A 2019 Bust To a 2020 Value?
After being drafted as a 2nd round player heading into 2019, Machado's first season with the Padres was largely viewed as a disappointment thanks to drops in every counting stat category. His 32 home runs was his lowest home run output since 2014 despite leaguewide home run rates soaring. Machado's 19.4% strikeout rate wasn't terrible in a vacuum, but his batting EYE dropped from 0.67 in 2018 to 0.51 in 2019. Without his extra base stealing prowess that he flashed earlier in his career, he becomes a relatively pedestrian player in the power-inflated marketplace. That's not to say he's destined for pedestrian status, however. On a more positive note, his .256 batting average was a little understated by his .274 BABIP. Expect his average to bounce back as his BABIP returns closer to his career levels around .300. If he can do that, there's certainly fantasy appeal where he's being drafted just inside the top-50 overall.
New Kid on The Block with a Veteran Twist
Despite playing in just 135 games, Brian Dozier managed to hit 20 home runs for the 6th straight season, but Dozier's batting average continues to be a liability. Nonetheless, the Padres could certainly use another veteran presence on a really young team. Despite the drop in batting average, Dozier has been able to improve his batting EYE in recent years, finishing with 0.58 batting EYE. There's some appeal in OBP leagues here, if he can win a starting job. The problem is that even with improvement to his EYE, he lacks top end power and contributes little to no speed at this point in his career, making him a low-end middle infield option in most standard formats.
Battle for the 5th Rotation Spot:
The Cubs let Cole Hamels walk this off-season, opening the door for a new face in the Cubs rotation. Due to the team's budget concerns, they're filling the spot internally. Right now, former starter Tyler Chatwood and rookie Adbert Alzolay are the front-runners for the job. Chatwood is owed about $13 million dollars this year, so from a financial perspective, it's more advantageous for him to be contributing as a starter, while Alzolay hasn't yet reached arbitration and any production he does will accumulate towards higher arbitration numbers once he does. Chatwood has been the butt of a lot of jokes in and around Chicago for his propensity to walk batters (20% walk rate in 2018!), but he made great strides in 2019 out of the bullpen and cut that rate down to 11.4%. Meanwhile Alzolay has more strikeout upside, but is equally plagued with control problems. For fantasy purposes, the Cubs 5th starter is best left ignored.
2B Battle - Nico Hoerner:
Another more fantasy relevant position battle for the Cubs is at second base where rookie Nico Hoerner will be battling veteran Ian Happ and Jason Kipnis for at-bats. Of the trio, Hoerner has the most upside, but his power is still developing and could probably use more seasoning at the minor league level since the Cubs do have a couple veteran options to hold the position until he's ready. Ian Happ has been a tantalizing presence for many fantasy owners over the last few seasons because when he's been given playing time, he has performed well for the fantasy game with a mix of speed and power. The problem has been that he's a more appealing fantasy player than a real life player, which has led to platoons and even a demotion to Triple-A to begin the 2019 campaign. If he gets regular at-bats, he will once again find relevancy on most fantasy rosters, but more than likely he will find himself in a platoon with the veteran, Kipnis. The book still isn't out on the type of manager David Ross will be for the Cubs, so it's possible he uses platoons less frequently than Joe Maddon, but either way, no matter who wins the second base job for the Cubs will likely have exclusive full-season starting rights.
Solid Foundation Without The Execution
After six seasons to begin his career in Philadelphia, Maikel Franco signed with the Royals in the offseason to fill their void at 3rd base. Franco never developed into the prolific power hitter many thought he would become when he was a prospect, but he still averaged 24 homeruns per season from 2016-2018. Despite being viewed as a power bat, Franco actually has advanced plate discipline, at least for his profile. With an 80% contact rate and a 0.59. batting EYE, the underlying foundation for a very good hitter is certainly there, but his well below average 33.5% hard hit rate is holding him back. Until he's able to more consistently hit the ball hard, his batting average and home run totals will suffer.
Could Greg Holland Rekindle His Old Magic?
Once upon 2014, Greg Holland was a member of one of the best bullpens of all-time, helping to lead the Royals to a World Series championship. After tearing his UCL in 2015, Holland's once promising career spiraled downward. He's posted a few different comebacks, his most recent was a solid stretch as the Diamondbacks closer from April to June last season - 2.33 ERA, 30% k rate and 12 of 14 saves. Granted, his 94% LOB rate and 4.13 xFIP during that stretch did point towards concerning outcomes to come, but the point is he was good at times since his Tommy John Surgery. After eventually having his results catch up with his underlying stats, he was eventually designated for assignment. The Royals scooped him up this off-season and while Ian Kennedy will be the closer to begin the year, Holland could be a late-inning factor now that he's back with a familiar team and a situation that should be pretty low-key.
