White Sox Notes
In my last article about two weeks ago, I wrote about Adam LaRoche potentially bouncing back, and whether or not he would see reduced playing time. Well, those issues are mute now. And without getting involved in the controversy of whether or not LaRoche should have been allowed to continue bringing his son into the team locker room, you have to give credit to White Sox president Ken Williams for saving the team $13 million. Regardless, how does the LaRoche retirement affect the rest of Chicago's lineup?
Avisail Garcia, CWS
Garcia is likely the player who will be affected most by the LaRoche retirement as he now seems to have the inside track to the DH spot in the White Sox lineup. He has hit well so far this spring, hitting .375 with 7 XBH's through 11 games, and with only 6 K's in 34 PA's. As has been mentioned previously, Garcia's terrible SwStr% and extremely high O-Swing% don't support him keeping a high BA. His power is where his value would lie, and while we haven't really seen it yet, there's always hoping he becomes a 25+ HR guy which of course would be great for a guy found on most fantasy waiver-wires. If he plays every day, he's a reasonable last round flier in hopes of a breakthrough; just don't wait too long to cut bait if it's not working.
Brett Lawrie, CWS
Spring training stats aren't supposed to matter, but it is a bit alarming that Lawrie has already collected 13 K's in 35 PA's this spring. His K% in 2015 was a career high 23.9%, and he was lucky to hit .260. If the strikeouts increase, we could be talking about a sub-.250 hitter, and while Lawrie has displayed moderate power, it's not enough to make up for a lousy BA. I would consider him a big risk even as an eligble middle-infielder.
Erik Johnson, CWS
Johnson has been optioned to AAA Charlotte, but it would not be a surprise if he joins the White Sox rotation at some point during the season. His K% has improved in each of his 3 brief big-league stints up to a respectable 7.71 K/9 in 35 IP for Chicago last year, and given his 9.23 K/9 in Triple-A last season, there's reason to hope that the higher strikeout will stick. The bigger problem for Johnson so far has been his career 4.48 BB/9, which will need to improve if he wants to be successful in the majors. Still, his BB/9 improved to 2.78 in AAA last year, and at age 26, there's still hope he can take those improvements to the next level so he's worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Scott Carroll, CWS
Carroll pitched 3 scoreless innings in his start for the White Sox on Monday, and did not walk or strike out a batter. He is still on the outside looking in as far as landing a spot in Chicago's rotation, but even if he were to be a starter, there's not much evidence that he would be any good in that role. In 19 career big league starts, he has a 5.40 ERA and a weak 4.05 K/9. He's been a bit better when coming out of the bullpen, which is probably where he'll end up in 2016, but either way there's nothing to see here in terms of fantasy.
Fantistics Draft Software Player Projection Notes Myers, Wil 76% Contact rate and 1.3 GB:FB ratio leaves BA at risk, but his batted ball speed is in the superior range and his 33% Hard Hit range makes his BA serviceable, given his potential to hit HRs and drive in runs. Not in anyway a leadoff hitter, should move down into middle of lineup at some point.
Trout, Mike RBI count should have been closer to 120 based on production. 41 HRs from a year ago, may be overstated a bit based on his 25% HR/FB ratio, which is definitely on the high side, despite the 105 Batted Ball Speed on the HRs. Despite the heavy fly ball count (~1:1), his BA does not suffer because of his elite 41% Hard Hit rate, which is among the best in baseball.
Hamilton, Billy He cut down on the K rate last season (19% to 16.5), and there was a slight uptick with his walk rate. Don't buy into the .226 BA, as he's better than that. Although he's a weak hitter, his 264 BABIP is much to low for a hitter with outstanding speed. Missed significant time and still registered 57 SB in 65 attempts. Valuable addition for those who play standard roto formats, and because of playing time concerns, he's been dropping in ADP this preseason.
Grichuk, Randal Poor contact rate of 70% (31% K rate), but smoked the baseball when he made contact (37% Hard Hit rate and 104 BBS on HRs). That said the 19% HR/FB rate is not sustainable, and the heavy flyball rates are going to hurt his BA, RBI, and RS potential. Still only 24, so there is some hope that he'll improve the contact rate, especially the 15% Swinging strike rate.
Arcia, Oswaldo Still figuring out LHP, but expected to be everyday in 2016. Will need to improve 66% contact rate to stay in lineup. In limited activity last season, his swing rate on pitches outside of the K zone was an unacceptable 49%, and only 68% contact rate when in the zone. Yet has the power to hit 25-30 in the near future, but BA, RBI, and RS count will not be very appealing.
