A total of 13 players were dropped over the weekend as teams began the process of transforming their rosters in preparation for Opening Day. Twinkle Toes and owner Sunni York was the most active team, adding several bullpen arms and a couple of position players. Seven of the players added were setup men or closers, as teams focused on fortifying their bullpens.
The season opens Wednesday as Seattle and Oakland start a two-game series in Japan. The Cardinals and Marlins will begin their season-opening series on April 4 and seven games will be featured on April 5 as the season begins in earnest. Owners have time this week to continue tinkering with their rosters before setting their starting lineups on April 1. A quick reminder - once you've added new players to your roster you will need to place them in your starting lineup. The Yahoo system automatically places free agent acquisitions on your bench.
Here is a look at the major storylines surrounding each team as we march towards Opening Day.
Chris Carpenter's nerve injury has owner Carolyn Greene on edge. Carpenter is a key to the starting rotation for the defending North Division champions and Carpenter has lost significant playing time in the past with this injury. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, there is no timetable for Carpenter's return and it could be several months before he returns to the mound. Carolyn added free agent Jason Vargas to fill in for Carpenter. Relievers Carlos Marmol and Juan Carlos Oviedo also have issues. Oviedo is in immigration purgatory after lying about his name and age for the past seven seasons. He is on Miami's restricted list and it's not clear if he'll pitch for the team this year. Marmol, the top closer for The Bulls, left a game last week with a hand cramp and the team tested him for nerve damage. The tests came back negative but Marmol will need to get through this week to be ready for Opening Day. Chris Capuano has had a good spring, engineering a 3.29 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 13.2 innings pitched. He's struck out 15 batters while walking just four. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez leads the Rockies with 13 RBI this spring and has a double and a home run in 36 at bats. Emilio Bonifacio has a double, a triple, and two stolen bases in 39 at bats but he's struck out six times while walking just once. First baseman Ike Davis has had a solid spring, driving in six runs, scoring four times, and belting a home run. He could be a draft day steal after falling to the 11th round.
Outfielder Logan Morrison ran the bases in a minor league game Sunday, reviving hope that he'll return from a knee injury in time for Opening Day. Owner Eric Brown can't afford an injury on offense as his only position player on the bench is Mike Trout and it's likely he'll start the season in the minor leagues. The team also lost pitching depth Sunday when Trevor Bauer was sent to the minors by Arizona. It looks like two other young pitching prospects - Drew Pomeranz and Hector Noesi - will be in the starting rotations for Colorado and Seattle respectively. Jesse Crain is scheduled to pitch Tuesday and that outing will determine whether he becomes a factor in the competition to be closer for the White Sox. Crain is one of five pitchers vying for the ninth inning job but he's behind due to a strained oblique. If Crain earns the job, Eric will have three closers on Opening Day, an enviable position. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain has had a sensational spring and could open the season hitting second for the Royals. Cain has gone 21-for-44 with eight doubles, four home runs, and two stolen bases. First baseman Eric Hosmer is also off to a hot start, going 20-for-55 with 18 RBI in 20 games. Hosmer has also been playing the outfield as Kansas City wants Hosmer and Billy Butler to both be in the starting lineup during interleague play. Setup man Jonny Venters has had some elbow issues but is expected to toss a bullpen session this week and possibly appear in a spring training game. Venters should open the season with Atlanta.
Given the PECOTA rankings, owner Brian Benzing should be giddy, but Give it a Yankee has some serious injury issues coming out of spring training. Second baseman Chase Utley is sidelined with two aching knees. It's not clear when he'll play in a spring training game or if he'll be ready for Opening Day. Brian has depth at the position with Gordon Beckham on the bench. Outfielder Corey Hart had a knee operation prior to spring training but is beginning rehab in minor league games. It's questionable whether he'll be ready for Opening Day but he shouldn't miss too much time. Vernon Wells and Alex Presley are available on the bench so Give it a Yankee has outfield depth to cover Hart's absence. Closer Chris Perez is scheduled to work a minor league game this week after returning from a strained oblique. Perez could make his Cactus League debut by Friday. Brian needs Perez in the lineup because Jordan Walden is the only other closer on the roster. Pitcher Daniel Bard's role in 2012 is up in the air. Boston manager Bobby Valentine wants Bard moved back to the bullpen, where he's been one of the best setup men in baseball the past two seasons. General manager Ben Cherington wants Bard in the starting rotation. Bard is more valuable to Brian as a relief pitcher.
