Jordan Walker (3B/OF - STL) - Every year there's a prospect that has a hot spring training and sees their ADP shrink seemingly by the hour, and this year that guy is Jordan Walker. Walker is absolutely a legitimate hitter, putting up a 306/388/510 line as a 20 year old in AA last season before tearing up both the AFL and the Grapefruit League thus far (9-21, 3 HR). Walker is still going in round 20 on average, but that number is moving down every day....is it justified though? Understanding the organization and the depth chart are the keys to this sort of a situation, and the Cardinals are first and foremost not afraid to throw kids into the fire right out of spring training (see Pujols, Albert). The issue here is the extremely crowded depth chart: every where you look there are multiple players clamoring for playing time. There are only 8 non-catching spots in the order of course, and the Cards likely had Goldschmidt, Donovan, Gorman, Edman, Arenado, O'Neill, Carlson, and Nootbaar. It isn't so much that Walker can't force his way into playing time with his performance this spring, it's more that the Cards don't have a burning need for him to do so. That's really the only negative here though: Walker is criminally undervalued at his current ADP relative to his ceiling, and he's with a team that won't be afraid to push him if his performance warrants. I'm absolutely fine riding the wave here and grabbing him before his current ADP, accepting the risk that he may not play for a month or two. He's done nothing but hit since he's been drafted, and I fully expect him to contend for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Joey Meneses (1B/OF - WAS) - It seems like most folks are on the Meneses regression train this spring, which makes sense for a player that will turn 31 in early May having just found his first taste of the majors in the second half of 2022. Still, this is a player that has shown average contact ability and above average power since reaching the AAA level at 26: it isn't his fault that nobody promoted him to see what he could do before last season. The Statcast data does show that he was fortunate to the tune of about 100 points of slugging, but even that would still put him in the range of Andrew Vaughn and Jose Miranda, two players that are being drafted 70 picks in front of Meneses. I think the hate is a bit overdone here, and he's a player I would be happy to have fill a CI spot in standard formats. The exit velo and barrel rate were still very good last season even if they didn't quite live up to the actual stat line, and the consistently solid LD rates combined with at least solid average contact ability should lead to an AVG that isn't painful as well.
Jake Fraley (OF - CIN) - Fraley hit 295/377/526 from 7/1 on in 2022, and he's opened up spring training right where he left off, going 6-12 with a HR and 2 SB thus far. The bad news: he only plays against RHP, he's injury prone, and the exit velo makes it look like the power is a bit fluky. For me, Fraley is a player with solid average tools across the board, and he's playing in a park that definitely favors the batters significantly. He absolutely has the potential to go 15/15 with a solid AVG since he's being protected from LHP, so for me he is certainly a solid deep league OF option. He's even more valuable in OBP-based formats with his consistently excellent chase rates.
Alec Bohm (3B - PHI) - Bohm hit his 3rd HR of the spring on Monday, furthering hope that the increased launch angle from last year will start to result in some more over-the-fence power as he enters his age 26 season. Bohm is an excellent contact hitter with above average power, but to this point it hasn't resulted in any meaningful power numbers at the big league level. With 1126 MLB ABs coming into 2023, Bohm is at the point (in both experience and age) where one more power spike could appear. A push into the 20-HR range with his contact ability (and the lineup quality to push the R and RBI totals) could easily vault him into the top-8 at the position. I do feel that Bohm should be drafted among the top-12 3B, and his current round 15-16 draft position seems a round or two too late to me.
Domingo German (SP - NYY) - German looked sharp Monday evening in holding the Pirates to 1 hit over 3 scoreless innings, walking 1 and fanning 4. German likely holds the inside track on the 5th starter's spot for NY due to the previous relief experience of Clarke Schmidt. As a thoroughly average SP in nearly every aspect, German remains a reasonable back-end SP option in deeper formats due to the quality of the Yankee offense in support of his somewhat pedestrian skill set. A high floor/modest ceiling option.
Dylan Cease (SP - CWS) - Cease is one of those guys that I'm just not going to end up with much of in 2023. He's being drafted 9th among SP thus far this spring, and we have him barely inside the top 20 at the position. Yes, he's made plenty of strides the past few seasons: first in bat-missing in '21, and then in controlling quality of contact last season. Still, the control remains an issue, as anything approaching 4 walks per 9 is just playing with fire in modern-day baseball. There also appeared to be quite a bit of good fortune last season, from the .260 BABIP allowed to the HR/FB rate of 8.4%. Both of those figures are well under both the league average and Cease's own historical norms, so regression there is reasonable to expect. Cease is still a very good pitcher, but I have a hard time seeing him as an SP1....there's just too low of a floor with his poor control. If he slides into round 5 I'm fine with him, but prior to that he can be someone else's gamble.
Rowdy Tellez (1B - MIL) - Tellez has one of the biggest gaps in value between our projections and the consensus this spring, with an ADP of 1B16 versus our 7th place ranking at the position. I'm not entirely sure why either, because the raw projections are very similar....he's just not being drafted to meet those projections. If anything, I think there might even be more upside here for a player that posted his worst ever AVG in 2022 despite a career-best swinging strike rate, a career-high barrel rate, and his standard 91+ mph exit velocity. The new shift rules make it even more likely that Tellez will rebound significantly in AVG, and there's no reason to think that the power will dissipate: he ranks 45th in avg exit velo and 11th in maximum. We have him forecast to produce at a rate that would justify drafting him almost 6 rounds earlier than his current 14th round average...he's absolutely a player that should be targeted just a bit before that.
