Jose Berrios (SP - TOR) - We have many of the top 30 SPs as slight overdrafts relative to projected value right now, but Berrios is one of the few pitchers that we feel is being slightly ignored. Our philosophy has gradually come around to "walks might be the most important thing for SPs" over the past few years, and Berrios made tremendous strides in harnessing his excellent raw stuff last season, dropping his walk rate to a career-low 2.11 per 9. The K rate was mostly unchanged with 2% fewer swinging strikes and 2% more called strikes, and the GB rate jumped a couple of percent, so overall the xFIP dropped by 7/10 of a run, which is a fairly massive move. The offensive improvement and move back to a balanced schedule should result in a few more wins for him, which might be enough to push him into the top-12 SPs for 2022 (he's currently going 21st). A few of the names going in front of him that I prefer Berrios to include Freddy Peralta, Max Fried, and Lance Lynn.
Pablo Lopez (SP - MIA) - To add to Menachem's comment from over the weekend, Pablo Lopez is becoming everything we look for in a SP: excellent control (2.2-2.85 BB/9 every year), able to miss bats (K/9 last 4 years: 7.1, 7.7, 9.3, 10.1), and keeps the ball down (career GB% of 48.7). His exit velocity against is below average, his fastball velo has increased in every MLB season, and the chase rate exploded to almost 37.5% last year. Last year's shoulder injury is the only red flag, but his spring debut has diminished concern there to a large extent. We have him ranked 23rd among SP, while he's currently being drafted 39th. I think he is one of the better values at any position right now.
Rhys Hoskins (1B - PHI) - Rhys Hoskins is one player that I think can really benefit from the recent acquisitions of Schwarber and Castellanos. I think that people have this misconception of what Hoskins is capable of because of his low AVG/high power approach. Hoskins actually has above average contact ability, but his pull happy flyball tendencies keep the BABIP extremely low. Last season he dropped the LA 3 degrees and the pull% by 4, yet the BABIP was a bit lower than before....I do believe he was a bit unlucky, since the exit velo jumped to 91.2 and the barrel rate climbed to a massive 17%. Hoskins hit 27 HR with 71 RBI while missing 55 G last season, and the supporting cast is now better than before. The .245/30/85 area that he's been in seems like the floor to me barring injury, and I think there's significant upside. We have him ranked 6th among 1B, and he's currently being drafted 19th. Our projections have him valued as a 6th round pick, but I doubt you have to draft him there....if he gets to round 9 or 10 he looks to be an excellent value there (his ADP is in round 11).
Oneil Cruz (SS - PIT) - Cruz is making an early bid to travel north with the Pirates out of spring training, bashing a couple of homers and a few other hard-hit, balls in just the first few contests. Although it's unlikely that he opens the season anywhere but AAA, it is likely that he comes up fairly early in the season, and just to entice you further: Cruz hit 5 balls at the big-league level last season, and only 6 players in MLB hit a ball harder than he did all year. This kid has monster power with some contact issues....the ceiling is as good as anyone's. He definitely should be on your radar already, and I do think that he should be drafted in all formats despite the uncertainty.
Shane Baz (SP - TB) - Baz had minor surgery on Monday to remove a "loose body" from the elbow of his pitching arm. In a way, this could be a great thing for drafting purposes, because Baz is only expected to miss 4-6 weeks as he halts his throwing program for 2-3 weeks and then ramps back up. This means he likely wouldn't be limited later in the year as he would almost certainly have been otherwise, and it will probably scare many off from selecting him with the guaranteed lack of production in April and probably at least part of May. 3/4 of a season of Baz could be well worth it if he drops to SP50 or lower, and I think it's still very likely that he finishes the season as a top-40 SP.
Brandon Belt (1B - SF) - Belt is perpetually the forgotten man at 1B, this year being drafted 31st at the position in the 19th round (12-team leagues) on average. Belt has really turned up the power post-COVID though, hitting 38 HR in 148 G between 2020 and 2021. The launch angle is so high that it really shows what a quality hitter he is that he can maintain at least a decent AVG despite hitting 50% flyballs, and he controls the strike zone extremely well, resulting in solid OBPs year in/year out. The barrel rates have been among the league leaders the past few years, and the exit velo has climbed back above average as well. The general dislike for Belt allows you the opportunity to pick up a decent CI so late in the draft....the only issue here is that he tends to miss 30-50% of the season one out of every 2-3 years. It adds an element of risk, but for the price it's one I'm inclined to accept.
Josh Rojas (2/3/S - ARI) - Unbeknownst to many, Josh Rojas's shoulder was a major problem for him down the stretch last season, and you can certainly see it in the splits. Rojas hit 14 HR and stole 10 bases last year between AAA and MLB, but from 8/15 through the end of the year hit 0 homers and swiped 2 bags. His contact skills took a big step forward last year while his exit velo jumped into the average range, so it's not a stretch at all to think that he could approach 20 homers and 15 steals with a helping AVG if he's fully healthy. Add in his positional flexibility (2B/SS/3B/OF) and I think he's a very useful player in deeper leagues, and there's upside here as well (in 2019 he had 25 HR and 37 SB between 3 levels). His discerning eye makes him even more valuable in OBP-based formats. I think there's a strong possibility that he will be MI-viable in standard formats as well, and with an ADP in round 20 the cost is very reasonable.
