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Sunday 22nd Oct 2017

 Cleveland Indians' closer Chris Perez landed on the disabled list Monday with tendinitis in his shoulder. The diagnosis came from the MRI taken the day after he was pulled from his biggest meltdown of the year Sunday in Boston. Perez missed time this spring with a shoulder injury and has admitted to pitching through the discomfort at times this season. Things finally caught up with him as he had been ineffective in his two previous outings before the bill came due against the Red Sox.

Vinnie Pestano will be given first crack at stepping into the role, but he just returned 12 days ago from a stint on the disabled list with a sore elbow and had his own epic meltdown the night before Perez went down. His velocity is down on the year, and while manager Terry Francona has said he’s the man, it’s possible he may not be the answer. If Pestano falters, then the Tribe may turn to young fireballer Cody Allen or veteran Joe Smith instead.

For my money, if I am speculating and Pestano is already owned, then Allen is the guy I want, especially in keeper or dynasty leagues, as he clearly looks like the closer of the future for the team and has the strikeout ability we all like to see in a closer. His fastball clocks in at around 94-95 mph and he has 31 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched on the year.

Lost in all of the hullabaloo surrounding the Perez injury was the fact that Indians' starter Cory Kluber pitched a gem that day, allowing one run on three hits while striking out a career-high 10 Red Sox batters in just under seven innings. Kluber has been filling in for an injured Brett Myers, and despite a disastrous turn against the Tigers earlier this month, he has been fairly solid. A closer look reveals a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.14 on the year, which if he had enough innings to qualify, would be good for fifth-best in all of baseball, right behind Felix Hernandez. His strikeout rate of 9.36 puts him in the company of young studs Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller.

Now I am not saying the Kluber is going to duplicate the success of any of those hurlers, but when a guy can strike hitters out and avoid the free passes, then he has a good chance to stay in the big leagues and win a few ballgames. Kluber has always had the strikeout ability, but so far this year has added an element of control that had eluded him in previous stints. He’s worth a look in deeper formats and should be on your radar as a streaming option in all leagues.

Mariners Turn To Franklin

The Seattle Mariners finally demoted struggling second baseman Dustin Ackley on Monday and called up top prospect Nick Franklin to take his spot on the roster. The move has been predicted for weeks, as Franklin has been hitting well all year while Ackley continues to regress. At the time of the callup, Franklin was hitting .324 with four home runs and seven stolen bases in the hitter-friendly PCL.

The general consensus is to add Franklin if you have a need in the middle infield and hope that his minor league numbers translate to the big stage. He should play nearly every day at either shortstop or second base, and has the pedigree to stick in the Majors the rest of the way. His best attributes will likely be a decent batting average to go along with some decent speed. Owners threw tons of FAAB at Jurickson Profar upon his promotion a week ago, but Franklin could be a better, as well as a cheaper, investment thanks to a clearer path to consistent playing time.

Quick Hits

Jered Weaver will be activated today to start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and likely will bump Joe Blanton from the rotation. Jerome Williams has pitched very well in his five starts, so I don’t see how the Angels don’t ride the hot hand for now. Regardless, all eyes will be on Weaver today, and even though the injury was to his non-pitching arm, he will likely be on a pitch-count for his first start back.

Mark Teixeira is set to go out on a rehab assignment and could return to the lineup this weekend against the Red Sox. A notorious slow starter anyway, the first baseman could struggle early on, especially with his power, but he will go right back into the middle of the lineup regardless. The odd man out will be Lyle Overbay, who will return to the bench and hope that Travis Hafner’s run of good health comes to an end to see consistent playing time again.

Jackie Bradley was called back up by the Red Sox while Shane Victorino is on the shelf and should see a fair amount of action while the former is out. He has hit .354 at Triple-A since getting demoted back on April 18.

Kevin Gausman rewarded those who plugged him in for his two-start week with a seven-run shellacking against the Nationals yesterday. He gets another start against the Tigers this weekend, which can’t have his owners feeling very confident right now.

Josh Donaldson is still scorching the ball, hittting his eighth home run of the year on Monday, and is hitting .330 with 28 runs scored and 33 RBIs on the year. He has been a real find for anyone who took a flier on him this year.

Sticking in Oakland, Dan Straily is starting to turn his season around with his second strong start in a row. He'll have a good chance to keep things going with a start at home against the White Sox this weekend. 

I haven’t talked about any of my various fantasy teams for awhile, so today I thought I’d take a look at some of my industry leagues and see what’s working and what isn’t. As we pass the quarter pole in the season, the time for addressing perceived weaknesses is growing short if you still want to make a move up the standings. Injuries and struggling stars will be the likely reasons behind any slow starts while good health and surprising starts from unlikely sources may have you flying high elsewhere. In both instances, the key at this time of year is to make sure you don’t get complacent and remind yourself there is still a lot of season to be played and if you’ve had more than your share of luck, good or bad, remember that things can change quickly. Here is a quick look at some of my fantasy portfolio and what’s working, what hasn’t and what I hope will happen.

FSWA Industry Insider League

Position – First Place – 105 pts

Last year, I won my FSWA league and finished second in the overall competition that pits you against those from other leagues. The last update on the overall competition had me in first in the overall, so things are going very well with this team out of the gate. This is a 12-team league and I am currently no worse than fourth place in any category. I have been able to avoid major injuries to this squad and have even been able to endure the slow start by Eric Hosmer. My offense has been anchored by Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria and Brandon Phillips and buoyed by hot starts from Manny Machado and Dexter Fowler. My pitching has been very solid, led by Felix Hernandez and Matt Moore and a dominant closer trio of Jason Grilli, Addison Reed and Joe Nathan. My biggest early waiver pickups were Patrick Corbin and Gerardo Parra, who have both been excellent. My hot start has allowed me to stash Oscar Taveras on my bench and Corey Hart on I.R., something I think will pay dividends in the second half.

Of all my teams, this one has been the most stable, allowing me to focus a couple roster spots on streaming starting pitching in and out. There is a 180 games started limit in this league and I actually am running behind the pace of the rest of the league, which gives me even more cushion to gain more pitching points as the season progresses.

Prognosis: While it is always nice to come out strong, it doesn’t mean I get any more complacent. It just means I haven’t had to tinker too much. This team is built for the long haul and has some nice trade chips to make some moves at some point if needed. Corbin has been fantastic since I grabbed him on April 25th, but is likely the piece I would try to deal first.

NFBC Online Championship

Position – Fifth Place – 73 pts/23 back

Since I didn’t enter the Main Event, this team is my most prominent NFBC entry again this year. I won my OLC league last year and finished in 41st place in the Overall competition out of 864 teams. This year, there are 1140 teams in the overall competition, which makes it an even bigger hill to climb. It also means you can see big fluctuations in the standings from week to week. Even with a somewhat inconsistent start, I still entered the day in 304th place in the overall. For some perspective on the volatility in the standings, just last week I was in second place in my league and 140th in the overall.

My offense has been solid, and has shown flashes of dominance, led by Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton and Paul Goldschmidt. Yoenis Cespedes has been the biggest underachiever so far and an injury to Aaron Hill hasn’t helped either as it has forced me to use Dan Uggla more than I would have liked. Those two names alone should let you know that batting average is my worst category to date, sitting at .260 on the year. I think I have more upside here as Martin Prado, Jonathan Lucroy and Matt Wieters have all started slow. Just getting Hill back and Uggla in reserve will help loads.

