Preseason Prep- March 31, 2022
Albert Pujols– 1B- STL- The universal DH likely provided Pujols with a chance to return to St. Louis to finish his career. Over the past few seasons Pujols has seen his platoon shifts from reverse to more markedly a standard split. Last season Pujols slashed .294/.336/.603 with 13 of his 17 homers in 146 PAs against southpaws. He could see more playing time than his 296 PAs between the Angels and Dodgers in 2021. His overall EV of 90.3 was his highest since 2016, Barrel% of 9.1% was his highest since Statcast started in 2015, and 39.2% HardHit% was his highest since 2018. Pujols could have value, particularly in DFS contests when used against LH starters.
Hunter Greene– P- CIN- Greene will make his first MLB start on April 10 for the Reds in the fourth game of the season. Greene is heralded for his fastball that consistently hits 100+ mph. He also has an effective slider to complement the heat. Greene is developing a changeup to keep hitters from waiting on the fastball. Of course, you don’t have a lot of time to wait when it’s coming at 104 mph, so it may not matter that much in the beginning of the season. Once Greene was promoted to AAA in 2021 he struck out 79 in 65.1 IP. A negative was that he allowed 11 homers, but that was out of character. Cincinnati is hoping he will develop into a top line starter, and he averaged more than 5 IP per start at AA and AAA last season. The worst-case scenario would be that Greene doesn’t figure out the change and ends up in a high-leverage relief role.
Frankie Montas– P -OAK- There were rumors of Montas being the subject of trade talk with the Mariners on mlb.com. Then the article disappeared. Still, both Montas and Sean Manaea will continue to have talk regarding new locations as the A’s continue a rebuild. IN 2021 Montas set career highs in IP, wins, BB/9, and also posted a 9.96 K/9. A change of home venue could have a negative impact on Montas’ performance. Last year he was fairly even in some home/road splits, with a home ERA of 3.34 and 3.40 on the road. However, his FIP difference was 3.11 to 3.63, K/BB was 4.35 to 3.03, and HR/9 was 0.81 to 1.14. Over his career, Montas has a 3.50 ERA at home and 4.22 on the road. He would definitely benefit by staying put.
Corbin Burnes– P- MIL- Burnes won the Cy Young Award in his first full time MLB season in 2021. He did it on the strength of his cutter, which he used 52.1% of the time. When he first came up in 2018 to the Milwaukee bullpen he was using a 4-seam fastball 58% of pitches and 52.5% in 2019. Last year Burnes turned to the four-seamer only 1.4% of his pitches. His strikeout ratios have stayed high, with a 12.61 K/9 in 2021. His control jumped a lot, with his BB/9 falling from 3.62 in the short 2020 season to 1.83 last year. Burnes’ percentage of strikes thrown increased from 61% to 66.4%. His Barrel% dropped to 3.1%, after an 11.0% in 2019 and 7.2% in 2020. Burnes has seen his HardHit% drop from 38.6% to 34.4% to 30.5% over the past three seasons. With a CSW% of 33.8% in 2021 Burnes didn’t give hitters a lot of chances to put good wood on the ball. He should be able to continue that trend.
Blake Snell– P- SD- Before Snell had his season ended with an abductor strain last year he had turned around a very disappointing start to his Padres’ career. He ended with a 4.20 ERA and 4.83 BB/9 but did have a K/9 of 11.89. Snell ended up relying almost exclusively on his fastball and slider in August and he posted a 1.72 ERA over 36.2 IP, the most he threw in any month. His BB/9 was 2.95 in August. This helped turn around Snell’s results but does it mean he will be elite when 2022 starts for real? Quite possibly not. Looking at his 1st and second half splits shows that he wasn’t really as bad as he was in the first half or as bad in the second half. Snell had a 4.99 first half ERA and 3.24 in the second half. Keep in mind that his 6.00 in July was split in both halves. His FIP split was 4.34 to 3.20 and his xFIP was 3.87 to 3.59. Fantistics projects Snell to have a 3.63 ERA, 12 wins, and 223 Ks in 167 IP this season.
Jon Gray– P- TEX- Gray was named the Opening Day starter for the Rangers. When he was signed as a free agent right before the lockout he was viewed as a solid part of the Texas rotation. It was expected that they would pursue more of an ace type but that hasn’t happened. So Gray is at the top of the rotation. He may not benefit that much from leaving Colorado. Until last season, when he had a 4.02 ERA in Coors Field and 5.22 on the road, Gray didn’t see much of a Coors Effect. For his career he has a 4.54 home ERA and 4.65 away. He should still strikeout slightly more than a batter each inning. Gray is projected to collect 184 Ks in 179 IPs. The one thing that getting out of Colorado will help Gray is with his HR/9. Last season it was 1.38 at home and 1.15 on the road. His projected 4.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP are decent for a mid-range fantasy starter even if it’s not what the Rangers would like at the top of their rotation.
Josh H. Smith– 3B- TEX- Josh H. Smith is one of a number of Josh Smiths that are either prosects or recent major leaguers. This one could be an alternative at 3B for the Rangers if he gets off to a hot start at AAA Round Rock. Andy Ibanez will start the season at the hot corner for Texas but there are questions about his defense. While Smith has been primarily a middle infielder in the minors he has played some at 3B and is considered a viable option. Last season he came over from the Yankees in the Joey Gallo trade. Smith slashed .294/.425/.431 with 3 homers in 127 PAs after being promoted to AA Frisco. He has never batted lower than .294 at any minor league stop and has had a BB% of at least 12.8% at all of them except for a 49 PA stint at High-A Hickory. If his bat continues to progress at AAA and he is adequate with the glove at 3B Smith could be an early call up.
