Football season is officially over, and it could be for longer than the "awhile" that spans February through August. This means baseball and some of the rites of spring better bring it.
Pitchers and catchers report next week, so get revved up for thousands of stories about players in the BSOMC (best shape of my career), contract talks (Albert Pujols) and disgruntled players demanding trades. Michael Young will be the first to carry that latter flag.
It is rather curious Young decided to demand his trade right after Vladimir Guerrero finally signed on with the Orioles. We suppose that is the way the cookie crumbles.
If he remains in Texas, Young is either going to fill Vladdy's DH spot or primarily play first base in front of Mitch Moreland, because the Rangers chose to sign Adrian Beltre to play the hot corner. Regardless of Young's role in Texas (if he even stays), Moreland figures to fill the other role, although offseason trade acquisition Mike Napoli will be ready for those two spots when Yorvit Torrealba or Taylor Teagarden are catching, too.
Frankly, Young would be a waste at first base or DH. He is more valuable to a fantasy team at third, second or shortstop. Remember, Young only moved from shortstop because the team forced his hand to get young Elvis Andrus in the mix. They have continually jerked him around, moving him from/to second as well.
Young could be the fantasy super utility man around the infield in Texas, doing some spot duty around the infield, or he could start anywhere in the infield in another city. It will be interesting to watch if you're looking to catch some valuable versatility in-season.
We already took a capsule look at Baltimore, but Vladdy moves some dominoes in the lineup now.
Luke Scott, who is DH-only on draft day, likely becomes an outfielder again. That will move the talented and yet-to-pop Felix Pie to a reserve role. But check out the thumb in the middle of this order:
1 Brian Roberts 2B
R Felix Pie OF
This team might not be half bad, if the young pitchers pitch.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he loves to have people compete for jobs, but he isn't going to do it without declaring a leader in the clubhouse at the closer spot. Despite the acquisition of Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg in the offseason, Koji Uehara will enter spring training as the favorite to close.
That moves some prior O's closers down the pecking order and the fantasy rankings:
CL Koji Uehara RH
Uehara's news moves him up five spots in the rankings to around 30th at relief pitcher. Gregg drops more than 10 spots to barely remain in the top 40. He is undraftable in a standard league until his role improves from setup man.
Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil might have suggested an early spring last week, but it is still going to be a long, cold winter in Pittsburgh after the Steelers' Super Bowl loss. At least the blue collar people there still have the Pirates ... uh, nevermind.
Good thing the Pitt Panthers are No. 2 college basketball team in the country.
The Pirates remain a mess for what is going on two decades. Here is a capsule look at these have-nots:
Pittsburgh Pirates outlook
1 Jose Tabata LF
R Ryan Doumit C-1B-OF
1 Ross Ohlendorf RH
CL Joel Hanrahan RH
This is a valuable exercise, because it can remind you of some players getting pushed out. That would be Doumit, who is going to be part-time at catcher, first base and outfield.
Snyder is a superior defender behind the plate, something Doumit never was or will be. Overbay got $5 million this winter to improve defense at first over Jones. And Jones has fallen into a rightfield platoon with righty-swinging Matt Diaz.
Jones will get the majority of at-bats in right, because he swings from the left side and will face all those predominately right-handed starters, but you have to move him down the rankings at first base and outfield. Doumit has to move down at catcher (he just failed to qualify at OF in leagues that require 20 games last year; he played just 18).
Doumit was a potential top-10 fantasy catcher with a full-time job. As a reserve without much hope for everyday at-bats, you have to drop him out of the top 20.
As for the rest of the Pirates, Hanrahan figures to start with the closer's job, even if Meek finishes with it behind that patchwork rotation. It should be interesting to see what Tabata, Walker and Alvarez do in Year 2 as potentially overlooked sophomores.
The players aren't sitting right before the writers just yet, so the White Sox felt inclined to hold a conference call Tuesday on the status of Jake Peavy. He is coming off surgery to repair a detached lat muscle, a rare injury for a pitcher.
A rare injury for a pitcher represents the unknown. The unknown is rarely something you want for your fantasy pitcher. Pitchers are already bust-prone enough after draft day. You have to hate good reasons to worry about him.
It could actually make him a sleeper, though, if he slips past the top 45 starting pitchers to target on draft day and actually proves healthy before opening day. This is potentially one of the top 10 starting pitchers in baseball when (if) he is 100 percent.
A capsule look at the White Sox, who locked up Alexei Ramirez to a long-term deal last week:
Chicago White Sox outlook
1 Juan Pierre LF
R Mark Teahen 3B-OF
1 Jake Peavy RH
CL Matt Thornton LH
Sale is the wild card right now; the White Sox's No. 1 pick last June rose all the way to the majors and the closer's role down the stretch last year. The White Sox want a defined role for Sale for the whole season. Even if he is slated to be a starter long term, they want/need him on the roster on opening day.
He will either set up for Thornton or start for an injured Peavy. The former remains the more likely scenario. That could make him a sleeper, because he could very well close and perform like a top-15 option at the position in fantasy.
This is a strong, veteran club with a solid rotation one through five. It makes them a nice No. 2 pick to the Twins in the beefed-up AL Central.
It clearly will be the Tigers. They just don't have the pitching the Twins or White Sox have going in.
Some unknowns could step forward, though. A capsule look at the Tigers:
Detroit Tigers outlook
1 Austin Jackson CF
R Ryan Raburn UTL
1 Justin Verlander RH
CL Jose Valverde RH
Verlander, Scherzer and Porcello could be the best top three in the division, but the question marks are large at No. 4 (Penny's health, or lackthereof) and No. 5 (Coke making a transition from the bullpen). The bullpen has some great arms, though, so they might only need five and out from the back-end starters. That ends of wearing a team down over the course of 162 games, though.
V-Mart figures to DH more than catch, which puts Avila in the lineup more often and sends Raburn into a platoon in left with Boesch. The plan right now is to hit Ordonez third and play him in right. His health could force V-Mart to catch more than they want, though.