt you in the field.
Pitchers to Draft
Tom Gorzelanny, SP - The man who has done everything Zack Duke was supposed to do but didn't. Gorzelanny posted a career high last season with 14 wins. He is steadily improving in his young career. 135 strikeouts isn't too bad and won't kill you if you make him your number 3 or 4 starter.
Matt Capps, CL - Solomon Torres out! Matty Capps in! The Holds virtuoso is now the Pirates closer. Following in the footsteps of Rivera, Lidge and K Rod. Will Capps be the next big time closer? Last season he was 18/21 in save opportunities and posted a 2.28 ERA. I consider him a top closer and he will be around late in your draft.
Ian Snell, SP - He should have double digit wins and looks to be following the footsteps of Oliver Perez. Show great stuff every once in a while and be stuck in Pittsburgh. He will also provide a boost in your teams strikeouts and his ERA should be in the mid 3's.
Players to Avoid
Matt Morris, SP - He's old, has an ERA near five, is stuck in Pittsburgh and doesn't have dazzling stuff.
Zack Duke, SP - You would think he was traded to the American League the way he has been pitching. Duke just hasn't panned out in the big leagues and is losing favor in Pittsburgh. Maybe a change of scenery will help this young man get his career going.
Nyjer Morgan, CF - The young center fielder could be the next big base stealer in the major leagues. In the minors he stole over twenty bases at every level and even stole 59 in 2006! If he can show he can hit big league pitching he may be the next Juan Pierre. Last season in his September call up he batted 299 and had 7 stolen bases in 28 games.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
According to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, the Red Sox have signed former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon to a minor league contract. Colon will not be needed to be the ace he once was, but he should serve as insurance, should Curt Schilling not be able to come back from shoulder problems.
Colon is no longer the pitcher he was, and should not be viewed as such. He was linked to many teams this off season, and many teams have shied away because his stuff just wasn't there. If he can continue to make his way back from shoulder problems and get to throwing in the low 90s again he could be a decent starter, who could win a bunch of games given Boston's formidable offense.
Personally I think he is done. He has been injury plagued and ineffective the last few seasons, and for so many teams to walk away after seeing him throw, it tells you there must be something wrong. There are too many ifs that have to go right for Colon to again be an effective Major League starter. Ignore him come draft and take a chance on a younger starter with upside, like Andy Sonnanstine on Tampa, or Jesse Litsch on Toronto.
Phillie's closer Brad Lidge will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will miss 3-6 weeks, following a fluke injury that occured on Saturday. Lidge caught his spike on the mound throwing his first pitch of batting practice and immediately called trainers to the field and hobbled off after throwing just one more pitch. Manager Charlie Manuel said Tom Gordon would close if Lidge isn't ready by Opening Day.
Lidge might miss the beginning of the season, but I don't think this changes his fantasy value very much, in fact it might actually help out. He could miss the first week or two of the season, but I could see people might let his value fall in a draft like he is out for the season. You might wind up getting a 40save guy 3-4 rounds after where he should be going. Don't worry about the knee getting hurt again, its better off this happened now and he had the surgery to fix it, than in the middle of April of May, when he would miss a greater piece of the season. He will have to deal with soreness in the knee throughout the season, but thats not something that should significantly effect his value.
You should take Lidge in your draft, and then Tom Gordon near the end if you are in a Head to Head league and every save could be the difference between a win and a loss. I have used this before, but its a lot like "handcuffing" RBs on a team in football, as an insurance policy.
Spring Training Fantasy News and Notes: Atlanta, New York (Yankees), New York (Mets), Baltimore, Anheim, Boston
We once again look at all the websites to find the news and notes that will help you prepare for your fantasy season.
The Braves showed their confidence in Yunel Escobar this off season when they traded veteran Edgar Renteria, to Detroit, and handed him the SS job. Last year in 319 atbats Escobar hit .326AVG with 5HR, 5SB, 28RBI and 54R. Braves' hitters have commented early in camp about how Yunel looks bigger an stronger in camp, and will hit for more power this season.
I checked out Yunel's minor league stats and didn't find anything overwhelming that would tell me he is going to be the stud the Braves predict him to be. He never hit for much power, or stole an overwhelming amount of bases. That being said, the Atlanta Braves are a much better evaluator of talent than I am. Draft Yunel as a SS in your league, who should also have 2B eligibility, and enjoy a player who will get a ton of hits (if your league counts Hits as a stat), and what could max out at being a .300AVG with 15HR and 15SB.
Keying In On Kei
Yankees manager and pitching coach Dave Eiland are encouraged by the early work of Kei Igawa early on in Yankee camp. Igawa said he needed to throw more, to keep a better feel of his pitches and where they are going, and how to control them. So, the Yanks are going to let him throw as much as he wants. This looks like more then just Yankee hype. There were rumors of Igawa being asked for in various trades all winter, so other teams believe in his stuff and his ability to get hitters out on the major league level.