Max Muncy (1/2/3 - LAD) - It was a great sign on Monday for Max Muncy, as he played a few innings at 3B for the first time this spring, giving hope that he will be ready to play the field on Opening Day if needed. Muncy is expected to play 1B, 2B, 3B, and DH this year for LA, and if he can maintain last year's gains in exit velo and contact rate, he should prove to be a valuable, versatile player for any squad. His ADP continues to get earlier and earlier as the positive health news keeps coming, but if he lasts much past the 10th round I love the flexibility and power that he provides.
Matthew Boyd (SP - SF) - One of my "pet cats", Matthew Boyd, signed in about as good a place as possible for a pitcher over the weekend, inking a 1-year deal with SF. It was 24 months ago that Boyd, coming off a sneaky good 2019, looked unhittable in spring training with much improved breaking stuff and the best velo of his career. Then came COVID, and he hasn't looked the same since. The arm talent is there at times though, and one can always hope that the flexor tendon repair that he suffered early last fall can rekindle the best in Boyd. Pitching in SF could be a huge boost for him, but as he isn't likely to return until around the All-Star break, he's best left on the wire in most formats until we have a clearer ETA. It is absolutely a situation to monitor, as we've all seen what can happen when average pitchers move to SF, particularly those whose biggest issue is the long ball.
Max Meyer (SP - MIA) - Meyer looked fantastic against a semi-legitimate lineup on Monday, tossing 4 perfect innings with 5 K's against a Mets lineup featuring a couple of potential starters and 4-5 likely 25-man roster players. He was throwing 96-98 with his typically nasty slider and a changeup that looks improved, with the slider generating all of the punchouts. The problem for Meyer is that he might be 8th on the depth chart for SPs right now, so the Marlins can afford to be patient here moreso than other franchises. Meyer is absolutely one of the best SP prospects in baseball, but I don't see a path to a great deal of value here prior to the All-Star break, so short of adding him to a farm team he's best left on the wire in most formats for the time being. Next year I expect him to be a top-50 SP coming in to spring training.
Maikel Franco (3B - WAS) - Franco is the early favorite to fill in at 3B for Washington for the first month or so of the season while Carter Kieboom's elbow heals. He's not a super exciting player, but he makes more contact than you'd think (but has perpetually had terrible BABIP's, likely due to a high pull% and no speed) and has average power. He could be a useful short-term injury replacement in deeper leagues, but at age 29 I don't expect to see a better ceiling than he's already shown us. He tends to be fairly consistent around 20-25 HR per 162 G....the AVG has fluctuated between .230 and .280, mostly based on BABIP.
Jake Fraley (OF - CIN) - I've moved Jake Fraley up my draft board a lot more than most have after the trade to Cincinnati for a couple of reasons. First, I'd be very surprised if he doesn't play just about every day against RHP...Aquino might offer a bit more power (and even that is debatable) but not much else. If we assume that, then we have to take into account that he's moving from a park that suppresses runs by 9% and HRs specifically by 5%, to a park that increases HRs by 35% and runs by 16%. Short of going to Coors, it couldn't have been better for him. Secondly, Fraley made huge strides last year in contact rate and chase rate along with a bump in exit velo. The EV is still below average, but the 6% barrel rate is fairly average. Third, and most importantly, Fraley has never played more than 110 G in 6 professional seasons. That's a lot of lost development time for a 26 year old, leading me to believe that there could be a bit more here than we've seen thus far. He's definitely a bit of a lottery ticket with his injury history and the hope for a last bit of development, but I think he's a great late-game choice in deeper leagues, especially in OBP-based leagues. He was 1 HR away from being a 10/10 player in less than half a season, with a .352 OBP to boot despite a BABIP (.265 despite a 26% LD rate) that appears very unfortunate.
Nate Pearson (SP - TOR) - With close to 3 lost seasons in the past 4, you could be forgiven for forgetting about Nate Pearson, especially since the Jays appear to have a full rotation at present. After watching him throwing 95-99 on Monday, however, we should all take note....it's a matter of time before the Jays need a 6th starter, and Pearson looks like the guy right now. Pearson tossed 2 hitless innings against Detroit, walking 1 and striking out 4, throwing strikes with all 4 of his above-average offerings. That Toronto team looks very scary right now, and adding Matt Chapman (huge bump to his value, btw) and a healthy Pearson to the mix makes them that much better. I believe Pearson to be more of a watch-and-wait player than a draft target still, but he could certainly force his way into a role that adds value before the end of spring.
Frank Schwindel (1B - CUB) - Schwindel isn't getting the respect that he likely deserves this spring, as the player that hit 31 HRs with a .320 AVG across 2 levels last season is lasting until the 18th round on average in 12-team leagues. Schwindel had been crushing AAA for parts of 4 seasons before finally getting an extended look in the bigs last year, and I love it when players under the definition of "freely available talent" succeed as he did with the Cubs. Now he has a chance to open the season as a middle of the order bat in what projects to be an average offense, and I don't see why he can't put up solid CI numbers. His contact skills are better than you'd think (78% contact rate) while his raw power is worse (exit velo well below average at 87 mph). Some regression is likely, but the average should help, not hurt, while the power should remain at least at the 25 HR level with an 8% barrel rate and close to 40% flyballs. If he gets past round 15 he should provide value.