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2012 Draft Prep: Names to know for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Some of you reading this column may know me from my random role in the novel Fantasyland. Others might know me from my days at ESPN, or The Wall Street Journal.

There's a select group who fondly remember me as "the calm one" from MLB Network's Fantasy 411 earthquake video last season (check it out). Still, plenty may remember me from the short-lived web series, The A--hole Who Listed Off Fancy Places He's Worked In A Fantasy Sports Column.

But if you've ever played against me in a draft or auction, you probably know me as, "that guy who refuses to use a laptop."

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I'm a list guy. I love my research, and I love making lists. Every March, I have a notebook and I'll scribble notes like a madman in it. This year's notebook has everything from "Sean Burroughs/Steve Pearce on MIN" to "OLIVER PEREZ in Seattle." But it's not just non-roster invitee, blast-from-the-past types. Notes like "A-Rod going late" and something as simple as "Hanley" with an up arrow next to him dot the pages as well.

Eventually, I take the crazy scribbles and whittle them down to a smaller list. Maybe 20 or 30 players who I simply really like -- there's no set number or rhyme or reason to it. Last year's list included Jered Weaver, Curtis Granderson, J.J. Hardy and Brandon League. Just to show that the list isn't without its flaws, I should note that it also included Brandon Wood and Julio Borbon. Still, it had more hits than misses, and sticking to my guns eventually led to success in plenty of leagues. Sometimes it's as simple as "I like this dude;" other times, there might be some statistical hiccup that people are overlooking (or, conversely, I'm obsessing over). Regardless, it's part of the reason why I still use paper in my drafts -- I need to be scribbling. And the strategy has worked so far. Plus, scribbling on a laptop just isn't cost-effective.

The beauty of the scribbles, however, is that they can be easily transcribed to share with the masses, including the legions of laptop users. So, as a way to mark my first column here at CBSSports.com, I give you a randomly-selected group of players from my list. They're not quite sleepers and not exactly value deals. Just a bunch of players I'll go the extra mile for to get on my team in 2012 ...

Mark Buehrle, SP, Marlins: A lot of people are pointing to Buehrle's move to the National League -- and, in turn, a friendlier park -- as his strongest asset, but they're overlooking the best part about him: his consistency. For his career, Buehrle has a 3.83 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He hasn't pitched fewer than 201 innings, or made fewer than 30 starts, since 2000. Let that sink in -- Bill Clinton was still President when Buehrle pitched less than 200 innings in a season. He'll come cheap in auction leagues and go late in drafts and is essentially a guarantee to get those solid numbers over the course of 200-plus innings, creating a rotation anchor that allows owners to take some gambles on other, less-steady players.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: His average dropped 44 points from 2010 to 2011, which got him slapped with the "disappointment" label. But he more than doubled his home run output and will likely reap the benefits of Prince Fielder and Delmon Young being added to an already-potent lineup behind him. My new colleague, Al Melchior, agrees with me on Jackson, though his reasons are a little more abstract.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs: All this debate about whether or not he'll start at first base seems a little disingenuous to me. Rizzo hit a miserable .141 in 128 at-bats last year, but he managed an absurdly-high eight doubles in that span (over a full season with that rate, he'd challenge for the league lead) and his .281 OBP almost doubled his average. The most telling sign that he'll likely get the nod at first? Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, who drafted Rizzo as part of the Red Sox front office in 2007, traded for Rizzo under three months into their reign as President and GM, respectively, of the Cubs. Even if he starts in Triple-A, Rizzo will likely be up soon and make an impact in Wrigley's smaller confines.

Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays: The former first-round pick finished 2011 with 15 wins, a 1.14 WHIP, and a 2.92 ERA. He's progressively gotten better with every full season. Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez took a very similar route before their breakout seasons.

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Erik Bedard, SP, Pirates: Bedard quietly threw together a really solid season in 2011 before his trade to Boston. He's good for about a strikeout per inning and his low WHIP is seriously overlooked. Injury history aside, Bedard has two major things going for him: a move to the DH-less National League and the opportunity to work with Ray Searage, who is one of the game's best pitching coaches (Pittsburgh's team ERA dropped from 5.00 in 2010 to 4.04 in 2011 when he took over).

