New Home, Sweet Home for the Rangers
Every team is heading into unfamiliar territory in this unusual season but the Texas Rangers have another uncertainty facing them. They are moving across the parking lot from Globe Life Park to Globe Life Field. There are some difference in dimensions between the two parks, with the fences at the new stadium being a little closer along the LF line, 18 feet closer in the LCF power alley, 7 feet deeper in CF, and about the same in the RCF power alley and the RF line. The big difference will be in the retractable roof. That should have an effect of seeing the pitchers wilt less in the Texas heat. The effects of the park will need to be seen to evaluate. RH hitters might have some more power with the closer fences, but that could get balanced out by the effects of being enclosed.
Corey Kluber- P- TEX- Kluber was a big acquisition for the Rangers, who are banking on his return from a broken arm suffered in 2019. If his first two outings of summer camp are any indication they are going to get a payoff. Last Thursday Kluber went 6+ IP, allowing just 2 hits and walking none while striking out 9. This followed an outing on July 4 when he threw 85 pitches, giving up a homer, walking one, and striking out 7. Kluber looks to be fully recovered from his broken arm and ready to get off to a hot start.
Joey Gallo- OF- TEX- Joey Gallo had his summer camp delayed as he tested positive for Covid-19 on two saliva tests in late June. He is not sure that he actually had Covid-19 as he was asymptomatic and tested negative twice with nasal swabs and on an antibody test. Gallo is back working out with the Rangers after testing negative multiple times. He is a player who tends to be streaky and may be on a short leash in this compressed season. If Gallo produces like he did before an oblique strain landed him on the Il last June he will be extremely valuable. He slashed .276/.421/.653 with 17 homers, 41 runs and 41 RBI in 214 PAs in that span. Gallo came back for a month after that injury and played until a broken hamate bone ended his season. During that time he slashed .197/.305/.465 with a 45.8% K%. He still hit 5 homers in 83 PAs. In 2018 Gallo slugged 40 homers but only the month of August (when he hit .294) kept his season average above the Mendoza line. In his career, Gallo has shown prodigious power but been plagued with a free swinging approach that has led to his K%. his higher average in the first two months of 2019 was bolstered by a .385 BABIP, which is not something that can be depended on. In this season Gallo would represent a high risk that could produce a lot of homers but drag in other categories.
The Brewers Last Season at "Miller Park"
Milwaukee aren't building a new stadium, but they will be changing the name on Miller Park to American Family Field in 2021. The Brewers find themselves in a very competitive division which is up for grabs among several teams. Milwaukee has Christian Yelich to give them a good starting spot, but it may come down to which stays hottest longest for 60 games. The Brewers have some players who could break out and help push them over the finish line.
Luis Urias- SS- MIL- Urias was a significant acquisition for the Brewers. It was hoped that he could challenge Orlando Arcia for the starting SS job. Urias turned 23 last month and while his .221/.318/.331 slash line in 83 games with the Padres over the past two seasons isn't impressive in itself, his minor league slash line is .308/.397/.433 and .305/.403/.511 at AAA. Adjustment at the major league level should come. But, it will have to wait. He had surgery on his hamate bone that kept him out of spring training and then tested positive for Covid-19, which has delayed his summer camp. Arias is likely to keep the bulk of playing time until Urias can get into camp and then get some work to be up to speed.
Josh Hader- RP- MIL- Hader could be a player who benefits from the crazy way this season is going to play out. He has pitched 157 innings over the past two seasons. Getting a long break will be a benefit for him. Hader's K/9 increased from an already-impressive 15.82 in 2018 to 16.41 last season. His usage pattern will shape a good part of his fantasy value. Hader could stay in the closer role, where he would collect a good number of saves. He could also end up being used heavily for multiple innings which could make him contribute Ks at almost the rate of a starter and be a positive in the ERA column as well. With starters not necessarily expected to get deep into games and rotations possibly being extended past five men, having Hader put in three 2 IP-outings in a week would make him close to the equivalent of an elite starter.
