New, notes, and analysis as we get closer to the start of the regular season...
Zack Britton- BAL- Britton's injury situation hasn't gotten any better as Spring Training has advanced. He is now going to try platelet rich plasma therapy to try and get his shoulder back into shape. Britton will definitely not be on the opening Day roster and could be out for a significantly longer amount of time. His possible sleeper status is gone.
Dontrelle Willis- BAL- Willis signed a minor league with the Orioles. His status has dropped way down since he was a top flight starter with the Marlins. Baltimore is looking at him as a LOOGY, if he can justify major league status. Willis will probably start the season at AAA and a decision about his future will be made after that. He is a prime example of what can happen with overuse of a pitcher at a young age.
Bobby Abreu- LAA- Abreu is having an abysmal spring, hitting just .115. That is not his usual result, as he owns a .288 career spring training average. More relevant to his fantasy value, however, is the logjam of players in front of him on the depth chart. The Angels are going to try and get ABs for Mike Trumbo and Kendrys Morales between DH and corner outfield spots, so that will decrease Abreu's opportunities. His days as a high value fantasy player were impressive, but they appear to be over.
Garrett Richards- LAA- The Angels will need a fifth starter on April 15th. At this point it looks like it will be Richards. Veteran Jerome Williams continues his recovery from a hamstring injury and Richards continues to impress. He is the #3 prospect in the Angels organization on both the MLB and Basebal;l America lists and showed solid control last year, walking 40 in 143 AA IP while striking out 103. Richards also allowed only 10 homers. He may benefit from some more minor league seasoning, but if he does go back down, will be in line to return if there are injury or performance issues in the Los Angeles rotation.
Ryan Braun- MIL- His PED controversy got behind him quickly, but now Braun is dogged by the injury bug. A tight groin continues to prevent him from playing consecutive days. That streak will continue as he sat out yesterday and the Brewers have an open date today. It has undoubtedly impacted his Cactus league performance, with Braun's lone hit in 17 ABs being a homer. There are two weeks before the games start to count and Braun needs to show some rapid healing or he could be in for a slow start if he avoids the DL.
Brooks Conrad- MIL- Every team seems to be looking for a "super sub" nowadays and Conrad looks to fill that role for the Brewers. He switch hits, can play 3 infield positions, the outfield and even catch in a pinch. With a somewhat short bench, Conrad is likely to get more than the 103 ABs he recorded with Atlanta last year, but still nowhere near that of a full time player. Will his performance merit consideration in some deep fantasy leagues? Well, Conrad has always shown some power, so he might give a little boost there. However, his plate discipline remains suspect. His BB% went from 9.0% in 2010 to 12.3% last year but his Batting EYE only rose to .37 from .36. That is because his K% likewise took a big jump, from 25.4% to 33.6%. Even if Conrad gets more playing time the risk to reward ratio isn't that high from a fantasy perspective.
Michael Kirkman- TEX- The Rangers are pretty much locked into using Kirkman as their primary lefthanded reliever this season. They didn't do much shopping around for someone to fill that role and even though he hasn't performed well in the Cactus League this year (7.88 ERA) they are confident he will be solid when the season starts. One plus in Kirkman's favor is that he has shown an ability to get right-handers out (.100 OBA in 2010 when he made contributions to their first AL championship run.) The Rangers are looking for more than a LOOGY from their southpaw reliever. This could boost Kirkman's fantasy value, particularly in leagues that count holds.
Craig Gentry- TEX- Gentry sat out 4 games last week due to a strained wrist, but the injury hasn't put him behind in the competition with Julio Borbon for CF in Texas if Josh Hamilton moves to LF. Gentry played a full game Tuesday and after an open date yesterday will play a full game again today. He swiped 18 bases in 64 games last year for Texas and that will be the main category he can help a fantasy team if he sees starting playing time.
Joakim Soria- KC- After seeing Dr. Lewis Yocum, Soria is going to take a couple of days to decide what to do with his ailing elbow. A second Tommy John surgery is still in the mix, but whatever path Soria takes is going to mean lengthy time away from the KC bullpen. Jonathan Broxton seems to be the odds on favorite to take the closer role.
Lance Lynn- STL- With Chris Carpenter likely to start the season on the DL, Lynn moves from the bullpen into the fifth starter slot. His fantasy value will largely depend on the seriousness of Carpenter's injury. Fifth starters don't get that much work early in the season, so it would take a long time out for Carpenter for this to give Lynn a significant boost. If he does get some decent time in the rotation, Lynn could be a sleeper. He has shown strikeout ability, fanning 40 in 34.2 IP last year for the Cards, mostly in a relief role.
Johan Santana- NYM- Santana continues to lessen doubts about his comeback. In his 6 IP yesterday he threw strikes with 48 of his 69 pitches and recorded 6 strikeouts. Santana's velocity keeps improving, as he was consistently hitting the high 80s and threw above 90 mph at times.
Jordany Valdespin- NYM- Valdespin is getting time in the outfield, a place he has never played as a professional. Manager Terry Collins is looking for players to fill potential holes, with Andres Torres and Scott Hairston injured and possibly starting the season on the DL. Valdespin is having an impressive spring, with a .333 average and .533 slugging percentage. Last season he slugged 17 homers and swiped 37 bases in the minors at AA and AAA. A questionable attitude has been a weakness for Valdespin, but a willingness to tackle a new position might indicate some increasing maturity.
Stephen Strasburg- WAS- Strasburg's official inning limit this year will be 160. That will factor into his fantasy value. He is going to start as Washington's Opening Day pitcher, so the countdown will start right away. Doing the math, if Strasburg averages 6 IP per start, that will give him 26-27 appearances this season. Keep this in mind later in the year if Strasburg performs well and someone tries to deal him to you.
Bryan LaHair- CHN- LaHair is hitting .189 in the Cactus League and Anthony Rizzo is at .375, but that won't change LaHair's status as the starting 1B for the Cubs when the season starts. GM Jed Hoyer gave him the official vote of confidence yesterday.
AJ Burnett- PIT- Burnett threw 53 pitches in a bullpen session and will have a simulated game on Sunday. His rehab from a fractured orbital bone is coming along nicely but he will still miss the first month or two of the regular season.
Rick VandenHurk- CLE- VandenHurk was a Marlins' prospect a few years ago but never reached his potential. He was in the Baltimore organization last season and got a couple of starts after being called up late in the season. This spring he was released by Toronto and has now been picked up by Cleveland. The Indians have a couple of relievers injured and are throwing VandenHurk in the mix for possible replacement. With a 4.43 ERA and 108 Ks in 154.1 IP at AAA in 2011, there isn't much potential for surprise from him.