Can Luis Arraez challenge for the batting Title?
On a team full of sluggers, Twins do it all Utility Player Luis Arraez may be one of the most valuable fantasy assets. While he exclusively played second base last year, Arraez worked his way around the diamond in 2019 playing 2B,3B,SS and the OF - which is already a plus for fantasy owners. More importantly he has put up a .331/.390/.429 line over 487 PAs the last two years with more walks (44) then strikeouts (40). His average has been aided by a .350 babip - but he was able to sustain a number similar to this throughout his minor league career and his strong contact ability (3.5% swinging strike rate) ensures he will almost always put the ball in play. While he has a low hard hit rate (28%) his soft hit rate is also low (10%) as Arraez has found ways to poke the ball through the infield. He won't ever hit for much power with a .098 ISO and isn't particularly strong on the basepaths (2 steals in 4 attempts lifetime) but a full slate of games could see him challenge for the AL batting title, and deliver close to 100 runs scored.
Rookie of the Year Contender in Kirilloff?
A Consensus Top Prospect the past of the few seasons, Alex Kirilloff enters Spring 2021 with a strong shot to earn a starting nod in the Twins outfield with the exit of Eddie Rosario. Despite having 0 regular season MLB at bats Kirilloff made his MLB debut in the playoffs last season for the Twins, going 1-4 in his only start. He has graded out high in the power and contact department and has a career but his .756 OPS at AA in 2019 with just 9 home runs is certainly a bit underwhelming. That being said he has still put up a sub 20% K rate at each stop in the minors and other then Max Kepler is the only other lefty that has power potential on the roster. The big question is how a lack of playing time in 2020 will play out - I would expect Kirilloff to get a lot of spring at bats so the Twins can see what they have. I think an injury or a truly terrible spring where he exhibits poor plate discipline would be the only thing preventing him from starting. Jake Cave would project as the current 4th outfielder/possible challenger and his career .772 OPS and 25 home runs over 660 PAs could make for an interesting battle if the Twins deem Kirilloff not ready.
Jose Berrios - Solid but not an ace?
While Jose Berrios has operated as the Twins #1 starter the past few years, perhaps its time to tamper our expectations a bit for Berrios. While he only made 12 starts due to the shortened season it was the third straight year he made every start as has turned in remarkedly similar number each of the past 3 seasons (ERA/FIP between 3.68-4.06, 1.14, 1.17 HR/9, a groundball rate of around 41% each year, and a K/9 between 8.7 and 9.7). Many believed Berrios Ceiling was a bit closer to a 3.00 ERA, but he now has a career 4.19 ERA/4.09 FIP over 650 innings making it look more likely this is about what we are going to get from him. The one thing to watch in 2021 is how his fastball looks. Berrios dialed it up to a career high 94.3 mph which saw him post career highs in both K/9 (9.71) and BB rate (3.71). While its nice to see the Ks the high walk rate is concerning, as he appeared to have some control issues with the increased velocity. Berrios should check in at double digits wins for your fantasy team, albeit with an ERA closet to 4 than 3, and could be a nice source of Ks depending on if the fastball velocity stays near where it was a year ago.
Rosenthal worth the Money?
Trevor Rosenthal finalized a 1 year, 11-million-dollar contract with the Athletics. Rosenthal posted back-to-back 40+ save season with the Cardinals from 2014-2015 while being one of the best strikeout artist closers in the mid-2010s, routinely posting a K/9 above 10. He struggled with his control in 2016 posting a 6.5 BB/9, and eventually needed Tommy John Surgery in 2017, and missed all of 2018. He bounced around in 2019 and struggled, but was about as lights as you get last year. He started the year with the Royals and was good - posting a 3.29 ERA, and a 13.8 K/9. His success led him to be traded to the Padres wear he was near perfect - he pitched 10 shutout innings, striking out 17, walking just 1 and notching 4 saves. Overall he was among the 2020 league leaders in many pitching categories, including holding opposing batters to a .132 xba and a 41.8% K rate. Rosenthal has been averaging 98 mph on his fastball since his Tommy John Surgery and one key to his 2020 success was the introduction of a brand new pitch - a slider that averaged 87.8 mph. Rosenthal dialed this pitch up 20% of the time last year and held batter to a .155 batting average and a 36% whiff rate. If he can keep the fastball velocity while mixing in his slider as he did last year you are looking at a potential big-time comeback season from Rosenthal and a strong fantasy asset.
Can Moreland Duplicate his 2020 Campaign?
