Fantasy Baseball Grapevine

by Tim Heaney on March 15, 2008 @ 10:55:13 PDT

 


KFFL brings you our second Fantasy Grapevine of the 2008 preseason, where we break down the movers and shakers in the fantasy baseball world. Starting pitching was a hot topic this past week, with two AL East aces receiving differing injury opinions. Enjoy the fun and alter your cheat sheets accordingly.

Moving Up

Catchers

All New Collector's Editions!
Kevin Cash, Boston Red Sox - Enters Rankings
He was brought in after the Sox released long-time backup Doug Mirabelli. Cash's main duty will be to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, so leave him out of your cheat sheets unless you're in a deep AL-only league.

First Basemen

Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
The Canadian Crusher is just too consistent in the big three categories to rank him as low as we did originally. He's still good for about 30 home runs and 100 RBIs; he slots into the lowest part of the top tier of first basemen.

Ryan Garko, Cleveland Indians
Garko is one of the big-upside corner infielders for the middle part of most drafts, and KFFL agrees with this ADP trend. He's uncontested for the job, and he is now guaranteed a spot in the middle of the order.

Second Basemen

Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves - Enters Rankings
Prado's spring performance has given him the strongest hold on the utility infield job thus far. We originally took him out last week with the arrival of Brent Lillibridge, but recent news made us return him to sender. Lillibridge remains a strong possibility for a roster spot, too.

Third Basemen

Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox
People are drooling over his power potential, and even though he hasn't solidified a job just yet, KFFL feels that the Sox should find a place for him by mid-season. However, they have already said "no" to the outfield.

Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
The injury to Andy LaRoche (hand) gives Garciaparra a small boost with his increased job security. We're not bumping him that far up our mixed draft boards, but he now makes for a better option in NL-only leagues.

Outfielders

Hunter Pence, Houston Astros
We were originally skeptical of Pence's ability to continue his power after his wrist injury last season. He has been healthy all spring, and we're changing our tune a bit here. He still makes for an upper-tier outfielder.

Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
The lefty slugger didn't register highly on our early cheat sheets, mainly because of his deplorable history against southpaws. However, his place in the heart of the Rockies order still makes him a legitimate No. 2 outfielder.

Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
His place in the lineup is still up for grabs - either the No. 2 or No. 5 hole has been mentioned for him - and we tweaked him up a bit upon further research.

Elijah Dukes, Washington Nationals
With Wily Mo Pena (oblique) likely to miss a month of action, Dukes should see the playing time there. However, we didn't adjust his at-bats too much because we already had him taking up a chunk of the Washington outfield time.

Alejandro De Aza, Florida Marlins - Enters Rankings
He is still in the running for the center field job, despite the presence of super prospect Cameron Maybin. The team might decide to start Maybin in the minors this year, so De Aza could see his share of at-bats in a possible platoon with Cody Ross.

Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay Rays
The masher moves up because of the illness that will keep Rocco Baldelli (fatigue) out of action indefinitely. His stock in AL-only leagues certainly receives a boost.

Trot Nixon, Arizona Diamondbacks
Nixon now has a good shot to make the team coming out of spring training; the team needed another veteran outfielder, so we expect him to make more of an impact than Jeff Salazar, especially with Chris Burke already on the roster.

Starting Pitchers

Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros
His declining K rate has been a major detractor for our ranking of Oswalt, but he's still a low-end fantasy ace. Our rankings originally placed him below some No. 2 fantasy options, but he can still contribute in every pitching category.

Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds
Arroyo's 9-15 season was taken as gospel for his body of work. He won 14 games in the previous two seasons, and it seemed that his record will be an anomaly despite his increasing ratios.

Brett Myers, Philadelphia Phillies
The conversion back to a starter shouldn't affect Myers as much as we originally thought. He'll still be a reliable strikeout pitcher, who could be a steady No. 2 hurler in most draft formats.

Dustin McGowan, Toronto Blue Jays
His numbers last year suggest a bit of moderation this season, but we still needed to have him ranked within the top 175 players drafted. McGowan has a bright future ahead of him, and KFFL thinks we should start acknowledging that now.

Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves
His tiny K rate last year made us a bit hesitant to place him in the mid-tier range of starters, but as the Braves' No. 2 option, he should continue to be a great mid-round pick.

Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
His stellar second half last year (7-5, 2.71 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 77 strikeouts) made us revisit his initial numbers. The Cards' temporary ace isn't much of a power pitcher, but he could still match his 14 wins from last year.

Chien-Ming Wang, New York Yankees
The Yankees' "ace" is another polarizing fantasy figure. He has won 38 games over the last two seasons with above-average ratios, but his strikeout numbers have not been considered elite. However, his strikeout ratio has increased over the last few seasons, and we rewarded him for it on a second look.

Phil Hughes, New York Yankees
The young stud posted some disparaging numbers last year upon his return from a hamstring injury, but he should rebound this year to at least be a mid-round hurler with upside. He should easily reach double-digit wins with the run support he'll likely receive.

Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers
His hamstring issue still bothers us a bit, but he still could be a serviceable option to pick up in the late rounds of AL-only leagues. The Rangers' ace (not saying much, we know) doesn't have the optimal situation, but he has enough of a track record to round out a deep fantasy rotation.

Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves 
Skepticism will be there this year for the future Hall of Fame hurler. However, we need to see him completely become useless before we rank him ahead of some of the junk we had him below. He can still be a serviceable back-end option in NL-only leagues.

Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins
He is expected to make the rotation by default due to his experience and the shambled state of the Marlins bullpen. He has been relatively stable in spring training thus far, and that's really all the Fish are looking for at this point. Don't follow that same path on draft day, though.

John Danks, Chicago White Sox
The Sox are buying into the southpaw, even though he'll begin the season as the No. 5 starter. We decided to reflect their confidence (and lack of other options) by increasing his innings. He was always a fringe prospect, and you should not be tempted to draft him in mixed leagues.

Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox
Floyd is now slated for the No. 3 spot in the Sox's rotation, and we adjusted him accordingly. Floyd was a failed prospect with the Phillies, but the Sox are hanging onto him. You should keep him on the waiver wire until he shows he can live up to the promise he used to boast, although he could be worth a shot in deep AL-only drafts.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
We were probably a bit too cautious in his initial adjustment; the young stud looks to be on track, which means he would join the rotation in mid-April. Gallardo (knee) pitched live batting practice Wednesday, March 12.

Luke Hochevar, Kansas City Royals - Enters Rankings
The Royals have been impressed by the 2006 No. 1 overall amateur draft pick so far in camp, and he has a solid chance to crack the rotation in the No. 5 slot. He could be a nice late-round AL-only flier.

Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves
The brittle southpaw has looked somewhat impressive in camp thus far. The risk is certainly ever-present, but he might make for a nice last-ditch pick in deep NL-only drafts. If he continues his pace, he could make for a nice waiver wire pickup early in the season in mixed leagues.

Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
The young right-hander seems to have won the battle for the No. 5 starter by his own merit as well as by default; starter Chuck James (shoulder) will begin the season at Triple-A Richmond. Acquired in the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Tigers, Jurrjens has fantastic control for a 22-year-old and was one of the Tigers' best pitching prospects.

Jesse Litsch, Toronto Blue Jays
The former fringe prospect had a productive 2007 season, and he has essentially locked down the No. 5 spot in the rotation now that Casey Janssen (shoulder) is expected to miss the 2008 season. It doesn't mean he's a surefire pickup in AL-only leagues yet, though.

Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay Rays
Kazmir (elbow) has expressed optimism about his recovery. We slightly overturned our original negativity and slid him back toward his normal numbers. We certainly have our eyes peeled to his status.

Luis Mendoza, Texas Rangers - Enters Rankings
With starter Brandon McCarthy (forearm) hobbled, Mendoza enters the picture. He has three major league starts to his name, and you shouldn't put his name on your draft list just yet.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals - Enters Rankings
Now that he has a team, we need to address this erratic right-hander. The Cardinals were desperate for healthy pitching with Joel Pineiro (shoulder) and Matt Clement (shoulder) injured, but we still wouldn't recommend Lohse unless he was selected as a reserve in NL-only leagues.

