Fantasy Notes: Spring Training Roundup
I see it just stopped snowing. That must mean it’s time to check in on some spring training developments around the show. Who’s trying to win a job and who’s looking like an early sleeper candidate?
- The Nationals’ left-field job is up for grabs. Injury-prone Alex Escobar, coming off shoulder surgery in September, was able to swing the bat during the first workout of the spring without any discomfort. He’s not a prospect anymore, but whet some appetites with a .356 BA and four dingers in very limited PT last year. Ryan Church likely has the inside track on the job, but former Mariner prospect Chris Snelling will get a look as will two-time Nat minor leaguer of the year Kory Casto. Escobar has the tools, but he’s a better bet against lefties, so looks like a platoon player at best. Church’s power is against righties, so it could be a good match, but after batting .305 after the break last year, he proved he deserves a shot to play every day. Church may also see time in CF if Nook Logan isn’t the answer there. I’d watch for him to be a serious sleeper candidate; if Church gets 500 at-bats, I think he might be able to hit 30 homers, especially if his exposure to lefties is somewhat limited. Snelling’s bat has never been questioned. He’s a career .312 hitter in the minors who hit .370 at Triple-A in 2005. The Aussie’s problems have been staying in the lineup. He’s a Lenny Dykstra-type (without the steals) who will run through a wall and has the tools to be a lead-off hitter, but he has to stay healthy to get a chance. Because of this, he’s a longshot for a full-time gig with the Nats.
- We know the Reds will employ Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo as their top two starters. But then what? The most likely candidates for the next two spots would have to be Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse. But the fifth stater job has a host of less-than-exciting candidates, including Kirk Saarloos, Matt Belisle and Elizardo Ramirez. Stud prospect Homer Bailey is universally expected to begin the season in the minors, and honestly, for the sake of his development, that’s the best call. But unless one of those other three steps forward with a big spring, Bailey may be the best man for the job. A solid spring training by the kid will only make the decision to send him to Triple-A even more difficult for the Reds. Watch this one closely.
- Another Spring battle to scrutinize is the competition for the Dodgers’ fifth starter job. Brett Tomko flopped as a starter last year, and had to finish the season in the pen, but he’s altered his pitching motion and is determined to win the job back. Mark Hendrickson, Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chi Kuo and Joe Mays are among the pitchers he’ll be battling with. Unbelievably, Tomko has never been able to duplicate the success he enjoyed as a rookie way back in 1997, but he probably deserved a better fate last year given that he displayed the finest command he’s ever had. I think he could win a dozen games and record an ERA in the low 4.00s if given 30 starts, so don’t be afraid to take a late-round flyer on him.
- Josh Bard will have to compete for the Padres’ starting catcher’s job with Rob Bowen and Todd Greene, but all signs point to this being a slam dunk. Judging by what he showed last year in about a half-season’s worth of at-bats, Bard could be a huge surprise at the catcher position, putting up numbers that will make him a valuable and cheap option. Don’t be shocked if Bard finished with numbers equivalent or better than Johnny Estrada this season, but with a much cheaper sticker price. That’s the kind of value you’ll need to get a leg up on your competition.