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Preseason Fantistics Analysis - Monday, April 2, 2012

Joe Ribando

Preseason Fantistics Analysis - Monday, April 2, 2012

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have chosen Drew Smyly as their 5th starter and will start the season in the rotation. Don't be confused when you see a Triple-A start against Toledo on April 7th as it is just to keep him sharp before he makes his first regular season start on the big league level against the Rays at home on April 12th. Smyly has never pitched above Double-A but posted a 2.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a K/9 of 9.3 in 126 IP over 22 appearances. The eye opener here is the K numbers that also translated to a solid rate this past spring with 10 K's in 12.2 IP. The lefty has some upside and could surprise, but probably remains a risky AL-only flier at this point until he gets a few games under his belt. Until then, he remains an enigma and too much of a risky proposition to consider.

Brandon Inge will probably being the season on the disabled list with a sore groin, making Ryan Raburn the lock at 2B. The outfield is also basically set for opening day with Delmon Young as the regular DH, Austin Jackson in Cf, Brennan Boesch in RF, and Andy Dirks in LF. Dirks making the team isn't for sure yet as the Tigers haven't made any official moves, but it looks like the likely option for manager Jim Leyland. OF Clete Thomas is on the bubble as is utility infielder Danny Worth.

New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez has looked healthy and has hit the ball well this spring, but his value on draft day has still be indicative of fearful owners concerned over an aging star. The soon-to-be 37 year old is hitting .289/.396/.511 this spring with 2 HR, 11 RBI, and 7:12 BB:K. It is tough to tell just how well A-Rod will hold-up over a full season and if the hip issues that have lingered for the past couple of seasons will return. A forecast of 25 HR, 80 R, and 90 RBI seems respectable for A-Rod, but he does have upside to bounce back from a down year in 2011 that led to just 16 HR in 373 AB with a .276 average. In a year where 3B continues to be one of the weaker positions, A-Rod is still in the top-10 of all third basemen and deserves a valuation in the 5th-6th round in vanilla leagues.

Nick Swisher was back in action on Sunday and claims to be 100% after suffering from a sore right groin a couple of weeks ago. He's still playing it cautious running the bases and making sharp turns, but it looks like he'll be ready for Opening Day. We're looking for Swisher to have a bounce back year in 2012 as his struggles in 2011 came against RHP (which was abnormal when looking at his career as a whole). He posted a .420 SLG against RHP compared to .516 against LHP last year. For his career, he has posted a .473 SLG against RHP. I've seen Swisher drop into the mid-teen rounds in some standard mixed leagues, leaving a good value for a switch hitter with lots of run, RBI, and HR potential in a Yankee lineup and in a favorable home ballpark. Up-arrow in my book.
Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were one of the more active teams over the weekend, trading 3B Juan Francisco for RHP J.J. Hoover while sending Jeff Francis down to Triple-A to begin the season. Hoover was considered a top-15 prospect in the Braves system and at just 24, already had 99 appearances under his belt with a 25-19 record and a 3.14 ERA through 61 starts in the minors. Hoover was converted to the bullpen last year and was optioned to Triple-A with the Reds after being traded. No real fantasy implication on the Reds side of the trade, but Juan Francisco could see some regular 3B playing time to begin the season on the Braves side of the trade. Also, any thoughts of seeing Mark Lowe or Koji Uehara shipped from the Rangers to the Reds are probably dead now.

As for Jeff Francis, his fantasy value is very low and he has a long way to go before he is considered outside of anything but a deep NL-only elague. After a dreadful spring, the Reds are going to start Francis in the minors. Francis hurled 23.0 IP and posted an ERA of 6.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .286 BAA, and 14 K's. For his career, Francis has a fairly large differential in FIP vs ERA with a career FIP of 4.40 but ERA of 4.78. With a low K-rate, his contact % is extremely high at 81% over his 7-year career and the injury bug has zapped his fastball, topping out in the mid-to-high 80's. He'll be an innings eater for the Reds (or some team) and will be able to extend his career as a lefty. He just won't be eating too many innings on fantasy teams in 2012.

Troy Tulowitzki (SS - Rockies) - Some drama unfolded between Ubaldo Jimenez and some of his former Rockies teammates on Sunday, in particularly Troy Tulowitzki. Ubaldo drilled Tulo on the left elbow and then started to taunt Tulo by pounding his chest and gesturing for Tulo to come after him. This was all in response to guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Tulo expressing their disappointment that Ubaldo asked to be traded last season. Of course, Ubaldo's side of the story was a little discontent with the huge contracts signed by his former teammates. Tulo was taken to the hospital for precautionary x-rays and they were negative. I wouldn't let it affect his value if you are drafting this week, unless we hear some unexpected bad news. He might miss the start of the season, but that remains to be seen. No interleague play between these two teams, so this drama will begin and end in spring training except for the possibility that Ubaldo might get handed a suspension to start the season.