My pitching has been good but not great as I waited on starters and then didn’t hit on many of my late-round targets. This was one place I could have used Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz, two players I landed in lots of leagues. Chris Sale headlines a staff short on strikeouts. I do have a decent bullpen of Jason Grilli, Greg Holland and Casey Janssen, so at least I have been able to avoid chasing saves in FAAB.

Prognosis: The NFBC is a format that demands that you keep grinding it out if you want to be successful. While I am 23 points back of first place, I am two hot weeks away from first place in my league, so I am going to stay patient while looking to employ a hot hand here and there. As for my pitching staff, I am going to have to start trying to stream in double-starters to try and keep pace in strikeouts, which of course opens me up to damage to the ratios. The best thing I can say about my staff is they have been more or less healthy thus far. I will be on the lookout for any arms that emerge and will likely dedicate much of my remaining FAAB there. My offense is solid, and I think it has much more potential than it has shown so far. I am not panicking here, but always on the lookout for cheap pickups, such as scooping up David Freese for $3 dollars last week.

Razzball Experts League

Eighth Place – 53.5 pts/40 pts back

As the defending champion in this industry league, I have been pretty frustrated by the performance of this team so far this year. Things started poorly with injuries to Jason Motte and a slow rehab by Ryan Madson, which has put me in the tank in saves. I have been slow on the waiver wire to grab emerging closers since there is no FAAB in this league and others just seem quicker to the wire than I have been all year long.  My pitching hasn’t been much better and was hurt early on by some serious meltdowns that put me in an ERA and WHIP hole that I am still trying to climb out of.

Prognosis: While I am in eighth place today, I was in last just a couple weeks ago, so I am headed in the right direction. First place is a long way off, so I will continue to grind and chip away points where I can. My two worst categories are saves and steals, so I will have to try and get something there if I can. I have a stable of setup guys, so hopefully I hit on someone out of this bunch. There is a lot of player movement in this league since the benches are very small, so I am going to have to keep an eye out for help. Like my FSWA league, there is a games started limit here as well, and again I have games in hand that should help me gain some points down the road if I can use them wisely. My short-term goal is to get into fifth place by the All-Star break and then see where I am. Whatever happens, I will not quit on this league. That alone will get me points as the season progresses and other owners show less dedication than I do perhaps.

While we don’t treat this column as a weekly waiver wire column for AL-only leagues, every once in awhile we’ll take a break and highlight some players to consider adding in those leagues as well as in deeper mixed leagues. This week, I decided to take a look at some emerging talent featuring many names I have yet to write about at all this year. If you just lost yet another starter to injury or are finally ready to bench or cut a struggling veteran, here are some options to consider from around the American League that can help get you through a rough patch and possibly even become long-term answers worthy of grabbing now before they totally bloom. 

C – Jose Lobaton, TB – It is a tale of two Jose’s in Tampa Bay, as Lobaton shares time behind the plate with 38-year-old veteran Jose Molina. While the elder Jose is renowned for the effect his pitch-framing adds to the equation, he has really struggled at the plate so far this year. His 3-for-3 game last night brought his average up to .194 on the year. Meanwhile, Lobaton has quietly delivered a .276 clip and started three out of four games prior to yesterday. As long as he’s getting 3-4 starts a week, he is worth owning in AL-only leagues.

C- Yan Gomes, CLE – Gomes has been seeing a little more action for the Tribe the last few days behind the dish, and his decent play coupled with the demotion of Lonnie Chisenhall should result in a slight uptick in playing time. Mark Reynolds will be playing more third base, freeing up the DH spot for Carlos Santana to take a break from behind the plate.

1B – Lyle Overbay, NYY – I am overdue to write something about Overbay and the impressive job he has done for the Yankees filling in for Mark Teixeira. He is quietly up to six home runs and 22 RBI’s on the year. He’s gotten some notice after a huge five-RBI game in Kansas City last week and makes an intriguing option if you are dealing with multiple injuries and are desperate for a player who gets consistent at-bats in a good offense. You could do worse in your UT spot in deeper leagues, so give the veteran a look while he’s hitting the ball well.

1B – Daric Barton, OAK – Barton returned to the big leagues last week when the A’s placed Josh Reddick on the disabled list. He has drawn a few starts at first base as Brandon Moss has shifted to the outfield for the time being. Barton showed some promise back in 2010, posting a robust OBP of .393, but he was never able to build on that success and his lack of power eventually led the A’s to look elsewhere. With OF Chris Young scheduled to return later this week, Barton’s time in the Majors could be brief.

2B – Adam Rosales, OAK – Injuries and the lackluster play of Eric Sogard have afforded the versatile Rosales some regular playing time over the last few weeks, and he has made the most of it. He is hitting .367 so far in May with one home run. Of course, we know that number should be two if it were not for Angel Hernandez in Cleveland last week. It’s always fun to see Rosales sprint around the bases when he hits a home run, so Hernandez deprived us of that highlight. It should be noted that he also qualifies at SS and has been seeing more time there with Jed Lowrie covering second base. Unless the A’s make a move to the Minors, Rosales should keep seeing enough action to be a reasonable MI option in deeper leagues.

SS – Elliot Johnson, KC – Last week, I touched upon Chris Getz's struggles for the Royals and posited that the team would have to think about making the move to Johnny Giavotella at some point. Of course, I neglected to mention Johnson, who proceeded to grab five starts last week. He doesn’t offer much more upside than Getz does, but until the team moves on, it looks like he’ll be in the mix for more consistent at-bats, and as such has some short-term value in AL-only leagues.

3B – Conor Gillaspie, CHW – Gillaspie became the regular starter at third base for the White Sox after Gordon Beckham broke his hand in April, forcing Jeff Keppinger to fill in at second base. Since then, he has emerged as one of the more consistent hitters on the team and could hang onto the job once Beckham returns if Keppinger continues to struggle. He has a couple more weeks to make his case, and it’s worth noting that manager Robin Ventura has slowly been moving him up in the lineup lately.

SS/3B – Mike Aviles, CLE – The Indians finally grew tired of watching Lonnie Chisenhall struggle, and finally sent him down to the Minors to try and get his bat untracked. It was disappointing considering the promising camp he had, but it does open the door for Aviles to get into the lineup on a more consistent basis. He’s up to seven games at the hot corner and five at second base, so in some leagues he now qualifies at all three positions. I remember Lawr banking on Aviles emerging at some point, and it looks like that time has finally arrived. Mark Reynolds will see increased time at third as well, but Aviles is now worth grabbing in all AL-only formats.

OF – Jarrod Dyson, KC – Don’t look now, but the speedy Dyson has been getting more playing time thanks to the lack of production from Jeff Francoeur. Dyson has started a bunch of games in CF as Lorenzo Cain has moved over to RF to spell Frenchy. He also hit in the leadoff spot in his last two starts. He doesn’t bring any power but has speed to burn. If you are looking for a stolen base boost, then run to your wire and give the speedy Dyson a look. He’s already given the team a nice boost and allowed them to move Alex Gordon’s bat down the lineup where he can drive in some runs. Even if he platoons with Francoeur, he’ll get the majority of starts as the lefty bat.

OF – Andy Dirks/Avasail Garcia, DET – The injury to Austin Jackson has created some new opportunities for both Dirks and Garcia. Dirks has batted leadoff the last three games and showed the benefits of hitting atop that lineup with his big day against Houston on Monday. He makes for a nice short-term grab in all leagues as long as he’s hitting leadoff. Garcia was called up yesterday and was promptly inserted into the lineup in CF. He had a nice September a year ago and has been hitting over .400 in the Minors to start the year.  He will be given a nice look while Jackson is sidelined, and if he hits, he could stick at the expense of Don Kelly or Matt Tuiasosopo.

