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 start of this series will focus on NL East…
The Braves recently went on a spending spree, signing Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Julio Teheran to long-term contracts. They also signed Jason Heyward to a 2-year contract. That pretty much locks them in place.
The only major changes in the starting rotation are that Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson are now gone. Alex Wood was filling in for Hudson after Eric Young Jr. came in like a wrecking ball on his ankle. He threw for a solid 3.54 ERA and 3.05 FIP in 11 starts. He pretty much locked himself in the 5th spot there with that performance. Grey ranked him as the 86th best starting pitcher this year. He will probably good for streaming or as a 5th string starter in some deeper leagues. I wouldn’t mind taking him after the 200th overall pick, or for a buck or two in auctions. The Braves have Brandon Beachy listed as their number 4, which isn’t ridiculous if he can stay healthy. If Beachy and/or Wood falter, the Braves have two people to fall back on: Freddy Garcia and David Hale. Garcia really isn’t that interesting, and I would happily keep him on waivers (but maybe I’m just a bitter Yankees fan, although I doubt it, since his career ERA sits over 4.00). Hale is slightly more interesting: he started 2 games at the end of last year, pitched 11 innings, recorded 14 strikeouts, and gave up only 1 run. While this is obviously a tiny sample size, it does show promise, and he is “only” 26. I would look for Hale in spot starts to give the bigger names some rest. He will probably put up some good numbers since no almost one has faced him.
The bullpen has even less movement than the starting rotation. Kimbrel has the closer slot locked down, and their middle relievers look stable with a core of Anthony Varvaro, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan, and Jordan Walden. There isn’t much reason to own any of them unless you’re looking for holds or trying to lower your rates.
Now I’ll march onto the position players. After Evan Gattis came out of the gate swinging, he basically locked himself in as catcher. They have Ryan Doumit running backup duty, so he’ll probably be worth a pickup in deep or 2 catcher leagues. Over at first is Freddie Freeman, and I’m loving the alliteration. I already mentioned the spot was his, so I’ll leave it at that. Second base is being manned by Dan Uggla. I feel like I have to bring up Abbott and Costello here, because all I can think is “what?” Uggla played so poorly the Braves kicked him off the playoff roster. It’s hard for an everyday player to get worse than a .179 average, although a teammate of his almost did so. Play ugly Uggla only if your league doesn’t count average, or on-base percentage, or any other non-counting stats. Simmons has a lock at short as I mentioned earlier. Chris Johnson has a lock at third, but that’s not saying much, as they have no one else to play there. Don’t expect him to hit .321 again, but he does still hit for average. The outfield is manned by the Upton bros and Heyward. Going into last year, I thought the Braves had the best outfield, and all 3 of them managed to fail me. Justin Upton and Heyward have no risk at their positions, but I would imagine B.J. Upton is on a tightrope. If he doesn’t hit at least in the .240-.250 range, I would look to see if Jordan Schafer gets more playing time. But even if he does, I wouldn’t look to him for more than a last resort.
The Marlins are a mess, everyone knows that. They’re working on rebuilding, and I could see them really going places in a couple years. Last year, they only had two players reach 500 PA.
It’s really hard to nail anything down for the Marlins right now because there are so many unknowns. The rotation will definitely have Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, and Henderson Alvarez. Outside of Fernandez, all 3 of these starters are sleeper picks, with an emphasis on Eovaldi and Alvarez. Grey has Eovaldi right in front of Alex Wood on his list of starters, and Alvarez closed out the season with a no-hitter. The last rotation spot is probably reserved for Tom Koehler, who had the second most starts on the Marlins last year. Sure his ERA sat at 4.41, but the Marlins don’t have much of a choice. I won’t mention any other names here, as they probably won’t come up again.
There is nothing interesting going on in the Marlins’ bullpen. The only reliever worth owning is Steve Chisek, and he is actually pretty decent as far as closers go.
There is also very little to say about the Marlins’ bats outside of Giancarlo Stanton, Garrett Jones, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. They are the only players with any sort of track record, well them and the resurgent Rafael Furcal. I bet you almost forget he was still playing…he did take last year off after all. There are two interesting players in the outfield though: Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. Both are certainly worth a flier. They have little competition for their positions, and they have high upside potential. Yelich has a little more buzz around him right now than Ozuna, but both probably be picked up in the later rounds of a draft or for a couple bucks in an auction. I suggest targeting Ozuna because Yelich will probably go off the board earlier/for more money.
Somehow the Mets managed to only have only player reach 500 PA last year, and Daniel Murphy obliterated that milestone, falling just shy of 700 PA over 161 games. There isn’t much new in the Mets organization that’s newsworthy, but there are a few interesting snippets I will bring up.
For some reason, the Mets thought it would be a good idea to sign the 40-year-old Bartolo Colon to a 2-year contract. But the paperwork is done, so it looks like he’ll be heading the Mets’ rotation this year. I wouldn’t take him as more than a 5th starter, because he is just too risky to me. The 2 through 4 spots of their rotation will be filled by Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Zack Wheeler. This is a decent 2-3-4 punch. I’m really high on Niese this year (as a sleeper), and I look to be sneaking him into all of my drafts. I’m projecting a mid 3’s ERA with 130-140 K’s to go along with it. Wheeler is also a good pickup, but good luck getting a fair price with the hype machine behind him. As for Gee, he is a great streamer when the Mets are home (career ERA splits are 3.20 home vs. 4.64 away). As for the 5th rotation spot, and my first interesting snippet, it looks like Daisuke Matsuzaka has a decent shot at it. I don’t think anyone should own him, or whoever does actually get that spot, but I thought he fell off the face of the earth. John Lannan is also a non-roster invite to Spring Training, but I don’t think it’s worth looking into him.
