Blue Jays Outfield Situation
The Blue Jays barring any injuries are going into the season with a starting outfield of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk. All three have potential but they also have not lived up to expectations from the fantasy community due to a variety of reasons. Gurriel is the most fantasy-relevant coming off a season in which he hit .277 with 20 HR, 52 R, 50 RBI, and 6 SB in 84 games. It is easy for someone to quickly double his stat line to get a full season worth of at-bats which would instantly make Gurriel very attractive. The underlying skills back up most of what he did with 43% Hard, 43% FB, and 11% Barrels. The part of his game that is unlikely to hold up long term is the .277 AVG due to his aggressive approach (25% K, 6% BB, and 39% O-swing). The good news is that he is going to hit for power (25+ HR) and chip in with 8-10 SB with a batting average that won't kill you. Teoscar Hernandez has the tools to dream on with power and speed but contact has been his biggest issue (33% K, 77% Z-Contact). The positives are that he hits the ball really hard (43%) and had a career-high walk rate (10%). He could challenge 30 HR/10 SB with a full-time role but his contact issues make that a risky proposition. The final spot is going to Randal Grichuk who finally hit the 30-HR mark last year but it came with a .232 AVG and midling counting stats (75 R and 80 RBI). He is nothing more than a deep league bench bat. The guy to keep an eye on is Derek Fisher who has an intriguing blend of power/speed but has to solve his contact issues.
What type of impact could Nate Pearson have?
Nate Pearson is the Blue Jays top pitching prospect. He is expected to join the major league club at some point this year. Pearson has the frame (6'6" 245lbs) to be a workhorse starter armed with a plus fastball that can reach triple digits and a true out pitch in his slider. He was able to eclipse the 100 IP (101.2 IP) mark which will be important for this upcoming season in terms of workload. In the minors, he has shown the ability to miss bats with at least average control. Pearson also has been able to generate near 40% ground balls which is going to help him limit hard contact. This is going to be a very important skill pitching in the American League East. He is currently going as pick #349 in NFBC drafts which puts him near the end of 12-team leagues and the 23rd round in 15-team leagues. When drafting Pearson, keep in mind that he has just three starts at Triple-A. The Blue Jays are going to want him to get more experience there and they have shown that they are not going to call up their prospects early which makes Pearson a tough draft in leagues with limited bench spots. However, he is someone that could be a difference-maker in the second half of the season so keep him on your radar.
Danny Jansen Post-Hype
Danny Jansen was a very popular catcher target a year ago in drafts who had a disappointing first full season in the majors. He hit .207 with 13 HR, 41 R, 43 RBI, and 0 SB. In fact, Reese McGuire got the majority of the playing time in September with Jansen only making nine starts. With that being said, there is optimism that Jansen can rebound based on his pedigree, underlying skills, and batted ball data. He showed good plate skills with 21% K, 8% BB, and 9% SwStr. Jansen's quality of contact was strong as well (40% Hard). His expected stats showed that he was unlucky last year in terms of results (.207 AVG-.247 xAVG and .360 SLG-.417 xSLG). This makes Jansen an attractive late-round pick.
The Reds Rotation
The Reds did a really nice job of turning their rotation from a weakness to a strength. Luis Castillo has emerged as an ace after a breakout 2019 season (3.42 ERA and 1.14 WHIP across 190.2 IP). To become a truly elite pitcher, he is going to have to improve his control (10% BB) and more specifically his fastball command but either way, he is a top tier fantasy option. Sonny Gray is likely going to experience regression after putting up a 2.87 ERA and 1.08 WHIP last year. The skills bounced back (29% K, 10% BB, 51% GB) but his .255 BABIP and 0.87 HR/9 are unlikely to be repeated which is going to cause his ERA to be in the mid threes. Trevor Bauer is the wild card in this rotation and has the upside of an SP#2 given his strikeout ability and a return to health could speed that process up. The end of the Reds rotation is deep league viable with Anthony DeSclafani, Wade Miley, and Tyler Mahle. DeSclafani posted a 3.89 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 24% K a year ago and expecting something similar is reasonable. Miley is a deep mixed or AL-only play because he lacks strikeouts but the ratios should be solid. Mahle would be very interesting if he had a rotation spot given his skill growth last year (23% K, 6% BB, and 47% GB). He made a change to his arsenal (splitter and curve) which was extremely beneficial.
