Stephen Strasburg- WAS- Rookie- Strasburg is not a National yet and can’t officially be one until at least June, when he will be eligible for the draft. The most highly touted college pitcher since maybe ever, Strasburg is about as close to a no-brainer as can be for a #1 overall pick, which is owned by the hapless Nationals. He consistently hits triple digits on the radar gun and has been clocked multiple times at 103 mph. One major difference between Strasburg and some of the other flamethrowers who have flamed out in the past is that he has command of a breaking pitch, a slider that comes in at 88 mph, making hitters look silly, even with aluminum bats in their hands. Another factor in a likely meteoric rise of Strasburg through the pro ranks after he signs is that he doesn’t have the wildness usually associated with young power pitchers. Since 2006, he has thrown 210 innings in collegiate and international competition. Strasburg has racked up 316 strikeouts but only issued 45 bases on balls. There is a possibility he could be in a major league uniform by the end of the season. He looks far ahead of his peers in the development department. The big question mark is whether a contract can be agreed to quickly. Strasburg is represented by Scott Boras, who has made noises about demanding a $15 million deal, unprecedented for a draft pick, even a #1. If the negotiations drag out, the chances of Strasburg pitching for DC (or Seattle, who will draft him #2 if the Nationals avoid Boras) will get slim. If, however, he signs quickly (as might happen since Washington needs something to give their fans hope) Strasburg will be worth grabbing as soon as possible in your league.
Chad Billingsley- LAN- Inj Update- Billingsley said that the groin strain that caused him to leave Monday’s game still bothered him yesterday, but didn’t seem to be anything serious. With fifth starter candidates Eric Stults and James McDonald taking the mound for the next two games, the other Dodger starters are going to get an extra rest day anyway. Billingsley doesn’t think he needs more than that to be back in shape.
John Smoltz- BOS- Inj Update- Smoltz will finally be taking the mound, albeit only in a bullpen session today. He is scheduled to throw 30 pitches as he comes back from shoulder surgery. The schedule for Smoltz to return to the majors has not changed from initial projections of sometime this summer, so don’t get too excited.
Jeremy Sowers- CLE- Drop Value- It seems like forever since the #6 overall pick in 2004 burst onto the scene in 2006 with a 7-4 record and 3.57 ERA in 14 starts in 2006. The Indians sent Sowers back to AAA yesterday and is now behind the remaining competitors for the fifth starter slot, Aaron Laffey and Scott Lewis, on the Indians’ depth chart.
Cole Hamels- PHI- Preseason - In his first outing since receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his arm last week, Hamels tossed 3-2/3 scoreless innings against Phillies minor leaguers. If he has no ill effects from the work, he will get another start next week. This will leave him with not enough time to be able to start the Opening Day game on April 5th.
Matt LaPorta- CLE- Rookie- The Indians sent LaPorta, ranked the #2 prospect in their organization by Baseball America after coming over from the Brewers in the C.C. Sabathia unloading, to their minor league camp. LaPorta, who slugged 22 homers in 362 ABs at AA last year, will probably get a little bit of seasoning at AAA ball, but is on the fast track to the majors. With 49 walks and 75 strikeouts in 2008, he is probably pretty close to major-league-ready and a good fantasy pickup who will provide power and possibly average.
Mike Pelfrey- NYM- Inj Update- Pelfrey’s lower leg strain is still affecting him. The major problem is that it is keeping him from a regular running regimen. That could lead to other problems, ranging from a simple lack of stamina to a danger of arm problems if his mechanics get screwed up. Yesterday, Pelfrey needed 84 pitches to get through 4-2/3 innings, in which he allowed 6 runs on 10 hits and a walk with only 1 strikeout. Right now, he is very suspect for the early part of the season. If the leg injury reduces his effectiveness for much longer, he is probably going to start the year on the DL.
Chan Ho Park- PHI- Preseason- Right now, Park is ahead in the race for fifth starter for the defending World Champions. Maybe I am tainted with memories of Park in the uniform of my beloved Texas Rangers, but all I can think of is, “How the mighty have fallen.” Park has pitched credibly in the Grapefruit League, with a 2.87 ERA in 4 starts. Despite being charged with 3 runs in 4 IP yesterday, he performed well, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 7. It was Park’s first outing since tweaking his hamstring on March 15th. Whether he ends up in the rotation or bullpen, I just can’t shake the feeling that Park is a disaster waiting to happen.
