The Blue Jays have decided which man will handle the final frame while the Tigers are still debating how they will handle the 9th inning. Elsewhere there is all kinds of excitement. We've got one of the better hitters of his generation being arrested for a DUI. A righty is ready to sign with the Orioles and why anyone cares is beyond me. A masher in Boston, think overweight, smiley and slow on the base paths, may not be ready to play full-time once the season starts. I'll also touch on a guy who was hurt while wrestling, a hurler who might have been the worst pitcher in baseball last season and I'll share some thoughts on the latest hurler turned hitter.
The Blue Jays are in an interesting position. They dealt for Sergio Santos last year to be their closer. Unfortunately he hurt his shoulder, eventually required surgery, and tossed a total of five big league innings last year. Stepping up to fill the void in the 9th was Casey Janssen who converted 22 of 25 save chances with a 2.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 9.47 K/9 an a 6.09 K/BB ratio. Those are ELITE numbers. However, it was his first effort as a closer, and it's hard to take a guys job away because he was hurt. Still, it seems like what Janssen did last year was enough to do just that. "We'll go with Casey -- he is coming off a great year," manager John Gibbons said. "Sergio missed the whole year, and that's big in this case.” I can't disagree with that logic. However, given that Santos will be lurking, Janssen isn't likely to have too long a leash if he struggles. Oh, and this has gone under reported everywhere, don't forget that Janssen is also coming back from a procedure to repair the acromioclavicular joint in his shoulder. He should be fine moving forward, but file that away in the back of your mind.
The Tigers do not have a closer at the moment as Jose Valverde was not brought back, and that leaves the position wide open for someone to seize. Most assume that hard throwing youngster Bruce Rondon will open the year in the spot, but not so fast says GM Dave Dombrowski. "We could use those guys and mix and match at times. In Rondon, he's the one guy that's really not battle tested at the major league level...We're not anointing him that role. We hope he wins the job in spring training.” Well so much for feeling comfortable with drafting Rondon in mixed leagues. Others that could be in for a look in the 9th include Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and Al Albuquerque. Benoit, we've been told by Jim Leyland, struggles to pitch on back-to-back days. Coke is left-handed and has one of the worst set up moves in baseball even if his stuff is strong. Dotel is like 58 years old. Al A. dominates batters but sometimes can't find the strike zone. My money is still on Rondon to emerge, but none of these guys is a target of mine, even in AL-only leagues.
Around the League
Todd Helton was arrested on DUI charges Wednesday in Thornton, Colorado. I just don't get it. According to BaseballReference Helton has made over $156 million. What Todd, you can't hire some friend for $100,000 a year to drive you around while you're partying? They also have this new fangled thing called a taxi cab. The fact that athletes continue to get popped for drinking and driving is utterly baffling to me.
I hate having to do this every year, but here's my warning against Jair Jurrjens who is on the cusp of signing a one year deal with the Orioles (the deal is said to be $1.5 million base with incentives that could take the deal to $4 million. The hold up is that the Orioles want to make sure that the knee of Jurrjens is OK so they are waiting on the physical). The short form. Jurrjens isn't very good. The long form. Jurrjens isn't very good. Not only did he post a 6.89 ERA last season in the majors but he had a 4.98 ERA and didn't even strike out five batters per inning in his 14 starts at Triple-A. I know he's got three solid years under his belt at the big league level, but he's just not that talented. Jurrjens owns a 5.98 K/9 mark, a 1.92 K/BB ratio, 1.22 GB/FB, 20 percent line drive rate, and a 1.32 WHIP. That's all league average or worse. Seems a pretty high price to pay for a chance at a 3.62 ERA, especially when his ERA in two of the last three seasons has been 4.64 and 6.89.
David Ortiz was killing it last year when he was hurt as he hit .318 with 23 homers, 60 RBIs and 65 runs scored in just 90 games as it appeared likely that he would have his best season since 2007. Alas, an Achilles injury bit him and ended his campaign. Even though he's had the whole offseason to convalesce, he's still not at 100 percent, and to me that's pretty scary. “I’m not completely recovered, but I’m going to be ready to go for Opening Day,” Ortiz told WEEI.com. “They say I’m going to have my days I’m not going to feel that well. I haven’t had those yet, but I haven’t started the hard stuff... Hopefully I don’t have any setbacks, but right now everything is good.” Are you sure you want to invest heavily on a 37 year old coming back from that injury and tossing out those quotes? Add into the mix that he's only a utility option and the fog thickens. I'd also like to note that his .318 average was a five year high, his .415 OBP was a five year high and his .611 SLG was a five year high. Do you know of many players who are better at 37 than they were at 33? Tread carefully here.
Micah Owings has been a moderate to poor performer on the hill for his career. Over 483 innings he's gone 32-33 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. After six years of uneven work, highlighted by an injury filled 2012 that resulted in just 9.2 innings of big league work, it sounds like he's had enough. Not of baseball mind you, he's going to keep playing, but taking a page out of the Rick Ankiel Playbook he's going to try and transition from the hill to the field to become a hitter (you may have forgotten over the years, but Ankiel was Once Upon a Time, a great television show by the way, the top left handed pitching prospect in baseball. In fact, in his lone full season on the hill Ankiel went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and a 9.98 K/9 mark over 175 innings in 2000). Owings ain't a bad hitter at all, and he's actually had a ton of big league success with a bat in his hands. For his career, and we're only talking 205 at-bats, he has nine homers and 35 RBIs. If we give him 475 at-bats at that rate he'd end up with 21 homers and 81 RBIs. Toss in his career slash line of .283/.310/.502 and you have a batting line that is eerily similar to the totals that Garrett Jones posted last year (27 HR, 86 RBIs, .274/.317/.516). The Nationals hope he can develop to the point that he can be a right handed bat off the bench (OF/1B type in the field), a role that Rick Ankiel filled for the the team last year at times from the left-side last year.
Jonathan Sanchez signed a minor league contract with the Pirates after the worst baseball season of his life. Doomed from the start, Sanchez stunk with the Royals before being even worse with the Rockies. If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to skip the next number string which is likely to induce vomiting at least in a few of the less hearty: 1-9, 8.07 ERA, 6.26 K/9, 0.85 K/BB, 2.09 WHIP. The most amazing thing might be that the two teams let him perform that abysmally for 64.2 innings. In the end his ERA was 34th worst single season mark, minimum 60 innings, in the history of baseball. By the way, do you know which pitcher has the worst ERA ever for a season of 60-innings? You will be shocked if don't already know. The answer is Roy Halladay who had a 10.64 mark in 2000. Can Sanchez turn around his career as Halladay did? It was just 2010 that Sanchez was posting a 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and striking out 205 batters in 193.1 innings for the Giants. The stuff is still tremendous, but Sanchez had no idea where the ball was going last year (he walked 53 batters in 64.2 innings). Worth a shot as a reserve round selection in NL-only leagues.
Anthony Swarzak fractured two ribs last month wrestling, and that will cause him to miss the next month. It appears he will function as a long reliever for the Twins leaving him a virtual non entity, even in AL-only leagues. That's what happens when you post a 5.03 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 5.77 K/9 mark as he did last season in 96.2 innings.
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. Don’t forget to get your copy of the 2013 BaseballGuys Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is now available. Nearly 150 pages of insight to help you dominate the competition in 2013.
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