Chris Volstad, Florida Marlins - Enters Rankings
The Marlins pitching staff is in shambles right now. With the injury to Sergio Mitre (elbow) and Josh Johnson (elbow) already scheduled to miss the season, Volstad, the Marlins' top pitching prospect according to Baseball America, could be a deep sleeper in NL-only leagues if he earns a spot.

Gaby Hernandez, Florida Marlins - Enters Rankings
Another youngster close to being thrown into the Marlins rotation fire. Don't follow him in just yet, but he has a shot at a rotation spot with Mitre down for a couple of months. None of Florida's pitching prospects in the mix boasts a high strikeout rate.

Burke Badenhop, Florida Marlins - Enters Rankings
One of the prospects acquired in the trade of third baseman Miguel Cabrera could break camp with the club if the Marlins rotation remains unsolved. As mentioned, this situation remains murky, so no young Marlins starter is completely safe. Badenhop, who had an impressive final year at Bowling Green, is the most polished of the three.

Relief Pitchers

Kevin Gregg, Florida Marlins
KFFL skimped the Marlins on saves based on their previous seasons of 41 and 40. We rectified this, although it's important to keep in mind that Gregg might not finish this season as a closer.

Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs
He receives a slight bump because of Bob Howry's spring struggles. He needs to fight off Carlos Marmol - who has massive upside - but Wood appears to have the upper hand in the competition for the job for now.

Matt Lindstrom, Florida Marlins - Enters Rankings
This fire-baller enters our rankings because he is one of the team's main setup men. Closer Kevin Gregg's lack of a track record has many speculating that Lindstrom could eventually be a closer candidate, especially if Gregg is traded. We're not assuming Gregg gets moved, but Lindstrom could be a good relief option in NL-only leagues.

Justin M. Miller, Florida Marlins
The inked wonder needed some more saves because of the possibilities surrounding Gregg's future and, as mentioned, Florida has been a better source of saves than we previously projected.

Moving Down

Catcher

Doug Mirabelli, Boston Red Sox - Removed from Rankings
The Sox released Mirabelli, but this really doesn't affect leagues except for the deepest of AL-only formats.

Second Basemen

Omar Infante, Atlanta Braves
This versatile veteran has been slow to recover from a fractured wrist he sustained in winter ball. KFFL projected him for a heavy number of at-bats for a utility player, but this news combined with the presence of Prado and intriguing infielder Brent Lillibridge had us rethink our stance.

Third Basemen

Joe Crede, Chicago White Sox
He's the reason we originally tempered Fields. Crede (back) is basically being auditioned as trade bait at this point; if his back holds up, he could be shipped off to make room for the youngster.

Andy LaRoche, Los Angeles Dodgers
His thumb injury will keep him out for eight to 10 weeks. With his chance to start the season in the lineup now derailed, you shouldn't even look at drafting LaRoche in mixed leagues, and he's not a safe pick in NL-only formats either.

Mike Lamb, Minnesota Twins
Lamb is projected as the team's starter, but his track record did not equate to our moderately optimistic projection. He has been a part-time player for the majority of his career, so we adjusted him accordingly.

Shortstops

Orlando Cabrera, Chicago White Sox
Although we feel he's one of the better mid-round shortstops in the draft, we had him jacked up a bit too high here. He's still serviceable across the board, but he doesn't excel in one category to make him a dynamite impact player.

Brent Lillibridge, Atlanta Braves
He didn't become too comfortable during his first week in our rankings. We touted him as a sleeper for stolen bases, but we held back our speed lust upon further review. In addition, he's not a lock to make the squad, although his chances are helped by the slow-to-heal Infante. Maybe he can make an impact by mid-season.

Outfielders

Rocco Baldelli, Tampa Bay Rays
The sad fantasy story continues. Baldelli (fatigue) now has an unreported disorder that causes him fatigue. Now he knows how fantasy owners feel when he's on their team.

Gary Sheffield, Detroit Tigers
We believe in the big man's power, but his wrists aren't quick enough to keep him in the upper power tier where we originally had him. His age was a concern here, but we still see him as a top-100 fantasy player.

Wily Mo Pena, Washington Nationals
Pena (oblique) will miss a minimum of four weeks due to an oblique tear. He could well lose some time to Elijah Dukes, who likely takes over for now. Pena could still be a great outfield depth pick.

