Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Heath Bell, Chris Capuano, Kurt Suzuki
Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.
The Fathers could stick with internal candidates for the job, notably Luke Gregerson and Ernesto Frieri, or seek outside help. Gregerson probably has the lead if you had to decide today, but this will be addressed after San Diego's plans are revealed.
Bell, meanwhile, sealed at least 42 saves in each of his final three campaigns in America's Finest City. His new division is a little tougher, but you can't downgrade Bell purely on that, even if you're not buying a South Beach revival; Bell has already been an elite fireman on a bad team. Plus, his home-road splits diminish worries about how the new Marlins ballpark will affect him, and Miami's bullpen has some solid setup components.
What you should pay attention to are the iffy peripherals hidden beneath Bell's sparkling 2011 ERA (2.44). He registered more first-pitch strikes and cut down his free passes, but he didn't top 7.50 K/9 in any month last season until September. Bell allowed contact more often than ever - complete with his highest rate of liners in years - while inducing a career-low percentage of empty hacks. This probably stems from his sinker having a more prominent impact on his approach; he wasn't blowing away as many hitters.
The 34-year-old's velocity didn't appear to be a concern, so he could push his whiffs back up over a full season. He's still a steady fantasy option given his track record, but his new M.O. could cap his K upside for the future, especially with his advancing age, and lead to a larger ERA and WHIP. You're safer slotting Bell within the top 10 mixed fantasy stoppers than in the top five; he now carries a more palpable downside.
Two Ted Lillys are better than one. LA brings in another control-fueled southpaw; this probably means walk-repellent Hiroki Kuroda is on his way out. As for Capuano, he reminded us of his useful profile in a splendid 2011, which followed two Tommy John surgeries and a non-throwing-shoulder issue that stalled him since 2007.
Capuano's success in his one-year rental with the New York Mets should make the cross-country trip with him. Like Lilly, Capuano is prone to surrendering the long ball, but like his most recent digs, the 33-year-old's new park will help keep that weakness at bay. Capuano pitched better than his surface stats suggest and brought most of his indicators up to their pre-injury levels. He gets ahead early, and his deception fuels his opponents' above-average swinging-strike percentage.
Given his soft tossing, his 8.13 K/9 from last year is a bit lofty, but he can rest in the 7.00 bracket rather easily. He offers stable NL-only value with a modicum of profit potential and backend utility for a deep mixed rotation.
Suzuki is packing on upwards of 4,000 calories a day in an effort to reach 205 pounds before the start of camp. He was down to 185 at one point last year and wants to hold up better over the grind of a season.
Suzuki endured a rough 2010 on and off the field and, batting lower in the order more often than he did in '10, produced nearly identical numbers in 2011, save for the RBI column. He looked at video with coaches of his swings from 2008-2010 and found that they haven't changed much; more brawn and a clearer mental approach could produce more results from those cuts.
Luckily, Suzuki makes a ton of contact, and the vet hit more liners than ever last year. Unfortunately, his batting average probably won't be much higher than .270 - his BABIP potential is limited by how many flies he smacks. At least the aerially slanted profile cements his ability to stay around 15 homers over the course of a season, even in his unfriendly home stadium.
Suzuki's already stable value is driven by his membership in a small group of catchers that regularly top 500 plate appearances. Such stories of physical transformation don't always translate to success, but the promise of a few more homers and a more effective stick approach add a little more intrigue to his No. 2 mixed C stock.
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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