This is the inaugural NL-Only Fantasy Thoughts article that will publish every Monday. Dave Morris wrote his inaugural weekly AL-Only Playground article on Saturday, where he will address all news items, roster moves, injuries, call ups, breakouts and disappointments for AL-only league owners, and I will do the same for NL-only league owners in this weekly series. If you have any suggestions or ideas to supplement this series, please let us know.
Miami Marlins shock the world
The big news from Sunday for NL-only owners was the Marlins decision to promote top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez. I wrote a little piece on Fernandez here, in case you missed it. Everyone and their mother believes they rushed the kid, and on the surface, I agree. But, Fernandez did dominate in Low A and High A last season, and the team experienced injuries to two of their starters, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. I assume Fernandez will struggle this season. He is only 20 years old, but he could show off some of the dominance he had on display last season. He is a big strikeout pitcher, and could have some value in NL-only leagues this season.
Another, not so hyped, bit of information coming from the Marlins yesterday was the fact they are opening the season with a straight platoon in center field, with Chris Coghlan and fantasy sleeper Justin Ruggiano battling to see who will get more at bats this season. Ruggiano had a solid 2012 season, hitting .313-.374-.535 with 13 HRs, 38 runs, 36 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 288 at bats. Coghlan is the former rookie of the year winning who has battled knee injuries to be in the fight for the starting center field role. Coghlan is the younger of the two, as he will turn 28 in June, while Ruggiano turns 31 in early April. I was surprised that Ruggiano was THAT old, to be honest. Makes you wonder if his performance last year was a fluke, although he did hit double digit home runs and 20+ stolen bases four times while in the Rays farm system.
Finally, once-hyped outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison will start the season on the 60 day DL, so we won't see him till sometime in June at the earliest.
Dee Gordon: Will he ever be fantasy relevant?
I admit, I had a major man-crush on Dee Gordon heading into the 2012 season. He had come off a 2011 season where he stole 24 bases in 224 at bats, and I thought he would be a slam dunk for 50 stolen bases last season. I was obviously too high on him, as Gordon struggled at the plate, hitting just .228, but he did steal 32 bases in 303 at bats. He injured his hand sliding into a base last season, and never made his way back into the Dodgers starting lineup after the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez.
When Ramirez suffered a thumb injury playing in the World Baseball Classic, my initial thoughts were that Gordon would play shortstop and Luis Cruz at third base. That idea was put to bed when manager Don Mattingly announced that Luis Cruz would play shortstop and Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Uribe would split time at third base. That was short-lived with the news that Mattingly named light-hitting and unrosterable Justin Sellers as his starting shortstop. This has to be a slap in the face for Gordon, who has a lot more talent than Sellers, but has the lesser glove in the field.
There is still a chance that Gordon makes his way into the Dodgers starting lineup this season, and maybe this is a move to light a fire under him to improve his defense. I don't know. As a Dodgers fan, I think their best lineup has Ramirez at third base, and Gordon at shortstop. The team is built to win this season, and it appears the Dodgers value a good glove at shortstop over Gordon's potential.
Craig Kimbrel: Can he repeat his dominance in 2013?
I ranked Braves closer Craig Kimbrel as my #1 closer in my Closer Rankings last week, and I know we shouldn't look at spring stats, but I could help but wonder what is going on with Kimbrel heading into the 2013 season. The strikeout machine put up a 7-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 8 innings of work, giving up 5 earned runs (6 in total) on 6 hits and 3 hit batters. In his four WBC appearances, Kimbrel gave up 2 runs on 5 hits, no walks and 3 strikeouts in 3.2 innings of work. All told, in 11.2 innings this spring, he has a 10-7 strikeout to walk ratio, while giving up 11 hits and 7 earned runs.
If Kimbrel is to struggle this season, one pitcher you may want to grab is former Angels closer Jordan Walden. With Jonny Venters on his way to visit Dr. James Andrews, Walden may be second in line for save opportunities in Atlanta this season. Another possibility is Eric O'Flaherty. I wonder if Scott Boras has made some calls to Braves GM Frank Wren in the last week? Jose Valverde and Francisco Rodriguez could help the Atlanta buillpen should Venters be out for longer than a few weeks.
Carlos Marmol made things interesting in the 9th inning yet again today. In the first game of the season! Marmol entered the game with a 3 run lead, and proceeded to get one out, hit a batter, give up a run scoring single, and then walked the next hitter. That was all Cubs manager Dale Sveum needed to see, as he pulled him for James Marshall, who was called in to make Neil Walker bat right handed. Russell induced a fly out before giving way to Kyuji Fijukawa, who got the last out to earn his first, of many, major league saves. Who gets the next save opportunity for the Cubs? Here is Sveum's response when asked who his closer is after the game:
Sveum: "He's still closer. Not making any changes or anything like that. He just didnt have it today."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 1, 2013
Let's see what he says if he has to pull Marmol again in the next week or two. Oh, it will happen. That or a blown save.