Roto Roundup: Braun, Mesoraco, Hughes and Others

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Ray Guilfoyle publishes his thoughts on some recent news in the fantasy baseball world.

I am going to try a new format with the Roto Roundup this year, so here is my first shot at the new and improved Roto Roundup.

Ryan Braun is STILL the #1 Pick

I regularly listen to the SiriusXM Fantasy channel on my drive in to work and on my way home. Some fantasy owners call into the show are afraid to draft Ryan Braun #1 overall this season. The reason: he could be suspended. They call in asking who they should take with the #1 pick as they don't want to risk the #1 pick on a player who might get suspended. My response to this is: Miguel Cabrera has the same chance of being suspended as Braun does. Take Braun #1 overall. I experienced this in my NL only draft last week as well. For me, Braun is still the #1 overall pick in the game, because as good as Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera are, I don't see either of them repeating their 2012 performances. Miggy won't win the Triple Crown, and Trout won't go 30-50 again. Pitchers will make adjustments and he will have to respond.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying avoid Cabrera or Trout, I just like Braun a little more as he puts up elite statistics in all five categories, six if you count OBP. I was lucky enough to draft Braun for the second consecutive year in that draft last week, and was ecstatic to have the opportunity to draft him.

Devin Mesoraco: Ready for a Breakout?

Some prospects take a year or two before they start to sniff the potential all of us prospect hounds put on them when they were closing in on their major league debuts. One of those prospects was Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who struggled mightily at that plate last season. Catching prospects have a tougher time meeting high expectations because they are directly involved with every pitch of the game, have to call every pitch, have to be adequate defensively and have to control the running game of their opponents. And that is on top of having to make adjustments at the plate.

Mesoraco has had a very good spring, good enough to beat out Miguel Olivo for the back up catcher job this season. In my eyes, it is only a matter of time before Mesoraco takes over the full time catching responsibilities over Ryan Hanigan. Mesoraco is hitting .361-.425-.611, with 5 of his 13 hits going for extra bases, 2 of them home runs, with 11 RBIs, to go along with a 4-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 36 at bats. There is a small chance 2013 is his breakout season.

MLB.com expects Mesoraco to be the full time catcher for Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo this season.

Albert Pujols and expected regression

I thought I was on my own little island being down on Albert Pujols this season, but then I read this:

Comment From Tim:

What do you think happened to Albert Pujols last year? He had that bad first month or so, then was very productive. But what happened to his walk rate? Do you expect another monster 1000 OPS season from him or will he continue to regress?

Dave Cameron: He's getting older, so I think we have to expect some continued regression.

"Continued regression". I think I can agree with Dave here. Nice company to be with.

Brandon Belt to breakout in 2013?

Brandon Belt hit another home run yesterday and is now hitting .448 with 8 home runs, 14 runs, 19 RBI, 3 stolen bases and 14 of his 29 hit have gone for extra bases. Belt had a solid spring in 2012 as well, but did not carry that into the regular season. He is the same hitter who hit .275-.360-.421 with 7 home runs, 56 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 411 at bats last season. I would temper expectations for a 2013 breakout, as he does call AT&T Park home, and it killed left handed power by 34% in 2012.

Injury Updates: Hill, Kubel and Markakis

Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill was in the lineup yesterday, so his pinkie appears fine. #Grit.

Hill's teammate Jason Kubel played in a minor league game yesterday and was able to run the bases without issue, so his ankle appears to be fine.

Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis played in the outfield for the first time since early March yesterday, and again batted leadoff. With the Orioles without a leadoff hitter, Markakis could be the answer come Opening Day. After looking at his 2012 splits over at Baseball-Reference, Markakis batted leadoff in 54 games last season, and over 221 at bats, he hit .335-.390-.489 with 5 HRs, 34 runs, 28 RBI and a 14-20 strikeout to walk rate. Small samples aside, that is a pretty damn good leadoff hitter if you ask me. Actually, he would be the best leadoff hitter in the game if he could keep that up over 600 at bats. Let me just say that that stat just helped me decide that I will keep him at $17 in my AL only keeper league this season.

Yankees starter Phil Hughes will begin the season on the DL with a back injury, but has been pitching in minor league games without issue. He should be ready to make his first 2013 start around April 11th.

We still have yet to hear the extent to the elbow injury suffered by Cardinals closer Jason Motte. He was supposed to have an MRI on Monday, but I have yet to read a story detailing the results of that MRI. In the meantime, he will start the season on the DL, that much we know. What fantasy owners need to be concerned about is who they should grab to replace him. Mitchell Boggs will get the first chance to close games, but I have to think that Trevor Rosenthal, now the set up man, will get some save opportunities as well.

Spring Training Battles

Troy Renck from the Denver Post tweeted yesterday that Chris Nelson is considered the favorite to win the third base job our of spring training over Nolan Arenado, but could be one cold streak, or hot streak from Arenado, away from losing the job to Arenado. I think we will see Arenado up early in the season, as the team will struggle to win games, and Arenado offers fans a reason to come to the ball park.

For more baseball coverage, make sure you check out SBNation.com/MLB.

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