Ozzie Albies - Ozzie Albies is entering 2018 as the full time second baseman for the Braves and if he's able to produce how he did last year in 57 we are in for a treat. After hitting 9 homers in AAA, already a career high, he hit 6 in his time in Atlanta. It's interesting that he went from 6 homers as a career high to 15 across two levels, but his FB% jumped from about 30% in 2016 to 38% in AAA, and he took another jump to 40% once he reached the majors. Of course the fly ball approach does take a negative toll on his batting average as he hit .286 last year after consistently hitting .300 all through the minors but I'll 100% take double digit homers and a .285 average over .300 and no homers when it comes to fantasy. He's currently projected as Fantistic's #11 2B, he's currently going anywhere around the 11-12 round range and could be a spectacular value at that spot.
Luiz Gohara - Aquired from the Mariners last year while still in A-ball, Luiz Gohara stormed through the Braves system and ended the year in Atlanta throwing 29.1 innings in the majors. While his traditional stats were... well bad, but there are some numbers here that show he could be in line for a big year. First his command has always been an issue for him in the minors regularly walking over 12% of his batters faced, but in the majors he cut that down to 6.5% while maintaining a great 25% strikeout rate. He had a 4.91 ERA but just a 2.75 FIP and the Braves defense will be remarkably better with Matt Kemp being traded to the Dodgers and the eventual call up of Ronald Acuna. Gohara's minor league track record still gives me a bit of caution going into this year because there's a reason he was still in the low minors despite being Rule-5 eligible at the end of the year, but he's 100% worth a flier late.
AJ Minter - If you're like me and you punt saves for dominant relievers with excellent rate stats, AJ Minter should be an excellent target for you. Minter tossed 15 innings in the majors last year and struck out 43% of the batters he faced and walked just 3%, which in case you didn't know is absurd. He generated a ridiculous 18% swinging strike rate, which is also ridiculous and on par with Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel who are both solid arms. I've long thought Arodys Vizcaino was going to be there heir to the Kimbrel throne but he hasn't taken that next step like I expected and it's now Minter's job eventually. He is all but assured a spot in the pen and if the Braves go with a vet at the closer role I would expect Minter to take it over at some point this year.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Kevin Kiermaier - Kevin Kiermaier was a popular breakout pick for 2017 but a busted up hip ruined that and held him to just 98 games last year. He was really good in those games with 15 homers and 16 steals in the brief time. His FB% dropped from 2017-to-18 but without an uptick in his hard hit rate I don't see much faith in the 16.7% HR/FB rate to stick. His exit velocity last year was very very slightly above league average so I'm expecting some power regression for this year based on the pace that he was hitting them last season. He's currently going in the same area as Adam Eaton, Trey Mancini, and Nomar Mazara and I think he's a safer bet at the position to produce than Mancini or Mazara, but may not have near the upside that Mazara does.
Chris Archer - Chris Archer was an oddity last year as his rate stats should have made his overall line look so much better. He struck out a career high 29% of his batters and walked a career low 7%, but he was hurt by a .325 BABIP thanks to a 39% hard contact rate. So batters were squaring him up harder what's the big deal Josh? Here's where it gets silly, he had a career high 13.4% swinging strike rate. So batters were hitting the ball off him less often but just making harder contact when they did, something I don't think we can just pencil in that to carry over from last year to this year. I'd expect a rebound this year and the Fantistic's software loves him too ranking him 12th at SP this year.
Matt Duffy - Matt Duffy gets the unenjoyable task of replacing Evan Longoria at 3rd base for the Rays this year. Duffy didn't play at all last season with a foot injury but he's been a solid, yet unspectacular players in his two seasons prior. In his only full season with the Giants in 2015, he hit .295 with 12 homers, 12 steals and 77 runs scored. Duffy has never hit for much power, but maybe with getting the heck out of AT&T Park he'll be able to maybe inch towards the 20 homer plateau. He could make for a capable CI slot if you wanted to wait until later in the draft to fill that spot because he should be healthy and get every day at bats.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Derek Holland, San Francisco Giants - Derek Holland signed with the Giants on a minor league deal and San Francisco should be praying that they don't get to a point where they need to use him significantly. Holland lasted 26 starts for the White Sox last year, striking out 12% of the batters he faced, walking 12%, and allowing two homers per nine en route to a beautiful 6.20 ERA and 6.45 FIP. Now leaving Chicago should be beneficial going to a pitchers park in San Francisco so he should be able to shave at leave .75 of a run off that ERA. Of course I'm being facetious, but in reality a pitcher who allows homer after homer, walks a ton of batters, and has a 7% swinging strike rate literally does nothing for me.