Can Tucker Barnhart bounce back and hold off Tyler Stephenson?
Tucker Barnhart struggled at the plate a year ago (.231 AVG, 11 HR, 32 R, 40 RBI, and 1 SB). He still showed good plate discipline (12% BB) but the strikeout rate jumped from 18-23%. His hard contact also fell from 38% to 33%. Barnhart was in a major slump in the first half (.191/.290/.315) but he turned it around in the second half (.273/.367/.448). Tyler Stephenson is an intriguing bat at the catcher position but early reports on his defense have not been great. He also has not played at Triple-A yet, so there is a good chance that Barnhart holds onto this job for another year. This makes Barnhart an option for people who wait till the very end of the draft to take their second catcher.
Is Raisel Iglesias declining?
Rasiel Iglesias saved a career-high 34 games last year but that came with a career-worst 4.16 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. A deeper dive into his skills reveals a different picture. These are his SIERA's over the past four seasons: 3.55, 3.17, 3.31, and 3.22. In fact, he posted a career-best strikeout (32% K) and walk rates (8% BB). His biggest issue last year was a 1.61 HR/9 which was a result of 44% FB compared to his career rate of 36%. This is a trend to keep an eye on given that home runs are extremely troublesome for closers but the rest of his skills look rock solid and the Reds should win more games this year making Iglesias a solid closer.
Around the League
Domingo Santana has not yet officially signed with the Indians but is expected to once he passes a physical. It is not a perfect fit because both he and Franmil Reyes would be better suited as DH's due to their poor defense. Santana hit .253 with 21 HR, 63 R, 69 RBI, and 8 SB in 121 games. He went on the IL in August with an elbow injury and only got 10 AB's the rest of the way. This is also an injury he dealt with prior to going on the injured list. He hit .286 with 18 HR, 52 R, 63 RBI, and 6 SB in the first half (90 GP) compared to .186 AVG with 3 HR, 11 R, 6 RBI, and 2 SB in the second half (31 GP). If you look at a rolling graph of his average exit velocities there is a huge drop off in June. Santana said that his elbow had been bothering him since the All-Star break which gives an explanation for his drop in production. He is someone to buy before the price goes up.
James Paxton (back) is going to start throwing in 4-6 weeks. Paxton is going to be roughly a month behind other pitchers which are going to cut into his season-long value. He was already a tough bet to crack 150 IP so this makes it even less likely. In fact, he has topped 150 IP just twice in his six-year career due to a litany of injuries. Paxton has the skills to be an elite pitcher with three plus pitches. The missed time and injury risk makes Paxton a tough investment for 2020. Unlimited IL slots would change the situation drastically but any type of league with limited bench spots and no IL makes it very difficult to own Paxton. He is going to be good when on the mound (career 3.50 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 19% K-BB) but the volume is a risky proposition.
Brendan Rodgers had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in July. He is progressing well but is still expected to be out until May. The Rockies' top hitting prospect is going to have a hard time finding playing time when he does come back unless the Rockies move some of their pieces. They currently have Ryan McMahon slated to start as the everyday second baseman with Garret Hampson looming in the background. Rodgers struggled in his first taste of the majors (.224 AVG, 0 HR, 33% K and 5% BB) in 25 GP. He is still someone to keep an eye on due to his pedigree and the fact that he will call Coors Field home but Rodgers has definitely lost some of his prospect shine.
