Spring Training Notes – March 4
Ike Davis may have Valley Fever
Valley Fever is a serious illness and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Davis, who looked primed to bounce back from his ’11 ankle injury. Conor Jackson dealt with Valley Fever in ’09 and was limited to 30 games. Jackson reported feeling extremely weak and tired. If Davis does have Valley Fever — and if the condition affects him similarly to how it affected Jackson — Davis goes from being a great mixed-league sleeper to nothing more than a late-round flier. Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Sunday that Davis will be “under no real restriction” during camp, but this is a big story to monitor in the coming days.
Yoenis Cespesdes arrives in A’s camp
Cespedes finalized a four-year deal with the A’s and arrived in Arizona over the weekend. The 26-year-old seems likely to win a spot on the Opening Day roster, if for no other reason than that Billy Beane wants him to. After arriving in camp late, it might benefit Cespedes to spend some time in the Minors, away from all the pressures of a Major League fan base. I’m expecting some growing pains in his first season in the U.S. While Cespedes will likely show flashes of talent, I wouldn’t trust him in a 12-team mixed league and I likely wouldn’t pay enough to earn his services in AL-only formats. Let someone else take this gamble.
A setback for Carl Crawford
Crawford experienced some inflammation in his surgically repaired left wrist after swinging the bat last week and isn’t sure when he’ll be ready to swing again. The outfielder referred to the situation as a setback and it’s another reasons to expect Crawford to stay on the DL for at least the majority of April. Simply put, the left fielder isn’t close to game action. As I said in an earlier edition of STN, you can’t predict more than 500 at-bats for Crawford and that makes him nothing more than an average mixed-league outfielder.
Stephen Drew may start season on DL
Drew acknowledged that his ankle may not be ready for Opening Day. The 28-year-old described his injury as one that takes a full year to completely heal, meaning that he may not be 100 percent until July. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect more than 450 at-bats from Drew, who could need more days off even after he makes his season debut. He’s nothing more than a $1-2 gamble in mixed leagues.
A.J. Burnett to miss 8-12 weeks
Burnett can’t catch a break. Finally freed from the pressures of pitching in New York, he quickly suffered an eye injury that will keep him out for a couple months. Burnett won’t see Spring Training action, so he’ll need a lengthy rehab assignment once he’s ready for games. I don’t expect to see him in a Pirates uniform until June, which means he should start the season on waivers in mixed leagues. NL-only owners will need to weigh Burnett’s value based on their league rules and how easily they can stash him in a DL slot.
Cubs look to Soriano at the top
The Cubs are serious about the possibility of moving the 36-year-old Soriano to their leadoff spot. It’s a curious choice considering he posted a .289 OBP in ’11. The rebuilding Cubbies would like to figure out the best spots for youngsters like Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney so that their key players can fill optimal roles. The players who aren’t part of the club’s long-term future — like Soriano — can fill in around the youngsters. From the top spot, Soriano will score more runs and may even swipe a few more bags. But his best remaining skill is power and that will be wasted from a leadoff role. Without a decent RBI total, Soriano won’t offer much production to fantasy owners.
Julio Teheran gets whiplash
Teheran served up six dingers while getting six outs against the Tigers on Sunday. The conditions weren’t ideal, with a strong wind blowing out, but it’s still the kind of performance that will set back his quest for a rotation spot. To put the outing in perspective, the six taters were more than he allowed in the Minors during the entire ’11 season. The Braves rotation is banged up at the moment and there is room for Teheran to make the Opening Day roster, but he’ll need to show improvement in his coming appearances. Fellow phenom Randall Delgado didn’t pitch any better than Teheran, so both youngsters will have something to prove next time out. Mike Minor is looking better all the time for a rotation spot and even Kris Medlan could sneak back into the starting picture at some point this month.
Corey Hart needs surgery
Hart will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. There are 4 1/2 weeks until Opening Day, so Hart will have a tough time getting healthy in time make Milwaukee’s initial lineup card. Since the towering power hitter won’t get in a lot of spring work, he’ll likely need to start the season on the DL while he regains his timing in the Minors. Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez will likely fill in for Hart, with Aoki possibly garnering the bulk of the work in right field. That will make Aoki relevant in deeper leagues in April, meaning that he’s a sneaky late-round draft selection.
Interesting choices from Robin Ventura
Ventura’s first proposed batting order is certainly an interesting one. Chicago’s rookie skipper is planning on leading off with Alejandro De Aza and following him with A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko. Hitting out of the two-hole should allow Pierzynski to score at least 60 runs, even if he gets some routine days off. The catcher’s poor baserunning ability will likely prevent him from scoring 70 times. Rios is coming off a dismal season, but it’s hard not to drive in and score 75 runs from the third spot in the order. Assuming that he can get back on track to some degree, Rios is a great buy-low candidate for ’12 drafts. A lack of talent atop the order could hurt Konerko’s chances of driving in 100 runs, especially with Pierzynski clogging up the basepaths. The new lineup is also bad news for Alexei Ramirez, who will now hit in the bottom third of the order instead of second. A threat to exceed 80 runs in his old slot, Ramirez will now likely cross home plate fewer than 70 times. With Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo, Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham also in the equation, the White Sox may end up with as much hitting talent in the bottom third of the lineup as they have in the top three spots.