Ozuna, Marcell As he exhibited in 2014, Ozuna has breakout potential written all over him. Superior bat speed as measured by his 105.5 BBS on HRs and 35% Hard Hit Rate. 75% contact rate is obviously a concern for BA, but he maintains a good GB/FB mix of 1.5:1.
Santana, Domingo Domingo Santana is more of the traditional power prospect with plus raw power who seemingly will battle contact skill issues constantly. In other words he really was a fit for the Astros. But he takes his 40.5% K rate and .205 ISO (which while a very small sample, still pretty much tells the story) to the Brewers who will try to figure out if he can make enough contact to engage his physical power
Dickerson, Corey With the recent trade to TB can Corey Dickerson maintain his everyday status now that he's out of Coors field? We know that he has absolutely smashed it against RHP with a 577 SLG (3yr avg). However Dickerson is still learning to hit against LHP. Unfortunatley his .388 SLG against LHP, is only going to get worse in a pitcher's ballpark. What's most frightening is his 3 year Home/Away SLUG split is .675 at home, .410 on road! That said, Dickerson is more than just a Coor's field product. Although he doesn't hit for power against LHP, he still has managed a .299 OBP against. While that's not terribly exciting, it's enough to keep him in the lineup. His 77% contact rate (24% K rate) isn't as bad on the BA because Dickerson has shown the ability to hit the ball pretty hard (38% Hard Hit rate), and we know that harder hit balls tend to miss gloves at a much better rate. So although there is little doubt that the trade to a pitcher's ballpark certainly dings his value, he's still capable of being a top 40 fantasy outfielder in 2016.
Gattis, Evan Maintained a 16% HR/FB rate last season despite a below average BBS of 101.5 and 380 average Distance on HRs. Playing in home park added 100 points to SLG, and aided his HR totals considerably. Overall his numbers from 2015 are in line with his peripherals.
Kiermaier, Kevin Kiermair doesn't dominate in any category, but he does everything good enough. This includes SB, where he was 18 of 23 last season. He has a little more upward mobility with his HRs, as his 8% HR/FB rate should be closer to 12-13%, which means he'll drive in more runs this year as well.
Calhoun, Kole Sub par 74% contact rate with 24% K rate hurts his BA potential, but moderately heavy flyball rate (1.2:1 GB|FB) with slightly above average bat speed makes him a legit 20 HR guy. Additionally he's sandwiched between some very good hitters, which adds to his RS and RBI count.
Fantistics Draft Software Player Projection Notes
Myers, Wil 76% Contact rate and 1.3 GB:FB ratio leaves BA at risk, but his batted ball speed is in the superior range and his 33% Hard Hit range makes his BA serviceable, given his potential to hit HRs and drive in runs. Not in anyway a leadoff hitter, should move down into middle of lineup at some point.
Marlon Byrd, CLE
The Indians have brought in Byrd on a minor league contract for 2016, but he stands a decent chance to make the big-league club to start the season. The late career power surge is pretty remarkable for Byrd; the 38-year-old has hit at least 23 HR's in each of the past three seasons, a mark he had never reached prior to those 3 years. Yet he'll have a hard time reaching the 20-HR plateau again unless he plays almost every day, and right now it seems more likely that he would be on the short end of a platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall. The BA is unlikely to be there for Byrd, not with a K% north of 26% and an NL leading 17.2% SwStr% in 2015, so he would need to play regularly to be fantasy relevant. Byrd has the ability to hit righties too (49 HR's against RHP's since 2013), but he will probably need a Chisenhall slump or someone else to go down before he has regular opportunities against right-handers. In the meantime, he could make for a good daily play when facing a southpaw, considering his .519 SLG against them the past 3 years.
Tyler Naquin, CLE
A lot of Indians fans are calling to see Naquin make the Indians opening day roster after watching him hit .438 through 13 spring games. What they may not see is the 8 strikeouts in 32 AB's. BABIP's over .500 don't happen in the major leagues, so don't buy into the high AVG you see this spring even if the Indians do.
