So there I am — minding my own business after putting the finishing touches on a blurb about Leury Garcia and Razzball’s CEO, COO, CFO, HMO, RKO, HBO, Master Lothario, his royal Greyness himself drops this bomb on the Twittersphere:
#1 rookie who is not being drafted high who will end up being picked up in 75% of leagues the 1st week: Nick Madrigal. White Sox added Yasmani, Edwin, signed Lou Bob and they’re going to give the 2nd base job to Leury Garcia? Cmon. Read writing on wall.
— Razzball (@Razzball) February 11, 2020
What do I do? I wasted so much time justifying Leury as the lone sleeper bat on this team. Everyone else in this lineup is being appropriately drafted or is a prospect that everyone knows about. There’s Nomar Mazara I guess — but he’s got a Khris Davis-like consistency to not hit over 20 HRs. Do I embrace the potential roasting I’ll receive from Grey? Do I delete the 450 words I wrote about Garcia and lie to myself about some other player? Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I! I will survive! If things go south for Garcia — Madrigal is obviously sitting there in waiting — but I’m still a believer in the potential of Garcia.
2019 Recap: 72-89 (.447)
2020 FanDuel Win Total Projection: 83.5
Leury Garcia (ADP: 417.5): Who? What? He’s not even on the lineup above! How can he be a sleeper if he isn’t even awake enough to be in the lineup? Well, consider that lineup above fan service. If I don’t have Nick Madrigal projected as the starting second basemen — the lookie-loos will come out of the woodwork to roast me in the comment section. Here’s the hot goss on Madrigal: he only turns 23 next month (March 9th — mazel tov — good things!) And while all signs are pointing at Madrigal being given an opportunity to earn the starting 2B gig — I think he’ll start the season with the AAA Charlotte Knights to give the Sox more control over his contract. And another thing about prospects is they are not a given! He could struggle in his first year. So that leaves Garcia holding down the spot at least in the interim. Garcia actually started his career as a 17-year-old playing second base — so he’s not completely unfamiliar with the position. Garcia’s best fantasy weapon (and the reason I’m writing about him at all) are his legs. He knows how to use them. He’s got a few 30 SBs seasons in the minors and even popped 51 (way back in 2010.) Yes, in 2019 he only stole 15 bases but boasted the 10th fastest sprint speed in the majors — there’s an opportunity for more stolen bases here. Especially if he bats leadoff as he did for most of 2019 — and according to Daryl Van Schoudwen of the Chicago Sun-Times — as he is going to be a candidate to do again in 2020. Garcia isn’t completely devoid of power — he had 8 HRs last year and 9 in 2018 — but it’s not a big aspect of his game. Especially with a 2.33 GB/FB rate in 2019. If he can loft a few more balls in the air we could see 10 HRs. So why is he a sleeper? If he gets the leadoff position and can score a lot of runs in front of what I think is a great White Sox lineup — I think he could hold off Madrigal for a little while longer than expected and provide solid runs scored, stolen bases and batting average. And if he’s batting lower in the lineup?I think manager Ricky Renteria could possibly give Garcia the greenlight a bit more to cause some havoc on the basepaths before getting back to the leadoff man. Here’s the deal: at an ADP of 414, he really isn’t going to cost you much if anything. Plus, if Jimenez has a sophomore slump or Luis Robert struggles to begin his big league career — there are additional AB opportunities for Garcia.
