February 2014

Guys I’m Targeting-National League

Earlier this week I wrote about those American League players I’m targeting for my fantasy teams this year. I also admitted I was nuts to share all my innermost secrets.

So now it’s time for me to spill the beans about some guys I really want to pick up in the National League.

Caution: These are just my opinion. Nothing more than that. Of course, if I’m right I want you to heap praise upon my shoulders. If I’m wrong, don’t even bring it up. I won’t remember.

My absolute breakout player is Christian Yelich of the Marlins. I’ve seen too much of his great swing in the past to think he won’t register a great batting average and score some runs. He’ll drive in his share as well. I want him wherever I can get him.

I still like Junior Lake of the Cubs. I don’t like much of the team that currently surrounds him, but I do like Lake. He has speed to steal bases and I think he’ll make some noise. And he’ll be cheap in auctions and drafts.

Nolan Arenado plays in a great hitter’s park with huge gaps for his personal target practice. He should be much more comfortable now in Colorado. I look for a big year from him with the Rockies.

I have never been one to dismiss the Braves Andrelton Simmons as a hitter. I do think he will continue to get better and better. And I think you can get him low in the shortstop pool. Steady progress means he will make himself a viable hitter.

Why not take a flyer on Devin Mesoraco now that he has a more stable role with the Reds? Nice hitter’s park. More self-confidence and good parks in the NL Central add up to a nice pick at catcher. I’m in.

Speaking of catchers. How about Wilson Ramos? I look for a very fine year from him. Catchers are getting better and better, and I really like the lineup surrounding Ramos. He’s worth a shot. Remember-most leagues use two catchers.

Khris Davis can hit. The question is if the Brewers will stick with him if he scuffles the first month. I’ve seen him hit long bombs. His hands are very quick through the ball. He has natural instincts. He could really blossom in Miller Park. IF. If they let him play.

Keep an eye on Andrew Lambo. You remember-that Andrew Lambo. Yes, that Andrew Lambo. Well, it says in my head that the Pirates will need some help at first base. If that holds true, Lambo could get a chance. If Lambo gets a chance, he may become the Andrew Lambo i’ve been waiting for since Nixon was President. I think the guy can hit. I hope I’m right. Remember-he’s just a sleeper. Not a buy high or a high draft choice. He’s an afterthought. Reserve pick-up.

Well, there are more, but I’m keeping quiet on them for now.

I’m out front now where everyone can see. My picks are public. There’s no turning back. Unless or until I see these guys in Spring Training and they do something to make me change my mind. I reserve that right.

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And remember, I’ll be tweeting every day starting February 26th from a Spring Training game. Get your friends to follow me @BerniePleskoff on twitter-we need to build a very strong support system at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.

Why? Because we have to watch out for each other. That’s why.

That’s it. I’m done.

Guys I’m Targeting-American League

I must be crazy. I must be totally crazy.

Guys like me should never go public with guys we are targeting in Fantasy Leagues.

But part of the game is sharing information. That’s what I do. I try to share my ideas and thoughts as an analyst. If it costs me someone scooping a player from me, so be it.

No, I’m not a martyr. I just think it doesn’t hurt to share.

I like my track record on targets. But this year, I may bust. So beware. I have no certainty these guys will turn your season around. They just happen to be guys I like. You may not. Don’t blame me. Just praise me profusely if I get it right.

I am not including the obvious like Sano and Buxton in keeper leagues. I am reaching a bit. So here goes—these are guys I wouldn’t mind owning shares of this season:

My absolute break out candidate is Henry Urruita of the Orioles. If you follow me, I raved about him last year. I think he’ll be even better as a left-handed designated hitter. I think when he does get to hit, he’ll be a doubles machine with homers to come.

I’m a huge Avisail Garcia fan-especially in keeper leagues. He’s just in his infancy. He’ll keep on keeping on. Especially at that hitter friendly Chicago play pen.

