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Getting a 'handle' on the future

Senior Fantasy Writer
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One of the perks of being a Senior Fantasy Writer here at CBSSports.com is access to the CBS Wormhole.

It's the reason, I've come to learn, that we're based in Fort Lauderdale: proximity to the Wormhole. And the beach. In the interest of sharing, I copied and pasted the Twitter conversations I had with Wormhole-aided alternate future versions of myself from Thursday night. Hopefully, this glimpse into the future can help readers with your own burning Fantasy questions.

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@nandocbs: Hey buddy, what's happening there this fine September afternoon?
@futurenandocbs: Bryan LaHair's 30th home run this season makes it an even 15-15 split bw 1st base and OF.
@nandocbs: What? What's that mean?
@futurenandocbs: LaHair was pushed to the outfield when Anthony Rizzo came up in June to play first base. He had hit 15 home runs and was batting .281 at that point.
@futurenandocbs: ... we called him "Fantasy's most pleasant surprise" and worried that it was too good to be true.
@nandocbs: Really? My only reservation with him today is that his minor league power might have been inflated by playing in the PCL.
@futurenandocbs: We were fooled before.
@nandocbs: Yeah we were. Sean Rodriguez, Jeff Mathis, Brandon Wood. It was mainly Angels prospects, now that I think about it.
@futurenandocbs: Arencibia got it done, though. He hit 23 homers last year after flexing power in Vegas for two minor league seasons. That wasn't all PCL inflation.
@nandocbs: Yeah, that's true. How's he doing, by the way?
@futurenandocbs: Solid. The average is .251, which is about 30 points higher than last year, and he has 21 homers.
@nandocbs: Huzzah for him!
@futurenandocbs: Indeed. Anything else you'd like to know before this portal closes?
@nandocbs: Yeah. How's Lorenzo Cain doing?
@futurenandocbs: Ah man. He's been up and down. 12 home runs, but a .272 average. He's got 19 steals. He hasn't been bad, but… I think 2013 might be the year he breaks out. People may have jumped on him too soon.
@nandocbs: So it's kind of like Curtis Granderson's first full year? Or maybe Dustin Pedroia?
@futurenandocbs: Exactly. They can't all be Longoria from the get-go.
@nandocbs: How about Tim Lincecum? How's he doing?
@futurenandocbs: Why? Did something happen?
@nandocbs: He got blown out his first two starts!
@futurenandocbs: Holy crap, I totally forgot about that. Yeah, he's great. 2.72 ERA, Strikeout per inning. His hair goes down to the middle of his back now.
@nandodifino: Did Jason Bay ever make a comeback?
@bobmosesian: Hey @nandocbs @futurenandocbs Gamel or Shelley Duncan? 12 team H2H, really weird scoring.
@nandocbs: @futurenandocbs @bobmosesian Dude, later!
@nandocbs: @futurenandocbs @bobmosesian But I still say Shelly Duncan, even with the Johnny Damon signing.
@futurenandocbs: Oh man. That Damon thing ended up being a mess.
@nandocbs: What??
@nandocbs: Yo.
@nandocbs: You there?
@multiversenandocbs: Oh hey.
@nandocbs: What happened?
@multiversenandocbs: I'm assuming some rules of the universe prevented future you from revealing what happened with Johnny Damon to present-day you.
@nandocbs: I don't understand this at all.
@multiversenandocbs: Neither do I. But I can tell you what happens in the many Johnny Damon scenarios that play out across several universes, which exist simultaneously, but on different planes of
@multiversenandocbs: ... existence.
@nandocbs: Yes, please! I have no idea how this one's going to play out.
@multiversenandocbs: Well, in one universe, Damon plays left and just takes time away from Shelley Duncan, who is relegated to occasional starts and platoons, despite him starting the season with a .294 average and .900-plus OPS.
@multiversenandocbs: In another, Damon actually plays first base. Casey Kotchman's value drops. Shelley Duncan clubs 40 home runs on the season, and Grady Sizemore doesn't return until late July.
@multiversenandocbs: In a third universe, Damon suffers a hamstring injury while playing for the Columbus Clippers. He decides to hold off until 2013 to attempt another comeback.
@multiversenandocbs: In a fourth, Duncan hits a ton of home runs while Damon plays into shape in the minors, forcing Cleveland to keep Duncan in the lineup, moving him between the outfield, first base, and DH when Damon joins the team.
@multiversenandocbs: In yet another universe, Damon is beaned in a minor league game by a similarly-misguided comebacking Andy Pettitte. The pitch itself doesn't do damage, but Damon charges the mound and accidentally kills Pettitte. He's jailed for 16 months.
@multiversenandocbs: In a fifth universe, Damon plays left while Duncan takes over for an injured Travis Hafner at DH. When Hafner comes back, Damon moves to RF to take over for an injured Brantley, with Duncan in left.
@nandocbs: Wait. I'm already exhausted.
@multiversenandocbs: Imagine trying to keep all these scenarios straight. Is there one you liked best?
@nandocbs: Not especially. I like Duncan not having Damon messing with is playing time. Or his head. I had him pegged as a Carlos Quentin/Mike Morse just-needs-the-playing-time breakout.
@multiversenandocbs: There actually is one universe where Shelley Duncan literally becomes Carlos Quentin. But you ... don't want to hear about that one.
@nandocbs: Does this same thing play out with every player? Like Daniel Bard?
