I’m assuming that most of you don’t read too much into Spring Training stats. That’s what all of the fantasy baseball sites on the internet are telling you, right? That Cactus and Grapefruit League games don’t matter-- nothing counts-- so you shouldn’t put too much stock into spring stats on Draft Day.
Case in point: Stephen Strasburg has allowed 9 ER in 14 IP this spring. Are you dropping him in your rankings? Hell, no. Fantasy GMs are drafting RotoBaller’s #3-ranked SP with confidence, as early as sixth overall in NFBC drafts.
You should know by now to take Spring Training stats with a grain of salt. Of course, that’s not to say that you should ignore them completely. Some Spring Training stats can be useful, such as how a player is performing after an off-season surgery. I also tend to monitor the oft-hyped minor-league prospects who are expected to break camp with their big league club or arrive early in the season.
Overall, there are a few dozen players who are on my Spring Training Watch List. Some have improved their draft day stock with exceptional springs thus far, while others have steered me away from considering them, even in the late rounds.
Today, in the first of a series of Three Up, Three Down articles, we’ll highlight three players who are generating a positive buzz at the midway point of Spring Training, and three who are putting up warning flags.
Paul Konerko (1B, CWS) - Five months removed from surgery on his left wrist, the thirty-seven year old first baseman is MASHING Cactus League pitching. In ten spring games, Konerko has a .357 BA and leads all hitters with 5 HR. This is great to see, as you had to question whether or not the off-season wrist procedure would affect Konerko’s power stroke. Assuming the veteran slugger remains healthy (he’s proven to be quite durable throughout his career), all signs point to another season with 25-30 HR, which is what you expect out of your fantasy 1B. RotoBaller ranks Konerko in the second tier at the position (8th overall), just ahead of Allen Craig, Ryan Howard and Ike Davis, all of whom are being drafted well before him-- value pick, anyone?
Alex Cobb (SP, TB) - 2 ER allowed and an 18:1 K:BB ratio in 14 Grapefruit League IP made Alex Cobb a no-brainer for the Three Up list. The Rays’ right hander was already on my radar after posting solid numbers in the latter half of 2012, but now I’m targeting him in every draft as a fifth starter for my team. Cobb posted 11 W in 23 starts last year, so it’s not unreasonable to expect 12-15 W along with decent ratios and solid strikeout numbers over the course of a full season. Solid sleeper.
Adam Eaton (OF, ARI) - By now, the secret is out on the Diamondbacks’ center fielder. Consider the fact that Arizona GM Kevin Towers felt comfortable shipping Justin Upton out of town to the Atlanta Braves because he expects Eaton to have a prominent role in the offense. Just check out his minor league numbers. Eaton is an on-base MACHINE that will thrive at the top of the Diamondbacks lineup. In 14 games this spring, he’s hitting .370 with 17 hits (second among of all hitters), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R and 1 SB. RotoBaller ranks Eaton in the sixth tier of outfielders (69th overall), but I’m a little higher on the Miami of Ohio product. I’d probably move him up to the fith tier, somewhere between Carlos Gomez (#46) and Angel Pagan (#57). I recently took Eaton 164th overall in an NFBC Draft Champions League as my fourth outfielder.
Dan Uggla (2B, ATL) - 2012 was the worst statistical season in the thirty-three year old second baseman’s career. The only real positive that came out of it was a career high in walks (94), but that’s not why you drafted Uggla, is it? After five straight seasons of 31 or more HR, Uggla let his owners down with only 19 last season. I was an Uggla owner last year and every week, when it came time to set my lineup, I kept telling myself not to bench him. “This is the week he’s going to go off with four or five HR.” Sadly, Uggla’s .220 batting average ended up killing me for the entire season. While he’s certainly capable of bouncing back this year to the .250 batting average and 25+ HR range, he’s gotten off to a rough start in Grapefruit League play (.195 BA with 15 K in 41 AB). Draft RotoBaller’s 15th ranked second baseman at your own risk.
Johan Santana (SP, NYM) - The two-time Cy Young award winner’s career is obviously winding down. Yes, the thirty-four year old pitched a no-hitter last season-- the first in Mets history-- but he was limited to just 21 starts overall, half of which were a disaster. The strikeouts were still there (111 in 117 IP), but the W (6), ERA (4.85) and WHIP (1.33) were not. Santana finished last season on the DL, and while he was expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training, there’s a chance he may open the year where he ended it last. Given Santana’s age and recurring shoulder problems, I’m avoiding him in all leagues. He’s being drafted as a fifth or sixth starting pitcher, but I’m not even wasting the roster spot on him. AVOID.
Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY) - Coming off a down year where his numbers suffered due to a respiratory illness and calf injury, Tex’s stock has fallen dramatically since straining his right wrist during warmups for Team USA just over a week ago. Teixeira will be sidelined 8-10 weeks and will miss at least the first month of the season. Even if he does return on schedule (sometime in May), you should temper your expectations for the thirty-two year old slugger. Normally a lock for 30+ HR and 100+ RBI, I would be surprised if Teixeira eclipses 20 and 70 respectively. A) You have to assume that Teixeira’s power will be affected. B) Injuries like Teixeira’s often linger, and in some cases can derail a player’s career (see: Mark DeRosa). RotoBaller ranks Teixeira at the top of the fifth tier of first basemen (#19), but you draft Mark Teixeira at your own risk. If you do take a gamble on him, make sure you do it late in your draft.
In the meantime, check out RotoBaller.com for all of your fantasy baseball needs. You can also follow me on Twitter, @RyanRufe.