Cactus League Update for March 4th
It's been a while since I've chimed in on the goings-on in Arizona. Since I last wrote, I've been out to a ballgame each day, and I've had a nice conversation with Giants' bench coach Ron Wotus at the bar of a local seafood restaurant in Scottsdale. In turns out we both like oysters and baseball. On the field, I've seen the A's, Giants, D-Backs, Cubs, Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners and Indians, so far. Here are a few of my observations, from the eye of a fellow fantasy baseball owner:
Francisco Lindor: Indians shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor hit a go-ahead home run against the Mariners Sunday. The kid is 20 years old and is likely just a late-season call-up in 2014, unless some tragedy befalls Asdrubal Cabrera. I've heard a lot of talk about his defense this spring, and I was looking forward to seeing him hit-- he didn't disappoint. If he's not on your dynasty league radar, he should be. Cabrera is a free agent after the season, and the shortstop job should be Lindor's full time in 2015.
Trevor Bauer: In the same game, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer tossed two relatively effective innings, though the outing was spoiled by a long home run by Dustin Ackley. Bauer is an intriguing option to keep an eye on this spring. The Indians cleaned up his mechanics and, to the untrained eye, he looked good-- pitching efficiently and with authority, until Ackley got ahold of one. The kid is 23 years old and was once a highly touted prospect who hasn't yet quite found himself in the majors. He has a ton of talent and a crazy workout routine that's fun to watch (he was working his wrists by twisting a long pole and firing really, really long tosses across the outfield pre-game). I love the kid, and I hope he gets a chance in the Cleveland rotation to prove himself this year.
Dustin Ackley: Speaking of Ackley, he's sporting a new position (LF) and a new beard this season, and he looked good at the plate. It seems the Mariners are looking to him as an everyday leftfield option with Michael Saunders and maybe Abraham Almonte playing center. Because of his play last year, Ackley should have eligibility at second base, and he wouldn't be a bad post-hype sleeper option at an otherwise fairly weak position.
Ryan Braunc: Braun got booed and taunted mercilessly by Dodgers fans the other day, a predictable result after the PED suspension ended his 2013 season early. I don't know if fan vitriol affects a professional on the field. I doubt it; those guys are pretty locked in. I also think it would be foolish to discount Braun's 2014 in any way because of the suspension. We've seen guys like Bartolo Colon and Marlon Byrd return from suspensions to have big seasons. I expect Braun to be the same Braun we saw in 2012-- a first-round talent that other fantasy owners may overlook. Injuries are a concern for Braun, but the 65-day vacation at the end of last season may have, ironically, helped in that regard. Don't let whatever feelings or prejudice you have against PED users affect your draft strategy.
Injury Reports: Finally, there have been a lot of injury reports (as usual) coming from camp this spring. Starlin Castro hurt his leg Sunday. Josh Hamilton was on crutches last week. Cameron Maybin is hurt . . . again. Zack Greinke left his first spring start with a strained calf after four pitches. Spring injuries will create the possibility that your fantasy opponents will discount and even avoid guys who get banged-up in March. This creates an opportunity for the well educated owner to step in and buy at a discount.
When I consider an injured player, I have to consider history. Josh Hamilton has had problems in the past. He had a healthy, but ineffective, 2013 season with the Angels. I don't want to draft a player that could potentially be shuffled between my starting lineup and the DL slot every month. I'll let someone else take that risk.
For a guy like Greinke, though, I see no reason to discount him this season. Last year he missed time in the spring with an elbow issue. In 2011, he missed all of spring with a broken rib. Last season, it took him only a month to recover from a Quentin-induced broken collarbone, and he ended up with one of the best second-half stat lines in the majors. Greinke is clearly a quick healer and I wouldn't expect a mild calf strain to have any impact on his regular season.
More to come as it happens here in sunny Arizona...