Will Andrew McCutchen be healthy?
McCutchen's first season with the Phillies was derailed by an ACL tear in early June that limited him to just 59 games last year - his fewest ever as a pro. The 33-year-old hopes to return in time for Opening Day, where he'll look to pick up where he left off last season. At the time of his injury, McCutchen was slashing .256/.378/.457 with 23 extra-base hits and 45 runs in 59 games as Philadelphia's leadoff man. The Phillies are expected to slot him back in at the top of their lineup, where he'll reap the benefits of batting ahead of J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins. Prior to last year, McCutchen had been exceptionally durable, averaging 155 games from 2010-2018 and going on the disabled list just once in his career (in 2014). Accordingly, he should be able to play close to a full season barring another freak injury, although he may be more cautious on the bases and see his stolen base chances drop as a result.
J.T. Realmuto is an elite fantasy option
Dating back to his first full season in 2015, Realmuto has established himself as one of the most productive catchers in baseball, ranking fourth in homers, first in runs, fifth in RBI, and first in stolen bases among backstops. He's also batted .279/.328/.454 while averaging 135 games per season during that time. Even more impressively, his numbers have continuously improved, as he's increased his runs, homers, RBIs, and walks every year. While that trend may not continue in his age-29 season, his already-lofty floor is considerably higher in Philadelphia than it was in Miami. Not only does he benefit from a friendlier home park (where he hit .291/.334/.552 with 16 of his 25 homers last year), but he's also in a much better lineup surrounded by the likes of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and Rhys Hoskins. Now that he's had a year to settle in with the Phillies, Realmuto could be headed for an even bigger campaign this year, especially after posting an .892 OPS with 15 homers in his final 60 games of 2019.
Is Bryce Harper still a superstar?
Harper had a season for the ages in 2015, when he won NL MVP honors and led the Majors in OPS, but since then he's been unable to replicate it, batting .265/.387/.507 while becoming more of a three-true outcomes type of hitter. Despite what the numbers on his contract say, Harper appears to be settling into a very good player rather than the superstar who seemed poised to rival Mike Trout a few years ago. He's still just 27, though, so he still has several peak seasons ahead of him. And while his Philadelphia debut was a mild disappointment -- he walked less, struck out more, and posted his lowest OBP since 2014 -- his 35 homers were his most since 2015 and his 114 RBI were a career high. He also hit the ball harder than ever before according to FanGraphs, ranking sixth among qualified batters with a career-best 48.1% hard-hit rate. The Phillies underachieved as a whole last year, but a big season from Harper will go a long way towards helping them reach the playoffs.
Is Miguel Cabrera finished?
After more than a decade as one of the game's elite hitters, Cabrera has suffered an Albert Pujols-esque decline in his mid-thirties. Over his past three seasons spanning his age 34-36 campaigns, he's batted .270/.345/.404 with 31 homers and 141 RBIs...over 304 games. Age and injuries have sapped his performance, and pitchers aren't afraid to go after him now, as evidenced by his 8.7% walk rate last year -- his lowest since 2008. He can still hit for a decent average, but his once-prodigious power appears to have completely evaporated. His three lowest HR/FB rates have all come in the last three years, with that number falling below 10% last year -- well below his career rate of 18.3%. With almost no supporting cast to speak of on a miserable Tigers team, don't expect Cabrera to offer much help via counting stats, either. With 2,400 career games under his belt, the soon-to-be-37-year-old doesn't appear to have much left in the tank on the eve of his 18th big-league season.
Jonathan Schoop still solid keystone option
Now on his fourth team in three seasons, Schoop will add some pop to a Tigers team that ranked dead last in the American League in homers last year. Schoop has topped 20 homers in each of the last four years -- topping out at 32 in 2017 -- and ranks third among second basemen in long balls since the start of 2014. His plate discipline is horrendous, as he hardly walks (career 3.8 BB%) and his career strikeout rate is 23%, which makes his performance rather volatile (. Even so, he's batted a solid .266 since the beginning of 2015. The 28-year-old is unlikely to repeat his 2017 production, when he hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBI, but he's still exceeded 20 homers in each of the past two seasons despite falling short of 500 official at-bats both times. If he plays everyday and avoids injury, he could finish closer to 30 home runs and re-establish himself as one of the AL's better power hitters at the keystone.
Don't sleep on Niko Goodrum
Goodrum was a bit of a sleeper last year after a solid but under-the-radar rookie campaign in 2018 that saw him bat .245/.315/.432 with 16 homers and 12 steals in 492 plate appearances. Heading into 2019, there was hope he'd be able to improve his numbers with additional playing time in his age-27 season. Instead, he basically repeated his rookie year, hitting .248/.322/.421 with 12 homers and 12 steals while playing just 112 games. Those are still solid numbers though, and it's possible he approaches 20/20 numbers if he stays healthy enough to play a full season. He also has additionally fantasy value by playing virtually every position on the diamond, giving his fantasy owners the flexibility to slot him in wherever they please depending on their league's position qualification requirement.
