Nate Pearson Hype Train
Nate Pearson has been impressive in his limited Spring Training outings (3 IP, 6 K) which has only added to the hype train. The Blue Jays are not going to open the season with him in their rotation due to financial reasons but he looks like he is major league ready. He has a plus fastball sitting in the upper 90s that can reach triple digits. The aspect that makes Pearson big-league ready is that he has a full arsenal and not just a good fastball. He throws a changeup, curve, and slider with each pitch having the potential of being above average. It shouldn't be long before he gets called up but the Blue Jays have been known to slow roast their prospects. Pearson struck out 31% of the batters he faced in the minors with 7% BB. There is a lot to like about the right-hander and his current NFBC ADP is #335 with a high pick of 279.
Final Rotation Spot
The Blue Jays are having an open competition for the final spot in their rotation. The candidates for the spot are Trent Thornton, Shun Yamaguchi, and Anthony Kay. The favorite at this point has to be Trent Thornton who made 29 starts (4.84 ERA and 1.41 WHIP) last year. He spent the off-season getting stronger and working on his changeup that he learned from RHP Clay Buchholz towards the end of last year. Thornton's biggest issues a year ago were a lack of control (9% BB) and the longball (1.40 HR/9). The home run issue was due to the number of fly balls he gives up (40% FB) and a lack of command within the strike zone. His fastball and cutter were not good pitches (.875 OPS and .847 OPS) which he threw over 63% of the time. Throwing his fastball less and focusing on is off-speed offerings(CH, CV, and SL) would be extremely beneficial for the right-hander. Thornton isn't mixed relevant just yet but he is someone to keep an eye on early in the season.
Rowdy Tellez had a disappointing 2019 season. He hit .227 with 21 HR, 49 R, 54 RBI, and 1 SB in 111 GP. He made a lot of hard contact (41%) but also struggled with strikeouts (28% K). He showed a decent walk rate at 7% but there were too many times where he reached out of the zone. His 39% O-swing was well above the league average. Tellez came into camp in stronger and in better shape. He also made a slight change to the load part of his swing which should help him make more contact without sacrificing his power. He currently is not guaranteed a spot on the roster let alone a starting role but there isn't much standing in the way if he can live up to his potential. The Blue Jays are going to give Travis Shaw a chance to bounce back at first base and go with a rotation of outfielders at DH. Tellez is rarely being drafted in mixed leagues which leaves a lot of room for profit if he works his way into a full-time role. He's got 30+ HR power if he were given a full season's worth of at-bats.
It is looking more and more likely that Aristides Aquino is going to start the year in the minors. The Reds have a crowded outfield situation with Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, and Phillip Ervin. Aquino still has options and can be sent to Triple-A which makes the roster crunch a little bit easier. He is also not helping his case with an 0-14 start to the spring with just 1 BB to 6 K. This is coming off a September in which he hit .196 with 31% K which was good for a 52 wRC+. The power is legit and he has sneaky speed but is not likely to get regular at-bats in 2020 unless there are multiple injuries to Reds outfielders. His ADP has fallen to #279 in NFBC 12-team drafts and I expect it to fall even further as the spring continues.
Nick Senzel's Recovery
Nick Senzel has been recovering from shoulder surgery and made his spring debut on Thursday. He is going to start out just hitting (DH) and then will progress to working in the outfield. These are encouraging signs Senzel but the real test will come after he has played to see how the shoulder responds. As mentioned above, the Reds outfield situation is crowded but it seems like the Reds want Senzel to be their everyday centerfielder in 2020. If that were the case and he was healthy, he would be a bargain at his current ADP (NFBC 267). He is a legit threat to go 20 HR/20 SB with an average that isn't going to hurt you (.260+). The issue is that this a risk/reward situation because that is his upside but the downside is that he struggled in 2019 with multiple injuries which have been a theme throughout his pro career and a swing change that he is now trying to undo. With that all being said he was the Reds top hitting prospect for a reason and has considerable fantasy upside given his power/speed combo.
Shogo Akiyama was brought in during the off-season to bolster the Reds outfield. Since then things have gotten crowded real fast. One has to think that they are going to find a way to get Akiyama in the lineup after signing him to a three-year, $21 million contract. He played a lot for the Reds in Spring Training which is good because he needs to get acclimated to American baseball quickly. He has not performed well with a .235 AVG in 17 AB with no extra-base hits or steals. It is Spring Training and he is adjusting to a whole league and lifestyle so that does need to be taken into consideration. From a fantasy perspective, this makes Akiyama more of a deep mixed league play for the time being because production and playing time are unknown. The upside is that you get a player with a little bit of power (15-20 HR) and speed (8-10 SB) with a respectable average (.270ish) but the downside is that he struggles to make the adjustment and/or only gets limited playing time.
Around the League
Justin Turner went for precautionary x-rays after getting hit on the hand on Tuesday. The results came back negative and he is considered day-to-day. Turner has struggled to stay healthy his entire career. He has averaged just 126 GP over the past six seasons. The flip side of that is that he has been an elite bat when healthy. He hit .290 with 27 HR, 80 R, 67 RBI, and 2 SB in just 135 GP. The skills are still elite with 16% K, 9% BB, and 50% Hard. There is no questioning his talent, it simply comes down to health. You have to construct your roster knowing he is going to miss significant time but he is a value at his current ADP (171).
