Cactus League Update for March 5th
Another few days are in the books in Cactus League action. On Monday, I had every intention of heading to Phoenix Municipal Stadium to see the A's host the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. However, a Scottsdale bar/restaurant called the Salty Senorita hooked me up with free tickets to the Padres-Giants game in Scottsdale. I suppose that means I should throw in a shameless plug, but seriously, they have good tacos and cold beer.
Tim Lincecum vs. Josh Johnson: The Padres-Giants matchup was interesting in its own right with Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson as the starting pitchers. Four or five years ago, these were two of the top pitchers in the National League - Lincecum with two Cy Youngs and Johnson with an ERA title. But injuries (Johnson) and velocity loss (Lincecum) have dropped both guys to the late rounds of fantasy drafts.
As it turns out, both pitchers tossed a pair of shutout innings and looked pretty good for early March. Of the two, I have more faith in Lincecum as a fantasy asset. We saw flashes of brilliance from him last year, including a no-hitter. I don't think he will return to Cy Young levels, but he plays in a pitchers' park and can help with strikeouts.
Johnson also pitches in a pitchers' park, which is why I've seen him get much fantasy love in my early drafts. I'm just not a believer. He's a guy who, if healthy, is capable of numbers better than Lincecum. But he's never healthy. Let someone else take the risk on draft day.
Dee Gordon: One noteworthy thing about this game was the play of Dee Gordon at second base. Gordon has thrown his hat in the ring for the second-base job and he looked very good on defense - ranging behind second base, making diving stops, off-balance throws, etc. A converted short stop, the Dodgers are trying to add to his versatility by giving him time at second and outfield. With full-time play, Gordon is more or less a one-trick pony on offense - stolen bases. But you figure he'd help out in the runs scored category in that lineup as well.
Bryan Shaw: One last note: I was talking to some people who follow the Cleveland Indians pretty closely and they drew my attention to reliever Bryan Shaw. Shaw has been a middle relief guy most of his career, but he has a chance to change that in 2014. Jon Axford is the closer for now, but will that last? Most publications say to take Cody Allen, the "closer-in-waiting." He is a fine pitcher, but from what I'm told Indians manager Terry Francona prefers him in the 8th inning role too much to make him the closer.
Meanwhile, the Indians coaches have convinced Shaw to only throw primarily his cutter (a la Mariano Rivera) and the results have been outstanding. He could be one of those waiver wire saves pickups at some point this season - or a guy worth stashing in leagues that count holds.
Stay tuned for more daily updates from Arizona as RotoBaller Scott Slezak provides your daily Cactus League fantasy baseball analysis.