Key Injuries Coming into Your Fantasy Baseball Season

Fantasy owners would be wise to shy away from Crisp

Fantasy owners would be wise to shy away from Crisp

By Greg Pokriki –

Coco Crisp- Oakland Athletics

Coco Crisp had successful surgery on his elbow on Friday and is out for at least the next 6-8 weeks. The best advice for handling Crisp in the fantasy world would be to avoid him in the draft. If you have a deep enough bench after the draft and feel comfortable using a wasted spot for two months on him, grab him out of free agency. However, at 35-years-old and injured you must understand the risk. Unless you can snag him for a cheap price in an auction format, avoid Crisp in the draft.

Justin Verlander- Detroit Tigers

In other fantasy baseball news, the Tigers announced that Justin Verlander will be start the MLB season on the DL. However, the organization seems confident that he will be ready to return quickly. Manager Brad Ausmus said it’s simply a matter of carrying a complete roster into opening day, not a long-term situation. With that in mind, Verlander’s drack stock should not be heavily penalized in your league. He’s a natural competitor and will likely return quickly. He also knows he has something to prove this season after a down 2014. The Tigers are counting on Verlander this season, and you shouldn’t have any reservations doing the same for your fantasy team.

Curtis Granderson- New York Mets

Unfortunately, Granderson is very familiar with the injury bug. Even further, Granderson is familiar with being hit by pitches forcing him to miss time. Thursday Granderson’s old friend revisited him, as he was struck on the knee by a Lance Lynn pitch. His fate is now uncertain. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” Granderson said. This is one situation to monitor very closely when deciding if and when to draft Granderson. He has put in a phenomenal spring training. He’s parked three homeruns and is hitting .435. If healthy, it seems Granderson is primed for a big year. He’s also somewhat flying under the radar, giving him steal potential for your fantasy team. Keep an eye on his knee, but stay confident on a healthy Granderson.

Bruce Rondon- Detroit Tigers

Rondon is no stranger to the DL. He spendt all of 2014 watching from home after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, Rondon returns to the DL with bicep tendinitis. Concern luckily remains low and optimism high around Detroit. Apparently the injury is very common for pitchers, specifically when picking their game back up in spring. The Tigers are not expecting this to be a long-term situation. With their generally weak bullpen and softened starting staff from last season, a good campaign from Rondon would be ideal for the Tigers. His fantasy stock should remain around the same area for now, but be sure to monitor his next throwing session before over committing.

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David Price Won’t Disappoint – 2015 Fantasy Draft

Price is a safe bet for your 2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft

Price is a safe bet for your 2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft

By Greg Pokriki –

The impact spring training has differs from pitcher to pitcher. For young players, their performance in spring often heavily determines their fate. However, many veterans use spring training as a time to shed rust. The process isn’t always pretty, but it’s exactly that: A process. More often than not, veteran pitchers can turn their games around in time for Opening Day and are primed for the start of the season.

Fantasy owners are hoping that David Price can do just that as opening day draws ever closer. The Detroit Tigers ace has traditionally struggled during the spring, but somehow always manages to turn it once the games begin to count.

This past Tuesday, Price allowed seven runs in six innings of work. However, he was perfect through the first three innings. This paradox should probably be chalked up to spring rust. A poor back half to a spring start should not heavily influence Price’s draft stock for the 2015 fantasy baseball season.

Overall, Price is an ace and should be treated as such. He has turned in seven consecutive seasons with an ERA+ over 100, topping out at 150 in 2012. He’s also a workhorse, logging back-to-back 34 start seasons. That type of high production coupled with a huge workload is a bounty for any fantasy owner.

For some reason, it appears that Price has slipped under the radar since joining the Tigers. Maybe it’s because he’s no longer the sole standout like his days in Tampa. And maybe the popularity will reignite now that Max Scherzer has fled to Washington. Either way, he certainly deserves your full attention on fantasy draft day when his name hits the board.

