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Meyer: Five players to watch
Cody Allen, Indians (RP)
Terry Francona is keeping the closer decision confidential right now. However, he has been quoted saying that Cody Allen will “pitch in every meaningful game.” While it’s in the form of a setup role or the closer is yet to be announced, I like to think he’ll be the guy in the ninth inning. Even last season, I thought Allen had closer-potential for the Tribe. When I think of a closer, I look for strikeouts and a low WHIP. In 2013, Allen recorded 88 Ks and a 1.25 WHIP. The hits need to be reduced this season (62 knocks allowed in 70.1 innings last year), but with John Axford as his biggest competition I think Allen wins the job.
Matt Wieters, Orioles (C)
One thing I look for when I’m drafting my fantasy team is how much the guy plays. Especially for those in head-to-head leagues, you want a player that you can plug-in and not worry about. Matt Wieters is one of those athletes. Last season, he finished second among catchers in ABs, trailing Carlos Santana. The Cleveland Indian only started 81 games at the catcher position as opposed to the 134 games that Wieters started. In 2012, Baltimore’s backstop finished third in catcher at-bats, behind Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. Sure, Wieters’ batting average dropped from .249 to .235 last year, but he hit 22 home runs for the third-straight year and he’ll have plenty of RBI opportunities hitting after Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis.
George Springer, Astros (OF)
Though it isn’t mandatory, I always like to include a “lotto ticket” from the prospects department. George Springer could be fantasy gold this season. He’s on a struggling team, which makes it easier to earn playing time. Springer produces in all five offensive categories. The last two seasons in the minors, he averaged 30 homers, 96 RBI, 37 stolen bases, and .302 batting average. The biggest downfall is that the Astros added Dexter Fowler in the offseason which could hinder Springer’s chances of cracking the Opening Day starting lineup. However, with the potential this outfielder brings to the plate and base paths, the team would be crazy not to insert Springer into at least a platoon role.
Elvis Andrus, Rangers (SS)
Congratulations to your 2014 AL MVP, Elvis Andrus! Wait, what? It’s all because of the “Fielder Factor.” Prince Fielder has batted behind the league’s Most Valuable Player the past three seasons (Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera twice). This year, Fielder is projected to bat third for the Texas Rangers, while Andrus is projected to bat in the two-spot. Granted, this could all change if Adrian Beltre finds his way into the number three part of the lineup and bumps Fielder to the four-hole.
Andrus doubled his stolen base production from 21 to 42 last year. With the shortshop position coming at a premium, I'd take the reach on this player regardless of his spot in the batting order.
Mike Minor, Braves (SP)
Like teammate Kris Medlen, Mike Minor dazzled in 2012. Last year, in Minor’s first full season as a starting pitcher, his wins and strikeouts increased, while his ERA and WHIP decreased. All good things. Minor’s biggest issue is that he allows too many home runs. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged as the 26th-highest-home-run-surendering-pitcher. However, Minor ranked 28th last year in strikeouts which boosts his draft-ability in my book. Also, with Minor slated as the number three starting pitcher in Atlanta, he’ll have the chance to face lower-competition pitchers. More good things!