Yesterday I covered the spring training highs and lows for hitters in the American League, so there is no need for a lengthy introduction. Today I’ll tackle the National League, highlighting those standout performances (or lack thereof) as we head into the 2017 fantasy season.
*All spring stats are through Sunday.
Highs: Freddie Freeman – 17 for 36 (.472) with a home run. We know he will not hit .400, but the hot start is an encouraging sign after a career year in 2016.
Lows: Matt Kemp – 9 for 48 (.188). All this slow start does is lower Kemp’s draft value and or trade value early in the season. Unless there is an undisclosed injury, there is no need to panic.
Player(s) to watch: Adonis Garcia – 10 for 34 with one home run, one stolen base, and one strikeout. Garcia is not on the fantasy radar in 12-team leagues, but for those with 16 or more teams that use a corner infield slot, he should be. Monitor him for the first month and reassess things from there.
Highs: Christian Yelich – 9 for 20 (.450) with two home runs. The sample size is small – less that a week’s worth of at bats, but the power and average are nice to see.
Lows: Justin Bour – 11 for 52 (.212) with two home runs.Maybe the slow start has something to do with seeing lefties on a regular basis so there could be some early struggles. Judging by where he is being drafted not many were counting on much from Bour anyway.
- Honorable Mention: Dee Gordon – 12 for 53 (.226) with three stolen bases. Gordon is being counted on for batting average, runs, and steals. Give him a month to bring the average around before you worry.
Player(s) to watch: None – the names and faces haven’t changed, and there were no new additions or young challengers this spring to alter the landscape.
Highs: Michael Conforto – 18 for 53 (.340) with four doubles and three home runs. Sadly, with Cespedes, Bruce and Granderson on board, and a manager at the helm that doesn’t think much of Conforto, those spring numbers mean even less than most. Conforto will need to make the most of every at bat to force his way into the mix.
- Honorable mention: Asdrubal Cabrera – 18 for 47 (.383) with four doubles and three home runs. Cabrera has found new life in New York, and it would not surprise me in the least if he repeated, or even improved upon his 2016 season.
- Reyes, Granderson, Cespedes and d’Arnaud also batter over .300 this spring
Lows: Jay Bruce – 8 for 38 (.211) with two home runs. Bruce has at least 25 home runs in all but one season dating back to 2010, so nobody is questioning the power. The batting average struggles are nothing new. How long he will take to shake off the funk is another story. Conforto could steal a few at bats here early.
Player(s) to watch: Neil Walker and Lucas Duda are both batting .250 and showed a little power. Both are more than capable of being a top-12 option at their respective position. The only question is whether they stay healthy enough to do so.
Highs: Jesmuel Valentin – 14 for 36 (.389). Valentin is a former first round pick, and he is only 22 years old. However, he has shown zero development in the power department and has just one solid stolen base season (in 2014) on his resume. Odds are only his mom will remember this hot spring.
- Honorable Mention: Cameron Perkins – 9 for 25 (.360). He may be someone for those in deeper leagues to know about. Perkins has enough power and speed to reach 10-12 in each category. The batting average is acceptable, the strikeouts are low, and he has seen time in Triple-A, so the proximity to the majors is close. That said: he’s just a warm body that can hold down the job until someone better comes along.
Lows: Maikel Franco – 14 for 65 (.215) with five home runs. Franco was a sleeper on some lists, and I don’t think anyone will deny he can hit 25 or more home runs in a season. The early batting average woes combined with last year’s .255 average should be of some concern. Long-term I like the package, but short-term there may be some more issues to work out at the plate.
- Honorable mention: Cameron Rupp – 5 for 31 (.161) with eight strikeouts. The one thing playing in Rupp’s favor is the fact that Jorge Alfaro didn’t do any better this spring and was optioned to Triple-A.
Player(s) to watch: Freddy Galvis – 14 for 57 (.246) with one home run. Just like Rupp, Galvis has a highly touted rookie breathing down his neck that the organization loves. J.P. Crawford didn’t do anything to impress this spring, but that doesn’t negate his value or the team’s belief in him (and lack thereof for Galvis). Galvis is a useful fantasy producer if he can repeat last season’s numbers.
