Will Yuli Gurriel Bounce Back?
Gurriel has had a streaky MLB career since his first full season in 2017, with his two most recent seasons highlighting his volatility. Gurriel was one of the more productive MLB hitters in 2019 with a .884 OPS, but his OPS dipped to a poor .658 in 2020. Amazingly, though, Gurriel's xwOBA was identical in each of the past two seasons at .315. Gurriel went from being one of the league's luckiest hitters in 2019 to one of its unluckiest in 2020 (based on wOBA-xwOBA), driving the volatility in his performance. Unsurprisingly, Fantistics projects Gurriel for a .273 batting average and a .811 OPS in 2021 -- numbers that are closer to his xStats from the past two seasons than either of his results from the past two seasons. With that in mind, Gurriel comes at a massive discount in drafts this year. Gurriel came into 2020 with a 136 ADP, and his price has dropped 122 picks on average this season despite no significant change in his underlying performance. Granted, Gurriel's 2020 ADP came after he posted a career-best OPS with 31 home runs and a near-.300 batting average, but a 122-pick discount seems extreme after Gurriel didn't have a significantly worse under-the-hood performance in 2020. Fantasy managers should consider targeting Gurriel in drafts as a result.
How Much Worse Will Jose Urquidy Be In 2021?
Urquidy was fantastic in five starts last season with a 2.73 ERA, and Fantistics likes him again in 2021 even with some expected regression baked in. It's easy to write off Urquidy's 2020 season as a fluke based on his 4.71 FIP and poor 14.7% strikeout rate, but Urquidy boasts impressive control (5.3% walk rate over the past two seasons) and a deep arsenal that includes four useable pitches. Fantistics projects Urquidy for a fairly desirable 175 innings with a 4.00 ERA and a palatable 8.5 K/9 in 2021, ranking him as the 53rd best pitcher available in drafts. That makes Urquidy a strong value play given his 210 ADP (75th among pitchers), and fantasy managers in need of starting pitchers later in drafts should consider Urquidy as a result.
Alex Bregman's Stand-In
Alex Bregman maintains that his hamstring strain won't keep him sidelined for Opening Day, but hamstring injuries can nag at MLB players during the season and a recent study found that more than 16% of MLB players re-injure their hamstrings. If Bregman winds up missing time in 2021, fantasy managers would do well to look to Aledmys Diaz to mitigate the impact of losing Bregman. Diaz isn't anyone's idea of a star hitter like Bregman is, but the 30-year-old has been remarkably productive against righties over his five-year MLB career, posting a .287/.334/.487 slash line. As long as the Astros aren't facing the lefty-heavy Mariners, that means that Diaz is well worth rostering in most leagues when he plays. Although Diaz still isn't much of a factor on draft day for most fantasy managers because of his lack of regular playing time and middling overall performance, fantasy managers should keep Diaz in mind as a possible DFS option and waiver pickup if Bregman misses time.
Your Late Round Saves Option
With a 192 ADP, Montero is the last closer available in drafts (on average) who doesn't have another relief pitcher breathing down his neck for their team's primary closer job. That alone makes Montero pretty appealing (especially for fantasy managers who prefer to wait on saves), and Fantistics's projection for Montero -- 28 saves with a sub-4.00 ERA -- should only inflate Montero's draft stock. It's not hard to see why Fantistics like Montero, either. Since missing the entire 2018 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Montero has posted a 3.09 ERA and a 3.78 FIP over 46.2 innings. Armed with a fastball that touches the high-90s mph and a pair of whiff-inducing secondary pitches in his slider and changeup (though he seems to be phasing his slider out), Montero has posted a strong 22.7% K-BB% during that time, backed partially by an 11% swinging-strike rate. No other pitchers offer Montero's job security and likely solid overall performance at his price, and fantasy managers should consider targeting him in drafts as a result.
