What impact does Vlad Jr.'s injury have on his fantasy value?
Vlad Guerrero Jr. has suffered an oblique injury and is going to miss the rest of Spring Training. He was never going to make the major league roster out of spring due to service time manipulation but this makes it an absolute certainty that he will begin the year in Triple-A. Guerrero Jr.'s talent cannot be denied as he is one of the most advanced hitting prospects since Mike Trout. He was going to hit at the major league level but now one has to consider how many at-bats is he going to get and is it worth his draft price? The initial thought is that if your league has DL slots, he is worth the stash as he will be an above average hitter when he plays even with replacement level production baked in. Where things start to get tricky are leagues with shallow benches in which stashing a player is difficult. Prior to getting injured Guerrero was going on average pick #46 in NFBC formats and that has dropped to pick #58 since his injury. It is clear that the fantasy community is downgrading him due to a combination of the injury, which is tough for hitters, and the possibility that the Blue Jays slow play this injury to get more financial control over Guerrero. All players are a risk but taking bets on ones with elite skills is where you want to be. Take the discount on Guerrero's draft day price and plan the rest of your roster accordingly.
Bo Bichette's 2019 Fantasy Outlook
Bo Bichette does not get the attention that he deserves because he plays in Toronto's minor league system and is overshadowed by Vlad Jr. From a fantasy perspective, he is a very interesting option heading into 2019. He played a full season at Double-A last year and hit .286 with 11 HR, 95 R, 74 RBI, and 32 SB. The power looks light but he is going to hit for power at the next level due to his ability to make consistent hard contact. This is evident in his 61 XBH in 131 games last year and it doesn't hurt that he is hitting .385 with 4 HR and a 1.313 OPS this spring. Bichette's bat is special due to projected power in combination with his plus plate skills (8% BB, 17% K). He is likely going to significant time at Triple-A but could force a promotion with his production. He shouldn't be drafted in most leagues outside of extremely deep benches because he is unlikely to get 400+ AB at the major league level this year, but he is someone to keep an eye on so that you can pick up him up midseason and reap the rewards of his five-category production.
Blue Jays Outfield Situation
The Blue Jays currently have a crowded outfield situation with Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, and Dalton Pompey fighting for three spots. The most likely scenario is that the Jays play Grichuk and Pillar on a regular basis with Hernandez and McKinney platooning. The interesting part of this competition is that one time top Blue Jays prospect Anthony Alford is clouding the situation with a very strong spring. He is hitting .308 with 4 HR and 3 SB in 26 AB's thanks in large part to a re-tooled swing. He has seen his prospect sheen wear off due to a slew of injuries over the past three years. Alford has fantasy upside in terms of stolen bases and power. His ticket to the majors and a full-time role is going to be health and the hit tool. He is going to start the year at Triple-A but if he can carry his strong spring into the season he is an injury away from getting a shot.
Reds CF Competition
The Reds CF competition will have a large impact on the fantasy community. Right now the competition is between prized prospect INF Nick Senzel and incumbent OF Scott Schebler. Both are having strong springs with Senzel hitting .320 with a .748 OPS in 25 AB and Schebler .357 with 1.226 OPS in 14 AB. Normally, the competition would lean towards the veteran with the youngster going to Triple-A due to service time rules but the Reds seem to be legitimately giving Senzel a shot at winning the job outright. The Reds have pushed their chips all-in on this season with their off-season trades with the Dodgers and Nationals. They are in win-now mode which means they are not concerned with holding Senzel down to get an extra year of control if he is ready to hit at the major league level. Senzel has the potential to be a true five-category contributor and has a much higher ceiling than Schebler. Either way, whoever wins this battle is going to be fantasy relevant due to the Reds having an above average lineup this year in a good park.
