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8 Things to Watch As The Season Begins, Again

So, here it is: Opening Day. Wait, no, that's tomorrow. Tonight is Opening Night. No, no, that happened in Japan. Tonight is Opening Night In America? Sure. Touché, MLB. 

The little things we've been doing to occupy ourselves between our drafts and today can come to a close. No more relentless refreshing of Rotoworld. No more sheepish perusals of preseason data. Yes, the real deal begins tonight. Sort of. 

Saturday is the first full docket of games. Unlike fantasy football, where a Sunday makes up roughly 6% of the season, Saturday will comprise 0.6% of the total statistics accrued. Lest we forget. While I try not to overreact to April results (Chris Shelton), here are 8 things I'll be watching:

Francisco Liriano. 33 K/5 BB in 27 innings of the aforementioned preseason. The ultimate fantasy Siren. I'll be watching Liriano's K/BB, along with his fastball velocity and location. Liriano's fastball consistently hit 93 MPH in his most recent spring start. His average fastball velocity in 2011? 91.8. As Liriano has said, he was dealing with an injury in 2011. A repeat of Liriano's mind-blowing 2006 is a pipe dream, but another 2010 (9.44 K/9, 3.02 SIERA) is possible. See my resplendent associate Steve Adam's recent article on Mr. Liriano here

Closers: Rays/Mets/White Sox/Red Sox/Royals. Beneficent coworker Dan Manella just posted at length on these volatile bullpen scenarios. I'll add that Robin Ventura is being particularly shifty, and we won't know the identity of the White Sox closer until the first save situation. The White Sox play at 2:05 PM EDT on Friday, so be ready to check on things after 4:30 PM. Additionally, Kyle Farnsworth could be headed to the DL; don't forget about J.P. Howell, who performed admirably in the role in 2009 and had a nice spring. 

Cincinnati Reds LF. This is more relevant to NL Only leagues, but I'll be curious to see the playing time split between Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey. If Heisey gets all of the AB against righties, he could be an intriguing play. 

Ian Stewart. Can he manage his nagging injuries and come back from the dead? It looks as if he'll have every chance in Chicago. In his age 27 season, I'll be looking for signs of power from Stewart in April. 

Kansas City Royals. Can they live up to the hype? Everyone is on the Eric Hosmer bandwagon, but Billy Butler might have a better year. How do they perform out of the gate?

J.D. Martinez. Keith Law believes Martinez is a 4th OF. I haven't seen much of him on tape, but it's difficult to ignore his numbers in the minor leagues. He made solid adjustments in his second time through AA. Can he do the same in the majors this year? With his incredible LD prowess (27.6% in 226 PA), if Martinez improves his eye, he could provide excellent profit. Watch his K/BB and contact rate in April. 

Ryan Doumit.  Can he stick in RF? Gardenhire seems prepared to give him a long look. If Doumit can approach 500 PA, he could be the steal of many drafts. Monitor his playing time in April. 

Andrew McCutchen. Everyone seems to think McCutchen is going 30/30. I think he's overrated. His contact rate fell as he swung for the fences last year. Steamer's projection is realistic: .271/83/18/75/23. McCutchen went for $30 in Tout Wars Mixed. Is he really any better than Shin Soo Choo, who went for $21? Choo's Steamer: .276/82/18/78/16. Tim Dierkes has wisely been snagging Choo much later in drafts. Give or take a few steals, they're the same player. Can McCutchen keep the contact rate up along with the HR/FB? I'll be curious to see as April unfolds. If he cannot, do you really want 5-8 more HR at the expense of 25 points in BA?

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