NEW YORK YANKEES:
The Bruce is Loose - Jay Bruce is going to be the Yankees starting 1B for essentially the month of April, and while I'm not thrilled with his skill set at this point in his career, there is no denying that he is a perfect fit for the Yanks. He provides a little bit of lefty balance to a very RH-heavy lineup, and his massive pull/flyball tendencies are obviously tailor-made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium. Combine that with participating in a lineup that is projected to score the most runs in the AL, and you have a guy that, while he likely isn't going to be worth rostering most of the season, should be in most fantasy starting lineups for at least the first three weeks of the season.
Setting the Yankee Rotation - The Yanks have set their starting rotation, with Domingo German slotting in third behind Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber. Jameson Taillon is going to have his innings managed a bit, at least early in the season, and he isn't expected to start until the 6th game of the year. It does give Taillon an easier schedule, catching the O's instead of the Jays to start, but for those of you playing with a shortened first week and expecting him to be out there once, it won't happen. Jordan Montgomery will get the 4th spot, and really, I think the back 3 of the Yankee rotation (after Cole and Kluber) are all a bit underrated still. This lineup will score a ton of runs, and German and Montgomery especially have looked extremely sharp this spring, with Montgomery showing increased velocity once again. He is one of my top SP breakout candidates for 2021. This unfortunately means more waiting for Deivi Garcia, but with the injury histories involved here I'd expect him to get some time in the rotation at some point this season, and he will absolutely be qualified to be in a standard-league lineup when/if that time arrives.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS:
Justin case you weren't listening last time - With not much up in the air involving playing time on the Angels, I'll take this opportunity to beat the drum one more time on Upton, who I still feel is being overlooked a bit. Currently OF72 via ADP, I have Upton projected just inside the top-60 OF...I think last year's (and 2019's) bizarrely low BABIP is scaring some people into thinking he's a lower power version of Joey Gallo. I don't think the AVG will be as much of an issue as it may seem at first glance...I think that it's likely to return to the .250 area, and 25-30 HR shouldn't be a stretch either.
Deep-league diving - One guy that I'm going to be monitoring for deeper leagues is late-bloomer Jose Rojas, who was informed that he will make the Opening Day roster this weekend. Playing time will be tough to come by, as the roster is crowded on the offensive side of the ball, but Rojas has hit at every level (culminating in .293/31/107 in 126 G in 2019 at AAA) and can play 1B, 2B, and 3B. FWIW, he's been excellent this spring and has 10 BB against only 5 K's. If it looks like he's going to find any consistent playing time, I'm going to snap him up in a hurry.
Just Joshin', part I - Confirmation bias alert: I've been big on Josh Bell again this spring, and he's checking all the boxes so far by getting positive mentions from the manager while hitting .391 with 11 XBH (5 2B, 6 HR) in 46 ABs. Love the additional lineup protection that he is enjoying outside of Pittsburgh, as at least some of the 117-run difference in the two offenses will be heading Bell's way in terms of counting stats, and I love the park upgrade that he'll be getting as well. We do have him top-12 at the position, incidentally, so he's definitely a viable starter with 35+ HR upside.
Just Joshin', part II - Josh Harrison was named the Nationals starting 2B this weekend, with Starlin Castro shifting over to 3B to supplant the demoted Carter Kieboom. This seems to be almost entirely based on spring training performance, as Harrison (429/487/657 this spring) hasn't been a positive performer on offense since turning 30 toward the end of a solid 2017 season. This crushes Kieboom's value, although I do believe that he will return and be a starter before the end of the season. The additional positional eligibility for Castro could make him a bit more viable as a bench bat in many formats....he's added some launch angle to his very solid contact ability the past few seasons and is still just 31. I'm not sure he will give you enough to be confident as a starter at MI or CI going into the year, but he's a reasonable high-floor injury replacement type of a guy.
