AL offseason fantasy winners and losers
A lot has happened since Sergio Romo caught Miguel Cabrera looking at strike three to close out a 4-0 Giants sweep in the World Series. All 30 teams have made changes, many of the wholesale variety, and now is the perfect time to start familiarizing yourself with how those changes have changed fantasy values, for better or worse.
This week we’ll look at the American League to identify each team’s biggest fantasy winner and loser as things have shaken out. Next week we’ll follow up with the senior circuit. Let’s get right into it.
(Also, here’s a list of the remaining free agents.)
Winner: Chris Davis, 1B — Since he was stolen from the Rangers as part of a package for middle reliever Koji Uehara at the 2011 trade deadline, Davis has successfully shed the Quad-A label that he had been stamped with following a disastrous (.192/.279/.292) 2010. General manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter rewarded Davis, who hit 33 home runs while splitting time between DH, first base, left field, right field (and pitcher!), by committing to him as the everyday first baseman following the departure of last year’s starter Mark Reynolds.
Loser: Nolan Reimold, LF — After seizing a regular role in the lineup as the left fielder and leadoff hitter, he suffered a bulging disc in his neck that sidelined him after April and by June forced him to have neck surgery. Eventually, journeyman Nate McLouth was signed to play left and caught fire, earning a $2 million contract for 2013. At worst, McLouth will be the left-handed swinging (read: more utilized) part of a left field platoon.
Boston Red Sox
Winner: Jonny Gomes, LF — Boston’s outfield has been radically transformed with Gomes and Shane Victorino stepping in for Carl Crawford (traded to the Dodgers in August) and Cody Ross (signed by the Diamondbacks). While Victorino has received 500 plate appearances in each of the past six seasons, Gomes has reached the plateau just once in his eight full years. But now the right-handed power hitter with an at-bats per home run rate (19.46) better than Ross (23.87) or Adrian Gonzalez 20.78) will be asked to take aim at the Green Monster on a regular basis. That should make him a good source of 25-30 home runs.
Loser: Andrew Bailey, RP — When the Red Sox traded Josh Reddick for Andrew Bailey they thought they’d be getting their closer for the next half decade. Instead, Bailey pitched just 19 times in 2012 — saving six games — after recovering from a thumb injury he suffered in the spring. Now he’s being relegated to a setup role in front of newly acquired Joel Hanrahan, who saved 76 games for the Pirates over the past two seasons. Being Boston’s setup man will still make him someone worthy of owning in deeper mixed leagues as he’ll be in line for some wins, but barring a trade Bailey is no longer a must-have pitcher.
Chicago White Sox
Winner: Tyler Flowers, C — After spending the past four years as A.J. Pierzynski’s little-used understudy, the former top prospect with prodigious power gets a crack at the starting job. Among projected 2013 AL fantasy starters with catcher eligibility, only Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and J.P. Arencibia have a hit home runs with a higher frequency, given the opportunity, than Flowers.
Loser: Brent Morel, White Sox — Once considered the third baseman of the future, Morel saw that job handed to former utility man Jeff Keppinger, who was signed away from the Rays to a three-year, $12 million deal. He’s still young enough to have an impact, even this season, but with Keppinger now in his way, the battle is certainly more uphill.
Winner: Trevor Bauer, SP — Acquired in the three-team deal with the Diamondbacks and Reds, Bauer, 22, is one of baseball’s most promising starters, one who struck out 200 batters in 156 innings last season split between Double and Triple A. Virtually guaranteed a spot in Cleveland’s rotation, Bauer could very well become the ace of a staff that will be pitching in front of a much improved offense.
Loser: Grady Sizemore, CF* — No longer a member of the Indians organization, or any other for that matter, the onetime budding superstar and cornerstone of the franchise has decided to stay unsigned until fully healthy. We hope he can make it back to the majors one day, but he isn’t someone to draft unless you’re in the deepest of leagues.
Winner: Bruce Rondon, RP — Jose Valverde’s postseason meltdown and subsequent free agency and Detroit’s spending spree at other positions will make the rookie a cheap source of saves both for the defending American League champions and for fantasy owners.
Loser: Andy Dirks, LF — Dirks is one of the bright young hitters in the system the past few years, but the signing of Torii Hunter and the emergence of Avisail Garcia (to fill the corner outfield spots) and the return of Victor Martinez as the designated hitter will limit any gain in at-bats Dirks owners might have been hoping for.
Winner Jose Veras, RP — The longtime middle man is being given the first opportunity to earn saves for a team that saw it’s top two saves men from 2012, Brett Myers and Wilton Lopez, ship off for other teams. However, playing for an inexperienced and overmatched team in what’s probably baseball’s toughest division, Veras will see fewer saves chances than most other regular closers.
