LOS ANGELES ANGELS:
As promised, Dylan Bundy! - There are a few possible gems down in the SP100+ category so far this spring, and one of those is absolutely Dylan Bundy. Let's check off the positives: improved team from run support perspective, improved park impact, chase rate and SwStk continue to rise, two pitches that are elite or close (slider, change) and a third (curve) that is above average. The negatives have pretty much rested with the abysmal fastball performance and the massive amount of homers allowed. A continuing removal of emphasis on the 4-seamer could help, but I think the first few positive items above (getting away from the O's, in short) will get rid of a lot of the negatives on their own. Most of the projections that I see, which are in the 10-11 win range with an ERA in the 4.30-4.45 area, feel slightly on the conservative side to me. I think there is tremendous upside for Bundy this year, and I absolutely love using him as one of a group of 4-5 guys streamed for your SP3-5.
How soon they forget... - Tommy La Stella is a guy that I think is getting completely overlooked so far this spring, with an ADP of 288 (2B 38) so far. The 31 year old had been sort of thrown into a part-time pinch-hitter/utility role with the Cubs for 4 years despite showing excellent contact ability until last year's first-half breakout with the Angels. Anytime a player hits almost twice as many homers as he had accumulated in 3 times as many ABs prior to that, there's skepticism, and La Stella's power isn't much above average to be honest. However, the man can hit. He's capable of contact rates around 90%, which is elite, and with his batted ball dispersion I believe last year's BABIP of .288 to be on the low side of his capabilities. If he can stay healthy hitting near the top of an improved Angel lineup, 100 runs and a .300 AVG aren't out of the question to go along with 15-20 homers.....he appears vastly undervalued to me at this point.
NEW YORK YANKEES:
Pull-happy Sanchez - Gary Sanchez is the consensus #2 catcher in baseball this year after battling with J.T. Realmuto for the #1 slot last season, and I don't really have a problem with that ranking at all. The problem with Sanchez, who possess elite power and hits in a great lineup, is the continued escalation of his flyball rate really limits his AVG upside, especially when combined with his lack of speed and his pull%. Last year's BABIP of .244 is likely along the lines of what to expect going forward, so instead of the medium-to-high AVG, good power guy that we had a few years back, he's now more of a low-to-medium AVG guy with a bit more power. It's not a strategy I love with Sanchez's bat speed: I understand when players like Max Kepler or Brian Dozier make that tradeoff, but for Sanchez I think it actually hurts his value a bit. Nonetheless, expect more of the same from the 27 year old this season....there's a little less upside here than many think, I'm afraid.
Sure, now you need me - J.A. Happ has gone from a nice luxury in the 5th starter's spot to a very important 3rd starter with the injuries to Paxton and Severino this winter/spring, so it was very nice to see him picking up where he left off in a 2 IP, 3 K performance in the Yanks Grapefruit League opener. Happ was brilliant in 5 September starts last year after a pretty brutal first 5 months of the year, posting a 1.65 ERA, a WHIP under 1, and a K rate above 9.0 based on a move away from his 2-seam fastball to a focus on his 4-seamer. That seems to still be the plan going forward, and if that's the case I'd bump his value up about 15-20 spots from his current SP 90 position. Compared to your average 37 year old pitcher, there's significant upside here.
Sophomore breakout? - Not many 20 year olds can come up and provide value over a full season at the big-league level, but Victor Robles, primarily on the strength of his defense, did just that for the Nationals last year. Robles is a 5-tool talent, but unfortunately for us fantasy folks, the weakest of his tools is his power. That's less of a problem as far as I'm concerned now that it might have been years ago with power so plentiful, and his hit tool and speed are excellent. I expect some upside to the AVG this year, and the news that he's expected to hit leadoff is certainly welcome in terms of his value. The only category in which I don't necessarily expect him to outperform last year's total is in HR's, and I'd even put that at a 50/50 proposition. He is already going as OF 20 though, so I think most of our expectations are baked into that cost.
Room for the Boom? - Asdrubal Cabrera put together 124 of the best ABs of his career after coming over to Washington at the deadline last year, so he's naturally in the mix at 3B this spring, but I have to think the Nationals are hoping Carter Kieboom takes the job and runs with it. I'm not as high on Kieboom as many are, but an average hit, good power 3B is sort of the old stereotype for the position, and I think he can manage to become a solid everyday player in that mold. I do expect him to get the lion's share of PT this year at the hot corner for WAS, and an AVG somewhere near the league median with 20-25 homers would be reasonable to expect. Right now he's going off the board as SS 36 (his only eligibility currently), making him a deep league only play (and dynasty, of course)...I agree with that valuation at present.
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Kwang-Hyun Kim (SP - STL) - With Miles Mikolas slated to miss a little time after receiving a PRP injection into his forearm, it suddenly looks pretty likely that Korean import Kwang-Hyun Kim will get at least a few starts for the Cardinals to open the season. Kim is an interesting case, as after 3 excellent seasons from age 19 to 21 in the KBO, he rattled off 6 straight years that would be best categorized as "subpar". One TJ surgery later, he came back for 55 starts over the past two seasons that, although he was a bit more hittable than in his youth, offered up better walk and K rates than anything he had shown previously. He's primarily a fastball/slider lefty, and strikes me as the kind of guy that won't go more than two turns through the order very often, but I do think there's some upside here.....particularly until there's enough of a "book" on him. I wouldn't be surprised to see a strong April from a rate-stat standpoint, and I do think he warrants a look in deeper leagues after the Mikolas injury.
