We’re still in those early stages of the fantasy baseball season where I recommend continued patience and unwavering faith over panic and roster overhauls. I know it’s not easy and the site of your team sitting near the bottom of the standings can be so unbearable…so frustrating…that you just want to choke the life out of every person who tells you to be patient and that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But believe me, at some point down the road when you’re fighting for a championship and/or money finish, you’ll be thankful that you didn’t drop Mike Moustakas or trade away a struggling Jason Heyward as both will turn their seasons around as well as yours.
Now I’m not saying that you don’t play the waiver wire or explore trades. Sometimes you are left with no choice. As my friend Ray Flowers pointed out in his latest piece on Baseball Guys, I myself was forced into such a situation. With multiple guys hitting the DL, coupled with slow starts by several others, I needed to make an aggressive move. Guys were overbidding on free agents through the first two weeks and I got shut out with my conservative bids, so I needed to be bold this week. I may have spent nearly half my budget on five guys, but the important thing is that I didn’t drop anyone of note. I had to get rid of some stashed players whom I may want during the second half, but as Mary Jo Kopechne once said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
So while some moves are necessary, there are many that are not. So pick and choose your moments carefully. Obviously, you want to have a good showing early on and start trading and making moves from strength rather than necessity, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about other pressing fantasy baseball matters. Between the rash of injuries we’ve seen lately and the position battles being won and lost here in the early goings of the 2013 season, it’s important to keep track of each and every team that has some sort of unsettled situation. Maybe your guy is about to lose his job, maybe you’ll find a free agent who is headed towards some breakout playing time, or maybe you’ll find some key information to help you negotiate a trade. Whatever the case may be, knowledge is power and as I go through each division, I’m going to throw you some quality fantasy baseball advice and highlight a number of situations you should be keeping a watchful eye on and make you one of the more powerful owners in your league. Not every team has a situation to watch, so don’t be confused by the omission of some teams.
New York Yankees
They haven’t quite tanked as much as everyone expected and come the end of April they should have Derek Jeter back and by the end of May, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira as well. When Grandy returns, that should push Brett Gardner back to left and Vernon Wells to the bench/DH spot. Given what Wells has done so far — .324 with 3 HR — you can probably expect the Yankees to put him and Travis Hafner into a straight lefty/righty platoon unless one clearly outshines the other.
Toronto Blue Jays
The loss of Jose Reyes for three months is devastating for both the Royals and fantasy owners. Couple that with the loss of Brett Lawrie and the disappointing pitching and you’ve got panic potential galore here. What could go down here in Toronto over the next few weeks is big for fantasy owners to watch, so keep a very close eye on it. Since I already wrote it all up in my most recent piece on Fantasy Alarm, I’ll just send you there for now.
Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz is due back by the end of the week and that could spell the end of the Jackie Bradley, Jr. era. Once Big Papi returns and slides back into the DH spot, the Red Sox are going to have to go with their original plan and use Jonny Gomes in left field. They wanted him to get full-time at-bats there, but given his struggles against right-handed pitching and the stellar play of Daniel Nava, you’re looking at a platoon situation there. Meanwhile, there’s no room for Bradley who is just 3-for-28 (.107) right now which means that the Sox are most likely going to send him back to Triple-A Pawtucket so he can play every day and get his confidence back.
Kansas City Royals
The closer situation seems to be the most tenuous right now, but Ned Yost is very likely to stick with Greg Holland who has been shaky to open the season. Kelvin Herrera is already a hot commodity on the waiver wire as he has two saves already, but I think the leash is long on Holland. If you have bench space or use middle relievers at all, Herrera is definitely worth grabbing though. He’ll notch saves when Holland needs a rest and will always be there…just in case. Outside of that, buy low on Mike Moustakas (his batted ball data indicates a turnaround coming soon) and don’t buy low on Eric Hosmer (his indicates stagnancy and continued struggles). If you have a subscription, then check out my details on his ground ball rates in my latest MLB Barometer on RotoWire.
