In the final week of spring training we all turn our attention to the actual start of the regular season. The anticipation - for players and fantasy owners - continues to ramp up. It's also in this final week where we have notable decisions on rosters, lineups, and injuries. Some guys are going up and some are going down. Some guys are hitting leadoff and others are hitting 8th. Other players are going to miss Opening Day after asserting that they would 'DEFINITELY' be ready for the start of 2019.
There has been a load of news coming out of both Arizona and Florida this week and much of it does affect the draft status of players. In our final ADP installment of the preseason, here's a run-down of the news that matters the most.
(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 March, these NFBC numbers come from a collection of 756 drafts.)
Scooter Gennett (Overall ADP #101, High - 44, Low - 450)
Fantasy players were finally ready to give Gennett some credit. His past two seasons have surprised and shocked to some extent. Power, average, RBIs ... it all appeared silly and unsustainable coming from a previously so-so vet who actually went by the name 'Scooter.' But, he just kept hitting and forcing his way into our fantasy playing hearts.
Now we're back to where we used to be. Gennett suffered severe groin injury on Friday night and he's expected to be out for the next two-to-three months. Many of us play in leagues with a DL spot so you can still draft Gennett and just stash him until late-June. But, that stash pick should now take place in the bench rounds ... about 200 selections below his current ADP.
Ronald Acuna (8, 3/18)
All systems are still a go for the 2nd-year standout, but now we might want to bring some slightly altered expectations to the table. Atlanta has announced that Acuna will man the clean-up spot to begin the year. The decision follows a season where the outfielder led off in 66 of his 111 starts. Never did he hit clean-up once.
I don't fault the Braves for their decision. Everyone thinks the kid is ready for the role and will succeed in the role. But, we all should know what the icing-on-the-cake is for Acuna. It's steals. Many expected 16 of 2018 to become 30+ in 2019. Does that change now that Acuna is hitting 4th? The Braves are saying he will still be given the green light and that his status as a base thief is still in-play with the lineup change. I'll take the team at their word and count on Acuna to still be a threat on the basepaths. But, if you were planning on 30 from your top-10 pick, you might now want to pull that down into the 20-range. It's still a good spot and really no one is going to complain about a .280/35/100/90/20 final 5x5 line.
Eloy Jimenez (111, 43/189)
For most of the spring, the plan has called for the White Sox to start Jimenez in the minor leagues before allowing him to graduate to the South Side by the start of May. That has likely changed after Jimenez signed away his arbitration years with a big 6 year, $43-million contract. Now, the White Sox could start him on Opening Day without the fear of him succeeding so well that they would have to pay bigger bucks than they'd like. Man, baseball in 2019 ...
It's not official, but I'm counting on Jimenez starting the year with Chicago. That probably does lift him into the top-100 at your draft table. I don't hate the idea, but it's not necessarily a spot that I'm comfortable with. This guy is absolutely a hitter. He'll have some impressive moon shots and is probably the 2nd-best hitter in the Pale Hose lineup as soon as he pulls on his stirrups. The opportunity for a .280-ish average with 25-30 HRs and 80+ RBIs appears doable. Runs and stolen bases will be less impressive. Definitely a top-30 talent that may take a year or two to reach that peak.
Matt Olson (124, 78/360)/Jesus Luzardo (238, 142/440)
Trips to Japan don't get much worse. Oakland lost both games to Seattle and also lost a pair of critical pieces to their 2019 puzzle. Olsen left the 2nd game of the year with a hamate bone injury in his hand and, after surgery, is looking at a 6-8 week absence. Even upon return, expectations should be lowered as any hand surgery/injury often saps a hitter's power when he's back on the field. Olsen lands in a similar spot as Gennett listed up above. He likely falls outside the top-300 and becomes an IL-stash. It's a shame, too. Many were 'in' on Olson for growth this season. I could forsee 80-100 games, but with numbers that don't shine.
