Before we get to the notes this morning, I wanted to give a little introduction to the subscribers out there. I'm the guy that Anthony Perri thinks looks like Zach Greinke, but most people know me as Drew Dinkmeyer. This is my 2nd year with Fantistics, contributing on both the baseball and football products. As a quick run-down... I'm a die-hard Chicago Sports fan (Cubs fan, though I hold no ill-will towards the White Sox), a not-so-recovering Fantasy Addict, and well most of my friends think I look more like Barry Manilow than Greinke. Anyways I digress, the real reason I wanted to offer an introduction, other than for shameless self-promotive purposes, is that I wanted to warm up the subscribers to the blog area which I will be utilizing in full force starting this weekend. Now that Anthony has given me my own area to write whenever I please I'll be utilizing it often with notes on player pickups that I think can help, strategy tid-bits for different league types, general fantasy revelations, and i'll use the area to rant about my favorite baseball team that is responsible for more heart disease in Chicago than the Deep Dish Pizza. I'll at least have the common courtesy to sort out my thoughts by the filters Anthony's provided, so you won't have to sift through my "baseball rants" about the Cubs if you're not interested in them, but the main point here is I'm going to make an effort to give you, the subscriber, an open window into my sick fantasy baseball addicted mind. I believe that Fantistics offers the best service available anywhere and I'm thrilled to be a part of it and I think along with all the usual publications we provide on a daily basis having an open forum will help subscribers further understand the process behind our thoughts. Anyways, my intro's gone on a bit long (you'll learn I'm not good at this whole concise thing) but I wanted to give subscribers the heads up for those that are interested I'll be updating my blog space often, starting tomorrow with a bit of a fluff article on my Baseball Predictions for 2007. Onto the notes...
Mike Timlin threw a side bullpen session yesterday and appears on target for an April 10th return from the DL. Those fantasy owners that were holding onto Timlin for some cheap saves likely have released him with the news of Jonathan Papelbon returning to the closer's role, but for those of you in Holds leagues Timlin will still carry some value. When he returns to the Red Sox bullpen he'll slide in as the primary setup man in front of Papelbon and will still carry some value.
Barry Zito finished a strong spring with 6 shutout innings on Thursday against the Mariners. Zito only allowed 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3 in his 6 innings and looks ready to be the Ace the Giants spent so heavily for. I don't have much empirical evidence to base this assumption off of but from my experience drafting this pre-season it seems as if Zito and Dontrelle Willis are both being undervalued. While they don't carry the high K potential of Rich Hill, Cole Hamels, and Jared Weaver, Zito and Willis still offer significant value and Zito's move to the NL should benefit his owners this season. While Zito's K rate has declined the last 3 years and his BB rate has increased each of the last 3 years it's been a slow decline. Zito certainly isn't the Cy Young caliber pitcher he was earlier in his career but don't undervalue him.
Armando Benitez keeps on churning out solid spring training innings. On Thursday, Benitez pitched another scoreless inning allowing 1 hit and striking 1 out. He's now posted a 1.08 ERA this spring and appears to be past the knee issues that kept him out earlier in the spring. The trade rumors have died down and it's becoming more clear that Benitez will be the anchor in the Giants bullpen. Saves are saves and while Benitez comes with his share of durability concerns he's certainly worth a late round pick for those that look to scoop up lots of cheap saves late.
The Dan Johnson AL 1B sleeper bandwagon careened off the side of the road yesterday with news that he'd open the season on the DL with a torn labrum in his left hip. I'm no doctor but that doesn't exactly sound like the prototypical 15 day stint and it looks as if Johnson could be spending some significant time on the DL. The injury will juggle the A's lineup a bit as they may now be forced to use Swisher at 1B while playing Bobby Kielty in the OF more, or it may force them to hold onto Erubiel Durazo who hasn't seen major league action in some time. For those in deeper keeper leagues I'd keep my eye on Daric Barton as a potential replacement if the A's 1B/OF situation gets messier and they need an in-house 1B replacement. Barton has minimal experience above A ball right now because of injuries last season but has hit at every level he's been at, shown extremely strong plate discipline and if he starts out hot in AAA he could be on the brink of a promotion.
One of my favorite 4th OF options in the major leagues will be sidelined for the rest of the year with Tommy John surgery. Chris Denorfia of the Reds was eliminated from contention for the 4th OF slot in Cincinnati on Thursday when he learned he would need Tommy John surgery. The fantasy impact is minimal here although it warrants mentioning this is one less option Josh Hamilton has to worry about when looking for playing time in the Cincinnati OF. Hamilton, a former #1 overall pick of the Devil Rays and recent rule 5 pick of the Reds, has already assured himself of an opening day roster spot and appears safe as the Reds 4th OF. Projecting Hamilton who's been out of baseball for 4 years is one of the more difficult things for any system to do and while he doesn't warrant immediate consideration if he breaks out early and starts getting consistent AB's he's worth a flier in deeper leagues. His talent is unquestioned, though his opportunity and experience remain very limited.