A (Relatively) Rare Power-Hitting Catcher
Murphy is a virtual afterthought in drafts with his 331 ADP, but fantasy managers in deep leagues could do a lot worse at the thinnest offensive position. Although he missed the entire 2020 season with a foot injury and hasn't received consistent playing time since his major-league debut in 2015, Murphy clearly boasts impressive raw power for a catcher and posted a .255 ISO during his minor-league career. That power comes with a fairly steep price -- Murphy has posted a 15% swinging-strike rate so far in the major leagues, and his batting average is unlikely to get far above .260 -- but he's projected to get the lion's share of playing time at catcher for the Mariners this season and profiles as a kind of budget Gary Sanchez. Fantistics projects Murphy to be the 16th most valuable fantasy catcher this season, and although that may not sound like a rousing endorsement, it's fairly high praise for a catcher who is currently the 22nd catcher off of draft boards on average this year.
Can Dylan Moore Maintain His 2020 Breakout?
Dylan Moore enjoyed a mini-breakout year in 2020 with a .855 OPS, 17 home runs, and 12 stolen bases over 38 games, and Fantistics (sort of) likes his chances of maintaining that breakout in 2021. To that end, Fantistics projects Moore to pick up 21 home runs and 42 stolen bases in 2021 -- very desirable production for fantasy managers. It's worth calling out the "sort of" caveat, though, because Fantistics is skeptical of Moore's ability to maintain his .358 OBP and because Seattle's lackluster offense is likely to hurt Moore's run and RBI opportunities in 2021. Overall, fantasy managers will likely have to take a hit in three categories when drafting Moore in 2021, but he's one of only two hitters that Fantsitics projects to eclipse the 40 stolen base mark this year and is unlikely to tank a fantasy team's batting average on his own. That's enough to make Moore worth targeting in drafts, even at his fairly pricy 118 ADP.
Around the League
Michael Taylor (OF - KC)
Taylor was scratched from Thursday's lineup with back tightness, and although manager Mike Matheny is optimistic about Taylor's health and expects him to rejoin the team within the next few days, back injuries can be nagging and fantasy managers should monitor Taylor's health over the next week or so. Taylor has been off to a scorching hot start to spring training so far this year with a 1.467 OPS through his first six games, and he heads into the 2021 season as a potential breakout candidate thanks to recent swing changes and related improved contact skills. Given that Taylor is already being drafted in only the deepest leagues (605 ADP), the news of his back injury shouldn't affect his draft value much (if at all), and he should remain on the radar of fantasy managers as a potential in-season waiver pickup.
Byron Buxton (OF - MIN)
Buxton reportedly cracked one of his teeth while eating steak on Wednesday, and the dental procedures required to fix his tooth will sideline him for a couple of days. Of all injuries, a minor dental injury should affect a hitter's fantasy value the least, and there's no reason for fantasy managers to drop Buxton in their draft ranks because of his cracked tooth. A seemingly perennial breakout candidate, Buxton has hit well over the past two seasons with a .833 OPS, 23 home runs, and 16 stolen bases. Those numbers are impressive considering that Buxton's last two seasons account for only 126 games, and Buxton would be a 30/20 hitter over a 162-game season if he could maintain that production. Fantistics projects Buxton to mostly maintain his strong production in 2021, expecting 30 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Buxton is an attractive draft option at his 114 ADP as a result, even if his teeth aren't in perfect shape.
Juan Soto (OF - WSH)
Soto was scratched from Thursday's lineup with an illness, but manager Dave Martinez has already said that Soto does not have COVID-19 and Soto's removal from the lineup was simply precautionary. One of the league's most exciting players, Soto is coming off of a 2020 season that saw him post a stellar .351/.490/.695 OPS, leading the entire MLB in OBP, SLG, and OPS+ (with an incredible 212 mark). If Soto's 2020 production isn't enough to excite fantasy managers, the 22-year-old declared his intention to steal more bases in 2021 earlier this offseason, boosting his already sky-high fantasy value. Soto combines one of the highest floors in baseball with one of the highest ceilings, and he's an easy first-round pick as a result. Fantasy managers should keep an eye on Soto's illness over the next day or so, but with COVID-19 ruled out it shouldn't keep him sidelined for very long.
Billy Hamilton (OF - CLE)
The Indians reportedly informed Hamilton that he won't make the team's Opening Day roster, and the team is looking for trade partners for the speedster. Once a top prospect thanks to his 80-grade speed, Hamilton's production never materialized at the major league level because of his OBP woes to reach base. Still a valuable defensive player and pinch-runner, Hamilton will probably find his way onto an MLB team at some point this season. Still, Hamilton offers little in the way of fantasy value because of his likely-to-be inconsistent playing time and limited offensive value outside of stolen bases, so fantasy managers can continue staying away from the 30-year-old in drafts.
