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And we’re back! Nothing like a little holiday weekend to throw you off your schedule, huh? Hopefully you used your time over the weekend wisely and stayed on top of things rather than fall into the usual traps and miss a day or two of the news and events. All too often we see people “check out” for the weekend and the next thing they know, they’ve lost two guys to injury, another gets demoted to Triple-A, they’ve missed out on two different rookie call-ups and the early games on Monday come and they haven’t adjusted their lineup. It may only be one week, but that’s how it all starts. That’s how your lead in the standings starts to dwindle and all that you built starts to come down.
With the usual shorter slate of games on Thursday, we’re going to skip the usual format and go with one of those game by game, stream of consciousness-style round-ups again. As a matter of fact, I think we’re going to make this a regular thing for Monday and Thursday nights as it allows us to take a broader look at what’s going on throughout MLB with respect to the fantasy world. This should actually help with waiver wire selections, especially for those who are in leagues with daily roster moves and transactions. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what happened Thursday and what we can expect, fantasy-wise, moving forward.
One of the best illustrations of how history repeats itself is found in the closer situation for fantasy baseball owners. Every year we see the same thing over and over again. You’ve got your select few who have fantastic job security and the talent to back it up and then you’ve got the rest – a disgusting revolving door of blown saves and ratios that make you cringe and wonder how it could ever be that bad. Well, we’ve got one more joining the party this week as the Tigers have finally caved in and gone back to the well from which they drank last season. Yep, that’s right….it’s the return of Papa Grande.
Now I don’t want to get all religious on you here, but as I look at one of my teams sitting at the very bottom of the standings in one league, I am reminded of a very important biblical quote that you should always pay very close attention to, especially if you’re dealing with a certain amount of fantasy frustration. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” You know how some coaches have inspirational quotes hanging in their offices? Well, this one is hanging in mine and it is specifically directed towards the sharks in every league who think they smell blood in the water just one week into the season. Three guys hurt on my roster isn’t exactly chum, but there they are, circling and ready to strike.
As we gear up for our fantasy baseball drafts, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the growth that we’ve seen in the fantasy sports business and what the impact is on drafts from year to year. More specifically, I’m talking about the immense coverage and the disappearance of sleepers, an annual favorite of nearly every fantasy owner. In the past, the fantasy baseball magazines and the few web sites that were out there would have their lists of players who were considered far from mainstream but expected to perform at a much higher level. It was fine back then as the circulation wasn’t what it is today and those of us who actually did the research on our own and unearthed these hidden gems actually saw it as a chance to gain an alternate opinion on these lesser known players. But with the crazy amount of coverage there is today, these sleeper lists have turned the unknown commodities into the trendiest picks of your draft and the players are losing their overall return value because every Neanderthal who can point and click is now taking them far too early in drafts. And because of that, those of us who go that extra mile in the research and draft prep need to start fighting back. We’re not going to be able to stop the hordes of writers from outing our sleepers, but what we can do is change our strategy and use our competition’s herd mentality against them.
Too often we find ourselves intensely focused on the first handful of rounds in a draft. We all want to know should we start out team off with Braun or Trout? Is Kershaw or Verlander the top ace to roster? Those are certainly valid issues to ponder, but too often we end up neglecting those players that aren't high on anyone's draft boards but still offer a potentially high return on investment opportunities. In today's piece I will break down a handful of those players, and honestly, there might only be one player on this list who has a chance at being a top-100 overall selection, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of everyone I discuss (save for one washed up former power hitter).