Bailey will have three players active this week in the Seattle-Oakland two-game series in Japan. Catcher Kurt Suzuki, outfielder Coco Crisp and relief pitcher Brian Fuentes are all expected to play a major role for the A's. The best news out of spring training for Home Run 101 is the health of starting pitcher Josh Johnson. In just over 16 innings pitched, Johnson has a 15:9 strikeout/walk ratio and a healthy 1.62 ERA. As a keeper, Johnson's success will be critical to the team's season. Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero has yet to sign with a major league team and may not, leaving Bailey with just Alexi Casilla as an offensive option off the bench. A reserve outfielder will be needed as Carl Crawford won't break camp with Boston. He'll remain in Fort Myers to participate in extended spring training games as he continues to recover from a wrist injury. Pitchers Josh Collmenter and Philip Humber both entered spring training without a certain spot in the starting rotation for their respective clubs. Now it appears both have earned those spots, giving Bailey added starting pitching depth. Humber has been particularly sharp in three starts with a 2.25 ERA and 0.58 WHIP over 12 innings. Shortstop Ian Desmond has scored five runs and driven in five RBI but has struck out 15 times while walking just twice in 53 spring at bats.
Owner David Kahn made his first fantasy baseball transaction over the weekend, dropping the oft-injured Grady Sizemore and adding outfielder Michael Brantley. David will need to move Brantley, Jason Bay or Jason Kubel into the starting lineup next Monday. He will also need to add another free agent to replace starting pitcher Brad Peacock, who was optioned to the minor leagues last week. The elbow injury to Ryan Madson will likely move Sean Marshall into the closer role for Cincinnati, giving HUMA a second closer to support Jim Johnson. Closer might be HUMA's biggest weakness, so this is a stroke of good luck for the rookie manager. Mitch Moreland has had a productive spring for Texas, getting a team-high 47 at bats through 18 games. Moreland has 12 hits, a home run, and he's scored four times. Outfielder Jason Bay has also been strong, scoring five times in 13 games while hitting two doubles and stealing two bases. Bay would represent a tremendous draft day steal if he continues this production, as David picked him in the 25th round. It's doubtful HUMA will be able to carry two outfielders on the bench for the entire season so Bay's emergence could make Kubel or Brantley expendable.
How long will Jenni Kirk keep Roy Oswalt? The starting pitcher has yet to sign with a Major League team and he's the only pitcher on the bench for Los Coche Bomba. Alexi Ogando is going to transition back to the bullpen which would leave Jenni with just four starting pitchers on Opening Day. First baseman Todd Helton is on fire this spring. He's 11-for-27 with five doubles, two home runs, seven runs scored and five RBI. Not bad for a 20th round draft pick. Helton is a likely candidate to be moved into the utility position currently occupied by Chipper Jones. Jones had knee surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus and will be sidelined for at least the first week of the regular season. First baseman Miguel Cabrera has yet to be cleared by doctors after fracturing the orbital bone under his right eye when a hard grounder bounced off the dirt and struck him in the face. Cabrera is the best player for Los Coche Bomba and the team cannot afford to have him miss any playing time, though he is expected to be ready by Opening Day. The injury to Kansas City closer Joakim Soria could provide Jenni with a fourth closer. Setup man Greg Holland, who has had a sensational spring, is vying for the ninth inning role with veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton.