@multiversenandocbs: Actually, he's a starter all year long in every universe I've seen.
@nandocbs: Really?
@multiversenandocbs: Yeah, even the weird ones where the Rapture has already happened.
@nandocbs: Is he any good?
@multiversenandocbs: Bard? 3.53 ERA, lots of strikeouts, 14 wins. Every universe. I'm not sure why everyone is questioning Boston's decision here. It's pretty hard to find a starter of his caliber.
@nandocbs: Speaking of that, is he better than Chris Sale?
@nandocbs: Hello?
@nandocbs: Dude?!!
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Hey man. You must've done something with that Sale/Bard question.
@nandocbs: Who are you?
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: I'm you. Or am I?
@nandocbs: Do you know anything about Sale and Bard?
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Yeah, they could both have really good years. But who knows how they'll adjust to starting roles, what that might do to their arms, if they'll run out of steam later.
@nandocbs: So I shouldn't start either of them?
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: You know, they could both be great. I can see both sides here.
@nandocbs: Great. How about Luke Hochevar?
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Ah, that guy. He was a first round draft pick two times! He has some talent. 3.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the second half last year. He held batters to a .222 average.
@nandocbs: Maybe I'll grab him.
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Yeah, but who knows if he can put it together this year. The man has a career 5.26 ERA in 592 innings pitched.
@nandocbs: Is there anything you're sure about?
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Aroldis Chapman is nasty. He has value no matter where you put him. He has as many strikeouts as Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum (10), he's tied for the MLB lead in wins (2). And he's pitched just five innings.
@nandocbs: I've got him in pretty much every one of my leagues.
@vaguelyguessingnandocbs: Yeah. He might start later this year if Bray or Masset are ready. I could totally see him closing, too, though.
@nandocbs: I hate you.
@alittletoointensenandocbs: I hate him too.
@nandocbs: Who are you?
@alittletoointensenandocbs: Does it matter? How about you get off Twitter and go pick up Adam Dunn right now? I'll wait.
@nandocbs: Why?
@alittletoointensenandocbs: How many 40-plus homer seasons did he have in a row before last year? You know how hard it is to go from playing in the field to just DH?
@nandocbs: Hard?
@alittletoointensenandocbs: You just sit there and get cold on the bench while everyone else runs around and stays active and engaged. It's weird. It takes time to adjust. Maybe not a whole season, but ...
@alittletoointensenandocbs: ...now he's got that season and experience under his belt. He knows how to approach it in 2012.
@nandocbs: Alright. I'll see if he's a free agent. Anyone else?
@alittletoointensenandocbs: IMMEDIATELY pick up Erik Bedard. He gets a low WHIP and lots of strikeouts. And I'm shouting WHIP, not just capitalizing it.
@nandocbs: But he gets hurt a lot ...
@alittletoointensenandocbs: So what?!! Is he hurt now? No. Will he be hurt in the next two months while he pitches brilliantly in the National League with a pitching coach who brought the Pirates' ERA down a run from 2010 to 2011? No. You want to keep arguing, or just want to pick him up?
@nandocbs: Okay. I'll see what I can do.
@alittletoointensenandocbs: Yeah you will.
@nandocbs: Anyone else want to offer some advice before I sign off?
@obsessedwithtommyhunternandocbs: I know he was mentioned in Tuesday's column, but Tommy Hunter could be a strong starter this year with Baltimore. Sub-4.00 ERA over the last three years. Great control!
@conspiracytheoristnandocbs: Don't trust Jorge Sedano.
@bandwagonjumpingbuthopingyouwontnoticenandocbs: I'm pretty sure I told you to look out for Josh Willingham a couple weeks ago, right? Remember I told you he had some power potential?
@angrycommenternandocbs: Everything you do sucks. I can do this for cheaper than you. Prince Fielder will hit 17 homers this year.
@thinksheknowsasecretbutreallydoesntnandocbs: Josh Donaldson has catcher eligibility but is starting at third for the A's. Could be a sly add.
@insultsreadersintelligencenandocbs: Mixed leaguers might want to consider this Toronto youngster named Brett Lawrie as a buy-low target. He reminds me of Ryan Braun!
@intentionallythrowingoffcompetitorsnandocbs: I think Alex Presley can hit 30 homers this year.
@bethisfriendhecouldmentionhiminacolumnnandocbs: Good luck getting married this weekend, Mike Cummings!
@moreinterestedinfantasyfootballnandocbs: Fantasy baseball requires way too much effort dude.
@rewardspeopleforreadingthisfarnandocbs: Drew Smyly threw 90 pitches in four innings. He's got two starts next week, and I bet he pitches a lot more efficiently. He's definitely worth AL-only consideration. Watch him in mixed leagues. Only owned in 14 percent of leagues.
@lovespredictingclosersnandocbs: Kevin Gregg and Jon Rauch always seem to find their way into saves every year. It's just something to consider if you're fruitlessly speculating on closers in deeper leagues.
@futurenandocbs: I totally forgot to tell you. Buddy Roemer wins the presidential election.
@nandocbs: OK, enough! I'm signing off for the night. But Bryan LaHair... Nice.

