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2012 Draft Prep: The winds of change

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Aramis Ramirez is destined to be a National League Central lifer.

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Ramirez, who began his career in 1998 with the Pirates and spent the last 8 1/2 seasons with the Cubs, continued his tour around the NL Central by signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason. He has become the poster child for the NL Central.

The 33-year-old veteran is one of many recognizable faces in new places this season. The offseason frenzy once again changed the baseball landscape. While Ramirez chose to stay in familiar territory, players like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder left the Senior Circuit to join the American League.

Now, regardless of where Pujols and Fielder signed their Fantasy Baseball status was hardly going to shift. But for a player like Ramirez, his landing spot definitely could have made an impact -- either positive or negative.

It's worth pointing out that Ramirez is going from one favorable home run park in Wrigley Field to another in Miller Park. You will be happy to know that Ramirez has a career .270 average, .503 slugging percentage and .829 OPS in 78 career games at his new home stadium. However, those numbers are inflated from early in Ramirez's career. He has struggled the last three seasons at Miller Park, hitting a combined .214 (15 for 70) in his last 19 games.

We are still confident in Ramirez's abilities and his move to Milwaukee appears to be a lateral one. Therefore, Ramirez passes as a low-end Fantasy starter, worth targeting in the middle rounds of mixed leagues.

While Ramirez's splits might not have a profound impact on his Fantasy value, that doesn't apply to all offseason acquisitions.

Andrew Bailey, RP, Red Sox
Transaction: Traded from Oakland to Boston
Noteworthy stats: Has 7.20 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in four outings (five innings) at Fenway Park
Analysis: Bailey's high ERA and WHIP at his new home ballpark really stand out. But in his case it might not so much be the park as the opposition he was facing. Bailey had to contend with a vaunted Red Sox lineup from 2009-11. He does have fly-ball tendencies (career 45 percent fly-ball rate) but it's not like Fenway is a bandbox. The park does favor left-handed fly-ball hitters but Fenway is a below-average park for homers. Fenway is really a doubles park and Bailey has surrendered just 23 doubles in 157 career outings. Bailey could easily surpass his value as a mid-round pick -- if he can remain healthy.

Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres
Transaction: Traded from Chicago White Sox to San Diego
Noteworthy stats: Has .267 average and 11 home runs in 116 games in current NL West parks
Analysis: Quentin returns to the NL West after spending the last four seasons in the AL Central. Quentin couldn't hit at PETCO Park in his first stint in the Senior Circuit (1 for 19) and we aren't expecting an offensive explosion during his second tour. While his power swing worked well at U.S. Cellular Field, PETCO is a pitcher's park and below-average home run park for right-handed hitters. It's also one of the worst parks in the NL for doubles hitters, which won't bode well for Quentin. Don't forget: San Diego will have a far-less-stacked lineup than the White Sox, so don't be shocked if Quentin's numbers at the end of the season don't jump off the page.

Huston Street, RP, Padres
Transaction: Traded from Colorado to San Diego
Noteworthy stats: Has 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, eight saves and 13.5 K/9 rate in 11 outings (11 1/3 innings) at PETCO Park
Analysis: Street is likely over the moon he is leaving a hitter's park for a pitcher's park, especially given his outstanding history at PETCO. We have seen what fellow closers Trevor Hoffman and Heath Bell were able to accomplish with the Padres, so Street might be the next great closer in San Diego. A big reason why Street has success at PETCO is that his line-drive rate sometimes gets away from him, but PETCO is forgiving as a below-average line-drive park. If Street can avoid injury he should get ample save opportunities and could end up as a late-round steal for Fantasy owners.

Mat Latos, SP, Reds
Transaction: Traded from San Diego to Cincinnati
Noteworthy stats: Has 1-0 record, 1.93 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and nine strikeouts in two starts (14 innings) at Great American Ballpark
Analysis: Concern immediately crept into the minds of Fantasy owners the day Latos was traded to Cincinnati. He was leaving one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks for one of the more hitter-friendly. While Latos has a slightly higher-than-average fly-ball rate it hasn't been an issue in the few times he's pitched in homer-friendly Great American Ballpark. His numbers are surprisingly impressive, which is probably why the Reds didn't hesitate pulling the trigger on acquiring him. Latos got off to a sluggish start last season due to a shoulder injury but he was outstanding in the second half. Latos posted a 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and struck out 8.8 batters per nine innings in 14 starts after the All-Star break. Though the sample size for Latos at his new home park is small, you could consider it a steal if he slips past the early rounds on Draft Day.

