I get a lot of questions about the importance of spring training and how the savvy fantasy owner can analyze the daily Grapefruit League box scores. When asked how I breakdown a player's spring stats, I typically have the same answer: it depends. Spring training means much more to players fighting for a roster spot, or a place in the starting lineup, than it does for veterans. People seem confused when I say that I could care less about the poor springs that
So whose performance should you care about? It's the rookies trying to earn a roster spot or the player in the midst of a positional battle that you need to keep an eye on. These players need to produce in March if they want to make the team come April. Spring training is what it is: time for the players to refocus on baseball and a way for fans to get a closer look at their favorite teams. Let's take a look at some recent events that that demand our attention.
Hardy's (SS, MIL) ADP of 114.26 (10th amongst SS) suggests that owners are still on the fence about the 26-year-old's future. If you take out his injury-shortened 2006 season, Hardy has improved his BA, OBP, SLG and OPS for three straight years. His 24 HR in 2008 were second-best for a shortstop and his 74 RBI were fourth. One area of concern is that Hardy had 23 less at-bats in 2008 than in 2007, but managed to strike out 25 more times. In an attempt to reverse that trend and win back my admiration, Hardy has struck out only six times in 52 spring training at-bats while receiving six free passes. Tack on a .436 average, four homers and 15 RBIs, and you have a shortstop I will take over
If I were to tell you that you could draft a player with three-position eligibility (including catcher) that Diamond Draft has predicted for 16 HR, 79 RBIs, .278 average, would you be interested? Now, what if I told you that his current ADP of 226.32 means you can find him available in the 18th round? You'd tell me to pass some of that good stuff over to you. Well, it's the truth, fellas. Sandoval (C, SFO) likely won't catch this year, but his 11 games calling pitches in 2008 makes him eligible in most leagues. He can also be played at 3B and 1B, but his real value lies in those leagues where he can be started as a C. He's tearing up spring ball (.467 BA, MLB-best 28 hits, three HR, 12 RBI, one steal), and I really can't argue with anybody who takes him as early as the 10th round. He won't be a sleeper for much longer.
The prospect label can finally be removed from Morales' (OF, LAA) name, as the 25-year-old gets his first chance to make his mark on the MLB as a starter. His first three stints for the big league club resulted in 377 AB, 12 HR, and a .249 BA. With the starting 1B job his to lose, Morales is finally showing the confidence and skill-set that have had the Anaheim faithful anxiously awaiting his promotion. He's smacking the ball this spring with a .397 average, eight doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs. He's likely to be there at the end of your draft, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a 20 HR, 85 RBI, .280 stat-line come October.
After an absolutely ridiculous second-half ERA of 2.38 (including a September/October ERA of 0.59),
Duchscherer (SP, OAK) enjoyed his breakout season in 2008, posting a 2.54 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP. Unfortunately, the Duke can't stay healthy and is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and miss at least the first month of the season. Even when he returns, Duchscherer will likely pitch out of the bullpen to build up his arm strength. He's battled an injured hip for the past few years and this recent injury is enough to make me pass on draft day.
I'm a big believer in the "contract year" player, and I was high on Lackey (SP, LAA) prior to the season ... until I heard the miserable words that are "Dr. Lewis Yocum". If I've learned anything in my day, it's that nothing good ever comes to a visit with Doc Yocum. The initial diagnosis is an elbow strain, and Lackey will begin the season on the disabled list. He needs a strong season to get the multi-year contract he desires, so I still have faith his numbers will be there in the end. Take this initial DL stint as an opportunity to buy low.
The Marlins bullpen has more questions than the plot of
The Mets are bulging with fantasy studs, but no one seems to be talking about 24-year-old
With his 50-game ban related to HGH behind him, it looks like
He isn't quite the secret he was a few weeks ago, but
Wainwright (SP, STL) missed a solid chunk of last season with a finger injury, but returned in late August to post a 5-0 record in seven starts with a 3.35 ERA. Currently, Wainwright is sitting right behind
While your friends drool over the potential of