What in the name of late Octobers?
David Price is back in Triple-A. If you have lived under a rock this spring, it comes as a complete shock.
"No, I knew it was coming," Price said after being demoted to the minors, "but right now, it kind of stinks a little bit."
The Rays' ALCS Game 7 closer was supposed to be taking flight as one of the aces of baseball this April, not toiling back in the Triple-A holding pattern.
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But, it makes sense, if you recall what made Price such an impactful late-season pitcher last year. His first professional season started last May 22. That was the only reason he was as fresh as he was Oct. 19, when he was closing out the Red Sox, and Oct. 29 when he pitched the Rays' last inning of the World Series in the rain-suspended Game 5.
See, to build a pitching staff that will be strong after six months of baseball -- geez, the baseball season is freakin' long -- you have to either count on 12 pitchers conditioned to do six-plus months of pitching or count on organizational depth and reinforcements.
Price is clearly not conditioned to pitch six -- or seven -- months of baseball. He is the primary reinforcement.
"We have obviously spent a lot of time talking about this," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "When we came into camp, we came in with an open mind, knowing full well that there were certain developmental issues that we wanted him to focus on and also the workload. And just the increase and how we're going to monitor that."
The Rays can say they are sending Price to the minor leagues to work on things. Fans might think they are doing it to be cheap, like they were with 2008 AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria and the B.J. Upton's and Delmon Young's before him.
Price is one of the top 25 pitchers in all of baseball right now, be it March, April or May -- for as long as he can pitch this season.
The Rays are just building pitching depth, affording them the chance to keep the Jeff Niemanns and Jason Hammels on the staff now to eat the less meaningful April and May innings, so Price can be fresh to dominate in the September and maybe October ones.
"We had a lot of conversations about ways to get creative," Friedman said, "and went through it for the last two or three weeks at length and ultimately decided that all things considered that this was the right move for David and, in turn, the organization.
"David will help us win games in 2009."
Price's changeup is good enough to win now for the Rays and Fantasy owners. He doesn't need to blow away overmatched Triple-A hitters in April and May to prove it.
"Absolutely," he said, debunking claims his changeup needs work. "I think that's a non-issue. That was way better than my slider, so I don't think that's an issue."
So, the question now is where do we draft Price?
Strangely, his demotion merely drops him to where he should have been going all along, in the middle rounds. He is a stashee in all leagues with reserves and maybe only a late-round flier in leagues without them. You could be taking a zero until June 1 -- although this writer says he returns well before that.
The Rays will be five games behind the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East with their fifth starter getting bounced in the fourth inning just about every time out. Price will be back in Triple-A, sitting 5-0 with a 0.77 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 27 innings. That will change their plans in a hurry.
|Somewhat surprisingly, David Price will start the year in Triple-A. (Getty Images)|
Our projections had forecasted exactly 169. Chopping off those 27 we see coming in Triple-A -- which means just about all of that 20 percent increase being absorbed in the minors, by the way -- Price becomes our No. 55 starting pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. That makes him a $6 bid in mixed leagues -- although he is sure to go for far more -- and a $15 bid in AL-only formats. Still, he will go for far more, justifiably so.
He is a talent you just cannot find on a street corner or the midseason waiver wire.
We project 9-7 with a 3.99 ERA, 1.231 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 135 innings. Capable of so much more, sure, but we cannot project more than the Rays are saying he will give us.
The shoulder is a complex and fragile joint, layered with muscles, tendons and tissue. The consequences of overstretching it can be disastrous. Ask Mark Prior. Pedro Martinez. Matt Clement. Or any other pitcher to have undergone major shoulder surgery on the labrum and/or rotator cuff.
We don't like the fact our preseason Nos. 1 (Price) and 2 (Matt Wieters) will be starting in the minor leagues, but we can understand it -- even justify it in the case of Price.
With the season now very close, we provide an upgraded Top 25 rookies to target on Draft Day. This is a living, breathing list that can change on a moment's notice. It is frankly that reason alone that makes us say drafting rookies in Fantasy Baseball as anything more than mid- to late-round fliers -- no matter how talented -- is a crapshoot and a dangerous step into the unknown.
They can be heroes or big fat zeroes.
