- LA Dodgers:
Who's in the Outfield?
With the trade of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds, the Dodgers suddenly no longer have an overabundance of outfielders. As things are currently constructed, Max Muncy and David Freese are set to form an interesting first base platoon. A.J. Pollock and Cody Bellinger are slated to be the every day center fielder and right fielder respectively. Most likely Chris Taylor will be the team's second baseman, with Kike Hernandez playing all over the place, particularly versus southpaws. That makes Hernandez strictly a DFS option when the Dodgers play against southpaws (.245/.338/.446 against LHP since 2016). So what about left field? As it stands, top prospect Alex Verdugo heads to camp as the favorite. Andrew Toles could have factored in as well, but he's reportedly dealing with a "personal matter" and is not in camp. So what do we have here in Verdugo? He's a career .309/.367/.444 hitter with strong plate discipline, below average power, and average speed. At best he's probably a 15 HR / 12 SB type guy this year, but the 22-year-old can certainly develop power down the line. He's a better guy to target in keeper/dynasty formats, but the batting average should be there right away.
Behind the dish
The Dodgers sport two of the best catching prospects in the league in 20-year-old Kiebert Ruiz and 23-year-old Will Smith. Neither is ready for prime time, so as of February, Russell Martin and Austin Barnes are set to split duties. What the playing time split ends up being depends on which Barnes shows up in camp. Is it the 2017 version that hit .289/.408/.486 or the guy we saw last year (.205/.329/.290)? Either way he's a more valuable guy in OBP leagues due to his elite career 14.1% BB%. Martin still has some power and plate discipline, and the defense hasn't regressed too much, but don't expect much in the batting average department. Either way, these guys are likely keeping the spot warm for Smith (expected to be ready before the higher-rated Ruiz) or perhaps a trade deadline acquisition.
San Francisco Giants:
Open auditions for starting outfielders
From Willie Mays to Kevin Mitchell to Barry Bonds, the Giants have trotted out some HOF caliber outfielders over the years, but in 2019, it's more of a case of "who are these guys?" The only guy who even appears to be a favorite for one of the three slots is Steven Duggar who hit a measly .255/.303/.390 last year and who hasn't hit above .272 at any level since 2016. Duggar may even lead off, so he's at least interesting in deeper leagues, as he could steal 15+ bases. At the corners, the contenders include Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Austin Slater, and Alen Hanson. In camp on minor league invites are Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin. My expectation is that Parra starts against RHP, against whom he hit .309/.369/.407 in 2018. Mac Williamson looks interesting after he had a .905 OPS in AAA last year and looked good in the big leagues prior to getting hurt. This should sort itself out this spring, as the competition is very open, unless of course the Giants surprise and sign Bryce Harper.
Now entering the game in the 9th inning is...
There look to be three main competitors, Will Smith, Mark Melancon, and Sam Dyson. Smith appears to have the edge entering camp after posting a 2.55 ERA with excellent ratios (12.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9). The Giants though are paying formerly great close Melancon $14 million this year, so he'll be given a shot in camp to win the job. Melancon struggled to a 1.59 WHIP and his K/9 declined year-over-year from 8.7 to 7.2 and his 3.2 BB/9 was his worst mark since 3.2. Manager Bruce Bochy has come out and said that Melancon could be in line for saves along with Smith and Dyson early in the year. The guess is that he would prefer the flexibility of using the lefty Smith in the seventh and eighth innings, so if Melancon looks good in camp, expect him to be the primary guy, at least to start.
- Colorado Rockies:
Is Garrett Hampson the full-time second baseman?
Free agent signee Daniel Murphy is expected to be the primary first baseman with Ian Desmond shifting to center field. Whether Desmond works out there defensively is an open question, but for now, candidates for the second base job appear to be Hampson and Ryan McMahon. Hampson profiles as a .300 hitter with excellent on-base skills, elite speed (high of 51 SB), and probably below average power. He never slugged above .426 in the minors despite the .300+ BA's, so while physical development and 0-Coors Field could have him a 20-homer guy in time, power isn't expected to be a huge part of his game. McMahon has hit just .225/.310/.360 in parts of two seasons, but he was jerked around so much that I'd give him a pass. He would provide more power than Hampson, but the 25%-30% K%'s he put up in the minors is a bit alarming. This will be an open competition, with the loser either opening in AAA or on the bench. In my mind: edge Hampson.
