The hardest division in the league, which includes last year’s world champs, looks to be just as intense again. For that matter, it probably will be that way for the foreseeable future. My favorite team is also being covered here. I’ll do my best not to be biased about the Yankees, and I think I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions away from the reality of the team. That being said, I think the Yankees are going to win 120 games this season. (You can check out the NL West Spring Training Preview here, the AL West Spring Training Preview here, the AL Central Spring Training Preview here and the NL East Spring Training Preview here.)
Poor Blue Jays, they go on a spending spree and it basically backfires on them. Not much is new this year, but hopefully they’ll have better luck than last year.
I think we all know where I’m going to start off, everyone’s favorite knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield…oh crap, I mean R.A. Dickey…yeah…him. After a couple good years with the Mets, Dickey tried to follow up in Canada. Canada didn’t seem to work out too well for him. Good news is that he is probably still worth 200 IP since the knuckleball is easy on the body. Those innings will join a low 4’s ERA, and 160+ K’s. That’s still ownable, even at the ripe age of 39. Next up is Brandon Morrow. He is a riskier option that I doubt most people will take a chance on. He has only put in 31 starts over the past two seasons, so that’s an issue, and his ERA has never been spectacular, outside of a seemingly fluky 2012. I’d pass. Next on the list is Mark Buehrle. Buerhle is a decent option, mostly for his consistency. He really is a train that keeps rolling. He has started at least 30 games and thrown over 200 innings every year since 2001. That’s crazy. Now that I said that, I’m sure he’ll need Tommy John surgery sometime this week. He is a good back end starter because you know what you’re getting, which isn’t upside. The rest of the starters fighting for the last spots aren’t worth owning, but if I cut corners, the other writers paddle me. Esmil Rogers and J.A. Happ, there, I said some names. Happ probably has a spot because he is being paid a lot and he has been at least decent for the past several years (if you want to call it that). Rogers is next in line, and he is even less spectacular. Todd Redmond or Drew Hutchison are in line to get some starts, but I would count on them even less. It’s really meaningless to mention some of these guys, but I’m trying to spare myself some red butt cheeks. As I’m writing this, I have noticed there is some news on Ervin Santana. As far as I can tell, he is being fought over by the Jays and Orioles. If Santana signs here, Rogers probably gets knocked out.
Good news for the Jays: the bullpen is as good as their starting rotation is bad. Casey Janssen is a top ten or fifteen closer, and is probably a little undervalued. His WHIP has been under 1.00 for the past two seasons. After that there are four relievers I like: Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, and Aaron Loup. They all should have good numbers, but they won’t be putting up holds. No one has put up more than 20 holds for the Jays since 2010.
I think I’m going to start with the Blue Jays’ most questionable position, second base. Last year the Jays’ second basemen put up a combined wRC+ of 69.1. For those of you that don’t know wRC+, it’s a standardized measure of batting performance where 100 is average, and higher is better. Right now Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis will be splitting time there…neither is worth owning in just about any league. After Brett Lawrie had a breakout quarter season his rookie year, he has been less than spectacular. That being said, people keep waiting for him to do better, and there isn’t anyone lined up to take his spot. He is a top fifteen third basemen still, and could be better if he gets 140+ games in. The BJs’ have nothing worthwhile behind the plate. Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole, and Erik Kratz have that job. If you could join all three of them into one mega-catcher, that would be serviceable. Separately they don’t quite pan out. Even after eleven years and multiple injuries, Jose Reyes is still a top short stop. While he won’t be stealing 50+ bags again, he will still hit for average and score runs. The injury probably gives him a discount too. Who is on first? Edwin Encarnacion. Out of nowhere, Encarnacion broke out in 2012. I have no idea if it is sustainable, but 2013 proved it wasn’t a one-year fluke. He is going in the first or second round of drafts I’ve seen. That is the right price for how he has been producing, hopefully he keeps it up. The outfield is reserved for Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, and Jose Bautista. I don’t see any of them losing time. All three should be owned, but I don’t trust Cabrera after he was suspended enlarging his head while shrinking his giblets. Rasmus is the most borderline of the three, but the Jays just shelled out $7 mil for him, so I doubt they’ll give that up easy. Joey Bats is not the same as he was a couple years ago. He hasn’t topped 120 games since 2011. That being said, if he stays healthy, it’s going to be a fun year for JB owners. Last on the list is Adam Lind. If you want to use the team name “Lind Chocolate Truffles” in your fantasy league, be my guest. Just make sure you give me a footnote. Lind is infuriating: one year he is good, the next he isn’t. Make up your mind already. I won’t take him because of the risk, and because he doesn’t have good position eligibility.
