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What can we expect from C Danny Jansen?
The Blue Jays traded C Russell Martin to the Dodgers which means that C Danny Jansen is slated to become the Blue Jays, primary catcher. If you haven't already looked at the player pool, catching is a dumpster fire this year. This makes the news of Jansen getting a full-time role a big deal. Before the first of the year, Jansen was going on average as the 15th catcher off the board at pick #269 in NFBC drafts. Since then he has been the 9th catcher selected with his ADP rising 25 picks to #244. His price is only going to continue to go up heading into drafts. In 31 games a year ago, Jansen showed enough pop (3 HR, .185 ISO) to project him for double digits home runs this year. He also has an above average strikeout rate (18%) which was a calling card throughout the minors. Realistically, he could be someone that hits for a decent average and provides just enough pop at a position that is hurting for offensive weapons.
Is OF Teoscar Hernandez without a job?
Teoscar Hernandez hit .239 with 22 HR/67 R/57 RBI/5 SB in 134 games last year. He is someone who has the raw tools (power + speed) to be a fantasy star but his lack of contact (31% K) has set him back tremendously. In fact, it might have lost him a starting job this year. The Blue Jays are projected to go with an outfield of Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney, and Kevin Pillar to start the year. Grichuk and Pillar are not models of health and McKinney is an unknown, so Hernandez could play himself into a starting role but he would need to improve his strikeout rate and be able to get on base more than the .302 OBP he had a year ago. Hernandez is still a statcast darling with barrel% and exit velocities within the top 7% of the league. As I mentioned earlier though his strikeout rate was bottom 4% of the league as well. So there is still a downside, but his price (#315) on draft day does not reflect his upside.
What to make of Marcus Stroman this year?
Marcus Stroman has been a fascinating player to watch and follow since he came into the league. He pitches with a chip on his shoulder and he has plus stuff given his shorter build for a starter. What this has led to is a variety of opinions of Stroman as a starter especially in the fantasy community. The fact as of right now is that he is coming off the worst season of his career (5.54 ERA) over just 102.1 IP due to a right shoulder injury. The good news is that he did finish the year on the mound and appears to be healthy coming into 2019. The problem is that Stroman depends on volume to accrue fantasy stats and he is also heavily tied to his ratio stats due to his low strikeout rate (19%). He does get a ton of ground balls (60%) which helps limit hard contact but leaves him susceptible to batted ball variance. This, in turn, puts stress on his ratio stats because he needs everything to break his way to post above-average ratios. Stroman in his three years in the league has posted a mediocre 2016 season (4.37 ERA), above average 2017 (3.05 ERA), and terrible 2018 (5.54 ERA). In seasons past, you had to pay up to get Stroman and hope that he took the big leap forward in strikeout rate and results. This year his price has dropped dramatically to pick #330 (NFBC) which takes him out of the top 100 pitchers. At this price, there is plenty of room for value but he needs to show that he is 100% healthy in Spring Training before completely buying in.
Will the Yasiel Puig ADP train stop?
Prior to the trade to Cincinnati, Yasiel Puig was being drafted on average at pick #130 in 15 team NFBC drafts as the 36th OF. He was taken as high as #80 overall. In January alone, his ADP rose from #130 to #87 with him going as high as 69th overall. Yes, the park shift from Dodgers stadium to Great American Ballpark is a good one. Yes, Puig is immensely talented but at what point does the helium become too much. He has averaged 127 games a season for his five-year career. Puig has been plagued by lower body injuries including soft tissue injuries that are more likely to reoccur. This is the downside to Puig more than the narrative of his behavior or personality like some make it seem like. The upside is that Puig put together a very strong 2018 season in 125 games. He hit .267 with 23 HR, 60 R, 63 RBI, and 15 SB. He has the upside of 30 HR and 15 SB he if he were to play a whole season. Puig's power upside is real given that his barrel%, launch angle, and hard hit% all climbed to career highs last season. This in addition to the park shift to a hitter-friendly park for right-handed batters is what has everyone so intrigued. Just keep in mind you are going to have to pay for that upside on draft day and it does come with significant risk in terms of games played.
Jesse Winker's shoulder and playing time...