Will be (finally) see 500+ at-bats from David Dahl?
Sure looks that way, as Dahl is expected to be the every day left fielder. In parts of two seasons, Dahl is now a .293/.341/.518 career hitter with 23 homers, 10 steals, and 72 RBI in 508 MLB PA's. a 25.1K% and .28 EYE could serve to keep the batting average ceiling around .280, but with his injuries apparently behind him and a slot finally there for the taking, Dahl is looking at top-15 outfielder potential, albeit with some risk attached. The training staff has its work cut out for them with Dahl, but it will be exciting to see what he can do as a full-time player. There is some platoon risk here as his OPS vs. LHP is nearly 200 points lower than it is against RHP, but Dahl should at least initially be out there against everyone.
- strong>Tyler Glasnow (SP-TB)
The Pirates are really going to regret the Chris Archer trade, if they haven't already. Glasnow is reportedly already hitting close to 99 mph this spring and he's reportedly experimenting with a Kershaw-like pause in his delivery. The big issue over the years with Glasnow has always been his erratic control, but to his credit, he did cut his BB/9 year-over-year from 6.4 to 4.2. With his stuff, if he can get that in the 3's or even lower, there's some who see #1 starter potential in the 6'8" righty. Glasnow did record a 3.1 BB/9 in AAA back in 2017, so the potential is there. Pitching in the AL East limits his fantasy upside somewhat, but there's top-30 starter upside in that right arm.
Manny Machado (SS-SD)
Our long national nightmare came to an end on Tuesday with the Padres shockingly inking Machado to a 10-year $300 million deal. No word yet on whether Machado was guaranteed shortstop, but I'd guess that's where he'll land, at least for now. Luis Urias likely get second base with Ian Kinsler holding third base warm for Fernando Tatis Jr. It's a bold move for an organization with limited revenues but baseball's #1 farm system. They could be competitive as early as 2020. Anyway, back to Machado. Clearly from a fantasy perspective this isn't an ideal landing spot compared to his rumored other suitors, the Phillies and Yankees. Worse ballpark and at least for now, a far worse lineup. Just one projected regular, Hunter Renfroe, hit more than 20 homers last year, and Renfroe had a .302 OBP. Maybe a guy like Franchy Cordero or Franmil Reyes breaks out and becomes an All-Star. Perhaps Manuel Margot gets his OBP above .300 and hits 20 homers, but I'm probably not drafting Machado now before the late-second round, whereas if he were a Yankee, he's easily top-10.
Carlos Martinez (RP-STL)
Here we go again. Martinez is already hurt this spring, dealing with a sore shoulder. He's expected to be shut down for two weeks before resuming throwing, putting his Opening Day status already in question. Lat, oblique, and shoulder issues limited Martinez to 118.2 innings last year, and there were already rumblings before this latest news that Martinez was a bullpen candidate. For a guy that made 63 starts from 2016-2017, this is very disconcerting. Martinez lost 2+ mph off his fastball last year, and with an abundance of other rotation options, I expect Martinez to be primarily a reliever this year. He could even close if things break right and his stuff takes a step forward as a reliever (it often does). Jordan Hicks would seem to be the favorite with his 100+ mph fastball, but Hicks also posted mediocre ratios, including an 8.1 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9. Keep an eye on this situation throughout the spring.
Delino DeShields (OF-TEX)
DeShields has already been named as the favorite for the starting center field job, a proclamation that speaks more to the team's lack of talent than to DeShields' talent. Yes he can run, swiping 20+ bases in three of his four seasons, but in over 1,500 career PA's, he's just a .244/.327/.340 career hitter. Teams can live with the lack of power, but the Rangers would likely look for more than a .327 OBP to consider keeping him as a starter over 150+ games. DeShields dropped way off last year to .216/.310/.281, so while a 10.1% BB% in his career is solid, DeShields still needs to hit this spring to lock in the Opening Day job. One scenario has the club moving Joey Gallo to CF (seems like a bad idea) with Nomar Mazar in RF and Willie Calhoun in left. Putting DeShields out there would be a much better defensive scenario, but he'll still need to improve at the plate.