Check in on Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo was a fantasy darling heading into 2018 after a strong finish to 2017. Castillo struggled for most of the year and finished with a 4.33 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He struggled early to find his velocity before finding it at the end of the year. The underlying skills were still solid with 23% K, 7% BB, 61% F-Strike%, and 45% GB. The problem for Castillo was command of his fastball. The league hit .259 with a .282 ISO against his four-seam fastball and .295 with a .192 ISO against his two-seamer. For someone with above average to elite velocity (96 mph) this is a major concern. Especially, when he plays half his games in a hitters park in Great American Ballpark. The positives for Castillo were a 2.44 ERA with 26% K and 5% BB in the second half. This coincided with an increase in his velocity as well. This made Castillo a popular draft option once again this year but his spring has been anything but ideal (17.36 ERA, 2.56 WHIP over 4.2 IP). It is important to remember that it is still spring, so it is not time to freak out but it would have been nice to see a strong spring from the right-hander. The important piece of the puzzle will be to keep an eye on his velocity this spring if we get that information because it will tell more than his surface stats.
The Reds rotation looked set coming into camp with Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Luis Castillo, Tanner Roark, and Anthony DeSclafani each taking a spot. Alex Wood (back) has been shut down and will likely not be ready for the start of the season. With the increased number of days off and the season starting sooner than usual the Reds can get by for a while without a fifth starter. However, they are stretching out a quartet of Sal Romano, Cody Reed, Tyler Mahle, and Brandon Finnegan in case they need a fifth starter. Mahle is having the best spring (0 ER, 11 K through 6 IP). The competition is likely between Romano and Mahle who were both used extensively by the Reds last year but struggled mightily. Mahle has a better skill set for fantasy purposes. His biggest problem last year was a lack of secondary pitches. The league hit .340 and slugged .604 against his changeup and .294 with a .523 SLG against his slider. Mahle has shown plus control in the minors with the ability to miss bats so if his offspeed pitches improve this year he could be an interesting option in NL-only formats if he gets that final spot to start the year. Alex Wood has not been the model of health throughout his career.
Chris Paddack was excellent once again with 1 ER over 4 IP on 5 H and 6 K. Paddack now has 20 K in 12.2 IP with a 2.13 ERA and 1.18 WHIP this spring. It is becoming more and more likely that he is going to crack the Opening Day rotation for the Padres. There is no denying the excellent skills he possesses from his fastball command/control to his elite changeup but from a fantasy perspective, things are not so sure. The biggest issue is that he is coming off his first year back from Tommy John surgery in which he threw just 90 IP. An optimistic projection would be for Paddack to get to 125 IP this year. So the real question is will he squeeze enough value in those 125 IP to be worth drafting. The answer is yes. Paddack has the command and stuff to maintain a low to mid 3's ERA with an above average WHIP. The strikeouts may not be elite due to the lack of a third pitch (curve) right now but they will be above average. Bet on the talent and figure out the innings cap later.
Walker Buehler is expected to make his first start of the spring on Monday or Tuesday. The Dodgers have brought Buehler along slowly this spring after a major innings jump last year and his postseason work. Buehler showed his elite upside last year with a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 28% K, 7% BB, and 50% GB. He has the skills to be a top five SP but his projected workload is preventing fantasy owners from taking him there. Yes, the Dodgers baby and finesse their pitchers but Buehler has elite skills to produce among best starting pitchers in the league. The amount of innings pitched by starts has been trending down for years now. No longer is 200 IP the expectation or goal. Therefore, even if Buehler gets 165-175 IP he is going to be an elite starting pitcher and should be drafted accordingly.
The Padres outfield is currently crowded with Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Franmil Reyes all fighting for playing time. Wil Myers is going to occupy one of those spots as long as he is healthy which leaves two spots between four players. Franmil Reyes had a strong showing in his first taste of the major leagues He hit .280 with 16 HR in 87 games. The power is real which is backed up by his statcast numbers (47% Hard, 92 mph EV, and 12% Barrels). The concern is that strikeout rate at 28% but given full playing time he could hit 30-35 HR and hit in the middle of an improving San Diego lineup. He is making a strong case for a starting spot this spring by hitting .281 with 2 HR and a .886 OPS through 32 games.
