Notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues...
It's déjà vu all over again
The Rangers lost approximately 9 million games to injury right now. The big news this weekend is that they have started picking up right where they left off in 2014.
Yu Darvish- P- TEX- Darvish has a tear in his UCL. The most likely route will be Tommy John surgery. Even if he tries to go for rest and rehab he wouldn't be able to pitch in a game for at least 4 months. Then there would be no guarantee that he wouldn't need surgery at that point. Scratch Darvish from your draft sheets for 2015.
Ross Detwiler- P- TEX- With the news about Darvish, Detwiler's role changes from one of several competing for the fifth starter spot to the likely #4 man in the Texas rotation. He pitched exclusively in relief for the Nationals last year after being primarily a starter. Detwiler had experienced good fortune his first couple of seasons in MLB, with ERAs below 4.00 and FIPs above that mark. This reversed in 2013, during an injury hampered season. In his initial year as a reliever he had a minor bump from good luck, with an ERA of 4.00 and FIP of 4.16. After a dip in 2013 Detwiler's K/9 rose back to 5.57, more in line with his previous career numbers . His BB/9 rose to 3.00, again more in line with what he had done prior to his injury season. Detwiler had what the Rangers felt was a promising outing on Saturday, with a run allowed in 2-2/3 IP on 4 hits, with 2 Ks and no walks. One factor that may indicate some improvement is in store for Detwiler is that his road performance has actually been better than his record in pitcher-friendly Nationals Park. Still, despite his situation that he is almost guaranteed a rotation spot, even if the Rangers swing a deal for another starter, Detwiler projects to mediocre numbers.
Still in the nest
With the departures via free agency of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, the Orioes have some serious outfield holes to fill as they attempt to defend their AL East championships. The leading candidates don't have the pedigree of Cruz and Markakis.
Alejandro De Aza- OF- BAL- De Aza arrived in Baltimore at the trade deadline last season and made an immediate impression. He hit .293 (with the help of a .341 BABIP) with 3 homers in 89 PAs for the Orioles. 2014 was a bit of a down year for De Aza, who had swiped at least 20 bases and hit at least 9 homers in each of the previous two seasons with the White Sox. Because of his speed, De Aza's BABIP with the Orioles was not that far from his career norm and the .309 mark he had in Chicago before the trade was more of an outlier. De Aza will be a defensive upgrade in left field over Nelson Cruz and while that doesn't translate directly into fantasy value it does give De Aza a firmer position in retaining that job even through some slumps. With a full time position still his, he will likely increase his batting average while staying near his production in homers and steals, which is not bad.
Travis Snider- OF- BAL- Snider came over from Pittsburgh in the offseason and is the leading candidate to get the bulk of the playing time in right field. The left hander hit 13 homers in 359 PAs. Only 4 of them were at home in PNC Park, which ranked 20th in the majors in homers by lefties. Camden Yards was 7th in that category last year so Snider could provide a decent boost in the homer category.
Everything old is new again
In Milwaukee one of the questions heading into camp was who would replace Francisco Rodriguez in the closer role. The odds on favorite was Jonathan Broxton (absent a trade to get another Jonathan (Papelbon.) However the answer for who was going to replace KRod ends up being none other than KRod himself.
Francisco Rodriguez- RP- MIL- KRod has ended up where he was last year before testing free agency waters. As they did last spring, the Brewers made him a late signing. In 2014 Rodriguez saved 44 the most he had since 2008. This was despite missing a good deal of spring training after stepping on a cactus. KRod had a very heavy workload early in the season, pitching at least 11 IP in each of the first 3 months. He seemed to wear out a bit, not throwing more than 9-1/3 IP in any of the last 3 months and posting a FIP of 6.35 in the second half after a first half number of 3.57. His K/9 dropped from 10.32 to 8.34. KRod will come out of spring training in the closer role but how long he can keep it will depend on whether he can duplicate the somewhat unlikely success he had out of the gate last year.
