Alex Rodriguez – An update on the Alex Rodriguez hip situation: It appears this injury is more serious than originally thought. Not only did A-Rod have a cyst in his hip, but he also has a torn labrum. By moving along slowly and conservatively, the team hopes that A-Rod will not need surgery until after the season. However, a chance definitely remains that A-Rod will not be able to wait. If he is forced to have the surgery, he could miss somewhere around four months, so definitely keep this in mind if you have an upcoming draft.
Mariano Rivera – The Sandman had offseason shoulder surgery back in April, but yesterday he threw off of a mound for the first time this offseason. Rivera was pleased with the throwing session and is set to partake in Spring Training games in a week and a half to two weeks. This is good news for Rivera owners, as he seems all set to be ready for Opening Day.
Ken Griffey Jr. – Seattle fans and fantasy owners alike are getting nostalgic about Griffey’s return to the emerald city, but anyone expecting a resurgence of sorts is in for a disappointment. While Griffey has been more durable the past two seasons, he is still an injury risk at age 39. Even more concerning though is his declining skill set, especially as it pertains to his power numbers. The past 4 seasons, Griffey’s HR rate has been on a steady decline (6.4/5.8/4.9/3.2) as has his OPS (.947/.801/.877/.777). Griffey’s poor season last year was not an aberration, just the continuation of a downward trend.
Justin Duchscherer – Another update on Duchscherer indicates that his elbow problems may not only force him to miss his Opening Day start, as mentioned yesterday, but it also may force him into a relief role once he does return from injury. This is according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which also mentions that Duchscherer has had this same elbow pain for four straight springs. I think the club may be extra concerned this time, though, because Duchscherer is coming off a season in which he set a career high in IP with just over 140, which is about equal to his previous 3 years workload combined.
Brandon Phillips – Buster Olney mentioned in his morning blog that Dusty Baker wants to work with Brandon Phillips in regards to his patience at the plate. Not a bad idea Dusty. Phillips’ consistency has been hurt due to his lack of discipline. He drew walks about 6.5% percent of the time last season, close to 3% lower than the Major League average. He also has a below average contact rate of 83.4%, which leaves Phillips susceptible to an unlucky singles average as demonstrated by last year’s .227 mark in that department.
Juan Pierre – Possibly lost in the shuffle of the Manny Ramirez signing is the impact that it will have on Juan Pierre. LA found a decent way to get Pierre at bats last season, but this year it may be a different story. Manny will be in LA all season, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are another year more experienced, and Pierre is another year older. Pierre will be the 4th OF, and he clearly won’t, or at least shouldn’t, get as many at bats this year.
Dave Roberts – The Giants want to get younger, and the 37 YO Roberts clearly did not fit into their plans. So, Roberts was released by the Giants this season. He may be picked up somewhere as a result of his speed, but he has durability issues and has seen dramatic drops in his slugging percentage (.428/.393/.364/.280). This will most likely prevent him from getting decent playing time this season, and he is no longer worthy a late round draft pick as a speed specialist.
Mike Lowell – Lowell played in a 150+ games four years in a row, prior to missing 49 games last season. He hopes to go back to his durable ways again this year. First he has to get completely healthy. Lowell is still recovering from offseason hip surgery; his progress is encouraging, though. Manager Terry Francona hopes he’s able to participate in ST games in about a week. The even better news is that Lowell already feels much more comfortable swinging the bat now than he did last season, as a result of the surgery.
Shin-Shoo Choo – Choo, who had a surprising second half last season (.318/.396/.374), is experiencing soreness in his elbow. As a result, the team really wants Choo to come home from the World Baseball Classic. If Choo aggravates his elbow during the WBC, it will obviously hurt his chances at being healthy for the beginning of the season. Hopefully, for fantasy owners, the Indians get their wish and are able to bring Choo along slowly at their own Spring Training facility. A fully healthy Choo should come as a great value in all draft formats.
Kansas City Bullpen
With the emergence of Joakim Soria and the additions of Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz, Kansas City has quietly put together a very solid bullpen. What’s impressive is not just that all three are capable of getting outs, but it is the fashion in which they can get outs that is notable: the strikeout. All three relievers have a career K rate greater than one. Farnsworth, the worst of the three, strikes out 9.04 batters per IP. Cruz, the newest addition to KC’s roster, has a K/9 ratio of 9.35, but in each of the past two seasons it has incredibly been greater than 12. Soria is the most talented of the group. He has a career 9.31 K/9 and the best K/BB ratio and GB/FB ratio of the three. This group may allow Kansas City to be a surprise contender, and Farnsworth and Cruz are worth rostering in AL only leagues. Both could do an adequate job closing if Soria were to miss any extender period of time.
