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.
Former top-of-the-line fantasy starters Roy Halladay and Tim Linceucm have struggled mightily this spring. Who bounces back stronger?
Andy – HALLADAY. He was actually having a nice spring (10.1 IP, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 Ks) until Tuesday's clunker. I'm giving him a mulligan. Not yet worried. Of course I haven't yet drafted him, either.
Brad – LINCECUM. He's battled through blisters this spring, but his velocity is hovering in the 92-94 mph range and his confidence is back. Given the favorable pitching environment and strong lineup behind him, the cleaner-looking Prince of Darkness won't suck the life out of those who invest in his services.
Scott – I have to go LINCECUM, who showed dominant form as a reliever late in 2012 (at least we know it's still in him). Halladay's 2012 was a hot mess, his velocity is down this spring, and he turns 36 in May. I don't see any reason to draft him unless it's an outright giveaway.
Elder first baseman Paul Konerko, who leads all spring training hitters with five home runs, total long-balls in the regular season 26.5
Brad – OVER. He's definitely long in the tooth, but he plays half his games in a band-box. The near 40-point drop-off in ISO is worrisome, but gut says he smacks 27.
Scott – OVER. Paulie's aging gracefully, like Paulie Pennino and Paulie Walnuts. Must be something in the name. Back in business, T.
Dalton – OVER. He's 37 years old, so this is hardly said with confidence, but Konerko has averaged 31.0 homers over the past four seasons and has a big advantage playing in U.S. Cellular Field, which has a HR Park Index of 149 for RHB over the past three seasons, which is by far the highest in all of baseball.
Finally expected to see everyday at-bats, Brandon Belt looks poised to seize the moment, tallying a .371-4-9 line in 33 Cactus at-bats. O/U: Combined Belt HRs/SBs 34.5.
Scott – I feel like Charlie Brown sizing up the football, but give me the OVER on this. Pedigree, timing, a big spring. Don't pull the ball away, Bruce Bochy.
Dalton – UNDER. I'm a Giants fan and fully expect Belt to have a fine season in 2013, but he's more of a gap hitter playing in a home park that's suppressed homers for LHB more than any in MLB other than Petco over the last three seasons. And it's no sure thing Belt gets regular playing time in left field when Buster Posey gets a day off catching and plays first base.
Brandon – UNDER. I've pretty much stuck by this guy through thick and (Bruce Bochy) whim. He's still only 24 years old, and Bochy really doesn't have many options other than to play him regularly this year. So I'm expecting a healthy statistical spike. But I think something like 19/13 is more in the ballpark of what I'm envisioning.
Rockies top prospect, Nolan Arenado, is stating his case to break camp with the senior club, raking a .348-4-10 output over 23 spring at-bats. O/U: Date he gets the call June 15.
Dalton – UNDER. I really have no clue what Colorado's plans are in general, but it would be mildly surprising if Arenado wasn't up in the bigs by mid-June.
Brandon – OVER. Meaning, he'll come up later than June 15. I don't expect Rockies to be able to contend with their pitching, which would likely keep them from threatening the service time clock issue. I'll go with a late June call up.
Andy – UNDER. Maybe well under. Colorado has nothin' much at third, so Arenado clearly isn't blocked.
Former top Philly prospect Dominic Brown has generated measurable buzz this spring collecting 16 hits, three of those homers, in 40 at-bats. O/U: Final Brown rank among mixed-league outfielders 49.5.
Andy – Wha--? Really? Raise it, then maybe we're having a conversation. OVER, probably by a mile.
Brad – OVER. Yes, the line above was a bit overzealous, but a few fantasy pundits have fallen head over heels for Brown again. He offers 15-15 potential, but I'm not buying he's mixed-league worthy just yet. Sorry, but I'm sporting shrunken HUEVOS here.
Scott – This is a rare suspect number from the estimable Yahoo! Noise. But I'm a believer in the Brown I see this spring: new stance, new confidence, new endorsement from skipper Charlie Manuel. Brown was the No. 4 prospect in baseball not too long ago. He's worth a late-round kick of the tires, or a March pickup in deeper pools.
Adam Eaton is the ‘expert’ community darling of the season, understandably. Over 46 at-bats he’s amassed a .370 BA with a pair of homers nine RBI and a steal. O/U: Final batting average for the rookie .285.
Brandon – OVER. I'm bullish. He's an OBP machine that I think can finish with numbers very similar to Angel Pagan last year (.288/8/56/95/29).
