As spring training takes off, we, the wonderful people of Razzball, thought it would be a good idea to look into some intra-team rivalries.  What positions are a lock?  What positions are being fought over?  What positions will they hire me to fill-in for (second base Blue Jays, I’m looking at you)? Find out as the second part of this series will focus on AL Central… (You can check out the NL East Spring Training Preview here.)

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Slow clap for all the folks who drafted Jean Segura last year and his 44 steals. Now a slower, even more appreciative clap for Grey, who tagged him as a fantasy sleeper heading into 2013. The following list is not meant to find you the 2014 version of Jean Segura, but rather identify the middle infielders who are the essence of SAGNOF (Steals Ain’t Got NO Face). These players will be cheap at the draft or may go undrafted entirely. You probably won’t want any of them as your starting shortstop or second baseman, but you’ll want to stash them away in the dark corners of your mind for when you are desperate for steals and there is a vacancy in your middle infidel slot. How cheaply you can acquire these players has a lot to do with the depth of your league and since not all fantasy leagues are created equal (thank God), you’ll have to take that into consideration when weighing the value of their steals. And hey, you never know, maybe the next Jean Segura is in here somewhere…

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Felix Hernandez was scratched from his Wednesday start with an oblique strain. Guys and four girl readers, you can’t be too precious with your guys. That whole credo “dance with the one who brought you” is real cavalier. You’re a real gentleman as you lounge about in sweat pants while your woman cooks you dinner. It’s honorable. Remind me to submit you to the Reader’s Digest Five Humans That Make A Difference contest. It’s also silly for fantasy baseball. Save your loyalty for your kids when they ask you, “Daddy, do you like me more than your automobile?” Or, “Daddy, how come you were hugging the mail lady for ten minutes with your hands on her butt?” Forget your loyalty for your starting pitchers (or hitters). Felix could throw this weekend to see if he can start again this year. If you’re strapped for space, I’d absolutely look elsewhere. What’s the worst thing that happens? You miss two starts from him? His last starts weren’t even great. You could find better starts off of waivers. Look at me having faith in you! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day. On one hand, I have to say goodbye to all of my white pants and seersucker sportcoats. I’m also not a big football guy, so it pains me to see my baseball mates quietly drift off into the world of fantasy football. There’s also a lot to love, though. It’s a day off from work if you’re lucky. It’s also the start of some really exciting pennant chase baseball. And last but not least, we have the expansion of MLB rosters. September gives us a chance to see some fresh faces and possibly some future stars. While none of them are likely to make a huge fantasy impact, there are a few players who have come up that could help in the steals category. Billy Hamilton is the most obvious name. He’s the guy you want if you’re going to gamble on a September call-up. There are some other names, however, that are worth a look in very deep leagues or NL/AL-only leagues. Guys like Jose Ramirez in Cleveland, Dee Gordon in LA, and Jim Adduci in Texas all have speed to offer. Like Hamilton, they’re not going to see regular playing time, so while they are fun to mix and match, they aren’t players that I would rush to add to my roster. Hamilton is the exception to the rule. His speed warrants a look even if he’s relegated to pinch-running most nights. Here are some of the best bets for stolen bases this week in fantasy baseball:

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In true Halloween spirit, we have a special haunted edition of the Pitcher Profile.  Ok, so it’s not even September yet, but hey, we live in a world of mass consumerism and the Halloween specials and themed sections of department stores are already up.  Don’t believe me?  Ask the um, French Maid, you um… you saw leaving my room last night – it was just someone breaking in the costume!  I’m kidding, I’m not Jude Law.

So about a month ago, I was all set to do a Scott Kazmir Pitcher Profile then his arm died.  Kinda like Jared Leto’s arm in Requiem For A Dream.  After a strong stretch through mid-June to late-July, Kaz gave up 4 to the White Sox, blanked the Marlins (but a slow-pitch softball pitcher could do that), then got rocked vs. the Angels and his arm was murdered.  Murder, I Wrote!  But through the modern world of medicine, he got a Will Smith I, Robot replacement, then struggled with his stuff with the zombie arm in his first game back, giving up a 5 spot and 12 baserunners at Oakland.  So expectations were pretty low heading into his start yesterday against the Twins, but after seeing the stat line and his return to form, I decided to break down his start and see if that velocity is back where it was a few months ago:

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You know, picking your fantasy baseball pitchers is surprisingly a lot like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  At the beginning, you want the old reliable guys – you know – the ones that can barely walk.  Looking at you R.A. Dickey.  You’ve got all this potential for an Oscar-winner/fantasy title.  But as the movie and baseball season progresses, you want younger and younger guys with the upside of their ML debuts and big K potential against hitters who have never seen them before.  Then after a longgggg middle half (and the dog days of summer in the baseball season), you’re in the final act and you’re ready to throw out there any 20-something-year-old just for the hell of it (just ask Kathy Griffin about that).  Or you’ve walked out of the movie because you’re just not into it.

