Fantasy Baseball Diamond Mining: Chase Utley, Chris Carpenter, Eric Thames, more

by Nicholas Minnix on March 27, 2012 @ 16:15:35 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.

Chase Utley (arthritic knees) confirmed that he won't be ready for opening day. That puts Freddy Galvis in the driver's seat the second base in the short term, especially because Michael Martinez (fracture in right foot) will probably miss about a month and a half.

This admission should've come as no surprise to fantasy baseball players, who no doubt have been taking the increased risk into consideration on draft day. Utley won't have surgery, however, and he expects to play for the Philadelphia Phillies at some point this season.

The takeaway: It seems all but certain that, in the best-case scenario, Utley will be no better than he was last season, in terms of availability. In 2011, the issues with his left knee limited him to fewer than 400 at-bats and a .259/.344/.425 slash line, with 14 stolen bases in as many attempts. He really struggled versus southpaws.

Those marks aren't shabby, but they're not worth waiting for in shallow mixed leagues, and possibly even deep ones. It's hard to imagine that he'll continue to be as successful on the base paths, either, but he's been a very efficient base-stealer in his career, at least.

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Toronto Blue Jays OF Eric Thames
Thames: a winner in LF?

Chris Carpenter (nerve irritation in shoulder) is now expected to be out indefinitely and seems likely to miss a couple of months this season. The St. Louis Cardinals will replace him with Lance Lynn, at least initially. The young right-hander is a former top-10 prospect for the club and deserves a look in NL-only leagues. He could be a deep-mixed asset, too, but no need to wager much to find out.

If Carp's absence lasts longer than the Cards are comfortable with, they'll begin to explore their options. Folks love to throw out Roy Oswalt's name, and he certainly warrants a reserve spot in very deep leagues. The two sides couldn't agree on finances before, though. The sexy Shelby Miller has become a more intriguing arm to stash.

However, it's important to realize, again, that there is no structural damage in Carp's shoulder. St. Louis' focus is on strengthening the righty's shoulder again and finding out ways to prevent this from recurring yet again. He's extremely likely to pitch in 2012, and the injury shouldn't affect his performance at all. Four months of Carp is a low-cost gamble worth taking.

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The Atlanta Braves will be without Chipper Jones (surgery to repair a torn meniscus) for a week, maybe two, to begin the season. What does it mean? Nothing you didn't already know. The future Hall of Famer is old and a good bet to miss a big chunk of time for health reasons. This doesn't affect his draft stock at all.

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The Toronto Blue Jays demoted Travis Snider, which means that Eric Thames has won the club's left-field job. No change in the projected price of either.

Experienced rotisserie players know that the winner of an ST battle isn't suddenly a much better buy because the skipper has made his decision. Snider had a good spring; Thames just had a better one. But, in this case, consider that Snider has disappointed the Jays on a couple of occasions already.

Snider, 24, is still worth a pickup, however. His opportunities haven't lasted for very long because of injuries and poor, but somewhat short, stretches. He may need a change of scenery, which is also a possibility.

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Another non-shocker: Bobby Valentine is going with Mike Aviles at shortstop. It's kind of surprising that roto managers haven't been more interested in the former Kansas City Royal. He has the ability to hit .280 or better and should provide solid counting marks while residing at the bottom of that dangerous lineup of the Boston Red Sox.

Granted, the playing time isn't guaranteed. But the BoSox don't have much (only Nick Punto and light-hitting Jose Iglesias, who was demoted) with which to replace him. There's so little at risk in a gamble on Aviles, and once he regains SS eligibility, he'll have it at three positions.

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The Kansas City Royals are having Johnny Giavotella begin the season at Triple-A Omaha. The club seems to sound as if it's happier with the defense of Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz at second base. KC told the Italian youngster to focus on his glove work.

Getz's defense? We can buy that. But Betancourt's? Giavotella must be ghastly in the field. His plate discipline this spring was atrocious, too, though, and that might've been a factor as well.

None of these players warrants mixed-league interest. They're probably all worth roughly the same kind of investment in AL leagues, in fact. Betancourt has upside because he may gain eligibility at multiple positions. Getz seems like a better bet to play second regularly. Giavotella can still earn a promotion this summer.

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One more unsurprising decision: Wade Davis to the bullpen. Considering the 2011 he had, fantasy owners may consider this development damning, with some justification. He might still be worth a stash in extremely deep AL leagues; the Tampa Bay Rays will undoubtedly be open to offers for their hurlers.

Jeff Niemann, of course, wins the final rotation spot. The righty had a fairly strong spring and is poised to build on his somewhat inspiring second half, complete with a spiking K/9. Deep-mixed leaguers shouldn't ignore him, as many are wont to do. Even if he ends up somewhere else, he'll take the skills with him.

If Tampa Bay does ship an arm somewhere, Alex Cobb is the name that roto players should remember. At this point, he's plenty more intriguing than Davis.

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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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