KFFL brings you our third Fantasy Baseball Grapevine of the 2008 preseason. Another AL ace is sidelined with injury troubles, an NL closer is expected to be ready for the start of the season, and two young NL pitching studs - from the same team, no less - have caught our eyes. We also couldn't ignore a veteran slugger's promise to continue playing regardless of how long he has to wait.
The Boston Red Sox might have been hesitant to start the season in Japan next week, but remember that KFFL is with you up until the first pitch and beyond.
Tony Clark, San Diego Padres - Enters Rankings
The veteran signed with the Padres, and we're projecting him for minimal time while backing up sturdy first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. We don't expect Clark to get much more than 100 at-bats.
Kelly Johnson, Atlanta Braves
KJ is now expected to hit leadoff for Atlanta; this should mean an increase in runs for the already productive middle infielder. He's reportedly working on his patience at the plate, and KFFL has increased his stock a little. If he reaches 20 home runs this year, he could be a fantastic mid-round buy because of his all-around game.
Shea Hillenbrand, Free Agent - Enters Rankings
The much traveled utility player isn't receiving all that much attention this offseason, but we placed him in our rankings to state that he's still available. We won't give him actual projections until he signs with a team.
Yunel Escobar, Atlanta Braves
KFFL's favorite mid-round flex infielder is expected to hit second behind Kelly Johnson in the Braves order. Like Johnson, he would be expected to score more runs from there, especially with outfielder Jeff Francoeur and third baseman Chipper Jones behind him. At press time, he's hitting .452 this spring, and you might have to reach a bit for him in the middle rounds of a draft. Drafters seem to have caught on to his potential.
Scott Podsednik, Colorado Rockies - Enters Rankings
Could everyone's favorite speedster be recovering from recent struggles? He's fighting with Cory Sullivan for the last backup outfielder role, and his main asset - his wheels - have resurfaced in spring play. If healthy, he's the type of impact reserve that could help a young team like the Rockies. Don't jump on his fantasy stock just yet, but keep an eye peeled in NL-only leagues if he can find a way to minimally break the lineup.
Brian N. Anderson, Chicago White Sox - Enters Rankings
The Sox's center field bust in 2006 has re-entered this year's roster picture with a .353 spring batting average at press time. With the continued injury troubles of Carlos Quentin (shoulder), Anderson might find himself with the upper hand for the No. 4 outfield spot. Don't pounce on him in normal-sized mixed drafts, but he could be a late-round sleeper in deep AL-only leagues.
Jerry Owens, Chicago White Sox
Manager Ozzie Guillen has reportedly said that Owens will likely be the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. Guillen has harped all spring that he wants the club to run more, and Owens' 32-steal performance in just 356 at-bats last season certainly falls in line with that philosophy. Owens could serve as a late-round steals source and depth outfielder in normal-sized mixed leagues.
Jody Gerut, San Diego Padres - Enters Rankings
The former Cleveland Indians prospect is now in the mix for the starting left field job. The injury to veteran center fielder Jim Edmonds (calf) might shift Scott Hairston into his place until he heals, which could push Gerut into the lineup. Edmonds hopes to be ready by opening day, but Gerut would be worth stashing in deep NL-only leagues if he grabs playing time.
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
More twists and turns have surfaced in the Dodgers' outfield battle. Manager Joe Torre still hasn't decided who will surround center fielder Andruw Jones, and Ethier remains locked in a three-way battle with Juan Pierre and hyped prospect Matt Kemp. We propped up Ethier just a bit because he's still in the running. This situation still hasn't panned out yet, but KFFL has an eye devoted to it. Though he has less upside than Kemp and less experience than Pierre, Ethier could be a nice late-round pickup in most leagues, especially if your draft has a reserve round.
Barry Bonds, Free Agent - Enters Rankings
Don't get too excited. We're not saying to go out and snag Bonds. With his recent pledge that he would play this season if he finds the right situation, we had to at least place him in our rankings, though. His perjury trial may not take place until 2009 now, too, which would put him in the clear (pun intended) for the season. Be aware that he's there, and he could now be worth a late-round flier in mixed leagues.
