Can Anderson Repeat as a Top-50 Fantasy Hitter?
Tim Anderson, SS, CWS
Anderson notched 17 HR's and 15 SB's in 2017, putting him squarely on the map in fantasy circles. He then bested both of those numbers last season by putting up a 20/26 campaign, which was enough to propel him to the #50 hitter spot on the ESPN Player Rater despite a .240 BA. He has shown decent pop since making his MLB debut in 2016, but some of the peripherals aren't so encouraging. Anderson's 3.3% Barrel%, 85.6% Avg. Exit Velocity, and 27.9% Hard Hit% are all well below league average, and while he did up his FB% from 28.0% to 33.5% last season, that number remains below league average as well. His primary weakness however is his contact rate, as his 24.6% K% and 14.1% SwStr% last season, despite both being career bests, are still quite poor. The good news is that Anderson has had a solid spring this far, hitting .389 with 6 XBH's and just 7 K's in 37 PA's, but that's obviously too small of a sample to get excited about. This is not to say that Anderson can't put together another solid fantasy season, but he does carry a significant amount of risk.
Who Will Get Saves for the White Sox?
Alex Colome, RP, CWS
After collecting 95 saves in his final 2 and 1/3 seasons with the Rays, Colome was relegated to a setup role after being traded to the Mariners in the middle of last season. Now with the White Sox, Colome looks to have a chance at racking up saves once again, as he is currently considered the frontrunner to open the season as Chicago's closer. While Colome struggled to the tune of a 4.72 ERA through the first 3 months of 2018, he turned that around in the final 3 months, posting a 1.34 ERA and 39:10 K:BB across 33.2 IP. For the season as a whole, his K% and BB% both improved from the year before, while his SwStr% was up to an excellent 13.6% and his GB% stayed in the upper-40's. Over the past three seasons combined, he has compiled a 2.78 ERA, 9.45 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, and 47.4% GB%, making him a relatively reliable relief option. Yet his ADP currently sits at 223. That's usually where you find elite relievers who aren't expected to close, or closers who aren't expected to give you good ratios. Colome is a good relievers who is likely to close, and although it's not a guarantee, getting him at 200+ seems like a bargain!
Kelvin Herrera, RP, CWS
Herrera has closing experience with 55 saves over the past 3 seasons, but he is still probably behind Alex Colome in the pecking order for saves out the White Sox bullpen. After posting a disappointing 4.25 ERA for the Royals n 2017, Herrera rebounded in that department with a 2.44 ERA last season. However, his xFIP actually got worse, rising to a career-high 4.31 thanks to a decline in strikeout rate (7.71 K/9) and a nearly 10% rise in FB%. He benefited from an unsustainable 92.1 LOB% in 2018, but that luck already started to wear off as the season went along; after being traded to the Nationals in June, he recorded a 4.34 in 18.2 IP. His 13.1% SwStr% last season indicates that we could see a rebound in his strikeout rate, but don't expect a return to elite ratios. Unless he's recording saves regularly, Herrera won't have much fantasy value.
Nate Jones, RP, CWS
Every year, Jones seems to enter the season as a candidate to earn saves for the White Sox, yet here we are in 2019 and Jones has a total of 8 career saves in 7 MLB seasons. It's not so much that he has underperformed; he has a career 3.11 ERA, 3.34 xFIP, and 9.86 K/9. Rather he can't stay on the field, having eclipsed 30 IP only once in the last 5 seasons. And at age 33, his performance appears to be declining, as last season marked his lowest K% since his rookie season, lowest career GB%, and second straight season with a BB/9 of at least 4.50. With the White Sox adding Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera to the back end of their bullpen, this doesn't appear to be the season that Jones finally racks up a significant number of saves.
Jimenez to Open Season at AAA
Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS
Jimenez was optioned to AAA Charlotte earlier this week after going through a rough Spring Training with the bat. The top prospect slashed an incredible .355/.399/.597 in 53 AAA games last season while his 13.2% K% was by far his lowest at any stop in the minors. He struggled this spring however going 4-26 (.154) with 9 K's and no walks. The high strikeout rate was probably the most discouraging thing considering his improvements in that area in 2018. Still, there's good reason to believe that Jimenez will be a successful hitter whenever he does reach the big leagues, the question just is when that will be. I can't say what the White Sox current plan is for Jimenez but if anything, the weak spring could give the team more of a reason to delay his debut. If you're confident that the he'll be promoted a few weeks into the season, then his current 124 ADP looks like a bargain. But if he doesn't come up until mid-season, that's a long time to stash a player who has yet to receive a big-league at bat.
Tribe Signs Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, CLE
The Indians signed former Rockie OF Carlos Gonzalez to a minor-league deal worth $2 million on Saturday, with the hopes of strengthening the team's outfield. Considering how late it is in Spring Training, CarGo may not be ready by Opening Day, but it would seem pretty likely that he'll playing for the Indians at some point near the start of the season. Gonzalez used to be a star, but over the past 5 seasons, he has hit .273 with an average of 21 HR's and 3 SB's a season. And that's with playing half of his games at Coors Field. His career OPS on the road is .728 and it's been much worse recently, coming in at .606 and .663 the past two seasons. Not that it's necessarily fair to just look at a Rockies player's road numbers and assume that's what he'll do outside of Colorado, but how much better can you expect it to get. His Barrel% has dropped drastically the past couple of years, and his Launch Angle is well below league average, so a return to 20 HR's doesn't look like a great bet. Even if he makes the team, it's hard to justify considering CarGo for fantasy purposes.
