The Steelers and Vikings are the only teams who have reported to Training Camp, so there is not a lot of news to discuss. However, there are still a few interesting tidbits that are worth mentioning as we attempt to fill our thirst for anything and everything football.
Last week I offered up 5 Bold Predictions for the 2015 season. This week I will give you my view on how I see the entire season playing out, division by division. So without further adieu:
1. Boston Red Sox – Mookie Betts is a stud all season and the Red Sox trade for either Hamels or Cueto at the deadline helping to propel them to the division title.
Let me start with a quick disclaimer. These picks are meant to be bold, which means they’re not definitely going to happen, or even likely to happen, but there’s an outside (not just-a-bit-outside, but way-outside) shot that they could come true. These players are chock-full of breakout upside potential, and these possibilities are why I want them on all my fantasy teams. Thus, with the famous words of Lloyd Christmas in mind, let’s get to it.
- Corey Dickerson will be a top-five outfielder this season
Dickerson finished as the No. 13 outfielder in 2014 by Yahoo’s rankings. He accomplished that with 103 fewer at-bats than anyone above him on the list, and in some cases more than 200 fewer. But this year, he’s expected to see full-time at-bats. Add in 81 games at Coors Field (where all he did was hit .363/.415/.684 in 2014) and even a slight improvement against left-handed pitching, and Dickerson should easily be a top-10 outfielder in 2015. From there, it’s not that big a jump to sneak into the top five – remember, Michael Brantley ended up as Yahoo’s No. 2 outfielder in 2014.
It seems like every time I sit down to write a blog, I’m writing about another pitcher being injured. Alas, such is the case again today. Alex Cobb has been diagnosed with tendinitis in his right forearm and will miss the beginning of the regular season. While there’s no specific timetable for Cobb’s return, it appears that he’ll miss at least the first couple weeks of the season.
This is a bummer. Cobb was one of “my guys” this season, as I expected a big breakout from the Rays’ supposed Opening Day starter. Cobb has been outstanding the last two seasons, albeit in only 166.1 and 143.1 innings, respectively, and it seemed like he was ready to take the next step and become a fantasy ace in 2015.
Zach Wheeler became the latest pitcher to be diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament (leading one to believe torn UCLs are as contagious as the measles), which – pending a second opinion – will lead to Tommy John surgery for the promising young right-hander. This is certainly a blow to the Mets’ prospects for 2015, as the “other” New York team has had the look of a playoff contender for the first time in years. But the bright side is that they do have plenty of depth in the rotation.
From a fantasy perspective, obviously avoid Wheeler in yearly leagues, as he will not pitch in 2015. Wheeler still has value in keeper/dynasty formats (depending on your league’s rules), since coming back from Tommy John surgery has become commonplace in today’s MLB – as his teammate Matt Harvey can attest.
Cliff Lee has a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow, just another disastrous piece of news for a Phillies team that’s seemingly being run by a third grader who’s more of a “football guy” than a baseball guy. Ruben Amaro’s wretched stench has been emanating from South Philadelphia for far too long, and is still somehow impacting the losingest franchise in sports history. Amaro’s failure to move Lee at any point over the last two years has come back to bite the team, just like many of the overmatched general manager’s decisions.
However, this injury could be a blessing in disguise for owners of players like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and the few other legitimate pieces that make up a small portion of the Phillies’ hideous roster. Instead of languishing away on a team that will fight to avoid losing 100 games, the Lee injury may force their child-like GM to finally lower his (reportedly exorbitant) asking price and trade Hamels, Paps, and others to legitimate contenders. Then we could actually get the stud-level production we expect from those guys.
The Red Sox outfield situation is one of the more interesting draft conundrums of the season to date. With Hanley Ramirez a lock to start in left field and Shane Victorino apparently penciled in as the right fielder (for some unknown reason), there appeared to be some clarity as to how the situation would play itself out, as Cuban import Rusney Castillo was expected to be the leading candidate to start in center field. This would leave fantasy baseball’s sleeper breakout du jour, Mookie Betts (the most famous “Mookie” since Mookie Wilson), on the outside looking in.
However, Castillo strained his left oblique on Tuesday and will miss at least a week of action, though there are rumors that he could miss a significantly larger chunk of time. While the injury is not expected to be too serious, obliques can be tricky, so keep an eye on Castillo’s progress. More important, it opens up an opportunity for Betts to get a head start on trying to wrest the center field job away from Castillo.
I’m sure that as spring training progresses, we will get more clarity on how Boston’s outfield situation will play out, but I believe that talent will eventually win out. Betts is too good to sit on the bench, and assuming health, Castillo should offer more upside than Shane Victorino (and Allen Craig who, despite what the Red Sox would have you think, is in fact still a member of the team). And that is not even factoring in Victorino’s inability to stay healthy himself.
When all is said and done, expect Victorino to be the odd man out when the season really gets underway. But, with Hanley’s injury history, perhaps having a surplus of outfielders is not the worst idea for a Boston team that will need all the offensive production it can get (Clay Buchholz is scheduled to be their Opening Day starter…Clay Buchholz!).
Masahiro Tanaka will most likely make his first spring training start on March 12 against the Braves. If Tanaka looks healthy this spring, he could end up being a big riser in later drafts and a value for those who have already drafted him.
After experiencing some shoulder soreness, Derek Holland looks to be back on track and could start as soon as Sunday.
Nick Castellanos appears to be ok after taking a pitch off his hand on Tuesday. Castellanos was back playing in game-action on Wednesday.
Alex Cobb will start Opening Day for the Rays. While not a surprise, it’s nice to see the young starter get some recognition, as he is one of the better young arms in baseball.
Josh Harrison left Wednesday’s game with an ankle injury. The extent of the injury is not yet known.
Aaron Sanchez had a rough first spring training outing, allowing five runs to the Pirates in 1.1 innings on Tuesday. Sanchez has electric stuff, but will need to do better if he wants to win the fifth starting spot in Toronto’s rotation
Charlie Blackmon missed Wednesday’s game with minor abdominal discomfort. This does not seem to be anything serious, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Mike Minor experienced tightness in his throwing shoulder on Wednesday, which will cause the left-hander to miss his scheduled outing on Sunday.
Joel Hanrahan was released by the Tigers on Wednesday. The injury-plagued right-hander will have his second Tommy John surgery on March 14.
Alex Rodriguez singled in his first spring training at-bat. It is the first time Rodriguez has swung a bat in game-action since September 25, 2013.
Joey Votto is still not ready to play his first spring training game, but Reds manager Bryan Price expects the first baseman to be ready to go in the near future.
Pat Venditte, Oakland’s “switch-pitcher,” got an out pitching right-handed and an out pitching left-handed in the A’s’ first spring training game on Tuesday.