Josh James is expected to make his Spring Training debut on Saturday. James was originally in the competition for the Astros final rotation spot but a quad injury ended those chances. He still has a shot at making the opening day roster out of the bullpen and could still see time in the rotation this year. James is someone with plus stuff (97 mph FB, plus CH, and slider). He saw above average swinging strike rates on all three of his pitches which is a positive sign for his strikeout rate going forward. James is someone to stash in deeper leagues based on his skills as a reliever and then if he gets a shot at the rotation he will be a huge value.
Tyler Skaggs is supposed to return to the mound on Friday after being scratched earlier in camp with left forearm fatigue. He was able to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and looks good to go. Skaggs is coming off a very encouraging 2018 season in which he posted a 4.02 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP. The surface stats aren't great but he tried to pitch his way through an adductor strain that altered his mechanics and led to a dreadful two starts (17 ER) right before going on the DL and when he tried to come back too soon. Skaggs has good underlying skills (24% K, 8% BB, 11% SwStr, and 44% GB). He has never thrown more than 125.1 IP in a season and has struggled to stay on the field but he is worth the gamble at pick #223 in NFBC drafts.
Jhoulys Chacin has been named the Opening Day starter for the Brewers. This is coming off a strong 2018 season in which he had a 3.50 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP over 192.2 IP. He has more value in real life then he does in fantasy. He lacks strikeouts (20% K) and is dependent on batted ball luck to maintain above average ratios. He benefited from a .250 BABIP which is well below his career .279 BABIP. His hard hit rate also rose to 37%. He did make a tangible change in MIL by using his slider more (+9%) and his fastball less (6%). Expecting Chacin to come close to last years numbers is a fool's errand. He should be closer to a 4 ERA with a below average strikeout rate.
Jorge Alfaro (knee) is set to resume baseball activities. This is good news for fantasy owners that have already drafted Alfaro and those looking to save at the position in upcoming drafts. Alfaro is going to get the lion share of the playing time in Miami this year. He is coming off a year in which he hit .262 with 10 HR and 3 SB in 108 games for the Phillies. The park shift is not a good one for right-handed power and his underlying skills are quite scary. His 37% strikeout rate does not match the .262 AVG which means without major contact improvement he is going to see his average fall dramatically. Alfaro is one of the rare catchers that is going to play every day but don't expect much growth from the 25-year-old catcher.
Michael Fulmer has been shut down to work on "lower body mechanics". This is related to his significant drop in velocity this spring. He was sitting 89-90 mph after averaging 96 mph with his fastball. He is recovering from knee surgery so that could be playing a role. Currently, there is no plan for him to return to game action and this makes Fulmer a huge risk on draft day. The most likely beneficiary is going to be LHP Daniel Norris.
Eduardo Rodriguez-Red Sox-SP
Eduardo Rodriguez struckout eight Tigers on Thursday afternoon over five innings. Rodriguez is an interesting option this year because he has the skills to be an above average starter but his injury history has made him a risky proposition. It is also interesting that his own coaches have called him out this spring for not matching his results with his potential. He posted a 3.86 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP over 129.2 IP last year. His underlying skills are very solid as well with 26% K, 8% BB, and 11% SwStr. Add in that he is going to be starting for a team slated to win a lot of games and Rodriguez is an upside play at pick #149. He is in a group of starting pitchers with a lot of question marks (Glasnow, Hamels, Hill, and Kikuchi). Rodriguez has age, a good team, and above average skills on his side.
Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up 2 ER on 5 H, 0 BB, and 3 K over 4 IP on Thursday. Ryu is locked into the Dodgers rotation which is a great spot to be. Ryu is coming off an elite 82.1 IP last year. He put up a 1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 28% K, 5% BB, and 12% SwStr. Ryu has a fairly long injury history but when on the mound he has been highly effective. He has a career 3.20 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. Careful planning on draft day could allow one to take a risk drafting Ryu and his excellent skills. Planning for more than 150 IP is not a good idea and needs to be carefully considered before drafting Ryu.