Ready to update your fantasy baseball cheat sheets? Before Diamond Market can sell the players in your rotisserie league's free-agent pool, Fantasy Baseball Diamond Mining polishes them for fantasy baseball drafts. It's time to dig for fantasy baseball sleepers and toss the busts.
Fantasy baseball owners typically worry when they find out MLB.com's GameDay tracker mistakenly marks a pitcher's fastballs as changeups. The Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez? Not so much, despite his below-average fastball readings in the Japan opening series last week and a four-inning Monday spring tune-up.
He threw much harder when he came into the bigs, and some might speculate his big workload as a youngster is catching up with him. But he has smartened up his mound work as he has gained experience, exchanging some mph ticks for location and movement; he's still an elite grounder inducer.
Plus, it seemed like he was trying to work in and work on his slider a bit more than usual (the discussion starts at 1:12), so it was more about testing than going full-throttle.
Per pitching coach Carl Willis, Hernandez is physically and mechanically sound. Willis speculated that blame could stem from Hernandez's recent weight loss or the spring schedule alteration caused by the overseas trip. Maybe the latter will prompt a slower start to the season, but his March and April output hasn't hinted at that.
Seeing the heat return would remove the small doubts that creep into the minds of his buyers, but Hernandez's ability to deliver without maximum velo eases concerns. An unlucky September prevented his stellar 2011 numbers from being even better, and he should match them in his age-26 campaign.
Josh Beckett, who has a decent injury rap sheet, flew to Cleveland for a third opinion on his balky thumb. So far, reports have been positive, and he's probably looking to build on the same "peace of mind" that he sought in his Monday examination.
Fantasy baseball owners shouldn't be worried unless the third test reveals something abnormal. Though it's not cemented, Beckett is on track for his Saturday start, and this shouldn't significantly alter your fantasy valuation of him.
It's a bit too early to panic, especially for his cost; he's still worth a late-rounds stab in mixed leagues with deep outfield requirements, but such a PT limitation would limit the upside from a trial fantasy bid. He has tinkered with his swing many a time over the last few seasons, and he employed one more this spring.
Bright side: Bay's struggles versus right-handed pitching were embellished last year in another injury-filled campaign. In healthy seasons, the disparity in his success versus righties and lefties hasn't been as drastic.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, slated to start 2012 at Triple-A Buffalo, was noted as a potential lefty-hitting partner if they flip the switch. This gives the 24-year-old, who has moderate power but a promising line-drive stroke, an NL-only sleeper boost. Jordany Valdespin, who boasts more long-term potential, is another option for this role.
Randall Delgado was, essentially, the biggest loser in the Atlanta Braves' rotation battle. The right-hander won the fifth spot with a sparkling 7.89 ERA and 23:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21 2/3 innings; at least K's were plentiful, but sadly, that was enough to defeat top-rated youngster Julio Teheran (9.37 ERA in 16 1/3 frames).
Carreno, 25, was a starter at Double-A New Hampshire but came to the big clubs as a reliever last year; his fastball-sinker-slider power profile fit better with what Toronto wanted. He's an AL-only flier. Drabek, who's aiming to correct the control issues he displayed last year, has more long-term upside.
Problem here is that the Jays will need a fifth starter the first week but maybe not again until April 21, so it's better to let this play itself out than to chase either of these options.
Staring at Javier Vazquez on your league's free-agent list? Just a head's up-slash-reminder that he's not retired but doesn't plan on playing in 2012. Of course, he didn't rule out representing Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which will probably have some games in the home of his 2011 squad, the (now) Miami Marlins.
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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