Chicago White Sox
With Gordon Beckham landing on the DL with a broken hamate bone, the Pale Hose are looking to patch up the infield for a good month or so. Jeff Keppinger has moved over to second and rather than turn to Brent Morel who was a disappointment last season, they’ve gone with former Giants prospect Conor Gillaspie. Not a lot of power or speed but good contact rates so he might be able to help you in average while kicking in some helpful stats here and there.
It looks like Aaron Hicks is losing some of his spring luster with a 2-for-26 (.047) start. Now that Darin Mastroianni is healthy, you can probably expect to see Hicks on the bench a little more, if not down in the minors altogether. There’s not whole lot of fantasy value to be had with either, but you might be able to nail down some cheap speed if one starts to take off and gain the lion’s share of playing time.
The bullpen is still a problem spot here but things seem a bit more settled now that Jim Leyland said that Joaquin Benoit would get the opportunity to be the team’s closer now. Phil Coke and Al Albuquerque will remain set-up men. So Benoit is the guy to own here, but keep in mind that the Tigers went and signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal and he has been pitching rather well in extended spring training. He should go on a Triple-A assignment soon and from there, the Tigers will determine his overall value. Should he succeed, he could be closing out games for the Motown Kitties shortly.
With Yoenis Cespedes hitting the DL, the A’s are going to have to do some shuffling in their outfield. A lot is going to depend on the health of Coco Crisp who has been dealing with a groin problem as well but it looks like Seth Smith and Chris Young are headed towards some additional playing time. They’ll split between left field and DH right now and should both see full-time ABs over the next two weeks. How it goes on from there will be up to them.
There are no real position battles happening right now, but Michael Saunders on the DL puts a platoon of Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez more front-and-center. It has a slight chance of developing into more as the Mariners might be tiring of Justin Smoak’s struggles at the plate. Should they send him down, Kendrys Morales would take over at first which would open up the DH spot more. The M’s are also getting a bit tired of Dustin Ackley’s struggles, but they don’t really have much to back him up. You might see a little more Robert Andino, but probably not enough to make him a worthwhile selection.
Not that there are an abundance of saves to be had, but Jose Veras is looking more than just a little shaky. Should his struggles continue, you can probably expect to see a little more Rhiner Cruz.
Los Angeles Angels
With Erick Aybar hitting the DL, Brendan Harris and Andrew Romine are sharing time at short. Neither has much in the way of fantasy value to offer, so hopefully, Aybar will be back when his two weeks are up.
Enjoy Evan Gattis while you can, because you probably only have him for another two weeks. I mean, he’ll likely stick as the back-up when Brian McCann comes back from his DL stint, but he probably won’t see more than two starts a week. Given the fact that McCann is working his way back from shoulder surgery, it is possible that he splits time a little more than usual early on, but it’s still probably not enough to make Gattis a worthwhile start. Stash him though, as you never know.
The only thing I’m really watching here is how long Danny Espinosa’s shoulder is going to last. So far, so good, although he is listed as day to day with a hand injury. Steve Lombardozzi has good value as a primary back-up to a lot of players on the Nats, but can be left on the wire for the time being. You may want to keep an eye on catcher Kurt Suzuki who should be seeing full-time duty with Wilson Ramos on the DL. Should he perform the way he did last year, he could be in for more than just a back-up job when Ramos comes back.
The slow start for Giancarlo Stanton is disconcerting and the fact that his shoulder is acting up doesn’t make it any better, but he’s pure power and you cannot give up on him yet. But the real story to watch is found in center field as Justin Ruggiano could be losing his grip on the starting job these days. Few people were willing to dismiss his late-bloomer breakout last year as a product of a ridiculously high BABIP, but with the way he’s hitting right now, people are starting to come around. Meanwhile Chris Coghlan is playing very well and is pushing for some additional playing time. Should Ruggiano not right the ship soon, Coghlan could be in line for some additional playing time, possibly even a platoon situation. Oh, and by the way…..should starting pitcher Jose Fernandez be lingering on your waiver wire, pick him up now.
We’re almost halfway through the suspension of Carlos Ruiz, so for those who have him stashed, he should be back by early May. Hopefully you’ve had the pleasure of using someone like Gattis or John Buck in his stead because we all know that no one with any sense was going with Erik Kratz.
