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Sometimes we make too big a deal about Spring Training. Sometimes we don't make enough of a deal about Spring Training. If you're confused don't worry. The Oracle is here to put everything in perspective for you. The Brewers' ace is good to go as he's overcome an injury. The Dodgers and Phillies aces are struggling, but you shouldn't be too concerned. The Padres hope to have a one time elite prospect in their rotation early in the year. A once time power lefty is trying to revive a once thought to be dead career. The Tigers have zero certainty about how they are going to handle the 9th inning. The Yankees have a battle on their hands for the 5th starter role. Who will emerge with the job? Read on to find out.
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.
I hate using that “any given Sunday” cliché here, but if there’s one thing you can take away from Philip Humber throwing the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, it’s just that. Anyone, anywhere, anytime….so long as the stars are aligned, I suppose. I mean, how else do you explain a 29-year old journeyman who is on his fourth team in five years and whose biggest claim to fame is that he was one of the prospects the Mets traded to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal achieving one of the most difficult feats in the game? Even if you were going to turn around and try to trivialize the moment and speak of the ineptitude of the Mariners’ offense and the fact that none of them are batting over .300, your argument still wouldn’t hold water. The moment is too tough to achieve and guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley are still too good a group of hitters.
More often than not, the MLB record books and record-breaking moments have very little impact on the fantasy baseball world. Sure, it’s amazing to see a pitcher win his 300th game or to watch a player get his 3000th hit, but for the sake of the fantasy game, it’s just another win or just another hit. Usually the player already has a high-profile, so his cost is already pretty high and it’s not like you’re plucking a potential Hall of Fame candidate off your league’s waiver wire. But sometimes a record comes to the foreground and brings attention to a player who doesn’t often see the spotlight. That player today is Washington Nationals starter Edwin Jackson.
Stop the presses folks, it is time to run to your waiver wire as perhaps the best prospect in the minors is about to show his face in Kansas City and you need to know about it NOW! Besides that we talk about an icon getting a "day off", a couple of young starters who look to turn around the rough starts to their careers, and a closer who seems that he might be on the DL for sucking. I continue my crusade against Lance Berkman and cover everything else relevant in the world of fantasy baseball for this Thursday. Please do yourself a favor and sign up for the Fantasy Alarm service to be sure that you never start a benched player again!
It was a huge schedule on Wednesday as there were 17 games in total with doubleheaders included, and there is a ton to talk about. We have a elite player who takes a leave, one of the best back on the field, and a couple of younger hitters who won't be on it for a little while. We have one of the hotter prospects in baseball headed back to the farm, and a disappointing closer who seems to have found his groove. There is all of that news and so much more as we take you around the box scores and give you every piece of fantasy relevant happenings and how it should affect your team.