Observations from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues...Pitchers and catchers will be reporting today for the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, Tigers, Angels, Padres and Nationals.
Derek Jeter- NYA- The biggest news of yesterday was that the last of the Core Four will be hanging it up after this season. Jeter led the majors in hits in 2012 before losing almost all of last season to injury. The odds are against him bowing out with another .300+ season.
Miguel Cabrera- DET- Cabrera reported early to continue his recovery from core muscle surgery last October. He says he's feeling stronger, which will certainly do nothing to change his position near the top of most drafts. It looks like there will be no lingering effect from the surgery.
Hisashi Iwakuma- SEA- Iwakuma was diagnosed with a strained tendon in his middle finger. He will not be throwing for 4-6 weeks, which has him missing the start of the season. Iwakuma will be reevaluated in 3 weeks so a more accurate projection of his return should come then.
Erisbel Arruebarruena - LAN- The Dodgers have reportedly come to terms with Cuban SS Erisbel Arruebarruena. Finalizing the deal depends on a physical and working out immigration issues. Arruebarruena isn't in the same category of fellow Cubans and Dodgers Yasiel Puig and Alex Guerrero. Those two are primarily offensive talents while Arruebarruena's primary skill is defense. As a result he isn't expected to slide right into the major league squad like Guerrero. His potential fantasy value is also much more limited at this point. He also falls just short of Jarrod Saltalamacchia for longest name on the back of a jersey.
Nelson Cruz- Speculation has had the free agent Cruz most likely landing either in Seattle or back in Texas. Yesterday, Rangers' GM Jon Daniels said that while the team had sporadic contact with Cruz's agent, he expects Cruz will sign elsewhere. That probably puts the Mariners in the forefront but they don't seem too anxious to finalize a deal. The draft pick compensation due the Rangers is probably part of the hesitance.
Freddie Freeman- ATL- Freeman has already begun workouts even before the official opening of Spring Training. Freeman has hit 23 homers in each of the past two years but at only 23 years of age he will probably hit more than that age this year. His .319 average last year was boosted by a .371 BABIP but his 2012 average of .259 was hindered by a .295 BABIP. A season of .293/29/99 is currently projected. Just a little push in performance will get him over some good round numbers.
Bronson Arroyo- ARI- Arroyo joined the Diamondbacks and threw a bullpen session with his new team, a day after passing his physical. Arroyo has consistently posted an ERA below his FIP, but it may be harder for him to do at age 37. He will definitely be helped by a move away from Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark but Arroyo won't be worth in fantasy baseball the relative equivalent of what Arizona paid for him in real life.
Hanley Ramirez- LAN- Ramirez is expecting to get a contract extension before too long. It should be a long term one but there will be an understanding that Ramirez will not end the contract at the same position he will start it at. Ramirez is ticketed to make a transition to third base once the Dodgers have groomed a successor at SS.
A. J. Burnett- PHI- Burnett signed with the Phillies yesterday, ending the speculation about where he would end up or if he would retire. He inked a 1-year, $16 million contract that has a mutual option for a second year. Retirement did seem unlikely, given Burnett's 3.30 ERA (with a 2.80 FIP) and K/9 of 9.85 last season. A repeat performance may be tough. The K/9 was Burnett's best career mark. That will be tough to equal. He moves from the 29th most homer prone park in 2013 to the park that allowed the most homers. That's going to have an impact. Burnett will be in a prominent role, given the absence of Cole Hamels to start the season. That will give him plenty of opportunity but temper expectations and bid on his likely current year value instead of banking on a copy of 2013.
Cole Hamels- PHI- Hamels will not be with the team when they start the regular season. He had been diagnosed with biceps tendinitis, which started manifesting itself in a sore shoulder in November. Hamels expects to be pitching with the Phillies before the end of April. This could end his run of 4 seasons with at least 200IP. Hamels has been very consistent, never having an FIP of 4+ in any season. His ERA of 3.60 was his highest since 2009, but his FIP was only 3.26. His K/9 has been at least 8.08 for each of the past 4 seasons and he is able to keep the ball in the park, even in Philadelphia. If Hamels' injury is as minor as he makes it sound this could end up being a chance to get some production on the cheap.
Carlos Santana- CLE- Santana played 3B during winter ball in the Dominican and that will be carried into his time with the Indians this season. This adds versatility to his fantasy roles, as he should qualify there soon, in addition to C and 1B. With a projected 26 homers and 88 RBI he is in the top 5 for 3B in those categories, as well as his current overall #2 ranking at C in Fantistics' Projection software.
