Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on nine intriguing over/unders entering spring training.
Chase Utley, apparently sipping from the fountain of youth after finding the cheap seats once in Atlanta, total home runs on year 22.5
Dalton – OVER. And by a lot. I have him in almost every league I'm in this year, so I might as well go all in. He felt better (and actually played) during spring training this year more so than the past few seasons, and watching him sprint during a triple in Philly's first game gave me more confidence than his homer. I've gone on record saying he finishes as a top-five fantasy second baseman in 2013.
Scott –We're talking about a 34-year-old who plays an attrition position and is coming off three straight incomplete seasons. Utley also gets hit by a high number of pitchers. I've always liked the guy, but bet with your head, not your heart. UNDER is the call.
Andy – Hmm. Good number. I'll take the UNDER, because an extended DL visit wouldn't surprise me.
Kyuji Fujikawa, who cleaned up Carlos Marmol’s mess in Pittsburgh opening day, date he officially seizes control of the Cubs closer gig May 1.
Scott – Gotta to UNDER, sooner, closer, whatever you call it. Marmol's stuff is still electric, but he has no idea where it's going. Dale Sveum has to keep the respect of his clubhouse; Marmol could be one more mess away from being displaced.
Andy – UNDER. It hasn't officially happened yet, but one more messy appearance could certainly do it.
Brad – WAY UNDER. Marmol will swallow another grade within the next seven days. Game over. For those that speculated on Fujikawa in the late rounds, congrats. You likely scored a reliable 30-35 save closer for next to nothing.
Chris Heisey, who is expected to see an uptick in playing time with Ryan Ludwick sidelined the next 3-4 months, combined homers and stolen bases for the year 21.5.
Andy – OVER. We likely won't see Ludwick 'til July, so don't be surprised if Heisey reaches double-digits in both homers and steals by the all-star break.
Brad – SLIGHTLY UNDER. Heisey's .178 career ISO arrows to low double-digit pop and he has some speed upside, but I'm not thoroughly convinced Dusty trusts him as an everyday contributor. Plus, if Billy Hamilton sprints out of the gates at Louisville, he could wind up in the bigs sometime in June, possibly complicating Heisey's PT.
Brandon – SLIGHTLY OVER. With Ludwick out for around three months. Heisey should easily see a career high number of at bats. He's averaged 19 combined HR+SB the past two seasons in an average of just over 300 ABs. With 400-plus trips to the plate ahead, I can see Heisey delivering something like 14/8.
Which spring sensation twirls a better line in his season debut: Julio Teheran (vs. ChC) or Alex Cobb (vs. Cle)
Brad – COBB. Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Lonnie Chissenhall – there are some serious wind-machines on the reservation. It would be no shock if Cobb finished in range of 7 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.
Andy – TEHERAN. Like both pitchers a lot, but this one comes down to quality-of-opponent. Sorry, Rizzos.
Dalton – This is a total crapshoot involving a one game sample, but I'll say COBB since I like him more for the season.
What upstart outfielder is more mixed league desirable: Jackie Bradley or Colin Cowgill?
Brandon – COWGILL. Neither player offers much in the way of power, but Cowgill has the higher speed upside and he hits from a much better spot as the Mets leadoff - Bradley is hitting eighth for Boston.
Dalton – BRADLEY. He's four years younger and has a .423 career OBP in the minors and will be playing in a far better hitter's park.
Scott – Give me the pedigree, the park and the hitter's league. BRADLEY is your Huckleberry.
Bryce Harper and Mike Morse each cracked a pair of home runs in an opening week game. Which slugger finishes with more long-balls this year?
Dalton – Harper and it's not close. This isn't an indictment about Morse by any means, as he has definite HR potential (he hit nine during spring training). But Harper is a legitimate MVP candidate who's going to be a top-five fantasy pick for the next 10 or so years. This isn't really a fair fight for Morse. Harper has "80" power.
Scott – I'll give Morse a shot to push 30, but he'll be a handful short of the kid. And heck, HARPER has a shot at 40.