I think the Indians John Axford could be a sleeper as a closer. I believe in Mickey Callaway’s ability to fix pitchers. I like Axford this season.

Speaking of Indians, I’ll take my shares of first baseman Jesus Aguillar in a keeper league. I think he’ll play and hit-eventually. May be in 2015.

A surprise here: I’m very bullish on Grady Sizemore making a comeback with Boston. He’s still a good athlete. He’s healthy. And he’s getting a chance. I’ll take him.

Norichika Aoki is underrated. I think the Brewers made a mistake letting him slip away. He will score runs for the Royals. I want those runs.

Off that same Royals club, I’ll take Yordano Ventura in a keeper league and stash him. Not big. Just a big arm. When he finds the strike zone, watch out.

Another keeper to stash: I really like Taylor Lindsey of the Angels and I don’t think it’ll be too long until he’s playing 2B for them. A couple years at the most.

I think Alex Colome will be pitching in Tampa at some point this year. I wouldn’t mind having him on my bench.

Oh, I have more. Many more. But I’ll save them for another day.

There you have a few. Let the debates begin.

I’ll be at three Spring Training games in Phoenix this week. I leave for Florida on Saturday. Please follow me on twitter. I hope to bring you the goods

Up next: My National League targets.

And thanks so much for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

Key Position Players For Each Team-American League

My last blog was dedicated to providing my opinion of the key player on each National League club.

This week, I look at the American League and note the player for each time I think holds a key for the team’s success.

I think the Orioles really need a big season from Nick Markakis. If he is going to be leading off, his importance is even greater. His power has diminished recently but he still has the tools to drive in runs, score runs and make things happen.

There are lots of stars on the Red Sox, but Jackie Bradley may be really important. If he wins the center field job with solid, consistent performance, it will make the transition away from Jacoby Ellsbury so much easier. He can be a catalyst from that position.

The White Sox are counting on Adam Eaton to add some speed and energy to their club. If he is 100% healthy and can get on base, it will set the table for the rest of the lineup.
Hitting at the top of the order, his job will be to jump start the offense. Can he do it?

Michael Bourn will play a similar role for the Indians as Eaton does for the White Sox.
Bourn has to get on base, steal and score runs. That’s his role. He has to make things happen and take some pressure off the rest of the lineup. He needs a big year.

Slated to be the Tigers new cleanup hitter, Victor Martinez has the task of driving in runs. There will be men on base for Martinez and he has a shot to have a monster year. But is the bat the same as it was? Can he go deep or hit the gaps for doubles? We’ll see.

How good will Dexter Fowler be making the transition from the NL to the AL? Can he be a veteran team leader the Astros need? Can he get on base enough to allow their young hitters a chance for some RBIs? It’s the new look Astros. And a new team for Fowler.

What kind of production can the Royals expect from Mike Moustakas? Is he ready to take his place as a consistent run producer with men on base? Can he be effective week in and week out and not fall into prolonged slumps? Has he turned the corner?

Can Albert Pujols return to the form that made him great? Is he fully recovered and able to play without pain and run normally? If he is, the Angels can be a very dangerous team. They need a healthy and productive Pujols (and Hamilton) to contend.

How will the Twins Joe Mauer respond to his transition from catcher to first base? Will his new position give him more energy and life along with fewer aches and pains? If he is totally healthy, he can be productive from the less stressful position. He’s the man.

Can the Yankees Carlos Beltran hold up physically over the course of an entire season? With the loss of Robbie Cano’s bat, Beltran will be among five new offensive players called upon to produce runs. Is he up to the task as a real team leader and go to guy?

Can Yoenis Cespedes be counted upon to produce runs as he did more consistently in his rookie season than the first half of last year? Will he produce as he did late in the season? Can he cut down the strikeouts and break up games with the long ball?

While we might be able to predict production from Cano and Corey Hart in Seattle, what will the team get from Justin Smoak? What happens if Smoak doesn’t hit early in the season? Can he drive in the runs they desperately need from the middle of the order?

