Mike Soroka is currently coming off the board as the 32nd pitcher off the board and around 98th overall after his outstanding season where he posted a 2.68 ERA while going 13-4. Soroka is an interesting case because hit peripherals make it look like he's bound for a significant amount of regression if he doesn't improve his swing and miss ability. His SIERA sat at 4.28 last season which was hurt by a 20% K% and a below-average hard-hit rate against him, but he's benefited by a 51% groundball rate. Soroka's defense behind him posted 0 outs above average according to Baseball Savant's metrics and there's a chance the infield defense behind him could take a step back after the departure of Josh Donaldson at third base. Johan Camargo has rated as a plus defender at third base but Austin Riley is likely a league average defender at best. Despite Soroka's lack over overall strikeouts, his changeup and slider both had whiff rates over 38% and had xWOBAs of .217 and .195 respectfully. The slider on its own jumped 12% in swing and miss from 2018 to 2019 and it's in-zone whiff rate also jumped by 17%. If Soroka features the slider more often we could see the boost in K% that would take him into a higher tier of arms.
Dansby Swanson had a mini-breakout last season before getting injured midway through the season and sputtering down the stretch. Swanson set a career-high in home runs with 17, swiped 10 bases for the second season in a row, and also hit .251 which was the highest since his .302 average as a rookie. For the second straight season though Swanson's overall numbers trailed his expected stats by a significant margin. His xBA was 20 points higher than his .251 average and his xSLG was 50 points higher than his slugging percentage. A good chunk of this has to do with Suntrust Park being extremely tough on right-handed hitters to the pull side. Swanson's strikeout numbers were right in line with his 2018 season at 22.8%, but his barrels jumped to 10%. There's enough here for Swanson to see another level to his production as a full season of this kind of contact could put him in line for 22-25 homers. As the 24th shortstop off the board around pick 230 overall, there's plenty of room for profit on him as an MI slot.
Marcell Ozuna destroyed baseballs last season and overall didn't have much to show for it. His average exit velocity sat in the 93rd percentile and his xBA was in the 86th percentile, yet he hit just .241 with 29 homers and a .800 OPS. The differential in both his BA-xBA and SLG-xSLG both ranked in the top 15 in terms of underperforming is batted ball data and while he's moving to a tough park for righties in Suntrust, Busch Stadium where pulled barreled balls from RHH results in homers just 70.7% of the time which was the third-worst rate over the last three years. Ozuna is going to hit fourth in the lineup behind Ronald Acuña Jr, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman so there should be plenty of RBI opportunities in front of him. In terms of ADP, Ozuna is in a group around the 30th OF off the board with the likes of Oscar Mercado, Trey Mancini, and Andrew Benintendi should lead all of that group in terms of power with the chance of an average bounce back.
TAMPA BAYS RAYS
Tyler Glasnow was one of my favorite pitchers to target last season and he turned in an outstanding season with a 1.78 ERA (2.26 FIP) but threw only 60 innings after being shut down halfway through the season with a forearm strain. He did return in September and had great success again, and most importantly his velocity was averaging 97 on his fastball so he was back to being close to 100% after the scare. Glasnow's Baseball Savant chart is a thing of beauty with his wxOBA, xBA, and xSLG all being in at least the 98th percentile. His fastball velocity sits in the 95th percentile and his curveball spin also sit in the 95th percentile at all. All this being said, I'm going to have trouble taking him at his current ADP. Talent-wise he's worth being selected as a top 25 pitcher around pick 75, but it's extremely hard to project his inning totals going forward. Most likely at this ADP Glasnow would have to be your #2 starter and the group of pitchers going right after his Brandon Woodruff, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios and Sonny Gray all have excellent strikeout upside and should have the volume to out give them more volume than Glasnow throughout the season. I love Glasnow and was drafting him everywhere last year, but I'm hesitant to meet this asking price on him and would prefer to wait for another round or two and nab one of the arms going after him.
Brendan McKay made his major league debut in 2019 but found a rough time recording a 5.14 ERA over 49 innings and 11 stars. McKay generated a solid swinging strike rate of 11% but when batters made contact they crushed him to a 10.5% barrel rate and a 90.5 average exit velocity against him. McKay's changeup is something that could become a more useful offering for him as it generated a 36.4% whiff rate despite him just using it 3.6% of the time. The pitch also had a .058 xBA against it, making it far away from his best offering last year. The interesting aspect of the changeup is that it doesn't break very much, moving 21% less than the league's average changeup which could make it a solid offering to pair with his fastball if he can tunnel them properly. He's currently being drafted around pitcher 100 along the lines with other rookies/young names such as AJ Puk and Michael Kopech, but McKay isn't coming off the arm injuries that the others are and should have a better chance to throw more innings.
