Nathan to miss 2010 season? Twins scouting Padres’ Bell

According to Bob Nightengale via his Twitter page, the Twins have been “extensively” scouting Padres closer Heath Bell for a possible trade. If the report is true, then that probably means that Joe Nathan is likely preparing to have Tommy John surgery on his elbow and will miss the entire 2010 season.

Bell was the National League’s surprise leader in saves in 2009 after he racked up 42 stops, a 2.71 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Despite the Padres only winning 75 games last year, Bell was given plenty of opportunities to save tight games in the ninth, which he did with regularity.

It’s no secret that the Padres want to continue to shed payroll and Bell’s name has been mentioned in trades all winter. With the Twins desperate to fill Nathan’s ninth inning spot, San Diego might be able to get a decent prospect in a trade – especially if they wait until after the season starts. Minnesota has a team ready to compete now, but if bullpen woes start to emerge then the Twins might have to overpay a little to acquire Bell’s services. After all, a bullpen can be the difference between a team that makes the postseason and one that comes up short at the end of the season.

From a fantasy standpoint, a potential trade could be viewed as both a positive and a negative. On one hand, he would be going to a competitive club that should give him plenty of save opportunities and if Nathan were indeed done for the year, Bell would instantly become the closer. On the other hand, he’d be leaving spacious Petco Park and would probably see a spike in his ERA while pitching in the American League. Plus, the lowly Padres were already giving him save opportunities so owners might be wishing he stays put.

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Once again, Huston Street’s health a concern

While he proved to be a nice surprise in 2009 by staying relatively healthy on his way to racking up 35 saves, a 3.06 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP, Rockies’ closer Huston Street is once again an injury concern for fantasy owners.

The Denver Post reports that Street felt tightness in his shoulder while recently playing catch and has been shut down indefinitely. There’s now a good chance that he will start the 2010 season on the disabled list, pending the results of a MRI. With Rafael Betancourt also sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Colorado may have to turn to Manny Corpas to close games to start of the season.

How will Street’s injury affect your draft? Well, hopefully you weren’t overvaluing him on draft day solely based on his ’09 production. He was a top 10 closer before the injury, but now you might want to avoid him altogether on draft day. And with his early struggles last year, you might want to avoid Corpas until late in your draft as well.

Given his history and current injury issues, there are plenty of other closers that will be more reliable and offer more upside than Street will. That list includes the Giants’ Brian Wilson, the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol, the A’s Andrew Bailey and the Mariners’ David Aardsma. Any one of those relievers would offer you more value than Street in your draft, with less risk.

For The Scores Report’s official 2010 fantasy rankings of relievers, click here.

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2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

All 2010 Fantasy Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

When it comes to drafting relief pitchers, keep in mind that the only thing you care about is saves. Sure, drafting a closer like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or Jonathan Broxton will also net you value in other categories such as ERA and/or WHIP, but if saves are your main objective than why overpay?

Chances are, you’ll have the opportunity to draft a starter or decent bat (at least one that will contribute to your team on a regular basis) in the same rounds that Rivera, Papelbon and Broxton are selected in. If you’re head over heels for those guys and want a sure thing, then don’t let us stop you from drafting them. But in the end, we think you’ll get more value in passing on those top closers and targeting the guys that we have listed below. Just remember to nab another pitcher that will get you saves later in your draft or else you will regret not taking Rivera/Papelbon/Broxton when you had the chance.

Heath Bell, Padres
Bell pitches for a team that will be in a lot of close games and that plays in a spacious park. What’s not to like? The Padres also don’t have a quality set-up man to pitch in front of Bell, so owners can draft him in confidence knowing that San Diego will have to use him in later innings if they want wins.

Joakim Soria, Royals
Be careful with Soria, because he’s being overvalued on draft day. He’s a great closer, but he battled shoulder issues last season and he plays on a team that won’t offer him a ton of save opportunities. Draft him with confidence, but don’t reach for him.

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Should Jose Reyes be avoided on draft day?

Jose Reyes’ thyroid condition may have just become public enemy No. 1 for fantasy owners.

The Mets said that it would be approximately two to eight weeks (quite a large window, we know) before Reyes resumes baseball activity after he was ordered to rest until his thyroid condition normalizes. GM Omar Minaya isn’t optimistic about his shortstop being ready for the start of the season and even when he does return, chances are that Reyes will have plenty of rust to shake off after missing virtually the entire 2009 season and all of spring training this year.

The problem fantasy owners face is that Reyes is one of 5-6 shortstops that are worth grabbing before the talent level at the position falls off a cliff. Hanley Ramirez is in a category all to his own, while Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter and Ben Zobrist comprise the rest of the top 6 shortstops. Fail to draft one of those players and risk dealing with the inconsistencies of Stephen Drew, Alexei Ramirez or Yunel Esobar.

So what is a fantasy owner to do? Well for starters, monitor Reyes’ situation leading up to your draft. If the reports are positive and it looks like he’ll be back to full strength in May, then don’t pass on him if he represents good value in your draft. There were tons of owners that avoided Joe Mauer last year because of his lingering back problems and he turned out to be a fantasy superstar. Reyes might not be overly productive in the first half of the season, but if you can grab a fill-in like Marco Scutaro or J.J. Hardy late in your draft to keep your SS position afloat until the All-Star Break, Reyes could be huge in the second half.

Conversely, if Reyes suffers a setback over the next week or so, then it might be wise to avoid him altogether and target one of the other top 5 available shortstops. Every year Jeter falls in drafts because of his age and every year he produces. Nabbing him instead of taking a risk on Reyes earlier in your draft might pay off in the end.

But overall, doing your homework and staying on top of latest reports will allow you to make a sound decision on Reyes come draft day.

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2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

All 2010 Fantasy Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

Sometimes it’s difficult to evaluate what kind of production a player will have when he changes teams over the offseason. This is especially true when it comes to starting pitching, because not only can an unfamiliar ballpark play a role in how a starter fairs, but also what kind of offensive production he can expect from his new lineup and whether or not he’ll have a good spot in the rotation.

Below are eight starting pitchers that either changed teams at the tale end of the 2009 season or will be playing for a completely different club in 2010. We’ve outlined some factors that the pitchers will be facing in their new situation and try to project how they’ll fair in 2010. Some players (like Roy Halladay for example) can be counted on to be great no matter what team they wind up on. But what about guys like Jake Peavy (who will now have to pitch in the AL for a full season for the first time in his career) or Max Scherzer (a strikeout pitcher that is moving to a tougher AL after playing the past couple seasons in Arizona)?

Let’s take a look.

Roy Halladay, Phillies
You’re going to draft Halladay for the same reasons the Phillies parted with multiple players (including Cliff Lee and a couple of key prospects) in order to acquire him from the Blue Jays last winter: he’s outstanding. Halladay finished with 47 complete games last season and 14 shutouts, while also ranking 11th in innings pitched. Now that he’s playing in the NL on a team with a potent offense, he should have no problem winning 17-plus games and notching another 200 strikeouts. The only knock against Halladay’s new home is that the Phillies play in a hitter-friendly ballpark. But we’re thinking the veteran pitcher will adjust fine to his new digs.

Cliff Lee, Mariners
Lee felt he was shafted when the Phillies unloaded him in order to acquire Halladay last winter, but he should love his new surroundings. He’s walked fewer than two batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons and will now have the luxury of having a solid defensive outfield at his back. He’s used to pitching in the AL from his days in Cleveland, so the league change won’t hurt him one bit. Lee is a top-notch fantasy starter.

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