Sunday morning: my daughter is occupied with Plants vs. Zombies (great game), my son keeps jumping back and forth between a Toy Story puzzle and some Garfield cartoon, and my wife is at the gym. Time for some prep work for my National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) satellite league draft that is scheduled for Monday night. Uh oh, puzzle complete. This may be some short lived “me time”.
With a helping hand from the MLB.com At Bat 2011 app, let’s flip through the news by team tab and get an update on recent news for some key team situations and fantasy relevant players. Hey, every Spring Training game I’ve watched promotes the At Bat app, so I might as well follow suit, but do I seriously need to buy a separate iPhone and iPad version? Great but expensive app. Going with just the iPhone version for now.
I’ll start with the AL East.
- Baltimore Orioles 1B Derrek Lee “feels great” after his first Spring Training action Saturday. Lee has been nursing a sore wrist which developed he believes from pushing his rehab from off-season thumb surgery too hard. He indicated he felt no discomfort in the wrist at all.
Rick has been pumping Lee as an undervalued late option since his first projections back in early February, which didn’t exactly jive with Lee not swinging a bat all this time, but it appears Rick could be justified with his stance. Lee is clearly motivated for a strong season and the change of scenery, not to mention batting in a lineup with Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds, should help.
- Staying with the Orioles, 2B Brian Roberts is expected to play Sunday. He’s had back spasms keeping him out of action. Gee, where have I heard this before? Was it about 365 days ago? If anything, maybe this news, and assuming no further setbacks after today, will prompt someone to draft Roberts a little earlier. I won’t be drafting him, that is for sure. Full disclosure: Yes, I drafted him last year, and I do hold a grudge.
- Orioles SP Justin Duchscherer hopes to be healthy enough to be on the active roster, in the starting rotation, for Opening Day. He’s dealing with a sore hip, even though an MRA (not an MRI, but whatever) showed nothing new. Add him to the Do Not Draft list.
- Not even reviewing his Spring Training stats – okay, 1 ER, 7 H, 1 BB in 4-2/3 Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates – I’m not getting a good vibe on Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett. People slushing off last season as just an off year may be overpaying for this guy based on name recognition and the team he plays for. The Sox dropped him to the fourth spot in the rotation so he has an easier matchup in his first game (Cleveland Indians), to try to get him off to a good start, which I think is telling.
- News headline one re: Tim Wakefield: “Wakefield trying to earn spot on roster”. Headline two: “Wakefield serves up four homers in loss”. Not really fantasy relevant but the knuckleballer will likely be jettisoned from our Red Sox depth chart fairly soon.
- New York Yankees named A.J. Burnett their number two starter, behind CC Sabathia and ahead of Phil Hughes. They are still undecided on the fourth and fifth spots. Ivan Nova seems likely. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia can exercise options and become free agents this month, and Garcia will not accept an assignment to Triple-A. I just keep thinking how down Scott is on Burnett – which I agree with – and this staff looks like a mess three out of every five starts.
- Brett Gardner to hit leadoff, bumping down Derek Jeter to second? Yankees manager Joe Girardi is considering it, and tried it last Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Makes sense to me.
- Dan Johnson or Casey Kotchman at first base for the Rays? Manager Joe Maddon tipped his hand and said Johnson has the inside track to the job. Johnson posted great power numbers between the Rays and Triple-A Durham in 2010, with 37 homers and 118 RBI in 138 games, 40 of those for the Rays (7 HR, 23 RBI). He only hit .198 with the Big League club last year though. Rick has him projected for .239. Still, with that power potential he looks like a name to keep an eye on.
- Rays starting rotation: David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson. Also, Jake McGee isn’t ready for the regular job but should get some opportunities to close out games this year. With us not expecting much success from Kyle Farnsworth closing, McGee could be a late round, deep league target.
- Similarly with the Toronto Blue Jays, Frank Francisco is expected to officially be named the closer, but Jon Rauch will likely save some games. Francisco has only made two appearances this spring due to soreness in his right pectoral muscle. The Jays expect Francisco to be ready for Opening Day. For clarity, the situations are similar in that both teams will give their second guys chances to close, but a higher upside McGee taking over for a weaker closer Farnsworth is a more appealing situation to take a chance on for fantasy drafting, than a lower upside Rauch taking over for a better pitcher in Francisco.
- 2B Aaron Hill is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday. He’s been out with soreness in his right quad muscle. Some fantasy folks like Hill as a sleeper set to bounce back after a poor 2010 season on the heels of a career ’09. I’ll let someone else pay his going sleeper price.
- The Jays probable regular batting order will have Jose Bautista third, Adam Lind fourth. This would drop Travis Snider to sixth or seventh as manager John Farrell tries to split up his left handed hitters. Farrell said Lind appears to have warmed up to hitting clean-up more than he has in the past.
- Looking for late draft steals from Scott Podsednik? He might not make the club as he continues to suffer from plantar fasciitis, and was recently put in a cast to immobilize his foot. The cast should be on for 10 days, but there is no timetable for his return.