Andy – PUSH. Is that allowed? This number sounds just about right. The real takeaway with Eaton is that his average isn't likely to hurt you, fantasy-wise. The kid has been a walker at every level, so he'll get himself on base at an excellent clip. That's what we should care about. Plenty of opportunities to steal and score.
Brad – UNDER. I'm rather fond of Eaton, but he's quickly becoming a pricier version of Norchika Aoki. Take Tuesday's Friends and Family draft, for instance. The rook and Aoki were separated by three rounds. Based on his favorable minor league track-record, Eaton should stroke an above average mark, but pencil me in for .281.
Pick a young gun: Alex Cobb, Julio Teheran or Matt Harvey?
Brad – HARVEY. All have looked stupendous this spring, but Harvey's dynamite showing in 10 starts last year (2.73 ERA, 10.62 K/9) stole my heart.
Scott – Have go to HARVEY, too much strikeout potential to ignore (especially in the cushy NL). And he's already shown returns at this level, something Teheran can't say.
Dalton – HARVEY. Both Cobb and Teheran have looked terrific this spring, but Harvey just posted a 10.6 K rate with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 59.1 innings in the majors last season. Those numbers can safely be expected to regress this year, but I value Harvey considerably higher than Cobb and Teheran for 2013.
While Bruce Rondon deals with control issues, future porn star, and possibly closer-in-waiting, Al Alburquerque has been the Tigers’ most reliable reliever this spring. O/U: ‘Qwerky saves 15.5.
Scott – UNDER, Detroit. I want to believe in Al B. Sure!, but there are too many possible options and paths for me to bet on any single pitcher. The Tigers want to win very badly right away, with Mike Illitch in his golden years, which makes me suspect a trade or transaction eventually flips this bullpen.
Dalton – OVER. I imagine I'll be in the minority here, but I don't trust Rondon at all, and another option like Joaquin Benoit isn't available on back-to-back days. Alburquerque doesn't have an extensive track record in the majors, but he has a career 13.6 K rate, 1.59 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Don't sleep on Mike Francesa's favorite player.
Brandon – UNDER. 'Qwerky has his own control issues. At this point, I'd take someone from "the field" getting over 15.5 before I'd take Rondon or Big Al.
Despite his ghastly 10:9 K:BB split in 10.1 spring innings, many fantasy pundits believe Alexi Ogando is destined for a breakout campaign. O/U: Ogando ERA 4.00.
Dalton – UNDER. But just barely. I'm a believer in Ogando, even though his park hurts him. He has a career 3.12 ERA with a 3.0:1 K:BB ratio. The move to the starting rotation will obviously make it much tougher to sustain those numbers, but I'll say he finishes in the high 3s.
Brandon – UNDER. Slam dunk. Reliever or starter he's never exceeded an ERA of 3.51 in 276.2 career innings.
Andy – First of all, a player only gets to break out once. Ogando's breakout already happened, and it was nice. Secondly, OVER. But not by a lot. I like Ogando well enough as a spot-starter, but the park won't do him many favors.
Stolen base showdown: Michael Bourn, Ben Revere or Juan Pierre.
Andy – REVERE. It's really, really close for me between Bourn and Ben. I understand the folks who are willing to pay an extra buck or two for Bourn's reliability. I do. But Revere is such a burner. Let's just hope he hits near the top of Philly's order.
Brad – REVERE. "The steals are coming! The steals are coming!" Dude can absolutely fly. He swiped 40 in just over 500 at-bats last year. Cemented as an everyday player with the Phanatics, he should creep over 50 with an additional 100 at-bats.
Scott – It's not Pierre, though he's still in terrific shape and is a superb target for your late rounds. Heck, he's the reason you don't bother to draft a high-priced rabbit in the first place (if you can't find cheap speed, you're not trying). But give me BOURN in this trio, mostly because of age and surety of batting position. It's still possible Revere could be stashed in the lower part of the Philly order, which hurts the stolen-base upside.
Dalton – BOURN. Pierre has an everyday job, but he's 35 years old. A strong case can be made for Revere, who had just two fewer steals than Bourn last season in 113 fewer at-bats. But Bourn has the much longer track record, averaging 58.0 steals from 2009-2011.
Brandon – REVERE. He had 40 last year, and he'll play every day for the Phillies, who should run him relentlessly at the bottom of that lineup.
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