Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Tuesday in camp that right-hander Michael Pineda will open the 2014 regular season as the club’s fifth starter. Pineda’s primary competition for the job, 27-year-old righty David Phelps, is now auditioning for a role in long relief.
Pineda won the Yankees’ trust this spring by posting a 1.20 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in four Grapefruit League appearances, striking out 16 batters and issuing just one walk in 15 impressive innings. His fastball velocity isn’t all the way back to where it was in 2011 -- the young Dominican’s breakout rookie season with the Mariners -- but the Yankees are confident that it’s headed that way.
"I don't see why it can't," Girardi told ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews on Tuesday. "I think he's touched 95 since he's been here. He's reached 94 a number of times. We'll see. But he doesn't need it to be successful."
Pineda averaged a league-high 96.7 mph on his fastball in his one year in Seattle. Out of the gate in New York he’ll rely more heavily on his slider, which has looked as sharp as ever this spring in Grapefruit League play.
Pineda posted an outstanding 3.74 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings for the Mariners in 2011 and was then traded to the Yankees the following winter in a blockbuster four-player swap that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle. Two injury-riddled years have passed and Pineda is finally ready to make an impact in pinstripes. The 25-year-old is a fantastic fantasy sleeper at his current Yahoo average draft position (ADP) of 234.5. He is owned in just 27 percent of the Yahoo leagues that have already held their drafts.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day's games (March 31). It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. The contest starts at 1:05 p.m. ET on Opening Day. Here's the FanDuel link.
Banking (Small) On Bourjos
Speaking of fantasy sleepers. Cardinals newcomer Peter Bourjos continued his hot-hitting ways in Tuesday’s Grapefruit League game against the Marlins, finishing 3-for-3 with an RBI and pushing his spring batting line to .343/.425/.486 through 42 plate appearances.
That’s obviously unsustainable for the regular season and putting too much stock into spring stats is foolish, but Bourjos has clearly established himself as the everyday center fielder for St. Louis with Opening Day now in sight. Last year’s everyday center fielder, Jon Jay, has only started two of the Cardinals’ last eight Grapefruit League games and is batting just .167 with a .395 OPS in 44 total plate appearances this spring.
Bourjos predicted in January, at the Cardinals’ annual Winter Warmup, that he could steal 40 bases if given the full-time center field role. And he’s also capable of providing a bit of power. At a current Yahoo ADP of 237.7, Bourjos is well worth the injury risk.
Puig’s Back Checks Out Fine
The Dodgers won both of their season-opening games against the Diamondbacks in Australia but returned to the United States in a somewhat ornery mood after star outfielder Yasiel Puig appeared to strain something in his back or hip during his final at-bat of the Sydney Cricket Ground showcase. Good news arrived Tuesday in the form of negative MRI exam results.
Puig only has mild back inflammation -- no structural damage -- and is expected to be in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for their state-side opener on March 30 in San Diego. He’ll take it easy this week in camp as a precautionary measure.
Puig went 3-for-10 with a double and two RBI in Sydney -- a solid start to what should be a thrill-filled season. The 23-year-old Cuban defector batted .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs, 42 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and 66 runs scored last summer in his first 104 games at the major league level.
He ranks 66th on the Top 250 in Rotoworld’s 2014 Online Draft Guide, which is always info-packed and still on sale. You can get free access to it and the 2014 MLB Season Pass with a $20 deposit on FanDuel.
Feliz Optioned To AAA, Soria Will Close
The Rangers were hoping that hard-throwing right-hander Neftali Feliz would dominate batters this spring in the Cactus League and reestablish himself as a viable option for the team’s closer gig. But it didn’t come together, and Feliz was officially optioned to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday afternoon to continue rebuilding his arm strength.
Feliz underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2012 and has experienced more than one setback on the long road to recovery. The Rangers will let him iron out the remaining kinks against a lesser level of competition.
Joakim Soria, the former Royals closer, is going to be the primary ninth-inning guy for Texas in the early going. He has a 1.13 ERA and 0.625 WHIP in eight appearances this spring in the Cactus League and is now a must-own in all standard fantasy formats. Soria, 29, boasts a 2.50 career ERA, 1.065 career WHIP, and 9.8 career K/9 in six major league seasons. He tallied 160 saves in his five-year run with Kansas City.
For all the latest spring training news and notes, keep it locked on Rotoworld's player news page. And if you're prepping for your own fantasy draft, check out the 2014 Rotoworld Draft Guide. It's jam-packed with all sorts of helpful stuff for fantasy owners, including expert mock drafts, player profiles, projections, tiers, cheat sheets, sleepers, busts, ADP data, closer outlooks, prospect reports, and much, much more.