Ryan Schimpf - Here's a pair of stat lines for comparison's sake: .217/.336/.533 130 wRC+, 20 HR, .315 ISO, 31.8% strikeout rate. Number 2, .209/.333/.537 123 wRC+ 41 homers and a 36.8% strikeout rate. As you may have guessed one of these is Ryan Schimpf and that would be the first one in 89 games in 2016. The second would be Joey Gallo's stat line from last season. The Braves recently acquired the fly ball specialist from Tampa Bay and he's going to figure into the Braves roster in some fashion this year. The Braves are one of the most power-starved teams in baseball with one player you'd bet your house on to hit more than 15 homers. Schimpf doesn't provide much besides power but there is a chance he could be the strong side of a 3B platoon with Johan Camargo this year. Schimpf owns a 122 wRC+ off righties for his career while Camargo posted a 190 wRC+ against lefties last season. Now Schimpf struggled mightily last season as despite all of his batted ball metrics lining up with 2016, his hard hit rate plummeted by 13% which naturally will decrease his raw totals as an extreme fly ball hitter.
Brandon McCarthy - Brandon McCarthy was acquired by the Braves in the Matt Kemp trade and he's one of two pitchers (Julio Teheran) who are locks for the Braves rotation come opening day. Despite a steep drop in his K% from 2016 to 17, McCarthy was actually a much better pitcher for the Dodgers and lowering his ERA by a full run and his FIP by half a run. His HR/9 stayed the same from the two years but he saw a sharp increase in his GB rate and also a decrease in his hard-hit rate. The likely conclusion as to how he pulled this off? Simply put, he started using his cut fastball more as a weapon. McCarthy jumped from and 8% usage on the pitch in '16 to just shy of 30% last year. The cutter also was an effective pitch for McCarthy as well rating as 3.6 runs above average according to Fangraphs' Pitch FX. Throughout the 2017 season, McCarthy had close to a 10% whiff rate (via Brooks Baseball) on the cutter which was a far more consistent generator of whiffs than any of his other offerings.
Mike Soroka - Mike Soroka is one of the Braves top pitching prospects and is likely AAA to start the year, but could be knocking on the doors to Suntrust Park sooner than later. Through three Spring Training outings, he is posting a 1.80 ERA with a strikeout per inning and a .40 WHIP. Soroka may never end up being a fantasy ace without an uptick in his K% as it's slowed as he's faced more advanced hitters along the way up the minor league ladder, which isn't surprising as he is still just 20 years old. Over 153 innings in AA last year he struck out 19.9% of batters he faced against just 5.4% walks. His 3.19 FIP last season in AA was the highest of his career since he was drafted just two years prior. Like I said at the beginning he's ticketed for AAA at best to start the season but I wouldn't be surprised if we see him debut in the majors in the second half of the season.
Tampa Bay Rays News
Rays Rotation - Manager Kevin Cash said that the team was likely going to start with a four-man rotation until absolutely necessary, but apparently thinks that it may never be necessary for the Rays this year as he said they may roll with a four-man rotation all year. This is a popular strategy for the playoffs but I have some serious questions about whether this is a feasible concept to run 162 times with some spot starts from the pen thrown in here and there. I wondered if there was a noticeable trend that Rays' starters struggled the third time through a lineup, but aside from Chris Archer the team was fine and Archer is the one pitcher I feel fine about going deep into games. Nathan Eovaldi could be the 4th man in the rotation and a heavy bullpen team could help him as he's returning from Tommy John surgery this season.
Jose De Leon - While the four-man rotation seems crazy, there's a chance that four starters are all the Rays will even have as they have lost another young arm to Tommy John surgery. Jose De Leon is the latest victim for the Rays in what has been a really tough season for Rays' fans. De Leon joins Brent Honeywell on the mend for this season but if there's some sort of silver lining is they will have plenty of time to rehab to potentially make impacts in 2018.
Blake Snell - I wrote about Blake Snell as a value pick as his 2017 season was derailed overall by a horrific July, and he's off to an extremely strong start this spring. Snell has struck out ten batters in 7.0 innings this spring with a 0.57 WHIP and a 1.29 ERA. His ADP is still currently sitting in the 200's overall and that makes for a slam dunk choice around that ADP.
Around The League
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees - Aaron Boone threw out an interesting concept this week in Yankees camp about potentially batting Aaron Judge in the leadoff spot this year. Boone elaborated that he didn't think it would be something likely to happen but that the idea has been floated around in camp. It's a very interesting concept to think about as Judge just seems like your prototypical 3-4 hitter, but on a team with Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, you get a little more room to play. While Judge struck out in 30% of his ABs last season he also walked in almost 20% of his ABs netting him a .422 OBP which ranked 3rd in all of baseball. .422 sure sounds like a leadoff hitter even if 52 homers doesn't. We'd likely see a dip in his RBI totals should this happen but he scored 128 runs last season and over a full year you'd think he could close to replicating that total.
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox - Rafael Devers is off to a hot start this year at the plate hitting .391 with two homers (both this week) and a 1.130 OPS. While there's a solid chance this means nothing it's at least worth noting that he has yet to strikeout this spring through 23 at-bats, but he also has yet to walk as well. Devers had a 23.8% and 7.5% strikeout and walk rate respectively last season while slashing .284/.338/.482 in his 58 games in the majors last year. Cutting down on his strikeouts would definitely help his overall line, especially if he continues a 35% hard-hit rate. He's currently being drafted as the 13th 3B off the board right behind Miguel Sano and just in front of Jake Lamb and Eduardo Nunez.
Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians - With Danny Salazar still not returning to the mound yet with his shoulder injury it seems like it's an extreme longshot for the righty to start the season in the Indians rotation. Stuff-wise, Salazar may be the best in the Indians rotation and that even includes Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Last season Salazar got some work in the Indians pen and I think there's a chance we may see that again this season since he's thrown 140 innings just once in his major league career. He's currently being drafted a few spots ahead of Danny Duffy and Jameson Taillon and I think I like both of them over Salazar but would still draft Salazar ahead of the next bunch of arms in Michael Fulmer, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman.
Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays - It seems like just yesterday that Troy Tulowitzki was the best SS in fantasy baseball and now he currently has ano ADP lower than Dansby Swanson. Even as a Braves fan that hurts to type. Tulo's body has started to fight against him as he hasn't played in 140 games since 2011 and last year was limited to just 66 games. Projections for Tulo this year aren't kind because as they do have him finishing around 15-20 homers but they also have him playing around 110 games. If Tulo can stay healthy for 130-40 games 20 homers seem extremely feasible but I'm letting someone else take the bet on that one.
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals - Matt Carpenter is dealing with his back injury and while he has started swinging recently there are reports out that he may not be ready for opening day. Carpenter has been a solid source of power the last few seasons but his average has taken a huge hit because of it. His first power breakout season saw him hit 28 homers and he still hit .272 (extremely usable in fantasy) and after following it up with 21/.271 the next year he tanked to 23/.241 in 2017. With a hard hit rate that's increased over the last three season you'd think the average would stay solid but in his attempt to hit more and more fly balls he's become less and less efficient on getting them to clear the fence. His HR/FB rate has dropped from 15.8% to 12.2% over the last three seasons which definitely helps explains the average drop. He's currently the 22nd first baseman off the boards and I think I'll take a flier on Josh Bell or Justin Bour over him at this point in his career.
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners - Ichiro officially signed a one year deal with the Mariners Wednesday in a Homecoming that feels like it could be a precursor to a retirement ceremony after the season. The Mariners are dealing with some outfield injuries as Mitch Haniger in dealing with a hand injury and Ben Gamel injured his oblique. Ichiro is likely going to get some at-bats at the beginning of the season but will likely be forced into a 4th outfielder role as the season progresses. Unfortunately, he's just a name at this point.
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers - Corey Seager is going to play shortstop for the Dodgers next week barring a setback to his elbow. Seager took a small set back overall in 2017 but still posted almost a 6 win season at SS in 145 games. Seager saw a small downturn in his average from 2016 but thanks to a 10% walk rate he was able to up his OBP by 10 points. Seager's small power drop is odd because he raised his FB% by 5% along with a 5% uptick in his hard-hit rate. Seager is the last in the tier of elite SS options this year as there's almost a 20 pick difference between him and Elvis Andrus as the next SS off the board.
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers - Matt Kemp is back with the Dodgers and he says that he's going 30/20 this year and if you follow me on Twitter I bet my house on under 20 steals. Please don't tell my wife. Kemp has come to camp in great shape this year and has had a great start to spring hitting three homers with a 1.192 OPS. Unfortunately, we saw this saga unfold in Atlanta last year where he came to camp and look great and then his first hammy went and all the weight came back. Kemp really only provides power at this point in his career and the Dodgers have already tried to deal him themselves after trading for him to help clear some contracts. If Kemp could land in the AL where he could DH there may be some value here but if not then we can just ignore him at this point.
Matt Harvey, New York Mets - Matt Harvey is looking great this spring in his handful of innings and has been hitting 96 on the radar guns early on. Harvey returning to even half of what he was a few years back would be a huge asset for the Mets as the top flight arms of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have made it so Harvey doesn't have to be the Dark Knight anymore. Harvey's strikeouts have mysteriously vanished and it's tied to the fact last season his swinging strike rate dropped to 7.5% and has been dropping now for three straight seasons. If the radar guns are close to accurate in Florida there's a chance we could see some resurgence from Harvey as his fastball averaged 93 last year and if he could get it up to 95 MPH it could go a long way.
Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels - Garrett Richards is looking great this spring generating over a strikeout per innings and against the Dodgers on Wednesday he struck out seven batters in four innings. Talent has never been the issue for Richards as he has battled injuries over the last two seasons. During 2014-15 he struck out right around 22% of the batters that he faced and walked around 8%. In those two seasons as well he posted a 22% hard contact rate against him and after it ballooned in 2016 to 35.7% it has already started to decline to 27% last season. If Richards is healthy and can log around 170-80 innings this year his current ADP of 170 is an absolute steal.
Tim Lincecum, Texas Rangers - Tim Lincecum officially landed his deal with the Rangers this week and the delay came in part due to the passing of Tim's older brother. He's going to pitch out of the Rangers bullpen this year in a role that has yet to be determined. Right now he's not worth owning anywhere unless you are in a deep AL-Only league and your last dollar is burning your skin through your pocket, but with an undecided back end of the Rangers pen, it's at worst something to earmark.