As Spring Training draws to a close, here are a few final thoughts and observations to take into the fantasy baseball season.
If walks in spring training are a good sign, then veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler is impressing his new employers. Kinsler has nine walks to just two strikeouts. He is set to take over as the Angels’ leadoff hitter, so the opportunity for 100 runs, coupled with double-digit home runs and stolen bases make Kinsler an attractive pick at his ADP of 169.
At the opposite end of the plate discipline scale is the Brewers’ Domingo Santana who has a 50% strikeout rate this spring. It has been a tough March for Santana, who is already looking at reduced playing time with Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun in the outfield.
The absolute worst strikeout victim of spring training was Ryan Schimpf who went 0-for-30 with 19 strikeouts as he attempted to win the Braves’ third base job. With Johan Camargo injured, the hot corner will likely be manned by Rio Ruiz on Opening Day. The rebuilding Braves have one of the best third base prospects in the minors, but Austin Riley is unlikely to debut until late in the season at the earliest.
The Phillies, another rebuilding team, have made acquisitions to look like wildcard contenders, although it is the spring training form of their much-maligned third baseman Maikel Franco that is noticeable. He leads the team with five home runs and could be on the verge of the breakout that has been anticipated for many years.
With the acquisition of Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins will play exclusively in the outfield this season. He exploded onto the scene last year with 18 home runs and 1.014 OPS in 50 games. Hoskins already has four home runs with as many walks as strikeouts.
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Another player with impeccable patience at the plate is the Mariners’ Dan Vogelbach. He has more walks than strikeouts, but he has gained most attention by leading spring training with 12 extra-base hits, including five home runs. The Mariners’ projected first baseman and DH, Ryon Healy and Nelson Cruz, are day-to-day with injuries, so Vogelbach (.844 OPS in Triple-A last year) could walk into the Opening Day lineup.
The Rockies roster is packed with hitters looking for playing time, and that was even before they re-signed Carlos Gonzalez. Their No. 2 prospect Ryan McMahon has looked impressive, hitting .355 with two home runs but he might lose out to Ian Desmond for the first base job, despite the veteran recording 19 strikeouts to one walk.
Staying in Colorado, you find the forgotten man of fantasy baseball drafts. Despite owning a 162-game average of 34 home runs and 103 RBI, Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story is languishing outside of the top-100. He has a 1.127 OPS in spring training with 11 extra-base hits.
A broken wrist will keep Justin Turner out for a couple of months, which could shift Logan Forsythe over to third base with Chase Utley, Kiki Hernandez and Austin Barnes sharing time at second base. Barnes, with his catcher-eligibility, is an enticing option for fantasy, especially in points and OBP leagues where his talents are most rewarded.
In a scenario that appeared impossible a few weeks ago, Matt Kemp will likely make the Opening Day lineup, hitting third. Expect the veteran to platoon in left field with Joc Pederson, with Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles back in Triple-A.
The Giants’ rotation has been decimated by injuries with Madison Bumgarner out for 6-8 weeks and Jeff Samardzija out for at least four weeks. This presents opportunities for Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Andrew Suarez, and non-roster invitee, Derek Holland. All four offer intriguing value in deeper leagues.
With Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl confirmed in the Pirates’ rotation, 24-year-old flamethrower Tyler Glasnow will start the season in the bullpen. Look out for the RP-eligibility to increase his value in CBS points leagues when he rejoins the rotation. Glasnow was outstanding in Triple-A last season with 1.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 13.5 SO/9 in 15 starts.
The Diamondbacks are looking outside of the organization for outfield help after losing Steven Souza for 6-8 weeks with a strained pec muscle. Unless they swing a trade, Jarrod Dyson could get significant playing time, which will undoubtedly result in a decent number of stolen bases. This could be huge.
Maybe my favorite snippet from spring training is the .107 AVG with the bat and 27.00 ERA with the ball, to drop the Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani down the rankings. At the start of the year, he went with the 40th pick in a baseball writers’ draft. In another draft just the other day, he was still available at pick 160. And who says Spring Training stats don’t matter?
If you have any suggestions for future articles or just want to chat about fantasy baseball, find Gavin on Twitter @_tramps