St. Patrick's Day would be the day when teams joined the A's in wearing green uniforms. Unfortunately COVID19 is preventing any team from wearing any uniform The latest speculation puts the earliest that the 2020 Major League regular season can start in mid-May. Still, there are things to think about with respect to the players that will take the field when play does finally commence.
- For the Rangers, a Time to Heal
This break will give time to some Texas Rangers players some extra time to heal from injury.
Willie Calhoun took a fastball to the jaw just days before play was halted. He underwent surgery and had a plate inserted to hold his jaw in place. Although Calhoun didn't have the jaw wired shut, he could be expected to end up losing some weight and possibly strength as his nutritional intake will change. Still, what looks like a two-month delay to the start of the season gives Calhoun a good shot at being in the lineup at the beginning of what is probably going to be a truncated campaign. In 84 games in 2019 he slugged 21 homers in 309 ABs. After being called up from AAA Nashville Calhoun improved on his plate discipline compared to previous MLB, posting a Batting EYE of 0.43 after having only a mark of 0.25 in 99 ABs in 2018 with the Rangers. Calhoun has improved his defense to not be considered a liability in the field any longer. He is projected to slug 32 homers in a full time role with Texas, which probably won't have as many games as a usual season so the actual number will be lower. However, he can still provide power and a projected .271 average won't be a drain in that category.
Jesse Chavez underwent surgery to remove bone spurs last August. He wasn't able to do his normal offseason routine so came into Spring Training behind where he needed to be to open the normal season with the Rangers. Before going on the Injured List Chavez had recorded 8 holds, one more than he posted in a 2018 split between the Cubs and Texas. He posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 2018. However between his 3.54 FIP that season and having an ERA above 4.00 in every other season since 2015, it looks like 2018 was an aberration. Chavez may provide some holds for fantasy teams that count those, but his projected ERA of 4.40 puts him well down the list of middle relievers.
- Baltimore still has a Major League team
The World Series championship in 2019 went to that team about 40 miles down I-95, and the Orioles were the second worst team in baseball. Baltimore does have a rebuilding task ahead of them, but there are pieces getting put in place. Other pieces aren't going to be around when the wins start coming back to Camden yards.
DJ Stewart had microfracture surgery on his ankle last October. He appeared in 44 games with the Orioles, hitting 4 homers in 142 PAs. Stewart slashed a modest .238/.317/.381, but was impacted by a .268 BABIP. He had hit 13 homers in 294 PAs in the minors and slashed .291/.396/.548 at AAA Norfolk. Stewart had been in double digits in steals in each season from 2016-2018, with 20 in 2017 and 26 in 2018. With more time for his ankle to heal, he will be in a position to challenge for an outfield spot when the Orioles get back to camp.
Chris Davis had made some noise in February when he slugged 3 homers in 4 games and slashed .714/.818/2.000. Then came March. Before play was halted Davis slashed .250/.467/.250 in 5 games. Combined, this left him with a slash line of .467/.615/1.067 in a micro sample size of 15 ABs. His last successful Spring Training was 2014 when Davis hit 4 homers in 37 ABs and slashed .405/.452/.811. He then performed to the tune of a .196/.300/.404 slash line in the regular season. Baltimore will play Davis because they have to pay him a large contract but don't expect him to have any fantasy value. Even his projected .215 average may be generous in estimating his chances of finishing above the Mendoza line foe the first time since 2017.
According to MLB.com, Despite undergoing surgery on his right groin that will keep him out of baseball action for six weeks, Astros ace Justin Verlander could still be ready to start the season, the start of which has been pushed back because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Astros announced on Tuesday that Verlander was going to be sidelined approximately six weeks after undergoing surgery on his right groin. Verlander dealt with groin discomfort early in Spring Training and left his second and final Grapefruit League start on March 9 with what was later diagnosed as a mild right lat strain.
- Brewers in the Infield
Milwaukee will possibly have a completely different infield from the one they had to open 2019. Ryan Braun is moving from the OF. Orlando Arcia may quite possibly get pushed out from SS if Luis Urias has sufficiently recovered from wrist surgery to take over the position. Both 2B and 3B will see players who weren't with the Brewers at the start of last year. One joined them later and the other is a new acquisition.
Jedd Gyorko signed a free agent contract with the Brewers for one year with a club option. He is expected to be the RH hitting part of a platoon at 3B, sharing time with Eric Sogard. In his career, Gyorko has slashed .267/.341/.455 against southpaws. He has hit 32 homers in 705 ABs against them. Gyorko's 2019 numbers were significantly below those standards, with a .135/.220/.162 slash line and no homers in 37 ABs. He had 4 hits, all singles, in 14 Cactus League ABs this season. Gyorko looks like a bargain basement signee by Milwaukee. They are likely to be looking for an upgrade.
Keston Hiura was Milwaukee's top prospect when he was brought up last season. He is projected to hold down 2B for them for years. Over a full season in 2020, Hiura was projected to slug 28 homers. His .266 projected average is a marked decline from the .303 he posted in his rookie campaign. That is because Hiura enjoyed a .402 BABIP. He struck out at a whopping 30.7% rate and his projected K total for this season is 190, so plate discipline is not his forte. Hiura had a Hard% of 44.2%. The main thing you'll get from him is power, with a bonus of what will likely be double digit steals. That has value from a 2B.