Highs: Michael Taylor – 16 for 42 (.381) with two home runs and six stolen bases. Taylor couldn’t have picked a worse time to show signs of a breakout as the outfield is full. We’ve also seen these unexpected bursts from Taylor before so it’s too early to get excited. He has a nice power/speed portfolio if he can continue to hit for average and an opportunity presents itself. Until then he’s waiver fodder.
Lows: Daniel Murphy – 5 for 25 (.208). A week’s worth of at bats is hardly cause for concern.
- Honorable Mention: Jayson Werth – 8 for 43 (.186). Werth hit .211 last April and September, so a slow start is nothing new. His age and an injury history are the main things fantasy owners need to worry about.
Player(s) to watch: Ryan Zimmerman – 12 for 42 (.286) with one home run and two stolen bases. Adam Lind was brought in to compete with Zimmerman at first base, but so far he hasn’t been able to hit his weight. Zimmerman did work on his swing with Daniel Murphy this off-season, so maybe a bounce back is in order – health permitted.
Highs: Ian Happ – 20 for 48 (.417) with five home runs. Right now the Cubs have no room for Happ, but come June they will have a better idea of where he may fit in their plans. A move to the outfield is possible, as is a trade. Keep him on your watch list.
- Honorable Mention:Willson Contreras – 14 for 43 (.326) with three home runs. Batting average was the number one concern for Contreras coming into the season. Miguel Montero will see even less time behind the dish if he keeps this up.
Lows: Jason Heyward – 7 for 46 (.152) with two home runs. We all forgave Heyward last year figuring he put too much pressure on himself to live up to the lofty contract extended to him by the Cubs. Playtime is over now. He could bounce back, but I’m under the belief that Heyward is more hype than help.
Player(s) to watch: Addison Russell – 9 for 32 (.281) with five home runs. The counting stats were solid last year. The only thing Russell needs to take that next step is some points in batting average. Even if he hits .250 this year, it will be a success.
Highs: Jose Peraza – 21 for 60 (.350) with a home run and four stolen bases. He has the speed, batting average, and walk potential to push Billy Hamilton to the bottom of the order.
- Honorable mention: Zack Cozart – 15 for 45 (.333) with five doubles and three home runs. Many had written Cozart off before last year’s bounce back. I don’t know if he can build on that, but the early numbers suggest he can at least repeat.
Lows: Joey Votto – 8 for 42 (.190) with ten strikeouts. Like most stud hitters there is nothing to be concerned about here.
- Honorable mention: Billy Hamilton – 8 for 41 (.195) with four steals and 14 strikeouts. The strikeout rate went up last season, so those extra K’s this spring are worth noting – especially when you add in the slight drop in contact rate. Hamilton is good for steals, but increased strikeouts will lead to a lower average, and he doesn’t walk enough to make up for that. Check off 50 steals, but you’ll take a kick in the rear everywhere else.
Player(s) to watch: Patrick Kivlehan – 20 for 49 (.408) with four doubles, two triples, and two homers. The outfield is full right now, but there are enough questions that Kivlehan could get an opportunity later this year. He has 20/10 – power/speed upside, and if he can shave off a few strikeouts like he did this spring, we could see a decent batting average as well.
- Honorable mention: Scott Schebler – 14 for 47 (.298) with two doubles and two home runs. One of the lesser talked about Reds. He lost that 20 plus home run potential once he reached Triple-A, but some of that started to shine through last year. Could be a nice sleeper this year if everything breaks right.
Highs: Keon Broxton – 18 for 52 (.346) with three doubles, three home runs, and two steals. Broxton has also been caught four times and has 16 strikeouts, so it’s not all sunshine and roses. There is power/speed upside here, but the strikeouts can sink that batting average faster than the Titanic.
- Honorable mention: Both Travis Shaw (16 for 48) and Hernan Perez (13 for 39) are batting .333 with three home runs. Shaw does have nine walks, while Perez has just three strikeouts and three stolen bases. It’s a shame we can’t put T-Ball rules into effect and play them both at third base.
Lows: Eric Thames – 11 for 45 (.244) with one home run and 17 strikeouts. The bats are still sick when it comes to breaking pitches, and Thames has yet to ask Jobu to come. We all know that numbers don’t always translate from the KBO so don’t be quick to give Thames the benefit of the doubt.
