- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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• Those of you who drafted Evan Longoria to be your starting third baseman, put down sharp objects before you read this. The Rays decided Monday to send down Longoria, according to the Associated Press. Now, I wrote about this possibility on Sunday, so I hope you're not completely shocked. Still, this whole "competition" for the starting position at third base that Tampa supposedly set up this spring was a complete joke. Longoria's final spring numbers are strong: .262 average, .407 on-base percentage, .595 slugging percentage, 3 homers, 10 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases. Uh, yeah, his OPS is over 1.000. Nice. While Willy Aybar, the presumptive starter at third, is a good pickup in AL-only leagues, there's no question Longoria outperformed him. This decision is entirely based on money. The Rays want Longoria in the minors for two months so he doesn't accrue a year of service time in '08, a move that will delay his arbitration eligibility and his free agency. The fact that they told this kid he could make the team right away is why this is a crummy organization. Now, if you drafted Longoria, don't drop him, and don't give up hope. He will be up in June, I'd wager, and he'll be good.
• There's much less of an issue with the Marlins sending down Cameron Maybin to Double-A, which they did Monday. Maybin started spring fast, but tailed off, and wound up with a .190 average and a .270 OBP. He also struck out 15 times and walked twice in 42 at-bats. In this case, it seems like Maybin really was given a chance to make the team, and the 21-year-old-to-be (on April 4) just wasn't ready. As I wrote in our sleepers article Monday, I think Cody Ross could wind up being a primary beneficiary. Alejandro De Aza gets first crack at the center field gig in Florida, and he put together a very nice offensive spring. But I'm skeptical it'll last. In the end, I think this ensures Ross gets maybe 300 or 400 at-bats, and those could be pretty useful in NL-only leagues. Philip Humber of the Twins and Wladimir Balentien of the Mariners were also sent down to the minors on Monday, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Rangers told the Dallas Morning News he expects to be sent down any day.
• J.D. Drew was a late scratch from the Red Sox opener because of
lower-back tightness. Despite the fact that Coco Crisp was able to play in
an exhibition game over the weekend, manager Terry Francona decided to go
with Brandon Moss in Drew's place, and Moss promptly drove in a go-ahead
run in the sixth inning and then hit a dramatic tying homer off Huston
Street in the ninth. Moss shouldn't have much AL-only value, but
you'd have to say this turn of events puts a slight crimp in the 2008 J.D.
• Hold the Manny Parra coronation ceremony! The young (well, 25-year-old) Brewers lefty got bombed for the second straight spring start, giving up five runs, five hits and four walks while striking out zero in three innings against the Rockies Monday. Carlos Villanueva seems like the frontrunner for the fifth-starter gig in Milwaukee now, though that's subject to change. Note also that since Yovani Gallardo will miss a start or two the first week in April, Parra could still perform fill-in duty. But with Claudio Vargas also in the mix, the Brewers may simply decide Parra would be better suited to starting out in Triple-A.
• In good news for drafting youngsters, the Twins announced they're giving Carlos Gomez their center field job to start the year, over fellow prospects Jason Pridie and Denard Span. Gomez is suddenly an option even in mixed leagues, as he's got incredible speed. If he can get on base (a big if), he can steal 50. But I do think the Twins are sorely mistaken if they think Gomez is ready to be their leadoff hitter. I think it's likelier that the kid will struggle at the start of the year and wind up hitting No. 9. Even from down there, though, he's a threat to run. Whether or not he sticks with a swing that has all kinds of holes will dictate if he's worth the fantasy investment.
• The Baltimore Sun reports that sources inside the Orioles don't believe Brian Roberts will be dealt to the Cubs before Opening Day. There's been talk that the Nationals are still trying to trade Felipe Lopez, and Chicago might be a logical destination for him, but Roberts is obviously a far more valuable commodity for a team who wants to contend now. Either way, Roberts owners in AL-only leagues that don't allow you to count the stats of players traded to the NL can breathe easy, at least for a week.
