Seeing Red, Man
The 196th pick in the 2016 draft earned his way onto the fantasy radar last season with a 5-category performance in his rookie season for the Cardinals. Edman hit .304 with 11 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 349 plate appearances. For a player who makes good contact like Edman (82.6%), he didn't walk a lot (only 4.6% walk rate), but his aggressive chase rate was acceptable due to a 72.2% contact rate on pitches out of the zone. So he didn't seem to show any trepidation in his first foray into the major leagues. He didn't show a lot of pop in the minor leagues, but that came with his aggressive approach in the majors, tallying a .196 ISO. Edman has a small frame that doesn't generate an overwhelming amount of power (he's in the 21st percentile in average exit velocity), but he has a line drive swing that is clearly powerful enough to repeat his double-digit home run totals while holding onto that high batting average. Furthermore, he has elite speed so the stolen bases could creep into the 20's, making him a true 5-category player with multi-positional eligibility (he should acquire outfield status this season). That defensive flexibility should be enough to secure fairly regular playing time, which makes Edman an intriguing fantasy asset this season.
Hudson had a monster season last year, finishing 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA. In one and a half seasons, Hudson is 20-8 with a 3.25 ERA. Needless to say, that tends to attract a lot of attention in fantasy baseball. However, there are some definite concerns with Hudson's profile. A heavy groundball pitcher like Hudson could see his fortunate .269 career BABIP increase, which will lead to many more men on base, and because he doesn't have a heavy-strikeout arsenal, more men on base will inevitably lead to more runs. His 5.08 SIERA is indicative of where his ERA may reside in 2020. The backend of the Cardinals rotation is questionable so Hudson is pretty secure in his role. Just don't let his early success fool you. Expect drastic regression this season.
In his first seven full seasons, Paul Goldschmidt's BABIP was above .340 every year. In his first season with the Cardinals in 2019, his BABIP was .302. That coincided with a career-high 31.4% chase rate and the lowest average exit velocity of his career. For the first time in the Statcast era, Goldschmidt was below the 90th percentile in barrel rate, exit velo and hard hit rate. He is still a 30-home run bat, but the power is declining. Thirty-two years old is relatively young to see a precipitous regression, but gradual decline is more understandable, which brings into question just where Goldschmidt ranks in fantasy value. He can still probably produce 30 home runs, but his batting average will probably continue to hover around the .260's or .270's. He is no longer a stolen base threat and hasn't reached 100 runs or RBIs since 2017. That makes him more of a 6th round pick in 15-team leagues. However, first base is a sneakily thin position this season so Goldschmidt is near the end of a valuable tier.
No, We Don't Know, Cano
I think it's fair to say the Mets are not getting the best years of Robinson Cano. After hitting a career-high 39 home runs in 2016, Cano has 46 home runs over the last three seasons combined. Once the \example of superb plate discipline combined with solid power, Cano's swinging strike rate reached a crescendo last year. That indicates the days of perennially hitting .300 or higher are long gone. However, don't sleep on Cano's ability to return to 20 home runs. He had 13 long balls in 423 plate appearances last year. If at 37 years old, he can reach 550 plate appearances, he still hits the ball fairly hard and could reach the 20-home run threshold. Unfortunately, that's a big 'if' and if he doesn't hit 20 dingers, he won't offer a whole lot more. Now an injury risk and a regression risk, Cano is right where he should be with an ADP in the mid-300's.
Hold On Now
Are you in a holds + saves league? Are you flummoxed by the Mets relief pitching? You're not alone.
After recording 21 holds and six saves, Seth Lugo would seemingly return to his role as the 8th-inning setup man for Edwin Diaz. However, the Mets signed Dellin Betances in December, muddying the late-inning relief situation a bit.
First of all, throw out the idea of one of these two pitchers challenging Diaz for the role (see my Feb. 11 preseason prep column for more on Diaz's status).
As for the best opportunity for holds, Lugo is still the best bet. He saw a spike in swinging strike rate last year, registering an encouraging 11.2%. That coincided with a drop in walks and a below-average hard hit rate. Lugo's mid-90's fastball with sinking action isn't necessarily going to elevate him to the elite strikeout range, but it's a great asset to have for inducing groundball double plays and getting out of jams.
Betances on the other hand, is coming off a major injury and made only one appearance last year. What was once a flame-throwing arm in the Yankees bullpen recently clocked a maximum velocity in the high 80's in spring training. That's not necessarily a reason to panic as Betances will continue to build arm strength, but can we be convinced he returns to his high-90's heat? And if not, what exactly does he offer? Walks have always been a problem and he is now coming off a year away from the game so rustiness is certainly a concern. Needless to say, the Mets aren't going to throw him into the fire until there is a confidence he can be the bridge to Diaz. That may not come until June or July. It may not come at all.
Lugo finished 21st in baseball with 21 saves last year. Anticipate an increase towards the top-10 among setup men in the game.
The Law Office of Davis, J.D.