Dustin Moseley, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Enters Rankings
The swingman is the likely replacement in the Angels rotation with John Lackey (triceps, elbow) on the disabled list. Moseley recorded a 4.40 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP in 92 innings pitched last year in eight starts. He could be a waiver wire pickup in AL-only leagues.
Nick Adenhart, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Enters Rankings
The Angels' top pitching prospect according to Baseball America, Adenhart was likely going to spend the 2008 season in Triple-A for some seasoning. However, with Lackey's injury, he enters our list of possible replacements in the Angels rotation. Adenhart hasn't yet pitched above Double-A, so he might not make much of an impact this season unless Moseley breaks down. AL-only players should keep an eye peeled if they decide to pull the trigger.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds - Enters Rankings
KFFL was aware of Cueto long before he gained his momentum this season, but he could be making a major league impact sooner than expected. Cueto has struck out 12 batters while allowing just eight hits in 13 innings this spring. Cueto's still a favorite in the fight for one of the final two rotation spots, and his considerable upside makes him a target in the late rounds of shallow mixed leagues.
Josh Fogg, Cincinnati Reds - Enters Rankings
The veteran journeyman has emerged as a leading candidate for one of three back-end rotation spots. With the demotion of southpaw Jeremy Affeldt to the bullpen, the slow but steady Fogg is still trying to hold off a group of more promising pitchers. He would only be serviceable as a spot starter in NL-only formats thus far. His unreliable track record (ERAs of 5.49 and 4.94 in the past two seasons) doesn't suggest otherwise.
Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati Reds
The right-hander acquired in exchange for outfielder Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers) was bumped up our boards because of his strong spring performance (19 strikeouts with just three walks in 13 innings pitched at publication). Along with Cueto he's emerging as one of the favorites for the final two slots in the rotation. He has similar upside to Cueto's, but Volquez should be targeted later because, at 25, he hasn't shown the same capacity to quickly adjust to hitters at the next level.
Manny Parra, Milwaukee Brewers - Enters Rankings
An impressive spring (0.64 ERA in his first 14 spring innings) has vaulted Parra into a sleeper pick in the late rounds of mixed drafts. He's still fighting for one of the final two rotation slots in a mixed bag of options, but the southpaw gained some momentum with the injury to starter Chris Capuano (elbow). Carlos Villanueva, Claudio Vargas and veteran Dave Bush are also in the running. Keep a close eye on him as the first pitch approaches; Parra could at least make the team with potential to start later in the season.
Shawn Chacon, Houston Astros - Enters Rankings
The right-hander enters KFFL's rankings with the news that Astros manager Cecil Cooper said he assured himself of a spot in the rotation. His 6.92 ERA in 13 innings doesn't exactly scream "reliable," but the fact that he's included on the staff made us follow suit with our projections. He was moderately effective for the Pirates in a relief role last year, recording a 3.94 ERA in 64 appearances (four starts). However, in 2006, he posted a 6.36 ERA in 26 appearances. His inconsistency should prompt you to keep him on the waiver wire for now.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
We already have the elite pitching prospect projected for a number of appearances this season. However, we're now noting that with the continued delay in the return of starter Jason Schmidt (shoulder), Kershaw might have a better chance at making a debut - especially if the Dodgers need an impact hurler for the stretch run. He certainly could be stashed in deeper leagues if you have the room, but don't go chasing him early based on this speculation.
Matt Garza, Tampa Bay Rays
We had him ranked below fringe starters in our rankings. We're not as high on this youngster as others might be, but we know that he has more upside than we let on in our projections. His career 1.60 WHIP in limited major league action is a bit disconcerting, but his 3.69 ERA last season presented a step in the right direction. The Rays' No. 3 hurler could be a nice pick in the late rounds for those still drafting.
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
The Sox starter was also listed a bit too low for our liking. He doesn't have the most powerful stuff, but he has a propensity for pitching around trouble. His presence on the Sox means that he should have a decent number of wins even if his WHIP (a career 1.57 in limited action through all his health issues) remains high. He did decrease his batting average against by 38 points to .257 last season, so that could be an encouraging sign. Like Garza, he makes for a productive late-round pick or a spot starter from the waiver wire.