Can Wil Myers be the All Star player many people predict? If he produces from the middle of the order, life will be much simpler for the offense hungry Rays. Their pitching will be solid, but Myers has to help the offense score runs to win.

New additions Choo and Fielder really make the offense in Texas even more dangerous. But will Jurickson Profar be healthy enough to play 150 games and help people forget the loss of Ian Kinsler. Can he be an everyday player of impact at age 20? He’s key.

What type of production will the Blue Jays get from Jose Bautista? is he the fence buster of old? Can he set the tone for Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus type hitters? Will Bautista stay healthy all year? Is he an All Star, game changing, impact player?

Of course, every team has more than one key player. But those are mine as we head into the American League season. Questions surround the keys. We get answers soon.

As always, thank you for following me @BerniePleskoff on twitter, and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com. And thanks for listening to Short Hops with @DerikVanriper on iTunes. It’s free.

That’s it. I’m done.

Key Position Players For Each Team-National League

Spring Training camps are open and baseball is in the air in both Arizona and Florida.

Prior to the beginning of spring games, I thought I would share share my thoughts on the player I think will be key for each club in the coming season.

Today I look at the National League.

While all eyes will be on Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt, I really think the most important player for the Diamondbacks will be Miguel Montero. Can he rebound from a very difficult 2012? Can he provide protection and drive in runs? Will he be a force at the plate?

For me, a solid Evan Gattis behind the plate would be extremely helpful in moving the Braves beyond Brian McCann and into a new era. Will he hit consistently? If so, the team can allow Christian Bethancourt more development time.

Starlin Castro is a crucial component of the Cubs until Javier Baez is ready to take on a full time role. At that point, the team will have a decision to make. Maybe one of them changes positions. Until then, Castro can really help if he hits and plays with energy.

Can Billy Hamilton get on base and be a catalyst for the Reds? If he can, think of the stolen bases and runs he will produce. If he can’t get on base, his role could change dramatically. Bunting more will help. Seeing more pitches will help. He can fly.

For me, a healthy Justin Morneau will mean a great deal to the Rockies. If they can get good production from him, it will provide even more offense that will likely be needed in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Those pitchers need all the runs they can get.

A return to health for Matt Kemp can make the entire season for the Dodgers. Along with the other dynamic players in the lineup and on the mound, the team is poised to excel. But Kemp’s bat is important.

Christian Yelich setting the table and providing protection for Giancarlo Stanton will be really important to the Marlins. Stanton needs to see pitches to be effective. If Yelich gains the respect of pitchers with his own big bat, watch out!

A healthy Aramis Ramirez is important to the Brewers as long as he’s their third baseman. The team is not deep in corner infielders. If Ramirez is on the shelf again this season, it stretches an already thin roster even more. He’s important.

Who’s the real Ike Davis? Can he still hit and hit with power? If Davis can perform, it will take some pressure off David Wright and Curtis Granderson. His resurgence is important to the entire Mets lineup. This is a huge season for Davis.

Ryan Howard has lost weight and should be healthy. If he can stay on the field, can he still hit? And can he hit the long ball? Think what a healthy Howard will do for a Phillies team that is aging and trying to remain relevant. Without him? Issues.

Few people can hit the ball as far or as hard as Pedro Alvarez. If he can get hot and stay hot, he can help Andrew McCutchen and the rest of the Pirates gain a return to the Postseason. A consistent Alvarez will mean a great deal to the club.

I ask the same question of Chase Headley as I asked of Ike Davis? Who’s the real guy? I think Headley has it in him to lead the Padres to a big season. His bat is important in a venue that is very pitcher friendly. He’s a key guy in the lineup.

What can the Giants expect from Pablo Sandoval? He’s such a great natural hitter. But if he can keep the weight off, he can be even greater. He’s much more agile than people think and he plays a fine third base. But he has to hit and hit and hit for them to win.

