We take a look at the Fantasy Baseball gainers and decliners this spring training in our Fantasy Stockwatch.
Top spring gainers
| Aroldis Chapman, SP, CIN |
The lightning-armed 22-year-old Cuban defector is the helium-like riser of all Fantasy Baseball prospects this spring, displaying 100-plus MPH stuff and perhaps challenging for a rotation spot out of spring training. Unlike Washington's Stephen Strasburg, who has already been assigned to the minor leagues, Chapman remains in camp. That is a great sign if you're still holding out hope of him making the rotation. The fact he has been unhittable certainly helps his chances. We are far less concerned about him needing minor league innings before appearing in the majors, since international players historically get a lot of innings at young stages.
| Jason Heyward, OF, ATL |
The 20-year-old's hot spring started with the stories of him smashing cars with his batting-practice drives into the parking lot, forcing the team to construct a Heyward netting. That is stuff of legend right there. Heyward is the 38th outfielder in Average Draft Position on CBSSports.com, getting picked 157th overall in Head-to-Head points leagues. That slot is more than 50 spots higher than when spring training started. It will be virtually impossible for the Braves to not take him north with them, so consider him a great middle-round rookie breakout to have in any format -- even if it is a lot to expect such a young and raw talent to go even 20-20 this season.
| Roy Oswalt, SP, HOU |
Oswalt is currently the 37th-ranked starting pitcher in our Average Draft Position (110th overall). His reduced price was a function of his back issue, one that appears to have been overblown. Sure, it could affect him at times for the rest of his career, but he certainly looks healthy and strong this spring. Through his first two 'A' game starts this spring, Oswalt hasn't given up a run and hitters are managing just a .167 battting average against him. It is time to trust Oswalt as a top 20 Fantasy starting pitcher again -- a true injury-risk sleeper right now. If he was with a better contender, we might even suggest he could perform like a top 10 Fantasy ace.
| Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN |
If not for Liriano's success in winter ball and spring training as a starter, he might have been considered a candidate to fill the Twins' vacant closer's role now that Joe Nathan has decided to have season-ending Tommy John surgery. Liriano reportedly is throwing in the mid-90s with his pre-injury bite on his slider, which could make him a great injury-risk sleeper after the top 45 starting pitchers are off the board on Draft Day. Liriano is currently slotted 48th among starters in Average Draft Position. His talent suggests he should be considered as high as 30th.
| Jay Bruce, OF, CIN |
As much as we love Heyward and what his talent brings to the table, Bruce is currently getting picked a few outfielders later in CBSSports.com leagues. That is a joke really. Bruce has equal long-term power potential and is years ahead of Heyward in experience. Remember when everyone was thinking so much about Travis Snider last year? We scoffed and said don't sleep on Adam Lind. Well, Bruce is going to be this year's Lind, even if Heyward isn't this year's Snider.
Some more gainers we couldn't fit in: Chris Perez, RP, CLE; Jake Peavy, SP, CHW; Matt Guerrier/Jon Rauch, RPs, MIN; Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX; Nelson R. Cruz, OF, TEX; Chris Davis, 1B, TEX; Kevin Slowey, SP, MIN; Phil Hughes, SP, NYY; Franklin Morales, RP, COL; B.J. Upton, OF, TB; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, TEX; Austin Jackson, OF, DET; David Wright, 3B, NYM; Carlos Quentin, OF, CHW; Kyle Blanks, OF, SD; Drew Stubbs, OF, CIN; Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS; Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD; Troy Glaus, 1B, ATL; Vernon Wells, OF, TOR; Nick Johnson, 1B, NYY; Shaun Marcum, SP; TOR; Kevin Gregg, RP, TOR; David Freese, 3B, STL; Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE; Russell Branyan, 1B, CLE; Michael Brantley, OF, CLE; Matt LaPorta, 1B, CLE; Brett Myers, SP, HOU; Ian Kennedy, SP, ARI; Alberto Callaspo, 2B, KC; Sean Rodriguez, 2B, TB; Josh D. Fields, 3B, KC; Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA; Matt Kemp, OF, LAD; Ian Desmond, SS, WAS; Jose Mijares, RP, MIN; Pat Neshek, RP, MIN; Travis Hafner, DH, CLE; Jeremy Bonderman, SP, DET; Dontrelle Willis, SP, DET; Colby Lewis, SP, TEX; C.J. Wilson, SP, TEX; Ryan Madson, RP, PHI.
