Around the League
Keston Hiura is having a very strong spring. He is hitting for average (.409) and driving the baseball (4 HR and 1.545 OPS). He spent the offseason retooling his swing trying to get back to where he was in his rookie season. The problem with just looking at his surface stats in Spring Training is that they really don't mean a whole lot because of the small sample and the fact that many pitchers are working on things throughout spring such as not throwing their whole arsenal. The one stat that is important in spring is strikeout rate and Hiura's is 31%. This is a major improvement from his 39% last year but is still at a level that makes it likely he'll have a low average. This will also make it hard for him to carve out a full-time role given the ups and downs in his offensive profile. It is also important to note that he is not a good defender which puts even more pressure on his bat. The bottom line is that Hiura is having a good spring but fantasy managers shouldn't buy back in just yet.
Francisco Lindor is slashing .400/.448/.960 so far this spring. This is a good sign for Lindor coming off his dismal 2021 season (.230 AVG, 20 HR, 73 R, 63 RBI, and 10 SB). It is very encouraging to see Lindor hitting for power ( 4 HR and 2 2B). There was also a New York Post article about the Mets working on stealing more bases this year and Lindor stated his goal was 20-25 stolen bases. Every player enters each year optimistic but it is a good sign that Lindor is thinking about stealing more bases. There is a very good chance that Lindor returns his form at the plate and on the basepaths which will get him close to returning first-round fantasy value just like in years past.
David Peralta is hitting .391 with 4 HR in 23 AB this spring. This is good news for the 34-year-old outfielder who is coming off a down year (.259 AVG with 8 HR, 57 R, 63 RBI, and 2 SB). Peralta worked on his swing this offseason in order to get more loft back into his swing after hitting 55% GB in 2021. Peralta has an excellent approach at the plate (19% K and 7% BB) which gives him a nice floor plus upside for more if his launch angle increases. Peralta is going to hit in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup and play every day making him a nice value towards the end of deeper mixed leagues.
The Pirates are not going to be a good baseball team but they will be fantasy relevant because there will be playing time to go around, especially in their outfield. Greg Allen figures to get a shot at an everyday role for the Pirates. Allen isn't going to provide much in terms of power but will steal bases. He has the ability to steal 20+ bases if he gets regular playing time. Even if he enters into the strong side of the platoon with Anthony Alford, he will get enough opportunities to steal bases to be fantasy relevant. His value is in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues because speed is so hard to find.
Jake Fraley was traded to the Reds in the Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez deal. Initially, it looked as though Fraley would have a starting job but the recent signing of Tommy Pham has moved Fraley back to the bench. The Reds look to go with Tommy Pham, Nick Senzel, and Tyler Naquin in the outfield with Fraley serving as the fourth outfielder and possibly as the DH. From a fantasy perspective, this is bad news for Fraley unless he can get the majority of the DH at-bats. However, the three starting outfielders do not have a track record of staying healthy so there could be regular playing time for Fraley at some point. Fraley offers power/speed upside. In 78 GP last year, he hit .210 with 9 HR and 10 SB. He isn't going to be an average asset but he will provide stolen bases which is extremely valuable in today's game. So far this spring, Fraley has stolen four bases in five attempts. Stolen base attempts in Spring Training are one of the few actionable pieces of knowledge. Fraley is someone to keep an eye on as the season goes on because as soon as a spot opens up he will provide nice fantasy value.
The Tigers have announced that Spencer Torkelson has made the Opening Day roster. Torkelson was the #1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He spent time at three different levels of the minors last year (A+, AA, and AAA). He did struggle in his limited time at AAA (.238 AVG) but that was mainly due to a .233 BABIP. Torkelson also displayed good plate skills (20% K and 13% BB). This is something that he should also be known for at the major league level. He has power to all fields and should hit 25-30 HR's with good counting stats given that he hits in the middle of the Tigers lineup. The batting average is likely to be in the .250ish range to begin with as he adjusts to major league pitching with the potential to be a plus in the category as he matures. It is refreshing to see a team play their best players regardless of contract status. This is a nice boost to his fantasy value because the belief was that he would spend some time in the minors.
Steven Kwan has made the Guardians Opening Day roster. This is important because this makes him someone to target late in drafts. Kwan hit .337 with 7 HR/4 SB in 51 GP at Double-A and followed that up with a .311 AVG and 5 HR/2 SB at Triple-A in 26 GP. His ability to make contact should be above-average even at the major league level which pairs nicely with his double-digit walk rate. The power and speed are not going to be great but he should be able to get double-digits of both which along with a plus batting average makes Kwan a very nice late target for the outfield.
