Adam Wainwright May Be Lost for Season

In what would be a devastating loss for the Cardinals and Wainwright owners alike, the runner-up for last year’s NL Cy Young is headed back to St. Louis for further tests on his right elbow after a Monday throwing session went awry. Reports indicate that the 6’7″ righty felt pain and stiffness yesterday, and further evaluation by trainers have led the team to believe that a significant ligament injury is possible.

Analysis: Panic has set in around Tony LaRussa’s club, as the cornerstone of their pitching staff may be headed for Tommy John surgery. Amassing 39 wins over the past two seasons, Wainwright and Chris Carpenter form one of the best 1-2 tandems in the game. A budding workhorse, the 29-year-old has established himself as an elite and irreplaceable arm within a divison that has suddenly become much more competitive considering the Brewers’ beefed up rotation. Fantasy owners who claim Wainwright as a keeper will certainly be holding their collective breath over the next 48-72 hours, along with all of St. Louis.

Projection: Although the verdict may not be in for several days, you can be sure that the Cards are already scrambling behind the scenes for a potential replacement in the rotation. Internal candidates include P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, and veteran Ian Snell, with the upper hand probably going to Walters. However, a very serviceable option still remains on the free agent market in the form of Kevin Millwood. The two time 18-game winner could certainly benefit from a return to the National League, and has made it known that he is holding out for a Major League deal; something other rotation-thin teams such as the Yankees have been unwilling to offer thus far. I believe that Millwood would slot in nicely right behind Jaime Garcia, and could be good for 12-14 wins in 30+ starts.

Rumors of Alfredo Simon Release Are Premature

Rumors had been circulating earlier in the week that Baltimore reliever Alfredo Simon would be released from a Dominican Republic jail within the next 7-10 days, allowing him to participate in spring training and be a part of the Orioles bullpen come Opening Day. Simon, charged with manslaughter in a fatal New Year’s Eve shooting, has been held without bail since January 3. However, city prosecutor Victor Mueses told ESPNDeportes’ Enrique Rojas that Simon will remain behind bars and that they have “strong evidence to incriminate him in this bloody event.”

Analysis: The 6’4 righty, who saved 17 games for a beleaguered O’s pen in 2010, was placed on the team’s Restricted List this past Friday. The stories of his potential release spread quickly, and a level of optimism surfaced among the team as well as the Baltimore faithful. Unfortunately for Simon, these rumors appear to have lacked validity and his future in professional baseball is once again in question. Hopefully this situation is rectified in a timely fashion, and justice is served one way or another.

Projection: Expected to compete for a late-inning role this spring, it now looks as if Simon will be a non-factor for the fans at Camden as well as Fantasy owners. If the newly acquired Kevin Gregg becomes Buck Showalter’s choice to close out games, this most likely leaves the setup man competition between Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara. Although the team was high on Simon’s arm and was looking forward to his progression, this new development is certainly not a crushing blow to a roster that has been restocked and should make some noise – even in the AL East. Maintain a watchful eye on how the 8th and 9th inning spots shake out on Buck’s list throughout camp, but scratch Simon’s name off of your depth charts.

Prince Fielder Not Your Typical Bounce Back Candidate

Prince Fielder’s 5 seasons as a full time masher, ISO: .213-.330-.231-.303-.209. Last season he was the 6th biggest NL hitter bust in auction leagues: average cost $38, earned $22.

Analysis: It’s a wonderfully long season for the fan, but a veteran’s greeting at Doug Glanville’s first Spring Training sums it up– welcome to The Show; you’ll never be 100% healthy again. Prince didn’t miss a day on the DL in 2010, but he played through a sore left-hand in April, then a sore left wrist in August.

Projection: 39 HR, 113 R, 135 RBI, 2 SB, .283 BA

Auction Tactics: On Auction Day unspent salary cap is a loss. In order to spend it all you must embrace risk by making at least a couple of big purchases. Typically the best-case scenario is to break even on large investments, but Prince will do better, returning a slight profit.

