Bartolo Colon, Athletics - After his debut against the Mariners in Japan, where he gave up only one earned run (a solo shot) on three hits with six strikeouts and a walk, Colon should once again be back on the radar of mixed league owners. His 2011 campaign was one of his best in recent memory thanks to an improved fastball and better command of his pitches. Now in the much more pitcher friendly AL West and in a cavernous stadium, who's to say that the ride can't continue just a little while longer? Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Tyson Ross, Athletics - Expected to be the A's fourth starter going into the season, Ross has value only in AL formats right now. He had a decent thing going for a brief time in 2011 when he started six games and sported a 2.61 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks, before a strained oblique put him on the shelf. He's done nothing this spring to suggest he's about to turn the corner, but he has a pitcher friendly division and home park, so there's a potential for profit here. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays - Currently projected to be the Blue Jays fourth starter, Alvarez needs to be owned in all AL only leagues and deep mixed leagues. He possesses great control (1.13 BB/9 over 63.2 IP in 2011), which allows him to make up for the fact that he has yet show any real ability to miss bats yet. Yet is the key word here as he is just 22 years old. He skipped straight from Double-A to the majors last season and he is pitching in the AL East, so there still might be a bit of a learning curve here, but it's clear that Alvarez can help owners at minimum in the WHIP category. Mixed: $2; AL: $5.
Hector Noesi, Mariners - Noesi has earned a spot at the back of the M's rotation, and with his ability to avoid putting runners on base he should be a viable option in AL leagues. He came over as part of the Jesus Montero/Michael Pineda trade and should benefit from his new more pitcher friendly division and home park. He won't miss a great number of bats, but he makes up for it with a low walk rate. In terms of fantasy value, Noesi has Doug Fister type upside. Mixed: No; AL: $3.
Jeff Niemann, Rays - Niemann beat out Wade Davis for the Rays fifth-starter spot and should be owned in all AL and deeper mixed leagues. The tall Texan improved his command in 2011 thanks to a decreased walk rate and could see better results in 2012 if his 3.73 xFIP from last season is to be believed. Another positive is that he has maintained the ground-ball rate improvement he made from 2010. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox - Aceves is still in the mix for the Red Sox final two spots at the back of their rotation, thus potentially holding value in AL formats. He produced fantastic fantasy numbers in 2011 with a 2.61 ERA, 80 strikeouts, and 10 wins over 114 innings. Before owners go thinking he might produce similar numbers as a starter for a full season, keep in mind that he carried a 4.77 xFIP and .231 BABIP last season. Mixed: No; AL: $5.
Daniel Bard, Red Sox - Like Aceves, Bard is in the mix for the final two spots in the Red Sox starting rotation. He hasn't pitched as a starter since his days in Single-A ball, back in 2007, so there's really no telling what to expect from Bard. That said, anytime there's uncertainty, there's likely a potential for profit lurking. As a reliever Bard has been highly effective in due large part to a strikeout rate over 9.0 K/9 and a nice ground ball rate (career 48.6%). If Bard can carry both of these tools with him into the rotation, he'll be worth the price owners paid in FAAB early on. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Freddy Garcia, Yankees - With Michael Pineda headed to the DL (shoulder tendinitis), Garcia is now a likely lock to make the Yankees starting rotation and should be a decent option in AL formats. Last season with the club he posted a 3.62 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 45 walks over 146.2 innings. Owners shouldn't expect him to rack up the strikeouts, but he's a serviceable back-end option that could come cheap and bring a few wins along with him. Mixed: $2; AL: $5.
