Those of you who drafted in AL leagues in the last ten days may have seen
the immediate impact of the surfeit of spring training information, gossip,
and innuendo in John Wetteland‘s price. There was a brief period when it
appeared that Wetteland might start the season on the DL, and miss a fair
amount of time at that, all due to an ankle problem. In the past four days,
however, Wetteland has pitched effectively twice, and now appears to be on
track to start the season on the 25-man roster.
There’s a clear lesson from this. There’s no shortage of quality
information available from spring camps, via sources like
My Baseball Daily. However, like any
over-the-counter product, this information is only effective when used
properly. Sometimes you have to learn not to overreact.
Spring news comes in many flavors, but it’s generally coming out of one of
these three buckets:
- An injury. You have to make judgment calls here, but some general
guidelines apply. Pitchers’ arm injuries are the most serious, and should
impact your bidding strategy. However, their non-arm injuries (knees,
ankles) are frequently overemphasized on draft day, and a majority of these
injuries will go away by Opening Day. For hitters, watch for back injuries
on power hitters and leg injuries on speedsters, but worry less about other
injuries until somebody confirms an MRI has taken place. Use available news
sources to try to get a read on each injury’s severity, but ignore the
temptation to use one bad inning to gauge the pitcher’s outlook.
- Job competitions. Pirates’ GM Cam Bonifay has blustered left and right
about how Mike Benjamin was the starting second baseman, blah, blah, blah.
a week until Opening Day and Warren Morris is doing all the starting, as he
should be. Bottom line? You can’t believe pull quotes from front office
types; they have little incentive to tell the press the whole truth. Use
what you know about the players’ actual skills, how they performed the
previous year, and how the organization sees them in the long-term to
decide who you think will win jobs that are still up for grabs. Some
decisions are indeed made in spring training, but these decisions will
frequently contradict the public
commentary of managers and GMs.
- Eye-openers. Some prospects do more to help themselves with a good
spring than you might think, as they get their first opportunity to show
off in front
of the big league club’s manager. Scott Williamson, the
roto-flavor-of-the-moment in the NL, is a great example; he showed up with
an extra few mph on his fastball, and he clearly served notice to Jack
McKeon that he intends to be in the Reds’ future pitching plans. Perhaps
he’ll be sent down once the Reds’ staff is healthy, but Williamson is the
kind of player to stash on a reserve list or grab at $1 because of the
impact he might make in July or next year.
As I implied above, there is much to be gained by gathering player info
during spring training. Just make sure you wield the weapon more deftly
than your competitors do.
Keith Law is the Baseball Prospectus fantasy editor. Feel free to drop
him a line at email@example.com.