LOS ANGELES ANGELS:
When does the anointed show up? - The question on everybody's minds regarding the Angels is: when will we see Jo Adell? The consensus "top handful" prospect would likely already have been up if not for an injury last spring, and although he might have looked a tiny bit slower last year than before, he's still a 5-tool guy that won't be in the minors much longer. The presence of Brian Goodwin, however, allows the Angels to keep him down for at least a little while to start the season. The Angels are clearly competing this year after bringing in a number of quality players, so the temptation will be there to start Adell right out of spring training if he has a blowout March performance, since you know what Goodwin can give you already: solid power and speed with a fairly low average offset by a patient approach and good batting eye. Three weeks or so should be enough to buy an extra year of service time for Adell though, which makes me think they'll be at least somewhat patient. 5/6 of a season is plenty of time for Adell to make some noise though, and I would be willing to gamble on him a bit earlier than his current ADP of 200 by maybe 30-40 spots...there's a ton of upside here. As for Goodwin, Adell's presence doesn't kill his value totally, but it certainly puts a huge dent in it. He's absolutely a potential 20/10 guy if playing every day, but if he's getting 300-400 AB's he's likely only a deep AL-only player, as he doesn't do any one thing well enough to really help without accumulating a lot of PT.
New Year, New Rotation! - As big as the Rendon acquisition and impending arrival of Jo Adell are, the revamped Angel rotation will likely be the key to this year's success or failure. Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy (the latter of which I will touch on more Saturday evening) can't be worse than the 52 starts from Barria, Peters, Suarez, and Harvey (ERA approx. 6.50), but full years from Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning could give the Angels an honest-to-goodness above-average rotation. Canning in particular intrigues me, as the bat-missing ability (SwStrk 13.8% last year) has survived every step up the ladder while the control seems to be steadily improving (3.74 BB/9 at AA, 3.36 at AAA, 2.99 at MLB). If he looks healthy early in spring training (he was shut down in mid-August with elbow inflammation), I'm a big believer in his upside. He's currently going in the SP70 range, and I like him 10-12 spots above that (roughly 2 rounds earlier in standard formats).
NEW YORK YANKEES:
Who are the next men up for the rotation? - I've seen this movie before, and the ending is usually pretty crummy. Unexplained forearm pain that continues to recur is rarely a good sign, although MRI's (and CT's) continue to show nothing of significance. He'll be examined more thoroughly on Friday by the team physician, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him miss regular season time as the team is likely to be very cautious with this. With Paxton out for a few months as well, this is going to open up some opportunities for others that were blocked, namely guys like Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, and top prospect Deivi Garcia. None of these three have much of a floor to speak of, but there's upside galore here for back-of-rotation pieces. Montgomery is the safest bet after coming back from TJ surgery to throw 7 2/3 innings that somewhat approximated his typical stuff last September, and he has a brief track record of something slightly better than a league average starter, which on this Yanks squad should get you plenty of W's. Garcia has great stuff and misses a ton of bats, but he struggled a little bit at AAA in 40 innings last summer and is still just 20, so I could see the Yanks being patient with him for a bit. Loaisiga intrigues me quite a bit, as he has excellent stuff and has shown control ability for most of his minor league career. Some issues with HRs have likely caused a bit of nibbling since he's hit the upper minors, but I've seen his stuff first-hand and have few doubts he's capable of pitching at the MLB level successfully, but it does no good if he doesn't believe it to be true. He's far too much of a gamble for standard leagues, but in deeper leagues I love the idea of snagging him as my 7th or 8th SP in hopes that he gets a few months to try and establish himself in the rotation right out of spring training. Right now I'd lean toward Montgomery and Loaisiga being the two choices to replace Paxton and Severino (if necessary) respectively, acknowledging my bias in favor of Loaisiga. Montgomery would be fine as an SP5 in most formats for at least the first few months, while I view Loaisiga as deep-league only for now.