Loser: Carlos Peña, 1B — The veteran first baseman might have been out of luck finding a major league deal coming off of a .197 season, but Houston got desperate to fill their newly created DH slot, which should be manned by Brett Wallace a majority of the time. But will you want someone capable of a sub-.200 average in your lineup every day? Another caveat with Peña is that the entire roster is young, meaning he could be sent packing at the first sign of a rising prospect or solid offer.
Kansas City Royals
Winner: Jeremy Guthrie, SP — The acquisition of James Shields to head up the rotation was a blessing for Guthrie, the Royals’ ace during the second half of last season. Now, instead of facing every team’s top starter, Guthrie should theoretically see the No. 2s, which bodes much better for a solid wins total.
Loser: Ervin Santana, SP — At times the ex-Angel was atrocious last season. In 10 of his 30 starts Santana allowed at least five earned runs, and the Angels were 13-17 in his starts. On a staff with plenty of No. 5 options, especially when Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino return from injury around midseason, he’s much too risky to carry on a fantasy roster.
Los Angeles Angels
Winner: Peter Bourjos, CF — The departure of Kendrys Morales and Torii Hunter alleviates the logjam that was in the Angels outfield and kept Bourjos out of the lineup following the ascent of Mike Trout. The speedy centerfielder is known for his defense (and could bump Trout to left) but more important for fantasy, he’ll be a cheap source of speed for a team that will be among the game’s most dynamic offensively.
Loser: Ernesto Frieri, RP — Shortly after being acquired from the Padres early in the year, Frieri became the team’s closer, picking up the pieces for the overmatched Jordan Walden. However, with the offseason acquisitions of Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett, Frieri will get bounced back to the seventh and eighth innings.
Winner: Darin Mastroianni, CF — The departures of both Denard Span and Ben Revere to the NL East leaves the speedy Mastroianni, who stole 21 bases in 77 games last year, as the last man standing in center field and atop the Twins order — at least until super-prospect Aaron Hicks is ready to play every day.
Loser: Justin Morneau, 1B — Once one of the premier run producers in the American League, the former AL MVP will have a hard time driving in runs with a cast of subpar table-setters hitting in front of him in the lineup. Playing in the final season of his contract, he’s a prime candidate to be dealt during the season, something that could leave AL-only owners high and dry.
New York Yankees
Winner: Ichiro Suzuki, RF — Invigorated by a pennant race, Ichiro returned to being the contact-heavy batter fantasy owners had grown to admire over the years by hitting .322 and slugging .454 after joining the Yankees before the trade deadline. Re-signed to a two-year deal with New York, he’ll again be a catalyst and give a boost to fantasy teams in average and stolen bases. His playing in a speedy outfield with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner should also be a boon to the Yankees’ flyball pitchers, who likely won’t see as many balls drop fair.
Loser: Alex Rodriguez, 3B — Another season, another debilitating hip surgery for the former top fantasy pick. He’ll be sidelined at least until July, at which point we have no idea if he’ll even be a shadow of himself. Feel free to carry him on your DL but don’t spend too many resources on someone who could conceivably give your team nothing this season.
Winner: Josh Donaldson, 3B — There were many factors that could have kept Donaldson from being a regular this season, but as things stand now it’ll be Donaldson, and not Scott Sizemore, who is most likely to be the opening day third baseman. The converted catcher has some pop (22 home runs combined between Triple A and the majors last season) and could gain catcher status at some point in leagues with lenient position eligibility rules.
Loser: Derek Norris, C — The youngster seemed to have the way cleared for him to take over the No. 1 catching job when Kurt Suzuki was shipped to Washington last season, but the acquisition of the better-hitting John Jaso to serve as the regular backstop will relegate Norris to backup duties, making him more of a fantasy flier than someone to count on to be in your regular lineup.
Winner: Felix Hernandez, SP — The King has been scuffling for years without a proper offense behind him. With the additions of big bats such as Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibañez to go along with holdovers Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero, though, Hernandez’s run support and wins total should skyrocket.
Loser: Mike Carp, LF/1B — With so much quality major league hitting talent imported this offseason, the often-injured Carp finds himself without a position. The only way he’ll force his way into the lineup is if Eric Wedge gives up on Justin Smoak at first base, something unlikely to occur.
Tampa Bay Rays
Winner: Sam Fuld, LF — B.J. Upton’s departure to Atlanta gives fan favorite and defensive daredevil Fuld an honest chance at a regular spot in Joe Maddon’s lineup. He missed most of 2012 due to a wrist injury but he is fully healthy and would provide Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria with another speedy table-setting option.
Loser: Sean Rodriguez, IF — At times, Rodriguez has been a major prospect, starting shortstop, starting second baseman and super utility man. No longer a prospect, with Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist entrenched in the middle infield, occasional at-bats are all he can expect.
