NEW YORK YANKEES:
How will the Yanks fit in the offseason additions to the infield with the youngsters? - For me, the infield playing time battle, at least for the first half of the year until Didi returns, is going to come down to new acquisitions Troy Tulowitzki and DJ Lemahieu. I'm tempted to favor Lemahieu in this, as he has a much higher floor than Tulo and has, you know, actually played the past few years. Aside from last season, where he struggled to a road line of 229/277/422, he's been around a .300 hitter away from Coors Field as well, so I don't buy a huge downgrade in his numbers moving to Yankee Stadium. Still, you can't deny Tulo's upside if he's actually healthy once again....the problem here is twofold: that situation rarely persists for long, and he's now 5 years removed from being more than a league-average bat. Add in the looming return of Didi Gregorius at some point around mid-season and a likely batting order position of 8 or 9, and I have a tough time thinking there's a lot of value to be had in either of these two outside of deeper leagues this spring. I have Lemahieu barely inside the top-20 at 2B, slightly ahead of his current ADP, and Tulo right around his ADP of SS #35.
What's Happ-ening? - The 36 year old Happ is the clear #4 starter for the Yankees heading into 2019, which has to comfort the club after an August and September in which he posted 7 QS in 11 outings. Happ has definitely blossomed in his mid-30's, rediscovering a bit of velocity and adding a lot of control, culminating in a career-best swinging strike rate in 2018 and the two best chase rates of his career the past two seasons. There's no real reason to expect this trend to suddenly turn around at age 36, and I do like Happ as a solid low SP3/high SP4 in standard leagues. His ceiling likely isn't that great, but the floor seems fairly solid to me.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS:
Just how much of a wasteland is the catching position anyway? - The catching position right now is just about as ugly as any position ever gets in fantasy baseball. The top 2 players are in a tier of their own but are still looking like overdrafts on average by a couple of rounds to me, then there are another 5-6 guys that are acceptable, then it's just bad. Two catcher leagues? I'm not sure there are going to be 10 league average bats at the position. The Angels have signed Jon Lucroy to try and give themselves a catcher that might be a plus offensively for the first time in either 4 or 10 years, depending on what you think of Chris Iannetta. At first glance Lucroy looks like another has-been at this position of attrition, but there is some small reason for optimism here. The park change should help a bit, although Angel Stadium is still a slight pitchers' park, it's nothing like O.co. The big thing that I've noticed with Lucroy is that his hard contact rate and batted ball mix rebounded tremendously last year...the stats just didn't come with them. His peripherals across the board were very similar to his 2014 season in Milwaukee, but where he hit 301/373/465 in 2014, he managed a mere 241/291/325 last season. I expect a fairly sizable rebound for him in BABIP, and I think there's a fair chance he could finish in the top 12 at the position (he's currently being drafted 19th). I wouldn't want him as my first catcher despite my relative optimism, but as a second backstop he wouldn't be a terrible option.
And another ex-Oakland guy.... - Tevor Cahill is joining Jon Lucroy in the move south from Oakland to Anaheim, and should slot right in as the #3 starter for the Angels. Cahill's chase rate and swinging strike percentage continued their significant upward trend last season, fueled by judicious use of his deceptive changeup. His control made significant positive strides as well, which makes me think there's much more upside here than his current ADP of SP #103 would lead you to believe. The combination of his extreme groundball tendencies, improving control, and burgeoning K rate have me pegging him as a mild sleeper this spring, and I wouldn't mind grabbing him as a high-risk SP5 in standard formats with a late round choice.
Maybe they won't miss Bryce? - I am really excited about this Washington OF even without Bryce Harper, as I think Soto, Eaton, and Victor Robles could all have big years. For now Robles hasn't been names the starter, but unless he really struggles this spring he is expected to open the season in CF. He is at least average, and I'd personally wager at least above average, in every facet of the game. As is typical with young players, the power has been the last thing to come around, and he still may only be a 15 HR hitter for a few years as he fills out. The hit tool looks very solid, and even with the SB adjustment to the majors I'd expect 15-20 steals with a chance at 30. I think he's an impact player possibly as soon as this season, but at an ADP of OF #35, his value is probably already at a somewhat optimistic level. I have him perhaps 10-12 spots lower than that right now, but the ceiling is impressive enough that I wouldn't mind grabbing him and pairing him up with a higher-floor guy for my OF4/5 spots.
The New "Third Ace" - Corbin has a new home in Washington as the "third ace" behind Mad Max and Strasburg after signing a monster 6-year deal in the offseason, coming on the heels of a breakout 2018 in Arizona. The K rate bump is terrific and the control was at its typically great level, but the hard contact rate is a bit worrisome to me, even with the talk of inflated rates in that stat across the industry last season. His BABIP could jump by 50 points with the same peripherals and I don't think it would be out of line, and that slider usage from a somewhat injury-prone arm is also a touch concerning. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like here, and the top tier of pitching seems a bit thinner than it's been in the past. Corbin is going early in the 5th round right now as the 15th SP taken, and that is right about where I have him as well. I think the floor here is a bit lower than some of the guys around him though (Strasburg, Greinke, even Berrios).
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B - TB) - If you're looking for a deep-league sleeper that might come out of nowhere this spring, Yandy Diaz is an intriguing choice. His stats make him look like a slap hitter extraordinaire, but he's actually a pretty big guy, he just hits the ball on the ground a ton. That seems to be changing ever so slightly the past few seasons, and that fact, when coupled with the chase rate around 20%, the high contact rate, and the hard contact rate and exit velocity that are top-shelf, make me think that his new situation in Tampa Bay (likely starter at either 1B or 3B) could end up being a great fit. The first article has already come out that he worked on his launch angle this offseason, so at least he's aware of how to increase his production. I'm targeting him in the later rounds in all of my drafts.
