Ronald Acuña Jr, Atlanta Braves - Ronald Acuña Jr the most hyped prospect to make his debut last season and he was everything fantasy owners could have asked for, and more. Acuña posted 143 wRC+ in 111 games while hitting 26 homers and swiping 16 bags. The second half of the season is where Acuña really took off, posting a 171 wRC+ while slashing his strikeout rate by 8%. The leadoff spot was where he produced the best with 175 wRC+ and he swiped 14 bags on 18 tries. It would make sense to keep the dynamic superstar in that spot, but there are grumblings this offseason that Brian Snitker wants to move him down in the lineup, more specifically to the cleanup spot. There's some give and take on what this would do to his fantasy value. The positives for Acuña would be really only more RBI chances hitting behind Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman. The negatives though are very concerning. Acuña was not very aggressive on the base paths outside of the leadoff spot attempting 18 steals from leadoff while only three elsewhere (#2 spot). Only 28 players in baseball last season swiped 20 bags, while 100 hit more than 20 home runs so his stolen base potential is extremely valuable in fantasy. His runs could take a dive as well as the top four-or-five of the lineup is strong, but there are a lot of question marks after that. Is Nick Markakis going to be first half Nick (133 wRC+ vs 88 wRC+)? Can Ozzie Albies rebound from an awful second half? Is Dansby Swanson going to stay healthy to potentially turn the corner? Acuña's value hands down are safer with him atop the lineup, and he likely should drop a few spots in the draft if it sounds like Snit is going to get his way.
Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays - Tyler Glasnow was one of the headline pieces in the trade that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh, and the once uber-prospect Glasnow should have a shot to be one of the Rays main pieces in their rotation. Glasnow struggled in 56 innings in Pittsburgh in 2018 with a 4.34 ERA (3.63 FIP) and a 14% BB% but struck out nearly 30% of the batters he was facing. His time in Tampa saw his shaved 6% off of his BB% rate but the extra pitches in the zone came at a cost with his HR/9 doubling from .80 to 1.62. Glasnow virtually has abandoned his changeup and this point and is relying solely on his fastball and curveball/slider combo, with his changeup percentage dropping to just 1.7% in 2018. That was down from 12.5% in the previous season, and it may be for the better. According to PitcherList.com, opposing hitters batted .429 with a 117 wRC+ against his changeup last year but he did manage a 71% GB rate on the offering. In 2018 Glasnow also flashed a slider that he used very sparingly (21 thrown all year) but he had a 28.6% swinging strike rate on the offering. Glasnow has all the tools that you want for a breakout type of year, and his current ADP of 166 in NFBC drafts (min pick 120, max pick 201) gives a lot of room for profit if it all clicks.
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays - The other key piece in the Chris Archer trade, Austin Meadows, is currently slated to be the everyday right fielder for the Rays, and he provides some late round upside in the OF. In 59 games last season (49 in Pittsburgh, 10 in Tampa) Meadows slashed .287/.325/.461 with six homers and five stolen bases. Meadows combined an above average 13.4% launch angle combined with a 39% hard contact rate to show that his near 20 homerun pace is definitely legitimate. He also launched 10 homers while in AAA with the Rays after the trade. Meadows also swiped 17 bags between AAA and the majors last year, and he ranked in the 88th percentile in terms of sprint speed according to Baseball Savant. Stolen bases have been much harder to find in recent years, and Meadows has 20/20 upside as soon as this season. Meadows has a 186 ADP currently floating around fellow OFers Byron Buxton, Ramon Laureano, Corey Dickerson, and Jesse Winker.
Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays - Jose De Leon is one of two starters (Brett Honeywell) that the Rays should welcome back this season and De Leon could be ready by the end of May. De Leon underwent Tommy John at the beginning of March last season, so he'll definitely be closer to the 12 month return time than the typical 18 months that has been the trend lately. De Leon is only projected to throw 50-ish innings by most projection systems, but obviously, if he returns earlier that could change. First seasons for most Tommy John surgeries tend to go on the south end of things, but De Leon was a highly regarded enough prospect to keep him in mind during the season.
Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves - Dansby Swanson's two full seasons since his call up have been, well, disappointing. He started strong last season getting off to a .287 average in the first month of the season before falling off and not hitting above .233 in any given month the rest of the way. He did deal with a wrist injury along the way, his second such injury in the last two years. David O'Brien of The Athletic recently wrote an article recently that tied the injury back to the April 14th game in Chicago in which both managers called the game "the worst conditions they'd ever seen for a game. " Swanson underwent offseason wrist surgery to clean up the wrist, and the results showed that he probably shouldn't have been playing at all. We've yet to see Swanson put together a season close to his .302/.361/.442 triple slash in 2016, but we also haven't really seen him healthy since. Swanson did hit a career high14 homers in 2018 thanks in part to an 8% increase to his fly ball rate and a four-degree increase to his average launch angle. But overall he still ranked in the 23rd percentile in average exit velocity and the 35th percentile in hard-hit rate last season. He's basically free/undrafted right now at an ADP of 422 if you want to take another shot at him.
Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves - Josh Donaldson is getting to escape the awful cement of Toronto and is heading to Atlanta this year and could be an incredible value on draft day. Donaldson has only played in 165 games over the last two season but hit 33 homers in 113 games in 2017 and once he returned from injury (in Cleveland) he looked like the same 'ol Donaldson posting a 149 wRC+ over 60 at-bats with three homers. He had an average exit velocity of 90.2 MPH but his launch angle did dip by 2%, though he was still above the league average at 11.8 degrees, Donaldson is slated to hit 2nd in the Braves lineup behind either Acuña or Ender Inciarte (*shivers*) and just in front of Freddie Freeman. Assuming the Braves leave Acuña at leadoff Donaldson will be in a great position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. Donaldson's current ADP is at 99 and that bakes in his injury risk, because if he can string together a full season worth of ABs he's in the argument to be one of the first five third baseman off the board.
Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees - Didi Gregorius took a big step in his return from Tommy John surgery this week by beginning a throwing program. Gregorius is still a few months away from returning to full baseball activities but beginning to throw is definitely the first step. The current timetable for him to return to full activities is sometime in May, and Gregorius himself said that he's not interested in returning to the lineup early just as a DH. Some combination of Gleyber Torres and Troy Tulowitzki will man shortstop in the meantime, but the Yankees are still checking in on Manny Machado as he remains unsigned.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds - Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported over the weekend that the Reds may decide to use stud reliever Raisel Iglesias as a high leverage arm rather than the everyday closer for the team. The Reds new pitching coach is Derek Johnson, who was the pitching coach for the Brewers last season, and we saw what Milwaukee did with Josh Hader as he became one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball and was excellent in fantasy despite notching only 12 saves. Iglesias has turned in back-to-back 70+ inning seasons and while he posted a lower ERA in 2018 compared to 2017, his FIP ballooned to 4.23 thanks to a 1.50 HR/9. His ERA didn't change significantly though because he managed a 91.6% strand rate. Jared Hughes could be the arm that the Reds turn to for the traditional 9th inning role after posting a 1.94 ERA (3.28 FIP) over 78.2 innings but his 19.8% K% is a little on the low end for typical "closers."
Brett Anderson, Oakland A's - Brett Anderson inked a one year deal to star with the A's on Tuesday. Anderson was completely dominant in AAA with the A's last season with a 26% K% but once he was promoted to the majors his K% dropped to 14.1% over 80.1 innings. His calling card though has been his ability to create groundballs, and 2018 was no different with a 55.6% GB%. Anderson can maybe be a back end of an AL-Only rotation, but he doesn't have nearly the strikeout upside to be mixed league viable.
Zack Cozart, Los Angeles Angels - Zack Cozart has been telling people around Reds camp that he's feeling 100% after 2018 shoulder surgery. Cozart entered 2018 coming off a breakout 2017 campaign and was slotted atop of a strong Angels lineup but injuries and ineffectiveness ending that quickly. Cozart hit just five homers and slashed .219/.296/.362 last year and showed that his 140 wRC+ definitely is going to be the outlier for his career.
Gerardo Parra, San Francisco Giants - Gerardo Parra signed a minor league deal with the Giants and if you've seen the Giants projected outfield, there's a chance Parra can make the major league roster. The Giants outfield currently only has Steven Duggar and Mac Williamson slated for full-time roles, so Parra could claim the other outfield spot with a good spring. Parra's power could essentially vanish in his new home stadium, but he's a career .278 hitter and that's not insignificant. Still only an NL-Only guy at this point.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians - Jon Morosi reported over the weekend that there is "almost no chance" that the Indians trade Corey Kluber, something we've likely figured since the early rumors of him being shopped turned into nothing. Kluber had a small step back in 2018 in his skills, despite it not showing up in his numbers as he posted a 2.89 ERA. His swinging strike dropped back to 12% and his K% also dropped back to 26.4% after his absurd 34.1% mark in 2017. 2017 also saw him with a career-best pitch value on his four-seam fastball, and that was at -2.3. Luckily Kluber scaled back his usage of the four-seamer and he's primarily a cutter/sinker/slider pitcher at this point.
Dodgers Catcher - Dave Roberts is unsure of whether Austin Barnes or Russell Martin will be the primary starting catcher for the Dodgers. Neither catcher was very good in 2018, posting a 77 and 91 wRC+ respectively, but Barnes is one season removed from a 142 wRC+ and a .408 OBP. The 140 wRC+ is a clear outsider at this point in his career because even with that gaudy mark he only has a 105 wRC+ for his career. I still think Barnes likely earns the majority of the starts, but this is a situation to monitor all spring.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels - Manager Brad Ausmus thinks that Shohei Ohtani is going to return to the lineup in May. It was revealed that Ohtani needed Tommy John surgery late last season and he decided to finish the year at DH rather than undergoing the surgery right away, which will cost him a little time in 2019. I'm far more interested in drafting Ohtani this year than last, because of his uncertain I was with his role. Obviously, he dominated both on the mound and at the plate, making him well worth the draft pick but now we get to see what Ohtani can do solely at the plate after posting a 152 wRC+ while also focusing on pitching every 5th/6th day.
Orioles Opting For Openers - The Orioles are reportedly looking at using the opener this year with a rotation that's less than stellar on paper. Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb are the only two starters that likely wouldn't be affected by the opener, but there's an argument that both of them could benefit from one too. The main issue here is that the Orioles bullpen isn't exactly littered with strong arms either and tabbing an opener isn't exactly easy. Tanner Scoot has the highest K/9 at 12.83 but he also walked nearly five batters per nine, so he's not exactly a slam dunk spot for that spot.
Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox - The White Sox are talking more about Alex Colome being their closer over Kelvin Hererra. Colome posted his second best K% last season and he recorded a 3.04 ERA in 68 innings between the Rays and Mariners. Colome had a 13.6% swinging strike rate last year which was the second-best total of his career and he's posted back to back seasons of a low 3's ERA since becoming a fastball/cutter pitcher.
Sergio Romo, Miami Marlins - Sergio Romo agreed to a one year deal with the Marlins for $2.5 million. He should factor into the closing role for the Marlins and likely with battle Drew Steckenrider for the job. Romo recorded 25 saves for the Rays last year while also thriving as the opener during the team's "bullpen" games.
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