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While the month of April gets ready to wrap, fantasy owners should realize that there is still plenty of work to do to get their teams ready for a long and arduous season. The offseason prep work, the draft, and the early-season waiver hunting may be your foundation, but now you have a five-month long process of taking that foundation and building it into a championship. You now have to keep an astute eye on the waiver wire, explore some possible trades that will help your team in the long run, track injuries, and most of all, pay close attention to the daily happenings around MLB. You’ve got full slates of games five days a week with shorties on Mondays and Thursdays. So much can happen over the course of just one day that missing even just one could be the difference between finishing in the money and standing on the outside looking in. Maybe it sounds silly and a bit over-dramatic to some, but just look at yesterday’s action and the potential fantasy impact…
I wanted to sit down tonight and finally write about some fantasy baseball for the first time in far too long. Since our show, The Fantasy Alarm Show has gone to five and sometimes six days a week it has gotten hard to encapsulate any additional thoughts into text. But alas I have a belly full of some weird Mike’s Hard Mango Punch crap that my wife stocked the refrigerator with (it’s just so yellow and yummy looking!) so here comes two weeks work of fantasy baseball angst.
Every year we get the rush of people who, acting like it's a holiday sale at Walmart, aren't afraid to run over their competitor to add the hot new toy to their basket (in this case we're talking hot shot youngster to their fantasy team). Believe me I understand the temptation. Just look at what guys like Trout and Harper did last season. But for every successful rookie standout there are tons of youngsters who fail to live up to the overblown expectations of many in the fantasy game. I'll try to lend some sanity here. I'll then touch on some of the news of the day including will Manny Ramirez play in 2013? Is Joe Saunders a reliable innings eater? What were the Phillies thinking signing an unreliable veteran righty? Is Mike Napoli every going to sign with the Red Sox? Is Jose Valverde's career as a closer over even though he had 35 saves last year?
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 July31st non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, we’ve been seeing a few deals pop up recently that obviously have some effect on the fantasy baseball world. It’s not like we’ve seen any real big blockbusters that are sending owners into some panicked frenzy, but, rest assured, those will certainly be coming soon. For now though, there are some that are having a bit of an impact that we should probably be taking a look at as they are happening. So let’s just do a quick rundown here and see what’s been going on.
For years, all I heard out of my granddaddy’s mouth were a few colorful sayings that any nine year old boy would love and the ever popular, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Didn’t matter how many other people knew something to be true, if he didn’t see it first hand, he refused to believe it. “Hey Grandpa,” I would say earnestly. “They make popcorn that you can cook in the microwave in under five minutes.” “Pffffffft! I’ll believe it when I see it.” “Hey Grandpa, they make telephones you can carry around with you and make calls any time you want.” “Bah. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Over and over again, that curmudgeonly, raspy, almost cartoon-like voice echoed in my head. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Tim Lincecum is the worst pitcher ever. Alex Gordon has been a massive disappointment. Mike Napoli is flipping killing my fantasy team. I hear comments like that on a daily basis from people. Maybe all of the above is true, but there might also be something else going on here. What is that something else? The most obvious situation that has to be addressed is expectations. Were your expectations for a player reasonable given his skill level, age, club situation etc. Second, it's sample size. A quick example. Adam Jones has been a superstar this year, a top-25 performer overall, hitting .289 with 20 homers, 44 RBI, 54 runs and 11 steals. However, were you aware that since the start of June that he's hit .252 with 10 RBIs an a .681 OPS? Yeah, he's been pretty bad of late. So that brings me to the heart of today's article --- sample size. What does it mean, when is it important, and how should you work with it?
Hey, thanks. It’s good to be back. In case you haven’t noticed, the powers-that-be here at Fantasy Alarm have instructed me to take a little time for myself on days with a short slate of games and save the recaps for days that are a little more chock-full of news and excitement. Not that Monday didn’t have its fair share of news and excitement, but look at how much we have to choose from on Tuesday. There were 33 home runs hit with three multi-homer efforts, 21 bases stolen, five winning starting pitchers who went six or more innings and recorded shutouts, four double-digit strikeout performances and eight, yes eight, blown saves. A big day? I’d say so. Plenty of highs, plenty of lows and a whole lot of stuff in between.
Fantasy owners that used their second or third round pick to select Giants ace Tim Lincecum, affectionately referred to as The Freak, have been banging their heads against the wall since he made his first start on Opening Day. He coughed up five earned runs that day, not even making it out of the sixth inning, and hardly looking like the player worthy of such a high draft selection. From there, he went on to give up another 11 earned runs in 8.1 innings over his next two starts, pushing his ERA to a very uncharacteristic 10.54 with an equally atrocious 1.90 WHIP and suddenly there was panic in the air. Was he hurt? Was he having a mechanical issue? Was he done?
There is a LOAD of bad injury news this season, including two guys that you really didn't want to see in the same sentence as the word injury. One Yankee star continues to lead the league in long balls, while perhaps their best hitter took one in the dome today. There is a potential closer who is having trouble between the ears, and a catcher who is having trouble between the legs. We have a Twins closer blowing a game, while a hitter trying to keep them in it. Lastly there is a hot prospect who goes yard, while a returning speedster is stealing bags like it is his job. All of that and don't forget to sign up for the Fantasy Alarm service to be sure that you never have to start a benched player again.