The Orioles had a nice, albeit disappointing, season last year. They made a ton of moves in the offseason, and are hoping for the best.
The newly signed Ubaldo Jimenez will lead the average Orioles rotation into battle. He isn’t much of a number one starter for either the Orioles or whatever squad you march into your fantasy battles. His walk rate and WHIP scare me, sitting at 4.04/9 and 1.35 respectively over his career. The good news is he will strike out nearly one batter an inning, and he will get over 175 innings in. Next in line at the sour candy store is Miguel Gonzalez. He doesn’t strike out enough batters to be overly worthwhile, and his BABIP should regress. Anyone who starts their MLB career at age 28 (and didn’t come from another country, before someone in the comments calls me out) probably has some kinks, and not the sexy kind. Chris Tillman is better than Gonzalez, probably. He seemed to breakout last year, pitching his first full season and keeping his ERA under 4.00 at the same time. He also improved his strikeout rate. I like him more than Jimenez. The last two spots are most likely reserved for Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen. Both are probably as good as Gonzalez. The main difference is that Norris is K-machine and Chen isn’t. They’re good for deep leagues. Prospect Kevin Gausman might get some starts, especially if someone above falters. He didn’t wow last year, but he was a rookie so that’s expected. If Ervin Santana signs here, I think Chen will get knocked out of a rotation slot.
The loss of Jim Johnson could have been big for the O’s, but they just stuck their middle finger up at all the naysayers and got someone new. Tommy Hunter will most likely be the closer on Opening Day. He will probably be a good lower end option for saves. After him, the only reliever worth mentioning is Darren O’Day. He will be a solid option for holds and rate stats. If Hunter falters, the DoD will probably turn into a closer. I have already drafted three leagues, and I own O’Day in two. One of those counts holds, and I have a feeling he is going to be sweet, sweet music to my ears.
This is the fun part of the Orioles roster. I’ll start with everyone’s favorite breakout: Chris Davis (not to be confused with the ever popular Khris Davis). Crush Davis went on a power binge, sealing two of the three Triple Crown categories. This breakout was beyond ridiculous, and he is now a top ten option, along with brethren Adam Jones. I highly doubt he will repeat those numbers, not to say that he won’t get close. I’m thinking 40 homers is more his speed. His average will also fall down to his old levels. It’s difficult to sustain an average over .280 while striking out in almost 30% of at bats. Jones, on the other hand, doesn’t show many signs of slowing down. He has always been good, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he did it again. I’ve heard some buzz about his low walk rate, but he has always been like that. If I work my way down the ADP line, I get to Manny Machado. We all know he is an injury risk, and might not start the season, but the offseason rehab looks promising, and he is young. I like him, and the injury only makes him a cheaper buy. Next stop, Nelson Cruz. I don’t know what to say about Cruz. The PED scandal puts a damper on his value, so I’ll probably be avoiding him because of it. If he was an outstanding player, I would be more optimistic, but he is just above average (because that’s something to scoff at I guess). Next stop, shortstop: J.J. Hardy. Hardy won’t be giving you the steals that everyone wants from the position, but he will make up for it in power. If you don’t need steals, or are taking a SAGNOF route, Hardy is your man. As our tour continues, we come to Matt Wieters. He is the Chris Carter of catchers. Don’t believe me? Take a look at 2013:
I think we are starting to see the downfall of Nick Markakis, which sucks, because I like him. He’s the kind of guy you invite out to the bar with your friends. But then again, I’m not a fan of bars or beer. Markakis seemed to have good running stats last year, but it took him 700 PA to get there. Good news is that he doesn’t get hurt often. My biggest concern is the average, which I think will stay where it was last year (.271). I know that’s not a terrible average, but it is for Markakis. At this point, the player quality falls below the draftable threshold. While Nolan Reimold will not be fighting for his position, he won’t be doing anything special either. Lastly, we have Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop. Flaherty has second locked down right now, but he wasn’t particularly memorable there: similar to when you cannot remember what you had for breakfast. Schoop-da-woop is a mildly interesting prospect who might steal some time when he gets called up. Steamer projects him playing in 68 games this year, so take that for what it’s worth.
