Will Vladimir Guerrero Jr. take the next step forward?
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. worked hard over the off-season to re-work his body and conditioning. He admitted to wearing down at the end of his rookie season which explains his .232/.264/.298 triple slash in September. Overall, Guerrero hit .272 AVG with 15 HR, 52 R, 69 RBI, and 0 SB in 514 PA. He ended up not being worth the third-round price many paid towards the end of draft season but there were encouraging signs. He showed plus plate skills with 9% BB and 18% K. His Statcast data is not special at 89.4 AVG EV and 7.7% Barrel% but his max exit velocity of 118.9 mph was tops in the league last year. This means that the has the plate discipline and power to be a true four-category performer that lives up to his ADP of 55 in NFBC leagues. Guerrero is a slight launch angle change (49% GB) away from tapping into his power upside. The skills and pedigree are there for him to take a massive step forward this year but determining his draft value is going to be difficult considering he isn't going to provide any stolen bases. If he hits .300 with 30+ HR's, he is going to be worth his third-round price but anything less than that is lost value.
Is Travis Shaw worth a late-round flier?
Travis Shaw had a dismal 2019 season. He hit .157 AVG with 7 HR, 22 R, 16 RBI, and 0 SB. Shaw's strikeout rate skyrocketed (33%) and his power disappeared. The Brewers sent him to Triple-A to try to fix the problem but success did not follow. The Blue Jays took a chance on Shaw to fill their open first base position with Justin Smoak moving on to Milwaukee. Shaw hit .271 with 31 HR/10 SB in 2017 and then .241 with 32 HR/5 SB in 2018 before his disastrous 2019. He admitted to making swing changes heading into last year that simply did not work and he has reverted back to what was successful for him in the past. This means Shaw gets to start the season fresh with a change of scenery. He is worth a late-round flier that he can revert back to his 2017-2018 self and provide nice value.
Ryu's move to the AL East
Hyun-Jin Ryu signed a four-year, $80 million dollar deal with the Blue Jays early in the off-season. This was a big move for the Blue Jays because they have hitting prospects but lacked talent and depth in their rotation. Ryu may not be viewed as a front line starter but he has been excellent when healthy over his seven-year career( 2.98 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 740.1 IP). There are two main issues for Ryu from a fantasy perspective. The first being health. He has eclipsed 150 IP just three times in seven seasons. So health is a major concern for the lefty but that is reflected in his draft price at pick #141 in NFBC drafts as the 55th pitcher off the board. The other concern is the move to the American League and more specifically the East which has hitter-friendly parks and high-quality lineups. Ryu does not have overpowering stuff (22% K, 11% SwStr) but he dominates with elite command (3% BB) and the ability to induce weak contact (50% GB). These are skills that are going to make his transition to the A.L. East much smoother. There is going to be regression in his ratios (2.32 ERA and 1.01 WHIP) but expecting a mid threes ERA and a WHIP under 1.20 still makes Ryu a very valuable starting pitcher. This would lower his overall value because he is so dependent on his ratios due to the lack of strikeouts. Add in the injury/volume risk and Ryu seems appropriately priced despite elite results the past two years.
What to expect from Nick Castellanos in Cincinnati?
The Reds continued to "win" the offseason by adding Nick Castellanos on a four-year, $64M deal. Castellanos looks like an odd fit due to the Reds already crowded outfield situation (Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Jesse Winker, and Shogo Akiyama). This was a chance for the Reds to insert a near-elite bat into their lineup not to mention that Suarez, Senzel, and Akiyama are recovering from off-season surgeries. Castellanos over the past two seasons has averaged .294 with 25 HR, 94 R, 81 RBI, and 2 SB. This comes with good plate skills (7% BB and 22% K) and emerging power (.219 ISO). The move away from Comerica Park to a hitter-friendly Great American Park is going to only increase his value. If you have extra time search for his HR overlay at Great American Ballpark and if that doesn't get you excited for Castellanos, I don't know what will. He should also see an increase in his counting numbers being in the middle of the Reds lineup.
