What can we expect out of Troy Tulowitzki this year?
The question that has always plagued Troy Tulowitzki was his health. His production when on the field was never questioned. It was whether he was going to stay healthy or not. The health concerns have not gone away as he has played more than 140 games just once since 2009. We also have to be concerned with his performance as well. Tulowitzki hit .254 with 24 HR and 79 RBI last season. He was unlucky when it comes to the .254 AVG. He only struck out 19% of the time and hit the ball hard 34% of the time but was brought down by a .272 BABIP, which is below his career average. He is hitting the ball hard and in the air (40% FB), which is going to allow him to continue to hit for power. He should see some rebound in average this year. It is simply going to come down to his total PA as to the volume of his counting stats. The good news is that he is no longer going early in drafts, which makes it easier to roster the uncertainty of his health.
Should we be concerned with Aaron Sanchez?
Aaron Sanchez has had a poor spring following his breakout 2016 season. Yes, spring stats are overrated especially his 8.44 ERA, but the lack of control for Sanchez is alarming. He has more walks (9) than strikeouts (8). There is also pause for concern regarding Sanchez because he has been dealing with a blister issue this spring. The Jays do not believe that it is going to prevent him from missing any starts. Any Rich Hill owners from last year will fill you in on how frustrating it can be to own a pitcher with blister problems. They do not go away quickly and can be easily re-opened. Sanchez did not have this issue a year ago so hopefully, this is a one-time thing that both he and Blue Jays err on the side of caution so that he doesn't miss significant time. Aaron Sanchez is likely to take a step back this year based on his peripheral stats. He posted a 3.75 xFIP and 4.01 SIERA. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts (20%) and has league average command (8% BB). What he does do well is keep the ball on the ground (54%), which is going to allow him to be a better real life asset than fantasy.
Will Steve Pearce earn enough bats to be mixed league relevant this year?
Steve Pearce has a couple of factors working in his favor. The first being that he can play first, second, and the outfield. He also crushes left-handed pitching. Over the past three seasons, he has a .281 ISO and 150 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. This means that he is going to find his way into the lineup anytime the Jays are facing a left-handed pitcher. What goes overlooked is that Pearce has done well against right-handed pitching as well. Over the same time period, he has a .202 ISO and 122 wRC+, which are both above average. If Pearce can find a way to get 400-450 PA he could approach 20+ HR which would be valuable in deep mixed leagues. There are plenty of avenues in which he could get playing time with Devon Travis being injury prone at second base. Justin Smoak not being very good at first, and a failed platoon in left field (Upton Jr./Carrera). He needs to be owned in AL-only leagues as well as deep mixed leagues.
What to make of the Reds bullpen?
Rasiel Iglesias has missed a large portion of Reds camp after falling in the bathtub and injuring his elbow and hips. He is likely to break camp with the Reds but may not be ready to go on Opening Day. The Reds closer situation has not sorted itself out. The plan is still to go with a four-man rotation of Rasiel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Tony Cingrani, and Drew Storen depending upon match up. Tony Cingrani is the least likely of the bunch to take over as closer given that he is a lefty and doesn't have the necessary skills (too many walks). Drew Storen has had a terrible camp so far. His velocity is down (88-89 mph) and he has a 13.50 ERA with a 5/3 K-BB. Michael Lorenzen has an opportunity to take the job by the horns due to Iglesias's injury and Storen's failures, but he has not had a good spring either (5.56 ERA with 6 BB and 3 K). Iglesias has the best skills of the bunch (26% K, 12% SwStr), but he may be better served in a multi-inning, Andrew Miller type of role with Lorenzen serving as the ninth inning guy. This is a situation that you want to avoid overall, but if you are desperate Iglesias has the best skills and Lorenzen could potentially lead the team in saves.
Reds Rotation: Who's in and Who's Out?
