Spring Training: Fantasy Players to Watch in the NL East

With spring training now upon us, there are numerous players that fantasy owners should be monitoring. Who in the NL East should owners be focused on?

Pitchers and catchers report this week, initiating the start of the 2018 season. There are still a ton of free agents on the market, storylines to be fleshed out, and more, but this is what every fantasy owner has been waiting for. In this article, we will look at players from every MLB club that fantasy owners should be watching this spring, focusing on the NL East.

CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 11: Daniel Murphy

Washington Nationals: Daniel Murphy

This could go for Adam Eaton as well, but Daniel Murphy has the bigger fantasy impact. Murphy went under the knife this offseason, getting extensive knee surgery done. He got a micro-fracture and debridement surgery on his right knee, his plant leg, on Jan. 4. This puts his status for the beginning of the year in question.

After Murphy’s breakout 2016, he put away any questions of a let down with another stellar .322/23 HR/93 RBI/.928 OPS line last season. Since altering his approach at the plate heading into 2016, with a focus on improved launch angle, Murphy has been the best fantasy second baseman outside of Jose Altuve.

The second base position has gained some depth in terms of plausible options, but Murphy’s consistency is unrivaled leaving a huge black cloud at the top of the rankings.

Anyone that has watched Murphy over the last two years knows the type of torque that he puts on his plant leg, not to mention the fact that a huge buoy to his fantasy value is his XBH prowess. Fantasy owners need to monitor his rehab through the spring to see not only if he can get ready to start the year, but just how comfortable he is trusting his knee post-surgery.

Honorable Mention: Victor Robles 

An extremely talented youngster that has been blocked by the bodies in front of him. Bryce Harper and Eaton are locked in the corners, leaving him to battle it out with Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin in center. If  Robles can have a huge spring, and win the job, he becomes an intriguing flier. 

Philadelphia Phillies: Jorge Alfaro

The main haul in the 2015 Cole Hamels deal, Alfaro looks poised to be the starter behind the plate for the upstart Phillies this season. He debuted for the Phils’ last season and impressed over his 114 at-bats, posting a .318/5 HR/14 RBI/.874 OPS line. He did strike out a ton, 33 K to only 3 walks, but the slugger displayed the raw power he has been long lauded for.

Heading into 2018, Alfaro has a clear path to playing time as long as he does not fall squarely on his face this spring. Owners need to see that for one Alfaro has made some type of swing adjustment to help the K numbers, and to make sure that he secures the starting job.

If he does, Alfaro shapes up to be one of the best late-round C fliers for those who punt the position. With his power, a loaded Phillies’ lineup around him, and a favorable ballpark, he has 30 HR upside. The AVG will not be pretty, but the C spot is weaker than ever, opening the door for him to ascend to top-10 status.

Honorable Mention: Maikel Franco

Luckily for Franco, third base is one spot where the Phillies do not have a stud prospect waiting in the wings.  Franco was one of the biggest fantasy busts last season, and it seems as though his act with the Phillies’  is wearing thin.  He is still talented, but he certainly needs a strong spring before fantasy owners can trust him. 

ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 20: Sean Newcomb

Atlanta Braves: Sean Newcomb

The Braves have two open rotation spots, and Sean Newcomb is certainly in the lead-based off his 2017 debut. Over his 19 starts last season, he posted a 4.32 ERA/108 K/57 BB line. Over his 100 innings, he boasted a 24% K rate, stifling batters with his fastball/curveball combo.

Unfortunately, the walks were brutal. He finished second worst in the league in BB per game, and his 1.57 WHIP definitely leaves a lot to be desired. In order to make any noise in the east, Newcomb has to take the next step with his command and that starts in the spring.

He needs to be monitored in the spring to see if he can limit his walks, even in limited outings. The raw stuff is fility, so if he looks as though he has made an adjustment, he should be one of the most popular sleeper selections this spring.

Honorable Mention: Ronald Acuna

Widely considered the top-prospect in MLB, he only has the likes of Preston Tucker and Lane Evans standing in the way of him debuting for the Braves. He is a must watch for his talent alone, but his fantasy value could take a huge boost with a great spring. 

New York Mets: The Whole Rotation

There are just some consistencies in life, death, taxes and the Mets’ vaunted rotation spending more time on the DL than on the field. Only Jacob deGrom could make 30+ starts last season, as Noah Syndergaard only made seven starts, Matt Harvey was once again terrible, as was Zach Wheeler, and Steven Matz.

It would be amazin’ to see all five Mets’ starters begin the year without an injury flaring up. Fantasy wise, all five would have fantasy value, but Thor’s injury has the biggest impact. He needs to avoid any setbacks, which would allow him to rejoin the premier fantasy ace status.

Fantasy owners can turn the page on Harvey, deGrom is still a fantasy ace, Wheeler is intriguing now a year plus removed from TJ surgery, and Matz has shown plenty of flashes. It is once again a situation to monitor closely yet again.

Honorable Mention: Amed Rosario

The very talented youngster looked overwhelmed during his 2017 debut.  He has 10 HR/25 SB upside, which makes him a targetable option. But, if he still looks overwhelmed at the plate this spring, fantasy owners have to leave him on the waiver wire. 

Miami Marlins: Lewis Brinson

Like Rosario, Brinson looked vastly outmatched last season during his debut. There are scouts torn on whether not he can stick in the majors, but the talent is just too hard to not at least watch this spring. The Marlins are in a complete teardown, leaving Brinson the path to all the playing time he can handle.

He has dominated AAA, and the raw talent is good enough where he could easily win Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. But, he has to adjust, and adjust fast. He was exploited a lot last season late in counts, as he would not cut down on his swing and utilize his speed with a more contact oriented approach.

There is real 20 HR/20 SB upside from a player that will cost peanuts on draft day. If he can tear it up this spring, owners will have no choice to take a late-round flier on him this spring. He is one of the top must-watch candidates this spring across the entire league.

Honorable Mention: Magneuris Sierra

Sierra is a true wildcard for the Marlins. Only rivaled by Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton, he has some of the fastest sprint rates in the game. He will not hit for any power and needs to clean up his CS numbers, but if he can have a solid spring, there is a real shot he earns an OF  spot for Miami. With SB non-existant in the league, Sierra would be an intriguing name during drafts this spring. 

The NL East seems to be a one-team race in 2018. That does not mean that the division lacks intrigue because it certainly does. The Phillies could make a lot of noise if their rotation can perform, the Mets need to stay healthy for once, and Atlanta could take the next step as long as their youngsters do.  There are a ton of interesting players and storylines to watch this spring.