Don’t Jump on These Pitchers – 2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft

Scratch Brewers starter Mike Fiers off your wish list

Scratch Brewers starter Mike Fiers off your wish list

By Greg Pokriki:

With the upcoming draft, we have been covering a wide variety of fantasy baseball sleepers, but this list is more about the potential busts. Pitchers who have limited upside and would be better off on any other team besides yours.

Mike Fiers – Milwaukee Brewers

Calling Fiers’ 2014 campaign lucky is unfair and a discredit to a collection of solid outings. Plenty of owners saw Fiers fall into their lap late off the waiver wire. He registered an outstanding August and a fine September, though he wasn’t going as deep into games. Fiers September included an increase in hits and walks allowed. In 2015, he likely will return to those workman like numbers. His personal dip is indicative of the entire Brewers team in 2014, which saw the wheels fall off the wagon of their division lead and playoff spot late in the regular season. There is no need to avoid Fiers like the plague, but certainly be aware that his previous production certainly isn’t sustainable for 2015.

CC Sabathia – New York Yankees

Though Sabathia was injured for the majority of 2014 and it’s unfair to judge him on that alone, his steady decline in production over this latter half of his career is reason enough to avoid. In his last full season of work, 2013, Sabathia allowed the most runs in MLB. He tallied his worst ERA+ in his career and also allowed 28 home runs, a career high for the former ace. Sabathia’s decline is written on the wall. Add a trying injury recovery to that and you have a player to steer clear of in 2015.

Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians

Kluber put in an outstanding 2014, securing the Cy Young Award—and rightfully so. But, there is reason for hesitation. A Cy Young Award does not guarantee future continued dominance—just ask RA Dickey. There is no reason to solely look at Kluber’s 2014 campaign in the same sense that you can’t just assume Justin Verlander is a bum pitcher because he struggled last season. When drafting a fantasy baseball team, you have to factor in a pitchers’ entire body of work. 2014 was Kluber’s first year with more than 25 games started and 150 innings pitched. He also had never previously had a season with an ERA+ over 100, the league average, or a FIP under 3.30. It’s fair to think that Kluber figured it out in 2014 and will be a stud from now until the day he calls it quits. But it’s also fair to hold out reservations and not overspend on him in an auction draft.

A. J. Burnett – Pittsburgh Pirates

At 38-years-old, Burnett has announced that this will be his final season. He obviously sees his own decline, and you should too. Last season he posted one of his highest career WHIP and worst career ERA+. He is headed back to the Pirates, so he should see an increase in wins from last year, where he only posted eight. However, Burnett is no longer investing in his own future, and neither should you. With his age and decline, Burnett’s best days are behind him.

Better to Take a Pass on Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz has more risk than reward coming into the 2015 season

By Tim Haberin:

Clay Buchholz ended his Spring Training on a positive note, holding the Twins scoreless over four innings of work. The Red Sox righty struck out four in the outing but also appeared to lack some sharpness, giving up six hits and walking one. The performance was representative of Buchholz’s spring as a whole, one in which he looked much better than he did in a dismal 2014 though not quite flashing the form he reached earlier in his career.

Last year was one to forget for Buchholz; in 28 starts he put up a 5.34 ERA, managing an 8-11 record on a Boston squad that finished at the bottom of the AL East. The Sox expect to fare better this season after adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval over the winter, and Buchholz hopes to reap some benefit backed by that improved lineup.

Advanced statistics also suggest that he wasn’t quite as bad as his 2014 numbers show. His 4.01 FIP was significantly lower than his ERA, meaning some better luck and supporting defense could make a big difference in this year’s results. Buchholz’s case would also be helped by last season’s .321 BABIP and 62% strand rate returning to league-average levels.

Despite some reasons for optimism, it remains difficult to feel truly bullish about Buchholz’s prospects. He’s been inconsistent throughout his career, so while you shouldn’t count on a repeat of 2014, neither should you bank on the 12-1 record and 1.74 ERA of the season prior. Injuries have been a concern as well: Buchholz’s sterling 2013 was shortened by a neck strain, and he underwent knee surgery at the end of last September. It’s unclear how much you can reasonably expect him to rebound and whether he can be relied upon to make it though a full season as he turns 31 this year.