The Reds Outfield Situation...is a mess
The signing of 2B Mike Moustakas and OF Shogo Akiyama made playing time very difficult to predict in Cincinnati. Then came the signing of OF Nick Castellanos which muddied the waters even more. The Reds currently have five outfielders (Castellanos, Akiyama, Senzel, Aquino, and Winker). As is the case every year, it is likely going to sort itself out with injury and poor performance but that doesn't make it any easier right now for us fantasy owners. Based on their most recent contracts, Castellanos and Akiyama are going to play every day, so that leaves a battle between Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel, and Jesse Winker for the final spot. Each of these players has upside (Aquino-Power, Senzel-Power/Speed, and Winker-OBP) but they also have major question marks as well. Senzel has the most fantasy upside but he is recovering from a serious shoulder surgery and is not guaranteed to be healthy at the beginning of the year. He is also reverting back to his old mechanics at the plate after struggling to make an in-season adjustment. Winker is also recovering from shoulder surgery and is probably best served as a platoon player and/or DH due to his poor defense. Aquino is healthy but his struggles in September (.196 AVG/31% K) make him a very volatile player heading into the 2020 season. Keeping an eye on reports out of Spring Training is going to be vitally important because whoever wins the final OF spot in Cincinnati is going to be fantasy relevant.
Will Trevor Bauer rebound from a disappointing 2019?
Trevor Bauer came over to the Reds via a mid-season trade with the Indians. Bauer was abysmal (6.39 ERA and 1.35 WHIP) after the trade. Overall, he took a major step back after his breakout 2018 season (2.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 253 K). Bauer was able to continue to be a workhorse (213 IP) and the underlying skills remained the same (28% K, 8% BB, 12% SwStr). The biggest issue was an increase in hard contact (+5% to 41%) and his home run rate from 0.46 HR/9 in 2018 to 1.44 HR/9 last year. Bauer admitted to pitching through injury last year which could partially explain his poor results. The good news is that he has been reunited with Kyle Boddy from Driveline and the Reds already have one of the best pitching coaches in baseball. Bauer has the talent to improve on last year and his .315 BABIP and 60% LOB are likely to regress towards his career numbers (.298 BABIP and 73% LOB) which should help bring down his ratios. That in addition to his high strikeout totals makes Bauer a gamble worth taking.
Jose Peraza-Red Sox-2B
Jose Peraza was signed to a one-year, $2.85M deal this offseason. Originally, it looked like he was signed to be a utility/bench bat but the way the Red Sox off-season has shaped up it looks like he will get an opportunity to be the every day second baseman with Michael Chavis vying for the first base job with Bobby Dalbec and Mitch Moreland. Peraza was not good last year (.239/.285/.346) but if he plays every day he could be a nice source of speed late in drafts. He makes a lot of contact (14% K) and his .268 BABIP from a year ago is going to come up given his contact and speed. Peraza has the potential to go 10 HR/20+ SB with a respectable average at ADP of 326 in NFBC leagues. Not to mention he also has multi-position eligibility (2B, SS, OF).
The Yankees will have an initial spot in their rotation with James Paxton recovering from back surgery. One of the candidates to fill that spot is LHP Jordan Montgomery. He is now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and it was good to see him make it back to major league mound at the end of last season. Montgomery showed promise in 2017 when he posted a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP across 29 starts. He has shown the ability to miss bats (22% K) with more upside given his swinging strike rate (12%) and deception in his delivery. Montgomery is worth a late-round flier in deeper mixed leagues if he wins the job out of Spring Training.
Hunter Pence-Free Agent-OF
Hunter Pence is reportedly signing with the Giants. Pence had a resurgence in 2019 that saw him hit .297 with 18 HR, 53 R, 59 RBI, and 6 SB in 83 GP. It was not a fluke because the underlying skills (22% K, 8% BB) and quality of contact (43% Hard, 91.4 EV, 9% Barrels). He is 36-years old so there is concern that his production could fall off a cliff again and he has not been a model of health in recent years. Despite this, he will be deep mixed league and NL-only viable if he does sign with San Francisco given their lack of outfielders and overall offensive talent.
