With the new season comes new fantasy questions, new factors and new things to analyze for the coming year. Here are our top 15 questions going into spring training 2012.
1. How will the new Marlins stadium play? The Marlins new ballpark, set to open in April, is a wildcard in terms of park factors. It's designed to be a pitcher's park, at least in theory. How much is that going to effect the contributions of guys like Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison and Hanley Ramirez? It could make stats swing wildly in one direction or another.
2. Is Japanese import Yu Darvish really an ace? The new Texas pitcher was a two-time MVP in Japan's Pacific League and posted 1.99 ERA in that league over the last seven years, while being a Cy Young type pitcher there. He also won 2 strikeout titles in that time. He's the best pitcher Japan has to offer. He's a hulking 6-feet-5 and can throw a fastball in the mid 90s, and has pitched successfully against international competition in the Olympics and in the Baseball Classic. But how will that translate to the Majors?
4. Where will Prince Fielder end up? His fantasy value could go up, down or stay the same depending on where he lands. Washington and Arlington seem to be likely destinations.
5. What value should we expect to get out of Ryan Braun following his 50 game suspension? MVP Ryan Braun almost certainly is going to be suspended despite his protestations of innocence when it comes to use of performance enhancing drugs, but how in condition and how ready he'll be after the suspension could greatly affect his draft day fantasy value as well as his production in 2012.
6. Is Michael Pineda a 15-game winner now that he's with the Yankees? Just what are the Yankees going to get out of Pineda? And what are fantasy owners going to get? Is this the dominant ace type pitcher that the Yankees hope they are getting or the guy who just doesn't pitch well against bad hitting teams?
7. What will the new dimensions at Citi Field do for Mets hitters? OK, it hasn't gotten the press that a lot of other issues have gotten but the Mets have brought the fences in. That should add up to better numbers for Mets hitters like David Wright, but will it mean anything for the no names the Mets are fielding or for Jason Bay? Conversely how will it affect the few pitchers they have who might be worth drafting?
8. What can we expect from Hanley Ramirez? Has that shoulder injury stripped away his power? Hanley Ramirez has a disastrous season in 2011 in terms of fantasy production. Will the newly constituted Marlins and new ballpark revitalize Hanley? And even if it does, is Hanley healthy enough after his shoulder injury to be the player he was? What about his move to third base, will he handle that well enough? A lot of questions. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Spring.
9. How much extra value does Michael Cuddyer have now that he's playing in Colorado? This guy seems to just be getting better in terms of fantasy value. Cuddyer comes into 2012 eligible as an OF/1B/2B and is coming off a 20 HR season. How much will Coors Field add to the 33 year old Cuddyer's fantasy value?
10. What can we expect from Pujols now that he's an American Leaguer? The Machine moves from the National League to the American and to a slightly worse hitter's park. How much will the change affect him?
11. How will Adam Wainwright pitch now that he's a year past Tommy John? On opening day 2012 Wainwright will be 13.5 months post ligament replacement therapy. Most pitchers need a full 18 months to get over Tommy John and bounce back to full health. But Wainwright isn't an average pitcher, he's an ace. Will that translate to a quicker return to form?
12. Will the Mets lose 100 games? If they don't it might be due to the resurgence of Jason Bay and Mets pitcher Johan Santana returning from oblivion.
13. How much will Carl Crawford's wrist surgery derail his 2012 season? Crawford had wrist surgery this week and wrist surgeries are always tricky. While they claim he'll be 100% for opening day wrist surgery tends to sap power. Will that happen to Crawford?
14. How much of a dropoff are Philly's aging stars in for? Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is 33, second baseman Chase Utley is 33, first baseman Ryan Howard is 32 and third baseman Placido Polanco is 36 and the Phillies don't have a catcher under 31 while their best pitchers are 33 (Cliff Lee) and 34 (Roy Halliday) respectively. They all are serious injury and regression risks. Just what are they capable of producing? And is it enough in the revamped NL East?
15. What will the Yankees get out of Jeter and A-Rod? The left side of the Yankees infield is ancient by baseball standards. Jeter is 37 and A-Rod is 36 and A-Rod only managed to play in 99 games last year. Can they bounce back? Or at least maintain the quality at bats in 2012?
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