After coming into camp as a longshot on a Minor League deal, the former Cy Young Award winner has dominated this spring.
Analysis: Last night’s outing against the Rays most likely sealed the deal in the competition for the Yankees fifth starter job, a position that has come down to a dogfight with fellow veteran Freddy Garcia. It appears that young Ivan Nova has the fourth spot locked up, so the two are battling it out for the last job available. Retiring 18 of the 20 batters faced yesterday, Colon looked outstanding while racking up five strikeouts over six innings. Many of his 64 pitches thrown, 52 for strikes, were clocked in the 91-93 MPH range with a bevy of impressive changeups and cutters mixed in. Nobody is expecting Colon to return to his All-Star form, but so far his command and overall stuff has caused the Yankees brass to reminisce on the past. A 2.40 ERA to go along with 17 strikeouts and only 1 walk over 15 innings will do that.
Projection: Colon’s performance over the past two weeks has been surprising to most, including myself. You cannot argue with the results, however, and he has earned a coveted spot in the Yankees rotation. Garcia’s recent struggles have only cemented this projection even further. Although both could essentially wind up on the Opening Day roster, Garcia’s spot would be as a long man at best. Barring an injury between now and then, bet on Bartolo Colon starting every fifth day for the Yankees. The chances of him staying healthy for the entire season are somewhat slim, though, so he isn’t worth picking up too early. As a late round sleeper, however, Colon could prove to be a very valuable acquisition for your Fantasy squad during the early months of 2011.
After stating just a week ago that his heart was focused on closing, the Rangers fireballer pulled a complete 180 yesterday, telling reporters that his goal was to make the starting rotation out of camp.
Analysis: Talk of Feliz eventually joining Texas’s rotation began as soon as the Dominican righty hit the scene in 2009. After saving 40 games en route to a World Series berth last year, however, those rumors cooled off a bit but not for long. As soon as pitchers and catchers reported last month, speculation about the AL Rookie of the Year slotting in behind the likes of C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis heated up once again. Althouh Feliz has been absolutely dominant as a closer, the thought of him starting every fifth day is intriguing to the Rangers brass. An arm of his quality would soften the blow of losing Cliff Lee, and visions of a future ace are certainly no pipe dream. The team has not committed to this move, but they may choose to accommodate the 22-year-old’s desire to return to the role he occupied in 53 minor league starts from ’06-’09. Ron Washington’s club has more to consider, though, as Feliz is by far their best in-house closer option.
Projection: Striking out nine in as many innings so far this spring, Feliz has picked up right where he left off in October. Mixing in a newly refined cutter last week, it appears as if the Rangers phenom is attempting to widen his pitch array. If the Rangers feel comfortable with one of their other bullpen options taking over the ninth, or if GM Jon Daniels can get his hands on a more experienced stopper, then Feliz in the rotation should and will happen. While he’s bound to experience minor growing pains as a starter, the youngster’s stuff and guile alone may be enough to get him through even the rockiest of patches. Backed by a fundamentally sound defense and a prodigious lineup, Feliz would be in position to win 15 games with a 8.5-9.5 SO/9 rate. Although Fantasy owners may miss his save numbers, they’ll practically drool over his future numbers as a member of the Rangers staff.
The former All-Star’s continued battle back from shoulder surgery appears to be on the right track, which could be a huge plus for both Mets fans and Fantasy owners.
Analysis: A towering presence on the mound, the 6’10” Young is all but a shoe-in for a spot in the Amazin’s 2011 rotation. After undergoing right shoulder surgery in August of ’09, the 31-year-old finally made it back to the mound last September, going 2-0 in four very impressive starts which took place during a Padres playoff chase. Young’s performance in these pressure games brought back memories of his first two seasons in San Diego (’06 and ’07) where he struck out 331 batters over 352.1 innings, leading the league in hits allowed per nine innings both years. Never a true power arm despite his intimidating size, the big right-hander has added a splitter to his arsenal this spring in an effort to see more ground balls. Traditionally a fly ball pitcher, adding this lower in the strike zone option to the mix makes him that more dangerous to opposing hitters. His Grapefruit League progress has been very reassuring, allowing two runs (on two solo homers) over nine innings to date.
