Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Rangers don't have a closer, but Steven Matz may have some hope again

Remember that super rotation we thought the Mets were going to have last year?

Or was it the year before? 

Well, whenever it was, it's all coming together now. Maybe. There's hope, anyway.

The biggest ray of said hope came Monday, when Steven Matz struck out nine Astros over six two-run innings, his third straight impressive outing after looking completely ineffective in his first two.

You may remember he pitched at less than 100 percent last year before finally succumbing to nerve reposition surgery in his left elbow in August. His ratios were dreadful, nothing like during his rookie 2016 season, and he needed a good spring to get back in Fantasy owners' good graces (probably needed to throw his slider more, too, but that's another story for another day). He apparently developed some bad habits while pitching through injury, struggling to finish his pitches early this spring.

"He's corrected it well," a scout told the New York Daily News. "He even got out of it a little bit his last start and self-corrected. That's a good sign."

Then there's Matt Harvey, who has earned rave reviews from the Mets new coach staff -- which features two big-name pitching coaches in Dave Eiland and manager Mickey Callaway -- in his second spring back from thoracic outlet surgery. He hasn't thrown as hard as even last season, but of course, the games don't matter yet.

Earlier this spring, Eiland said he discovered a mechanical flaw -- Harvey had lost some of his lower body in his delivery -- and the correction has been fairly encouraging. Most recently, he struck out five over 5 1/3 one-run innings against the Cardinals Tuesday.

Neither Matz nor Harvey is a sure thing, but both have ace upside. And for the price you're paying for them -- we're talking end of the draft here -- you wouldn't expect a sure thing anyway.

Danger Rangers

With about a week until the start of the season, we still have no idea who the Rangers closer is going to be. Alex Claudio seemed like a reasonable guess -- after all, he handled the role down the stretch last season -- but according to MLB.com, the Rangers have all but ruled him out, preferring to keep him more versatile.

 "Claudio can pitch with significance in the sixth, significance in the seventh, eighth and ninth," manager Jeff Banister said. "That is how valuable he is to us, and that's how valuable he will be going forward."

And Keone Kela, who had a 2.79 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings last year? He apparently has durability concerns and can't always be trusted to pitch back-to-back days.

"He's got to be available," Banister said.

Hard-throwing Jake Diekman is a possibility, as is Matt Bush, who saw some time in the role last season. Jose Leclerc. Maybe Tim Lincecum, eventually.

But it's a mess, such a mess that you'd like to see them sign Greg Holland and be done with it. In the meantime, Kela is my first choice.

King of spring

Scott Kingery broke through with a 20-20 season in the minors last year, but he's blocked at second base by the underrated Cesar Hernandez.

So the Phillies have tried him in center field this spring. And at shortstop. Neither really solves the problem, though, since they have a long-term commitment to Odubel Herrera at the former and to J.P. Crawford at the latter, assuming he's everything he's supposed to be.

But Kingery made his first start at third base Sunday, and now we're getting somewhere.

Maikel Franco's struggles don't exactly add up, and you'd hate to see the Phillies give up on him at age 25. But here he is batting just .163 (7 for 43) this spring, and well, Kingery looks major league-ready. He has been one of the most raved-about players in spring training.

"Scott Kingery will be a legend in Philadelphia," one scout told The Athletic.

So ... move over, Maikel?

"Based on his skill set, I think [Kingery] could play legitimately everywhere on the diamond and be just fine," manager Gabe Kapler told MLB.com. "It might take some reps to get him up to speed at various positions, but I don't think there's much that he can't do on a baseball field, athletically."

Kingery was recently an honorable mention in my top 10 prospects to stash.

Overstated fears

For most of their careers, David Price and Julio Teheran were pitchers who Fantasy owners would draft with confidence -- granted, not on the same level, but you'd pick them expecting a certain something.

Which each coming off arguably his worst season, though, that confidence is shattered, and the costs reflect it. Price is going in Round 9 on average, according to FantasyPros consensus ADP, and Teheran in Round 19.

But have you seen what they've done this spring?

Price has worked mostly on the backfields, making his first Grapefruit League start March 15. But he threw four one-hit innings, striking out five, and followed it up with two runs on three hits and four strikeouts in five innings Tuesday.

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David Price BOS • SP • 24
2018 spring
ERA2
WHIP.67
IP9
BB2
K9

After a year of elbow troubles, he is at 100 percent health, according to MLB.com, and feels ahead of the game thanks to the Red Sox new throwing program.

"I've never been able to throw four pitches and have a four-pitch mix on March 15," he said. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game [now two]. I'm excited about that."  

Julio Teheran, meanwhile, has been as untouchable as a pitcher who averages 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings can be.

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Julio Teheran ATL • SP • 49
2018 spring
ERA.87
WHIP1.02
IP20.2
BB5
K12

And apparently, there's good reason for it, too. He spent the offseason refining his slider, according to MLB.com, and developing a changeup that he plans to throw more this year.

"Last year was the year I didn't want to have," Teheran said. "This year is different."

Given the track records for these pitchers, the discount may be too great to pass up.

Giolito keeps it going

Lucas Giolito continued his stellar spring with 6 1/3 two-hit innings Tuesday against the Rangers and has now allowed three runs on nine hits with 16 strikeouts to just two walks in 15 2/3 innings over his last three starts.

His curveball has been a sight to behold, and he has looked every bit like the guy we thought was the game's best pitching prospect two years ago.

His stock dropped because of some shaky minor-league numbers the last two years, but sometimes it takes that last step for a prospect, particularly one whose path was never really in doubt, to lock in and make the most of his talents. Or it may have something to do with the lower arm angle that Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has noticed this spring.

Even just his 2.38 ERA in a seven-start trial late last year would suggest he probably isn't getting enough love as a sleeper.

Why Swihart?

Remember Blake Swihart, the top catching prospect who got some attention for the Red Sox in 2015 and 2016 before dropping off the face of the earth due to foot and ankle injuries. Well, he has had a big spring for the Red Sox and may be in line for a big role again.

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Blake Swihart BOS • LF • 23
2018 spring
BA.277
HR2
2B7
OPS.886
AB47

He's unusually athletic for a catcher, and so over the years the Red Sox have experimented with him at other positions, trying to find the best place for his bat. Those experiments are paying off now with roster flexibility in such high demand. He can still catch and will, but he can also play first base, third base, left field -- just about anywhere.

"The Marwin Gonzalezes of the world are good for the manager," said manager Alex Cora. "They really help you out."

So while there wouldn't seem to be a position open for Swihart, every position is sort of open for him. You've heard of the super utility player? With catcher also being an option, he's like a super duper utility player.

"With Swi, the way he's moving around and the way he's swinging the bat, I don't want to get ahead of myself and say super utility, but that's what you envision, like Marwin," Cora said. "He's good on both sides of the ball, so you can move him around and your lineup doesn't suffer and defense stays the same."

I don't know if Swihart's power plays in this environment -- really, with as much time as he has missed over the last two years, I don't -- but he'll be catcher eligible and should get a similar number of at-bats to anyone else at the position. If nothing else, owners in two-catcher leagues should take notice.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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