OF – Jimmy Paredes,  HOU – The Astros released Rick Ankiel and designated Fernando Martinez for assignment. In their places, the team called up Paredes and Trevor Crowe and also activated J.D. Martinez from the disabled list. Paredes will be given a long look as the Astros keep throwing players into the mix and hoping someone will stick. He is off to a sluggish start so far, but the team seems committed to him, at least until Justin Maxwell returns in a couple weeks. Paredes' main asset at this point figures to be his speed and potential versatility. He is worth taking a flier on in AL-only leagues.

SP - Scott Kazmir, CLE – Kazmir has been getting increased buzz over the last week thanks to some very solid results. He raised eyebrows by striking out 17 hitters in his two starts heading into yesterday’s game against the Phillies. His velocity is back up to 2009 levels and he had a lot of people throwing large chunks of FAAB at him this week. I myself took the shot in a bunch of leagues just on the off-chance he is really back. I didn’t start him in Philly yesterday, and he didn’t fare too well, giving up four runs in five innings. He only managed to strike out three in the game and served up two more home runs, bringing that total to seven in only five starts. For now, I am going to treat him as a spot starter when he is at home, or in favorable matchups on the road.

RP – Ryan Madson, LAA – Madson finally began his rehab and passed the test, working a perfect ninth inning. He could get one or two more appearances before rejoining the Angels later this week. He will slot in behind Ernesto Frieri for the time being, but will likely get in the mix for saves as soon as he shows he is ready or if Frieri falters. If he is sitting out on your wire, grab him now if you are speculating for saves.

One of the benefits of having multiple fantasy squads each year is getting to spread some of your riskier picks around through your various drafts. So far, the investment in Mark Reynolds has paid off handsomely for his owners, as well as for the Indians, who have to feel pretty good about the early returns. The reasons the Tribe took a chance on him as a free agent over the winter really weren’t that different from those that prompted drafters to take a shot. The price was right and proven power is on the decline. As such, the inevitable point came in every draft where it made sense to take a chance that Reynolds could regain his power stroke. Sure, you knew the downside going in, that he would strike out a ton and be a batting average drag, but if you had the batting average base to add him as a reserve, you hopefully took the plunge at least once like I did.

As of today, the record holder for most strikeouts by a batter in a season (223 in 2009) is batting a robust (for him) .291 with a league-leading 10 home runs. He’s driven in 27 and scored 20 runs and has provided the Tribe with the right-handed power bat they have been desperate for ever since Manny Ramirez left town in 2001. His towering home run off Jarrod Parker on Monday was just the latest, and perhaps most impressive, highlight he has provided in just over a month in his new digs.

His hot start has already prompted the obligatory “Sell-high” recommendations from various corners of the web, and if you play in a trading league I can’t fault you if you try to spin Reynolds’ torrid start into a more stable commodity. But if you are like me and own him in a non-trading league, is there any evidence that perhaps this is more than just an early-season mirage? Is it possible that we will get a return to 2009 (minus the stolen bases), when he clubbed 44 dingers and hit a career-high .260? Or is the free-swinging corner infielder due to turn back into a pumpkin? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, but there are some encouraging signs that this revival isn’t all smoke and mirrors.

The biggest number to hang your hat on as you try to imagine this continuing is 24.2%. That’s Reynolds’ current strikeout rate, which is almost ten percentage points below his career norms. Looking a little deeper, we can see other numbers that back up his fast start, such as a 69.1% contact rate, which would also rate as a career-high if he could sustain it. His batted ball rates across the board so far look pretty similar to his 2009 numbers, including his eye-popping 28.6% HR/FB rate. Even more impressive is he is not only crushing fastballs but also doing damage on pitches outside of the strike zone, which has mitigated some of the downside to his still free-swinging ways.

Look, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s very unlikely that Reynolds is going to be able to sustain the batting average success he has opened the year with over the long haul. But remember, that’s not what you drafted him for in the first place. At this point however, I see nothing to indicate that the power he is displaying is anything but real. He is healthy once again, and since he is on a one-year deal, he has the added incentive of one more free-agent contract to keep him motivated. He has made some adjustments at the plate that so far are paying off but he has always been one of the streakiest hitters out there. If you can't trade him, like me, all you can do is ride him as long as he’s mashing and keep an eye out for signs that he’s regressing again. But look at the bright side. He’s already given you almost half of whatever you were projecting for him and it’s only May 8th. And in the process, he has put the potential of another 40-home run season firmly on the table. You can’t ask for much more than that out of a late-round dart toss.

Quick Hits

Lost in the Kansas City Royals' fast start has been the relative lack of production from their offense. Their 17 home runs ranks them dead last in the Majors, even behind the Miami Marlins. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have been major disappointments so far, with a combined one home run and 15 RBIs between them. The struggles of these two has deflected much of the glare from others in the lineup, and time could be running out for at least one regular. Second baseman Chris Getz beat out Johnny Giavotella again this spring but hasn’t done much since then. He is currently hitting just .216 and is struggling to get on base in general with an on-base percentage of .247. As such, he has stolen only one base, negating the only value he really brought to the table as a fantasy asset. Giavotella makes a decent player to speculate on in AL-only formats.

Fernando Rodney blew a save the other day and is currently sporting an ERA of 5.06 to go along with a WHIP of 1.78. He has already walked ten batters after issuing only 16 all of 2012. He isn’t in danger of losing the closer’s job anytime soon, but Joel Peralta is back on the radar and should be picked up if you are speculating for saves or just want some Rodney insurance.

David Ortiz has been on an absolute tear since returning from the disabled list, hitting .426 with four home runs. He looks fully recovered and the improved strikeout rate he boasted the last two years is still there.

Michael Bourn finally went out on his rehab stint and should be back on top of the Indians' lineup by the weekend. His return will push Drew Stubbs out of CF and likely to the bench against many righties as long as Ryan Raburn keeps producing.

Junichi Tazawa was a sleeper of mine heading into the year as an arm that would emerge in the Red Sox pen at some point this season. Injuries have sped up the timetable as he could get a couple weeks in the closer’s chair until Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey are healthy.  The other option in Koji Uehara, and John Farrell could turn to him since he does have previous closing experience.

Justin Smoak’s time in the big leagues could be running out. With only one home run in 128 plate appearances to start the year, it’s only a matter of time before the Mariners pull the plug on the former first-round pick. Talented rookies Mike Zunnio and Nick Franklin will be given a chance to play at some point and if Smoak can’t turn his season around by the end of May, he could be the roster casualty.

My mother, Dolores Carey, passed away last week and as such I traveled home this weekend to be with my family and lay her to rest yesterday. Rather than write my regular column this week, I am reworking something I wrote elsewhere about her after the passing of Indian great Bob Feller a few years back.

She was a wonderful woman and a life-long baseball fan. She is the reason I came to love the game so much. I will miss her and as such just wanted to convey some thoughts about some of the great baseball memories she gave me over the years.

With Mother's Day coming around the corner, I encourage you all to reach out this year and make sure to give your mother an extra big hug for me.

As a boy growing up in Cleveland, I came to love baseball not through my father, as many boys do, but rather through my mother's love of the game.  My father, a linebacker and southpaw boxer, didn't really have an affinity for the sweet science. He could teach you how to tackle and how to throw a left hook, but not how to stand in there against a curve. He could take any type of engine apart and put it back together, but the art of baseball was something he really didn't have the same kind of affinity for.

