BY ROB SHAW
The New York Mets can finally move on from the loss of Jose Reyes, as they opened the season with two straight wins against the Braves. The team has accomplished the hot start because of the rise of young talent including Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Ike Davis as well as some help from old friends most notably David Wright and Johan Santana.
The two wins were not exactly expected. Mets fans had been in mourning for several months as the news of the Madoff scandal attracted the most attention and the poster boy for the Mets reversal of financial fortune was the loss of the greatest shortstop in franchise history, Jose Reyes to the rival Marlins.
Wright understands as much as anyone how difficult it is to replace a talent like Reyes, but he also knows that the team has to move on, “You know one player, granted he’s very good and he’s a great player and great teammate, but you cannot worry about who is not here. I have a tremendous relationship with Jose, I’ve got a ton of respect for him, like I said, I think he’s one of the best position players to put this Mets uniform on, but that’s not how this game works, we’ve still got games to play and games to win and we need other players to step up and fill that void,” said Wright.
Another former teammate of Reyes and Wright, Endy Chavez explains the shock he felt when word came out that Reyes was no longer a Mets shortstop, “That was unbelievable, I understand this is a business, but to Reyes leaving New York, just saying Jose Reyes is like saying New York Mets, so it’s something crazy, but you know things happen in baseball and that’s one of those things.”
Finally, Reyes himself understands that he has to move on. His role goes from helping the Mets to now competing against them with a long-time rival, “You know in the beginning it was a little weird for me because all of my career I played with David the same thing, but now I have to adjust to the new team, so I know I was there with David for a long time and we every year became very good friends, I’m going to miss David and I wish him all the best.”
While the loss of Reyes is certainly hard to swallow for Mets fans, one thing that would make it easier is the return to prominence of Wright. The 29-year-old franchise player has tallied five hits and two RBI through the first two games of the season. It looks like the drawn in fences could be exactly what Wright needs to get his confidence back. The young up-and-coming Mets look at Wright to set the tone.
“Huge, huge key for us, David is. Not only as a player, but clubhouse guy. He’s awesome in the clubhouse and he keeps us motivated, we follow him and where he goes we go,” says Mets slugger Lucas Duda.
First baseman Ike Davis adds on Wright, “Definitely a big part of our lineup and he’s going to be the leader of the team and it’s really exciting seeing him play again.”
Meanwhile, the pitching has been great and the biggest surprise of them all is Johan Santana. After picking up 29 wins the first two seasons with the Mets, Santana has just 11 over the last two seasons, missing all of 2011 due to surgery. However, he was back on the hill on Opening Day and gave the type of performance that will gain confidence in the ball club.
“He’s been the bright spot so far this spring, just his health, the way he’s throwing the ball, so I’m excited about what he’s going to bring to the table this year, and it will be a lot of fun to play defense behind him,” says Wright.
As impressive as the Mets have been, this is still very much a rebuilding year. In fact, if Jason Bay and/or Johan Santana can sustain their production, there is a really good chance that they will get traded. The Mets may be able to hang around .500 for the majority of the season, but the bright days ahead will be when their top pitching prospects develop into stars that can compete with Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg on the Nationals. Maybe then, the big three in Philadelphia will no longer be in their prime. The question is whether David Wright will still be a Mets third baseman.
BY ROB SHAW
This is very much the start of a new era for the Marlins, as the team moves into a new state-of-the-art ballpark, changes it’s jerseys, as well as it logos and colors. However, the greatest difference that will be felt on the field is the addition of Mets legend Jose Reyes to the top of the Marlins lineup.
The leadoff hitter plays a very important role in baseball as the table setter for a lineup. Reyes is coming off a season in which he led the National League with a .337 average, while reaching base at a .384 OBP. Despite missing 36 games (more than 20% of the season), he still racked up 101 runs. That number should go even higher now that he joins a lineup batting in front of perennial MVP candidate Hanley Ramirez and several other rising sluggers.
There has been much controversy made in the media concerning the addition of Reyes to the Marlins and what this would mean for Ramirez. However, the star shortstop transitioning to third had no such qualms when we asked him about the addition of Reyes: “It’s good, he brings a lot of energy to this team and every morning he is always smiling and that’s good.” Ramirez then added, “I think we need that and obviously he’s a pretty good ballplayer and a pretty good person.”
