Ian Desmond (1B/OF - COL) - It looks like Desmond is going to play every day again for the Rockies, this time in CF as Charlie Blackmon moves to a corner to save some wear and tear on his legs. The disturbing thing about Desmond is his insistence on hitting the ball on the ground in a park where the massive benefit found by hitting the ball in the air. His GB rates have jumped from 45% in his peak years with Washington, to 52% during his lesser years in Washington and his year in Texas, to a whopping 62% in his two years in Colorado. Naturally he still hit 22 homers last season, because ball go far in Colorado....when it's hit in the air. All this negativity aside, Desmond certainly has a chance to provide value given his likely draft position....a mere return to the low 50's in GB rate would likely push him up into the mid-20's in homers, and he is still stealing bases at a clip that provide 20 there as well. A little "return to the mean" in BABIP, and suddenly you've got a .275-25-20 guy. I'm pretty sure that's a lot better than OF41, which is his current ADP. I like him at the beginning of that range, because I feel like that's about his performance floor....he is a good target around round 11-12.
Perpetually underrated! - I think people might be sleeping on Adam Eaton a bit, particularly since he was announced as the Nats leadoff hitter to start the year. Eaton missed almost 18 months with a combination of leg injuries directly related to a torn ACL, but has otherwise been rather healthy in his career, so I wouldn't necessarily put an injury-prone tag on him. When healthy, he does a little bit of everything without being spectacular anywhere. He has a very high floor with a pretty solid ceiling in AVG and R, and he's likely to chip in 10-15 HR and 12-18 SB as well. I like him quite a bit more than most OFs being drafted around him in the early OF5 range...I have him a good 10 spots earlier among OFs. He's even more valuable in OBP-based formats.
Perpetually overrated? - Anibal Sanchez will be the Nationals 4th starter to start this year with Jeremy Hellickson slotting in 5th and opening in long relief for a few weeks. I know Sanchez had a resurgence last year on the strength of a new cutter and his best swinging strike rate in 5 years, but I'm of the opinion that a winter's worth of tape on that new pitch is going to result in better outcomes for hitters going forward, and the 5 year trend of declining velocity isn't something that's likely to turn around in his mid-30's. There are a number of other higher-ceiling guys being drafted around SP90 like Wade Miley (potential Astros magic), Domingo German (improved control this spring), Matthew Boyd (vastly improved delta from FB to breaking pitches with a slider that has become a weapon), and Caleb Smith (impressive K rates and has looked brilliant at times this spring) that I would prefer to Sanchez. I might even prefer his rotation-mate Hellickson, to be honest, and he's essentially undrafted in most leagues.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS:
Potential 5th starter #1 of 4 in this article - Felix Pena is going to be holding down a rotation spot for at least a couple of turns it seems, and he's really been impressive at times this spring, striking out 25 in 14 2/3 innings due in large part to a much improved (and much more frequently deployed) changeup. The control is an issue which means there's a pretty low floor here, but if you're looking for a sleeper on a, frankly, pretty mediocre pitching staff, I'm looking either here or Trevor Cahill. I wouldn't expect to use Pena as more than a streamer though, with the low GB rate and high BB rates that he typically posts.
A poor man's David Eckstein is a homeless man's Phil Rizzuto - David Fletcher has won the "battle of mediocrity" to open the season as the Angels starting 2B. When you're described as a "poor man's David Eckstein", it pretty much speaks for itself. He has very good contact skills and some speed, but it's an empty batting average with some steals (10-15 likely) profile. I shudder to think of this Angels team without Mike Trout.
NEW YORK YANKEES:
The promise of German and Johnny Lasagna - The only thing to read into the fact that German is on the Opening Day roster for the Yanks and Jonathan Loaisiga is not, is that German is starter #4 and Loaisiga is #5 at present. That's essentially based on spring performance, as German's control has been very good while Loaisiga's has been spotty. They've both had troubles being hit hard when they miss, and they've both missed bats aplenty, but German's 2:22 BB:K ratio has easily outpaced Loaisiga's 7:18, with each of them pitching between 15-16 innings. Aaron Boone has been coy about potentially using them as part of an opener strategy as well, and with CC Sabathia coming back before too long and Luis Severino due back in early May, these two are speculative picks only in deeper formats to begin the year. I remain convinced that Loaisiga has a mid-rotation ceiling while German is more of a back-end guy...for early 2019 however, German is the one that I want in deep leagues for the first month.
