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2013 Draft Prep: Scott White's 10 storylines to watch

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The truth is nobody knows.

Whatever it is you're wondering, so are the rest of us. And all we can do is guess, based on what we've seen, heard or experienced.

But while guessing is fine for run-of-the-mill baseball fans, who have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the ride, us Fantasy-playing types would prefer some reassurance. After all, we're actually sticking our necks out and acting on those guesses, for better or worse.

To that end, here are some of the questions you're most likely asking yourself -- or at least should be asking yourself -- as you prepare for your league's draft.

With any luck, some of these storylines will resolve themselves in spring training. For the ones that don't, we offer our best guess as some measure of reassurance on Draft Day.

Of course, it's just a guess. If you like yours better, by all means, act accordingly.

Mike Trout ... did that really just happen?

It boggles the mind and defies the senses. How could a mere babe of 20 years put up a line so impressive that some might argue he was a more deserving MVP than the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years? And yet it wasn't a dream or a movie script. It actually happened, and because it happened, Trout deserves serious consideration for the first overall pick in Fantasy. But isn't that dangerous? He's still young and, relative to other players of that ilk, unproven. True, but when you consider he outclassed Miguel Cabrera by more Head-to-Head points per game than Cabrera outclassed Jose Bautista last year, you get a sense of just how high his ceiling is.

My best guess: We all know what happened to Eric Hosmer and Brett Lawrie last year, but when arguably the best prospect in baseball puts together a 30-30 line -- or more like 30-50 line -- in less than a full season, you can be pretty sure it's not just a case of a still-developing talent catching the league by surprise. Maybe Trout's .269 batting average over his final 37 games shows he's in for a bit of an adjustment period, but given his pedigree, it figures to be a mild one. And given his power-speed combination, he figures to perform like a top-five option anyway. Maybe drafting him over Cabrera or Ryan Braun is a tad optimistic, but any point after that sounds about right.

Are Wil Myers, Travis d'Arnaud and Billy Hamilton worth the price of admission?

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: None of those three is Mike Trout. What he did as a rookie ... well, it boggled the mind and defied the senses. But it also made him the poster child for the latest trend of stockpiling prospects on the verge of reaching the majors. Hey, it wasn't just Trout who made a difference last year. Bryce Harper, Will Middlebrooks, Anthony Rizzo, Yasmani Grandal all had a say in the standings. And the same was true for Eric Hosmer, Desmond Jennings and Brett Lawrie the year before. Likewise, Myers, d'Arnaud and Hamilton don't figure to claim jobs this spring, but their day is nigh. And so, they're getting drafted even in shallower single-season leagues.

My best guess: While not every midseason call-up lives up to the hype right away, a good enough percentage of them do that this approach has some merit. The good news is that with the exception of Myers, who seems to be the safest bet to arrive sooner than later, none of these three should cost you more than a late-round pick, which is a small price to pay to beat the rush to the waiver wire. Just understand that if you draft and stash more than one, you'll be severely limiting your roster flexibility at the time of year when you need it most.

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Is second base as bad as it looks?

Quick, who's the 17th-best second baseman in Fantasy? You might as well piggyback storyline No. 2 and say Jurickson Profar because anyone else you'd choose for that spot is uninspiring at best. OK, so not everyone agrees about when exactly the drop-off occurs, but it does occur before the end of a standard Rotisserie draft. And the front end of the position isn't much better. With mainstays like Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley and Dan Uggla either slowing down or breaking down and newcomers like Jason Kipnis, Jose Atluve and Danny Espinosa each having their own drawbacks, a few under-the-radar types would need to bail out the position to keep it from being Fantasy's worst this year.

My best guess: Fat chance of that. True, Jedd Gyorko or Kolten Wong may provide some relief midseason, but neither has first-tier potential. Gordon Beckham looks like a lost cause, as do Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, for varying reasons. Maybe Jemile Weeks or whoever else claims the job in Oakland (Grant Green? Scott Sizemore?) makes some sort of contribution, but again, none of these players has the upside to revitalize the position. Considering how few Fantasy owners figure to be satisfied with their second basemen, punting is probably the preferred solution to reaching at the position.

