Happy Opening Day everyone. One of my favorite days of the year to be sure.
Dodgers Left Field situation - Toles to AAA
In somewhat of a surprise, Joc Pederson made the Opening Day roster over Andrew Toles, this despite Pederson hitting a paltry .148/.246/.259 to Toles' 283/.286/.566. It would have helped Toles' case to have had better than a 15:1 K:BB however, but his spring was certainly superior to that of Pederson's. Toles though will get regular playing time in Triple-A, and that would not have been the case in LA where Matt Kemp is now poised to see the majority of the left field at-bats. Pederson meanwhile will rotate between LF and CF, but probably only plays center when Chris Taylor either need a day off or he's on the infield somewhere. Kemp hit .263/.317/.561 with a team-leading (tied) five home runs this spring as he looks to resurrect his career where it started.
Who is the Dodgers' top set up man?
Brandon Morrow emerged as the guy eventually last year, but he took closer money to sign with the Cubs, and the Dodgers appear to have no defined 8th inning guy again this year. The club has yet to announce their bullpen as I write this, but a couple guys I think can emerge and be that guy are Josh Fields and J.T. Chargois with the occasional sprinkling of lefties Scott Alexander and Tony Cingrani. Chargois isn't a lock to make the team, but he's allowed just one run in nine innings this spring with a 12:3 K:BB while throwing easy mid-90s gas. Chargois missed most of 2017 with an elbow injury, but it would be just like the Dodgers to pick him up off the scrap heap and watch him develop into a solid setup man. Fields pitched just four innings this spring due to some early arm soreness, but he did not allow a run or a hit, so all seems fine now.
Austin Jackson wins CF battle in San Francisco
The cynic in me will note that Jackson being 31 and Steven Duggar seven years younger that of course the Giants went with the old guy. That said, after a strong start, Duggar faded this spring and would up hitting .236/.323/.491 to Jackson's .310/.383/.357. I wouldn't be surprised to see Duggar in San Francisco in the first half of the year as the strong side of a platoon, but for now, Jackson gets the nod. To me, Jackson is best left for DFS play, as he'll occupy the leadoff spot against lefties, against whom he hit .352/.409/.574 last year. Perhaps he hits .280 overall, but Jackson's power and speed output are minimal these days, leaving him with little more than NL-only value.
Giants rotation - who's left standing?
Madison Bumgarner (hand) and Jeff Samardzija (pectoral) will open on the disabled list, leaving Ty Blach (!) as the Opening Day starter and Johnny Cueto the de facto ace of the staff. The other three slots are expected to be occupied by Chris Stratton, Derek Holland (ah, wondered what happened to him), and either Anthony Suarez or Tyler Beede. Stratton has been pretty solid this spring with a 3.29 ERA and 28:7 K:BB in 27.1 innings, but there's very little fantasy appeal with any of these guys. Cueto's days as an ace are probably over (hence why he didn't opt out of the four years and $84 million left on his contract), but he at least could have top-30 starting pitcher upside if he's healthy. You would think the Giants would have solidified this rotation after making big trades for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but alas, this is a mess.
Will Ryan McMahon get enough at-bats to have value?
In somewhat of a surprise, McMahon has made the Rockies Opening Day roster despite not being listed at the top of the depth chart at any position. McMahon hit .319/.365/.522 this spring with a pair of home runs in 74 plate appearances. He also hit .374/.411/.612 in 70 Triple-A games last year, so it's pretty apparent that he's ready. The offseason signing of Carlos Gonzalez seemed to indicate McMahon would open in Triple-A, but it would seem the Rockies are ready to at least give him 400+ plate appearances, likely mostly at first base with some occasional starts at second or third. McMahon made great strides last year, cutting his bloated 30.1% K% to 17.7% in the minors before a brief MLB cup of coffee. His power should play in the 25-30 home run range in Coors Field, and if he can keep that strikeout rate down, we could be looking at a .290/.360/.510 hitter in his prime.
COL's German Marquez working on a changeup
At first glance, there's a lot to be concerned with Marquez's spring training performance - 9.82 ERA, 2.09 WHIP. However, Marquez reportedly spent quite a bit of time working on improving his changeup and using with greater frequency. He threw that pitch just 5.4% of the time last year, so expect that to increase in 2018. Working on a secondary pitch happens often in camp, thus we can probably infer that some of his poor performance is due to Marquez working on this pitch during actual games. Marquez last year posted a 4.39 ERA with solid ratios - 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9. If he can turn the change into a plus pitch (it wasn't last year) and take another step forward with his control, Marquez could even be that rare Colorado pitcher with a sub-4.00 ERA.
Amir Garrett (SP-CIN) - It appears Garrett will open as the team's No. 5 starter due to Thursday's game against the Nationals being postponed. This eliminates an off day that would have allowed the Reds to skip their #5 starter. Garrett is a talented pitcher who had a strong spring (17 IP, 3.18 ERA, 21:4 K:BB). The low walk total was especially encouraging given Garrett had a 5.1 BB/9 last year in recording an awful 7.39 ERA. Garrett has a pretty solid minor league track record, but struggled with the lack of movement and velocity on his fastball last year. The fastball has looked better this spring, and given good health, his upside is as high as most anyone in the Reds organization.
Brandon Nimmo (OF-NYM) - With Michael Conforto expected to miss a couple weeks with a shoulder injury, Nimmo will be the Opening Day CF and leadoff hitter. This comes after Nimmo hit a solid .306/.371/.613 this spring in 62 at-bats. Nimmo has an impressive 13.2% career BB% in parts of two big league stints, so we know the plate discipline is there. What we haven't seen that makes him a slam-dunk to be a big-league regular is power. Nimmo had just nine homers across three levels in more than 400 PA last year and he doesn't run much. He could be a nice temporary fill-in in deeper leagues, but once Conforto is back, it's hard to see where the playing time comes from.