The Met’s bullpen is about as interesting as the Marlins’. Bobby Parnell looks to be around a top 10-15 closer. There is very little else going on in the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworthhas a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training too, but you would have to be reaching awfully deep to make him worthwhile.
The Mets have David Wright, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Travis d’Arnaud, and Curtis Granderson locked in their positions. Wright is still a top 3B if he stays healthy, and Davis and d’Arnaud still have potential, but Davis is at a deep position. We all know what Granderson is: Adam Dunn with a slightly better average. Plus he won’t eat up your UTIL spot. Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, and Chris Young are also pretty much locks for their respective positions. Unfortunately none of them are worth owning. The only other mildly interesting player that could end up producing is Lucas Duda. He is versatile in that he plays first and in the outfield. He will definitely get some playing time, but whether or not he produces is up in the air. I’d hold off until he proves himself, which is doubtful to happen.
The Nationals were highly touted at the beginning of last year, only to come up short. This year, I’m probably even higher on them. Hopefully they can live up to their expectations this time around.
The Nats have arguably the best starting rotation in the majors. It’s hard to get better than Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister (who was a part of what is widely regarded as the most one-sided trade this season). They’re all locked as the top-4 starters, and should be owned in all leagues. The fifth rotation spot has some competition now that Dan Haren has left for the Dodgers. Look for the spot to be filled by Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, or Ross Detwiler (or as I like to call him, “The National Det”). I’m going to say that The National Det is the front runner, mostly because he has a track record. Roark and Jordan might pick up some spot starts, or fill in more often near the end of the season, but I wouldn’t expect meaningful production. Back to ‘The Det’ for a second though; he probably isn’t worth owning in any league, and shouldn’t be anything more than a streamer. His career 5.43 K/9 rate is lackluster at best.
The Nats’ bullpen looks fairly similar to what it was last year, with Rafael Soriano closing and Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as the main setup men. Outside of them, the only other reliever worth a mention is Craig Stammen, who put up a solid 2.76 ERA over 81.2 innings last year. Soriano should be owned in all leagues, Storen and Clippard should be owned if you need holds and/or want to lower rate stats. Stammen is for those who need to dig deep, or want to lower rate stats.
The Nats’ position players look about the same as last year. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche have little to no competition at their positions, and all of them should be owned universally (well…maybe not LaRoche). Wilson Ramos is one of the most promising catchers/sleeper prospects for 2014. He put up solid numbers in 303 PA last year, and is probably near the back end of the top-10 catchers. (Grey wrote a post on him, which can be seen here.) You can expect Ramos’s backup, Jose Lobaton, to get some playing time too. He isn’t worth owning outside of 2 catcher leagues. Anthony Rendon is the starting second baseman as of now. I don’t expect him to lose the spot if he plays how he did last year, which was decent, but not spectacular. He should be owned in slightly deep leagues. If Rendon falters, Danny Espinosa is standing by to take the position, although there is little to reason own him even if he does. Denard Span is holding onto the center field spot right now, but I would keep an eye on Nate McLouth. I have no idea why the Orioles let McLouth go, he is a good backup outfielder, and can probably start on several teams. Look for him to get some spot starts in the outfield to give the other 3 rest, and to put up decent numbers, along with a good amount of steals.
It is not a good time to be a Phillies fan. They have the second oldest team by average age: that’s behind Old Man Yankees. Almost all of their stars are over the hill, and there is very little promise overall.
The brightest spot on the Phillies’ roster is their starting rotation. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and A.J. Burnett are a lock for the top 3 of the rotation. From there the Phillies have 3 options for 2 spots: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick, and Jonathan Pettibone. I honestly hadn’t heard of Gonzalez before I started doing research for this article. First off, no, he isn’t the same Miguel Gonzalez that is on the Orioles, he is a Cuban defector. No one knows exactly what he is capable of, but some projections have him as a 3rd or 4th starter. I would wait to hear back to see if he makes the rotation, but my money is on Kendrick and Pettibone. While both are lackluster, they combined for almost 50 starts for the Phillies last year. I wouldn’t stream them unless you’re desperate.
The Phillies’ bullpen is sparse at best. Sure they have Jonathan Papelbon, but he isn’t the same closer he used to be (not that he is terrible). He is definitely worth owning, and I doubt anyone is going to be taking his spot. Antonio Bastardo is the only other reliever that is worth mentioning, but he shouldn’t be owned unless you need holds.
There is very little depth in the Phillies’ lineup. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Dominic Brown, Ben Revere, and Marlon Byrd are all a lock at their respective positions. This leaves Cody Asche as the only player who is in danger of losing his position. He did not play well last year in the 179 PA he received. Freddy Galvis is next in line for the spot, but he played just as poorly as Asche. Be on the lookout for Darin Ruf though. He has the most potential out of any of the Phillies’ backups. He is also slightly versatile in that he can play first and the outfield. Bobby Abreu, who will be 40 in under a month, received a minor league contract from the Phillies last month. I don’t think he should be owned even if he makes the team, but I think it would be fun to watch him play again: there was a time when he punched out 100 RBIs in 7 straight years.
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.