How much of a difference will the new dimensions at Safeco Field and PETCO Park make?

Well, we know how much of a difference the old dimensions made. Safeco Field reduced perennial MVP candidate Adrian Beltre to a puddle of mediocrity right in the thick of his prime, and to this point, no left-handed hitter other than Adrian Gonzalez has mastered PETCO Park. But on paper, the changes don't look like much -- about four feet around most of Safeco, with a 17-foot shift in left-center, and about 10 feet in left- and right-center at PETCO -- and it's not like the Mets' decision to move in the fences at Citi Field last year created an abundance of home run hitters.

My best guess: OK, but the Mets didn't have as many up-and-comers with dramatic home-away splits either. Jesus Montero hit .227 with a .605 OPS at home last year compared to .295 and .768 on the road. Kyle Seager's OPS split was .835-.632. For his career, Chase Headley has a .695 OPS at PETCO compared to .836 everywhere else. Yeah, it'll make a difference. The Mariners and Padres made these changes with the intention of generating more offense. They wouldn't have invested the time and money only to shortchange it. Reducing a park's most troublesome gaps by 10-15 feet is a big enough deal that the players who stand to benefit, which include those mentioned as well as Dustin Ackley and Yonder Alonso, should get a slight boost on Draft Day.

Isn't selecting Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Bautista in the first round just asking for trouble?

At this time last year, Tulowitzki and Bautista weren't only first-rounders, but top-five picks. Of course, season-ending injuries quickly rendered them afterthoughts. Bautista, who hurt his wrist early in the second half, lasted longer than Tulowitzki, who went down with a groin injury in late May, but if you drafted either player, you were left with a hole bigger than you could realistically fill on the trade market. So is the moral of the story "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?" That's one way of looking at it. The other is that those injuries could make Tulowitzki and Bautista first-round value picks, if there is such a thing.

My best guess: The first round normally isn't the time to gamble, but is selecting Tulowitzki or Bautista really such a gamble? They got hurt last year. It could happen to anyone. It did happen to fellow first-rounders Matt Kemp and Joey Votto, and you don't see everyone clamming up about them. True, Tulowitzki hasn't played more than 143 games in a season since 2009, but it's not like he was missing full seasons during that time. He still averaged 28.5 home runs and 100.0 RBI in 2010 and 2011, making him far and away the best shortstop in Fantasy. If you pick 10th or later, you want one of these two.

Kris Medlen: fact or fiction?

Pitchers have found success moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation before, but Medlen's metamorphosis last year was in a class of its own, if for no other reason than because nobody was clamoring for him to enter the starting rotation before it happened. We had seen him in the role before, prior to Tommy John surgery in 2010, and it was fine. Nothing earth-shattering. But when he transitioned for good late last July, he went from being a respectable middle reliever to Greg Maddux incarnate, posting a 0.97 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings in his 12 regular-season starts. Clearly, he's not that good, but reducing his performance to a simple hot streak seems equally disingenuous.

My best guess: Medlen, as the world learned last year, is a really good pitcher. Greg Maddux caliber? Of course not. Ace caliber? Perhaps not far off. At some point during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, his changeup went from being a decent pitch to something downright sinister, and his move to the starting rotation allowed him to make better use of it by reintroducing his full arsenal. Given his impeccable control, a step back would make Medlen something akin to James Shields. That more than justifies his average draft position, especially in leagues where you can take advantage of his relief pitcher eligibility.

So really, we'll be able to play Victor Martinez at catcher, right?

