Around the League
During Saturday night's World Baseball Classic game, a pitch hit Jose Altuve on his right hand. He left the game early and had testing done Sunday. It revealed a fractured right thumb which is going to sideline him for 8-10 weeks. This is bad news for the Astros and fantasy managers. He was being drafted as one of the top second basemen and rightfully so. He was coming off a bounce-back 2022 season in which he hit .300 with 28 HR, 103 R, 57 RBI, and 18 SB. The return of the stolen bases was a very nice gift for fantasy managers because he had stolen 13 bases total over the previous three seasons. Altuve has excellent plate skills (11% BB and 14% K) and hits enough pulled flyballs hit for power despite not hitting the ball overly hard (30% Hardhit). His expected home run rate was 25 last year and he hit 28 according to Statcast which is another reason to believe the power will continue despite the pedestrian quality of contact metrics. The downside is that this will be a huge hit to his fantasy value because he needs maximum playing time to accumulate his stats in a great Astros lineup.
Luis Arraez had the game of his life on Saturday night in the World Baseball Classic when he went 2-4 with 2 HR, 3 R, and 4 RBI in Venezuela's 9-7 loss to the United States. Arraez is going to play every day for the Marlins and will provide batting average (career .314 AVG) but the biggest question has been the power because he doesn't steal bases either (career 8 SB in 389 GP). He demonstrates the ability to manipulate the bat through the zone with his excellent plate skills (8% BB, 7% K, and 29% O-swing) which gives him a very strong foundation to make improvements in the power department. This is exactly what he has done over the past two seasons going from 2 HR to 8 HR while increasing his flyballs (33%), barrel rate (4%), and maxEV (107.3 mph). While none of those numbers are elite, they do show that he is improving as a hitter which makes him an interesting buy in drafts this year. Drafting Arraez requires an excess in power prior to drafting him because even if he does make a jump in power he is still going to be below-average but there is potential for great value if he does jump to 12-15 HR power as opposed to 5-8 along with his elite average (.300+ AVG).
Max Scherzer was dominant in his latest Spring Training start against the Astros (7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, and 8 K). Scherzer is coming off another excellent season (2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 26% K:BB) but has seen his draft day price slide compared to 2022. He is now going towards the end of the second round even into the third round in 15-team roto leagues. The skills are still great (31% K, 4% BB, 2.88 SIERA) but the concern over his recent string of injuries and age are real concerns. He hasn't surpassed 180 IP since 2018 but the good news is that you don't need as many innings from your starters in today's game and there is a very good chance that he will be elite when on the mound. This makes Scherzer a good buy at his current draft price. He is also going to be in a good position to get wins being on the Mets this season.
Yankees SS Competition
The Yankees shortstop competition has become a competition worth paying attention to. The assumption coming into the year was that they would go with youngster Oswald Peraza and have Isiah Kiner-Felafa be the backup. Peraza has real fantasy upside considering he hit .259 with 19 HR, 57 R, 50 RBI, and 33 SB in 99 GP at Triple-A a year ago. However, the Yankees top prospect SS Anthony Volpe has inserted himself into the situation by having a great spring (.297/.422/.568) and drawing rave reviews from almost everyone in Yankees camp. He went from being a perceived long shot to make the team to being neck and neck with Peraza for the job. Both players have fantasy value but Volpe has the more intriguing fantasy profile but Peraza also has the better glove so it will be very interesting to see who wins the job. Volpe's draft price continues to rise by the day as recent reports are leaning towards him breaking camp with the team but none of that has been confirmed by a team official.
Guardians Rotation (Zach Plesac, Gavin Williams, and Tanner Bibee)
Zach Plesac pitched well in his most recent spring start (6.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, and 4 K). However, he has not pitched well this spring (5.54 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 13 IP). This is also coming off a largely disappointing 2022 season (4.32 ERA and 1.32 WHIP). He doesn't miss bats (18% K) and struggles with hard contact (41% Hardhit and 10% Barrels). This is a bad combination and his 2020 sprint season looks more and more like an aberration. The Guardians pump out starting pitching due to a great player development system which puts Plesac on notice. If Plesac continues on his current trajectory there is a good chance that the Guardians give one of their young guys an opportunity at some point. Gavin Williams (2.31 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 20% K:BB at Double-A) and Tanner Bibee (1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 24% K:BB) are knocking on the door for the Guardians. Currently, there is not a spot in the rotation (Bieber, McKenzie, Quantrill, Civale, and Plesac) but sixth starters are needed throughout the year due to schedule and injuries so both Williams and Bibee are worth drafting in Draft and Hold formats. They are also two names to keep an eye on for early season FAAB as they both have the skills to succeed and Cleveland knows how to develop pitchers. Bibee has the higher upside of the two due to his ability to miss bats and control the zone.