Jordan Hicks (RP-STL) - Remember this name as a potential closer down the road. Hicks has made the Opening Day roster despite being just 21 and having zero experience above High-A. It's rare to see a guy skip two levels (Albert Pujols did it), but that's what they think of Hicks, who this spring allowed two runs in 7.2 innings with a 2.35 ERA and 8:1 K:BB. What clinched it was four scoreless innings against the Nationals, who were sporting a lineup comprised of mainly regulars. Hicks in 105 innings last year notched a so-so 95:45 K:BB, but that was mostly as a starter, and as we often see, a starter's arsenal can often play much better in relief. With Dominic Leone opening as closer and Luke Gregerson (hamstring - out until mid-April) having more of a history of being a setup man versus a closer, Hicks could find himself getting save opportunities down the road.
Kevin Plawecki (SP-NYM) - Plawecki has made the team as the Mets' #2 catcher and will reportedly start on Opening Day against Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals. Plawecki hit .270/.341/.405, though d'Arnaud was better, batting .333/.442/.667 this spring. In parts of three seasons, Plawecki has hit just .222/.304/.410 at the big league level, but he does draw some walks (9.1% BB%) and his K% last year sat at just 14.4%. d'Arnaud certainly has more power upside, but perhaps the Mets are getting frustrated with the lack of a big step forward in his development. I'd still expect d'Arnaud to get 65-70% of the playing time, but if Plawecki starts hot, he could have some value in two-catcher leagues. Plawecki did hit .303/.411/.474 after the ASB last season, so perhaps there's some upside here.
Boog Powell (OF-OAK) - Powell has made the team and will be the primary center fielder with Dustin Fowler having been shipped to Triple-A. Powell though hit just .222/.308/.289 with no home runs this spring, so don't be surprised to see Fowler out there by May. Powell hit a solid .282/.358/.402 in 135 big league PA last year after batting .340/.416/.490 in Triple-A. His upside over a full season is probably 6-10 home runs and 10-15 stolen bases. Useful in AL-only formats, but that's about it. His ceiling looks pretty limited at this point.
Byron Buxton (OF-MIN) - I like the moves the Twins have made this offseason as they look to compete for a playoff spot, but hitting Buxton eighth on Opening Day just doesn't feel right. Sure, he's hit just .240/.278/.380 with a 12:1 K:BB, but Buxton broke out big time in the second half last year, batting .300/.347/.546, ultimately finishing with 16 home runs, 29 steals, and an overall slash of .253/.314/.413. Hitting him behind the likes of Eduardo Escobar and Max Kepler just feels like an awful decision. Regardless, Buxton should eventually hit his way to the top of the order as the season progresses, but the SB opportunities may be limited initially. Overall, he has improved his walk rate each of the past two seasons while cutting his K% from 35.6% to a still-high 29.4%, but that's still progress.
Kolten Wong (2B-STL) - Speed is always a tough thing to find if you don't draft the likes of Dee Gordon, but Wong could be an unexpected source of steals. Despite hitting just .205/.327/.273 this spring, Wong swiped seven bases this spring, good for fourth (tied) among all players. Wong hit a solid .285/.376/.412 last year with just four home runs and eight stolen bases, so the speed this spring is a bit surprising. Unfortunately he's going to open in the eight-hole, but Wong appears to have no real competition for playing time for a change this year. Wong posted a career-best 10% BB% last season with his usual strong K% (14.6%). Now in his age-27 season, Wong has a shot at taking another step forward this season, something that could lead to his moving up in the order.
Frank Schwindel (1B-KC) - Schwindel didn't make the 25-man roster, but it wasn't for lack of output. The first baseman hit .366/.381/.976 this spring with a league-leading (tied) seven home runs in just 41 at-bats. He didn't draw a walk, but he also struck out just twice. The 26-year-old hit a combined (AA/AAA) .329/.349/.541 last year, though he posted a concerning 85:16 K:BB in 553 PA. Schwindel has veteran Lucas Duda ahead of him and Ryan O'Hearn also had a huge spring (1.447 OPS). The Royals don't appear to be going anywhere this year, so seeing them trade Duda at some point this summer wouldn't be a shocker. Keep an eye on Schwindel in Triple-A this year.
Trevor Bauer (SP-CLE) - I always seem to wind up with multiple shares of Bauer, and this year was no exception. At some point this guy has to have a huge season right? Bauer led all pitchers with 39 strikeouts (to just eight walks) this spring in posting a 3.99 ERA. Bauer took a nice step forward last season, posting a career-best 10.0 K/9 and career-low 3.1 BB/9. Control has always been an issue in his career (3.7 BB/9 career), but here he is in his magical age-27 season and a step forward remains a distinct possibility. Bauer is a fascinating individual (check out baueroutage.com) who is a true student of the game, and this offseason he worked to try and mimic Corey Kluber's slurve. Not a bad guy to study.
Jakob Junis (SP-KC) - Junis appears to have solidified his role as the team's No. 4 starter with a strong spring - 1.88 ERA and 20:1 K:BB in 14.3 innings. Junis isn't going to be a huge fantasy asset given that his fastball sits in the low-90s, but the 25-year-old's secondary stuff is interesting and his control has always been strong (2.3 BB/9 last year). In 71 Triple-A innings in 2017, Junis posted a 10.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. He did post a mediocre 40.1% GB% which is a bit concerning, so there is some possibility that he could blow up a bit (and not in a good way). Junis finished strong with a 3.55 ERA in the second half last year, so there certainly is some upside in NL-only leagues.