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Spring Training is supposed to be a time of optimism and cheer for baseball fans and Fantasy Baseball players alike. I’m not sure Texas Rangers fans and a whole lot of Yu Darvish owners are feeling that cheer today.

It’s not yet clear whether Darvish will head straight for Tommy John surgery or go the rest and rehab route. Either way Fantasy owners have to move him way down the board.

Darvish joins Masahiro Tanaka, Cliff Lee, and Adam Wainwright as two other pitchers I am steering clear of. I’m not scared of taking chances on injured pitchers, but not when it costs you a selection in the first four rounds of your draft.

Tanaka’s situation seems similar to that of Darvish. Tanaka came back late last season and pitched with rather lackluster results. Early reports are positive, but they can turn bad real fast… like they did for Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee was supposedly throwing free and easy and in his first spring start it took him just 22 pitches to get through his two innings. Now we hear that he’s got elbow pain in the same area that derailed his 2014 season.

Adam Wainwright? He can say he’s healthy all he wants, but last year’s issues are a huge concern. Add to it an abdominal strain and I’m getting that Justin Verlander feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m going nowhere near Wainwright unless he somehow falls to the 15th round.


Cactus League Update for March 8, 2015


Mariners (11) vs. White Sox (7)

Seattle sent mostly their “B” lineup out for this one, while the White Sox did include a few more regulars.

There are a couple situations I’m looking at for the Mariners. One is the play of Jesus Montero and how he fits into their plans if he has a good spring. He’s come into camp down 40 pounds from last year and looks to be motivated. The other thing I’ll be monitoring is how playing time in their outfield is going to shake out. It’s only of interest to those in AL-only leagues or very deep mixed leagues, but Dustin Ackley, Seth Smith, and Justin Ruggiano all offer the potential for decent deep league value. Right now it looks like Ruggiano  will only face left-handers in a strict platoon with Smith.
Things are more settled in Chicago, but the second base job is pretty much up for grabs. Carlos Sanchez is listed as the starter, but Gordon Beckham is back in town; Emilio Bonifacio offers a nice source of speed if he can grab a share; and speedy prospect Micah Johnson, who stole 84 bases in 2013, is waiting in the wings.
Mariners Fantasy Highlights:
  • Ruggiano hit a three-run homer off of Zach Putnam who is a right-hander. If Ruggiano proves he can hold his own against righties, he becomes a lot more attractive for Fantasy owners.
  • Ackley had another nice day going  1-for-2 with two runs scored. If you noticed what he did in the second half of 2014, you might want to keep an eye on the former top prospect. Read more on Ackley’s big change over at Fake Teams.

White Sox Fantasy Highlights:

  • Bonifacio got the start in center and stole a base. He’s going to have nice value in AL-only leagues, and could be a mixed league option if he can grab close to full-time at-bats.
  • Avasail Garcia continued his hot start with a 2-for-3 day. He’s now 6-for-8 with a pair of doubles so far this spring. If he can stay healthy, there’s definitely sleeper material here.


Dodgers (5) vs. Indians (5)

No word on how the shootout went.

Both of these teams enter the spring with lineups that are pretty much set. The only real competition in Indians camp involves the battle for the No. 4 and 5 starter jobs. The only real question for L.A. is who will close until Kenley Jansen returns from a minor foot surgery. Brandon League has the experience and is probably the favorite, but Joel Peralta is also in the mix.

Dodgers Fantasy Highlights:

  • Yasmani Grandal was the big star for the Dodgers, going 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs. If he can lift his batting average over the .250 line his power makes him a very nice value in all formats.
  • Alex Guerrero singled and scored a run, but the bigger story is that he did this from left field. His refusal to return to the minors means he might be a nice bat off the bench. With Carl Crawford’s injury history, Guerrero could easily find himself with a lot of at-bats if he can handle the position defensively.

Indians Fantasy Highlights:

  • Corey Kluber was solid in this one tossing three innings while allowing three hits and a run. It came with only one strikeout though. It will be interesting to see if Kluber can maintain the dominance he displayed as 2014 progressed.
  • Zach McAllister is theoretically in the mix for a rotation slot. The six hits and four earned runs he allowed in three IP won’t move it any closer to reality.
  • Michael Brantley went 2-for-3 as he gets ready to prove 2014 wasn’t a fluke.


 Reds (2) vs. Royals (3)

I wonder how far Alex Rios will be moving up the ADP charts next week.