In my opinion, the Rays are the best Moneyball team. They are really good at getting value out of their players. They haven’t been below .500 since 2007, and they have eclipsed ninety wins since 2008. I like them again this year, which is bad news bears for the Yankees.
Welcome back, Kotter…oh wait, I mean David Price. The Rays locked down Price for one more year to be their number one guy. They’ll probably use him as trade bait later in the year, because he will probably end up outside of their price range soon. Nothing much new with him, you’ll get what you expect here. Alex Cobb is up next. I won’t talk about him much, since this website is a little obsessed with the guy. He is good, he is undervalued, buy Buy BUY! I’ll switch gears from a bull to a bear: Matt Moore. He pitched well above his skill level last year, so don’t expect a repeat. I mentioned a couple articles back that I would talk more on Moore, so I guess I’m obligated now. But I think I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves again:
The Dude mentioned above is not Jeff Bridges, but Tim Lincecum circa 2011. That’s a year before he exploded into the new and impaired version of himself. Moore is already worse than Lincecum was, so who knows what could come of him. I’ll pass. If it shows anything about the depth in this rotation, the Rays’ number four starter, Chris Archer, is still ownable. While he also played above his skill level last year, he will still be a good back-end starter with decent upside. Another rookie will close out the rotation, Jake Odorizzi. [Insert body odor joke here.] He is less proven than Archer, but there is some potential there. I would draft him to your bench and watch some starts. If it works out, great. If not, you only wasted a twenty third round pick.
The Rays rehired their old setup man, Grant Balfour. He got a little promotion this time around. He is probably a top ten closing option, and should get plenty of opportunities. After him, the Rays have Joel Peralta and Heath Bell. Bell’s name gives me a bad taste in my mouth. Who knows if he can return to form, I wouldn’t count on it though. Peralta is a safer option if you need some holds.
Wil Myers. The name just rolls off the tongue. Mr. Myers broke out last year during his rookie call up, earning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He is a hot target again this year, and there is little reason to believe that he won’t repeat last year’s numbers. Going across the outfield, we come across Desmond Jennings. Jennings is a decent leadoff hitter. His downside is that he doesn’t hit for a great average, and therefore doesn’t get on base as much as he should. But at least he is consistent. I really like consistency. Surprises are boring, why get a surprise when you can get the same old production? Jennings is a decent pick, but I did mention that you could get a roughly equivalent player in Angel Pagan. Next stop, David DeJesus. I wouldn’t expect much production from DeJesus Christ, especially since he could be splitting time with Matt Joyce. The odd man out will probably be DHing though, so they won’t lose too much time. At the hot corner is Eva Longoria, sorry, I mean Evan Longoria…although I would pay to see Eva play baseball. We all know Longoria (the male one) has had injury issues in the past, but he is still an elite producer. I like him a lot again, pull the trigger. Ugh, Yunel Escobar. I’ll pass, we all should. On second we have Ben Zobrist. I like the Zorilla, he even walks up to his wife’s music. I think he is a tad overvalued though. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good player, just not for his price tag. The Rays’ over-performer of the year was James Loney. Maybe I just wasn’t expecting him to play as well as he did though. His BABIP was a little high, so I’d expect a little regression. He is a prime candidate for a CI or UTIL slot in deep-ish leagues. The last mentions go to Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina. Nothing special here though, not worth owning in most leagues.