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants
Transaction: Traded from N.Y. Mets to San Francisco
Noteworthy stats: Has .069 average, .336 OPS and five strikeouts in nine games (29 at-bats) at AT&T Park
Analysis: Don't get caught up in Pagan's numbers at his new home ballpark. Many hitters don't have impressive numbers squaring off against the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Now that he won't have to face them Pagan could make AT&T Park his new personal playground. Pagan is a line-drive hitter who should find the spacious gaps at his new home ballpark very favorable. AT&T Park is a well-above-average triples park for both right- and left-handed hitters. It's also an above-average park for left-handed doubles hitters. It's also worth noting that Pagan -- a switch-hitter -- has a good history in most NL West parks, sporting a .290 average at Coors Field, .306 at Dodger Stadium and .361 at Chase Field. Pagan, who should hit leadoff for San Francisco, has a career .301 average and .809 OPS out of the top spot in the lineup. Pagan could end up as a bargain pick in the mid-to-late rounds on Draft Day.

Travis Wood, SP, Cubs
Transaction: Traded from Cincinnati to Chicago Cubs
Noteworthy stats: Has 5.30 ERA in home starts and 3.58 ERA in away starts
Analysis: Wood is an intriguing Fantasy option because he came into last year with so much promise following a stellar debut in 2010 but he wasn't nearly as effective last season and is already on to his second major league club. Luckily, a change of scenery might be exactly what he needs. Wood is a fly-ball pitcher and that's not good in a homer-friendly park like Great American Ballpark. Wood also was unlucky in Cincinnati, posting a .347 BABIP, which is well above the norm. Wrigley Field isn't favorable for fly-ball pitchers either but Wood has had better luck there. He is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and .135 BABIP in two career starts at Wrigley. It's also worth pointing out that Wood has done well in other NL Central parks. He has a 2.89 ERA at Houston, 3.60 ERA at Milwaukee, 3.48 ERA at Pittsburgh and 2.03 ERA at St. Louis. If Wood locks down a spot in the Cubs' rotation you might consider him a late-round Fantasy sleeper in deep formats.

Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Texas
Noteworthy stats: Has 6-1 record, 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 in career (83 innings) against Angels, A's and Mariners
Analysis: Nathan posted an ERA above 4.00 in 2011 for the first time since 2000. However, his ERA was inflated as he struggled early coming off Tommy John surgery. Once he returned from a disabled-list stint in late June, Nathan looked more like his former dominant self. He went 11 for 12 in save chances in his final 31 outings, posting a 3.38 ERA, .193 opponents' batting average and .218 BABIP during that span. He now joins a top contender, so the save chances should be plentiful. A major concern is how Nathan, a fly-ball pitcher, will hold up at homer-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. However, Nathan has allowed just one homer in 13 career outings (13 2/3 innings) at the Rangers home ballpark, while posting a 1.98 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Nathan seems at home in the AL West and could get back to being an elite Fantasy relief pitcher in 2012.

Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Arizona
Noteworthy stats: Has .328 average, .383 on-base percentage, .589 slugging percentage, .972 OPS, 14 home runs, 15 doubles and 44 RBI in 71 interleague games
Analysis: Kubel is becoming a full-time NL player for the first time in his career but if his track record is any indication, he shouldn't have a problem handling Senior Circuit hurlers. Kubel has hit .300 or better in interleague play in all but one of his six MLB seasons. Even in just three interleague games last season, Kubel hit .286 with a 1.000 OPS -- and those three games were at his new home ballpark. Kubel's power swing should suit him nicely at Chase Field since it is a very favorable park for left-handed home run and doubles hitters. Kubel could end up as a great mid-round value pick.

Trevor Cahill, SP, Diamondbacks
Transaction: Traded from Oakland to Arizona
Noteworthy stats: Has 7-3 record, 2.85 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .240 BABIP in 12 interleague starts
Analysis: Cahill is another former AL player who has done well in interleague play. He also is 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in two starts in NL West parks, while compiling a 4-2 record, 2.66 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in seven starts against the NL West. Cahill's ground-ball tendencies should also suit him well at Chase Field since he mostly gives up singles and limits his extra-base hits. Chase Field is slightly below average for singles, while above average for doubles, triples and homers. Cahill is another player who could exceed expectations as a mid-round Fantasy draft pick.

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Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Yankees
Transaction: Left L.A. Dodgers to sign free-agent deal with N.Y. Yankees
Noteworthy stats: Has 3-8 record, 4.33 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .282 BABIP in 11 interleague starts
Analysis: Kuroda immediately became a pitcher worth targeting in all Fantasy formats the moment the news broke that he was going to join the Yankees rotation. He had just one winning season in four years with the Dodgers but Los Angeles could never give him the ample run support the Yankees stacked lineup will provide. While Kuroda sports a career 3.45 ERA, it's nearly a point higher in interleague play and it wouldn't be surprising if he posts an ERA above 4.00 in 2012. It's also alarming that Kuroda gave up a career-high 24 homers last season. He now heads to one of the more homer-friendly parks in the majors, especially for left-handed hitters. Kuroda is obviously worth drafting as a mid-rotation Fantasy arm because of his wins potential but don't be shocked if some of his numbers start to rise now that he is in the AL.

Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees
Transaction: Left Philadelphia to sign free-agent deal with N.Y. Yankees
Noteworthy stats: Has .304 average, .407 on-base percentage, .652 slugging percentage, 1.060 OPS, two homers and five RBI in six games at Yankee Stadium
Analysis: You probably were wondering out of all the available options at the Yankees' disposal, why did they choose to sign a soon-to-be-40-year-old veteran to take over the designated hitter duties for the traded Jesus Montero? That's easy. Ibanez is a left-handed power bat and as we highlighted with Kuroda, those types of hitters thrive at Yankee Stadium. Don't get overly concerned about Ibanez adjusting to a DH role. Remember, he used to play in the AL and has DH experience. He has a .272 average, 22 homers, 42 doubles and 112 RBI in 217 games as a DH. Don't reach for Ibanez on Draft Day but he could end up as a nice value pick in the late rounds.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Rockies
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Colorado
Noteworthy stats: Has .273 average, .370 on-base percentage, .461 slugging percentage, .831 OPS, 11 homers, 33 doubles and 66 RBI in 127 interleague games
Analysis: Like Kuroda and Ibanez moving to the Yankees, any time a hitter joins the Rockies Fantasy owners get overly excited for his outlook since Coors Field is one of the top hitter's park in the majors. However, Coors Field really favors the line-drive hitters and Cuddyer hasn't been a good one the last few years. His line-drive rate has been under 19 percent four of the last five seasons. It's also worth noting that Cuddyer hasn't fared well against NL West teams. He has hit .241 or worse against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres. He's going to get a steady dose of Tim Linceum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy. Don't draft Cuddyer before the middle rounds on Draft Day.

David DeJesus, OF, Cubs
Transaction: Left Oakland to sign free-agent deal with Chicago Cubs
Noteworthy stats: Has .325 average, .402 on-base percentage, .475 slugging percentage, .877 OPS, nine homers, 30 doubles and 66 RBI in 123 interleague games
Analysis: DeJesus signing a two-year deal with the Cubs this offseason garnered little fanfare but if he hits like he has against NL pitching in the past, then DeJesus could end up as one of the top free-agent steals of the offseason. Not only has DeJesus hit NL pitching he has thrived against the NL Central. He has hit .364 against the Reds, .395 against the Astros, .423 against the Brewers and .336 against the Cardinals. He should have made the move to the NL Central years ago. Chicago is also going to give him the chance to bat leadoff and that makes sense. DeJesus has a .292 average, .365 OBP and .801 OPS as a leadoff hitter. You just might want to put DeJesus on your radar as a late-round Fantasy flier.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Yankees option Bryan Mitchell, Ramon Flores
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) The Yankees optioned pitcher Bryan Mitchell and outfielder Ramon Flores to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sunday while reassigning eight players to minor-league camp.

Mitchell allowed six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings this spring. Flores hit .206/.270/.412 with two home runs in 34 spring at-bats.

In addition to the options, the Yankees reassigned catchers Francisco Arcia and Kyle Higashioka, infielders Cole Figueroa and Jonathan Galvez, outfielder Slade Heathcott and pitchers Kyle Davies, Jacob Lindgren and Nick Rumbelow to minor-league camp.


Brewers test out Gerardo Parra at first, Luis Jimenez at catcher
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:19 pm ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is checking out his options around the field defensively this spring, reports MLB.com. Regular outfielder Gerardo Parra is getting some work at first base and third baseman Luis Jimenez is being looked at as an emergency catcher.

"Trying to figure out what can happen during ball games," Roenicke said. "If [Parra's] really good at it and Lind's down for a couple days, you just don't know. He looks great. He works at it all the time. Getting him more experience with all the situations that can come up in a ball game."

Jimenez caught a bullpen session Sunday and is competing for a bench role.

"If he's going to be on our squad, it's nice to have somebody who can do that job," Roenicke said. "He's been going out and warming up pitchers between innings. He's pretty good at it."


Cubs' Maddon on Jason Motte: 'I'm not worried about him'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) Cubs manager Joe Maddon indicated Sunday that he's not concerned with the struggles of pitcher Jason Motte, who has posted a 14.21 ERA in 6 1/3 spring innings, the Chicago Tribune reports.

"Something that I’m not often into is mechanical adjustments," Maddon said of Motte. "It's something that [pitching coach Chris Bosio] picked up on in a conversation. I'm not worried about him. I think the velocity is very good. Just the shape of his pitches were different."


