Brandon Phillips, Braves - After nixing a trade to the Braves back in November, Brandon Phillips was sent to the Braves Sunday in a deal for two minor league prospects. After Phillips declined the deal earlier in the offseason the Braves moved their attention to Sean Rodriguez and signed him to a two year deal, but Rodriguez was in a car accident a few weeks back and Friday it was discovered he'll need shoulder surgery and could miss anywhere between three months and the whole season. Enter Phillips. First things first, this deal means nothing for top prospect Ozzie Albies in terms of this season as he was a real longshot to make the opening day roster for the Braves. Phillips is owned just $1.5 million from the Braves with a $500k assignement bonus if he's released/traded which makes him extremely moveable is Albies gets off to a hot start and is deemed ready. Phillips overall struggled last season but had a strong second half where he slashed .335/.350/.478 thanks to a jump in his LD% (+3.0%) fueling a BABIP spike. As the 2B position has gotten stronger recently Phillips has fallen to the back of the pack when it comes to second basemen ranking 18th of 21 in wRC+ at the position. He's a low end NL only guy who will likely hit towards the lower half of the Braves lineup.
Mike Foltynewicz, Braves - Mike Foltynewicz had an up and down season last year but shows a three pitch mix that could have him as a breakout candidate this season. He struck out 8 per nine last season and walked 2.55 per nine in 123 innings, his most at the major league level. The additions of Bartolo Colon, RA Dickey, and Jaime Garcia has left the Braves short on rotation spots but based on what they showed last season Folty should have the edge on the 5th spot over the likes of Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair. Last season saw Folty use his offspeed pitches more than previous years, his slider in particular. That usage jumped 5% from last season and has jumped 14% from his debut with the Astros two years ago while gaining almost 5 MPH on the pitch as well. His real weapon if harnessed could be his changeup which rates almost a full run above average according to Fangraphs' pitch values and sits 10 MPH slower than his fastball.
Braves Closer - The Braves closer situation is one to monitor this spring as there a few candidates that could snag the job. Jim Johnson likely has the first shot at the job as he has the best combination of experience, skill, and health recently. Arodys Vizcaino might have the best pure stuff in the bullpen but his season was devastated by injury and he only threw two innings in the second half of the season. He was exceptional in both March and May before a step back in June and then the tires fell off from there. Maurico Cabrera showed flashes of late inning stuff in his stint with the Braves, mainly consisting of triple digit heat. Cabrera attended the Carlos Marmol School of How To Close as he's going to be wild no matter what. Control has never been his strong suit evidenced by the fact a 4.46 BB/9 was his best mark since rookie ball in 2012. If I'm draft I rank them as Johnson, Vizzy, and Cabrera. Adding one more name into the mix though not to be targeted on draft day, AJ Minter.
Jose De Leon, Rays - Jose De Leon was dealt to the Rays this offseason for Logan Forsyth was coveted this offseason as he was an asking piece for the Twins when they were rumored to be shopping Brian Dozier as well. The hard throwing righty struggled in his major league debut after dominating AAA and the Rays said Sunday that he'll likely start the season with AAA Durham before being called up to the big early in the season. While his prospect ranking has soured a tiny bit, MLB.com still ranks him as the #33 prospect in baseball, still very high praise for the talented righty.
Corey Dickerson, Rays - Corey Dickerson is going to be an early "Best Shape of His Career" contender after he's reported dropped 25 pound this offseason in order to turn into a better athlete. Dickerson put together a solid season for the Rays in his first year there hitting 24 homer which matched his career high that he had with the Rockies, but he just didn't have the .315 batting average to go along with it. His BABIP plummeted in his first year away from Coors Field to .285 after averaging a BABIP in the .350's at Coors. He got extremely fly ball happy last year hitting 45% of his balls in the air, which can be a huge reason for the BABIP drop. His LD% dropped to 17.5% which is by far a career low. Maybe compensating for the lack of field help and trying to hit homers? Certainly a possibility, making him an intriguing late round power guy for me considering his K% was right in line with his career averages.
Chris Archer, Rays - Chris Archer had a good season from a technical standpoint, but owners definitely weren't thrilled with his 9-19 record on the year. The only real stat that was different in his 2015-16 season was a jump in his HR rate from .80 to 1.3 which equates to a 13 HR bump. Literally that's the only thing "under" Acher's control from last year. His K5, BB%, LD%, hard hit rate, LITERALLY EVERYTHING was in line with his 2015 breakout season. Draft him. Don't worry about the W/L record.
Nathan Eovaldi, Rays - Despite not being able to pitch this season, Eovaldi inked a two year deal with the Rays with a club option for next year. Eovaldi will get paid $2 million to rehab this season and will earn another $2 million from the Rays if his option is indeed picked up. he under went Tommy John surgery last year and was let go by the Yankees at the end of the season.His four seam fastball velocity has jumped each of the last three season and last year he implemented a cutter that he mixed in 6% of the time, and it actually rated as his best offering.
Detroit Tigers CF - The Tigers centerfield position is up for grabs this spring between the newly acquired Mikie Mahtoook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones all having a shot to land the position. Before I go into each player let's preface this, none of the three appear to be fantastic fantasy options. Starting with Mahtook, he might be the most intriguing to me just becuase of his prospect pedigree and the moderate speed/power combo he showed while a member of the Rays organization. Tyler Collins hasn't provided much in terms of power or speed recently, and really doesn't carry a high bat tool to get himself past those shortcomings. However he does have a 18 HR season and a 21 HR season in the minors that maybe could come back. JaCoby Jones blew up onto the scene in his first full season with the Pirates but has fizzled since. He was a high draft pick out of LSU and hit 23 homers to go with 17 steals in Low-A for Pittsburgh and followed it up with 18 homer across three levels in 2015 but couldn't reach double digits in 133 games. All would need to have ridiculous springs to be mixed league targets, but a flier in AL-only on one could work.