Player(s) to watch: Jesus Aguilar – 24 for 52 (.462) with four doubles and five home runs. Aguilar hit his peak between 2012 and 2014. The 25 plus home run power is still there, but the batting average has been on a steady decline. Still, one would think the rebuilding Brewers would give the 26-year-old a shot at some point, especially if Thames continues to strike out by the truckload.
Highs: Adam Frazier – 20 for 51 (.391) with two home runs and two stolen bases. He may make a great utility player one day with a .300 plus minor league average the past two years. There is zero power here, but he can run a little.
- Honorable mention: Phil Gosselin – 18 for 53 (.340) with a home run and stolen base. Gosselin, like Frazier, can hit for average, but he provides nothing else. The same goes for Gift Ngoepe (18 for 42). The 27-year-old infielder has minimal power and speed, and for the past four years, he has struggled to hit .250 in a good year.
Lows: Josh Bell – 3 for 32 (.094) with 11 strikeouts. I can’t see how Bell doesn’t start the year in Triple-A with both John *yawn* Jaso and David Freese hitting over .300 this spring.
Player(s) to watch: Austin Meadows – 14 for 43 (.326) with four doubles, two home runs, and two steals. His 15 strikeout suggest there is still a little of refinement needed. If there is an injury or someone in the outfield is traded, Meadows will be the first one to get the call.
Highs: Jose Martinez – 17 for 45 (.378) with three doubles, four home runs, and five strikeouts. He could make the opening day roster, but he will need to compete with Randal Grichuk for at bats. Temper your expectations as the 28-year-old career minor leaguer doesn’t have the type of power he has displayed this spring.
Lows: Jedd Gyorko – 9 for 44 (.205) with two home runs. Jhonny Peralta – 9 for 42 (.214). Kolten Wong – 8 for 47 (.170). It appears that nobody wants the starting second or third base job this year.
- Honorable mention: Stephen Piscotty – 7 for 49 (.143). Those that were worried about his second half slump now feel justified. I might be worried, but I am confident enough in his ability to hit for average and believe he will snap out of it (eventually).
Player(s) to watch: Harrison Bader – 16 for 46 (.348) with a double, triple, stolen base, and two home runs. That spot that Jose Martinez if trying for could be Bader’s at some point. There are some strikeout concerns as there are all young guys. That said: he reached Triple-A at the age of 22, shows 20 home run pop and can reach double digits in steals as well. He needs more work, but he could also end up being lightning in a bottle, worthy of a quick pickup.
Highs: Brandon Drury – 20 for 49 (.408). We may not have thought much of Drury at the conclusion of 2016, but he is doing his best to change that perception. As an outfielder, I’m not impressed, but as a second baseman, I think he deserves a little more credit.
- Honorable mention: Jake Lamb – 14 for 40 (.350) with three double, three home runs, and 13 strikeouts. His second half collapse has many concerned. The hot start is nice, but the strikeouts could lead to that same drop in average.
Lows: A.J. Pollock – 4 for 22 (.182) with a home run and stolen base. It is only a weeks worth of numbers, and he has dealt with a groin issue. The same goes for Yasmany Tomas (1 for 18). He may need the first few weeks of the season to shake off the rust.
Player(s) to watch: Chris Owings – 18 for 48 (.375) with a double, two triples, and two home runs. Ketel Marte was believed to be the shortstop to own, but a .261 average spring combined with the blistering numbers from Owings and Drury would (on paper) seem to lock up the middle. Owing doesn’t have the most reliable track record, though, and there was a change of management, so there are zero loyalties to any player not named Goldschmidt.
Highs: Stephen Cardulla – 18 for 50 (.360) with four doubles and three home runs. He played four years on the independent scene before the Rockies took a chance on him last year. His .308 average at Triple-A last year looks pretty, as does the 17 home runs and six steals. Realistically he is a .265 hitter (at best) with below average power and a little speed. The presence of Mark Reynolds and the imminent return of Ian Desmond means you will probably never hear from him again.
Lows: Nolan Arenado – 6 for 29 (.207) with two home runs. If there is one Rockies player you need not worry about, it’s Arenado.
