Andruw finds a home; Sheets out, Wolf in

February, 10, 2009

Yes, there's baseball news other than stuff pertaining to Alex Rodriguez. Let's take a quick look around the league for fantasy-related news as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training:

Andruw JonesLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesAndruw Jones might have some value in Texas if he has anything left in the tank, but that's a big "if."
• The Rangers will bring in Andruw Jones to compete among a glut of outfielders for regular playing time. Even if he does earn some significant playing time, the odds aren't too good for a rebound. His bat speed has waned, and being out of shape only exacerbated that issue. You can get yourself in good physical condition -- and Jones reportedly lost about 25 pounds -- but that bat speed won't return. His athleticism and quicker bat during his younger days used to be able to cover the holes in his swing fairly well, but now he can be beaten up-and-in and down-and-away on pitches he used to hit with authority. Although the possibility of a rebound always exists, don't bank on it. Working in his favor is the fact that the Rangers lack a true center fielder. Jones still is one, even though scouts think his jumps have gotten poorer, and he has lost some of his range in recent years thanks to an expanding waistline.

• The Cardinals released Adam Kennedy, making Brendan Ryan the most likely of the internal candidates to fill the second-base job. However, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Cardinals sign someone such as Orlando Hudson soon.

It's also worth noting for NL-only fantasy players that Skip Schumaker, a favorite of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, has been taking grounders at second. If he helps fill the second-base job, it would help alleviate the crunch in the outfield. It's entirely possible he could see some time there during the regular season against right-handed pitching.

The team will have David Freese and Brian Barden compete for a temporary job at third base until Troy Glaus returns. They are expected to be patient with Brett Wallace, so don't expect him to be a serious contender to man the hot corner on Opening Day. Freese hit .306 with 26 homers and a .911 OPS at Triple-A last season, so he is the more intriguing candidate, but he could have some issues making contact at the big league level.

• The Padres signed Cliff Floyd, but he's not expected to play much at all in the San Diego outfield. Instead, he'll serve as the primary left-handed pinch hitter and as a designated hitter in interleague play. The playing time just won't be there to give him much fantasy utility, and if he does get some, it likely would be short-lived because of his injury history.

Ben Sheets went from a two-year deal with the Rangers to surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow. Although there are some reports that he could pitch in the second half of the season, it's more likely that he'll miss most of the season and try to hook on with a team for the 2010 season.

Randy Wolf joined the Dodgers' rotation, and he gets enough strikeouts and contains the damage against him reasonably well enough to have some use in deep NL leagues. The red flag, however, is that he pitched 190 innings last season. That's 87 more than he threw in 2007, and by far the most he has thrown since the 2003 season. Given that workload and his injury history, he's still no more than an endgame pick at best.

• The Brewers have expressed interest in Braden Looper, a move that -- like the Wolf signing -- would make the right-hander just a $1 or reserve-list play in NL-only formats. There's no upside.

Chris PerezDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesChris Perez could be an early favorite for saves in St. Louis, but how confident can you be in him?
• Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that four players (Chris Perez, Jason Motte, Ryan Franklin, and Trever Miller) will compete for the closer's job in the spring, and it's possible that Perez, Motte or both could start the season in the minors. Perez's lack of consistent control and Motte's lack of a secondary pitch could put other pitchers in play for St. Louis' saves, and the team still would like to sign a veteran as a temporary measure. Expect Perez or Motte to win the job for now, and make sure you handcuff the two together if you can, but monitor this situation closely.

• Yankees GM Brian Cashman confirmed there are no plans to put Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, and that he will be the team's No. 5 starter this season. The Yankees still can limit his workload somewhat now that Andy Pettitte is back on board.

• The D-backs signed Tom Gordon to a contract, but he's likely far down the list for saves, perhaps fourth in the pecking order. Given his age and injury history in recent years, the over/under on his innings is probably about 40. If you need a middle reliever with strikeout ability as part of your strategy, Gordon should be far down on your list.

• The Red Sox will have an open competition between Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo for the shortstop position. Lugo could be a cheap source of speed again if he wins the job and shows that the quad injury that ended his '08 season has healed.

Jeff Francis' shoulder is not improving the way he thought it would, and he'll make a decision in the next 10 days as to whether exploratory surgery is needed. If you haven't already removed him from your draft board, you should.

• The A's traded Matt Murton to the Rockies for second-base prospect Corey Wimberly. Murton can hit for average and post a decent OBP, but he hit a grand total of three homers last season. He faces a very crowded outfield picture in Colorado, and it's entirely possible he'll spend the entire season at Triple-A trying to prove himself again. If he does play some time in the big leagues, he likely won't last very long. The 25-year-old Wimberly is a minor league speed merchant who stole 59 bases repeating Double-A last season, with almost as many walks as strikeouts but no power. There's definitely steals upside in a Rajai Davis-fashion if he gets some playing time because of injuries, although his rough glove at second will work against him.

Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.



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