My mother, on the other hand, had a passion for baseball that was infectious. Her love of baseball, and Indian baseball in particular, was hard to beat on the West Side of Cleveland, and she passed that love to her four sons. As a child of the Depression, it was not surprising that her favorite player was Bob Feller. Being Italian, Rocky Colavito was a very close second.

My mother, Dolores, used to take my brothers and I out in the yard and watch us play catch for hours on end. She fostered the game in us all though endless wiffle ball game in the backyard. Eventually, she would drive us to endless practices and games, always there in the stands cheering us on, win or lose. She loved to watch us play and never missed an inning. But best of all, she took us to the ballpark to see her beloved Indians with her and conferred on us all her love of baseball.

Needless to say the Indians teams of the 70's and 80's weren't very good. It didn't matter to Mom, she just loved going to the ballpark. To overcome the fact that we mainly gt to see a lot of lousy baseball back then, she would regale us with stories of Indian legends, mainly of her hero, the great Bob Feller. She would tell us how he was really the greatest pitcher of all time. Ironically, this was a question Bob himself reportedly would ask those who came to ask for his autograph in later life. "who is the greatest pitcher of all time?" , he would ask as some kid thrust a baseball for him to inscribe at some card show or event.

I called my Mom yesterday after I heard of Rapid Rob's passing. I said "Mom, I just heard Bob Feller passed and I thought of you." There was a pause on the line. "Yes. God Bless him. He was quite a man and a beautiful thing to watch in his prime." We talked awhile longer and I asked her about seeing him pitch. She told me a few stories that I had heard a thousand times. She reminded me about how he lost game one of the 1948 World Series 1-0, after carrying a no hitter into the bottom of the 8th inning. She also pointed out that he lost game 5 as well, giving up 7 runs. The Indians won the series 4-2, and the great Bob Feller lost both games. Funny how baseball works sometimes.

We talked also about the first game she ever took me to, Opening Day 1976. That was the day Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager in baseball. He was a player/manager, and inserted himself into the lineup as the DH and smacked a home run in his first at bat. The place went nuts and a baseball fan was born for life. We talked about a lot of other baseball moments and of course talked more about Bob Feller.

"Did you know he signed up for the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor got bombed?"

Yeah, I knew. And I knew pretty much everything else about the legend of her hero. I knew about how they timed his fastball against a speeding car and against of champion racehorse. I knew that some said he threw as fast as 107 MPH. I knew he actually didn't really like his nickname, Rapid Robert. I knew about the no-hitters and the strikeouts and I knew about how many of both he likely lost due to his military service. I knew he was only a 17 year-old farm-boy from Iowa when he made his debut in 1936.

But most of all I knew what he meant to my mother. He was what was beautiful to her about baseball. He was the person that I guess made her love it so. As for my father, he came on the phone after my mother and said, "You know he never liked it when people tried to call him a hero. He said heroes didn't come back from the war, so he was no hero." But of course he was a different kind of hero. A baseball hero.

This weekend I mourned the loss of my own hero, my mother. She was a wonderful mother and wife, and she will be greatly missed by all of us. I will miss our weekly chats, which during baseball season would always end up with us talking about the Indians. I will treasure the memories I had going to the ballpark with my Mom and do my best to pass that joy onto my own children. Thanks for the memories Mom.

Earlier this year, I published my annual bust list for the American League, and like the other analysts out there in cyberspace did my best to back up my choices with as much information and logic as I could muster to make the case. With any list, you are going to get some right and conversely you will get some wrong. Well, we are less than a month into the season and it’s pretty clear that I was wrong about the concerns I had regarding Mike Napoli and his degenerative hip condition, at least for now.

Today, Napoli and his owners are all smiles, as the Boston catcher who doesn’t catch anymore is leading all of baseball with 25 RBIs in April. Consider that he only managed to drive in 56 runs in 104 games last year for the Rangers and you can further see how impressive he has been out of the gate. He is loving hitting in Fenway Park and has become a fixture in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, carrying them (along with that pesky Daniel Nava) until David “Big Papi” Ortiz was finally ready to return.

Most impressive has been the fact that he has played in every game thus far, almost exclusively at first base. What’s more, the medication he is taking for his hip condition seems to be working, as he hasn’t complained of any pain in the joint. The fact that he is unlikely to log any time behind the plate this year will definitely help keep him healthy and if so, he will clearly be one of the bigger bargains rather than the biggest busts at the catcher position this year. To the owners who ignored my advice and targeted Napoli, I tip my cap to you. If you played the waiting game and took the risk on the discount, pat yourself on the back.

Now that I have gotten my mea culpa out of the way, I still have a chance to pour a little ice water down the page. Despite his early season heroics, he is still striking out at an alarming rate (31%) and has drawn only four walks (4.6%) so far. The walk rate in particular is a concern since it is drastically below his career standards. The elevated K-rate can’t be dismissed either since he posted a similar rate (30%) in 2012. Looking even deeper inside the numbers, we see that he is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone and making less contact on those occasions than ever before. Even when he takes a cut at a pitch in the strike zone, he is in Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds and Dan Uggla territory with a 75 percent contact rate on strikes. If he can’t reel in his free-swinging ways and get his walk-rate back up to career norms, he could be in for some serious cold stretches.

Still, if you own Napoli, enjoy the ride. As long as he stays healthy, he seems like a sure bet to easily surpass whatever expectations you had for him on draft day.

AL-only Considerations

While this column is not a vehicle for a weekly free agent rundown for AL-only leagues, I will from time to time dedicate a little space to touching on interesting or evolving names for those of you playing in single leagues.

Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland – With Brett Myers headed to the DL with an elbow injury, the Indians' first choice to replace him in the rotation is the 27-year-old Kluber. He has shown some decent strikeout potential in Triple-A and could be a short-term option for those desperate for starters. Carlos Carrasco is suspended and the team doesn’t want to rush top prospect Trevor Bauer just yet. The latter two are likely stashed in any case.

Munenori Kawasaki, SS, TOR – Kawasaki has been the primary fill-in for Jose Reyes and has been pretty good with the glove and even a little better than expected with the bat, although a recent skid has dropped him down to .231. There really isn’t too much to see here, but if you are desperate for at-bats, he should continue to see action for now since the team needs a reliable glove up the middle

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle – Dustin Ackley has really been scuffling to start the year and the M’s may have no choice but to send him down to the Minors. Franklin is hitting well (.333) at Triple-A and would likely get first crack should the team finally pull the plug on Ackley. With the ability to contribute moderate speed/power, he’s worth stashing since his time could come sooner than expected.

Brandon Barnes, OF, Houston – The Astros will continue to be a source of marginal talent all year long as they will continue to throw prospects into the fire to see what they have to work with during their massive rebuilding project. The 26-year-old Barnes had a decent 2012 on the farm, hitting a combined .326 between Double-A and Triple-A. He’ll continue to be a part-timer for now, but the team could give him more playing time at Rick Ankiel’s expense.

Brandon Laird, 1B/3B, Houston – Laird is a former Yankee farmhand who was claimed off waivers at the end of last season. The Astros demoted the cipher named Brett Wallace to make room for the versatile Laird, who will serve as a back-up to both Carlos Pena and Matt Dominguez.

Drew Smyly, SP, Detroit – If you followed us during the pre-season, you are probably aware of the general crush the staff here has for Smyly. I guess it emanates from the top of the think-tank here, but speaking for myself, I am a believer that once Smyly gets into the rotation, good things will happen. The Tigers failed to trade Rick Porcello in the off-season, and now he has pitched so poorly they might not do much better than Ubaldo Jiminez in return. It’s only a matter of time before the Tigers face facts and just demote him so he can try to breathe some life back into his value.