Which B.J. Upton Will We See This Season?

Over two years removed from left shoulder surgery and sporting newfound mechanical tweaks to his swing, Tampa Bay’s enigmatic speedster has entered camp with what seems to be a rejuvenated confidence.

Analysis: Fantasy owners have heard this before about Upton, and have been subsequently met with major disappointment. After a monster postseason in ’08 where he helped carry the young Rays to the World Series, it appeared that B.J. was ready to harness the bevy of tools he’d been teasing us with glimpses of since his debut as a 19-year-old in 2004. Unfortunately, surgery followed and so did a pair of underachieving campaigns which left a bad taste in the mouths of those who drafted him high. While Upton is always good for stolen bases (he’s averaged 43 over the past 3 years), doubles (38 in 2010), and some pop (18 HRs, 89 RBI last season), he has never managed to put the whole package together for a full stretch. It could be argued that he did this in 2007, compiling a slash line of .300/.386/.508 with 24 HR, 82 RBI, and 22 SB in just 129 games. For a talent such as his, however, we’ve always expected those numbers to get better and better as he got older. To date this hasn’t happened, but let’s not forget that he is still only 26 years old. If the former first-rounder is finally coming around from his 2008 surgery, and if the mechanical changes to his stroke are truly sound, we may finally see the B.J. Upton that Rays fans and his Fantasy owners have been impatiently waiting for.

Projection: Skepticism is abound when murmurs of a breakout year from B.J. Upton are heard. Nevertheless, I am a believer in Joe Maddon’s centerfielder in 2011. The combination of his revamped swing, new attitude, and fully healed shoulder along with the underrated veteran influence of Johnny Damon to his right make this the season where Upton finally puts it all together for 150+ games. Keep in mind that he also has Desmond Jennings nipping at his heels and could find himself fighting for a job if he doesn’t produce. Although this may sound like a familiar broken record from years past, my advice is to grab Upton while nobody is looking – as he’ll certainly fall to the middle rounds in H2H leagues. Roto owners won’t wait as long, because of the guarantee of 35+ stolen bags, so be aware. Call me crazy, but I predict that Upton tops his 2007 production and may even flirt with 30 and 100.

Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner Have Something Special In Common

Derek Jeter has both a new stride and a new contract in his old roles as leadoff hitter and The Captain, while Brett Garner continues to mature at the bottom of the Yankee batting order.

Analysis: One has Menka Kelly, an apartment in Trump Tower, and an English Manor house in Florida. The other is the son of a South Carolina Low Country tomato farmer, who couldn’t get past the walk-on cut in college try outs, yet he wouldn’t take no as an answer, showing up uninvited the next day in his old high school uniform. Ten seasons later Gardner is firmly planted in left field in the Bronx and at the bottom of the batting order. Jeter will achieve a pinstriped milestone- 3,000 hits this season. Many sabermetricians feel Gardner will regress this season, as they feel his BABIP in 2010 indicates his batting average will dip in 2011 and thus most likely his stolen bases as well. Some of those same experts say The Captain has lost too much to contribute at the top of the batting order. Yet it is common place for great hitters at the end of their careers to make little tweaks in their swings to prolong their role as impact players on their teams. Never bet against either of these players. What they have in common and is often over-looked is talent as defined by the estimable Joe Posnanski – “talent just might be what we call hunger, the unquenchable desire…”

We do agree with the expert Bill James on these lines in 2011:

Jeter 703 13 101 68 17 0.295 0.365
Gardner 589 5 101 46 50 0.275 0.377

If the top and the bottom of the Yankee batting order account for a total of 202 runs and 67 stolen bases, then don’t worry about the championship quality of the Yankee offense. The Yankees will make the play-offs in 2011 if they have 3/4s of that kind of success 60 feet 6 inches from home plate.