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
Jazz Chisholm (2B/SS - MIA) - As Michael hypothesized a few days ago, Jazz Chisholm was indeed announced as the starting 2B for the Marlins to open the year. There's plenty of upside here: he hits a ton of flyballs to aside the average-plus raw power, he has enough speed to steal 10-20 bases, and although the K rate is high, the swinging strike rate was not. His chase rate was very solid for a 22 year old, so it was more a matter of not swinging at enough strikes....I'd rather start from that skill set than the one of not making enough contact while swinging. I think he's a borderline MI in standard formats with a lower floor but a higher ceiling than many in that tier. Love him in deeper leagues.
Charlie Morton (SP - ATL) - I see Morton as a tremendous value this preseason, coming off of a year in which his velocity was its lowest since leaving Pittsburgh and the corresponding stats dipped concurrently. In one of the instances where I'll give spring numbers quite a bit of validity, Morton's velo is back up to roughly its 2019 level with the Braves (93-95), giving me confidence that we can expect an ERA back in the mid-3.00's. Also, with pitchers hitting again this season, the NL East should be a slight downgrade in opposing batter quality for Morton from the AL East. Right now Morton is being drafted as SP35, and I'm comfortable with him around 10 spots higher on that list, which is probably a 3-round difference. He should absolutely be a target in the range of your 3rd SP this spring.
James Paxton (SP - SEA) - It's just 1 spring start, but as I've mentioned before, I will trust spring training velo rebounds/bumps, and Paxton was right back to peak velocity in his spring debut. Right now his ADP is SP65 at pick 208, and moving back to Seattle I can't imagine that he won't surpass that value by a mile. For me he's a borderline top-50 SP, and the value he can provide is even greater than that since his biggest negative is his injury history. Prior to 2020, he fell into one of my favorite player categories: "good or injured". I think he's a tremendous value at his current level, and he should be a target for us all.
Andrew Vaughn (1B/DH/OF? - CWS) - Just like that, a soon-to-be 23 year old with just 245 PA's of pro experience, none above A-ball, is the likely candidate to start in LF for a team with WS aspirations. Andrew Vaughn is very likely going to be a great hitter for a long time: his pro debut in 2019 wasn't great, but you can see the contact and power chops that are there. This LF thing though.....I don't know. He's not unathletic per se, but he is below-average in terms of speed, something that Luis Robert in CF can only help so much. Still, with the alternative being a reliance on Adam Engel or Leury Garcia after the shoulder injury to Eloy Jimenez that will causes a 5-6 month absence, I can see the gamble paying off here. We had him pegged as a borderline starting CI and a value by 3-4 rounds before this news, so now I have to think that he's a very solid high-upside target as you move past round 15 in standard formats. The potential for 1B/OF eligibility going forward would be an added little bonus.
Josh Rojas (2B - ARI) - Rojas is one of two guys I'm very interested in on the D-Backs that weren't expected to play a lot at the beginning of spring, but now look like they'll be starting right out of the gate (the other being speedster Tim Locastro, who may very well revert to 4th OF when Kole Calhoun returns in a week or two). Josh Rojas is someone that I expected to see produce at the big-league level when he came over from Houston in 2019, but he was disappointing then and even more so in last year's truncated season. Rojas is already impressing with his spring training exit velos, which is nice but hardly convincing, but the 17 HR and 24 SB across 2 levels in just over 100 games in 2019 are really what have me intrigued. Throw in the fact that it comes with a solid contact rate, and that has stolen over 30 in a season twice in the minors, and the 26 yo looks like a guy that could potentially produce across the board offensively now that he's likely the "mostly" full-time 2B. I absolutely value him as a starting MI in 12-team formats right out of the gate, and I think he's a worthwhile addition in all formats already.
