Fantasy Baseball Season Is Around The Corner, So Here’s What’s Happening Now

Pitchers and catchers are reporting, and that means fantasy baseball is around the corner – so it’s time to be extra-vigilant about every detail that could affect your roster. Below, Thomas McFeeley of sizes up two of the most recent significant developments in fantasy, so you’ll head into the season armed with knowledge.

Frankly, Parnell’s the Mets’ man.

The New York Mets have shut down closer Frank Francisco due to elbow inflammation and hard-throwing set-up man Bobby Parnell will open the season as the team’s closer, according to manager Terry Collins. Collins named Parnell the closer during an interview on WFAN radio in New York.

The 33-year-old Francisco struggled much of last season and experienced elbow tenderness. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow in a December surgery. Shortly after arriving in spring training, he revealed inflammation in the elbow. There is no immediate word on when Francisco might begin throwing again.

Parnell posted a 5-4 record, a 2.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and seven saves for the Mets last season. He served as the Mets’ closer late in the year when Francisco was hurt, and had 18 holds – but also five blown saves – in 2012. His K/9 rate dropped to 8.0 from 9.7 in 2011, but he also improved his control and dropped in velocity. Most observers say those changes were made in order to focus on pitching rather than throwing. His spike to a 61.5 ground ball percentage should help him hold onto the role.

Parnell’s fantasy stock should soar as he has exceptional skills and might hold the job even if the oft-injured Francisco fully recovers. The Mets’ signing of Brandon Lyon last week allows them to have an able-bodied set-up man behind Parnell.

Bourn-again Indians.

Michael Bourn’s decision to sign with the Cleveland Indians certainly shook up the fantasy world, if not the Mets’ fantasy of carrying a classic leadoff hitter to energize their lineup. Looking at the fantasy implications of Bourn’s four-year deal, we’ll start with the Mets. Manager Terry Collins told reporters on Tuesday that he could envision Mike Baxter and Collin Cowgill occupying the leadoff spot. He said the Mets played well for a stretch last season when Baxter led off games. Ruben Tejada would hit 2nd under that scenario.

As for production: Baxter managed .263 with 3 HR, 17 RBI and five steals in 179 AB before sustaining a collarbone injury on a catch to save Johan Santana’s no-hitter. Cowgill’s line looked similar: .269, 1 HR/9 RBI/3 SB in 104 AB in Oakland’s crowded outfield. Together, the duo might manage a few steals, but little else atop the Mets’ lineup.

The free-spending Indians, meanwhile, also added several other players this off-season, including outfielder Nick Swisher, first baseman Mark Reynolds, and starting pitcher Brett Myers. Cleveland also acquired outfielder Drew Stubbs and pitchers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.

Bourn, at least for 2013, should make Swisher and the rest of the lineup a bit more valuable, providing a duck for the pond out of the leadoff hole. As RotoExperts examined last week in our Deep Dive column, Bourn’s stolen base statistics have rolled back in recent years, while his power ticked up a bit last year. He hit .274 with a .348 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage with Atlanta last year. He swiped 42 bases, a year removed from tying a career-high 61 SB in 2010. He added nine HR and 57 RBIs. Between Bourn, Stubbs and second baseman Jason Kipnis, the Tribe should prove to be a team on the run. Between them, they stole 103 bases in 2012.

Michael Brantley, another centerfielder by trade, is included in the mix as well, meaning we may see Swisher slide to first base and Reynolds to DH, at least part of the time. Stubbs may be the odd man out in that case. Keep an eye out on the Cleveland spring box scores and news from new manager Terry Francona leading up to your draft.

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Photos via Getty