Dinelson Lamet's ADP Continues to Plummet
Dinelson Lamet still hasn't made his Cactus League debut after recovering from a biceps injury that ended his 2020 season in September and required a platelet-rich plasma injection. Lamet has been participating in simulated games and threw multiple innings for the first time on Thursday. This uncertainty, along with the news that he wasn't even throwing his slider, has sent Lamet's ADP falling over the last month by nearly 27%. The important thing to note, however, is that he hasn't actually encountered a setback - the team is merely being cautious. Factoring in this risk is important, but at the same time, being able to draft a pitcher of Lamet's quality around pick 100 is along the lines of grand theft auto. Lamet's 14% SwStr rate and 69% contact rate are numbers seen amongst the league's elite and when if he can repeat his 7.5% walk rate from 2020, he has all the necessary pieces to return tremendous value for players willing to take on a little risk in the middle rounds of their drafts.
Padres Dynamic Bullpen Leads to a Headache for Fantasy Owners
The Padres have four different pitchers with previous closing experience - Emilio Pagán, Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz or Keone Kela. Each brings a slightly different approach to the table and ultimately it could create a shared closing experience. Manager Jayce Tingler even said the following, "Are we open to a committee? Open to matchups? We are. We'd love to come out of here saying this is our ninth-inning guy and move forward. This early, I'm not interested in giving anyone that title. Sometimes, the key outs are in the seventh or eighth." Reading between the lines, this suggests he's going to use the best arm in the highest leverage situation. Of the group at the back of the bullpen, Drew Pomeranz has the best overall arm and filled in successfully as the team's closer at the end of 2020. On the flip side, Mark Melancon doesn't necessarily have the "stuff", but he has the intangibles - 205 career saves. The team specifically brought in the veteran this off-season, but the same could be true for Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately for him, as dominant as he has been against righties, left-handers have absolutely crushed him. Handedness splits are a tough thing for closers to overcome. Finally we have Keone Kela. Through 4 innings this spring, Kela has quietly posted a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk rate and over his career, he has pretty even splits. Based on his experience, Melancon seems the most likely candidate to get the first chance at saves, with Pomeranz the most likely candidate to be the high leverage reliever. Regardless, whoever gets the first save of the season for the Padres is unlikely to be the only reliever to get a save for the team this year.
The Royals Rotation Takes Shape - Singer Leads the Way
As it currently stands, the Kansas City Royals will enter the 2021 season with four starting pitchers - Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Danny Duffy, and Mike Minor. How many of those are mixed league relevant? Probably one - possibly two. Former 1st round selection Brady Singer has pitched great this spring, posting a 15:4 strikeout-to-walk rate (interestingly, 3 of those walks were hit batters) with a 3.75 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP. Singer has never posted huge strikeout numbers - relying more on inducing groundball out - but the upped strikeout rate this spring is a positive sign as he continue to tweak and develop his repertoire. With a 10 MPH delta between his sinker and slider, Singer keeps hitters off balance and the higher spring strikeouts could be a leading indicator of a breakout season in 2021.
Whit Being Whit....or Is He?
Steals are hard enough to find, let alone when our safe sources of saves start to age. Now 32, Whit Merrifield has been one of those sources of steals for each of the last four years. Pair that history with his eligibility at a shallow second base and Merrifield is once again being selected within the first few rounds. This spring, Merrifield is slashing .417/.462/.583 but he has yet to get an extra base hit, nor has he successfully stolen a base (has been caught twice). The lack of steals over a small sample size of 9 games shouldn't be overly concerning, especially since he has just 3 stolen bases since 2019 spring training. The two caught stealings, however, is that an ominous sign to come? Time will tell, but it's worth mentioning he only got caught 3 times in 60 games in 2020. Don't overreact yet, players tend to work on things during the spring, but at some point all players age and lose a step.
Chase the Contract They Said...
When in doubt who will collect saves for a team, the old-school fantasy baseball advice is to always follow the money. In the Cubs case, that would seem to indicate Craig Kimbrel should be indoctrined as the team's closer in 2021. Coming off a season where he lost the closing job just one week into the 2020 season, however, the closer competition is in full force for the Chicago Cubs. The results haven't been pretty for Kimbrel (8H and 9 ER in 3.2 innings), but with last year's closer (Jeremy Jeffress) off the team's roster, there's little competition to push him. The Cubs did add Brandon Workman and while the team refuses to suggest there's a closer controversy, Workman has tallied 8 strikeouts over 5 scoreless innings. From an ADP perspective, Kimbrel has an average draft position of 177th, while Workman is checking in at 585th. At this point, it's foolish to draft Kimbrel and lock him in for anything more than a handful of saves, regardless of what the money says.
Joc Pederson Seems To Be Fitting in Just Fine with the Cubs
The Cubs acquisition of Joc Pederson has done wonders for the fantasy value, raising his ADP 28% since February 1st. Pederson will be a regular in the Cubs lineup, a change from a part-time player that he was with the Dodgers. Pederson has always been a batting average risk and while he used to take more walks earlier in his career, those have disappeared the last several seasons, which also make him an OBP risk. On the bright side, Pederson crushes the baseball (44% hard hit rate). Playing in Wrigley should help, but don't expect Pederson to be a completely different player since his contact and chase rates remain suspect. Nobody has told Joc Pederson that this spring, however. Through 29 at-bats, Pederson has 5 home runs and 10 runs batted in while slashing .448/.514/1.069.