He's been a catcher in Fantasy since the day he arrived in the big leagues in 2002. He would have been a catcher last year if not for a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. So why wouldn't Martinez be a catcher now? It's common sense, right? Or is it common sense that, after going a whole year without earning eligibility anywhere, he would come back eligible only at his truest, purest position -- his "primary" position, as we call it? Martinez played 26 games at catcher in 2011, so he barely would have qualified there last year. He played 112 at DH, so he is, in his truest and purest form, a DH. But come on. He's so much more valuable at catcher. Pretty please, with sugar on top?

My best guess: Nice try, but no rules in any game worth playing exist for the sole purpose of making the game easier. They exist to facilitate fair play. Here's what wouldn't be fair: giving a player who missed a full season looser eligibility requirements than one who missed less than a full season. A player who plays only one month would most likely earn eligibility at only one position. But a player who plays no months automatically gets two? Not right. Martinez's best chance of regaining catcher eligibility is by means of another rule: five games at the position this year. Will he get them? The Tigers say no, and considering he's a poor defender who was transitioning from the position even before having knee surgery at age 33, they probably know best.

Looking at those home-away splits, Justin Upton is doomed, isn't he?

For years now, we've been waiting for Upton to break through as a genuine five-category stud -- a fixture in the first round of every draft, every year. He's come close a couple times -- specifically, in 2009 and 2011 -- but he's been unable to sustain that level of production from one year to the next. Still, he's 25 and in Arizona. The big breakthrough is bound to happen eventually. What's that? He's in Atlanta now? Oh gosh. He has a career .250 batting average and .731 OPS away from Chase Field. If he's not a lost cause now, then everything you know about splits is forever null and void.

My best guess: That's taking things a bit far now, isn't it? First of all, playing at home is an advantage unto itself, so chances are Upton's numbers would look better there regardless of where it was. Second, a road schedule for Diamondbacks and Rockies hitters is especially imposing because the other three teams in the NL West play in extreme pitcher's parks. Third, rarely do home-away splits translate so neatly. Everybody slumps. If a hitter's home ballpark happens to be hitter-friendly, he's less likely to slump there, but that doesn't mean he'll slump more once he leaves. Matt Holliday had dramatic home-away splits during his time with the Rockies, but he's done just fine with the Cardinals, hasn't he? If Upton slips to the third round in your draft, consider it a steal.

Will Sergio Romo be as good of a closer as his numbers say he'll be?

Most baseball fans already know Romo as Brian Wilson's equally bearded setup man, given the way the Giants used the two in the 2010 World Series, but few think of him as being better than Wilson. Statistically speaking, though, he is. He's also better than about 80 percent of the pitchers closing for other teams. See for yourself: Over the last three years, Romo has a 1.85 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Again, that's a three-year period, not just one outlier year. It's like what Joe Nathan did for the Twins in his prime. Better, even. So will it translate to ninth-inning duties with Wilson out of the picture, or will Sergio Romo, like Tony Romo, buckle in the big moment?

My best guess: You'd think we'd already know the answer by now, but based on early draft data, apparently not. Romo was on the mound when the Giants won the World Series last year. Moments don't get much bigger than that. He was their closer throughout the playoffs and had a 1.13 ERA as their closer over the final two months of the regular season. Yeah, they were initially reluctant to give him the role and don't entirely endorse him even now, but at some point, you have to tune out all the noise and go with what you see. And what you see is a highly effective reliever who has already proven he can handle ninth-inning duties. Romo is a top-12 option with top-five potential.

How will the Cardinals fill out the back of their rotation?

When the Cardinals announced Chris Carpenter will likely miss all of 2013 with what could end up being a career-ending injury, it was bad news for Carpenter, his family and perhaps the Cardinals clubhouse. But Fantasy owners couldn't help but see the silver lining. Another opening only helps break up the logjam of young pitchers ready to contribute at the major-league level. Unfortunately, it doesn't eliminate it. Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook are virtual locks for the starting rotation, which means only two of Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly can make it. Guess wrong, and you've wasted a pick. Guess right, and you have a potential steal.