St. Louis Cardinals
Since Jason Motte went down, the bullpen has been an absolute disaster of the Cards here in the early goings. Mitchell Boggs has seen mixed results but with more bad than good and it looks like he’s on his way out after getting yanked in mid-save opportunity Sunday. The world seems to be clamoring for Trevor Rosenthal to get the gig but Mike Matheny has tabbed Edward Mujica as the next guys he’ll try out in the ninth. Mujica has been solid since coming over from the Marlins last year. He posted a 1.03 ERA with a 21:3 K:BB over 26.1 innings in 2012 and is now sitting on a 1.80 ERA with a 5:1 K:BB over just five innings of work this season. While he’s the one to own right now, you may want to think about handcuffing Rosenthal to him just in case.
This bullpen actually makes the Cards pen look secure. Carlos Marmol got a quick hook at the start of the season, Kyuji Fujikawa got beat up twice and landed on the DL with a forearm strain (suspicious? I think so), and Shawn Camp got the opportunity Sunday and coughed up a game-tying home run and then got peppered the following inning to take the loss. That means that James Russell seems to be the next in line. How that pans out is anyone’s guess, but the team did recall Raphael Dolis who did some closing for them last year.
The Reds take a hit in the rotation as Johnny Cueto lands on the DL with a lat strain. Obviously they’re hoping to have him back sooner than later, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back in the two week’s time. In the meantime, let’s talk about Tony Cingrani, the 23-year old, 6’4″ lefty who is coming up to take his place in the rotation. Last season for the Triple-A Louisville Bats, Cingrani went 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA and had a 172:52 K:BB over 146.1 innings and earned himself a late-season cup of coffee in which he made three appearances, posting an ERA of 1.80 with a 9:2 K:BB over five innings. He had a nice strong spring but opened the season back in Triple-A where he hasn’t allowed a run in three starts and has a 26:2 K:BB over 14.1 innings. He is a must add as I doubt he’ll be heading back down anytime soon.
Now that the bullpen issues have seemingly been settled — John Axford was replaced by Jim Henderson and all now seems to be quiet — the only things you’ll have to watch for is the return of Aramis Ramirez. He’s eligible to come off the DL on April 21st, but according to Ron Roenicke, he’s not quite ready. But the return isn’t going to be delayed for too long. He’s playing catch right now and just testing the knee, so figure you’re looking at another two weeks maybe. Once he returns, Alex Gonzalez can move back to first and we’re all finally rid of Yuniesky Betancourt. For the record, Corey Hart, now on the 60-day DL, isn’t back until the end of May.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Obviously the big news is the loss of Zack Greinke thanks to the machismo of an idiot named Carlos Quentin. Greinke will be out for at least two months and we’ll just have to see where it goes from there. The fortunate thing is that the broken collarbone is not on the pitching side, so it shouldn’t affect his shoulder or release points at all. Filling in will be Chris Capuano who has some decent value now that he is back in the rotation. The southpaw posted a 3.72 ERA over 33 starts for the Dodgers last season and while his K-rate dropped from the year before, it was still fairly respectable and should be good enough to provide you with some fantasy value this season. Also keep in mind that Hanley Ramirez had the cast on his thumb removed and should be back by mid-May. Justin Sellers will likely find himself back in Triple-A by then.
San Diego Padres
So while that dipshit Carlos Quentin serves an 8-game suspension, look for Will Venable and Chris Denorfia to get the bulk of the playing time. They have about the same amount of pop in their bats, but Venable is solid on the base paths. He’s posted 20-plus steals in each of his last three seasons, so this should give him a decent opportunity to shine. It might even impress enough to earn him some time in center field if Cameron Maybin doesn’t right the ship soon.
The D-Backs have lost Jason Kubel to the DL with a strained left quad, but the team doesn’t skip a beat as they get Cody Ross back immediately. Ross should see full-time at-bats in right field and should be a great source of cheap power. He’s a right-handed dead-pull hitter and Chase Field has a tasty 328-foot line down the third base side. If your team lacks pop and you need an outfielder, he’s going to be a great add this week.
So that should catch you all up on the latest MLB news and fantasy baseball impact. As always, you can email me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, ask me on the RotobuzzGuy.com Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy.
Good luck and I’ll see you all in the money this year!