Fantasy baseball 2014 draft prep: Player rankings, position primers, burning questions and more
Fantasy owners can ignore a lot of what happens in spring training. Your stance in the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera debate probably shouldn't change based on a handful of plate appearances in March. What they do need to pay attention to, though, are injuries, position battles, and players in new roles. Those are the guys making news during spring training that could have an effect on your draft and the season as a whole.
PRINTABLE DRAFT SHEETS: Top 300 | Rankings by position
• Cole Hamels has been dealing with biceps tendinitis the entire spring. The Phillies didn't expect him to miss much, if any, time during the regular season, but he recently suffered a fatigue-related setback that could have him out for the entire month of April. This is obviously a huge red flag. Make sure if you draft Hamels, do so at a serious discount.
• The defending NL East champion Braves could be without 40 percent of their projected rotation on Opening Day. While Mike Minor could start the season on the DL because of shoulder soreness, the Braves are not all that worried about his situation. The soreness flared up after he got a late start in his throwing program because of urinary tract surgery. He has thrown two bullpen sessions and could make his first spring start next week. Kris Medlen, on the other hand, suffered a potentially serious injury when he left his start Sunday with what the team is calling a forearm strain. He will undergo an MRI on Monday, but they are prepared for bad news.
• Mat Latos underwent elbow and knee surgeries recently, but the Reds still believe he could be ready by Opening Day. Manager Bryan Price said he needs to throw one more bullpen session, live batting practice, and make four starts to have his arm ready for the regular season. That gives him just enough time to be ready for the season opener against the Cardinals on March 31. Given that they're this optimistic that he can be ready, chances appear slim that he will miss a significant amount of time in a worst-case scenario.
• Matt Kemp has been running and tracking fly balls in the outfield in his most recent spring workouts as he recovers from ankle surgery. He won't make the trip to Australia for the Dodgers' season-opening series with the Diamondbacks, but the 29-year-old is getting closer to game action. The team has not put an official timetable on his return, but it does not appear that he will miss much time. Teammate Zack Greinke threw about two dozen pitches from a mound late last week, his longest workout since leaving his first spring start with a calf strain. The Dodgers expect Greinke to be fine when his spot in the rotation comes up for the first time this season.
• The Mariners will almost certainly be missing two-fifths of their rotation on Opening Day. Hisashi Iwakuma will still have the middle finger on his throwing hand in a splint for another two weeks. The team shut down Walker earlier this month because of shoulder inflammation, though they aren't worried too much at this point about the severity of the injury. Neither is expected to be ready until mid-April at the earliest.
• If you've been reading any of our season preview content, you probably know the affinity in this space for Chris Owings. He has struggled a bit this spring, 7-for-30 in his first 12 games, but the more important factor is that he has played more than Didi Gregorius. The incumbent has been even worse at the plate, going 4-for-21 in 10 games. The tea leaves indicate that Owings has a leg up in the battle to be Arizona's starting shortstop, and that could make him a very nice sleeper at a shallow position.
BELLER: Sleepers (Owings), busts (Miley) and more in the Arizona Diamondbacks team preview
• Jonathan Schoop has turned plenty of heads in Orioles camp this spring, including manager Buck Showalter's. The skipper said Schoop is in contention for the starting second baseman job, and why wouldn't he be given what he has done thus far? He's 8-for-15 with two doubles and a homer in spring training games. Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla are in the mix as well, but the lack of a slam-dunk option could induce Showalter to go with the guy who has the best spring. As of now, Schoop is the clubhouse leader.
• Dan Uggla rated as one of the worst everyday players in the majors last year, but he probably didn't expect to have his role challenged much this spring. Tommy La Stella didn't get that memo, however, and the 25-year-old is doing everything he can to break into the starting lineup. He's 9-for-29 with four walks thus far, and his approach would be a welcome departure from the free-swinging Uggla. La Stella hit .343 with a .422 OBP at Double-A Mississippi last year.
• Jurickson Profar is no longer a man without a position. The former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball struggled last year as the Rangers shuttled him around the diamond with no spot to call his own. With Ian Kinsler in Detroit, Profar will be the Rangers' everyday second baseman, a role in which he is suited to thrive. He hasn't been able to play the field yet this spring because of shoulder tendinitis, but he took grounders and made throws on Sunday morning and should be in the field before too long. The shoulder hasn't affected him at the plate, as he's 9-for-29 with two doubles, a homer and 10 RBI.
• The Tigers cleared a spot in the rotation for Drew Smyly by dealing Doug Fister to the Nationals this offseason. Smyly starred for the Tigers out of the bullpen last year, but he was effective in 18 starts in 2012. He got roughed up by the Cardinals in his first spring start, but bounced back with three shutout innings against the Mets on Saturday, striking out three and walking one. Given his strikeout and wins upside, Smyly makes a nice target toward the end of drafts, and could provide a big return on investment.