As always, the most important aspect of your fantasy baseball draft prep is staying on top of all the latest news. There’s nothing worse than walking into your draft and grabbing a guy only to have that annoying league know-it-all chime in with news form two days ago saying that the guy you just drafted is banged up. But it’s more than just looking at injury updates. You need to take all of the information given and make certain assessments of how this latest news will impact the rest of the fantasy baseball world. Virtually every bit of information you get has a ripple effect and it’s important to look at how far the news carries. So here are a few of the latest headlines from spring training and what kind of fantasy baseball impact we can expect.
Billy Hamilton Reassigned to Minors
Well, we all knew this was coming. The plan was always to start Hamilton in the minors so that he could learn to play center field and take over for Shin-Soo Choo who, as a free agent this year, will likely be traded so the Reds get some value for them and their offseason trade. If you’re an owner or looking to draft him, keeping a watch on his hamstring is probably wise. We all know how they can be recurring so this should be something to watch as he is a man who makes his living off his legs. The only real question that remains is how long he stays down for and that comes down to the health of the Reds outfield and/or when the team trades Choo. It’s hard to see a team picking up a rental in the first half of the season, unless they work out a contract agreement ahead of time, so Hamilton might be down for the whole first half. He could conceivably be down there until the end of July should the Reds not make a move until the last minute. His value as of right now is huge in keeper and dynasty leagues, but for re-draft leagues it might not be as high in 2013 as so many people think.
Chase Headley Injured
While Headley received good news that he had no ligament or tendon damage, the fact that the thumb fracture will still keep him out for four to six weeks is a big blow to the Padres start of the season. It’s not the end of the world, but given the time frame, he could conceivably miss all of April. It doesn’t downgrade him too much in drafts, but a blow to the initial value indeed. The injury does solidify Jedd Gyorko as the team’s Opening Day second baseman though as the Padres will probably use Logan Forsythe over at third now. Nothing had been confirmed to date, but with circumstances like these, you have to expect that the team would rather stay the course than worry about when the free agent clock starts ticking. If anything this should increase Gyorko’s value in drafts now as he is a virtual lock.
Pete Kozma Favorite for Cardinals SS Job
With Rafael Furcal done for the season, it looks like potential sleeper Pete Kozma has the inside track on the starting shortstop job. The Cards just parted ways with Ronny Cedeno which basically leaves either Kozma or the team could move Daniel Descalso, who has a solid glove, over to short and let Matt Carpenter play second. But the team seems more inclined to give the job to Kozma who has the bigger bat. You have to go and look at Kozma’s minor league totals to get the best handle on what you can expect form him. Most of the projections were obviously done prior to this news, so they have him pegged for a little more than 200 at-bats. With a full season, he should be able to bang you 10-12 home runs, but his RBI and runs scored totals might be lacking hitting down in the 8-hole where he is currently projected. Should he not produce though, you can bet the team will make a move quickly, especially if Carpenter starts out hot. Consider Kozma a decent reserve pick for now, but don’t get crazy over him just yet.
Ryan Madson Still Dealing With Elbow Soreness
Close your eyes and you can just picture our own Jeff Mans doing a little dance right now. He’s been a big supporter of Ernesto Frieri’s and now with Madson limited to just long toss, it’s looking like he backed the right horse in this race. Madson’s is experiencing soreness again in his surgically repaired elbow and the Angels have cut back his throwing program drastically in an effort to let him heal. His status for Opening Day was already in doubt….well, even more than just “in doubt” actually….and now his expected return is likely to be pushed back even further. That could be all Frieri needs to entrench himself as the closer. If he starts out strong, Mike Scioscia isn’t about to make a change, so Madson’s value could be taking a substantial hit here. Keep monitoring his progress, but if you haven’t drafted yet and are seeking a closer, Frieri is even more so the guy to grab, while Madson remains a late-round handcuff, at best.