My best guess: Of course, not all four of those young'uns would be a steal. Kelly has proven he's capable of getting outs at the majors-league level, but even if he wins the job, he'll be just a fringe contributor in mixed leagues. No sense investing heavily in him. Because Lynn has already been an All-Star -- just last year, when he won 18 games -- he has a leg up on the other three. The Cardinals shuffled him between the rotation and the bullpen in the second half, making his role less than a sure thing, but he's a safe enough bet that you should target him as a top-40 option. Rosenthal's stint as a shutdown reliever last year makes Miller the more likely of the two for the fifth spot. His upside makes him well worth a late-round pick.

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
Phillippe Aumont's bid for spot on Phillies' roster not off to great start
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:39 am ET) Phillies reliever Phillippe Aumont is out of minor-league options, so if he doesn't make the team this spring, he is subject to waivers. Thus far, however, his bid for a roster spot is not going well.

After allowing a run in his lone inning of work Sunday against the University of Tampa, Aumont allowed solo homers on consecutive pitches in the fifth inning of Thursday's 6-3 loss to the Astros.

"This is a big spring training for him as far as the Phillies go and him (being) with the Phillies," manager Ryne Sandberg said after Thursday's game, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's had multiple chances and this is a clean slate opportunity for him in spring training coming in with opportunities and with some spots available.

"It should be a fresh start for him after the offseason. The biggest thing for him is to work ahead, and really, he has a good breaking ball when he can get to those counts. But sometimes he gets hit before he gets to those counts."


Braves' Minor doesn't appear to be overly concerned about injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:01 am ET) Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor appeared confident Friday his shoulder injury is not serious, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Minor doesn't have a date yet on when he will meet with Dr. James Andrews next week, but he is hoping Andrews can clarify what is wrong with his shoulder.

Minor said his shoulder started to get sore after throwing batting practice last week, and the soreness increased following a second batting practice session.


Tigers' Ausmus: James McCann can be very good major-league catcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:00 am ET) Tigers catcher James McCann, who is vying for a spot on the roster as a backup to Alex Avila, allowed a passed ball during Thursday's spring game against the Braves. After the game, McCann was very critical of his play and vowed to make sure no more pitches skip by him. 

McCann's relentless work ethic is one trait that manager Brad Aumus likes about the 24-year-old catcher.

"I don't have to worry about him working," Ausmus said Thursday, per the Detroit Free Press. "I think Mac does an excellent job. He is very alert. His head is into the game at all times. He understands that his value is greater on the defensive side of the game than it is when he is standing in the batter's box. That's not to say he doesn't take his hitting seriously.

"I think he has a chance to be a very good major-league catcher. I'm more concerned about how he handles a staff, how he calls a game, how he blocks balls in the dirt (than his ability to throw out runners)."


Phillies SP Cliff Lee having no doubts coming off elbow injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:31 am ET) Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee appeared to be brimming with confidence Thursday, as he said following his first start since missing the final two months of the 2014 season due to an elbow injury that everything is "so far, so good."

While some folks still might have some doubt regarding the 36-year-old's durability moving forward, Lee has no such doubts.

"I don't have any uncertainty," Lee said, per The Philadelphia Daily News. "I definitely have confidence and expect to go out there and be successful, and I'm doing everything I can to prevent something like that from happening again. That's really all I can do. There's no worry or uncertainty or anything like that. I'm just going to go out there and be confident and expect to have success and not really even think about it, to be honest with you."

Lee threw only 22 pitches (16 strikes) in two innings Thursday in his spring debut. He still has a long ways to go in getting back to his previous form, but Lee is confident it will happen.

"As a starting pitcher, you've got to go out there and throw a hundred-and-some-odd pitches, get deep into games to do your job effectively," Lee said. "Personally, until I do that I don't think that I've proven that I can do that yet. I don't have any doubts, but still you have to build up to do that and prove you can do that . . . I don't think anyone is going to know that I can do that until I go out there and show it."


