Early Spring Training Thoughts: Sandoval, Jeter, Chapman and Others

Thearon W. Henderson

Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at some early spring training news, including thoughts on Pablo Sandoval, Dylan Bundy and others.

I was checking out my Twitter timeline yesterday while eating lunch and came across this tweet from Baseball America's JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36):

RT @jonmorosi: Spoke with Dan Duquette. He said he believes Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman could both contribute in majors this year.

— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 16, 2013

I think Bundy is ready for the big leagues, but it would do more for him and the organization if he stayed in AA as long as possible this season. This would allow him to face teams more than once and to see if hitters make adjustments in their second time seeing him. That said, I don't see the Orioles repeating the great season they had in 2012.

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval apparently didn't take the idle threats of benching last season due to his weight issues too strongly this offseason, as he reported to camp weighing 262 pounds. This from Chris Haft at MLB.com:

Bochy acknowledged that the 2012 World Series Most Valuable Player would be well-advised to drop some pounds.

"It's fair to say he has to shed a few," Bochy said of Sandoval, who's listed at 262 on the Giants' spring roster. "But he will. We have some time."

Sandoval indicated that he can function at his current weight. "I feel in shape," he said. "Who cares what other people say? I'm here to do my job."

You have to think that the Giants may be tiring of having to deal with his weight issue every spring, no? Sandoval si signed for the next two seasons at a team friendly $5.7 million in 2013 and $8.25 million in 2014. I will be interested to see if the Giants discuss extending him in the next year or so. Does his weight affect your ranking of him on draft day this season?

Red manager Dusty Baker doesn't seem to behind the Reds decision to move Aroldis Chapman from the closer role to the rotation. Here are quotes from Baker via John Fay at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Baker gave the strongest indication that he is not the one behind the move.

Me: "Your rotation was very good last year, but you’re still making the move with Chapman . . ."

"Maybe, John," Baker said. "You talk like you is me. You is plural."

In this case, "you" refers to Reds organization.

"This is an organizational decision," Baker said. "I’m not the whole organization. I’m one that has to speak about it."

For you Chapman owners, this might be the best thing you've heard all spring. Baker seems to like Chapman in the closer role, and who wouldn't? He was probably the second most dominant closer in baseball last year behind Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Chapman struck out 44% of the batters he faced last year, second behind Kimbrel who struck out 50% of the batters he faced.

But, I have to be honest. I am intrigued to see how Chapman performs as a starter this season. Will he dominate ala Randy Johnson, or will he lose some of his dominance as a starter? He looked good as a starter last spring.

Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard impressed manager John Farrell in his bullpen session yesterday, according to the Boston Herald. The report says he worked on correcting some mechanical flaws in his delivery this offseason. If he can put his 2012 season behind him, Bard could be a decent option should closer Joel Hanrahan pitch poorly. With Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey ahead of him in the bullpen, Bard is a solid sleeper option for saves this season.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter turns 39 in June of this season, and is returning from a broken ankle suffered last postseason. ESPN's Buster Olney writes about his inevitable decline this morning in his Sunday morning blog. Is 2013 the season we see Jeter's performance decline? He has silenced his critics in the past. Will he do the same this season coming off the ankle injury?

One of Fake Teams readers asked me a question about Royals outfielder Alex Gordon in the Fantasy Baseball Chat yesterday:

Question: What do you expect from Alex Gordon this year? Is he a 20 plus HR a year type (2011) or should we expect something similar to last year?

My response: His HR/FB rate dropped below his career rate last year, so I see a return to the 20 HR level this season.

Gordon's home run output dropped from 23 in 2011 to 14 in 2012, yet his HR/FB% also dropped from 12.6% to 8.5% last year. His fly ball rate also decreased from around 39% to 33% last year. A few more fly balls along with a return to his career HR/FB rate of 10%, and we could see a return to the 20 HR level for Gordon in 2013.

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