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Position Tiers 2.0:| | | | | | |
Remember Lewis Brinson?
Allow him to remind you:
What about Chance Sisco? He has a little something to say as well:
Yup, both were once top prospects. Both were nothing short of dreadful in their first opportunity at full-time duty last year. Both find themselves fighting for another chance at it this spring. Both homered twice Wednesday, and both now have three home runs overall, tying them with a few others for the spring lead.
It's notable not only because they have to perform well to win a job but also because it's a welcome reminder that these two were once a big deal and are still fully capable of maximizing that potential.
For Brinson, once regarded as the top prospect in the Rangers system and Brewers system before becoming that for the Marlins last year, the key will be how much he has improved against breaking balls, and he obviously hasn't seen many of those at this stage in spring training.
"That was definitely in the scouting reports for a lot of teams," Brinson told MLB.com. "It should be. I was chasing it. It's something I took to heart this offseason, just getting into position for when they are strikes, I can hit them hard."
He has also said he plans to run more this season, which is well within his skill set to do, but he obviously has to reach base at better than a .240 clip to make it happen. He stole only two bases in 109 games last year.
As for Sisco, he wasn't so much regarded for power in the minors, profiling more as a contact hitter, but there has been nothing cheap about his home runs this spring. It's worth nothing that he put up great numbers last spring, too, batting .429 in 18 games, but the strikeout rate was through the roof. Maybe that's the number we should be most closely monitoring this spring.
It goes without saying that another plus bat would be a welcome addition at a position with so few, and Sisco is better equipped to become that than anyone else on the Orioles roster.
Senzel takes center stage
Nick Senzel went 3 for 3 with a double Wednesday against the White Sox, but it's no secret the second pick in the 2016 draft can hit. What's notable is he was making his second start in center field, where he's said to be competing now that he's blocked at his natural position, third base, by Eugenio Suarez and his secondary one, second base, by Scooter Gennett.
But rookie manager David Bell may have committed a Freudian slip while speaking about the versatility of another outfielder, Scott Schebler's, after the game.
"Yeah, it is valuable," Bell told MLB.com. "We're confident he can play all three. We do want to see him in center, but he is going to play right and left."
But, uh, isn't Schebler supposed to be the favorite for the center field job? Sounds like he's getting only a token look there.
There have been some rumblings about Yasiel Puig seeing some time there, but not full time, which would suggest Senzel really is Bell's Plan A at the position.
It's probably to the point where he needs to be drafted in standard mixed leagues. That's too much upside to leave on the table, especially since it's sounding more and more like he'll be up in mid-April.
Wait, so who-lio is in the Dodgers rotation?
But manager Dave Roberts reignited that flame Wednesday after watching 22-year-old Julio Urias throw a perfect inning against the Athletics.
"The door's open for him," Roberts said. "It's unfair to put limits on him as far as the potential to open the season."
It's not exactly bad news. Urias was considered one of the game's elite pitching prospects when he debuted as a 19-year-old in 2016, but he needed shoulder surgery the following year, which seemed like it had the potential to derail his entire career. He worked out of the bullpen last postseason, though, and has been clocked at 94-97 mph this spring, which is even harder than he was throwing prior to the procedure.
"The opportunity will present itself if it's supposed to," Roberts said. "Fortunately, we don't have to make that decision right now."
Is that Roberts' way of saying Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) may not be available for the start of the season? Either way, it suggests Urias has moved ahead of 2018 All-Star Ross Stripling in the pecking order should an opening emerge.
Bradley joins the revolution
Jackie Bradley hit 13 home runs in 144 games last year. So far this spring, though, he's 2 for 2, connecting for another big fly Wednesday against the Orioles.
Of course, a two-game sample doesn't count for much, especially one in which pitchers aren't competing with their full arsenals. But it's still an early sign that Bradley's offseason efforts to change his launch angle and join the fly-ball revolution may be paying dividends.
He worked with hitting guru Craig Wallenbrock, who is most credited for making J.D. Martinez what he is today. Really, the whole revolution may have begun with him.
Bradley is more established now than Martinez was back then. He even has a 26-homer season to his name. But if he can get more consistent power, he has breakout potential in a deep lineup.
'Slide' E-Rod up your rankings?
Bradley isn't the only Red Sox player looking to improve himself. Eduardo Rodriguez is working to add a true breaking ball to what has been a pretty limited arsenal to this point. His fastball-changeup combo is excellent, as demonstrated by his 10.1 K/9 last year, but without that third pitch, hitters can still guess their way to success, which has made Rodriguez curiously but consistently hittable.
With the help of Chris Sale, though, he may have finally refined his slider.
"It was an in-between slider-cutter kind of thing," manager Alex Cora told MassLive. "But it's a real slider [now]."
Rodriguez is still figuring out how to use it, which explains the lackluster outing Wednesday in which he allowed two runs on three hits in two innings.
"It was the first time I used it to a lefty," Rodriguez said of the slider. "To righties, it's working pretty good right now, but I've got to make it better to a lefty. Spring training is a good time to work on my pitches and just getting ready for the season."
Perhaps it'll be what unlocks the full extent of Rodriguez's potential, leading to a Mike Foltynewicz-like breakthrough.
Lowe goes high
Yes, Brinson and Sisco hit some impressive home runs Wednesday, but the most awe-inspiring of the day came courtesy of a player who has yet to make his major-league debut:
Nate Lowe absolutely murdered that pitch.
It was probably closer to 450 feet than the exaggerated 550-foot figure, but an overhead view offers a better perspective of just how far how he hit it. Look how far behind the wall that white building is. He cleared the front corner of it.
This Lowe isn't related to Brandon Lowe, who is already a player of some note in Fantasy Baseball, mostly because of his home run power. But Nate Lowe was actually the more impressive Lowe between three minor-league stops last year, learning to turn on fastballs after already showing a knack for hitting offspeed stuff.
"He might be ready now," manager Kevin Cash told MLB.com. "I'm not one to hold anybody back. I think he needs to keep doing what he's doing. He's definitely making a good impression."
So which Fantasy Baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued pitchers can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Scooter Gennett's huge breakout last season, and find out.