Hunter Renfroe was traded to the Rays early in the offseason and after years of getting part-time work in San Diego, he should finally get full-time work as the Rays everyday right fielder. Renfroe possesses outstanding power evidenced by his 33 homers in 494 plate appearances last year in a far worse hitters park than the Trop. What killed Renfroe was his strikeout jumped again to over 30% after he shaved it to 24% in 2018 when he hit .248. If he can get the strikeouts back down to his that 24% level again he could end up having some mixed-league relevance with the ability to hit 40 homers, but so far that total is the outlier as he's averaged a 30% K-rate outside of 2018.
Around the League
There are reports now that the Red Sox/Dodgers/Twins trade has a couple of hiccups, but the breakdowns here are going to assume that the trade goes through as described with none of the players currently involved removed.
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers - Betts has been very adamant that he will enter free agency after this season and while he never ruled out an extension with the team, the Red Sox felt more inclined to get a return on him via trade rather than depend on the qualifying offer pick they would have gotten in the offseason. Overall for Betts, the movie should be pretty neutral as he's going from one strong lineup to another and right now Roster Resource has him slated to hit leadoff for the Dodgers. Betts could be in line for a slight HR boost though as Fenway park rates as one of the bottom five parks on barreled pitches to centerfield resulting in homers while the Dodgers were the most friendly park in baseball from 2017-2019 on barreled balls to center. Balls pulled at The Monster also can have trouble getting out of the park due to the height of the wall and the angle (26-30 degrees) required for a barrel to be recorded. Betts barreled 17 balls to the straightaway center at Fenway Park last year and it resulted in just four home runs and while it's not a perfect science, eight of those batted balls would have been homers last at Dodger Stadium.
David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers - Price was also part of the Mookie Betts deal and will slot into the Dodgers rotation behind Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. The move to the NL West should be a net positive for Price with the better parks he'll be pitching in with three of the five parks in the division leaning towards being a pitcher park, including Oracle Park which is the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball. Price put in a solid but unspectacular season in 2019 with a 4.28 ERA with a 7-5 record, but only threw 107.1 innings which is the second time in three years he's thrown under 110 innings due to injury. Despite declining spin rates and velo, Price has still posted solid strikeout numbers with a 27% K% sitting in the 77th percentile. Price joined the league-wide trend of abandoning sinkers for four-seam fastballs with a 13% higher usage with the fastball that sat in the middle-to-upper part of the zone. His batter ball profile looks extremely similar, along with his xstats, to his 16-7 3.58 ERA 2018 season so there's a chance he could get back to an above-average level and split the difference between the ERAs to the 3.75-ish level.
Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins - Maeda was dealt from the Dodgers to the Twins in this mega-deal as well and he should see a rise in his ADP this year since he shouldn't be subject to the games that the Dodgers play with their rotation, especially down the stretch run. Maeda has a league average spin and velocity on his fastball, but his offspeed offerings have a ton of spin and his slider usage has risen each of the last three seasons to a career-high 31.5% in 2019. Maeda's slider posted a .214 against it last year and had an insane 40.7% whiff rate on the offering overall and a 26.5% whiff rate on the pitch in the zone. His changeup also generates an excellent amount of swing and miss with a 36.2% whiff rate and his in-zone swing and miss on the changeup rose for the third straight season and sat at 27%. Maeda combines this strong swing and miss skills while also allowing hard contact at a rate that is in the top 5% of the league. He makes for a far more interesting option in Minnesota when he should be firmly planted in the rotation in a park that leans more towards being pitcher-friendly as opposed to Dodgers Stadium.
Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox - Verdugo is the a key player being dealt from the Dodgers to the Red Sox and he's coming off a great season where he slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 homers in 377 at-bats. Verdugo has an above-average exit velocity at 89.4 MPH but he doesn't barrel balls especially well at 5.7% and his average launch angle is just 8.8 degrees. He's now moving to a park that is extremely tough on lefties that don't have well-above-average power, so there's a chance we won't see a big uptick in power thanks to the increased playing time. Roster Resources has tentatively put Verdugo in the leadoff spot for Boston ahead of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts so he could be a premium source of runs in Boston if he sticks in that spot. There have been comparisons to fellow Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi in terms of a solid batting average with solid power and that feels like a fair expectation for Verdugo in Boston this year.
