Friday, April 19 2024

Welcome, Draft Guide subscribers. This is the first of a series of articles this spring that will examine what’s happening in those constantly changing rankings and projections. For starters, I wanted to cover some of what’s different from our annual magazine, which received its final updates on Jan. 7 before going to press. I’ll open up with pitchers and move on to hitters next time.

Closing Situations

Angels: After amassing a ridiculous 60/8 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings over his four-month stint with the Rays, Robert Stephenson agreed to a three-year, $33 million deal with the Angels in late January. It apparently won’t make him the team’s closer to start the year, but the feeling here is that he’s a better bet going forward than Carlos Estévez. I was low on Estévez even before the addition and thought that José Soriano might unseat him in time. Alas, Soriano doesn’t seem like much of a sleeper now with two guys ahead of him. I moved Stephenson up significantly; I was previously guessing that he’d wind up as a setup man on a contender.

Stephenson: 47th (among RPs in magazine) to 23rd (among RPs currently)
Estévez: 40th to 46th
Soriano: 42nd to 62nd

Astros: Houston’s Josh Hader addition was a stunner, making a probable top-10 closer in Ryan Pressly an afterthought in shallow leagues. It didn’t have much of an effect on my ranking of Bryan Abreu, since even though he’s a longer shot for saves now, he was only projected for four in the first place. Abreu is about as good of a bet in terms of ERA and strikeouts as any reliever, so he still warrants a spot in deeper mixed leagues. Hader got a slight boost from joining an elite team, and I don’t think he’ll lose many saves to Pressly.

Hader: 6th to 5th
Pressly: 9th to 42nd
Abreu: 36th to 36th

Dodgers: That Hader, Stephenson and David Robertson all went elsewhere led to me sliding Evan Phillips up the rankings some. I was somewhat concerned that the Dodgers might add another top reliever, but Ryan Brasier doesn’t really qualify.

Phillips: 10th to 7th

Pirates: Aroldis Chapman signing as a setup man for the second year in a row wasn’t all that surprising, though that he landed with the thrifty Pirates was an odd turn. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll overtake David Bednar at any point, though one or both relievers could wind up traded in July unless the Pirates take a step forward.

Bednar: 8th to 10th
Chapman: 26th to 44th

Rangers: Texas wound up letting Chapman and Will Smith walk, even though those two combined for 26 of the team’s 30 saves last year. Taking Chapman’s spot is Robertson, who, even at age 39, is a safer fallback for José Leclerc than Chapman would have been. Robertson doesn’t seem to have much of an ego about these things, and he’ll probably serve as a setup man while we wait and see which Leclerc shows up this year. I think Robertson makes for a great late-round flier; besides being more consistent than Leclerc, he also seems like the better bet to remain healthy.

Leclerc: 27th to 30th
Robertson: 32nd to 26th

Red Sox: The Red Sox haven’t done much besides trade John Schneider to the Royals, but there’s been increased speculation that they might deal Kenley Jansen and/or Chris Martin. Jansen has also been dealing with a lat injury, which has played more of a role than the rumors in causing me to drop him a little. I think Martin is more likely to go than Jansen; he pretty clearly has more trade value at this point.

Jansen: 13th to 16th
Martin: 68th to 60th

White Sox: The White Sox had exactly one intriguing reliever on their roster two months ago, so Gregory Santos was comfortably in the top 30. Now he’s a Mariner, and John Brebbia, whose only two career saves came six years ago, looks like the favorite to pitch the ninth for the White Sox. I like Brebbia fine, and even though Guaranteed Rate Field isn’t the best environment for an extreme flyball pitcher, I think he makes for a strong late-round pick. Garrett Crochet, Corey Knebel and Prelander Berroa could emerge as sleepers if they impress this spring, though Crochet might wind up in the rotation if he looks strong enough. For the moment, Brebbia is the only White Sox pitcher I have among the top 100 relievers. Santos figures to be pretty irrelevant behind both Andrés Muñoz and Matt Brash in Seattle.

Santos: 26th to 86th
Brebbia: 38th to 25th

Starting pitchers

Trevor Bauer (63rd to 88th): I would have put the chances of Bauer signing a major league deal at about 90% a couple of months ago, but he remains thoroughly unwanted. The skeptic in me still believes that someone will eventually sign him, but probably not until after Opening Day.