Rob Wooten- RP- MIL- A dark horse in the race for closer before KRod was resigned, Wooten saved 14 games in 21 appearances at AAA Nashville last year mixed in among 40 appearances for the Brewers. As is often the case with the small sample size of relievers, Wooten's ERA and FIP were quite different at both the AAA and major league level. He posted an ERA of 5.82 at Nashville with an FIP of 3.19 while is Milwaukee ERA of 4.72 was far above his FIP of 2.61. Despite not being a power pitcher, Wooten managed a K/9 of 8.72 in AAA and 7.60 with the Brewers. Given the questions marks surrounding Broxton's ability to close any more, if KRod falters, Wooten may be the go to option to close games.
Cole Hamels- P- PHI- The Rangers had reportedly agreed on a package of prospects to move from
Texas to Philadelphia in exchange for Hamels during the offseason. However the deal fell apart when an agreement couldn't be reached on how much of Hamels' remaining contract would be carried by the Phillies. With the Yu Darvish move the Rangers may be willing to shell out more money to acquire Hamels.
Cliff Lee- P- PHI- Lee will miss his next scheduled spring start with elbow soreness. It's in the same spot that caused him to be shut down for the season last July, so there are worries. It also drastically reduces the chances, at least in the short term, that Lee will be traded from the Phillies. One potential trading partner that had already been ruled out was the Rangers. Lee reportedly didn't want to return to the team he helped to the World Series because he doesn't like the heat. He has a no trade clause so could veto a deal to Texas.
Lance Lynn- P- STL- Lynn left yesterday's game after failing to get an out in his second inning of work. He was diagnosed with a hip flexor strain. It is not expected to be serious although he will be evaluated today. This may have an impact on the way the St. Louis starters line up for the first week of the regular season. If Lynn can't make his scheduled 5 Grapefruit League starts he may not be available to pitch in the first or second game when things start to count. He was a possible Opening Day starter, depending on the status of Adam Wainwright.
Masahiro Tanaka- P- NYA- Tanaka will make his first Grapefruit League start on Thursday. This, and all other spring training action he takes part in, will be watched very closely. Especially since the bad news about Yu Darvish, who didn't have as severe an injury to end his season last year, there will be a collective breath holding until Tanaka proves that his course of rest and rehab has made his elbow healthy. Until then, the specter of Tommy John surgery will hover over him.
C. C. Sabathia- P- NYA- Sabathia threw live batting practice yesterday, tossing 29 pitches and reporting no problems. He will probably make his first Grapefruit League appearance in about a week. Between now and then Sabathia is planning to toss 2 innings of a simulated game. He is on track to be in the Yankees' rotation at the start of the regular season.
Troy Tulowitzki- SS- COL- Tulowitzki could be making his Cactus League debut today. He was shut down due to hip surgery last July. He will be watched closely to see if his hip impacts a swing that has resulted in at least 21 homers in every season where he has played at least 90 games since 2009.
Carlos Gonzalez- OF- COL- CarGo is slated to make his Cactus League debut today after another injury-shortened season. He had another go round of knee issues in 2014, with patella tendon surgery ending his season. He also dealt with a benign tumor on his finger that caused him to lose time. If Gonzalez could stay healthy he has the potential to end up in elite territory. He has become the definition of a high risk, high reward fantasy player.
Charlie Blackmon- OF- COL- Blackmon has yet to make his Cactus League debut but that should change in the next couple of days. He has been suffering from minor abdominal tightness. This shouldn't interfere with his quest to build on 2014, the first season he was a full time starter. Blackmon is a decent bet to be in the 20/20 club before the season is over.
Chris Young- P- KC- Young signed with the Royals over the weekend. Despite having made 1 relief appearance in a total of 189 major league games, Young is slated for the Kansas City bullpen. Not just the bullpen, but the all-but-fantasy-irrelevant role of middle to long reliever. Young posted a 3.65 ERA to go with a 12-9 record for Seattle last year but his FIP of 5.02 shows that his comeback was a mirage.
Franklin Gutierrez- OF- SEA- Gutierrez is attempting to make a comeback and try to regain the form that saw him reach double digits in homers and steals in 2009-2010. The chances of him pulling a Steve Pearce and busting out again at over 30 years of age suffered a setback as Gutierrez left Saturday's game with a right groin muscle. His chances of being a sleeper took a significant hit as he will be sidelined for several days.
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