Andujar returns, but is there anywhere for him to go? - Andujar turns just 25 in a couple of weeks, and that gives me hope that we can still see a bit more development from him after a lost year in 2019. Gio Urshela likely has 3B locked down after a breakout campaign last year, but I can easily envision a scenario where Andujar, who is getting time at 1B and LF in addition to 3B this spring, can still play most of the time as he rotates through those 3 spots and DH. Andujar has excellent hand-eye coordination, swinging and missing less than 10% of the time despite a nearly 40% chase rate in his rookie year of 2018, and a bit more power wouldn't be a huge surprise with the potential of a bit more mass added between ages 23 and 25 since we last saw him at length. The AVG is a bit suspect to me, but I still think his bat-to-ball ability can sustain something above .275 and 30 HR and 100 RBI in that lineup isn't a stretch to believe if he does indeed play most of the time.
Why does the infield have so many players? - The Nationals infield looks like the halftime concession line at an SU-Duke home game: way too many people and not enough spots to serve them. There are 7 guys with some sort of claim to playing time (even 8 if you want to count Wilmer Difo), and only Trea Turner in my mind is guaranteed consistent run. My bet for the next safest guy is Thames, as Ryan Zimmerman hasn't looked the same since his miracle resurgence at age 32 in 2017, and at the very least Thames would have the good side of a platoon. Thames had a nice bounceback season himself in 2019, hitting 25 bombs in somewhere around 3/4 of a season's worth of PAs. Surprisingly, it's actually a park upgrade as well for a lefty moving from Milwaukee to Washington, as Nationals Park ranked third offensively for LHB last season, something that could be worth an extra 2-3 big flies for Thames. 1B really isn't all that deep....you get down past #15 or 16 and I don't mind Thames at all, making him a marginal standard league choice but a solid deeper-league option. In OBP-based leagues instead of AVG-based, he gets another tick upwards.
Another 5th starter battle.....
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Drew Smyly (SP - SF) - I've talked off and on for years about my affinity for trying to grab 2-3 horses and then 5-6 flyers/streamers for my rotation strategy, and Smyly is a perfect guy for that latter category. An extreme flyball pitcher that misses bats heading to friendliest pitchers park in the majors? Sign me up! Smyly came back after missing basically two full seasons and pitched pretty poorly on a superficial basis with the Rangers and the Phillies. There are 3 reasons that I think Smyly is a solid sleeper this year: 1) the park factor; 2) control typically will improve the second year after arm surgery, and his 2019 mark was 1.5 BB/9 above his career average; 3) his velocity was up 1 mph last season over anything he'd shown in the past 5 years. All those things combined make me think there's quite a bit of upside here, but I'd really treat him as a streaming candidate due to the extreme FB nature of his pitching style.
Jarrod Dyson (OF - PIT) - The news that the Pirates want to run "a lot" in 2020 can only be good news for Dyson, one of the most successful base-stealers of the last decade or two. Dyson's BABIPs have dropped considerably since he started hitting the ball in the air more about 3 years ago, so the AVG is more likely to hurt than help anymore, and he does little else of note, but he is very effective on the basepaths despite losing 10-15% of his raw speed the past year or two according to sprint stats. I could envision a scenario where the Pirates tell him to hit the ball on the ground more again and he can managed a .250-260 AVG with 30-40 SBs....that's probably your ceiling, and the floor ain't pretty. Still, steals are tough to come by, so in 5x5 (and 4x4 if anyone still plays that) formats he is likely to have some value. SB targeting only...no value here otherwise.
Didi Gregorius (SS - PHI) - SS has become a pretty strong position again, so many of you won't need to drop down so far as Didi, but I think he makes an interesting high-risk choice this season. Yankee Stadium has been outgunned as a hitters park by Citizens Bank Park in Philly each of the past two seasons, and by a significant margin last year. As a flyball, pull-centric hitter, Didi has a real shot at hitting 30 homers with Philly as his home park. The problem with this strategy is the batting average.....LH pull hitters with high launch angles have the lowest BABIPs of any type of bat, so despite his respectable contact ability, he isn't likely to post an excellent average. In good years where he can keep the contact rate above 80%, he's still capable of giving you something in the .270-.285 range. In years where that figure drops down a bit, it's more like .250-.260 (I'm willing to give him a bit of an injury pass for last season's partial performance). Still, .265 and 25-30 HR is a reasonable performance for a MI in my estimation, so I like him a bit earlier than he's being tabbed in most formats.
