Xander Bogaerts, SS, SD
After a fantastic decade in Boston, Bogaerts has moved across the country to play shortstop alongside Manny Machado for the Padres. Despite being in the league for TEN years, Bogaerts is still just 30 years of age and still figures to be a top choice at SS from a fantasy perspective. He has been one of the best and possibly the most consistent fantasy shortstops over the past five seasons. Bogaerts hit 104 homers and posted a .300/.373/.507 triple-slash line while playing in 638 of the 708 games during that span. Boegarts has the 7th most hits and 2nd most doubles of any player over the past five years; while boasting the second-best wOBA (.373) and wRC+ (134) for shortstops as well (behind Fernando Tatis Jr.). Bogaerts didn't hit the ball in the air with as much regularity in 2022 (31.8% FB% in '22 vs 37.4% in '21), which resulted in deflated power numbers: 15 homers and a .149 ISO. Despite the decreased power, Bogaerts still hit the ball hard (39.5 HardHit%) and produced across the board. The trouble for Xander in 2023 will be dealing with the new home park. His old home, Fenway Park, gives batters a profound boost, and it's particularly helpful for right-handed batters. Boston's Basic (5yr) Park Factor ranks third, its "2B as R" ranks second, and its "HR as R" ranks 10th (tied with three other teams). Meanwhile, Petco Park ranks 26th, 27th, and 19th in those factors, respectively.
Justin Turner, 3B/DH, BOS
Turner was hit by a pitch in the face on Monday and received 16 stitches before being released from the hospital later Monday evening. He avoided a concussion or any fractures and said he is "going to be back on the field as soon as possible." So it appears that the incident will not delay his regular season debut for the Red Sox. At 38, Turner is on the back end of his career but figures to be a regular in Boston's new-look lineup come opening day; it just won't be at third base. With Trevor Story out for the foreseeable future, Turner will find himself batting in the heart of the order as Boston's primary DH. He also figures to play some first base, and if he becomes 1B eligible for fantasy, it will make him a more viable option. Turner's production has declined over the past few seasons, but he hasn't fallen off a cliff due to age yet. With the energy boost of a new team, the career .289 hitter may still have a fantasy-worthy season left in him.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, TOR
Inflammation in Vlad's right knee has kept him out of the World Baseball Classic. However, he hit off a tee on Tuesday morning, and the knee continues "to feel better," according to Hazel Mae of Sportsnet. It seems the 23-year-old will be ready to go come opening day, but his progress over the next week or so will make that more definitive. Spring Training injuries are always concerning, although considering Guerrero has played in every game except for three over the past three seasons and has never been on the IL in his Major League career; it's probably okay to draft him without any reservations. Vlad was an MVP candidate in 2021 (.311/.401/.601 and 48 HR) but took a step back in 2022 (.274/.339/.480 and 32 HR). He will need to improve his discipline at the plate if he wants to regain his 2021 form. Last season, Vlad posted career highs in O-Swing% and Swing% while producing a career-low 8.2% BB%.
Twins in San Fran's Pen
The Giants signed left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers to work alongside his twin brother Tyler, who has been a staple in the Giants pen the past two seasons. Both brothers have been effective relievers and have experience closing games, but with Camilo Doval expected to be the team's closer, neither figure to get many chances at tallying up saves this season. In most fantasy formats, relievers that aren't closers are rarely fantasy relevant. Tyler Rogers has racked up the innings the past two seasons, ranking 4th among relievers with 75.2 IP last season and 3rd with 81.0 IP in 2021. That's the kind of work a reliever needs to have fantasy consideration; however, his lack of strikeout prowess (6.54 K/9) puts a damper on his upside. Taylor, on the other hand, can rack up Ks (11.75 K/9 in '22) and has two 30+ save seasons to his name. He has an impressive 3.18 career xFIP and will get a lot of work being the Giants' primary lefty out of the pen. Taylor is also the most likely replacement for Doval should he struggle or go down with an injury. All in all, you probably won't be looking at either of these guys on draft day, but Taylor will be one to keep an eye on as the season gets underway.