The return of Tulo? - Tulo is generating a decent amount of buzz with 4 homers (he hit another on Monday) in 33 ABs this spring, but his current ADP agrees with my take: SS35. I'll reiterate: he hasn't been good in 5 years, he's now in his mid-30s with a laundry list of injuries in his recent past, and at best he's going to sit 2-3 times a week so that DJ Lemahieu can get some PT. He still looks like a low average, moderate power guy with no speed and health concerns. Sure, you could catch lightning in a bottle and he could hit 15 homers in the 1st half at Yankee Stadium, but then Didi comes back, and even in that scenario I don't see a helping AVG. As much as I hate to say it.....Pass.
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Spencer Turnbull (SP - DET) - Spencer Turnbull is slated to open up as the Tigers 3rd starter, and while it's tempting to say that the Tigers are being swayed inappropriately by 15 spring innings, it's probably as much for a lack of alternatives than anything....the presence of the Orioles is the biggest thing that will likely keep them from competing heavily for baseball's worst team this season. It's easy to look at a 26 year old that ranks somewhere around #20 on most people's Detroit prospect lists and dismiss him out of hand, but there may be something here of interest. Turnbull isn't your average 26 year old getting his first taste of the majors, as there have been so many shoulder and elbow injuries that he's essentially only pitched about half of his 5 minor league seasons, and in all of that time he's never really posted poor peripherals since his first pro season. In fact, as he has progressed ever so slowly up the minor league ladder, the BB and K rates have been generally improving, and he tends to keep the ball in the park as well. SP5 (top-60) value isn't out of the question here in a division with only one really solid offensive team, although it's unlikely, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a top-100 finish if he can stay healthy....that's probably the biggest concern for me here. Solid deep-league pickup right now, and I'd have him on a watch list in standard formats.
Bryse Wilson (SP - ATL) - Both Wilson and Kyle Wright will open the season in the Atlanta rotation despite the combined 244 IP above A-ball, due to the injuries to Gausman and Foltyniewicz. Both young right-handers have quite a bit of potential, projecting as above-average rotation members at maturity, but I'm not sure either is ready just yet. Wilson is the better bet at present...if you told me he'd give the Braves 150 innings of league-average ball I wouldn't argue with you. Wright has a slightly higher ceiling I think, but the control is still fairly spotty and the top-end stuff a little less frequently repeated. With Gausman due back a week into the season and Folty a little further off, I wouldn't be surprised to see Wright pick up only one start and head back to the minors, while Wilson could be around a bit longer. He still is a long shot to stick over any of the top 5 when healthy just yet, but he has the talent to force the issue.....deep league insurance only right now (outside of dynasty, where they both should be owned) for Wilson, and Wright is just speculative.
Marlins rotation - In a stunning turn of events, I'm pretty excited about watching the worst team in the NL this year. Not their offense...that's early-to-mid 80's NO Saints paper bag bad. The rotation, however, has a lot to offer. The nominal ace, Jose Urena, has the lowest ceiling of the bunch and is honestly the least interesting, but Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, and Sandy Alcantara all have some upside in varying amounts. Richards has a great changeup but spotty control and leaves the ball up in the zone quite a bit, and Alcantara has a big arm and occasional ideas of where to aim it...those two guys are a bit less likely to reach their ceilings, in my mind, than Lopez and Smith. Lopez seems to have found something this offseason with a sizable velocity bump to this point (4-5 mph by reports), and his control is excellent. He's walked 1 and fanned 16 over 20 innings this spring, and looks like he could be a solid #3 starter. Smith has some terrific offspeed stuff and generates a lot of swing and miss. The fastball is enough to keep hitters honest, and the control looks much improved this spring with 1 BB and 19 K's in 13 1/3 innings (although to be honest he's had stretches like this before). This kids will be exciting at times, and Richards, Smith and Lopez, in my mind, should be on rosters in most formats with their upside already.