Big Papi on the Mend
He’s still going to miss the beginning of the season, but David Ortiz appears primed for a mid-April return. That’s actually not too bad considering where he was just a week ago. He’s been dealing with soreness in both heels and took about 50 swings in a cage earlier on Tuesday, reporting no problems afterwards. It was actually the first time he even picked up a bat in over a week, so that’s definitely encouraging to hear. Drafting Ortiz is always tough because, while you’d love to have his power, the fact that you can only use him as a utility player basically fouls up any roster flexibility that you may desire. It’s more of a daily roster move thing, but still has its adverse effects. For those who don’t care about such things, then Ortiz, should he be back and ready to swing a big bat, could prove to be a nice bargain. He’s slipping down in drafts and has an ADP rank of 165.78 in NFBC and 137.35 over at Mock Draft Central. If he is capable of 25-30 home runs again, then waiting until that pick range isn’t so bad.
Rockies 3B Job Still Up for Grabs
Don’t look now but Nolan Arenado is on the rise again! After turning in a less-than-spectacular season at the Double-A level last year, many soured on the once can’t-miss prospect. But after a hot spring in which he has hit .314 with three doubles and a team-high four home runs, he’s turning heads again; especially when he is now being discussed for the Opening Day third baseman’s job. The team had already decided that they would use Chris Nelson over Jordan Pacheco, but apparently that wasn’t etched in stone. Of course, there’s still the possibility that this talk is simply a way of keeping a fire lit under Nelson’s ass. He was fairly mediocre to start last season but did come on strong in the second half. Perhaps the team thinks he needs the motivation. But happens if it’s not a ploy? What if Arenado really wins the job? Well, first off the club will likely send D.J. LeMahieu down and leave Nelson and Pacheco as back-ups. That right there will likely shorten the leash on Josh Rutledge who is already having a terrible spring at the plate. Should he start the season slowly, Nelson is quite capable of playing the keystone as I’m sure Pacheco is too. Keep a very close eye on this situation over the next two weeks. It could give Arenado huge value, but it could also kill the trendy “sleeper” status of Rutledge.
Albert Pujols Dinged Up
When I hear about something like Pujols now suffering from plantar fasciitis, I can hear my grandma’s voice in my head. “If it’s not one thing with that one, it’s another.” If you didn’t do it the first time, now change the voice to a little old Jewish lady. Funnier now? Good. In any event, Pujols, after missing all of spring training due to his surgically repaired knee, made his spring debut just the other day and is now suffering from the dreaded fasciitis of the foot. Now that’s two things, not counting the pitcher, working against him in the batter’s box. Of course it’s being downplayed but, given the lingering nature of an injury like that, I become more wary of drafting him now. Suddenly Prince Fielder becomes a much better option even though most rankings have him listed behind Prince Albert. The primary beneficiary of an extended Pujols absence would obviously be Vernon Wells who would get to DH regularly with Mark Trumbo moved to first. I may be putting the cart before the horse here, but I just like to be prepared.
Mike Moustakas Ready for a Breakout?
Everyone’s always looking for that breakout player and Moustakas is trying desperately to be that guy. While he managed to knock 20 out of the park last year, he actually saw more struggles at the plate than he did success. His strikeout rate spike to just over 20-percent, he swung at far too many pitches out of the zone and popped up way too many infield flies. That left him with a .242 average and a relatively weak .274 BABIP. But Moustakas came into camp with a different attitude. He made some tweaks to his approach at the plate and so far, he’s seeing tremendous results. Again, it’s hard to put too much stock into spring numbers, but he is currently batting .426 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBI with a strikeout rate of just 14.6-percent. He’s definitely up there swinging and has drawn only one walk so far, but the new approach certainly seems to be working for him. There’s no reason to think he can’t carry this momentum into the season, so a hot start seems likely. If he can stay healthy and maintain his plate discipline, he should be able to sustain the production for the full year this time.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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