Doug Fister gave the Nationals and fantasy owners a bit of a scare earlier this month when he came down with some soreness in his throwing elbow, but all signs point to it being a minor hiccup. After throwing two-plus innings in a minor league game on Monday, Washington's big offseason acquisition has now been cleared to return to Grapefruit League action Saturday against the Marlins. As of now, the expectation is that he will not have to miss a regular season start.
Fister has flown under the radar over the past three seasons despite being one of the best starting pitchers in the game. He has a 3.30 ERA and 1.19 WHIP dating back to the start of 2011. Only nine pitchers (min. 400 IP) have bested his 124 ERA+ during the same timespan. This is why many were surprised when the Nationals were able to acquire him from the Tigers this winter in exchange for prospect left-hander Robbie Ray, left-handed reliever Ian Krol, and utility man Steve Lombardozzi. If he can stay healthy, the deal could be a steal.
I already feel that Fister has been undervalued and the minor concern about his recent elbow situation likely had him slip a bit further in recent fantasy drafts than he should have. With the move over to the easier league and a better infield defense behind him in Washington, he has a legitimate chance to be a top-20 starting pitcher (or better) in mixed leagues. Of course, if you had the Rotoworld Draft Guide, you'd already know that.
Chapman Carted Off After Being Hit in Head By Liner
There was a terrifying moment in the sixth inning of a Cactus League game between the Reds and Royals on Wednesday night, as All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of catcher Salvador Perez. He lay on the ground in pain for several minutes and was eventually immobilized on a stretcher and carted off the field before being taken to a local hospital. Both teams were understandably very shaken up by the incident and the rest of the game was called off.
UPDATE: According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, the latest update from the Reds is that Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose. He's still scheduled to undergo further testing, likely to rule out the possibility of a brain injury.
The Reds should have more information on Chapman's status at some point on Thursday, but it would be a surprise if he didn't begin the year on the disabled list. With that in mind, JJ Hoover and Jonathan Broxton are the most likely fill-in options for the ninth inning, but it could be a closer-by-committee situation. Chapman's health is the most important thing, but here's hoping he'll be blowing batters away again real soon.
Editor's Note: Find out the secret strategies of nine-time national champion, Larry Schechter. Order: Winning Fantasy Baseball
Martinez States His Case For Rotation Spot
Let's discuss some position battles, shall we? One of the more interesting ones is with the Cardinals, where Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez are currently competing for the fifth starter job.
Kelly stepped up in his most recent outing on Saturday against the Braves, allowing just one run over 5 1/3 innings, but he has been thoroughly outpitched by Martinez this spring. The young fireballer struck out four over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Twins on Wednesday and now owns a 1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 9/3 K/BB ratio over 15 1/3 innings during Grapefruit League play. While there has been some speculation that Kelly will end up winning the job regardless of the results, there's little doubt that Martinez has the greater upside from a fantasy perspective.
Kelly owns a 3.08 ERA over 31 starts and 30 relief appearances over the past two seasons, but he has only averaged 6.0 K/9 during that time despite a mid-90s sinker and an excellent changeup. If you look strictly at his starts, it goes down to 5.3 K/9. His control is decent enough and he induces plenty of grounders, but he's unlikely to duplicate the success he had during the second half last year if he can't miss more bats.
While this looks like an easy decision on paper, I wonder if the Cardinals could use Martinez in the eighth inning temporarily with an eye toward transitioning him to the rotation later in the year. He's not going to throw 200 innings this year no matter what, so they will have to be creative with his workload. Remember, this is a team who has their eyes on October. Just something to keep in mind.
It's Miller Time
If there was any doubt that Brad Miller should be the starting shortstop for the Mariners this season, he has removed it with his unbelievable spring. The 24-year-old went 3-for-4 with two triples and two runs scored Wednesday against the Brewers and is now hitting .447 (17-for-38) with four home runs, four triples, one double and eight RBI over 13 games. His OPS sits at an astounding 1.512.
I don't think Miller should have to compete for his job to begin with, but the Mariners have given Nick Franklin a chance now that $240 million man Robinson Cano is at second base. The 23-year-old is hitting .235 (8-for-34) with one home run, three doubles, and five RBI over 12 games during Cactus League action. But let's be real here. The results don't matter. The job should be Miller's. And I'm convinced that the Mariners have been talking up Franklin in an effort to boost his trade value. Hey, it's worth a shot.
As a rookie last year, Miller hit .265/.318/.418 with 25 extra-base hits (including eight home runs), five stolen bases, and 41 runs scored in 76 games while batting primarily out of the leadoff spot. He might hit lower in the order this year, as the Mariners would probably like to avoid having three left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup, but there are still plenty of reasons to like him in fantasy leagues. In addition to his reputation for patience and making contact, he has the potential for double-digit homers and steals. Not bad for a guy who currently has a 228.9 ADP in Yahoo! leagues. Time to put him on your radar if he wasn't already.