Yasiel Puig is not the only Reds outfielder getting a lot of love from the fantasy community this offseason. Jesse Winker had shoulder surgery that limited him to just 89 games a year ago but the significant news was that Winker had been dealing with shoulder pain all throughout the minors prior to the surgery. He reportedly feels great and should be ready for Spring Training. Winker has shown the ability to get on base at an elite clip while maintaining above-average contact skills. In his 89 game run last year, he walked more than he struck out (49:46) which resulted in a .405 OBP. He also started to turn the power on prior to surgery. His slugging% and ISO climbed each month from May to June. This in addition to his shoulder being completely healthy changes the outlook on Winker from a fantasy perspective. He goes from someone who has good skills but lacks the power needed for fantasy to someone who could be a star given his OBP, contact, and increasing power skills. The only issue with Winker is where he slots into the Reds outfield rotation. Currently, it looks like a battle between Winker and newly acquired Matt Kemp for LF duties. Regardless, of the lack of initial playing time, I would be buying into Jesse Winker given that his skills and youth will win out over the long term.
Can Luis Castillo rebound from his disappointing 2018 season?
Luis Castillo was one of the most hyped players during draft season a year ago and for good reason. He had a 3.12 ERA with the skills to back it up (27% K, 13% SwStr). Castillo struggled out of the gate with a 7.45 ERA in March/April and things did not get much better the rest of the way. He alternated good and bad months but never seemed to get on track. Part of his issue was a drop in velocity. He started the year averaging 95 mph but was up to 97 again by the end of the year. So it is possible that he was dealing with an injury or mechanical issue that got fixed. The other encouraging sign is that he improved his walk rate and increased his swinging strike. The underlying skills are still there for Castillo to take a leap forward and assert himself as the ace of the staff. He does need to improve his fastball command because too often he left it over the middle of the plate which resulted in a .259 AVG against and hitters slugged .540 against the pitch. The hope is that new pitching coach Derek Johnson gets Castillo to use his off-speed pitches more and to improve Castillo's fastball beyond just velocity. His slider got 16% whiffs and his change-up was elite at 27% whiffs. The makings are there for Castillo to rebound and provide strong value to fantasy owners.
Didi Gregorius has been cleared to begin a throwing program as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be out until the All-Star break. This limits his fantasy impact in 2019 after a very strong 2018 season (.268 AVG with 27 HR/89 R/86 RBI/10 SB). He showed improvement by increasing his walk rate to 8% and his ISO to a career-high .226. The improvement in power did not come with more fly balls but better contact. He set a career high in hard contact (36%), exit velocity (86.5mph), and barrel% (4.7%). This, in combination with a good home park for left-handed power resulted in a career high in home runs. Gregorius is worth a stash in leagues with DL slots but tough to stash in shallow bench leagues.
Carlos Correa won his arbitration case against the Astros so he will make $5 million this year. This is irrelevant for fantasy but what is important is that he is reportedly healthy coming into Spring Training after playing just 110 games last year due to a back injury. His production slipped when on the field and he hit .239 with 15 HR/60 R/65 RBI/3 SB. Since the beginning of the year, he is going as the 9th SS off the board at pick #50 in 15 team NFBC formats. His lack of health the past two seasons has dropped him out of first-round consideration to late third, early fourth round. Correa still has the skills to be an above average fantasy player but the position as a whole has taken a step forward and increased risk due to health has pushed his ADP down. It is also important to consider that he is no longer a threat to steal 20 bases, so his ceiling is not as high as we thought when he broke into the league.
Alex Bregman had surgery in January to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow. He has been cleared to resume hitting and should be ready for the start of the season. Bregman is coming off a monster 2018 season that saw him hit .286 with 31 HR/105 R/103 RBI/10 SB. On top of the monster fantasy stat line, his underlying skills improved as well. Bregman walked more than he struck out while increasing his hard hit percentage. Bregman is going inside the first round this year based on his five-category production and there is nothing in his profile that suggests this level of production won't continue.
Brad Boxberger signed a one year deal with the Kansas City Royals. This has fantasy implications. The Royals current closer is Wily Peralta who saved 14 games last season. The underlying skills are not pretty for Peralta (23% K, 15% BB, and 4.67 SIERA). He simply doesn't miss enough bats and doesn't have the control necessary to limit base runners which is a major problem for a closer. Even if Boxberger doesn't start the year as the Royals closer there is a good chance that he will at least get an opportunity at some point. He has control issues of his own (14% BB) but he misses more bats (30% K) and has been a closer before. He is someone to consider as a late speculation pick.
