The Yankees have a few holes to fill, and instead of making big a big splash like they used to, names like Rivera and Hafner are ruling the day. The Padres continue to add arms to their stable, most recently Freddy Garcia, but it's Tim Stauffer who will be garnering most of the attention in this piece. The Angels brought in a guy to work the 9th inning this year that didn't throw a single big league pitch last season even though they already have a guy who appears to be a fella who can handle 9th inning duties if he's called upon. All of that plus the plight of Michael Bourn (where will he sign), Michael Pineda (when will he be healthy) and Kelly Johnson (should you pay attention on draft day to the newest Ray).
Michael Bourn still doesn't have a home. One of the main reasons for that is that teams seemingly aren't willing to give up the first down draft choice it would take to sign Bourn (for more on the entire draft pick compensation issue read the excellent article by Richard Justice). Bourn is looking for a 5-year deal, and his skills and production would seem to warrant just such an offer, but alas, he's still without a home. He's looking like the guy who gets hosed, the one guy who heading into the offseason looks like he is going to strike it big only to end up signing a one year deal hoping to prove to people that he's worth more next season. If you're drafting soon, take advantage of the fact that he hasn't signed with a team and get him at what I consider to be an ADP discount (77th according to NFBC numbers).
Kelly Johnson gets no love in the fantasy baseball world. I have to admit that I both understand and don't understand that position. Johnson has batted in the .220's the last two seasons and three of the last four years. I totally understand why people want no part of that. On the flip side I also know that Johnson has hit at least 16 homers with 13 steals each of the past three seasons. Admittedly those aren't over the top numbers, not even close, but I bet the following statement will still be a shock to nearly everyone reading these words. Kelly Johnson and Brandon Phillips are the only second baseman in baseball who have hit 16 homers with 13 steals each of the last three years. That's it folks. Johnson signed a one year deal to play second base for the Rays meaning he has got to be on the radar of those in AL-only leagues.
The Yankees lost Andruw Jones to Japan this offseason. Their response? It might be to add Travis Hafner who, according to reports from WEEI.com, might be close to wearing pinstripes. Hafner hit at least 24 homers with 100 RBIs from 2004-07, but that was an awfully long time ago. In fact, 2007 was the last time he had 400 at-bats in a season. It was also the last time he had 17 homers or drove in 60 runs. As a DH against right-handed pitching in Yankee stadium he'd still make a decent utility option in an AL-only league, but that's it.
Michael Pineda is starting to get some love in the fantasy game. My question is – why? Not only did the youngster miss the entire 2012 season, he also had a rather significant shoulder operation last April. I know that he threw off the half mound Tuesday for the first time which is encouraging, but it's time to pump the breaks folks. Pineda, assuming he doesn't have any setbacks as he moves forward (certainly not a lock), is a looooong way from pitching in the big leagues (my keyboard didn't stick, the extra “o's” were merely for effect). The best case scenario for Pineda would seem to be a return around mid-season. If you are in an AL-only league, certainly take a shot. If you are in a mixed league though? I'm only going to roster Pineda at the draft table if my league as DL spots that I can place Pineda in cause I don't want to waste a roster spot on a guy who seems likely to miss so much time.
Continuing the Yankees' talk, they did make a move that is already on the books when they signed Juan Rivera to a minor league deal. Rivera is 34 years old and nowhere near the hitter he once was (do you remember that as recently as 2009 Rivera was hitting .287 with 25 homers and 88 RBIs?), and he slogged his way to a .661 OPS and 47 RBIs last season for the Dodgers in 312 at-bats. It's possible that the Yankees could try and team Rivera with Hafner at the DH spot if they bring in Hafner as Rivera has always been a better hitter against left-handed pitching (.285/.332/.488 for his career). The Yankees also don't have much depth in the outfield on their roster, so Rivera could also see some time there as well if he makes the big league club. Are these really the Yankees we remember? Names like Hafner, Rivera and Russ Canzler could end up playing significant roles? Yikes.