Jeff Salazar, Arizona Diamondbacks - Removed from Rankings
His presence is not required with the signing of Trot Nixon. The Diamondbacks now have Nixon and Chris Burke as backup outfielders.

Starting Pitchers

Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox
Beckett (back) is expected to miss the team's opener in Japan, and we adjusted accordingly to have him miss one or two starts. 

Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
KFFL no longer considers Zambrano a true fantasy ace because of his erratic ratios. His strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP have been atrocious over the past two seasons, and we feel this pattern indicates a decline.

Hiroki Kuroda, Los Angeles Dodgers
We originally perceived that the deception factor would come into play for the import. However, we had him ranked above more established pitchers with our original projections, so we had to tweak those thoughts. We think he will likely be serviceable, but he should be saved for the later rounds.

Shawn Hill, Washington Nationals
We originally had him with too many wins, but we mainly dropped Hill (forearm) when we heard news that he might be shut down because of lingering pain. We had him as a moderate upside option, but this latest news quickly eliminated that designation, especially since he had other injury troubles last season.

Matt Chico, Washington Nationals
We had him pegged for too many wins at the back of the Nationals rotation. When the front of the rotation struggles to win games, KFFL can't expect the back end to succeed enough to justify his original projection.

Tim Redding, Washington Nationals
We projected him for the statistics of someone truly competing for a spot in the Nationals rotation. Our reasoning says it all: Redding simply has never been, even remotely, a consistent fantasy producer. Follow our lead and drop him out of sight if you haven't already done so.

Kevin Correia, San Francisco Giants
The No. 5 starter in San Fran had his win total jacked up a bit too high for our liking. NL-only drafters could give him a look later on.

Shaun Marcum, Toronto Blue Jays
Marcum could make for a great late-round hurler this year (especially for LIMA strategists), but our cheat sheet had him come out close to fellow upside pitcher Dustin McGowan. The disparity between them is too large for that to stand, and more importantly, there are as many reasons to be skeptical as to be optimistic.

Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians
KFFL was slightly optimistic that Carmona could repeat his 2007 performance, but we are still not confident in his ability to maintain it after such a jump in workload (a combined 102 1/3 innings in 2006; 215 in 2007). That plus his tendency to pitch to contact could come back to bite him a bit more this season.

Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco Giants
The prospect has been reported to be in the running for the rotation, but he's still an option in the bullpen, and this uncertainty led us to decrease his innings. Keep an eye on him during the season, or you could draft him late in NL-only leagues.

Pat Misch, San Francisco Giants
We made his original projection when he was reportedly still in the mix for the No. 5 job earlier in the offseason. We moved towards reality by knocking his innings down.

Brandon McCarthy, Texas Rangers
McCarthy (arm), essentially a lock for the back end of the rotation, was knocked down our rankings because of forearm stiffness. He's likely to start the season on the disabled list, but he was already a non-factor in drafts, so this shouldn't affect your cheat sheets.

Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
The young stud might have some previously unexpected competition from starter Bartolo Colon, who is making minor waves with his spring training performance. We are making sure Buchholz doesn't fall too highly on our cheat sheet.

Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
We had Cain above other pitchers, who would have more guaranteed contributions in wins. Cain was a better fantasy pitcher than his record indicated last season, but we didn't take the lineup into account as much as we should have.

Joel Pineiro, St. Louis Cardinals
Pineiro (shoulder) struggles to fight injuries, and despite his surprising second half last year, we tuned down his numbers because of his erratic history and these new health issues.

Sergio Mitre, Florida Marlins
Mitre (elbow) is expected to miss four to six weeks with elbow discomfort and possibly the rest of the season. Ignore him on draft day.

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays - Removed from Rankings
Janssen (shoulder) suffered a torn labrum and is now out for the season.

Relief Pitchers

Bob Howry, Chicago Cubs
A poor spring training performance has placed the veteran in the back of the field of prospective closers in Chicago. His prior reliability wasn't enough, and it seems that right-hander Carlos Marmol is the upside pick here, while Kerry Wood remains the front-runner to close at this point.

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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 LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.


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