Notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues...
Johan Santana- BAL- The Orioles signed Santana to a minor league deal. In workouts he was reportedly topping out in the 80s so he is not back to the dominant form he had before his health issues. Santana would undoubtedly still spend time rehabbing. Once he proves physically sound he could get time in the Baltimore bullpen after getting brought up. That's where the biggest need for them is at the moment.
Zach Britton- BAL- Britton is out of options so this is probably a make or break spring for him as far as the Orioles are concerned. In 40 IP for Baltimore last year he had a K/9 of 4.05 and BB/9 of 3.83. Those were far too close. Britton had a 6.53 K/9 in 103.1 AAA IP but a 4.01 BB/9. His sinker has remained impressive, resulting in a lot of ground balls. Unfortunately he hasn't been able to locate any other pitches with consistency. In order for Britton to beat his Fantistics' projection of a 5.04 ERA and 1,73 WHIP in 48 IP he will have to gain control of his fastball. If he doesn't another team will probably try to catch lightning in a bottle.
John Axford- CLE- Axford will be the presumptive closer as the Indians open the season. He settled down last year after going from Milwaukee to St. Louis. The long ball problems he had suffered for two seasons vanished as he didn't allow a homer for the Cardinals. Granted, that was in only 10.1 IP. Axford's BB/9 of 2.61 for the Cards was almost half of what he posted in 2012 (5.06.) Axford is a player who seemed to benefit from a change of scenery. He is projected to strike out more than a batter per inning and push 30 saves. He could be available for a relatively low price given his results in Milwaukee over the past couple of years.
Francisco Lindor- CLE- Lindor slugged a homer Sunday and the Indians were quick to lower expectations that he would add significant power to his already substantial skill set, while still holding out some hope that it could happen. "I don't think he's going to be a power hitter," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But can the guy hit the ball out of the ballpark? He's proved he can do that. That's part of what's fun. These guys grow into stuff. You don't know what they're going to grow into. I mean, Jimmy Rollins grew into hitting some home runs. He's kind of a similar body and similar style of play. You just don't know. What part of this does confidence play in it, as you reach higher levels? Or, bat speed, intelligence, timing, things like that. You just don't know." Lindor hit .303 with an OBP of .407 between Hi A and AA last year with 2 homers, 25 steals and a Batting EYE of 1.07. He is being groomed to take over SS in 2015, after Asdrubal Cabrera departs for free agency. As he fills out he could end up hitting about 15 homers per year. His combination of hitting, speed and possibly power makes him one to keep a watch on in keeper leagues.
Colby Lewis- TEX- Lewis didn't have a good debut in his quest to come back from hip replacement surgery and join the Rangers' rotation. He lasted only 2/3 of an inning, giving up 2 hits and 2 walks that led to 2 runs. Not much was expected from this first outing and it wasn't produced. Due to injuries to other starters Texas has some starting openings. How Lewis develops over the rest of the spring will determine his role. He has a minor league deal so could get more seasoning if needed.
Nick Tepesch- TEX- Tepesch needed just 34 pitches to get through 3 scoreless IP yesterday. As with most early spring outings it's way too early to project anything. Last season hitters got more comfortable with Tepesch the more they saw him. He had a .472 OPS against batters the first time through the order. It soared to 1.198 on the third trip. Looking at his FIPx of 3.82, HR/9 of 1.16 and home ERA of 5.52 last year you might think that Tepesch was victimized by an inordinate number of homers in Arlington. However, he only gave up 5 in 45.2 IP there and 7 in 47.1 IP on the road. It was bad luck that clobbered him at home, with a .347 BABIP. The overall HR/9 was greater than his minor league numbers so if last year was an aberration Tepesch could put up decent ERA. K/9 (7.35) and WHIP numbers if he nails down a spot in the rotation.
Maikel Franco- PHI- The Phillies' top prospect went 2-for-4 yesterday and is now hitting .273 this spring. Franco won't come north with the big club. However, after hitting 31 homers between High A and AA last year he is positioning himself to make his major league debut either later this season or at the latest opening the 2015 season. Franco doesn't project to have much speed, but that's not crucial to a corner infielder. He should be a source of average and power in future years.
Roberto Hernandez- PHI- Hernandez struck out 3 in 3 IP yesterday. He is trying to recapture his glory days (such as they were) as Fausto Carmona. However there are a couple of things working against that. He is a heavy ground ball pitcher. Normally that would be a benefit, but with a porous Philadelphia defense behind him an increase in BABIP can be expected. Plus, while he has thrown a lot of ground balls, what does get in the air goes a long way (1.43 HR/9 last year.) That may have been extreme in 2013 but a move to Citizens' Bank Park will inflate those numbers above what they otherwise would be. Fantistics' Projection Software calls for a 4.16 ERA. Hoping for a sub-4.00 ERA is a long shot.
Nate Adcock- TEX- Adcock has been shut down after feeling numbness in his fingers. He will be examined by team doctor Keith Meister over the weekend.
Cameron Maybin- SD- The news was not good for Maybin's prolonged effort to reach his potential. His injury was diagnosed as a ruptured left biceps tendon. This will keep him out for about 2-3 months.
Zack Greinke- LAN- Greinke's calf injury has officially cost him a trip Down Under. He won't be one of the starters for the season-opening series later this month.
Rafael Furcal- MIA- Furcal is slated to be the Marlin's leadoff hitter after missing all of 2013 to Tommy John surgery. He will be moving to a new position (2B) at age 36. Furcal's glory days with the Braves are long past. It is hoped that his veteran presence will help steady a young Miami team, but presence isn't a category in any fantasy leagues. If he hits .260 that would be considered a success.
Wei-Chung Wang- MIL- The Rule V pick threw 8 of 11 pitches for strikes in his spring debut yesterday. In his first taste of pro ball in the Gulf Coast League last year Wang walked only 4 in 47 IP. If he can throw strikes he might stay up with the Brewers up all year. Whether he would stay with them in 2015 will depend on his performance.
Stephen Strasburg- WAS- Strasburg made his first start of the spring, trying out his new slider. He threw 2 scoreless IP, giving up a hit and striking out 1 on a total of 15 pitches. The talent is there. The question is the durability.
Trevor Cahill- ARI- Cahill will be one of the two starters the Diamondbacks will use in Australia. Fantistics' projection software is looking for Cahill to lower his ERA to 3.71, down from 3.99. Cahill's WHIP is projected at 1.34 and his Ks at 139 in 191 IPs, which would be an improvement over 2013 also.
Patrick Corbin- ARI- Corbin will be the other Arizona starter in Australia and will start the first game. His ERA is projected to rise to 3.66 but with a WHIP of 1.24 and 175 Ks in 200 IP, so his value will be ahead of Cahill's.