Preseason Prep – April 4, 2022 – Fantasy Baseball 2022


Preseason Prep – April 4, 2022


Luke Weaver, SP (ARI)

Weaver’s dismal spring doomed the 28-year-old to the Arizona bullpen, despite minimal options to start for the team. He allowed four runs in his first appearance, and while he threw three scoreless innings last week, he had to leave that start with a blister on his thumb. Weaver generated some sleeper buzz this winter, due in part to Arizona’s hire of Brent Strom as pitching coach and his experience improving pitchers in Houston. Go ahead and drop Weaver now, but the door isn’t completely shut. The Arizona staff is very thin and he could find his way into the rotation again this season.

Anthony DeSclafani, SP (SF)

DeSclafani finished the spring strong, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight. He finishes with only one run allowed in 12.1 innings. This follows a career year where Disco Tony went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA in his first season in San Francisco. Transitioning from one of the worst pitchers parks in Cincinnati to one of the best in San Francisco is certain to help any pitcher, but DeSclafani also altered his approach, relying more on his slider than his fastball. That would seem to be an obvious change as DeSclafani’s slider generated a 32.2% whiff rate and .276 wOBA. Expect that pitch deployment to continue as he aims to build off last season’s eye-opening success.

Diego Castillo, SS (PIT)

Castillo was not the Pirates rookie shortstop fantasy owners were expecting to make the Opening Day roster, but he did nothing short of force the franchise’s hand with a ridiculous performance in the Grapefruit League. Castillo was a perfect 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs on Monday, solidifying a .406 batting average with six home runs in 32 at-bats this spring. Castillo was known more for his solid hit tool than home run power early in his minor league career with the Yankees, but he did hit 19 home runs combined between the Yankees and Pirates’ systems last year. And that power surge has progressed to new heights this spring. Castillo is only 5’11”, but he is built and so he has managed to develop a powerful swing while continuing to make good contact. The Pirates are dealing with some injuries in the infield and Castillo, at 24 years old, should be in the starting lineup to begin the season. He is certainly worth a look in dynasty leagues or NL-only, deeper formats.

Austin Meadows, OF (DET)

In a somewhat surprising, late-spring deal Austin Meadows was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Isaac Paredes and a draft pick. Meadows strengthens what was already an intriguing young Tigers lineup. There’s a good likelihood Meadows will platoon with Eric Haase in left field. Meadows has a career .301 wOBA against left-handed pitching, but he has always hit righties well. The platoon factor implies you cannot expect many more than 500 at-bats, but 30 home runs is still reachable within that frame, even though Detroit does not play well for left-handed power (neither does Tampa Bay, really). Meadows’ extreme flyball approach finally impacted his BABIP last year, dropping it to .249 and thereby he hit a putrid .234. Yet he still compiled 27 homers, and that should be doable in 2022 along with a slight BABIP bump that should lift his batting average back towards the .250s. A peripheral effect of Meadows’ trade is Josh Lowe should secure an everyday role in Tampa Bay.

Alex Kirilloff, OF (MIN)

After leaving Saturday’s game with a sore knee, Kirilloff is expected to return to action on Tuesday, creating a likely scenario he will be good to go for Opening Day. The young slugger has yet to hit a home run this spring, but he does have seven hits in 24 at-bats. Kirilloff doesn’t project extreme power, but he is capable of hitting 20-25 home runs to go along with a decent hit tool that will hold his batting average in a respectable range. That is due to a flatter launch angle that leads to more ground balls and line drives. If he ever commits to lifting a little more, his batting average will suffer but Kirilloff has the power to deliver more home runs. He may never get to that level, and in the meantime he will deliver solid yet unspectacular production. The Twins built a deep roster this offseason and if Kirilloff struggles with consistency or health, he could find himself either on the bench or back in the minor leagues.

Chris Sale, SP (BOS)

Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list on Monday with a right rib stress fracture, meaning he will miss at least the first two months of the season. A recent MRI was encouraging in that it showed his fracture healing, but the veteran left-hander still has not been cleared to begin a throwing program. Even if he gets the go-ahead, he will now be required to sit out until June. Sale threw 42.2 innings last year and will likely need time to ramp up before he’s able to go, and even when he does return to the Red Sox rotation, it would seem likely he will be eased back into a full workload. It makes drafting Sale a difficult proposition right now. It truly depends on fantasy format and reserve roster structure. If your roster can stomach the dead weight for a couple months, the upside is still high, but it’s also understandable if Sale needs to head to the waiver wire in more shallow leagues.

Ian Anderson, SP (ATL)

Anderson left Monday’s Grapefruit League start with a blister on his toe. His status for the regular season is not in question as, again, it was a toe, not a finger. Anderson was solid this spring, despite one clunker in late March against Boston. Anderson has the potential to be a really good pitcher, but his command is inconsistent and walks create trouble for the young right-hander. Still only 23 years old, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft hasn’t been able to solidify a third pitch to complement his fastball-changeup combination. His curveball is fine, but he rarely throws it for strikes, and so hitters learn to typically lay off it. Until he develops another weapon in his arsenal, Anderson’s upside is somewhat limited.

Max Schrock, 2B (CIN)

Schrock will miss 4-6 weeks with a left calf strain after leaving Sunday’s spring training game. It’s extremely frustrating for Schrock, who was red-hot this spring and poised to make the Reds’ Opening Day roster and likely earn regular playing time. Instead, he’s on the shelf for at least a month. Schrock has bounced around the league and hasn’t stood out yet, but he does have a decent hit tool and above-average speed. Unfortunately, his role is uncertain and will his speed be hampered by the calf injury? Schrock can promptly be ignored once again in fantasy drafts.

