Posted on: March 29, 2009 2:42 am

Not high on Headley

I've devoted so much of this blog to the players I like that I sometimes neglect the ones I don't.

So at long last, time for your heaping helping of Chase Headley.

The sophomore slugger -- well, slugger in theory, anyway -- went 4-for-5 with a home run Saturday, raising his spring batting average to an intimidating ... .274. You had kind of hoped for more, hadn't you? Still, if you look at his recent player updates, you see plenty of big performances -- 3-for-5, 3-for-3, etc. Just by looking at those isolated games, you know he has the potential, but the final results are lacking.

Most telling to me is his 17 strikeouts compared to only three walks. He never had ratios that bad in the minors, which suggests he probably doesn't have a complete understanding of major-league pitching yet. And since he plays in a ballpark capable of neutralizing his power anyway, I see no reason to give him a look in mixed leagues. NL-only, maybe, but I know someone will take him before I would.

Speaking of NL-only players, Travis Ishikawa homered for the sixth time this spring and is hitting .338. The scouting reports say he shouldn't have this much power, but he hit an astonishing 16 home runs in 171 at-bats at Triple-A Fresno last year. I got him for $3 in an NL-only Rotisserie auction, and I couldn't feel better about it.

Kelvim Escobar threw 94-mph fastballs in a second minor-league start. If he has his velocity, he shouldn't have too much trouble coming back from his shoulder surgery. I haven't made an effort to stash him mixed leagues yet, but I could see him making a worthwhile contribution when he returns in May.

On the subject of injury-plagued pitchers, Max Scherzer pitched a full five innings Sunday, and the Diamondbacks talk like he shouldn't have much trouble making his first start April 14. Maybe we overrated his shoulder soreness earlier this spring. He has the potential to strike out well more than a batter per inning, something few pitchers can claim. If you can get him as a No. 5 option in mixed leagues, go for it.

Ian Snell allowed five baserunners in six innings, and Edwin Jackson allowed six in seven (zero on walks). I trust Snell's performance a little more, but both performances have me looking at these pitchers a little bit harder on Draft Day.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 27, 2009 2:19 am
Edited on: March 27, 2009 2:24 am

Concerns regarding some sleeper pitchers

I got a chance to see the Marlins face the Orioles on Thursday and to confirm some of my suspicions on Anibal Sanchez.

In short, I don't like him in Fantasy. Something about his performance this spring doesn't rub me the right way, and it has everything to do with the number of hits he has allowed. He looked fine through the first three innings, but he came apart in the fourth and ended up allowing 12 hits in five innings to give him a staggering 39 in 23 2/3 innings this spring.

It might not bother me so much if he showed some ability to deceive hitters, but he has only nine strikeouts. He's just not fooling anybody. I could maybe overlook the performance if he was an established veteran, but he's a 25-year-old coming off significant shoulder surgery. He hasn't had Fantasy-relevant numbers since 2006, when he made only 17 starts.

After the game, he said all the right things -- that it's spring training, that he just wants to throw strikes and make the necessary adjustments. But he did acknowledge he gave up too many hits, and at that point, his tone switched from confident to concerned. I drafted him in an NL-only league earlier this spring, but if I had it to do over again, I'd probably take someone like Micah Owings instead.

Actually, I can't believe I didn't do that in the first place. I like Owings, even after he walked five batters in four innings Thursday (nice transition there, I know). It was a bad start. Everybody has them. But he managed to limit the damage and still has a 1.45 ERA this spring. I call him a sleeper even in mixed leagues.

While on the topic of pitchers, I have to point out the latest development on Justin Duchscherer, who had to leave Thursday's minor-league start with continued soreness in his elbow. He also delivered this cryptic message to

"My arm still isn't right. I was fine warming up, but as soon as I started throwing at game speed, I knew I wasn't going to last long. It got worse on every pitch. I walked a guy and gave up two singles and a homer and just said, 'I can't pitch like this.' It's probably the most frustrated I've ever been since I started playing baseball."

How depressing does that sound? The Athletics have pretty much surrendered to the idea of him beginning the year on the disabled list, and I don't have much faith in him making a speedy return. I went ahead and cut him in my mixed leagues, and I suggest you do the same unless you have plenty of available DL slots.

