Florida and Arizona instructional leagues will be concluding their second season of replacing the defunct Hawaii Winter Baseball League. These Spring Training-style games, which more closely resemble practice sessions, extended educational opportunities - from the grooming of low-level minor leaguers to the rehabilitation of injured veterans. Some instructional highlights for fantasy baseball players:
- Soon-to-be free-agent hurler Brandon Webb continues his recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery last August. He made several appearances, but in his Oct. 7 instructional outing, scouts from 21 teams reportedly saw Webb's fastball top out at 85 mph.
Webb will likely rest for a few months before resuming his rehab. If his recovery goes well and his sinking fastball shows life again, he'll likely be a late-round lottery ticket in deeper 2011 leagues.
- Jair Jurrjens (knee) threw in the league while waiting to see if the Atlanta Braves would need him in the playoffs. On Monday, the righty threw six innings.
He'll probably undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Jurrjens' recovery probably will be short, and he could be ready for Spring Training. He's still borderline draftable in mixed leagues, though.
Will 23-year-old Tanner Scheppers become the next Neftali Feliz? Probably, since his raw stuff doesn't yet give him a clear positional path to the Texas Rangers. Scheppers' fastball typically sits in the mid-90s, but command remains a sore point for him, and it looks like he still needs some more polish.
Late-round Webb gem?
Though his fantasy impact for 2011 might be limited, he should sit near the top of your farm watch list.
- Keeper leaguers: Bryce Harper, fresh off his 18th birthday, will play in the Arizona Fall League. Before that assignment, though, he spent time with the Washington Nationals' instructional squad in Viera, Fla. He worked on the basics of being a right fielder and the mental aspect of hitting. The Nats don't want to touch his mechanics at this point.
- Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White focused on batting cage work as he tries to catch on in the Kansas City Royals' system. The outfielder's hacks flashed promising thump that if properly developed could supplement his overwhelming athleticism. His education is far from over, but KC thinks long term anyway, right?
For more news from and observations of offseason action, check out KFFL.com's fantasy baseball blogs and MLB Hot off the Wire.
Don't forget our upcoming Arizona Fall League recaps for the American League and National League.
Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove, in which we give the rotisserie spin on notable MLB transactions, is coming soon!
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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