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 Gammons explained how excited St. Louis fans were to see Ray Lankford and Brian Jordan roaming the same outfield with Rick Ankiel on the mound. 

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. 

 

The off-season silence in Chicago was deafening.

Sorry, Souza. You’re just not a loud signing.

Not much new to see here for our purposes. Kris Bryant batting leadoff is neat. Gives Schwarber, Baez and Contreras a little boost because they move up in the lineup and because the club was awful at the top last season.

KB might be in center field before long. I suspect he’s better than Ian Happ anyway. Guy looked uber lost last time I saw him out there. As in: so lost he called an uber to drive him back to the park because he accidentally walked down Waveland trying to track a flyball in the sun.

Albert Almora has totally reworked his swing and started hot already, so Happ will have to be better to look like an everyday option.

Jason Kipnis is playing second base unless he totally face-plants. Back in December, Nico Hoerner was a saucy pick in the end game, but now he’s a wait-and-see in all but deep formats.

Cory Abbott hasn’t gotten much publicity and might not find any in Spring, but I think he’ll be the fifth starter by July, and I think he’ll be good. Take a gander if you get a chance. A new cutter cleared the way to AA dominance, and his plus command helps everything play up. 

 

Over in Cincinnati, I don’t think anyone saw the Reds coming. Well, maybe Joe McCarthy did, but that was mostly illusory, just like the present-day variations.

Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah, I was thinking about how the Reds surprised baseball by buying up a bunch of pieces. Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos both look like great fits for the ballpark, and Shogo Akiyama is an intriguing investment, but Cincinnati seemed like a crowded house before the splurge. Maybe someone will get traded and taste the freedom without, but until then we’re looking at all sorts of talented outfielders with nowhere to play. 

I discussed much of the fallout on my Off-Season Stock Movers: Redraft Edition. 

Vladimir Gutierrez warrants some watching, too. He got brutalized by the juicy ball but fought through it and was a better pitcher at season’s end. I’m eager to see how his nasty curveball plays against regular season bats, but I’ll settle for Spring. 

 

Jesus Castillo ran out of time on his initial contract and wound up in Milwaukee. I watched him against the Angels on Monday and was impressed. He’s employed good command to suppress home runs throughout his career in the Angels developmental chain. The Brewers are better at building pitchers, in my opinion, and seem to have found a promising piece in Castillo. If I had the Prospects Live enormous best ball draft still going, I’d be snagging Castillo in the late rounds. 

But you didn’t come here to hear about Jesus, I think, and the Brewers have other areas of interest. Third base, for example, is a free-for-all.

Jedd Gyorko, Eric Sogard, Ryon Healy and Mark Mathias will all get a look. 

Healy will also compete with Justin Smoak for at bats across the diamond at first base. Logan Morrison is also in camp. 

Luis Urias’ wrist injury gives Orlando Arcia another day to die hard, or something. Some metrics show him to be an elite defender, but he’s living on borrowed time unless something changes. 

 

Following the sale of Starling Marte, things look a little bleak in Pittsburgh.

But Hey! Check out this Oneil Cruz opposite field double off Casey Mize the other day.  

Look kinda like anyone to you?

Looks a little Yordan to me . . . 

We shall see.

The other place where X marks the spot is the pitcher’s mound. If there’s buried treasure in Pittsburgh, we’ll find it here. Short story long, I’m buying everyone now that pitch-to-contact has been pitched to the garbage. 

Everyone’s got a price, of course, but Pittsburgh is clean-slate city as far as I’m concerned. Happy to have some Joe Musgove, especially as he’s already singing the praises of the new regime and promising to pound fastballs up in the zone and bury his high-spin curve. 

Even happier to have bought low on injured Jameson Taillon across four dynasty leagues.

Intrigued by Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl in the deeps. Trevor Williams, too, might be streamable. 

In the field, Bryan Reynolds is one of my favorite buys this season. 

Maybe he’ll regress from .314/.377/.503, but how far? 

He actually had to fall off quite a ways to get down to .314. 

On September 1, he was hitting .332/.400/.533.

It’s rare to get a player who can boost batting average around pick 200. Jeff McNeil is going inside the top 100. Sure, he’s got more eligibility, but he’s also without an obvious gig. Seems very Player A, Player B situation to me though, so get a good look at Reynolds if you can. Takes great at bats. Finds the sweet spot with apparent ease. Can help across the roto board.

Jarrod Dyson blocks Jared Oliva and Jason Martin, but he opens a better path to end game steals, so the fantasy community is not as upset as it might be about a Fall League crush getting so close to a gig in the build-up to draft season. 

