Friday, February 22, 2008

Spring Training Fantasy News and Notes: Philadelphia, Florida, Chicago (Cubs), Red Sox, Cleveland, New York (Yankees)


Lidge Throwing Well

ESPN.com's Buster Olney is reporting in his blog today that news out of Philly's camp is that Brad Lidge is throwing really well. "The ball is coming out of his hand really well," said one evaluator.

Not sure if this actually means anything, however Lidge's problem has never been his stuff, it has been his ability to locate his stuff and throw strikes. All to often last season when he did manage to throw strikes, he was catching too much of the strikezone and the ball wound up going a long way. That being said, the only other guy the Phillie's have to lose would be Tom Gordon, so even if he struggles, figure Lidge to finish wish with around 35 saves.

Dallas Does Marlin's Camp

Olney also 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.

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.

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.

Victor Martinez Is Ripped

Won't go too crazy with this one, but word has it V-Mart showed up at the Cleveland Indian's spring training in tremendous shape. He lost 10lbs and added muscle to his frame. This could help his stamina over the course the long season, and build on his .301AVG with 25HR, and 114RBI. If he wasn't one of your top 2-3 catchers to draft he should be now. A few seasons ago Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was showing the ominous signs of age and slowing down, until current Yankee manager Joe Girardi suggest he lose weight in the off season. Posada dropped the pounds and has rebounded back to become an elite catcher once again, despite his age (35). V-Mart was already on top, and the weight loss, can only help him as a hitter and as a catcher.

J-J: Joba and Jeter Make Some News At Yankee Camp


Joba

Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain has come to camp ready to pitch, and he doesn't care if it's out of the bullpen, or as a starer. It's good to see a young pitcher ready to help out a team in whatever way he can, putting his ego to the side for the good of the organization. When asked if he would rather start of relieve, Chamberlain told reporters, "It doesn't matter to me. Just to be thought of in both aspects I think is an honor."

There has been speculation on both sides as to where Joba's greatest strength would be on the Yankees. We speculated that Joba's greatest strength lies in the bullpen, as the main bridge to Mariano Rivera, and eventually supplanting him as the Yankee closer. Others say that the Yankee rotation is suspect and Joba's arm would be needed to keep it together, and help them
challenge the Red Sox for AL East supremacy.

No matter what he is doing Joba should be a decent guy to draft this season. If he starts the season in the bullpen, he should be a good for ERA, WHIP and if your league counts them, Holds. If he starts the season as a starting pitcher, he should be good for Wins and Ks, and probably ERA and WHIP, although we haven't seen what he can do over the course of 6-7 innings. There were other sayings that he would start as a reliever, and then be moved to a starting role as the season progressed. Either way he is going to be really good and you should draft him.

Jeter

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.

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