Ray’s Ramblings: Is Kershaw Really OK?
Will Schwarber catch in 2017? Brantley and Kershaw have health concerns. Who is closing in Oakland? What will the Rangers lineup look like this season?
Michael Brantley (shoulder) will not be ready for the first game of spring. The team is trying to be “smart” with the handling of Brantley after his lost 2016 effort. That makes sense. Still, you cannot tell me that it’s not a concern that Brantley will, once again, be behind everyone else at the start of camp. Be very cautious with any high-level Brantley expectations in 2017, very cautious.
Clayton Kershaw says his back is fine after an offseason of rest, and that he intends to make every start this season. Kershaw is still my #1 starting pitcher in this year’s Player Rankings, but I’m amongst the group of folks that have zero concern with the big lefty. Kershaw is only 28, he turns 29 in March, and has long been a fella able to take on big innings (at least 198 frames each year from 2010-15). Last season those back woes limited him to 149 innings. Should we be so quick to push aside all concerns about his back and that herniated disk? Should we? As you can see from the Mayo Clinic website, herniated disks can lead to arm/leg pain, numbness and/or weakness (here are some of the treatment options ranging from Advil to cortisone shots to surgery). Just something to keep in mind with the never ending stream of injured pitchers on the bump. Do you really want to build your staff around a guy with a health concern? Moreover, do you really want your first pick to be that guy, talent be damned?
Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle – and maybe even John Axford – could see time in the 9th inning for the Athletics. I wrote about this possibility way back on January 12th in Have Glove, Will Travel. My supposition has recently been supported by A’s manager Bob Melvin who said that spring performances won’t have much of an impact on how he chooses to deploy his pitchers in the 9th. So, he’s going with who then? He said that “multiple guys could get save chances.” Thanks for clarifying that Bob. Be very cautious with rostering any of these guys. I’m still thinking Casilla leads the club in saves. Just a guess of course.
Jose Ramirez went nuts last year for the Indians going .312-11-76-84-22 in a difference making season that was added from the waiver-wire in virtually every mixed league. A very versatile option, Ramirez appeared at second base nine times, third base 117 times, shortstop five times and outfield 48 times. That leaves him with third base and outfield eligibility in 2017 in all leagues. Word out of Indians camp is that Ramirez is the third baseman in 2017. Indians manager Terry Francona says that Ramirez might get some reps this spring at short, but there are no plans for him to see any time in the outfield. This time next season, it’s possible that Ramirez will lose his positional flexibility.
The Rangers current plan is... to have Jurickson Profar start in left field. Yikes. With the recent signing of Mike Napoli to play first base it seems like the domino effect will look like this. (1) Shin-Soo Choo will see a lot of work at DH. (2) That leaves Profar to platoon with Ryan Rua in left field, with Joey Gallo possibly a fall back option as well; though he will spend most of his time at the corners in the infield with most of his work coming at third base. (3) Gallo, arguably the top power bat in the minors, has no future with the Rangers. They signed Napoli, ostensibly to a 2-year deal, and now are saying he will play third base, a spot currently occupied by future HOFamer Adrian Beltre. Rangers, just trade Gallo already. (4) Oh yeah, back to Profar... I’m just not seeing it. Over 184 big league games the soon to be 24-year-old has a .235/.311/.341 slash line that screams minors, not starting in left field in the majors.
People are holding out the dream that Kyle Schwarber will be a catcher this season. Here’s what we know. (1) Yahoo is listing Schwarber as a catcher this season. He shouldn’t be listed as a catcher. He didn’t catch an inning last season. He should only be eligible at outfield (or utility). (2) Schwarber will enter the 2017 season as an outfielder for the Cubs. (3) The plan with the Cubs is for Willson Contreras to catch four of five games with Miguel Montero catching the fifth. (4) Schwarber wants to catch. "I want to be able to play defense to the best of my ability. I feel confident going into this year.” It doesn’t matter since he won’t. (5) Schwarber has been cleared to catch, but it seems like emergency catcher is the role the club plans on having him full this season. In fact, though he will be doing some work with catchers this spring, he will only perform physical catching drills once or twice a week. He’s only going to return to real-time work behind the dish if Contreras/Montero are hurt or traded. If you have five games for a player to earn new positional eligibility it could happen with Schwarber, catcher eligibility, but if the number is 10 or higher I have serious concerns if he gets there. Remember as well, that even if he does catch five games, when will that fifth game occur? If it’s April 23rd that is fantastic. If it’s August 23rd... not so much. Make sure you check your in-season rules to find out how players pick up new positional designations.
Please do NOT draft Zack Wheeler. Though the team is saying it was just scar tissue breaking down, the fact is that Wheeler felt some tenderness in his elbow after his last bullpen session is a major concern. Wheeler’s recent physical, when he reported to camp, showed no signs of concern with his wing, so the hope is that this issue is no big deal. Whatever. With Wheeler, any hiccup is a big deal. I wish him well, but you’re nuts if you’re counting on him in any way, shape or form in 2017.
Ray Flowers can be heard Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday, 7 PM EDT, Wednesday 8 PM EDT on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). You can also hear Ray Sunday nights at 9 PM EDT PM on the channel talking fantasy sports. Follow Ray’s work at Fantasy Alarm and on Twitter (@baseballguys).