Greg Allen, OF, CLE
Allen has had a strong spring thus far going 12-28 (.429) with 4 XBH's and 2 SB's, but the Carlos Gonzalez only decreases his chances of making the Opening Roster and/or getting regular playing time. Out of all of Cleveland's OF options right now, Allen may have the most potential fantasy value thanks solely to his speed; he stole 21 bases in 91 MLB games last season and 33 total including at AAA. Unfortunately for Allen, SB's aren't enough to make you a valid every day big-league player, so he's going to have to hit at least a little bit. His .257 BA and .310 OBP in 2018 weren't that terrible, and with a solid 8.2% SwStr% last season, we may see some improvement to his K% which would in turn help his OBP. Wait to see if he ends up earning an everyday role, but keep an eye on him if you're looking for SB's.
Kluber May Not Start Opening Day?
Corey Kluber, SP, CLE
Kluber has been the Indians' Opening Day starter each of the past 4 seasons, but despite going 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 222 K's in 2018, there's a chance that it will be Trevor Bauer getting the OD nod this season. Regardless of how that turns out, Kluber saw significant drops in his K%, SwStr%, and Hard% from 2017 to 2018 while his velocity also went down a bit. So should we be concerned? The truth is that his strikeout and swing and miss numbers are similar to his 2015-2016 marks. It's really his exceptional 2017 that was out of the ordinary, not that last year was particularly worse than his norm. The only number that was really much worse than his career average was his 36.6% Hard% (career 28.9%). Perhaps we shouldn't expect another run at a Cy Young for Kluber, but you can still rely on him for low ratios and a lot of strikeouts.
Around the League
Aaron Judge, OF, NYY
Judge homered again on Saturday, giving him an MLB-leading 6 spring HR's in just 30 AB's. Judge somewhat disappointed with only 27 HR's last season after hitting 52 in his rookie campaign, but it's as good as any that he'll surpass last year's total if he stays healthy. Judge led the league in Avg. Exit Velocity (94.7 mph) and Hard Hit% (54.1%) last season, and if he can up his FB% closer to where it was in 2017, another run at 50 dingers is not at all unreasonable. His ADP is at 17 right now, and that may end up being a bargain.
Bryce Harper, OF, PHI
X-rays on Harper's ankle came back negative and he is considered day-to-day with a contusion after he was hit by a pitch on Friday. Right now it looks likely that the injury won't prevent him from being ready for Opening Day. This is good news for the Phillies and fantasy owners who are both counting on Harper as an essential part of their lineup.
Max Scherzer, SP, WAS
Scherzer struck out 9 in 6 IP against the Cardinals on Saturday, allowing 1 ER on 4 hits and no BB's. The top pitcher in fantasy baseball has gone 4 straight seasons with an ERA under 3.00, a WHIP under 1.00, a SwStr% above 15%, and over 260 K's. His recent spring performance doesn't indicate that anything is about to change.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
The Red Sox plan to determine by Sunday whether Pedroia's knee injury will prevent him from being making the team's Opening Day Roster. Pedroia missed nearly all of 2018 due to injury, and has only played in 110 games or more once in the last 4 seasons. Still, Pedroia's excellent contact rates have allowed him to hit over .290 in each of his last 3 seasons, (not including his 13 PA's in 2018). However, his power has diminished to the point where he can't even be relied upon for double-digit HR's and he doesn't steal bases anymore, so his fantasy value really comes down to collecting runs and RBI. It's just hard to imagine him staying healthy enough to collect enough counting stats to make him worth owning.
Tanner Roark, SP, CIN
Roark has had an excellent first spring with the Reds, racking up 19 K's in 14.1 IP thus far. Over the past 5 seasons with the Nationals, Roark has had two sub-3.00 ERA seasons and three 4.00+ ERA seasons. So what should we expect from him in Cincinnati? While his ERA has bounced around, his xFIP hasn't really, as it has settled between 4.00 and 4.50 in each of the past 4 years. His K% and BB% usually end up mediocre although he's been pretty good at avoiding hard contact with a Hard% under 30% every season. With Cincinatti playing more favorably towards hitters than Nationals Park, it's more likely that we will be seeing the over 4.00 ERA Roark this season.
Danny Duffy, SP, KC
Duffy has been suffering from a shoulder injury this spring and it is appearing more likely that he will need to start the season on the IL. After a breakout season in 2016 in which Duffy produced a 3.51 ERA and 9.42 K/9, he has regressed over the past two seasons. His ERA shot up to 4.88 last season while his K/9 the past two years has been around 8.00. His BB/9 also bloated up to 4.06 last season, and his xFIP has jumped from 3.79 to 4.39 to 4.92 from 2016-18. None of this forecasts good things for Duffy for the 2019 season.
Andrew Suarez, SP, SF
Despite a relatively successful rookie season for the Giants in 2018, Suarez appears likely to start the 2019 season in AAA. Suarez finished last season with a 4.49 ERA but his xFIP was 3.77 thanks to a solid BB% and an excellent 51.3% GB%. If and when Suarez does rejoin the Giants ' rotation at some point this season, he will once again benefit from having home games at the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park (3.75 home ERA last season). Still, his mediocre strikeout rate severely caps his fantasy value, even if he can contribute an ERA under 4.00.