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks - After a dominant 2017 season in the bullpen, Archie Bradley hasn't necessarily been guaranteed the closing gig for 2018 and that is really only a bad thing for fantasy owners. Bradley's ability to work multiple innings means he's best suited for an Andrew Miller-type role in the bullpen as he worked more than one inning 15 times in 63 appearances last year. Working out of the pen he was able to drastically reduce his walk rate down to just 7% while upping his strikeout rate to 27%, with his excellent stuff being able to play up thanks to shorter stints. Bradley looks to be one of the best relievers in baseball right now, but unfortunately his fantasy outlook is wrapped around saves in which he'll be competing with Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano for the closing role this spring.
Jake Arietta - Since Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, the next big free agent arm to sign might just be Jake Arrieta. The Cubs reportedly reached out to Arrieta about a deal similar to what they signed Darvish for in case they were spurned by Darvish. Arietta was really strong down the stretch for the Cubs posting a 2.28 ERA in the second half after a 4.35 ERA in the first half. His strikeout rate did dip though in the second half which isn't exactly the best news, but his HR/FB rate did drop a bit which really plagued him in the first half. A lot of his value is going to be tied to where he ends up, Twins and Brewers have both been linked to him in recent weeks.
JD Martinez - Apparently JD Martinez and the Diamondbacks aren't likely to agree on a reunion for 2018 so it seems like it's the Red Sox or a mystery team that emerges from the shadows that signs the powerful outfielder. Martinez's defensive struggles make it seem like he's destined for an AL team, which would probably be easier on his body too as he's missed a TON of time the last few years. Martinez has posted wRC+es of 141 and 166 over the last two years making him one of the best pure hitters on the planet. Throwing him in the middle that great Red Sox lineup would be great for his fantasy value just saying.
Eric Hosmer - The Athletic is reporting that the Padres and Royals are the two teams still competing for Eric Hosmer's services at first base. Hosmer has kind of become the Nickleback of baseball as everyone hates on the guy even though he isn't THAT bad. Last year he posted a 135 wRC+ with 25 homers and 94 RBI. His that he can control improved across the board despite that fact his hard hit rate dropped by 5%, not exacting boding well for his .351 BABIP that he posted last season. He's a solid first baseman but still a good ways behind the elite options.
Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals - Bud Norris is joining the Cardinals bullpen for 2018 after a season with the Angels that was DERAILED by a horrific second half. In the first half he posted a 2.23 ERA with a near 12 K/9 before owning a 7.03 ERA in the second half. A knee injury mixed in definitely had an effect on his season and if he's back to being healthy he's going to be a solid addition to the Cardinals who ranked in the middle of the pack last season.
Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox - Apparently we have an early contender for the MLB player in the best shape of their life in Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi has shown up to Boston's camp looking "jacked", and coming off a 20/20 season in his rookie season this should only make the hype train on him roll even faster. His hit tool is hands down his best tool and at a .271 average on a solid .301 BABIP and 34% hard hit rate. While I don't know how much more in terms of homers he can reach with a 38% fly ball rate already without dropping his average even more.
Chase Utley - Chase Utley is currently talking with the Dodgers and the talks are reportedly serious. Utley played 138 games for the Dodgers last year and hit eight homers to go along with a .236 average. Utley's BABIP was abysmally low but he did consistently hit the ball consistently hard at 36%. Utley is just a name at this point and I can't reasonably see a scenario where he's worth rostering this year.
Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates - Starling Marte is currently sitting at an incredible value, that I can't really see lasting once we get closer to opening day. Marte was suspended for a huge chunk of the season last year due to a steroid suspension but still managed to hit 7 homers and swipe 21 bags to go with a .275 average. Right now in NFBC drafts he's going 50th overall, right before Rhys Hoskins and Byron Buxton at the position. Hoskins had in incredible run down the stretch but I'm interested to see how it carries into his second season and we all love Buxton, but still don't know fully what he is. However we know what Marte is. He's a bordering .300 hitter with double digit homers and 30+ steals year in year out.
Matt Reynolds, Washington Nationals - Matt Reynolds was sent from the Mets to the Nationals for cash considerations Monday night. Reynolds provides a utility backup for the Nationals but with that loaded infield there isn't any sort of spot to get regular at bats. He's had some modest stolen base totals in the minors but doesn't provide much of anything in terms of power.