Early returns, delays alter rankings
Once the games begin, so do the injuries. It is quite easy to be pronounced healthy and fit over the winter. It is another thing entirely to prove healthy and fit.
And sometimes you can be in the best shape of your life and merely suffer a freak injury.
This first week of Spring Training games tends to be the busiest for the surprise muscle strains (Michael Stanton), the freak accidents (Josh Beckett) and the news that so-and-so just isn't going to be able to ramp it up in just a month before opening day (Grady Sizemore). It is an important week to watch the news, specifically injuries, more than the box scores.
Here are some of the bigger news-makers through the early spring openers that can impact draft position right away:
What started out as one of the biggest question marks of spring is becoming one of the better success stories. Not all injury news is bad news. Peavy is one of the best injury-risk sleepers this March and he is doing so well in his recovery from a detached lat muscle he is going to make his spring debut Friday.
It was originally feared he might be one of those starters that opens on the 15-day DL and isn't activated to the roster until the White Sox need a No. 5 starter April 9, the end of Fantasy Week 2 (April 4-10). Throw that out the window. Peavy looks full go after an aggressive bullpen session Tuesday morning.
A healthy Peavy is a lot better than a starting pitcher that is currently going after the top 55, according to CBSSports.com's average draft position (ADP). SI.com ranks Peavy No. 43 right now, but that might have to go up into the top 30 if he can prove healthy over a course of a few spring outings.
The White Sox promise to have a great offense and solid bullpen. Those factors combined with health could make Peavy a 15-game winner, if not a Cy Young candidate.
This is one boxscore worth reviewing like your fantasy season depends on it. Heck, you might even want to catch the game live, or at least review the highlights.
Sizemore is a piece of discouraging news. The perennial injury risk is on the other side of the ledger from Peavy. Sizemore is doing worse than hoped, not better.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti said Tuesday Sizemore's timetable won't get him into live action until mid-April. It is expected he opens the season on the DL, so you have to move him down out of the top 40 outfielders to target. You will be getting, at best, 24 weeks of production -- and questionable production at that.
Sizemore was No. 33 here on SI.com, No. 30 in ADP for head-to-head and No. 36 in ADP for rotisserie. You should want Manny Ramirez, Corey Hart (even with his own two-week oblique ailment), Jason Bay, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Juan Pierre, Ben Zobrist, Michael Cuddyer and Drew Stubbs before Sizemore now. That drops Sizemore to 42 and it might not be the last slide he goes through.
An SI.com reader e-mailed in for advice on what sleepers to take in his homer pool. This is a fantasy league that merely tallies points for homers, a rare format but one that is becoming increasingly popular as an office pool.
His structure rates a baseline homer total and points are scored for every homer at that total. Stanton's number was 14 but he can easily hit 30 homers in his first full season. He hit 22 as a 21-year old in two-thirds of a season.
We mention this because Stanton hobbled across first base Sunday and stands to miss at least two weeks of spring training. Such a young hitter missing valuable spring at-bats is somewhat alarming -- as is coming up lame with a leg injury in his first game. He is young. That is only supposed to happen to those past the age of 32, right?
There is no reason to downgrade Stanton right now with the quad strain, but it is reason for pause for a player who is going off the board just after the top 20 outfielders right now. That is a few picks sooner than the No. 25 he is currently going at.
It isn't the news Beckett was beaned in the head by a baseball in batting practice that warrants attention; it is his Jekyll and Hyde results.
Yours, truly, was in the building for Beckett's start Sunday in Fort Myers.
He looked like his postseason version in his first inning. In Inning 2, against Twins minor-leaguers, he looked like the version that frustrates the heck out of fantasy owners. He was scorched for a double down the right-field line and a triple off the left field wall that Darnell McDonald jumped to try to bring back from over the fence. The inning ended with a well-struck lineout.
Beckett ranks at No. 25 in SI.com's rankings and his ADP has him going right around that spot. He needs a good spring to be worth that lofty status, though.
Beltran has decided he wants to play a few more years -- or he just was man enough to admit Pagan is the better defensive center fielder right now. Beltran will be the Mets right fielder to save wear on his chronic knees and Pagan will be in center.
It is a sign: 1. Beltran is motivated to earn another contract after this season, and 2. Pagan is closer to his prime.
This Mets combo is ranked Nos. 45 and 46 among outfielders here and their ADPs are right about at the same spot. Pagan is better in rotisserie and Beltran better in head-to-head. Despite this writer's stubbornness about age, Beltran is the better pick because of the contract year and power potential.
Webb is the Peavy cautionary tale. Pitchers with shoulder woes are notoriously risky picks.
Unlike Peavy, though, Webb's injury was related to the rotator cuff. That is an ailment few pitchers recover from with no change to their previous approach. It dramatically affects their velocity and arm strength.
Webb is struggling with that right now and is a bit behind schedule. It isn't officially announced, but his status for the opening day roster should be considered in doubt right now.
He is little more than a late-round flier at this point -- even if he was once a great ace, is just 31 years old and could be a starter for the offensively potent contender in Texas.
• Adam Wainwright had his Tommy John surgery already, which can put him on track to be ready for April 2012. He is going to be a great injury-risk sleeper next spring, guaranteed.
• Joe Nathan is throwing in a game Tuesday for the first time since Tommy John surgery. His example will be one for Wainwright. He is less than a year removed from the procedure, although relievers tend to have quicker timetables than full-time starters.
• Jeremy Hellickson is building up after an early camp hamstring issue. It is actually quietly good news because his first full season in the major leagues is already going to be a long one that tests him. He is getting picked a bit too high right now, but no one can argue with his potential. It is just doing it over the course of 180 innings for the first time that will be the question. Few pitchers handle it great. Most (David Price and Tim Lincecum included) have an adjustment period.
• Francisco Liriano rumors to the Yankees are out there. A trade to New York could make Liriano a potential top-15 starter to target. He is currently 19 on SI.com and CBSSports.com's H2H ADP.