After signing a 1-year deal with the Athletics, Mitch Moreland should slot in as the Athletics every day DH replacing the recently traded Kris Davis. Moreland was white-hot with the Red Sox last season posting a 1.177 OPS over 22 games but struggled following a trade to San Diego where he hit just .203 with a .609 OPS. Moreland has posted roughly league average numbers throughout his career, sitting on a career 101 wrc+ and a .767 OPS. While Kris Davis's power will be hard to replace, Davis had a severe regression each of the past 2 seasons, with declining average and power numbers. In Moreland, the Athletics know about what they are getting. Moreland should be good for a low 20% K rate, walking near a 10% clip and with a chance to hit 20 home runs with consistent playing time. Moreland doesn't have excessive career splits (.238 vs lefties, .256 vs righties) and is someone I would not draft, but would wait for a hot streak, pounce and enjoy the power surges he tends to go on.
Is 2021 The Matt Chapman MVP year?
While Third Basemen Matt Chapman is a solid fantasy contributor, he is even a better all-around player, having locked up gold gloves in 2018 and 2019, while posting Top-7 MVP finishes. Even though he played in only 37 games due to injury last year Chapman was still able to slug 10 home runs and post a .535 slg% - but that was about the only positives on offense. Chapmans .232 batting average was his lowest over 4 season and he made soft contact at a 20.2% clip - a career high. Most troubling last year was a complete lack of plate discipline as Chapman posted just a 5.3% walk rate and a whooping 35.5% K rate as he swung and missed at a 15.2% rate and had a steep contact drop off 12%. With the shortened season, and the fact that Chapman played through pain for a while in 2020 before electing surgery, I think its wise to pay little attention to those numbers. A healthy Chapman could smash between 30-40 home runs with an .850 or higher OPS, while providing elite defense at third base. From a fantasy perspective where you mostly likely don't care about defense Chapman enters the season as a Easy Top-15 third baseman but could end up with Top 10 numbers if he keeps the power up.
Around the League
Scott Kingery (2B/OF -PHI)
Kingery reported to Phillies camp about 15 pounds lighter and is set to compete for the starting centerfield position. Kingery struggled in 2020 hitting just .159 over 36 games after hitting. 258 with a nearly .800 OPS over 126 games in 2019. Kingery did not make good contact last year as his hard-hit rate dropped from 45% to 32% which in part led to a massive babip drop off .337 to. 200. His plate discipline numbers over his 3 years career have been about on par as you can still expect strikeouts in bunches (27%) with a walk rate below 8%. What made Kingery valuable from 2018-2019 in addition to his position versatility to play both infield and outfield positions was his promise of speed with a bit of power. Kingery slugged 19 home runs in 2019 and hit double digits steals in both 2018 and 2019 but had zero stolen bases year - with limited attempts as he struggled to get on base. Kingery is still worth a late round add in late leagues.
Jake Lamb (3B-ATL)
Lamb signed a Major League Contract with the Braves. Lamb was once a promising young player following hitting 59 home runs between 2016-2017. A shoulder injury caused a serious decline as Lamb was opt injured and didn't see a ton of at bats from 2018-2020. After being released by the Diamondbacks last September he signed with A's and was very good playing for an injured Matt Chapman hitting .267/.327/.556 with 7 extra base hits and 9 RBIs in 13 games. Since the injury he has been hitting the ball harder with a 40%+hard hit rate the past 3 seasons and has been hitting more line drives and less ground balls - including a career high 28% LD rate, and career low 33% groundball rate last year. Austin Riley owns a .736 career OPS, but has a 31% career K rate - and would be Lambs competition - so it is worth watching to see is Lamb has a big spring to earn a spot as a backup.
JD Davis (3B-NYM)
Davis opens camp with the Mets as the favorite to win the third base job. Davis produced a .307/.369/.527 line over 140 games in 2019, his real first shot as a starter after leaving Houston. Davis had a 41% hard hit rate and an elevated .355 babip which led to the higher than anticipated average. He came back down to earth in 56 games last year slashing . 247/.371/.389 as his hard-hit rate dropped to 34% and he had almost a 10% jump in groundballs to 56% as the soft contact pulled his babip down to .318. Davis did however increase his OBP despite a deep average drop thanks to a 13.5% walk rate. Davis worked counts a bit better last year, with his first pitch swinging rate of 33% and 23% chase rates both being career lows. In terms of a 2020 outlook if he can hit the ball with more authority and keep up the K rate he has a chance to be a good fantasy asset. Id look for him to hit in the ballpark of .260 with 20 home runs - with a shot at racking up RBIs in a Mets offense that has guys that do a good job of getting on base hitting in front of him.
Brian Goodwin (OF-PIT)
Goodwin enters camp in competition for a starting outfield spot. The landing spot is a good one for Goodwin who should see an opportunity to play most days for the Pirates provided he makes the roster, and assuming he hits would be a good trade deadline candidate. Goodwin struggled with a .215 batting average last year with the Angels and Reds, but still provided some pop with 6 home runs among 16 extra base hits over 164 PAs. Goodwin played 140 games in 2019 and hit .262 with 17 home runs and 7 steals, his only season getting a almost full season worth of at bats. While he has a career 28% K rate he has been the epitome of league average over his career hitting .250 with a 101 wrc+. From a fantasy perspective he should be mostly left on the waiver wire except in NL only leagues where he should be a late round pick.