Logan Webb (SP - SF) - My opinions on preseason stats have been pretty clear over the years: vastly overrated. Still, Logan Webb has really turned some heads this spring with the Giants, tossing 11 shutout innings and allowing just 3 hits and a walk to go along with 17 strikeouts. The catchers say that his offspeed stuff, particularly his changeup, is vastly improved, and that was already his best pitch by a longshot. He's definitely won a rotation spot and is slated to start game 3 in Seattle next Saturday. Webb is someone that will probably be taken by somebody that believes in spring stats more than I do before I'd be willing to take him, but you could do worse than throw him into the mix for your last few starting pitching spots for sure. The minor league numbers absolutely speak to some potential here.
Josh Lindblom (SP - MIL) - The news that Freddy Peralta won the 5th starter's job in MIL (deservedly so) definitely hurts Josh Lindblom's value a bit, although it was stated that Lindblom would definitely be starting some games. For the time being I'm cutting him in 12-team leagues and smaller, while I'm toying with the idea in my 16-team points league. Definitely more of a "watch list" player now....the rationale for drafting him a few weeks back still exists once (if) the playing time shows up, but as a long reliever/swingman I'm just not all that enthused. Adrian Houser's spot is vulnerable though.......stay tuned.
Odubel Herrera/Roman Quinn (OF - PHI) - The demotion of Scott Kingery brings the battle for the Phillies CF position a little more clarity, leaving Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Adam Haseley still standing. Haseley is probably behind the other two because of a groin strain that cost him some time, and I was really hoping that Quinn would win the job, because he is basically the player that everyone thought that Billy Hamilton could be. He is one of the fastest couple of players in the game, and could easily be a 50+ base stealer with any semblance of hitting (and he isn't a complete cipher with the bat). Unfortunately, I think it's going to be Odubel Herrera that wins the job, which really just doesn't excite me in any way. The 29 year old hit for a solid AVG and stole some bases his first few years in the league, but then he turned into Willie Mays Hayes in Major League 2, sacrificing above average contact and speed for average-at-best power. I'll be watching the news closely the next few days to see what Joe Girardi says about the position, because I still hold out hope that Quinn could be a supremely cheap source of a large number of steals if the news goes his way, but I think he is more likely to be kept as a 5th OF/PR once again. I have little interest in Herrera, even with the 4 HR this spring.
Nate Lowe (1B - TEX) - Nate Lowe was announced as the starting 1B for the Rangers this weekend, resolving one of a handful of interesting position battles for Texas. It looks like Nick Solak will start at 2B, meaning Rougned Odor could be on his way out after a lengthy period of disappointing play, and Leody Taveras still has the inside track on CF and is a neat upside play. Lowe, though, is yet another player for which I'm inclined to take 2020's stats with a hefty dose of salt. Lowe generally makes pretty good contact for a power bat, and his 2019 exit velo (in almost 100 more PA's than 2020) was in the elite range at 91.3. I think there's a lot of power upside and some AVG upside here as well, as his contact rates are solid and he hit .280 at AAA and .340 at AA. I'm excited to see what he can do with a full season, and for me he is a fringy CI play to start with in standard formats. The biggest negative here is the competition for playing time: Ron Guzman looks like he may start to fulfill his significant promise, and Willie Calhoun and Khris Davis both have some claim to DH time when they're healthy. owe will have to be solid out of the gate, or the PT could evaporate. For that reason I like him better as a reserve slot gamble than someone you're banking on to start, but pairing him up with another lower-round veteran gamble like Yuli Gurriel or Joey Votto could enable you to have a good shot at reasonable production at a very low cost for your CI slot.
Pete Fairbanks/Diego Castillo (RP - TB) - Guessing what the Rays will do with their bullpen is forecasting the weather around here, but while I wouldn't be surprised to see Diego Castillo get the early save opportunities, Pete Fairbanks is the guy I want for 2021 in total. Aside from build, the two are fairly similar: control challenged with monster K numbers and very good GB rates. Fairbanks just has a slight edge for me in terms of raw stuff, as the bat-missing numbers illustrate. Both are solid late-game plays in the effort to get lucky in the saves category without spending too much, as Nick Anderson is likely out until late July at least.