Matt got an early start on reshaping his roster when he dropped starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and added third baseman Casey McGehee. McGehee is battling Pedro Alvarez for the starting job in Pittsburgh. McGehee has gone 10-for-35 with four doubles and five RBI in 14 games while Alvarez is a miserable 4-for-30 with 13 strikeouts. One of the hottest hitters this spring has been outfielder Adam Jones. In 13 games, Jones has gone 15-for-37 with a double, three home runs and 11 RBI. Setup man David Robertson has entered spring training late due to a sprained foot but logged his first inning on Sunday and should be ready for Opening Day. Matt will be watching the end of A's games with regularity this season, as relief pitcher Grant Balfour was named the team's closer. That gives him support for John Axford in the weekly quest to win the saves category. The Twins are trying to find a regular position for Ryan Doumit. He could play some catcher, some right field and also DH. He should be a regular in the lineup and could earn OF eligibility at some point during the season.
Searching for another bullpen arm to earn saves, Carla added Hector Santiago earlier today. Santiago is one of five relievers trying to become the closer for the Chicago White Sox. Aroldis Chapman could also earn some saves in Cincinnati due to the Ryan Madson injury. Sean Marshall will initially get the ninth inning gig for the Reds but if he falters, Chapman will be ready with his 105 MPH heater. Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson has been unbelievable this spring. In 12.1 innings, Wilson has allowed just eight hits and one run. His ERA stands at 0.64 and his WHIP is 0.71. Kendrys Morales looks to be on pace for Opening Day after missing nearly two years with a fractured ankle that occurred while celebrating a home run. He's played in three spring training games, going 5-for-9 with a home run and two RBI. Morales could be a significant power source for The Cys in 2012.
No fantasy league team has seen more spring training turmoil than the defending East Division champions. First, closer Joakim Soria suffered a significant elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Then, Ryan Madson suffered the same injury and was lost for the season. The bullpen, which had been considered a team strength, is now in shambles before the first regular season pitch. Donna is hoping that Matt Thornton and Jonathan Broxton can both win closer roles. Thornton is in a five-way race for the White Sox job while Broxton is battling Greg Holland for the role in Kansas City. Team MVP Jose Bautista was hit on the hand by a pitch on Sunday but avoided any major injuries. Maybe that's a sign that the team's luck is beginning to turn. Brandon McCarthy will start for the A's when they open this week against Seattle.
Can outfielder Juan Pierre earn a job with the Phillies? He's in a battle with veteran Scott Podsednick for the role of fifth outfielder. Podsednick has had the better spring though neither player is expected to see significant playing time during the regular season. Pitcher Alfredo Aceves could earn a spot in the starting rotation for the Boston Red Sox. Aceves was the team's swing man last year, getting some spot starts while also pitching out of the bullpen. Leigh-Ann could use him as a setup man, so earning the fifth starters role could force her to look for a free agent reliever. Michael Pineda hit 94 mph with his fastball in his last spring start, putting to rest some of the worry about his lack of velocity. Pineda said he'll have more juice on the fastball once the regular season begins. First baseman Freddie Freeman is having a fine spring. He's 14-for-59 with three home runs, nine RBI and five runs scored. Second baseman Rickie Weeks, a key member of The Machine's 2011 pennant winning team, has a .538 on base percentage in 27 spring at bats. He's also drawn 11 walks and laced six doubles.
Nobody was more active in free agency during the first week than Twinkle Toes owner Sunni York. She added starting pitcher Brian Matusz, relief pitchers Luke Gregerson and Brett Myers, shortstop Cliff Pennington and outfielder Seth Smith. Now Sunni needs to move her new players into the starting lineup. The addition of Gregerson and Myers helps reinforce one of the league's weaker bullpens. Myers is listed as a starting pitcher but he's going to be the closer for Houston. Gregerson was an All-Star caliber setup man in 2010 and should pair nicely with Mike Adams to rack up some holds for Twinkle Toes. Matusz has emerged as Baltimore's top pitcher, striking out 18 while walking just two in 19.2 innings this spring. Matusz has forged a respectable 3.20 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in his five spring starts. Matusz will likely take Tim Hudson's spot in the starting rotation for Twinkle Toes. Hudson isn't expected to return to the majors until May at the earliest as he recovers from a back injury. Outfielder Delmon Young has had a great spring in Detroit, going 19-for-45 with five homers and 19 RBI. He could be a significant offensive force early in the season.
