Welcome back to the Insider Baseball blog. It's good to be back and see the players start reporting to Spring Training. There have been a lot of changes in theh majors and we will be looking at them and other factors in the weeks ahead.
Mike Napoli- TEX- Napoli benefited last year from good luck as seen in a .344 BABIP, so his .320 average will be a tough thing to repeat. However, his Batting EYE improvement to .68 should keep him in the .280s range. Napoli's power will also give him good value in the catcher slot. Expect his homer rate to fall, but with fewer injury issues his raw homer total should still be in the 30 neighborhood. The Rangers will attempt to give Napoli more games behind the plate this year as they try to keep their heaviest hitters in the lineup as much as possible. Some lingering effects of his ankle sprain suffered in the World Series might make that difficult to pull off, at least to kick off the season.
Yorvit Torrealba- TEX- With Mike Napoli's ankle still bothering him, there is a possibility that Torrealba will see significant playing time to start the season. Even if Napoli is fully healthy, with Matt Treanor and Taylor Teagarden gone from Texas, Torrealba will see enough at bats to be one of the more valuable backup catchers in deep fantasy leagues. He won't exhibit the power of his teammate Napoli, but his average should be in the same general area. Torrealba's issues with punching a Venezuelan League umpire shouldn't carry over to the Major Leagues.
Peter Bourjos- LAA-The Albert Pujols signing added fantasy value to other slots in the Angels lineup. One of those is Bourjos. His exceptional defense will keep Mike Trout at a corner outfield spot and also allow Bourjos the opportunity to work through rough offensive patches he might have in his second full season as a major leaguer. Bourjos will push 30 SBs this season and likely score more runs and knock in more than the 72 runs and 43 RBI he posted last year with Pujols upgrading the lineup. Add in a batting average in the high .270s and Bourjos has the makings of a significant fantasy contributor who might be available on the cheap.
C. J. Wilson- LAA- Getting out of Texas should provide a boost to Wilson. His home/road ERA differential of 1.38 last season was even larger than the .79 in his first year as a starter in 2010. Wilson managed to lower his overall ERA to 2.94 in 2011 from 3.35 in 2010 despite an increase in BABIP from .266 to .287 and an increase in HR/9 from .44 to .64. This was primarily due to a drop in WHIP to a career low 1.19. That happened due to a plunge in his BB/9 from 4.10 to 2.98. The big questions with Wilson are whether he can maintain his control and also whether there will be any effects from throwing 251 innings last year (including postseason.) Watch him in spring training to see if his gains from last year appear to be sticking.
Zach Britton- BAL- Britton has continued to feel shoulder inflammation since starting an offseason throwing program. This is the same problem that plagued him in that latter part of 2011 and saw him go from a pitcher who won 6 of his first 7 starts to one who had only 1 victory in his last 14 starts and spent time on the DL. The inflammation prevents Britton from throwing in his natural arm slot. If he can't get past it, then his fantasy value will be very low. If he can, then he becomes a prime sleeper candidate. This is a situation worth paying close attention during spring training.
Wilson Betemit- BAL- Betemit is slated to DH for Baltimore. That might work out well for them, but doesn't add to any fantasy value he might have. His .285 average last season was driven by a .391 BABIP. His Batting EYE of .30 was a significant step back from the mark of .49 he posted in 2010. Betemit's 8 homers in 359 PAs don't bode well for contribution in that category this season. The Orioles are lowering the right field wall in Camden Yards this season, so that might be able to help the switch hitter, but overall he is not a player that gets the fantasy baseball owner's heart racing.
Aramis Ramirez- MIL- After being plagued by horrible luck in 2010, when injuries and a .245 BABIP led to a .241 average, Ramirez bounced back last season and posted a .306 average and added 26 homers, 80 runs and 93 RBI. Ramirez is being counted on to be the cleanup hitter for the Brewers, and with a solid lineup he could produce even more than with the Cubs. Ramirez also says he didn't like the early season cold in Chicago. With a roof over his head now in those April games he could get off to a fast start.
Mat Gamel- MIL- Gamel will be under a lot of pressure as he takes his minor league resume to the big leagues and mans first base after Prince Fielder's departure. He hit .310 with 28 homers at AAA in 2011, his third season playing primarily at that level. Gamel will turn 27 years old this summer, so he is is a little old for a prospect. He hasn't burst on the major league scene in any of his previous limited opportunities so the jury is still out on whether he can produce with increased playing time. Gamel needs close watching this spring to see if he is more than a AAAA player.
AJ Burnett- NYY- The Yankees and Angels had a deal to trade Burnett for Bobby Abreu, but Burnett invoked his no trade clause. The Yankees are still trying to deal Burnett, whose salary they will still have to largely pick up no matter what. Reportedly the Pirates are the main team in the running.
Johan Santana- NYM- Santana will be throwing a bullpen session today as he works his way back from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season.
Geovany Soto- CHN- Soto lost 25 lbs. in the offseason and is looking to return to his form of 2010, when he batted .280 and hit 17 homers in 387 PAs. He wasn't in the same shape last season and while he hit the same number of homers, it required 87 more PAs and his average fell to .228.
Brandon Inge- DET- Inge might not get pushed out of a starting role with the Tigers after all. It seemed as if he was the odd man out when Prince Fielder signed and Miguel Cabrera moved across the diamond to third base to make room for Fielder at first. However, Inge is going to be in the competition for Detroit's second base job, facing off against Ryan Raburn. Inge will have to hit better than he did last season, regardless of how quickly he picks up the defensive nuances of the new position. The .197 he posted in 2011 won't cut it anywhere as a starter.
Casey McGehee- PIT- The Pirates avoided arbitration with McGehee, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason. McGehee's signing came on the same day that an arbitrator ruled in the Pirates' favor in their case with Garrett Jones, the other contender for the first base job in 2012.
John Lannan- WAS- Rumors surfaced about Lannan being shopped to the Angels for Peter Bourjos. That doesn't seem to make sense from the Angels perspective. It seems unlikely they would deal a cheap, young outfielder with lots of upside for an older expensive, marginal at best upgrade to the back end of their rotation. Lannan is definitely on the block and unlikely to remain with Washington much longer, even if this particular talk doesn't have much to it.
Chris Gimenez- TB- The Rays signed Gimenez to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training. He is unlikely to be a factor, but stranger things have happened.
Kosuke Fukodome- CHW- Fukudome returns to Chicago, but will be on the South Side and in a less significant role than when he signed with the Cubs before the 2008 season. He will be in a "super sub" role with the White Sox, picking up starts when there is a tough righthander.