Notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues...as all pitchers and catchers have reported and position players for the Tigers, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Mariners report today.
Ryan Dempster- BOS- Dempster will not be pitching for the Red Sox or anyone else this season. He announced that but didn't officially retire. Dempster left the door open to trying a return in 2015 if he overcomes some neck issues. He also said that a desire to spend more time with his family factored into his decision to skip 2014.
Clayton Kershaw- LAN- If you look at the Dodgers' schedule you will see that the theoretical possibility exists for Kershaw to start half of Los Angeles' first six games. The reality is that it isn't likely. Manager Don Mattingly doesn't want to mess up his rotation that much, even if it would get a pitcher of Kershaw's value on the mound more often than otherwise. One thing that you will want to do is check your league rules if you are playing head-to-head and see if the games in Australia are being counted in with the first week. Some leagues are using them and some are ignoring them.
Danny Espinosa- WAS- Espinosa is already in camp and reports are that he is hitting line drives from both sides of the plate. He could be a legitimate sleeper candidate if his abysmal 2013 season was actually a result of a wrist injury early in the season, as he claims. Espinosa flirted with 20/20 campaigns in both 2011 and 2012. His line drive % plummeted to 10.1% in limited major league playing time, far below his career norm. A return to health could give you some cheap help in the middle infield in both the steals and homer columns although average will probably take a hit. Espinosa will turn 27 in the first month of the season so might be hitting his peak.
Josh Hamilton- LAA- Hamilton came into camp this year weighing 240. That's the weight he carried in the Rangers' camps before his dominant seasons. It's 13 pounds more than he was at in his first Angels' camp. Hamilton lost another 15 over the course of the regular season. Regaining the bulk gives hope that he will rediscover his power stroke closer to his days before signing with the Angels.
Ervin Santana- Santana is still a free agent. Royals' GM severely downplayed the chances of Santana resigning with Kansas City. Between the bodies in their projected rotation and the salary committed to their club as a whole it doesn't look like there is room for Santana despite some published reports indicating interest.
Mark Mulder- LAA- Mulder's comeback attempt is likely over before it really had a chance to begin. He ruptured his Achilles tendon during an agility drill on Saturday. Mulder will undergo surgery today. The normal recovery period is 5-8 months. That puts an end to dreams of returning to the majors this year. Getting it together for next year is a long shot at this point.
Cody Ross- ARI- Ross will test his hip with running in the outfield today. It will be the first time he has attempted that since suffering a break and dislocation last August. Ross took BP and participated in fielding drills on Saturday. He is hoping to be ready to go when the regular season begins.
Daniel Nava- BOS- With Jacoby Ellsbury accepting 30 pieces of silver, the Red Sox have a need for a leadoff hitter. They may end up with two of them. Right now it looks like Nava is the odds on favorite to start against righthanded pitchers while Shane Victorino would be atop the lineup against southpaw starters.
Ryan Howard- PHI- Howard starts the season at age 34 after two injury plagued seasons. He says that his legs feel fine, but that's what he said last year. Manager Ryne Sandberg sees Howard playing 140-150 games. Some of the missing games would be due to planned rest to try and keep him healthy. Others could be a result of decreased performance against lefthanders. He was below the Mendoza line against southpaws over the last two seasons and the possibility of platoon has been bandied about the Phillies press corps. Given his K% of over 30% the past two seasons, getting to his total of 28 homers in the Fantistics' preseason projections will require the 543 ABs that come out of the projection. That could be a challenge.
Jonathan Pettibone- PHI- With Cole Hamels starting the season on the DL, the Phillies had a more crucial need at fifth starter than they thought they would. Pettibone was expected to be one of the candidates to challenge for that spot. That is now in doubt. He bypassed his scheduled bullpen session yesterday due to tightness in his shoulder. A strained rotator cuff in that shoulder is what landed him on the DL to finish the 2013 season. In his rookie campaign last season Pettibone threw 8 QS in his 18, coming within an out of picking up 2 more. His stuff was not overwhelming but he turned in a serviceable though not outstanding campaign. His 4.04 ERA was a little lower than his 4.18 WHIP. He had the possibility of eating some innings, but if his shoulder is fragile that will be tough.
Aaron Harang- CLE- The Indians signed Harang to a minor league contract on Saturday and have him in their big league camp. He is in the mix for the fifth starter job. Harang finished strong with the Mets, who picked him up for September after the Mariners cut him loose. In those last 4 starts he posted a 3.52 ERA, far better than the 5.76 he was tattooed with as a Mariner. It is also more in line with what he posted in 2011 and 2012. His K/9 and BB/9 were his best since 2009. In the past 4 major league seasons Harang has pitched for 5 teams. He is going to try and make it 6 teams in 5 years with the Indians. Fantistics' projections have him at a 5.00 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 129 IP. That's not enough to make him worth your time, even in the deepest of leagues.
David Murphy- CLE- Murphy is slated to get the bulk of the time at RF for the Indians, primarily facing righthanded starters. His 2013 season with Texas was disappointing, with an average of only .220 and 13 homers in 476 PAs. This came after hitting .304 in 2012. Most of the plunge came due to a switch in luck. After a .333 BABIP in 2012 it fell to .227 last year. His average is set for some positive regression which could make him a bargain for a deep fantasy bench.
Manny Machado- BAL- Machado is already in camp and able to do everything but run the bases. That is the last hurdle to be overcome as he recovers from knee surgery. It's still uncertain whether he will be ready to go when the season starts. However it looks like Machado won't be out too much after that in a worst case scenario so his fantasy value is still solid. Fantistics' projects him as the 6th most valuable 3B. That's based on a projected slash line of .290/22/81. At age 21 he is looking like a fixture in Baltimore for several years to come.
Suk-min Yoon- BAL- The Orioles have not yet announced the 3-year, $5.75 million deal Yoon signed as official. He has reportedly passed his physical so the announcement should be coming soon. The physical was important because Yoon had shoulder issues. That led to Yoon pitching in relief last year. He had a 3-6 record with a 4.00 ERA. Any comparisons with Hyun-jin Ryu would leave Yoon on the short end. Yoon has a nice repertoire but his K ratio has been dropping. In addition his pitches tend to stay up, which won't be a good thing in Camden Yards. Yoon came cheaply but it looks like they aren't going to get a surprise amount of windfall value from him. Yoon doesn't look a like a hot prospect fir fantasy teams.
Mitch Moreland- TEX- After a good deal of speculation that Moreland might be headed elsewhere after Prince Fielder displaced him from 1B, it looks like he will be the primary DH for Texas. Last year he hit a career high 23 homers in 518 PAs. His .2323 average was negatively impacted by a .255 BABIP. Fantistics' projection is for him to increase his average to .261 and slug 22 homers. Moreland will also probably end up qualifying as an outfielder in most fantasy formats as he is expected to play there more than the single game he did in 2013. The Rangers are hoping that he can have a breakout year like Chris Davis. Seeing what Davis did in Baltimore may be part of the reason why they held onto Moreland, who has had a similar career trajectory so far.
Elvis Andrus- TEX- Besides his defensive skill Andrus showed enough offense again last year to demonstrate fantasy value. Despite a drop of 20 points in BABIP from 2012 Andrus still managed to hit .271. He added 4 homers and 42 steals. Fantistics' predict a bounce in average this year to .281 and still swiping 37 bases. That makes him the 9th rated SS. Andrus was good enough for the Rangers to lock him up to a long term deal, forcing prospect Jurickson Profar to 2B. So far Andrus has confirmed the Rangers assessment of the situation.