In truth, the Reyes impact is felt more than just at shortstop. By moving Ramirez to third base, he fills a void at a position that did not get much production last season. Suddenly, the fish have one of the best left-infields in baseball while also enjoying a top leadoff hitter in the lineup.
Despite some frustration that the Mets did not make him an offer, Reyes is excited about his new team. “It’s been unbelievable so far, everybody has welcomed me like I’m home here, and that’s made me feel very comfortable,” said the star shortstop.
With Reyes getting on base before Ramirez and slugger Mike Stanton, the Marlins should have one of the elite offenses in the Big Leagues, while the defense also gets an edge. Now if Josh Johnson can stay healthy they will have a shot at surpassing the Phillies. However, that is a big “if,” as Johnson has only once made 30 starts in a season.
For more Major League Baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
When former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran joined the Giants, he was a bit slow out of the gate, but by season’s end he hit .323 with a .551 following the trade. He was particularly hot in September, offering a .378 batting average. However, by then the Giants were no longer contenders and Beltran was an impending free agent.
While Beltran put together solid figures last season with 22 home runs and a .300 average, this is not the fantasy sensation of years passed when he could belt 40-plus home runs and swipe 40 bases. Beltran had just four steals last season and his run production was a bit low too with 84 RBI and 78 runs.
At 34 years old, Beltran is limited, but he can still offer some fantasy value. He now joins the Cardinals, which makes it the first time that he’s stepped out of a pitcher’s park for home games since he played with the Astros back in 2004.
Beltran will not replace Pujols in the lineup, but he can be a solid bat who offers 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .300 average. Of course, his age and injury-riddled past carry plenty of risk as well.
Last season was a season of collapses for many of the game’s most consistent players. While Hanley Ramirez and Adam Dunn highlight the list, the same can be said about veteran David DeJesus. The long-time outfielder for the Royals struggled in Oakland with the A’s.
DeJesus never was a fantasy star, but he did once score 101 runs in a season, belted 10-plus home runs twice, and hit better than .290 four times in his career. That’s why it was so shocking that he hit .240 in Oakland. The Coliseum certainly played a role, as his batting average dipped to .229 at home. On the other hand, playing on the road did not bring many advantages.
Despite DeJesus’ struggles under Billy Bean’s A’s, Theo Epstein remained interested and acquired him this off-season. Even in his worst career season, DeJesus reached base at a respectable .323 clip. At 32 years old, DeJesus is not going to experience a drastic turnaround, however, he should bounce back to a .280 average with solid run production. He will remain bettter in reality than fantasy.
It is very rare to call a 33-year-old outfielder a sleeper, but that is exactly the case for Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Sure, the veteran had some good moments with the Twins, blasting 32 home runs in 2009, driving in 109 RBI in 2006, and even swiping 11 bases last season. However, those figures all came while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park.
This season Cuddyer will call home to Coors Field, one of the most notorious hitter’s parks in baseball history because of the altitude. Furthermore, he will be joined in the lineup by MVP candidates Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki after spending the last few seasons with injury-prone stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The scouting report on Cuddyer is not to leave anything over the plate on the first pitch. Cuddyer ranks amongst the game’s best with a .450 average on first pitches. He is also a rare hitter that feasts against off-speed pitches (.310 average with 12 home runs).
Always solid, we expect Cuddyer to be stellar this season.
BY ROB SHAW
Seven years ago Chris Capuano was one of the best starters in baseball, as he went 18-11 for the Milwaukee Brewers. The good times did not last long as Capuano was derailed by arm injuries that forced him to miss 2008-2009.
In his first full season back, Capuano pitched well for the Mets with 11 wins and a 4.55 ERA. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that there could endure some trouble ahead. Capuano surrendered 1.31 HR/9, which would have been an issue had he stayed in New York with the fences getting drawn closer. His 5.42 ERA on the road is also an issue with Capuano moving away from Citi Field.
Fantasy managers can take some relief in the fact that Capuano’s move to Los Angeles means he’ll continue to pitch in a pitcher’s park. Furthermore, the Dodgers lineup should have more punch than the Mets lineup, which puts 12 wins within reach.