Winner: David Murphy, LF — With Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz hanging around, there was always a question as to how much playing time Murphy would get. With injuries, platoons and the creative use of the DH, Ron Washington always seemed to get Murphy 400 at-bats, but now with Hamilton in Anaheim, Murphy becomes a bigger part of the Rangers attack and will play on an every day basis.
Loser: Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS — In theory, the idea of getting Ian Kinsler to slide over to first base so Texas could employ their super rookie as a starter made sense, but since Kinsler reportedly balked at the idea, Profar is on the outside looking in — at least at the start of the season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Winner: Josh Johnson, SP — Last season no qualifying starter had worse run support than Johnson, who saw his team score an average of just 2.92 runs per game behind him. Now he’ll be dealing in front of a cast that has the potential to score a lot of runs, giving him a big boost in the wins column.
Loser: Rajai Davis, LF — It seems like every year Davis is a man without a position and somehow he manages to get enough playing time to steal his requisite 30 or 40 bases. However, with Melky Cabrera and Emilio Bonifacio added to the mix, it could get harder to squeeze the right-handed hitting Davis into the lineup. The Blue Jays are stacked, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some more player movement during spring training.
Fantasy football clicks
? Where’s Welker? One of the overlooked aspects of the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens is the distinct possibility that the Wes Welker era in Foxboro could be over. A free agent who was at odds with management over a contract extension last offseason, Welker could find his way to another team via free agency. Here are five teams fantasy owners should love to see him choose:
1. Houston Texans — Matt Schaub has dealt with a lot of receivers playing alongside Andre Johnson, and while Kevin Walter is serviceable, he’s not someone teams have to pay special to. Johnson, Arian Foster and Welker would be as good a trio as there is in the league.
2.Denver Broncos — Peyton Manning had tremendous talent on the outside in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but he often went to his security blanket, Brandon Stokley, across the middle in clutch situations. Imagine a secondary’s matchup problems adding a talent like Welker in the mix.
3. Dallas Cowboys — If Welker wanted to return close to his native Oklahoma, the Cowboys, always in search of a slot receiver to team with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, would be a great landing spot. Short, easy catch-and-runs could be just what Tony Romo needs to finally shed his choker tag and possibly join the ranks of the 5,000-yard passers.
4. San Diego Chargers — The team that originally employed Welker is under new management and one of the first things Mike McCoy will have to do is rehabilitate Philip Rivers’ career, especially with his regular inside threat, Antonio Gates, on the downside of his career.
5. Chicago Bears — Another team looking to reinvent its offense, the Bears and Marc Trestman will introduce Jay Cutler to the West Coast offense, a scheme tailor made for the chain-moving skills the slot machine brings along with him.
Fantasy basketball clicks
? Pickup of the week: Since leaving Michigan State after being named a member of the 2004-05 All Big Ten first team and reaching the ’05 Final Four with the Spartans, swingman Alan Anderson, 30, became a basketball vagabond, playing in Italy, Russia, Croatia, Israel, Spain, China, the D-League and the Bobcats. His hoops odyssey now has landed him in Canada, Toronto specifically, and he’s starting to play like someone who wants to make this an extended stay http://bit.ly/UhqnPT . Over his last three games Anderson is averaging 19.7 points, with nine total made three-pointers, 11 assists (including a career-high eight on Sunday against the Lakers) and five steals in over 32 minutes per contest. He’s also becoming the Raptors’ enforcer on the floor, mixing it up with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard while endearing himself to his teammates, coaches and fans. A tough guy with no conscience from beyond the three-point line splitting time with this season’s no-show, Landry Fields, Anderson is someone who can make a significant fantasy contribution.
? Linsanity, the movie: Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin’s ’12-13 performance has nestled squarely between his glory days at Madison Square Garden and his tenure with Golden State, where he rode the bench. He’s often been good yet often invisible, even going through a recent spell where he was sent to the pine by coach Kevin McHale for a lack of productivity. None of that matters at the Sundance Film Festival, where festival goers will have a chance to see a documentary http://usat.ly/V3ZVqu about his rise in the basketball world.
? The Real All Stars: The NBA Eastern and Western Conference All-Star starters for the game in Houston were announced last Thursday, and while there were a couple of “curious” selections based on popularity and not actual accomplishments this season, for the most part fantasy owners would agree with a lot of the selections. One omission who’ll certainly be named a reserve for the game played in his home arena is the leading candidate for surprise Fantasy MVP. James Harden, who was still a member of the Thunder bench when many fantasy teams were drafted, has become one of the game’s most dynamic scorers with the Rockets. Here’s who the general public chose, who savvy fantasy owners would’ve taken and a team that’s provided incredible value that everyone could’ve (and should’ve) taken.