One of the fun parts of Spring Training is to watch some young players perform really well. It can help solidify the prospect status of some, bring some on the radar, and even force a player onto a major league roster. There are several young players having solid performances and some of them have been noted among the players commented on below. In a lot of cases they don't end up heading north with the parent club but they can be worth watching, particularly in keeper leagues.
Aaron Civale- P- CLE- Civale pitched better than his ERA in 2022. His ERA of 4.92 was well above his xFIP od 3.62. This spring he has a 5.59 ERA in 9.2 IP despite a WHIP of 1.14 and 11 Ks. Last night Civale was charged with 3 runs in 3.2 IP but did take a liner off his ankle before allowing the runs and also struck out 4. He worked through it but may have been affected in the short term. Civale is projected to post a 3.87 ERA and strike out 150 in 152 IPs. Civale is undervalued, with a FDP of 23.08 against his ADP of 28.12.
Matt Thaiss- C- LAA- Thaiss has had strong spring, slashing .389/.560/.500 in Cactus League play. This is making him the odds on favorite right now to start the season as the backup catcher for the Angels. There are a couple of things that are working against him keeping that slot for an extended amount of time. First, he has been helped by a .412 BABIP and has not hit a homer. The second is the presence of catcher-of-the-future Logan O'Hoppe. O'Hoppe has hit everywhere he has stopped in the minors and is known as a strong defensive catcher. If O'Hoppe starts off hot in AAA he could be called up quickly and displace not just Thaiss but also possibly Max Stassi.
Brad Nimmo- OF- NYM- As if the Mets haven't had enough injury issues, Nimmo left yesterday's game with an ankle injury. He got a spike caught in the dirt sliding into second base. Nimmo will have imaging done today to determine the severity of the injury. Nimmo had a FDP of 9.07 heading into the game, looking like a bargain opportunity with an ADP of 14.12. The results of the imaging will be a big factor in Nimmo's value.
Tommy Pham- OF- NYM- Pham was signed to serve as the fourth outfielder for the Mets. If Brandon Nimmo's ankle injury is serious, Pham will likely get a hike in playing time. Pham was projected to provide some power, with 19 homers projected in 479 ABs. More playing time would send him over the 20 homer mark. Pham would also likely challenge double digit steals, as he is projected at 7. Nimmo's misfortune could make Pham more than an afterthought in deeper leagues.
Jean Segura- 2B- MIA- Segura came back to the Marlins after the Dominican Republic was eliminated from the WBC. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI and double. Segura will be playing 3B for the Marlins, which will shortly add to his eligibility at 2B. He had an injury-impacted season in 2022, slashing .277/.336/.387 with 10 homers and 13 steals in 387 PAs. Segura's projections for 2023 are a .269 average, 17 homers, and 12 steals. He is currently ranked as the 20th best 2B, which is likely higher than his production would warrant at 3B.
Mark Melancon- RP- ARI- Melancon's injury was diagnosed as a subscapularis strain. He will not be undergoing surgery but will still be unavailable until sometime after the All-Star Break. After saving 39 games and posting a 2.23 ERA while striking out 59 batters in 64.2 IP in 2021 Melancon's numbers dropped to 18 saves with a 4.66 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 56 IP last season. It looks like 2021 was a last hurrah for him and Melancon's fantasy relevance has disappeared with this injury.
Jackson Jobe- P- DET- Jobe, the #23 ranked pitching prospect by Fantistics, will be shelved for 3-6 months by lumbar spine inflammation. He has a mid-90s fastball and three other pitches to complement it. His results were better in a late season promotion to High-A West Michigan where he posted a 1.18 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 15 IP. Jobe was a long term prospect and that term just became longer.
Jose Miranda- 3B- MIN- Miranda's shoulder has improved enough that he is expected to start the season at 3B for the Twins. Miranda is projected to slug 25 homers. He is undervalued right now, with an ADP of 13.03 and a FDP of 10.05. The uncertainty of position may have played into that.
