Boston Red Sox
Delayed start to the season might aid ailing Sox
After DFA'ing Hector Velazquez, the Red Sox signed former Astro Collin McHugh to a one-year deal. McHugh hasn't pitched since August 30th due to a flexor strain, but had an operation in December and his recovery is coming along positively. He wasn't expected to be ready for the start of the season, however, with COVID-19 delaying MLB proceedings, he might just be ready by the time the season actually gets its start. With so much carnage to the Sox's starting rotation, McHugh will probably be in the rotation once he is fit; though he hasn't shown the ability to stay healthy and effective in a starting role for quite some time. He did however post a 1.99/3.26 ERA/xFIP across 72.1 innings of relief for the Stros back in 2018. If the 32-year-old can stay healthy, he will get plenty of opportunities for the Sox. He boasts a decent career 3.95/3.88 ERA/xFIP and could be worth a look in deeper fantasy formats once he is healthy.
Chris Sale is dealing with a similar injury as McHugh is recovering from. Sale has been diagnosed with a "flexor strain" and will be evaluated again in a week or so. The good news is that both Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache feel that Sale does not need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the elbow. That being said, there isn't really a timetable for Sale's return right now. Obviously, the flexor strain that Sale's teammate, McHugh, is dealing with has kept him from throwing for over six months. So, a delayed start to the season certainly isn't going to hinder the big lefty's potential, but he will probably still miss a big chunk of the season regardless. We should know more once they reevaluate him next week.
Alex Verdugo took his first swings of the spring on Tuesday and also partook in some light agility training. Verdugo is still recovering from a stress fracture in his back and is slated to begin the 2020 season on the injured list. The new guesstimated timetable for Verdugo's return seems to be somewhere in mid-April or early-May. The delay to start the season could last a while, so there is a good chance that Verdugo will miss very little, if any, games to start the season. Manager Ron Roenicke will of course tread carefully with his new outfielder, but once Verdugo works his way back to full-health, he will be the everyday right-fielder for the Sox.
The rest of the rotation
We have talked about the new Ace in the desert in Madison Bumgarner...we've talked about the fantasy potential of veteran Robbie Ray and youngster Zac Gallen...but we haven't talked about the 4th and 5th starters for the D-Backs. Now, typically the 4th/5th starters on a team aren't worth fantasy consideration, but Luke Weaver and Mike Leake are fringe fantasy players...players that will most likely spend the summer being picked up and dropped repeatedly by fantasy owners.
The 26-year-old Weaver started off his Diamondback career and 2019 season remarkably before falling to injury at the end of May. He was diagnosed with a mild flexor pronator strain, and UCL sprain, and his season was basically over. He did appear in relief on September 21st and delivered two shutout innings. For the season, Weaver ended with a stellar 2.94 ERA (less stellar 3.87 xFIP), .226 AVG, and, .84 HR/9. He maintained a solid 26.5% K%, while also being quite stingy with baserunners (5.4% BB% and 1.07 WHIP). Additionally, he posted career bests in O-Swing% (30.2%), SwStr% (10.4%), and Contact% (77.5%). The youngster hasn't proven himself across a full season yet, but he has potential. His career 4.01 SIERA and 3.95 xFIP suggests he is certainly bottom of the rotation worthy, and if he pitches like he did last season, he will be worthy of most fantasy rosters as well.
Leake, the 32-year-old Journeyman has always been a slightly above average pitcher (4.05 ERA, 3.95 xFIP). He is always a fringe fantasy option with consistency being his primary allure. He has posted a sub 4.0 xFIP in 7 of his 10 seasons and has thrown at least 167.0 innings in all but one season in his career. He posted one of his worst seasons last year in the ERA/xFIP department (4.27/4.76), but he went 12-11 and posted a career low 1.23 BB/9 that was 2nd lowest in the majors for qualified starters. He is recovering from a wrist surgery that he had in the offseason. The injury was to his non-throwing wrist, and though he was unable to make any preseason starts, he did throw five innings in a controlled game on Tuesday. He should be ready for the season whenever it gets underway.