Adam Eaton, the young Diamondbacks outfielder, says he is recovering well from the broken hand he suffered at the end of last season. "I got cleared right before Christmas and I've been hitting for probably about three weeks or so. It feels great. There's no pain...” That's obviously good news. However, hand and wrist injuries are notorious for sapping a players' power, at least when the player is first coming back to the field (are you hearing that people who are targeting Jose Bautista this year?). Luckily for Eaton he's not a power hitter and never will be as he only hit a total of nine homers last season. What he can do though is rap out liners with the best of them. In 119 games at Triple-A last year all he did was hit .381 with 119 runs scored and 38 steals. Wowzah's is right as he produced one whopper of a season. The D'backs realize that he is ready to contribute at the big league level, and the hope is that he will be able to start in center field this season with the deal sending Chris Young to the Athletics opening up a spot in the outfield. However, there is a complication. The D'backs have Jason Kubel and Justin Upton already set to play in the daily lineup, and they went out and added Cody Ross this offseason (for more on Ross see his Player Profile). If Kubel or Upton isn't dealt, and I think it would be absolutely insane for them do deal Upton even with the fact that they tried to deal Upton to the Mariners despite the fact that they are one of four teams on his no-trade list (you can read more about my thoughts in Upton's Player Profile), Eaton would likely have to begin the '13 season in the minors even if Kubel-Upton-Ross really aren't strong options in center (not even close actually). Eaton is a prime NL-only option no matter if he is on the roster on Opening Day or not, and if the D'backs do move either Kubel or Upton the speedster has mixed league appeal as well.
Jason Giambi wants to continue his playing career (he flirted with the idea of entering the coaching ranks this offseason before ultimately decided that he would give playing one more shot). Jason can still pop the odd long ball but he hit just .225 with one homer in 89 at-bats last season, so no matter how deep your league specific setup is it doesn't seem like Giambi is going to be able to help you out.
Rich Harden is trying to make a comeback after missing last season due to shoulder surgery. Always an injury risk, there is still enough here to keep an eye on Harden as he tries to return to the field with the Twins. There is some debate as to what role Harden will be asked to fill if he is healthy enough to compete, the bullpen and the starting rotation are in the discussion, though they club is leaning toward trying Harden as a starter. "He has done both," GM Terry Ryan said. "And I would tell you starter if the health issue was not a part of this thing, but he's not been healthy. So we have to keep that option open." Harden last threw a pitch in a game in 2011, and he last threw 100 innings in 2009, and he last threw 150 innings in 2004. Clearly, health has never been one of his better assets, which is odd considering how great a shape he keeps himself in physically. Harden has posted a 3.76 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 9.20 K/9 over his 928.1 inning career showing his quality stuff at every turn. The guy has flat out dominating stuff. Period. He always has. That's not the issue. Never has been. Even if reports are positive that his health is good in camp, this is still a guy you should only take a chance on in AL-only leagues. Even then, be wise with how you evaluate him. There is no reason to reach, even with all the talent he possesses.
Scott Hairston appears to have narrowed down his choices to the Mets and the Yankees, though the Yankees seem to think he is leaning toward the Mets because he would be assured more playing time. Why does it matter you're saying? Did you neglect to note that Hairston was two steals away from going 20/10 last season in an year that saw him accrue less than 380 at-bats? He was a very effective fantasy performer, on the cheap, and that's what today's article is all about. For those of you that use actual positions in your outfield Hairston is a great add as he appeared in 59 games in left and 48 in right while also being out there 14 times in center. He's also always flashed a power bat. The negative with Scott is that he really can't hit righties as his career slash line against righties is embarrassing (.229/.288/.416 in 1,347 at-bats). On the flip side he mashes lefties with a .275 average and .500 SLG. He really should be on the short end of a platoon if his team wants to utilize him properly, so no matter where he ends up use his '12 numbers as a best case scenario for 2013 cause he isn't likely to approach 400 at-bats again – at least he shouldn't if his team uses him properly.
Francisco Liriano's deal with the Pirates is on hold, and reports out of Pittsburgh suggest that the team might withdraw the two year deal worth $12.75 million the two sides agreed to because Liriano injured his right, non-throwing, arm. It could be as simple as Liriano wasn't able to make it to his physical because of the injury so he didn't bother even trying to pass the test. It would seem likely, at least in my mind, that the situation will work itself out. The injury is to his non-throwing arm so should it really be that big of a deal? Still, it's a situation we will continue to monitor. As to what to expect from Liriano when he does take the field this year check out his Player Profile.