If you’re inclined to take a gamble on Buchholz, look to pick him in the last round of your draft. However, you would probably be better served by waiting to see how he does in his first few regular season starts before deciding if he can contribute to your 2015 MLB fantasy team.

Top Relievers for Your 2015 Fantasy Draft

Chapman

When it comes to closers, Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed King of the Hill

By Tim Haberin

1. Aroldis Chapman – Cincinnati Reds

Chapman’s flamethrower of an arm has made him one the game’s finest closers, and 2015 should once again see him top the list. He notched 38, 38, and 36 saves in the previous three seasons, respectively. Chapman’s fantasy value, of course, comes not just in the consistent stream of saves he provides but also in the astounding rate at which he strikes out opposing hitters. Last year’s ethereal 17.7 K/9 was best among relievers by a wide margin, and at 27 years of age there’s little reason to think his 100-mph fastball will be any less relentless this season. Drafting closers is always tricky business, but you can select Chapman with confidence in the fifth round and onwards.

2. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel shares much in common with Chapman: he’s young, throws very hard, and has already proven his ability to thrive in the closer’s role. He’s led the National League in saves in all but his debut season, and the 50 saves he secured in 2013 topped both leagues. With the Braves looking weaker this year the save opportunities might not be as abundant, but Kimbrel will still get plenty of work and rack up strikeouts (95 Ks in 62.1 IP in 2014). He should not be left on the draft board much longer than Chapman.

3. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals

Since his first full season as the Royals closer in 2013, Holland has rapidly ascended into the upper echelon of relievers. He saved 47 and 46 games in the past two seasons and was a major component of Kansas City’s improbable run to the World Series. In his tenure he’s maintained a WHIP under 1.00 and at least a 13.0 K/9 rate. The Royals generated 65 save opportunities in 2014, the sixth-most in MLB, and Holland will likely continue to receive steady work in the new campaign. As with the previous two pitchers on this list, you can justify picking Holland in the 5th round or later of a 12-team draft.

4. Mark Melancon – Pittsburgh Pirates

Melancon has been a quiet revelation the last two years working out of the Pirates bullpen, flourishing in multiple roles. He took the closing reins from a struggling Jason Grilli in June of last season and didn’t look back, earning 33 saves while posting a .873 WHIP and a strikeout per inning. Pittsburgh’s 72 total save opportunities were tied for the most in baseball in 2014, and their closer should remain busy this year finishing games for what hopes to be a very competitive team. Target Melancon in round 7 or later.

Sleeper: Brad Boxberger – Tampa Bay Rays

The closer landscape gets decidedly murkier beneath its top tier. If you’re inclined to roll the dice a bit on a talented reliever with upside, look no further than the Rays’ Brad Boxberger. Manager Kevin Cash has said the 26-year-old right-hander will fill in for about a month as incumbent closer Jake McGee recovers from elbow surgery. Boxberger put up some great numbers in 64.2 innings last season, striking out 104 batters and surrendering only 17 earned runs. He should offer significant value in April and potentially beyond. Though McGee is no slouch, Boxberger might be given the chance to hold onto the closer’s job if he impresses, especially on a young squad in transition like Tampa Bay. Owners could consider taking him as a sleeper candidate with one of their last couple draft selections.

Hot Hitters for Your 2015 MLB Fantasy Draft

Mike Trout is poised for another MVP season

Mike Trout is poised for another MVP season

Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels

Arguably the best player in MLB Fantasy, Trout is poised for another MVP season. Trout, just 23 years old has been on a tear since he has come into the league. The 2014 MVP finished batting .287 with 36 HR and 11 RBI. That was his lowest batting average since he has come into the league but his power numbers continue to get better. Trout has vowed to become a better hitter and strikeout less. He will help your fantasy team in every facet of the game is worth the first overall selection in the draft.

Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates

The 2013 MVP, is next up on our list. Andrew McCutchen has been unbelievable for the Pirates in the last few seasons finishing in the top 3 in MVP voting the past couple of years. If it wasn’t for Clayton Kershaw’s remarkable 2014 season, McCutchen could have easily been holding 2 MVP trophies. He finished last season batting .314 with 25 HR an 83 RBI. He’s been dealing with a lower back issue, but is expected to be completely healthy for the upcoming season. Look for his power numbers to stay steady as well as his batting average. McCutchen is as close to a sure thing you can find in this years draft.

Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins

Stanton is coming off an incredible 2014 campaign. His season was cut short after his terrifying injury but he is completely healthy for the 2015 season. Stanton finished last season with 37 HR and 105 RBI batting .288. Stanton is often considered the most feared hitter in the league because of his ability to take any pitch to any part of the park. His unbelievable power to go along with his great eye makes Stanton one of the premier players in our game today. Stanton will look to lead the Marlins to the playoffs, and will only do so by having a similar season to last years.

Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks

Goldschmidt’s 2014 season ended only 109 games because of a left hand fracture. We only saw glimpses of the type of player Goldschmidt can become. In 2013, Goldschmidt had a stellar campaign batting .302 with 36 HR and 125 RBI. He brings a big power bat to your lineup as well as the ability to hit for a high average. If he is able to stay healthy throughout the 2015 season, he will likely have another great season and prove to fantasy owners that he is one of the top bats in the league.

Don’t Pull the Plug on Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips is still looking for his form in Spring Season

Brandon Phillips is still looking for his form in Spring Season

By Greg Pokriki –

Even with his terrible numbers during spring training, it would be a major mistake to dismiss Brandon Phillips. The baseball community is always quick to judge, handing out proverbial MVP awards after just the first week of the season and Hall of Fame plaques after one solid season. In the same sense, baseball fans are just as quick to outcast a player after one down season, pushing him to the back burner to be ultimately forgotten. Brandon Phillips has fallen victim to the latter.

Though Phillips struggled last season, he’s only one season removed from an 18 home run, All Star season. He’s a lifetime .271 hitter and has knocked in over 70 RBI in seven of the last nine seasons. To not even consider him for your team would be a mistake.

Of course, there is some reason for reservation. Phillips is only 8-39 this spring putting him at a .205 average. He’s also coming off a significantly down season, though one that was slightly tainted by injury. He only played in 121 games and logged 499 at bats. His power severely dipped, hitting only eight home runs. However, he hasn’t hit any less than 17 in any other season since 2006. He logged only 51 RBI on the season as well. Phillips’ 1.7 WAR was his worst since 2006 as well.

Obviously last season was a disappointment for Phillips, but that doesn’t exclude him from any future success. He’s a talented and persevering personality who doesn’t take kindly to failure. The Reds as a whole are looking at a bounce back season. The lineup will have to be better than last year, and Phillips is not immune to that. If you can get Phillips at the right time or for the right price there is no reason not to add him to your squad. You may even get him as a sleeper if others in your league aren’t paying him the respect he deserves.

Michael Wacha on Fire Coming into 2015

Michael Wacha is on fire coming into the 2015 season

Michael Wacha is on fire coming into the 2015 season

By Tim Haberin –

It appears that Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha is leaving his shoulder problems in the rearview mirror. Wacha tossed 5.2 shutout innings and fanned four on Wednesday, March 25, edging Max Scherzer and the Nationals in a 1-0 Spring Training victory. The performance is good news for MLB fantasy owners counting on the young starter to do big things in 2015.

Last season saw him start just 19 games as a shoulder injury sidelined him for two and a half months. Referred to as a “stress reaction” of the shoulder rather than a fracture, the injury was deemed not as severe as similar ones suffered by pitchers such as Brandon McCarthy. Wacha has shown no lingering effects of the ailment, posting a 1.76 ERA and walking only one batter in 15.1 innings this spring.

Though he pitched through discomfort for significant stretches of last year, Wacha still managed some impressive numbers that point toward the front-end rotation piece St. Louis hopes he can be.

At only 23 years old, Wacha appears well-suited to rebound quickly from his shoulder woes and continue improving during the upcoming season. However, his youth may also spell some disadvantages as far as fantasy owners are concerned. In two big league seasons, Wacha has logged only 171.2 innings, and the Cardinals may try to take things slow on the heels of his shoulder issue and not push him. It’s possible he might be limited to around five innings some nights and miss out on some valuable wins and quality starts.