Nick Pivetta (SP - PHI) - In both of Pivetta's years in MLB, his ERA has been over a run and a half higher than his xFIP ERA. Some guys consistently outperform or underperform their xFIP for various reasons, but very rarely by that much. Factor in the huge improvement in his curveball last year, the one fewer walk per nine, the 3.5% bump in swinging strike rate, the hard contact drop, and the improved bullpen.....that's a lot of potential reasons for optimism. His ADP is currently in round 17 as SP #50, and I have him about 10 spots and a few rounds better than that. I have no trouble targeting him as an SP4 in standard leagues.
Julio Teheran (SP - ATL) - As optimistic as I am about Nick Pivetta and Yandy Diaz, that's about how pessimistic I am about Julio Teheran. Now, Teheran has made this entire phase of his career about massive outperformance vs. his xFIP ERA. Last year was just silly though, as his hard contact increased significantly to a career worst, his walk rate ballooned, yet he somehow managed an MLB-low .217 BABIP. As far as I can tell, he managed this by barely throwing any strikes (37% zone rate). I don't believe that to be a sustainable strategy, and I fully expect an ERA well into the 4's this season barring some skills resurgence, which I must confess is possible as he's still just 28. Still, there's far more potential in this area of things (SP 60-80) than Teheran offers, like Joe Musgrove or Forrest Whitley to name just two.
Mike Foltynewicz (SP - ATL) - From one Atlanta pitcher to another. Out of all of the top-30 SP's by current ADP, Folty (23rd) is probably the one that I have the least confidence in. The velo and swinging strike rate were up, but the swinging strike rate wasn't all that impressive, at least not enough to justify the large jump in K rate. We also saw a continuing trend in declining chase rate, and a miniscule BABIP of .251 despite an increase in both pull% and hard contact rate. Folty posted an ERA of 2.85 last year, and if you put the over/under at 3.50 for this season, I'm going to take the over. I have him ranked almost 10 slots lower among SPs and about 2-3 rounds later than his current position.
Josh Harrison (2B - DET) - Harrison did sign a 1-year deal with the Tigers yesterday, and likely will slot right in as their starting 2B and possible leadoff hitter. Harrison had a forgettable 2018, breaking his left hand again and straining a hamstring that hobbled him down the stretch, but he's just 2 years removed from a .272/16/12 season, which puts him on the edges of being a viable MIF in standard formats. His ceiling is fairly low, but the AVG should at least be decent and he'll chip in a few steals. Likely deep league choice only.
Byron Buxton (OF - MIN) - After another lost season, what are we to expect from Buxton now? There's a very good chance that he will open the season as the starting CF for the Twins once again, and even after all this time and the multiple disappointments, he's still just 25 years old and 18 months removed from a 300/347/546 2nd half that had people thinking 300/30/30 was possible for 2018. I'm a firm believer in the old Bill James adage that "once you exhibit a skill, you own that skill". As such, a bounceback is absolutely possible here, although I think the hit tool will perpetually be an issue much more than we suspected years ago. The problem with Buxton is that he hasn't really become a "post-hype" guy despite all of the struggles. He's still being drafted as the 50th OF taken in around the 17th round, and I think that might value him a bit highly. The ceiling and floor have as wide a gap as essentially anyone's, so on the right team he's draftable at that spot for me, but in general I think that's a bit pricey.
Ryan Braun (OF - MIL) - "I worked on my launch angle all offseason" might be the new "I really watched what I ate and lost 10 pounds this offseason". That being said, it's refreshing when a guy like Braun, who had a launch angle roughly half of the league average with hard hit rates and exit velocity in the top 8% of hitters, recognizes what might help him be a bit more fortunate this year. Braun was about as unlucky as any offensive player last season, and I think a rebound isn't just possible, it's likely. He hit 281/353/526 after the break last year, and anything close to that is probably going to result in a 25 HR, 85 RBI season at a minimum. Currently going 52nd among OFs, I have him about 5 spots higher than that and about a round earlier than his current 18th round position.
Drew Pomeranz (SP - SF) - Pomeranz was never healthy for Boston last year, suffering a flexor strain, biceps tendonitis, and a neck strain during the course of the year. If the health problems are behind him, what remains is a guy that was a fairly consistent mid-3.00's ERA arm that has now moved to one of the more favorable parks for pitching in the majors. Why a guy like this isn't even going in the top-150 SPs is beyond me....he could easily be a top-60 SP at year's end if he just performs at 90% of the level that he did from 2014-2017. He's certainly a target for me late in drafts.
Eloy Jimenez (OF - CWS) - With the way that the White Sox managed his service time late last year, I find it hard to believe that Jimenez will be with the club when they break camp, but I don't doubt that he's ready. The 22 year old hit .336 with 22 homers in just 108 games across two levels last year, and he easily projects as a potential .300/30/100 hitter. Even with the possibility of missing a few weeks of performance from him, I have no problem drafting him in the area where he's going currently, which is in round 13 as the 42nd OF taken on average. The ceiling here is simply too good to pass up, and aside from a few struggles at age 17 in his first stateside ball he's never really had any problems with his production.
Jesus Luzardo (SP - OAK) - There's already talk about potentially having Jesus Luzardo open the season with Oakland, and while I think that isn't likely to happen, the talent here is undeniable. He might be the 2nd best pitching prospect in the minors right now, and he should be expected to post some pretty high K rates regardless of whether he struggles or not. He isn't even being drafted in most formats, which is funny because I'd be surprised if he weren't up in Oakland by June. He should easily be in the first 75 pitchers drafted even with the playing time uncertainty, and you could make an argument that he should be in the top-60. I'd definitely look to snap him up in the late-game portion of drafting.