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Sunday, March 7, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: SATURDAY.

 -It is nothing but a minor hamstring strain suffered by Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Luis Urias and he should be back in action in the next few days.  Considered a top prospect not all that long ago, Urias has scuffled so far at the major league level.  That being said, he remains an upside late round grab who could yield some decent value if he catches playing time.

-Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto has had no setbacks in his rehab from a broken thumb and is expected to be in the lineup for Opening Day.  Realmuto was the first big injury of spring training but the consensus top fantasy baseball catcher by a mile should be ready to go when the games count.  

-Houston Astros pitcher Framber Valdez has a very murky immediate future after suffering a broken finger in his last spring outing.  Surgery is not recommended at this point but it figures to be awhile before we see the interesting high-K pitcher in fantasy baseball.  

-Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb had a possible COVID exposure that will keep him away from the team until he passes some tests.  He remains a terrible control pitcher whose decent K rate has been overshadowed by the free passes.

-New York Mets ace Jacob DeGrom threw two scoreless frames in his first spring outing and he hit 100 on the radar gun.  DeGrom struck out three and was named the team's Opening Day starter.

-The news was not so great for top Seattle Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic who was diagnosed with a strained abductor muscle in his knee.  No word has been given on how long he will be out but it may keep him down on the farm until May as opposed to mid-April once his Super 2 status was reached.  



2021 FANTASY BASEBALL THIRD BASEMAN RANKINGS

Just like with shortstop, third base remains a very deep position that goes about 12 deep in terms of very good starting options.  Let's see how they currently stack up.

1.  Jose Ramirez

2.  Alex Bregman

3.  Manny Machado

4.  Nolan Arenado

5.  Anthony Rendon

6.  Rafael Devers

7.  Kris Bryant

8.  Eugenio Suarez

9.  Matt Chapman

10. Josh Donaldson

11. Yoan Moncada

12. Justin Turner

13. Alec Bohm

14. Gio Urshela

15. Ke'Bryan Hayes

16. J.D. Davis

17. Kyle Seager

18. Tommy Edman

19. Brian Anderson

20. Carter Kieboom

21. Austin Riley

22. Eduardo Escobar

23. Maikel Franco

24. Yandy Diaz

25. Edwin Rios


Saturday, March 6, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING WRAPUP: FRIDAY

-Houston Astros top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley will be shut down for awhile after reporting soreness in his pitching arm.  The hard-throwing Whitley has faced setback after setback during his development as he dealt with injuries and a PED suspension.  Once a decent prospect target, Whitley is not worth your time until he gets healthy.

-Top Seattle Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic injured his knee during Friday's game but the issue is considered minor.  While he will likely begin the season in the minors due to service time manipulation, Kelenic looks to be the real deal who would not shock anyone if he came out as a rookie and hit 20-plus homers and stole double-digit bags.

-Atlanta Braves utility man Johan Camargo went 1-for-2 in Friday's game and he remains a person of interest in fantasy baseball as a David Fletcher-like player you can plug in all over the field on light schedule days or as a short-term injury replacement.

-Braves pitching prospect Kyle Wright remains the favorite to win the team's fifth starter gig as he tossed three innings against the Twins with one hit given up and striking out two.  That being said, Wright has struggled badly in the majors in 2019 and 2020 and his overall stuff doesn't generate any upside for fantasy baseball.  

-Los Angeles Angels DH/SP Shohei Ohtani hit 100-mph while he struck out five batters in his spring debut on Friday.  That outing alone shows up the massive upside Ohtani has not only as a pitcher but also as a hitter.  Injuries are always going to be a concern here but Ohtani has SP 2/3 stuff right out of the gate if he can make it to the season in one piece.  

-The groin injury suffered by Phillies outfielder Adam Haseley will keep him out the next four weeks which means fading prospect Scott Kingery is now the favorite to start in his place on Opening Day.  We have seen glimpses of big-time ability out of Kingery in the past as he can hit for power and also steals some bases so be sure to place him on your late round radar.  

-Already with 2 home runs this spring, Baltimore Orioles outfielder D.J. Stewart came out of Friday's game with a slight hamstring tweak.  He is considered day-to-day but is barely worth value in AL-only leagues.  

-Astros SS/3B Alex Bregman is getting closer to making his spring debut despite dealing with a nagging hamstring issue.  While Bregman was not overly impressive in 2020, he remains a supreme talent whose second to third round price tag looks like a smart investment.  

-Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez avoided disaster on Friday as an HBP to his hand looks scary when it happened.  Afterwards the team announced it was just a bruise and he is day-to-day.  Having struggled badly in 2020, Baez is coming at a nice discount in 2021 fantasy baseball drafts.  A proven power hitter who can steal the odd base, Baez is a terrific buy low option.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SHORTSTOP RANKINGS

The depth at the shortstop position is downright silly this season and while you would love to have Fernando Tatis Jr., Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, or Trevor Story, some immense value can be found here given how deep the position goes.  

1.  Fernando Tatis Jr.

2.  Francisco Lindor

3.  Trevor Story

4.  Trea Turner

5.  Xander Bogaerts

6.  Bo Bichette

7.  Tim Anderson

8.  Corey Seager

9.  Adalberi Mondesi

10. Javier Baez

11. Gleyber Torres

12. Carlos Correa

13. Dansby Swanson

14. Marcus Semien

15. Wander Franco

16. Jorge Polanco

17. Didi Gregorious

18. Andres Gimenez

19. Paul DeJong

20. Amed Rosario

21. Wily Adames

22. Orlando Arcia

23. Miguel Rojas

24. Kevin Newman

25 David Fletcher 

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER

There were a bunch of surprises in what was a crazy and unpredictable 2020 fantasy baseball season that was shortened to 60 games.  While many big name players struggled to adjust to the unprecedented season, other thrived.  Then there were those performances that came out of nowhere such as what we saw out of San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Croneworth.  Despite having not reached the majors until the age of 26 and with a modest draft pedigree after going in the seventh round of his class, Croneworth did a terrific job in batting .285 with 4 home runs and 3 stolen bases for the team.  Add in 26 runs and 20 RBI and Croneworth became a five-tool fantasy baseball asset at a shallow position for those who took an early stab while ignoring the no-name history.  Of course we have seen many instances of guys coming out of nowhere and then quickly moving back to oblivion the following year (Chris Shelton anyone?) but at the very least, Croneworth should remain a person of interest as a sleeper candidate at a second base spot that is not very deep.

Digging into the numbers a bit, it is easy to see how smooth of a hitting approach Croneworth has.  Striking out at just a 15.6 K/9 rate and also walking at a 9.4 BB/9 clip, the kid certainly has an advanced understanding of the zone.  The combination of walks and low strikeouts should make Croneworth a perennial threat to bat .300 or better and anyone who has owned DJ LeMahieu can understand the allure.  Add in the fact that Croneworth has some power and stole 20 bases at Double-A in 2018 and there are a bunch of numbers here that could be quite intriguing in tandem.  

Now again it is very possible Croneworth will get exposed in 2021 during his second tour around the game but there is also a chance he builds off his nice debut.  There is risk for sure when cutting the check but given how shallow second base is this season, a stab here seems worth the effort.  

2021 PROJECTION:  .293 11 HR 63 RBI 73 RBI 14 SB  

Thursday, March 4, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS

 Here are the updated 2021 fantasy baseball second baseman rankings as of the beginning of spring training:

1.  Ozzie Albies

2.  DJ LeMahieu

3.  Ketel Marte

4.  Jose Altuve

5.  Cavan Biggio

6.  Keston Hiura

7.  Jake Croneworth

8.  Brandon Lowe

9.  Kolten Wong

10. Mike Moustakas

11. Jonathan Villar

12. Jean Segura

13. Nick Madrigal

14. Cesar Hernandez

15. Hanser Alberto

16. Gavin Lux

17. Adam Frazier

18. Luis Arraez

19. Jonathan Schoop

20. Tommy LaStella

21. Roghned Odor

22. Donovan Solano

23. Ryan McMahon

24. Starlin Castro

25. Scott Kingery


2021 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: COREY KLUBER PASSES FIRST TEST

 With just one single inning logged a year ago which followed an injury-ruined 2019, expectations were on the floor for former two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Corey Kluber.  The former 220-K ace had one of the best five season run of performance prior to the injuries which netted the two Cy Youngs but Kluber was only able to garner a one year deal from the New York Yankees worth $11 million for 2021.  The hope according to Yanks GM Brian Cashman was that Kluber could find health again at the age of 34 but he also admitted the signing was somewhat of a lottery ticket.  Well so far so good as Kluber was excellent on Wednesday as he tossed two perfect innings that included three strikeouts.  While we are still far from the season starting, Kluber is trending upwards in terms of his stuff and outlook for 2021 fantasy baseball.  After missing so much time, Kluber's arm is undoubtedly fresh and his fastball humming the way it did Wednesday was a great sign.  Now the piper will need to be called sometime in July for Kluber if he does stay healthy as the innings piling up after so much missed time will start to eat away at his ERA and WHIP but four good months of production for a very cheap draft cost are looking better by the day.  



