Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Ryan Braun, Joe Nathan and Neftali Feliz, Grady Sizemore, Chong Tae-Hyon

by Tim Heaney on November 22, 2011 @ 13:05:09 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.

National League MVP Award goes to Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun

Cleveland Indians OF Grady Sizemore
Sizemore is back ... in form?

In a draft season when fellow outfielders Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury will command top-five fantasy consideration from many, Braun is a more stable option that deserves deliberation from those in the opening slot.

Prince Fielder leaving the land of beer and cheese would probably knock a smidge off Braun's team-dependent stats. Still, the 30-30 member's incredibly reliable all-around skills profile, statistical track record, favorable home digs and increased swipe frequency (thanks, Ron Roenicke) make it difficult to poke significant holes.

Texas Rangers ink RP Joe Nathan to close, move P Neftali Feliz to rotation

Nathan signed a two-year deal with a 2014 club option on Monday, the night before his 37th birthday. In his first campaign following Tommy John surgery, he recovered from early velocity woes and a spring DL stint to reclaim the Minnesota Twins' stopper gig.

His 8.66 K/9 and 64.2 left-on-base percentage should rebound. Nathan's last two campaigns, however, have produced fly-ball rates near 50 percent; that isn't always crippling for closers, but it's scarier now that he's in Arlington, not Minnesota.

Can his repaired but aging arm work effectively on back-to-back days all season? The highly skilled Mike Adams is Plan B (1A?). Nathan will be more like his old self - near No. 2 mixed stopper territory - but don't overpay for a full recovery and the allure of more opps when he still carries internal and environmental risks.

Feliz's road to starting, meanwhile, could begin in the Dominican Winter League. Optimism stems from the early timeline and Texas' recent history of successful reliever-to-starter conversions. This one isn't from scratch for the SP-bred Feliz, who'll be 24 in May. However, he must refine the off-speed repertoire from which he shied away as Texas' closer during his up-and-down 2011; his changeup will be vital in balancing his heat-fueled philosophy.

Expect more peaks and valleys. Pay close attention to offseason reports on his pitch cultivation. There's plenty of upside at the right cost, but your fellow drafters might overvalue his name.

OF Grady Sizemore to re-sign with Cleveland Indians

OK, so you can't bank on his 2005-2008 self. Injuries, mainly to his knees, have plagued him; how will he rebound from his October arthroscopic right knee surgery? His poor contact frequency, issues versus southpaws and recently woeful plate discipline have lowered his batting average ceiling.

Any semblance of a homers-steals combo, though, warrants a more focused look. His most recent knee procedure wasn't overly invasive. Playing through and around dings and dents has played a major role in his BB/K collapse. Remember Sizemore's power and speed growth pre-2009? Grady interrupted. He's only 29.

Shaky health is a powerful discounter and a beacon for the opportunistic. Any recoup of base-path swiftness will instantly make him attractive again; at the point you're willing to take him, that's not a bad dice roll for the skills he has shown and owns ... somewhere below that pile of band-aids and stitches.

Baltimore Orioles agree to terms with RP Chong Tae-Hyon

The first player to jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to Major League Baseball, Chong (pronounced "jung," rhymes with "sung") works with pristine control and a right-handed submarine delivery that compensate for his mid-80s sinking fastball. The 33-year-old also employs a curveball.

He might notch a couple of saves, but the O's are exploring options besides Kevin Gregg; Chong could fall far down the saves ladder. He has a slim hope of gaining value depending on B-more's moves but for now is merely AL-only relief depth.

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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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