Cristian Javier (SP- HOU) - The award for "pitcher we are most lower on than consensus" probably goes to Cristian Javier this spring, as the SP21 via ADP is our 38th ranked SP. Javier proponents will point to his improved walk rate in the 2nd half as rationale for him to put up a better full season in 2023 than he did in 2022, but I'm not buying it. His xFIP was actually higher in the 2nd half (3.59) than the 1st (3.46), thanks to a .183 BABIP and 93% strand rate. The control is iffy, albeit seemingly improving, but the real issue here is that the quality of contact seems to be about average, yet the BABIP and HR/FB rates were extremely low, both compared to the league average and to Javier's own normal levels. Look, there's nothing wrong with saying he's a low-end SP3 in standard formats.....it doesn't make him bad. He's just being drafted in a position that mandates that he make sizable improvements from last year....or get just as lucky. I never want to be in a position where everything has to go perfectly for a player to pay off their draft slot, and it feels like that's where Javier is at the moment.
Jo Adell (OF - LAA) - I've seen some buzz about Adell the past few days, but I still don't get it. Adell has never managed to convert his tools into actual skills, and again this spring he has struck out 11 times in just 19 ABs. He just doesn't make enough contact to have any sort of consistent success at the top level, and at this point I'm skeptical that it'll ever happen. There are well over 100 OFs that I'd rather take a chance on for 2023.
Joey Gallo (OF - MIN) - Gallo is a guy that has been sneaking up my draft boards the past few weeks, as I gradually talk myself into ignoring the warts and embracing the upside here. Gallo actually ranked 23rd in ISO in the 2nd half of last season, and particularly in OBP-based formats he actually has quite a bit to offer (ranked OF42 by our projections there). He's looked good this spring, and it's easy to envision a scenario where he benefits as much as anyone from the new shift rules. I certainly feel like he should be valued more highly than the current #79 ranking that he has among OF by ADP, and even in standard formats he has enough upside to be considered an OF5.
Logan O'Hoppe (C - LAA) - Are we absolutely sure Logan O'Hoppe isn't going to have the majority of the ABs at C for the Angels? Even though the catching position isn't nearly as weak as it was a few years ago, consistent ABs from a solid prospect like O'Hoppe would instantly make him a must-draft player in 2-catcher leagues, and a possibility in standard-sized 1-catcher formats. The 23 year old hit 26 HRs and stole 7 bases in AA last season, and he did it while posting a swinging strike rate of under 8%. He's certainly on my radar in all formats, and I'll be watching the playing time closely over the next few weeks to see just how much trust the Angels appear to have in the youngster.
Ketel Marte (2B - ARI) - Marte is going overlooked once again this spring after a disappointing 2022, but 2B19? Really? Thairo Estrada is going in front of him, ostensibly on the basis of the 21 steals managed last year by a player that attempted more last season than he ever did in any season in the minors (typically players run significantly less in the majors because catching defense is so much better). Leaving the Estrada issue aside, Marte is still a very solid bet to bounce back in 2023. The exit velo and contact rate were both down but still well above average, and the BABIP was 35 points under his career average. Marte still has as much power as almost anyone: he ranked 24th in maximum exit velo last season (a good measure of raw power), and his hard hit rate (balls hit over 95 mph) was still 42%. He may be hard-pressed to crack the top-12 once you add in some of the multi-positional players that qualify at 2B, but top-15 should be very doable. I'm happy picking him up starting around the 14th or 15th round in standard-sized drafts and using him as a MI.
Brandon Nimmo (OF - NYM) - Feels weird that Nimmo is already going to be 30 right before Opening Day, but coming off of his best season as a Met it still feels like there is upside here. His contact ability and plate discipline are fantastic, getting him a ton of run-scoring opportunities in front of a solid run-producing lineup (102 R last season). The power is slightly above average via exit velo and hard hit rate, but the launch angle has dipped a bit so the HR totals are lower than you'd expect. He's sort of an average OF4 or OF5 in standard roto formats, but in OBP-based leagues he really stands out. The lowest OBP of his career is last year's .367, so I feel like our projection for him is definitely on the low side this year, and even with that he projects as OF28 in a 5x5 using OBP instead of AVG. He is very much overlooked there because he doesn't do anything extremely well besides get on base, but rather is just decent everywhere. He's a nice well-rounded option in the middle of your OF.
Kyle Isbel (OF - KC) - An oblique injury to Drew Waters bodes well for Isbel's playing time to start the season, and there's some sneaky upside here for the 26 year old. Possessing above average contact ability, above average exit velocity, and above average speed, it isn't hard to envision a scenario where Isbel makes strides in all 3 aspects of the offensive game in 2023: AVG, power, and speed. He had 15 HR and 22 SB in 105 G at AAA in 2021, and a 15/20 performance at this level doesn't seem impossible at all with the underlying skill set that he possesses. Isbel deserves a roster spot at least in deeper leagues, and the likelihood of guaranteed playing time to start the year doesn't have him very far outside the top 60 projected OF for me right now.
Alek Manoah (SP - TOR) - I do really like Alek Manoah, but not at SP15 (his current ADP). The control improvement is very good, but the swinging strike rate is sort of average, and he was very fortunate on balls in play last season, so much so that his 2.24 ERA was more than a run and a half below his xFIP (3.97). Add into the mix that he's an extreme FB pitcher that allows a high pull%, factor in the fences being pulled in in RCF by 16 feet, and you've got a prescription for potential underperformance for a guy that people are valuing as a borderline SP1. We have him ranked SP25 by our own projections, a valuation that I feel is much more appropriate given the challenges that he faces in repeating last year's performance.