Wednesday, March 3, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MYLES STRAW OUTFIELDER HOUSTON ASTROS

In the fantasy baseball world, such no-name players like a Jarrod Dyson or a Drew Stubbs or a Scott Podsednik have garnered so much more attention or hype than they did in the real world game based almost exclusively on their skill at swiping bases.  Given that most standard fantasy baseball leagues using a 5 x 5 component in scoring have steals as one of the five hitting categories, these players are often in high demand on draft day and can go for some exorbitant prices.  That brings us to Houston Astros outfielder Myles Straw who very well could end up becoming the next speed specialist that makes an impact in fantasy baseball based on just his ability to swipe bags and he began to show off that skill by taking one off New York Mets catcher James McCann on Tuesday.  

In terms of Straw and his history, he originally was a 12th round pick of the team back in 2015 and took his time reaching the major leagues.  Throughout his minor league tenure however, Straw put up some nice stolen bases numbers and leadoff skills that included high walk rates.  He would debut with the Astros for 9 games in 2018 when he batted .333 and follow it up with 56 more contests in 2019 when the average was still a decent .269.  Altogether Straw swiped 10 bases and posted BB/9 rates in double digits but it still was not enough to secure an everyday spot for 2020.  

During the shortened 2020 season, Straw struggled in the 33 games he did get from the Astros as he batted just .207 and struck out at an ugly 25.6 K/9 rate but he deserves somewhat of a mulligan as all players do given the COVID challenges the entire season presented.  Fast forward to present day and it appears Houston management is ready to fully unleash Straw as the team's everyday centerfielder and leadoff batter and that my friends is a very intriguing proposition when it comes to the speed side of things.  While Straw still has to prove he can hit, the fact he walks a lot is a bonus to his batting average prospects and with OBP marks that have been every good at every stop he has made along the way, there should be plenty of chances to run.  Already multiple statistical predictor companies have Straw stealing between 25 and 35 bases and that alone should have him nestled as a very interesting speculative late round pick.  

As of now there is not much chatter when it comes to Straw but that will change if he keeps swiping bases this spring like he did on Tuesday.  While there are questions about the batting average and that there is pretty much no power to speak of, Straw has the chance for 30 steals and 75 runs which puts him in solid OF 3 territory.


Monday, March 1, 2021

2021 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: HYUN-JIN RYU SP TORONTO BLUE JAYS

 First some statistical nuances to digest on before proceeding further.  The first is that Toronto Blue Jays veteran starter Hyun-Jin Ryu is second in all of baseball in ERA-plus going back to 2018 behind the New York Mets' Jacob DeGrom.  Of course, a second statistic here is that Ryu threw 157 fewer innings than DeGrom so that needs to be taken into account when viewing the Blue Jays veteran through this lens.  The fact of the matter is though is that when he is heathy, Ryu has been a very good pitcher who has straddled the SP 1/2 line.  The flip side though is that Ryu is seemingly always hurt and in only 3 of his 8 seasons has he qualified for the ERA title.  That being said, Ryu has logged splendid ERA's of 2.69, 2.32, and 1.97 the last three seasons and he will be entrusted to work at the front of a Jays rotation that has a bunch of reclamation projects behind him in Steven Matz, Tyler Chatwood, and Robbie Ray.

Digging in on Ryu a bit more, he spent the first 7 seasons of his career in Los Angeles with the Dodgers and he took advantage of the pitching-leanings of their ballpark to really put himself on the map as a terrific pitcher who has a four-pitch arsenal.  Despite a fastball that generally averages just 90-91 throughout his career, Ryu gets great movement on his secondary offerings and is around 50 percent with a ground ball rate which is what you want to see from someone pitching in Toronto.  Given that Ryu keeps the ball on the ground at such a lofty rate, the home run haven that is Rogers Center is minimized a bit.  However Ryu still has to deal with a very rough AL East for a full season (and not the shortened variety such as 2020) and the fact he won't be facing opposing pitchers as of this writing is also another knock.  The biggest problem though are the injuries and Ryu is one of those guys who is almost guaranteed to hit the IL at least once and for an extended stay.  Given that the cost has risen on Ryu's ADP the last few seasons, it makes him one that is very risky.  Add in a K/9 rate that has only gone above 8.5 twice in his 8 MLB campaigns and Ryu is a bottom line guy who needs the innings to justify his cost.  If Ryu were in the NL we would be more likely to take a stab here but in the AL not so much.