Though it makes it sound more like a Broadway show than a baseball game, we are less than a week away from Opening Night. That’s right. Sunday night the Rangers and Astros square off for the first official MLB game of the 2013 season. Excited? I know I am. But what makes it even better is that Sunday night is the first official set of stats recorded for the 2013 fantasy baseball season and after a long and arduous offseason filled with countless hours of draft prep work, it’s all about to start paying off. But before we get ahead of ourselves, there are still some who have yet to draft and are looking for a few last-minute nuggets of information. Well, with big decisions coming down here in the final week of spring training, I am always happy to oblige.
Vernon Wells Traded to the Yankees
For the Yankee-haters of the world, this is just a fitting punchline to an awful joke of a spring for New York. But with the rash of injuries and the cloud of yet another PEDs scandal for Alex Rodriguez, adding Wells and his overblown contract is just more gasoline onto an inextinguishable fire. Enjoy it while you can haters. But we’re here to talk fantasy and that means we’re talking about Wells’ value right now which actually gets a huge boost with this trade. Listen, we all know that Wells’ overall value has been on the decline. His average these past two seasons has been atrocious. But we’re also talking about a guy who posted an ISO of .173 or higher in three of the last four years and hit a minimum of 25 home runs in two of his last three seasons. There’s still power in them thar bats, my friend, and moving to a hitter’s haven like Yankee Stadium and getting the opportunity for full-time at-bats, even if it’s only for two months, is going to produce some numbers. If you haven’t drafted yet, then he’s definitely worth the super-late pick as you could conceivably get 10-12 home runs in a very short amount of time. Then, once he’s back on the bench, simply drop him and play the wire for another outfielder if you need. Don’t waste a golden opportunity here. Trust me; he won’t be starting long enough for his batting average to hurt you. Take the stats and run.
Milwaukee Brewers Sign Kyle Lohse
It was just a matter of time before Lohse landed somewhere and Milwaukee is as good as anyone could have hoped for. OK, the ballpark isn’t ideal, but Lohse is predominately a ground ball pitcher whose HR/FB and HR/9 have been better than league average over the last three seasons. Personally, I don’t think he’s as bad as most people seem to say he is. The ERA has been under a 3.50 for the last two seasons and while his FIP is a moderate uptick north, it still sits below 3.70. His WHIP is below 1.18 over the last two years and his walk rate has stayed better than league average for much longer than that. The only thing he hasn’t done is strike people out. Yes, his K-rate is disappointing. But is that any reason to bypass him completely? Absolutely not. People can run him down all they want, but the fact of the matter is that Lohse has provided his fantasy owners with rock solid numbers lately. I’m not saying run out and draft him immediately and throw him into your starting rotation but I’d take a look at him late in the draft and if he’s out there on your waiver wire right now and you have bench space, he’s certainly worth what he’s going to cost you.
Scott Kazmir and Shelby Miller Win Fifth Starter’s Jobs
As the spring winds down, so do the position battles and for those still waiting to draft, it’s time to fill out those late picks with players who now have jobs rather than just upside. Miller has been a highly touted pitcher for a couple of years and now, after a successful but unspectacular year in Triple-A, gets his first real shot in the majors. He’s got a nice low-90’s fastball and a rock-solid curve that he locates well, an improving changeup and the Cards seem to think he’s ready. The home park should negate the fact that he’s more of a fly-ball pitcher, but until he really proves himself, you may want to play the match-ups when he travels to places like Cincinnati or Milwaukee.
As for Kazmir, we’ve got a nice feel-good story here but a situation you should enter with caution. After a few moderately successful but injury-plagued years with the Rays, Kazmir began to decline steadily, losing velocity, dropping in strikeouts and losing the strike zone more often. He hit rock-bottom in 2011 when he was decimated in Triple-A and saw his fastball drop from 91 to 86 mph. The Angels had enough and released him. Suddenly, this spring Kazmir has his velocity back up between 91 and 92 mph and has a 3.43 ERA with 23 strikeouts over 21 spring innings. While the numbers aren’t exactly lights-out, they were enough to beat out the rest of the competition this spring. But is that a plus for Kazmir or a knock on the rest of what the Indians had in their system? Sure, he could have a career resurrection here, which makes him worth at least a late-round flier, but until he strings together more than just a few quality starts, he should be left on the bench.
Alex Rios Gets MRI for Stiff Back
I know I’ll take some heat from The Oracle on this one, but could there be a more obvious red flag to stop you from buying into the Rios hype? Even if this turns out to be nothing, the ol’ stiff back issue is one that lingers and nags for a very long time. I’ll be super brief here because this is more hunch and gut feeling than something I can back with major statistical evidence. But when a guy is dogged throughout his career for putting forth a lackluster effort, I’m not too inspired to buy into said player when he’s missing time with a bad back.
MRI on Pablo Sandoval Comes Back Clean…Sort of
Third base has just been a wreck this spring. Chase Headley, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Lawrie and now David Freese have all dealt with injuries and right now, it looks like all but Wright are slated to start the season on the DL. Now Sandoval’s start to the season could be in jeopardy as well. He began to feel pain a few weeks ago and was diagnosed with an irritated nerve in his arm. Tests revealed a bone spur that was causing the irritation but he was prescribed rest over surgery. He was feeling better near the end of last week, but was ultimately shut down again over the weekend as the pain returned. He was immediately sent for an MRI and while the test revealed no further structural damage, the bone spur is still prevalent and causing problems. Sandoval vows to be ready for Opening Day, but this red flag may be too much to endure as a fantasy owner. Should surgery be needed, he could be out for a couple of months which, given the state of the position, could be a veritable disaster.
On the Rise: Matt Harvey, Wilin Rosario, Eric Hosmer, Domonic Brown, Brandon Belt
Falling Out of Favor: Zack Greinke, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Tommy Hanson, Wily Peralta
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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