Bryce Harper, we hardly knew you. The biggest news on Sunday was the optioning of Mr. Harper to Triple-A Syracuse. However, I’m not shocked in the least, nor should you be. The 19 year old oozes talent and should one day be a superstar, but that time just isn’t right now. Harper has played a mere 37 games above the Single-A level, so throwing him to the wolves in the majors would likely have been a poor idea. In fact, starting him at Triple-A this season should be seen as quite the accomplishment given that he hit only .256 with three homers in those 37 games at Double-A ball last season. Harper will play center field on the Farm, so when he is called up that will mean he should be flanked by Jayson Werth in right and Michael Morse in left (keep an eye on Morse’s lat issue. The team says they aren’t overly concerned but he still may not return to game action for another week). What does all of this mean? (1) Harper could, and this is my guess, be in the minors until June. If they aren’t going to have him on the Opening Day roster why not leave him down in the minors long enough to delay the start of his arbitration clock? We see teams do this every year with rookies. (2) It looks like Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina will battle for the starting spot in center field. Brett Carroll is also in the mix, but if Ankiel can get over his leg issue, he would appear to be in the lead for the starting gig. (3) Harper is now a big time risk in, let’s say, a 12 team mixed league. If you’re in a keeper setup this advice doesn’t apply, but if you are in a re-draft league even taking him in the reserve rounds is risky. Are you prepared to take him and sit on him for two months if that’s how long it take for the Nats to call him up? If that happens, you’re much better off taking Alfonso Soriano or Jason Kubel who will provide vastly superior counting numbers.
The big news Monday is that Joel Pineiro was released by the Phillies. Wait a second. That’s the right team but that isn’t really the biggest storyline for the NL East power. It looks like Chase Utley will likely be unavailable on opening day as his knee is still an issue. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters on Monday that Utley has hit a plateau in his recovery, so the team is seeing him to see a specialist to have not just one, but actually both of his knees examined. I’m not looking to be the harbinger of doom here. There’s still a chance that Utley will be alright and that he’s just going to start the season a bit late. Of course, this could also mean that (A) Utley will never be able to play 150 games again or, even worse, (B) this could signal the end to his days as an everyday player. Let’s hope it’s neither and he finds a way to work through what is currently ailing him. However, this â€śnews,â€ť even though it doesn’t tell us much, has to start him tumbling down draft boards. Utley hasn’t appeared in 120 games in either of the past two years, and he’s also seen his productivity take a major dip as well. Oddly, he’s continued to steal bases, 27 the past two years, but the rest of his game has dwindled. It sounds like the Phillies current plan is to open the year with Freddy Galvis at second. Galvis has only 33 games of experience above Double-A, so it’s not like he is a seasoned fall back option. He’s a no hit wonder as well with no power (career best is eight homers) and moderate speed (23 steals last year). Think Nick Punto and you may not be too far off.
The A’s kept saying he may be sent to the minors, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. On Monday the club admitted what we all knew â€“ Yoenis Cespedes will open the year in center field for the club pushing over Coco Crisp to left field. Crisp had previously said that he would be very unhappy if he was moved to left field, but for now he’s going to have to suck up his pride an enjoy the $14 million the Athletics are paying him this year and next. As for Cespedes, he hit a mere .176 with one homer in his first six games this spring, so this decision is obviously about the talent, more than the current level of production. As if the A’s were going to send a guy making $9 million down to the minor leagues.
Jon Heyman of CBS is reporting that if Vlad Guerrero doesn’t sign with a club in the next two weeks that he could take his talents to Japan. I’m still shocked that someone isn’t offering him a substantial role. I have to figure that some AL team has certainly offered him a contract but that he’s turned it down looking for more of a guarantee for playing time. I know he isn’t what he once was, and batting average doesnâ€™t tell the whole story, not in the least, but the guy has hit at least .290 for 15 straight seasons. Adrian Beltre has hit .290 four times in his 13 season career.
Corey Hart (knee surgery) is progressing so quickly in his recovery that he hopes to play in a minor league game by Friday. There is some hope he might actually be ready for Opening Day after it was thought that he would start the season on the DL because of the minor surgery he had. The injury, combined with the fact that he never runs anymore, and the idea that most people seem to have that there is no way that the Brewers offense could possibly be any good without Prince Fielder, might allow Hart to slip in your draft. Don’t sleep on Hart if he does fall. Not only has he hit at least 26 homers with 80 runs scored the past two years, He’s also hit .284 in that time. Do you know how many outfielders have hit .280 with 25 homers and 80 runs scored each of the past two years? The answer is just four â€“ Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez and Hart. Who knew?
Jordan Schafer’s name elicits, yawns maybe? I bet a good deal of you reading this think he’s still on the Braves. Don’t feel bad. The former up and coming prospect has certainly stalled out with health and off the field issues clouding his development. Now he’s in the news after spraining his hand while making a diving catch. The good news is that he’s likely to miss only a few days. The bad news is that he’s now on the worst team in baseball (?) the Astros. However, that’s actually also the good news because Schafer is slated to start in center field for the club, and if he can stay out there for 500 at-bats, he might turn into quite the reserve round bargain in mixed leagues. Schafer played 82 games last year and he stole 22 bases. Did you know that? It may not be a huge total, but as you are obviously well aware of, if he keeps that pace up over the course of a full season that total would push itself up into the 40 range, and then we’re in business. In fact, even in his limited time last year, his total of 22 thefts was the same as Chris Young, one more than Justin Upton and two more than CarGo. Just some food for thought.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.