For me, Jhonny Peralta is a key to the Cardinals. Can he drive in the big runs they will need with the loss of Carlos Beltran and David Freese? Can Peralta get to balls in the hole and help those fabulous pitchers or will his range become an issue?

The Nationals could sure use a solid Adam LaRoche at first base. If he hits to his capabilities, it can take some of the pressure off Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. If LaRoche is a force, it allows Jayson Worth to see many more good pitches to hit.

Next time I’ll take a look at my keys for the American League.

As always, thanks for reading my work here, at MLBPipeline.com and on twitter @BerniePleskoff.


There Are Not As Many Pitching Woes-National League

When we last got together, I wrote about some pitching woes lingering in the American League. This time I’ll check out the NL to see what’s happening with the rotations.

The Braves will turn to youth for their pitching future. They are solid with Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood to fill their rotation. But health issues remain. Can Beachy and Medlen take the grind of an entire season? I’ll be writing about Aaron Northcraft soon on MLBPipeline.com. But in the end, most teams would love to have as solid a rotation as the Braves-if those guys can stay healthy.

This Miami Marlins team is just a hint of what is yet to come. With Jose Fernandez leading the pack, the Marlins could be set for years. Just wait until prospect Andrew Heaney joins him.

For me, Fernandez is a top of the charts pitcher. Few are better. Period.

I’m very bullish on Nathan Eovaldi. I’ve seen what he can do when his command is sharp. He’s a guy to watch this season.

Beyond Fernandez and Eovaldi, I think the rotation cools off with Jacob Turner being only average in my book. Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler probably take the last two spots. But with Heaney and Justin Nicolino on the way, things brighten.

Noah Syndergaard is the real deal, but he likely won’t make the Mets rotation out of Spring Training. However, Bartolo Colon is their ace, and that’s not bad. With the exception of Zack Wheeler, I’m not too excited.

For example, will Jon Niese find consistency in his release point? How about Dillon Gee? Can he be a big winner? Jenrry Mejia has an electric arm, but some of that has been lost in his elbow injury. Lots of questions on this staff.

I think this is the last hurrah for the Phillies and their staff. Cliff Lee will be dominant as usual and can be counted on to throw strikes, walk few and get little run support.

Cole Hamels pitches in bad luck as well. But after him, I think the rotation has issues with Kyle Kendrick, Miguel Gonzalez and Roberto Hernandez. This is not the pitching juggernaut that brought fear to the opposition in the past. But I do like Kendrick.

Then there’s the Nationals.

They are about as solid a rotation as one can find in baseball.

Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Fister and Detwiler. Yikes!. And can you explain to me how in the world they got Doug Fister from Detroit? For what? I’m just askin. That was the greatest steal of the last 10 years. What am I missing here?

The Cubs. You want pitching issues? This is a team with one of the greatest collections of position prospects I’ve seen in years! But where’s the pitching?

I like Jeff Samardzija. And I can spell his name. However, I begin to shake my head when I look at the rotation of Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta. Maybe they’ll surprise. But the pitching looks a little thin through these thick glasses.

The Reds will miss Bronson Arroyo. They’ll miss his innings and his ability. And they haven’t replaced him as far as I can tell. Can Johnny Cueto stay healthy? I do like Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. I think Tony Cingrani can be a stud. But what if Mike Leake leaks? Which I believe he is capable of doing. So overall, I don’t think it’s bad. I just think Arroyo is a huge loss.

Just who is Yovani Gallardo? Will the guy I thought he would be ever show up? Can Matt Garza stay healthy and not give up homers in Miller Park? I thought last year we would see Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada become big winners. Maybe this is their year. I like them both, but was disappointed last season. Kyle Lohse does help the Brewers.

I do think the top of the Pirates rotation is very formidable with Liriano and Cole. A great one-two punch. But they need A.J. Burnett to come back and eat some innings. I’m not a huge Wandy Rodriguez fan, but he is a solid 4th starter. Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez if Burnett bolts. That’s a bit scary for a pennant contender, no?

