Correa is just one season removed from slashing .315/.391/.550 but is getting drafted outside of the top 40 picks on average coming into the 2019 season. 2018 was easily Correa's worst season since reaching the major leagues in 2015 as the 24-year-old struggled with nagging back injuries en route to a .239/.323/.405 slash line. While Correa's hard hit rate understandably dropped significantly as he dealt with his injuries, most of Correa's underlying skills held strong. Importantly, Correa's ability to hit to all fields (34.8% pull rate) and plate discipline skills (28.7% o-swing rate, 77.7% contact rate) remained around his career average last season, suggesting that as long as he can stay healthy, the fifth-year shortstop should be in line for another top-tier fantasy campaign. Correa has been hitting the ball hard this spring and has said that he's completely healthy. If he can maintain his health this season, Correa will be an excellent value outside of the first couple of rounds and could legitimately be expected to produce first-round value in 2019.
Injuries have already affected the Astros' 2019 rotation plans, and Brad Peacock is likely to find himself in the starting rotation as a result. Peacock was dominant out of the bullpen last season as he limited contact to a 69.3% rate while inducing swinging strikes at a 13.5% rate on his way to a 35.3% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate (Peacock also limited hard contact well with a 29.4% hard hit rate). The Astros haven't consistently used Peacock as a starter since 2017 though (when he went 10-2 with a 3.22 ERA and 10.9 K/9) because his pitch selection is limited. As a result, Peacock really struggled on his third time through the order, limiting his upside as a starter. The good news is that Peacock has added a changeup this offseason -- a pitch that he's used sparingly in the past and should pair well with his high velocity, high spin fastball (especially because Peacock's changeup had a 10 MPH difference from his fastball on average when he did use it last season). Even if Peacock's changeup fails to produce, his late draft position (312 ADP) makes him well worth investing in given his role in the starting rotation.
White had his most productive major league season in 2018 after finally getting some regular playing time, and the 28-year-old appears primed to produce well this season too. White combines borderline elite plate discipline (26.1% o-swing rate, 82.9% contact rate) skills with solid power (33.2% career average hard hit rate, .257 ISO last season) to get an offensive approach with very few holes. White is a defensive liability though, so playing time has been tough to come by as he tends to be limited to a role as a DH. As long as he can continue to receive consistent playing time though (and White doesn't appear to have a ton of competition for the DH spot in the Astros' lineup), White should be a solid fantasy asset with a relatively high floor.
I might be jumping the gun with Dunn, but a mid-season call-up isn't out of the question and the Mariners' rotation shouldn't be impossible to break into this year. Dunn came to the Seattle in the shadow of the offseason trade that sent Robinson Cano to the Mets, but the 23-year-old shouldn't be overlooked as a prospect. Although Dunn struggles with command at times, he already boasts a pair of major league ready pitches in his fastball and slider, and his changeup and curveball have potential to develop into strong secondary options. There's no question that Dunn has work to do before cracking the major league roster, but if he can improve his command and changeup or curveball then he has a chance to be a fantasy asset down the stretch this season.
Dan Vogelbach is currently the 535th player being drafted on average (Pablo Sandoval is going 10 picks later), and it's easy to see why. The 26-year-old owns a career .197/.301/.315 slash line with no clear opening for playing time as a defensive liability and Edwin Encarnacion entrenched as the Mariners' DH. Here's the thing though: I love Vogelbach as a potential breakout candidate this year if he can find his way into some consistent playing time. In 37 games last season (his most major league games in one season), Vogelbach posted very strong discipline skills (19.4% o-swing rate, 8% swinging strike rate, 77% contact rate) and crushed the ball when he made contact (52.5% hard hit rate, 11.5% soft contact rate). It's not as if Vogelbach's impressive peripherals came out of nowhere either; Vogelbach raked in the minor leagues, and Fangraphs gives him a 55 hit tool with a 60 raw power grade (per the 20-80 scale -- Ronald Acuña has a 55 hit tool with 70 raw power). Although he's currently blocked at first base, Vogelbach is having an impressive spring training so far and Ryon Healy should be beatable for the first base job at some point this year (though Vogelbach is a remarkably poor defender, pulls the ball like crazy, and does struggle to hit lefties, giving the Mariners at least some reason to keep him off the field). DFS players should stream Vogelbach against righties whenever possible, and fantasy players in general should keep an eye out and pounce if regular playing time opens up for the first baseman.
