Welcome to the first weekly installment of "Around the League". Look for this piece every Thursday for a summation of the week in Fantasy Baseball and more. I'll examine topics including but not limited to injuries, call-ups/send-downs, lineup news, rotation news, and closer news. I'll also be taking a look at whether the performance of certain players has been based on their skill or luck. The news will be broken down down team-by-team so that it will be easier for those in AL-only or NL-only leagues or looking for an update on a specific player to concentrate on their related content.
Derek Jeter will begin the season on the DL. He could miss up to the first month of the season while he's still recovering from his off-season ankle surgery. This will obviously open the door for Eduardo Nunez to solidify his presence in the lineup early on and he is a decent fantasy candidate at SS or MI. When Jeter returns it seems like the best Yankee lineup will feature Nunez at 3B and Youkilis at 1B. Although both Ivan Nova and David Phelps will begin the season in the Yankees rotation, Phil Hughes will likely be back for the 3rd turn through the rotation which should most likely result in Phelps being moved to the bullpen at that point unless he is really impressive and Nova performs poorly. Phelps just had one of his best starts of the spring so there's a real chance that he'll stick if he builds on that and Nova is really terrible. Vernon Wells will be the Yankees starting left-fielder until Curtis Granderson returns and he'll likely supply decent power to compensate for a low batting average. Juan Rivera has been released from the team. Could this mean Lyle Overbay gets a roster spot?
Nick Markakis looks like he'll be fine for opening day. He returned to action yesterday. Jason Hammell will be the opening day starter facing off against David Price and the Rays. Jake Arrieta looks likeliest to claim the 5th starting spot in the rotation. Wilson Betemit will be sidelined around 2 months with a right knee injury. This will affect Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold in that they could both be in the lineup more often than not, likely with McLouth as the left-fielder and Reimold as the DH.
Jeff Niemann is likely to be the 5th starter. He pitched a strong six innings yesterday while Roberto Hernandez got hit hard in his most recent start.
Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress will be part of the bullpen. However, each of them is a long-shot for a significant role. Ricky Romero has been sent down to High-A to begin the season. J.A. Happ is taking his spot in the rotation and has just signed to a 2-year extension. Things don't look good for a Romero bounce-back season of any sort. Brett Lawrie will begin the year on the DL while Maicer Izturis is likely to man the hot corner. Lawrie should only miss 1-2 weeks of the season while he continues to recover from a rib injury. Dustin McGowan made his spring debut a few days ago. I could see him being the first SP the Jays call up when they are in need instead of Romero as long as McGowan proves to be healthy. Casey Janssen is looking ready for the regular season after missing most of the spring and will retain his closer status. You'll want to handcuff him with Sergio Santos if possible.
Stephen Drew will begin the year on the DL. Jose Iglesias will replace him for the first 1-2 weeks. Daniel Bard will likely begin the year at AA with Clay Mortensen claiming the final bullpen spot. Once Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow get healthy they should be the first adds to the Boston bullpen before Bard. David Ortiz will open the year on the DL. He could miss around a month. Jackie Bradley could make the team as a result, moving Jonny Gomes to DH. Bradley is definitely worth an add in all formats if he makes the team.
Bruce Rondon was sent down to AAA to begin the year. Don't be surprised if he's up and closing games before the end of May. The Detroit Tigers closing situation remains unsettled. Rick Porcello will be the 5th starter while Drew Smyly pitches out of the bullpen for now. Quintin Berry will open the season at AAA.
Dylan Axelrod will be the 5th starter while John Danks continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. Hector Santiago, in my opinion the superior starting candidate to Axelrod, will begin the year in the bullpen. If Axelrod struggles early on keep an eye on Santiago. Alexei Ramirez was hit by a pitch in his left shoulder but he should be fine for opening day.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez should be fine for opening day. Asdrubal has been dealing with a back problem and Perez has recently returned from a shoulder injury. Daisuke Matsuzaka will begin the year at AAA and, if he pitches well, could be the first SP called up instead of Trevor Bauer even though Bauer is the superior talent.
Eric Hosmer will get some time in the outfield while the Royals play in Philadelphia to start the season. In leagues where you only need a few games for eligibility he could gain outfield eligibility at some point. Luis Mendoza will be the Royals 5th starter to begin the season, beating out Bruce Chen who will be a part of their bullpen as the long-man.
Scott Diamond should return for the 3rd turn in the Twins rotation. He is working his way back from elbow surgery while while Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks are still battling it out to see who will make the first couple of starts for him. Vance Worley will start on opening day vs. Justin Verlander.
Hiroyuki Nakajima, already a candidate to begin the year at AAA, may now be forced to begin the season on the DL due to a hamstring injury. Just a reminder, Bartolo Colon will miss his 1st turn through the rotation because he still has a few games remaining on his suspension.
Nick Tepesch will be the Rangers 5th starter to begin the season. He's not a great option for fantasy leagues and I wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle. He won't be needed the first turn through the rotation due to off-days. With trade rumors swirling, Julio Borbon could find himself getting plenty of playing time if he is traded to a team like the Mets.
Ryan Madson could miss all of April while he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. I think Ernesto Frieri is going to perform well as the closer and that Madson will begin his season in a set-up role.
Blake Beavan will be the Mariners 5th starter while Erasmo Ramirez will begin the season at AAA. Brandon Maurer will be the Mariners 4th starter and has had a tremendous spring. I really like him as a matchup play, especially in AL-only leagues. His first two starts will be at Oakland and at home vs. the Astros. Those are decent enough matchups. No official word yet on who has won the battle between Casper Wells and Jason Bay.
