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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
Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:13 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:58 pm ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:44 pm ET) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:22 pm ET) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:00 pm ET) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


 
 
 
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