Which Former Met will be the Tribe Starting SS?
Of the two shortstops that the Indians acquired from the Mets in exchange for Francisco Lindor this winter, Amed Rosario would seem to be the favorite to open the season as the starter considering his experience advantage over Andres Gimenez. Rosario had a breakout 2019 in which he hit .287 with 15 HR's and 19 SB's, but took a big step back in 2020, slashing .252/.272/.371 with just 4 HR's and not a single SB in 46 games. Nearly all of his metrics declined - His K% rose 4%, his HardHit% dropped by 6%, his EV fell by 3 MPH, and his Launch Angle plummeted from 8.8 to 4.2 degrees. With an ADP of 330, fantasy owners apparently either believe his 2019 was an aberration, or that he won't end up being an everyday starter. Both of things are possible, but an argument can also be made that his 157-game sample in 2019 should outweigh the 46-game sample from 2020. If he does play every day, double-digit HR's and SB's and a decent BA are reasonable expectations, which makes Rosario a solid option if you still need to fill a MI slot in the final rounds of the draft.
Andres Gimenez has gotten off to good start this spring, going 4-7 with a HR and a 3B in the early going. While he only has 49 big-league games under his belt, a strong spring could allow Gimenez to challenge Rosario for the Indians' SS job. Gimenez has never shown much power, but he makes decent contact (21.2% K% last season) and more importantly for fantasy owners, he steals a lot bases. Gimenez combined for 66 SB's in the minors from 2018-19 before swiping 8 bags with the Mets in the abridged 2020 season. If he indeed plays regularly, he's worth a look based on his steals alone, but at this point, that's still a big if.
Who Will Round-Out the Indians' Rotation?
Even after trading four frontline pitchers over the past two years (Bauer, Kluber, Clevinger, and Carrasco), the Indians still look primed to have a strong rotation in 2020. The team seems to have a knack at developing starting pitchers, with their current top-4 starters (Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zack Plesac, and Triston McKenzie) all having emerged over the past 3 seasons. The #5 starter has not yet been determined, but considering the recent track record, every Tribe SP needs to be looked at closely.
Cal Quantrill came over from the Padres in the middle of last season, and pitched well in 2020 (both with SD and CLE) recording a 2.25 ERA with a 31:8 K:BB across 32 IP. Most of that work came in relief, although he did make 3 starts in which his ERA was a shiny 1.69. The Indians are considering him for the 5th spot in their rotation, but he didn't go more than 4 IP in any of his starts last year. He did make 18 starts for the Padres in 2019, recording a 5.69 ERA, 4.59 xFIP, and 1.35 WHIP as a starter. While his ERA dropped significantly last season, his xFIP only fell slightly to 4.27. In short, Quantrill has yet to prove that he can be an above average big-league starter, although this year may be his chance to do just that.
Logan Allen, another former Padre, appears to be Quantrill's main competition for the rotation spot. Allen struck out 2 in 2 scoreless IP in his Spring debut, but has struggled mightily in two MLB seasons, with a career 5.40 ERA, 5.35 xFIP, and an ugly 24:20 K:BB across 38.1 IP. If you're looking for a bright spot, he does have a 48.85 GB%, but other than that, he's statistically been pretty bad. That said, Allen has been considered a pretty good prospect and the Indians have done a good job at getting their young pitchers to succeed, so don't give up all hope yet. Right now though, he's still probably behind Quantrill for a spot in the rotation.
Adam Plutko could also be a rotation option for the Tribe, having made 36 starts for the Indians over the past 3 seasons. Plutko has a longer track than either Quantrill or Allen, but that could actually work against him as he a long track record of mediocrity. He has a career 5.05 ERA (5.58 xFIP) and 6.46 K/9, and the latter number was even worse in 2020 (4.88 K/9). To make matters worse, Plutko has a career 49.8% FB% and 21.6 LA which have led to a disastrous 2.03 HR/9. Unless there's an injury, the Indians are more likely to leave Plutko in the bullpen, and give the starting job to pitcher with a bit more upside.
White Sox Notes
Grandal Recovering from Knee Injury
Yasmani Grandal isn't playing this weekend due a knee injury that has kept him out of spring training thus far, but as of now, there hasn't been any concern that he won't ready to go to start the season. Grandal has been a consistent power source from the catcher position for several years now, averaging 25 HR's and 69 RBI from 2016-2019, and continuing that pace last season. Those numbers are backed up by a HardHit% that usually hovers round 40%, and and EV of around 90. He won't hit for a high average - he hasn't hit the .250 plateau since 2012, and that shouldn't be expected to change after he struck out a career high 29.9% of the time in 2020. But his high K% is not because he struggles to make contact; his SwStr% has remained just under 10% each of the past 3 years. Rather it's because of his extreme patience at the plate. Last year, Grandal's 33.8% Swing% ranked lowest in all of MLB. That patience has made him especially valuable in OBP leagues, as his BB% has been north of 15% in each of the past two seasons. Even in BA leagues, Grandal's consistent power and reliable playing time make him a viable top-5 catcher.
Can Lynn Repeat his 2020 Performance?