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 send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Nationals' Drew Storen to pitch Friday, Stephen Strasburg on Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Nationals right-handed pitcher Drew Storen is among the pitchers slated to make an appearance in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, and starter Stephen Strasburg will pitch Saturday against the Mets, according to Comcast SportsNet Washington.

It will be Storen's first outing since he underwent surgery to remove the hook of hamate bone from his left hand back on March 13. Strasburg will also make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on March 20.


D-Backs' Hellickson skips minor-league start due to dead arm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:16 am ET) Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey said starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson did not make his minor-league start Thursday due to dead arm. However, Harkey expects Hellickson to be ready for the start of the season.

"He got some treatment a couple of days after his last start and in his bullpen he was a little dead," Harkey said. "It was a perfect time to do it now in March than do it in April."

Hellickson threw a bullpen session Thursday instead of making his minor-league start. He is still scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Royals.

Hellickson is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three spring starts.


Red Sox's Christian Vazquez scheduled for an MRI on Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (elbow) will undergo an MRI on his injured elbow on Friday. He downplayed the issue, telling reporters that he's "going to be fine," according to WEEI. He is scheduled to catch Joe Kelly in a minor-league intrasquad game. Vazquez will be refrained from throwing to bases.

Rays' Cash: Desmond Jennings been on fire offensively all spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:15 am ET) It took 12 games for Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings to hit his first home run this spring, but despite the lack of home run power, the 28-year-old outfielder is still doing pretty well in Grapefruit League games.

Jennings, who hit a solo home run Thursday against the Yankees, is batting .483 (14 for 29) with two RBI, four runs, four walks and two stolen bases.

“He’s been on fire all spring, his at-bats, everything,” manager Kevin Cash said, per The Tampa Tribune. “The impressive thing is, the other day he didn’t have his best day, looked a little lot of sorts, but he came back two days after that and just erased it. He’s knocking balls all over the place.”


Athletics' Jesse Chavez happy with spring showing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings while striking out one in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Giants.

Chavez, who was on the mound just two days after the birth of his daughter, is happy with his performance this spring, the Bay Area News Group reports.

