Fantasy Grapevine

by Nicholas Minnix and Ryan Dodson on March 23, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT


Welcome to the 2007 MLB Draft Guide Fantasy Grapevine. In this feature, we'll detail what has gone on over the last week to cause our projections to change. Whether it's an injury, a platoon circumstance or a breakout performance, we'll keep you "in the know" in this report.

Florida Marlins relief pitcher Taylor Tankersley

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: The feeling at KFFL was that the left-hander was to take the lead in the closer contest in Florida this spring. However, Tankersley's shoulder inflammation has limited him, and he has yet to pitch this spring. He's slated to sometime next week, but he won't have enough time to earn the job. With others, particularly reliever Kevin Gregg, vying for the role, plus rumors of the Marlins searching for a closer on the trade market, Tankersley is an uncertainty. Gregg climbs a bit in the rankings as a result. Tankersley still might have the best stuff in that pen, though.

Fantasy Tip: Tankersley may still be worth a last-ditch flier, but owners would need to be patient.

San Francisco Giants closer Armando Benitez

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Benitez has experienced no problems with any of his assorted ailments this spring. On top of that, he has been very effective in his five innings, allowing one run, seven hits and no walks while fanning six. Trade rumors have surrounded him, too, most notably the ones involving interest from the Marlins. Their situation is still unsettled. Reliever Brian Wilson moves down just a bit in the rankings. It's difficult to move him down too far, though, because if Benitez gets traded, Wilson is the odds-on favorite to close. Benitez, too, is still an injury risk.

Fantasy Tip: Benitez should still be one of the last relievers off the board. Wilson deserves only slight consideration in mixed leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Braden Looper

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: It was difficult to imagine at first, but Looper has impressed the Cardinals' brass with his outings as a starter this spring. He has allowed five runs, 17 hits and three walks in 14 innings. Such a solid performance has earned him the fifth spot in the rotation for the World Series champs. As a result, Ryan Franklin drops out of our rankings - not that he deserved fantasy consideration anyway.

Fantasy Tip: Looper still isn't worth a draft pick in mixed leagues, although one could make an argument for a flier pick in NL-Only drafts.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: KFFL reevaluated Zito's projections and determined that the veteran left-hander, though still not spectacular in any particular category, deserved more respect than he received. Zito should strike out a few more hitters in the NL, and his durability is not in question. A move across the bay may require little adjustment.

Fantasy Tip: Zito is a pretty good No. 3 starter (and excellent No. 4) for fantasy teams and typically falls in many drafts.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kip Wells

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Wells was an intriguing arm before injuries derailed his career. With him slated to be the No. 2 starter behind Chris Carpenter, it seemed like the Cards were taking their title defense a little too lightly, though. KFFL is supremely confident in pitching coach Dave Duncan's ability to turn around the careers of once-promising hurlers, but we didn't expect him to work his magic this quickly. Wells hasn't allowed a run in 12 spring innings.

Fantasy Tip: It is just spring ball, so Wells isn't worth a mixed league pick unless it's a deep league. NL-Only players could take a chance on him for sure, though.

Detroit Tigers closer Todd Jones

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Jones has had a solid spring, and there's no sign that the Tigers will make a switch anytime soon. KFFL, like many, expects flame-throwing right-hander Joel Zumaya to claim the role at some point. This year? One would think so, but manager Jim Leyland is loyal to his veterans. Jones must really falter first. Zumaya takes a slight dive in the rankings for now.

Fantasy Tip: Jones still isn't the most stable choice, but he goes in the middle rounds and is a fine No. 3 closer. Zumaya goes only a few rounds later, so sentiment hasn't shifted much.

Chicago Cubs closer Ryan Dempster

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Dempster was painful to watch last year, blowing nine saves, so it was hard to imagine him keeping the role for the entire year. News of pitcher Kerry Wood's migration to the bullpen prompted thoughts of Wood's eventual ascension to closer. Alas, Wood is, as usual, hurt. The "Dumpster," meanwhile, came into camp 20 pounds lighter and has been very good in his limited work this spring. He also said that he's studying to become a ninja. Look out.

Fantasy Tip: Dempster still doesn't instill a lot of confidence, but he seems less of a gamble than some of the other risky closers. Wood, as always, seems to offer more promise than value. Perhaps Dempster hit him with a throwing star.

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Dustin Hermanson

Situation: Added to projections

Analysis: The Reds signed Hermanson to a minor league contract recently, and he quickly worked his way into the bullpen mix. In fact, recent reports mentioned him as a darkhorse candidate to close some games. He performed well in that role for nearly a year and a half with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox. KFFL's darkhorse, reliever Mike Stanton, loses some ground with the news.

Fantasy Tip: Hermanson is only worth consideration in NL-Only leagues, although he doesn't really get any. Stanton isn't worth drafting.