Kevin Gausman (SP - SF) - Gausman is another guy that I expect to benefit significantly from a park move this year, as he signed a 1-year "prove it" deal with the Giants for his age-29 season. Gausman went almost exclusively fastball/splitter last season, nearly scrapping his slider, and saw a 4% bump in chase rate and 3.5% jump in SwStk. Major improvements to be sure, but you only see it in his FIP ERA as the 5.72 ERA was almost a run and 3/4 above the fielding independent marks. Another flyball guy moving to a park that helps that (and out of two parks that don't)...I would also treat Gausman as a streamer, but a very worthy one to utilize in almost all formats as a pseudo-4th/5th SP along with a few other options.
Tommy Edman (2B/3B/OF - STL) - To my eyes, 2B is substantially weaker than SS this season. I can find at least 25 guys that I like to varying degrees at short, but 2B? Maybe 17? One guy I'm not sold on that is Tommy Edman, who is going in the 12th round of standard leagues on average right now. There's speed and contact ability here, but there's a crowd for playing time in St. Louis, Edman's exit velo numbers and barrel% are middling, and the BABIP seems a touch elevated to me. For a guy going between Biggio and Lux, I like the ceiling on those two an awful lot better than I do on Edman, and it isn't like he's without risk himself. I doubt I'll have him anywhere this year.
Marcell Ozuna (OF - ATL) - I have to echo Josh's sentiments here.....I think Ozuna is due for a huge season in Atlanta. This will be the first time in his career that he's had even an average HR park for a RHB, and despite the statistical fluctuations he's maintained a position in the top 5% in exit velocity every year but one. For me he's a clear top-20 OF, and he's going as OF28 right now.
Danny Santana (everywhere but C - TEX) - I like Danny Santana quite a bit, I just highly doubt I'm going to pay the likely 11th-12th round price to get him this year. The main reason is the BABIP: sure, he's had some really poor BABIP's that were likely unjustified for a few years, but generally speaking when you pull the ball more and hit more flyballs, your BABIP doesn't jump to 40-60 points above your career average. The power appears to be absolutely legit, as his exit velo was top decile last season, and the steals and positional flexibility are awesome. I just think there's a sizable amount of vulnerability in the AVG due to the swing changes he's made (as evidenced by the large jump in SwStk, Pull, and FB%), and a 20-30 point drop there makes him a bit less valuable than where most have him I think
Danny Jansen (C - TOR) - If it weren't for the fact that the Blue Jays seem intent on going with a timeshare behind the plate, the catcher I'd like most outside of the top 10 is Danny Jansen. He has excellent bat control for a young player, has enough power to project to 20 homers annually, and that Blue Jay lineup is improving quickly. The recent arrest of Reese McGuire for indecent exposure could well boost Jansen's value if the organization weights it heavily (setting aside guilt or innocence)...any potential increase in playing time would be a major boost to Jansen's value. As it stands, I still like him in 2-catcher formats better than half of the names between C11-C25, and you'd likely be able to wait an extra 8-10 rounds to grab him. FWIW, Jansen's expected SLG based on quality of contact last year was about 60 points higher than what he posted.
Max Fried (SP - ATL) - There is absolutely nothing wrong with Mike Soroka, but if you ask me to choose between Fried and Soroka for 2020, I'm probably choosing Fried. More bat-missing, fewer flyballs, etc. Soroka is SP26 currently, Fried is SP41. I agree that Soroka's floor is likely higher, because Fried only seemed to harness his control in his last dozen starts or so this past season, but Fried's ceiling is higher, enough so that the 15 ranking spot (and 4 round) difference seems excessive to me.
Mitch Keller (SP - PIT) - By many measures, Mitch Keller was the most unlucky pitcher in baseball last season. You don't see many guys with an ERA more than double their xFIP ERA to begin with, but when said pitcher fans over 12 per 9, walks only 3, and doesn't give up an excessive amount of homers or hard contact, a 7+ ERA is hard to stomach. The Pirates will likely be pretty bad, but I find it hard to believe they'll offer him a strand rate under 60% again, and I think it's reasonably likely that Keller breaks into the top 60 SPs in 2020. His current ADP is 253, SP #76, and I absolutely like him 3-5 rounds ahead of that.
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