When Carl Crawford experienced forearm tightness in late February that was related to his Tommy John surgery, he seemed like a big longshot to be ready by Opening Day. Fast-forward three weeks later, and it’s looking like he could beat those long odds.
Crawford had a pair of hits Monday in his second spring training game, and the next day his general manager, Ned Colletti, expressed optimism that the outfielder would be ready to roll on April 1 against the Giants. The outfielder still needs to show that he can play left field without his elbow or forearm bothering him, but he’s been playing catch for a week and hasn’t had any hiccups to this point.
Expressing hesitancy with Crawford in fantasy drafts this spring is understandable. After all, we’re talking about a guy that’s batted just .260/.292/.419 with 14 homers and 23 steals over two seasons since inking a monster seven-year, $142 million contract.
However, don’t forget that for many seasons before that, Crawford was a sure-fire first-round fantasy pick year after year. With his 32nd birthday not falling until August, there’s no reason to think he’s done as a potentially dynamic player as long as he stays healthy. Feel free to pass on him if it makes your stomach queasy, but you could be missing out a good buying opportunity.
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Danks Doomed For DL?
Though he entered spring training behind the other White Sox starters as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery, John Danks was supremely confident that he’d be ready to roll and regain his old form by the time Opening Day rolled around.
The script hasn’t exactly gone as planned for the left-hander.
Danks was roughed up for 10 runs on 11 hits and two walks over 3 1/3 innings against the Reds Tuesday, pushing his Cactus League ERA to 16.36 and WHIP to 2.91. He’s allowed a whopping 27 hits over 11 frames, and his fastball, which used to sit comfortably in the 91-92 mph range, has yet to crack the 90 mph barrier.
The left-hander insists that he feels fine physically, but he sounded a little defeated after Tuesday’s outing and aware of the distinct possibility that he just might not be ready to face major league hitters yet.
"I don't have to get to where I can throw 120 pitches, but I do need to get to where I can get us through six innings," Danks said on MLB.com. "I can't be a guy out there that sets a burden on the bullpen every five days."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura wouldn’t rule out Danks’ inclusion on the Opening Day roster, but he’s mindful of the fact that the club won’t need a fifth starter until April 13. At the very least, Danks figures to be held out until then, and, in all likelihood, it will probably be longer.
"He does [have enough time]," Ventura said. "It's one of those where you'll see [how Danks feels] tomorrow and then you go from there. The window is closing though. It is getting pretty tight."
If Danks is unable to take his first few turns in the rotation, Hector Santiago would be the logical choice to fill in for him. Santiago posted a 3.33 ERA with 79 strikeouts over 70 1/3 innings last season, and he put up a 1.86 ERA over four late-season starts for the Palehose. He would be worthy of rostering in AL-only leagues should be find his way into the rotation.
Madson Still Hurting
For the second time this spring, Ryan Madson is unable to throw from a mound due to soreness in his surgically-repaired right elbow.
The reliever insists that his latest bout with soreness isn’t nearly as bad as what shut him down before spring training. However, we’re still talking about someone who has only had a handful of bullpen sessions since blowing out his elbow, and on two occasions he’s hit a speed bump and had to start over again.
Obviously it’s going to be a while before he’s game-ready, let alone to the point where Angels manager Mike Scioscia feels comfortable using him in the ninth inning.
"We're just trying to figure out why it keeps tightening up after bullpens," Madson said on MLB.com. "It feels good, it feels good -- then, a day later, it's tight."
Scioscia is hopeful that Madson will be able to climb atop the bump again in a few days, though we’ll just have to see how the elbow responds. The Angels had been expecting the right-hander to be available by mid-April, but at this point it would be a surprise if he’s back by the end of that month, and he figures to be eased into the closer role when he does return. Ernesto Frieri is the best bet for saves in Anaheim while Madson is on the shelf, though Scott Downs and Sean Burnett could also be in the mix.
Carpenter Seals Up Second Base Job
The Cardinals’ release of Ronny Cedeno Tuesday didn’t draw many headlines, but the transaction will have a notable domino effect on the rest of the club’s Opening Day roster.
With Cedeno no longer an option, the Cards are down to two viable roster candidates that are capable of playing shortstop -- Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. Though the club has yet to officially offer any guarantees other than Kozma being the regular shortstop, Cedeno’s release implies that Descalso will serve as the backup at both middle infield positions, thereby making Matt Carpenter the Opening Day second baseman.
Carpenter had never played second base as a professional prior to spring training, but he’s made quite a smooth transition, not committing an error at the position during Grapefruit League action while showing he can make all the necessary plays. Of course, from a fantasy perspective all we really care about is the bat, and Carpenter has a good one. The 27-year-old was a career .299/.408/.450 hitter in the minors and he batted .294/.365/.463 during an impressive rookie campaign. Carp doesn’t have great power or speed, but he has the potential to hit for a high average while offering double-digit home runs. His terrific on-base skills should also lead to ample runs scored, especially if he spends a good amount of time in the two-hole.
Also worth noting is that the subtraction of Cedeno almost surely means the addition of Matt Adams to the Opening Day roster. Adams doesn’t have an avenue to regular playing time, but the Cards are expected to give Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday more days off this season, which would mean Adams at first base and Allen Craig at a corner outfield spot some days. A career .318/.365/.565 hitter in the minors, Adams is worthy of consideration in NL-only formats.
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