In 2008, Ryan Ludwick was one of the best players in baseball. He blasted 37 home runs, drove in 113 RBI, and hit .299 for the Cardinals. Ludwick failed to repeat the success and within two years he was dealt to the Padres.
In San Diego, Ludwick has regressed a great deal. His power and average took a severe decline and last season he was dealt to the Pirates. In particular, Ludwick has struggled against the fastball, and he is no longer hitting many line drives.
A move away from PETCO Park will give Ludwick every chance of regaining his confidence. At 33 years old, Ludwick is far from his prime, but 20-plus home runs with solid run production is a legitimate best-case scenario.
One of the most consistent hitters over the last decade has been Juan Pierre, most recently the leadoff man for the White Sox. In fact, Pierre ranks second on Major League Baseball for plate appearances since 2010. However, Pierre’s role will change dramatically now that he returns to the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now a 34-year-old speedster, Juan Pierre did score 80 runs with 27 steals and a .279 average last season. However, his success rate for stolen bases took a nose-dive from 79% to 61%. In an era in which every statistic is studied by the front office, it is clear that Pierre’s struggles to secure stolen bases actually may have cost his team runs last season.
The Phillies are not looking for Pierre to play an everyday role. The hope is that Dominic Brown regains his confidence and becomes a rising star next to Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Pierre will likely man a fourth outfielder role and offer some serious speed off the bench. His fantasy value takes a major hit this season.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com
BY ROB SHAW
The Tigers made a bold move this off-season when they responded to Victor Martinez’s unfortunate season-ending knee injury by acquiring slugger Prince Fielder.
Fielder is fresh off one of his finest seasons with 38 home runs and 120 RBI while batting .299 for the Brewers. The main complaint on Fielder is that his sheer size will eventually lead to some injuries, however, the same was once said of Miguel Cabrera when the Tigers acquired that star from the Marlins. While Cabrera has had some issues off the field, he is also one of the most consistent and dependable sluggers in baseball over the last five seasons. Similarly, Fielder ranks third in plate appearances since 2006 only trailing Ichiro and Derek Jeter.
Another statistic that should provide some confidence for Tigers fans is the fact that Fielder decreased his strikeout rate and total significantly last season. While Ryan Howard has been a minor disappointment with the Phillies since signing a major contract due to his free-swinging ways, Fielder is more of a contact hitter, which can keep innings and rallys alive.
Desperate for some offense, the Twins signed Josh Willingham during the off-season. The move seems to make some sense as Willingham is fresh off a career-high 29 home runs and 98 RBI and should help replace Michael Cuddyer in the lineup.
The problem is that Willingham also saw his average and OBP take a hit last season from .268 to .246 and from .389 to .332. These numbers are actually lower than Cuddyer posted last season.
The hope for the Twins is that Willingham posted respectable numbers despite the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum and the A’s lineup generated very little protection, suggesting that he should surpass those figures this season. There is a problem with that logic, as Willingham actually performed better at home than on the road and the Twins Target Field is also a pitcher’s haven with a Twins offense that offered little production last season.
No question about it the Twins acquisition of Willingham carries some risk. We will soon find out if Willingham is a one-trick pony that specializes in power or if he can return to his previous year’s level of reaching base more consistently.
The Milwaukee Brewers are reeling right now as Prince Fielder left for the Detroit Tigers and MVP winner Ryan Braun may miss 50 games of the season with a suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance. The lone piece of good news is that the team did acquire Aramis Ramirez over the off-season, which will offer some stability at the hot corner.
In effect, Ramirez will have to replace Fielder as the slugger in the Brewers lineup. The main issue for Ramirez over the years has been his inability to stay healthy. In fact, Ramirez has managed to play 150 games just twice in his 14-year career.
Last year Ramirez was healthy and the result was 26 home runs, 93 RBI, and a .306 average. Ramirez is a solid all-around hitter who often puts the ball in play while also drawing a healthy dose of walks. The one statistic that showed Ramirez to return to form last season was his ability to hit the fastball. After hitting just .236 off the heater last season, Ramirez belted 13 home runs with a .302 average this season.
Ramirez should once again offer a solid bat with some power this season… assuming he can stay healthy.
For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.