Dodgers Second Base job
There isn't much in the way of competitions in Los Angeles this year, but second base is worth keeping an eye on. For now, Gavin Lux looks to be the favorite, but despite plenty of prospect love, Lux has yet to break through at the big league level, batting just .175/.246/.349 last season in 69 PA. He did show good power with five of his 11 hits going for extra bases (three home runs), but Lux was late to summer camp for unknown reasons and just never got it going. He's still just 23, and across four minor league levels from 2018-2019, Lux batted a nice .336/.410/.560. He could come at a discount this year, but he'll need a big spring to avoid ceding too many at-bats to Chris Taylor.
The signing of Trevor Bauer coupled with David Price's return looks to leave Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May as bullpen options for now. Julio Urias could be LA's Josh Hader in the bullpen, but the organization appears committed to developing Urias as a starter. For now, Blake Treinen would seem to be the favorite to close, but should Kenley Jansen look good this spring, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Dave Roberts give him one final shot to regain his past glory. Brusdar Graterol and his 100 mph fastball is an option for the future, but he's still a work in progress, as the velocity led to just a 5.0 K/9 last year. May and Gonsolin could be closer options at some point as well, and don't rule out Corey Knebel if healthy, as he once saved 39 games in a season (2017). Bottom line: this situation is far from clear right now. Late edit: Jansen is now expected to begin the season as the Dodgers' closer. Expect several heart attacks among Dodgers fans reported.
This is another situation that will likely play out during spring action, as the Giants have no obvious closer as of today. Candidates include Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers, Reyes Moronta, and Matt Wisler. Rogers is interesting, as he is a side-armer who averages in the 82-83 mph range with his fastball, but did record a 1.64 ERA in his last 11 innings in 2020. The right-hander also posted reverse splits which is strange for a side-armer. Imagine if he can figure out how to improve last year's .304 BAA versus lefties. McGee was picked up off the COL scrapheap by the Dodgers last year and proceeded to post a 2.64 ERA with a 41.8% K%. He is probably the top candidate to lead the team in saves right now. Manager Gabe Kapler has also mentioned Moronta as a closer option, though he missed all of last year recovering from shoulder surgery. Moronta also has a 5.1 BB/9 for his career. Last is Wisler, who posted a sparkling 1.07 ERA last year, but also a .231 BABIP, 3.34 FIP, and 5.0 BB/9. He doesn't throw hard, so consider him a very dark horse candidate for saves.
The rotation looks set for now with Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, and Alex Wood. All five are free agents after this season, so the Giants are surely hoping at least 2-3 are throwing well and not injured leading up to the trade deadline. Most of the Giants' top prospects are position players, with the better pitching prospects being a bit further off. It's tough to figure who is next in line, but maybe the Giants look at a guy like Nick Tropeano in the rotation this spring. He's worked as a reliever since 2018, but Tropeano did post a 1.15 ERA and 19:4 K:BB in 15.2 innings out of the Pirates' bullpen in 2020. He struggled with arm injuries working as a starter, but the Giants have nothing to lose by giving him another look in that role.
Rockies First Base
It doesn't take much for a seemingly Quad-A guy like C.J. Cron to shoot up the charts besides signing with the Rockies. Cron probably sits atop the depth chart for now, though he'll face competition from the oft-injured Greg Bird and perhaps Josh Fuentes and even Ryan McMahon should the Rockies look to find a spot on the infield for Brendan Rodgers. Cron hit an interesting .190/.346/.548 last year in 13 games before needing season-ending knee surgery. His eight hits included a single, three doubles, and four home runs. His career line of .257/.312/.464 isn't bad, though for a first baseman, it's uninspiring. Playing in Coors Field however won't hurt. If he takes the job and runs with it while staying healthy, 35+ home runs aren't out of the question despite the new ball.
The Rockies won't be very good this year, but good closers on bad teams still have plenty of fantasy relevance. The leading candidate is probably 35-year-old Daniel Bard, who finished as the closer last year. Incredibly, Bard returned to the majors last year for the first time since 2013 after dealing with the "yips" and basically retiring in 2017. He returned to throw 97+ mph, though he struggled with his control at times. Other options include Scott Oberg, Mychael Givens, and Carlos Estevez. Oberg is probably next in line despite missing all of last year with a right arm issue. Oberg in 2019 posted a 2.25 ERA with five saves, giving him a shot at the job outright with a strong spring.
Randy Arozarena, OF, TB
Arozarena's expectations for 2021 are beyond sky-high at this point. How do you project a guy who was never a top prospect until 2020 who went on to post a 1.023 OPS in an abbreviated season while dominating in the post-season. Looking at his L/R splits, Arozarena has a 1.438 OPS in 27 regular season PA vs LHP and a more modest .830 mark against RHP. Let's say Arozarena is struggling against RHP at the end of April. Would the Rays consider taking away some of his at-bats against RHP and giving them to the lefty-hitting Yoshi Tsutsugo? Don't rule it out. This is an organization that relies heavily on data. Arozarena's rapid ascension last year should give him some slack, but just hope he gets off to a nice start against righties.