Wil Venable, CLE
One of the more interesting Cleveland outfield candidates in terms of fantasy is one who is less likely to make the big-league team. Venable has averaged 11 homers and 21 steals per season over the past 6 years and it comes with an average that won't kill you (.251 career). The 22 homeruns in 2013 appear to be an outlier, based on a 19.8% HR/FB% and 53.8% Pull% that he has never otherwise replicated, but the power-speed combo is still there if only he gets a semi-regular role, with Cleveland or elsewhere.
Yan Gomes, CLE
Gomes is off to a good start this spring with 3 homers and 2 doubles through his first 32 AB's. Perhaps more impressive is that he has only struck out 3 times. The power should be there for Gomes; in his career he has averaged 22 HR's and 76 RBI per 162 (although he won't actually play that many games). That alone should make him relevant in mixed leagues. If he can just lower his 26.7% K% from 2015 a bit closer to the 20.8% mark he posted two years earlier, he could go back to being a .270+ hitter and a top-5 fantasy catcher. Don't feel too bad if you miss some of the first catchers off the board as Gomes is currently going on average outside the first 200 picks.
Giovanni Urshela, CLE
Urshela appears to think he still has a chance to make the Indians team this April as he keeps on raking, smashing his fifth homer of the spring Monday against the White Sox. That goes along with a .314 BA and only 5 K's in 39 spring PA's. Urshela has shown very good contact rates and decent power in the minors, but struggled somewhat in both of those areas during his taste of the majors last season. His numbers this spring give hope that he could translate his success to the big league level when given the opportunity this season, but he's still most likely to open the season in AAA.
J.D. Martinez, DET
Martinez has picked up right where he left off last season and has already cranked 4 dingers this spring following his 38 homerun outburst from 2015. The one area that I'm still a bit skeptical with Martinez is his BA, as his K% has been above 26% for each of the past three years. His excellent Hard% of 43.3% and 42.3% the past two seasons have been major contributors to his high BABIP's, and I would expect his BABIP to remain high as a result. But I would still have a hard time relying on a guy who strikes out so often to help my team BA. Where he will help though is with HR's and RBI, and that alone makes him worthy of an early draft pick.
Anibal Sanchez, DET
Sanchez made his spring debut Monday night and pitched four scoreless innings, not allowing a hit and striking out 3. Despite the rough 4.99 ERA from last season, if Sanchez can stay healthy, he is a relatively safe bet to have a solid year considering that his K-rate and BB-rate have remained stable and solid (above 7 K/9 and below 3 BB/9) over the past 5 seasons.
Shane Greene, DET
Greene had a disastrous year for the Tigers last year after a very good season with the Yankees in 2014, as he saw his ERA rise 3 runs and his K% remarkably drop by almost 4 K/9. It's hard to know what to expect next from Greene, but so far so good this spring as he competes for a rotation spot. He has 14 K's in 13.2 IP this spring en route to a 2.63 ERA, and could end up being a solid fantasy starter if he makes the Tigers rotation. But there's very big risk here as we saw last season.
Around the League
Yunel Escobar, LAA
Escobar is hitting .486 this spring and remarkably has yet to strike out in 42 PA's. He has always been an excellent contact hitter, yet his lack of power and hard hits have kept him from consistently hitting for a high average. Without a lot of homeruns or steals, he would need to continue striking out about never to really be much of a fantasy asset in mixed leagues.
Andre Ethier, LAD
Ethier remains out of the Dodgers' lineup with a shin injury as the team waits the results of a bone scan. While Ethier has not been worth the $85 million contract the Dodgers have given him, his performance actually hasn't been that bad as he has hit above .270 with double digit HR's and 50+ runs and RBI in all but one season of his career. If he turns out okay from this injury, there's no reason to expect much different from Ethier in 2016, even with a crowded Dodgers outfield. Nonetheless, he would probably need either Pederson, Puig, or Crawford to go down for an extended period to get the regular playing time he would need to really be worthwhile in fantasy.
Nolan Arenado, COL
Arenado is having a monster spring, hitting .629 with a 1.660 OPS through 35 spring AB's. He is poised to have another monster year in the power department, and if he even cuts down on his strikeout a bit (so far only 2 this spring), we could easily be talking about a .300/30/100 season.
Kenta Maeda, LAD
With foreign players it's sometimes hard to project what they'll do in the upcoming season, but based on spring stats alone, things are looking bright for the Dodger's right-hander. In 13.2 IP, he has a 1.32 ERA and a 13:4 K:BB ratio, so you should be feeling pretty good if you drafted him at a discounted rate this pre-season.
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