NL offseason fantasy winners and losers
Last week we went through the winners and losers for each of the 15 American League squads. This week we jump to the senior circuit, which saw a potential shift in the balance of power last week when the Braves acquired Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks to team with his brother B.J. and Jason Heyward to form the league's most dynamic and fantasy-friendly outfield.
The list of available free agents continues to dwindle as do the days left until spring training, which now stands at just 12.
Winner: Adam Eaton, CF -- Arizona's top outfield prospect should get every opportunity to claim the regular centerfield job for himself following the trade of Justin Upton to Atlanta. The speedy leadoff hitter had a .995 OPS for Reno of the PCL last season and got on base at a .382 clip in his first taste as a major leaguer during a September call-up. Now recovered from a broken hand he suffered in the waning moments of last season, he could provide excitement and star power that Diamondbacks fans need following the departure of the franchise's best player.
Loser: Heath Bell, RP -- Last year he was one of the more highly publicized signings of the offseason, part of the crop of free agents that was supposed to turn the Marlins into a contender. Instead, he helped poison the South Florida atmosphere so badly that they team was dismantled and a rebuilding was begun almost from scratch. But rather than getting a chance to rehabilitate his career as a closer -- a role in which he earned a major league high 151 saves over the past four seasons -- he'll be relegated to middle relief duties behind capable closer J.J. Putz, who ranks fourth in the bigs with 77 saves the past two seasons, and David Hernandez, who is in line to be the team's closer of the future.
Winner: Jason Heyward, RF -- With Chipper Jones' retirement it appeared that the Braves would be placed squarely on the 23-year old's ample shoulders. Coming off of a .269, 27-homer and 82-RBI third season, Heyward seemingly put to rest worries that a .227 sophomore slump he suffered in 2011 was a sign of a bigger problem. The acquisitions of the Upton brothers now gives Heyward someone to share that load with -- not to mention to protect him in the batting order -- which, in the long run, works to everyone's advantage, setting him up for another big step forward.
Loser: Juan Francisco, 3B -- Everyone's eyes immediately were drawn to Justin Upton in the seven-player blockbuster trade between Atlanta and Arizona. Everyone but Francisco, since his past and future platoon-mates, Martin Prado and Chris Johnson, were also involved. A career .190 batter versus left-handed pitching, he's only received 67 at-bats against southpaws since reaching the big leagues in 2009. And despite the possibility that he would possibly claim the full-time job in the wake of Chipper Jones' retirement, Francisco is not about to see any increase in playing time with the arrival of Johnson. Neither player will have value greater than as a stop gap in NL-only leagues.
Winner: Brett Jackson, CF -- The Cubs made minimal improvements to the core of a young offense during the offseason (adding just replacement-level players Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston). That opens the door for Jackson's full-time arrival at some point during the season. A five-tool talent who plays defense with reckless abandon, he'll quickly become a fan favorite once he shows the Wrigley faithful that he's better than the player who struck out in 41.5 percent of his limited major league plate appearances last year. He's likely ticketed for Triple A Iowa to start the year, but a hot start there will make him a hot fantasy pickup.
Loser: Carlos Marmol, RP -- It seems like Marmol's hold on the Cubs' closer job has been tenuous at best in recent seasons as the only thing keeping him from being replaced on a permanent basis was a lack of a suitable replacement. This year, however, the arrival of ex-Hanshin Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa (who brings 33.7 saves per season, a 1.36 ERA and a 12.4 K/9 ratio) provides a solid alternative. Marmol, rumored in trades for a couple of seasons now, is a highly risky draft option.
Winner: Shin Soo Choo, CF -- The former Indian changes leagues, positions and Ohio cities for his contract season and ditches the offensively-challenging Progressive Field (21st in runs, 20th in HRs in 2012), for the hitters haven that is the Great American Ballpark (8th in runs, 2nd in HRs), where he'll be surrounded by a more supportive cast of hitters. His career highs of 22 home runs, 90 RBIs and .309 average should all be in jeopardy.
Loser: Mike Leake, SP/RP -- Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mph left arm are ticketed for the rotation (with re-signed Jonathan Broxton slated to close), leaving Leake, who's started 78 games and won 28 over the past three seasons, on the outside looking in. Barring injury, a transaction or a complete collapse by Chapman, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo or Homer Bailey, Leake will be relegated to the middle of the Reds bullpen.