Long was a part of the Yankees' package for Sonny Gray before New York quickly flipped him to the Mariners, and Seattle should be happy with the addition. The 23-year-old infielder is a toolsy, athletic player that boasts solid power (especially for a second baseman) and impressive speed, and he should find himself in the major leagues at some point this season. Long does tend to be a ground ball heavy hitter, but he's more than capable of spraying the ball to all fields and has the speed and athleticism to make up for his lackluster batted ball profile. Inconsistency has been a problem for Long over his minor league career though, and he'll need to prove that he can hit over an extended stretch before the Mariners call him up. Still, Long has a lot working in his favor with the current Seattle roster (it helps that Long is an excellent defender who will likely be able to play multiple positions well); Tim Beckham is the starting shortstop, Dee Gordon may well be moved at some point this year, and the outfield is generally not very strong. Expect Long to make his major league debut at some point this season, and don't hesitate to grab him when he does.
Around the League:
Justin Verlander (HOU) - The Astros named Justin Verlander their Opening Day starter in what was largely an expected move. Verlander turned in his seventh top-five finish in Cy Young voting with a stellar 2.52 ERA over 214 innings, and 2019 looks like it should be more of the same for the 36-year-old. 2018 saw Verlander post the best contact rate (71.6%) of his career as he continued to up his slider usage. The slider has blossomed into Verlander's second favorite pitch over the past few years, and he managed to add more horizontal movement to the pitch last year, leading to an impressive 19% whiff rate (the highest whiff rate in Verlander's arsenal). Verlander's impressive 34.8% strikeout rate will likely fall this year even with his strong arsenal, and the seven-time All-Star has struggled with home runs over the past few years, but Verlander enters the season with little doubt that he'll continue to be an ace and will officially draw his first start on March 28th in Tampa Bay.
Joe Musgrove (PIT) - Musgrove is slated to throw a three-inning sim game on Saturday as he works back from offseason abdominal surgery. The 26-year-old is a popular breakout candidate entering the 2019 season, and he represents a solid late round flier in drafts. Musgrove boasts an impressive fastball that touches the upper 90s, a devastating slider that gets an 18.4% whiff rate, and a strong changeup (27% whiff rate), but fails to rely on his best pitches enough. Musgrove's slider and changeup combined to make up just 33% of his pitches last season (his fastball also took up about one third of his total pitches) -- the other third of Musgrove's arsenal is represented by a weak sinker and poor cutter. If Musgrove focuses more on his upper-tier pitches this season while abandoning his weaker ones, then a rise in his pedestrian 20.6% strikeout rate should be expected -- and a version of Musgrove with high strikeout numbers is a solid fantasy asset.
Ryan Braun (MIL) - Braun has been experimenting with a new swing over the offseason and reported that the ball has been carrying further than ever for him during batting practice. Braun is specifically trying to produce more fly balls this season -- a smart decision considering how his 0.96 GB/FB ratio (1.40 GO/AO) suffocated his BABIP last year. With his 43% hard hit rate from last year and an ADP later than Byron Buxton and Brandon Nimmo, Braun was already coming into this season as a potential steal, and his new swing should make him even more attractive for fantasy owners. Expect Braun to continue posting solid plate discipline numbers while hitting the ball hard this year, and his new fly-ball targeted swing should produce improved counting stats in 2019.
Mike Foltynewicz (ATL) - The Braves announced that Foltynewicz is currently without a timetable to return to the mound after being sidelined with a sore elbow, and his status for Opening Day is up in the air. Folty was already likely to regress after his exceptional 2018 campaign as his .252 BABIP is unlikely to be sustainable (35.1% hard hit rate) and his 27.2% strikeout rate will likely fall (26.8% o-swing rate, 76.2% contact rate), so an elbow injury in spring training makes his draft stock even less attractive than it already was. There is a lot to like from Foltynewicz's 2018 season -- most notably his improved slider that was dominant last year -- but Baseball Reference projects a middling 3.72 ERA for Folty in 2019. I don't think Foltynewicz will fall quite that far this year, but expecting anything better than an ERA in the mid-to-low 3.00's is optimistic -- add in an elbow injury, and taking Folty at 84 is no longer a particularly enticing option.