One quick note from the dish: Todd Helton went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two walks. I think you have to draft him now. I see no way around it.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 26, 2009 3:14 am
Edited on: March 26, 2009 3:16 am

Price down; Salty and Johnson up

Well, that's that.

The Rays confirmed what we had all pretty much come to realize in recent weeks: David Price will begin the season in the minor leagues. They made it official Wednesday, optioning him to Triple-A Durham. Strangely enough, Jason Hammel appears the frontrunner for the fifth starter job even though Jeff Niemann has more upside. Really, whichever pitcher wins the job will have sleeper appeal in AL-only leagues. Hammel isn't a bad pitcher; Niemann just seems the more logical choice to start since the Rays already went through the trouble of converting Hammel to the bullpen last year.

As for Price, he'll return to the majors at some point this year, and given his talent, somebody still needs to draft him in mixed leagues. I wouldn't want to be that guy, though. I'll save my sleeper picks for the six-month types. (Jordan Zimmermann over Price? Oh, I think so.)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered for the first time this spring, which sounds like a negative, but he does have a .600 slugging percentage and .350 batting average. He will break out sooner or later -- maybe this year. If you miss out on Ryan Doumit and Chris Iannetta in the middle rounds, target someone like Salty late.

Nick Johnson has his batting average up to .250 after a miserable start. But even through his struggles, he maintained an OPS over .800, which tells you just how much his high walk rate can add to his value. Assuming he can avoid the freak injuries that cost him much of the last two seasons, I expect a bounce-back year. I've been targeting him --  yes, actively pursuing him -- late in mixed leagues.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 24, 2009 3:17 am
Edited on: March 24, 2009 3:49 am

The good keep getting better

Since I have only so much time to devote to this blog every day, I refuse to write about the same players over and over again.

That's what I wanted to say, anyway. But then Ryan Spilborghs hit his third home run, Todd Helton hit his fourth home run -- a "towering" shot -- Mark Teahen had three hits to give him a .514 batting average (to go along with five home runs) and Kyle Davies rebounded from his one poor start this spring to give up only one run in 5 1/3 innings.

What can I do? The good just keep getting better.

Helton has me especially intrigued because every time he hits a home run, it's not a wall-scraper but an absolute bomb. Granted, I'm judging mostly from second-person accounts and not footage I've witnessed personally, but I assume these people don't have any reason to exaggerate. And keep in mind Helton got off to a late start this spring, meaning he has only 23 at-bats.

I don't get it. I realize his back surgery in the offseason should help him improve on last year's numbers, but he's hitting the ball like it's 2004 all over again. I still say it has to stop at some point, but I at least have him on my radar again in mixed leagues. I'd still take Spilborghs and Teahen over him, but not by much.

Here's one of my favorite sleepers who hasn't given me a chance to comment on him yet: Shin-Soo Choo. In case you missed it, he hit a home run to straightaway center field in the World Baseball Classic finale Monday, his second in two games. That elbow soreness that had the Indians so concerned might have affected him earlier in the tournament, but he looks like he's turned the corner now. Team doctors had a chance to examine him, and if they thought the injury was even halfway serious, they would have pulled him from the tournament. These big-league clubs don't take any chances. Just look at what happened to Team USA.

Chris Carpenter allowed his first two runs of the spring Monday -- both unearned -- which means he still has a sparking 0.00 ERA in 19 innings. Even more impressive to me, he struck out six batters in five innings of work, convincing me he still has that knockout stuff and hasn't relied on smoke and mirrors in the early going. I won't try to pretend I'm the first to say it, but I feel pretty confident in saying it now: He's baaaa-aaaack.

Finally, Pablo Sandoval and Wladimir Balentien homered and are batting .442 and .410 respectively. Neither walks enough for my tastes, but I can't deny both have talent. I still wouldn't bother with Balentien yet in mixed leagues, but Sandoval clearly deserves a late-round look, as he has all along.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 20, 2009 3:27 am

Cubs staff and love for Lowrie

I can't talk about Thursday's baseball action without mentioning Cubs manager Lou Piniella's inevitable decision to make Sean Marshall his fifth starter. He earned it, compiling a 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings this spring. Actually, he earned it years ago, but the Cubs never had a sufficient opening in their rotation. I have my doubts he can strike out at least seven batters per nine innings, which might cause me to shy away from him in mixed leagues, but in NL-only leagues, he's a no-brainer after the usual names go off the board.