Leslie King added two important pieces to her bullpen over the weekend. Setup men Evan Meek and Nick Masset will support All-Star setup man Tyler Clippard and closers Brandon League and Heath Bell. This is an important injection of talent and will result in a large increase in holds. Meek is returning from a shoulder injury that cost him significant time in 2011. He has already hit 94 mph with his fastball, a good sign that his velocity is returning. Masset missed some spring training time with a sore shoulder but he's yet to give up a run in 3.2 innings while recording three strikeouts. League could have a save opportunity this week as the Mariners open the season against the A's in Japan. Leslie's decision to keep Zack Greinke is looking brilliant. In three starts this spring, Greinke has 20 strikeouts compared to one walk. His ERA is 0.73 and his WHIP is 0.81. Reports from the Brewer clubhouse is that Greinke is much more relaxed, a year after getting traded from Kansas City to Milwaukee. That relaxed attitude shows on the mound and Greinke could be headed towards an MVP-caliber season. Another player having a great spring is shortstop Zack Cozart. The rookie is 19-for-42 with seven doubles, six RBI and two stolen bases.
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis missed Sunday's game due to tightness in his back. While the injury doesn't seem serious, Robert has reason to worry given the Greek God of Walks recent injury history. Outfielder Mike Stanton, returning from a knee injury, went 2-for-3 with a double in a minor league game Sunday. Stanton should be healthy by Opening Day. Jesus Montero and Felix Hernandez will get an early start to the season when they play Wednesday in Japan. Montero will be starting at DH for the Mariners while Hernandez is the Opening Day starter. Robert is praying that Montero gets some starts behind the plate early in the season to earn eligibility as a catcher. Rookie Tommy Milone has earned the third starting spot in Oakland's pitching rotation and could surpass Ivan Nova in Robert's rotation. Nova has struggled this spring while Milone has a 0.95 WHIP in 12.1 innings. Closer Drew Storen has a sore elbow and may not be available early in the season. That leaves the Lower Haighters with veterans Huston Street and Joe Nathan to earn saves. Setup man Andrew Cashner's changeup was clocked at 90 mph last week. That's a significant weapon to go along with his 100 mph fastball.
Outfielder Bryce Harper was sent to the minors last week, opening a space on Sean's bench for a pitcher. Jeff Samardzija and Koji Uehara have had difficult springs and could find themselves without a defined role on Opening Day. Sean may be in the market for a setup man before the end of the week. The back end of the bullpen looks rock solid as Craig Kimbrel has yet to give up a run in seven relief appearances this spring. Kimbrel looks like he could repeat as an All-Star closer. The Big Potato, Jose Valverde, has also been strong in relief, putting together a 2.25 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in eight appearances. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer has struck out 21 batters in 20 innings. He has a 4.05 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Outfielder B.J. Upton hasn't played in nearly two weeks after a violent collision with Desmond Jennings that left both players shaken. Upton could play in a minor league game this week. His status for Opening Day is up in the air but if he begins playing this week, he could start the season with the Rays. Outfielder Ben Revere, a good source for stolen bases, will not have a starting job for the Twins on Opening Day but should get significant playing time as a fourth outfielder. Shortstop Dee Gordon has eight stolen bases in 41 at bats this spring and has a .489 on base percentage. Nobody expects Gordon to approach a .400 OBP during the regular season but if he can reach base at a .350 clip, he's going to be one of the league leaders in stolen bases.