Wait 'Til Next Year for the Birds
In a year where a large number of teams consider themselves as contenders due to the compressed nature of the season, Baltimore is not one of them. The Orioles are once again contenders for the first pick in next year's draft. So the focus is going to be more on the future for the Birds.
Richie Martin- SS- BAL- Martin had a share of the starting SS position in Baltimore by the end of his rookie campaign last year. His .208/.260/.322 slash line in 309 PAs didn't exactly set the world on fire. With the signing of Jose Iglesias during the offseason, Martin was relegated to fighting for a utility spot. With his 10 SBs in limited time in 2018 he could have had some value in real baseball as a specialist for the new extra inning rule. That is not going to happen now. Martin was diagnosed with a broken bone in his wrist. He will undergo surgery Wednesday. Recovery time will not enable him to return before the 2020 season wraps up. Martin will need to pick up his challenge for a roster spot in spring of 2021.
John Means- P- BAL- Means was named as the Opening Day starter for the Orioles. In 2019 he was runner-up as AL Rookie of the Year with a 12-11 record for the last-place Orioles and a 3.60 ERA in 155 IP. Means benefited from a bit of luck as his FIP was 4.41. Means is working on adding a curveball to his fastball/changeup repertoire. The changeup was added as an effective pitch last year so if there are similar results from the curve Means could overperform the rest of his team again. With the lack of competitive status for the Orioles, Means will likely be left in the rotation for the duration of the short season. There won't be a reason to pull him for an occasional rough start.
The rest of MLB is also navigating through some uncharted territory. Between injuries costing a bigger percentage of the season and some players not making appearances at all, it's important to keep an eye on what is happening from a day-to-day basis and look for help where you can.
Ender Inciarte- OF- ATL- Inciarte has been a notorious slow starter over the course of his career. He has slashed .259/.313/.347 In the first half in his six major league seasons. In the second halves Inciarte owns a slash line of .314/.364/.436. This might lead one to believe that in this abbreviated 2020 season Inciarte would be a p[layer to avoid. However, looking a little deeper into his career trends his extreme splits (other than 2017 when he was consistent across the entire season) line up more closely with when he goes from cold to hot rather than after how many games. In 2014-2016 Inciarte missed significant time before the All Star break in each season. Then he heated up once the break was over. In 2018 he continued this trend while playing in all but 6 of Atlanta's games. Last year, however, Inciarte really held to his pattern in a season where he only played in 65 games due to injury. He was out after May 14th and had a slash line of .218/.300/.323 when he went on the IL with back problems. Inciarte went on a rehab assignment from July 1- July 17. He slashed .205/.286/.227 during the stint. Inciarte came back from the Il on July 18 and slashed .293/.411/.520 until a hamstring injury ended his season on August 16. In 2020 he will play no games before the middle of July, his traditional cold time. That is a strong positive for Inciarte.
Trea Turner- SS- WAS- Turner should provide some major help in one of the hardest categories to find, the SB. Nationals manager Dave Martinez has said that he will be pushing Turner on the basepaths. Martinez expects Turner to challenge for the lead in that category. That's not much of a reach considering he led in 2018 and finished second in 2019. Turner missed some time last year but posted a .298/.353/.497 slash line and hit 19 homers in 122 games. He should be at the top of the Washington order and pick up plenty of ABs. While the Rays, Mets, Yankees and Braves are projected to have relatively good runs against/game the other 5 teams Washington will be facing are in the bottom 13 of that stat so Turner should get chances against relatively weak pitching.
Mike Yastrzemski- OF- SF- Yastrzemski is a definite possibility to be at the top of the order and in CF for the Giants when the season finally starts. That will get him plenty of ABs. Yastrzemski slashed .272/.334/.518 in his MLB debut last season. He had a .325 BABIP but that wasn't that out of the ordinary compared to his minor league record. The power burst of 21 homers in 411 was not expected, but it looks like his power was genuine with a 43.3% Hard%. Yastrzemski looks like a solid pick that can probably be had for a relatively low cost.
