Brian, Feature, Questions

Biggest Questions on Opening Day Eve

by Brian Dorsey

1. What do we make of the Chase Utley situation?

In case you missed it, ESPN has been updating Utley’s status all March with headlines like “ESPN REPORT: Chase Utley might start the season on the DL” or “We’re really not sure why we’re telling you this, but there is no news regarding Phil’s Utley.” Thank you, ESPN. You’ve succeeded again at being CNN: Sports Edition. In their defense though, there really wasn’t much to report because Utley and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. (side note: if you’re named after your father, and he isn’t famous, the “Junior” moniker is completely unnecessary) have been tight-lipped. Utley’s goal seems to be a first half return, but there are people (i.e. Brandon Inge) who think it would be a miracle for Utley to play at all this season. I won’t begin to speculate, but I will say this: The Phillies just released Luis Castillo, Utley’s supposed replacement. Read into that however you will, but to me that seems like a good sign for Utley owners.

2. Is Justin Morneau a reliable player?

The simple answer is “no.” He’s had two years in a row now where he’s been injured. His most recent injury, a knee to the dome, which caused a concussion, cost him the entire second half of last season. He still hasn’t been cleared for opening day. Morneau is a tremendous talent, but if you’re an owner, tread cautiously. I mean, very cautiously. If this swinging Canadian gets off to a hot start, it might be advantageous to trade him, even if you don’t maximize your return. I’d rather trade him for Paul Konerko or Billy Butler instead of owning a hurt Morneau.

3. Can we expect Mat Latos, David Price, Tommy Hanson, Madison Bumgardner, and Phil Hughes to continue to take steps forward?

I think the answer is “yes” for all of these guys, except for Latos. And it kills me to say that (I’m a Padre fan). But I really, really think the extra innings from last year are going to stunt his growth. The organization was planning on limiting him to 150 innings last year, but since the team was contending, they couldn’t shut him down in September like they wanted to and he ended up with 184.2 IP. He struggled mightily in September, and now he’s starting the year on the DL.

Price and Hanson have been on similar trajectories: up and up. They’re going to continue on this path.

Bumgardner is an interesting player this year, mainly because you probably didn’t have to use a high draft pick to get him on your team. His returns should be positive.

Hughes proved last year that, when he’s on, he’s as good as gold, Jerry! I would be weary of a second half stumble again, though.

4. What rookies are going to have an impact on the fantasy season?

Bradon Belt (made the Giants’ 25-man roster), Jeremy Hellickson, Dustin Ackley (ETA June), and Aroldis Chapman. It wouldn’t surprise me if all four of these guys turned out seasons that justified taking them in the first ten rounds in 2012.

5. What’s going on with Neftali Feliz?

Looks like he’s going to close for now, but if the Rangers can’t keep a healthy rotation, he could see time as a starter. I really hate this. If they were planning on making him a starter, they should’ve either done it during the 2010 season, or planned better in the off-season. Look at what the Yankees did to poor Joba Chamberlain. When a young pitcher isn’t sure of what his role is going to be, disaster strikes.

6. Which post-surgery pitcher is worthy of owning (Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Joe Nathan, Johan Santana, or Vicente Padilla)?

I’m eyeing Jake and Joe. Peavy had a small setback a week ago, but it appears he’s feeling better. Nathan has had a terrible spring, but as a closer, he’s not going to have to pitch as many innings, so it should be easier for him to get back into the swing of things physically. If anyone can tell me why Webb can’t get on the mound, I’ll take you out to dinner. He might not ever be healthy again (see: Harden, Rich or Prior, Mark). I wouldn’t even bother with Johan this year. He’s not expected back until after the All-Star break, and shoulders can be tricky (see: Peavy, Jake and Webb, Brandon). When Padilla comes back, he’s probably going to be limited to a 6th inning role, and unless you’re league counts the number of times Vin Scully says “soap bubble,” you’re better off steering clear here, too.

7. Is Michael Young going to stay in Texas and what is his value if he’s traded?

At this point, the only way the Rangers will trade Young is if they fall out of contention early. The AL West could be wild this year, so anything is possible. If he gets traded, his value could go up or down depending on the team he gets traded to. For example, the Rockies kicked the tires on Young early in Spring Training. Had he been traded to Colorado, he instantly would’ve been a top-50 talent. It was rumored the Padres were also interested (it never would’ve happened), and had he been traded to “The Great Abyss: A Journey through Space and Petco Park,” his valued would’ve been diminished significantly. But him staying in Texas as just a DH could impact his season. Young is a “ballplayer.” He’s a guy who likes the routine of fielding. There might be a fish out of water feeling if he’s only a hitter this year. Speaking of fish out of water, did anyone see Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino try to do comedy during Comedy Central’s Roast of Donald Trump? Awesome (but if you get offended by abrasive language easily, please don’t click the link).

8. How old is Albert Pujols and Rafael Furcal?

Pujols is easily no younger than 36 years old. I’m convinced Furcal is 45.


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