The Royals roster seems pretty set with the main questions involving whether some players can repeat (Lorenzo Cain, Edinson Volquez), whether some players can bounce back (Rios, Mike Moustakas) and whether some young players can take another step forward (Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy).

The Reds are in much the same situation as far as offense goes. There are questions whether Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier can repeat last year’s breakout, and veterans Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips have to prove that last year’s struggles are over. The pitching situation in Cincy is a lot more volatile. Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake are all set, but it’s a little shaky after that. Homer Bailey will look to bounce back, but he may not be ready for Opening Day. Tony Cingrani looks like he has a rotation slot, but he’s got a lot to prove. What Anthony DeSclafini can do is anyone’s guess.

Reds Fantasy Highlights:

  • Votto went 1-for-2 in his spring debut after being held out of the Reds first four games as a precaution.
  • Mike Leake looked ready to go with two perfect innings including three strikeouts. He lacks upside, but is an underrated option to fill out your Fantasy rotation.

Royals Fantasy Highlights:

  • Duffy threw two innings without a blemish. His peripherals say there’s a major regression in store from last year’s 3.09 ERA. Still, he wouldn’t be the first young left-hander to defy the numbers and take another step forward.
  • Alex Rios hit his third homer of the spring. He had four all of last year. If his power returns and the Royals run like they did last year, Rios has some major upside.


Rangers (5) vs. Brewers (4)

Did they play a game? Every single Fantasy player in existence is more concerned about the Yu Darvish news. Let’s just say his ADP is headed the opposite direction as that of Alex Rios.

Obviously for the Rangers this spring is all about injuries. Whether it’s the current situation with Darvish or the recovery of Prince Fielder, there is major Fantasy value on the line.

Milwaukee is also looking for a few rebounds. Ryan Braun wants to put thumb issues behind him and Jean Segura wants to put all of last year behind him. The one position we could see some change at in Milwaukee is left field. Khris Davis looks to be the starter, but if he continues to struggle with hitting for average, Gerardo Parra could cut into his playing time even more.

Rangers Fantasy Highlights:

  • Rougned Odor seems to be enjoying Jurickson Profar’s injury issues. Odor went 3-for-3 and made a nice defensive play. Just a small bumpt to his power or speed makes him a decent option even in mixed leagues.
  • Ross Detwiler probably has a rotation spot to lose. This outing wasn’t a disaster but four hits in 2.6 innings isn’t all that promising. I can’t see him providing value, even in 18-team AL-only leagues.

Brewers Fantasy Highlights:

  • Ryan Braun went hitless in his first two spring at-bats, but the big issue is whether his thumb injury is still affecting him.
  • Wily Peralta put up a typical performance, with some struggles mixed into a decent outing. He’s a usable pitcher with plenty of upside left, but the he really hasn’t shown the command yet to expect a huge leap.


Angels (7) vs. Athletics (8)

The Angels enter Spring Training with really the only question being Josh Hamilton’s health and suspension status. Right now it looks like Matt Joyce will play left with C.J. Cron taking over DH duties. Cron is not likely to hit for much of an average, but 20+ HR power is there for the taking. There’s also question whether Garrett Richards can be ready for Opening Day following surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon last August.  The other pitcher I’ll be watching is lefty Andrew Heaney. His first big league go-round was a little rough, but he’s got N0. 2 starter upside.

Despite the big offseason shakeup, the A’s offensive roles seem set. Marcus Semien is a popular sleeper off to a hot start, but how much upside is there? I do like Josh Phegley’s chances to grab a lot of playing time at catcher. He’s got nice power upside and could offer value in deeper leagues. Oakland’s rotation is where the real sleepers are in my opinion. In particular I’ll be watching Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Hahn. While the innings may be limited, both have the potential to be very nice additions to your Fantasy rotation.

Angels Fantasy Highlights:

  • C.J. Wilson looked solid in his spring debut, pitching three innings and allowing just two hits and an unearned run. His Fantasy status has fallen, but a small rebound could make him relevant at the back end of a staff or as a streamer.
  • Cam Bedrosian is viewed as the closer of the future, but he struggled mightily in his first Major League action and allowed four hits and three runs in a third of an inning in this contest.