St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Apparently Izzy's hip surgery was a complete success. When Isringhausen began throwing, observers were quick to note how sharp he looked. He has just three innings under his belt this spring, giving up one run and four hits. The hits haven't come off the bat particularly hard, either.

Fantasy Tip: Perhaps Izzy is close to returning to form. It's a reason for optimism, and a reason to take him a round or two earlier than the 15th, where he was falling.

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Mark Prior

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: Prior is expected to begin the season on the disabled list or in the minors, while starting pitcher Wade Miller has basically locked up the role of fifth starter. Prior has been awful this spring, with no velocity and poor location. Miller hasn't been spectacular, but apparently he didn't need to be. It's just one injury-prone pitcher beating out another.

Fantasy Tip: Prior still draws more intrigue and draft consideration from fantasy owners than Miller does, although Miller once dazzled, too. It's wise to avoid Prior for now, but avoid Miller entirely. Employ your watch list.

New York Yankees outfielder Bobby Abreu

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Word came that Abreu was recovering well from his oblique strain. He returned to spring action as a DH Tuesday, March 20, and to the field a couple of days later. He's on track to start Opening Day.

Fantasy Tip: Abreu returns to about where he was before news of the injury struck. Fantasy owners can take him at the end of the second round or beginning of the third, where he was originally going.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Pods returned to action from his hernia surgery earlier than expected, and he was impressive. Manager Ozzie Guillen said that he'd need to see more, but it looks like Podsednik is on schedule to start in the outfield on Opening Day.

Fantasy Tip: The last 40-plus steals threat on most draft boards, Pods should jump a few rounds in your draft. It's hard to pass up that potential.

San Diego Padres outfielder Terrmel Sledge

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Sledge has had a torrid spring, slugging five homers in 48 at-bats. He's slated to start in left field on Opening Day. This isn't the first time that Sledge has teased his team with a good showing in spring training, though. Outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. loses a few at-bats as a result.

Fantasy Tip: KFFL didn't move Sledge up too much. He has cooled off already, and that situation may eventually require a platoon. Don't think about Cruz - please.

Texas Rangers designated hitter Sammy Sosa

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Sosa has made the 40-man roster, and it's only a matter of time before the Rangers declare him a part of their Opening Day squad. He has had a great spring, batting .410 with three bombs in 39 at-bats. His extensive work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo really seems to be paying off. Outfield prospect Nelson R. Cruz, amongst others, should lose at-bats.

Fantasy Tip: Sosa is attempting to resurrect a stained career, but if there's anyplace to do it, it's Texas. Sosa is definitely an intriguing late-round flier choice. Cruz loses what little luster there was.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Murton

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: KFFL reassessed Murton's situation, and it didn't turn out in his favor. Murton was prospectively going to bat second against left-handers, and KFFL expected the Cubs to trade someone from its surplus outfield. That doesn't appear likely now.

Fantasy Tip: Murton doesn't seem very worthy of consideration at this point. NL-Only leaguers may take a shot.

Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Church

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: We like Church because of his raw ability, but the Nationals are where fantasy players go to die. Church hasn't been very consistent or disciplined in his career.

Fantasy Tip: Church shouldn't be drafted in mixed leagues.

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Josh Hamilton

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: Hamilton is now virtually a lock to make the Opening Day roster, because if the Reds don't keep him up, they have to send him back to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His hot spring has enthralled the Reds. Outfielder Norris Hopper seems out of luck.

Fantasy Tip: Hamilton is only worth consideration as a bench pick in NL-Only leagues. You can make your own Hopper joke.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jody Gerut

Situation: Removed from projections

Analysis: Gerut was a promising fantasy player a few years ago, but knee problems destroyed his career. KFFL figured the Pirates would keep him for depth, but the club recently released him.

Fantasy Tip: Gerut bids adieu.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim second baseman Howie Kendrick

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: We're just as high on him as everyone else, but it's risky to expect huge numbers from an unproven player. He is an outstanding hitter with a lot of upside, but penciling him in for a certain benchmark is risky.

Fantasy Tip: It's gotten to the point where Kendrick is quite overvalued. He could very easily live up to fantasy hype, but you can get safer options.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: Like we were about Kendrick, KFFL doesn't want to be too optimistic about Young. His talent is unmistakable and his fantasy potential unlimited, but to take him over other proven options that could provide similar if not better numbers is questionable.

Fantasy Tip: Young still isn't exactly overvalued. Taking his somewhere in the early middle is about right, but be ready for ups and downs.

Kansas City Royals third baseman Alex Gordon

Situation: Rises in rankings

Analysis: The Royals have taken the final step, naming Gordon the starting third baseman. Barring a complete meltdown, it's hard to imagine KC sending their top prospect back to the minors. The move has repercussions all over the diamond. For starters, Mark Teahen moves to the outfield (in our rankings, too). He could even play in center, affecting outfielder David DeJesus. For now, though, the move will likely only drive down the time of outfielders Emil Brown, Joey Gathright and Shane Costa. Costa, in fact, gets the heave ho.

