Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions - AL East
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Did C Matt Wieters show us enough to bank on him in 2010?
While he showed some increased doubles power in the second half and a strong September, it'd be tough to consider him a fantasy stud. His eye at the major league plate doesn't make you comfortable enough to peg him as a surefire mixed No. 1.
Where did OF Nick Markakis' power go?
The Greek's homers have steadily declined in each of the last two years, and his rate of gophers to flyballs took a nosedive in '09. He logged a 40.6 percent flyball rate, so there's hope here. Run production hasn't been a problem.
How does Baltimore's 2010 corner infield picture shape up?
They took a flier on the sinking Garrett Atkins. A return to 20 homers would give him true roto value, but his leash may be too short to find out if he can. Michael Aubrey is a defensive wiz but lacks pop; he's probably just a stopgap. They're looking to bring up intriguing Josh Bell and doubtable Brandon Snyder in the no-so-distant future. Short answer: probable wasteland.
Can drafters find any fantasy value in this rotation?
Maybe, if Kevin Millwood can repeat his '09 first half by keeping the ball down. He'll try to pitch in another rough home ballpark with a worse defense behind him, so keep your goals realistic. Brian Matusz showed an enticing arsenal in his brief MLB action; if he can keep the ball in the park more, his growth could come quicker.
Can DH David Ortiz rediscover his Big Papiness?
His second half proves there's a chance. He started going opposite-field more, and that helped. As his flyball effectiveness dwindles, the 34-year-old is showing more holes in his swing. Proceed with caution.
Is 3B Adrian Beltre toast?
His falling aerial patterns would say so. Fenway Park should help, though, since he's a pull hitter that will now have the Green Monster to ding. In this lineup, a rebound isn't far off, especially if his shoulder (and, um, manhood) holds up.
Do the Sawx want to return SP Daisuke Matsuzaka to sender?
Well, he hid a leg injury from them that may have led to his shoulder ailment. They want him to show up in shape, too. Neither control nor efficiency is his bag, but his stuff is filthy and he showed brilliance upon his late-season return. There's little commitment and ample potential gain.
Is there drama at the back end of the bullpen?
Trade rumors have been swirling around Jonathan Papelbon, compounding the control issues he suffered in the first half last season. Many claim Daniel Bard is ready to close, and GM Theo Epstein is not one to show unabashed loyalty to his stars if the offer is right. That being said, it shouldn't keep you from making Paps one of the top roto stoppers.
SS Derek Jeter's fountain of youth: for real?
Seamheads are not as confident as Minka Kelly. The Captain's home-road splits were unsurprisingly skewed toward his new park, but his contact and batting eye returned. His conditioning is better, too. Don't bank on the power, but everything else is kosher.
Can OF Curtis Granderson recover?
Hitting coach Kevin Long fixed Robinson Cano last offseason, but Granderson's woes against lefties run deeper. Hidden beneath his southpaw struggles were his 10.2 percent walk rate and climbing aerial game that should play well at the Bronx launching pad.
SP Javier Vazquez in 2010: 2004 second-half collapse, or 2009 studliness?
Lean toward the latter. Yanks fans remember bad Javy; that came when he tried to pitch through injury. This vet is wiser and is coming off a career year. Lunacy would call for a repeat of '09. His homer propensity must be accounted for, but he eats innings and doesn't shy away from his strikeout stuff.
They'll likely fight for the final rotation spot and may even flip-flop their '09 roles. Both can bring the K's, but the younger yet more polished Hughes has more intrigue with his newfound cutter that he learned from their stopper. Joba needs to learn efficiency.
Is SS Jason Bartlett's power for real?
Don't expect it to vanish into thin air. He uses a bigger stick in batting practice to make his in-game bark feel like a feather. Even if he merely approaches double-digit homers, the steal-friendly vet remains a steady middle-tier fantasy option.
Can IF Ben Zobrist be productive again in full-time duty?
Yes, but his draft value balloons thanks to his versatility - eligibility at second base and in the outfield, specifically, and at short if you're lucky. He sputtered out down the stretch - fatigue probably hurt him. He walks enough to cancel out his strikeouts. Even a slight return to the mean doesn't take much value away from him.
Will OF B.J. Upton find homers?
The older brother's slight increase in that column last year shouldn't prompt another significant uptick. Everyone jumped on board after he lifted off in the '08 postseason, but his batting eye decline in '09 may temper his progress moving forward. His flyball increase last season points to a gradual climb; don't pay for him rediscovering his '07 stat line.
David Price and Wade Davis have a shot to surprise from the back of the rotation. Lean toward Price; his fastball command matured late last year, and such improvements usually bode well for the following season. Don't ignore Davis, a polished prospect (not surprising in this organization) whose command spells quick success. Keep a casual eye out for Jeremy Hellickson.
Should you comfortably make OF Adam Lind a part of your fantasy core?
As long as he isn't the centerpiece, you should be OK. His leaps-and-bounds improvement against lefties justifies his case; the Jays didn't hide him against southpaws. His flyball production surged, and Lind's rising line-drive rate affirms his maturity.
Could OF Vernon Wells rightfully earn his paycheck?
Few people want to find out. He tied his career best in steals to make up for the power he misplaced. Wells' liners tanked as part of his overall softening in contact. His peak has come and gone; you're merely hoping for a return to usefulness in the homer column, which despite his falling peripherals isn't much to ask for.
How will Toronto's saves picture play out?
It'll probably start with Jason Frasor, whose save chances were far from frequent in '09. Caveat: His name has come up in trade rumors recently. Scott Downs would be the top understudy, having also performed the role last year. Both are free agents after 2010 and may be traded.
Any other sleepers in the Blue Jays offense?
Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, recovering from offseason wrist surgery and a freak fireworks accident, will try to rediscover his blossoming pop. The newly acquired Brett Wallace, who has flashed power potential, should eventually push Lyle Overbay out of the picture.
Can the Jays un-Joba-fy P Brandon Morrow?
They aim to keep him in the rotation, so it's a start. Roll the dice if you need; the dominance is his best bet for helping you. His walks are his bane. Maybe his new changeup will help keep hitters guessing more.
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About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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