Jose Guillen – Guillen was one of the bigger FA signings in recent KC history, but he was rather disappointing in his first full season there (.264/.300/.438). Can he rebound this year? Not likely. Guillen has always been way too much of a free singer. From 2005-2007 his average EYE was .32. However, things went from bad to worse last season as Guillen’s EYE dipped all the way to .22. Not only that, but Guillen’s ’07 season with the Mariners was fluky. He hit .290, but the Royals should have done their HW. Guillen’s singles average that season was .287, way out of line for him. His singles averages in ‘05/’06/’08 were .251/.161/.221 – those represent the real Jose Guillen. Notice his average over those three seasons was around .254. With his decrease in EYE, he might be lucky to hit even that this year. We have him projected at .248, which is definitely unacceptable for a player who has posted over 100 RBI’s just once and has seen decreasing HR totals since 2003 (the only year he hit more than 30).
Ubaldo Jimenez – Ubaldo Jimenez is quite the enigma. The hard throwing righty out of Colorado has shown he has plenty of talent. Combine that with some favorable statistical indicators, and he could be headed for a breakout season. For example, he increased his already solid ’07 GB/FB ratio of 1.26 all the way to an outstanding 1.94 mark last season, which was partially responsible for cutting his HR/9 allowed more than in half (1.10 to .50). Here’s the enigma though. He also was extremely lucky in the HR allowed department because he experience a HR/FB% of only 6.9% (11.5%), which is low, but especially so for a Colorado pitcher. Again on the positive side is the fact that his expected ERA was .31 less than his actual ERA, partially because his xBHIP was an unlucky .294. The flip side is his already poor control got worse when Jimenez walked 4.67 batters per 9 IP or more than one batter every other inning. So, does the good outweigh the bad? Will Jimenez improve or regress next season? Well, in a situation like this when different numbers are telling you different things, I like to look at the player’s most recent history, and this is quite favorable to Jimenez. Over the second half of last season he really pulled things together, increasing his K rate and lowering his BB rate. Jimenez had just a 1 FPI halfway through last season, but over the second half he had an FPI of 2, meriting him an impressive roto value worth of $31 over that time. If recent history is any indication, the good outweighs the bad, and we should see an improvement out of Jimenez this year.
Troy Tulowitzki – Tulowitzki appeared to be a victim off a sophomore slump last season. He missed 61 games due to injury, and the 101 games he did play in he saw decreases in his AVG, OBP, and SLG. However, Tulowitzki had his fair share of bad luck. His EYE improved from .44 to .68 while holding his LD% steady at just above 20% (actually went up .4 percent). Yet, his average dipped from .291 to .263 due to an unlucky .226 singles average. Also, his HR rate fell from 3.6 to 1.9. Again, though Tulowitzki didn’t do much different as his FB percentages from ’07 and ’08 are nearly identical, but his HR/FB% was cut in half. Tulowitzki should not experience such bad luck again with both his singles average and HR/FB%, so expect him to have a nice comeback season both in the average and power department.
Brett Cecil – After losing AJ Burnett to Free Agency and Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum to injury, the Jays rotation (particularly the 4th and 5th spots) is a wide open race. One guy, if he were to make the team, who could make an immediate impact is Brett Cecil. Cecil has never pitched at the Major League level, but he has a solid minor league track record, including a good 6 starts at AAA in ’08. His ERA may look unimpressive at 4.11, but that was in large part due to some bad luck: a .327 BABIP and a 63.4% LOB%. The reason I feel Cecil can come in and be successful is his ability to strike batters out. At ever y minor league stop, he has a K rate greater than one. He did struggle a lit bit with his control during those 6 AAA starts (4.70 BB/9), but in his other three stops his K/BB ratios were 5.09 (A-), 5.50 (A+), and 3.78 (AA). Cecil is just 22 YO, so he might not make the team right out of camp, but if he does he is certainly worth a flier in deep leagues and AL only leagues.
Travis Snider – Snider is a promising rookie for the Jays, and in 24 games towards the end of last season Snider had an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .301/.338/.466. He definitely has a lot of power potential, but don’t let that .301 AVG in limited time fool you. Snider had an EYE of .22 and struck out a whopping 31.5% of the time; only an extremely high .333 singles average saved him. So, the bad news is Snider’s poor discipline makes him too much of a risk in the short term. When he does make contact though, he makes it count (34.6 LD% in those 24 games). So, with a little discipline, Snider could develop into an All-Star caliber hitter in a few years. But for now, just remember he is a 21 YO with a bad EYE. Right now Adam Lind makes a better sleeper pick in non-keeper leagues.