Spring Training Sleeper Watch: American League West Edition

One of my favorite traditions as a young fan was Peter Gammons profiling each team’s spring training focus points. 

I loved the spittle and shake of his voice, the depth of his details, and especially how he always shot the segments in front of people playing catch, gloves popping symphonically as we imagine the impossible topside of Rich Harden.

It’s in that spirit that I begin our next prospect series—one that works in concert with Razzball’s Gammonsian team previews and one that involves a few nods to some non-prospects. Graduating from eligibility requirements doesn’t mean you’re a known quantity, nor that you’ve graduated to an everyday opportunity. Yesterday’s failed prospects are often tomorrow’s sleepers, so let’s take a lap around the division looking for some fantasy profit. 


Houston Astros

The Verlander lat fallout hasn’t been fully parsed yet, but once it is Austin Pruitt will be added in most leagues. He was in danger of losing out to Josh James but now seems locked into an early season opportunity. 

James too gets a nice boost. He might’ve been skipped or bullpenned at times in April but figures to get a full slate of starts now.

I’ve tried to get José Urquidy in every league. The price is rising fast, but he’s still a nice value. 

Myles Straw is the thirsty man’s place to begin among Houston hitters. Carlos Correa seems like a value this draft season, but with an achy back, he’s one path to playing time for Straw. I’m not saying every day, but Straw doesn’t need that to stir up the stolen base category. In fact, I think he might be the first man up and in no matter who gets hurt. 

The first man up and in after Kyle Tucker, that is, assuming the big whigs who didn’t want to play him are gone. 

To be honest, I’m slow-playing pretty much every established hitter here at the cost. I know it’s cool to play it cool about the whole cheating thing, but I think it helped a lot more than it hurt to know what was coming, and I think cold turkey’s gonna hurt some of these guys at least as much as hacking the system helped them.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The main opportunity on offense exists at second base. If you yell for Tommy La Stella loudly enough, Marlon Brando will appear in full Godfather garb and make you an offer you pretty much have to take. 

If he shows up looking like Dr. Moreau, run.

You know what, probably run if he shows up at all. He’s been dead for 15 years.

Unless he’s convalescing on an island somewhere, waiting to imprint his consciousness into a suitable host. 

I think Fletcher wins the job. 

Most days anyway. We’re talking about Joe Maddon here. Nobody’s gonna win the job. Which means La Stella’s gonna play, and I am so worked up I could yell.

Rengifo is in here somewhere, I guess. Hellifiknow. Talkin bout Joe Maddon here.

Wish they’d gotten Joc Pederson to play first base. 

Now they’ve got what’s left of Pujols, which aint bad in some leagues. Seems like elder abuse in others.

Felix Pena might be in play now that Canning is sealed away in glass. Was a suitable pick-your-spots follower at times in 2019, and everyone loves an opener in Weekly leagues, where you only get so many chances at the Win category. 

I’ve seen a lot of people pushing Dylan Bundy. I prefer Al. 

Assuming Kelly’s busy, of course.


Oakland Athletics

Austin Allen is one of my favorite catchers to get this year. He’s already in what’s probably a 60/40 split with Sean Murphy, who auditioned for the role of Mr. Glass before Samuel L signed on. 

Best thing about Allen is the bat. He’ll never unseat a healthy Murphy due to defense, but that’s not required for him to return big value at his current cost of ninety free. 

Everyone seems to want Jorge Mateo except Oakland. 

Well, that’s not accurate. Oakland must want him. But other teams do, too, or at least Kansas City and Detroit were rumored to be showing interest. 

Not a lot going great in the world these days. Perhaps one consolation prize will be Mateo running wild on a team that couldn’t care less how that goes in the short term. 

I’m down with Seth Brown. He’s been almost entirely ignored this draft season but smashed AAA last year and is looking at a nice opportunity with Stephen Piscotty battling boneitis. 

