Spring Training fantasy news with observations for fantasy baseball from the first 10 days of Cactus League and Grapefruit League action.
It is very easy to overrate Spring Training performances, but it is just as easy to dismiss them as irrelevant and miss crucial pieces of information which could give you an advantage over your competition.
Watch to see how injured players are returning to form. Notice which players in position battles are getting the most at-bats. Keep aware of pitchers working on new pitches. Monitor when roster cuts are made.
Here are a few noticeable items from the first 10 days.
Greg Bird is hitting 6-for-16 with three home runs. The 24-year-old missed the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery but will compete for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Chris Carter, Matt Holliday and, when he recovers from his fractured foot, Tyler Austin. In 2015, Bird slashed .343/.529/.871 in 48 games but has almost been forgotten about in drafts this year with an ADP of 259 as the 30th first baseman.
Red Sox’ outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. only has three hits but two were home runs. The 26-year-old hit 35 home runs with 12 stolen bases after returning to the majors in July 2015. He is the Red Sox’ first choice center fielder but suffers from severe platoon splits, with .909 OPS vs right-handed pitching and .665 OPS vs. left-handers.
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Everyone’s favorite sleeper Mitch Haniger is hitting .389 with two home runs. The 26-year-old is expected to be the Mariners’ Opening Day right fielder. He destroyed Triple-A pitching last season with 20 home runs and .341/.428/.670 slash line. After an initial adjustment when he was promoted to the majors in August, the right-hander finished with five home runs and .833 OPS over his final 20 games.
Jose Peraza’s status as a sleeper was already in jeopardy when Brandon Phillips moved to Atlanta, opening up the second base job. The 22-year-old already has nine hits in Spring Training with three stolen bases. Speed is in short supply and Peraza is projected for 30 stolen bases, so expect to see his draft value continue to rise if he keeps running wild on the base paths.
Over the last two years, no pitcher has a worse win-loss record than Shelby Miller’s 9-29. The Diamondbacks’ right-hander has shown encouraging signs in Spring Training with nine strikeouts and an uptick in velocity in his two starts.
Pitching coach Mike Butcher is excited about what he’s seen so far from Dbacks right-hander Shelby Miller. pic.twitter.com/EILWawp4qF
— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) March 5, 2017
Another starter with a disappointing win-loss record over the last two years (21-32) is the Rays’ Chris Archer. The right-hander has only allowed one hit with seven strikeouts in his two scoreless starts in the Grapefruit League. Consecutive seasons of 200+ innings with 10.6 SO/9 and 3.61 ERA (3.34 FIP) make him look like a very safe pick as a top-20 starter.
Danny Salazar has the strikeout potential (10.6 SO/9) of an ace but is a high-risk pick having made only eight starts after the All-Star break with a forearm strain. If healthy, he could be a top-20 starter but there is a significant injury risk. He has struggled to command his pitches in Spring Training with eight walks and four hits in just 6.1 innings.
Huston Street left his first outing after just two batters and is likely to start the season on the DL with a minor lat strain. This opens up the opportunity for saves in Anaheim but flame-thrower Cam Bedrosian has injury issues of his own and is yet to feature in a Spring Training game. Andrew Bailey has 95 career saves but his spring has started poorly, having given up two hits with four earned runs and four walks in 1.2 innings.
The Cubs’ much-maligned outfielder Jason Heyward halted his 0-for-15 start to Spring Training with a solo home run and a two-run double. The former first-rounder has rebuilt his swing from scratch in an attempt to rediscover his offensive power. Last season, Jason Heyward ranked last with .631 OPS for players with at least 530 at-bats.
Padres’ catcher Austin Hedges broke out in Triple-A last season with 21 home runs, .326 AVG and .951 OPS in 313 at-bats. He has always been elite defensively but now the bat is catching up and he has started 2017 well, batting .500 (9-for-18) in Cactus League play. With an ADP of 360, he could be excellent value as the 28th catcher off the board.
There are hundreds of stories still to be told over the next few weeks. Will David Price need surgery? Will Washington sign a closer? Who replaces David Dahl in the Rockies’ outfield if he starts the season on the DL? Check back in 10 days for the next installment.