Brusdar Gasterol, Boston Red Sox - Graterol paper-work wise is going from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in the mega-deal but in reality, he's just going from the Twins to the Red Sox. This is the wild card return for the Red Sox, and there are already some concerns that he's going to be a reliever long terms. Not that there's anything wrong with him turning into lights out reliever, but when you're trading a top-5 talent in the game you'd like for it to be for a rotation piece. Anyways, Graterol burst onto the scene last year with his 99 MPH sinker and a slider he used 30% of the time. That's it for him pitch-wise as he threw just three changeups last year, but they were only to lefties while it is something we can watch for the future. The Red Sox rotation only has Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez so there's an opportunity for Graterol to jump in but he'll need to find a third pitch to shake the reliever profile he so clearly has.
Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Angels - Pederson is the other Dodger outfielder that is on his way out of town as he was sent to the Angels for a pair of prospects. Pederson almost quietly hit 36 homers for the Dodgers last year as he was overshadowed by MVP Cody Bellinger in his lineup. Pederson should get every opportunity to play every day with the Angels and he should be able to take advantage of the lowered right fielder wall that helped make Tommy La Stella into a viable fantasy option last year. Pederson posted his fifth straight season with over a 90 MPH average exit velocity and he saw his average launch angle jump back over 10% for the first time since 2016.
Ross Stripling, Los Angeles Angels - is headed to the Angels with Joc Pederson and there's a good chance we get to see what a starting run for Stripling looks like without being affected by the Dodgers games. The Angels did add to their rotations with the additions of Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran, but while each can eat up some innings I wouldn't say either can be counted on for 2019. With Shohei Ohtani set to pitch about once a week the Angels could effectively run a de-facto six-man rotation since at most he'll pitch once a week once he can return to starting action. Stripling has a multitude of above-average traits that have helped him despite a mediocre fastball, mainly coming in the form of his changeup and curveball. Both of these pitches from Stripling generated 33% whiff rates and his curveball usage jumped by 7% and we saw a sharp drop off in his slider usage as a result. We're going to see his draft price go up as we get more and more into draft season, but it shouldn't rise to the point where it's egregious to take him.
James Paxton, New York Yankees - Paxton typically has to be penciled in as planning to miss some time every year due to injuries, but this year Paxton is going to miss time on the front end of the year after undergoing a microscopic lumbar discectomy to remove a cyst. He's expected to be sidelined for 3-to-4 months which could have him looking at a June return date. Paxton finished the season extremely well posting a 3.63 ERA in the second half of the season including a terrific September/October where he had a 1.05 ERA and a 24.5% K-BB%. It wasn't only results based either with a 2.20 FIP and a hard-hit rate that plummeted by almost 20%. Paxton's draft position will tumble from the recent 81st overall spot according to NFBC's ADP since January 1st and it will take a few weeks of readjusting to see where he lands. There's a level that you can get to where it makes sense to draft and stash him, but when he's missing two to three months of the actual season before him normal injury concerns set in it's going to be tough to spend a strong amount of capital on him. Brian Cashman said that it will be an open competition for the open competition for Paxton's spot in the rotation and referenced Jordan Montgomery, Mike King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, and top prospect Deivi Garcia as options for the role.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies - Jimenez inked a minor league deal with the Rockies and received an invite to Spring Training. Jimenez hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2017 and those results were extremely ugly with a 6.81 ERA. The only thing that was good about his last stint in the major was he had a curveball with above-average spin, but that pitch will lose effectiveness should he make the team and be back in Coors Field. There's not much here besides an interesting feel-good kind of story.
Domingo Santana, Cleveland Indians - Santana is close to signing one year deal with the Indians. Santana hit 21 homers for the Mariners last year to go with a .253 average, but was plagued by his second straight season of a K% rate over 30%. Santana barreled the ball at a consistent rate last year and that helped lead him to his third straight season with an average exit velocity over 89 MPH. The Indians outfield is in extremely rough shape so if he appears to be getting full-time ABs in either corner he could get some mixed-league relevance thanks to his above-average pop with some chip in steals.
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants - Sandoval is expected to get some at-bats in Spring Training after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in September. Sandoval hit 14 homers for the Giants last year while posting a .268 average and had a 11.4% barrel rate which helped lead to his .520 slugging percentage. Sandoval might be interesting in NL-only leagues as we don't 100% know how the fences being moved in will have on hitters as Oracle Park and if lefties will get any sort of help.
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