Ian Anderson - Ian Anderson was dominant for the Braves on Friday as he begins to stretch out, striking out nine batters on 4.1 innings pitched. Overall, he has a sparkling 18:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In NFBC drafts since February 1st, he has averaged an ADP around 102nd. Walks have plagued Anderson for most of his career, but with a nice 72% contact rate and 12% swinging strike rate, he manages to limit the damage. With that said, he'll need to cut down on the free passes to truly take the next step forward, especially since his 4.5% HR/FB rate from 2020 will be unsustainable to maintain.
Randy Dobnak - Randy Dobnak is making a strong case to be included in the Twins rotation, twirling 3.1 innings of one hit ball with 5 strikeouts. Through 3 appearances and 8.2 innings pitched, he has 13 strikeouts and no walks. Dobnak has done well to limit his quality of contact allowed at the major league level, but we haven't yet seen this type of strikeout upside from him despite averaging 10.5% SwStr% since 2019. Dobnak is currently going 502nd in NFBC drafts, which seems to be criminally undervalued based on his recent appearances.
Kolten Wong - Kolten Wong signed with the Brewers on February 2nd and since then, his average draft position has raised 34% and is now being drafted 252nd overall. Wong has been the Brewers primary leadoff hitter during Spring Training and with Lorenzo Cain likely missing opening day with a quad injury, Wong should have the first at-bat of the season for the Brewers. The second baseman has carried substantial value in OBP leagues over the last several seasons due in large part to his plus plate approach and solid batting EYE (career .50 and .67 in 2021). A potentially sneaky source of speed in the mid-to-late rounds in drafts, Wong seems undervalued.
CJ Cron - The hype around players in Coors Field is always high - mile high. Jokes aside, Ian Desmond's decision to forego the 2021 season opens the door for newly acquired CJ Cron to take control of first base. Cron has bounced around a bit after breaking in with the Angels - floating between Tampa, Minnesota and Detroit. Cron has been crushing the baseball in recent seasons, averaging a 14.5% barrel rate since 2019. If he can maintain that rate in Colorado, there's massive upside to his current 242nd ADP, despite the fact that rate has already risen 32% since February 1st.
Mike Foltynewicz - One of the players with the biggest potential for late-draft season helium is Mike Foltynewicz, who made his spring earlier a few weeks ago and has now notched three appearances. The Braves designated him for assignment after one bad start last season and he was signed by Texas in November. Folty was once a well-thought of prospect, but he has failed to consistently deliver at the major league level. The righty has had mixed results this spring, but there is little competition in the Rangers rotation so he should open the year as a starter. Folty is being outside most mixed leagues, but he would be an AL-only option.
Andrew Vaughn - The stars seem to be aligning for top White Sox prospect, Andrew Vaughn, who is projected to be the team's designated hitter this season. At 22, Vaughn is in talks with the team in regards to an extension, something that would avoid any service time manipulation by the team and improving his chances to break camp with the team. Vaughn last played in 2019 when he was at the high-A level, but he showed an advanced plate approach (0.94 batting EYE) with a plus hit tool and above average power. Jose Abreu will be a free agent after next season, so Vaughn breaking camp with the team is certainly ahead of the original schedule, but his strong spring has forced the team's hand. In 34 at-bats, he is slashing .294/.415/.500 with 2 home runs, 5 RBIs and a stolen base.
Shohei Ohtani - Whether or not Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound with the same dominance he flashed pre-TMJ surgery remains to be seen, but it's clear his bat is in mid-season form. Ohtani hit two home runs in a game earlier this week and he's now hitting .600/.609/1.200 with 4 home runs and 7 runs batted in over 20 at-bats. As a result, Ohtani's ADP has risen from 236th on February 1st to 197th now. On the mound, Ohtani hasn't seen the same level of success but his fastball has touched 101 MPH and he's back to averaging upper 90's with the pitch. Ohtani is a nice value, particularly in leagues where you get him as both a hitter and pitcher.
Jameson Taillon - Signing with the Yankees seems to have polished the shine back onto Jameson Taillon. A 6'5" righty, Taillon has never managed to unlock the high end velocity some scouts believed he should have been able to achieve with his body type. Re-joining Gerrit Cole might be good for the former Pirate, particularly since Cole dealt with the same underachiever comparisons before unlocking his potential in Houston. Regardless, Taillon's near-50% groundball rate will play well in Yankee Stadium, but drafters are noticing him because his ADP has risen about 12% over the last month.
Dylan Cease - The White Sox have so many dynamic players that it's easy to forget about Dylan Cease. The 25 year old righty has struggled with his control for most of his minor league and major league career, but he has always been a high strikeout pitcher until 2020 when his strikeout rate plummeted. Cease has tweaked his mechanics and both hid coaches and catchers been vocal about his improvements during Spring Training. Cease is slated to be the SP4 for the White Sox in 2021. He's a nice dynasty stash and a decent flier in deeper mixed leagues for the upcoming season.
Alex Kirilloff - One of the best hitting prospects in the league, Alex Kiriloff is in the midst of a competition to win the Twins left field job. Unfortunately, he has gotten off to a slow start - just 4 hits in 28 at-bats with 8 strikeouts. The strikeouts are interesting because he hasn't struggled with that aspect of his game in the minor leagues - posting an 18.5% or lower strikeout rate in each of his minor league seasons. It's a small sample, but it's concerning because it puts the Twins in an interesting predicament. Clearly he needs at-bats, but with the Triple-A season's delayed start, the only way he will see regular live game action is on the big league roster. He'll be an interesting player to track over the next two weeks because he still has a chance to break with the big club and has big time fantasy upside with regular at-bats.