MLB Spring training. It doesn’t matter, right? Wrong. Often in fantasy baseball, spring training plays second fiddle. Draft season is in full swing. It’s easy for owners to get caught up fine tuning their rankings, searching for sleepers, mock drafting and to pay little attention to the seemingly pointless Cactus and Grapefruit league games. While all spring training stats should be taken with a grain of salt, there are times and situations when a player’s value can rise or fall based off their spring performance. Here are some players whose performances should be noted and taken into account going into these last weeks of drafting.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Bryant has been unreal so far this spring. He has crushed 6 homers and sports a .425 average, ridiculous 1.304 SLG, and unholy 1.804 OPS. 23 at bats is a microscopic sample size, but when coupled with Bryant’s domination of the minors and high prospect status, he has opened a lot of eyes in fantasy circles. While only a few weeks ago he could be gotten as a middle-to-late round sleeper, he is now being seen by many as a legitimate starting 3rd baseman. The Cubs are very likely to start him out in Triple A for service time concerns, but he will almost assuredly be up no more than a few weeks into the season. If you miss out on the elite and proven 3rd baseman, don’t be afraid to take a flier on Bryant in the middle rounds, particularly in shallower leagues.
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Pomeranz showed flashes of brilliance in 2014. After contributing solidly to the bullpen, the Athletics moved him to the rotation where he quietly put up a 2.34 ERA, 1.11 with 64 Ks in 69 innings. Unfortunately, he picked a fight with a chair and lost, breaking his hand in the process. Many fantasy owners were out of contention and not paying too much attention when he finally returned to the rotation at the end of August. These stats were reason enough to put a healthy Pomeranz at the top of your sleepers list and his numbers so far this spring show he is ready to deliver on your investment. In 9 innings he has cruised along to a 2.00 ERA with an eye popping 15 Ks. There’s no reason to believe he can’t keep the K rate in the 8-9 range, making him well worth drafting as a number 3 pitcher.
To be quite frank, I’m sick of getting my hopes up about Trevor Bauer. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me three times, I’m a dumbass. He has utterly failed to deliver on his super hype prospect status, ranging at time from mediocre to a total steaming pile of crap. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, however. What’s that you say? You aren’t won over by his 3.00 ERA and yawn-worthy 7 Ks in 12 innings? I don’t blame you. BUT WAIT! (Infomercial announcer voice) There’s more! He has given up precisely zero walks. His control has been his downfall so far in his major league career, leading to an insanely bloated WHIP and just the general badness that comes with giving out a ton of free passes. If Bauer has somehow turned a magic corner and can keep the walks at a reasonable rate, he will have come a long way towards being a usable option in fantasy. For one of your last 2 or 3 picks, the reward may well be worth the risk.
How do I put this nicely? Joe Nathan blows a big one. A closer with a 4.81 ERA is an incredible abnormality. The fact that he wasn’t removed from the role last year is compelling evidence he possibly sold his soul to satan. Demonic interference notwithstanding, Nathan’s chances of keeping the closer’s job in 2015 are about the same as my chances of marrying a Hemsworth brother. His numbers so far this spring seem to be the nail in the coffin as he has put up a putrid 6.35 ERA with a measly 4 Ks. I recommend keeping Nathan as far away as possible from your fantasy teams. He can’t be relied on as any more than a #3 RP.
If he was in the minor league system of almost any other team, Joc Pederson most likely would’ve had a starting job in 2014. The Los Angeles Dodgers, however, seemed to be hording outfielders for the apocalypse. The departure of Matt Kemp has opened a door for Pederson, and he is doing his best to kick it wide open. While the uber-prospect hardly helped his case with his lackluster appearance as a September call-up, he is making all the right kind of impressions this spring. Through 30 at-bats, Pederson has hit two home runs with a .433/.469/.767 line. When a player hits like that a team will make room for him in the lineup somehow. The Dodgers haven’t committed a starting job to him outright and therefore you won’t have to reach for him in drafts, but he should be an absolute steal as your 4th or 5th OF and is worth a reserve pick in 3 OF leagues.
With the immediate success Puig and Abreu have had, many people are on the look out for the next Cuban phenom. I’m sorry to burst any bubbles, but Tomas ain’t it. While most expectations were set below that, he is failing so far to live up to even them. The Diamondbacks seem to be souring on the idea of using him at 3rd base, effectively torpedoing his value. Without 3B eligibility there is little to recommend the all-or-nothing hitter. Unless you are desperate for power, feel free to pass Tomas over on draft day.
Oh, you thought I was going to write an entire article without mentioning any Mariners? Fat chance! Taijuan “Skywalker” Walker looks primed to claim a spot in the Mariners rotation and show why was the highest rated pitching prospect in baseball. In 2014 through 5 starts he had a solid 2.60 ERA but was wild at times. The Mariner’s 5th starting spot was open for competition coming into this spring, but Walker has blown away the competition, giving up no runs and striking out a batter per inning. He is all but a lock to earn the spot and there’s no reason to think he won’t return great value on a late round pick.