MLB In Full Bloom 2/20/2014

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38 – Number of days until Opening Day

The month of February is quickly coming to an end and we're just over a week away until spring training games begin in Florida and Arizona. It is so important to keep a close eye on what players are doing in spring training as you prepare for your draft. For those of you in keeper leagues, I recommend not having your draft before March 15th. It's essential to have at least two weeks of a sample size on players that are on your potential protected list. Turning in a protected list before March 15th could certainly come back to bite you if a player gets injured or traded out of an AL-Only or NL-Only league. In my NL-Only league, protected lists are due March 22nd and the draft is March 29th. There is still uncertainty for GMs, but for the most post the decision making process is much easier. For example, I own Devin Mesoraco and Yasami Grandal. On the surface, Mesoraco is the easier choice to protect as Grandal is working his way back from ACL surgery. But, Grandal appears to be nearing 100% healthy and he has stated that he intends to be behind home plate on Opening Day for the Padres. I think Grandal may have more upside than Mesoraco and it works to my benefit that I get to wait until March 22nd to make my decision.

MLB News & Notes

  • Mike Trout held his first press conference on Wednesday and when asked what he wants to improve on in 2014, he said that he wants to steal more bases. Trout stole 33 bases last year opposed to the 49 stolen bases he stole in his rookie campaign. As fantasy owners with the #1 pick this year try to decide to draft Trout or Miguel Cabrera, the stolen bases that Trout provides is the x-factor for me. And, Cabrera is moving to first base and there are other first baseman that provide strong offensive numbers.
  • Raul Ibanez will be asked to play left field and first base in addition to designated hitter for the Angels this year. Ibanez will primarily be the designated hitter, but he will be able to play first base when Albert Pujols needs an off day and Josh Hamilton needs a day off as well.
  • Homer Bailey and the Reds agreed to a six-year $105 million contract on Thursday. It had been reported the two sides were closing in on a long-term deal and now Bailey will be in Cincinnati for the next six year. After a rocky start to his career with a few injuries, the last two years the 27-year old right hander has been among the best starting pitchers in baseball. He is not top 10, but he has been right up there. He has thrown 200+ innings in each of the last two years and has thrown two no-hitters in his career. It had been reported this offseason several times that he wanted out of Cincinnati, but in the end he made the decision to stay.
  • Mat Latos threw from 45 feet on Wednesday. This comes just five days after having surgery on his left knee and despite that the throwing session lasted just 10 minutes, it is a positive step in the right direction. It was called "minor surgery" to repair a tear in the meniscus of his left knee that was not expected to keep him down long, but Latos has exceeded expectations in the first few days since the operation.
  • Michael Bourn said Wednesday that his surgically-repaired left hamstring is 100 percent. Bourn had surgery on his hamstring in October and it appears that he will have no limitations at the start of spring training. Its likely the Indians will be cautious with Bourn's playing time in spring training games, but all that matters is that he is ready for Opening Day.
  • Cody Asche s the early favorite to be the starting third baseman for the Phillies come Opening Day. The competition for the starting third baseman job seems to be boiling down to Asche and Maikel Franco. Asche is a little more seasoned  and looks to be the front-runner.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles finalized a 4-year $50 million contract on Wednesday after Jimenez passed a physical. After Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin both failed the O's physical, nothing is a done deal until the physical is completed. The Orioles held an introductory press conference this morning in Sarasota. Jimenez had a strong second half of the season last year and he provides much needed depth to a team that has a small window to win.

MLB In Full Bloom 2/19/2014

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39 – Number of days until Opening Day

There is no doubt that Derek Jeter is the star of the day as he announced his retirement early today in Tampa Bay at George Steinbrenner Field. This is a big national story and we saw a big media turnout for it. Jeter answered questions as to why he announced it now and what the final year will be like for him in 2014. Jeter's career accomplishments are nothing less than impressive. He is a 13-time All Star, 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 5 Silver Sluggers, 5 Gold Gloves, a 5-time World Champion, and he was the 2000 World Series MVP. Jeter will certainly get a phone call to enter the Hall of Fame in 2019.

MLB News & Notes

  • Stephen Drew remains a free agent , but according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com & MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reported on Tuesday that four teams are currently "in" on Drew. The Red Sox and Mets have been linked to the infielder for weeks, but who are the other two teams. According to Bowden, the Astros, Twins, Yankees, and Blue Jays have all been in contact with Drew's agent. We should see resolution soon.
  • Justin Masterson and the Indians avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal on Tuesday. The two sides basically settled in the middle of their two numbers as the two sides were able to hammer out a last-minute agreement. He's entering his contract year and will certainly be one of the top pitching free agents in 2015.
  • Brandon Belt and the Giants avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal on Tuesday. The two sides were set for the arbitration hearing this morning and had actually already flown to Florida for it. However, the two sides came to a last-minute deal. Belt batted .289 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs in 150 games last season and fantasy owners should expect the same type of production this year.
  • Jurickson Profar (shoulder) is still experiencing discomfort and will not throw for another week. On Monday, it was reported that Profar was cleared to resume a throwing program, but he's been shut back down due to renewed discomfort. In addition, Profar will be restricted from swinging a bat for the time being. Rangers GM Jon Daniels went on to say Tuesday that Profar being ready for Opening Day is in jeopardy if there are any other setbacks.
  • Justin Verlander (abdomen) threw a 54-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. Verlander continues to be right on track in his rehab following core muscle surgery, as this was his fourth session since having the procedure. There were concerns that Verlander would not be ready for Opening Day, but that notion is fading as the 30-year old right-hander continues to make positive progress.
  • Yasmani Grandal has developed a new batting stance. Grandal, who is working his way back from ACL surgery, has replaced his leg kick with a toe tap and has lowered the starting point of his hands down to his midsection. The goal for this change was to help Grandal not put so much pressure on his knee. Grandal remains optimistic about being ready for Opening Day and hopes that the new batting stance will get his career back on track.
  • Drew Pomeranz (leg) threw his first bullpen session on Tuesday and impressed A's manager Bob Melvin with his velocity. Pomeranz has been a bit behind this spring due to issues surrounding an infection caused by an ingrown hair in his leg, but it appears his first step to getting back on track was successful. Pomeranz, who was selected fifth overall by Cleveland in the 2010 Draft, was a highly touted prospect when he was traded to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez in July 2011. The change of scenery could certainly help him in 2014.

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