5 Under The Radar Spring Stories

Spring is sprung and all that gobbledygook. More importantly, things are happening in the baseball world. After an offseason of stasis, players are gaining value based on the early results of their offseason training regimens. Some are losing value via injury. Others will have to contend with last minute signings of key free agents. Many spring stories are flying under the radar. Here are five that caught my eye.

1. Bryce Harper fallout

There are some repercussions to the Phillies signing of Bryce Harper. Obviously, Nick Williams is no longer the starting right fielder. He was a sneaky breakout candidate entering his age 25 season with a track record of steady gains to contact rate, plate discipline, and ISO. The Phillies have options with Williams. Literally, he could be optioned, serve as an overqualified fourth outfielder, or be traded for something the club needs more. At present, that’s nothing.

None of that is especially under the radar, but why not touch upon it? The guy you really want to watch is Aaron Altherr. He already had small hopes of making the club, and he’s been slowed by a minor foot injury. A healthy Altherr is shade under a two win outfielder. That would qualify as…

  • The best outfielder on the Indians
  • A good corner fit for the Orioles
  • Ditto the Tigers
  • Ditto the White Sox
  • And Marlins
  • And definitely the Giants

Altherr is out of options so he will definitely be designated for assignment. Keep half an eye on Dylan Cozens too. He’s a budget Joey Gallo. Cozens can be optioned for two more seasons, but it’s possible the Phillies will want to open up his 40-man roster spot. This pair is fighting for the seventh and eighth string OF spots on the Philly depth chart. They’ll be surpassed by Adam Haseley before long.

2. Kyle Dowdy Throwing Gas

Rule 5 picks are always interesting because they HAVE to be used or lost. Typically, Rule 5ers don’t stick around on would-be contenders like the Mets. However, they might have spiked something with Dowdy. Baseball America reports that his fastball has been clocked at 99 mph this spring. He typically averages around 91 mph, topping out at 94 mph.

Dowdy has heretofore worked almost exclusively as a starter whereas the Mets want to use him as a reliever. These velocity gains are therefore more likely to stick in a meaningful way. Nor is the Mets bullpen so deep that Dowdy necessarily has to fight for a job. They have only five relief pitchers locked in to jobs.

3. Brad Boxberger is, in fact, a Royal

Insofar as I can tell, nobody has adjusted to Boxberger joining the Royals earlier this winter. I’m still seeing Wily Peralta as the only Royals relief pitcher getting picked. Peralta has a 315 ADP compared to Boxberger’s 453 ADP.

Here’s the thing though, for all of Boxberger’s many flaws, he’s so very much superior to Peralta. Until a breakout candidate emerges, I have no doubt that Boxberger is the most talented reliever in Kansas City. He’ll supply roughly 12 K/9 with iffy command and a high variance ERA and WHIP.

One factor in his favor is Kauffman Stadium. Boxberger’s biggest shortcoming is his homeritis. It makes him unsuitable as a closer in nearly every venue. Kauffman – and the hilariously incompetent AL Central at large – is an exception. While you shouldn’t be surprised if Boxberger torpedoes your ERA and WHIP, there’s a very good chance he’ll provide healthy strikeout and saves totals.

He struggled in his lone official outing this spring.

4. The Twins Free Zack Granite

A few years back, Granite was a popular sleeper candidate. The outfielder almost never swings through a pitch, and he can work a count too. Downsides include an almost complete lack of power and copious soft ground ball contact. Although credited with 70-grade speed, Granite has never been an efficient base thief. I’ve seen some outlets slap a 50-grade on his speed.

While Granite is encumbered with numerous shortcomings, he also has something like a classic leadoff hitter’s skill set. A fresh look with the Rangers could be just what he needs. Granite lost a big chunk of 2018 to injuries. He does have a minor league option remaining, and he’s certainly behind Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and Shin-Soo Choo on the depth chart.

Granite’s best opportunity is to rake at Triple-A in April and step in when injuries arise. Current center fielder Delino DeShields Jr. is sort of a brand name version of Granite. It’s possible the former Twin could outplay The Dentist this spring.

5. Phillies Sign Miguel Tejada… Jr. 

This one is for those dynasty leaguers with an upcoming FYPD. For most such leagues, a player must be signed to a real life deal before they’re eligible for the draft. Good news! Miguel Tejada Jr. is officially inked with the Phillies.

The 17-year-old has the stocky build we’ve come to expect from the sons of former big leaguers. Even in 2017, he was built like a tank with a game-ready swing. He was originally expected to sign with the White Sox last summer. They backed out after Tejada was caught using PEDs. While using performance enhancers is wrong and stuff, there’s also no question that they can improve a player’s career trajectory. Moreover, they’re often misunderstood. Gains made while using PEDs can often be maintained without them. In making this point, I’m not trying to say you should target PED users, merely that avoiding them isn’t necessary either.

I’ll conclud with a modest observation.

Top 20 MLB Prospects per FanGraphs

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2. Wander Franco
3. Fernando Tatis Jr.
6. Royce Lewis
8. Bo Bichette
20 Ke’Bryan Hayes

See the commonality? That’s five of the top 10 prospects and six of the top 20 with fathers who played professional baseball. Does that mean anything? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Ditch Yordan Alvarez for Miguel Tejada Jr. if I can make that move right now in my 16-team dynasty league where we have 6 man minor league rosters?