The Reds have finally made a decision on their rotation and it is going to be Scott Feldman, Brandon Finnegan, Bronson Arroyo, Amir Garrett, and Rookie Davis. This is arguably one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball. I have broken down Brandon Finnegan in previous write-ups so I will not go into detail here, but Scott Feldman and Bronson Arroyo should not be on your fantasy team. Amir Garrett is a 24-year-old lefty, who also happens to be the Reds top pitching prospect. Garrett has potential long-term, but the immediate results are likely to be underwhelming. He posted a 3.46 ERA over 11 starts at Triple-A last year with an average strikeout rate (20%) and terrible walk rate (11%). Great American Ballpark is not a forgiving environment for pitchers that struggle with command. I would temper expectations for the young lefty. Rookie Davis, besides having a great name, has only four starts above Double-A. He also has the least amount of fantasy value among the Reds rookie starters. He posted a 17% strikeout rate at Double-A for the Yankees in 2015 and 15% last year in Double-A for the Reds. The ceiling simply isn't there for Davis and he should be avoided. Brandon Finnegan remains the only option to consider in re-draft leagues.
What to make of Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez?
Adam Duvall definitely had a breakout 2016 season and Eugenio Suarez had a very fine fantasy season as well. Duvall went on to hit .241 with 33 HR, 105 RBI, and 85 R. His power is backed up by his batted ball profile (39% Hard, 47% FB, and 50% Pull). However, his 27% K does damper the situation going forward as that will limit his BA upside. He did post a low .275 BABIP, but with his batted ball profile and contact struggles, there may not be much growth in BA. This is also going to keep his OBP low because he does not walk much. If you expect a low batting average, you can live with his power (30+ HR) in a good home park.
Eugenio Suarez did a little bit of everything last year. He hit .248 with 21 HR and 11 SB. The counting stats weren't great, but they also didn't kill you with 78 runs and 75 RBI respectfully. He has average plate skills and makes just enough contact to remain fantasy viable. He is a poor man's Todd Frazier in the aspect that he provides both double-digit home runs and steals with a low average. Projecting growth for the 25-year-old third baseman is hard because he does not have any elite skills and his batted ball profile suggests a lot of the same in 2017. He does not possess win your league type of potential but he is not going to hurt your bottom line at the end of deep mixed league drafts.
Around the League
Astros manager A.J. Hinch confirmed what we had all been expecting which is that Alex Bregman will be hitting second behind George Springer and in front of Jose Altuve. This is a great spot for the youngster. Bregman is looking to improve upon the .264/8/34 that he put up over his first 49 games. Bregman has an excellent all-around skill set. He is going to be able to make enough contact to hit .270-.280 with 20+ HR and a sprinkling of speed (8-10 SB). His counting stats are going to be there hitting in front of Altuve and the overall ability to the Astros lineup. The 23-year-old is poised for a big year in his first full major league season.
There is no denying that Jose Altuve is a top-five fantasy player. His increase in power is real and backed up by his batted ball profile (34% Hard, 45% Pull, and 32% FB). He isn't likely to match last year's total of 24 HR, but 18-20 HR is within reach. The recent news that Alex Bregman is going to hit second in the Astros lineup all but confirms that Jose Altuve is going to bat third. This is going to help in the counting stats but is likely to lower his stolen base total. He stole thirty bases a year ago with 18 coming in the 63 games that he hit first or second. He stole twelve bases in 98 games in which he was the number three hitter. I would expect a slight decrease in stolen bases but an increase in his counting stats.
Jarrod Dyson has been absent from major league camp due to a hamstring injury, but he was able to return to action on Wednesday. He should be good to go for Opening Day. Dyson has a full-time role with the Mariners, which is going to allow him to bring a lot of value in the stolen base department. He has averaged 31 SB over the past five seasons in limited playing time. He makes enough contact (16% K) and walks enough (7% BB) that he should be on base enough to repeat those stolen base totals, if not improve upon them. Even if he does get full playing time, he is still going to be a one-category contributor. The upside is that he is elite in that one category (SB).