Now, if only the Cubs would name Carlos Marmol their closer. I swear, the competition between him and Kevin Gregg makes me more nervous every day. If you take the plunge and draft Marmol before the Cubs announce a winner, don't do what I did and miss out on Gregg in the late rounds. Make sure you draft him at least one round before anyone else would even conceive it. Believe me: You'll save yourself some serious turmoil.

Elsewhere, Franklin Morales pitched five solid innings and earned high praise from his manager afterward. OK, great, but where are the strikeouts? He looks like the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation, but leave him for NL-only leagues.

In that same game, Clayton Kershaw held the Rockies to one hit in five innings. He apparently added a change-up to his repertoire, which could give him a huge advantage -- as if he didn't have enough already -- if properly mixed with his fastball.

Carlos Quentin finally homered and seems to be getting back on track after a slow start this spring. Don't worry about his wrist. He's a stud.

Jed Lowrie homered and doubled, giving him a .462 batting average and .872 slugging percentage this spring. Ten of his 18 hits are for extra bases. With the recent news that he played most of last season with a fractured wrist -- a remarkable achievement in and of itself -- I think he could have a much, much bigger season than most people anticipate. I mean he could vault to the Stephen Drew class of shortstops right away. If you need a middle infielder late, do whatever you have to do to get this guy.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 18, 2009 10:50 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2009 11:01 pm

Tommy John survivors thriving

Chris Carpenter just keeps getting better and better, pitching a full six scoreless innings against the Orioles on Thursday. That's midseason form right there. He now has 14 scoreless innings this spring. The J.D. Salinger of MLB aces needed two full years to recover from reconstructive elbow surgery, but you have to remember that when we last saw him, he finished third in NL Cy Young voting. I'd feel better if he had more than four strikeouts during those 14 innings of work, but if I hold that against him, I'm just looking for flaws. If you can get him after every Zack Greinke and Brett Myers goes of the board, you have a pretty good bargain.

Speaking of near-perfect springs from Tommy John returnees, Chris Ray can brag about his too, pitching his sixth scoreless inning of the exhibition season in that same game. He also recorded his sixth and seventh strikeouts. Remember how George Sherrill had a 6.59 ERA after the All-Star break last year? Yeah, Ray replaces before the end of April. Mark it down.

The Braves might appear to have a shortage of outfielders, but top prospect Jordan Schafer is doing his best to change that perception. He went 3-for-5 against the Mets, raising his spring batting average to .419 (13-for-31). Schafer, considered the long-term replacement for Andruw Jones in center field, might just supplant Josh Anderson for the job, especially since he already has four stolen bases. Anderson, supposedly the speedier of the two and the early favorite to start, has one. Between the two, I'll take my chances with Schafer in NL-only leagues.

Jayson Werth, one of my favorite sleepers coming off maybe the quietest 20-20 season in major-league history, hit a three-run home run and scored three runs against the Blue Jays, raising his spring batting average to .357 (10-for-28). I expect him to have those kinds of games regularly batting near the top of the Phillies lineup. In the competition for most encouraging spring from an outfielder, his rates right alongside Ryan Spilborghs' and Jeremy Hermida's.

Meanwhile, Jason Lane's five home runs mean nothing to me. He has only a .192 batting average in his last 459 major-league at-bats.

Jason Hammel had a so-so start against the Reds, allowing three runs on five hits in four innings. That performance, though not a disaster, likely gives Jeff Niemann the lead in the race for the role of fifth starter, especially since Hammel already has significant bullpen experience. David Price? Forget about him. Barring an injury between now and opening day, he begins the season in the minors.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 18, 2009 3:32 am
Edited on: March 18, 2009 3:36 am

Add Spilborghs to the list of sleepers

It finally happened. Kyle Davies had a bad spring start, allowing five runs in three innings against the Rockies on Tuesday. So much for that 0.71 ERA, but I'm not ready to write him off just yet. Remember, his sleeper potential had more to do with his 4-1 record and 2.27 ERA last September than anything that happened this spring. I still can't convince myself to draft him in a mixed league, though -- or at least I haven't yet.