Tyler Glasnow had surgery on his throwing wrist in November. He is expected to be a full go when Spring Training starts but this is just another reminder that he has had trouble staying healthy. Glasnow was dominant when on the mound last year (1.78 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27% K-BB, and 50% GB). His fastball (97mph) up in the zone with his hard breaking curve made it almost impossible to hit him last year (.155 AVG vs. RHB and .210 AVG vs. LHB). Glasnow is going to be a decisive player during drafts because he has immense upside but the risk in terms of health and innings is going to keep some away. The good news is that he has a rotation spot and should be healthy.
The Angels are going to have a competition for their final rotation spot. One of the candidates in that battle is going Patrick Sandoval. His overall numbers from a year ago (5.03 ERA and 1.37 WHIP) leave a lot to be desired. However, there are some things to like under the hood. He is a lefty with good velocity (93mph) and two good secondaries in his changeup and curve. Sandoval also showed the ability to miss bats (25% K and 14% SwStr). He also did a good job of limiting hard contact (47% GB) which is going to be a plus given how well the Angels defense should play this year. The only thing holding him back from a true breakout is his control (11% BB). A slight improvement in his walk rate is going to make Sandoval a very useful fantasy starter.
The Diamondbacks currently have six guys for five spots in their rotation. This means that there is going to be a battle for the final three spots behind Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray. The candidates to fill out the rest of the rotation are Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen, Merril Kelly, and Mike Leake. Gallen has to be a near-lock for the rotation given how well he pitched last year (2.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP). He showed the ability to miss bats (29% K and 13% SwStr) and limited home runs (0.90 HR/9) which are both critical skills in today's game. His walk rate was high at 11% but he showed plus command in the minors and that should improve with more experience. Gallen's fastball does not have elite velocity but he has the ability to move it around the zone making it highly effective especially in combination with his plus changeup. Despite the reports out of Arizona, there is no reason to believe Gallen won't break camp in the rotation.
Billy Hamilton has signed a minor league deal with the Giants. If there is one team where Hamilton could carve out playing time due to his plus defense and speed it would be the San Francisco Giants, who currently have an outfield consisting of Steven Duggar, Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, and Hunter Pence. He would not be mixed league relevant but in NL-only formats, he would have value given that he has stolen 22+ bases in six consecutive seasons. He obviously needs to make the team first but he could be worth a late gamble in NL-only.
Chris Talyor signed a two-year extension with the Dodgers worth $13.4 million. Taylor slashed .262/.333/.462 with 12 HR/8 SB in 414 PA. He will once again be a super-utility player without everyday playing time which makes it difficult to own him in any type of fantasy league. He's got the potential to hit double-digit home runs and steals but would need everyday at-bats to do so. With the current construction of the Dodgers lineup, it would take multiple injuries for Taylor to get a starting job in either the infield or outfield.
Yasiel Puig is still without a team. This is coming off a year in which he hit .267 with 24 HR, 76 R, 84 RBI, and 19 SB in 149 GP. The underlying skills are solid as well with 22% K, 7% BB, and 39% Hard. Puig has been able to top 20+ HR and 15+ SB each of the past three seasons without killing your batting average. His draft price (#137 NFBC) doesn't reflect his recent production but the lack of a team has lowered his price. A lot of his value depends on where he lands and if it is a full-time role which is no guarantee. The Indians looked like a great match but the recent signing of OF Domingo Santana takes them out of the picture. Now might be the time to buy Puig knowing that his production is solid but his volatile personality may keep teams and fantasy owners away.
Jorge Mateo will be in the competition for the Athletics second base job along with Franklin Barreto and Tony Kemp. Mateo hit .289 with 19 HR with 24 SB at Triple-A last year. The power isn't believable given the offensive environment in Triple-A and the new ball but his speed is elite. If given full time playing time he could challenge 30+ SB. He is out of options, so the Athletics will want to give him a shot this spring to win the job. The fantasy upside is evident given his ability to steal bases but that is not without risk given his aggressive approach at the plate (25% K and 5% BB). Mateo is someone to keep an eye on in Spring Training knowing he could provide immense late-round value if he wins the job.
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