Around The League:
Spencer Turnbull (SP - DET) - Spencer Turnbull threw his first outing this spring and was quite effective, going 2 innings without allowing a hit or walk while striking out 4. Turnbull was average in his major league debut last season with a 4.63 xFIP and 13.3% K-BB%, but with a depressed 68% strand rate, some of the pressure on his ERA was possibly due to sequencing and could improve as his strand rate normalizes in 2020.
Lewis Brinson (MIA - OF) - Lewis Brinson notched his first spring home run on Tuesday. Brinson has been a huge disappointing since being acquired from the Brewers, particularly because he is appropriately viewed at the team's replacement for Christian Yelich. Brinson has plus raw speed and power tools, but his development at the major league level has been painful at times. With a 15.9% swinging strike rate and 69.7% contact rate, his plate approach must develop before he will be fantasy relevant, at age 25, he's still relatively young.
Harold Ramirez (MIA - OF) - Harold Ramirez hit his second home run of spring training on Tuesday. Ramirez was productive at times in 2019, but his hit tool still leaves some to be desired. His 14.5% HR/FB rate is probably reasonable given the ball last season, but don't expect big power numbers from the outfielder in 2020 simply because he's off to a hot start this spring. His heavy groundball tendencies (57% GB rate) tend to cap his potential.
Brandon Lowe (TB - 2B) - Brandon Lowe is competing for the Rays 2B job this spring and he made a strong impression on Tuesday, hitting a double and a triple. Lowe struggled with plate discipline in his rookie season, but he had a much better EYE in the minors so there's still room for improvement. Nonetheless, his 19% SwStr% and 64% contact rate won't keep him in the lineup. Lowe lacks top level power or speed, so for fantasy purposes, he's pretty vanilla. The Rays will almost certainly mix and match with platoons anyway, so there's little chance he will see every start at just one position even if he does win the job.
Tim Tebow (NYM - OF) - Tim Tebow crushed an opposite field home run in today's spring training game hitting out of the 9th hole. Tebow continues to keep his dream alive of playing major league baseball, but the 32-year old remains a long shot at making the Mets roster. Strikeouts have been a big problem for the former football player, racking up a 37% strikeout rate in 2019 with the Mets Triple-A affiliate.
Trevor Larnarch (MIN - OF) - The Twins 1st round selection in 2018 had a nice day at spring training on Tuesday, tallying a pair of hits, including a 2-run homerun off Mike Foltynewicz. Larnarch is a big 6'4" left-handed batter with big time power potential and advanced to AA last year. He's unlikely to break camp with the Twins, but he certainly has the chanced to be a mid-year call-up. Most promising about the 22 year-old is his advanced plate approach, which saw him post a 12.7% walk rate in 43 games in AA last season.
Paul Dejong (STL - SS) - Paul Dejong touched up Hunter Strickland for a 3-run homerun in the 3rd inning on Tuesday. Dejong hit 30 bombs in 2019, yet still managed to do so with a sustainable 15% HR/FB rate that actually fell below his career average. Dejong's 41.6% hard hit rate supports a HR/FB rate a little higher, so there's plenty of potential for further power growth in 2020, although his recent trend of hitting more groundballs instead of flyballs could cap some of that potential.
Luis Severino (NYY - SP) - The Yankees received the news that most feared on Tuesday - Tommy John Surgery is recommended for pitcher Luis Severino. After missing most of 2019 with an unrelated injury, Severino was shut down last week with forearm tightness. Severino's spot in the rotation will create more opportunities for Jonathan Loaisiga and Jordan Montgomery, at least until Domingo German returns from his suspension. Loaisiga has been working on adding a slider to his repertoire this spring and has more fantasy appeal due to his 14% SwStr%. Owners who drafted early will be safe to cut Severino as soon as he officially goes under the knife.
JD Davis (NYM - 3B) - Mets third baseman JD Davis landed awkwardly after diving for a batted ball on Tuesday and remained on the ground for several moments before leaving the field favoring his shoulder. Davis slashed an impressive .307/.369/.527, but his average was likely inflated due to his .355 BABIP that's going to difficult to repeat. Nonetheless, his 11% soft hit rate is one of the best in the MLB from last year and a big reason why he managed a 23% HR/FB rate with 22 home runs. Any shoulder injury would obviously put his power potential into question.
Freddie Freeman (ATL - 1B) - Freddie Freeman was scratched from Tuesday's game with elbow soreness and inflammation. Freeman had surgery on the same elbow after last season, so your attenas should be up. On one hand, there's no reason for Freeman to push it in meaningless exhibition games, but the fact he's still managing pain in the elbow should be concerning. Freeman set career highs in home runs (38) and hard hit rate (46%) last season and will once again be a late 1st or early 2nd round pick. For now, chalk this up as normal post-op, recovery soreness until the team discloses anything otherwise.
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