Spring training isn’t that important for most players. Think of it as the NFL preseason. Get the reps in and don’t get hurt. There are also players that aren’t under the category of “most players.” They are the ten biggest stories in spring training so far and deserve to be watched closely over the next four weeks.
- Jose Reyes’ thyroid. He was probably going to be at the top of the list anyway, but now that he’s back in New York to undergo tests for an overactive thyroid. For head to head leagues, this creates an opportunity. His teammate Jeff Francoeur went as far as saying that Reyes was back just a week ago, but things have changed since. Keep in mind Reyes claims that he hasn’t felt abnormal and the hamstring shouldn’t be an issue since there was talk of him coming back at the end of last year. Diagnosis: Maybe this is a break for head to head leagues who can get him cheaper now, and even if he needs to miss time, it will be at the beginning of the year not the end.
- Joe Nathan’s elbow. He is downgraded to fifth among the closers at best now. Even Joakim Soria who has had injury problems himself can be taken before Nathan. Given how close that the top five closers were going into the season anyway, it would be foolish to take Nathan first now that we know something might be wrong. As is the case with Reyes, for leagues that have the benefit to wait and see, maybe this whole situation is blown over and Nathan will be fine. Unlike the case with Reyes, Nathan actually complained something was wrong. Diagnosis: Your problem not mine.
- Jason Heyward’s destruction of property. News of Heyward hitting cars in batting practice is more widespread than the annoying fish fillet commercial. With that kind of hype there’s no way Heyward is a sleeper or on the cheap anymore. Head to head leagues and FB 365 lifers remember the pain that Matt Wieters brought their rosters last year before he got called up. There was so much hype before the year, that even if he started the season in the minors he was worth stashing in drafts. Heyward appears to be good enough to play in Atlanta on Opening Day, but that doesn’t mean the Braves won’t try to bring him up to the big club later on this year like Baltimore did in order to get another year of service time. Diagnosis: He’s closer to Wieters rookie season than Ryan Braun’s.
- Brandon Webb Teasing Us. First it appeared that he was ahead of schedule and now it’s likely he will start the season on the disabled list. It’s the right move for Arizona to use caution so they don’t lose him in the middle of the season, but they are probably more willing to roll the dice than usual since Webb is a free agent next year. Diagnosis: Webb has still come a long way since the DBacks initially were not planning on even picking up his option for this year. He’s worth stashing, but obviously taking on too many players in his condition (see Reyes and Nathan) is asking for it.
- Francisco Liriano rides Dominican dominance into first spring start. Two innings, one hit, one walk, three strikeouts and zero runs allowed. After 95 MPH during the winter, this is another positive step. Diagnosis: I promise not to take Liriano again. I promise not to take Liriano again. I promise not to take Liriano again. I…
- Russell Martin to miss opening day. It’s a pulled groin muscle which really hurts Martin’s value even upon returning. Much of his value comes from being the only catcher with double digit steal potential, but this type of injury might make Joe Torre think twice about giving him the green light – especially early. Diagnosis: Out of the two bounce back catcher candidates, Geovany Soto is clearly a leg up. Pun intended.
- The Washington Nationals shortstop conterversy. For deeper leagues Ian Desmond is looking increasingly likable. He had 4 home runs in 82 at bats last season in his September cup of coffee, and the veteran standing in the way can’t throw the ball from shortstop to first base. Diagnosis: Christian Guzman thinks he’ll be good to go soon, but perhaps good to go means go to another team.
- Josh Hamilton is playing in a baseball game tomorrow. Well sort of. Maybe. The Dallas Morning News was reporting he wants to play in a B game so he can lead off every inning and see more pitches. After the way he finished 2008, his whole body of work in 2009, and the way he’s starting this March, Hamilton is looking more like the hitter’s version of Rich Harden. Diagnosis: Charlie said it best, “Outfield is a deep position and there is no need to reach on the hope that 2008 happens again.”
- Cameron Maybin will be a starter and bat second for the Marlins. There was something along these lines last season as well, but the Marlins will likely stick with Maybin through the hard times this time around. He’s seen most of what he’s needed to see in AAA and was a better player by all accounts as the months turned over last season. Diagnosis: Hitting second means he should get his fair share of pitches to hit with Hanley hitting right behind him.
- Ben Sheets pitches for the first time in 17 months. He didn’t pitch well, but let’s not read too much into that just yet. He’s a veteran who knows better than to try to throw a perfect game in his first spring start. Diagnosis: There’s a thousand reasons to be skeptical, but let’s be honest he’s on the radar.
Mark Schruender is also counting down the best players in fantasy baseball at Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove.