The Reds are preparing Aroldis Chapman for a potential move to the rotation, but with less than three weeks to go before Opening Day, no decision has been made about whether he'll start or move back to the closer role.
Reds manager Dusty Baker hopes that changes real soon, as he told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday that a decision about Chapman's role should be made within the next week or so. The southpaw has pitched well enough this spring, allowing one run in four innings over two appearances, but Baker has made no secret of the fact that he'd like to keep him as the closer.
As great as Chapman was as the Reds' closer last season, I believe it's a worthwhile experiment to see if he can make it as a starter, as he has a chance to provide even more value to the team. However, in standard mixed fantasy leagues, I'm a bit hesitant about using a top-100 pick on someone who has never made a start in the majors. Chapman wasn't overly effective as a starting pitcher in the minors in 2010 and 2011 and while I think he's a better pitcher now than he was back then, enough mystery remains for me to opt for someone with a longer track record as a starter. A possible innings limit could also have an impact on his value, though the Reds don't plan to disclose what their plan might be.
Chapman's next audition is set for this Saturday against the Giants. Baker's opinion is only part of the equation, but assuming he gets his way and Chapman returns to the bullpen, Mike Leake would get the fifth spot in the rotation while Jonathan Broxton would slide back into a set-up role. My hope is that Chapman gets a chance to start, but if you invest an early pick on him, rest assured that a potential move back to the closer role wouldn't be the worst thing for his fantasy value.
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Gyorko Making His Case
Targeting Jedd Gyorko as a fantasy sleeper? He might not be a secret for much longer. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, "barring something unforeseen," Gyorko is expected to be the Padres' starting second baseman this season.
Gyorko is plenty deserving of the opportunity, as he's hitting .270 (10-for-37) with three homers, three doubles, nine RBI and a .902 OPS in 14 games this spring. His defense has also impressed the Padres, who feel that he can make the switch from third base. Logan Forsythe entered spring training as the favorite for the second base job, but he hasn't offered much competition for Gyorko, as he's currently rehabbing from plantar fasciitis. He's expected to end up in a utility role once he's back to full health.
It's dangerous to make significant roster decisions based on small samples in spring training, but Gyorko's success isn't coming out of nowhere, as he was a .319/.385/.529 hitter in the minors. The 24-year-old might not be a 30-homer guy like he was between the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues last year, but he should still have enough pop to be very useful at second base. His stock should continue to rise over the next couple of weeks.
Garza and Baker Making Progress
The Cubs aren't expecting Matt Garza back from his strained lat until late-April or early-May, but he's beginning to make some progress.
After playing catch on Sunday and Monday without incident, Garza did so again on Wednesday. However, this time he stretched things out from distances of both 45 and 60 feet. Eventually he'll get back on the mound before testing himself against hitters, so there are still some significant hurdles to cross before he's ready for game action. But it's so far, so good for the Cubs' hurler.
Factoring in the elbow injury which ended his season in 2012, Garza is understandably going to slip in fantasy drafts this spring, but there's a point where most fantasy owners should be willing to take him. Given his track record, I think he's a reasonable gamble in the mid-to-late rounds in standard mixed leagues. Depending on your league settings, it makes sense to take somebody you know will open the season on the disabled list, as it allows you to stash them and take someone else off the waiver wire.
While we're on the subject of pitchers who will begin the season on the disabled list, it's worth noting that Scott Baker is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday. Baker, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, received clearance after pitching in a minor league game on Tuesday.
Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Cubs over the winter which includes $1.5 million in possible incentives. If all goes well, the hope is that he'll be ready to join the team's rotation before the end of April. I fear that homers could be an issue for him in Chicago, but Baker has always posted solid secondary numbers. Patience could be required, but don't be surprised if he ends up being valuable in mixed leagues this season.
Gomez Gets Paid
Carlos Gomez was due to become a free agent after this season, but the Brewers didn't want him to get a sniff of the open market. The two sides agreed Wednesday to a three-year, $24 million contract extension which runs through 2016. He was already set to make $4.3 million this season, so the new deal calls for him to earn $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2014 and $9 million in 2016.
It's good timing for Gomez, who is coming off his best season at the plate. The 27-year-old batted .260/.305/.463 with 19 home runs, 51 RBI, 37 stolen bases and a .768 OPS in 2012, proving to be a pleasant surprise for those in mixed fantasy leagues. While he hasn't made any strides with his patience since breaking into the majors as a 21-year-old in 2007, he has picked things up in the power department and his excellent defense in center field gives his value a significant boost. Heck, he's still young enough where there's a chance that we haven't seen the best of him yet.
I think Gomez could have been in line for at least an Angel Pagan-like contract (four years, $40 million) if he managed to replicate his 2012 numbers, so it could be argued that he left some money on the table here. It's not often that we see such a thing from a Scott Boras client. But there's something to be said for financial security.
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