After the Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million contract last October, the assumption was that they would give him every chance to win the starting job at second base during spring training. It might not work out that way.
A shortstop during his time in Cuba, Guerrero has had a shaky transition to second base so far this spring and there's increased speculation that he could begin the season in the minors. As Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote yesterday, it's rather telling that the 27-year-old hasn't started at second base in three out of the Dodgers' last four games. If the Dodgers truly intend to have him begin the season as the starter, one would think he'd be getting as much game action as possible.
Assuming the Dodgers have Guerrero go down to the minors for some seasoning, the most likely beneficiary is the speedy Dee Gordon. I wouldn't necessarily count on him for the entire season though, as the Dodgers remain committed to Guerrero and will likely turn to him if (or when) he shows that he's comfortable, but Gordon is capable of stealing bags in bunches as long as he's in the lineup on a regular basis. This goes without saying, but keep an eye on him in mixed fantasy leagues. Oh, and don't give up hope on Guerrero even if he starts the season in the minors. It's a long year.
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Injury Bug Hits Detroit
Some bad news out of Tigers camp Tuesday, as it was announced that Andy Dirks needs back surgery and is expected to miss 12 weeks. Dirks was expected to be on the strong side of a platoon with Rajai Davis in left field to begin the season, but they'll have to make do without him until June.
The Tigers could shop around for outfield help in the coming days, as Vernon Wells, Juan Pierre, Andres Torres and Scott Podsednik are among those who are still free agents. We could also see a few more outfielders become available toward the end of spring training. However, assuming the Tigers stick with their internal options, we're most likely looking at some combination of Davis, Don Kelly, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ezequiel Carrera.
Davis is obviously the one to watch from a fantasy perspective, as his speed makes him very valuable, even in a semi-regular role. As our own Matthew Pouliot speculated yesterday, it's even possible that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus could use him out of the leadoff spot early on. Not bad for someone you can get in the later rounds.
When Mat Latos had left knee surgery on February 14, the Reds estimated that he would only need around 10 days to resume his throwing program and didn't rule him out for the start of the season. While it sounded overly optimistic at the time, everything is going according to plan so far.
Latos hasn't had any issues since the surgery and the Reds are optimistic that he'll be able to throw his first bullpen session of the spring on Wednesday. There's no timetable for him to get into Cactus League action, but it sounds like he still has a decent chance to be ready by the end of March or at least pretty close to it.
Latos, who is also coming back from elbow cleanup surgery, is coming off a 3.16 ERA and 187/58 K/BB ratio over a career-high 210 2/3 innings last year. Barring an unexpected setback, he should be drafted as a top-30 starting pitcher in mixed leagues.
Walker Making Progress
Hyped as a fantasy sleeper for most of the winter, Taijuan Walker is behind schedule this spring due to inflammation of the bursa of his right shoulder. The Mariners already shut him down for a week after one setback, but the plan calls for him to resume his throwing program on Thursday. While this is good news, at this point it's unlikely he'll be ready to join the Mariners' rotation until the middle of April.
Of course, Opening Day isn't the be-all and end-all, especially for someone as important to the Mariners' long-term plans as Walker is. Assuming he can put the shoulder issue behind him, this situation could actually be a good thing for his fantasy value, as there figures to be some market correction in regard to his ADP (average draft position) in the coming days. However, if you couple this with Hisashi Iwakuma's finger injury, it's obviously not what the Mariners were hoping for after they brought Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison into the fold over the winter. Maybe it's time to give Ervin Santana a call?