Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions - AL Central

by Tim Heaney on February 2, 2010 @ 17:00:00 PDT


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Chicago White Sox

Will we see the 2008 version of SP Jake Peavy or an AL-corrupted shell of him?

Elbow and ankle injuries have haunted him, and the transition to U.S. Cellular Field should give one pause. Don't leave it in suspension that long; Peavy still has dominance. The progressively climbing flyball percentage will eliminate PETCO-infused numbers, but there's enough talent to work past it. Plus, there's no World Baseball Classic this year.

Is RP Bobby Jenks' closer job in jeopardy?

ChiSox brass is standing behind Jenks, but they're concerned about his fitness and were reportedly shopping him. Don't worry about his K's; he can flip the switch. J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton are capable of handling the role and are worth speculation, but that doesn't make Jenks roto plague.

Soon-to-be 2B Gordon Beckham's price tag: appropriate?

Kansas City Royals SP Zack Greinke
Greinke: No fluke

He was fast-tracked, so there's ample room for a comedown from his hot '09. Positional scarcity fuels his value; 20-homer pop from second base is a premium. The 23-year-old walks enough for us to have optimism, and he didn't have many outlandish outliers.

Can OF Alex Rios finally show some power?

It's a tired issue. His liners dropped and grounders rose in '09, but he regained some flyball life. A recovery in BABIP spells a return toward .300, at least, and he managed 17 homers in his worst contact season. Skipper Ozzie Guillen probably wants him to focus on the former. Like Carlos Quentin, though, Rios will come at clearance prices; he hasn't lost intrigue.

Cleveland Indians

Is OF Shin-Soo Choo approaching elite fantasy status?

He's still outside the fence, but the power growth inches him closer. There's still some skepticism, but his leveling batting eye and his hard contact are key ingredients to awesomeness. He contributes at least above-average numbers in five categories.

Why do roto drafters ignore RP Kerry Wood?

Trade rumors and a terrible start to '09 clouded an otherwise solid season. He didn't get much work for a terrible Indians team, but he didn't give up a homer after July. The dominance will be there as long as he's on a mound; he brought his cutter back. Worries of him leaving town dwindle when you can grab him cheap.

Who's C Carlos Santana?

Played mean licks on "Evil Ways." Seriously, shake hands with Cleveland's backstop of the future, who eerily recalls Victor Martinez: a switch-hitting, selectively aggressive masher. Lou Marson is a nice player but is hardly as dangerous. Chris Gimenez? Wyatt Toregas? Seriously? The Class AAA-bound Santana will take over at some point this year.

Detroit Tigers

In which direction does SP Rick Porcello go following 2009?

While a sophomore drop-off should be expected, if chiefly because of the workload, don't expect catastrophe. Porcello is a bright kid. He has the oomph to amp up his K's, but Detroit held him back a bit so he could learn how to pitch and develop groundball proficiency. Skeptics have allowed him to fall, so there isn't inflation based on '09.

SP Max Scherzer in the AL: Better or worse?

He leaves Chase Field, so that's a start; he was loads better elsewhere. Mad Max will have to refine his off-speed stuff to complement his nasty heat. The injury risk compiled 170 1/3 frames last year. Though Comerica Park has been hitter-friendly, his non-Miguel Cabrera infielders should help him. Hope the flyball jump returns to the mean in his second year as a full-time starter. 

How much roto value can OF Austin Jackson and 2B Scott Sizemore offer in 2010?

Both youngsters, expected to start at their respective spots, are risky fantasy commodities whose best areas rest in stolen bases and batting average, and perhaps runs. The well-rounded Sizemore makes a ton of contact, and Jackson prefers speed before power. Shallow mixed drafts won't see their names called, but deeps may see both come up in the late rounds.

Will OF Magglio Ordonez salvage some roto utility?

Hints of declining power were there before last year, and 20 homers will be a luxury for him from now on. Personal issues weighed on him for part of the year, but that doesn't hold a big blame portion. The culprit: groundballs. Bright side: He still hit the ball hard. Maggs is a mixed end-gamer.

Kansas City Royals

Is SP Zack Greinke a surefire fantasy ace?

His '08 numbers told us he was on his way. The clear-headed righty's breakout wasn't unfounded; his K skills were there. Maybe his strand rate will come down, but we're more worried about him reaching 16 wins again. His picturesque velocity, arsenal and aggressiveness will sit him in this tier for a while.

Will 1B Billy Butler make the leap this year?

Minnesota Twins 1B Justin Morneau
A healthy Morneau is a value

He'll be aided by making more improvements against righties and turning some of his doubles into dingers, but it'll certainly come in the next two seasons. Butler, 23, raked in the second half, which often predicts exponential growth, and ranks as one of the biggest bulls of '09.

Has anyone seen 3B Alex Gordon?

Ever think the hype was too big, too soon? Quadriceps and hip injuries have hindered his growth, but Gordon, soon 26, knows how to walk. If only he could figure out his strikeout bug and make his contact stronger. Remember: Gordon, who underwent a hip procedure similar to Alex Rodriguez's, may just be coming around in time for this coming season.

Minnesota Twins

Do 1B Justin Morneau's terrible second halves make him roto poison?

Don't be hasty. A stress fracture in his lower back halted another second-half collapse, and early in the offseason he aimed to rest as much as possible. His first halves have made up for post-break failings. Morneau's contact was climbing, and it's safe to say playing through the injury got in the way. Keep an eye on his recovery news, but there's alluring value here.

Should I be worried about RP Joe Nathan?

The decline looks like it began even before bone chips cramped his style. Look at all the flyballs. He started giving out more free passes in '09 while posting another second-half drop. We're not talking about his saves total; the Twinkies will give plenty of those. His jack in dominance will prevent him from collapsing, but a further drop in velocity would push him over the edge.

Will a fresh start help SS J.J. Hardy?

Maybe Target Field will be friendlier to righties than Miller Park was. The streaky Hardy has seen his line-drive rate drop in each of the last four years and experienced extreme reverse platoon splits last year. A 20-homer season is by no means a dream. He's spaghetti heading toward a wall.

Can P Francisco Liriano recapture his old stuff?

He has pitched well in winter ball, for what that's worth. His fastball regained some punch, but he'll need his slider to come back to prove he can compete for the final rotation spot. You can hop on board post-draft if you feel like rolling the dice.

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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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