Regardless, the talent and potential are there, and you shouldn’t hesitate to pick Wacha around the 130th selection of your draft. If he takes the ball every five days, he can certainly be a top-25 starting pitcher in 2015. He should prove an asset in terms of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts even if wins are a bit inconsistent.

Dodgers Bet the House on Hector Olivera

Hector Olivera

Fantasy owners should take their time before scooping up Hector Olivera

By Greg Pokriki –

After the Dodgers struck a 6-year, $62.5 million deal with 30-year-old Cuban superstar Hector Olivera, it was revealed that he has a slight tear in his UCL.

Olivera should be able to play through the injury as the Dodgers opened up the checkbook and beat out all the other potential suitors. Ideally Olivera would make an immediate impact at third base, although the Dodgers already have the reliable Juan Uribe in place for this season at third as well.

Many will criticize the Dodgers for overpaying an undeserving and inexperienced player, but that logic seems unfair. They have the resources and the backup plan. For a lesser organization this may break the bank, but for the Dodgers, it’s low risk high reward.

Olivera has serious potential to be a force in the already forceful Los Angeles lineup. His power must be respected and he should be able to transfer it to the big leagues. Olivera has 96 home runs in 2,800 at bats since 2003 with an OPS of .912 during that time span.

Fantasy owners should consider themselves in a similar position as the Dodgers when contemplating Olivera. He’ll likely be a free agent pick up for most teams, and at the very worst eats up a spot on your bench.

You shouldn’t pick him up right away, but monitor him closely to see how he progresses within the organization. But don’t wait too long, moves like these are what win fantasy championships.

Quick Tips for a Better Fantasy Draft

Get organized before you are on the clock!

Get organized before you are on the clock!

You will always encounter players who have been cramming for the upcoming fantasy draft for weeks now. They are reading every fantasy trade publication, listening to sports radio in the car and watching Baseball Tonight podcasts into the wee hours of the morning. However, all is not lost. With a little bit of common sense and a some sensible research, the average sports fan can be ready for the draft in about 90 minutes.

Fantasy Sports championships are rarely won during the initial fantasy draft, but building a decent fantasy squad NEVER hurts. Here are 3 tips to help smooth out the bumps in this year’s fantasy draft:

Make, borrow or steal a 1-PAGE cheat sheet –

Have a notebook, laminated placard or scrap of paper that has at least 3 players listed that you really want at each position. This takes a little more homework, but it gives you a rough strategy on how to run your draft.

Feel free to stray away if you see a juicy player sitting on the board, but keep the list handy. When those seconds start ticking away, having a cheat sheet could mean the difference between drafting a solid player or another completely wasted pick.

Phones can die, computers can lose signal, magazines are too hard to navigate, one piece of paper is all that you need. Your cheat sheet must limited to ONE-PAGE. There’s nothing more entertaining that watching someone with 2 open magazines and 30 sheets of paper flying around like a sand storm while they are trying to remember the name of that hotshot minor leaguer that’s supposed to set the league on fire.

Don’t be a Charles Barkley!

Sir Charles obviously has no business calling NCAA Men’s college games because he could care less. During the first half of the Kansas vs. Wichita State game, he mentioned that Cliff Alexander was playing pretty good. The only problem is that Cliff Alexander in under investigation by the NCAA and hasn’t stepped foot on basketball court in the nearly a month.

My point is, even if you are a casual player, READ an MLB INJURY REPORT!

It never ceases to amaze me during a fantasy draft when some genius scoops up a player who is injured, suspended or is already done for the year. It takes about 20 minutes for that bit of research and saves you from a wasted pick or being the laughing stock of your fantasy league.

Only draft players you have actually heard of –

This seems like common sense, but many people still feel compelled to roll the dice.

WOW – You found a top-50 ranked pitcher – And he’s still on the board, what a steal!!

Maybe, maybe not? It doesn’t matter how this player slipped under your notice, drafting someone you don’t know is tempting, but not worth the risk. There are 1,200 active players to choose from and it only makes sense to draft someone you have heard of before.