Tommy Edman is expected to serve in a super-utility role similar to what he did last year. Edman hit .304 with 11 HR, 59 R, 36 RBI with 15 SB in 349 PA. He showed the ability to make contact (18% K) with an aggressive approach (5% BB). Edman was also ultra-efficient on the base paths (15 for 16) making it easy to buy into his speed again this year. You're looking at a guy who could hit 10+ HR and steal 20+ bases in his current role with the potential for more if he gets an everyday role. Keep in mind that the Cardinals are projected to play guys like Matt Carpenter, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, and Tyler O'Neill in front of him so it could only be a matter of time before he is a regular.
Rich Hill is expected to return by June but this is no guarantee after having off-season elbow surgery. Keep in mind he is a 39-year-old with an extensive injury history so there is no guarantee he even makes it back at all. This makes Hill an extremely risky draft proposition especially in mixed leagues with limited bench spots. He has been elite when on the mound over the past four seasons. The question is how many innings can you expect for a 39-year-old coming off elbow surgery and a season in which he threw just 58.2 IP (2.45 ERA and 1.13 WHIP). The move to the American League would normally not be a good one but the Central is full of weak lineups making it a nice landing spot.
Reports coming out of Marlins camp is that the Marlins are going to experiment with Jonathan Villar in centerfield in Spring Training. Villar is coming off a monster fantasy season that saw him hit .274 with 24 HR, 111 R, 73 RBI, and 40 SB. He was going to regress anyway but the move out of Camden Yards is going to bring his power down and his counting stats are not going to be as plentiful. Villar is still going to run which will make him extremely valuable even with the regression baked in. The news about moving to the outfield would not change his value other than give him added eligibility.
Yasmani Grandal-White Sox-C
Yasmani Grandal is dealing with a minor left calf strain. He is expected to miss the first couple of weeks of Spring Training games. It is better for the White Sox and Grandal to let this injury heal than to have it become a recurring injury (ex. Donaldson). Grandal initially seemed to get a boost by signing with the White Sox because there was a belief that he could get at-bats at DH but the additional signing of Edwin Encarnacion put that idea to rest. He is not going to come close to the 632 PA he saw last year in MIL which is going to bring down his home runs and counting stats. Regardless, Grandal is going to be a top tier catcher due to his ability to hit for power (45% Hard, 40% Pull, and 38% FB) and drive in runs (58+ RBI in three straight seasons). The batting average is going to be low due to his approach at the plate (17% BB) but at the catcher position, we're not going to get five-category production outside of J.T. Realmuto.
Luis Urias had surgery to repair a fractured left hamate bone in his wrist. He is hoping to be ready for Opening Day which is going to be pushing it. Urias was brought in to be the starting shortstop in Milwaukee. He has struggled at the major league level (.221/.318/.331) in 302 PA. His upside is evident in his production at Triple-A last year in which he hit .315 with 19 HR, 62 R, 50 RBI, and 7 SB in 249 PA. Yes, the new ball and the offensive environment in Triple-A were very favorable but he showed solid plate skills (18% K and 11% BB) and upped his flyball rate from 29% to 36%. He is someone worth taking a flier on in deeper formats not to mention Miller Park is a great hitters park.
Taijuan Walker signed a one-year deal with the Mariners. Walker has pitched just 14 innings at the major league level since 2017. He showed promise in 2017 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Walker had good stuff and control coming up but never had the strikeout rate that many expected. He gets another chance with the Mariners but from a fantasy perspective, there isn't much to get excited about. He is going to be limited in terms of innings and there is no guarantee that his stuff will be the same.
Tommy Pham has a partially torn UCL. He played with the injury in 2019 and received platelet-rich plasma therapy and stem cell injections over the off-season. Pham is not worried about the injury and this is not something to drop his draft price for but something to keep an eye on as the season goes along. Masahiro Tanaka has been pitching with a partially torn UCL since he came over from Japan. Pham is a near-elite hitter and is projected for a .279 AVG with 22 HR/23 SB making him a nice bargain on draft day.
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