Top spring decliners
| Jose B. Reyes, SS, NYM |
Reyes needed a healthy spring to restore his lost elite status among shortstops. He didn't get it. In fact, he isn't even working out at this point. The Mets don't want him to get an elevated heart rate while dealing with his mysterious thyroid issue. That would take a lot of activities off my plate, like walking stairs (or breathing). Reyes will need weeks to get back in shape once his levels come down (whatever that means). There is no way of knowing whether it will be two weeks or two months into the season before he is ready to help Fantasy owners. It sure makes it tough to consider him among the top five Fantasy shortstops, which is where is he still going.
| Joe Nathan, RP, MIN |
Unlike Reyes, Nathan at least gave us a definitive answer on his status for 2010. He is out for the season after deciding to undergo Tommy John elbow surgery. The important note now is who closes for the Twins, who famously provide a consistent number of save chances. Our guess is Matt Guerrier because he was the most successful Twins setup man at the end of last year, but Jon Rauch is getting serious early consideration because he has experience in the role. Pat Neshek, coming off his own elbow surgery, Jose Mijares and Jesse Crain appear to be long shots, if not setup men at best to start. One variable to consider is the Twins could trade for Jason Frasor, who could lose the closer's job to Kevin Gregg in Toronto, or perhaps free agent John Smoltz, who is semi-retired as a TV analyst now. Kerry Wood (back/shoulder muscle strain) is off the trading block for the time being.
| Stephen Strasburg, SP, WAS |
There is little question he is the Nationals' best starting pitcher -- or should we say the best starting pitcher to open the year in the minor leagues? Strasburg was sent to minor league camp over the weekend and likely will stay there until June 1 at this point. That is the time frame the Braves had on Tommy Hanson a year ago and that seemed to work out real well for him and his Fantasy owners. Strasburg can be that good ... no, he will be that good once he arrives, so you have to stash him in all leagues with reserves at this point. Don't cut him from mixed rosters at this point.
| Joba Chamberlain, SP, NYY |
Chamberlain could be a top 30 Fantasy starting pitcher now that he got a full year of growing pains as a starter out of the way, but he apparently won't be one of the Yankees' top five to start the season. He roughly qualifies as a third-year starting pitcher breakout, but Phil Hughes looks like he will win the No. 5 starter's job and relegate Joba to the setup role for Mariano Rivera. That figures to make Joba merely a Rotisserie option out of the gate. You still should pick him late in mixed leagues, just in case there is a wild change of gears, though.
| Brandon Webb, SP, ARI |
Webb entered spring training ready to go and as a potential injury-risk sleeper, a la Chris Carpenter a year ago. Carpenter was the winningest player for Fantasy owners on CBSSports.com last year and Webb could be a similar comeback story. A dead arm -- an awful term for someone coming off shoulder surgery -- has limited Webb in his throwing sessions and has him targeting late April at this point. A quote from Webb sheds some light on the big picture, though: "I'm like: 'Dude, I don't even know if I'm throwing tomorrow.' ... Just take a breath, people. It's all good. Don't freak out. Just give me some time. Besides, I want to be there at the end, which is more important than the beginning." OK, we just wanted some better answers before Draft Day like we had with Carpenter. We won't get them. He remains an injury-risk sleeper, but he has to go around the 40th starting pitcher at this point -- not the potential top 10 talent he once was.
Some more decliners we couldn't fit in: Kerry Wood, RP, CLE; Huston Street, RP, COL; Russell Martin, C, LAD; Elijah Dukes, OF, FA; Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL; Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU; Alex Gordon, 3B, KC; Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM; Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, BOS; Ben Sheets, SP, OAK; Neftali Feliz, SP, TEX; Madison Bumgarner, SP; SF; Carlos Santana, C, CLE; Buster Posey, C, SF; Mike Gonzalez, RP, BAL; Ted Lilly, SP, TEX; Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, TOR; Erik Bedard, SP, SEA; Carlos Delgado, 1B, FA; Jermaine Dye, OF, FA; John Smoltz, SP, FA; Braden Looper, SP, FA; Joe Crede, 3B, FA; Jarrod Washburn, SP, FA; Pedro Martinez, SP, FA; Joel Zumaya, RP, DET; Scott Downs, RP, TOR; Tommy Hunter, SP, TEX; Joey Votto, 1B, CIN; Francisco J. Rodriguez, RP, NYM; Brandon McCarthy, SP, TEX and J.P. Howell, RP, TB.
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