Winner: Josh Rutledge, 2B -- Last year after franchise face Troy Tulowitzki suffered a groin injury that kept him out for a majority of the season in June, Rutledge stepped in and impressed Rockies management enough to earn a crack as the club's second baseman. The position has been a bit of a revolving door for the Rockies, who have run out 11 different occupants over the past two seasons at second. Rutledge's .775 OPS in his limited major league run and .500 slugging percentages in the minors in 2011 and 2012 are promising for a middle infielder, especially in a league that saw one of its top second baseman, Jose Altuve, go along with his team to the AL.
Loser: Tyler Colvin, RF/1B -- Coming off of a career-best year in which he hit .290/.327/.531 with 18 home runs in a part-time role, Colvin seemed to have earned an expanded role in 2013. But with Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler locked in at left and center that leaves only right field and first base for Colvin. But that will leave him once again to contend with Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton, the latter back from hip and knee surgeries and feeling as good as he has in years. If everyone involved remains healthy, there's a good chance Colvin sees less PT this year than last, but with Helton opening the season at age 39, Colvin might be an inspired speculative pick late in your draft.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Winner: Zack Greinke, SP -- The Dodgers have traditionally had some of the best pitching staffs in the majors. Part of the reason why is Dodger Stadium. In the past 10 seasons the ERA at Chavez Ravine has been lower than the major league average nine times, and on average 0.497 fewer earned runs per game are scored there than at a generic park. Greinke is coming off two outstanding seasons, one-and-a-half of which was spent in Milwaukee's bandbox, Miller Park, and the other half coming for the Angels, with whom he faced nearly half of his games against four of the AL's top six scoring teams. Now he'll get a lot of starts against the Giants, Padres and newly depleted Diamondbacks. Move him up on your lists.
Loser: Dee Gordon, SS -- The shortstop and leadoff hitter on opening day last season suffered through a terrible 2012. His batting average and on-base percentage plummeted from .304/.325 in 2011 to .229/.280 last season. Further, he missed a majority of the year with a bad thumb and watched his starting spot taken by one of the best shortstops in the game, Hanley Ramirez. Now Gordon is a man without a position, and the Dodgers' insistence about keeping him at short means he'll most likely be stealing bases for Triple-A Albuquerque for a significant amount of time instead of patrolling the middle infield for Magic Johnson.
Winner: Juan Pierre, LF -- Last spring Pierre seemed to be nearing the end of a solid career as he went to spring training with the Phillies as a non-roster invitee and was forced to compete with Scott Podsednik for a bench spot. Not only did Pierre win that spot due to injuries to others, he ended up becoming the Phillies' primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Now he's back in Miami, where he enjoyed some of the most successful seasons of his career. He'll play the role of veteran leader tasked with teaching professionalism to a young team as well as plate-setter, asked to get on base and steal a lot of bases, which should make him a valuable fantasy commodity.
Loser: Giancarlo Stanton, RF -- You have to feel for Stanton, one of baseball's best young players and now MLB's version of Larry Fitzgerald, an immense talent surrounded by a whole bunch of nothing. Not only will Stanton be a prime candidate to be pitched around in most meaningful situations this season, but he'll also see a dip in what could've been eye-popping numbers in runs scored and RBIs had Marlins management not dismantled the team with an élan that they seem to have perfected with past practice.
Winner Mat Gamel, 1B -- Every player who's ever had their path to the major leagues blocked has to hate Gamel, the Brewers' promising hitter who has repeatedly been given an opportunity to establish himself as an everyday player. This time he steps in for Corey Hart (see below) as the Brewers' regular first baseman. A career .229/.305/.367 hitter, Gamel, 27, has played in 100 major league games just once but now has a golden opportunity to show some of the talent that allowed him to hit 28 home runs while slugging .540 at Triple A in 2011.
Loser: Corey Hart, 1B -- Sixth in the NL in home runs over the past three seasons with 87, Hart's 2013 will be shortened after he underwent surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The best-case scenario has Hart returning by June but knee injuries can be tricky, especially with the injury coming to the right-handed hitter's back leg.