Evan White (1B-SEA)
After a 2019 season that saw White hit .293 in AA, White was given a team-friendly 6 year, 24-million dollar contract and subsequently thrown into the fire in 2020 where he struggled to a .177/.252/.346 mark while posting a 41.6% K rate - second worst among qualified hitters last season. White's 15% swinging strike and 65% contact rate are indicative of a player who was overmatched, but the hope is the experience last year will help him get off to hot start quicker this year. Despite his struggles White may have earned a bit of a reputation a clutch hitter last year - he hit .310 with runners on base. It is hard to project exactly what type of season White will put together - but if he can cut his K rate to the low 30s, or even high 20s with his power he has a chance to be one of the more feared hitters in the Mariners lineup.
Brandon Nimmo (OF-NYM)
Nimmo put together a strong 2020 where he slashed .280/.404/.484 with 8 home runs and 33 runs scored. I have been a huge fan of Nimmo for years, and its time other start to draft him highly in fantasy drafts. Nimmo has a career .390 OBP over 1300 PAs and in 2020 he cut his Strikeout rate to 19% while still maintaining a 14.7% BB rate. Nimmo did have a dropoff in 2019 where he hit .221 was missed time to due to injury and again still maintained a .375 OBP. The two things I would watch for in 2021 would be if he can hold his plate discipline over the course of a full season. He had a better swinging strike rate at 8.75 last year and led to slightly better contact overall. Secondly Nimmo see had a drastic drop in his hard-hit rate last year as it was just 21%. Looking into this a bit deeper - it might be him rounding out his game. Nimmo hit 35% of his batted balls to the opposite field and a quick view of his spray charts show he hit more singles and doubles the opposite way rather then pulling them. A healthy Nimmo over a full 162 game schedule would be exciting to see.
Clint Frazier (OF-NYY)
With the Yankees resigning of Brett Gardner Frazier once again finds himself in a position battle. I would think this year would be a little different as Frazier could have the inside track to a starting outfield spot after he put up a big .267/.394/.511 line with 8 home runs, 26 RBIs and 2 stolen bases on 39 games. The 26-year-old not only showed improved power at the plate with his second consecutive .200+ ISO season (.244) but showed vastly improved plate discipline. He will always have some swing and miss tendencies, but he did reduce his K rate slightly to 27.5% but also posted a very strong 15.6% BB rate to fuel the nearly .400 OBP. Frazier was much more selective at the dish, on both balls and strikes as he cut His O-Zone Swing (17.8%) and Zone Swing rate (62.5%) roughly 8%. This allowed him to be more locked in and put up excellent numbers. As always, the Yankees are stacked in the outfield and at DH, but they need to find him a way to get 500+ plate appearances. The situation between him and Brett Gardner during spring should be watched - but I like Frazier a lot in 2021.
Taijuan Walker (SP-NYM)
Walker comes to the Mets on a 3-year deal following putting up a 2.70 ERA and 8.44 K/9 between the Mariners and Blue Jays a year ago. While the surface numbers look good Walker was a bit lucky to get away with an ERA that good as a 1.35 HR/9 and 4.56 FIP paint a bit of a different picture. A year ago his fastball and cutter were his most effective pitches, as he held opposing batters to a .151 and .156 batting average against, respectively. As his velocity declines Walker needs to get back to posting the high groundball rates that he had during his best seasons in the mid-2010s - as he has posted sub-40% groundball rates each of the past 2 years. A healthy Walker could still produce and ERA around 4.00 with the possibly to pick up wins as the Mets, on paper appear to boast one of their better offensive teams they have had in years.
Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B-LAD)
Muncy Produced back-to-back 35 home runs season in 2018 and 2019 while putting up a .974 and .889 OPS across those seasons. Muncy's 2020 .192/.331/.389 certainly was a step backwards, but there is hope he can right the ship in 2021. His averaged held back by a .203 babip thanks to an increased groundball rate of 44%. Muncy did retain his strong walk rate (15%) so a shift back to trying to hit more line drives should bring the average back up to the .250s range. He is already one of the best fantasy values in the games, with eligibility at 3 out of the 4 infield spots. Another 30+ home run season is in the cards.
Raimel Tapia (OF-COL)
Tapia is coming off a strong season where he slashed .321/.369/.402 with 26 runs and 8 stolen bases - but provided little else in the way of fantasy production. His average was aided by a .392 babip - the third highest among qualified hitters a Tapia doesn't hit the ball very hard (31%) hard hit rate and hits most of his balls on the ground (53%) - but he was second in the league with 12 infield hits. He will get a chance to leadoff most days for the Rockies in 2021 and should be a decent source of runs scored and stolen bases, with an outside shot at 20 steals. Owners should be wary as he has one of the more pronounced home and road splits, even for someone playing their home games at Coors Field. He is a .337 at Coors and a .237 hitter on the road.
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