Erasmo Ramirez, SP, Seattle – Ramirez was another trendy pre-season sleeper whose season has been delayed so far. Unlike some others, Ramirez's arrival has been stalled by an injury to his triceps. As soon as he is deemed healthy, it seems likely the M’s will find a spot for him in the rotation. In the meanwhile, Aaron Harang will attempt to fill the void.



The Tampa Bay Rays' offense has been missing in action for the first two weeks of the season. A quick look at the numbers shows that only the lowly Miami Marlins have scored less runs than the Rays to start the year. That is not the company a supposed playoff contender should be keeping. To underscore the futility of the situation, for yesterday’s tilt against the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays sent out a lineup that included six starters with a batting average under .200. Yeah, you read that right. The aforementioned group included Yunel Escobar and Sam Fuld, who both entered the game under .100. Escobar went 0-4 to drop his average to .089 on the year. All of the offensive struggles obviously haven’t helped Evan Longoria, as he hasn’t had too many opportunities to drive in runs out of the gate. My guess is that the team won’t wait much longer to shake things up and try to breathe some life into the offense.

Now, I know what you all are thinking, so we’ll talk about Wil Myers to start. It is clear that right now the talented rookie would be a better option than many of the names that manager Joe Maddon has to choose from on a daily basis. The question that fantasy players need to consider is how long will the team stick to it’s original timetable on calling him up? They obviously would prefer to keep him down on the farm as long as possible for financial reasons, but it is hard for me to believe they will be able to hold out that long if the bottom half of the lineup continues to struggle. If you drafted the talented rookie, you knew you were going to have to play the waiting game with him, and because of this fact he actually has been dropped in a lot of shallow formats in the early going. I can’t tell you exactly when the Rays are going to call him up, but I will say that I think May 1st is looking more and more likely every day. While he is surely stashed away in all AL-only leagues, he was floating around yesterday in a couple of my 12-team mixed leagues and I decided to grab him where I could. Now that we’ve gotten past Myers, let’s talk about the other options the team could turn to in the immediate future:

Brandon Guyer, OF – If the team wants to add some spark, then the 27-year-old is the first guy they should turn to. Guyer was a deep sleeper last year before a shoulder injury in May knocked him out of action for the rest of the year. He isn’t a flashy player, but he does have a decent power/speed combination to his game as evidenced by his minor league numbers. He is off to a nice start down in Triple-A again with three homers, nine RBI's and 2 SB's and can play all three outfield positions.

Leslie Anderson, 1B – I wrote up the 31-year-old Cuban defector back in February, when he was making noise in camp and earning the praise of the coaching staff for his improved play. James Loney can’t play anymore and Shelly Duncan is a journeyman. The team simply has nothing to lose by benching Loney and seeing what Anderson is capable of. He at least brings an element of power that Loney simply doesn’t possess.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS – Lee, like Guyer above, came over to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal in January, 2011. He is viewed as the shortstop of the future, possessing good range in the field and excellent speed on the basepaths. The acquisition of Escobar in the offseason blocked his path to the Majors, and like all prospects in the system, the intention is never to rush them. The 22-year-old Korean is off to a blistering start in Triple-A, hitting .412 with five stolen bases already. If Escobar continues to struggle, the team could be forced to give the speedy Lee a chance sooner than expected.

Quick Hits:

Lawr did a great job breaking down all the alternatives in the wake of injuries to middle infielders Jose Reyes, Erick Aybar, Gordon Beckham and Scott Sizemore. The Reyes injury was obviously the most devastating for his owners since he cost you a premium and will be out of action for three months now.

Michael Morse owners are breathing a sigh of relief after he returned to the lineup yesterday, just days after suffering a broken pinkie on a pitch from the Rangers' Tanner Scheppers last Thursday. Morse has been one of the big stories the first two weeks, as his six home runs are tied for the league lead with Baltimore’s Chris Davis.

Michael Bourn was placed on the disabled list after all due to the cut on his right hand. Ryan Raburn started in RF yesterday with Drew Stubbs moving over to CF.

Kelvin Herrera got rocked for four runs against the Braves in the eighth inning yesterday. Three of the runs came on solo home runs to Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla. And with that the pendulum swings back to Greg Holland keeping his closer job for now.

Aaron Hicks' struggles opened the door for Darin Mastroianni to take advantage as I noted last week. Alas, the speedy Mastoianni landed on the DL with an ankle injury and won’t be stealing any bases for at least a couple of weeks. Talented rookie Oswaldo Arcia was recalled one day after his one-day stint and now has the opportunity for a longer look at the major league level. The Twins aren’t calling him up to sit, so he’s worth a look in AL leagues if he’s available. If he hits, he could push Chris Parmalee for time in RF.

I know it won’t last, but I am reaping the early benefits of my belief that 2013 would be a bounce-back year for Justin Masterson. I drafted him on basically every deep league team that I have this year. Will he keep up his current production? No, of course he won’t. It is safe to say that he won’t be able to sustain his current 0.41 ERA. Be careful using him in tough road starts if you fear the market correction, but feel confident that he’ll be much more consistent than he was last year.

Down Goes Weaver

The Los Angeles Angels got some bad news this week when it was revealed that Jered Weaver will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken elbow. The only bright spot here for fantasy owners is the injury was to his non-pitching elbow, so he should be able to get back on the mound again this year at some point. In the short term, it’s a pretty big blow to the Angels, who came in with plenty of questions about the viability of their rotation before losing their “ace” for a sizable chunk of time one week into the season.

Last week, I picked on C.C. Sabathia and his dwindling velocity, but Weaver’s heater actually is in worse shape to start the year, hovering around 85 mph, which is down another 2 mph from last year’s career-worst results. Weaver came off the board this year as a top-10 starter in mixed leagues, as his 20 wins from last year positioned him as a seemingly reliable SP1 to build your staff around. I myself drafted him in an early January draft ahead of Matt Cain, Yu Darvish and Madison Bumgarner. I think part of that early decision stemmed from the fact that Weaver was a key contributor to more than a few of my teams last year.

As draft season progressed and I looked into the numbers more, I continued to move him down my personal rankings, and didn’t draft him again. I made note of the downward trends of not only his fastball but also his strikeouts in general. He was no longer a 200 K starter, which is something I want at the top of my fantasy rotation. In the league I do have Weaver, there isn’t much to do but wait for his return and hope that he can find a way to continue to outperform his diminishing skills the rest of the way. Honestly, I'm not very confident about his prospects being how poorly he was pitching to start the year. Perhaps the break ins't such a bad thing after all. At least we get a "break" from more crummy statlines for a few weeks.

The Angels will turn to Garrett Richards to take Weaver’s spot in the rotation. Richards is the top pitching prospect in the organization and pitched very well this spring before landing in the Halos' bullpen to start the year. He’s definitely worth a grab in AL-only leagues, as he’s looked pretty solid in limited duty to start the year.

Royal Pain in the Bullpen

After Kansas City closer Greg Holland blew his second save attempt of the season on Saturday, speculation started to swirl around Kelvin Herrera. On Sunday, Herrera had to bail out an ineffective Holland, registering his first save of the year. That was all people needed to race to the wire to scoop up the 5’9” flamethrower or throw gobs of precious FAAB at him in many of my leagues. Then came Monday, when Aaron Crow was called on to finish off Ervin Santana’s gem.