Moving on to another favorite of this blog, Denard Span finally showed some signs of life Tuesday, homering off Jonathan Papelbon during a two-hit game. If he heats up over the final half of spring training, he has a starting job for sure, and I don't think the Twins can afford to remove him from the leadoff spot either way. Until I hear otherwise, I maintain he'll start in the outfield and one of Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer -- most likely Young or Gomez -- will not.

Speaking of favorites, time to add a new one to this list. Ryan Spilborghs, the new starting center fielder for the Rockies, hit his second home run and stole his fourth base Tuesday. He's now batting .323 (10-for-31). He has the kind of plate discipline I always appreciate -- striking out 41 times compared to 38 walks in 233 at-bats last year -- so I liked him from the beginning. But now, seeing how much the Rockies have turned him loose on the base paths, I think he could push for 25 steals, if not 30. How does a 15-30 season sound to you from a player who reaches base 40 percent of the time? You want this year's Nate McLouth-like, out-of-nowhere performer? You've got it.

And Todd Helton also homered for the Rockies -- his third in only 14 at-bats, all of them bombs. Just how sore was his back, and for how long? We know it affected his power last year, but we haven't seen this kind of outburst from him since 2004. I don't think it really means anything for someone expected to sit once or twice a week, but Helton at least has my attention.

**For those wondering, someone beat me to Jordan Zimmermann in my 10-team mixed-league draft. Oh well. That guy jumped on him sooner than I was willing to do -- Round 19 -- so I can't feel all that disappointed. But the fact someone reached for him before the last round shows just how much buzz he has generated from spring training alone. For the person who asked, I think he could make the same kind of impact Justin Verlander made as a rookie in 2006. I can't guarantee it, obviously, but the potential makes him worth a late-round pick in mixed leagues. He probably won't win 17 games like Verlander did for the Tigers that year, but the other numbers look like a good starting point.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 17, 2009 1:32 am
Edited on: March 17, 2009 1:36 am

Getting gushy over Zimmermann

Count me among the many hopping aboard the Jordan Zimmermann bandwagon (though hopefully not too many if I have any hope of drafting him). The Nationals top prospect, already blowing away the competition this spring, had his best performance yet Monday against the Marlins, recording six strikeouts in four scoreless innings. He has recorded 16 strikeouts and allowed only six hits in 12 1/3 scoreless innings this spring, good enough to make manager Manny Acta come dangerously close to awarding him a rotation spot already:

"We're going to make the decision on whether it's going to be the best for him or for us. Right now, it looks like it will be the best thing for us."

I'm ready to draft him in my 10-team mixed league -- yes, mixed league -- and I don't care if my opponents know it. It's off to the races for him, I say, meaning you should check your league's waiver wire if you've already drafted.

Prospect-turned-pariah Carlos Gonzalez finally hit his first home run Monday but is batting only .154 this spring. Yeah, I'd say Seth Smith has that left-field job pretty well secured. Give him a look in NL-only leagues. He could pop 20 homers with a nice batting average over a full season.

Unfortunately, I can't speak with as much certainty about the Colorado closer race, which is still too close to call. Huston Street was having a disastrous spring until recently, and he continued his turnaround with two perfect innings Monday. I have a gut feeling he gets the nod over Manny Corpas just because his whole career, both in the majors and the minors, has conditioned him to become a closer. He knows nothing else. Quite frankly, Matt Lindstrom and Heath Bell both look better to me than either of Colorado's options right now.

Ian Snell struck out five in four innings in a WBC start against Venezuela. He has a 2.25 ERA for the tournament and looks more like emerging ace we saw in 2007 than the flailing heap of destruction we saw in 2008. I include him along with Micah Owings, David Purcey, Kyle Davies, J.A. Happ and -- oh, look -- Jordan Zimmermann on my list of late, late, late, late, late -round sleepers.

Mark Teahen, playing exclusively the outfield, hit his fourth home run and is batting .455 this spring. I wouldn't pay too much attention to the numbers -- he'll do what he does -- but I would pay attention to the fact he didn't play a single inning at second base. If the Royals really want him to learn the position, they need to play him there. If he doesn't play there, he has little appeal in mixed leagues.

Category: MLB
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