Luzardo had more hype than Olson, but is now going to miss a similar amount of time. And, in all honesty, it could be much more time. A shoulder injury to your top pitching prospect is nothing to laugh at. Expect Oakland to handle Luzardo with kids' gloves for the next 3-4 months. He'll work a few minor league innings in late May. And then they'll ask for a full month of regular turns in the rotation for June. July could be fine-tuning or re-assembling. It's all just very foggy at this point. I feel that Luzardo is mostly non-draftable and fits more as a mid-Summer add if the news is trending positive. Don't be surprised if Luzardo doesn't pitch in the bigs until September.
Andrew McCutchen (134, 78/209)
Positioning can mean an awful lot to a players statistical bottom line. McCutchen has been announced as the lead-off man for Philadelphia. That's a lineup that produces offensive firepower 1-through-8 in the order. It's a perfect spot for the veteran outfielder and it should lead to a load of opportunities for McCutchen to run and score. He's not a .300 hitter anymore, but he could get back up to an .800 OPS in Citizens Bank Park and should sniff 100 runs scored as long as he sits atop the lineup stack. He certainly deserves the trending line that has him in the top-100, right now.
Julio Urias (261, 137/397)
Like it or not, Urias will begin the season in the Dodger rotations. With injuries knocking out both Clayton Kershaw (50, 15/136) and Rich Hill (166, 117/334) for most of April, Urias should see regular calls in the first month. But, that won't change the fact that LA is targeting 90-120 innings for the oft-injured southpaw. Those innings are just going to pile up earlier in the season than later in the season. You should count on Urias still spending about half the year in the bullpen. That isn't to dissuade you from taking him. I love him ... especially outside the top-250. But, if you're buying this news as news of 25-30 starts, you've misread the entire situation and have ignored the usual mode of operation in the Dodger organization.
Greg Holland (402, 178/701)
As predicted, Holland has been announced as the closer for Arizona. He's not the best pitcher out of the Arizona 'pen. He's probably not even one of the top-3 pitchers in the D'Back relief corps. But, possession is nine-tenths of the law with relievers and Holland will get the first crack at wrapping up wins in the desert. He was truly pitiful for two-thirds of last year, but flipped the ugly script once he left St. Louis and landed in Washington. Walks are a way of life nowadays with Holland and it will keep his WHIP elevated. Still, the whiffs should be there, the ERA has been solid throughout his career, and there's a shot at 20+ saves from a guy who you can still get outside of the first 35 RPs off the board. I'll always take a shot on that profile.
Hanley Ramirez (597, 246/749)
Ramirez making the Opening Day roster for Cleveland says a lot more about the Tribe than it does about Ramirez. I just can't get behind the idea. Ramirez hasn't shown any spark in camp this year and could be off the Indian roster before May is finished. Many will fall for the old name recognition card, but that shouldn't be you. At best, he'd be a final round pick. I'd rather go younger with upside at that point in a draft.
Ian Happ (279, 156/426)
A lot can change in 12 months. Happ hit the first MLB pitch of the 2018 season up and over the wall. That likely went down as the high point of his season. Now, when the Cubs open their season in Arlington (yep, the traditional interleague play season opener!) on Thursday, Happ won't be in the starting lineup. Heck, he won't even be on the bench. He'll be in the minors. He won't be there too long. Any injury could have him getting a quick recall to the Cubbies. But, regardless, the playing time is just too iffy, right now. He certainly has his moments vs. RHPs (a career .839 OPS) which allows you to make use of him in leagues with daily changes. That isn't something you can do now, though, so the recommendation is to just leave him hanging on the waiver wire vine to begin the year.
Dakota Hudson (466, 170/729)
Entering camp, the Cardinals had four or five arms gunning for the fifth spot in the rotation. The battle wasn't even close. Hudson easily out performed his competition and will start the year in the starting five. He loads up on ground balls and he needs them. Strikeouts are a strong part of his profile and walks can really drag him down. Five innings, one run, four whiffs, and six base-runners is a 'win' for Hudson. You might enjoy a run of early-season success with him, but with the organizational pitching depth in St. Louis he is not guaranteed much of anything this year. He has to continue having success to continue getting the assignments. As a 7th fantasy starter, I'm totally fine with take a flier on the righty.
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