On the surface, Lance Lynn followed up his breakout 2019 with an even better 2020, as his ERA and WHIP improved to 3.32 and 1.06 respectively in the shortened campaign. But the advanced metrics actually show some decline; his K% dropped a little over 2%, his HardHit% increased by over 4%, and his FB% also jumped 4% to a worrisome 42.3%. The latter number led to Lynn allowing 1.39 HR/9, the highest mark in his career, and well above his career 0.85 HR/9. Overall, his 4.34 xFIP last season was nearly half a run higher than his 2019 mark, and he benefitted from a good amount of luck in 2020 with a .242 BABIP. And despite his final 2020 ERA looking quite good, you may recall that in September, Lynn struggled to the tune of a 5.51 ERA. Lynn still has plenty of value in fantasy, as he is a workhouse who will likely flirt with 15 wins and 200 K's if he stays healthy. But I would expect an ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00.
Around the League
Odorizzi signs with Astros
Jake Odorizzi has signed a two-year deal with the Astros, who plan on using him to replace the injured Framber Valdezz in their rotation. Odorizzi is hoping to rebound from a lost 2020 in which he only made 4 starts and posted an ugly 6.59 ERA. His 2019 was excellent as he produced a career best 10.08 K/9 en route to a solid 3.51 ERA. His xFIP that season however was 4.33, and he has always been limited by his extreme fly ball tendencies (career 45.4% FB%). The Astros have been known to get a lot out of their starting pitchers, and Odorizzi should be useful if he can replicate something near his 2019 K%, but considering his fly ball history, he should be viewed more as a back of the rotation fantasy option.
DeGrom to start Opening Day
The Mets have announced that Jacob deGrom will be their Opening Day starter, which is of course no surprise considering that deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. An argument could be made for either deGrom, Shane Bieber, or Gerrit Cole to be the 1st pitcher off the board in fantasy drafts this year, but right now I would probably lean towards deGrom. He has the advantage of pitching in the NL and probably has the best home park of that group. But besides for that, there's something to be said for his three year run of deGrominance, in which he has posted an ERA under 2.50, a WHIP under 1.00, and a K% over 30% in each of the past 3 seasons. Last year, he struck out a whopping 38.8% of hitters and had a historic SwStr% of 21.6% (the 2nd highest SwStr% in history is 17.3%!). And it's only a matter of time before the wins start catching up to deGrom, right?
Mike Soroka, ATL
The Braves are still hoping that Soroka will return from his Achilles injury in time to start the 2021 season. Soroka tore his Achilles during the 2020 campaign which limited him to just 3 starts that year. The RHP was expected by many to regress mightily after posting a stellar 2.68 ERA in 2019, but didn't fully get a chance to do so in 2020 due to his injury. However, his limited results weren't great; while the 3.95 ERA wasn't terrible, his 8:7 K:BB in 13.2 IP was not very encouraging. There's no less of a reason to expect regression now than we did a year ago, and now there's also the question of how he rebounds from his injury. Soroka's high GB% (career 50.9%) should allow him to get by with a low K%, but don't expect anything close to his rookie 2019 season.
Yordan Alvarez, HOU
Alvarez missed nearly all of 2020 because of surgery on both his knees, and has yet to play this spring. In his Rookie of the Year 2019 campaign, Alvarez hit 27 HR's in 87 games, which was backed up by a 48.4% HardHit% and 92.2 EV. His .313 BA that season may not be sustainable as he did strike out 25.5% of the time, but his SwStr% was a decent 10.4%, which means that we could see some improvement in his contact rate. He currently has an ADP of 82, which is fair considering the injury risk, but if he turns out to be fully healthy by Opening Day, that price will be a huge bargain.
Adam Haseley, PHI
Haseley suffered a groin injury over the weekend which likely keep him out for Opening Day. Haseley had been a candidate to be the Phillies starting CF this season but that appears to be very unlikely now, at least for the start of the season. Haseley hit a solid .278 in 40 games last season and had a decent 18.5% K%. That number may very well get even better as Haseley posted a miniscule 5.9% SwStr% last season. He has very little fantasy value though, as he has a total of 5 HR's and 4 SB's in 107 career games.
Devin Williams, MIL
Williams (shoulder) is still a couple weeks away from being able to pitch in spring games, but the Brewers are still confident that he will be ready to go when the season begins. Williams was arguably the best reliever in baseball last year, allowing just 1 ER in 27 IP and striking out 53% of the batters he faced. Even as a setup man, Williams is worth drafting in the mid-to-late rounds because of his K's and ratios, and being that the Brewers have not always used Josh Hader as a typical closer, Williams may end up grabbing a few saves here and there as well.
Bobby Dalbec, BOS
Dalbec burst onto the scene in 2020 hitting 8 HR's in 23 games for the Red Sox including hitting HR's in 5 games in a row at one point. The power wasn't totally a fluke as he did have a 43.9% HardHit% and hit FB's at an identical 43.9% clip. But his .263 BA was a fluke considering that he struck out at an unacceptable 42.4% rate. Dalbec's spring training thus far has been more of the same; he has 3 HR's and 5 K's in 12 PA's. If he plays every day for the Red Sox, he can be a solid source of power late in drafts, although you should expect him to hurt your BA.
Jo Adell, LAA
Adell has been mostly ignored in fantasy drafts this year after an atrocious 2020 in which he hit .161 with 3 HR's and a 41.7% K% across 38 games. This spring, Adell has showed some patience at the plate with 5 BB's in 13 PA's, compared to his 5.3% BB% from a year ago. If this is indicative of any sort of improvement in terms of plate discipline, Adell could be primed for a much better season than he had as a rookie. Adell is considered a top prospect with strong power potential, and while it's unknown if that potential will show this season, he's a high upside target who will likely be available at the end of drafts.