Like many of you, my countdown to draft day is in full effect. Only 11 days from today I will sit down with some of the best in the industry and draft my NFBC main event team. I’m literally like a child awaiting Christmas morning. If draft day doesn’t get you completely pumped up, maybe you should consider another hobby. Months of hard work, research and preparation are all culminating in four hours of raw emotions. You’ll experience joy, excitement, heartbreak, anger, anticipation and hopefully—if you’ve prepared well enough—satisfaction and pride. This truly is one of my favorite days of the entire year.
While most of the fluff and hoopla of spring training should be taken with a grain of salt, there are a few important things to take note of. Injuries, no matter how small, should at least be given some of your attention, especially from players who are perennially facing some sort of ailment. Minor spring injuries can often linger or lead to bigger problems throughout the season. The impact this has on your draft board depends on how risk averse you may be.
Another thing that I focus on during these spring games is open position battles. Again, one of the most important keys to success is to maximize your potential at-bats during the season. If you can choose the player on the right side of a platoon or time share, or one who could blossom into a full-time role, then you are ahead of the game.
From what I have observed thus far in spring training, here are a few players whose draft stock has risen or fallen on my personal draft board.
Brian Roberts: I may be harboring some personal resentment here due to the fact that his back injury helped derail my season last year, but this spring feels eerily similar to last. Reports out of Baltimore have Roberts going for another MRI this morning to determine just how serious the injury is and how long he may be sidelined. Last year, it seemed like every week there was a new report out that the injury wasn’t as serious, and that he would soon resume baseball activities, yet that never seemed to materialize until the end of the season. This is one situation that I would avoid completely on draft day, regardless of how far he falls.
Dan Johnson: Many had Johnson pegged as a sleeper heading into 2011, basically being handed the starting first base job in Tampa. However, he’s hit just .160 this spring and looks lost at the plate. With Ben Zobrist having the ability to play first base as well, the Rays could conceivably play Matt Joyce full time in right field and send Johnson back to Triple-A for more seasoning. I would look elsewhere for corner infield options.
Justin Duchscherer: Another often-injured player who’s heading for yet another MRI later this week. Pass.
Lance Berkman: I like the Big Puma as much as the next guy, and even thought that he could be a decent value hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in that Cardinals lineup. The problem is that he hasn’t played the outfield since 2007 and has yet to play there this spring because a sore elbow won’t allow him to throw the ball. I still think he could be a good value late in drafts, but until he shows me he can play the field, he’s moving down the board.
Johan Santana: Whether he says the reports are true or not, any report saying that he may miss the entire season can’t be considered good news. For those who planned on taking Santana with a late-round pick in the hopes that he would give you a half-season’s worth of his normal studly numbers: with the way the Mets organization has handled injury situations in the past, I would be very wary of gambling on him returning and being effective this season.
Chipper Jones: Just when you thought Larry Wayne was going to hang it up, he worked out rigorously during the offseason to recover from his injury and looks like the Chipper of old swinging the bat this spring. There is no way that you can count on him for more than 130 games this year, but at his current ADP he still has a lot of value in mixed-league drafts. Personally, I have moved him up my board at least a round or two.
Mike Morse: I know that there are four outfielders (Morse, Roger Bernadina, Nyjer Morgan and Rick Ankiel) competing for two spots in the Nats outfield, but Morse is running away with the job in left field. He has flat-out raked since day one this spring, hitting nearly .500 with five home runs already. If he can manage to keep the job all season, 20-plus home runs seems within reach, which is tremendous value for a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Joe Nathan: I know that he got roughed up a bit in his last outing, but he was perfect in his first three. The most important thing to observe here is that he appears to be healthy and his velocity is back. This was one of the elite closers in the game for several years before the injury, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he regained that form in 2011.
Erik Bedard: Another guy with injury history, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Draft cautiously, but he has extreme upside for a late-round starting pitcher gamble.
Jordan Zimmermann: He was already higher on my draft board than most places I’d seen. Then he went out and showed he’s fully healthy and recovered, has improved velocity, and has gone out and thrown 11 scoreless innings to start the spring season. Yeah, he’s going to be on a few of my teams this year.
These are just a few of the players who have moved up or down on my board in the last couple of weeks due to spring performances or injury concerns. If you have any questions at all that you want answered before your draft, leave them here and I would be happy to offer my insight and advice!