New York Mets
Winner: Collin Cowgill, CF -- The former Athletic and Diamondback couldn't have ended up in a better situation than he has with the Mets. Slated to start Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter from left to right in the outfield, the Mets should have plenty of at-bats for the right-handed swinger obtained for minor league infielder Jefry Marte. Cowgill has speed (34 steals between the minors and majors in '11) with a little power (career-best 16 HRs in Double A in '10) and should supply value in NL-only leagues that are thinner this season with the departure of the Astros to the AL.
Loser: John Buck, C -- Over the past three seasons Buck ranks fourth among all catchers with 48 home runs, trailing only Brian McCann, Matt Wieters and Carlos Santana. And while he looked to be in line for significant at-bats in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre behind the plate and at DH, he's now, on paper, the top catcher for the Mets, with whom he'll deal with the notoriously difficult (yet now more reachable) Citi Field. But the Flushing faithful is still reeling over the trade that sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey north of the border, and it will be imperative to have the main piece the Mets received in return, Travis d'Arnaud, to set up shop in Queens as quickly as possible. To sum it up, pass on Buck.
Winner: Ben Revere, CF -- If you're looking for home runs, Revere is not your man as he's gone without one in 1,064 career trips to the plate. Still, the 24-year-old centerfielder is blazing fast, makes a lot of contact and will be a run producer hitting atop a Phillies lineup that should feature a healthy Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins for the first time in a while on opening day. His style of play is reminiscent of former Phil Michael Bourn, which is well suited for the NL. Unlike in Minnesota, where he had to deal with playing in a crowded outfield while hearing the footsteps of Aaron Hicks, Revere should be entrenched in Philadelphia's centerfield for a while.
Loser: Carlos Ruiz, C -- The onetime World Series hero was nabbed by baseball's drug enforcement policy when it was deemed that he had amphetamines -- more specifically Adderall -- in his system, costing him the first 25 games of the season. One of the NL's best catchers, Ruiz's full-season value takes a hit given that he'll miss nearly all of April, but on the bright side he'll return rested and should step right back into being an All-Star catcher which should make him a draft bargain anyhow.
Winner: Jason Grilli, RP -- Re-signed to a two-year $6.75-million contract before Joel Hanrahan was shipped to the Red Sox, the journeyman, for the first time in his career, has a sense of job security while pitching in his ninth organization. And he enters the year in his most significant role, anointed the closer for the up-and-coming Pirates.
Loser: Tony Sanchez, C -- There was a chance that Sanchez, the fourth-overall pick in 2009, would ascend to the top spot on the depth chart following a strong 2012, but signing Russell Martin to a $17-million, two-year contract sends the signal that Sanchez, the Bucs' top catching prospect, needs more seasoning. It's likely the only way we'll see him play a significant role in '13 are via injury to Martin or a trade for either.
St. Louis Cardinals
Winner: Rafael Furcal, SS -- Shut down in August when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, Furcal underwent Tommy John surgery and is on pace to be ready for the start of the season. That's great news not only for the Cardinals but also for owners who are counting on the runs and stolen bases he brings to the fantasy table.
Loser: Pete Kozma, SS -- For a fleeting moment the young middle infielder was a postseason hero for St. Louis, blasting a three-run home run in the second inning of an eventual 8-0 Cardinals win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS. The club's regular shortstop down the stretch and throughout the playoffs, Kozma hit a cool .333 in his first taste of big league action. Unfortunately, with Rafael Furcal's return shortstop is no longer available. Kozma is a longshot to win the everyday second baseman job from heavy favorite Daniel Descalso and newly converted dark horse, Matt Carpenter.
San Diego Padres
Winner: Carlos Quentin, RF -- Limited by a knee injury to 86 games last season, Quentin, 30, is on track to claim his rightful space in the heart of San Diego's batting order. Last year, despite missing nearly half a season, he ranked second on the club with 16 home runs. Reports on the knee and his availability for opening day are promising, which is good news to those willing to take a chance on someone who has hit 123 home runs over the last five seasons, a respectable 14th among right-handers.
Loser: Yasmani Grandal, C -- One of the main building blocks of the Padres franchise was suspended for the first 50 games of the '13 season when it was discovered that he had tested positive for testosterone. He fessed up in this statement and will begin his sophomore season watching Nick Hundley take his at-bats. Meanwhile, he's been implicated in this report, which further complicates matters for fantasy owners who already faced with him missing two-thirds of the season and left wondering who will be the player that returns.