Julio Urias (SP - LAD) - The news that Julio Urias will open the season in the Dodger rotation brings tears to the eyes of many, as he's pitched so sparingly since his debut at age 19 that you'd be forgiven for thinking he's older than 23 now. Urias is one of those guys that I absolutely love to roster in shallow formats (not that he's a bad play anywhere), because he's always one of two things: good or injured. He's not really sneaking by anyone this spring, going in a group of 6 straight lefties (Ray, Price, Boyd, Minor, Manaea) in rounds 13-14, but of that group I like Urias's floor the best. Like I said, he's never really been bad, just hurt or good. The unfortunate part is that A) health is a skill, and one that he may not possess, and B) I'd be surprised to see him throw over 150 IP regardless, as he's thrown over 96 IP just once in his pro career. His ceiling isn't what it could be due to that, but in that SP4 range I do love him.
Miguel Sano (3B, moving to 1B - MIN) - Other than Aaron Judge, Sano hits the ball harder consistently than any other player. He had 34 HRs in just 105 G last season, and despite the pull% and FB% he continues to post solid BABIPs, likely due to the monstrous hard contact rates. There are a handful of guys with true 50+ HR potential, and Sano is definitely on that list while hitting in a great lineup.....I feel like he's a bit undervalued at 3B #19 behind guys like Moustakas, Escobar, and Gurriel....not that those guys are slouches. Elite skills are not to be scoffed at, and Sano's power is definitely in that category....I like the value with him in round 12 on average, and for me he's absolutely a top-36 player at the corners (the number starting at 1, C, 3 in a standard 12-team league).
Jake Fraley (OF - SEA) - I expect Fraley to get the lion's share of Mitch Haniger's playing time during his (likely) lengthy recovery, and Fraley is an interesting guy in standard formats for one reason: he can run a little. SBs are getting harder and harder to come by every year, and a guy that might project as average across the board that suddenly falls into playing time has value, and he's a complete afterthought right now in drafts, going outside pick 450. An OF that could swipe 10-15 bases while providing roughly average production elsewhere (he stole 22 of 29 at two levels last year)? He probably should be rostered, assuming my assessment of the playing time ends up being accurate. He's moving up my draft boards quickly into the top 300.
Johnny Cueto (SP - SF) - I feel like all I'm doing is writing about Giants SP this week. I get it, that offense is going to stink on ice, so wins will be hard to come by, but I love the park effect, and they've got 3 guys with some major upside relative to their draft position. Cueto is coming off of 3 straight years in which he's been plagued by elbow issues, relegating him to production in the range of average in very limited time. His velocity looked like it was back in his short September return, and if he's anything close to the he was in 2016 and prior, he has tremendous upside being drafted outside of the top 100 SP. He's one player for whom I am going to put a little stock in their spring performance...I'd be very surprised if he can't give you at least average SP performance this year if he's healthy, meaning he should be rostered in most formats.
Garrett Richards (SP - SD) - Speaking of upside on pitching going outside of the top 300, Richards is perpetually one of my favorite "last SP's chosen". He misses a ton of bats, but hasn't been fully healthy in 5 years. Now 31, the Padres are going to let him throw until his arm falls off again since he's in the 2nd year of his 2-year deal, and San Diego is a good place to pitch with a couple of crummy offenses in the division. Most of you know that I love to use the "5 pitchers for 2-3 spots" strategy at the back of my rotation, and Richards is an excellent fit for that, as the upside here is significant
Matt Olson (1B - OAK) - We talk about trying to grab "elite" when you can, and Matt Olson is definitely in that category with his power. 6th in hard hit rate, 16th in exit velo last season with 36 homers in just 127 games. 50 homers is a real possibility, even in that park. Right now he's going at the back of the group of 1B that includes Rizzo and Goldschmidt, and I think might prefer him slightly to those two (particularly Goldschmidt, who is showing clear signs of decline in a few areas and is already dealing with elbow soreness this spring)....that might buy you an extra round and a premium player at another position.
Nick Castellanos (OF - CIN) - I'm not sure people are upgrading Castellanos enough for escaping that morass in Detroit. I wouldn't go so far as to try and extrapolate his stint with the Cubs (.321 AVG, 37 XBH in 51 G including 16 HR), but this is a guy we had expected to break out for a couple of years based on the batted ball data, and now he's done it for a third of a season after leaving Comerica and he's heading to an even better park in Cincy. I feel comfortable slotting him in about 10 spots higher among OF than he's currently being drafted (#31), and he's a steal at his current position at the end of round 9. The K rate likely prevents him from being a potential .300 hitter (although the batted ball data gives him the best chance at an above average BABIP), but the AVG should still be a plus and 30 HR seems likely playing half his games at the GAB.
Frankie Montas (SP - OAK) - Of the group of players being drafted as "SP3"s, I might prefer Montas to just about every one of them despite the fact that he's being drafted last. Particularly relative to guys like Kluber, Bumgarner, Ryu, and especially Zack Wheeler, Montas seems to have a better floor and equivalent ceiling. These guys are going from 1-3 rounds earlier than Montas (late round 8-late round 10, whereas Montas is early round 11 on average)...I love the value there. Montas is one of the few guys with 3 above-average pitches after the introduction of the splitter last year, something that helped him to a well above-average GB rate, and he also improved his control and bat-missing ability significantly. The home park helps his floor as well....I really think he's going too low right now.
Pablo Lopez (SP - MIA) - It's deja vu all over again, as I'm back on the Pablo Lopez bandwagon for the second straight year. It was working out somewhat OK last season until it veered into a ditch in late June when he got hurt, but before that he'd been very solid at home and was sustaining a velocity bump to go along with excellent control and a solid swinging strike rate. The K's weren't there yet, but he's still only going to be 24 in 2 weeks....I think there is some continued upside here. At the very least he can be a streamer at home, which works nicely with the "8 pitchers for 5 spots" strategy that I prefer. He's an afterthought in drafts right now, going after pick 350, and is someone I have no problem targeting as one of my last couple of arms.
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