Davis appears to be back to full strength after suffering a shoulder injury a couple weeks ago. Yet somehow his role as an everyday player is questionable despite hitting .307 with 22 home runs in his first season in New York. The power is legitimate: Davis has an ISO over .200 every year of his professional career. In his first full season, Davis's xWOBACON ranked in the top-8% among major league hitters, and that could improve as he continues to work on more elevation in his swing. He even managed to rein in the exorbitant swinging strike rate that diluted his batting average in the minor leagues.
Davis gives you 3B eligibility and OF eligibility and his talent is too rich to expect the Mets to bench him. He isn't a platoon player either as he hits both righties and lefties well. I'm bullish on Davis and he could be a steal at his current draft position.
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Dylan Moore, OF (SEA)
Moore was hit by a 93-mph fastball and writhed in pain before eventually exiting the Mariners' game on Tuesday. X-rays were negative, but he will likely miss some time this week. Hidden in Moore's weak 2019 is a player that could actually develop into a low-level 5-category player. He hit 14 home runs with 23 stolen bases in the minor leagues in 2018 and consistently exhibited strong plate discipline and contact in the lower levels, but until he displays some of those skills in the majors, he can mostly be ignored in fantasy and may even be ignored by the Mariners.
Didi Gregorius, SS (PHI)
Gregorius snapped an ugly 0-for-22 stretch to start spring training with his first two hits on Tuesday. Spring training slumps are no reason to panic, but after throwing up an unseemly .297 wOBA in 344 plate appearances after coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, it is prudent to have some concerns about his skills. With that being said, Yankee Stadium benefited the left-handed Gregorius, but Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is actually a better home run-hitting ballpark for lefties than the Bronx.
Anthony Santander, OF (BAL)
Santander is scheduled to return to the field on Thursday after battling a shoulder injury most of spring training. A sleeper fantasy pick, Santander has a lot of power and showed solid contact in his first full season in 2019. The switch-hitting slugger is better from the right side of the plate and the Orioles should give Santander a decent leash as long as he is healthy.
Aaron Nola, SP (PHI)
Nola is battling the flu, which caused him to miss his spring training start on Monday. However, the Phillies scheduled a bullpen session for Thursday, and if he feels better he will pitch a simulated game this weekend. There are no long-term concerns with the Phillies ace.
Michael Conforto, OF (NYM)
Conforto is in danger of missing the start of the season after injuring his oblique. On Tuesday he was diagnosed with a right oblique strain, and he will sit out for at least a week. After dealing with a myriad of injuries over his first couple seasons, Conforto played at least 150 games each of the last two seasons. However, he seems to often play through injuries and if that's the case with this oblique strain, it's fair to wonder whether it will negatively affect his swing.
Bryce Harper, OF (PHI)
Harper was hit on his toe in a spring training game on Tuesday. He had to leave with a bruise on his big toe, but after the game he said he was fine and should return to action on Friday. Harper is coming off what some seem to consider a down season in his first year with the Phillies, but he improved dramatically in the 2nd half, increasing his ISO nearly 80 poinots and his wRC+ nearly 20.
Eric Lauer, SP (MIL)
Lauer's quest to win the Brewers 5th spot in the rotation may have been hampered by a left shoulder impingement that could end up with the southpaw hitting the injured list before the season begins. The soft-throwing lefty started 29 games for the Padres last year, posting a 4.77 xFIP with low strikeout totals. If he loses out on a rotation spot, Corbin Burnes or Freddy Peralta could step into the role.
David Dahl, OF (COL)
Bud Black indicated he may use Dahl as his everyday leadoff hitter, which would permanently push Charlie Blackmon into the middle of the lineup. Dahl posted a healthy .353 OBP in limited time last season, and like Blackmon he provides some pop at the top of the lineup. What is concerning about Dahl is his very high swinging strike rate and limited contact. If he continues to swing and miss, he may not last in the leadoff role. However, if he holds onto the spot, it would obviously result in many more runs and maybe stolen bases but a decrease in RBIs.
Freddie Freeman, 1B (ATL)
Freeman was a late scratch from Tuesday's game as he is dealing with a personal family matter. He has played sparingly this spring, but there's no reason to question the consensus 2nd-ranked 1st baseman after Cody Bellinger. Freeman will look to capitalize on a career-high 38 home runs and should see his average eclipse .300 again as his BABIP was the second-lowest of his career in 2019
Peter Lambert, SP (COL)
Lambert ominously left Tuesday's Cactus League appearance with, what was at the time, an unknown injury. We now know Lambert exited with forearm tightness, which may or may not be a result of an offseason tweak in mechanics. Lambert was vying for a role in Colorado's starting rotation, but this would almost certainly lay doubt on the odds of that happening, and then it's reasonable to wonder whether forearm tightness would lead Lambert to revisit the mechanical adjustments he made in order to put less strain on that part of his arm. For now, Lambert is best left off your fantasy radar.