Sep 19, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran (49) throws a pitch against the New York Mets in the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
There are four words that all baseball fans yearn to hear during the offseason: Pitcher and Catchers Report. Yes, Wednesday marks the first day that pitchers and catchers report, and it also marks the commencement of the 2015 season. For fantasy owners there will be multiple position battles, players and storylines to watch, and Spring Training will begin soon, so hopefully this article guides fantasy owners to what to watch for.
Atlanta Braves – Starting Rotation
The Braves’ off-season has been interesting to say the least. New management has basically changed the fantasy landscape of this team by getting rid of assets such as Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, and Jason Heyward. It has left the team devoid from a fantasy perspective.
The main competition for owners to monitor is the middle of the Braves rotation. Julio Teheran and Alex Wood definitely seem to be on the rise and both will be drafted in the middle of drafts. However, fantasy owners should be monitoring Shelby Miller and Mike Minor, who have shown glimpses that they can produce ample fantasy value.
Miller ended the year strong after a dismal season, so fantasy owners should watch to see if the change of scenery and late season success can translate into a fantasy SP 4 or 5. Minor fought through shoulder problems last year, but he is only one year removed from a solid 2013 season, he also falls in that SP 4 or 5 range with the his celling being the 2013 season.
Miami Marlins – Stanton’s Comfort
One of the most aggressive teams in the off-season were the Marlins who brought in the likes of Dee Gordon, Mat Latos, Martin Prado, and Michael Morse. But all that means nothing if Giancarlo Stanton (he will always be Mike to me) has any hesitancy resulting from his facial injury. One of the worst sights to witness last year was Stanton being plunked in the face thus ending his tremendous season and it was just a scary experience overall.
We saw Aroldis Chapman rebound from getting a line drive to face in the spring of last year, but it is a little easier to rebound when no one can touch your 200 mph fastball. For fantasy owners, it is worth watching just to make sure that he is not a little gun shy in the box. Personally, I am not worried about Stanton rebounding, but astute fantasy owners have to do their homework for a guy that could arguably be the second overall pick.
New York Mets – SS Position
Mets fans across the world have been clamoring for an addition to the SS position. Yet, as Mets fans should be accustomed to, the upgrade has not come. For fantasy owners, we all know that SS and MI spots can get ugly fast; therefore, finding diamonds in the rough can be essential in constructing a solid fantasy roster.
The starting SS position will come down to Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. This battle proves the age old bat vs. glove debate. Fantasy owners should be hoping that Flores wins the job because he has the stick to produce around 15 HR’s. The SS position is usually defined by defense, so if Wilmer can provide adequate defense, then I think he can win the job and be a prime late round MI target.
Philadelphia Phillies – Back of the Bullpen
Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, and Jonathan Papelbon all been the subject of trade rumors throughout off-season discussions. While these situations are worth monitoring as baseball fans, the most fantasy relevant is the Papelbon conundrum. I think it is safe to say that Papelbon has worn out his welcome in Philly, but it also does not hurt that they have an electric replacement waiting in the wings. Ken Giles was downright unhittable in his, albeit, 45 innings of work. With a 1.18 ERA and a 12.6 K/9, the guy is just nasty. Fantasy owners should watch to see if Papelbon gets traded throughout the spring. If he does get shipped out, Giles should be a prime closing sleeper candidate, and if Papelbon stays, Giles is still rosterable as he can provide K’s and holds.
Washington Nationals – Bullpen
The rich only get richer. With the edition of Max Scherzer (Mad Max), the only questions are about the back end of the bullpen. Presumably, Tanner Roark will become the swing-man as a combination of Aaron Barrett, Matt Thornton, and Casey Janssen form the bridge to Drew Storen. The thing to watch for in the spring will be if Storen can capitalize on retaking the closing job last year and his dominance that came after.
Not too long ago, fantasy owners were marking him as a huge bust, and I think there will continued hesitancy when it comes to drafting him. Thus, intelligent owners should monitor him during the spring to just reassure themselves that Storen is worth the top 10 closer designation.
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