Matt Barnes-Red Sox-RP
Red Sox manager Alex Cora is concerned with Matt Barnes velocity. So far this spring he has been 92-93 mph which is down from his 96 mph average from a year ago. This is not good news for Barnes as he is trying to regain the closer's job after having a disappointing 2021 season (3.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 6 BS). He was especially dreadful in the second half (6.48 ERA and 1.62 WHIP). The problem with the Red Sox bullpen is that there is not a clear option if Barnes cannot get a hold on the job. Garret Whitlock was the best reliever a year ago but he is being stretched out to potentially fill a rotation spot. The other option is recently signed Jake Diekman but his career double-digit walk rate could be troublesome in the American League East. The bottom line is that this is a situation to avoid unless you absolutely have to take a shot. The pecking order looks to be Barnes, Diekman, and potentially Whitlock depending on what they decide his role will be.
Max Scherzer was scratched from his start on Saturday due to a hamstring injury which he and the team are not overly concerned about. This is not good news this close to the start of the season but Scherzer is someone that knows his body very well at this point in his career so he is not going to push it and make it worse than it already is. The Mets are already down Jacob deGrom for an extended period of time so they really need Scherzer to be their ace. He is coming off a brilliant 2021 (2.46 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 29% K:BB) and has moved to a more pitcher-friendly environment in 2022. He did go through a "dead arm" during the playoffs but has looked healthy from an arm perspective this spring. The Mets do not have the best track record in terms of keeping their guys healthy but this hamstring injury should not impact his 2022 season.
Luis Severino went four scoreless innings on Saturday and touched 98 mph with his fastball. He has looked good this spring which is great news for the Yankees and fantasy managers. Severino is likely looking at a limited number of innings because he hasn't pitched much over the past two seasons but he should still bring back value where he is being drafted. Before getting injured, Severino was one of the best pitchers in the game and he has looked closer to that guy this spring than he has in years. There is a huge risk in terms of his injury history but the skills are there for Severino to return to his former glory.
The Reds closer job was up for grabs coming into the year but Lucas Sims looked to be the leading candidate. However, he is down with an injury that has reopened the door. Reds manager David Bell told reporters on Saturday that Hunter Strickland, Tony Santillan, Luis Cessa, Art Warren, and Justin Wilson will all be options to close. It is becoming more clear that the Reds will go with a committee approach similar to what they did a year ago. This will do nothing but frustrate us as fantasy managers because it will be extremely difficult to nail down who is going to get the most saves. Warren has the best skills but this is no guarantee that he will get the most saves.
Matt Brash and George Kirby-Mariners-SP
The Mariners final rotation spot seems to be coming down to Matt Brash or George Kirby. Both pitching prospects offer fantasy upside so this is an important position battle to watch. Brash threw 55 IP at Double-A last year. He posted a 2.13 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 36% K and 10% BB. Brash has two plus breaking balls that he pairs with a 95-97 mph fastball. He offers significant strikeout upside in addition to Seattle being a great pitcher's park. George Kirby threw 26 IP at Double-A with a 2.77 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He posted 26% K and 6% BB. He is known for having an elite command to go along with improving stuff. His fastball now sits in the upper 90s which gives him an elite profile given his command. Both pitchers have performed well this spring but Brash looked to be the leader for the fifth spot (Brash in Spring Training-0.96 ERA and 12:2 K-BB) and was named to the rotation late Saturday. This means Brash is someone to consider late in your drafts but his price is likely on the way up. Kirby is someone's name to file away because there is a good chance we will see him at some point this year and the sky's the ceiling for him as well.
Justin Upton was surprisingly designated for assignment by the Angels. Upton had been bouncing between 1B and OF for the Angels while having a solid spring (.333 AVG with 3 HR and 1:3 K-BB). The Angels decided it was time for Joe Adell and Brandon Marsh to get regular playing time. Upton should catch on with another team because he can still hit. Last year, despite injuries he posted an 11% Barrel rate, 41% Hardhit, and 116 maxEV. He did all of this with a double-digit walk rate (11% BB). The batting average is going to be a liability (30% K). However, with the addition of the DH in the National League, there should be a job for Upton somewhere which gives him value in only leagues depending on where he signs.
Joe Adell and Brandon Marsh-Angels-OF
The Angels had a situation brewing in their outfield before designating Justin Upton for assignment. From a real-life perspective, it was a positive to have quality options across the board but from a fantasy perspective, someone's value was going to take a massive hit. Mike Trout is going to man centerfield and that leaves left and right field open for Brandon Marsh and Joe Adell to get the first shot. Marsh is hitting .323 with 2 HR/3 SB albeit with a 14:1 K-BB. Adell has been impressive (.290 AVG with 3 HR/ 3 SB and 8:2 K-BB). Fantasy-wise, both offer upside given their power/speed combos. The fact that they both have a path to regular playing time is a huge boost to their value making both intriguing options.