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In a series of Tweets, initially, The Denver Post's Troy Renck verified that the Colorado Rockies will open the season with Marco Scutaro at leadoff and Dexter Fowler in the two-hole. Jim Tracy indicated that he was more comfortable with this arrangement, for now, because Scutaro knows what's expected from the man at the top of the lineup.
Belt tightening on roster spot?
Fowler, a popular rotisserie baseball sleeper, has had a miserable spring and has made more adjustments in his attempt to rectify whatever ails him. Tracy hopes that protecting his switch-hitting center fielder in that spot will give him a chance to get going. If he continues to struggle, he may drop to the eight-hole, but Tracy has professed faith in Fowler's ability all spring and remains in his corner.
Fowler is a tremendous athlete, but it's been the same story for a couple of years - adjustments that work for him, but only temporarily, before he resorts to old habits or pitchers catch up with him. Fantasy baseball players should recognize that, although Fowler's ceiling is somewhat high, he's still a long way from reaching it. He hasn't developed much power, so he's mostly a threat to steal roughly 20 to 25 bases (although he has the ability to accumulate more) and score close to 100 runs.
This isn't a damnation of his draft value this year, though. He may still be worth whatever pick you used or will use on him in the final third of a mixed-league draft, to you. There will likely be a profound peak to his performance level this year, and it could come early on. If it doesn't, will you be patient? How long will he sustain it? Good questions.
Multiple sources floated the rumor that the San Francisco Giants were leaning toward keeping Brandon Belt on the opening day roster, and the San Jose Mercury News confirmed on Wednesday that he will. The first baseman has had a superb spring and seems likely to man that spot, with Aubrey Huff in left field, at least to open.
On more than one occasion, some club staffer has panned Belt's swing, noting that the left-handed hitter needs to improve it still. His struggles once the regular season began last year point to the downside, although he's certainly a more mature hitter than he was a year ago. Still, there will probably be some inconsistency. Belt's power will probably be more reliable than his BA.
Those who have yet to draft should feel more confident in taking a flier on Belt, who has big-time roto upside. He still comes with some legit risk, of course. The Giants have some depth, albeit uninspiring, in the outfield and could easily move Huff back to first. Brett Pill made the roster, too, although he's nothing more than an NL-only reserve.
Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine remain pretty firmly committed to the Daniel Bard experiment, despite recent negative developments in the bullpen. Fantasy owners should recognize that there's still upside here that's worthy of rostering in deep leagues. His stuff is really good.
At least initially, he's going to be unpredictable, judging from how the transition has gone. Those in AL leagues should probably set him and forget him. Playing matchups could be maddening. It wouldn't surprise to see Bard struggle versus the Oakland Athletics in one start and shut down the New York Yankees for seven frames in another. Those in mixed leagues have more of a luxury, but it still seems wise to bench or start him for long stretches one way or another.
Tim Stauffer looked like a potentially undervalued play in deep leagues, but the right triceps strain that will keep him out of the San Diego Padres' first series and the poor way he finished exhibition play may halt that train. The Friars shut him for the final couple of weeks of last September because of forearm stiffness, but these issues are unrelated.
Fortunately, skipper Bud Black and pitcher Darren Balsley think that this is probably nothing more than some fatigue and minor mechanical problems. They haven't yet ruled out a DL stint, but they don't expect Stauffer to need one. The right-hander may start off a little slowly, but if he's good to go, he should be an effective hurler and a real help in ERA and WHIP.
The Washington Nationals made a surprising - and, as Adam Kilgore put it, in many words, bold - decision when they optioned John Lannan to Triple-A Syracuse and ushered Ross Detwiler into the rotation. Lannan wouldn't be a fit in the bullpen, and Mike Rizzo said he felt that Detwiler earned that spot. Lannan also had an option remaining; Detwiler doesn't.
Detwiler, 26, has a higher ceiling than Lannan does, but neither has a particularly high projected fantasy baseball yield in 2012. The Nats will move Detwiler to the bullpen once Chien-Ming Wang recovers from his hamstring injury, perhaps by the end of the month. Detwiler may make a handful of starts, max.
That's only in the beginning of the season, of course. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Detwiler appears to be on the verge of hitting his peak major league K/9, which probably won't be much greater than 6.00, but signs are also encouraging that he's close to translating his farm control rates to the bigs. In NL leagues, he should be a low-cost asset all year.
Will Wang remain healthy? Will Washington trade Lannan? Who's going to cover Stephen Strasburg's starts once D.C. shuts down its prized righty? Detwiler will have more opportunities to start in 2012, and the organization clearly likes him. Lannan will probably pitch more than 100 innings this year, one way or another, and nothing about his profile has changed.
The Giants also purchased the contract of Gregor Blanco, who had a tremendous spring that included a .338 batting average and 13 stolen bases. Blanco will be a backup outfielder, but he could at some point find himself in a role that makes him roto useful.
Blanco doesn't have a lot of bankable skill, so he probably won't be a tide turner. He's an understandable NL reserve, though, because such players have been known to carry momentum well into the regular season. His upped aggressiveness on the base paths and San Fran's likely trouble scoring bode well for his chances of contributing in a category. Earlier this spring, Baseball HQ suggested that Blanco could be the 2012 NL version of Sam Fuld, circa 2011.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.