Around the League
Ha-Seong Kim hit two home runs for Korea in the World Baseball Classic in their win against the Czech Republic. Kim is slated to start the season as the Padres starting second baseman. He hit .251 with 11 HR, 58 R, 59 RBI, and 12 SB a year ago. Kim wasn't great in any one category but he did provide production across the board. He has good plate skills (17% K and 9% BB) but the power hasn't translated (4% Barrels and 32% Hardhit) to the major leagues. His offseason goal was to hit for more power and while that seemed to come to fruition in the WBC it still remains unlikely that he will see a large jump in power during the regular season. With that being said he is still a decent value (21.09 ADP) with multi-position eligibility (SS/3B).
Kyle Schwarber hit a home run for Team USA in their 6-2 win over Great Britain. Schwarber is coming off a monster 2022 season in which he hit .218 with 46 HR, 100 R, 94 RBI, and 10 SB. The average wasn't good but he was elite in power and above average across the other four categories. He carries a similar projection coming into 2023 but with a better batting average due to better luck (.240 BABIP) and the change in the shift rules. The Phillies lineup is still going to be good without Bryce Harper, so the counting stats will still be there as well as the power. The ten stolen bases were a career-high but the new bases and rules should help him stay in the 7-8 range. According to FantasyPros ADP, Schwarber is going off the board at pick #44 which is quite the increase from a year ago but right in line with his projections.
Adam Wainwright pitched four innings against Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic and gave up one earned run on five hits. While it was a good stat line to walk away from the concerning part is that he averaged just 85.1 mph on his fastball. Even though this would technically be Spring Training it is not a good sign that his fastball velocity has dropped even lower than a year ago (88 mph). Wainwright put up a 3.71 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across 191.2 IP. The core skills were not good (18% K, 7% BB, and 4.34 SIERA). He does have an elite curveball but at some point, that isn't going to be enough to overcome a below-average fastball. He was a good story a year ago but shouldn't be on fantasy rosters this year.
Mets 3B Competition
Brett Baty is competing with Eduardo Escobar for the starting third baseman job in New York. Escobar is coming off a decent season in which he hit .240 with 20 HR, 58 R, 69 RBI, and 0 SB in 136 GP. He has solid plate skills (24% K and 7% BB) to go along with career highs in barrel rate (9.4%) and maxEV (111.5 mph). Escobar is going to have to have a strong start to the year to keep the job. Baty is having a good spring (.458 AVG with 1 HR/2 SB). The Mets are likely to send Baty back to Triple-A to get more seasoning considering that he has played in just 135 games above High-A and just six games at Triple-A. Baty may be the long-term solution at the position but he is unlikely to have a major impact on the big league club unless there is a serious injury to one of their infielders.
George Kirby is currently ranked as the 35th SP off the board according to Fantistics. He is coming off his first season in the majors in which he posted a 3.39 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 130 IP. He showed the ability to miss bats (25%K and 10% SwStr) as well as elite command (4% BB). Kirby doesn't get elite ground balls (46% GB) but enough to help limit the damage. In his debut season, he was also hurt by bad luck on balls in play (.331 BABIP) which should normalize this year. Kirby has a plus fastball and slightly above-average curve and slider by pitch metrics. The floor is very high for Kirby because of his K:BB skills in a good pitcher's park but the upside comes from his ability to command his pitches. He added a two-seam fastball to combat left-handed hitters late in the season and has worked on a split-change this spring as a pitch that he can work off his fastball with. His ability to command all his pitches and tinker with his pitch mix to find the best combination gives him a high ceiling.
Late Saturday reports came out that OF Corbin Carroll had signed an 8-year, $111 M deal with the Diamondbacks. Carroll is the top-ranked prospect in the game and is coming off his first taste of the big leagues late last year. He hit .260 with 4 HR, 13 R, 14 RBI, and 2 SB in 32 GP. Carroll has flashed elite speed this spring in addition to last year. He also has a power/speed combo (27 HR/33 SB across all levels) which makes him a rising star in the fantasy community. He has legit 20 HR/30 SB upside which is why he is going at pick #71 (FantasyPros ADP). However, he is fastly rising up draft boards and will routinely be going late 3rd or 4th round in 15-team leagues by the start of the season. The one concern with Carroll is that he struck out 27% of the time at the major league level after 25% at Double-A and 23% at Triple-A. He also didn't hit the ball particularly hard at the major league level (6% Barrels and 107.5 mph maxEV). These are both small nits to pick but also a reminder that his progression to fantasy superstar may have some bumps along the way.
Anthony Rizzo was scratched from Sunday's lineup with back issues. This is not something new for Rizzo as he has dealt with back issues on and off for the past couple of seasons. He is aware that it will be an issue throughout the season so this is not a major concern but a small ding to his overall playing time projection for 2023. Regardless, Rizzo is in a great spot for fantasy in Yankee Stadium and the new shift rules. The only part of his game missing in 2022 was his batting average (.224) but that should rebound in 2023 with better luck (.216 BABIP). Rizzo is a nice bargain where he is going in drafts (13.02 ADP and #12 1B).
