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Monday, March 26, 2012
It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We'll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I've missed anything important, please don't hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.
Sean Marshall likely to assume closer role in Cincinnati
Remember all the praise heaped upon the Reds front-office this offseason for not rushing to hand a closer a multi-year deal? In a macabre sort of way, the Reds' prudence could not have been more validated than it was this weekend when Ryan Madson learned he’ll need Tommy John surgery, thus nuking his 2012 season.
Obviously, fantasy owners with plans to draft the Reds' late-inning man should slam the brakes on Madson immediately and begin looking for replacements. Dusty Baker’s reputation suggests he’ll tap a veteran over a younger pitcher for the job, which in this case would favor lefty setup man Sean Marshall. One of baseball’s best setup men over the past few years, Marshall, 29, compiled a 2.45 ERA, 1.104 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 over the past two years with the Cubs, and should slot in as a nice No. 2 closer with some upside.
Madson’s bad news also helps ensure Aroldis Chapman will stay in the bullpen this year. With lefty Bill Bray recovering from a strained left groin, Chapman’s services as a situational pitcher will be more necessary than ever, though his strikeout potential means he could make a run at the closer’s job if he can find a way to cut down on the 7.4 BB/9 he posted last year. Rounding out the closer candidates is Nick Masset, a guy who posted strong numbers in 2010 as a middle reliever but regressed last year, and has dealt with a sore shoulder this spring.
Tommy John surgery ruins Joakim Soria's season
Speaking of closers with elbow issues, Soria did, in fact, choose Tommy John surgery this past week, throwing the Royals’ bullpen into disarray. For his part, manager Ned Yost is still tantalizing fantasy owners as he dances around the decision to name either Jonathan Broxton or Greg Holland as Soria’s replacement, so for the time being, try grabbing both of them in deeper leagues as we await the news.
Both men are intriguing fantasy options; Broxton, of course, has posted some terrific seasons as LA’s closer, but elbow problems over the past season and a half have raised serious questions about his durability, even if his velocity has hovered around the mid-90s this spring. Holland, meanwhile, had an outstanding 2011 (1.80 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 11.1 K/9), but the 26-year-old has no major league closing experience and has enjoyed only one full season at this level so far.
Drew Storen at risk to miss Opening Day
Wait, the bad news on closers isn’t over yet. Nationals fireman Drew Storen is still dealing with elbow inflammation, and there’s a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. Manager Davey Johnson has already ruled out bumping up Tyler Clippard to the job, since he wants to make sure his number-one setup man keeps doing what he did so well last year, leaving offseason acquisition Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to fight for the job.
Obviously, a healthy Lidge would be an ideal candidate, given his 223 career saves. But Lidge, now 35, threw fewer than 20 innings last season, the third straight year in which his innings count has declined, and signed with Washington after realizing no team was prepared to hand him the keys to a closer’s job this year.
Rodriguez, whose fastball averaged 98 mph over more than 65 innings last year, brings an ideal closer’s makeup to the table, though he’s coming off a 6.2 BB/9 and 1.508 WHIP, number that are unacceptable for a team looking to make a postseason run this year. But he picked up two saves toward the end of last year, has been dominant so far this spring and Johnson is well-known for supporting younger players in their bids to establish themselves as major-league ready.
If I had to guess, I’d say Rodriguez is the front-runner to spot Storen at season’s outset, and could be an interesting sleeper depending on how long the Nationals’ star reliever is sidelined.
More injury news for Chris Carpenter
Here are two words fantasy owners never want to hear about one of their players: “out indefinitely.” Especially when the news centers on a soon-to-be 37-year-old pitcher with a history of injury problems.
While Carpenter’s latest setback likely comes as little surprise, fantasy owners should look upon him as nothing less than radioactive as the season gets underway. Dealing with nerve irritation, Carpenter’s well-traveled shoulder has left the team with “no timetable” (another scary word coupling) for his return, and this news follows the disclosure of a cervical disc injury that had already cut down on his innings this spring.
I’m no doctor, so I’m not going to speculate on how long these injuries will keep Carpenter out of action. (It’s worth noting that general manager John Mozeliak has compared this injury to the one that ruined Carpenter’s 2004 season and obstructed his return from elbow surgery in 2008.)
Since there are plenty of other starting pitchers available to draft, there’s little incentive to gamble on a guy with such question marks. As far as St. Louis is concerned, Lance Lynn, 24, is probably the guy who stands to benefit the most from Carpenter’s absence. Although he’s made only two major league starts in his young career, he posted a 3.69 ERA, 1.330 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 over a minor league career, during which he started almost exclusively. Lynn’s enjoyed a strong spring so far, so he could make for an interesting sleeper in deeper NL-only leagues.
No timetable for Chase Utley's return
Okay, so Chase Utley didn’t announce his retirement Sunday, but there’s no real timetable for his return due to his ailing left knee, and talk of microfracture surgery is never a good sign. When will he return? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess, so you might as well avoid him altogether in most leagues.