Christian Walker- 1B- ARI- Walker is slated to start his second season as the Diamondbacks 1B, after slashing .259/.348/.476 in 2019. He slugged 29 homers and increased his Batting EYE to 0.43. Walker did have some streakiness last year. In the first month of the season he slashed .307/.381/.614 and then followed up with a .208/.283/.375 May. For the most part, though, even when part of his game suffered there was still value. An example is when he batted just .239 in July he still slugged .522. Walker will likely carry value through all 60 games.
Jake Odorizzi- P- MIN- Odorizzi will have a tough time equaling the 0.91 HR/9 he posted last season and created the differential between his ERA of 3.51 and xFIP of 4.33. However, the Twins' schedule in this shortened season is favorable. Of the 9 teams Minnesota will be facing, 7 of them are in the bottom 16 in projected runs/game. Four of them are in the bottom 10. That will make things easier on Odorizzi and other Minnesota pitchers. If he can come at least close to the 10.08 K/9 he posted in 2019 he will maintain decent value.
Julio Teheran- P- LAA- Teheran had a Covid 19 test last week, after experiencing symptoms. He had been quoted as saying that he hoped to report to the Angels this past weekend but that evidently didn't happen. If Teheran received an unannounced positive result then he will likely be out for longer. That would keep him off the Opening Day roster and his return to action would wait until he builds up to being able to start.
Danny Jansen- C- TOR- Jansen has the starting C job for Toronto, at least for now. His .207/.279/.360 slash line in 2019 was disappointing. It was negatively impacted by a .230 BABIP, so some better luck would help him this season. He also showed some plashes of power, with 8 homers in 128 ABs across July and August. Jansen hit in the minors and is expected to do so in the majors. He was reportedly very focused on his defense last year and that took away from his offense. Her will have a chance to improve in the short season but his leash might be short. If he gets in a prolonged slump Reese McGuire may see more playing time.
Byron Buxton- OF- MIN- Buxton was taken off the field in a cart during the Twins' intrasquad scrimmage yesterday. He fell to the ground while tracking a fly ball and couldn't leave the field under his own power. Manager Rocco Baldelli said that initial examination showed no serious injury but Buxton would be looked at some more.
Blake Snell- P- TB- Snell threw 3 IP in an outside workout yesterday. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash is having some of his pitchers do some work outside The Trop to get used to pitching outdoors again. Snell's elbow seems to be fine so he is a strong candidate to bounce back in this shortened season. With the 60-game schedule he will be under fewer workload restrictions than were planned before the season got drastically trimmed.
Freddie Freeman- 1B- ATL- Freeman has yet to test negative for Covid 19 in consecutive tests. That continues to keep him out of summer camp and lessens the chances of him being ready for Opening Day. Freeman reportedly is feeling fine now. He had suffered from aches and chills as the illness worked its way through him. Freeman slugged a career-high 38 homers last year, slashing .295/.389/.549. He was far more effective against RH pitching, with a .310/.416/.589 slash line against them and only .255/.309/.441 against southpaws. That broke a 3-year streak of Freeman not having as extreme splits as he did in his early career.
Other Player News: As he works his way back from TJS, Jordan Hicks is opting out of the season. On the surface, this would push Giovanny Gallegos up in value, except he's yet to report from Mexico because of Pandemic related travel issues. Eric Thames is headed towards an everyday role for the Nats this season. AZ Christian Walker has a right groin strain, and is day to day. Byron Buxton suffered a left foot injury while shagging balls in the outfield. Imaging results are due back on Tuesday. It could be a significant injury. Charlie Blackmon is in camp. Aaron Judge (neck) is taking swings and expected to be ready for the season.