Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Casper Wells, Jeff Keppinger, Jeff Francis

by Tim Heaney on January 31, 2012 @ 12:15:11 PDT


Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off.'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.

Seattle Mariners OF Casper Wells recovered from balance disorder

Vertigo-like symptoms caused a clip plunge and forced Wells to miss the final 12 games of 2011. Trace that back to Wells taking a Brandon Morrow fastball to the nose in mid-August that halted momentum he'd built up at the plate.

New Cincinnati Reds SP Jeff Francis
Reds bring in Francis

The 27-year-old feels like himself following offseason workouts. Yoga and breathing exercises helped him "chill out" after that jarring incident. It's looking like the righty bat will platoon in left field with Mike Carp, another intriguing riser that, while maturing, has flaws similar to Wells'.

Both fly-catchers' dizzyingly low BB/K and contact rates don't spell much immediate upside in batting average. However, despite a lack of traditional baseline-burning and little evidence of doing so in the bigs, Wells boasts the guile to swipe double-digit bags to complement his 20-homer pop.

Even if he merely faces southpaws, he'll garner consideration for deep mixed outfields as a matchup play. Carp holds the PT lead for now, though that can easily change.

Tampa Bay Rays add INF Jeff Keppinger

The batting-average-fueled Kepp made a ton of sense for a squad seeking shortstop stability. The 31-year-old didn't play the position last season but has enough experience to be a fallback plan. He's hardly dynamic, but he rarely misses on his hacks, unlike Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac, who despite their intrigue have not solved Joe Maddon's shortstop puzzle.

S-Rod has a power-steals combination that would make fantasy players drool if he could cultivate his plate skills; his sizzling 2010 spring has not surfaced consistently when it counts. He still relies on mashing lefties for much of his potency, unfortunately.

Pointing to Brignac's increasing liner rate and contact frequency would normally show optimism, but he's not likely to be anything more than a .260 hitter thanks to his fly-ball penchant that isn't going to cull notable pop from his slender frame. The lefty stick and sometimes shiny glove are the only things keeping him in lineup consideration.

It's not a reach for Keppinger to log 300 at-bats across this infield - platoon sub for 1B Carlos Pena, sliding to the keystone if Ben Zobrist shifts to right field against southpaws. Of course, Kepp could lock down the 6.

Joe Maddon likes his versatility toys. The problem: Tampa's chest is cluttered. On draft day, Rodriguez should be your primary target if you have to dig through the pile. That's fine, but it shouldn't mask the fluidity here.

SP Jeff Francis signs minor-league pact with Cincinnati Reds

The sometimes useful lefty gives Cincy rotation insurance, chiefly while Aroldis Chapman develops his starter chops and to back up the injury-prone Homer Bailey. This isn't a beneficial ambience for him, but he pitched effectively when he called Coors Field home.

Even with a control-based, soft-tossing profile, he'd occasionally be useful in deep mixed leagues if he obtained a starting gig with the big club. The 31-year-old can opt out of the deal by March 28 if he gets a better offer. An NL-only $1 bid wouldn't hurt.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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