Canaan Smith-Njigba- OF- PIT- Smith-Njigba has hit 3 homers out of the park this spring. However he only has 2 official homers because there was a baserunning blunder on one of them when he passed a runner. Smith-Njigba has an EV of 92.7 in the Grapefruit League and has 6 balls with an EV of 100 mph or more. In the minors he has hit the ball hard but not high enough. Smith-Njigba has been concentrating in increasing his launch angle and in this short sample it has been working. He has been a player identified as one who could have a power breakout. It could be here. Right now Smith-Njigba is slated to be the 4th outfielder for the Pirates but if he is reaching his power potential he can force more playing time.
Jared Shuster- P- ATL- Shuster saw his effectiveness drop after being promoted to AAA Gwinnett last year. He posted a 4.25 ERA in 48.2 IP and saw his K/9 drop to 7.21 from the 10.52 he had at AA Mississippi. This spring Shuster has bounced back and dominated the Grapefruit League. Yesterday he threw 4 scoreless IP and gave up 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 7. He now has an 0.71 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, and has struck out 16 in 12.2 IP of spring training ball. Shuster is the frontrunner for the fifth starter spot in the Braves rotation. He has registered solid K rates at every minor league level except that small sample in AAA. With a contending club he could also add wins.
Paul Blackburn- P- OAK- Blackburn was an All-Star in 2022 and was in the mix to be the Opening Day starter for the A's. The operative word about the starting opportunity is "was" because Blackburn is unable to grip a pitch due to a fingernail avulsion (that was my new word learned today) and will start the season on the IL. Blackburn was projected to post a 4.11 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, strike out 119 and win 6 games in 146 IP. What that tells you is that if Blackburn was a prime contender to head the rotation is that Oakland is not a place to look for starting pitching.
Bryce Johnson- OF- SF- Johnson may be forcing his way into contention for a roster spot for the Giants. The reason is his 9 steals in 10 games. That's the most in spring training since 2018. Johnson is also adding some hitting to his case, slashing .318/.407/.409. Johnson has swiped 30+ bases in each of the past 2 seasons at AAA Sacramento and has slashed .286/.377/.433 and .290/.369/.401 in those seasons. He has speed and defense and has shown the potential to hit. Unfortunately for Johnson the Giants have a crowded outfield. At this point it would probably take an injury to clear a space for him. Right now Mitch Haniger and Austin Slater have some tweaks, so there might be an opportunity if either of those are lingering to the start of the season.
Miguel Rojas- SS- LAD- With Gavin Lux done for the season, Rojas is the starting SS for the Dodgers. Although he did suffer a little from bad luck last season with Miami (.268 wOBA and .293 xwOBA) his projected .259 average with 9 homers, 49 runs, 42 RBI, and 8 steals doesn't bode well for much fantasy value. Right now Rojas would be considered overvalued, even with a modest 43.02 ADP. His FDP is 48.12. Lux would have been much better.
Masyn Winn- SS- STL- Winn, the #32 ranked hitting prosect by Fantistics, was a homer short of a cycle yesterday. For the Grapefruit League he is hitting .333 with 2 homers, 8 runs, 9 RBI, and 3 SBs. Winn is unlikely to win a MLB roster spot, but will probably get his first AAA experience. He slashed .258/.349/.432 at AA Springfield last year after promotion from High A PeoriaWinn slugged 11 homers and swiped 28 bases in 403 PAs at AA . He also stole 15 bases at Peoria. Winn is building his prospect resume.
Bryson Stott- 2B- PHI- Stott will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2022. He slashed .286/.338/.418 after he took over the 2B spot in Philadelphia after Didi Gregorius was traded. He is projected to be short of the batting average, at .258, but add 14 homers and 15 steals. Stott is just a little overvalued with an ADP of 19.02 and FDP of 20.10.
Isaiah Kiner-Falefa- SS- NYY- With a couple of prime prospects at SS for the Yankees Kiner-Falefa will probably have to look towards other positions for playing time. "Other positions" could be IKF's middle name. He has played catcher and every infield position but 1B in his MLB career so far. Now the Yankees are getting him some exposure to CF. Yesterday he had 4 putouts in the first two innings. IKF will also probably see some time at the corner OF positions. He is in line to be a real super utility player. He is projected to hit 12 homers in 327 ABs, but may see more playing time, which would increase that number4. IKF is projected to only steal 5 bases but he has stolen 20+ each of the last two seasons so more playing time could result in an increase there as well. Position flexibility will also add some value.