Shohei Ohtani, P/DH, LAA
Is reduced velocity a red flag this early in camp? For most guys, probably not, but seeing that Ohtani topped out at 90 mph in a bullpen session Thursday is a little troubling. The Angels are hoping Ohtani can pitch once a week this year while serving as the DH the rest of the time, but this isn't a good start. Ohtani had five quality starts and a 3.31 before tearing his elbow ligament in 2018. He didn't pitch at all in 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning last year with two horrible outings before being shut down. If you're drafting him, don't expect anything as a pitcher and just hope for something near the .883 OPS he posted from 2018-2019.
Trevor Rosenthal, RP, OAK
The A's found their replacement Thursday for departed closer Liam Hendriks, signing Rosenthal to a one-year $11 million deal. Rosenthal's last two years couldn't be more different. After posting a 2.99 ERA with 121 saves in six seasons for the Cardinals, Rosenthal missed all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. 2019 saw him post a 13.50 ERA in 22 games with the Tigers and Nationals before spending last year with the Royals and Padres while recording a 1.90 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 11 saves. He's still just 30 years old, so there appears to be no reason to not expect 30 saves and 90 strikeouts.
Will Smith, RP, ATL
Despite a $39 million contract, manager Brian Snitker has yet to commit to one closer, that being Smith. Smith contracted COVID-19 last summer, pushing his 2020 debut to August 9, and he wasn't the guy he'd been in the past. Smith allowed seven home runs in just 16 innings, pushing his ERA to 4.50. Should Snitker choose to employ Smith earlier in the game against tough lefties, that could lead to opportunities for Chris Martin and A.J. Minter. It's probably best to project Smith as the favorite to lead the tea
m in saves, but that number could be in the range of 20-25 as opposed to 30-40.
A.J. Puk, SP, OAK
Don't overreact too much to these types of reports this early in camp, but Puk reportedly looked impressive in his first throwing session on Wednesday. Shoulder issues kept Puk from pitching at all in 2020, but perhaps the surgery will do wonders for his health. Still a top-100 prospect, Puk has seen his status slip a bit in recent years, as injuries took their toll. When healthy, Puk offers a mid-90s and above fastball, elite slider, and an improving change. If healthy and showing good command, he could be a fantasy bargain.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, TB
Does this guy really need another pitch? Glasnow is reportedly working on a new pitch, a slider/cutter. Looking through his pitch data, Glasnow has used his elite fastball and curve about 95% of the time with the occasional change. We will see how effective the new pitch is, but it sure sounds promising. Glasnow was hit hard in the playoffs, but his K/9 was 14.3 in the regular season. He took a slight step backward with a 3.5 BB/9 and the 1.7 HR/9 weas elevated, but Glasnow has flashed top-10 pitcher upside. That could happen this year if the new pitch develops and he can improve his command and control.
Donovan Solano, SS, SF
Solano will return to the Giants in 2021 despite losing his arbitration case. He's an interesting player, having played in 135 games the past two season with the Giants and batting a solid .328/.365/.463 in 431 PA. He tallied just seven home runs, didn't steal a single base, and walked in just 4.6% of his PA's. That profiles well in deeper leagues in which you need a later-round BA guy, and while he's mainly been a second baseman, his five games at third in 2020 could leave him 3B-eligible in 2021. With the signing of Tommy La Stella, Solano doesn't have an obvious path to everyday at-bats, but he should see time at multiple infield positions, giving him some deeper league value.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, BOS
Rodriguez was in the news Thursday, and it was positive, as manager Alex Cora stated that he was a "full-go" this spring, meaning no limitations. E-Rod of course experienced some COVID-related heart issues that wiped out his 2020 season, but he seems good to go now. 2019 was a breakout type of year for the left-hander, who posted a 3.81 ERA over 34 starts, including a 9.4 K/9 and a career-high 12.1% swinging strike rate. We'd prefer to see his BB/9 lower than the 3.3 he put up that year, but he also saw his GB% spike from 38.7% to 48.5%. Rodriguez will turn 28 in April, and should the team's top starter this year, and should he be able to stay healthy and improve his control, Rodriguez could provide plenty of surplus value.
Jordan Hicks, RP, STL
Looking for some cheap saves? Hicks could be your guy. After missing all of 2020 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hicks looks good to go for 2021. The Cardinals have a number of closer options, including Andrew Miller, Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes if he's not in the rotation, and Carlos Martinez if he's not. Hicks though has been mentioned as a candidate, mainly based on a fastball that averages over 100 mph. That's great, but it also comes with a career 4.7 BB/9, and coming off Tommy John surgery, pitchers often see regression in their control, so Hicks remains a bit of a wild card. I'd expect someone like Gallegos to win the job initially, but if Hicks is throwing 100+ with some precision this spring, he could be tapped to be the Opening Day closer.
Francisco Mejia, C, TB
Mejia was considered by many to be a throw-in involving the Blake Snell deal with the Padres, but can he be something more? Mejia has hit just .225/.282/.386 in 128 MLB games over parts of four seasons, and he gets less than rave reviews for his defense. That said, he was once a top prospect who at the age of 21, batting a strong .297/.346/.490 at the Double-A level. His Triple-A career consists of 541 PA with a .302/.348/.506 slash line and a reasonable 17.2% K%. He's still just 25 and headed to an organization in which the presumed starter, Mike Zunino, has hit just .161/.233/.323 in 118 games the past two seasons. He should get plenty of opportunity to win playing time this spring.