Phil Hughes, Yankees - Hughes is going to start the season in the Yankees rotation and should hold steady value until Michael Pineda (shoulder) or Andy Pettitte is ready to join the team. At that point it could be Hughes, Ivan Nova, or Freddy Garcia that moves to the bullpen. For now though, Hughes is looking to rebound from an injury riddled 2011 season that saw his velocity drop on his fastball. This spring that velocity is back and it's conceivable that he lasts all season in the rotation as he did in 2010, when he racked up 146 strikeouts with a 4.19 ERA and 18 wins. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Brian Fuentes & Fautino De Los Santos, Athletics - Grant Balfour has won the closing gig in Oakland, but he lacks experience in the role (11 career saves). Should he falter, the next man up is likely Brian Fuentes because he has that experience (199 career saves). However, it should be noted that Fuentes has serious problems getting righties out, so he's not an ideal candidate to hold down the job long-term. That honor goes to Fautino De Los Santos, who produced a 11.6 K/9 strikeout rate over 33.1 innings last season. Fuentes Mixed: $2; AL: $5. De Los Santos Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Vinnie Pestano, Indians - Chris Perez is currently dealing with an oblique issue that could land him on the DL to start the season. If this happens, expect Pestano to step in and perform admirably. Last season he registered a 12.2 K/9 strikeout rate over 62 innings with 23 holds. Moreover, Perez's 50.3% fly-ball rate and 5.01 xFIP from 2011 should not inspire much confidence that he'll hold on to the job the majority of the season. Mixed: $2; AL: $5.
Matt Lindstrom & Kevin Gregg, Orioles - Jim Johnson has the closer gig, but his velocity is down this spring and he's been shelled for six earned runs over seven innings with four strikeouts and five walks. The earned runs don't concern me much, but the walks and lack of velocity do. If he stumbles early on, expect Matt Lindstrom or Kevin Gregg to step in. Lindstrom is currently battling a hamstring issue, so he might be passed over for Gregg. If both are healthy though, Lindstrom is the better option because he possesses the control (2.33 BB/9 in 2011) that Gregg does not (6.03 BB/9 in 2011). Lindstrom Mixed: $1; AL: $4. Gregg Mixed: No; AL: $2.
Jonathan Broxton & Greg Holland, Royals - The chatter coming out of the Royals camp is that Broxton is likely to end up with the closer job, but nothing is set in stone at this point. Broxton is coming off a disastrous 2011 season that saw him pitch only 12.2 innings before having elbow surgery. The safer bet and the one to put money on long-term is Greg Holland. He has a slider that helps him miss bats as evidence by his 11.1 K/9 strikeout rate last season. Broxton Mixed: $7; AL: $15. Holland Mixed: $3; AL: $7.
Glen Perkins, Twins - Matt Capps is simply not a reliable pitcher, much less closer. Last season he posted a 4.49 xFIP with a 4.25 ERA fueled largely by a 1.37 HR/9 home run rate. Moreover, he can't miss bats like he used, as evidence by his career worst 4.66 K/9 strikeout rate last season. Perkins is more than capable of stepping into the role as he can miss bats (9.49 K/9), has a good ground ball rate (49.7%), and his fastball has gained velocity (94.0 mph) as he has converted from a starter to reliever. Mixed: $2; AL: $5.
Jesse Crain & Addison Reed, White Sox - While Matt Thornton is the odds on favorite to start the season as the White Sox closer, nothing is official yet and who can forget what happened last season when he was put in a similar position? Crain is the likely setup man, despite the oblique issue he battled earlier in camp. Last season Crain posted a 2.62 ERA with a 9.64 K/9 strikeout rate. The pitcher to watch long-term in this bunch is Addison Reed, who is the organization's best prospect. He has a live fastball and can dominate hitters, just ask the 111 he fanned over 77.1 innings in the minors last season. Crain Mixed: $1; AL: $3. Reed Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Josh Donaldson, Athletics - This is more of a position flexibility play than anything else. Donaldson is set to be the A's everyday third baseman meaning he'll see plenty of at-bats. He's mentioned as a catcher because he has eligibility at the position in many leagues as he played there primarily in the minors. Offensively, he has some pop as he .812 and .783 OPS over his last two seasons at Triple-A Sacramento. Like most "catchers" Donaldson can be a drain on your batting average, so buyer beware. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Ryan Doumit, Twins - Like Donaldson, Doumit has position flexibility as he's set to play a bit of DH and OF, in addition to backup catcher. The biggest question for the Twins and fantasy owners is can Doumit stay healthy? If so, it's not inconceivable that he could produce 20 home runs. In deep leagues with two catchers, it's tough to do better than this for a second catcher. Mixed: $3; AL: $7.
