Another day, more happenings at major league Spring Training.
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Chris Davis- TEX- Davis is hitting .410 this spring with 4 homers and 15 RBI. He also boasts a slugging percentage of .872 in the Cactus League. Still, the odds are that Davis will end up at AAA (he has an option remaining) if the Rangers can’t find a taker if they put him on the market. He is in danger of being tagged as a AAAA player, as his minor league numbers at AAA over the past 3 seasons (.329 average, 43 homers, 183 RBI in 860 ABs) are superior to those with the Rangers (.248-39-118) except for homers. Even that showed a marked decline in 2010, as Davis only hit 1 homer in 120 big league ABs. Combine that with an inability to crack the Mendoza line against lefties over the past two seasons in Texas and Davis will be a gamble for anyone who picks him up.
Taylor Teagarden- TEX- It probably wasn’t a coincidence that Teagarden started against the Padres last night. San Diego is looking for a backup catcher since Gregg Zaun retired. Right now, Teagarden would be considered fourth on the Texas depth chart at catcher, so an attempt to move him would be to the benefit of both Teagarden and the Rangers. He went 1-for-2 with an RBI against San Diego so didn’t hurt himself if this was an audition.
Jake Fox- BAL- Fox was designated for assignment by the As last season and picked up off the scrap heap by the Orioles. He hit 5 homers in 100 ABs for the Birds and is pushing to stick with them coming out of spring training. Fox is hitting .356 and leading the Grapefruit League with 7 homers. If he stays on the major league roster he will likely be used as a backup catcher and utility player. If he can approach his 2009 numbers with the Cubs (.259 average and 11 homers in 216 ABs) he will have some value in deep leagues. It’s too little data to make a correlation, but Fox hit .350 in the spring of 2009 and .151 last year. If this is an actual trend it is a good sign for Fox that he will bounce back from his .217 average last season.
Chris Tillman- BAL- Tillman is the odds on favorite to earn the fifth spot in the Orioles’ rotation to start the season. Justin Duchscherer is still recovering from injury and Zach Britton, Baltimore’s top pitching prospect, is likely to start the season at AAA. Tillman’s value is up in the air, though, as being a fifth starter in April can mean not that much pitching time and with Britton waiting in the wings that is not a secure position. Tillman will have to maintain an ERA more like the 3.55 he is posting in the Grapefruit League than the 5.87 he had in 2010 in order to provide fantasy value.
Josh Johnson- FLA- After throwing no more than 5 games of 110+ pitches in a season prior to last year, Johnson put up 12 such starts, including 2 that hit 120+ pitches and a stretch of 12 starts with 9 of them at least 110 pitches and the other three no fewer than 108. It is not a surprise that he was shut down after his 120-pitch outing on September 4th. If the Marlins try to work Johnson like that again, he is at high risk of not making it through the 2011 season without additional injury.
Ricky Nolasco- FLA- Like Josh Johnson, Nolasco is returning after having his 2010 season end prematurely due to injury. Unlike Johnson, however, Nolasco isn’t coming back from an arm injury and also wasn’t pushed as hard. Nolasco only threw 4 starts of 110 or more pitches last year. He doesn’t carry the same level of risk as Johnson.
Andrew Bailey- OAK- The pain Bailey felt on Monday was the result of some scar tissue tearing. While he may have to start the season on the DL, Bailey isn’t expected to miss much time and this isn’t a structural issue.
Shaun Marcum- MIL- Marcum has been feeling periodic tightness in his shoulder all spring. Yesterday it got bad enough that he left the game after 3 IP. Marcum is planning to rest for a day or two and then resume his normal routine and see how he feels.
Brian McCann- ATL- McCann visited with Luis Salazar yesterday and came out feeling good about the condition of the minor league manager. McCann hit a foul ball that struck Salazar in the dugout last week and resulted in the loss of Salazar’s left eye. That is the kind of thing that could shake a player. However, with Salazar upbeat, that could help McCann get over the freak incident without impact to his game.
Kendry Morales- LAA- Morales is still having problems running on his surgically repaired ankle. He is experiencing some inflammation after he works out. This impacts both his abilities to run the bases and play defense at first base. The former will probably have Morales on the DL to start the season and the latter will likely have him limited to DH duty, at least at first, when he does come back. This will negatively impact the playing time for rookie Peter Bourjos. Bobby Abreu will have to move to the outfield to allow Morales to DH and Bourjos will e the odd man out.
Grady Sizemore- CLE- Although Sizemore will see game action on Sunday he has yet to test his surgically repaired knee by sliding. Given that Sizemore’s value rests mainly in his homer and steal potential, both of which rely on his knees to play a big part, there are still big question marks as to his ability to bounce back after two injury shortened seasons. See how he does with some slides before deciding to take the risk on Sizemore.
Chase Utley- PHI- The news is not sounding good about Utley’s knee. He went to see an unnamed specialist in an undisclosed location about alternative treatments to try and avoid surgery. GM Ruben Amaro said that surgery could possibly make the knee worse, which seemed like an odd thing to say. There is no timetable for Utley’s return, and after the All Star Break is a distinct possibility.
Felix Hernandez- SEA- Hernandez doesn’t turn 25 until April. He has already pitched 1154.2 major league innings and has thrown more than 190 IP in each of the last 5 seasons. He is also throwing a lot of pitches. In 23 of his 34 starts last year, Hernandez threw 110 or more pitches. That was a big jump from the 14 high-pitch outings he had in 20009, his previous high. Before that season he hadn’t thrown more than 10 starts of 110 or more pitches in a game. This kind of jump in workload while still in his formative years could have a negative impact on his 2011 season. It would be a shame if Hernandez were to fall victim to overuse after the Mariners had handled him carefully up to 2010.
Josh Beckett- BOS- Beckett is in the number 4 slot in the Boston rotation to start the season. Manager Terry Francona prefers that Beckett make his first start against the Indians than against the Rangers. That makes sense given Beckett’s spring so far. He has allowed 2 homers in 9-2/3 IP in the Grapefruit League. Overall, it might be a boost for Beckett’s early season value.
Daisuke Matsuzaka- BOS- Dice-K has slipped to the bottom of the Red Sox rotation, slotted into the fifth position. This puts him in danger of getting skipped due to off days, but the plan right now is to let the starters have that extra day of rest in the early part of the season. Weather will have an impact, however. If there is a precipitation out early on, Dice-K will probably get passed over.
Lance Berkman- STL- After an arm injury has caused him to DH much of the spring, Berkman got time in at right field yesterday and he didn’t screw anything up. That’s a good thing. Berkman is usually a hot player in the Grapefruit League but is only hitting .229 this year. We will have to see if he adjusts to his new team and position as spring training winds down.