Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove - AL
The Yanks knew about his impending knee surgery – following his season-ending hip surgery - and signed the former Los Angeles Dodgers backstop anyway. Not a bad lineup and home park for a potential rebound from his offensive collapse, which stemmed from numerous years with a big workload.
His batting eye, though declining, remains sound, and few late-round mixed options boast his upside if he can pull it all together ... and his body holds up.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Hays (signed)
His power potential would be worth a flier mixed pick, but his team-killing BA inconsistency and a lack of clear playing time erases that. Stick to single-universe depth.
Even for a late-rounder, Escobar burned many who were banking on late-round speed in his rookie season. Though his new ballpark doesn't typically favor hitters, Escobar's new organization likes to run. As long as you can absorb his continued offensive baby steps, keep him in the same draft ballpark as last year, with potential for a better SB payoff.
The 26-year-old hit a Pacific League-leading .346 for the Chiba Lotte Marines last season while also swiping 22 bags. Despite being a plausible late-round mixed MI gamble because of his stolen base and runs potential, Nishioka is hardly a guarantee to translate his clip stateside, and he doesn't appear to have much pop.
Going from a neutral park to a negative ambience for homers, Willingham's homer value will be questioned. Before season-ending August knee surgery, his batting eye was at a career best, and his fly-ball rate approached the same heights. He has better value in OBP leagues, as usual. Unfortunately for standard setups, there's too much risk of him losing homers, which define his value.
His new home and team might not help his runs scored, and the 25-year-old still needs baseball maturity. On the bright side, he's capable of sustaining a .300 average to complement his stolen base talents and boasts enough raw talent to round out a deep mixed draft roster.
Detroit brought back the vet. His season-ending ankle fracture marred a bounce-back campaign (.303-12-59 in 365 at-bats). Optimism for his age-37 season is found in his rebounded batting eye, rising line-drive rate and surging contact percentage. His BA profile still makes for a No. 5 mixed outfielder that you can grab on the cheap, as long as you're happy with him hovering around 20 homers.
He was useful thanks to injuries last year, and there's always the possibility of platoon work with Michael Brantley. Unfortunately, that doesn't account for more than AL-only depth for Kearns.
He looked like the old Godzilla in stretches last year and remained a notable run producer. He's hurt without OF eligibility, however. Note his slight ground-ball increase. And though he eventually improved it as the season went on, his K percentage increased drastically for the second straight season. Can you count on that turning around with him turning 37 in June? His new ballpark doesn't help him, and there isn't upside.
Jenks still has Daniel Bard in front of him in the saves hierarchy, but a possible Jonathan Papelbon swap would put him closer. His ground-ball propensity and 10.42 K/9 accentuated the hard luck he had last year, mainly caused by a 65.4 strand rate. Jenks can be useful as a K-friendly reliever in the right format even without closure chances.
By avoiding Rafael Soriano's compensation price tag and watching their setup men flee, Tampa Bay doesn't have a clear-cut closer. Howell, who was sidelined for all of an injury-marred 2010, has done it in the past with notable (albeit lucky) results. The Rays have some prospects to try out, but if the bullpen stays as is, maybe Howell gets first saves dibs.
Improved command and dominance gave him some fantasy worth, but his indicators remain shaky (His fly-ball rate won't like his new home). Chris Sale and Matt Thornton have received much of the closer hype, but don't lose track of Crain in AL-only setups; with Jenks gone, Chicago might need a right-handed option if things don't work out.
He'll get a shot at the No. 5 rotation placement for his original MLB team, whose home park is pitcher-friendly. His already well-known talent-injury quandary still restricts him to the flier files.
Tons of talent, no role: Jeffress could be a starter or a reason for KC to sell closer Joakim Soria. Dynasty leaguers should scoop him up if he's available. AL-only depth divers must monitor him as an end-gamer for a potential 2011 arrival.
McCarthy is also fighting for Oaktown's fifth spot. His dominance isn't outstanding, and he gives up too many big flies. He might have some stretches of AL utility, but that should come from the waiver wire.
The 20-year-old recorded a sensational command ratio at low Single-A. He boasts a talented arsenal and a lofty ceiling but probably won't make it to the bigs for a couple of years.
See Howell's entry for Tampa's saves picture. Peralta's dominance and control showed flashes of being good in the past; they blossomed last year. His lack of grounders jeopardizes that improvement, though – relievers' numbers fluctuate often. AL-only arm? Sure. Closing? Pushing it.
If the hard-throwing, soon-to-be 28-year-old can keep his control in check, he might challenge for saves if the Rays don't acquire another stopper type. Keep this under-the-radar option on your cheat sheet and in-season watch list.
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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