Dan Vogelbach (1B-SEA)
We've heard this name for seemingly years, but now Vogelbach is at a critical juncture in his career. He's out of options, meaning that if he fails to make the 25-man roster, he could find himself in another organization or he can be booted off the 40-man roster and toil away as a Quad-A type guy. Vogelbach to his credit has reported to camp in great shape as he looks to compete with the likes of Ryon Healy for first base reps. Vogelbach is a .197/.301/.315 career hitter in 146 PA over parts of three seasons, but he did post a robust .979 OPS in AAA last year and he does have a nice 12.7% BB% for his brief MLB stints. Vogelbach looks completely lost against southpaws, so he's probably looking at a platoon role at best, but as it stands currently, he probably needs the Mariners to deal Edwin Encarnacion (which they would reportedly like to) to open up a slot. Either way, watch the 1B/DH depth chart and check in on Vogelbach this spring in deeper leagues.
Matt Kemp (OF-CIN)
Most projection systems seem to have Kemp getting 400+ PA's, but it's hard to see that coming with the Reds. He's not going to be an option at 1B to fill in for Joey Votto (reported Tuesday), and the Reds' starting outfield for most of the year seems likely to be Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Yasiel Puig with Scott Schebler also in the mix. After a hot start last season, Kemp hit just .247/.305/.393 over his final 79 games. He doesn't run anymore and he's a huge defensive liability. An AL team in need of a DH would be wise to contact the Reds about moving Kemp this spring.
Mychal Givens (RP-BAL)
Solid closers on terrible teams are still valuable, and that could be Givens this year. Remember Jose Mesa with the 2004 Pirates? That Pirates team, having lost Barry Bonds to the Giants, finished last in the NL Central with 72 wins, but Mesa managed to save 43 of those games. Givens has yet to be named the team's closer, but when you look at the dearth of other options, it's probably only a matter of time. Givens saw his ERA regress from 2.75 to 3.99 last year, but the velocity was still there, and in his final 17.2 innings, Givens posted an ERA of 1.53 and 0.45 WHIP. Option B may be Tanner Scott but he's coming off a 1.56 WHIP, and the rest of the candidates are Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, and Paul Fry. Maybe Hunter Harvey becomes and option at some point, but if you're asking "Who are these guys?", you're not alone.
Nick Madrigal (2B-CHW)
If you're looking to stash a prospect that runs, Madrigal could be your guy. Despite being drafted just last year, his bat is so advanced, that it's very possible we see him this season. Madrigal hit .303 across three stops last year in his pro debut, with an incredible 5:7 K:BB. He didn't hit a home run, but he did swipe eight bases. At 5'7", unless he somehow becomes the second coming of Jose Altuve, Madrigal may top out as a 10-homer type of guy, but the bat is good enough to see a slash in the range of .320/.400/.420 in time. Now that Manny Machado isn't an option for the White Sox, the Sox are looking at Yoan Moncada as their third baseman, leaving Yolmer Sanchez to keep second base warm for Madrigal.
Miguel Cabrera (DH-DET)
Since rupturing his biceps tendon on June 12 of last year, Cabrera had yet to hit off live pitching. That changed on Monday, as Cabrera hit, ran the bases, and played the field. He's been running and lifting weights, and by all reports seems to be healthy and in good shape. Cabrera has played in 150 games just once since 2014, but after hitting .299/.395/.448 last year in 38 games, Cabrera can still hit. He's expected to play some first base this year, though it seems likely he'll log more games as a DH. Last time I checked, Cabrera's ADP sat at 166, making him a 14th round pick in 12-team mixed leagues. A stark contrast to the multiple years as a first-round pick. I wouldn't want him as a starter, but if you wait on drafting your first baseman, Cabrera could be a cheap, low-risk option.
Shawn Armstrong (RP-SEA)
With only Hunter Strickland (3.97 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) and maybe Anthony Swarzak (6.15 ERA, dealing with sore shoulder this spring) ahead of him on the closer depth chart, Armstrong could be a sleeper RP option in deeper leagues. The 28-year-old has logged just 58 career big league innings, but after posting a 1.23 ERA and 15:3 K:BB in 14.2 innings last year, he's put himself in a prominent position to have a high-leverage role in the Seattle pen this year. Particularly in AL-only leagues, if you're speculating on saves late, give this guy a look, particularly if you end up rostering Strickland, who could pitch his way out of the closer job at any moment with his erratic pitching.
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