Bryan Reynolds, OF, PIT
Beyond Oneil Cruz, there isn't a lot to be excited about in the Pirates lineup. Reynolds is probably the only other player in Pittsburgh to consider come draft day. A stellar 2021 campaign in which he slashed .302/.390/.522 with 24 homers and 90 RBI established Reynolds as a fantasy contributor. He was more aggressive and power-hungry last season, which did earn him a career-high 27 home runs but made him a much less productive hitter across the board. Reynolds' 35.6% O-Swing% and 12.9% SwStr% in 2022 were career highs and resulted in a hefty 23.0% K%. He still slashed a respectable .262/.345/.461 and sported a career-high 42.9% HardHit%. However, his 7.9% Barrel% and .249 xBA were a far cry from his 2021 numbers (10.4% and .294). The 28-year-old has shown the ability to bounce back after a disappointing campaign in the past. Reynolds had a dreadful COVID-shortened 2020 season after finishing 4th in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2019. And it's not like 2022 was a lost year for Reynolds; it won't take a drastic adjustment at the plate for him to hit for average and power again in 2023. However, considering the Pirates' lack of weapons around him, Reynolds' current ADP (between 70-80) is a little high for my liking.
Cardinals' Second Year, Second Basemen
Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman both showed promise in their rookie campaigns in 2022 and figure to be the Cardinals' leaders at the position in 2023. It seems like Donovan will man second on opening day, but he plays all over the diamond, which potentially allows Gorman to get the gig regularly should he perform well.
Brendan Donovan showed excellent approach at the plate last season, and his defensive flexibility (played 2B, 3B, OF, 1B, and SS in '22) basically ensures that he will get regular playing time somewhere on the field. He lacks pop (5 HR, .097 ISO), but his contact skills (92.9% Z-Contact% and 5.4% SwStr%) and eye (12.8% BB%) helped him post an impressive .281 average and .394 OBP. He won't be the sexiest or most productive fantasy player with those numbers, but it will make it hard for the Cardinals not to play him every day, given his defensive skillset.
Nolan Gorman is essentially the opposite of Donovan. He solely hits for power and is strictly a second baseman where his defense leaves something to be desired (-2.2 UZR/150 at 2B). Gorman posted a .191 ISO and had 27 (14 HR, 13 2B) extra-base hits in 313 PAs last season. He barrels the ball up (14.4% Barrel%) and hits it hard (43.3% HardHit%). But of course, he swings and misses a lot (16.0% SwStr%) and strikes out a TON (32.9%% K%). His .226/.300/.420 triple-slash line wasn't ideal, but he still managed an above-average 107 wRC+, and he is only 22 years old. With his power potential, Gorman is an exciting fantasy prospect; however, he is probably still a season away from fantasy relevance. While he is still battling for playing time, he isn't draftable. Although, Gorman is probably just an injury away from being the Cards' everyday second baseman, with Donovan covering virtually all the other positions when a player goes down.
Gregory Soto, RP, PHI
Soto was traded to the Phillies from the Tigers this off-season. The 28-year-old racked up 30 saves with a 3.28 ERA last season in Detroit. The move to the Phillies will put a damper on his fantasy output as he doesn't figure to be in line for many save opportunities out of the Phillies pen. With Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and fellow newcomer Craig Kimbrel all factoring in the late-inning scheme in Philly, it will be hard for a pitcher with the control issues that Soto has to put a stamp on the closer role. And his career 5.28 BB/9 isn't the only concern. Soto's ERA may have been fine last season, but he posted a lowly 8.95 K/9 and was hit hard (43.2% HardHit%). He kept the ball in the park (.30 HR/9), which is good of course, but it's also the main reason that the advanced metrics didn't favor him (4.59 xFIP and 4.21 SIERA).
During his tenure, Twins' manager Rocco Baldelli has been reluctant to go with a true "closer" as part of his bullpen scheme. He will likely use the same approach in 2023, but who will he favor when both Jhoan Duran and Jorge Lopez are rested and available? Neither may become the official "closer", but surely one of them will get the bulk of the opportunties. Duran would seem to be the obvious choice, given his electrifying stuff. With a 100.9 vFA, 40.2% O-Swing%, and 17.9% SwStr%, the 25-year-old seemed unhittable at times in 2022, and it was just his first season. Duran posted a 1.86 ERA, 2.11 xFIP, and 1.96 SIERA with a solid 11.84 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9. Lopez has more experience but is coming off his first successful season, which was also his first season pitching out of the bullpen. He has good stuff (97.3 vFA, 30.1% O-Swing%, and 10.7% SwStr%) but can be wild (3.93 BB/9) and isn't nearly as effective as Duran. Lopez posted a 2.45 ERA, 3.69 xFIP, and 3.46 SIERA last season. Baldelli will likely stick with his approach, which is to use his best reliever in the most important situations in the game, which isn't always in the 9th inning. Still, finishing off close games in the 9th will always be of the utmost importance, so Duran should end up with more save opportunities than anyone else in the Twins' bullpen this season.