Carlos Gomez returned to action after injuring his shoulder on Tuesday. Gomez is an interesting fantasy asset heading into 2017. He was once a five category contributor but injuries have taken their toll. His overall numbers in 2016 were not great (.234 AVG with 13 HR and 18 SB). However, he finished the year strong in Texas. He posted .319 AVG with 6 HR and 4 SB in September/October and parlayed that into a one-year deal worth $11.5 million. Gomez is a huge injury risk but he also offers a power/speed combination that is extremely valuable in fantasy. He could approach a 20 HR/20 SB season if he stays healthy albeit with a low batting average.
Reports coming out of Yankee's camp on Wednesday were that outfielder Aaron Judge might begin the year in the minors. He has hit well this spring but the team is considering an outfield of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Hicks. Judge has his warts, mainly his lack of contact. He struck out 44% of the time in his first 27 games at the major league level. This simply is not going to cut it. His power is legit, but his lack of controlling the strike zone is going to hurt him. He has shown the skills to hit for power (49% Hard, 51% FB, and 47% Pull). It is just a matter of making enough contact. He is going into his age 25 season, so it is time for him to make the necessary adjustments or he is going to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder with power.
Drew Smyly is going to miss his final spring appearance due to an unspecified injury. This is as close to a worst case scenario as possible with the season days away. Smyly has a long history of injury, so this is even more concerning. Smyly posted a 4.88 ERA over 175.1 IP last season. He has strikeout stuff (23% K, 11% SwStr) and good control (6% BB). He is a fly-ball pitcher that would/will benefit from pitching in the American League West and half of his games at Safeco Field. The Mariners also project to have a good outfield defense, which would help Smyly as well. The signs were pointing up for Smyly, but this injury is definitely concerning.
Jeurys Familia has been suspended 15 games under the sexual assault and child abuse policy. Familia was expected to receive a 30 game suspension similar to Aroldis Chapman's. This is bad news for those who drafted Addison Reed early with the thought that he would get a month worth of saves. Familia was being drafted as the 14th closer off the board and I expect him to rise into the top 10 in drafts heading being held prior to Opening Day. The discount is gone on a closer that has saved 94 games for the Mets over the past two seasons. His skills took a slight decline last season, but he still has enough left in the tank to finish the year as a top 10 closer and should come close to the top 5.
Carlos Santana-Indians-DH, 1B
Carlos Santana is going to start the year as the Indians leadoff hitter. He split time last year between the leadoff spot and fifth. Santana may not look like a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he has a skill set that matches what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do, get on base. He has posted OBP's above .350 in each of his first seven seasons. Last year, Santana played a career high 158 games which resulted in a career high in home runs, runs scored, RBI, and ISO. Batting leadoff is going to hurt his RBI's but is going to allow him to score more runs. Santana loses value in traditional 5x5 leagues due to his low average, but he is a monster in OBP leagues.
Early in the week, there was talk of Corey Seager missing the early part of the season recovering from the oblique injury he suffered early in camp. Seager did not feel comfortable with his swing and the number of at-bats that he has gotten heading into the spring. He has been working at minor league camp and reports are now suggesting that he will be ready for Opening Day. Seager hit .308 with 26 HR, 75 RBI, and 105 R as a 22-year-old in his first major league season. Seager is really good but his ceiling is limited from a fantasy perspective. He does not run, which is going to make it hard to return the first round value like many expect out of his sophomore season. His average is likely to fall into the .280-.290 range due to his league average strikeout rate and his power could regress due to him hitting just 29% FB and posting an unsustainable 18% HR/FB. Seager hits the ball hard at 40%, which is going to allow him to be an above average player, but fantasy stardom (1st round status) could be a couple of years away.
Daniel Norris gave up nine runs in three innings against the Braves on Monday. Following the start, he mentioned that he was experiencing "dead arm" and that his "arm felt like it weighed a million pounds". Norris played catch on Wednesday and the reports were that his arm felt good. This is an excellent sign heading into the 2017 season in which Norris looks to build on his success in 2016. Norris posted a 3.38 ERA (3.94 SIERA), 1.40 WHIP, 24% K, and 7% BB. Norris has the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher (24% K, 65% F-Strike%, and 11% SwStr). He just has to stay healthy for an extended period of time to live up to his lofty projections when he was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
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