The Rockies signed Jurickson Profar to a one-year, $7.75 M deal to play outfield. He is going to need to report to Spring Training and is likely to miss at least a small portion of the start of the year because he isn't even in the United States currently. The good news is that he should get regular run for the Rockies and hit near the top of the lineup. Profar hit .243 with 15 HR, 82 R, 58 RBI, and 5 SB in 152 GP for the Padres last year. He has good plate skills (16% K and 11% BB) and Coors Field should help boost his fantasy profile. A repeat of last year with more stolen bases due to the change in rules is a real possibility which would make him a nice late-round pick-up.
Ranger Suarez (elbow soreness) was able to throw a bullpen on Sunday. He is unlikely to start the season with the Phillies and could be on limited pitches/innings to start the season. Suarez is coming off 155.1 IP last year with a 3.65 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He took a step back in terms of missing bats (20% K) and walks (9% BB) which led to a 4.11 SIERA. This was expected in a full year of starting compared to his breakout 2021 in which he split time between relieving and starting. Suarez has the profile of a back-end starter (20% K, 9% BB, and 55% GB). The fact that he is dealing with an elbow injury makes it hard to draft Suarez knowing that his upside is a streamer in 12-team leagues. One would be better off taking a chance on someone that isn't hurt coming into the year.
Brandon Nimmo is expected to be ready for the start of the season after injuring his ankle on Friday night on an awkward slide. Testing revealed no structural damage so he believes that he will be good to go for Opening Day. Nimmo is coming off a career year in 2022 with a .274 AVG with 16 HR, 102 R, 64 RBI, and 3 SB in 151 GP. He remained healthy and set career highs in GP, HR, R, RBI, Barrel%, and 111.9 mph maxEV. Nimmo stated that he would like to steal more bases this year but that will remain to be seen because that is one of the ways that the Mets were able to keep him healthy all year. Regardless, Nimmo is in a position to have another big season leading off for the Mets.
Jorge Polanco is dealing with knee soreness and hasn't played in a game yet this spring. He ended last season with the same injury, so this is concerning. The Twins have also said that he may not be ready for the start of the season. His fantasy value takes a significant hit with this news. There is no way to tell how serious the injury is and the fact that it is still lingering from last year is not good. Polanco is also coming off a down year in which he hit .235 with 16 HR, 54 R, 56 RBI, and 3 SB in 104 GP. He did offer bounce-back potential this year if he were healthy but that is not the case.
Brandon Pfaadt was reassigned to the Diamondbacks minor league camp on Sunday. He had been one of the fastest risers in drafts because there was some belief that he was going to make the team out of camp. He was one of the D-Backs best pitchers this spring (3.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4 BB, and 15 K). However, he was reassigned because they are likely playing service time games as well as giving their four veteran starters (Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, and Zach Davies) and then one of Drey Jameson or Ryne Nelson a shot. Drafting Pfaadt in Draft and Hold formats is still a smart move and keeping an eye on him in FAAB leagues will be important as well because he will be up sooner rather than later. He will also not have an innings limit this year after throwing 167 IP last year between Double-A and Triple-A. He has an elite upside given his ability to miss bats (218 K in 167 IP).
Bryan Bello-Red Sox-SP
Bryan Bello made his spring debut on Sunday pitching 2 IP, 0 ER, and 3 K. His velocity was in line with last year which was a good sign after being delayed in camp due to a forearm injury. He is still going to start the year on the injured list as he builds up his pitch count and should be back by mid-April. Bello had a disappointing debut (4.71 ERA and 1.78 WHIP) after dominating in Triple-A (2.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 24% K:BB). He worked this offseason with Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez. The biggest issue for Bello was a lack of command of his fastball which led to more contact than usual. He also dealt with a ridiculous .404 BABIP. If he can regain some of the strikeout stuff he showed in the minors with his 56% GB in the majors he could become an above-average fantasy starter. The potential is there he just needs to make a slight improvement in command and prove that he is healthy.
Braves Final Rotation Spot
The Braves have intense competition brewing for the final spot in their rotation. Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd are vying for the job. If you look up the ERA leaders for Spring Training both Shuster and Dodd are #1 and #2. Shuster has a 0.71 ERA through 12.2 IP with 2 BB and 16 K compared to Dodd's 0.69 ERA through 13 IP with 2 BB and 15 K. Shuster split time between Double-A (2.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 24% K:BB) and Triple-A (4.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 11% K:BB) last year. Dodd pitched across three levels last year but spent the majority of the time at High-A (3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 20% K:BB) and Double-A (3.11 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 22% K:BB). Based on their minor league career path so far, it looks like Shuster has a slight edge in skills and experience but both pitchers need to be on your radar for drafts because whoever wins the job has immediate value. There is a good chance that both pitch meaningful innings for the Braves this year.