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MLB Barometer: Ventura Highway

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.


With just one week of spring training left and, oddly enough, two official Major League Baseball games in the books, we thought that now would be an appropriate time to bring back the MLB Barometer for the 2014 season. Many of you still have drafts to do and for those of you who have already drafted, it's already time to start hunting on the waiver wire. The Barometer will point you towards players whose stock is on the rise while also steering you away from those who are losing value. Not every player discussed will see their value change immediately as foresight and an ability to read a situation is paramount to making the right decisions, but those who do find their way into the column each week are bound to have a significant fantasy impact this year.

Rising

Joakim Soria, RP TEX - With a second Tommy John surgery under his belt and  a 1.13 ERA over eight spring innings with six strikeouts and no walks, Soria was awarded the closer's job in Texas and immediately sees a bump in value. He edges out Neftali Feliz who also has been recovering from the same procedure, but Soria was further into his rehab and exhibited stronger command all spring. His ADP is already on the rise in significant fashion, so if have yet to draft, you can probably expect him to come off the board with the rest of the mid-tier closers such as Glen Perkins and Grant Balfour. His experience and overall talent should help him keep hold of the job this season while Feliz earns his stripes in the eighth inning eventually (Feliz was sent down to the minors to begin the season, however).

Yordano Ventura, SP KC - In reality, the competition for the fifth starter's job in Kansas City wasn't much of a competition. Ventura, who hits triple-digits on the radar gun and has respectable and improving secondary pitches, posted an impressive 1.77 ERA with an 18:4 K:BB over 20.1 innings this spring while his chief rival Danny Duffy allowed 14 runs (six home runs) over 11 innings and had just nine strikeouts to six walks. Duffy has been subsequently demoted to the minors while Ventura gears up for his very first Opening Day. He's still not coming off draft boards until late, but his ADP is on the rise. There's no need to reach, but don't wait too long or you'll get caught watching him dominate for someone else.

Aaron Hicks, OF MIN - While he failed to impress at the plate  during his half-season in the majors last year, Hicks showed the Twins that he does, in fact have some life in his bat after all. He hit .342 with one home run, three RBI, five runs scored and a stolen base over 38 at-bats while continuing to dazzle with his glove and range in center field. He out-played Alex Presley nearly every step of the way and was rewarded with the starting job. His speed potential immediately puts him on people's radar, but he's still more of a late-round option when looking for cheap speed.

Joe Kelly, SP STL - Are you looking for a cheap, back end starter who may not strike many guys out but should keep his ratios at a comfortable level? Well then Kelly is your man. The Cardinals announced the other day that Kelly was given the fifth starter's job while Carlos Martinez was put back into the bullpen to handle eighth-inning duties. Again, he doesn't offer much in strikeouts, but he's a ground ball pitcher with strong ERA numbers and a very consistent FIP over the last two seasons. He won't dazzle by any means, but he'll be a serviceable guy in roto leagues as a cheap way to keep your ratios stable while pulling in a few wins.

J.J. Hoover, RP CIN - As the guy who will likely see the biggest share of the closing duties with Aroldis Chapman out, Hoover definitely sees an increase in value. But before you go breaking the bank and cutting into your FAAB budget, keep in mind that he will be sharing the load and manager Bryan Price will likely be playing the match-ups often. With both Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall also injured, the competition for work will be less, but Hoover cannot be relied upon as a full-time closer. Yes, he's got more value than he did before, but it's not as big an increase as most who are chasing saves would like it to be.

Holding Steady

Jonathan Schoop, 2B BAL - We've got a very interesting development here with Manny Machado starting the season on the disabled list and it should be interesting to see how the Orioles handle it. Schoop has been playing extremely well this spring and has done enough to earn the starting second base job. With Ryan Flaherty moving over to third while Machado is out, the O's can either go with Schoop or Jemile Weeks. If they go with Schoop, then they end up losing that extra year of control. Should he not continue to play well, then when Machado comes back, Flaherty moves back to second and the club has wasted that extra year. However, if he does continue to play well, then Flaherty would be a utility guy which is probably more of where he should be in the first place. Keep an eye on this situation all week and look to see what the team does. My guess is they go with Weeks at second so they don't risk starting the clock early on Schoop for what could be just a few weeks. Schoop's value in keeper/dynasty leagues holds steady but his value in re-draft leagues could be on the move soon.

Kolten Wong, 2B STL - He's officially been given the starting second base job for the Cardinals thanks to solid defense and a .372 average with two home runs, eight RBI, nine runs scored and two stolen bases. So why is he not trending upwards? Well he might be just a little, but given the fact that these are spring numbers which we all know to take with a grain of salt and that he struck out nine times in 43 at-bats (20.9-percent), there's a bit of hesitancy on my part. Should he stumble out of the gate, Mike Matheny won't have much of a problem spelling him with Mark Ellis and they could find themselves in some sort of a platoon situation. I reserve the right to wait until the season starts before making my final call here.

Falling

Jurickson Profar, 2B TEX - I don't like to put injured guys here and you won't find many during the year, but the recent news that Profar has a torn muscle in his shoulder and will miss 10 to 12 weeks is pretty significant and a strong reason to bump him down on your draft boards. Profar was always more known for his glove than his bat, so the numbers expectations weren't too high, but now take average stats over a full year and pro-rate them for just half the year and you're not looking at much of a contribution. His value in re-draft leagues drops significantly but his value in dynasty and keeper leagues doesn't take as much of a hit.

Josh Rutledge, 2B COL - The Rockies have decided that strong defense up the middle trumps a good, but not great, bat and D.J. LeMahieu has been given the starting second base job in Colorado. Rutledge will end up as the utility man and right-handed bat off the bench. He's still capable of hitting for some decent power as a middle infielder, should he see a fair number of at-bats, so don't count him out just yet. Just don't count on him right now either.

Mike Minor, SP ATL - It wasn't bad enough that he had to have a surgical procedure to remove scar tissue from his urethra, but then he started to experience soreness in his shoulder. That soreness may have subsided, but given the injuries to the Braves rotation this spring, the team is exercising extreme caution with him. Word is that he won't pitch until the end of April, so he needs to be downgraded a bit in re-draft leagues. Of course, missing just four or five starts isn't the worst thing in the world if you're looking at the big picture.

Didi Gregorius, SS ARI - The Diamondbacks started Gregorius in one game in Australia and Chris Owings in the other and the team is hoping that at some point soon, one will step up and really take hold of the job. The assumption was that if neither took the lead this spring that the job would default to Gregorius as the incumbent, but now there are rumblings about his heading down to Triple-A because Owings swings a bigger bat. It seems like, at best, this is going to be a platoon situation and at worst, it goes to Owings. Either way, that's bad news for Gregorius and any fantasy owners or potential owners of his.

Kendrys Morales, 1B FA - We're already two games into the regular season and less than a week away from Sunday's Opening Night and Morales still hasn't signed anywhere. There are still a number of teams who could benefit from signing him (Pittsburgh, Miami and Milwaukee, I'm looking at you) but still no word on anything even remotely concrete. Heck, even the speculation has died down now that it doesn't look like the Mariners are even going to try and bring him back. If/when he does land somewhere, he'll be a big waiver wire add, that's for sure.