Shane Baz (51st to 59th): It looks like the Rays will be more cautious than expected with Baz in his return from Tommy John. It’s understandable, given that the 24-year-old has never thrown more than 92 innings in a season, but I wonder if it could backfire, since the Rays might need every last victory to reach the postseason and they’re hoping to get Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen back in the second half anyway. With Baz out of the mix for Opening Day, I gave Taj Bradley a slight boost from 88th to 85th.

Shane Bieber (47th to 32nd): I don’t typically move players up for performance reasons before spring games have even started, but the encouraging reports about Bieber’s velocity are impossible to ignore. Bieber averaged 93 mph with his fastball in his first two big-league seasons before jumping to 94 mph during his 2020 Cy Young campaign and then tumbling to 91.5 mph the last two years. If he can back to 93 mph regularly, there’s a good chance he’ll be a top-20 pitcher.

Kyle Bradish (26th to 46th): I originally dropped Bradish a bit lower than this after he was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL, but it’s a good sign that he’s already set to resume throwing. It’s quite possible that he’ll experience more discomfort and wind up requiring surgery, but for now, he can still be drafted as a fifth starter in mixed leagues.

Walker Buehler (24th to 39th): My one big regret in the magazine was that I caved and moved Buehler from 36th among starting pitchers to 24th just before the deadline. The Dodgers have since made it clear that they’re going to be extraordinarily cautious with his Tommy John rehab, even though he initially aimed to return down the stretch last season.

Corbin Burnes (9th to 8th): Burnes got a little boost with the move to Baltimore, as I’m projecting him to allow two fewer homers and record one more victory. He could move up further if his velocity is improved this spring; last season, he was down about 1.5 mph from his Cy Young year in 2021.

Braxton Garrett (52nd to 63rd): This was all about the early shoulder issue. If Garrett bounces back over the next few weeks, I’ll move him back up some.

DL Hall (62nd RP to 102nd SP): I had Hall projected as a pure reliever in Baltimore, but he might do some starting in Milwaukee, even if he’s not really a threat to spend the entire season in the rotation. If he were still part of the relief rankings, he’d be 44th on that list.

Jordan Hicks (60th RP to 107th SP): It would have been nice if the Giants had signed Hicks a few days earlier, so I could have gotten him switched over to an SP projection in the magazine. I don’t see Hicks making much of an impact; he’s probably not going to throw enough strikes to work deep into games and his groundball tendencies won’t count for as much since the left side of the Giants’ infield could be the worst in the game.

John Means (41st to 49th): Means is one of my favorites this year, but it’s definitely worrisome that he had the setback in his return from Tommy John at the end of last year and is being slow-played this spring. At least for now, though, it appears that the plan is for him to be a part of the Orioles’ rotation before the end of April.

James Paxton (88th to 73rd): Landing with the Dodgers in free agency was ideal for Paxton, at least from a performance standpoint. It does mean he’s even less likely to throw 150+ innings than he would have been on another team, but he probably will be helpful in shallow leagues while healthy.

Chase Silseth (126th to 115th): I assumed all winter that the Angels would add at least one starter, which would drop Silseth from their projected rotation, but it hasn’t materialized. They still really ought to, not because Silseth is a problem but because they have so little depth behind him. If nothing happens and it becomes assured that Silseth will have a rotation spot, I’ll slide him up to the 90-100 range.

Marcus Stroman (69th to 64th): Signing with the Yankees got Stroman a five-spot boost from where he was with his generic free agent projection. The ballpark isn’t a big deal, particularly for a groundball pitcher like Stroman, and he’s looking at pretty good offensive and bullpen support.

Justin Verlander (24th to 33rd): Verlander is back throwing again after his shoulder scare, so he might start moving back up some. I do want to see how his arm responds over the next couple of weeks.

Tyler Wells (63rd to 72nd to 57th): Wells dropped when the Burnes trade appeared to set the Orioles rotation without him and then moved back up with the news that Bradish and Means would open up on the injured list. I have Wells as a top-50 fantasy SP when he’s in the rotation, partly because he’s such a strong bet in WHIP.

Bryan Woo (77th to 68th): The Mariners shed Marco Gonzales and quickly moved on from Anthony DeSclafani after acquiring him from the Giants, so barring a stunning Blake Snell signing, it doesn’t look like Woo is going to face competition for a rotation spot.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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