Meanwhile, Freddy Galvis, a shortstop by trade, is the guy most likely to see at-bats at second the early going. Problem is, he’s an all-glove, no-hit player, and might not be worth drafting even on a competitive Phillies team.
Skip Schumaker injures right oblique
The Cardinals lost another key player early last week when a MRI revealed a tear in Schumaker’s right oblique, sidelining him indefinitely and surely zapping his odds of making the Opening Day roster. In his place at the keystone position, keep an eye on Tyler Greene and especially Daniel Descalso, who’s posted a .961 OPS so far this spring (through Saturday). Descalso doesn’t hit for power or steal bases, but he did hit .264 in 326 at-bats last year, so the 25-year-old might be worth a look in deeper NL-only leagues.
Other news and notes from around the majors
• Arodys Vizcaino, one of the Braves’ best pitching prospects, will miss the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. His absence certainly helps the major-league cases of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado as they look to secure starts.
• Mike Trout returned last week after battling the flu all spring. But his lack of spring training service could give the Angels an excuse to have him start the year at Triple-A, which was foreseeable anyway given the team’s currently crowded outfield.
• Chipper Jones may be on his way to the Hall of Fame, but the start of his final season will be delayed due to arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s not expected to miss significant time, and is currently projected to make the Braves’ April 13 home opener.
• Ryan Vogelsong (strained back) and Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) will both likely start the season on the DL, though indications suggest they’ll be back by mid-April.
Posted by Karl de Vries at 5:13am
Well folks, it’s that time of the year once again. Let me climb out onto a limb and pontificate on my boldest predictions for the upcoming season.
If you’re curious about my predictive prowess, feel free to check out my column from last offseason where I made my bold predictions for 2011.
Let me first clarify that these aren’t necessarily what I absolutely believe will happen, hence bold predictions.
Adam Dunn hits 35+ home runs: Many fantasy players and prognosticators are predicting a rebound of sorts for Dunn in 2012 (how could he possibly be any worse?). While most project him for a 20-25 homer season, I think that he regains most of his previous power form.
Even during his abysmal 2011, he still managed a nice walk rate (15.1 percent) and flyball rate (47.5). The culprit for the drop in homers was simply the weak contact he made, leading to a homer-per-fly rate of only 9.6 percent (atrocious by Dunn's standards). While you can’t place too much stock in offseason fluff stories, Dunn has by all accounts worked extremely hard. He swung a bat over the winter for the first time in his career and is in fairly good shape (for his body type, at least). I think we see the Grande Mule of old in 2012. I expect Dunn to look in vintage form, hitting 35-plus home runs with a .240 average.
Jason Motte finishes as the No. 1 closer in baseball: In terms of pure stuff, Motte is an off-the-charts talent. With Mike Matheny settling into the managerial role and naming Motte his closer, he doesn’t have to deal with the psychological mind games from Tony LaRussa any longer and can focus on dominating National League hitters.
His strikeout-to-walk rate has improved each of the last three seasons, as has his homers-per-nine rate. Hitters facing Motte last season managed only a .198 batting average against him. Pitching for a competitive Cardinals team, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to rack up saves. Combining 45 saves with outstanding ratios and solid strikeout numbers, Motte finishes as your top closer this year.
Mat Gamel hits 30 homers and drives in 100 runs: Mmmmm, post-hype sleeper. Gamel has always had the pedigree for stardom and now he finally looks poised to receive his first real shot at extended playing time. I have a feeling that Gamel will start off hot and settle comfortably into the fifth spot in the lineup behind Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, providing him with ample RBI opportunities.
He’s made significant progress in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts each of the last three seasons in the minor leagues, putting up a very respectable 15.4 strikeout percentage last season. If he can bring that with him to the major league level, he will have a major breakout season in 2012.
Francisco Liriano wins 15 games and strikes out 200-plus: Maybe I’m a sucker, but I’m completely buying the hype and what I see out of Liriano this spring. His velocity is good and his slider looks sharp. Most importantly, his control has been outstanding with an 18/2 K/BB ratio in 13 innings pitched. It looks like Liriano is poised to have a very nice season, provided that he can stay healthy enough to log 180 innings. Don’t be surprised when he posts the best season of his still young career.
Yonder Alonso hits .300 with 20 home runs and drives in 100: Here’s a guy who is extremely undervalued in drafts right now. He’s always displayed solid hit tools and the ability to drive in runs. Many people are devaluing him with the move to Petco, but I think it’s a mistake. Playing in San Diego, he’s assured of getting full time at-bats, and should hit in the middle of the order. While he doesn’t provide prototypical power, he’s a “professional hitter.” I expect big things from this young hitter in 2012.
Well, there you have it! These are just a few of my bold predictions for 2012. If you agree or disagree with any of these, I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments here or find me on twitter @DaveShovein.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 2:20am
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