Jose Osuna is one to watch early this year. He’s been a decent bat in search of opportunity for a while now and might get one in 2020 as a pseudo-regular at 3B, LF and RF. 

Cole Tucker has been working to add launch. He’s a plus-plus defender, so any little boost on offense could earn him another chance, and he’s got speed we could use. 

 

Dylan Carlson is the sexiest name in the St. Louis Cardinals camp. Longtime beat writer Derrick Gould called him the best hitting prospect he’s seen in his time with the club. Some have penciled Puig into a corner here, but I’ve thought all along the front office was rolling out the red carpet for Carlson. Might be up by May. 

Gould says Matt Carpenter has worked all off-season on going the other way in an effort to bump his name off the top spot on the most-shifted list. I wouldn’t fault you for perking up at the possibilities, but I think his issues are bigger than that. His weakest spot is on the inside half, so pitchers pound him with inside fastballs. He fouls them off his front leg. Or whiffs. Tough pattern. Gotta try something. Might work. Might be a valiant last grasp before Edman takes over for good. 

Alex Reyes didn’t fare well in his first outing, but the price is finally commensurate with the risk here.

Carlos Martinez is in competition for a rotation spot, and with Kwang Hyun Kim the new guy on the block, the team might think it’s best to give Martinez a chance to take the gig he’d prefer. These things tend to work themselves toward equilibrium, and Martinez revitalized his career by moving to relief where he fit nicely due to his reliance on two pitches and spotty command. I think I’m buying both pitchers, even in the same draft if the build calls for it. As a starter, Martinez was typically well worth his current 187 ADP.

Thanks for reading! Hope you’re having a fun Spring!

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

 
  1. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Good stuff Itch! Really enjoying the division by division sleeper posts! Solid info!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks MP!!

  2. Scrapski says:
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    Well Done Itch!
    Lots of nuggets here, thanks for digging them up

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Scrapski!

  3. gamby says:
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    Good article. What’s your thoughts on Ryan Helsley’s role this upcoming season?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, gamby!

      Looks like a primary set-up man pushing for the ninth if Gallegos falters.

  4. Mike L says:
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    Open names in compete now mode just to get some thoughts in order of preference. Julio Rodriguez, Kelenic, Carlson, Luciano, Pearson, Puk, Manning, Patino, Cruz, Brujan, Bohm, Witt Jr, J-Dominguez, Madrigal, Hayes, Dalbec, Hampson, Trammell, Waters, Riley Greene, and CJ Abrams.

    I know those are a lot of names to throw at you but who do you like best for next 3 years vs overall talent. If Dominguez is as good as people think is it a no brainer to take him? We only have 4 bench spots so it’s difficult to hold more than 2 years.

  5. ozone ranger says:
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    Bryan Reynolds was in serious contention to win the NL batting title in early September. As a rookie. As an unknown prospect rookie. Man can just flat out hit a baseball. I think he was out of gas and partially injured in September.

    True story: He is my mom’s bridge partner’s nephew. The day he got called up was also the same day I met my mom for lunch after her bridge. She brought her partner along. Her partner told me her nephew just got called up by the Pirates. I said, “Well, I know my baseball, what is his name?”

    “Bryan Reynolds. He played at Vanderbilt.”

    “Who? I have never heard of him, and I know a ton about baseball prospects.”

    I picked him up in my leagues, because that could not be a coincidence, and what a pick up he was. Yes, I’m biased towards him, and fully intend to draft him in all leagues I can.

  6. Worm Burner says:
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    Hey The Itch,
    One more post, then I MAY leave you alone!

    Based on current (decent) prices, I’m guessing you’re really buying deep into CJ Abrams?
    Based on your ranking, it looks like his cards are one of the best opportunities right now. Agree?

    Also, from your experience, do you get better returns unloading prospects in the hype when they’re 1st called up?
    Or do you continue to hang on and gamble that they hit the ground running and wait for prices to continue to rise with on the field success?

    Thanks again, I appreciate you

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Oh no worries on the posts, Worm!! Don’t get many chances to talk cards.

      I will probably pick up an Abrams or two before the milb season.

      And good question on the sell by date. Always a moving target.

      I’ve young got multiples, it never hurts to sell when there’s decent profit on the table. Can always reinvest that money, and one of the sure fire bounces happens when a guy comes up and rakes.

      I’d had a lot of Aquino at some point and knew last fall was a sell member for him, imo, but I couldn’t find the cards. Tore the whole damn house apart and can see them clearly in my mind’s eye but never found em in part bc we’ve moved.

      So anyway, yeah, I think sell when hot if you can.

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