As you well know, Pitcher Profiles usually select a pitcher from Sunday, but with overwhelming questions and requests for a profiling of Danny Salazar, I felt overwhelmed to buck the trend.

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When he was called up just before the All-Star Break, the exclamation for the long-awaited arrival for Erasmo Ramirez was perhaps hyperbolic.  I’ll admit, I thought he’d be a big fantasy help too.  Sure he was dynamite last year with a decent 3.36 ERA but dazzling 1.00 WHIP and 7.32 Ks per 9 in his debut 59 innings.  His walk rate was under 2 per 9, pitches in Safeco – this was going to be a fantastic season.

But a triceps injury kept him from making the Opening Day rotation, forcing him to rehab his way back up.  After two nice starts in single A and double AA, Erasmo spent most of his time in AAA with a solid 3.09 ERA and 42 Ks in 43.2 innings.  However, red flags did arise with a WHIP at 1.31 and a walk rate at 2.89.  Not exactly too scary, and he was certainly shaking some rust off.

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It’s always nice when you come off of the DL to find yourself in a series at Coors, but Cameron Maybin really came out of the chute with a bang. With 4 steals in 3 games through Saturday, he jumped right back on the radar as a rosterable outfielder in mixed leagues with his performance. Of course, here at Razzball he was already on your radar from Grey’s BUY on Friday and my post from two weeks ago in which I said “15-20 SB ROS isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and I’m stashing him with cautious optimism”…and that’s me quot- well, you know the rest. Over the past three seasons (2011-2013), Maybin is 13th on the MLB leaderboard in stolen bases with 69. He has been caught only 16 times and his 7.6 Spd rating, a metric developed by Bill James to measure a player’s base running, is 7th overall in that span. Even in a pretty disappointing 2012 campaign, he managed 26 steals. The next few weeks will be a test for both Maybin’s hitting as well as his base running. Three of the Padres’ next four opponents (D’Backs, Dodgers, and Braves) are in the top ten in MLB for fewest steals allowed. I’ve always liked Maybin, and wrote about him as a potential bounce-back for 2013 in my very first article for Razzball. For right now, though, my recommendation would be to pick him up if you are in need of an outfielder, without expecting much help outside of the SB category. His speed is comparable to fellow SAGNOFs Ben Revere or Juan Pierre but he’s got the most upside of the bunch.

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Hope everyone’s well rested and had a joyous Michael Bay Day. If you couldn’t be American yesterday, I hope at least you got drunk and ate a bunch of hot dogs. As they say in Mississippi, Amurica, spelling’s for sissies! The Mariners made it a bit more joyous for some of us fantasy baseballers when they demoted Dustin Ackley for Nick Franklin. Ackley was a guy I could never fully get behind, in a non-sexual way. He arrived in the majors with a ton of hype, but that’s more because Mariners fans lie to themselves more than anything Ackley showed. So, what does the Mustache King, Purveyor of Smart Stuff Who Should Be Able To Come Up With A Better Word Than Stuff If He Were That Smart think about Franklin? Brucely, I’m a bit meh, but I’d pick him up in all leagues and have. Franklin looks similar to Ackley. He has power and speed, but not in a huge way, which will be further suppressed by Safeco. Safeco: Where a hitter’s upside goes to die. Franklin’s best year in the minors was in A-Ball in 2010. To put that into a relatable comparison, you were your town’s best T-ball hitter, how well did you do in high school? You flunked out of high school? Point made. This year, he had 4 homers and 7 steals in Triple-A, and I’d put it at about a 25% chance that his end of the season numbers look the same for the Mariners. If you can’t find someone that can get you 4 homers and 7 steals from now until October, you’re not trying very hard. There is a chance for upside and he is only 22 years old, so I’d take the gamble and grab him. Best case scenario, 15 homers, 15 steals. Worst case scenario, he shows up at the nightclub you like to take your lady to, challenges you to a dance battle, beats you, screaming “You got served!” and your lady leaves with him. Most likely scenario, he hits 8 homers, steals 12 bases and bats .250, so watch how you spend your FAAB Benjamins on Franklin. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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How quickly things change. Last week, it was looking like Adam Eaton was close to returning from an elbow injury and A.J. Pollock would be the odd man out in the Arizona outfield. Well, one setback later, Pollock looks good to go as a part of the four-man Arizona outfield and he’s worth watching in deeper formats. He’ll get starts against lefties and maybe more, so he’s a guy that you’ll have to play the matchups with unless he really catches fire. Meanwhile, Adam Eaton is probably not going to do much in the way of baseball for about three weeks and probably won’t be fantasy relevant until the end of June at the earliest. He was so close to returning too. Kind of like crashing your car with one payment left. We’ll take a look at matchups for all the members of the stolen base leaderboard for Week 9. As always, all players listed are owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues and Sunday’s stats are not included.

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