Carlos Quentin had a slight setback in his road to recovery from a slightly torn labrum in his left shoulder. Quentin was playing in a minor league game on Thursday and felt some aggravation in the shoulder which he noted to the manager and was promptly removed. Quentin met with doctors later in the evening and appears resigned to the fact that he'll start the season on the DL. The setback may end up being a bit of a blessing in disguise as it will prevent Quentin from rushing back for opening day and give him more time to strengthen the supporting muscles around the tear. Quentin's power totals in the minor leagues are impressive and hitting in an underrated lineup in Arizona provides him some ample opportunity once he gets healthy. Quentin has yet to post an OPS below .900 at any level he's been at, including a 50+ game span in the majors last year that saw him Slug .530 (in line with his minor league totals). Most casual fans following prospects haven't heard much about Quentin or some of the other DBack studs, but these guys are fantastic and one of the reasons I'm picking them to win the NL West this season. If you can use this opportunity to buy low on Quentin he'd be a very solid acquisition for those looking for more power in their OF.
It appears CC Sabathia is going to attempt to make his opening day start despite suffering from a left forearm bruise after being struck by a line drive. The 6'7 250 LB (that's a generous listing) behemoth was quoted as saying "I'm pitching Monday, I feel good, I'm excited". No word on how the ball's doing after the collision with Sabathia. All kidding aside, Sabathia is an absolute horse and he's going to take the ball whenever he can and he's going to be good. He doesn't get enough credit in my mind as one of the top starters in the AL and this is the year people are going to start to take notice as Sabathia is going to break the 15 win barrier and be the ace of a very strong Indians staff.
The Tigers placed Kenny Rogers on the 15 day DL heading into the season due to a sore left arm. The Tigers wouldn't divulge too much more information about the injury so it's difficult to speculate how much impact this could have. Rogers has been a model of consistency, making 30+ starts in 7 of the last 8 seasons but at age 42 the arm could finally be showing signs of wearing down. Rogers isn't a great fantasy option in most traditional formats but he's a solid innings eater that won't hurt your WHIP and ERA too much while providing strong K potential.
Eric Gagne will open the season on the DL although the Rangers are saying it has nothing to do with any potential health setbacks. I'm guessing it has a bit more to do with 5 hits, 4 ER line Gagne posted in his last outing that inspired them to give him a bit more time in his preparation. I'm not very high on Gagne at all this year and I'll be avoiding him in all drafts as I just don't believe he can stay healthy for a full season.
Akinori Otsuka gets a bump in value with the news that Gagne is headed to the DL. Otsuka will become the primary closer for the first part of April and will hand over the reigns as soon as Gagne's healthy, regardless of his success in the role. Otsuka's one of the better middle reliever options available and with Gagne's shaky health history I think he could be in line for a solid 15-20 save season. Hopefully those owners scouring for cheap saves late in the draft were able to take advantage of Gagne holding the role and plucked Otsuka. In my most important league this past weekend we drafted and Gagne went for $4, while Otsuka went for $6 and this was before the DL stint was public information. As my buddy said, "is it bad when your insurance policy goes for more than your closer". Yes it's bad, and I don't trust Gagne one bit this season, nab Otsuka now if he's still available and revel in the 15-20 saves he gives you.
The Big Unit (Randy Johnson) made his first spring appearance and looked really strong on Thursday firing 3 shutout innings against the Padres. Johnson struck out 5 and only allowed 2 hits and looked sharp. After the start he mentioned that he needed 2 more starts before being ready but he looks to be well ahead of schedule and should only miss a turn or two in the rotation before returning. While Johnson's K Rate has been in steady decline last year's performance was a complete aberration as he suffered from an absurdly low .62 Strand Rate. The truth is Johnson was pitching like a sub 4.00 ERA pitcher throughout the season with the Yankees and he just suffered from some miserable luck. Many suggest Johnson's numbers will rebound this year with the move to the NL but he'll lose the Win potential provided by the Yankees. I'll take that a step further and predict Johnson tosses another 200 K's this year and adds 15+ wins in a big rebound effort with an underrated supporting cast out in the dessert.
There's now a fighting chance that Freddy Sanchez could avoid the DL to start the season. Sanchez played 2B in a minor league scrimmage on Thursday and went 2-8 at the plate while running the bases. Pirates manager Jim Tracy wouldn't confirm one way or another if Sanchez would be able to avoid starting the season on the DL but he did give indication that Sanchez has proven enough to call his own shot with regards to his return. This is great news for owners of the reigning NL batting champ who qualifies at 2B, SS, and 3B in most leagues Sanchez may not be the .340 hitter he flashed last season but he's a legitimate .310 hitter with 40+ 2B's power. He makes good contact and should score and drive in 75+ runs this season all the while boosting your batting average. He makes for a solid MI acquisition in most leagues and while most analysts will agree that last year's average was a bit of an aberration, Sanchez doesn't get enough credit. He's an extremely useful option in most formats, especially any format that uses 2B's as a category (yes I've seen it), as he's averaged 40 2B's per 162 games throughout his minor and major league career.