Odalis Perez, Washington Nationals - Enters Rankings
With injured right-hander John Patterson (forearm) released, the Nationals will likely look to the veteran southpaw to replace his innings. At press time, Perez had a 5.23 ERA in 10 1/3 innings pitched this spring, but that included an impressive six-inning outing Thursday, March 20, in which he allowed two runs and four hits while fanning six. Perez, whom the Nationals added to the 40-man roster, is looking like the team's best option for the No. 1 slot. He should be nothing more than waiver wire fodder, though.
Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies
Lidge (knee) could be on track to start the season with the Phillies. He retired four of five hitters (including three on strikeouts) in a minor league game Thursday, March 20, and there have been no reported obstacles in his rehab. We moved him closer to his original projections and reduced setup man Tom Gordon.
Jeremy Accardo, Toronto Blue Jays
Last year's waiver wire hero might once again be looking at some save opportunities. Closer B.J. Ryan (elbow) is not expected to open the season with the Jays due to soreness in his elbow, and Accardo will likely replace him at the back end. This does wonders for Accardo's value. If he's on your waiver wire, run to pick him up. If you're drafting soon, consider him in the late rounds. Who knows how long Ryan will be set back in his return.
Dan Ortmeier, San Francisco Giants
The former projected starter is likely to remain on the bench after he reportedly looked lost at the plate all spring. At press time he was hitting .212 with just two RBIs in 52 at-bats. The team is still working with him on the transition to first base from the outfield as well as his approach from both sides of the plate. He could still be a depth option in NL-only leagues, but his lack of a job at the moment doesn't make him too valuable.
Danny Richar, Chicago White Sox
The former leading candidate for the starting job is expected to start the season on the disabled list. Richar (rib) could be sidelined from four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his rib, which basically eliminates him from the starting job at this point.
Juan Uribe, Chicago White Sox
Uribe was reportedly released, but the Sox later responded to the news by saying they placed him on waivers. The current reports have the Sox looking to trade Uribe but also willing to take him back if he clears waivers. The second base job is still unsettled, but it looks as if Alexei Ramirez could be gaining some momentum there. However, with the injury to Richar, the team could decide to keep Uribe on board. Uribe is in flux right now, and you should keep him there in fantasy leagues for the time being. A trade to a place with regular playing time available would make relevant in AL-only leagues.
Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
The veteran received a minor bump with of the injury to prospect Andy LaRoche (hand) because he was just about guaranteed playing time. However, the latest injury to Garciaparra (wrist) - which could force him to miss opening day - confirmed our notion that he is fragile and unreliable for mixed leagues. He could still be owned in NL-only leagues.
Cory Sullivan, Colorado Rockies - Removed from Rankings
In his fight for a reserve role, Sullivan isn't doing himself any favors with a .167 batting average in 30 spring at-bats. He is still being considered because of his defense, but Scott Podsednik is fighting for the same spot, and he has more upside if he can harness his speed. We saw very little offensive upside from Sullivan to keep him in our rankings.
Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox
Quentin (shoulder) continues to have some lingering issues after offseason surgery but is improving slightly according to recent news. He's still not a lock to make the opening day roster, especially with the spring performance of Brian N. Anderson. Quentin has not yet had a full season's worth of playing time, and with the upswing of outfielder Jerry Owens, that streak is in danger of continuing.
Mark Kotsay, Atlanta Braves
He had a brief spike in value here when it was rumored that he would hit second in the lineup. However, recent reports now say he will near the bottom of the order, with Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar inhabiting the top spots. Kotsay could possibly be a reliable reserve outfielder in NL-only leagues.
Jim Edmonds, San Diego Padres
Edmonds (calf) is already opening up the center field job for other contenders. He is hoping to be ready to suit up on opening day, but Edmonds could start the season on the disabled list because of a calf strain. General manager Kevin Towers reportedly said Edmonds is not close to being ready. This decreases his stock in NL-only leagues, his most valuable format.