After that game, manager Ned Yost gave Holland a vote of confidence and, true to his word, there was Holland trotting out of the bullpen in the ninth inning yesterday with a three-run lead to protect. The rain was pouring down, and the conditions were nasty, but Holland still loaded the bases on a bloop single surrounded by two walks. He managed to hang on for his second save by striking out Joe Mauer as Herrera warmed up in the bullpen.

So what is the takeaway for fantasy purposes? Well, it appears the job is still Holland’s to lose and Yost will be patient for now with his closer. Herrera is the clear next-in-line candidate, and if he hasn’t somehow been grabbed in your league, you should most definitely rectify that situation promptly. As for Crow, he’s in the mix for the occasional save but he’s really more of a single-league speculation or ratio-booster.

Quick Hits 

Those of you playing the streaming game against the Astros finally got burned yesterday, as Houston tagged Seattle rookie Brandon Maurer for six runs in two-thirds of an inning. The rookie was a surprise addition to the rotation to start the year, and after two shaky starts he’ll likely get one more chance to prove he belongs in the Majors. If you started him in a weekly league, you really can’t be looking forward to a weekend date with the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately for the Mariners, super-sleeper Erasmo Ramirez still isn’t ready to take over just yet.

In other injury news, Rays starter Jeff Niemann will likely undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing shoulder. His demise opens the door for top prospects Chris Archer and Jake Ordorizzi to make their way to the Majors perhaps sooner than intended. The team is using Roberto “Fausto” Hernandez for the time being, but after surrendering 10 runs in back-to-back starts, it’s only a matter of time before the team pulls the plug on the former Indian.

Talented rookies Aaron Hicks and Jackie Bradley Jr. could both be headed back to the Minors sooner than expected. Hicks has started the year 2-for-30 with 13 strikeouts and finally got benched in favor of Darin Mastroianni yesterday. Bradley Jr. has struggled as well, hitting .143, while Daniel Nava is making a case for more playing time by hitting .500 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs in his four starts. Bradley seems the likely candidate to be sent down once David Ortiz is finally ready to return to the lineup.

I will admit, watching my Tribe get pounded by the Yankees two days in a row was painful. I mean there are only so many times I can listen to Michael Kay belt out “See Ya!” every time another baseball  cleared the wall. To make things worse, Carlos Carrasco got ejected yesterday after plunking Kevin Youkilis following another Robinson Cano homer. It wasn’t accidental, and ironically Carasco was making his first start after serving a suspension carried over from two years ago. I think he’ll be getting a call from the commissioner with another suspension likely headed his way.

Since he finally signed a contract, we have to at least mention Jose Valverde landing back with the Detroit Tigers organization. With no established closer at the moment, the Tigers brought him back on a minor league deal and will let him pitch at Triple-A and attempt to work his way back to the Majors. By all means, take a chance if you're desperate.

Feel free to hit me with any questions below or on Twitter @ryanpcarey

I don’t have too many players that I put on a "do not draft" list prior to the season, but this year the one pitcher I was determined not to draft was C.C. Sabathia. For me, it was a decision based on numerous red flags for the huge left-hander, not the least of which was the elbow problems that he encountered at the end of last season. When looking at the pitching landscape in my mixed leagues this year, I saw Sabathia lumped in with a group of arms that made it an easy decision to follow through on. I wanted no part of a 33-year-old with lots of miles on an arm that just required surgery and had just come off a season that saw him post his worst velocity of his career (92.4 mph). Throw in the fact that I believed conditioning would also be a factor, as C.C. will never be considered svelte, and I had all the reasons I needed to gladly let someone else take on the risk that I saw.

Those owners who drafted Sabathia are likely more than a little worried after Monday’s mediocre start against the hated Red Sox. He lasted only five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits while walking four and striking out five in a lackluster performance. The biggest news on the day was the fact that his fastball was nowhere to be found. Most of his pitches were clocked between 87-90 mph, and he maxed out at 91.7 (only twice). All of the damage came in the second inning, but he also worked out of trouble in the fourth and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth before giving way to David Phelps to start the sixth. Unfortunately, the injury-depleted Yankee lineup couldn’t make up the early deficit.

If you drafted Sabathia, all you can do at this point is hope that this is just another in a series of rotten Opening Day starts as a Yankee. His track record of success and rough months of April means that there is still time for him to turn things around and he will get back some of the missing velocity as the calendar creeps towards May. That said, you will also need to monitor the radar gun readings going forward, because there is a chance that his heater is due for yet another drop this year. To his credit, he has very good off-speed stuff and is a tenacious competitor, so even with less zip, he can still be successful changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. So don’t panic yet, Sabathia owners, but I wouldn’t blame you for being slightly concerned.

Yu Darvish served notice to American League hitters yesterday that he is ready to dominate them on a regular basis this year. If you didn’t catch his performance last night, you missed a gem, as he came within one out of notching a perfect game. Marwin Gonzalez denied Darvish his place in baseball history with a hard-hit single up the middle, right under Darvish’s glove and through his legs. All the big righty could do was smile as the perfecto vanished and manager Ron Washington came out of the dugout to remove him after 111 pitches.

Darvish struck out 14 Astros on the night, including nine of the first 12 batters he faced, and obviously didn’t walk a batter all night, making it his first major league start in which he didn’t issue a free pass. Spotty control, especially early in the season, was one of the things that held him back somewhat last year, so it was very encouraging to see him hitting his spots with his fastball all night. He changed speeds on his fastball all night and threw some nasty sliders and breaking balls that had hitters flailing.

In this week’s Roundtable, which will come out later today, I tabbed Darvish as my pick to win the Cy Young in the American league this year. Yesterday was certainly a nice way to get things started, even if it was one out short of perfection.

The Cleveland Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday 4-1 and in the process showed the blueprint for how they intend to make some noise in the Central by flashing some stellar defense, timely hitting and a lockdown bullpen. The Indians made several outstanding defensive plays yesterday behind Justin Masterson, including a fantastic bases-loaded double play started by Asdrubal Cabrera that helped get the sinkerballer out of big trouble in the third inning. Drew Stubbs, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher added nifty plays, which helped Masterson work around four walks in his six innings of work. The bullpen then came in and shut the door as the “Bullpen Mafia” of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez shut down the vaunted Blue Jay offense the rest of the way.

The Indians outfield defense is vastly improved, with Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs joining Michael Brantley, giving the Tribe three natural centerfielders from left to right. Time will tell if this emphasis on defense will work, but it has to make the pitchers feel pretty good knowing they have three guys back there who can run down fly balls.

As for the Blue Jays, the loss took the shine off an exciting opener, as the fans got to see the new look team, and everyone’s favorite World Series sleeper pick, take the field for the first time. Honestly, they hit the ball hard all day, and Cabrera’s play in the third stopped what could have been a huge inning. The biggest takeaway today was the fact that J.P. Arencibia had a nightmare trying to corral Dickey’s knuckler at times, getting charged with three passed balls in the first two innings. Two of them led to runs as runners advanced into scoring position.  He settled down after that, but Josh Thole could find his way back up to the Majors to catch Dickey if Arencibia can’t get a handle on the elusive pitch.

Quick Hits:

I have to admit, I am slightly annoyed at Mike Morse. He was firmly entrenched as a mid-round target in my pre-season planning and then he went bananas in pre-season and the next thing you know he’s getting drafted ahead of Nelson Cruz, Paul Konerko and Carl Crawford by guys in my leagues chasing spring stats. I loved him right where he was, but alas the market took him off the board sooner than I would have liked.

