It's not official yet, but the writing is on the wall. Get prepared for Aroldis Chapman to move back to the closer role.
Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the announcement was supposed to come Thursday, but Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker later said that a decision hasn't been made. Still, given that Chapman is on record as saying that he wants to close and Baker reportedly shares the same preference, it would be a surprise if a move to the rotation was in the cards.
While the idea of Chapman as a 200-inning starter as opposed to a 60-70 inning reliever is tantalizing, I wrote last week why I wasn't sold on him as a top 100 pick if he made the move to the rotation. There are just too many variables at play from a fantasy perspective, including the prospect of an innings limit for his first season as a starter. Meanwhile, we can say with absolute certainty that he's the No. 2 fantasy closer behind Braves' fireballer Craig Kimbrel. What can I say? I like to play it safe with pitchers.
So while the Reds retained Jonathan Broxton this winter on a three-year, $21 million contract, it looks like he'll now function as overpaid set-up man. My condolences if you held your fantasy draft early, as he quickly becomes droppable in mixed leagues if (or when) the plan is made official. As for the fifth spot in Cincinnati's rotation, Mike Leake is poised to get another shot coming off a disappointing 4.58 ERA in 30 starts last season. With his control and ground ball tendencies, he's a fine option in NL-only formats and may even be worth the occasional matchup play in mixed leagues.
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Hanley Headed for Surgery
When I last left you, we weren't sure whether Hanley Ramirez's right thumb injury was something minor or would require a long-term absence. Unfortunately for the Dodgers (and those who splurged on him in early fantasy drafts), Thursday brought the worst-case scenario.
Ramirez was diagnosed with a torn ligament in the thumb and will undergo surgery on Friday. He's expected to miss around eight weeks, which could take him out of the mix for the first two months of the regular season. While Ramirez was going in the second round in many mixed league drafts this spring, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fall out of the top 100 picks in the coming days.
As I indicated yesterday, Luis Cruz will likely fill in at shortstop while Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto will share third base duties. Interestingly, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he's not sure whether Ramirez will be the team's shortstop when he returns. Although, his rehab could give him some time to work at the position since he wasn't able to do so doing the World Baseball Classic.
If you have already held your draft and are scouring the waiver wire for options, Zack Cozart (28 percent owned), Jean Segura (24 percent) and Jhonny Peralta (14 percent) are widely available at shortstop in Yahoo! leagues while Trevor Plouffe (49 percent), Matt Carpenter (36 percent), Mark Reynolds (35 percent), Jedd Gyorko (33 percent), Jeff Keppinger (28 percent) and Lonnie Chisenhall (10 percent) are interesting alternatives if you were planning to use Ramirez at third base.
Bauer Sent Down, Two Remain for Indians' Rotation Spot
The Indians are moving closer to settling on their fifth starter, as Trevor Bauer was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday, leaving Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco as the finalists for the gig.
The move with Bauer doesn't come as a big surprise, as he scuffled a bit this spring while attempting to tweak his delivery, posting a 4.50 ERA and 9/4 K/BB ratio over 14 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this week that he is trying to "overwrite 10 years of neuromuscular programming," so it's probably better that he continues to work on things in the minors for the time being. Still, Bauer has a ton of talent and should make an impact in the majors again soon. He'll be worth monitoring in mixed leagues when that happens.
Kazmir, in camp as a non-roster invitee, has been one of the most interesting stories of the spring. Between three Cactus League appearances and two minor league starts, the 29-year-old southpaw has yielded four runs in 16 innings while striking out 18 and walking just three. By the way, all four of those runs were scored in a minor league start on Sunday, during which there were a number of misplays on defense. In addition to his control returning, he is also sitting in the high 80s to low 90s range with his fastball.
Kazmir has emerged as the likely favorite over Carrasco, who missed all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The 26-year-old right-hander has an ugly 6.00 ERA over 18 innings of work this spring. He probably didn't help his case Thursday by giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings against the Diamondbacks. Whoever wins the job will be worth an automatic flier in AL-only leagues.
Dark Horse Candidate Could Make Rangers' Rotation
When spring training began, many thought the Rangers would either give Martin Perez a chance in the starting rotation or cave and sign Kyle Lohse. However, with Perez sidelined until May with a forearm fracture and Lohse still hoping to land a lucrative contract in free agency, a dark horse candidate could land the job.
The Rangers announced Thursday that they are moving Robbie Ross back to the bullpen, which leaves prospect right-hander Nick Tepesch as the under-the-radar favorite for the final rotation spot. The 24-year-old right-hander owns a 3.46 ERA and 10/3 K/BB ratio over 13 innings this spring. Derek Lowe, Justin Grimm and Randy Wells are also under consideration, so it's hardly settled, but Tepesch is starting Friday and it appears that he is being groomed for the opportunity. And we might be able to throw Lowe out of the mix after he was hammered for six runs on seven hits -- including four home runs -- over just 3 2/3 innings Thursday against the Angels.
Tepesch isn't considered a top prospect, but he owns a 3.84 ERA over his first two professional seasons, including 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He generally sits in the low-90s with his fastball while his cutter and curveball are considered his best pitches. He'll still have to finish strong in order to win the job, but keep him in mind if you're looking for a late-round sleeper in AL-only leagues.
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