Rick Ankiel will get most of the starts in right-field. He's had a decent spring and could hit 20 HR with regular at-bats. Fernando Martinez will begin the year on the DL due to a back injury. Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard won the 4th and 5th starter spots in the Astros rotation.
Bryce Harper was dealing with a sore thumb but it's not considered serious and he is good to go for opening day.
Jonny Venters has an elbow strain and we should know in a few days whether it's serious enough to need Tommy John surgery. Evan Gattis is looking like he'll be a very productive replacement for Brian McCann early on.
Ben Revere will hit leadoff for the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins will bat second. Revere is a prime candidate to steal 50+ bases this season. His stock is up. With Delmon Young unlikely to join the Phillies until May, Laynce Nix should platoon with John Mayberry Jr. in April.
Daniel Murphy looks like he'll be just fine for opening day. Shaun Marcum shouldn't miss more than a turn or two through the starting rotation. For now, I'm handcuffing Bobby Parnell with Brandon Lyon, not Frank Francisco. Francisco will begin the year on the DL but I still think Lyon will get the first closing chance should Parnell get injured or struggle after Francisco returns. Johan Santana's season and career are in jeopardy after an MRI has found he has re-injured his left shoulder and should need another surgery.
Donovan Solano should bat 2nd while Placido Polanco bats 4th vs. righties. This gives each of them a little boost in value surrounding Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. Logan Morrison should miss roughly the first 6 weeks of the season while he continues to recover from his knee injury. Henderson Alvarez and Kevin Slowey will be the 4th and 5th starters to begin the season. Each of them make for interesting matchup plays, especially at home in that spacious ballpark.
Mike Leake will be the Reds 5th starter due to Aroldis Chapman remaining as the team's closer. Devin Mesoraco will back up Ryan Hanigan to begin the year but it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up splitting time with Hanigan 50-50. Mesoraco had a very strong spring and has solid offensive potential. He's worth a look in two-catcher leagues.
David Freese should only miss about a week of the regular season due to his back injury. Mitchell Boggs will replace Jason Motte while he's injured and Trevor Rosenthal, not Edward Mujica, is the handcuff to own for Boggs. Shelby Miller will be the team's 5th starter while Joe Kelly will perform as the long-man out of the bullpen.
Kyle Lohse performed well in his Brewers debut in spring training today. He should join their rotation in the 2nd turn through.
Jonathan Sanchez and Jeff Locke will be the 4th and 5th starters for the Pirates to begin the year due to injuries to Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, and Francisco Liriano. I like Locke much better out of the two and I think he has a legitimate chance to stick in the rotation all year and perform as an average starter. An ERA/WHIP of 3.75/1.30 is his upside but that can be pretty useful because he should strikeout about a batter per inning. Jared Hughes looks like the handcuff to own for Jason Grilli, although Melancon could still enter the mix for saves if Grilli falters.
Scott Baker has a strained right elbow. He won't pitch for about a month. Matt Garza is expected to join the rotation at some point in May. This pretty much ensures Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will be part of the rotation for at least the first 5 weeks or so of the season. I think they are each interesting only as matchup plays. Carlos Marmol has pitched terribly as of late and Kyuji Fujikawa is a must-own. In my bold predictions piece I predicted Fujikawa would lead the Cubs in saves this season. That's looking less and less bold by the day.
Pablo Sandoval should be ready for opening day. He's been dealing with an elbow injury.
Dee Gordon will begin the year at AAA with Luis Cruz set to start at SS. Jerry Hairston Jr. should be a big part of the mix at third base. I think it's only a matter of time before Gordon is called up. Having Gordon at SS and Cruz/Hairston Jr. at 3B is the Dodgers best lineup right now. Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang have been terrible as of late; therefore, Chris Capuano and Chad Billingsley look like the best two candidates for the rotation. Only one of them will make the rotation, barring an injury or trade of another SP. Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the 2nd game of the season. Zack Greinke will start the 5th game of the season. Yasiel Puig will begin the year at AA but if he begins the year hitting like he did in spring training and shows any patience at all at the plate he will be up with the Dodgers sooner rather than later.
If you need speed then Tony Campana looks like a nice stealth pickup for early in the season. Cody Ross' status for opening day is unclear and Adam Eaton will begin the year on the DL. Adam Eaton should return sometime in May from his elbow injury. Randall Delgado is likely to begin the year at AAA with Patrick Corbin claiming the final spot in the rotation.
Tyson Ross, not Andrew Cashner, will begin the year in the Padres rotation. I still think Cashner is the guy to own and if another owner in your league drops him and you have a bench spot open I would pounce on him. Cashner will begin the year in the bullpen but should be a part of that rotation before long. Logan Forsythe will miss about six weeks with a foot injury. The Padres will likely go with Jedd Gyorko at 3B and Alexi Amarista at 2B until Headley returns. This could delay Gyorko gaining 2B eligibility in certain leagues. Tim Stauffer will begin the year at AAA but he could work his way into the Padres rotation with a solid performance there.
Chris Nelson will begin the year as the starting 3B while Arenado starts his season at AAA. Arenado should be up after his arbitration clock has been delayed. Jon Garland will be a member of the Rockies rotation. He looks like a decent matchup play away from Coors. The Rockies will trade or release Ramon Hernandez. He could be signed by a team like the Rays and be somewhat useful in 2-catcher leagues, especially for a daily spot-start.