Andrew Bailey (RP - Red Sox) - It looks like an injury to Bailey's right thumb might keep him out of action to begin the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Red Sox place Bailey on the disabled list retroactive to the last game Bailey pitched was a minor league one. The move would give the Red Sox some flexibility without Bailey missing too much time if the injury turns out to be a minor one (backdate would be March 26th, allowing Bailey to return on April 10th). With Alfredo Aceves moving to the bullpen over the weekend, expect him to get the call for any save situations until Bailey returns.

Desmond Jennings (OF - Rays) - Any concern over the lack of power from Desmond Jennings this spring quickly dissipated on Sunday. After going homerless in 42 spring training ABs, Jennings hit 3 HR's on Sunday. After hitting 10 HR for an AB/HR of 24.7 in 2011, we forecast a full season of about 18 HRs for Jennings. Getting to 20 will be a reach for the speedster in just his 2nd season, but expect him to flirt with 20/40 if all goes well for the Carl Crawford-like star in the making.

Martin Prado (3B - Braves) - With the Braves acquiring Juan Francisco from the Reds over the weekend, Martin Prado may be making the shift from 3B to the OF to begin the season (and until Chipper Jones returns). This could have some fantasy implications depending on your league's rules, but he already had 42 games at 3B and over 100 in the OF from 2011 so it likely will have no impact. Prado didn't exactly have a smooth transition to OF last year, but it was probably mostly due to a staph infection that lowered his SLG% by 70 points, AVG by 47 points, and OBP by 50. I don't think the change in positions will matter too much to Prado, so I expect more of a bounce back to his 2010 numbers, making him a solid value play on draft day heading into 2012 (current ADP of about 12th round).

Alfredo Aceves (RP - Red Sox) - With regular closer Andrew Bailey suffering from a right thumb injury that might land him on the disabled list until April 10th, Alfredo Aceves would be the go-to guy for any save situations for the first week of the season. I wouldn't waste too much time or money on a claim, but if you're a in a free-market free agent pickup league, he may be a good stopgap for Bailey owners.

Wilin Rosario (C - Rockies) - Ramon Hernandez is still the regular catcher for Colorado, but Wilin Rosario made the big league roster for the Rockies and will probably get a few starts a week to get his bat into the lineup. Rosario hit the cover off the ball this spring, batting .396/.412/.688 with 3 HR and 11 RBI in 48 AB. He is certainly the future behind the plate in Colorado, but still has some work to do to improve his defensive skills. Keep an eye on the catcher situation in Colorado this season as Rosario's bat could work its way into the lineup on an everyday basis by the end of the season.

David Murphy (OF - Rangers) - If Josh Hamilton moves to the CF job (as is speculated), the LF spot remains wide open for David Murphy. Of course manager Ron Washington hasn't indicated either way if Murphy will be the starting LF on opening day, but if spring numbers are any indication, Murphy has a leg-up on his competition. He is hitting .327/.367/.509 with 12 RBI and 6 XBH. Washington has said that he doesn't plan on Hamilton being in CF everyday, meaning Murphy probably won't be in the lineup everyday either (although he will probably play more often than he doesn't). Still, inconsistent playing time makes him a late-round flier in mixed leagues at best and AL-only consideration only. This should be an ever-changing situation throughout the season, but Murphy has some power potential if he can convert his doubles to HRs at 27 years old.

Corey Hart (OF - Brewers) - Looks like Hart is going to avoid the disabled list after all. He's played in minor league games for 5 straight days without any lingering issues. Of course, the Brewers are going to be cautious because they don't want it to aggravate the knee if he can't handle the innings load on an everyday basis. But it certainly looks like the Brewers are going to avoid the DL for Hart, meaning he would be probably be ready to start opening day but could see his playing time staggered for the few first weeks.

Tim Stauffer (SP - Padres) - Stauffer is suffering from mild triceps soreness as spring training comes to a close. While the injury doesn't seem serious, you have to wonder if its the cause for the lackluster 6.75 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and just 11 K's in 22.2 IP this spring. Stauffer is coming off a very impressive 20-for-31 QS 2011 that led to a 3.73 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 9 wins (although it would be a higher win total with a little help from the bats). Stauffer benefits from a GB% of 51% combined with favorable home-friendly confines for pitchers, but his value is dragged down with a low K/9 of just 6.2 and now injury concerns. He's a last round pick in mixed leagues at best, but probably a free agent pickup in non NL only leagues.

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