Mets' Jacob deGrom working on perfecting his curveball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:42 am ET) Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is working on perfecting his curveball this spring, according to the New York Post

"This spring is so different," deGrom said. "I can really come in here and work on things. Last year when I was over on the big league side, I didn’t throw my curveball one time because I was trying to make the team and prove I could get outs in spring training."

After experiencing some success in the majors, deGrom said he is more willing to work on stuff this time around. While he actually started using his curve more late last season, it seems like deGrom is going to work on perfecting the pitch during camp. 

"It’s a great pitch whether it be strike one or a strikeout pitch," deGrom said. "Talking to Gee, Wheeler and all those guys and see how they throw theirs and taking little bits of information from them and trying it in bullpens. Sometimes I throw it at 78 (mph) and that’s a big difference from the slider. It gets the hitter off balance."

deGrom, 26, posted a 2.69 ERA over 140 1/3 innings last season.


Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hoping for more consistency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is hoping for more consistency in 2015, according to the Denver Post

Blackmon had a breakout season in 2014, but admits it's hard to be on every single game. "Last year, I swung the bat really well at certain times," he said. "But you go through a lot of ups and downs over 162 games, and that was a learning experience. I think that's going to help me this year."

Blackmon said his strong start made him a target for other teams, and that may have contributed to a slight slump during the season. Blackmon added that he's hoping to hit the ball to all fields this season.

Manager Walt Weiss is hoping Blackmon can deliver more of the same. "I don't know if he necessarily has to have an encore. I'm thinking more of the same," Weiss said. "I think Charlie would say that he wants to be more consistent."

The 28-year-old Blackmon hit .288/.335/.440 over 593 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Gibson feels 'a little more comfortable' with curveball
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in two innings while striking out two in his spring debut Thursday, using the outing to work on his curveball, the Associated Press reports.

"I felt really good," Gibson said. "I'm working on some stuff, and some stuff worked out that I was working on. I threw more curveballs than normal. That's what spring training's for. It's just fun to be able to work on a particular pitch. I feel a little more comfortable."

Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, completed his first full major-league deal in 2014, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 107:57 K:BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings.


Blue Jays' Barton hoping his glove wins him a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Daric Barton is hoping his glove can win him a spot on the 25-man roster, according to the Toronto Sun.

Barton isn't much of a power hitter, but gets strong marks for his defense at first. Manager John Gibbons is well aware of Barton's skills. "One thing that put Daric on the map was that he was such a disciplined hitter and a great defender," Gibbons said. He added that the first baseman is involved in a large chunk of plays, so defense at the position is probably more important than people realize.

With that said, Barton may need a trade to make the opening day roster. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays may carry three catchers. If the team retains Dioner Navarro, Barton could find himself in the minors.

The 29-year-old Barton hit .158 over 57 at-bats last year.


Pirates' Pedro Alvarez feeling comfortable at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez is feeling comfortable at first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After playing third the past couple of seasons, Alvarez will transition to first base full-time in 2015. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the position, but he seems comfortable with the change.

"It’s just a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view, get the reps in so that the responsibilities that come with playing the position become second nature," he said. "That’s just with time and repetitions."

Alvarez hit .231/.312/.405 over 398 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman gets strong marks at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman received strong reviews after playing his first game at first base this spring, according to MLB.com.

"He is still in the stages of having to think about it out there, because it's not natural yet," manager Matt Williams said. "He looked fine. He has fantastic hands." Zimmerman was tested during the start, and had to make two scoops in order to prevent possible throwing errors. 

He's been taking extra practice at the position this spring, and was fairly happy with how his first game turned out. "You can do so many drills, exercises and things like that until you have to go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "So it's nice to have a few chances. The more I play over there, the more comfortable I will get. I feel fine."

Zimmerman, 30, hit .280/.342/.449 over 214 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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