Will Drew Stubbs build on his 2010 season?
Stubbs' 30-steal stock is more secure than his power, which came through last season with a notable fly-ball increase. Indicators keeping him in late-round mixed territory: a weak OBP that limits his stolen base opps, his detrimental BA, his crippling contact rate and a ground-ball pattern that puts some doubt into whether he can add more taters. Stubbs didn't flash much power in his farm time, either.
He's 26, boasts 30-30 upside and plays in a favorable park, but his profile doesn't hint at sound growth for his clip this season. Bank on the steals; overpaying for other parts of his game to grow isn't wise.
How safe is Cincinnati's closer?
Francisco Cordero struggled to shut the door ... and the Reds have a dominant lefty who fits that job. Hmm. Though Aroldis Chapman has a starter's arsenal, he's still raw, and Cincy plans to keep him in the 'pen for now.
A lethal combination of dropping dominance and ugly control plagues Cordero, who'll turn 36 in May. He's hanging by the threads of a slight ground-ball boost and Dusty Baker's loyalty, but last year, CoCo posted the worst opponents' contact rate and swinging strike percentage of his career.
Cordero will start the season as stopper, but how long will he perform like one? His price likely will drop, but it isn't a value pick you should be comfortable grabbing.
Chapman, even without a defined role, is worth a selection as your draft starts to run thin on upside options. Those banking on him to fall into save chances, though, will have to bide their time with his setup contributions, which might be volatile. Beware, though: Hype might increase his price, which adds more risk.
Who will step up among the young starting pitchers?
Johnny Cueto's K/9 (decreased) and BB/9 (improved) are heading in opposite directions. Maybe another year of cutter use could increase the former, especially since his velocity jumped back up and opponents whiffed on more of his pitches last year. He's relatively safe thanks to his control, but luck dictated a decent chunk of his performance.
Following Tommy John surgery, Edinson Volquez posted his old dominance but had shaky control. The latter was an issue even in his breakout '08, and TJ patients often take some time to rediscover their control. The biggest bright side in his cameo, though, was his 53.9 grounder percentage. That, along with his better K/9, makes him a more intriguing gamble than Cueto, but Volquez could also crash harder.
Out of farm options, Homer Bailey probably will stick at the back end. After shoulder inflammation cost him nearly three months of action, he made productive leaps in dominance and command while replacing Mike Leake. There's still risk involved with Bailey, but it looks like that's diminishing for the price.
Travis Wood has enticing control but still gives up ample fly balls and probably won't catch anyone by surprise. Leake, a grounder-heavy soft tosser, is too luck-dependent to earn draft attention and might be the odd man out for a rotation job.
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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