Andy – WHAT?! For real? HARPER. By maybe 15.
Brad – I was not originally part of this assignment, but I feel compelled to defend MORSE. Harper is a phenom. That's indisputable. But keep in mind the greatest Age 20 season in MLB history, in power terms, belongs to Mel Ott who smacked 42 homers in 1929. Overall, only six players have reached the 30 HR threshold at that point on the career arc, including Mike Trout last year. I realize Safeco is a knock, but the fences were moved in this offseason and Morse is still in his power prime. Another 30-plus bombs are certainly possible. It will be close, but I'm feeling the Mariner.
Ernesto Frieri, filling the void for recovering reliever Ryan Madson, slammed the door on Cincinnati opening day for his first save of the season. Frieri total saves this year 24.5.
Scott – Every time I read something about Madson's health, it sounds pessimistic. Give me FRIERI and the OVER.
Andy – OVER. He has the skill and the opportunity to run away with the closing gig for LA. One of the great things about Frieri is that he's the sort of reliever who can assist fantasy owners even in a non-closing role, because his ratios should be excellent.
Brad – OVER. Frieri is absolutely filthy. In his first save opp of the year, he was nearly flawless, walking one while whiffing two. Last year, he shut the door 23-of-26 times. Because of his previous success and positive initial step, it's doubtful he'll relinquish the role even when Madson is 100-percent.
Times this season the Houston Lastros will be confronted with breaking up a no-no entering the ninth 3.5
Andy – UNDER. I mean ... they're bad. No argument there. And I actually thought Darvish tossed 'em some cookies late in the game on Tuesday night, but they still couldn't do any real damage. Still, four near no-hit bids seems like a lot.
Brad – OVER. Divisional foes alone may eclipse this number. Think about it. Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Jered Weaver, Brett Anderson ... there are some solid arms in the AL West. Hell, Bartolo Colon could probably fart his way to perfection against Houston. The Single-A 'Stros are embarrassingly dreadful.
Brandon – UNDER. The Astros are essentially a glorified Triple-A lineup, but I doubt even a Triple-A squad would face that many no-no bids. As Crash Davis might say, all it takes is "one ground ball with eyes" or "a dying quail" to break up a no-hitter, and I expect that's what they'll usually do.
Flash Forward: Shelby Miller strikeouts in 2013 debut against defending World Champ San Francisco 4.5
Brad – OVER. The lanky righty is an exciting prospect blessed with an electric arm. His fastball tops out in the mid-90s and his curve and change are plus pitches. He punched out seven Reds in his lone start with the senior club last year. Expect him to finish with six to kick off 2013. It's silly he's only owned in 45-percent of Y! leagues.
Brandon – UNDER. Giants have averaged just over 6 K per game in the first series of the year against three pretty good strikeout pitchers. I see Miller fanning four in a 5-6 inning outing.
Dalton – OVER. Miller owns an 11.1 K/9 rate throughout his career in the minors and struck out 16 batters over 13.2 innings with St. Louis last season. Even if his outing isn't particularly impressive versus San Francisco, I say he records five strikeouts.
Stream Showdown (Under 25-percent owned): Dan Straily (at Hou), Jose Quintana (vs. Sea) or WILDCARD
Dalton – STRAILY. He's not as good as his out of nowhere breakout in the minors numbers suggested last year, but he should be decent enough, and as much as I'm willing to take heat going against popular opinion, I stand by my stance that this this Houston offense is not good.
Scott – I'm dialing up STRAILY. The poor Astros take a lot of cuts, but they never break the piñata .
Andy – QUINTANA, please. I'll probably find myself in the minority here, but I've been very impressed with Quntana's work.
Brad – WILDCARD. The 'Stros will be the most streamed against team in Fantasyland this year. There's no doubt. I like Straily, but what about the aforementioned Bartolo? For some reason that guy continues to post respectable numbers despite being on the brink of cardiac arrest.
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