Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Vogelsong, Fernando Martinez
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The Nats protected promising youngster Jordan Zimmermann, limiting him to 161 1/3 innings in 2011, his first full campaign following Tommy John surgery. They're aiming to do the same with their ace, who'll consistently fall among the top 20 mixed starting pitchers in drafts.
You know what Strasburg offers; he teased a tantalizing 2012 with his scorching five-start stint to close out last season (24 K's, two walks, 1.50 ERA in 24 innings). The limit on frames is merely an asterisk that comes with his elite profile. Even with the extra protection, Stras' 160 frames, in all likelihood, will be better than many hurlers' 200; you can easily backfill the difference.
Full circle: San Fran avoided arbitration with Vogelsong, their 1998 fifth-round draft pick, and agreed on a two-year, $8 million deal with a club option for 2014. The right-hander earned it with one of the most unexpected career revivals in recent memory during his first MLB season since 2006.
His left-on-base percentage will come down, but the output wasn't a complete fluke following a spring invitation. Vogelsong's two-seamer highlighted his five-pitch arsenal, per Pitchf/x, which saw more use of his off-speed stuff. Some months of high grounder percentages showed he made key adjustments to induce safe contact.
He benefited from AT&T Park but wasn't disastrous on the road. San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti probably had a hand in Vogelsong's late blooming. They've known each other since the hurler's early days in the bigs.
There'll be significant regression, sure. He threw more than 250 innings last year between American and Venezuelan winter ball and, despite still boasting a hard fastball, isn't fanning many hitters.
Still, a step back won't make him fantasy trash. Vogelsong's pitching environment remains one of the best in baseball. He'll be a more stable NL-only frames source than many will give him credit for, and he could be a deep mixed final-rounder if upside commodities are thin.
Houston used its No. 1 priority to give the former teenaged international signee a second chance. Martinez's plodding farm growth and chronic knee problems squashed his former hype. In all fairness, he was hurried through the minor league levels by the previous New York brass and hasn't done much in his 131 MLB at-bats and extensive bench time with the big club.
His new squad holds a glut of outfielders (with varying degrees of promise) and should give him time to rediscover his once glossy potential. In 2010, he clubbed 12 homers in 257 at-bats for Triple-A Buffalo - his second full season at that level - but he has had trouble sustaining the batting-average skills he showed in his 2009 Class AAA season (.290). The toolsy 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is simply looking for the right belt to hold all of them.
Even with his arthritic knees jeopardizing his long-term mobility, bringing him aboard was a reasonable dice roll. Right and left field are hardly solidified. The outside chance of the 23-year-old coming to the bigs in 2012 deserves NL-only attention, maybe with a speculative draft dollar or two. He'll have to play his way into mixed relevance.
Dynasty managers should keep an even closer eye on his progress. This project will require patience and can't have any strings attached, but don't cast him off as quickly as the Mets did.
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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