MLB Fantasy Baseball: Spring Training Hot Takes
While only a few days underway, Colby Conway has some spring training hot takes fantasy baseball owners should pay attention to during their draft prep.
While spring training has just begun in recent days I’m already antsy to talk about some things that have occurred around the league! Of course, there’s some good, there’s some bad and there’s some ugly. In this piece, it felt right to talk about some of the more noteworthy things that have happened and how we can use these early, albeit brief, appearances to gain a better thought process on certain players. With that in mind, let’s get into it!
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My Goodness, Noah Syndergaard
Did you see his first spring appearance? If not, go on YouTube and watch it, because my goodness, Thor is back! His fastball was lively and electric out of his hand, and he diced Jose Altuve with a changeup at or damn near 92 MILES PER HOUR!
Expect his ADP to rise moving forward and with another dominant, pain-free spring outing, he could easily become the fifth pitcher off the board, slotting in just a step behind the Big 4 (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber).
Welcome back, Jason!
In 2016, Jason Kipnis hit 23 home runs, swiped 15 bags, drove in 82 runs and sported an impressive .811 OPS. However, an injury derailed his 2017, limiting him to just 12 home runs, six stolen bases and a .705 OPS in 90 games. The second baseman needed a good spring to inspire some confidence in fantasy owners and through three spring games, I’m encouraged! He’s hitting .750 with three home runs and seven RBI.
Kipnis’ current ADP in the Mock Draft Army is 227.31. In a 12-team format, that’s in the 18th-round! He played in 140 or more games in all but one year from 2012-2016 and is a legitimate threat to join the 20/15 club. He’ll hit atop the Cleveland order with plenty of guys to bring him home, which is great for his counting stats. His ADP will likely rise in the coming weeks, but if you have a draft in the next couple of days, capitalize on the value you have at this moment with Cleveland’s second baseman.
Miguel Andujar is on FIRE!
Andujar is making it incredibly tough on the Yankees. Through five spring games, he’s hit four home runs and driven in five runs, en route to an outstanding 1.786 OPS. If he continues this pace, perhaps Brandon Drury will be the second baseman, and not the third baseman, as many initially thought.
Waiting on a Catcher? Introduce Yourself to Austin Hedges
You want a power bat behind the plate? Well, jump in line. Instead of Mike Zunino around pick No. 173, or Wellington Castillo around pick No. 180, grab Hedges nearly 100 picks later! He has three long balls this spring and even though they are his only three hits, it’s encouraging that the power is there this early in spring.
His batting average will never be great, but come on, it’s your catcher! However, the power is legitimate and could easily pop 20 long balls by seasons end. Hedges hit 18 home runs in just 120 games last season, however, his slash line of .214/.262/.398 was uninspiring. San Diego’s backstop had the sixth-highest OPS among catchers with 400 plate appearances last season and he makes hard contact as often as San Francisco’s Buster Posey. Petco Park isn’t exactly a launching pad, and the majority of the stadiums in the division aren’t hitter friendly, but currently, waiting on a catcher near pick No. 300 could yield far worse results.
Youth in Pittsburgh
Austin Meadows is a guy I’ve been touting to break camp with the team, and even though it may not happen, I don’t believe it will be too long into the season before we see Meadows roaming the outfield at PNC Park. He’s a smooth 5-for-8 with one home run, two doubles, seven RBI and a 2.167 OPS in his first four spring games. Sure, it’s not sustainable, but the fantasy value to be had with this guy could be immense in 2018. He can reach double-digit home runs at the big league level and could approach 20 stolen bases as well. Unless we get word he could break camp with the team, you won’t need to draft him, but keep a close eye because you’ll want to grab Meadows before someone else in your league does.
If you’ve read any of my articles this offseason, or listened to the podcast with Nate Miller and myself, you will already be privy to the fact that Taillon is a guy that I’m targeting EVERYWHERE. After unforeseen circumstances arose in 2017, Taillon is ready for 2018 and opened it up with a strong opener. In two innings, he allowed one hit, didn’t walk anyone and punched out three batters. Looks past some of the ugly parts of his 2017 season, and you can find some bright spots for 2018. Sure, his walks went up substantially, but command has been a strength of his, so that will surely come down. Strikeouts did go up, which is excellent, and his FIP (3.48) was nearly a full run below his ERA (4.44).
Health is a concern for Taillon, but he will return excellent value based off his current average draft position. With some better luck in 2018, Taillon could turn out to be a back-end SP2. Sign me up.