Yankees' Cashman: Stephen Drew the 'smart play' at second
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) Stephen Drew has been outhit by two Yankees prospects this spring, but GM Brian Cashman said the veteran was still the "smart play" at second base. 

Rob Refsnyder is hitting .343 with five doubles. Jose Pirela is hitting .370.

Meanwhile, a hot stretch over the weekend brought Drew to .243. 

"I know there’s a lot of dialogue wrapped around Refsnyder and Pirela," Cashman said, per the Journal News. "But I think also that those guys have shown they still have work to do on the defensive side still. ... The bats are impressive, but you’ve seen the defensive stuff they’ve shown us in short sample sizes as well. ... So right now I’m pretty comfortable that Drew signing was the smart play for us on the front end."

Refsnyder has made five errors and Pirela two. 

Drew had a three hit game on Friday, homered on Saturday and doubled on Sunday. 

"He’s looked really good at the plate," Cashman said. "He’s looked so much better than last year the last week to 10 days. That’s encouraging. I know it’s got to be building his confidence and having memories of what he was prior to last year, because that’s certainly what’s playing around in my head. I feel much better about the situation right now."


Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez may get start in season-opening series
(5:13 pm ET) When the Orioles open the season with a three-game series in Tampa Bay, manager Buck Showalter said Miguel Gonzalez will likely start one of the games, reports MLB.com.

“We’re leaning that way. It kind of slots him out the rest of the month where he should be," Showalter said. "Like I say, we’ve got a rare opportunity with playing in our division for as much as we do and the track record our starters have there in different venues against different teams and kind of take advantage of that.”

For his career, Gonzalez is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts at Tropicana Field.

Showalter said earlier this spring that Wei-Yin Chen would probably pitch among those first three games as well as Chris Tillman, who's been widely speculated as the club’s Opening Day starter.

Twins' Ricky Nolasco serves up two home runs Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks in six innings while striking out three in his team's 6-5 win over the Orioles Sunday.

Nolasco served up back-to-back home runs in the first inning but was able to settle down after, giving up just an unearned run over the last five innings of work.

"I kind of picked the wrong day to give up fly balls," Nolasco said after the outing, per MLB.com. "I'd been getting ground balls all spring, but gave up some fly balls today with the wind blowing. I just tried to limit the damage from there and get my work in."

Nolasco was able to retire 10 batters in a row during his best stretch of the game. He has posted a 4.12 ERA and 16:5 K:BB ratio in 19 2/3 spring innings.


Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle finishes strong in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:09 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle struck out four in five innings of work Sunday, allowing just one run on seven hits against the Orioles.

Buehrle was happy with where he finished, not how he started, reports MLB.com.

"The beginning wasn't as strong and sharp as I wanted to," Buehrle said after the game. "I just feel like I got stronger as the game went along. I don't know why, it's just one of those days. Third inning, I didn't miss too many bats, they were putting the ball in play pretty hard and guys diving all over and making some plays. Overall, it was good, I got up to the 90 pitch count area. I would have liked it to be more like six or seven innings, but that's the way it goes."


Pirates second baseman Jung Ho Kang gets on track at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) Pirates second baseman Jung Ho Kang broke out of a mini slump Sunday by belting a two-run home run in the ninth inning to take down the Braves.

Kang had two hits on the game and brought a smile to manager Clint Hurdle's face, reports MLB.com.

"A very, very good day at the plate for him," Hurdle said of Kang. "He stayed on a breaking ball and lined out hard, singled sharply to center, then got all of that fastball. Nothing can breed confidence like success."

Kang was just 2 for 29 coming into Sunday during spring training.


Curt Casali, Bobby Wilson still battling for Rays' backup catcher job
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:03 pm ET) In the final week of spring training, Rays manager Kevin Cash still isn't sure who his backup catcher will be. 

Curt Casali and Bobby Wilson are the two candidates for the job. 

"I think both guys have had good camps," Cash said, per MLB.com. "They've shown what they need to show. And we've kind of anticipated that that would happen. So there are going to be some discussions and decisions that have to be made.

Casali is hitting .208 this spring. 

"I know he's been continuing to work," Cash said, although he'd like to see him "drive the ball a little more." 

Wilson is hitting .143. 

"We knew Bobby," Cash said. "A little more of a track record, history at the Major League level. I think that helps."


Rockies' Corey Dickerson on back: 'I'm good to go'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:02 pm ET) Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson did not make the trip for Sunday's split-squad game as scheduled but said that his back is fine, the Denver Post reports.

"It feels good, I’m good to go," Dickerson said. "Actually, it feels good to get a little break before the (regular) season starts."

Dickerson came out of Saturday's game with a tight back, but it doesn't appear the injury will affect his availability for the regular season. He has hit .289/.333/.489 in 45 spring at-bats.


 
 
 
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