Marte broke out in a big way during the 2019 season, but is it to be trusted? The 26-year-old hit 10 more home runs (32) last season than he hit in his first four big league season's combined. He also posted a .405 wOBA that is 75 points higher than his next best career mark. Marte's success came from hitting the ball harder and getting it in the air more often. His 42.1% Hard% was 9.8% higher than his career mark and his 34.8% FB% was 4.4% higher. Additionally, his HR/FB rate was 19.0%, which is a far-cry from his career average of 10.9%. It makes sense that his HR/FB would spike as he was hitting more hard-hit flyballs, but is it sustainable? It was his 5th major league season, so it is certainly possible that he has figured something out, but personally I'd like to see a little more proof before I pick him in the top five or six rounds of my draft (currently ranked 43rd in ESPN's roto rankings).
Around the League
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH, DET
Cron followed up his breakout 30-homer 2018 season with a 25-homer campaign with the Twins last season. His stats weren't quite as good as in 2018, but it wasn't a complete regression. His wRC+ (-21) and wOBA (-.022) both slipped, but he improved his Hard% by 1.5% and his BB% by 4.5%. He started out great, but wasn't able to get consistent playing time down the stretch due to injury and a deep Minnesota roster. Assuming he can stay healthy, playing time in Detroit shouldn't be an issue for Cron in 2020. Even if he does well, he is probably only going to have fantasy contributions in deeper leagues, AL only leagues, or leagues that offer a DH spot.
Buster Posey, C, SFG
Posey had by far his worst season as a pro in 2019. He batted a career low .257, hit just 7 homers, and, his K% (16.0 %) was well north of his career 12.3% mark. Posey has battled injuries the past few seasons and his production has dropped as a result. He underwent surgery to repair a hip pigmentation and torn labrum at the end of the 2018 season and didn't seem to be himself last season. The preseason ESPN roto rankings has him ranked 21st for catchers so it's likely he won't be drafted in most leagues. He turns 33 at the end of this month, so his best days are behind him, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Posey bounce back this season. He's on track to enter the 2020 campaign with a full bill of health and he's still a catcher; a position that is always a bit of a crapshoot in fantasy. His power is probably gone for good as he hasn't posted an ISO over .150, or hit more than 15 homers, in the past for seasons. However, in his last healthy season (2017) he did slash .320/.400/.462. Of course, it's highly unlikely that he gets back to those kinds of numbers, but if he can keep himself healthy there is no reason to think he can't get back to hitting around .300 again. If you don't get a top flight catcher, it will definitely behoove you to monitor Posey's output in the first few weeks of the season.
Nelson Cruz, DH, MIN
The big DH had a great spring, hitting .435, with three dingers, and a 1.371 OPS in 23 at bats. Cruz has hit 37+ homers in each of the past six seasons and hit 41 in his first season in Minnesota last year. The only thing that kept Cruz from an insane season, and MVP chatter, was a couple stints on the IL due to wrist injuries. Cruz will be 40 in July, so injury should be expected, but when he is healthy, he is one of the best in the game. His lack of position certainly hurts his value, but he toted a ridiculous .417 wOBA, and 163 wRC+, in 521 plate appearances a season ago...it doesn't get much better than that.
Royce Lewis, SS, MIN
During his short career, the number 1 pick of the 2017 draft has struggled in the Twins minor league system. He posted an abysmal slash line of .231/.291/.358 in 148 plate appearances in Double-A last season. However, he showed some promise this offseason in the Arizona Fall League. He boasted the league's third highest average at .353 and posted a .975 OPS with three home runs. Lewis is just 20 years old and should be a fantasy contributor in the not-so-distant future. Though, that future is probably not 2020, as he is likely still at least a season away from getting Major League at bats.
