Yay! As the drafting season concludes at a pretty leisurely pace, the actual season begins this coming Thursday and final roster spots are being nabbed, so this time let's look at some last minute names you might want to track, or in some cases leave to others.
Don't forget: most leagues allow moves up until before first pitch Thursday, with the first comprehensive DL/FAAB run starting next Sunday, April 3. And, of course, good luck with the coming season. As I have, for the past 15 seasons, I will be here every Monday trying to get to the bottom of the names that can help or hurt you for the coming season.
I hope it is not like the Austin Kearns "man-love" that afflicts my friends, Jason Grey and Todd Zola. And, I have had the Nationals’ Mike Morse more times than I wish. At this point, however, the percentages are kind of like Milton Bradley--who has had two full seasons in 2004 and 2008 over the past 11 years--that Morse will have one year where he does not get hurt. Over six years, Morse has almost earned a starting gig a couple of times, but injuries always killed the progress. Over those six seasons, Morse has played in 237 games, 139 before last year, and 98 more in 2011. But Morse rocked it once he played regularly, going .289-15-41. He is going to hit 20-plus homers. Then he will get hurt again. It is all inevitable.
I have probably written this before: I fear Pablo Sandoval has peaked. Not that I don't wish he could get it back together, or hope he will. I just don't see his style of play adjusting to major league pitchers. Which means he is skilled, and could be deadly if he can gain control of the zone (something the Panda just cannot seem to master). Anyway, I see Mark De Rosa getting a lot of playing time, and really helping out a fantasy team in every way and direction. .270-16-63, playing second, third, possibly short, and the outfield is good in almost every format. Depth of league is the only question.
As often as possible I have been picking up Scott Baker, whose value has plummeted of late. Well, surely based upon the frightening (4.49 ERA. 1.34 WHIP) 2010, Baker's stock has dipped some, but the truth is those numbers were not that far from norm. The biggest problem Baker had was base hits, allowing 186 over 170 innings, while for the two seasons prior the number was more like ten hits below innings pitched. I paid $4 for Baker in Tout, and was then told he had not yet nabbed the fifth starter spot at Target Field. Now, Baker is the #5 arm, and I cannot believe that Nick Blackburn or Brian Duensing are better than Baker.
Humberto Quintero is my starting catcher in my Strat-O-Matic league. Now, that is a tight league, with strict rules about playing time, and Quintero is very good defensively which also helps. So, I admit I have a soft spot for Quintero (although I have Jonathan Lucroy sitting in wait), but in an NL only format, in a game where catching is beyond shallow, Quintero is a good thought for a second catcher. Quintero has had increasing playing time the last three years, and has had a great spring, hitting .452 with five knocks over 13 spring games. With 350-plus at-bats, I am guessing Quintero will have his career year, going maybe .255-7-50. That will be fine for a No. 2 catcher in a deep NL format.
While we are in Houston, Wilton Lopez is a more than viable option for your pen. The 27-year old was 5-2, 2.96 last year over 67 innings, with 66 hits allowed, 50 strikeouts, and just five walks. That's a WHIP of 1.07, and would want that.
I have long soured on Russell Branyan, but to truly win, one must be truly objective. And that means, as with Quintero, in a tight National League, you have to consider Branyan, who has probably earned the every day first base job at Chase Field. Branyan does whiff a lot, but he also will hit 22-25 homers and knock in 60-75, and especially in a deep format, that is the difference between first and third. Maybe more if Branyan can hit .250 or better, something he has done three times over 13 seasons. (He is kind of like Jack Cust in the NL now.)
There was a time when Jack Wilson put together a 201 hit season (2004), and over the past two years, he has been hurt. But, Wilson can hit, albeit without a lot of power. Wilson has a .267 average over the past ten years, with 61 homers, 33 triples, and 233 doubles. Wilson has the starting second base job in Seattle until Dustin Ackley comes up--which will be soon--and I will bet Wilson can take back shortstop then, too. Again, for Wilson, and most of these players, we are not thinking of shallow or mixed formats. But, in a deep or tight league, filling a spot with an every day player is key, and Wilson, for now, is just that.
In another league, at the opposite end of the spectrum, second baseman Darwin Barney, a 25-year old upstart, could likely give the Cubbies a boost up the middle, partnering with fellow youngin' Starlin Castro. Barney hit well at Triple-A last year, going .297-2-47, with 11 swipes and 24 doubles. It is hard to imagine Blake DeWitt holding the job--since he was never really a starter in the first place--and why the team has rotated stock among Roy Fontenot, Ryan Theirot, and Dewitt is kind of a mystery. For now Barney will get the at-bats, however, and again, at-bats and innings pitched are always worth reviewing, and almost always worth pursuing.
I wish I could feel the same about Jack Hannahan, the former Athletic, now starting third sacker for the Tribe. Hannahan is hitting .386 over 14 spring games, but I saw enough of him in Oakland, and I don't think the third sacker can get around on a fastball. Hannahan does have a solid minor league OBP at .358, but at The Show, it is a meager .311. I don't see that improving.
Finally, Casper Wells is outfielder No. 4 Detroit town (well, No. 5 if you consider Brennan Boesch) and, Wells did hit 21 homers last year, though had a Cust/Branyan like .233 average and 41 RBI. Wells, however, rocked it over 36 games last year, going .323-4-17 over a September call-up. Keep an eye on Wells, who might come down to earth and hit more like his career minor league .250 average (.339 OBP).