Around the League
Kevin Pillar-Red Sox-OF
Pillar appeared at Red Sox spring training on Friday after reportedly agreeing to a one-year, $4.25 million deal with Boston. He projects to be the team's fourth outfielder behind Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Alex Verdugo, who may miss Opening Day due to a lingering back issue from last season. Even when Verdugo returns, Pillar should still see time against lefties in place of either Bradley or Benintendi, both of whom bat left-handed. Barring an extended absence by one of the starters, expect Pillar's fantasy value to take a nosedive this year after he posted career highs across the board in 161 games last season with the Blue Jays and Giants.
Greinke won't report to Astros camp until Feb. 22 -- more than a week after the pitchers and catchers report date -- according to new manager Dusty Baker. Baker didn't have an explanation for Greinke's delay, but said he is healthy and working out on his own. Perhaps the 36-year-old is simply seeking some extra rest after helping pitch the Astros to the World Series last year, or perhaps it's to avoid the drama surrounding the team regarding its sign-stealing scandal. Either way, Greinke has certainly earned it after another stellar year in 2019 (18-5, 2.93 ERA).
The Rays have had their share of talented prospects over the years, and they have another one on the way in Franco. In two Minor League seasons thus far, Franco has displayed a natural stroke and projects to be a future star. At the tender age of 18, he hit .339 with three home runs in 52 games with Class A Advanced Charlotte. As he continues his rise through the Minors, he has an eye on reaching the Majors in 2020. He'll likely begin the year in Double-A, but there's a chance that Franco, who turns 19 on March 1, could find himself in the Show sooner rather than later.
Spring Training has only just begun, but the Indians have already received some bad news. Clevinger sustained a partial tear in his left meniscus at Cleveland's Spring Training facility on Wednesday and was expected to undergo surgery on Friday. He does not have a timetable for his return. An extended absence would be a huge blow to the Indians' rotation, as Clevinger has gone 38-18 with a 2.96 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 rate from 2017-2019. Be sure to monitor his status in the coming days for a potential update on when he may return.
Santana is joining the Indians on a one-year deal with a club option for 2021. The 27-year-old could make an impact in Cleveland's outfield, as he's emerged as a solid hitter over the past several years. From 2016-2019, he batted .264/.347/.461 with 67 homers, 206 RBI, and 26 steals in 434 games. His defensive metrics are poor, however, which may prevent him from playing everyday. He's topped 20 homers twice and can threaten double digits in steals as well, making an interesting candidate in the late rounds of drafts for fantasy owners.
Haniger is out indefinitely after undergoing his second surgery in the past month to deal with ongoing problems with his lower back. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto noted Friday morning that Haniger had a microdiscectomy, which is a small repair of a vertebra, and remains hospitalized in Los Angeles. Haniger initially had sports hernia surgery in late January. The 29-year-old was initially expected to miss 6-8 weeks, but now there's no timetable for his return.
Alex Verdugo-Red Sox-OF
Verdugo was examined on Friday by Red Sox doctors, who are hoping to get a better understanding of the back injury that cut his 2019 short. Verdugo's availability for the start of the season remains in question for now, although Boston expects to take things slow with its new outfielder. By signing outfielder Kevin Pillar on Friday, the team has an insurance policy should Verdugo miss additional time. It's still to early to count Verdugo out for Opening Day, but keep an eye on his progress throughout Spring Training.
Hader lost his arbitration case to the Brewers on Friday, meaning that the hard-throwing southpaw will earn $4.1 million in 2020 rather than the $6.4 million he was seeking, which would have broken Jonathan Papelbon's mark for the highest salary for a first-time arbitration-eligible reliever. It's hard to argue Hader isn't worth it, though, after making his second straight All-Star team last year while notching 37 saves and a 16.4 K/9 rate. Perhaps this will motivate Hader, who has improved in each of his first three seasons, to turn in an even bigger year in 2020.
Sanchez is in Marlins camp and appears poised to be their next great young pitcher in the mold of Jose Fernandez. The 21-year-old ranks as Miami's No. 1 prospect and No. 22 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list. Among all right-handed pitching prospects, he ranks fifth. The Marlins aren't making any promises about when to expect his debut, but it shouldn't be long based on his 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 4.6 K/BB ratio in the Minor Leagues thus far. He's certainly a player to watch over the next few weeks, especially if he proves he's ready for the big time.
Alonso inked a Minor League contract with the Braves on Friday and will report to Spring Training. The 32-year-old is expected to provide depth for Freddie Freeman, who had right elbow surgery in October. Freeman recently said he is pain-free and expects to have no issues with it going forward, limiting Alonso's fantasy impact for now. Alonso batted just .199/.296/.346 last year with 10 homers and 37 RBI -- a large drop off from the 23 homers, 83 RBI, and .738 OPS he put up in 2018.