Jordan Walker is dealing with a shoulder injury but he told reporters on Sunday that he is fine and that they are being cautious. Walker has burst onto the scene this spring for the Cardinals and has been rapidly moving up draft boards as a result. He hit .306 with 19 HR, 100 R, 68 RBI, and 22 SB in Double-A a year ago. The plate skills were good (22% K and 11% BB). He has plus power potential but needs to hit more fly balls (45% GB) to take advantage of it. From a fantasy perspective, Walker has the potential to be a five-category contributor but could also struggle in his debut due to having just 536 PA above High-A. The Cardinals also have plenty of options in the outfield so he will have to it the ground running or risk being sent back to the minors. This makes Walker a boom-or-bust pick as he moves up the draft boards.
Jacob deGrom is scheduled to make his debut on Monday. He hasn't had any setbacks as he attempts to return from left-side tightness. He is currently tracking towards being in the rotation to start the year if everything goes smoothly in-game action. DeGrom made eleven starts last year and put up a 3.08 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with 39% K:BB). The skills are elite of the elite and the only question about his fantasy value is how many innings he is going to pitch this year. At 140-150 IP he will be the best pitcher in baseball but he hasn't pitched more than 100 IP in a season since 2019 and has had a litany of injuries as well. He will shoot up the draft boards if he looks like vintage deGrom on Monday.
Victor Robles collided with the outfield wall earlier in the week and testing determined that he suffered a bone bruise. He is expected to return to game action soon. Robles is no longer on many people's radars for fantasy purposes due to his severe drop in production after his 2019 rabbit ball season (.255 AVG with 17 HR/25 SB). With that being said, he has a clear path to playing time in Washington after they decided to tear it down. Robles as currently constructed looks like a low batting average hitter with 10 HR/20 SB potential which plays in deeper mixed league formats. There is also the potential for more stolen bases with the new rules because he did display the potential for 30+ SB in 2019 but he needs to drastically improve his on-base skills (.273 OBP) for that to happen. He is someone to keep an eye on early in the year for his spot in the order and his willingness to run because there could be potential here.
One of the under-talked-about stories this spring has been Yordan Alvarez. The team hasn't said what kind of injury he is suffering from other than that it was a hand injury. He was able to take swings in the cage on Sunday and felt good but he had been shut down since February. Alvarez is coming off a tremendous 2022 season in which he hit .306 with 37 HR, 95 R, 97 RBI, and 1 SB. Once again, he was not able to play a full season due to injury. He is a top-five bat in the league when healthy, but has struggled to play a full season and does not run (2 career stolen bases). The upside is massive in the Astros lineup but there is a real risk when drafting Alvarez in the first round (#10 Overall FantasyPros ADP). Freddie Freeman, Vlad Guerrero Jr, and Bobby Witt Jr. are three players going behind Alvarez who do not carry as much risk.
Lance McCullers Jr. was able to throw 30 pitches on Saturday which was his first time throwing since mid-February. McCullers is dealing with a strain in his pitching elbow. Elbow injuries are notoriously bad for pitches and McCullers has a track record of struggling to stay healthy. Currently, there is no timetable for McCullers to return so this makes it very difficult to draft him in any format. Drafting injured pitchers put a ton of strain on your roster and don't have a track record for being a profitable strategy. This has opened the door for rookie Hunter Brown to step into the Astros rotation. Brown put up a 2.55 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 21% K:BB in Triple-A last year. He has plus stuff but has struggled with control at times. Drafting Brown requires a bet on the Astros putting Brown in the right situations to succeed because there are legitimate flaws in his game with his lack of control at times and his fastball not being as effective as one would think given his velocity (96.5 mph). He threw 126.1 IP between Triple-A and the majors last year which would put him in line for 150 IP this year if he sticks in the Astros rotation all year. Brown is going as the 64th pitcher off the board at pick #220 according to FantasyPros ADP. That would make him your 4th or 5th starter in 12-team mixed leagues which would be worth the gamble even with his limitations.
The Padres desperately need Blake Snell to pitch like an ace this season. They came into Spring Training lacking depth and the current injury to Joe Musgrove has put more pressure on Snell and Yu Darvish to carry the rotation. Snell is coming off a 2022 season in which he put up a 3.38 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across 128 IP. The strikeouts were elite (32%K) and he managed to reign in the walks (10% BB) compared to 2021. His 3.20 SIERA gives an indication that he pitched to his skills and that he is still an above-average starter in this league. The concern coming into 2023 is that he cannot be counted on to pitch more than 130 IP. He hasn't eclipsed more than 129 IP since 2018. The good news is that he finally ditched his changeup (5% usage) in favor of his better pitches (FB/SL/CB). With his pitch mix dialed in, Snell has an ace-like upside, one just has to factor in the limited innings which is why he is going as SP #35 despite top-20 skills.
Christian Walker is coming off his best season as a Diamondbacks regular. He hit .242 with 36 HR, 84 R, 94 RBI, and 2 SB. The power is legit given his quality of contact metrics (12% Barrels, 44% Hardhit, and 112.6 mph maxEV). He also has good plate skills (20% K and 10% BB). His strikeout rate makes his .242 AVG look low but a deeper dive into batted ball stats reveals that he hits too many fly balls (44% FB) which leads to a lower BABIP and AVG. The encouraging sign for 2023 is that he lowered his flyball rate from 47% in the first half to a more manageable 41% in the second half. This corresponded with a .204 AVG vs. 285 AVG in the second half. Walker has made the necessary adjustments to become a true power-hitting first baseman. He is appropriately priced as the #8 1B off the board according to Fantistics FDP because he won't have an elite average or steal bases which pushes his value up significantly. Regardless, he is a very good hitter in an improving Diamondbacks lineup.