Over the next few weeks, you will hear over and over again not to buy into spring training statistics too much, since in the grand scheme of things, they mean very little when it comes to evaluating how guys will perform once the real games begin. Still, it is hard to not take notice of guys who take the opportunity that these games provide to gain their respective managers' attention and possibly force their way not only onto the Opening Day roster, but also onto the fantasy radar. While early stats must always be taken with a grain of salt, injuries are another aspect of camp that will alter depth charts and rankings lists, and with so many of the top fantasy players drafting earlier than ever before, the chances that you draft multiple players whose stock will shift, sometimes quite drastically, are bigger than ever.Just last week, I wrote about my own personal affinity for Yordano Ventura and how I was drafting him late in hopes that he would emerge as the Royals' fifth starter when all was said and done. The very next day, Luke Hochevar was diagnosed with an injury and will undergo Tommy John surgery, wiping out his entire season. He was a key part of the Royals bullpen last year, and now with him out of the picture, the path for Ventura gets just a little clearer. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look around the junior circuit at some other players whose stock is headed up over the past week.
Rajai Davis, OF, DET - Back in January, longtime Mastersballer Steve Bradley e-mailed me to ask how I felt about Rajai Davis’ prospects and if I had any intention of highlighting him as a sleeper for AL-only drafters. We had a little back and forth over the speedster's merits, and I agreed that he was a nice target for anyone looking for cheap speed at the draft table. Now with the news that Andy Dirks will miss 2-3 months with back surgery, no one has seen their stock rise faster than Davis. He will more than likely open the year as the primary left fielder for the TIgers and the increased playing time makes rostering him less of a gamble than it was before. Davis stole 45 bases last year in just 360 at-bats for the Blue Jays. Before the Dirks injury, he was slated to be on the wrong side of a platoon, which would have limited his plate appearances, which meant his impact on the bases would be muted. Now, even if the team brings in another bat to platoon with him, he should get closer to 400 at-bats, with a bulk of them coming in the first half. The bad news, of course, is that he will no longer come nearly as cheap as he was in early drafts. I wonder if the Tigers are kicking themselves for selling so low on Doug Fister now, since they could have used him to get a viable replacement for Dirks and keep Davis in the role he was slated for. Don Kelly and Steve Lombardozzi are the best in house options to split time with Davis, barring a trade for someone like Mike Carp or Michael Saunders. I’m thinking that the TIgers will just roll with what they have out of the gate and see what Davis can do with the extra playing time. If you got him early and cheap, congratulations, you likely will be rewarded with 10-20 more stolen bases than you thought you were getting on draft day.Jonathan Schoop, 2B, BAL - A few weeks ago, I touched on the Orioles' rookie second baseman as a name to keep an eye on this spring in the battle for the starting second base job in Baltimore. The departure of Brian Roberts opened up a spot, and as such the battle between Schoop, Jemile Weeks and veterans Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla has been one of the bigger storylines in camp. From the outset, Flaherty seemed to have a big edge on the competition to start the year, but Schoop in particular is turning heads this spring, going 8-for-15 with two doubles and a home run so far. Buck Showalter has come out and stated that he wants to take the best 25 guys to start the season, and that in turn has pointed the arrow toward Schoop. The biggest question is if the team wants to rush another of their top prospects to the Majors, but working in Schoop’s favor is the fact that both Weeks and Flaherty also have options left. Flaherty may also have to cover third base to start the year until Manny Machado is back, and that could be all the opening the promising rookie needs to take the job for good. Flaherty profiles better as a utility guy, so I believe Showalter won’t be shy about rolling with Schoop to start the year if he keeps up his hot hitting. I purchased Schoop for $2 in my CBS AL Auction a couple weeks back as my MI. It was one of those situations late in the draft where I was bargain hunting and sitting on a couple extra bucks. When Schoop’s name came out, I quickly hit $2 and waited for someone to snag him from me. I had to hedge my bet in the reserve round with Jeff Keppinger, but even if he doesn’t start the year in the Majors, I feel a lot more positive about that investment today and don’t see how the names ahead of him on the depth chart can keep the future of the position for the team down long in a season where a return to the playoffs is the primary goal.
Marc Krauss/Jesus Guzman, 1B/OF, HOU - I feel like every time I sit down to write these pre-season articles, I find new Astros to write about. I guess that is to be expected from a team that has lost over 100 games three years in a row and seemingly has position battles happening up and down the roster this spring. The team has some high-impact prospects coming up the ladder, but the fact is that until those guys are ready, there will be opportunities for other less heralded players to step up, and that means value at a deep discount. Opportunity and playing time are the keys, especially for deep-leagues, and the Astros have two guys in Krauss and Guzman that are flying way under the radar in the battle for playing time at 1B/OF/DH.Jonathan Singleton is struggling in camp and seems headed for Triple-A to start the year. His inability to impress so far has opened the door for those around him to stake a claim to more playing time. Krauss, a 26-year-old prospect, is having a great camp and as a left-handed bat, should make the team to start the year as a platoon option at both first base and DH. He is currently hitting .529 with two home runs in Astros camp. There isn’t a ton of upside here based on the fact that he has never been considered an elite prospect and that he struggled pretty badly in his 52-game stint last year. but he has good power and if he can squeeze out 300-350 at-bats, he could deliver 10-15 homers , which at least makes him a worthy reserve pick for AL-only leagues.
Guzman isn’t getting a lot of respect from fantasy drafters early this year, and AL-only owners likely aren’t too familiar with him since he spent the last three years as a part-time player with the Padres. He has been a sleeper candidate on these pages in previous seasons but never was really able to break out in San Diego after showing some promise back in 2011. So why am I talking about a guy who has never hit more than nine home runs in a season before and was traded for utilityman Ryan Jackson over the winter? Well, for me, the renewed upside that I see starts with the escape from Petco Park. Guzman was brutal at his home park last year, hitting a meager .164 with zero home runs. Away from Petco, he was much better with a .279 batting average and all of his nine home runs. Those are pretty big splits, and it’s not hard to see that he is going to like his new digs since Minute Maid Park is a much more friendly place to hit home runs. Guzman can also play the outfield, and until George Springer arrives, he will serve as an option behind Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes at the corners and brings more power to the table than either option, which could net him some additional at-bats if the team wants more pop in the lineup. Neither of these guys are going to take the league by storm, but both could be useful bench players, especially in very deep leagues.Grady Sizemore, OF, BOS - Everyone loves comeback stories, and there probably isn’t a better one this year than the former All-Star trying to make it back to the Majors with the Red Sox. It was a low-risk gamble for the World Champs, who had a void to fill in centerfield and atop their lineup with the defection of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees. Sizemore was brought in to help push rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., but now it is starting to look like he just might make the team to start the year while the rookie would get sent back to Triple-A for more seasoning.
Manager John Farrell knows Sizemore well from their time together in the Indians organization, and as such has vivid memories of when he was electrifying fans with his stellar play in centerfield for the Tribe. It is hard to believe, but Sizemore hasn’t played a major-league game since late 2011 thanks to a litany of injuries and surgeries to his back and knees. He skipped all of 2013 after not being physically ready and rededicated himself to getting healthy enough to give it another go this year. He reportedly has shown flashes of the player he used to be, enough to start the talk that he may well indeed land a job on Boston’s bench. He was in the leadoff spot Monday and the next step for him is to show he can play in back-to-back games. At this point, I think Grady is worthy of a late-round dart just about anywhere. Like the Red Sox, if it doesn’t work out, you aren’t really losing anything. Count me as one of those who will be rooting for him to succeed.