"I feel good," Chavez said. "I’ve put some men on, but I’ve pitched out of some jams. I’ve showed them I won’t let it snowball."

Chavez believes he needs to improve at changing the eye level of batters.

"I’ve got to get them to change eye levels better," Chavez said. "The last two or three starts, I haven’t been able to do that. The pitches that I’m trying to elevate they’re fouling off (instead of swinging and missing) and that runs up my pitch count."

Chavez has posted a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings as he competes for a spot in the rotation.


Giants' Bochy: Joe Panik pressing, remains starter at second base
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:09 am ET) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday that while infielder Joe Panik might be pressing, he remains the team's starter at second base without reservations, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Panik is just 8 for 50 this spring after going hitless in four at-bats Thursday, though he has delivered three doubles and two home runs. He's looking for a strong follow-up to an impressive rookie season in which he hit .305/.343/.368 in 269 at-bats.


Pirates P A.J. Burnett changes tune about shifting
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:38 am ET) Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett has not had the highest of opinions when it comes to infield-shifting in the past. In 2013, he let some reporters know what he thought about shifting at the time.

When asked about a shift of shortstop Clint Barmes that year, Burnett stated, “I do not have a problem with (Barmes), I had a problem with the (expletive) shift. We play people in the wrong spot.”

But Burnett seemed to change his tune when reflecting upon the subject.

“As much as I complained about the shifts, they helped,” Burnett said. “They really did. It's that one a game, you've got a no-hitter for four or five innings and one gets through, and where you're like … ‘(expletive) shift.'

“But (shifts) saves you more than anything, and that's the truth.”

The 38-year-old has lost some steam on his fastball at this point in his career and he knows that.

“It took me getting a little older to realize that I'm not able to blow it by guys anymore and ground balls are just as good,” he said.

Burnett has posted a 6.39 ERA with nine earned runs, eight walks and 12 strikeouts in four starts this spring.


Time running out for Matt Lindstrom to win spot with Angels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Angels pticher Matt Lindstrom can opt out of his contract if he's not placed on the active roster five days before the regular-season opener, and he believes he may not have an opening to fill in the bullpen, MLB.com reports.

"There's a ton of guys in here that have shown they can compete at this level," Lindstrom said. "I just hope I can be one of those guys that breaks camp with the team. It'd be fun to be on a team like this, that has so much potential, especially with how many games they won last year. The pitching staff's going to be solid no matter which way they go, but I'm hoping to be a part of that."

Lindstrom has given up seven runs in 4 2/3 spring innings but is excited about how his arm feels this spring.

"I can just tell the ball's coming out better," Lindstrom said. "Hopefully, that can just translate to outs."


Giants' Tim Lincecum strikes out seven Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks in five innings while racking up seven strikeouts in Thursday's spring start against the A's.

"It comes down to one or two pitches per inning," Lincecum said on alternating good and bad innings, per MLB.com. "I just have to keep my pitches down. The ones that they're hitting are the ones that are up. Leadoff batters are locking in to some of the first pitches."

Lincecum has dealt with neck issues and mediocre performances but has looked much better over the last week, following a one-run outing Saturday by matching his seven strikeouts in his previous four outings. He appears on track to open the season as the team's No. 5 starter.


Rockies' Brandon Barnes displays new swing this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes brought a brand-new swing to spring training that features a high leg kick as he looks to cut down the strikeouts and "be the best version of me," the Denver Post reports.

"I tried to refine who I am and what type of player I am in the box," Barnes said Thursday. "I'm not a guy who's going to hit 30 home runs. I know that. I'm the big guy who needs to be a pest, drive the ball into gaps, hit doubles, use my speed to my advantage, bunt, all those things."

Barnes lost 10 pounds this offseason as he looked to come to camp more athletic and less stiff in the batter's box.

"We have this tremendous athlete, and you see him in the outfield and it shows up daily," manager Walt Weiss said. "But you saw him in the box last season, and there was some stiffness to his approach. And I'm saying, 'Be that guy in the box.' It made sense to him."

Barnes indicated that he's committed to the new approach that pulls the focus away from home runs.

"I had to go back and do some soul-searching to figure out who I was," Barnes said. "I'm the guy who goes out and plays really hard."


 
 
 
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