Updated Top 25 rookies to target
|RK||Player||TM||Age||POS||2008 high||Destination||Spring training stats through March 25|
|1||David Price||TB||23||LHP||Majors||Triple-A||2-0, 1.08 ERA, .214 BAA, 10 Ks, 8 1/3 innings|
|Very few come around with greater expectations, but almost no one has this kind of talent.|
|2||Matt Wieters||BAL||22||C||Double-A||Triple-A||.343 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB, .543 SLUG in 35 AB|
|They remain committed to him starting in the minor leagues, but Gregg Zaun still could hand the job over.|
|3||Tommy Hanson||ATL||22||RHP||Double-A||Triple-A||1-0, 2.45 ERA, .250 BAA, 14 Ks, 14 2/3 innings|
|Arizona Fall League is a hitter's league and it couldn't touch him. What an amazing talent on the verge.|
|4||Cameron Maybin||FLA||21||OF||Majors||Majors||.313-1-2-9-2, .438 SLUG in 48 AB|
|His steals will be what he should be drafted for, but he figures to be able do everything long term.|
|5||Travis Snider||TOR||21||OF||Majors||Majors||.359-3-8-6-1, .667 SLUG in 39 AB|
|His power will be far more intriguing long term, but he is a nice sleeper at a real deep position.|
|6||Trevor Cahill||OAK||21||RHP||Double-A||Triple-A||2-0, 3.94 ERA, .200 BAA, 10 Ks, 16 innings|
|We like Cahill over Anderson long term, but Anderson may be more ready to start the season in the majors.|
|7||Brett Anderson||OAK||21||LHP||Triple-A||Majors||1-1, 2.25 ERA, .276 BAA, 6 Ks, 16 innings|
|A's injury-hit rotation looks like it will need this shot in the arm out of spring training, so look out in any format.|
|8||Jordan Zimmermann||WAS||22||RHP||Double-A||Majors||1-1, 3.14 ERA, .232 BAA, 20 Ks, 14 1/3 innings|
|We are a bit surprised the Nationals would rush him up so soon, but his spring dominance earned him a spot.|
|9||Elvis Andrus||TEX||20||SS||Double-A||Majors||.255-0-2-7-3, .291 SLUG in 55 AB|
|Rangers hand the starting SS job to him over Michael Young, but his steals are his lone plus asset.|
|10||Colby Rasmus||STL||22||OF||Triple-A||Majors||.283-0-5-12-3, .417 SLUG in 60 AB|
|We thought he should have made the team last spring, and don't think he should make the team this spring.|
|11||Chris Getz||CHW||25||2B||Majors||Majors||.333-1-7-3-2, .467 SLUG in 45 AB|
|He beat out a big-time prospect in Gordon Beckham and now might even lead off for a great offense.|
|12||Scott Lewis||CLE||25||LHP||Majors||Majors||1-1, 3.52 ERA, .241 BAA, 12 Ks, 15 1/3 innings|
|Winning the Indians' No. 4 starting spot makes him a great sleeper even in mixed leagues on Draft Day.|
|13||Jason Motte||STL||26||RHP||Majors||Majors||4 saves, 1.08 ERA, .161 BAA, 13 Ks, 8 1/3 innings|
|With Chris Perez's bad spring, we are thinking if the Cardinals go raw at closer, it will be Motte now.|
|14||Nick Adenhart||LAA||22||RHP||Majors||Majors||1-0, 4.05 ERA, .240 BAA, 10 Ks, 13 1/3 innings|
|If not for his poor 2008, he would be a certain top five on this list. Angels injury-hit rotation needs him now.|
|15||Matt LaPorta||CLE||24||OF||Triple-A||Triple-A||.361-1-4-7-1, .611 SLUG in 36 AB|
|The biggest mashing prospect around will eventually be a Fantasy superstar, but opens the season in Triple-A.|
|16||Rick Porcello||DET||20||RHP||High Class A||Double-A||0-1, 4.26 ERA, .379 BAA, 4 Ks, 6 1/3 innings|
|If he gets time in the rotation, you have to figure it is because the other options are weak. He's being rushed.|
|17||James McDonald||LAD||24||RHP||Majors||Triple-A||1-2, 5.84 ERA, .277 BAA, 8 Ks, 12 1/3 innings|
|Another No. 5 rotation candidate who we would have higher on this list if he won a rotation spot in camp.|
|18||Aaron Poreda||CHW||22||LHP||Double-A||Triple-A||1-1, 6.08 ERA, .245 BAA, 7 Ks, 13 1/3 innings|
|He opens the year in the majors, but he will be impacting the White Sox and Fantasy before the year is out.|
|19||Clayton Richard||CHW||25||LHP||Majors||Majors||1-1, 5.06 ERA, .314 BAA, 7 Ks, 21 1/3 innings|
|He might merely be a back-end starter, but he will start the year in the rotation if Bartolo Colon doesn't.|
|20||Taylor Teagarden||TEX||25||C||Majors||Majors||.179-2-5-4-0, .393 SLUG in 28 AB|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia is ahead of him right now, but T2 is a future top 10 Fantasy C himself, too.|