Greg Holland (RP - ARI) - The D-Backs named Greg Holland their closer to start the year, and with the way he pitched down the stretch for Washington last year, I think you have to put him in that group of closers around the 18-22 range, which means he needs to be owned in just about all formats. His hold on the job isn't extremely secure, with Hirano and Bradley still hanging around and with possibly better stuff. The pedigree is the thing for many managers (including Torey Lovullo) though , so if he pitches credibly he'll probably keep the job, and the D-Backs are decent enough to provide plenty of save opps.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B - TB) - I want to take one more opportunity to tout my pet cat this year, Yandy Diaz. Mix excellent strike zone judgment, great bat speed, and an announced desire to hit the ball in the air more, and you've got some PO-tential. I really love this kid, and the news that Matt Duffy's hamstring is healing slower than expected (shocking, I know) likely buys him a bit more leash than he might have had otherwise. When Duffy returns it'll probably be between Choi and Diaz for ABs, but we should have a good 3-6 weeks of data before then, and so should the Rays. I have tabbed Diaz as my last draft choice in most formats so far.
Sonny Gray (SP - CIN) - I love filling out the SP portion of a pitching staff with 2-3 guys that I'm counting on and then grabbing 4-5 guys with some upside, banking on 2 of them panning out. With that in mind, Sonny Gray is an excellent upside choice this spring. Lost in the mess of his tenure with the Yanks was his road performance last season: 71 IP, 60 H, 22 BB, 78 K, good for a 3.17 ERA, a .295 OBP against, and a .320 SLG against. The stuff was there.....the mental part of the game is obviously so difficult to analyze, but some guys just can't play in particular environments. NY is doubly tough for pitchers, because aside from the pressure of playing in NY you've got an extremely difficult park to pitch in, particularly for RHP. Gray had a minor elbow issue this spring but has come back to throw 10 of the better innings you'll see, giving up 5 hits and a run with 11 K's and 0 walks. I would not be at all surprised to see Gray perform as a top-50 starter this season, and his current ADP is SP78 at the end of round 23. My easily attainable dream staff this year would be something like: DeGrom, Buehler, Archer, Pivetta, Jon Gray, Sonny Gray, and Pablo Lopez or Caleb Smith. You could put a very good lineup around that, and I bet the SP stats from your top 4-5 guys would be fantastic.
Corey Seager (SS - LAD) - I get why Seager is going in the middle of the 6th round on average this spring.....elbow and hip surgery in the same 12 months? Even a 24 year old might have trouble. Still, this kid is an easy top-5 SS if he's healthy, and by all reports he is just that.....he's going 2-3 rounds too late because people subscribe to the (correct) adage that you can't win leagues in the first few rounds, but you can lose them. I say you don't win leagues by being conservative, which means that you need to be targeting Seager in rounds 4-5 to get the jump on everybody else. If he comes back at anything close to his prior, let alone any progression that you'd expect a player to make from age 23 to 25 physically in terms of strength, he'll be a league winner for many a team.
Diamondbacks OF (Adam Jones, Ketel Marte) - I'm not a doctor, but the knee injury that Steven Souza suffered crossing home plate mere minutes ago did not look good. With Souza healthy, we were all trying to figure out how both Adam Jones and Ketel Marte were going to get ABs. Jones had a down year last year with the O's, but his peripherals looked fairly steady....his swinging strike% was actually the lowest of his career, and the hard% was right in line with his career norms. That situation in Baltimore would depress anyone, so I do expect him to bounce back to the low-20's in HRs with his typically decent AVG if he gets the PT. Marte is very interesting to me. He has excellent tools, but the skills are inconsistently applied and always have been. He has great speed yet doesn't run much, and that's probably the key to his value.....if he could get up to 15 steals, you're looking at a potential .280/15/15 player with positional flexibility. Definitely valuable, and I wouldn't mind grabbing him with a reserve spot on speculation to find out if he can get there.
Eric Lauer (SP - SD) - Lauer is getting the Opening Day nod over the (probably) slightly better Joey Lucchesi and spring wunderkind Chris Paddack. That said, Lauer isn't a throwaway SP, although his ceiling is likely league-average. As with many young pitchers of late, the lack of any sort of minor league track record (36 minor league GS in Lauer's case) makes things difficult. His stuff and command are within a half-grade either side of average, and as evidenced by the low GB rate but sub-4.00 ERA at home, he's helped by the friendly confines of Petco Park. He strikes me as the sort of SP that I'd grab off the wire for a month where he had 4 home starts, and then send him back from whence he came. I wouldn't expect much here, but he can be a part of a successful team if utilized properly. He, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Cahill are all going down close to round 40 on average, and I like them all better than probably 40-50 names above them (although Lopez, then Cahill, then Lauer would be my preference).