Michael Morse is on the trade block after the Nationals and Adam LaRoche agreed on a two year, $24 million deal (there is a third year option as well). LaRoche, who hit 33 homers with 100 RBIs last season while winning the Gold Glove at first base, should be looked at as a solid bet to once again pull of his traditional .275-25-85 type effort. However, with LaRoche locked in at first base, the Nats have nowhere to play Morse given that their outfield is set (Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth). Upwards of ten teams have contacted the Nationals about Morse who has one year for $7 million left on his contract before he becomes a free agent. Morse's agent stated that his client has no interest in being a DH which might make a deal to some AL clubs a big tricky, but ultimately Morse would like to be dealt to a place that will play him everyday so he can rack up some big numbers heading into free agency. Morse can rake, he's hit .295 for his career and over the last two seasons he's averaged 25 homers a campaign despite averaging a mere 460 at-bats the past two years. He's also just a year removed from going .303 with 31 big flies and 95 RBIs. An impressive talent.
Placido Polanco believes that his body is ready to play on a daily basis, and he believe he will be able to handle the Marlins' starting spot at third base with aplomb. Polanco was limited to 90 games last season due mostly to a wonky back, and back issues tend to linger. It's also fair to question how a 37 year old will be able to overcome the physical woes. On the plus side the Marlins, after their fire-sale, are desperately in need of some veteran's to show the youngsters how to play the game, so if Polanco truly is healthy he should see ample playing time. Is that a good thing? That's another question. Polanco hit .257 with two homers last season in 303 at-bats, poor production even for he of the middling bat. Polanco did hit .277 with five homers and 50 RBIs for the Phillies in 2011, and he could repeat those numbers this season given his still solid approach and contact rate, but he has no power, doesn't steal bases, and is an injury/health risk. He's worth looking at as a corner infield option in NL-only leagues, but that's about it.
With the short slate of games on Thursday and the lack of a clear-cut Beast of the Day, we’re going to change up the format again. We’ll start with some of the highlights from Thursday and then discuss a few other important things from the baseball world that you should be aware of as you head down the stretch towards your impending championship. Even with the passing of MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline, there’s still plenty ahead. We’ve got waiver trades that are being discussed, late-season injuries, and of course, the plethora of minor leaguers being summoned as teams that are out of contention begin to audition some of their more high-profile youngsters. We’ve even got a few contenders reaching into their farm systems for a few guys that may give them the added boost they’ll need as they work towards a potential playoff spot. So without further ado, let’s get to it…
It looks like we’re getting a little minor league influx this week – two big prospects and the return of a banished slugger. After much speculation over the past week or so, we received word over the weekend that Arizona pitching phenom Trevor Bauer would make his mound debut, that the Cubs were finally ready to bring up slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo and one-time 30-home run hitter from Toronto, Adam Lind, was coming back from his Triple-A exile and returning to the Blue Jays lineup. If, for any reason, any one of those guys sits available in your league, you better snatch them up as quickly as you can. There’s no guarantee, of course, that the production will be there immediately, but any one of the three is certainly worth a look.
So I had just finished watching the first wave of games on Wednesday night and was going to get a jump on my article. Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey just pitched a one-hit, complete-game shutout, his second complete-game shutout in his last three outings, and had now gone four straight starts without allowing a single earned run. And as a topper, his 12 strikeouts gave him a total of 50 over his last five starts. Right? How do you not lead with that when doing a recap article of the night’s baseball highlights?
This is one of my favorite times of the fantasy year. We’re a little more than two months into the season and the standings are starting to shake out. The contenders are all trying to position themselves while the lower end of your standings is either fading into the background or, if you’re in a keeper league, waiting for their team to be plundered with the hopes of snagging some vital protects for next year. The trade talk is abundant, the negotiations are fierce and little by little your entire life is consumed with baseball. Sounds ideal, yes? Yes it does.