Fantasy Baseball Diamond Mining: Chase Utley, Bryce Harper, Miguel Cabrera, more

by Nicholas Minnix on March 19, 2012 @ 14:45:10 PDT

 


Ready to update your fantasy baseball cheat sheets? Before Diamond Market can sell the players in your rotisserie league's free-agent pool, Fantasy Baseball Diamond Mining polishes them for fantasy baseball drafts. It's time to dig for fantasy baseball sleepers and toss the busts.

Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has finally acknowledged that Chase Utley is unlikely to be ready for opening day. The club's official site has the media release of Amaro's summary statement on the next steps for Utley. The second baseman is likely to begin the season on the disabled list.

Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera
Hot corner, indeed

Utley faced seemingly similar circumstances last season. The Phillies remained open to all possibilities then, refusing to express overt optimism or pessimism. The absence of the front office's influence led to more speculation and less reliability. But in the end, the club played its cards the way the dealer dealt them, and Utley was back on the field a little after mid-May.

Rotisserie managers can only expect a similar approach from the organization this time around. The same result? Hard to say - so much to consider.

Utley, 33, is now dealing with pain in both of his knees, not just the right knee, like he did last spring, according to multiple sources. In fact, the left one hurts more. Surgery still isn't under consideration, but his visit to a specialist this week should provide more clues.

The likely outcome may remain somewhat of a mystery, like it was last season, for quite a while. Although some fantasy baseball players have endorsed an Utley rebound in 2012, there was nothing on which to base that confidence. It seems that, if anything, the problem has worsened.

On top of that, the five-time All-Star batted only .259 with 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases (in 14 attempts, bravo) in 398 at-bats last season. It's clear that the condition is debilitating, even if he's available. He'll lack punch. He'll probably continue to struggle against southpaws. He'll get days off.

Our initial projection for him was relatively conservative, and we're only going to scale it back. The fact remains that, even when he's in the lineup, he's not the reliable performer that he was three years ago. The upside isn't nearly as great, either. Don't discount him completely; he can still be an adequate performer, even in mixed leagues, but it's unwise to draft him as anything more than a capable middle infielder in deep versions or a low-end starter in NL formats.

As for Freddy Galvis, despite the accolades he's drawn for his spring work, he'll probably bat at the bottom of the lineup and yield some ABs to Michael Martinez. The switch-hitter probably doesn't warrant a good deal more than an end-game bid in NL leagues. In fact, if Utley misses extensive time, Martinez may end up being the greater beneficiary.

***

Multiple reports indicate that Ubaldo Jimenez isn't close to returning to pre-2011 form. The latest, from the Akron Beacon Journal, is disturbing.

It's not just because his heater was clocked at only 89 to 91 for most of his appearance. It's a little because of the stage of spring training we're in. It's a lot because, from his first outing (when he was supposedly hitting 94 to 96) to his second one (when his fastball was reportedly registering at 90 to 94 mph) to this latest story, he's gotten progressively worse.

Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the Cleveland Indians worked him every fourth day for his first three official games. Maybe this is all about Jimenez's trouble commanding all his stuff, as Manny Acta suggested (hopefully, no doubt). The right-hander insists that he's 100 percent, unlike he was last year. Of course, word then was that he was healthy, too.

Jimenez is still worth some sort of gamble in fantasy baseball drafts, but what you're willing to risk on him should definitely be in retreat.

***

New San Diego Padres OF Carlos Quentin
On the shelf

The Washington Nationals demoted Bryce Harper, who'll begin the season with Triple-A Syracuse - and play quite a bit in center field. That's where the Nats now say that they envision him playing, long-term.

This decision should come as a shock to no one, which ESPN's Jayson Stark puts eloquently. Thankfully, the organization acknowledged that it has taken notice of Harper's initial struggles when he advances to a new level as part of their reason for leaving him off the big-league roster. Harper, 19, hasn't even played at Class AAA yet.

The club will probably face the decision of when is a good time for a promotion. The Washington Post's Tracee Hamilton discusses many of the things that management will have to take into account.

Bottom line: Expect Harper to need time to make adjustments to Triple-A pitchers. To hit left-handers, especially. To learn more of the nuances of base-running, things like that. And, of course, to learn to play center field, which isn't exactly simple, no matter how confident he sounds about it.

Even a talent like Harper will need at least a couple months - and probably more - on the farm. When he gets to The Show, he'll probably have some downs to go with those ups. That's why he isn't much of a roto prospect in 2012, when only an NL-only roster spot is probably justifiable.

***

San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin today had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a meniscus tear and clean up the surrounding area. He'll miss four to six weeks. Although the club is optimistic that he'll return at the beginning of that time frame, Quentin has historically been a slow healer.

The Friars' projected cleanup hitter was already likely to suffer from some sort of Pads-and-PETCO suffocation after spending the past several years belting balls at U.S. Cellular Field. This news means that he's not much more than a reserve in deep mixed leagues.

In April, Jesus Guzman and Kyle Blanks figure to benefit most. Guzman's value doesn't go up much; he's strictly an NL commodity. He could be a pickup in deep mixers once the season begins. Blanks' value doesn't skyrocket, either, but he had a good spring and, instead of beginning the season in the minors, as seemed likely, he has a good shot to make the 25-man. He could demonstrate that he's worthy of a look and convince the club to let him stick once Quentin is ready.

***

Although the Detroit Tigers aren't yet able to declare the severity of Miguel Cabrera's injury, it seems like it's not serious, as the Detroit Free Press notes. He'll probably miss some spring action in the short term, but this shouldn't affect his draft stock or his transition to third base.

Did you watch it? Ouch.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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