Fantasy Tip: Gordon is becoming a trendy pick as the final third of mixed league drafts approach. AL-Only players and keeper leaguers can't stop drooling. Teahen's additional eligibility increases his value slightly, too. The rest lose what little they had. DeJesus and Brown should only be taken in AL-Only leagues, frankly.

Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jose Castillo

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: Castillo's work ethic was questionable, and he obviously didn't do enough to impress the Pirates staff. He's a carefree swinger and not very disciplined in the field. As a result, Jose Bautista will start at third base, and Freddy Sanchez will start at second.

Fantasy Tip: Castillo loses some at-bats, but he wasn't an everyday player anyway. Bautista isn't worth drafting. Sanchez is already likely eligible at second in your league, so his value remains unchanged.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim third baseman Chone Figgins

Situation: Falls in rankings

Analysis: Figgins hurt the fingers in his right hand earlier this week. A visit to the specialist revealed fractures in the middle and ring fingers, and he's expected to miss five to six weeks. Infielders Maicer Izturis and Robb Quinlan are expected to split the duties, with Izturis receiving the majority of time there.

Fantasy Tip: Fantasy owners should slide Figgins down a few rounds. His stolen bases don't appear nearly as attractive now. Izturis is a decent pickup from the free-agent list, but it's hard to recommend drafting him in mixed leagues. Don't even think about Quinlan.

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Brett Tomko

Situation: Added to projections

Analysis: The team inserted Chad Billingsley into the bullpen, while Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson will battle it out for the last starting spot. Tomko has the best chance to win the gig. It baffles us why they chose to put Billingsley, who has a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 spring innings, in the bullpen. If Tomko or Hendrickson win the job, they have no fantasy value.

Fantasy Tip: Stay away for now.

Washington Nationals starters John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Matt Chico

Situation: Moves up in rankings

Analysis: Patterson was guaranteed to be the ace. After re-evaluating his projections, we decided to increase his innings. Hill won the No. 2 spot in the rotation and has had an amazing spring. He has a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings. Chico has done much of the same with a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings this spring. He has himself a slot in the rotation as well. With that in mind, we increased their innings.

Fantasy Tip: Patterson is the only one with value right now. He is going near the end of mixed leagues, which is about right for him.

San Francisco Giants starter Russ Ortiz

Situation: Added to projections

Analysis: Ortiz has locked up the final spot in the rotation after a good spring. He has struck out 13 and has a 3.00 ERA in 18 innings. He credits Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone for finding a flaw in his mechanics last season for his resurgence.

Fantasy Tip: Ortiz still doesn't have any value. If he returns to the Ortiz that left San Fran a few years ago, he may.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starter Jered Weaver

Situation: Falling in rankings

Analysis: Weaver (shoulder) will begin the season on the disabled list due to a sore shoulder and biceps tendonitis. He's only expected to miss a few starts. However, he reduced his innings, and he is falling down the rankings.

Fantasy Tip: Weaver is still a player you can target. Just make sure you target him in the No. 120 range.

Minnesota Twins starter Sidney Ponson

Situation: Added to projections

Analysis: Why? This move is simply unreal. Ponson locks up the No. 5 starting slot after posting a 6.30 ERA in his first three starts. This sends top prospect Matt Garza to the bullpen. If Ponson makes it two months with the team, it'll be a miracle. It's only a matter of time before Garza gets his spot.

Fantasy Tip: Stay far away from Ponson. Grab Garza in AL-Only leagues and stash him on your bench.

Oakland Athletics starter Rich Harden

Situation: Rising in rankings

Analysis: Harden has a 1.32 ERA and has struck out 25 in 13.2 innings this spring. Need we say more? We enhanced his projections due to this.

Fantasy Tip: Harden is still a risk because of injury concerns. However, this spring stat line is making him go quicker in leagues. Look for him around the eighth round or so.

Baltimore Orioles starter Adam Loewen

Situation: Rising in rankings

Analysis: The young lefty has struck out 18 in 13 spring innings with a 1.38 ERA. He has been masterful this spring. We have enhanced his projections to reflect such.

Fantasy Tip: Loewen is still end-of-the-draft material. Look to secure him in the 20th or 21st round.

Boston Red Sox closer Jon Papelbon

Situation: Rising in rankings

Analysis: We projected Papelbon as a closer before spring training and didn't publish it for this very reason. It made most sense for him to resume closing duties. We have added that projection to our rankings, and he has risen in them.

Fantasy Tip: Papelbon goes from the double-digit rounds to potentially being worthy of a sixth-to-eighth round choice. He's easily a top 10 closer.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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