Here are my issues/concerns with the Cardinals rotation.—————————————

How would you like to be a manager and be able to throw Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, Garcia, Lynn, Kelly, or Martinez at the opposition day in and day out. Unfair!

Beware the Dbacks if you play in the NL. They got much better yesterday with the signing of Bronson Arroyo. They can absorb an injury now with Randal Delgado in the wings. And Archie Bradley, too. Corbin, Arroyo, McCarthy, Miley, Cahill. Not too shabby.

Yes, I feel sorry for any pitcher working in Coors. Even with the humidor. But the Rockies have some great arms such as Jorge de La Rosa and when healthy, Brett Anderson. Jhoulys Chacin can shine, but has to be healthy. Tyler Chatwood and Franklin Morales round out the rotation. BUT-Eddie Butler and Jon Gray are in development and just wait until you see them. They are both the real deal. Electric.

Yes, for me, it’s Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and then who?

The Dodgers go three deep and then fall off the ravine. I hope Josh Beckett is healthy. If he is-he’ll be fine. But it’s a big IF. I hope Dan Haren isn’t totally spent. If he is, they have issues. Zach Lee awaits his turn.

Health issues? What team has had to deal with more pitching injuries than San Diego?

But I think Ian Kennendy, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Josh Johnson and Erik Stults will give the club a chance to win every night. That’s all that can be asked of a starter. But will Johnson pitch past May? Tyson Ross is a real, real sleeper. The guy has a great arm. I’d like to see more movement on his fastball, but what an arm.

Lots of innings on the arms of the Giants starters. Especially Matt Cain. I’ve seen him very, very good and at times, bad. Madison Bumgarner just keeps getting better. I’m Tim Lincecum’s biggest fan and I want that fastball to miss bats. And I want him to throw strikes with it. Tim Hudson? I’m not sure. And I don’t know who the 5th starter is. David Huff? The Giants pitching has never been a question. Until last year. Now, I see some holes. And I’m really pulling for Lincecum to right the ship. I think he can.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. And you can follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and on Short Hops podcast available free on iTunes.

It’s time for baseball. I’ll be here all season. From Spring Training on. Hope you’ll be with me. And bring your friends to BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.
That’s it. I’m done.


There Are Some Starting Pitching Woes-American League

With pitchers and catchers reporting to a couple of camps this week, there is still some unfinished business to be conducted.

Roster development takes the entire winter and spring. In some cases, major moves are yet to come. In others, maybe a nip here and a tuck there. But most team will make adjustments to the roster we see entering Spring Training.
But when it’s all said and done, in my opinion, starting pitching and then relief pitching will be the great separator in the American League. Today I look at the starters.

Given the injury to Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays have to find a starter for his role. Granted, they may not need him right out of the gate, but they’ll need that 5th starter at some point prior to Hellickson’s return. Jake Odorizzi may fit that role. I really like Alex Colome and Enny Romero. Both may be late 2014 additions. For me, Alex Cobb is the stud of the staff. I like David Price, but I really think Cobb is a huge winner.

I’m still thinking Ubaldo Jimenez signs with the Blue Jays. I just don’t know what’s taking so long. They may get Bronson Arroyo or Ervin Santana as well. They can certainly use the pitching depth. Huge questions abound with the entire staff as now constituted. I’m not convinced about Kyle Drabek. Or even J A Happ. And Mark Buehrle has lots of pitches on that arm. And on and on. R. A. Dickey? Who knows?

No matter how I look at it, the Yankees still come up a pitcher short. Problem solved if Michael Pineda is healthy. If so, they can afford a hiccup from one of their starters. I just don’t have the confidence that Sabathia, Tanaka, Nova, Kuroda and Phelps is a Championship rotation. If One of them leaks, and watch out. Kelly Johnson at third base isn’t very exciting either. Or Brian Roberts at second. The more I think about it, I think the Yankees have some holes to fill. But starting pitching has to be reinforced first.

