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MLB Barometer: Happy Real Opening Day

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.


Happy Opening Day to you all. Real Opening Day, that is. Not happy Australia Opening Middle of the Night, because this isn't cricket we're talking about. Not happy Opening Night, because this isn't the theater. Happy Opening Day. This is it. This is what it's all about. This is what you've been waiting for all winter long. This is the start of the baseball season. One day MLB will realize what they are doing. One day they'll rein it all back in and tradition will be restored. One day. Because there's just nothing like that first day of games, is there? There's just something so magical about it that turns even the grumpiest of old men into a giddy nine-year-old. Baseball is back, baby, and I for one, couldn't wait another day.

And with the return of the greatest sport of all time comes the start of the fantasy baseball season. We've had quite the month of spring games, scouting players and drafts and now it's time to get down to business. While a full week has passed from the last MLB Barometer, we haven't had as much action as you might think. A few more position battles have been decided but this week teams are, more or less, just fiddling with their rosters and prepping for the long haul. Many players have landed on the disabled list, but, in truth, few of them will be there for the long term. Most will be back by the end of this week.

But that doesn't mean we don't have anyone rising and falling in value here as we get ready to open things up. With so many players landing on the DL, you actually have a little bit of wiggle room on your roster here in the first week and can probably add a few last minute names just to see how they do initially. Here's a quick look at who's catching my eye early on.

Rising

Chris Owings, SS ARI - Not that we haven't been seeing the handwriting on the wall for a couple of weeks now, but Kirk Gibson finally announced that Owings has officially beaten out Didi Gregorious for the starting shortstop gig in Arizona. He always had the better stick which brings you much more fantasy upside, but he also showed some strong work with the glove to solidify his place in the lineup. Gregorius heads down to Triple-A with Cliff Pennington serving as the primary backup, so as long as he hits with some consistency, Owings should have the job locked down. With a little bit of pop and a little bit of speed, he should prove to be a very serviceable middle infielder this year.

Marcus Semien, 2B CHW - Though he may have lost the third base battle to Conor Gillaspie, Semien may have actually won the war thanks to Gordon Beckham and Jeff Keppinger both hitting the disabled list. Both are likely to be out longer than their 15 days so Semien has a real opportunity to solidify his place in the lineup and possibly run away with the job. The team has been extremely disappointed in Beckham these last few years, so just some consistency both at the plate and in the field should be enough to keep him in the lineup. He's got the potential to one day be a 15-15 player who can provide sound defense so if he can just flash some of that ability at the plate, the rest should fall into line.

Grady Sizemore, OF BOS - This could actually turn into one of the feel-good stories of the year as Sizemore has endured a very long and difficult road to make it back to where he is. The fact that he has made it back from extensive micro-fracture knee surgeries is one thing, but to then steal the starting job from Jackie Bradley Jr. makes it all the more impressive. Physically, he's probably not going to be able to play each and every day, at least not from the onset, but he'll be out there patrolling center field for the most part and should prove to be a fantastic “sleeper.” If you drafted more than a week or two ago, he probably went untouched, so check your waiver wire for his availability. If he can regain even just a little of the player he once was, you could have yourself a solid fourth outfielder here.

Sergio Santos, RP TOR - Alright save-chasers, your first target of the season has been acquired. A left abdominal/lower back strain has already put Casey Janssen on the disabled list and it sounds like he may need a little more than just the 15 days off. Santos served the White Sox well as their closer back in 2011 but injuries got the better of him over these last two years. Now healthy and ready to go, he'll fill in for Janssen for the time being and will likely be the guy called upon down the road, if needed. He's got a solid 50-percent ground ball rate and averages more than a strikeout per inning. So long as he keeps the walks down and the contact weak, he should be a nice source of saves here in the early part of April.

Taylor Jordan, SP WAS - With Doug Fister suffering a lat strain and landing on the disabled list, the Nationals needed to fill out the back-end of their rotation to open the year. Both Jordan and Tanner Roark have a fantastic opportunity in front of them, but while both are talented, I feel like Jordan could be the one to stick in the rotation while Roark eventually heads back to the pen. His strikeout rate hasn't been all that dazzling, but he does still miss a fair number of bats (10.2-percent swinging-strike rate last year) and induces some weak contact. He's got a solid low-90's fastball, a decent change and as trong slider to use as a killer out-pitch. He should induce a lot of ground balls so as long as the defense doesn't disappoint, he should do well this season.

Falling

Clayton Kershaw, SP LAD - Well this is just not the way you want to start your fantasy season at all. The Dodgers are describing Kershaw's injury as upper-back inflammation but they are being rather vague when they discuss it. That's just not a good sign. He's on the disabled list and reports say that he will definitely be on it longer than just the routine 15 days. Details will probably begin to leak out throughout the week, so all you can do is sit and wait. You can scour the waiver wire, but you know you're not going to find talent even remotely close to his right now. While you can't predict injuries, this would certainly make for yet another reason why you wait on starting pitching.

Shane Victorino, OF BOS - The Flyin' Hawaiian is again grounded and for how long, we just don't know yet. Victorino flew back to Boston over the weekend and is scheduled for a Monday morning MRI to determine the severity of his hamstring injury. The reports are mixed as some seem more concerned than others, but we'll simply have to wait for the test results. Red Sox manager John Farrell still seems to be holding out hope that Victorino could make it down to Baltimore in time for their 4pm (ET) start, but most consider his Opening Day status to be questionable. The team does not want to rush a hamstring injury as it could then linger all year long if it doesn't heal properly, so expect the team to exercise some caution here.

Carlos Quentin, OF SD - Sigh. Another year, another trip to the disabled list for Q. Most of us know better than to trust him, but there just seemed like a little more hope than usual this year as Quentin changed to a more upright batting stance to take the pressure off his surgically-repaired knee. Unfortunately, he's now on the DL for the other knee. The team is simply describing it as soreness, but manager Bud Black also added that Quentin would spend more than just the 15 days on the DL. Maybe they're just erring on the side of caution or maybe we should drop him from our rosters and thoughts altogether. It could just be time to move on.

Michael Bourn, OF CLE - It was bad when Bourn disappointed his fantasy owners with a down season last year, but now this is just adding insult to injury. Touted as a bargain-priced bounce-back candidate, Bourn tweaked his hamstring two weeks ago and he is still down. His DL stint was retroactive to March 21, so he'll be eligible to come off by the end of this week. However, how ready he will be then is a different story. We know we can't rush the healing process here, especially with a guy who makes his living with his legs, so even if he does get activated when his 15 days are up, will the Indians be inclined to just throw him into the fire or will they hedge a little and allow Nyjer Morgan to stick around for longer? If you did draft Bourn, grabbing Morgan is the right move as he will lead off and play center in the speedster's absence. He [Morgan] always seems to get off to a fairly hot start, so he might do you some good early on. Just don't be afraid to cut him loose when the time comes.

Mitch Moreland, 1B TEX - Here's my big speculative call for the week. With the way fourth outfielder Michael Choice has finished this spring (.369 with five doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI) it seems like just a short matter of time before the youngster starts eating into Moreland's DH time and eventually push him aside. Choice moved quickly through the A's farm system and displayed fantastic power potential. But he also showed something even better when he improved his plate discipline upon entering the Triple-A level, pushing his walk rate over 11-percent while cutting down on the strikeouts. You can't put too much stock into the spring numbers, obviously, but they're a good starting point right now and should be, along with last year's improvements, enough to keep him on your radar. If you can stash him now, it is recommended, because it might not be long before he's a staple in that powerful Texas lineup.