Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Mike Moustakas, Carlos Gonzalez return home, giving younger players longer odds of contributing
Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez are back with their old teams, which is pretty disrupting this late in the game. Scott White looks at their situations and some arsenal changes for Cole Hamels and Jharel Cotton.
In the case of Moustakas, the Fantasy consequences are fairly straightforward. You would have liked to see him go to a park more attuned to his swing, but he did set a franchise record with 38 home runs last year. It's true he displaces Cheslor Cuthbert, who may now impede Jorge Soler's at-bats at DH, but as sleepers go, those two are definitively low-end.
Gonzalez is another story. Coming off a year in which he disappointed with a .262 batting average and .762 OPS, it's not entirely clear he'll have first dibs on an outfield job. Still, my No. 1 position battle of spring training is between Ryan McMahon and David Dahl, with Gerardo Parra shifting between right field and first base to accommodate the winner. I'm guessing one still makes the major-league roster -- and I'm leaning McMahon -- but are they competing for an everyday role, or will it now be more of a rotation situation?
Stock down for both. Still great late-round picks, but this move takes the wind out of their sails.
No closer to a closer
Mike Matheny is being annoying.
Enough beat writers have written articles singling out Luke Gregerson as the closer this spring that you have to think that's the direction the Cardinals are leaning, but then Matheny throws us this red -- cardinal red -- herring on Thursday:
"I don't think we need to leave here with a closer. I don't think we need to leave here with that title," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A couple of concerns here. First, Gregerson is presently battling an oblique injury that is reportedly no big deal -- he said he was feeling "tremendously better" Thursday -- but still ... oblique injury. Also, Dominic Leone, who was clearly better than Gregerson last year with a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings for the Blue Jays, has already recorded two saves this spring. Of course, teams don't typically reserve their closers for the ninth inning in exhibition play, and Matheny has raved about Gregerson's stuff this spring.
I'm not sure Leone or Tyler Lyons wouldn't be a better option for the Cardinals than Gregerson, but most of all, we want one option in Fantasy Baseball. Gregerson is still the one I'm targeting late.
Hamels can handle
Among the veteran pitchers who underwhelmed us last year, Cole Hamels is the one most presumed to be dunzo.
His velocity was down a little. His strikeout rate was down a lot.
But he's taking a dramatic step to address the latter issue, introducing a new pitch to his arsenal this spring.
"I'm trying to get the Kershaw slider," he told The Dallas Morning News. "If I can get that, my strikeout rate might go up."
It was responsible for two of his four strikeouts over three 3 2/3 innings Thursday against .
"Strikeouts are what people want to see," Hamels said. "I don't mind if I get back into that."
Heath Cummings was just saying the other day on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast that he'd be willing to give Hamels another look if the 34-year-old could point to something he was doing differently this spring. Well, now he is, and the early returns are good.
The touch, the feel
Speaking of arsenal changes to maximize strikeouts, Jharel Cotton has committed to throwing his changeup more this season, according to The Mercury News, which is notable because it's his best swing-and-miss pitch.
The result Wedneday was a gem of a start in which he struck out five Mariners in four one-run innings.
"I keep telling myself, no matter what, that's gonna be my pitch to get me out of jams," Cotton said.
I think if he was guaranteed a rotation spot, he'd be getting more hyped as a sleeper right now. Perhaps he should be anyway.
Embarrassment of Richards
He's not as overlooked as Cotton, but Garrett Richards may not be getting enough attention as a sleeper. He had maybe the most impressive start of all of spring training Wednesday, striking out seven over four two-hit innings.
"Three double-plus pitches at times most of the day," a scout in attendence told the Very impressive."
He was doing similar things down the stretch last season, when he returned from a lengthy stint rehabilitating a small tear in his pitching elbow. The Angels didn't turn him loose fully. He pitched six innings one time and five innings twice across six starts, but efficiency wasn't the issue. He threw 63, 74 and 85 pitches in those starts, compiling a 2.28 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the total six starts.
He throws hard, he misses bats, he induces ground balls. He looks like everything we should want in a pitcher. The Angels' six-man rotation will limit the weeks in which he's making two starts, but given his upside, you might find yourself wanting to start him every week regardless.
Foot off the Glas for now
Tyler Glasnow had begun to gain some traction as a Fantasy sleeper, what with a six-strikeout effort early this spring and reports of triple-digit radar gun readings.
But then came Wednesday at the Blue Jays, a start in which he allowed six earned runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
It's spring training. Pitchers are working on things, and results should be taken with a grain of salt. But manager Clint Hurdle wasn't making any excuses for Glasnow after this one.
"There's challenges here," Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's got to find a way to make pitches. He's got to find a way to get outs. That's the final stage for him, he knows well as anybody."
The 24-year-old right-hander with the unhittable fastball that appears even faster because of his gangly 6-foot-8 frame continues to confound. After looking like he had turned the corner in 13 starts at Triple-A, compiling a 1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings with a drastically reduced walk rate, he came back to the majors to deliver a 9.39 ERA and 2.74 WHIP in three September appearances.
Wednesday's start may have negated whatever momentum he had in the rotation battle. He's still a sleeper and still has monster breakout potential, but you need to curb your expectations for him given the work he still has ahead of him.
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