Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions - NL West
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Will 3B Mark Reynolds become a top-20 fixture?
But he strikes out too much, drafters whine.... This doesn't tell the entire tale. Reynolds altered his two-strike approach last season. The 24 stolen bases were gravy, but the homer meat should be plentiful. He walks often, too. That being said, it's hard to make a second-round investment in a sub-.270 hitter. Bold drafters will have to compensate.
Is John Q. Drafter missing an opportunity with SP Brandon Webb?
Webb's shoulder appears to be working toward a normal spring schedule. He's also likely pitching for a contract. Webb is arguably the best grounders hurler. The big-framed righty doesn't throw hard, so he should present results more quickly. Who doesn't love a No. 3-drafted pitcher who can return No. 1 value?
SP Edwin Jackson - what to expect?
His second-half collapse tainted an otherwise hopeful growth season in which he topped 200 frames for the first time. Fatigue and slider-tipping contributed to the demise. His walks dropped for the second straight year, thanks in part to an increased slider count. It'll be hard to count on 13 or 14 wins, and he'll be in another hitter's arena. A return to the NL means he can lean more on his biggest strength - his mid- to high-90s heat.
Is it time to buy into SP Ubaldo Jimenez?
Man, those walks - can he work out of trouble forever? His free passes dropped substantially last year, though, and you have to love his floor-denting at Coors Field. He has ace-like stuff. Few young arms are brighter than his, and the price to hop on board this year is modest.
Will 3B Ian Stewart make contact?
He has keystone eligibility for at least one more year; his power means much more from there. Stewart knows how to lift, which Coors will help with. Strikeouts will probably remain a problem.
He worked on an upright stance near the end of last season, hoping to shorten his swing. Stewart's line drives were lacking last year, which hurt his BABIP. Cutting the loop may kill some homers but may also help his overall line; a clip around .260 makes him tolerable.
SP Jorge De La Rosa - flash in the pan, or true skill?
De La Rosa, whose whiffs blossomed in '09, has similar skills to Jimenez's. Rox pitchers have been taught to keep the ball down. DLR's home-road splits reflect the long-standing pattern for a Colorado arm. The lefty is still inconsistent, but that's OK if you recognize what you're paying for.
Can the Rockies' young outfielders take another step forward?
Carlos Gonzalez's torrid end to 2009 speaks well for this year. He's a five-tool athlete, but he improved his baseball acumen last year by hitting to all fields. CarGo smokes the ball, too, so his BABIP should be consistently high. Hopefully they don't start Seth Smith ahead of him.
The pop isn't at the same level for the also speedy Dexter Fowler, but he has potential. He'll need to keep up his hard contact: His .266 average was helped by a .355 BABIP. Fowler needs to learn to hit lefties, but he's stashable in mixed fields.
Is OF Matt Kemp first-round material?
Is he truly running this town, Rihanna? Kemp's low, albeit budding, walk and contact rates leave us wanting more, but the flyball growth passes the test. Kemp's 30-30 capability, second-half power maturity and continuing liners drive the love. It's insane not to buy him in the late first of a mixed draft, but think long and hard if you're considering Kemp in the top half.
SP Clayton Kershaw: fantasy ace?
The best part is he's being drafted as a No. 2, though it may not last. His high walk totals rightfully scare people, but reining in his eye-popping curveballs helped. His opponents' contact weakened. The extreme flyball efficiency should return to the mean, probably raising his ERA in turn. That's not a deal-breaker. The heat-deuce dynamo also added a slider.
What do I make of SP Chad Billingsley?
He shades toward his All-Star first half more than his disastrous second stanza. Drafters aren't that frightened, either. In early July, arms coach Rick Honeycutt deduced the righty was dragging his arm behind him and lost balance during his delivery. Billingsley lost velocity and gutted through nagging leg injuries. Cutting some walks will help; he was still dominant.
Is C Russell Martin toast?
The Dodgers aren't taking any chances, hinting that A.J. Ellis may make a run at the backstop job. Martin's heavy workloads caused burnout to set in last season. His swing turned long and pull-happy. It's smart to go after other crouchers; he isn't going at a big discount.
Should I consider 1B Adrian Gonzalez's second half the norm?
Even with the PETCO Park disease and the Fathers' lack of lineup authority, he wasn't that bad post-break. You can't deny A-Gon's ability to leave the yard, but he didn't slow his regression against lefties much. If you're one to trust a player's skill above all else, take the plunge. Trade rumors pique the interest of many, but it's risky to draft based on those.
Now that everyone knows him, is SS Everth Cabrera draftable in mixed leagues?
KFFL.com pegged the Rule 5 pick as a steals sleeper last year. Does that mean we actually want to draft him this year? It's best to find more well-rounded skill sources, unless you can draft Cabrera cheaply as a bench player in mixed leagues. His PT makes him a mid-level settle option for NLs.
Will OF Chase Headley take another step soon?
He hit most of his homers at PETCO, so that's a start. His batting eye improved. Note his lack of liners before committing to him; he hit way too many grounders. Headley remains intriguing but not enough to bank on in mixed leagues, whose owners can wait for a spark to pounce.
If you like a groundball-heavy pitcher that improved his dominance to a whopping 6.45 K/9 last year, then you'll be humming along. PETCO Park fuels Correia's roto "legend." His retooled mechanics and scaled-back fastball helped, but it isn't enough to make him bankable.
Which San Diego starter will exploit PETCO Park this year?
The Pads wisely preserved Mat Latos' future by shutting him down after only 50 2/3 innings last year. His heat is on, and he's still cultivating his string-pulling. Chris Young has earned positive reports in his early rehab and is a high-risk, high-reward post-draft gamble for the mixed player.
Can Kung Fu Panda save his species?
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is benefiting a bit from his positional scarcity value, but it's not carrying him. The 23-year-old's solid batting eye buoys his contact ability. Thirty homers - even matching his 25 - might be a stretch, especially if he regains his line-drive potential; expecting him to sustain the other core roto stats is safer.
How lucky was SP Matt Cain last year?
The righty's BABIP and strand rate are due for normalization this year. Though he went the distance more, a repeat of 14 wins is lofty. Avoid him? No. Cain lowered his K's but cut his walks, too. His second-half normalization didn't make him anything but a very, very good pitcher. He's a mature 25-year-old.
In terms of first-year hype? Definitely. Will Posey play much? The Giants are still seeking alternatives. He showed fatigue in recent offseason action as a result of his long season. Speculate wisely.
P Madison Bumgarner might be in the rotation. Does that mean I buy?
Mixed leaguers should stick to window shopping. The sidearmer isn't one for velocity despite his enticing groundball rates. Tuck him away. NL owners should be more proactive.
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About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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