An assemblage of prospects, vagabonds, and tough-luck stories, but some are sure to stick.
Come the opening of every camp, there's always going to be some wiggle room for a non-roster player or two to make the club. But who has the best shot as we just get started, and/or who's worth noting for his own sake? Starting with the AL, let's look at the names you might want to note in the inevitable spring training boxscores and the equally inevitable camp rumors to come.
Another week and another singular change in the Value Picks portfolio. This week, Sean Rodriguez and his hot June graduate from Value Picks, and an alumni in Mike Aviles returns to the portfolio. Rodriguez had an off week (.095/.095/.143 in 21 PA) but that did not stop ESPN owners from picking him up off the waiver wires, as his ownership skyrocketed to 41.3% of ESPN mixed leagues. However, don't think that off week was some aberration; Rodriguez AVG is due for some regression. What he can hopefully do to make up for it is take some more walks (right now, he's walking in just 3.2% of his PA) and hit for more power, two things PECOTA expects a lot of. If he is available and you need the middle infield help, he is still a solid pickup, provided you can handle the low AVG.
Two players graduate and one player gets demoted from Value Picks. Michael Jong covers the new replacements.
This week, Value Picks graduates two players and demotes one, all while bringing in three fresh names in completely different situations. Cliff Pennington's usage shot up in ESPN mixed leagues, as he is now owned in 33 percent of leagues, up 17 percent from last week. As it is, he's no longer undervalued, and why should he be? His unexpected hot star finally caught fantasy players' eyes, but note that he has been in decline for the last few weeks, especially in the power categories. Chris Snyder only spent a week in this space, and it was not a pretty one. Snyder hit .154/.421/.154 during that week, with only two hits. Still, he too saw his ownership jump up to 22 percent of ESPN leagues. With Miguel Montero still not available, Snyder should provide pop and playing time at the catcher position for a little while longer. If either of these players are still available in your deeper leagues, go ahead and snatch them up. The one demotion is John Baker, who slumped through a .125/.192/.208 line in his two weeks in the Value Picks portfolio. Baker can and should regress to his norms in due time, but with limited upside in terms of both talent and playing time, Baker should take a back seat in your search for a catcher.
Entering the portfolio are two catchers in completely different scenarios. Value Picks may be a bit late to the John Jaso party, but better late than never. Jaso took the starting role for Tampa Bay when Kelly Shoppach went down with injury and has not looked back since. While that .314/.479/.486 line Jaso put up in 48 PA is a mirage, it's certainly a hot one. Jaso has been good in the minors at avoiding strikeouts (minor league career strikeout rate of 12.2 percent in eight seasons), so he will certainly strike out more than in 4.1 percent of his plate appearances. With the increase in strikeouts, that batting average will fall, though PECOTA projects an above average contact rate of 83 percent that should help keep the AVG afloat. Jaso has never shown much power, but in the Rays lineup, you do not need a whole lot of power to drive in runs. His solid, patient approach at the plate should get him on base to score runs as well, even near the bottom of the lineup. Jaso's skill set compares favorably with Shoppach, with less power and more contact ability, but the results should be similar. With the lion's share of playing time, he's a good player to have on AL-only leagues and leagues with two-catcher requirements.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 14 American League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. National League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.
It's time to announce the winners of the 17th annual Internet Baseball Awards. More than 1,400 baseball fans from cyberspace participated in this effort to honor those players and managers whose performance in 2008 were most deserving.