SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 23, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Ramirez injury will have major draft impact

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — In what will be sure to be counted as another strike against the still-fledgling World Baseball Classic, we had a major player struck by a significant injury in the tournament’s title game earlier this week.

Hanley Ramirez suffered a thumb injury in the Dominican Republic’s championship victory over Puerto Rico in San Francisco. After further examination, it was determined that Ramirez tore a ligament in the thumb and will need surgery and miss at least eight weeks.

Obviously, this is a big blow to the Los Angeles Dodgers — but it may be just as big a blow to fantasy owners.

Ramirez is still currently the second shortstop being taken off the board, going on average in the early third round with an average draft position of 28. It’s hard to now justify drafting the mercurial Ramirez in the top 30, given he’s probably not going to be back in the Dodgers’ lineup until at least June and possibly could miss even more time. Plus, it’s hard to believe that he’ll come back and start raking right off the bat.

Who knows what his conditioning will be when he returns? And who knows if he’ll be able to hit for power with that thumb injury?

If I were to recommend other options at shortstop, I’d look hard at Ian Desmond, who has an average draft position of 68.6 in standard Yahoo! leagues. Desmond hit .292 with 25 home runs, 73 RBI and 21 steals and 150 hits in a solid Nationals lineup.

Later in drafts (if you can take a hit in batting average), Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians regressed some last year, but still hit 16 homers with 68 RBI. And he’s just a year removed from stealing 17 bases to go with 25 home runs and 92 RBI in 2011. He’s certainly worth considering, given his current average draft position of 99.5.

The bottom line is likely I won’t own Ramirez because I’m not willing to take him where he is currently going.

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I have a couple youngsters to watch, but likely not draft.

First is Trevor Bauer, recently optioned to Triple-A by the Indians. Bauer was the Tribe’s crown jewel out of the offseason’s Shin-Soo Choo trade to Cincinnati and showed flashes of brilliance (around flashes of arrogance) in a brief callup with the Diamondbacks last season, posting a 9.4 strikeout per nine rate in four starts. Given the fact new manager Terry Francona and the Indians are strongly considering Scott Kazmir for the No. 5 slot in their rotation, it’s not a stretch to foresee a scenario where Bauer gets a callup after a month or two in the minors.

Another name to watch is the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar. It is widely believed that Profar is ready to play in the majors; the biggest issue appears to be that he is blocked by Ian Kinsler at second and Elvis Andrus at shortstop (his natural position).

Profar enters the season ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the game by Baseball America. He will likely start the season in the minors, although that has yet to be confirmed at this point. But if he shows that he has nothing left to gain by staying in the minors, it’s possible the team may decide to make the tough decision to move either Kinsler or Andrus — especially if the offense struggles with the loss of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli in the offseason.

And finally, Billy Hamilton was sent down this week as well. The speedster stole an amazing 155 bases in the minors last year; should any injuries befall the Reds outfield — and the aforementioned Choo is already battling back spasms — Hamilton may get the call.

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The Aroldis Chapman saga is finally over in Cincinnati.

Despite reports on Thursday that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said no decision had yet been made, it became official yesterday that the fireballer with the 100-plus mile-an-hour heater will be the team’s closer.

Reportedly the team’s front office wanted him to start, while manager Dusty Baker (and Chapman himself) wanted him to close.

Now that we know he’ll stay in the bullpen, Chapman will be the No. 2 closer in fantasy behind Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel.

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Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column for The Salem News. You can read his blog at blogs.salemnews.com/fantasyforecast and reach him at asilva@salemnews.com. You can also follow Fantasy Forecast on Twitter at twitter.com/sn_fantasysport.