A couple injury and debut notes for the Braves: Dansby Swanson and Josh Donaldson are both expected to make their Grapefruit League debuts on Friday. Mike Soroka will hopefully get to throw again by the end of the week.
Touki Time? - With the news of Mike Soroka having discomfort in his right shoulder, Touki Toussaint becomes the front runner for the fifth rotation spot in Atlanta. Toussaint had a mixed bag of results in his time in Atlanta last season posting a 4.04 ERA over 29 innings but he also walked 17% of the batters he faced. With all those extra baserunners, keeping the ball in the yard was key for Toussaint and he excelled at it giving up just one homer. Getting more concern over his walk rate is going to be the tough part for Toussaint because while he's never had excellent command, a BB% near 20% isn't going to stick in a major league rotation. Touki can definitely live with a 47% GB rate and he could also see a bit of regression (to the good) in his 70% strand rate, though that may also be a product of how many batters he lets on base (more players to be left stranded).
Who Gets the Ninth? - The Braves haven't named their "closer" for the season yet and it likely is going to between two names in Arodys Vizcaino and AJ Minter (unless the team gets involved in the Kimbrel sweepstakes (can we even call it sweepstakes at this point)). Vizcaino has the longer track record of being the 9th inning guy for the Braves, but he's been oft-injured in the last few seasons. Minter has come out and said publicly that he would love to be used in the Andrew Miller/Josh Hader fireman role, which honestly might be the best fit for him with his combination of stuff and being left-handed. Minter struck out 26.5% of the batters he faced last season against just an 8.5% BB% so he could end up being valuable for fantasy even if he isn't the closer.
OZZIE OZZIE OZZIE - Ozzie Albies looked like he was destined for superstardom after hitting .293 with nine homers during the first month of the season, but slowed down significantly over the rest of the year and finished with a .261/.305/.452 for the season with 24 homers. Albies main struggles came against right-handed pitching with an 84 wRC+ vs his 141 wRC+ against lefties. Albies still was able to hit for power off of right-handers (16 homers in 451 ABs) but hit just .231, compared to 8 homers (196 ABs) against lefties with a .335 average. His ISO overall dropped by .115 points in the second half, and he saw an equally significant drop in his wRC+ down to 67 from 120 in the first half. Albies is still coming off the board at pick 57 in NFBC drafts (min 30, max 80) so he's still a significant investment as the fourth second baseman off the board.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Whaddup Pham - Tommy Pham had a huge finish to the season with the Rays, slashing .343/.448/.622 in 39 games with the team and he hit seven homers and five steals. Pham once again had an excellent contact profile with a 47.5% hard-hit rate with the Cardinals and a 51%hard hit rate with the Rays and he had a 30% line drive rate with Tampa. Pham's 51% hard-hit rate and 30% line drive helped fuel his .442 BABIP with the team, so that likely is going to come down as a 30% line drive rate could be hard to sustain. Pham is able to fill every category in fantasy and he's currently coming off the board at pick 62.
Return of the Screwball - Brent Honeywell is currently rehabbing well from his Tommy John surgery last spring, and Kevin Cash and he are hoping for a May return to action for the righty. Honeywell had an outside shot of making the major league team out of spring training last year, so it sounds like he's going to be in the rotation plans as soon as he is ready. Honeywell has posted K% near 30% multiple times during his stops in the minors and he's also had a BB% under 10% at every stop along the way. In terms of redraft, pitchers coming off of TJ are hard to trust (much less a guy who hasn't even made his debut) but keeper/dynasty leagues at least should get a taste of him at some point this season.
Shocking I Know, Rays Won't Have Traditional Closer - Jose Alvarado is hands down the best reliever in the Rays bullpen, but the team has already said that they don't plan on using him as the traditional closer. This shouldn't be surprising considering the Rays philosophy on everything. Alvarado could use a little more command but he still owns a 30% K% and he allowed just a .180 AVG last season. It's hard to tab another Rays reliever to target at this point as we know that they are going to have at least one or two potential opener games every week. Alvarado is still the top arm I would target in the pen though because if he does get the majority of the saves he could be a top end reliever.
BRYCE HARPER UPDATE: Not much. The Dodgers are now in the mix but want to sign Harper to a shorter term deal compared to a long term deal. Bob Nightengale reported that a handful of executives around the league believe that Harper is going to sign by the end of the week. There's also a report from Randy Miller (Yankees Beat Writer for NJ.com) saying that Harper's top preferences have always been the Dodgers and Cubs and that he's hesitant towards playing for Gabe Kapler due to his personality and over-use of analytics.