Tommy La Stella, 2B (SF)

La Stella has only appeared in two games this spring, but the Giants plan on having him available as their starting second baseman when their season begins on Friday. La Stella has only reached 300 at-bats once in his career, and that was his rookie season in 2014. Health and undefined roles have held him back so fantasy owners cannot plan on significant statistical production this year. However, on a per-game basis La Stella does offer a little pop and excellent plate discipline. He will always be worth a look as a DFS option.

Justin Steele, SP (CHC)

Steele will start Chicago’s second game of the regular season in order to break up the right-handers in the Cubs’ rotation. That means he will face the Brewers at Wrigley Field on Friday. The young left-hander was a beneficiary of Wade Miley’s injury, securing a hold on one of the rotation spots for the rebuilding Cubs, and he could very well keep that role with a solid performance in April. He was impressive in limited experience in 2021, finishing with a 4-4 record and a 4.21 xFIP. He struck out 59 batters in 57 innings, continuing a trend of whiffs displayed throughout his minor league career. Steele has four different pitches, and his slider has received rave reviews this spring. His ability to keep the ball on the ground, limit hard contact and generate whiffs is encouraging and should be worth a look in late-offseason fantasy drafts.

Eric Thames, 1B (OAK)

Thames’ comeback attempt took a hit when he was reassigned to the minor leagues on Monday following an underwhelming performance in the Cactus League. Thames last played for Washington in 2020, hitting three home runs but scuffling to a .203 batting average in limited playing time. The bulky left-handed hitting journeyman is now 35 years old and his options are thin. If he can’t make it on the downsizing A’s, it’s unlikely he will be able to secure a fantasy-significant role anywhere. However, his absence could open more playing time for another left-handed veteran, Stephen Vogt, who will play a little first base as well as catch, which could open up some unexpected fantasy production out of the catcher position in deeper formats.

Greg Bird, 1B (TOR)

Bird was released by Toronto after being offered a demotion to the Blue Jays’ minor leagues. Instead, the 29-year-old first baseman exercised his opt-out clause, making him a free agent. Bird hit 27 home runs in AAA last year, but the power profile has never been able to overcome a subpar hit tool that drags his career batting average close to the Mendoza Line. He did have six hits in 23 at-bats with two home runs this spring, but it wasn’t enough to earn a role with a deep Toronto roster. He should at the very least latch on with a minor league deal elsewhere, and perhaps he finds a major league job with a bottom feeder like, say, the team that demoted Eric Thames on Monday.

Nick Madrigal, 2B (CHC)

Madrigal returned to the Cubs lineup with a bang on Monday, hitting his first career spring training home run. This came after missing the past few games with lower back tightness. The single long ball should not fool fantasy owners. Madrigal ain’t hitting home runs any time soon, but it is a good sign he is driving the ball following a major injury that led to a trade away from the White Sox. The contact-driven slap-hitter should see regular at-bats, even though the Cubs have a surprisingly deep infield. He can be relied upon for a strong batting average and a handful of stolen bases. Fantasy owners would much prefer to see him hit at the top of the Cubs lineup rather than where he customarily hit with the White Sox, in the 9-hole, but seeing him healthy is the important thing right now.

Jorge Mateo, OF (BAL)

Mateo is dealing with stomach soreness, which puts his availability for Opening Day in question. Mateo had a strong spring, hitting .350 with two home runs and a stolen base, demonstrating his potential to hit double-digit home runs and stolen bases, but he exhibited very unimpressive quality of contact last season and his plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired. Mateo’s speed is elite, and a full season’s worth of at-bats could create an excellent value pick for cheap stolen bases, but his undefined hit tool could keep the Orioles from committing. Now he has a mysterious stomach issue, and Mateo may not even be available to begin the season. There’s enough cause for concern here to look elsewhere late in drafts.

Julio Rodriguez, OF (SEA)

One of the top prospects in baseball, Rodriguez was named to the Mariners’ Opening Day roster on Tuesday, making for a high-risk/high-reward fantasy asset and also making for an intriguing AL Rookie of the Year race (Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Rodriguez, etc.). Rodriguez has power, speed and has hit for a high batting average at every level of the minor leagues. He has a very pretty swing that doesn’t aim for power, but the home runs come with the quality of contact. His EYE is very good for a 21-year-old, and there is little reason to believe Seattle would promote him without intending to play him every day. He joins a pretty solid offense where he won’t be looked at as the savior, but rather a complementary piece. The risk is that any rookie, no matter how talented, can struggle. There is no guarantee of success, but the reward is a ceiling that flies above most corner outfielders, including a majority of veteran mainstays.

Garrett Whitlock, RP (BOS)

Whitlock will indeed begin the regular season in the Red Sox bullpen, although he is expected to accrue a significant number of innings in a long reliever role, and the possibility remains that he could still work his way into the starting rotation. For now, he is expected to follow veteran Rich Hill in his starts. Whitlock was spectacular last year, finishing with a sub-2.00 ERA and a 27.2% strikeout rate. He keeps his walks down and generates a lot of ground balls. He is capable of contributing as a starter or closer, but right now he is somewhere in between, which limits his fantasy value but does not completely eradicate it. Furthermore, if he excels in the early going, he could find himself in a more valuable position to contribute fantasy production as the season progresses.

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