• In a mixed draft over the weekend, I had a chance to take Takashi Saito in a pretty good value slot, but I passed him over. Why? I'm worried his body is starting to let him down. I may wind up regretting the decision later, but he's now strruggling with a strained muscle in his buttocks, according to the L.A. Times. The injury caused him to miss a scheduled appearance in a spring game on Monday, though the Dodgers said Saito could've gone in a regular-season game. Still, it's too many tweaks and twists for my liking.
• The Phillies placed closer Brad Lidge on the DL because of his knee surgery, according to the team's official Web site, but that wasn't completely unexpected. Lidge wasn't happy that he wouldn't be able to pitch on Opening Day, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but he'll be available to go on April 5, so this probably doesn't affect his fantasy value very much. What does affect his fantasy value is the fact that he blew eight of his 27 save chances with the Astros last year.
• Andy Pettitte's back is still bothering him despite several days of treatment, which according to the Yankees' official Web site could mean that the veteran lefty misses his first regular-season turn in the rotation. Pettitte is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday but isn't sure if he'll be able to make it. He told reporters that these current back woes aren't as bad as the ones he had last season. As of now, the club "appears to be ruling out a trip to the disabled list."
• Gary Matthews Jr. sprained his ankle in Monday's exhibition game against the Padres and had to be helped off the field. The Angels' official Web site indicates that the team doesn't expect the sprain to keep Matthews out of the lineup on Opening Day, but it's worth noting that leg problems were part of why Matthews struggled badly in the second half last year, when he managed only a .211 average and .688 OPS after the All-Star break. Anyway, Matthews is still the team's starting left fielder, but Juan Rivera owners' ears might be pricked up a little bit.
• In addition to naming Kerry Wood his closer on Monday, Lou Piniella also announced his starting rotation would include Ryan Dempster as the Cubs' No. 4 starter and Jason Marquis at No. 5, with Jon Lieber pitching out of the bullpen. With 15 strikeouts, 3 walks and a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings so far this spring, Lieber has been a lot better than Dempster (5.23 ERA, 18 K, 11 BB in 20 2/3 IP) and a little better than Marquis (2.95 ERA, 12 K, 6 BB in 18 1/3 IP). And in all honesty, Lieber is still the only guy out of this trio whom I'd own in an NL-only league (but only after he replaces Marquis in the rotation), and even then, I wouldn't turn cartwheels about it.
• The Giants already figured to be a mess, and more bad news broke on Monday with third baseman Kevin Frandsen rupturing his Achilles tendon, according to the team's official Web site. That surely means Frandsen is out for the season, giving Eugenio Velez a larger role to begin the year. Velez appears to be the starting third baseman while newly acquired Jose Castillo plays shortstop in place of injured and ancient Omar Vizquel. Once Vizquel comes back, Castillo should slide over and play third. In NL-only leagues, Castillo seems more like a very deep sleeper every day. Remember, though, that Velez is also worth considering: he stole 49 bases at Double-A Connecticut last season. Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Giants haven't ruled out putting Ray Durham on the DL to start the season because of a pulled left hamstring. Durham was expected to play in Monday's exhibition game, but instead sat out his fourth straight contest.
• I was asked in Monday's fantasy chat if I had to draft a Nationals pitcher, who would it be? I said Chad Cordero, which is the easy way out. But after Cordero, I said Shawn Hill, because if he's healthy, he'll give you some innings with nice ratios. Alas, he's not healthy. The team's official Web site reported that Hill felt pain in his surgically repaired forearm when he tried to throw Monday. He's been to multiple doctors, who say they can't find anything wrong, yet it still hurts. For now, Hill claims he'll pitch through the pain. That doesn't sound like someone worth drafting.
• Monday wasn't a good day for the Tampa Bay Rays. There was the bad publicity surrounding the Longoria demotion, and 2007 No. 1 draft pick David Price was announced as having a "strained muscle" in his forearm, according to the St. Petersburg Times, and is expected to be out at least six weeks. Price still hasn't thrown in a regular-season professional game, and won't until at least mid-May and possibly later. The idea that he'll be a fantasy contributor this year has gone by the wayside.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports.
You can e-mail him here.
Christopher Harris has the latest fantasy news from spring training.