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.
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BY ROB SHAW
Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons. The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.
The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either. He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.
One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years. His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable. Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him. The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.
The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years. However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value. The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.
Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.
Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard was a disaster in Seattle. Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.
The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now. He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.
A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers. Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts. Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.
BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.
The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers. Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time. First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies. Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.
The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan. With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.
As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler. That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.
Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers. After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.
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After spending last season with the Twins and Indians, Jim Thomes will return to the National League in a backup role with the Phillies.
Thome, who boasts 604 home runs for his career, has the most opposite-field home runs of all-time. This isn’t exactly something new for Phillies fans as their current first baseman Ryan Howard boasts the most ever in a single season.
Since Thome left the Philles and was replaced by Howard, Thome’s on-base percentage has been 21 points higher than Howard’s (.389 to .368). With Howard recovering from an Achilles injury, Thome is a fine backup option.
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The Philadelphia Phillies and the Kansas City Royals are polar opposites. The Phillies stand atop the NL East with a 37-26 record, while the Royals sit in 4th place in the AL Central with a 27-36 record. Yet, there are more to both teams than their records.
It so happens that the Royals are the youngest team in baseball with an average age of 26.2, while the Phillies are the oldest with an average age of 31. Among the youngest players on the Royals, is standout first-basemen Eric Hosmer at 21.
Hosmer, is hitting amongst the likes of Placido Polanco, the 35-year-old Phillies third baseman. Kansas City has the lowest Payroll in the MLB at $36,126,400, while the Phillies payroll, $172,976,381 is only second only to the New York Yankees; making the Phillies payroll about five-times that of the Royals.
Some good news for Kansas City is that they are hitting well, ranking 9th in Runs, Batting-Average, and OBP. On the other hand, the Phillies rank 17th, 20th, and 19th respectively. The old dogs aren’t just rolling over yet.
To no surprise, the Phillies well-tenured pitching staff (including big names Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels) are dominating the younger Royals staff. The stacked Phillies rotation ranks 2nd in ERA and 1st in Quality Starts, with the average age among pitchers at 30 years old. With an average age just over 25, the struggling Royals staff is almost in last place (29th) in ERA and Quality Starts.
While Philadelphia is the team to beat in the NL, Kansas City is a team to take note of. With the All-Star break coming up next month, it will be interesting to see the performance of these two teams in the latter half of the season. Will the younger team be able to mature and continue to get better as the season progresses? Will the old arms of the Phillies hold up as the games start to add up?
Written by Matt Sbordone, Bloomberg Sports @SbordoneZone