As spring camp nears, fantasy values shift

Shields can benefit from new home ballpark; V-Mart's surgery a concern

As spring camp nears, fantasy values shift

Though much of the country is covered in snow, fantasy baseball enthusiasts can start dreaming of a sunny April day when they will see their future draft picks in action. This is a great time for smart owners to begin formulating their 2015 draft list and catch up on the late-winter roster moves. Here are some of the players who saw their fantasy value change during the first half of February.

Value up

James Shields (Padres): The move to Petco Park can still help Shields, who has spent his entire career in pitcher-friendly home venues, make slight gains with his ratios. And though his strikeout rate dipped in 2014, a season facing National League lineups could push the 33-year-old to 200 whiffs in 2015. Shields is a borderline No. 2 starter in mixed leagues, and he is a terrific option for the third rotation spot.

Eric Young Jr. (Braves): Young stole 68 bases in 734 plate appearances as a member of the Mets from 2013-14, so he should be able to help NL-only teams if he secures a part-time role with the Braves. Atlanta doesn't have much star power in the outfield, which gives Young a good chance to make the team. Granted, the New Jersey native will likely offer little help in most categories, but he could near 25 swipes.

Brandon Belt (Giants): San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy is planning to bat Belt out of the three-hole, which gives the first baseman exciting potential for 2015. The 26-year-old has hit for power and average in the Majors, but rarely at the same time. Primed for a breakout season, he is a fine corner-infield option in mixed leagues.

Joe Panik (Giants): Despite hitting .305, Panik did not dent most fantasy rosters during his rookie season in 2014. Showing a lack of power (one homer) and speed (zero steals) in 287 plate appearances, he was an afterthought in mixed formats. But Bochy is planning on putting Panik second in the order in 2015, which should allow the 24-year-old to score plenty of runs. He should help NL-only teams, and he could be a useful bench player in deep mixed leagues.

Value down

Victor Martinez (Tigers): Martinez was an early-round pick in initial 2015 drafts despite concerns that he could regress some following a career year in '14. However, his mid-February knee surgery has seemingly put a scare into fantasy owners and caused the 36-year-old's draft stock to rapidly fall. The Tigers remain optimistic that Martinez will be ready for Opening Day, and the light rigors of being a designated hitter may give him a better chance than if he played a more physically-demanding position. Fantasy owners can slightly downgrade Martinez, but he should still be selected in the early rounds of 2015 drafts.

Casey McGehee (Giants): Belt and Panik were the fantasy winners in Bochy's planned batting order, but McGehee's stock will likely fall as a result of his new manager's lineup. McGehee is expected to bat in the sixth spot, which is a major drop after he hit cleanup behind Giancarlo Stanton with the Marlins last season. McGehee hit .278 with four dingers in 2014, and he will likely struggle to improve his power numbers while playing half of his games in AT&T Park. The 32-year-old should start the season on waivers in virtually all mixed leagues.

Josh Hamilton (Angels): As a 33-year-old coming off an 88-game season, Hamilton was already a risky proposition for 2015, and his February shoulder surgery further depresses projections. The slugger smacked 10 taters last season, and he may be unlikely to have a major power surge now that he will miss Spring Training and possibly part of April. At this point Hamilton is a late-round pick in shallow mixed leagues, and it would not be foolish for a drafting group to let him fall to waivers.

Rickie Weeks (Mariners): The 32-year-old has never made a Major League defensive appearance at any position other than second base, and his lack of versatility may have limited his free-agent options. Clubs seemed unwilling to make Weeks their starting second baseman, and he is unlikely to exceed 250 at-bats in the coming season with Robinson Cano at the keystone position for Seattle.

Dustin Ackley (Mariners): If Weeks can find a niche with his new club, it could be as a left-field platoon partner for Ackley. The latter posted a .255 on-base percentage vs. southpaws last season, and Weeks' specialty is his ability to handle lefties. Ackley has yet to show notable power or speed, and if he receives fewer than 450 at-bats he will likely have trouble getting off the waiver wire in mixed leagues.

Others with falling fantasy values: Zoilo Almonte (Braves), Brad Peacock (Astros), Casey Janssen (Nationals), Odrisamer Despaigne (Padres), Kyle Kendrick (Rockies).

Value neutral

Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers): Lucroy is expected to miss four to six weeks due to a right hamstring strain, but his 2015 draft ranking should remain static. The 28-year-old has plenty of time to heal before Opening Day, and he should be able get his swing ready for regular-season action during the rehab process in March. If Lucroy starts to slide in fantasy drafts, smart owners will snap him up and come away with an elite catcher at a discounted price.

Roberto Hernandez (Astros): By inking a Minor League deal with the Astros, Hernandez wisely chose a club that offers a reasonable chance to win a rotation spot. The 34-year-old is expected to battle with the likes of Brad Peacock and Dan Straily for the fifth-starter job, and Hernandez eats innings well enough that he may be able to hold off the younger hurlers. However, the right-hander owns a 1.41 career WHIP, and his inability to keep the bases clear will limit his usefulness to deep AL-only formats.

Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.