Spring training means nothing ... until it does.
Rewind the clock back 12 months. Back then ... Quad-A 1B, Dan Vogelbach, got a three-to-four round boost because of his Spring Training Slash-Mark Triple Crown (leading all spring MLB hitters in BA/OBP/SLG). Back then ... Scott Kingery surged up draft boards throughout the month of March after posting a .411 batting mark that included five HRs and four SBs. Back then ... New Cubbie, Tyler Chatwood, strengthened the offseason hype and moved into SP3 territory (for many) after securing four wins with a sub-3 ERA over 21+ spring innings.
After all three shared in 'ADP liftoff,' all three then fell on their face. Vogelbach had more spring RBIs (15) than regular season RBIs (13). Kingery totaled nearly 500 plate appearances and fashioned an Hechavarria-like .605 OPS. Chatwood led baseball in ... walks ... in just 103 innings!
This serves as your Public Service Announcement. Games have started. Mostly meaningless numbers will now be passed along as meaningful (we'll tell you which ones matter here at Fantistics InsiderBaseball!). Prospects will rise. Slow-starters will fall. This is the time to dust off your Fantasy Baseball Filter ... take a deep breath with every big spring showing and force those numbers through the filter of reason, track record, and deduction.
Now, onto this week's latest ADP news and numbers ...
(Reminder: Each player is followed by his current NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) ADP mark. The following two numbers are the highest that player has been selected in an NFBC draft and then, the lowest that player has been selected in an NFBC draft. Entering the final week of February, these NFBC numbers come from a collection of 248 drafts.)
Clayton Kershaw's (#38 overall, high - 15/low - 61) injury issues can no longer be ignored. The All-Everything LA lefty notified the Dodger staff that things just didn't feel right during a bullpen session early last week. The team immediately announced they'd slow him down and keep him off the mound for a week. As the week progressed, the outlook turned a bit more sour with each passing day, eventually ending with word that Kershaw's shoulder was the concern.
This latest news comes on the heels of a fourth season in five where Kershaw has battled a list of nagging ailments. There is ZERO question that the future Hall of Famer is still good when he pitches. But, there are a long line of questions as to his overall health, how many starts he'll give you in a season, and how many innings you'll get from him. You can argue until you're Dodger Blue in the face, but the facts are the facts ... Kershaw hasn't thrown over 175 innings since 2015, his K-rate crashed hard last season (8.4), and he's in his 30s with both back and arm concerns.
From a velocity standpoint (and, ain't that the name of the game nowadays?), Kershaw showed a concerning slip last year. His average fastball came in at 91.4. Just two seasons ago, it stood at 93.7. That difference has ramifications for a man who uses his off-speed curve to keep hitters guessing. And, what did you see last year? Hitters swinging and missing less than ever before (15% swing-and-miss % from '14-'17 ... 11% in '18) and hitters with a much higher contact percentage (71.1% from '14-'17 ... 78.5 in '18).
Kershaw has not been a personal target of mine for three seasons now, but that had been a lonely road to travel. Finally, people were jumping on-board my train this preseason. Last week's injury will crowd the choo-choo even more. I'm not expecting even 150 innings from the great lefty this year. I suggest you let him be someone else's problem. And, recall my favorite saying when it comes to fantasy sports ... No one can predict injuries, but everybody has the tools available to expect injuries. Expect them with Kershaw.
As expected, the initial reaction to Manny Machado (15, 5/28) landing in San Diego was mostly negative. The first NFBC drafts following the news firmly locked Machado into the second round. And, that '28' you see up there next to his name means that he also plopped into the 3rd round in at least one NFBC get-together.
I think the hand-wringing is overdone. Machado is a star and can hit most anywhere. San Diego does not do him favors, as such, but it's not the murder on hitting that many think. In the earliest days of Petco Park, fly balls went nowhere and the yard was consistently ranked as one of the two or three worst offensive parks in all of baseball. But, that reputation has changed a good deal in recent seasons. Baseball Prospectus lists Petco with a 3-year Park Factor that makes it a 'slight' pitchers' yard. Runs/RH (Right-Handers) stands at 99. HR/RH stands at 97. A mark of 100 in either category is 'neutral.' Camden Yards (Machado's old stomping grounds) has a Runs/RH of 100 and a HR/RH of 107.
Essentially, you should be profiling Machado for 27-32 HRs this year. That's a fall from his three-year average (35.5), but in 2019, no number is easier to replace than HRs. You can find them all over the place. Machado's overall game of four-plus category help, statistical consistency year-after-year, and a strong run of health is difficult to find. The Padre lineup around him is also stronger than it is given credit for. One other checkmark for Machado is that he will be slotted in as a 3B for San Diego, thus earning him SS/3B eligibility in every single fantasy league by May 1st. I still consider Machado an excellent, high, 2nd-round selection.
An Ocean Full of ... Dead Fish?
OK, OK ... I know that talking Miami Marlins baseball doesn't move the needle ... er, get the clicks. The franchise is hard to root for. The ballpark is a gaudy, empty mess. And, unless you bleed Pinstripes, you retch at the sight of Derek Jeter running a baseball team (but, it does make watching them lose a little more pleasing, right?!).
Here's the good news ... you don't really need to spend more than five minutes of your pre-draft time going through their roster. Seriously. It's a hideous collection! Ah, well, maybe I should calm down, eh? Power-popping backstop, Jorge Alfaro (242, 159/339), makes for a fine 2nd catching option. Young Sandy Alcantara (482, 288/552) fits as an 8th or 9th pitcher who throws really hard and could make things click. Someone has got to get saves and that might be Drew Steckenrider (277, 167/515). Brian Anderson (279, 161/353) brings decent marks and infield/outfield eligibility as a final round pick.
And, that's about as far as I'd go. And, before you say it ... don't waste your time on the no ceiling'd, totally blah, Starlin Castro (319, 228/414). At that point in the draft you'll see a load of possible jumpers that could exceed their draft spot. Castro is not one of them. Overall, you should take a cue from him ... you don't want to be in Miami for baseball.
Shutdown on the C-Mart Express
Along the same lines as the Kershaw news came the statement that Carlos Martinez (130, 82/302) was also being shutdown. Obviously, the right-hander doesn't hang in quite the same circles as his fellow sore thrower, but it's worth remembering that Martinez was pegged a NL Cy Young favorite entering the 2nd-week of May last year. He held three wins, a 1.62 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and a K-per-inning. So, what happened?
Injuries. Three of them. All to the right-side of his body.
Now, we have a fourth injury to deal with. Also on the right-side. A disappointed Cardinals' front office has pressed 'pause' on their hoped-for ace as he battles through shoulder soreness. I type 'disappointed' because the St. Louis brass was let-down by Martinez's off-season training and therapy to make sure he was set and ready to roll at the start of training camp. Instead, we're now all sitting around wondering if he'll be ready for Opening Day.
And, frankly, we also have to wonder if he's headed to the bullpen. As many of us know this is a team team steeped in arm after arm after arm. Martinez also produced a September of success out of the bullpen last year, coming off a DL stint to deliver five saves, a lively pitch arsenal, and over a K-per-inning.
We have big issues here ... is he healthy and are you drafting a starter or a reliever? For sure, you would like to wait until late in the spring to make your stance official, but that's a draft scheduling luxury many of us don't get. I'd sport a lot of trepidation with Martinez. Still, I'd call it a 'good pick' if you were able to make him your 5th SP in a 12-teamer.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 8-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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