We are heading into mid-March. Real WBC games have started. This means we are starting to get into a more serious part of Spring Training.
More and more fantasy drafts are taking place and we are seeing where players are valued by their Average Draft Position (ADP.) With the Insider Baseball: Fantistics Draft Software we can see where those positions compare with what Fantistics has valued their draft position (FDP.) Of course the projections themselves from the software are very valuable in helping to see who can help you in what areas.
Here are some news and notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, as well as the occasional items from the WBC and even a couple of names to keep an eye on for later:
Yordan Alvarez- DH- HOU- Alvarez took his first swings in a batting cage of the spring yesterday. The Astros have been very slow with his work after he reported to camp with a sore left hand. Alvarez has elite power skills, with a 95.2 EV, 21.0% Barrel%, and 59.8% HardHit% in 2022. He slugged 37 homers in only 135 games. Alvarez is also not a free swinger, with an 18.9% K% last year. He is projected to equal his homer total and be near a .300 average. Alvarez is expected to be fully available by Opening Day. Health is the question mark. In 2021 he played 144 games. If he puts together a 150+ game season his numbers will be colossal. Currently he is going as a late first round pick at 1.10. Fantistics has him slightly lower, at 2.02.
Starling Marte- OF- NYM- Marte played in his first Grapefruit League game of the spring. He went 2-for-2 with a double and homer in his first game action since undergoing groin surgery last November. He is projected to push the 20/20 club with 19 homers and 20 steals. It looks like he is slightly undervalued right now, with an ADP of 7.06 while Fantistics has him at 6.11. The gap may close a bit after this strong spring debut.
Harrison Bader- OF- NYY- Bader will be out 4-6 weeks with an oblique strain. Plantar fasciitis limited his playing time in 2022, but he still managed to steal a career-high 17 bases in just 86 games. He was projected to hit .263 with 15 homers and 21 steals in 496 ABs. Oblique injuries can have lasting effects so Bader's value drops with this news.
Terrin Vavra- 2B- BAL- Vavra went 1-for-2 as he returned after a couple of games off due to shoulder discomfort. He is competing for a utility role with the Orioles. Vavra has had solid OBP numbers in the minors and has shown the ability to steal some bases. He has very little power. Vavra started off hot when he first came up with the Orioles, slashing .370/.455/.481 in his first 11 games. He then cooled off and finished with a .258/.340/.337 slash line in 103 PAs. It is somewhat ironic that Vavra's value would go up if there is an injury in Baltimore. He has had his own injury issues in his minor league career. Vavra is one of those players to follow and look for a waiver wire acquisition if his situation changes. He has shown the ability to hit for average in the minors and has good command of the strike zone, with a BB/K of 0.63 in his time with the Orioles in 2022.
Bubba Thompson- OF- TEX- With Leody Taveras out with injury until after Opening Day, Thompson has an opportunity to grab the CF job for the Rangers. He has elite speed, as evidenced by his 18 steals in 55 games with the Rangers after getting called up last August. The big question is whether he can hit consistently hit at the MLB level. Although Thompson had a .265 average over 181 PAs in 2022, his OBP was only .302, as he had a BB% of only 3.9%. He only hit 1 homer. Before Taveras' injury, it was likely that Thompson was going to go back to AAA Round Rick, where he slashed .303/.355/.474 with 13 homers and 49 steals in .375 PAs. His BB% was 5.9%, better than he posted with Texas. If he sticks with the Rangers and plays every day in the outfield he will light up the SB column. Thompson had a 84.8 EV, 1.7% Barrel%, 21.6% HardHit% and 55.0% GB% in the majors in 2022. He can use his speed to turn some of those grounders to hits. Don't expect much more than the steals at this point, though.
Yuli Gurriel- 1B- MIA- Gurriel signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. He is expected to compete for the 1B job with Miami. After slashing .319/.383/.462 with 15 homers in 605 PAs in 2021, Gurriel only slashed .242/.288/.360 with 8 homers in 584 PAs with Houston last season. He will turn 39 in June, so an age-related decline is not out of the question. Gurriel is also moving from a park that was above average for RH hitters for homers to one that is below average. His HR/FB were cut in half compared to 2021, from 8.2% to 4.1%. Indicators are that Gurriel's overall performance will continue to decline this year.
Jose Iglesias- SS- MIA- Iglesias signed a minor league contract with the Marlins but will probably occupy the RH hitting half of a SS platoon with Joey Wendle. Iglesias slashed .292/.328/.380 with the Rockies in 2022 but it was not a result of the Coors Effect. He slashed .315/.348/.399 on the road. It was with the help of a .370 BABIP. Iglesias provided a good average in the middle of the last decade, but isn't likely to do that again, his near-.300 average of last year notwithstanding.