Igawa could be a fantasy sleeper this season. Draft him late, and see what he can do for your team. The Yankee rotation is very delicate, and with youngsters like Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy along side Mike Mussina, who struggled to great degrees throughout last season, Igawa could find himself back in the starting rotation. Remember the Yanks are dedicated to easing Joba Chamberlain into the rotation later in the year, making Igawa the first guy they would go to if someone got hurt, was ineffective, or needed more seasoning in the minors.
The Mets are going to keep a closer eye on Jose Reyes this season, in an attempt to keep him fresher down the stretch. The Mets say they plan on communicating with Reyes more, and have asked veterans to assist Reyes in getting through the many ups and downs of the long baseball season. Reyes was awful in the second half last year, and was one of the many reasons for the Mets' historic collapse down the stretch.
Generally, when a team says they plan on resting a player more during the season, it is reason to downgrade a player's value. In this case the occasional day off early in the season will probably be good for Reyes, if it keeps him fresh, later in the season. You would probably sacrifice the occasional Sunday start from Reyes in May and June if it meant he would be more effective in the month of September. Head to head owners, take note of this change, and keep an eye on days when the Mets may want to give Reyes a breather
Oriole's Closer Hex Continues
George Sherrill, the early favorite to land the closer's gig in Baltimore sat out Saturday's practice to receive treatment on an ailing hamstring. O's manager Dave Trembley said Sherrill was day to day but expected him to be ready for their Spring Training opener against the Marlins on Wednesday.
Last season the Orioles lost closer Chris Ray, and then his replacement Danys Baez to Tommy- John surgery. By season's end Jamie Walker was the closer by default, and actually did pretty well. The O's will want to make sure that Sherrill is completely healthy before he gets out on the mound again, that being said, these hamstring injuries have a bad tendency to stick around longer than they expect to. You shouldn't draft Sherrill with the hope that he will definitely be the closer, keep an eye on Walker as well as he could be inline for saves as well
Angel's SS Platoon
It looks like early indication out of Angel's camp has Erick Ayabar and Maicer Izturez sharing SS duties this season. Manager Mike Scioscia said, "They may play 80 games each during the season. There's nothing we're ruling out at this point.
I really don't like Erick Ayabar, as a fantasy sleeper, like many other people do. Please do not draft him, he won't be that good at all. The only stat he offers a better than average skill at is SB and the Angel's already have plenty of speed in their line up, so they won't need a SS hitting .250AVG, to add another 30SB to the total.
Julio Lugo Ready To Go
Lugo had an awful season in 2007, and was much maligned in both reality and fantasy. Lugo knows he struggled last season, and is looking forward to putting his struggles behind him and playing with more confidence in 2008.
Lugo did manage to hit .280AVG in the second half last season, and aside from AVG posted solid numbers for a SS. He hit 8HR (not great), but had 73RBI, 71R and 33SB. Lugo really bottomed out last season, so expect better numbers in 2008, especially hitting in a potent Red Sox lineup. He is a GREAT sleeper candidate who will go much later than he should in a draft. He is going to be a top 10 SS at season's end, and probably will around later then he should.
The Giants have given 1B candidate Dan Ortmeier a full time tutor to help him in his transition to first, a good indication that they are committed to giving him serious playing time there to start the season. Former Giants 1B J.T. Snow has been assisting Ortmeier learn the nuances and intricacies of playing first, as well as things to look for and expect.
We listed Ortmeier as a potential sleeper in our Giants season preview, but he could put up Lyle Overbay type numbers a whole lot later than Overbay will go in your league's draft. Read on and you'll see why you should take Ortmeier ahead of Casey Kotchman as well.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Look out Casey Kotchman lovers, the Angels plan on giving Juan Rivera an extended look over at first base. It looks like the Angels might be hoping to platoon Rivera and Kotchman over at first base. Kotchman hit a limited number of homeruns last season for a 1B (11HR), and hit none against lefties. This could be the Angels way of lighting a fire under Kotchman, or it could mean there is a platoon in the works. In Rivera's last full season (2006) he hit 23 HR with 85 RBI, more important in this case, he had a .970 OPS against left handed pitching.
This is the exact opposite of what the Giants are doing for Ortmeier. Move Kotchman off of your potential sleepers for first base. The season hasn't even started yet, and the Angels are showing they do not have faith in the young hitter. This could also be a signal that there still might be something to those Paul Konerko rumors we heard earlier this winter.
Posted by Phil at 2:37 AM
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger's shortstop Rafael Furcal says that he is "feeling 100 percent" entering Spring Training and is healthier than he was all last season. Many people forget that Furcal started last season on the DL, with a sprained ankle he suffered late in Spring Training.
Furcal is terrific sleeper SS, who will go later in the draft than he should. He was a top 3-4 SS before the ankle injury zapped him of his ability to put solid swings on the ball, and hurt his speed on the base paths. He put up numbers far below what we are used to seeing from him, so expect him to come back and reestablish himself as not only one of the best SS in the game, but one of the best players.
