Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Spring training impressions

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on March 26, 2012 @ 12:59:48 PDT

 


The knights and I must apologize, it was Tout Wars weekend and much of the time that we would normally spend jousting on this week's topic was spent traveling and drafting, but there should be enough here to pique your interest. A couple of weeks ago we all shared the players and situations we planned to follow during the spring. So today, we will discuss the following:

Three weeks ago, we all talked about players we would be watching this spring. We are getting down to the nitty-gritty. Has anyone made enough of an impression on you to take action in your remaining drafts and auctions? What situations are you now following these last couple of weeks?

Ryan Carey sets the table:

Delmon Young tops my list of players who have shown me enough this spring to make him a prime target in all of my drafts lately. The upside batting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder was there as was the post-hype pedigree for a former top prospect entering his age-27 season. The fact that he has been tearing the cover off the ball this spring has me feeling better about the leagues I already took a chance on him in.

In the previous question, I mentioned Mat Gamel as a player I would be watching, since I had tabbed him as a sleeper for this year. He has shown me enough where I am comfortable that he will deliver useful stats this year. I like that he has shown better patience at the plate. In power-hungry NL leagues, Gamel is shaping up as a sneaky good play.

Baltimore Orioles SP Brian Matusz
Is this Matusz's year?

Brian Matusz's performance his last two times out this spring definitely got my attention. That will happen when you go out and keep pace with Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. He likely has earned himself a rotation spot and once again will be in the mix when I am looking for upside pitching plays late.

Alex Liddi has certainly caught my eye by hitting over .400 this spring. It's not like Seattle has that much blocking his path at third base. He would definitely be a guy I might try to reserve in AL-only leagues.

Nick Minnix always has time for the Round Table:

I was on the Delmon Young train, can't say he's hurting his chances. Brian Matusz has made me extremely hopeful, too, along with his teammate, Jake Arrieta. The latter receives no attention, but I think not to have at least minimal interest to see what he can do in an AL league with an end-game bid is a mistake. For his entire pro career, he's pitched with bone spurs in his right elbow, and he finally had them removed. The results have been optimal. He has to make some mechanical adjustments, but this kid was just as good a prospect as Matusz and Chris Tillman were a couple of years ago. I always felt that he was a little underrated. With the velocity increase, improvement in his time to the plate and improved command, he could be a nice little profit earner.

I remain pretty focused on the results of the relievers-turned-starters (Chris Sale, Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard) this spring. I don't much care about the hits and runs, I just want to see marks that suggest they're maintaining command, and I want to read news that backs it up. Bard's performance hasn't been encouraging. I still think he can make it happen, but I won't kid myself, he by far has the longest way to go. It sounds like it's been hard for him to shake the nibbler's mentality, among other things. I probably wouldn't spend double digits on him in an AL league, but a few weeks ago, in LABR, I considered it. The other two will be fine, love those strikeouts, especially from Sale. Hope he keeps pounding the strike zone.

I don't think this will change much what I'd pay for him, but Yu Darvish has ... made me more confident in paying for him, I guess. He has quality stuff, and it's going to play well here. He probably won't be the most efficient pitcher. Whereas before I felt the range of outcomes was wider, I think there's more certainty and comfort in buying him and knowing you're getting a solid commodity, at least. The upside is a little limited because of that lack of efficiency, but the Rangers will squeeze quality starts from him, and the K total should be solid. I think there's less risk involved in that purchase.

Gotta say, Alex Rios' spring hasn't been encouraging. It's not the BB/K, it's just the frequency of the weakly hit balls. Reports have him solely focused on going the other way, and you can forgive poor results in ST, but because he had such a poor year last year by having similar outcomes, I'd feel more confident in buying him if he hit some more balls more sharply. The hitting coach still has faith, so that's basically what you have to go on. We'll see. I'd still take a shot, but I wouldn't be as enthusiastic.

Can't think of any others right now.

Tim Heaney adds:

Small sample sizes shouldn't be completely written off if they hint at significant developments.

Alex Rios going against his natural hitting grain is a bit disconcerting; you almost don't want him to become a complete hitter. I think his bum toe had more to do with his down year than his philosophy; he has already excelled with that low-walk approach before. I'm a little more gun-shy about going the extra sleeper buck, but he's still in my low-end wheelhouse for a deep position.