Ugh, I have to talk about the Red Sox. It pains me to do so, but that’s why they pay me the big bucks. Somehow they went from great to terrible to even better in the span of three years. I hope they suck, but they probably won’t. As a pride-filled Yankees fan, I cannot own any player on the Sox because it’s not in my nature to root for them.
Jon Lester will the lead the Sox rotation again. He is a solid starter, and you know what you’re getting with him. I wouldn’t expect much upside though. Next up is John Lackey. I don’t like Lackey. I don’t trust him for some reason. That doesn’t make him bad though; I’m just picky. I would expect a similar stat line as Lester, but slightly worse. I have no idea how Clay Buchholz rocked everyone’s worlds last year, but I doubt he will repeat. He is as good as Lackey at best, but he is more likely to be a little worse. Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront fill out the rotation. I expect about the same out of both of them too. Really interesting, right? Looking back at what I just stated, I’d wager ever Sox starter ends with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.25. Is that range too wide for your liking? How about 3.51 and 4.24? Check back in September to see if I’m really a psychic.
Since coming to the US, Koji Uehara has only gotten better (and older). He was almost untouchable last year, and everyone expects that to happen again. He is a top five closing option, have fun if you like paying for saves. The Sox have a nice bullpen past Uehara. Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, and Edward Mujica will all be viable options. I expect Tazawa and Mujica to be the setup guys, while the others will just be good relievers.
Onto the bearded section of the team. I think I’ll pick the Sox hitters in the order of their beard sizes. This means Mike Napoli is first. The ex-catcher is now a first baseman. He had a career year last year. If you think he turned over a new leaf, think again. His BABIP was over .050 points higher than his career number, and it was his highest ever. He had never had more than 75 R or RBI in a season, and this year his R and RBI both passed that mark. Pay for this year, not last year. Our next bearded wonder is Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is a top five second basemen again. I don’t really see anything different this year, more of the same goodness. The bronze beard belongs to Jonny Gomes. Gomes will be a backup for the beardless Daniel Nava though, so don’t expect much out of him. Nava is more of a backend outfielder, and I’m not sure he is worth owning. This is where the beards start thinning out a little. Shane Victorino has more of a goatee, but I’ll still count it. I liked Victorino on the Phillies, but age has started catching up to him. Last year’s numbers look like his ceiling this year. I didn’t like David Ortiz’s beard last year. It didn’t suit him well, but swinging a bat did. 2013 was yet another year of Ortiz being Ortiz. If you are willing to sacrifice the UTIL slot, take him. The last bearded player is A.J. Pierzynski. If you forgot to get a catcher, he is a last resort option. He is nothing special, but at least he is consistent. Will Middlebrooks has a decent amount of potential. If you combine his stats from the past two years, which is 660 PA, he looks really good. He put up a 75/32/103/.254/7 slash in that time. That’s almost top five production at his position. If he gets a full year of playing time in, expect good things. Jackie Bradley Jr. also has good upside. I’d give him a late round flier if you’re high on him. I wouldn’t expect spectacular, but maybe decent. Last up is the best prospect the Sox have, Xander Bogaerts. I don’t think this is his breakout year, but he will be cheap and certainly has enough upside to boot. I don’t think I ever get to use “to boot” in everyday conversation, so I’m glad I was able to work that in here.
27 RINGS BABY! YANKS 4 LIFE! I finally get to talk about the best sports franchise in the history of the universe (outside of the Klorbopian Yustraballers of Alpha Nebulon Manari). Somehow, the Yankees strung together 85 wins last year, when most of their stars were busy being old on the DL. They made a bunch of moves this year, and are looking to improve on last year.
The Yankees spent out the wazoo on pitching this year. Their biggest buy was Masahiro Tanaka. It’s hard to ignore a pitcher who goes 24-0 as a threat. While I don’t think he will be as dominant in the MLB, I do like how he looks. He is ranked around 100th overall, and has the potential to be much better. I won’t take him this year because it’s too much of an unknown for me, but I won’t fault anyone who does. The Bombers also resigned Hiroki Kuroda for a year. Kuroda was great last year, even those his 11 wins won’t show it. He didn’t get run support, so he looks worse than he was. I wouldn’t expect a repeat, but he should be good again. CC Sabathia also has a spot locked down. After a disappointing season, Sabathia is looking to rebound. While he won’t be the dominant starter he once was, he should be more than serviceable. Ivan Nova has the fourth spot locked down after a seemingly breakout season. I doubt he will be able to maintain the level of play he had last year, but he probably won’t fall back to his old self. Thankfully Phil Hughes is gone. This leaves the last roster spot open for a bunch of pitchers. I’m hoping Michael Pineda gets the spot, and he looks to be the front runner since he is one of the best prospects the Yankees have. Other options for the spot are David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren. I don’t like any of them as options if they get the spot though.