|21||Kenshin Kawakami||ATL||33||RHP||Japan||Majors||1-0, 1.23 ERA, .167 BAA, 7 Ks, 14 2/3 innings|
|Smallish right-handed import is a real old for a rookie, but he could have a Hiroki Kuroda-like impact.|
|22||Koji Uehara||BAL||33||RHP||Japan||Majors||0-1, 4.70 ERA, .258 BAA, 12 Ks, 7 2/3 innings|
|The Orioles have him penciled in as their No. 2 starter, but that's not a good situation for any Fantasy pitcher.|
|23||Brett Gardner||NYY||25||OF||Majors||Majors||.409-3-6-9-4, .750 SLUG in 44 AB|
|The Yankees don't have a true center fielder, so this base-stealer could impact Rotisserie if he starts.|
|24||Gordon Beckham||CHW||22||SS||Low Class A||Double-A||.270-2-6-6-2, .568 SLUG in 37 AB|
|Our look at him this spring has us giddy behind our original belief. He is going to be a big-time star very soon.|
|25||Gaby Sanchez||FLA||25||1B||Double-A||Triple-A||.200-0-0-2-0, .267 SLUG in 30 AB|
|We think Dallas McPherson needs to start and Sanchez needs to be in the minors, but there is potential here.|
|NR||Jeff Samardzija||CHC||24||RHP||Majors||Triple-A||0-1, 9.75 ERA, 8 K, 2.00 WHIP, 12 innings|
|This is one of the biggest fallers in Fantasy value this spring. He is going from the rotation to perhaps Triple-A.|
|NR||Gio Gonzalez||OAK||23||LHP||Majors||Majors||0-0, 4.32 ERA, 8 Ks, 1.08 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings|
|Minor league strikeout maven had a rotation spot to lose with the A's and went out and did this spring.|
|NR||Max Ramirez||TEX||24||C||Majors||Triple-A||.600-0-1-1-0, .800 SLUG in 5 AB|
|Of Texas' catching trio, Ramirez has the most dynamic bat, but he might be the one to open in Triple-A.|
|NR||George Kottaras||BOS||25||C||Majors||Majors||.273-1-5-4-0, .455 SLUG in 22 AB|
|The next Kelly Shoppach? Kottaras had 22 Triple-A HRs and could steal some starts from Jason Varitek.|
|NR||Carlos Carrasco||PHI||22||RHP||Triple-A||Triple-A||2-1, 6.75 ERA, 10 Ks, 1.43 WHIP in 14 2/3 innings|
|The Phillies might bring their prized pitching prospect along slowly this spring, but look out once he arrives.|
|NR||David Freese||STL||25||3B||Triple-A||Triple-A||.263-0-2-2-0, .316 SLUG in 19 AB|
|After Troy Glaus' surgery, his 26 Triple-A homers made him a sleeper to start on opening day. He still might.|
|NR||Brent Lillibridge||CHW||25||SS||Majors||Majors||.228-0-3-3-1, .263 SLUG in 57 AB|
|He's insurance in case Getz isn't the answer and he could prove to be a steal in deeper AL-only formats.|
|NR||Matt Antonelli||SD||23||2B||Majors||Triple-A||.250-0-3-8-0, .344 SLUG in 32 AB|
|He is still better than Chase Headley in our eyes and a potential starter at second base for the Padres later.|
|Other potential ROY candidates: Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL; Jeff Niemann, SP, TB; Dexter Fowler, OF, COL; Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT; Mat Gamel, 3B, MIL; Jonathon Niese, SP, NYM; Alcides Escobar, SS, MIL; Brad Mills, SP, TOR and Brett Cecil, SP, TOR.|
Projected postseason honors
And we also update our projected All-Rookie Team, guys we expect to make an impact this year, and the All-Prospect Team, those that will be the hottest names in the minors this season at their positions.
| || |
|C||Matt Wieters||BAL||C||Matt Wieters||BAL|
|1B||Gaby Sanchez||FLA||1B||Justin Smoak||TEX|
|2B||Chris Getz||CHW||2B||Alcides Escobar||MIL|
|3B||Mat Gamel||MIL||3B||Pedro Alvarez||PIT|
|SS||Elvis Andrus||TEX||SS||Gordon Beckham||CHW|
|OF||Cameron Maybin||FLA||OF||Cameron Maybin||FLA|
|OF||Travis Snider||TOR||OF||Colby Rasmus||STL|
|OF||Colby Rasmus||STL||OF||Jason Heyward||ATL|
|DH||Matt LaPorta||CLE||DH||Matt LaPorta||CLE|
|SP||David Price||TB||SP||David Price||TB|
|SP||Tommy Hanson||ATL||SP||Tommy Hanson||ATL|
|SP||Trevor Cahill/Brett Anderson||OAK||SP||Madison Bumgarner||SF|
|SP||Jordan Zimmermann||WAS||SP||Stephen Strasburg||NCAA|
|SP||Scott Lewis||CLE||SP||Neftali Feliz||TEX|
|SP||Nick Adenhart||LAA||SP||Chris Tillman||BAL|
|RP||Jason Motte||STL||RP||Daniel Bard||OAK|
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