Byron Buxton, Twins - Byron Buxton is a guy I want in every league if I can get him at the price I want, but unfortunately I don't know that it's going to happen. Buxton struggled all season for the Twins offensively before erupting in September with a .287 average, 9 homers and 6 steals in September. Buxton was long thought of as the top prospect in baseball and I think the majority of people were surprised when he struggled to start his career in 2015, and then his slow start to 2016. If he did indeed turn the corner in September and it carries into 2017, we're talking about a fantasy superstar. He has every tool you could want in a player and will provide in all five categories with ease. That's where the draft position starts to come in because the slow start still gives me a bit of hesitancy in case he starts slow again.
Aaron Nola, Phillies - Aaron Nola is one of my favorite SP targets this year hoping I can get him at a decreased price thanks to his second half struggles which were partially due to injury and a absurdly high BABIP. Before he started to get roughed up his numbers looked eerily similar to Corey Kluber's 2013 season, which if you remember was the year before he won the Cy Young Award. Obivously I'm not picking Nola as my Cy Young winner in a league that has Clayton Kershaw, but I'll absolutely take him in as many leagues as I possibly can. Nola has the edge on Kluber in one aspect early in his career, and that's strikeouts. If Kluber can continue to make strides and fingers crossed the Phillies have a solid defense (4.78 ERA vs 3.08 FIP) this year we could be looking at a stud.
Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox - Now that all the prospect lists have been released, we can say with consensus now that Andrew Benintendi is officially the top prospect in all of baseball. he had a nice start to his career in Boston with a .295/.359/.476 triple slash and two homers in 34 games. Manager John Farrell said in January that there's a possibility that he'll hit benintendi in the #2 spot in the lineup and that could be huge for them despite the Sox replacing David Ortiz in the cleanup spot. A player that I've always look at Benintendi as is a Nate McClouth type player, but with more upside. While maybe not entirely this year, I can easily see Benintendi flirting with the 20/20 plateau with a chance to get close to a .300 average and if he's toward the top of the Sox's lineup 100 runs could be in reach.
Starling Marte, Pirates - The Pirates new centerfield this year in Starling Marte as the team shuffled around the entire outfield sliding him to center, Andrew McCutchen to right and gregory Polanco to left. There was some give and take with Marte as his homers dropped from 19 to 9, BUT we saw his batting average jump 30 points to .311 and his stolen bases skyrocketed from 30 to 47. When looking at his batted ball profile for the last two years I expected to see a jump in his LD% which would lead to the batting average increase but actually he hit more fly balls last season AND hit the ball harder more frequently than last year. So why the dip in homers? His HR/FB% dropped by 10% to 8.4% and his career average to that point was 15%. With that, there numbers say he can actually add some homers back to his stat line without having to sacrifice much from the other categories. In a strange way he may be undervalued on draft day.
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates - Andrew McCutchen is now the full time RFer in Pittsburgh and struggled mightily last season but still ended up with some good counting stats, mainly in the HR and run departments. The main difference between his first and second half numbers came in his approach at the plate as he started walking more in the second half, and also saw his K% shrink down. In the month of June, McCutchen was striking out in 28% of his at bats against walking just 6% of the time, but come September he almost had the two evened out with a 14% KK% and a 12.7% BB%. Expect to see him devauled a bit a on draft day, with good reason becuase we've also seen his SB numbers drop steadily since his MVP season going from 27-18-11-6 over the last four years.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets - Noah Syndergaard burst onto the scene last year building off his great 2015 season going 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, but ended the season like a lot of the Mets' starting staff with injury concerns. He had a bone spur in his elbow that he elected not to have offseason surgery on but there's no rumors of any limitations that are going to be placed on him come spring training. Syndergaard worked hard in the offseason to put on more muscle and wait for it.... throw even harder this spring. Yes, the man who's fastball averaged 98 MPH, his slider 90 MPH, and his changeup 90 MPH is trying to throw even harder this season. This both makes me nervous as well as excited because I don't know that the #1 thing I want a guy with an elbow scare doing is throwing harder but the added muscle could help combat that.
Michael Conforto, Mets - I honestly feel bad for Michael Conforto because the Mets have shown no inclination that they actually want to try and play him everyday. He has bad L/R splits but the Mets continue to add corner outfield options to the team wthat are paid more than Conforto which gets him pushed down further. The team is trying to trade Jay Bruce which would help create some playing time for him and I'd put him over Curtis Granderson on a typical basis. The problem is that the Mets' best centerfield option is one of the weaker hitters of the group in Juan Lagares. He's outstanding in center whereas moving someone like Yoenis Cespedes to center creates at bats for Conforto but now there's a liability defensively in center. I don't know that you can draft Conforto comfortably outside of a late NL Only guy at this point.
Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox - Pablo Sandoval has once again come in to spring in the best shape of his life, a story we've heard almost every season since signing with the Red Sox. This year is different for the Sox though as he's likely penciled in as the everyday third baseman after Yoan Moncada was part of the package for Chris Sale in December. Sandoval was a disappointment in his first year in Boston hitting just .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games. If he truly is healthy and in the "best shape of his life" he could be an intersting late round AL only 3B. he's a career .287 hitter and has topped out at 25 homer in a single since, while normally hovering in the 15-20 range. There's four third baseman that are top two round locks, but after that the position kind of tapers off which could lead for a possible resurgence of Sandoval to fantasy relevant.
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