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Reality Check: A late trade makes waves

Senior Fantasy Writer
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These things aren't supposed to happen this time of year.

I'm not talking about back-to-school sales, hurricane warnings or preseason football games. I'm talking about MLB trades -- at least ones involving more than middle relievers and players to be named later.

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Granted, this one had its players to be named later -- they've since been (unofficially) identified as Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands -- but it also had Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. You may remember them from the early rounds of your Fantasy draft.

But that's not all. Nick Punto, James Loney, Allen Webster, Ivan DeJesus -- the idea that nine players, including three higher-profile ones, could be part of the same deal at a time when anyone involved in any deal has to pass through waivers first is as implausible as opening a bag full of green M&M's. And on top of that, it's legal. Most Fantasy owners wouldn't be allowed to pull off such a move in late August, and that's supposed to be, you know, fantasy.

I wonder if the Giants have petitioned the commissioner for a veto yet. "It's not fair! The Red Sox don't have anything to play for! They just gave the Dodgers the championship! Waaah!"

Of course, the effects of this blockbuster in Fantasy go beyond a simple discussion of trade etiquette for third-party participants. The number of players it impacts both directly and indirectly is enormous.

So let's take a moment here and now to identify some of the ones it impacts the most. The change in value will be immediate for some, but for others, it won't take effect until 2013. Oh, don't look at me like that. By now, you have more control over next year's team than this year's anyway.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B/OF, Dodgers
The crux of the deal. Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett are quality players and all, but the only reason the Dodgers were willing to take on their contracts is because it meant getting Gonzalez. That's high praise, even if in an indirect way, and it should help put your mind at ease as a Gonzalez owner. Sure, he's going from what's generally regarded as a hitter's park to what's generally regarded as a pitcher's park, but over the last couple years, he never did take advantage of Fenway Park's dimensions the way so many thought he would, hitting six more home runs on the road than at home. And he was at his best in the most pitcher-friendly stadium of all, PETCO Park. He has the type of skill set that is seemingly immune to park factors, so you can trust that his second-half surge will continue and that he'll hopefully get back to being an elite player next year.

Shane Victorino, OF, Dodgers
Victorino's transition to Dodger Stadium has been a bit rocky so far. He has no homers and a .656 OPS in 58 at-bats there this year, which is admittedly not a large enough sample to draw any real conclusions. Still, it's an early indication that his 15-homer potential could be in jeopardy in such a large ballpark. He's a free agent in the offseason, but prior to this deal, the threat of him staying was enough to cast doubt over his long-term prospects. Now, though, the Dodgers are on the hook for Carl Crawford long term, as they are for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. None of the three is exactly bench material, which means Victorino is out on his keister after the season. His prospects will look a whole lot brighter just about anywhere else.

Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers
Sure, his strikeout rate and average fastball velocity are down from previous years, but I'm thinking pitching in Boston had just as much to do with Beckett's struggles this year. He came to be hated there, which no doubt started because of his performance on the mound but became self-defeating over time. Talk about a hostile work environment. The guy was booed when he left with a back injury in late July. To keep a right mind, even the surliest veterans need to feel like someone out there is rooting for them, and clearly that wasn't happening for Beckett in Boston. Now that he'll have something of a home-field advantage again -- and at a park well suited for pitchers who occasionally fall victim to the long ball -- I suspect he'll return to being top-50 starting pitcher in Fantasy. Think an ERA in the 3.60 range.

James Loney, 1B, Red Sox
Dodger Stadium is a tough place to hit, so when a player who has long fallen short of expectations there finally gets an opportunity to leave, it's cause for celebration in Fantasy. Of course, a move like this one probably won't be enough to resuscitate a player like Loney. Earlier in his career, his numbers did get a significant boost on the road, but over the last couple years, the splits have been pretty much even. I don't know if the frustration of playing in a big ballpark caused some mechanical tweaks that adversely affected his numbers on the road or if he was just never that good to begin with, but by now, I fear he's so set in his ways that it won't matter. A change of scenery can sometimes work wonders for a player, but the smart money here says Loney is a lost cause.

Scott Podsednik, OF, Red Sox
Podsednik has been getting regular at-bats over the last week or so and doing a good job with them, batting .378 (14 for 37) with a stolen base. But Fantasy owners were hesitant to buy into him because of all the lineup options in Boston. This trade combined with Daniel Nava's (wrist) return to the DL leaves the team with a hodgepodge at first base and the outfield to close out the season. It's mix-and-match all the way, which makes Podsednik's job as safe as anyone else's (except for maybe Jacoby Ellsbury's). If you need steals, why not take a shot on him?

Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox
Lavarnway also figures to be a part of that hodgepodge, but I'm thinking bigger picture here. I'm thinking the Red Sox's willingness to trade Adrian Gonzalez shows just how much confidence they have in Lavarnway to become a middle-of-the-order threat within the next year or two. He's certainly shown the ability in the minors, hitting .292 with 40 homers in 754 at-bats over the last two seasons. The only question scouts had about him was his defense, but now his future might not even be at catcher. I realize he hasn't done much damage yet this year, but he also hasn't gotten consistent at-bats either. Now that the Red Sox are clearly playing for the future, I expect that to change -- perhaps even enough for him to factor in mixed leagues.

Rubby De La Rosa, SP, Red Sox
Chances are De La Rosa, who is fresh off Tommy John surgery, would have a good shot at a rotation spot next year even if he stayed with the Dodgers, but in Boston, with Josh Beckett out of the picture and Daisuke Matsuzaka soon to follow, you can pencil in his name already. I suppose a team with the Red Sox's resources could always opt for an offseason spending spree that pushes him out of the picture, but something tells me they'll take some time to assess what they have first. In De La Rosa, they have a hard-thrower with swing-and-miss stuff -- the kind of skill set that translates even to the AL East.

Jerry Sands, OF, Red Sox
Sands, like De La Rosa, won't be able to contribute to the Red Sox until next year since he's technically a "player to be named later," which only improves Scott Podsednik's and Ryan Lavarnway's chances this year. Of course, no one's saying Sands would be starting for the Red Sox even if he was available. His minor-league numbers suggest he should be, especially since he's already 24, but they mostly came in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League and have yet to translate to the majors. Still, as a right-handed pull-hitter, he couldn't be going to a place better tailored for his swing. If he gets his chance next year, he might just be able to salvage his potential. Most likely, he'll have some competition, though.

In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value

Kris Medlen, SP/RP, Braves: Ben Sheets' trip to the disabled list Saturday was actually a net gain for Fantasy owners. It meant Medlen would be staying in the rotation. You could argue he had earned a spot regardless with his 0.83 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings in five starts, but it's not like anyone else had pitched his way out of the rotation. Would the Braves have given mainstay Tommy Hanson the ax when they inevitably had to cut their six-man staff down to five? Or what about Mike Minor, with his 2.50 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in his last nine starts? Talk about sending mixed messages. Likewise, Sheets, Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson appeared safe as the elder statesmen of the group. Omitting those five would have left only Medlen, which would have left the Braves in a pickle. Thankfully, the dilemma is no more, and now that the ultra-efficient Medlen has been stretched out to go 7-8 innings, he should just about every time out. Given his eligibility at relief pitcher, how could you let him go unowned in Head-to-Head leagues?

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: Those who've been waiting the last six weeks for Ellsbury to return to form can probably take some solace in his .310 (18 for 58) batting average over his last 13 games. But if you take his numbers since returning and project them over a full season, he'd have just a .380 slugging percentage and 32 steals. Maybe that line isn't so terrible in and of itself, but this is Jacoby Ellsbury we're talking about -- a player who once stole 70 bases in a season, who emerged as a power hitter with 32 home runs last year. Right now, he's looking more like Alcides Escobar. Perhaps he's still in the process of rehabilitating his shoulder and needs more time to regain his power stroke, but with a month to go, time is a luxury we no longer have. And now that the Red Sox will be relying on Ellsbury as a middle-of-the-order hitter with Adrian Gonzalez out of town, he won't have the same leeway on the base paths that he did as a leadoff man. If you're satisfied with what Ellsbury has given you since his return, great. Keep starting him. But don't expect to see any substantial improvement from him until 2013.

Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics: Take a break for a moment to see if Crisp is available on your league's waiver wire. Yeah? Well, congratulations. You're contributing to him being the most underowned hitter in Fantasy. At 55 percent, he's valued at about the same level as Dayan Viciedo and Cameron Maybin even though he produces at about the level as Josh Hamilton and Carlos Beltran. No, really. Since returning May 21 from an inner-ear infection that most likely had something to do with his early-season struggles, he's the 21st highest-scoring outfielder in Fantasy, ranking ahead of both Hamilton and Beltran. And here's the kicker: He's batting only .268 during that stretch, so it's not like his numbers are unsustainable. The prolific base-stealer is often overlooked in Fantasy because of his propensity for injury, but when he's healthy, as has been the case for a couple months now, he's practically a must-start option. Why not turn over a new leaf and contribute to him being the most-added player in Fantasy?