Jeremy Hellickson signed a one year deal with the Nationals. The Nationals currently have the top four rotation spots occupied by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez. The fifth spot is going to come down to Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Hellickson. Hellickson pitched well a year ago in limited action (3.45 ERA over 91 IP). From a fantasy perspective, he is only to be considered in NL-only leagues because of his low strikeout rate (18%) without elite ratios. Not to mention that he is a health risk.
Jackie Bradley Jr.-Red Sox-OF
Jackie Bradley Jr. hopes to build off the success of his strong second half and postseason performance. He made a swing change during the season after talking with J.D. Martinez and working with his hitting coach Craig Wallenbrock, which resulted in a .269 AVG with a .827 OPS over the second half. The major change came from a 6% increase in fly balls and 5% in his hard contact which resulted in more power for the outfielder. He's not going to hit for a high average due to his strikeout rate (26%) but he does have the potential to go 25 HR/15 SB with good counting stats in an excellent Red Sox lineup. Bradley is currently going on average as the 59th OF at pick #224 in NFBC leagues. The outfielders going around him are Jose Martinez (#58), Marwin Gonzalez (#60), and Manuel Margot (#61) who all have playing time questions heading into the year.
Curtis Granderson signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. He could win a starting job in Spring Training because the Marlins outfield is in need of help. They currently have Lewis Brinson, Brian Anderson, and a combination of Magneuris Sierra, Monte Harrison, and Peter O'Brien looking to win a job as well. Granderson hit .242 with 13 HR/60 R/38 RBI/2 SB in 123 games a year ago. He continues to be able to get on base (.350 OBP) and provide occasional pop (.190 ISO). Granderson is best served in a platoon role against right-handed pitching. This is the best way to use him in fantasy as well which makes him more valuable in daily moves leagues as well as OBP formats. He will also have to win an everyday job to be mixed league relevant and not just NL-only leagues.
Anibal Sanchez signed a two year $19 million deal with the Nationals. Sanchez is coming off a strong rebound season with the Braves in which he posted a 2.83 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP across 136.2 IP. The underlying skills don't suggest that he is likely to continue to have an ERA under 3 but they support an above average starter. He struck out 24% of batters which was backed up by an 11% SwStr and he showed good control with 8% walks. Sanchez was also able to limit hard contact (28%) which also helped him keep the ball in the yard (0.99 HR/9). His improved success was mainly due to the introduction to a cutter and an above-average changeup. His current ADP in the NFBC is pick #285 which makes him a back end of the rotation starter in fantasy and he has the upside of more than that given his skills. Health has always been the biggest factor for Sanchez.
Nate Karns signed a one year deal with the Orioles. He missed all of 2018 with shoulder and elbow injuries. That was coming off a 2017 season in which he only threw 45.1 IP. The Orioles are in a position to take a risk on Karns given the state of their organization and pitching staff. Karns has the skills to be a fantasy relevant starter if healthy. In 2017, he was able to show the ability to strike batters out (27% K) with good control (7% BB) and induce weak contact (50% GB). It was a small sample size (45.1 IP) but it does highlight his upside. The downside to Karns in 2019 re-draft is that he hasn't pitched much over the past two seasons due to injuries and the move from the AL Central to the AL East is not a good one. Karns is someone to keep an eye on to begin the year as he will be available off the wire and has the skills to be a worthy pickup if healthy.
J.T. Realmuto was traded to the Phillies for RHP Sixto Sanchez, C Jorge Alfaro, LHP Will Stewart, and international bonus money. Hopefully, this will open the floodgates to the rest of the free agents. For Realmuto, this is a great move for his fantasy value. He moves from one of the worst parks for right-handed power to one of the best. Citizens Bank Park boosted HR's 16% for right-handed power while Marlins Park was 10% below average. This could keep Realmuto in the 20+ HR range with a good average and even better counting stats now that he is in a much better lineup. Overall, this is a great move for Realmuto's fantasy value.
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