Andrew Painter- P- PHI- The news could have been worse. Painter, the 2nd ranked pitching prospect in baseball, has been prescribed rest for his sprained right proximal UCL and not surgery. He will be shut down until at least the end of the month. Painter will then start light tossing. It will still take a while for him to get to the point where he can throw in games and even longer before he will be ready for his MLB debut. It may come in 2023, but if not, he should be healed and ready to go in 2024. If the tear had been a distal UCL then he may have been looking at Tommy John surgery.
Ranger Suarez- P- PHI- Suarez is no longer with the Venezuelan WBC team. He experienced forearm tightness after an exhibition Wednesday. He is now back in the Phillies camp and will rest for a few days. There is not a lot of concern right now and Suarez did not have ana MRI. Right now the expectation is that Suarez will be ready for his first start of the regular season. With a projected ERA of 3.66 and WHIP of 1.27 he would warrant a slot in the back end of a fantasy roster.
Keibert Ruiz- C- WAS- The Nationals signed Ruiz to an 8-year deal worth $50 million, so they have committed to him as the catcher of the present and the future. He is projected to hit 18 homers this season, which puts him in amongst a kind of blob of fantasy catching potentials. In general it seems like catchers are being overvalued right now and Ruiz is no exception. His ADP of 16.03 is higher than his FDP of 18.01. He will be fine, but not prime catching material.
Spencer Torkelson- 1B- DET- Torkelson has rough stats in the Grapefruit League so far, with a .174 average after going 1-for-3 yesterday. However, he has hit 9 balls with an EV of 101 or better. In his rookie campaign of 2022 Torkelson slashed .203/.285/.319 with 8 homers in 404 PAs. He did have an EV of 90.5, Barrel% of 8.4%, and HardHIt% of 41.4%. His xwOBA of .305 was 33 points above his .272 wOBA. He is projected to hit .243 with 25 homers and a SLG of .452. Currently, Torkelson is undervalued with an ADP of 24.10 and FDP of 20.08.
Josh Hader- RP- SD- Hader's 2022 shows what happens when some outliers hit against a small sample size. His season-long ERA of 5.22 is 2.24 higher than his xFIP of 2.94. Two appearances where you give up a total of 12 ERs in a combined 0.2 IP will make that happen. It seems like most people have taken that into account. His ADP of 4.07 is a little bit above his FDP of 4.10. With Hader's ability to provide a raw number of strikeouts approaching what you'd get from a starter his value gets a distinct boost.
Joel Kuhnel- RP- CIN- Kuhnel is one of those players you file away in the back of your mind, particularly if you are in a league where middle relievers have value. In 2022 he posted a horrendous ERA of 6.36 over 58 IP across 53 games. He posted 5 holds and a save. Kuhnel had an xFIP of 3.52. That's a big difference. He had one stretch of 4 appearances where he allowed a total of 11 ERs in 4 IP and two more scattered games where he gave up a total of 8 ERs in just 0.1 IP combined. This season Kuhnel is projected to pitch 60 IPs and post a 3.70 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Those will probably be low leverage situations but if his profile increases, Kuhnel will see his fantasy value increase. He could be a good waiver wire pickup as the season progresses.
Tommy Kahnle- RP- NYY- Kahnle picked up 29 holds for the Yankees in 2019 and was valuable in leagues where those count. He also struck out 88 batters and posted a 3.67 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Then he essentially lost the 2020-2022 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Kahnle signed with the Yankees again after being on the Dodgers payroll in 20221 and 2022. Now he will be having a delayed start to his 2023 season. Kahnle is suffering from biceps tendinitis and won't be starting to throw until at least tomorrow. At any rate the Yankees are going to bring him along slowly and Kahnle will start the season on the IL. His projected ERA is 4.11 so his days of effectiveness like 2019 may be passed.
Kyle Gibson- P- BAL- Gibson may be due some regression. In 2022 he had a 5.05 ERA but also a 3.94 xFIP and 67.7% LOB%. There is still a lot of risk there, though. Gibson is projected to post a 4.48 ERA. His ADP of 38.02 is well above his FDP of 51.04. Gibson will be counted on as one of the top starters for Baltimore, but the results are going to be tough for a #2 starter.
Marcell Ozuna- OF- ATL- To say Ozuna has a troubled relationship with the Braves would be an understatement. However, it looks like he will be occupying their starting DH slot when the season opens. His .226/.274/.413 slash line in 2022 wasn't sparkling. However, he did hit 23 homers in 507 PAs and his .337 xwOBA was 39 points above his .298 wOBA. Ozuna is projected to hit 25 homers this year. At an ADP of 27.09 well below his FDP of 22.10 Ozuna could provide a late round power bargain.