This week in (fantasy) baseball 4/1-4/8

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 weekly basis. If you feel I’ve missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.

News from the fantasy infirmary

• After cruising for 3.2 innings against the Red Sox Saturday, Doug Fister was pulled with a left rib strain and will now miss at least his next two starts, though the injury’s severity is not yet clear. Manager Jim Leyland has yet to officially name a substitute for Fister, though the early front-runner is Duane Below, 26, who relieved Fister Saturday and earned the win after allowing only one hit over 2.1 innings.

It’s important to keep in mind that Below pitched his way out of a rotation spot this spring when he finished with a 5.17 ERA over seven appearances (three starts), compiling a 1.851 WHIP during that span.

Andres Torres was placed on the DL shortly after straining his calf on Opening Day, prompting the Mets to promote Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Don’t expect the 24-year-old to have much of a fantasy impact so long as he’s being platooned with Scott Hairston, though he compiled a .298/.403/.505 line in 221 Triple-A plate appearances last year.

Closer watch

• It took long enough, but Ned Yost finally named Jonathan Broxton as Royals closer. Broxton, 27, pitched a scoreless inning Saturday, and should be considered a decent No. 2 closer, assuming his balky elbow holds up.

• I figured Mark Melancon and his 20 saves from last year would be a prime candidate to replace Andrew Bailey at the end of the Red Sox bullpen, but alas, I’m not imbued with the power to read Bobby Valentine’s mind. Instead, Alfredo Aceves is the man for the time being, though after coming in to allow the game-winning hit Thursday, he blew a lead Sunday after Miguel Cabrera devoured him for a three-run homer.

The good news for Aceves, such as it is, is that Melancon wasn’t much better yesterday, surrendering a two-run homer to Alex Avila to lose the game entirely. The skinny: the Boston bullpen is off to a disastrous start without Bailey, and neither potential replacement has distinguished himself. Forget whatever words come out of Valentine’s mouth at this point, as we’re going to have to evaluate the closer situation on a game-by-game basis.

• Just when Kyle Farnsworth finally figured things out to emerge as a solid closer last year, a strained right elbow will keep him sidelined for at least a month. In his absence, Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney and J.P. Howell are the likely candidates to receive save opportunities, though Joe Maddon has not yet named a closer.

Saturday, Peralta coughed up a three-run homer to Nick Swisher, leaving Rodney and Jake McGee to clean up the Rays’ 8-6 victory over the Yankees. On Sunday, Rodney relieved Jeremy Hellickson to close out a 3-0 lead. My money is still on Peralta to emerge as the team’s closer, as he sports the best resume coming off last year, but it sure seems like Rodney is the early favorite.

• Is Hector Santiago going to become the White Sox’ elusive closer? Speculation abounded this spring that the job would come down to a battle between Matt Thornton and Addison Reed, but when it came time to nail down Chicago’s victory on Saturday, it was Santiago who put together a perfect ninth inning to make Alex Rios’ home run stand up. Santiago is the closer for the time being, so pick him up to use as a No. 2 reliever.

Position/platoon battles to keep an eye on

• In a surprise announcement, Joe Girardi announced over the weekend that Brett Gardner will likely sit against lefties, which could put a crimp on his fantasy value. We’ll wait to see how things play out over the course of a season, but there’s no doubt this would hurt Gardner’s ability to generate stolen bases for roto owners. For the record, the 28-year-old outfielder is a career .243/.351/.318 against lefties.

• In case of emergency—that is, if Buster Posey’s road to recovery hits a snag—Pablo Sandoval would return to his roots as a catcher, Bruce Bochy announced earlier this week. While that’s certainly promising news, it should only be regarded as a tease for the time being unless something catastrophic strikes the Giants.

Left for dead?

• Heading into this season, Rafael Furcal was the 351st player being drafted in fantasy, 23rd among shortstops, as fantasy owners were no doubt hesitant to spend on a 34-year-old player who was limited to just 369 plate appearances last year. So while one week does not a satisfactory sample size make, we should keep an eye on Furcal, who just hit .526 (10 for 19) with two steals this week.

Furcal is sure to spend some time on the DL this year, but it’s worth remembering he was an All-Star as recently as 2010 and was a key contributor to the Cardinals’ World Series run after joining the team in August. At a thin position, he should still be considered a useful option.

• Speaking of aging players at thin positions, has anyone noticed Chone Figgins is off to a good start? Yeah, I’m not ready to sign up for him, either, but he’s hitting .412 (seven for 17) while batting atop Seattle’s lineup and gaining third base and outfield eligibility. At 34, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical, but then again, even some mild productivity from a third baseman this season could be reason enough to take a chance on him in deeper leagues.

Performance of the week

Let’s give big league pitchers some time to adjust to Yoenis Cespedes before we anoint him the next big power hitter in baseball. But after one week, one thing’s for sure: when this guy gets into one, it’s moonshot time, evidenced by a gargantuan 462-foot bomb he dropped in Oakland on Friday night.

THT’s projections expect a .266/.308/.447 line from the Cuban this year, so while he’s not projected as a true No. 1—or perhaps No. 2—fantasy outfielder, let’s admire the damage he did during the first week of fantasy play (counting the Japan games).

Cespedes’ line: Three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored and a whole lot of elevated expectations.

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Comments

  1. J Free said...

    Chone’s early numbers could be signalling a very serious rebound for him. His bad swings at balls outside the strike zone for the last two years eliminated his batting advantage. He always relied on elite plate patience to force pitchers to throw the pitches he wanted and turned them into line drives. If they couldn’t, he walked. Once he went to Seattle, he became Ichiro redux – swinging wildly and producing weak grounders and popups but without Ichiro’s instincts/speed to first.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if batting second behind Ichiro got into his head somehow. That he repeated memes about “make contact and advance the runner” and it doesn’t fit his game. Small sample size still this year – but he has dramatically reduced his O-swing% this year. My bet – and I have picked him up in every league where he wasn’t rostered – is that the line drives and walks will follow – followed by the stolen bases and pretty good context stats.

  2. Karl de Vries said...

    J—

    He’s definitely a guy who needed a shakeup, since he was pretty awful last year. That said, we’re looking at a guy who’s only one year removed from a 40-plus steal season, and even if he’ll be hard-pressed to produce that total as he progresses into his mid-30s, it makes him something of a resource if he can get his act together at the plate.

    Nice observation with the O-Swing. It will be something to watch going forward as the sample size increases.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    —Karl

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