I miss Mariano Rivera already. I went to a game last year on September 20th, the same day Alex Rodriguez hit his record breaking grand slam. If you pause the video at ten seconds, you’ll see a sexy guy in a grey shirt with blue/black sleeves jumping with his arms in the air directly below the “E” in “PITCHES”. That guy is me, if you were dying to put a face to the name. Mo came out to finish that game, and I’ll admit that I cried a bit when The Sandman trotted to the mound, knowing that it would be my last time seeing a legend. David Robertson now has to follow in Mo’s footsteps. I doubt Robertson will live up to Mo, but he is still an excellent reliever. He is probably a top seven closer, maybe a top five one. After Robertson, there is little to be desired in the Yankees pen. Shawn Kelley has a little upside, especially in hold leagues, but I wouldn’t look at anyone beyond that.
If the Yankees spent out the wazoo on pitching, I don’t know how to quantify how much they spent on hitting. I guess I’ll call it a metric buttload. This unit of measurement should be used as a standard worldwide. I’m going to create a petition later to start the movement. The Yankees bought two brand new shiny outfielders. “Brand new” is a term that should be used lightly, as their average age is 33. Jacoby Ellsbury looks to be the leadoff hitter, which makes sense since his career OBP is .350, and he steals bases like it’s his full time job. Wait…I think I messed that one up. The other new kid in town (you like that sick 70s soft rock reference?) is Carlos Beltran. Again, it’s hard to call him a kid at his age. But even at that age he has been clobbering the ball. Hopefully he still has some gas left in the tank. I don’t usually like to own any players that are over 35 unless they are relievers, so I won’t take him. On the other hand, there are worse picks that can be made. The Yankees have three more outfielders for one spot: Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Alfonso Soriano. Soriano will be on DH duty, so that leaves two. Ichiro isn’t getting any younger, so Gardner will probably be getting most of the playing time. All non-Japanese outfielders should be owned. I really hope one that the Godner doesn’t have some Japanese blood now. Could this year be the resurgence of Mark Teixeira? My sources say maybe. I’m not totally sold yet, but he will be cheap (look around 200-215th overall). If he can put up an 80/20/80/.250 season, you made your money back and then some. I think the Yankees made an excellent move by picking up Brian McCann. Sure, the Yankees are stacked in the catcher department when it comes to prospects, but that’s not what I think they had in mind. McCann will be a C/DH/1B through 2016. When Tex’s contract is up, they move him over to first permanently. At that point, he can be a mentor to prospects like Gary Sanchez while still being a valuable asset. He was also built for the House that Ruth Built. I’m not sure what that makes him, but I’m high on his HR potential. He is projecting a career high in HR for obvious reasons. That’s my last rant on the Yanks, don’t worry. Second and third base are going to be split between three players: Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, and Brian Roberts. Yikes, none of these names sound appetizing…more like that two week old moo shu pork that made you sick. I won’t own any of them, I hope you won’t either. MAYBE Johnson in super deep leagues, but that’s all! Okay, I had to save this guy for last. He is, for all intents and purposes, a legend: Derek Jeter. I don’t think he will be worth owning, which really sucks in his final year. But Jeter knows how to put on a show. Who else would make their 3,000th hit a home run, while going five for five that day? It hurts me to say that Jeter is only a deep or AL-only league option.
Jeremy is a contributor for Razzball Baseball. He had a last name, but he lost it in ‘Nam. You can follow the soldier of misfortune on twitter @Jeremy_Razzball, just don’t trigger his flashbacks.