With the spring baseball season drawing to a close, teams have begun to finalize their 25-man rosters heading into Opening Day. While it’s never wise to place a fantasy bet on spring stats carrying over to the regular season – anyone who remembers Jake Fox swatting 10 HRs knows what I’m talking about – we can still use certain roster moves and defensive performances to draw up early FA targets in monoleagues who could eventually ascend to mixed-league relevance. Here are 15 things I saw in spring training that could affect fantasy leagues in 2015.
The Braves had plenty of battles to settle this spring, and it appears Eric Young and Jace Peterson could hit atop the lineup against righties at the very least, giving the pair some interesting value in deeper leagues. Both figure to be stolen base threats and could see a decent amount of runs hitting ahead of Freddie Freeman. Peterson has more long-term potential, as Young could eventually lose his job to Melvin Upton.
The Marlins appeared pretty settled at the beginning of spring, and the month of March hasn’t brought about any expected changes. Tom Koehler earned the No. 5 starter spot over David Phelps, but the former Yankee already has RP eligibility, so his move to the bullpen won’t result in a potential value boost later on.
New York Mets
The Zach Wheeler injury clears the way for Dillon Gee to serve as a starter after beating out Rafael Montero, but the interesting fantasy battle came at shortstop, where Wilmer Flores has beaten out Ruben Tejada and has the chance to translate recent minor-league success into fantasy relevance.
The Phillies had plenty to settle in the rotation this spring, but the breakout performance comes from Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera, who is set to start in center field after hitting .328 with six stolen bases this spring. His likely low batting-order spot will limit upside, but he could have BA/SB upside.
An injury to Denard Span has opened the door for Michael Taylor, who is an intriguing power/speed option who could potentially hit at the top of the team’s lineup. He should go back to a reserve role when Span returns in May, but if Taylor excels, the team could clear a regular spot for him.
The Kris Bryant move wasn’t a surprise, but the Javier Baez demotion sorta was. Baez hasn’t looked great at the plate initially, and he’ll get to work on his craft in Triple-A, opening the door for more playing time for Arismendy Alcantara, who should be owned in most mixed leagues, and Mike Olt.
Tony Cingrani was an interesting fantasy sleeper heading into the spring, as he’s racked up a 9.9 K/9 rate in 29 starts and 10 relief appearances in his career. The Reds have decided to put him in the bullpen to open the season, and Anthony DeSclafani and Rasiel Iglesias have earned fantasy consideration as a result.
There was some talk of hitting Scooter Gennett atop the lineup, which would have been a boost to his fantasy value, making him an MI-worthy target in all leagues. Instead, the team didn’t want to disrupt the lineup by moving Carlos Gomez down, taking some of the shine off Gennett’s sleeper appeal.
The Pirates have opted to go with Jeff Locke over Vance Worley in the rotation, a move that won’t make waves in standard mixed leagues but has NL-only relevance. Worley, who posted a 2.85 ERA and 3.6 K/BB ratio last year, figures to start at some point this season, and he’ll be carrying potentially valuable RP-eligibility, depending on your format.
St. Louis Cardinals
The fifth-starter battle was intensely scrutinized for fantasy purposes (by me, at least). Jaime Garcia was pitching well before going down to injury, and the team decided to roll with Carlos Martinez over Marco Gonzales. Martinez is a potential breakout candidate with RP-eligibility, and I still like Garcia to carry mixed-league value when healthy.
Yasmany Tomas was penciled in to play a lot of third base for the Diamondbacks this season – until they got a look at him at the position. That opens up playing time for Jake Lamb, who showed plate patience and power potential in the minors. He isn’t locked into the starting role at third base though, as the team could shift the infield around to stick Nick Ahmed in at shortstop.
Rex Brothers was optioned to the minors, completing a fall from grace for the reliever who looked so dominant in 2013. Adam Ottavino is the save-chasing option for this bullpen, and it’s a name to remember, with LaTroy Hawkins unlikely to see a high workload even if he stays healthy. Rostering Ottavino could lead to 5-10 saves even if he never assumes the regular role.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have yet to part ways with Alex Guerrero, who must be kept on the major-league roster or let go. He has delivered fine spring numbers (.326/.340/.522) and would be more intriguing starting for another team than coming off the bench in Los Angeles, which he will unless injuries strike Howie Kendrick or Jimmy Rollins, or unless Guerrero proves capable of handling 3B full-time.
San Diego Padres
Carlos Quentin has been taking reps at first base, and if he can stay healthy – always the biggest “if” with the talented Quentin – he could siphon playing time from Yonder Alonso, who has a .648 career OPS against lefties. Quentin’s health is always precarious, so he’s unlikely to ever have mixed-league relevance. A trade to an AL team and a DH role would definitely be intriguing.
San Francisco Giants
Andrew Susac emerged as a fine second-catcher option in deeper leagues late last season, hitting .273/.326/.466 with three HRs and 19 RBI in 88 at-bats. He won’t fill the same role, at least initially, after being optioned to the minors, as the team will carry Hector Sanchez as a No. 2 catcher.