Dylan Cease (ADP: 304.8): Recommending another young White Sox pitcher who had an ERA over 5.00 in 2019? Bold move! But also just like Lopez above — if you dig a little deeper there are some glimmers of potential here. The nicest thing about Cease is his strikeout potential. He’s averaged around 10 K/9 for most of his minor league career (and hit that number exactly in the big leagues.) The long ball is what did Cease in last season– he let up HRs in every start except for 2 of his 14. I know it’s difficult to compare — but in the minor leagues his HR/9 was never over 0.65 so I have to believe that the 1.85 he put up in the major leagues should come down to a more palatable number. However, the 4.32 BB/9? That is probably here to stay at least for 2020. His minor league figure in 354.1 IP is 4.2 — control is not his strong point. The biggest key for Cease’s development is going to be relying on his fastball a lot less. He threw it 47.4% of the time last year and while averaging 96 mph on your fastball is great — when there isn’t a lot of movement on it — people treat you like the pitching machine you are as evidenced by the .356 batting average batters had against the pitch. And to go back to the HR problem — 9 of the 15 HRs he allowed were off his fastball. Instead, what he needs to rely on is his secondary pitches — especially his slider which he used 21% of the time last year. Hitters only hit .181 against the pitch. Hopefully, someone in the White Sox front office loves analytics and is taking a close look at Cease’s offspeed pitches and tinkers with his pitch selection. If he follows with the MLB trend and throws fewer fastballs, more curves, sliders, and change-ups — he could take a huge leap in 2020. Watch his pitch selection closely in spring training.
Reynaldo Lopez (ADP: 347): Where should I begin? The good, the bad, or the ugly? Like Matthew Broderick said in the late 90’s “I’ll choose the ugly!” Lopez gave up the 4th most HRs last year. Right ahead of him was Justin Verlander — but Reynaldo Lopez: you are no Justin Verlander. The positive takeaway here is that for two months in 2019 (July and August) Lopez showed that he can keep the ball in the yard allowing only 5 HRs in 11 starts. The problem is that in the other 22 starts he allowed 30 HRs. Here comes the bad: Lopez had the 7th worst walk rate at 8.0%. In the second half of the year though he did improve his control a tad going from 3.5 BB/9 to 2.8 BB/9. Now for the good-ish! I think there was a fair bit of luck working against Lopez in 2019. In 2018 with a 5th best in the league .260 BABIP his ERA was 3.91. In 2019, with a 4th worst in the league .316 BABIP he had a 5.38 ERA. The number of times he threw each of his 4 pitchers was roughly the same, as were the velocity and movement on those pitches. I know it seems like a bit more bad than good for Lopez — but if you look at his fastball velocity chart over at Fangraphs you can see in the first half of the season you will see that he was averaging close to or under 95 MPH — but in the second half for most of his games he was averaging over 95 and that seemed to have a difference. In the first half of the season his ERA was 6.34 in 98 innings. The second half? 4.29 in 86 innings. If he keeps that fastball buzzing above 95 — it only helps his offspeed stuff look that more deceiving.
Gio Gonzalez (ADP: 510): It feels like Gio Gonzalez should be 46 years old at this point — but he’s still just 34. Old by baseball standards — but not so old that you should count him out. Especially when he’s completely embraced the move to using breaking pitches over fastballs. In 2019 Gonzalez actually threw his changeup 31.8% of the time compared to 26.6% for his four-seam fastball. Which was a good change! A good change! Especially when you see that batters only hit .154 off his changeup compared to .253 against his four-seamer. The next pitch selection he needs to make? STOP THROWING A SINKER! Since 2011 it has been his most hit pitch. And yet in 2019 he still threw it 25.2%. My hope for 2020 is he abandons the sinker altogether in favor of his curveball. Year after year, this pitch has been on the leaderboard for curveballs with the highest vertical drop. And last year opposing batters hit .209 off his curveball as opposed to .349 for his sinker.
Fantasy Bullpen Report:
Alex Colome is from the Mariano Rivera school of closing: fast cutter, faster fastball AND THAT’S ALL FOLKS! Take away his 2018 where he was setting up Edwin Diaz for the Mariners for most of the season and Colome has been one of the top closers in the league. In 2016 he had 37 saves; 2017: 47; and last year with the White Sox: 30. This is securely his job and with a solid starting rotation, a much-improved lineup, and a bullpen that was 14th in ERA only getting improved with the addition of bullpen mercenary Steve Cishek — Colome is my sleeper saves leader for 2020 with around 45.