We spend a lot of time in fantasy baseball talking about who to draft in the first two or three rounds that we often times don't focus enough on the positional battles that teams are going through during Spring Training. Does the second base decision with the Blue Jays impact a guy like Emilio Bonifacio who has such huge upside given his wheels? What about the Cardinals second and shortstop decisions – do they matter? Of course you are going to care about what the Angels do in the 9th inning, but maybe what the injury ravaged Yankees do in the outfield should also be something you concern yourself with? We'll discuss those battles and more in this piece.
David Ortiz Still Struggling
David Ortiz, who I broke down in depth in this Player Profile, is really struggling. The 37 year old designated hitter is still not recovered from his Achilles issue from last season, and we're more than seven months away from when the injury initially occurred. At this point he's still having pain when he runs, his heels are bothering him, and there's simply no way he is going to be ready for Opening Day (the team hopes that he will only miss a couple of weeks). If you're drafting Big Papi it better be at one heck of a discount.
Boesch A Yankee
With Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez all slated to miss ample amounts of time this season, the Yankees brought in Brennan Boesch after he was released by the Tigers (after adding Boesch the Yankees decided to let go Matt Diaz). As it stands now, the Yankees outfield sets up this way: Boesch in left, Brett Gardner in center and Ichiro Suzuki in right. No that's not the Astros outfield, it's the Yankees. Ouch is right.
Boesch has played for three years in the big leagues, and there isn't much that stands out. His slash line of .259/.315/.414 is nearly identical to the American League average the past three years (.258/.324/.410). Can you say replacement level? Boesch has also see his walk rate decrease the last two years, and his 21 percent K-rate last season was a three year worst leading to another three year worst with his 0.25 BB/K ratio. That's a simply terrible number. Boesch also owns a well below average 16.4 percent career line drive rate, a league average 10.3 percent HR/F ratio, and a .298 career BABIP. Can you say league average? There's really no reason to continue to break Boesch down. In a mixed league don’t even consider adding him. In an AL-only league you certainly can call out his name, but understand that when Granderson returns he's going to play everyday in the outfield, and that likely means that Boesch will start losing at-bats unless he gets off to a quick start in 2013.
As for Teixeira, did you see the report Sunday in which he stated that he's not only going to miss April but that he might miss all of May as well, not to mention that there is still a chance that he will need to undergo surgery on his wrist (GM Brian Cashman said it was only 70 percent likely that Tex could avoid the knife)? Don't know about you, but those of you still drafting Teixeira in mixed leagues without a DL spot --- I just can't get behind that position at all.
Many assumed that it would be Ryan Madson working the 9th inning for the Angels, but he's still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and seems likely to miss the first couple weeks of the season. Who will close for the Angels in the meantime? It certainly appears likely that Ernesto Frieri will be working the end of the game for the Angels. Don't overlook the fact that Frieri had a 2.32 ERA last season, that he allowed a total of 35 hits in 66 innings, that his WHIP was 0.98 or that he punched out 13.36 batters per nine innings in one of the more dominating efforts in recent memory. What is he working on how? A new pitch – the change up. “...I feel comfortable enough to use it in any situation now.” He's also working on mastering a cutter as well. It's no sure thing that Madson will end up leading the Angels in saves this season cause if Frieri starts out hot, why would the Angels remove him from the 9th inning?
Who's the Blue Jays Second Baseman?
The Blue Jays have two options for second base. It was assumed that the better fielding Maicer Izturis would be the second baseman, while the more exciting offensive player – Emilio Bonifacio – would play a super sub role with the club. Turns out that may or may not be the case. In one of the greatest coach speak statements of all time, manger John Gibbons had this to say. You'll love this. “It may come down to the end that they both play and nobody’s named [as the regular],” Gibbons said. “We can just use them both. Or we could name one guy [as] the primary guy.” gee, thanks John. I may or may not have a date tonight. I may or may not be going to New York this coming weekend for Tout Wars. I may or may not be writing this article (perhaps some form of artificial intelligence is the brains behind it). What a flat out stupid set of comments.
The upshot is that we don't know who is going to be starting at second for the Jays. Let's break down the two players.
Izturis has over 2,600 big league at-bats in a carer that began back in 2004. He's never had 450 at-bats in a season and he is a career .273 hitter who has gone deep a total of 34 times. He doesn't really get on base very well (.337 OBP), has no power to speak of (.381 SLG), and though he might steal a base here and there he's not an elite threat by any means (he did swiped 17 bases last year but he stole a total of 16 bags in 2010-11). He's just not a very good hitter and certainly doesn't own the skill set to excite in the fantasy game.
Bonifacio runs, and runs, and runs (kind of like me after a dinner at the local Mexican cantina). After swiping 40 bases in 152 games in 2011, Emilio went wild last season, absolutely crazy – I'm talking Girls Gone Wild wild, with 30 thefts in 64 games. Obviously it would be unwise to think that he's pushing 60 or 70 steals this season, even if he played everyday, but on the flip side he's clearly capable of being a force on the base paths. Unfortunately, like Izturis, he really can't hit all that well either (his career slash line is .267/.329/.343). The guy has a total of seven homers and 100 RBIs in 1,642 at-bats. Yikes is right. He also comes into 2012 only qualifying in the outfield in the majority of leagues, though the prospect of second base eligibility is obviously there fore the taking with him (check your league rules to see how many games a guy has to play at a spot in order to qualify there).
In terms of the fantasy game we have to hope that Bonifacio ends up winning the battle at second since he's the upside play, but in truth we just have to hope that on most days Bonifacio plays no matter what position the Blue Jays ask for him to play in the field. Get him out there Mr. Gibbons.
Cardinals Name Kozma Shortstop
Rafael Furcal is done for the year as he will need Tommy John surgery, so the Cards will turn to Pete Kozma as their starter at shortstop this season (Ronny Cedeno has had a terrible spring). If you look at the back of Kozma's ball card you will see that he hit .333 in 72 at-bats last season and that might lead you to think that he's going to be a really strong option in NL-only leagues this season. You might want to rethink that position. Kozma has never been that kind of hitter. Besides batting a mere .232 in 131 games at Triple-A last season, Kozma also hit .214 in 112 games at Triple-A in 2011. Need some more information to make your decision on Kozma? How about that .243 mark in 132 games at Double-A in 2010 or the .216 average in 113 games at Double-A in 2009. I'm sorry, but the guy just can't hit. He also has little pop, he's never gone deep more than 13 times in a season, and he's basically stealing 6-8 bags a year. Don't go all in just cause he has a starting job.
Someone with the Cardinals who you should be very interested in though is Matt Carpenter. Last season Matt hit .294 with a .365 OBP and .463 SLG over the course of 296 at-bats. He enters the year qualifying at first base (44 games), third base (33 games) and the outfield (22 games). However, he's also going to be adding second base to his positional flexibility as he's looking very likely to be named the clubs' starter there in short order. Carpenter will likely lose some at-bats this year as the Cardinals go to a more experienced glove man late in games, but Matt has appeared capable of handling second defensively this spring. Unlike Kozma, Carpenter also hit in the minor leagues, supporting his efforts with the Cards last season. Carpenter hit .302 with 12 homers and 70 RBIs in 130 games at Triple-A in 2011. In 2010 he suited up for 105 games at Double-A batting .316 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs. He doesn't have base stealing speed. He doesn't have big power. He's just a solid hitter who is going to be a great target in NL-only leagues, especially with his positional flexibility. Wait, did I say that already?
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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