Jesus Luzardo has been untouchable thus far against major league bats. I own him in several leagues. Bought at $18 in CBS AL only. Drafted a few times at his early 100’s ADP. I’m confident in part because he’s on a great defensive team who should help him get wins if he can get through the fifth. 15 wins is well within reach. I know, I know we don’t play for wins, but people will knock him for his innings limit, but I’m not sure why that matters much if he’s piling up wins and strikeouts with great rate stats. Might even be an advantage as his win and K totals can be supplemented by someone else if they rest him. 

The A.J. Puk injury may have been a little overstated. Or perfectly timed for our purposes. Either way he’s an awesome get right now about 150 spots after Luzardo.


Seattle Mariners

A student in my 9 a.m. class is flying to Seattle over spring break. The Ostrich is her favorite animal, presumably. Stay safe out there, dear readers. 

I was on mission to get Tom Murphy in every league prior to Manager Scott Servais saying Murphy and Aaron Nola would split the position 55/45. Very little joy in mudville about this, but both guys are among the club’s top hitters, and I think they’ll each find a lot more plate appearances than a single-position split would suggest. 

I have Kyle Lewis on a lot of rosters, drafted between 350 and 400 for the most part. I’d put money on 30 homers. Guess I kinda have. 

Bob Ross always comes to mind when I see the name Art Warren. I hope that’s not why I like him because I like him enough to have already invested in my deep leagues, and he’s already been sent to AAA even though I think he’s the closer of the near future there. Don’t have to draft him in most leagues, but I’m ready to react. 

Yusei Kikuchi is fresh off a driveline winter and might just have a grip on his best self. 

Sorry, grip was an attempt at a pun about the baseball being different from those used in Japan, a variable Kikuchi credited when discussing his struggles. Please direct any further Kooch questions to Donkey Teeth. 

Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez would be the finale of a hypothetical Gammons’ Seattle segment–the glimmer of hope breaking through an overcast season. Both could be relevant in redraft leagues by summer. 

Also, they are young enough to survive the virus long enough to pass it along to several who are unable to defeat it. 

Evan White will, too. I drafted him in pretty much every league.

He reminds me of pre-2019 Pete Alonso in the sense that he’s a life raft at first base if you’ve let the position get away from you. Going around pick 300, he’s a solid bet even if you’re looking solid at the corners.

I have Shed Long everywhere too. Seems like I have a lot of Mariners, which . . . feels weird as I’m realizing it, but they’re just so cheap! I also like the prices on Tim Lopes, Jake Fraley, Taijuan Walker, Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger. 

Well . . . Not Haniger, but I feel bad not including him. I mean what a run of luck that guy’s on. 


Texas Rangers

You know the old saying: one man’s busted face is another man’s treasure. . 

Willie Calhoun survived his head-on collision with a Julio Urias heater, but his broken jaw could keep him out through opening day. 

Nick Solak was likely to play several times a week no matter what, but this news will certainly juice his ADP a bit nonetheless. Playing time fear is perhaps the biggest cost-suppressor during draft season, so I hope you got your Solak shares during his brief stint between losing out in centerfield and stepping into left. 

IKF sounds like a super PAC or a vaccine but it’s just Isaiah Kiner-Falefa shortened to a length that allows us to discuss him. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? 

And Falefa is trying to get bigger power, reworking his swing to free up his hips to rotate more freely and enjoying an electric spring. 

Good chance he starts at third with Frazier at first. 

The front office took a flier on Adolis Garcia just before camp started. He’s unlikely to be amazing in the long term giving his 30.1 percent K rate at AAA. He’s a free swinger with plus power and defense, and I think he’ll have an Aquino-lite stretch if he gets called up to fill in for someone this summer. 

Chuck Norris turned 80 yesterday, and while it looks like Jose Leclerc is the Closer for the long haul, he’s prone to losing the zone and morphing into Walker Texas Ranger without the spin kicks. If that happens, we’re looking at Joely Rodriguez, Rafael Montero or DeMarcus Evans. They could all be the highlander. 


Thanks for reading! 

You can follow me @theprospectitch if that’s the kinda thing you might be interested in.