Aaron Nola (PHI) - Nola was named the Phillies' Opening Day starter on Friday and will take the hill against the Braves at home on March 28th. After posting a 2.37 ERA and finishing among the top-three in NL Cy Young voting last year, Nola is one of my favorite players entering the 2019 season. The 25-year-old pitcher displayed a tantalizing set of skills last season that allowed him to induce a remarkably favorable batted ball profile (22.3% soft contact rate, 25.1% hard hit rate, 1.05 GB/FB ratio, 23% line drive rate) while limiting contact to a strong 73.7% and accumulating swinging strikes at a 12.4% rate. The revamped Phillies roster should give Nola some extra run support this season as well, driving his value up by producing more opportunities for wins (Nola also tends to pitch better with more run support). Nola was an easy pick to be the Phillies' Opening Day starter, and fantasy owners should have no hesitation investing in him with a first round pick this year.
Noah Syndergaard (NYM) - Syndergaard had his first rough spring appearance on Friday as he allowed four runs in just four innings to the lowly Marlins. Individual spring starts don't mean much though, and Thor is as much of a bargain as he can be when going as the 12th pitcher in drafts. Injuries may limit Syndergaard's likely ceiling, but the 26-year-old boasts some of the best swing-and-miss stuff in the league (13.6% swinging strike rate last year) and managed to induce more soft contact (25.3%) than hard contact (21.9%) last season. As a result, Syndergaard's .323 BABIP indicates that he was unlucky last season (or that the Mets' defense was really bad) despite posting a 3.03 ERA. Even if you can only expect about 150 innings out of Syndergaard this season, he is still well worth a high draft pick and should be treated as such.
Luiz Gohara (ATL) - The Braves optioned Gohara to Triple-A on Friday. Gohara struggled in his rookie year for Atlanta as he posted a 5.95 ERA in nine starts while dealing with injuries, and his shoulder began to develop more issues this spring. When healthy though, Gohara offers exciting upside with a chance to break into the Braves' rotation again this year. Gohara boasts an impressive slider that he pairs with a fastball that touches the upper 90s and a solid changeup, but health issues have kept Gohara performing poorly or off the field completely over the past couple of years. Injuries may ultimately force Gohara into a bullpen role, but fantasy players should keep an eye on the 21-year-old if he cracks the major league rotation this season.
Willy Adames (TBR) - Adames launched a two-run home run against the Twins on Friday and has continued to have a productive spring. Adames was solid for the Rays in his rookie season, though much of his success appears to be attributed to some luck. Despite posting a ridiculously high .378 BABIP last year, Adames was an unremarkable power hitter (34.7% hard hit rate) and rarely hit the ball particularly well (19% line drive rate, 1.09 GB/FB ratio). Adames also benefited from an unusually high 11.8% HR/FB ratio considering his mediocre power. Don't expect Adames to be as productive as he was in his rookie year; the 23-year-old will likely wind up being a serviceable but unspectacular option at shortstop this year -- a position with a substantial number of better options (Ketel Marte, Fernando Tatis, and Brandon Crawford are all near or after Adames by ADP and should be more productive this season).
Billy Hamilton (KCR) - Hamilton notched a pair of hits and scored twice against the Reds on Friday. Although Hamilton displayed some concerning plate discipline trends last season (decreasing contact rate and increasing swinging strike rate), he is an interesting fit in the Kansas City lineup and could be a solid fantasy producer this season. Hamilton rarely hits the ball hard, so what he lacks in power he needs to make up for in batted ball quality and speed. 2018 saw Hamilton post a career high 31% line drive rate (though he also posted a 17% IF/FB ratio), and the 28-year-old appears to be as fast as ever entering the 2019 season. Hitting atop the Royals' lineup shouldn't hurt Hamilton's value either; Kansas City was one of the league's most aggressive base stealing teams last season -- a trend that should continue with one of the MLB's fastest players manning center field and batting leadoff. As a result, Hamilton's 156 ADP isn't too bad, but fantasy managers are still better off investing in Shane Bieber, Nick Pivetta, or Kyle Freeland (if you still need pitching depth at that point) with picks in Hamilton's range.
Chris Paddack (SDP) - Paddack's strong spring continued on Friday as he struck out seven batters over four scoreless innings. Paddack entered spring training with an outside shot at forcing his way into the Padres' starting rotation, and the 23-year-old's performance so far has gotten him closer to starting the season with the major league club. With a fastball that can nearly touch triple digits and a potentially elite changeup that has strong movement and an 8-10 MPH gap from his fastball, Paddack managed to post an absurd 15.00 K/BB ratio in 90 minor league innings last season, and his talent is undeniable. Paddack's curveball (his only other pitch right now) could use some more development, but Paddack has the potential to succeed at the major league level even if he relies heavily on his fastball and changeup. He may not end up on the Padres' Opening Day roster, but keep an eye on Paddack as the season progresses and jump on him when he gets called up.