- Honorable mention: Trevor Story – 14 for 50 (.280) with seven doubles and four home runs. It’s not the line that lands Story here; it’s the 16 strikeouts. A strikeout rate over 30 percent should be monitored closely.
Player(s) to watch: Gerardo Parra – 17 for 45 (.378) with a home run and three stolen bases. A David Dahl injury reopened the door for Parra. It could be a short-term gig until Dahl is healthy, or it could turn into an extended stay as a starter if he continues to hit and run.
Highs: Justin Turner – 18 for 43 (.419) with four doubles, three home runs, and a stolen base. I’ll admit to being on of those that did not believe in Turner. This hot start is the first step in proving the doubters wrong.
- Honorable mention: Logan Forsythe – 16 for 37 (.432). It is an empty average, but if he is hitting the counting stats will be there eventually.
Lows: Joc Pederson – 11 for 49 (.224) with five home runs and 15 strikeouts. The batting average and strikeouts continue to weigh down Pederson’s ceiling. He is only 25, but given this will be his third season the excuses are running out.
- Honorable mention: Yasiel Puig – 10 for 43 (.233) with three home runs and 11 strikeouts. Those that were hoping he could regain some of the form he lost… keep hoping.
Player(s) to watch: Chris Taylor – 16 for 40 (.400) with three doubles, two triples, and three stolen bases. In the minors, Taylor is a .300 hitter with a little pop and double-digit speed. If not for the emergence of Turner and Seager in Seattle before that he might have gotten an extended look. He has a Jose Ramirez type feel to him.
Highs: Wil Myers – 19 for 49 (.388) with five doubles, two home runs, and three stolen bases. BOOM! Myers has picked up where he left off.
- Honorable mention: Hunter Renfroe – 20 for 66 (.303) with two home runs. There is nothing left for him to prove in Triple-A. Now let’s see if the power translates over to the majors.
Lows: Yangervis Solarte – 8 for 34 (.235). The versatile spark plug isn’t doing much early to instill hope in fantasy owners.
- Honorable mention: Manuel Margot – 5 for 24 (.208). A slow start combined with an early knee injury means Margot will probably start the year in Triple-A.
Player(s) to watch: Travis Jankowski – 20 for 57 (.351) with five doubles, a home run, and three stolen bases. The Margot injury opened the door for the speed merchant, and Jankowski slammed that door shut behind him with his spring numbers. I don’t know if Jankowski is a fantasy starter, but he can be a nice injury fill-in with speed if the average continues.
- Honorable Mention: Jabari Blash – 14 for 52 (.269) with seven home runs and 22 strikeouts. 27-year-old outfielders are not the most reliable players to monitor; they have been in the minors this long for a reason. Blash can draw a walk, and his 32 home runs in 2015 over 406 at bats between Double-A and Triple-A show he has power. If he can somehow dial back the strikeouts we might have something here.
Highs: Chris Marrero – 15 for 54 (.278) with six home runs. The fact that he has been in the minors since 2006 and has only had a 125 at bat taste of the majors is all you need to know. If you saw his spring home run numbers and were wondering who he was – now you know… move along.
Lows: Hunter Pence – 6 for 44 (.136) with 13 strikeouts. I am probably one of the few supporters left for Pence, but this spring is pushing even my patience to the brink.
- Honorable Mention: Eduardo Nunez – 9 for 38 (.237) with two stolen bases. Before last year, the 29-year-old was a bench bat marked “in case of emergency, break glass.” His number went into the toilet once he was traded to San Francisco, but he did rebound in September. It will be hard to live up to the 16/40 season from 2016, and quite honestly he’ll be lucky to reach half that.
Player(s) to watch: Jae-gyun Hwang – 13 for 40 (.325) with four home runs. Eduardo Nunez didn’t have the best spring, and last year’s numbers sorta came out of nowhere. The Giants have a number of unimpressive options for third base should Nunez need replacing, but I don’t see any of them lasting. Hwang showed some pop and ability to hit for average in the KBO. I don’t know if the early numbers can be carried over a full-season, but it is worth monitoring his progress in Triple-A to see if we have a diamond in the rough or a piece of coal.
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