I'll echo the positives for Chris Sale and Mat Gamel, who has just two strikeouts - TWO - compared to four walks in 26 AB. Plate discipline was the biggest thing holding him back in the box.

Zack Cozart hasn't hit a homer yet, but I'm liking his stick work so far, too. The Reds' No. 2 hitter won't be a stud, but he's the best thing they've had going at shortstop in a long time. Heck, vet-loving Dusty Baker is starting to believe. Cozart should yield double-digit power and SBs in what I'm confident will be a significant profit year.

Andre Ethier: .435-2-9, and the restored faith of one fantasy analyst. Juan Nicasio has come back with authority from his violent fractured vertebrae ... firmly on my radar. And if Phil Hughes had an open spot ... man, I'm encouraged by his effort.

Jeff Niemann's 4.32 ERA in three games is hardly exciting, but the six K's and no walks in 8 1/3 frames should remind us of his potential if he sticks in the rotation. After he came back from injury and started getting his pitches down last year, I hopped on his bandwagon. I'm staying there.

I'm also encouraged by Adam Wainwright's performance. Sure, as Nick and fellow KFFLer Keith Hernandez suggested, the fact that he hasn't had a setback so far almost means it's gonna come after people have already invested in him as their ace. I agree with that to an extent, and his pristine control probably won't be there immediately in the regular season. But if I can pair Waino with another highly skilled SP - have them as a 1A and 1B type of setup for my fantasy rotation - I'm still game on tabbing him. Of course, seeing the Cards ease up on his workload in these final weeks would make me feel a lot better.

Greg Morgan with some additional names:

I will be watching the duel for the starting 3B gig in Oakland. If Josh Donaldson wins the job he could be a great value since he qualifies at catcher. Even if he struggles with his BA, the fact that heís an everyday player would do wonders for the backstopís counting numbers. However, Eric Sogard has hit much better this spring (.341/.400/.545) than Josh has (.231/.293/.288). Furthermore, when Iíve seen Donaldson man the hot corner heís looked defensively challenged. I will be watching to see if his glove improves and also to see if Ericís bat cools off. In early drafts Donadlson has been an afterthought, so the situation warrants keeping an eye on.

Iím also going to watch Jake Peavyís velocity and command. If heís halfway decent in his next two starts, heíll be on my radar. If Jake struggles, then my attention will turn to Dylan Axelrod as a potential 30th-round flyer if he looks sharp. Either way, Dylan might be a decent flyer if/when Peavyís arm falls off.With

With Huston Street, itís never a question of if; itís a matter of when heíll get hurt. My eye will be on pitch location and the radar gun when I see the Padres closer take the mound. If Street isnít in top form, Andrew Cashner will be on my short list of relievers that could inherit a closing job.

Now that Scott Bakerís fastball velocity is down in the mid 80s and his elbow is bothering him, Liam Hendriks (11 Kís 2 BBs in 11 IP this spring) is squarely on my radar as a late-round flier. Iíll monitor Bakerís throwing sessions to see how his elbow responds and if he can regain those lost mph on his fastball.

Neftali Felizís shoulder is bothering him once again. Iíll keep an eye on the fireballerís arm, and if he seems questionable, Alexi Ogando will become someone to track.

Yonder Alonso is a tad overrated. If he canít perform better at the plate this spring (.234/.250/.319), then Jesus Guzman gets bumped up my cheat sheet. Carlos Quentinís knee injury has already created an opportunity for Guzman, whose hitting skills could earn him the left field job opening day or the first base job down the road if Alonso struggles in Petco.

Lord Zolaía Wrap-Up:

A few more situations that I am tracking are left field in Cleveland with Shelley Duncan the possible beneficiary, left field in Baltimore with Endy Chavez getting some at-bats from Nolan Reimold, outfield in Detroit with Andy Dirks still the front-runner and still waiting for a resolution with the Mark Trumbo experiment at the hot corner for the Angels.

From a performance point of view, I too am encouraged by Brian Matusz and while what Francisco Liriano has done is impressive with respect to the strikeout-to-walk ratio this spring, I am not quite sure it is actionable as he did something similar in 2010.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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