Projection: The 2011 Mets are a team rife with uncertainties and, to be fair, we have to place Young in that category. His sample size since returning from surgery, albeit enticing, is a small one. However, the indications that Young can return to his All-Star form are promising. Backed by a sometimes inconsistent yet potentially explosive offense and an average bullpen, the possibility for a comeback season is gaining steam with each spring appearance. Owners willing to take a flier on Young may end up pleasantly surprised to the tune of 12-14 victories and a low ERA, especially in spacious Citi Field.
In a very candid, upbeat interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesca earlier this week, Alex Rodriguez made it clear that he is now fully recovered from his 2009 hip surgery.
Analysis: Make no mistake; This isn’t the same A-Rod who used to choke under pressure, and then give scripted answers to the throng of media waiting for him after each big game. This isn’t the same A-Rod whose guarded, uptight persona caused noticeable tension in the clubhouse. This is the A-Rod who drove in 18 runs in the 2009 postseason en route to his first ring. This is the A-Rod who opened this spring’s introductory press conference by joking about “Popcorn-gate”, his televised moment of PDA with Cameron Diaz during the Super Bowl. This is the A-Rod who feels at home in his own skin, a feeling that has eluded him since arriving in New York seven years ago. Coming into camp visibly trimmer, the future Hall of Famer appears ready to roll, and sounds determined to improve on his 2010 output. Granted, he did hit 30 bombs and drive in 125 runs, a great season for 98% of his peers. However, Rodriguez is not like the rest of the league. Matter of fact, he’s far from it. Arguably the most talented player of this generation, his surgery definitely slowed him down whether he will admit it or not. Never one to make excuses, Rodriguez did admit that he has done significantly more rehab than training over the last 2 or 3 years at the instruction of his surgeon, Dr. Marc Philippon. Those restrictions were lifted by his doctor this past November and A-Rod is back to training at his old pace, a scary thought for American League pitchers. Although he won’t admit that his rehab has directly affected his production, reading between the lines says otherwise.
Projection: A-Rod owners should be giddy about his current state of mind and physical condition as he comes into this season with no limitations, hungry for another championship. Surrounded once again by a ridiculous lineup, it is not inconceivable that he return to his MVP form of 2007 where he led the league in runs, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. Rodriguez doesn’t get the respect that he used to on Draft Day, and this could be a boon for those who believe in his potential resurgence. It’s time to treat Rodriguez like a first round pick once again, whether the other owners in your league believe that or not.
After two scoreless outings thus far this spring, the Dominican native has already put himself in good position to win a spot at the back of the Yankees unsettled rotation.
Analysis: Much has been made this offseason about the Yankees 4 and 5 spots in their starting rotation, with a host of characters in camp trying to secure one of these coveted jobs. Among these staff hopefuls are veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, along with the 24-year-old Nova. Originally signed as an amateur free agent in 2004 but stolen away from New York in December 2008’s Rule 5 draft, the 6’4″ right-hander was returned to the Yankees after a horrible spring training just a few months later. This looks like a blessing for the Bombers, as Nova appears to be coming into his own after making seven big league starts last season. He’s created a significant amount of buzz over the past seven days among Yankees staff and scouts alike, retiring all six Phillies he faced on Sunday and hurling three shutout frames yesterday against the Rays. With a little over three weeks of Grapefruit League action remaining, Nova is currently a favorite for the starting rotation.
Projection: Barring a complete meltdown, a trade or signing (the chances of this are very slim according to GM Brian Cashman), or a godlike resurgence from the portly Colon, Nova will head north at the end of this month as one of the Yankees starters. Perhaps the biggest knock on the youngster last year was his inability to finish six innings each turn. This was never an issue for Nova as he worked his way up from the GCL to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he’ll be able to overcome this obstacle at the Major League level. As his confidence grows, so will his penchant for challenging hitters as opposed to nibbling around the plate and inflating his pitch count early in the game. These types of growing pains have surfaced in even the best arms, but are always magnified tenfold when pitching in the Bronx. I do not see endurance being a problem this year, and that spells good Fantasy numbers for Nova. Backed by a solid defense, a lockdown bullpen, and one of the best offenses in the league, look for Ivan to provide 12-14 wins over 28-30 starts. If he can improve the bite on his curveball to go along with his impressive sinking fastball, then count on him for a solid number of strikeouts as well.