Xander Bogaerts (SS - BOS)
Bogaerts will make his spring training debut as a DH on Friday, according to manager Alex Cora. Bogaerts has been sidelined since the start of spring training after ramping up his throwing program too quickly and experiencing shoulder soreness during the offseason, so it's encouraging to see his return to the lineup. Bogaerts has maintained that he'll be ready for Opening Day, and fantasy managers should be optimistic about that possibility, especially if he experiences no lingering soreness after Friday's appearance. A five-category contributor for fantasy managers, Bogaerts projects to be the sixth-best fantasy shortstop in drafts for 2021, making him a solid draft value at his 34 ADP.
Kirby Yates (RP - TOR)
Yates made his 2021 spring debut on Thursday, tossing a shutout inning against the Tigers. Encouragingly, Yates' fastball velocity was in a good spot at 93 mph (on average), and there don't appear to be any lingering effects of the elbow injury (bone chips) that forced Yates to miss most of the 2020 season. Arguably the league's top closer in 2019, Fantistics projects Yates to bounce back in 2021 with 36 saves and a 2.78 ERA -- not bad for a pitcher with a 163 ADP. Yates will have Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis waiting in the wings if he falters this season, and his leash may not be very long with the Blue Jays vying for a playoff spot. Still, if Yates can produce at the level that Fantistics expects him to, then he should have no problem hanging on to the closer job for the Blue Jays and should finish the season as one of the league's top fantasy closers.
Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez (SS - CLE)
Rosario has been and will continue to get some practice in the outfield, according to manager Terry Francona. The team's effort to add some versatility to Rosario's game is a sign that Andres Gimenez is leading the position battle for the team's starting shortstop job, a development that should excite fantasy managers. One of the players involved in the Francisco Lindor trade, Gimenez offers valuable speed and solid power, and Fantistics projects the 22-year-old to pick up 15 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 145 games this season. That projection may be a little optimistic given that Rosario still has a shot at taking over the starting job at shortstop, but Gimenez appears to have the edge at this point and fantasy managers should keep that in mind when drafting.
Trent Grisham (OF - SD)
Grisham was pulled from Thursday's game after suffering what manager Jayce Tinger described as a slight hamstring strain. Grisham and Tingler are both optimistic about the outfielder's health and noted that Grisham had dealt with a similar injury before, so it seems unlikely that Grisham is in any danger of missing Opening Day. An exciting young outfielder who posted a .808 OPS with 10 stolen bases in 59 games last season, Grisham projects to be a very valuable fantasy outfielder in 2021, especially considering his likely role as the leadoff hitter for the Padres. Fortunately, Grisham appears to have dodged a major injury, but he'll be re-evaluated on Friday, and fantasy managers should monitor his health over the next couple of days.
Jacob deGrom (SP - NYM)
deGrom was fantastic on Thursday, throwing three perfect innings with a whopping seven strikeouts against the Astros. deGrom looked to be in midseason form with his pitches reaching triple digits, and he comes into the 2021 season looking to get his fourth consecutive top-three finish in NL Cy Young Award voting. Arguably the best fantasy pitcher, Fantistics projects deGrom to post a 2.68 ERA with 250 strikeouts over 208 innings -- good enough to make him the system's top-ranked pitcher. Even if deGrom fails to live up to that lofty expectation, there aren't many pitchers with a higher floor than deGrom, and he's a virtual lock to be a fantasy ace once again in 2021 (barring injuries).
J.T. Realmuto (C - PHI)
Realmuto made 40 throws on Thursday, an encouraging step in his return from a broken thumb. The Phillies still hope to have Realmuto available for Opening Day, and he appears to be on track for that timeline barring any setbacks. The consensus top fantasy catcher, Fantistics projects Realmuto to be as close to a five-category contributor as catchers get in 2021. Combined with the fact that Realmuto consistently racks up 500+ plate appearances, Realmuto's excellent production for his position makes him extremely valuable for fantasy managers, and he's a worthwhile pick in drafts even if he misses a little time to start the season.