Posted by Phil at 2:31 AM
St. Louis Cardinals
Manager Tony La Russa announced that the team would be limiting Albert Pujols' spring training at bats, and his involvement in certain throwing drills to minimize the strain on his right elbow tendon. La Russa also indicated he would like to try to find more off time for the slugger during the regular season to try and help him stay fresh throughout the season.
We reported on Pujol's injury earlier, and this is another clear indication that the Cardinals are worried about the status on Albert's elbow tendon. This is another indication that it might be worth your while to pass on Pujols in the first round of your fantasy draft
Cubs Line Up Shake Up
Manager Lou Piniella has announced plans to hit Japanese import right fielder, Kosuke Fukudome in the 3 hole, moving 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Aramis Ramirez down a spot in the line up, into the 4 and 5 holes respectively. The move would accomplish a few things. First, it would allow Fukudome to hit in a spot in the line up where he is most comfortable hitting, and that might help him better transition into the Major Leagues. It also allows Piniella to get a left handed bat in the middle of the line up, some thing the Cubs desperately need to break up the mostly right handed line up. As currently constructed the Cubs line up would look something like this:
LF Alfonso Soriano-R
SS Ryan Theriot- R
RF Kouke Fukudome- L
1B Derrek Lee- R
3B Aramis Ramirez- R
2B Mark DeRosa- R
C Geovany Soto- R
CF Felix Pie (for now)
Looking at the line up the big thing that is missing would be a hard nosed 2B, to hit second in the line up, who is a switch hitter, has plenty speed, and can hit the occasional HR. His name is Brian Roberts and he plays in Baltimore. The Cubs are serious about winning, and need to make a move to get Roberts. He can take their offense over the top, from very good, to one of the elite in baseball.
That being said, even without Roberts, Lee and Ramirez are both elite players at their positions, and I like the idea of Fukudome starting off in the 3 hole. He gets good protection, and is in a place to succeed.
Dallas Does Marlin's Camp
Buster Olney reports that Dallas McPherson has opened some eyes early in the Marlins' camp. He is competing with Jose Castillo and Jorge Cantu for the starting 3B gig, with the Marlins, replacing Miguel Cabrera.
McPherson showed glimpses of great power in his minor league, specifically in 2004, when he combined to hit 40 dingers sharing time in both AA and AAA for the Anaheim Angels. He is coming off of back surgery to remove a herniated disc that cost him all of 2007, and is looking to get his career back on the right path.
The Marlins are auditioning McPherson, Jose Castillo and Jorge Cantu at 3B this spring, in the hopes that one of them can can step up and post decent offensive numbers, while playing good enough defense not to hurt the team. All three are known to be very talented but have proven to be little more than perennial underachievers, due to lack of focus, or just bad luck caused by injury. I actually like Cantu to come out as the winner here. He has a smooth swing and played decently enough for the Reds last season, despite limited at bats. Cantu would be my pick of the three to be a good sleeper in your draft this season.
Posted by Phil at 2:15 AM
Derek Jeter said he changed his off season work regiment to include more agility, speed, and lateral movement drills. Jeter said that last season he had a lot of problems with his legs, and wanted to be able to get back some quickness and explosiveness that he lacked for parts of last season.
All to often players get older and don't realize, or ignore the fact that they are slipping in parts of the game. At the age of 33, going on 34, it looks like Jeter knows and understands his body is getting older and he is doing the right things to combat it. Keep in mind he hit .322BA last season, with 12HR, 73RBI, 15SB and 102R. Not bad numbers for a SS who battled injuries, and was apart of a line up that really struggled to get it going the first 2 months of the season. Look for his SB total to rise this season, and for him to put up his typical numbers across the board.
Posted by Phil at 2:11 AM
J.D. Drew Looks to Bounce Back
J.D. Drew has been around for years now, and has established himself as being a few things. Injury prone, a guy who enjoys a day off now and then, money hungry, and a talent on the ball field. He can hit and plays a good outfield, no matter where he is positioned. The injuries and rumors of having a poor attitude have always held him back and prevented him from becoming an elite player, and has just kept him at the "very good player." For all that Drew does, the media and fans let him know about it, and its rare that he does something without it hitting the news. Most of the time I would love to pile on more Drew bashing right now, and tell you why he is a terrible ball player and human being, but I won't. I actually think Drew will be an excellent sleeper pick this season.
Drew struggled in his first season in Boston, partially because it was his first season in the AL and he had difficulty adjusting to the new pitching. The other reason is much more serious, it stems from his 1 year old son, jack, undergoing extensive surgery to correct a developmental displacement of his hips. The operation left Jack in a cast for 6 weeks, and even the most ardent Drew hater can see how that can effect anybody's performance in any profession they have.
I like Drew to have the season this year he was supposed to have last season. 25HR and 85-90RBI I don't think are out of the question. Keep in mind Drew had a huge September and hit a huge grandslam in the ALCS. That shows that by the end of the year, he was getting his head clear, and making the appropriate adjustments.
Posted by Phil at 2:06 AM