Notes from the Rest of Baseball
Blake Snell had a subpar 2019 that was a combination of injury and bad luck. His FIP of 3.32 Is exactly what his projected ERA is for 2020. Snell only pitched 107 innings last year and gave up 14 homers in them. That seems like an outlier. His 12.36 K/9 was better than his mark for 2018. Snell only made 2 abbreviated starts before the Grapefruit League shut down. He had some elbow soreness that apparently was treated successfully with a cortisone shot. The extra time will give him a chance to fine tune his mechanics and get closer to the pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young.
Tony Wolters is slated to get the bulk of catching assignments for the Rockies. This should translate into fantasy value because, heck, he plays half his games at Coors Field. Nope. Wolters can't generate power, even with the benefit of Coors. In 2019 he hit exactly 1 homer in 411 PAs and that came in Pittsburgh. Wolters is projected to get a career high in homers this season, but that's still only a total of 8. With a .254 projected average he isn't worth a fantasy roster spot even with the favorable home park.
Yordan Alvarez was unanimously voted AL Rookie of the Year after slashing .313/.412/.655 and hitting 27 homers in 87 games with the Astros. Alvarez is built for power and delivers. His 17.2% barrels, 92.2 Exit Velocity, and 48.9% Hard Hit % are excellent. For a 22-year-old slugger his 0.55 Batting EYE shows a solid plate discipline. Alvarez preseason projection was for 35 homers, 97 runs, 103 RBI, and a .282 average. There is no sophomore slump expected. He doesn't steal bases but that's not why you pay attention to him. Just about his only weakness is that, at this point in his career, Alvarez' best fielding position is DH, but that doesn't matter much in fantasy.
Luis Arraez posted the 3rd best batting average (.334) of any hitter with at least 300 ABs in 2019. In his first stint in the majors he also had a Batting EYE of 1.24. That's not a typo. Arraez is able to connect with whatever he swings at, with a Contact% of 93.3%, including 95.4% on pitches in the zone. He even made contact with 89.5% of pitches outside the zone. He almost had to since only 42.8% of the3 pitches Arraez saw were in the strike zone. Not surprisingly his swinging strike % was a miniscule 2.8%. A BABIP of .355 last year is leading to a decline in his projected average but it is still .308. The soon-to-be 23-year-old is expected to grow into some more power, with 11 projected homers. Arraez led off towards the end of the season last year. If that is where he ends up in the Minnesota lineup he will get a bonus in ABs.
Ender Inciarte once again put up better numbers in 2019 in the second half than in the first half. His injury shortened season made his impact low when he did get hot. Inciarte slashed .218/.300/.323 in 124 first half ABs and .293/.411/.520 in 75 second half ABs. This is an annual ritual as he owns a career slash line of .259/.313/.347 in the first half and .314/.364/.436 in the second half. If you end up with Inciarte early and he is exasperating you, don't give up. And if someone else has him and will sell low as the season progresses he can be a bargain.
Mike Yastrzemski burst on the scene as a 28-year-old rookie with the Giants. He slugged 21 homers (including one in Fenway Park with his grandfather in attendance) while batting .272. This was a power show he hadn't demonstrated to this extent in the minors. He is projected to maintain solid production, with 22 homers in a full season and a .264 average. Yastrzemski has the inside track to one of the San Francisco outfield positions, likely CF.
Kyle Tucker hit 4 homers in 72 PAs with the Astros after getting called up from AAA Round Rock where he slugged 34 homers in 536 PAs. He was on the postseason roster and got 15 PAs in 9 games. Tucker is ready for full time duty in The Show. Josh Reddick is the incumbent for Houston in RF, but is in the last year of his contract. If Reddick starts slow or can be dealt then Tucker will step in. Tucker's preseason projections were for 24 homers, 83 RBI, and 87 runs in 131 games with a .261 average.
Zack Britton recorded 29 holds out of the Yankees' bullpen in 29. His 1.91 ERA in 61.1 IP had a healthy element of luck, as his FIP was 3.74. Control has developed as an issue for Britton, whose lowest BB/9 in the last 3 seasons was 4.34. His main skill is to get opposing batters to beat the ball into the ground. His lowest GB% since 2014 has been 72.6%. In 2019 Britton had a GB% of 77.2% and FB% of 9.5%. He only allowed 3 homers. Britton is expected to play the same role in the Yankee bullpen this season and is projected to post a 2.36 ERA. In leagues that count holds he has quite a bit of value.
Julio Teheran had a second consecutive season of sub-4.00 ERA paired with an over-4.00 FIP. In 2019 it was a 3.81 ERA and 4.66 FIP. Teheran's W/L record, IP, K/9, BB/9, ERA, and FIP were all very close to his 2018 numbers. His FB velocity dropped, though, from 90.4 to 89.9 mph. In his age 29 season Teheran is projected to not benefit as much from luck as he has, with his ERA at 4.71 and his K/9 dropping from 8.35 to 7.98. His value doesn't project to be as much with the Angels as it was with the Braves.
Cole Hamels had been sidelined with shoulder inflammation. His projected return date was mid-May. Now that could possibly be the start of the season. Hamels suffered an oblique strain last season that reduced his IP. He produced a solid 3.81 ERA and 9.08 K/9 for the Cubs. Hamels' FIP of 4.09 was his third year in a row with a mark over 4.00. With the Braves this year he is projected to post a 4.03 ERA and 9.94 K/9 in 162 IP in a full season. The 36-year-old has some fantasy value with those numbers.