Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Tyler Glasnow, Michael Conforto make strong impressions
From Tyler Glasnow's overpowering outing to Michael Conforto's sudden resurgence, Scott White looks at the latest spring happenings.
Spring training matters.
It doesn’t for every player. It doesn’t to the extent that the regular season does. But it matters.
Sometimes, we Fantasy Baseball owners are led to believe it doesn’t, and for the less discerning types, that’s probably for the best. It’s better to ignore the whole thing than to over-emphasize it or focus on the wrong aspects.
But too often, I find it’s just too interesting to do that.
Take Bryce Harper’s monster home run Saturday against the Mets:
The fact that he hit a home run -- or even a long one -- isn’t noteworthy. The player is too proven and the situation too meaningless for us to care. But the insights that follow the home run are ones to file away. For example, he talked after the game about adding 15 pounds of muscle this offseason in the hope it helps him bounce back from an underwhelming 2016.
That’s not a small number. Ultimately, it may not mean anything either, but it helps form the complete picture of Harper heading into 2017. The home run serves as a reminder, however unnecessary, that he can do special things when he’s feeling his best, which he wasn’t for much of last year, having to combat neck and shoulder issues.
I’m not moving him up in my rankings based on a spring training home run, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the teensiest bit encouraged. And given his potential as a player and my attitude toward him at the end of last year, I think that’s OK.
It’s even more interesting when fringe players fighting for a job, a roster spot or even just knocking on the door, do something of note, particularly if they’re known to have upside. Some such players did special things over the weekend, and I think they’re worth discussing.
So from time to time this spring, I’ll check in with performances like these and what they could potentially mean in Fantasy Baseball. They’re small glimpses of a big picture and no reason to turn your draft board upside-down, but as long as you approach them that way, you can enjoy everything spring training has to offer.
1. Time is now for Glasnow?
Tyler Glasnow is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball but no certainty to make the Pirates opening day roster after putting together a 4.24 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over seven scattered appearances last year, but if he continues to pitch as he did Sunday, he’ll leave the Pirates with no choice:
He throws 98 mph and can extend his 6-foot-8 frame in a way that makes it appear even faster, so strikeouts are absolutely part of his game (he has averaged 11.6 per nine innings over his minor-league career). But as he showed last year, maximizing it is the tricky part.
He seems to recognize the opportunity ahead of him, though, telling MLB.com that he started throwing earlier this offseason so he could make use of his full arsenal at a point in spring training where most pitchers are mixing in a pitch at a time. He also altered his changeup grip and worked to make his delivery more compact, which are exactly the kind of adjustments you’d hope a young pitcher would make, so it’s good to see he’s not resting on his laurels.
He may not be getting enough traction as a late-round sleeper.
2. Am I making you un-Conforto-ble?
For most of the offseason, I assumed Michael Conforto would be the odd man out in a crowded Mets outfield and wasn’t sure I cared after a disastrous 2016 in which he thwarted everyone’s sleeper hopes, .
But already, he’s 5 for 7 with two home runs this spring, including a screaming liner into right field Sunday:
Manager Terry Collins feels like it’s the start of something, saying Conforto looks “much, much better than I saw last year”
“I know he worked hard last winter to rekindle that old swing, and it looks like he’s got it,” Collins told MLB.com.
And it comes just as an opportunity is presenting itself. Lucas Duda is out with soreness in his back, which is particularly notable since he missed much of last year with a stress fracture in said back, and Jay Bruce has begun taking grounders at first base.
It might be time to move Conforto back into the mixed-league discussion.
Byron Buxton, formerly the greatest prospect the world has ever seen, showed his first signs of competence at the major-league level last September.
The problem was a strikeout rate. One every three at-bats is a rate that generally doesn’t hold up in the majors. So far this spring, though, he has yet to strike out in five at-bats, collecting two doubles and a stolen base.
And that’s not even the most notable performance for a strikeout-prone Twin. Byung Ho Park, the high-profile signing out of Korea that drew so much attention last spring, was so prone to swinging and missing last year that he lost his job in June and was designated for assignment this offseason. He has yet to strike out in four at-bats, going 1 for 2 with this long home run Saturday:
He’ll have to go above and beyond to convince the Twins to put him back on the 40-man roster, but he is technically competing with Kennys Vargas for the starting DH job. And I don’t need to remind you what kind of power potential he posseses.
Naturally, either Buxton or Park could strike out three times tomorrow, and we’re back to square one, but it’s something to monitor.
4. Just when you Rhys expect it
Rhys Hoskins (first name pronounced “Reece”) ranked second among minor-leaguers with 38 home runs last year. Granted, it was at notoriously hitter-friendly Double-A Reading, where teammate Dylan Cozens led the minors with 40 home runs, but Hoskins’ road numbers suggest he wasn’t just a product of his environment.
So did this poke Saturday:
Opposite field and well out of here, and it may not even be his most impressive contribution of the spring. In addition to doubling in that game, he drew two walks Sunday. It’s part of a conscious effort he’s making to work the count, at the Phillies’ behest.
“I feel like the longer I’m up there, the more likely I am to see a mistake, or two mistakes or three mistakes,” Hoskins told MLB.com “When I feel like I’m going good, I don’t mind hitting with two strikes. You feel confident in the box; you don’t really feel like the pitcher can get you out.”
He hasn’t gotten much attention as a prospect, but he’s 23 and coming off a year in which he hit .281 with 38 home runs and a .943 OPS. Tommy Joseph isn’t exactly a prove commodity at the major-league level. He can put the ball in the seats, sure, but Hoskins may be the more complete hitter.
He won’t beat out Joseph for the job this spring, but he’s giving the Phillies somehting to think about if Joseph gets off to a slow start.
5. Closed case?
Hector Neris was who everyone hoped would be the Phillies closer. Joaquin Benoit was who everyone thought would be the Phillies closer. But a couple weeks ago, manager Pete Mackanin threw us all a curveball by announcing Jeanmar Gomez would get the first crack at the role.
Father knows best.
Neris actually got a chance to work the ninth inning in Saturday’s game -- something you don’t often see from established relievers at this stage of spring training -- and promptly blew a save, allowing three earned runs in one inning. Benoit had a not-so-great outing Sunday, allowing a home run.
It’s one outing for each -- and at a time when the results really shouldn’t matter -- but they’re not going to wrestle the job away with results like that.
And the same could be said for the Reds’ Michael Lorenzen. He allowed one run on one hit and three walks in his one inning of work Sunday. That situation is even more confusing given that the Reds have at times expressed they might not have just one source for saves this year. And Lorenzen, armed with a 98-mph fastball, seemed like someone who could factor into that mix.
Right now, though, you have to assume that Raisel Iglesias is firmly in the driver’s seat.
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