This week in (fantasy) baseball 3/12-3/18by Karl de Vries
March 19, 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.
Andy Pettitte returns to Yankees
Like his old buddy Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte apparently decided the allure of playing baseball was too hard to resist after one year away from the game and announced his return to the Yankees this week. Pettitte, 39, was last seen in 2010, when he posted a 11-3 record with a 3.28 ERA and 1.271 WHIP over 21 starts.
How long will it take to get ready for action? Pettitte says he’s been keeping in shape over the offseason, but he won’t break camp with the team in time for Opening Day. Instead, he’ll spend the upcoming weeks getting his repertoire into shape and proving his left arm can stand up to the strains of pitching every fifth day. His return also could be delayed by Clemens’ perjury trial next month, at which Pettitte is scheduled to testify.
But perhaps most importantly for fantasy owners, Pettitte’s minor-league contract shakes up the back end of the Yankees’ rotation. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda account for three spots, while Ivan Nova is a likely fourth.
The early storyline this spring has been a fifth-starter battle between Phil Hughes—who continued his strong spring Friday by posting four scoreless innings against the Nationals—and Freddy Garcia. Last week, I wrote that a healthy Hughes would have the advantage over Garcia in cracking the rotation, but now, a healthy Pettitte would likely have the upper hand over both of them.
Garcia also has spent the past few days dealing with a bruised right hand, which he suffered Wednesday after a comebacker struck him. X-rays were negative, but he’ll likely miss his next turn in the rotation, which certainly doesn’t help his chances for breaking into the rotation. As for Hughes, there’s still a chance manager Joe Girardi could move him to the bullpen if David Robertson’s foot injury lingers.
Carlos Quentin to undergo knee surgery
As if being traded to the Padres and the vast expanse of Petco Park wasn’t enough to bruise Carlos Quentin’s fantasy value, the 29-year-old right-fielder will miss four to six weeks after he undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery today. That obliterates his first month of the season, calls into question how well he’ll fare upon returning and doesn’t do the San Diego lineup any favors.
Granted, Quentin has yet to recapture the MVP form he achieved in 2008 when he blasted 36 home runs and knocked in 100 runs, but he still offered fantasy owners decent power production at a potential discount. Considering San Diego’s dearth of offense, anything Quentin provides as a middle-of-the-order hitter stands to benefit Cameron Maybin, Nick Hundley and Will Venable, in turn boosting their fantasy value.
As for the Padres’ left-field options, look for Kyle Blanks, Jesus Guzman and Chris Denorfia to gain playing time, with Blanks and Guzman in particular offering intriguing upside. Blanks was a popular sleeper heading into the 2010 season, but elbow surgery nuked his past two seasons, and he’s not yet assured of a spot on San Diego’s 25-man roster by the time spring training ends.
Guzman, on the other hand, will likely break camp with the team and could take advantage of some added playing time. Producing a .312/.369/.478 line in 271 plate appearances last year, Guzman, 27, played well in parts of four seasons in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but fantasy owners shouldn’t expect much power or steals from him if he does emerge as the regular starter in Quentin’s absence.
Royals lose Salvador Perez for at least three months
In a significant blow to fantasy owners, Royals catcher Salvador Perez last week suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee that will zap at least three months of his season. Part of a deep 2012 sleeper class at catcher, Perez, 21, was rewarded with a five-year contract extension recently after posting a .331 average in 158 plate appearances last year.
Brayan Pena will take over as the club’s primary backstop and will likely see extended playing time, as GM Dayton Moore has indicated he won’t deal prospects to acquire a bigger name at the position. Pena, 30, posted a .625 OPS last year in 240 plate appearances with just three home runs, so he’s strictly an AL-only option in deep leagues.
Mets' injury woes continue as David Wright strains rib cage muscle
As if the Mets need any more problems, David Wright’s availability for Opening Day took a hit last week when he received a cortisone shot in the left side of his rib cage for a strained rectus abdominis. Although the 29-year-old third baseman says he’ll be ready for the start of the season, it’s reasonable to believe the first few weeks of his season are in jeopardy, especially since Ryan Zimmerman missed two months last year after suffering the same injury.
Wright’s past few years—and well-documented problems with Citi Field—probably keep him just out of the top tier of third basemen anyway, but he’s probably not worth plucking until at least the third round of mixed fantasy leagues until more news on his ability to stay on the field comes in.
As backup options go, take a look at Justin Turner, who showed some flashes of batting ability during an up-and-down 2011, his first full season.
Other news and notes from around MLB
• Michael Morse continues to battle a lat strain that has kept him out of the lineup since spring training began. Meanwhile, a strained left ankle has shut down Adam LaRoche, whose return is currently unknown.
• Speaking of players yet to appear this spring, Chase Utley’s right knee has held him out of action this month. Utley, 33, finished 2011 with fewer than 400 at-bats after the same knee bothered him throughout the season.
• Chien-Ming Wang strained his left hamstring Thursday while fielding, leaving his ability to make the Opening Day roster in jeopardy. That’s a shame, since he’s pitched well so far this spring and looked good down the stretch for Washington last year. But even if he wasn’t faced with losing playing time, he was still entrenched in a battle with John Lannan for the Nationals’ fifth-starter job, so Lannan’s odds of having a regular gig to start the season have increased significantly.
Karl de Vries is a New Jersey-based writer and journalist who prefers following fantasy baseball to watching his hapless Mets embarrass themselves on TV every night. He can be reached at karl[dot]rotodiamond[at]gmail.com or followed on Twitter at @Karl_de_Vries.
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