Brusdar Graterol pitched the ninth on Wednesday against the Giants and struck out two. After a crazy off-season, Graterol now has a home and his role seems solidified in the bullpen. He has the stuff to be a shutdown reliever with a plus fastball and slider. Graterol won't have much fantasy value in 2020 due to working in relief but he is someone to keep an eye on for the future. Kenley Jansen has shown improved stuff this spring but has been on the decline and there is no guarantee that Blake Treinen reverts back to being an elite reliever so there is an outside chance Graterol could see some save chances but it would be unlikely. He would also have to earn it by pitching lights out.
J.A. Happ worked on fixing his mechanics after a disastrous 2019 season (4.91 ERA and 1.30 WHIP). The early results have been encouraging this spring (9 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K). Spring Training results are mostly useless but it is a good sign to see Happ having success and the injuries to the Yankees rotation means that he is locked into a spot. It is easy to forget that he had a 3.45 ERA over 518 IP from 2016-2018. Given his ADP (436) he is worth a late-round flier in deeper mixed leagues.
Corbin Burnes has pitched well this spring (6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K). This should obviously be taken with a grain of salt but Burnes is someone who has plus stuff but struggled in 2019 (8.82 ERA and 1.84 WHIP). If you remember back to 2019 draft season there was a debate between whether to draft Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes as they were both fighting for a rotation spot. The underlying skills last year point to someone much better than his ERA and WHIP showed. He had 30% K, 9% BB, 17% SwStr, and 45% GB. He's got a plus fastball and wipeout slider that can easily miss bats but a lack of a third pitch has hurt him at times. The development of a third pitch would be huge but even if that doesn't materialize, Burnes should be better in 2020. It is unlikely that he has a .414 BABIP again and he worked with a sports psychologist over the off-season to work on the mental aspect of the game which he and the Brewers believe was at the root of his problems. Burnes is unlikely to get a rotation spot out of Spring Training unless an injury occurs but he should be on your watchlist.
Aaron Judge is undergoing tests to determine what is causing the discomfort in his right shoulder/pec. He believes that he can still be ready for Opening Day but that seems very generous considering he's not swinging a bat and doesn't know exactly what the injury is. Unlike Stanton, Judge hasn't come at a discount in drafts (#31 ADP) despite two straight seasons with less than 120 GP. He has been excellent when on the field (.272 AVG with 27 HR) and his 2017 season (.284 with 52 HR/128 R/114 RBI/9 SB) is still fresh in people's minds which has kept his draft price from falling. If Judge does miss the beginning of the season it is going to open up playing time for Miguel Andujar who has been playing outfield in spring.
Chris Sale-Red Sox-SP
Chris Sale has been diagnosed with a flexor strain in his left arm. He will not require Tommy John surgery. He will be shut down from throwing and is expected to miss all of April. His actual return date is unknown because it all depends on how his elbow responds to throwing. This makes drafting Sale a huge risk because he could pitch and have similar value to a year ago (147.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 218 K) but he could also miss the entire season.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone came out and said that Jordan Montgomery is going to be in the Yankees rotation to start the year. It has been essentially two years since Montgomery has pitched meaningful innings at the major league level. He is likely going to be on some sort of innings limit this year which caps his fantasy upside. He's got three strong pitches and showed in 2017 (3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP) that he belongs on mixed-league rosters. The ceiling is not massive but he is a back end of the rotation starter with a good chance for wins given the Yankees offense and ratios that shouldn't kill you.
Collin McHugh-Red Sox-SP
The Red Sox have signed Collin McHugh to a one-year, $600,000 deal. The Red Sox currently have Ryan Weber and Bryan Johnson slated as the back end of their rotation. This makes it completely viable for McHugh to get a legit shot at starting. He has been excellent out of the pen for the past two years but has started just eight games over that same time period. He projects to be around a league-average starter with a low to mid fours ERA with around 25% K which would be usable in deeper mixed league formats. McHugh is behind the other starters and would likely not be ready for the Opening Day roster but should not be that far behind.
A.J. Puk had his shoulder examined on Thursday as a second opinion on his sprained left shoulder. The Athletics are going to want to be careful with there left-hander. Puk was going to be on an innings limit, so if he can get back to 100% he could pitch the same number of innings they will just come later in the year. Puk has had trouble staying healthy so drafting him on his upside has a lot of risk. Not to mention that he is not a finished product on the mound. He has great stuff and the ability to miss bats but command can be an issue at times. It is hard to draft Puk in mixed leagues knowing he is going to start the year injured and pitch limited innings.
Oscar Mercado left Thursday's game with a wrist injury after diving for a ball. If Mercado were to miss significant time it would likely mean increased playing time for Delino DeShields Jr.. This would impact fantasy because DeShields would be a stolen base threat who has 20+ SB in each of the past four seasons despite limited playing time. This real issue is that DeShields is not a good hitter (.234/.326/.342) which makes him a one-dimensional fantasy player.
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