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Lance Lynn, SP/RP, Cardinals: Yes, the Cardinals removed Lynn from the starting rotation after his fourth straight ugly start Friday, which perhaps makes this selection an obvious one. But manager Mike Matheny wasn't crystal clear on what the demotion means for Lynn's future, calling it a "break" or a "change of scenery," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Does that mean after a couple turns of Joe Kelly, we'll see Lynn back pitching every fifth day? My guess is no. With 144 1/3 innings, he's at about 25 more than he had last season. Extending him further than that would probably do him more harm than good. Besides, he's probably more valuable to the Cardinals as a reliever right now, given how he performed as one during their World Series run last year. Most likely, the Cardinals still view Lynn as a starter long term, with Matheny calling his recent struggles a "learning experience." They've just chosen to preserve his arm this way rather than shutting him down altogether.

Josh Donaldson, C/3B, Athletics: When the Athletics recalled Donaldson from Triple-A Sacramento to man third base for them again, the move was met with collective groans in Fantasy. The man had his opportunity -- two, in fact -- and could muster only a .153 batting average. Why wouldn't the Athletics give up on him already and make way for the real players? Here's why: Donaldson was hitting .335 with 13 homers and a 1.000 OPS at Triple-A Sacramento, emerging as a legitimate offensive force after showing flashes of power earlier in his minor-league career. One explanation for that line is that he's a 26-year-old beating up on 22-year-olds in a hitter-friendly league, but another is that he can actually hit a little. The latter explanation at least gives some credence to Donaldson's .386 (17 for 44) batting average and 1.028 OPS since returning. If he was strictly a third baseman, the lack of home runs might cause you to overlook him, but since he's one of the few catcher-eligible players getting everyday at-bats, even an ounce of production is enough to make him relevant. Clearly, he's delivering more than an ounce right now.

Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers or prospects who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners

Gary Brown, OF, Giants: So far, the Giants have resisted the temptation to promote their top hitting prospect in the wake of Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension, but now that the Dodgers have added Adrian Gonzalez to their lineup -- after already out-maneuvering the Giants by adding Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline -- the Giants might see the need to upgrade from Gregor Blanco. Granted, Brown would be making the jump from Double-A, where he's batting .281 with a .739 OPS, but those numbers are a little misleading. Since the beginning of June, Brown is batting .305 with six homers and 14 steals. Still not impressed? Look, no one's saying he's Mike Trout, but with good speed and a high contact rate, he's clearly the team's leadoff hitter of the future. And if his recent move from center to left field is any indication, that future may not be so far off.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks: Like an addict in denial, Bauer would respond to critiques of his high minor-league walk rate with variations of "I can quit anytime I want," most often saying it was all part of a conscious effort to accumulate strikeouts. Great plan. Too bad it didn't work against big-league hitters. No, they just took those pitches, creating hitter's counts that led to hittable pitches that led to a 6.06 ERA in Bauer's first big-league stint. Apparently, he's learned his lesson, issuing just one walk in each of his last two starts -- one lasting seven innings and the other lasting nine -- for Triple-A Reno. And oh yeah, he still piled up 21 strikeouts during that span. With his groin injury behind him, Bauer could get another look if the Diamondbacks opt to go with a six-man rotation at some point in September, especially now that Joe Saunders is out of the picture. It's a bit of a long shot, but if you need a quick influx of strikeouts, he's stashable.

Jedd Gyorko, 3B, Padres: No, the Padres weren't able (or didn't try?) to trade Chase Headley at the July 31 deadline, but that doesn't necessarily mean Gyorko is stuck at Triple-A Tucson to close out the season. It doesn't necessarily mean he'll go to the bench when he gets the call either. Though he's primarily a third baseman, he has proven more than capable of manning second base, having played 44 games there this year, and at last check, the Padres were ping-ponging the relatively unenticing duo of Alexi Amarista and Logan Forsythe at the position. Of course, the Padres have yet to confirm they'd be willing to add Gyorko to the 40-man roster for a sneak peak into next year, but if they do, his .321 batting average and 29 homers in 470 minor-league at-bats suggest he'd be a game-changer in Fantasy.

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

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Player News
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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
(2/27/2015) 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."


 
 
 
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