Fantasy owners need to be careful of offseason media narratives. Every year, you will read articles about players being in the "Best Shape of Their Lives", hitters who made a swing adjustment, or pitchers who developed a new pitch. Often, these narratives do not bear fruit for production on the field. However, sometimes, these narratives do end up having significance. Jose Bautista emerged as a superstar largely due to a mechanical adjustment at the plate. Marcus Stroman went from solid starter to budding superstar with the addition of his two seamer last year. And adding newly found strength from winter workouts is never a bad thing, especially for hitters.
Also, paying attention to cases of a player regaining full health after having a bad season due to playing through injuries is a good way to find potential undervalued assets in your drafts. This is especially true with players who have big league track records, such as a Dustin Pedroia. Success and failure in baseball is such a fine line, it's a game of centimeters and any little nagging injury can throw off mechanics just enough to impact production on the field.
Red Sox Notes
Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reported the following tidbits:
Mike Napoli had surgery on his jaw to fix horrific sleep apnea. Napoli believes his sleep apnea led to physical ailments that hurt his performance on the field:
Napoli has started sleeping soundly and regained the weight he lost. He won’t be ready to play at the start of spring training but expects to be in the lineup once the season starts.
"I wake up now and I’m ready to start my day," he said. "It’s great."
"It was tough. I’d miss batting practice because I’d be sleeping. I’d wake up for the game. I was always tired."
Napoli revealed that he occasionally came out of games because he was dizzy or so sleep-deprived that he couldn’t focus. Managers over the years made excuses for him.
With all his physical ailments, Napoli hit .248 over 119 games last season with only 17 home runs. He expects his production to climb thanks to the energy he feels now.
Justin Masterson battled injuries last season which led to poor mechanics and bad results on the field. Masterson claims to be healed and ready to rebound in 2015:
Justin Masterson, who had a 5.88 earned run average last season, hasn’t thrown off a mound yet but can tell by playing catch that his mechanical issues have been solved.
The righthander, signed to a one-year contract in December, tore a rib cage muscle on his left side early last season. That led to shoulder and knee pain. The Indians traded Masterson to the Cardinals in July and it wasn’t until September that he started feeling normal. Brett Fischer, a physical therapist in Arizona who works with professional athletes, helped Masterson heal properly.
Xander Bogaerts dedicated himself to lifting weights and adding muscle mass and strength over the winter.
Two #RedSox players who looked good physically: Vazquez and Bogaerts. Vazquez has trimmed down and Bogaerts appears a lot stronger.
Xander Bogaerts says offseason workouts in Arizona have improved his strength and quickness.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) January 24, 2015
Xander Bogaerts rocking a sweet new haircut. Been pumping iron all off-season. "Strongest I've ever felt."— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) January 24, 2015
Adding strength should help with bat control and exit velocity and theoretically should increase Bogaerts' chances of adding production to his game offensively in 2015.
Dustin Pedroia is a candidate for a big bounce back season. Pedroia battled upper body injuries that prevented him from lifting weights, leaving his body weak and "shriveled up". Jason Mastrodonato wrote,
While it was easy for anyone to notice Pedroia's power dwindling -- his home run totals went from 21 to 15 to nine to seven over a four-year stretch from 2011-2014 -- the second baseman said his thumb injury from 2013 restricted his ability to lift weights in the offseason prior 2014, leaving him weak as he began the season. In the first series at Fenway Park, he landed awkwardly on his left wrist and suffered through pain and weakness until finally opting for surgery in September.
His body was "kind of shriveled up," he said. "Not anymore."
Pedroia has been back in the gym this offseason and his wrist feels fully recovered.
"The biggest thing was just lifting weights," he said. "That’s part of what makes me good is being able to work out in the offseason and build up and maintain it during the year and stay on my lifting program. Last year, I couldn’t grip a dumbbell. I looked at my legs, my legs were strong. Defensively I was fine because I was moving around. Upper body, if you can’t do the things you want to do, you’re not going to have the bat-speed you normally have. That’s changed."
Pedroia spent much of the 2014 season hitting flyballs that died at the warning track and grounders that couldn't squeak through the infield.
"The ball’s going to go farther (in 2015)," he said. "I’m right, so now the balls are going like 400 feet. And then when you add five miles an hour on it, I’m not a chemist or anything, but it’s probably going to go 500."
Allen Craig feels completely healthy after his foot injury:
Allen Craig feels totally healthy, not worried about trade rumors or playing time with Red Sox. "It'll work itself out."— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) January 24, 2015
Mastrodonato writes that the Red Sox could try Craig at third base in 2015:
Manager John Farrell said Craig is open to playing the hot corner and the team will experiment with him there in spring training, which is asking a whole lot considering the 30-year-old hasn't played third base since he logged 11 innings there in 2011 and the Sox are loaded with groundball pitchers.
Why the Red Sox would want Craig to play third base remains unclear. The simple answer is that it would add flexibility and help him get in the lineup every now and then. But the Red Sox already have Pablo Sandoval as their starting third baseman and Brock Holt as a very viable back-up. Craig would be an afterthought at the position unless someone got injured or the Red Sox were planning on making a trade.
If they wanted to trade Holt or first baseman Mike Napoli, playing Craig at third base would make some sense (they could slide Sandoval to first base, a position he occasional played with the San Francisco Giants). Or if they were still looking to trade Craig, he could become more valuable by adding another position.
Craig currently does not have a position with the Red Sox, but if he's healthy and can find a way into a starting lineup via trade, Craig might be a productive player in 2015. From 2011-13, a span of nearly 1300 PA, Craig hit .312/.364/.500 with 46 HR and a 139 wRC+. Craig suffered a foot injury at the end of 2013 and has not been the same player since.
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