Three Super Early Spring Training Value Changes

We sometimes assume things based on a very small piece of information. Over the stagnant winter months, that assumption can crystallize into a certainty. This guy will break out. That guy will play every day. Then, Spring Training rolls around. The whims of managers – and injuries, mostly injuries – quickly lay waste to months of fantasy baseball dogma. No religion experiences as much upheaval as baseball.

Already, a few potential sleepers are seeing their value change.

Austin Barnes, C, Los Angeles Dodgers – DOWN

If you watched the postseason… Wait. Let’s start that again. You watched the postseason. You saw a whole lot of Barnes starting over Yasmani Grandal. If Barnes got nearly all the postseason starts, it stands to reason that he’d get the lion’s share of the reps in 2018. If you made offseason trades based on this assumption – I tried to but was rebuffed – I’m here to deliver you a heartfelt sad face emjoi.

Barnes was without a doubt the better catcher in 2017. They’re both above average defenders. They both have more bat than the typical backstop. Grandal’s offense manifests in the form of power – 49 home runs in his last 939 plate appearances. Barnes was a contact and OBP machine. He demonstrated enough power to keep pitchers honest, but it was ability to reach base frequently that really stood out.

Notably, Steamer projects them to be very similar in 2018. Regression is real, and it makes sense to expect Barnes to decline. If he doesn’t – if he keeps producing a .400 OBP, he’ll eventually find himself starting four out of every five games. Not even the Dodgers can afford to sit a .400 OBP. As of the start of the season, it looks like he’ll be playing two of five games.

Jake Odorizzi, SP, Minnesota Twins – UP

The AL East is a hell of a place to live. Although Tropicana Field was a pitcher friendly park, the rest of the divisional venues skew heavily towards hitters. Odorizzi is an extreme fly ball pitcher – one who doesn’t benefit from home run prevention. The juiced ball affected him disproportionately, leading to 1.88 HR/9. That’s a lot of home runs. Not even a .227 BABIP could save his season.

By comparison, joining the AL Central is a soft landing. He’ll frequently play against the Royals, Tigers, and White Sox. Those are three of the 10 worst teams in the league. Maybe three of the five worst teams. Aside from Guaranteed Rate Field, the divisional parks suppress home runs – perfect for a fly ball pitcher.

There’s also a general feeling that Odorizzi may only be an adjustment away from becoming an effective pitcher. He was fine from 2013 through 2016. There’s nothing stopping him from being better in 2018. The ingredients are there including a five pitch repertoire. Finding the right combination of pitches and locations could unlock a sub-4.00 ERA and 12 or more wins.

Even though I labelled Odorizzi as gaining value, it should be noted that he’s very similar to Dan Straily. By NFBC ADP, Odorizzi is 276 and Straily is 320. There’s a good chance Straily is the better pitcher these days. The best explanation for the discrepancy – the Marlins are terribad.

Adam Frazier, 2B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – UP

Frazier has a 401 ADP. That’s going to fly upwards in the coming weeks as fantasy owners realize he’s in line to start in left field. Even better, he’s deservedly being considered to bat leadoff.

Entering his age 26 season, Frazier has developed a resume as a high-contact, mid-OBP hitter with extreme line drive rates. Through 614 career plate appearances, he has a .283/.347/.402 triple slash with eight home runs and 13 stolen bases. He’s been a poor man’s DJ LeMahieu – and most of his relative impoverishment can be blamed upon inconsistent playing time. That may finally change.

His career line is about what you can expect over a full season. You’re hoping for a 10 homer, 15 steal season with 100 runs and a healthy average or on base. You’re happy with eight homers, 10 steals, 75 runs, and quality rate stats. Is that going to carry your team? Definitely not. Is it by far the best expected production available at pick 400. Youbetcha.

Chris Taylor is another 2B/OF. He has a 91 ADP. Taylor is absolutely a better target than Frazier, yet expectations shouldn’t be that different. Taylor will hit more home runs – between five and a dozen more. Hopefully he’ll steal a handful more bases. The run production will be more evenly distributed than Frazier’s which is generally preferable. The rate stats may be comparable too, although I’d bet on Frazier to win that battle. I’m not keen on Taylor repeating his .361 BABIP.

Taylor is unquestionably a better player than Frazier. Is he over 300 picks better than Frazier? Nope. If you miss on Taylor, don’t feel bad if you’re left holding Frazier as a consolation prize. Who knows, maybe Frazier will also join the air ball revolution, shattering expectations in the process.

We hoped you liked reading Three Super Early Spring Training Value Changes by Brad Johnson!

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Anonymous

I never know how to handle the 162 games in a 1-catcher league. I hate leaving 20+ games unplayed, but it’s too painful to try to roster 2 of ’em.