Brandon Allen & Kila Ka'aihue, Athletics - Allen started the first game the A's played in Japan going 0-4 with two strikeouts, while Ka'aihue went 1-3 in the team's second game. Allen was thought to be the front-runner for the position, but it's clear that as of right now, nothing is settled. Of the two, Allen has the higher power upside, but he also is more likely to strike out more often. If given the choice, I'd likely chose Allen just because he's the younger of the two (26 vs. 28) and has more time to pan out. Whoever wins the position battle will only be an option in AL only formats. Allen Mixed: $2; AL: $5. Ka'aihue Mixed: $1; AL: $4.
Jack Hannahan, Indians - With Lonnie Chisenhall optioned to Triple-A Columbus, Hannahan is now officially the Tribe's starting third baseman. He will help the team defensively, but owners care little about that unless they own one of the Indian's starting pitchers. Offensively Hannahan offers little in the way of power, speed, and batting average, but he is a starting corner infielder, and in most AL only leagues that alone is enough to make him worth rostering. Mixed: No; AL: $4.
Justin Smoak, Mariners - Smoak's homer in the second game the M's played in Japan might have caught the eye of a few owners. In only 123 games he hit 15 homers in 2011 with a .234 batting average and no speed. He also dealt with a thumb injury and the death of his father, so it's tough to tell just how much of this was mental and how much of it was actual skills. In mixed leagues, owners could do worse when speculating for power in their corner infield spot. Expecting more than 25 home runs however is likely unrealistic. Mixed: $5; AL: Owned.
Chris Parmelee, Twins - Parmelee has won the Twins starting first base job and as a result should be owned in all AL formats and deep mixed leagues. In 2011 at Double-A New Britain he hit 13 homers with a .287 batting average and .801 OPS. Any enthusiasm those numbers produce should be quelled by the fact that Target Field plays pitcher friendly. He's a decent option for those looking for counting stats, but don't expect miracles here. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
Robert Andino, Orioles - With Brian Roberts out (concussion), Andino is set to be the O's starting second baseman when the season starts. He offers little in the way of power, but he has modest speed as evidence by his 13 stolen bags last season in 511 plate appearances. Those in AL formats will want to throw a bid on him, while those mixed leagues can leave him for the waiver wire. It's thought that Roberts could return after 15 days on the DL, but concussions and the symptoms associated with them are never easy to put a time table on. Mixed: $2; AL: $6.
Sean Rodriguez, Rays - With Reid Brignac dealing with a slight tear in the tissue of his right foot, it has become increasingly likely that Rodriguez will begin the season as the Rays starting shortstop. Offensively, he brings modest power and speed with a low batting average, although he has been known to crush lefties. At 27 years old, time is running out for Rodriguez to develop into something more. Still, he's a decent offensive option for those in AL formats where he can be played as a middle infielder. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Mike Aviles, Red Sox - With Jose Iglesias officially sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket, Aviles is now the starting shortstop of the Red Sox. In addition he'll likely serve as the team's leadoff hitter. The leadoff hitter experiment will likely end with disappointing results as Aviles has produced a .335 and .289 OBP the last two seasons. Already owned in almost every AL format, Aviles could be a decent option for those in deeper mixed leagues looking for a middle infielder with some speed as he has stolen 14 bases each of the last two seasons. Mixed: $2; AL: Owned.
Josh Reddick, Athletics - Reddick went 2-for-3 with a double and home run against the Mariners in game two of their Japan series. This homer might bring some attention to Reddick as some may have forgotten that he was traded from the Red Sox. As far as his skills go, he has the potential to hit 15 to 20 home runs with a little bit of speed and a modest average. His home park will have a say in those power numbers, but the opportunity is there now the Reddick has a full time job. If he's not already owned in AL formats, he should be. As for mixed leagues, it's probably best to wait and see how he progresses. Mixed: $2; AL: $7.
We'll address the following outfielders in the comments section:
Eric Thames, Blue Jays; Shelley Duncan, Indians; Cody Ross, Red Sox; Ryan Sweeney, Red Sox; Jason Bourgeois, Royals; Lorenzo Cain, Royals.