San Francisco Giants
Winner: Gregor Blanco, LF -- He took over in left field out of necessity last season when Melky Cabrera was forced to serve a PED suspension. Now with Cabrera in Toronto and only Andres Torres, 34, threatening his playing time as a platoon partner, the speedy Blanco should be able to steal at least 30 bases while establishing a new career high in at-bats.
Loser: None -- The world champs go into the season loaded for another title run and with well-defined positions, including on the mound, where Tim Lincecum will rejoin the rotation after pitching out of the bullpen during the last postseason.
Winner: Dan Haren, SP -- Last year Haren took a lot of blame for the unexpected stumbles of the highly touted Angels. Returning to the NL (where he was 30-18 in '08 and '09 for Arizona ) while pitching for the one of the league's best squads offer a prime chance for a comeback after a few seasons in which his average velocity has dropped. The rest of the rotation, featuring four outstanding 20-something pitchers should also benefit from having the veteran Haren around.
Loser: Tyler Clippard, RP -- The last thing Clippard owners wanted to see was the Nationals go out and get an experienced closer to supplant a man who saved 32 games last season. But that's what happened when Rafael Soriano was plucked off the market after an oddly-long search for a new team. Clippard and '11 closer (and once again closer-in-waiting) Drew Storen, will see their values plummet.
Fantasy football clicks
Football, fantasy and otherwise, is a game and as such should be for fun and a release. That's what makes reading stories like this so sobering.
? Super fantasy team: You probably know that individual Super Bowl records are held by the likes of Timmy Smith (204 rushing yards vs. the Broncos), Kurt Warner (414 passing yards vs. the Titans), and Jerry Rice (215 yards vs. the Bengals). But do you know who had the best fantasy Super Bowls? Here they are:
QB Steve Young, 49ers vs. Chargers, SB XXIX: 325 passing yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT, 49 rushing yards -- 53.9 fantasy points
RB Roger Craig, 49ers vs. Dolphins, SB XIX: 58 rush. Yards, 7 rec., 77 yards, 3 TDs -- 38.5 fantasy points
RB Terrell Davis, Broncos vs. Packers, SB XXXII: 157 rushing yds., 2 rec. 8 yds. 3 TDs -- 36.5 fantasy points
WR Ricky Sanders, Redskins vs. Broncos, SB XXII: 9 rec., 193 yards, 2 TDs, 1 rush, (-4 yards) -- 39.9 fantasy points
WR Jerry Rice, 49ers vs. Chargers, SB XXIX: 10 rec, 149 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rush, 10 yards -- 43.9 fantasy points
TE Dan Ross, Bengals vs. 49ers, SB XVI: 11 rec., 104 yards, 2 TDs -- 33.4 fantasy points
K Don Chandler, Packers vs. Raiders, SB II: 3 20-39 FG, 1 40-49 FG, 3 PATs 15 points
D/ST Buccaneers vs. Raiders, SB XXXVII: 21 points allowed, 3 return TDs, 5 INT, 5 sacks -- 33 fantasy points
Fantasy basketball clicks
? Pickup of the week: The player everyone has to have this week is Atlanta's Kyle Korver. Long considered one of the league's 10 best shooters, Korver, in the absence of Lou Williams, has elevated his production to the tune of 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 made three pointers in 40 minutes per game. But Korver already has been scooped up in at least 75 percent of leagues, so if he's gone who is left to turn to? Try Carlos Delfino, the Rockets swingman and veteran of the Argentine national squad who is on a par with Korver in made threes over the past two weeks while averaging 14.9 points. Delfino, 30, is riding a six-game streak with at least three triples made. And over the last three contests, he's made five of nine shots while averaging just 24 minutes per contest and is certainly worth the roster spot for teams in need of another shooter.
? Down East: Rajon Rondo's injury opens the door a little wider for the 76ers at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. A healthy and effective return for Andrew Bynum might just kick it open all the way. Are you waiting for Bynum's return to action? If so here's the latest from him and his boss.
? Give Peace a chance: Metta World Peace has been one of the only bright spots for the Lakers this season averaging 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He's also one of the league's budding entertainment moguls, most notably as a rap video producer. Now he's working on a new project, the idea of which is reminiscent of this and this, but hopefully more along the lines of this.