The situation with Justin Masterson and the Indians is a concern. They are world’s
apart in the arbitration process. It seems like this will be Masterson’s last year in Cleveland. If that’s true, then they will have lost Kazmir, Jimenez and Masterson over a two-year period. The development of Danny Salazar is crucial. But Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer have to perform as expected. Lots of pitching questions for the Tribe. Mickey Callaway does a great job as pitching coach. He’s very underrated. Bauer? New delivery? That’s good, because he has to deliver.

Think of what the Rangers are facing with their rotation. Coming back from injury candidates include Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. Is the shoulder of Alexi Ogando healthy? And now they lose Derek Holland. So where do they get a starter? I’m thinking Robbie Ross. They can use one of the free agent pitchers. Starting pitching depth is not a Rangers strength. They’ll hit. But the starters are a concern.

The Mariners could have two rookies in their rotation. I’m on board with Taijuan Walker. I like what he brings. I’m much more concerned about James Paxton. Much more. And isn’t Scott Baker a huge question mark? I still like Erasmo Ramirez as a starter. They can certainly use more pitching-at one point a prospect strength. The injury to Danny Hultzen hurt badly.

I’d like to see Yordano Ventura grab one of the rotation spots in Kansas City. I’ve seen his fastball in action. There are times it’s straight as a string, but he has a fabulous arm. I think he’ll get a long look this spring and be promoted at some time during the season. If the Royals pitchers falter, the next waive includes Ventura and ultimately Kyle Zimmer, Chris Dwyer and John Lamb. Each is loaded with questions, but there is some depth.

I still scratch my head about the Tigers giving up Doug Fister. It isn’t as if they are deep in starters. Yes, Drew Smyly takes Fister’s role. But starter #6? If there is any vulnerability with the Tigers, starting pitching depth is first on my list.

The additions of Jerome Williams and Scott Feldman could help stabilize the Astros until pitchers like Mark Appel arrive. While the Astros have made strides in the offensive part of the game, pitching has to be the next priority. Appel will really help.

Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes may both find the going a bit easier in the spacious, pitcher-friendly Target Field in Minnesota. But I’m not betting the ranch on the Twins rotation. Home runs may not fly out of the park, but the gaps offer plenty of extra base hits. Nolasco and Hughes are similar. Each can be very good or very bad. Little in between. Both benefit from the park factor.

Parker, Kazmir, Gray, Griffin and Straily. That’s certainly a very solid rotation that can carry the Athletics a long, long way. And more great arms wait in the wings. The Athletics are one of the few teams with enough depth to get through a season without missing much of a beat. They may not have much power on the club, but they can pitch. It’ll keep them in games, just as in the past two seasons.

Chris Sale is an absolute stud. He anchors a White Sox pitching staff that will have three lefties with John Danks and Jose Quintana hanging around. I expect some nice results from big right-hander Erik Johnson. It’s that 5th starter’s role that could be a black hole.
Remember that Andre Rienzo got a couple starts last year. He can help. But again, as Yogi would say, there might not be deep depth.

The Red Sox are pretty well settled. If any of their starters don’t’ perform, they can turn to great arms like Ruby de La Rosa and Allen Webster to name a couple. But they need good performances from Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster to make everything work. Can they both perform?

Two huge questions complete the Angels rotation behind Weaver, Wilson and Richards. Can Tyler Skaggs equal his press clippings? For me, he has to pitch inside and use his curveball more often. It’s a darn good pitch. He seems to lack confidence. The upside is there. Can he deliver? Hector Santiago is another question mark. He has a good arm and I think will find success in Anaheim. But beyond that five, they sure need some help. The free agent market is calling. Ubaldo? Arroyo? A return of Santana? That’s more doubtful. But they need another arm.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. And I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops where Derek Van Riper and I talk baseball every week. You can find us on iTunes. It’s free. And please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.