Jose Ramirez, 3B, CLE
The 27-year-old's 2019 season was a big letdown for the fantasy owners who drafted him in the first or second rounds of the '19 draft. Ramirez was a hot commodity after his ridiculous 39 homer, 110 R, 105 RBI, 34 stolen base campaign in 2018. Those numbers plummeted in 2019: 24 HR, 68 R, 83 RBI, 24 SB. The good news is that the young third baseman found his stroke in the second half of the season. He hit north of .320 in each of the last three calendar months and hit .327 overall for the second half. He hit 16 of his 23 homers post all-star break and posted an insane .441 ISO in that span. Ramirez took a much more aggressive approach at the plate and it seemed to pay dividends. His BB/K was .84 over the first half of the season while it was just .44 over his more successful second half. He seemed to start thinking less and just started trusting his ability to get the bat to the ball. ESPN still has him ranked 17th (roto ranks) for the 2020 season, so he won't come cheap; but there is a good chance that he slides into the 3rd/4th rounds of many drafts where I think he'd be a bargain.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, ATL
After his breakout season in 2017 for the Marlins, Ozuna battled injuries, and mainly struggled in St. Louis for the past two seasons. He is hoping a change of scenery will help him get back to where he was in Miami. Ozuna hit the ball extremely well last season, and did hit 29 homers, but he posted a career low .241 average and an uninspiring .336 wOBA. His 48.4% Hard% was 6th highest amongst qualified batters in 2019; while his 11.8% Soft% ranked 9th lowest. He also posted a career high 23.4% LD%, yet his BABIP was a career worst .257 (.039 lower than his previous worst mark). The problem appears to be his increasing tendency to pull the ball. In his big 2017 season, Ozuna posted a 38.5% Pull% verses a 25.1% Oppo%, which is starkly different than the 49.5% and 18.8% he posted in 2019. Ozuna has had shoulder issues the past two seasons, which has severely hampered his throwing ability (very obvious if you've seen him throw the ball back into the infield in 2018 or 2019), but it may also be hindering him at the plate. His batted ball ability is tantalizing, but if he can't get his 'all-fields' swing back, it's hard to see him making a marked improvement in 2020.
Matt Magill, RP, SEA
Magill was finally ready for hisfirst Cactus League action on Thursday when the league decided to cancel the rest of spring training. Magill experienced some shoulder discomfort that forced him to take it easy this spring, but he appears to be back near full health now. Magill was solid in the closer role for the Mariners at the end of the 2019 season. He saved five games (seven chances) and finished with a 3-2 record in his 22.1 innings of work for Seattle. He displayed a promising 11.28 K/9 and 2.01 BB/9. He finished his stint in Seattle with a decent 3.63 ERA and encouraging 3.34 xFIP. He figures to have first crack at closing duties this season and could have some low-end fantasy value if he can secure that job.
Christian Yelich, OF, MIL
Yelich was having himself another MVP-caliber season before a fractured kneecap ended his season in early September. He didn't require surgery on the knee in the offseason and he played in a few spring training games, so all signs point to him being 100% healthy for the 2020 season. Of course, Yelich is a set to be a top option in any fantasy format. Over the past two seasons, his 49.1% Hard% is tops in the league, and his wRC+, wOBA, and OPS are all second to only Mike Trout. Assuming he stays healthy, he will almost certainly be a top 5 (probably top 2) fantasy player in 2020.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, MIL
Last season, Cain posted his worst wRC+ (83) and wOBA (.302) since 2013, and his .301 BABIP was a career worst mark. At 33, it's not suprising to see Cain decline, but he fell off a cliff in 2019. He slashed .260/.325/.372 and stole 18 bases; this on the heels of a season in which he slashed .308/.395/.417 and swiped 30 bags. Cain battled through various injuries last season; mainly an injured thumb that required cortisone shots and cryotherapy to keep him in the lineup. He came into Spring Training healthy and is a good bet for a bounce back campaign.
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