Jeff DaVanon, San Diego Padres - Removed from Rankings
We originally had him listed as a depth outfielder for San Diego, but the presence of Jody Gerut, former prospect Paul McAnulty and hot prospect Chase Headley pushed him out of the picture. Recent reports aren't giving him much consideration, and we recommend you do the same.
Juan Pierre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Once thought to have the lead for the starting left field job, Pierre has now fallen back with the rest of the pack since manager Joe Torre said he still hasn't formulated a starting outfield. Pierre has the contract, and Torre could favor the veteran here. However, we had to knock him down a bit because Andre Ethier is still in the mix. You might not want to draft Pierre too highly, but if he falls later in the middle rounds, you shouldn't pass up the valuable speed he offers there. Make sure you already have depth at outfield before pursuing him.
John Lackey, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The right-hander is expected to miss at least a month of action. Lackey (triceps, elbow) will return in early May, at best, and his absence creates a huge hole in the Angels rotation. His value at this point makes him a gamble within the first 10 rounds, but if you can grab him cheap you might want to give it a whirl.
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
The highly touted young prospect is losing some momentum with a poor spring (an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings pitched at press time) while being overshadowed by Cueto and Volquez. He still has some work to do to earn the No. 5 spot, and, unless you have a late pick in NL-only leagues, you should ignore him on draft day.
Matt Belisle, Cincinnati Reds
The former reliever was converted to a starter last year with underwhelming results (5.32 ERA and .301 batting average against). He's in the mix for the No. 5 spot, but we knocked him down a bit because of the impressive outings by Cueto and Volquez as well as the presence of Fogg.
Jeremy Affeldt, Cincinnati Reds - Removed from Rankings
The southpaw pitcher was told by management that he would be moving to the bullpen for a relief role. At this point, his only value would come if he shows to be a dominant reliever.
John Patterson, Free Agent
The Washington Nationals lost patience with the right-hander and eventually released their 2007 opening day starter. Patterson (elbow) has not progressed as well in his recovery from forearm problems as Washington had hoped this spring; the Nats felt he wouldn't give them a chance to win every fifth day. The Astros are reportedly looking into signing him given the uncertainty at the back end of their rotation. Keep posted to his status; he certainly has strikeout potential when healthy.
Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers
Schmidt (shoulder), a frequent flyer in our 2008 Grapevines, will reportedly not be able to participate in game action until May or June. Schmidt has been progressing slowly after having surgery last June to repair an inflamed bursa, a torn labrum and a frayed biceps tendon. You should look in another direction on draft day, because this looks to be a frustrating situation for the talented but hobbled pitcher.
Chris Capuano, Milwaukee Brewers
Capuano (elbow) underwent an MRI Thursday, March 20, to examine the soreness he felt in his left elbow while leaving a recent spring training start. It is becoming more and more likely that Capuano will be left out of the race for a rotation spot. He had reconstructive elbow surgery in 2002 and had continuing issues with it in 2004. This is not encouraging for his fantasy value. Leave him on the wire.
Woody Williams, Houston Astros
Williams still hasn't locked up a rotation spot; he's in the running for the No. 5 spot with Chris Sampson and Jack Cassel. We had to knock the veteran down since Shawn Chacon was guaranteed a spot this week. Even if Chacon hadn't locked up a spot, we still view Williams as waiver wire material.
B.J. Ryan, Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan (elbow) has been shut down by the Jays for the time being after suffering from soreness in his surgically repaired elbow. He is not expected to open the season with the big club. The Jays medical staff said that he was likely suffering from fatigue, and they would only consider him an option when he was ready. His current owners should hang onto him with a disabled list spot and try to acquire Jeremy Accardo, his likely replacement. He could still be drafted in the later rounds, but make sure you're built up at closer before pursuing him, and strongly consider drafting Accardo if you do.
Tom Gordon, Philadelphia Phillies
With Lidge expected to return in time for the season, Gordon is knocked down because he is no longer opening with a chance to earn saves. He could still be an option in NL-only leagues.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.