Innings limits shouldn't be a major concern for fantasy owners during draft season, as fantasy pitching is more about quality than quantity. But the recent comments from Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist suggest that 22-year-old Michael Wacha may reach the 200-inning mark this season. In 64 2/3 innings last season, Wacha posted a 2.78 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 65 whiffs. A full season of Wacha-work could quickly vault the youngster to the status of No. 2 mixed-league starter. On average, the Iowa native is currently being drafted in the eighth round of 12-team mixed leagues, in the same grouping as hurlers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Gerrit Cole and James Shields.
Sleepless in Seattle
On Saturday, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged that the team doesn't expect to have Hisashi Iwakuma (finger) or Taijuan Walker (shoulder) in the Opening Day rotation. Fantasy owners need to drop Iwakuma in their rankings, as it will be hard for the 32-year-old to rack up 200 innings if he starts the season on the disabled list. For Walker, a delayed start to 2014 could be a blessing in disguise, as it could allow the 21-year-old to cruise into September without the worry of an innings limit. For that reason, Walker is still a viable option in shallow-league drafts. Another youngster, James Paxton, has the most to gain from the Mariners' injury woes. The southpaw tossed 24 impressive Major League innings last season (1.50 ERA, 21 strikeouts), and he now has a good chance to open 2014 in the starting five. Paxton did struggle in Triple-A last season to the tune of a 4.45 ERA, which suggests that he may need more Minor League seasoning.
"Jaime Garcia, meet Dr. James Andrews....."
It is never good news when a pitcher is linked to baseball's most famous surgeon, and fantasy owners have reason to be worried about the Cardinals' Garcia, who received a cortisone injection and has been shut down for at least 10-15 days. The 27-year-old was limited to just nine starts last season, so an early Spring Training injury is likely to keep him off all mixed-league draft boards. Garcia's career 3.45 ERA shows that he's still worth a couple of dollars in NL-only formats, but he can't push his value higher than that until he gets back on the mound. The trickle-down effect from Garcia's injury is one to watch for fantasy owners. If Garcia were to start the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would likely fill in as the team's No. 5 starter. But there is a chance that exciting youngster Carlos Martinez (2.51 ERA in Triple-A last season) could push his way into the rotation with a strong spring. Owners in deep mixed leagues should already have Martinez on the radar.
Twins third-base prospect Miguel Sano was regarded as one of the top rookies coming into the season, but a Saturday announcement that he will undergo Tommy John surgery sapped all of that excitement. Fans won't see Sano in action until 2015, which means that veteran Trevor Plouffe has a good chance to hold his job at the hot corner for the entire season.
Box score bytes
Brewers infielder Juan Francisco bopped a pair of homers on Thursday. Despite the offseason acquisition of Mark Reynolds, Francisco could secure a large share of the first-base job with a productive spring. He's one to watch in NL-only formats.
Speaking of the Brewers, outfielder Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat on Thursday. Braun has crept back into the first round of most mixed-league drafts. If he can put his 2013 season behind him, the Brewers star could return to being a top-five fantasy-baseball asset by season's end.
Reds southpaw Tony Cingrani struck out three across a pair of scoreless innings on Saturday. Because of his high strikeout rate, the hard-thrower could quickly become a viable No. 3 starter in mixed leagues.
Pirates top prospect Gregory Polanco went deep on Thursday. The youngster may already have the skills to beat out Travis Snider and Jose Tabata for a starting job, which means that Polanco is worth a late-round pick in deep mixed leagues.
Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon swiped three bases in his first four Spring Training games. If the Dodgers decide to start Alexander Guerrero's season in the Minors, Gordon could swipe plenty of bags as the team's early-season second baseman.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke left his Thursday start with a mild right calf strain. At this point, the injury should not affect his draft-day value, but it's worth noting that Greinke missed five starts in two of the past three seasons.
Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Gose went 2-for-2 with a pair of steals on Saturday. Unless the team brings in a veteran, the 23-year-old will likely make the team as a fourth outfielder, which will give him the chance to contribute double-digit steals to AL-only teams.
Speaking of the Blue Jays, Drew Hutchison fired a pair of scoreless frames on Saturday. Manager John Gibbons has left the door open for Hutchison to claim the last rotation spot, and the 23-year-old has more upside than his competitors. For now, he is worth a $1 bid in AL-only leagues.
Right-hander James McDonald gave up six runs in one inning of work during his Cubs debut on Friday. McDonald is facing an uphill battle to win a rotation spot, and at this moment he isn't worth a late-round pick in NL-only formats.