Dansby Swanson, SS, CHC
Swanson joined the Cubs this offseason after seven seasons in Atlanta with the Braves. He is coming off a career year in which he slashed .277/.329/.447 with 25 homers and 96 RBI. He posted career bests in many statistics, most notably in average, HardHit% (46.1%), wRC+ (116), and SB (18). Swanson has been a solid major league shortstop for a long time but only became fantasy relevant over the past two seasons. Swanson's 52 dingers and 184 RBI rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively, among shortstops since the start of the 2021 campaign. His contact skills aren't anything special (26.1% K%, 13.1% SwStr%, 80.4% Z-Contact%), but he has been barreling the ball up with more regularity (10.8% in '22, 11.4% in '21) the past few seasons and hitting it with authority. Wrigley Field in Chicago has proved to be slightly less friendly to batters than Truist Park in Atlanta, but it's not significant enough to worry too much over. Swanson is coming off the board as the 10th SS drafted, which seems accurate. There are shortstops with more potential coming off the board after him, but Swanson is a safe bet in that range. I don't see him being significantly more productive in Chicago, especially in the runs and RBI department, but a mid-20s HR total and mid-teens SB total are nothing to scoff at out of a mid-round shortstop.
Michael Conforto, OF, SF
Conforto signed a two-year deal with the Giants this offseason after missing all of the 2021 campaign due to shoulder surgery. The 30-year-old was a productive fantasy contributor for the Mets from 2018-2020, hitting 70 homers during the three years, but then struggled in 2021 and hasn't played since. Starting fresh with a new team is probably a good thing for Conforto, though moving to San Francisco, which is a tough ballpark for lefties isn't ideal. However, Citi Field isn't a hitter's haven either as it ranks dead last in the Basic (5yr) overall hitting factor. It will be tough to predict how Conforto fares after a full season of not playing, but he owns a career solid .352 wOBA and is expected to be 100% healthy come opening day.
Justin Verlander, SP, NYM
After 17 years of pitching in the AL for the Tigers and Astros, Verlander is taking his talents to the National League with the New York Mets. As usual, the big thing to consider with Verlander is his age. He turned 40 years old in February but has inexplicably been able to ward off father time thus far. After essentially missing all of the 2020 and 21 seasons due to Tommy John Surgery, one would have thought his career was drawing to a close after. But no, Verlander instead bounced back last season, going 18-4 with a league-low 1.75 ERA, won his third Cy Young, and won the World Series with the Astros. Even at 39, Verlander had zip on his fastball (95.1 vFA), and though his strikeout numbers were down (9.51 K/9), he remained effective by limiting walks (1.49 BB/9) and home runs--His .62 HR/9 was the second lowest of his career. Logic says drafting a 40-year-old on a new team as the 7th starting pitcher (his current ADP) in fantasy is foolish, but who can bet against the future HOFer at this point?
Carlos Correa, SS, MIN
The big-name shortstop had a wacky offseason, but after signing with the Giants and then the Mets (both teams didn't like Correa's ankle during the physical), he wound up resigning with the Minnesota Twins on a six-year deal. Correa's health has always been an issue and the fact that not one, but two teams' doctors took issue with his ankle that he injured way back in 2014 isn't exactly a good sign. Correa did play in 136 games last season and put up a respectable .291/.366/.467 triple-slash line along with 22 dingers. The 28-year-old has never really lived up to his billing as an offensive contributor, so he is often picked way higher than deserved in fantasy due to his Superstar status. He hit very pedestrian for most of the 2022 campaign but did catch fire late to give life to the thought that he could still be a top-end fantasy shortstop. Over his last 163 PA, Correa slashed .361/.423/.585 with a ridiculous .435 wOBA and 191 wRC+. There is risk involved of course, but he is currently going as the 9th SS off the board, which won't kill a fantasy team if he spends multiple stints on the IL or struggles to find his swing again this season.