Athletics Fantasy Highlights:

  • I got excited when I saw the name Doolittle along with two Ks in 2/3 of an inning. Settle down Fantasy owners. It was Sean’s kid brother Ryan. Last year’s breakout closer won’t take the mound for a while yet.
  • Josh Reddick’s oblique strain looks like it will keep him out past Opening Day. Most likely Sam Fuld or Craig Gentry will slide over to RF in his absence.


Diamondbacks (4) vs. Mariners (3)

The Diamonbacks have some moving parts to keep an eye on this spring. They are giving Yasmany Tomas every chance at the third base job, which would mean full-time at-bats for David Peralta. If Tomas can’t hack it defensively he likely moves to LF and Jake Lamb would be the favorite at third.

This half of the Mariners’ split squad featured Austin Jackson, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano offensively, while Hisashi Iwakuma took the hill.

Diamondbacks Fantasy Highlights:

  • Mark Trumbo went 2-for-3 including a solo homer. His current ADP is about as low as you’ll see for a player who’s almost a lock to hit 30 HRs if healthy.
  • Tomas went 1-for-3 with his first hit of the spring. He now sits at 1-for-12.
  • Josh Collmenter tossed two clean inning allowing just one hit. Collment lacks upside, but was surprisingly decent in 2014. If you’re thinking about streaming him away from Chase Field, don’t He had a 4.76 road ERA last year and a 2.63 mark at home.

Mariners Fantasy Highlights:

  • Rickie Weeks help his cause to earn some outfield at-bats with a homer. It’s not hard to see him grabbing a lot of at-bats if Dustin Ackley or Seth Smith struggle. Of course he’s also likely the backup to Cano at second.
  • Iwakuma looked great, tossing two spotless innings. He’s looking to rebound from a rough stretch to end the 2014 season.


Padres (7) vs. Giants (6)

The only job likely on the line in San Diego is at third base, with Yangervis Solarte looking to hold off Will Middlebrooks. Otherwise the questions mostly concern the effect Petco will have on the new arrivals and whether Wil Myers and Jedd Gyorko can bounce back from their year-two struggles.

The Giants offense was set… Until Hunter Pence went and got hit by a pitch. Unless the Giants looks for somebody else’s leftovers, Gregor Blanco will likely slot into full-time duty. Blanco offers good speed with a little bit of pop.

Padres Fantasy Highlights:

  • Myers hit a solo shot off Tim Lincecum. Myers has unquestionable potential, but he has a lot to prove coming into this season.
  • Perennial prospect Rhymer Liriano also homer, but with  Cameron Maybin and Will Venable still on the team, there’s little chance of him heading north west with the team.
  • James Shields pitched one inning in his Padre debut, but he was effective. A lot of people knock the “big Game” nickname, but Shields couldn’t be in a much better situation.

Giants Fantasy Highlights:

  • Brandon Belt went 2-for-3 with an RBI. I still like Belt’s upside, but I’m a bit worried about Buster Posey spending more time at first base.
  • Madison Bumgarner had his second shaky start of the spring. I’m not worried about the spring stats until I hear whispers about elbow pain.


Cubs (5) vs. Rockies (7)

As one would expect, most of the spring news in Chicago will center on prospects. When will Kris Bryant get the call? Can Javier Baez hit over .225? Is Jorge Soler the real deal. Lost in all the sluggers is a young pitcher who was mighty impressive in 13 starts last year. Kyle Hendricks is going virtually unnoticed in early drafts. He lacks the big strikeout potential I like, but he certainly looked like he knew how to pitch.

For the Rockies this spring is mostly about health. Big bats Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are elite talents who have continued to torment Fantasy owners year after year. Do you like risks?

Cubs Fantasy Highlights:

  • Kris Bryant hit his first homer for the big league team and of course also struck out. There may be room for some concern regarding strikeouts, but Bryant seems like a special talent that may be able to maintain a solid average despite the Ks.
  • Jason Hammel was a nice Fantasy value last year in Chicago. He was a bit shaky in this outing, allowing four hits and a walk in his two innings. He’s nothing more than a streamer or deep option to me in a Fantasy context.

Rockies Fantasy Highlights:

  • Nolan Arenado is one of my favorite breakout candidates for the 2015 season and he certainly played the part here, going 2-for-3 with a homer, 3 RBIs and a 2 runs scored.
  • Michael McKenry  went 2-for-3 with an RBI. The Colorado catching situation is cloudy with Wilin Rosario still in the picture. If McKenry can grab a share of the job, he does offer a little bit of pop for NL-only leagues.


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