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: He's going at No. 22 overall in drafts, according to our current Average Draft Position data on CBSSports.com. That's embarrassing. For drafters. I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the top eight. If I'm sitting in the No. 7 spot in my draft, I might even consider taking him there (although it looks like I can get him on the way back). Ozzie Guillen shouting in one ear, the influence of Eduardo Perez in the other, and he was playing hurt in 2011. Plus, he'll be eligible at both shortstop and third base about a week into the season in most leagues. Are we forgetting the arguments we had the last two years about him being the overall No. 1 pick? One bad, injury-affected year, and he's dropped 21 slots?

Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays: The "change of scenery" argument had holes poked in it after a sub-par run in Toronto last year, but Rasmus is more of the player we saw in 2010 than the one we saw in 2011. I like where he's going in drafts, and I wouldn't be afraid to snag him 20 picks earlier.

Mike Leake, SP, Reds: I have him all in CAPS in both my scribbles and my final list. I'll probably triple-highlight him on my draft sheets. I'm a believer. He posted a 1.17 WHIP last year, his second year in the majors. I wouldn't be surprised if the strikeout rate came up a little bit from 2010 and 2011, with the pitch counts not being such a huge problem any longer.

Jason Bay and Adam Loewen, OF, Mets: This may be the last chance many owners give Bay, but with the fences moved in at CitiField, there's at least an argument beyond, "he hit 36 homers three years ago," for liking him. Loewen, meanwhile, is an intriguing play. In really deep leagues, the former pitcher could find some value. It's entirely possible he could play his way into a starting job, beating out Scott Hairston and Lucas Duda. Loewen could be a cheap source of some power, speed, and average.

Josh Fields, 3B, Dodgers: He'll probably start 2012 in the minor leagues, but the former White Sox prospect is worth keeping an eye on, as he has been destroying the ball in spring training for the Dodgers and has just Juan Uribe blocking his path to completing the feel-good story. Even though it's not likely, this has all the makings of one of those situations where Fields grabs the job out of camp and puts together a really solid season out of nowhere.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Red Sox's Henry Owens impresses during camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens impressed during batting practice recently, according to the Boston Herald

Owens hadn't faced big league hitters since last spring training, and had something to prove. While Owens didn't have great fastball command during the session, his changeup was spot on. 

"Great deception, hard to pick up," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He got me on the changeup today because you can’t see the spin. It looks just like his fastball. That’s a huge advantage."

Pitching coach Juan Nieves agreed, but said he wasn't sure whether Owens was ready for the majors just yet. "Is anybody ready to come to the big leagues?" Nieves said. "I don’t know. We don’t know until they get there and experience the competition."

The 22-year-old Owens enters the year as the team's second-best prospect according to Baseball America. He posted a 2.94 ERA over two minor-league levels last year. 


Brewers GM confident Jean Segura will bounce back
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed confidence Saturday that shortstop Jean Segura will bounce back after a subpar 2014 season, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"I'm pretty confident he's going to bounce back," Melvin said. "He had a very good September. He had a lot of stuff going on last year. But everybody says he's a much happier person and everything. He's a good, athletic player that we need."

After delivering a .294 average, smacking 12 home runs and stealing 44 bases in 2013, Segura hit just .246/.289/.326 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 513 at-bats in 2014.


Brewers' Dontrelle Willis making a good impression in camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made a favorable impression during camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In particular, Willis has impressed manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a great attitude," Roenicke said. "The things he said are exactly what you want a player to say. He gets it." Willis has also made a strong impression on his new teammates.

Willis, 33, has not pitched in the majors since 2011. He's attempting to make a come back with the Brewers this spring. 


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders: 'No pain' day after surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


Rays release OF Josh Sale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

Torreyes will look for an opportunity to latch on as a utility player this spring. He's capable of seeing work at second base, shortstop and third base as well as in left field and center field.


Yoga has Twins' Trevor May 'much fresher than ever before'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

May initially struggled in his major-league debut last season, but he hopes the perseverance he showed and his improvements near the end of the season help set him apart in the battle for a rotation spot this spring.

"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


Twins 1B Joe Mauer happy with 'normal' offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


 
 
 
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