I am interested to see if Nolan Reimold can take advantage of the injury to Wilson Betemit and stake a permanent claim to the DH spot in Baltimore. He has the power to do some damage, and now gets to avoid a platoon situation in left field for now. Those in shallow leagues who are in need of some power should look and see if he’s on your wire and give him a shot.

Jackie Bradley Jr. breaking camp with the Red Sox was a great story, and the kid showed some pretty good poise and a good eye, drawing three walks in his first start. While I totally endorse grabbing him in leagues where you have a roster spot to play with because he will play regularly until David Ortiz returns, bear in mind that this is a young player with less than 300 at-bats at the Double-A level. The future is definitely bright, but he’ll likely struggle just as much as he excites and will likely head back down to Triple-A for more seasoning at some point.

Lyle Overbay started at first base for the Yankees on Monday. That statement alone tells you all you need to know about the state of the current pinstripe lineup.

Rookie Brandon Maurer, who won a spot in the Seattle rotation, will make his debut on Thursday taking on A.J. Griffin and the Oakland A’s. He’s out there in a couple of my leagues that haven’t opened up their waivers yet, so I will be tuning in to see him for myself.

Bartolo Colon will be back to start on Saturday for the A's, sending Friday's starter Dan Straily back to the Minors for the time being. 


Last night, I participated in an annual ritual of drafting a 15-team NFBC satellite league, something I have done every year since first finding the premier high-stakes contest six years ago. I drew slot #14 in this draft, which was my seventh preference in KDS. I had decided that if I wasn’t in the top of the draft, I would rather be near the back-end. Not only do I like getting my second top pick quicker, I just don’t see a huge gap in talent from the 2/3 turn and the 3/4 turn. Also, since this would be an online draft, I wanted to avoid the middle if possible. It is nice to make your two picks and then be able to sit back and get 20 minutes or so to survey the landscape before picking again.

Since this was a satellite draft, and not a Main Event draft, my strategy going in was a little looser, and I decided going in I would wait until the 5/6 turn to draft my first starter. For my first two picks, I was going to push the envelope a bit if possible, targeting either Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton and perhaps even Bryce Harper (who I have yet to land anywhere this year) with my first pick. For my second pick, I looked at what would likely be waiting for me and figured I would be looking at one of the big three SP’s on the board, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Buster Posey and then Adrian Beltre.

The first round went pretty much as advertised until Justin Upton, my expected target, was drafted at number ten, followed by Stanton, Troy Tulowitzki and Harper. I never expected Carlos Gonzalez to fall into my lap, but there he was, and he became a very easy pick at that point. Evan Longoria and Clayton Kershaw came off the board next and I was back on the clock. With Harper and Upton gone, I no longer had a player on the board that I felt merited being pushed up so high. It was at this point I decided to channel a little of Todd’s pre-season advice on not getting sucked into chasing scarcity, and opted for a pick right out of his playbook, Adrian Beltre. Injuries to Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley and David Wright have knocked a little air out of the top of the third base tiers and gives the stability that Beltre brings to the table even more value. I was more than happy to let someone else grab Buster Posey (who went soon after), Reyes, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler.

For my next pair of picks, I was going to try and grab at least one, if not two, corner infielders and possibly another outfielder. My target list was headed by the duo of Paul Goldschmidt and Allen Craig with Yoenis Cespedes, B.J. Upton and Jay Bruce backing them up. Cespedes and Bruce were nabbed back-to-back on the 2/3 turn and after Goldschmidt went at 3.10, I was already looking at alternatives.  Craig made it to me, and I brought him on board to yet another team. There was a lot of good pitching on the board, including Matt Cain, Cliff Lee and personal favorite Yu Darvish. Had this been the Main Event, I surely would have grabbed one of them with my next pick. As it was, I was still confident waiting on pitching in this format. With that decision made, once again I found myself dipping into Lord Zola’s playbook, selecting B.J. Upton with my fourth round pick. I remembered Todd’s take on the elder Upton’s value, when others are chasing scarcity. It is worth noting that I made this pick knowing it meant I would most likely miss out on Jason Kipnis, Brandon Phillips and Aaron Hill as well as the other top catchers.

After another 26 picks, it was time to get my first starter. I was hoping that a few more of my targets had survived, but 14 SP’s were plucked, many in the fifth round. My target list had been whittled down to Jordan Zimmermann, Kris Medlen and Yovani Gallardo. Since I had waited so long to grab my first starter, I decided to grab two at this turn. I opted for the more popular Medlen first, thinking that I could slide Mastersball favorite Zimmermann around the turn. I was correct and paired them up, giving me two arms I really like at the top of my staff.

For the next turn I was going to go back to hitting, and was hoping I could land Jose Altuve, but he was snatched by the same owner who had scooped up Goldschmidt earlier. When my turn came, there wasn’t any players that really tugged at me, so I decided to let my trusty Mastersball Tier Sheet guide me here and I scooped up Melky Cabrera and followed that up with an aggressive move on Josh Rutledge. Rutledge was the ninth shortstop off the board in this draft, and previous drafts had told me that he likely wouldn’t have lasted much longer. I am a believer in the talent, opportunity and projection. The player I passed on for the talented youngster was another personal favorite, Salvador Perez. Had this been the ME, I may have opted for Perez over Cabrera. Instead, I decided there was less of a need to chase catching, so I would wait awhile longer here as well.

The rest of the draft went pretty smoothly. Using my Mastersball color coded ranking tiers as my primary guide, I built a very balanced and solid team. I took a few gambles later on that I might not in a Main Event, and was much less worried about playing the waiting game with the rest of my middle infield. Here is a breakdown of all my picks:

1.14/2.2 – Carlos Gonzalez/Adrian Beltre

3.14/4.2 – Allen Craig/B.J. Upton

5.14/6.2 – Kris Medlen/Jordan Zimmermann

7.14/8.2 – Melky Cabrera/Josh Rutledge

9.14/10.2- Kendrys Morales/Doug Fister – Needed another 1B eligible player, and love Morales as a bounce-back candidate one year further into his recovery from ankle surgery. Fister was my top ranked SP on the board, and will provide solid ratios, W’s and more K’s than I think most are projecting.

11.14/12.2 – Addison Reed/Todd Frazier – I wanted to get some saves, and they were going fast. Frazier was a power reach I felt okay making in this setting. I should note that Will Middlebrooks and my two personal favs Kyle Seager and Mike Moustakas went prior to my grabbing Frazier. I also lost out on Neil Walker and Erick Aybar. Still, with everyday at-bats, 30 home runs is possible here.

13.14/14.2 – Rafael Betancourt/Jarrod Parker – I find myself landing the Rockies' closer a lot lately, and I am fine with him as a second closer. Parker is another solid young arm on a winning team in a nice pitchers' park.

15.14/16.2 – Alexei Ramirez/Brian McCann – Not a bad pair to wind up with if you are playing the waiting game. I will have to fill in for McCann until he makes it back.

17.14/18.2 – Juan Pierre/ John Jaso – Pierre is a pick I likely don’t make outside this league, but needed a speed merchant and the ones I liked in the MI went higher than I thought they would. Jaso is one of my big underrated guys this year, and will help balance McCann’s production nicely.

19.14/20.2 – Omar Infante/ Clay Buchholz – Infante was the best of a dwindling bunch. Buchholz is a gamble I am willing to take. Looking good this spring and I like his chances of getting his career back on track.

21.14/22.2 – Tyler Colvin/Jason Vargas – Another multi-positional corner man with pop and another starter who can help with my ratios.

