As you may have guessed, the following is a list of five players who deserve to be monitored. In most cases, you probably won’t want to draft or rush to the wire for these guys. Just keep an eye on their stock.
Juan Nicasio – SP/RP
Chances are, you’ve heard some buzz about Nicasio this spring. What he’s done is pretty buzz worthy – 15 innings, 10 hits, five walks, and 24 strikeouts. Nicasio returned to major league relevance last summer. He pitched out of the Dodgers bullpen, averaging 95 mph with his fastball and also using an average slider. Over his career, he’s mostly been a fastball-slider guy with a few changeups and sinkers mixed in for variety.
Reports from Spring Training suggest he has a chance to retain the velocity he discovered last season. If so, he’s much more likely to succeed. I’d feel much more comfortable about his upside if he had another plus pitch – even his top secondary offering is merely fine.
Terrible teams are always great sources of unexpected fantasy production. Injuries to the Phillies outfield – particularly to Aaron Altherr – have served to secure Bourjos’ role and open the door for Hunter.
Let’s start with the name you know. Bourjos, once an elite defensive center fielder, will be playing an outfield corner this year. His best fantasy season was in 2011 when he posted a .271/.327/.438 line with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Injuries and bench roles have since derailed his career.
Philadelphia is committed to using Bourjos every day in the opening months of the season. He’s been among the best hitters in Phillies camp, batting .311/.392/.556 with two home runs in 45 plate appearances. He has a chance to be a free source of 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and decent run production. Beware, he’s struck out at a 26.6 percent rate this spring.
Hunter is a career minor leaguer who may finally get his chance to play in the majors. The lefty looks like an obvious platoon partner with Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel. Hunter is a well-rounded player with no standout tools. It’s a profile that often gets overlooked by major league clubs because the ceiling is fairly low – maybe 3 WAR tops.
For fantasy purposes, Hunter looks like a streaming option and DFS bargain. He has enough power to hit 10 to 15 home runs, the speed to swipe 10 to 15 bases, and the contact skills to hit between .260 and .280. With an expectation for +5 to +10 corner outfield defense, he could edge his way into full time reps later in the season.
Upon joining the Phillies late last season, Hinojosa was one of their best relievers. He tossed 23 innings over 18 appearances with 8.22 K/9, 3.13 BB/9, and a 0.78 ERA (2.92 FIP, 3.96 xFIP). He throws three pitches, all of which are merely average or slightly better.
As with Hunter, Hinojosa has an opportunity – specifically a chance to become the Phillies closer. David Hernandez was signed to be the underdog closer, but he’s had trouble getting fully up to speed. Andrew Bailey started in the right direction. His velocity is still down, and the latest reports say he won’t make the team. That leaves Hinojosa holding the ninth inning if Hernandez isn’t ready. Edward Mujica is also in the picture.
I’m starting to think Schebler will get an opportunity to start in the outfield – mostly because Adam Duvall really can’t play the position. Jose Peraza is the other top threat on Schebler’s playing time. Yorman Rodriguez hasn’t done much of anything this spring.
Schebler has the potential to be the fantasy steal of the year – just recognize he’s far from a sure thing. With Great American Ball Park as his home, a full season includes 20 or more home run potential, 10 to 20 stolen bases (the Reds love to run), and a middle of the order role.
Schebler has posted decent strikeout and walk rates in the minors, but he looked overexposed in his first 40 major league plate appearances. As long as he keeps the strikeout rate manageable, he’ll be an average or better hitter.
I’m a fan of anybody who isn’t Yasmany Tomas; aka Socrates Brito. I already talked about him early and often this spring. Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash has the power and plate discipline to be an OBP league steal. Unfortunately, there’s a large hole in his bat. I doubt he’ll play enough for mixed league relevance.
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