The Angels added Ryan Madson this offseason, and the belief was that the move was made with the plan being that Madson would be the teams closer. That certainly might be the case, but I think people – including those in the Angels' organization – have too willingly accepted that position without spending much time thinking about it. The most obvious issue that needs to be overcome is that Madson did not pitch last year as he had Tommy John Surgery on his elbow. If you're the Angels, do you really trust a guy who hasn't thrown a big league pitch since 2011 to lock down games for you? If healthy I would totally get that line of thought, but he's not 100 percent right now. I was on the Madson bandwagon for years telling the Phillies that this guy had the stuff to be a lock down closer. When he was finally given the full-time role in 2011 he went out and posted a 2.37 ERA, 62 Ks in 60.2 innings, a 3.88 K/BB ratio and 32 saves in 34 changes. He then moved on to the Reds to be their closer last season, but as I noted he didn't end up throwing an inning for the Reds. Now comes news from GM Jerry DiPoto that Madson may miss the first week of the season as he works his way back into shape. Uh, Opening Day is still two months away. Am I the only one who is a bit nervous to read that the team is already setting us up for Madson to miss Opening Day? Regardless, as I noted, the guy didn't throw a single big league pitch last season. Given all of that...
Ernesto Frieri pitched about as well as anyone could last season after he was dealt to the Angels from the Padres. In 54.1 innings of work he allowed, get this, 26 hits. Batters hit .140 off of him. One forty. Along the way he posted a 2.32 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 80 Ks in 54.1 innings leading to a 13.25 K/9 ratio. Far from a four month wonder, Frieri has thrown 162.2 innings during his big league career and during that time he has a 2.32 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, a 2.65 K/BB ratio and limited batters to a .180 average. Those are dominating numbers, out of control good really. The only strong concern with Frieri is his propensity to give up the big fly, but that's what happens when you are a pitcher of his ilk. By that I mean that Frieri has allowed a 55.6 percent fly ball rate in his career, and that is literally 20 percent more than the big league average. When you give up that many fly balls eventually you will be burned by the long ball, and even if he were to maintain his career 7.0 HR/F mark – the big league average is usually right around 10 percent – he's going to be taken deep more than one might expect (still, his 0.77 career HR/9 mark is below the big league average of just over one, so it's by no means an out of control situation though last year the situation was about the only negative on his pitching line (1.23 per nine).
It certainly seems like the Angels plan on Madson being the main men in their bullpen this year. Still, he's coming off surgery and with an ADP that is 10 spots ahead of Frieri, I'm not completely sold that if you roster Madson you shouldn't handcuff him with Frieri, or that you shouldn't just let someone else take Madson while taking a shot on Frieri later in the draft (I bet there are plenty of drafts where one, or both, fall).
Tim Stauffer agreed to a minor league deal with the Padres this week. Stauffer made only one start last year as injuries limited him to five innings. Eventually he was forced to go under the knife in August to have a surgery to repair a flexor tendon issue. Reports a couple of weeks back suggest that his recovery has gone well, that he is up to throwing from 75 feet and that compared to his normal routine he is only two weeks behind his traditional offseason throwing schedule. All of that means there is a chance that he could be ready for opening day, but even if he isn't that it seems likely that we will see him on a big league hill at some point in April. Of course, that is dependent on a multitude of issues. (1) When will he be ready? (2) Will the Padres ask Stauffer to prove himself in the minors before giving him a shot to get big league hitters out? (3) Will the Padres ask Stauffer to start or relieve? I bring this up cause the last time I checked the Padres had like 19 starting pitchers on their 40-man roster. More on that in a moment. As for what Stauffer brings, let's not forget that he posted a 3.73 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP in 185.2 innings in 2011. Those are pretty solid numbers don't cha think (that was a nod to the Pussycat Dolls). Stauffer doesn't profile as an elite arm no matter what his role, but given that he keeps the ball on the ground (1.80 GB/FB ratio the last three years), and that he pitches at Petco, he's someone that I deem worthy of taking a shot on in NL-only leagues.
As for the rest of the Padres potentials for the starting rotation, here are the names you need to know: Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Cory Luebke, Andrew Cashner, Jason Marquis, Casey Kelly, Eric Stults, Anthony Bass and recently signed Freddy Garcia.
Luebke isn't likely to be back from Tommy Johns Surgery until around mid-season. Cashner hopes to return from his thumb injury by the end of April. Both of those two, if healthy, have to be looked as as part of the top-4 (with Volquez and Richard). After that, total crap shoot though veterans like Marquis/Garcia could certainly each up innings if they were called to do so on a regular basis.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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