Odubel Herrera, Philadelphia Phillies - Herrera has a grade one hamstring strain according to Jim Bowden. While it was initially expected that he was going to return to the lineup in game three or four of Spring Training, reports now out of camp are saying that they still aren't sure when he's going to return. The team still expects him to be back by opening day, but if he remains out even further into March it could eventually cloud that option. Herrera was absolutely awful in terms of making good contact as he had a 27.2% soft contact rate and his exit velocity ranked in the 15th percentile and his xwOBA was in the 9th percentile. Depending on where he hits in the lineup he could see a boost in his run totals thanks to improvements across the board in the lineup, but based on his batted ball profile he should be in the back half.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers - Kershaw was going to play catch on Monday as the first step from him returning from his shoulder inflammation. Reports out of Dodgers camp though are saying that Kershaw didn't feel great afterward and now he's back to square one, which is not throwing. The Dodgers don't seem to be SUPER considered about the injury because on Monday they still hadn't scheduled an MRI for him. He's going to take a few more days off before trying to throw again with the hopes that the extra rest will help him out.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs - Bryant is looking to rebound from an injury-riddled 2018, and he's showing that he's healthy early on in Cubs camp. He's currently 2-for-3 with a homer and three walks over his first three games this spring. Bryant's 2018 batted ball data screams of someone who wasn't completely healthy, even when he was able to be on the field. His average exit velocity was just 85 MPH (12th percentile) and his hard hit rate ranked in the 33rd percentile. There's a slight (SLIGHT) discount on Bryant this year with him having an ADP of 34, but a healthy Bryant can definitely outperform that draft stock.
Hanley Ramirez, Cleveland Indians - Ramirez officially signed a minor league deal with the Indians on Tuesday. The Indians are primarily going to use him at DH this spring, in hopes he can be an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. Carlos Santana is currently listed as the team's DH on Roster Resource, so there's an opportunity for Ramirez if he can prove he still has it. He only played 44 games for Boston last season but he hit six homers, showing he still has a little bit of pop.
Todd Frazier, New York Mets - Frazier has been sidelined in Mets' camp with a left oblique injury. GM Brodie Van Wagenen said Tuesday that he isn't sure how serious the injury is quite yet, but that he is going to miss some time. Frazier is the second Mets infielder to go down with an injury this spring after they lost Jed Lowrie to a knee injury late last week. Van Wagenen said that there are no immediate plans to move forward with Jeff McNeil playing third base more regularly, saying that he like the work he has done in the outfield and still wants him to be in that role. Obviously, time will tell though and if Frazier looks like he might miss any sort of regular season time.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals - Martinez received a PRP injection on Tuesday and now it's going to be two weeks before he's able to throw again for the Cardinals. This happened after Derrick Goold reported that Martinez was going for a second opinion on his injured shoulder. He also reported that if Martinez is ready for opening day that it will be in a bullpen role as opposed to being in the rotation. That is good news for the likes of Alex Reyes and John Gant (among others) that are competing for that 5th starter role with the team. Martinez, when healthy, could take over the ninth inning role for a team that doesn't have a slam dunk option at closer. Andrew Miller thrives in the fireman role and Jordan Hicks hasn't yet shown the control yet to make him a safe 9th inning option.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies - Arenado signed a huge extension with the Rockies on Tuesday that will keep him in Colorado for at least the next three seasons. Arenado inked an eight-year deal worth $260 million which makes him the highest paid player in the game on an average annual value basis. The deal has an opt-out after three seasons. This is excellent news for keeper/dynasty leagues as Arenado was going to be a free agent after the 2019 and he now will spend at least three more years in the thin air of Colorado. Also being affected potentially is Brendan Rodgers as the only position that isn't 100% locked down is second base and the Rockies already have a battle at the position this spring.
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals - Mikolas inked a huge extension with the Cardinals for four years and $68 million. Mikolas came over from Japan and was absolutely dominant going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA and an 18.1 K%. Mikolas' K% isn't anything outstanding but his 3.6% BB% is excellent and he combines it with a near 50% ground ball rate. His slider is hands down the best pitch in his arsenal as he had a 40% chase rate on the pitch last season, though it didn't necessarily lead to more strikeouts which could give him a little room for K% growth this year.
Matt Wieters, St Louis Cardinals - Wieters signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals on Tuesday. Wieters hasn't posted a wRC+ since 2015 and he's really only a thought in NL-Only if something were to happen to Yadier Molina.
Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs - Darvish walked four batters in his spring debut on Tuesday, but the big news on Tuesday was that he was sitting 94-96 MPH on his fastball. Darvish said after his start that everything felt good physically and that the walks were just a product of him getting some of the rust off. All the reports out of Cubs camp say that Darvish has a confidence to him that he lacked last season, and that he looks like himself again after an extremely tough first season in Chicago. Darvish struck out 27% of the batters he faced last season but the big issue came from his BB% jumping to 11.7%, the highest total he's ever posted in the majors and his first season over 10% since his rookie season. Darvish is sitting with an ADP of 153 right now and is an excellent gamble to me in the middle rounds because if he can get 170-80 innings we could easily see him break 200 strikeouts again.
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