Gary Matthews, Jr.- LAA- Preseason- Matthews has put up some impressive numbers in the Cactus League, hitting .412 with a couple of mammoth homers in 17 ABs. It’s not going to be enough to get him in the top 4 outfielders on the Angels, but may get some interest from other teams such as the Yankees or White Sox. It’s looking like Matthews is finally healed from the knee injuries that have been plaguing him since the middle of 2007. He is trying to recapture the form that gave him a career year in 2006, with a .313 average and 19 homers for Texas. That is probably way too optimistic for the 34-year-old, but if he can find a full time job elsewhere, he may be able to give value as a cheap pick in deep leagues.
Troy Tulowitzki- COL- Preseason- Tulowitzki saw some game action yesterday, albeit in a minor league game at the Rockies complex. He went 2-for-5 with a homer and double. This was good news after Tulowitzki missed three games after feeling his back tighten up on a Cactus League bus trip. It looks like the problem was minor.
Michael Young- TEX- Injury- Young had a brief return from a tight quad that forced him to miss the previous two games. After he aggravated the injury running out a first inning single, Young left the game after playing the bottom of the inning in the field. He expects to be back in the lineup today, but will sit out the game if he is not feeling completely ready. Young offers a chance to get a very good producer at a bargain price if other owners look at his 2008 numbers. His drop off from routine .300 average, 200 hit seasons was caused by having broken ring fingers on both hands for most of the season. He is now healed and is a good bet to bounce back, as long as this leg injury is not serious.
C. J. Wilson- TEX- Preseason- Wilson is looking more like the pitcher that earned a job as closer for the Rangers at the start of last season than the one who lost the job after repeated bouts of ineffectiveness. In 2008 hitters posted an average of .268 against him. So far in the Cactus League, Wilson has allowed only 2 hits in 19 ABs after yesterday’s perfect 2 innings. If Frankie Francisco falters, Wilson will be the first option for Texas to move from setup to closer.
Koji Uehara- BAL- Preseason- Uehara’s first start since suffering a strained hamstring was an unqualified success. He allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 3-2/3 IP while striking out 7 and walking no one. Having been handed the #2 slot in the Baltimore rotation, Uehara made a case that he deserves it. He is still a bit of an unknown quantity, since his recent background in Japan is full of inconsistency, but he may be a sleeper available at a bargain price in most leagues.
David Pauley- BAL- Drop Value- Pauley has been voted off the island. Manager Dave Trembley took him out of the competition for the Baltimore rotation and he is now fighting for a bullpen spot, where he will have little if any fantasy value even if he wins. We are now down to 6 candidates for the last 3 slots in the Orioles’ rotation. Adam Eaton, Danys Baez, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon, Hayden Penn and are still left standing although (to mix the reality show metaphors here) Simon could undoubtedly find enough wrong with each of them to make fantasy owners avoid them all.
Hanley Ramirez- FLA- Preseason- Last week, we (using the royal we here) talked about some of the possible effects of the Marlins finalizing a new stadium deal. It has now happened, with groundbreaking now scheduled for this July. One of the benefits for Florida will be additional revenue as well as the stability in knowing where the franchise will be. Ramirez was excited today about the possibility of the franchise now being able to afford to keep more of its players instead of going through the periodic purges for which the team is famous. Ramirez was actually floating the possibility of being a Marlin for the rest of his career. In 2012, when the new stadium is set to open, the crop of young players at or near arbitration and free agency will include names like Cameron Maybin, Ricky Nolasco, and Josh Johnson. The club may try to tie up some of its young players in anticipation of the surge in revenue to be brought by the new stadium. This will be helpful to those in keeper leagues, as you will be better able to project what some of the hot youngsters will be doing for several years down the road. For the record, I still wish the club had gone with Don King’s proposal for a new stadium in Palm Beach County. First, it would have been a lot closer to my house than Little Havana. Second, who doesn’t want to see more press conferences with Don King and his hair?
Dan Uggla- FLA- Preseason- Uggla continued his Grapefruit League power surge yesterday, hitting his team-leading 4th home run. That’s the good news. The bad news is that his 1-for-2 performance lifted his average to only .220 and he has yet to draw a walk. Uggla’s usual second half fade led to a .226 average after the 2008 All Star Break, but he still walked enough to post a .343 OBP. At this point figure the spring average is the aberration and expect Uggla to be an early buy and guy to look to sell high in the middle of the year.