Jose Urena– P- MIL- The Brewers signed Urena to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp and added him to their 40-man roster a day later. He posted a 5.81 ERA in a swing role with the Tigers last year. Urena started 18 games, relieved 8 times, and tossed 100.2 IP. He hasn’t posted an ERA lower than 5.21 since 2018. Milwaukee plans to use him in long relief at this point but could put him in the rotation if injuries happen. In his two best years for the Marlins in 2017 and 2018 Urena posted ERAs below 4.00 but his FIP and FIPx were above 5.00 in 2017 and above 4.00 in 2018. He has a career K/9 of 6.10 and has a HR/9 of 1.25 or above in 4 of the past 5 seasons. The odds of Urena assuming a meaningful fantasy role are long, even if Milwaukee seems to have some confidence in him.
Bruce Zimmerman– P- BAL- Zimmerman gave up an unearned run on 3 IP on 1 hit while striking out 2 in his Grapefruit League start yesterday. It was a marked improvement on his first outing when he gave up 2 homers and a walk and was charged with 3 runs in 2 IP. Zimmerman got some time in the Baltimore rotation in 2021 and had some confusing results. In 34.2 IP at Camden Yards he allowed 9 homers. However, Zimmerman only gave up a total of 15 runs at home so he posted a 3.89 ERA. Overall, he posted a 5.04 ERA, 7.83 K/9, and 3.08 BB/9 in 64.1 IP. Zimmerman will probably end up with a rotation spot for the Orioles in 2022 because they don’t have many options to choose from. He is entering his age 27 season, so should show some slight improvement. His projected 4.87 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 103 Ks in 128 IP are a step up but not enough to put him in the sleeper category.
Nick Ahmed– SS- ARI- Ahmed is still suffering from shoulder issues that impacted him in 2021. He received cortisone injections which will prevent him from participating in baseball activities for 10 days. As a result, Opening Day has been ruled out for Ahmed. Injections of cortisone and platelet-rich plasma in the offseason didn’t help him, so he remains a question mark. In the last pre-COVID season on 2019 Ahmed hit 19 homers in 625 ABs and slashed .254/.319/.437. That is an unrealistic goal, even if he comes back relatively soon. There just seems to be too many injury issues.
Luke Jackson– RP- ATL- The good news is that Jackson is throwing again. He had stopped early in the Grapefruit League season after feeling right forearm soreness. The bad news is that there probably isn’t enough time to get Jackson in shape to be ready for Opening Day. In leagues that count holds, Jackson was very valuable in 2021, when he posted a 2.00 ERA, 31 holds, and struck out 70 in 63.2 IP.
Adam Haseley– OF- CHW- Haseley, the #8 overall pick by the Phillies in 2017, was traded to the White Sox for a minor league pitcher. He started 2021 as the regular CF, but that didn’t last long. In mid-April he left the team for personal reasons and then was sent to the minors for the rest of the season when he returned. Haseley can play all three OF positions and has 2 options remaining. The White Sox are probably looking at him as a low-risk depth piece who still has the pedigree of a recent top 10 draft pick. Haseley’s best performance as a Phillie was in 2019 when he slashed .266/.321/.396 with 5 homers in 242 PAs. He is a risk you should let the White Sox take, but not you on your fantasy team.
Brian Anderson– 3B- MIA- The Marlins are experimenting with giving Anderson some time in CF. He played some time in RF in 2018 and 2019 but CF is a new experience. The power that Anderson showed in 2019, when he hit 20 homers in 520 PAs didn’t show up last year when he hit 7 long balls in 264 PAs and was well below the 11 homers he hit in 229 PAs in the short 2020 season. Anderson was close in EV and Barrel% between 2019 and 2021 but dropped significantly in HardHit% from 46.0% to 38.1%. He is projected to it 12 homers with a .236 average in 373 ABs. That isn’t enough to give him significant value, even with more position flexibility.
Andrelton Simmons– SS- CHC- Simmons has been suffering from shoulder soreness and hasn’t appeared in a Cactus League game since March 24. Manager David Ross is saying on one hand that it’s not serious and that he is just being cautious. On the other hand, Ross said that Simmons may open the season on the DL. A nagging shoulder issue for a 32-year-old shortstop could have a negative impact on Simmons’ value.
Tommy Kahnle– RP- LAD- Except for a single IP in 2020 Kahnle hasn’t pitched in a major league game since the olden days (before COVID.) In that last season (2019) before he underwent Tommy John surgery, Kahnle recorded 27 holds and posted a 3.67 and struck out 88 batters in 61.1 IP. He also turned in solid relief seasons in 2016 and 2017. Kahnle will appear in a Cactus League game on Saturday. He will not open the season with the Dodgers and will go on a rehab assignment. They are hoping Kahnle will be ready by late April or early May. Pitching out of the LA bullpen will give Kahnle a boost in value for leagues that count holds if he demonstrates that he has regained his pre-TJ form.
Dexter Fowler– OF- TOR- The Blue Jays have reportedly signed Fowler to a minor league contract with invitation to big league camp. They have been looking for some OF depth and Fowler is the latest attempt. His 2019 season with 19 homers is not that far in the past but Fowler is now 36 years old. Even in 2019 his EV was 85.5 and HardHit% was 28.3%. A return to that kind of production is not expected.