23.14/24.2 – Jurickson Profar/Dan Straily – Prospects were getting drafted, and I decided to give myself a chance at a second-half boost at second base from Profar. Straily fits the mold of this staff.

25.12/26.2 – Brandon Beachy/Colby Lewis – These were picks I felt safe trying here. Both are stashes, but both will return. They could really give my staff a big boost once they do.

27.14/28.2 – Kelvin Herrera/Trevor Rosenthal – Not having to compete in an overall means middle relievers can be deployed more easily and often. I decided to grab two electric arms that will help even if they don’t advance into higher profile roles.

29.14/30.2 - Kyle Kendrick/Jeff Francoeur – I really liked Kendrick’s upside as my last SP and good ole’ Frenchy can serve as a platoon mate for Pierre I guess. Of course, I should have taken a C here to fill in for McCann, and will likely need to in FAAB.

Hope you enjoyed this look at drafting from the back-end and good luck to all in your final drafts before the season begins.






Yesterday I participated in an analyst league over at Razzball.com, a 12-team “experts” league that will also compete in an overall competition alongside 60 other leagues comprised of loyal readers of the site in their very popular RCL Leagues. The draft boasted an excellent roster of writers from around the web, including Tout Wars participants Scott Pianowski, Nick Minnix, Derek Carty, Paul Singman, Ray Guilfoyle and Mike Podhozer, Razzball’s own Grey Albright and Rudy Gamble, Bret Sayre, Mark Bloom and BP co-founder Clay Davenport. It also includes last year’s defending champion, yours truly.

We didn’t know our draft positions until we entered the room for the 25-round draft, and I wasn’t thrilled to be picking at 12. The league uses only one catcher and has only three bench slots. It also employs an interesting wrinkle on the pitching side, a 180 games started limit along with a 1000 IP minimum. It is also a daily and trading league, so there tends to be a decent amount of player movement throughout the year. Here is the Mastersball entry for our title defense:

1.12 Justin Upton – I had settled on grabbing Upton with one of my two picks prior to the draft and almost was able to pair him up with Joey Votto, who went just before. Landing in the back-end of the first round, I decided to take some of Todd’s advice and “go big or go home” with the newly minted Atlanta Brave. Others might go for Bryce Harper, but I decided to take my shot for first round value here.

2.13 Troy Tulowitzki – Honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do with this pick until it came. I didn’t want to go pitching this high in back-to-back drafts, threw Tulo on the block and tried to talk myself out of it. In the end, I relented and drafted the oft-injured shortstop for the first time this year. I know he’ll more than likely miss time at some point, but it will be easier to bridge the gaps in a league this shallow. We all know what he can do when he’s healthy, so hopefully luck is on my side with this pick.

3.36 Billy Butler – Coming into this pick, I was focused like a laser on Yoenis Cespedes, who I was sure would be there for me. When he vanished from view, I opted to grab Billy Butler as the seventh first baseman off the board. Grey had taken Paul Goldschmidt in the second round, and he would have been my pick here in a normal draft. I’ll admit to playing it safe here with Butler, who’ll give me a .300 batting average and decent power.

4.37 Allen Craig – After getting sniped a couple times already, I decided Craig would be on this team as well. I’m on board with Todd’s aggressive projection for “The Wrench” and passed over Josh Hamilton and David Wright to lock him up.

5.60 Chris Sale – I was targeting my second baseman with this pair of picks but Jason Kipnis, Aaron Hill and even Jose Altuve elude and send me shopping elsewhere. Of course Desmond Jennings, who I had drafted in the sixth round the day before, was also snatched. I decided to grab Sale, who has the ability to mow down hitters with the best of them. Health is a concern, but I’m not that worried this year.

6.61 Gio Gonzalez – I’ll admit the fact that every bat I had in my sights disappeared brought Gonzalez into view. I almost took Brett Lawrie and Austin Jackson, but instead decided to lock up another elite starting pitcher with 200 K potential.

7.84 Martin Prado – Prado was not a target heading in, but I guess he falls into a similar category as Butler. He’s a relatively stable commodity that chips in a little bit of everything and adds flexibility to the roster. At least I had a third baseman on board, so I was covered if I missed my targets later on.

8.85 Jason Motte – My goal was to get three closers in the draft and rather than risk a run, I grabbed the guy I like best after Craig Kimbrel.

9.108 Carlos Santana – What, you knew I was going to draft him at some point didn’t you? Well, I was hoping for Josh Rutledge to fill my hole at second base, but Rudy Gamble beat me to the punch. Besides, being a homer pick, he’s also another multi-positional player. That could conceivably free up one of my corners for a trade at some point in the season. Beyond that, I still believe a breakout is coming. Getting Santana’s potential uncorked is one of Terry Francona’s primary tasks.

10.109 Shane Victorino – Getting some speed onto the roster was a need and the “Flying Hawaiian” was by far the best option on my board at this point. At 33, there is obviously more risk than before, but I actually think he will enjoy his new surroundings in Fenway.

11.132 Ian Kennedy – I was waiting on Rickie Weeks with this pick, but he went with pick #129. Instead I grabbed Kennedy as my SP3.  This is one case where I definitely feel like I got a player I actually like quite a bit at a really nice discounted price.

12.133 Adam LaRoche – I thought about taking my second closer here, but opted for the the boring veteran again. While I really like LaRoche as a UT, I did miss the opportunity to start a closer run rather than finish it.

13.156 Kyle Seager – Seeing that this was a Mastersball entry, I was happy to secure one of our mascots. He’s a line drive machine with room for growth this season. Plus, he’ll chip in some additional speed as well.

14.157 Rafael Betancourt – After watching seven other closers drafted, I was happy to snatch up Betancourt, although I’d have been happier if he was my third closer.

15.180 Jedd Gyorko – I needed a second baseman, and Gyorko qualifies there to start the year in this league. He’ll be another multi-positional player at some point, and his power profile plays a lot nicer here than at the hot corner.

16.181 Coco Crisp – Crisp, like Victorino, fills the speed void on this team while still providing a modicum of pop.

17.204 Jarrod Parker – I’m a Parker fan, and I was actually pretty thrilled with the price I paid to secure his services in this draft.

18.205 Ryan Madson – This pick will either hit or it will miss big-time. It all comes down to whether Madson’s elbow will allow him to pitch and if Ernesto Frieri doesn’t steal the job for good. I almost grabbed Perry Van Hook fav Jean Segura here, and looking back I might make that switch if I could.

19.228 J.J. Hardy – Needed to fill my MI slot. Opted for the power that is the Oriole shortstop’s calling card.

20.229 Mark Teixeira – Felt like a decent gamble at the time. If they shut him down for the year next week, not so much.

21.252 Matt Harrison – Harrison has shown he knows how to win ballgames. If regression hits, I’ll look elsewhere.

22.253 Vinnie Pestano – With daily transactions, it actually helps to have high K relievers to throw in there. Pestano’s day in the sun will come eventually.

23.276 Clay Buchholz – I was willing to take the shot that John Farrell can maybe get him straightened out.

24.277 Wil Myers – I wasn’t going to take him in this draft, but I’ll take the shot this late and stash him as long as I can afford to.

25.300 Leonys Martin -Martin is having a good spring, but he’s still somewhat of a lottery ticket. If he hits, I’ve got a real nice bargain. If not, there’s always Peter Bourjos.

Having played in this format last year, I have a good idea of what it takes to compete. Does this team have what it takes for a repeat? There are some quirks to the league that take some getting used to, but if the quality of the draft is any indication, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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