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In Part 1, we tried to predict what may lie ahead for some elite performers who will be sporting new liveries in '14--Cano, Fielder, Beltran, Ellsbury, et al. Since then, the biggest shoe to fall has been Shin-Soo Choo who landed a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Rangers. Apparently, this package will net him more after tax income than a reported $140 million offer from the Yanks. Aaaah, Choo !
SHIN-SOO CHOO, OF, RANGERS
Choo takes his new found wealth and stellar .423 OBP to the top of the Rangers line-up. Let's see...a very hitter-friendly park slotted ahead of Andrus, Fielder and Beltre. Hard to see how this 31 year-old doesn't at least equal last year's 21HRs, 107 runs, 20SBs and .285 average.
MARK TRUMBO, OF, DIAMONDBACKS
Paul Goldschmidt owners rejoice ! Mark Trumbo will be in the on-deck circle next year. At 27, Trumbo should be in his prime and plying his trade in a much better ballpark should make 30 + HRs a virtual lock. Of more concern is his rising K rate (184 in'13) and decreasing BA, which fell to .234 last year thanks to a nightmarish .216 second half. Can't help but think of Trumbo and Granderson as brothers from another mother when it comes to all or nothing hitting, but have to give Mr. T a decided edge when it comes to overall production next year, given his new park and playmates.
OMAR INFANTE, 2B, ROYALS
Steady player who hit career-high .318 deep in the Tiger's order in '13. BA figures to drop back well under .300 and modest power won't be enhanced in spacious new digs. If he hits higher in the Royals' order, however, a sizeable uptick in runs will almost certainly result. In short, Omar seems stuck in neutral--neither a great plus or minus in most fantasy line-ups-- but consistently so, which ain't all bad is it ?
ADAM EATON, OF, WHITE SOX
A popular sleeper pick last year, Eaton spent most of '13 recovering from a sprained UCL. Now healthy,it looks like he has the inside track on an everyday OF role with the Sox. Still getting back on his feet, the 25 year-old Eaton may need at least some of the upcoming season to re-establish himself as a legitimate 15/ 25 candidate. Actually, this guy reminds me a bit of Angel Pagan--both strike me a solid picks for those #3-5 OF slots.
JHONNY PERALTA, SS, CARDS
St. Louis signed Peralta to a four-year, $52 million contract, underscoring the fiscal benefits of PED use. Steady with limited range and no speed, but decent power, the creatively spelled Jhonny can be a line-up plus, especially in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. Can't see the change in meds making him the next Melky...but figure on at least a slight power haircut for this guy in '14.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
Every year it seems, Coors Field reasserts itself as both a hitters' paradise and pitchers' nightmare. JUSTIN MORNEAU will be among the latest to test that premise. As the replacement for Todd Helton, the 32 year-old vet is a professional hitter who has seen his power tail off to just 17 HRs most recently in Pittsburgh. You have to like the odds given his new environs that he bounces back with something like 25HRs in '14 as a Rockie, making him a viable mid-round sleeper candidate come draft day.
Joining Morneau will be the well-regarded but oft-injured left hander, BRETT ANDERSON. He'll be a starter and has a history of inducing tons of ground balls.So far, so good, but he doesn't miss a ton of bats either so at least a few of his offerings figure to enjoy Rocky Mountain Highs over Coors this Summer. Still, he's only 25 and has been first-rate when healthy and could well be overlooked on draft day. Hard to go wrong by taking a late round flyer here.
Also joining the Rockies is the well-traveled, 41 year-old reliever, LATROY HAWKINS. He's expected to be the closer, though some wags think he'll be more like a late inning"exploder" in Coors. Colorado also rosters Rex Brothers who was very effective in the closing role last year, so LaTroy won't have much margin for error either. In fairness, Hawkins did yeoman's work as the Mets closer after Bobby Parnell hit the IR last year, but sorry, I'm not clicking on him unless I'm truly draft day desperate next year.
On the other hand, former Rockie OF DEXTER FOWLER packs his bag and heads to Houston. Since he hit a solid .311 at home but just .214 on the road, could he be one more poster child for the Curse of Coors ? Maybe...but maybe not. Minute Maid is actually a pretty good hitters' venue in its own right. And Fowler could well be the Astros marquee player, so no problem in racking up those all important ABs. If he stays off the DL, can't see why the fleet Fowler won't hit somewhere around .280 while fulfilling his 20/20 potential.
THE CLOSER CAROUSEL
Round and round it goes every year. Unknowns always come out of the woodwork. Proven veterans suddenly can't get anyone out. Only a few seem to have true staying power from year to year. I hate 'em ! Hate drafting 'em ! Hate scrambling/guessing all season long to find the next one ! But like 'em or not, they are a necessary fantasy evil...so let's look at some of what's been happening so far in our Hot Stove bullpens...
ADDISON REED, RP, DIAMONBACKS
Did solid work with. The White Sox, racking up 40 saves. Only 24, he should stay productive in Arizona,another hitter friendly park, but backed by a better line-up. While he has the inside track for now, he may have to withstand a spring training challenge from the able Brad Ziegler. Assuming he does, Ziegler could help him see even more save opportunities by shutting down opponents in the eighth inning throughout the season.
JOHN AXFORD, RP, INDIANS
The AX man has gone from 45 to 35 to zero saves over the last three seasons. The Indians obviously believe he can rediscover his dominant heater and breaking ball location. Not sure myself, but the upside is well worth a flyer ! The talented Cody Allen lurks,however.
JIM JOHNSON, RP, OAKLAND
Not a K monster by any means, but Johnson's awesome sinker has nevertheless produced 101 saves over the past two years in the oh-so-tough AL East. Can't think of a reason why his success won't continue this season with the contending A's in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. Billy Beane really wanted this guy and that's good enough for me !
JOE NATHAN, RP, TIGERS
He may be 39, but was terrific in chummy Arlington last year. Now he moves to another top team in a roomier park, backing up the likes of Scherzer, Verlander and Sanchez. Can't see how he fails to have another banner season !
JOSE VERAS, RP, CUBS
Talk about underrated. This guy was made sport of as the woeful Astros' closer,yet racked up 21 saves in Houston, before being traded to Detroit as a set-up guy. Jose wound up '13 with 60 Ks in 63 innings, a 3.02 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. OK, he's no Kimbrel. But he's a lot better bet than many for success next year as the Cubs' closer.
Getting back to PEDs, it will be interesting to see where Nelson Cruz winds up...as well as other big names like David Price, Bronson Arroyo, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Kendrys Morales and Grant Balfour. With any luck we'll have those answers in time for Part 3 of this interminable saga as the Hot Stove keeps on cooking into the new year.
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