Carlos Carrasco- CLE- The Indians have one opening in their rotation. As the first scheduled workouts begin today Carrasco is the frontrunner for that fifth starter job. His competition right now includes Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Shaun Marcum. Carrasco lost all of 2012 to Tommy John surgery and had little success when he returned for 15 games last year, 7 of them starts. He posted a 6.75 ERA overall, 9.00 as a starter. There are some positive reasons to look at Carrasco as a sleeper for 2014. His FIP last year was 4.10. His velocity was at 95 mph, higher than before the surgery. In 16 games (14 starts) at AAA before he returned, his K/9 was 9.92. He has worked on altering his delivery to give him more movement on his fastball and it had good results in winter ball. One factor into giving Carrasco a leg up on the other candidates for fifth starter is that he is the only one who is out of options. If he shows some promise but Cleveland tries to send him down they will most likely lose him. The Indians will be looking long and hard at Carrasco this spring. You should also.
Tommy Hunter- BAL- With Jim Johnson across the country and the Orioles failing to finalize a deal with any of the available free agent closers they will look at their current pitchers to find someone to nail down the 9th inning. Hunter is the leading candidate. Last year he picked up the only 4 saves in his career. He picked up his velocity from 91.6 to 96.0 and saw his K/9 rise from 5.18 to 7.09. His HR/9 dropped from 2.15 to 1.15. It's unlikely that Hunter will collect the 50+ saves that Johnson did. However, Hunter may provide more help in other categories and if you look at Johnson's peripherals he shouldn't have ended up with 50 saves. If the Baltimore closer save totals are more a result of Buck Showalter's bullpen management than the closer's individual performance, then Hunter could be very valuable.
David Lough- BAL- The Orioles might have to do only minor jersey alteration for LF, with David Lough currently the frontrunner to replace Nate McLouth. Lough posted a .286 average in 335 PAs in his rookie season with KC last year. The average was helped by a .326 BABIP, as was the .338 average at AAA by his .374 BABIP there. If he nails down an everyday job Lough will push double digits in homers and steals. However he will have to improve on his .19 Batting EYE of 2013 to hold up his average if he isn't as lucky. His minor league numbers suggest that his BB% of 3.0% with KC last year was an aberration. On a team with an excellent defensive reputation, Lough's glove fits in but that has no fantasy value. Overall, Lough probably isn't worth much attention in all but the deepest of leagues, particularly with the prospect of Nolan Reimold returning from injury and challenging for that LF job.
Jurickson Profar- TEX- Rangers' history is littered with names of "can't miss" prospects who did. From David Clyde to Ruben Mateo and Fernando Tatis there are many instances of highly rated prospects fading. Profar will be trying to avoid becoming one of them as he heads into the season with a space cleared at 2B for him by the Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder trade. Profar is going to be starting spring training slow, as he has been diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis that prevents him from throwing for the next week. He will still be getting at bats at designated hitter, which is where the major questions about him reside and where fantasy owners want to focus. Profar disappointed last year with a .234 average in 324 PAs with the Rangers. Looking under the hood at some of his stats gives hope that Profar isn't destined to join the list of names above. With a small sample size, one particular facet can drive a statistical anomaly. For Profar, his BABIP of .239 against lefties looks like that extreme stat. His BB% of 8.0% is also well below his minor league norms. Combine that expected increase with a LD% of 23.4% that is consistent with what was expected and a jump in OBP is out there waiting. Profar's projected .270/15/68 slash line plus double digit steals gives him value. In keeper leagues the expected improvements in the game of the 20-year-old make him more so. The odds are that Profar will turn into a Kinsler-type producer rather than a bust.
Tommy Hanson- TEX- Hanson reportedly signed a deal with the Rangers earlier this week. Originally it was thought to be a minor league deal but latest reports are that it is a major league pact. Thus it hasn't been announced yet as the Rangers have a full 40-man roster. That will change shortly when Derek Holland is put on the 60-day DL. Then Hanson will be free to officially join the Rangers. In order to succeed and take the rotation spot that opened with Holland's injury, Hanson will have to miss more bats. His 6.90 K/9 last year was the lowest of his career. His FB% of 44.7% was the highest of his career. Hanson has been plagued by injuries for the past several seasons. The Rangers have opted to throw him in the mix for their last rotation spot. His spring training performance will determine how far he gets.