Justin Turner: He has a 148 wRC+ over the last two years, which ranks No. 13 in MLB. His .381 wOBA over that span ranks No. 17. Turner is an injury risk (even recently recovering from microfracture surgery), but we are talking about a player with an ADP of 199.0 who will be hitting in the middle of a loaded lineup who qualifies at a 3B position that’s much shallower than middle infield this season. Turner is easily one of my favorite picks for 2016.
Juan Nicasio: He’s a 29-year-old who’s pitched 45.8 percent of his innings in Coors Field throughout his career. There remains reason for skepticism, but he’s allowed zero runs over 15.0 innings this spring with a 24:5 K:BB ratio. There’s also a history of the Pirates helping pitchers, with Ray Searage a strong pitching coach, Francisco Cervelli the best pitch framing catcher, a good overall defense and a home park that’s decreased homers by 20 percent over the past three seasons, which is the most other than AT&T Park over that span. It was a small sample, but Nicasio had an 11.0 SwStr% over 58.1 innings last season. He’s a legit sleeper.
Jeremy Jeffress: Will Smith is going to miss months after suffering a torn LCL, so Jeffress is now the clear Brewers’ closer. Corey Knebel lingers, and Milwaukee isn’t projected to win a ton of games, but Jeffress has the role that matters most to fantasy owners. He posted a 2.65 ERA last year with a 3.24 GB/FB ratio to go along with an 11.4 SwStr%, so he should be treated as a top-20 RP.
Travis Shaw: His numbers in the minors don’t overwhelm, but Shaw has been named the starting third baseman for Boston over the much more expensive Pablo Sandoval, who once again showed up out of shape and performed much worse on defense. Sandoval might very well be considered a sunk cost by a Red Sox team with their eyes on going deep into the postseason, so there’s little reason to buy into Sandoval moving forward, despite him being owed $72.4 million through 2020.
Nick Hundley: This is for those who play in daily transaction leagues for a couple of reasons. Hundley hit .355/.393/.563 at Coors Field last year, which makes him essentially the best hitting catcher when at home (he also added four steals), and catcher is also the toughest position to reach AB limits, so add Hundley to your bench and start him exclusively at Coors Field if you play in these type of formats.
Drew Storen: After the Blue Jays traded for Storen during the offseason, it certainly made sense for the team to make him the closer, especially since he had “experience” in that role, pitched well in spring and would cost Toronto less money if the younger (and likely superior) Roberto Osuna pitched more important innings yet gained less leverage in arbitration by not recording saves. Instead, Osuna was recently named closer, and Storen is suddenly borderline droppable in most fantasy leagues considering his ratios might not be dominant now in the A.L. East and in a hitter’s park. Osuna got a whopping 14.7 SwStr% last year, so there’s no reason to expect a change anytime soon.
Trevor Bauer: He needs to improve his control, but this is a pitcher with a high pedigree (he was the No. 3 overall pick in 2011) who posted a 22.6 K% that ranked No. 26 among all starting pitchers last year. Yet after recording a 2.25 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 20.0 innings this spring, he’s been demoted to the Indians’ bullpen. Bauer’s fantasy value has bottomed out, but he’s not to be forgotten about in the future.
Rusney Castillo: Here is someone most were convinced (me included) would be a 20/20 type outfielder, helped by a good hitter’s park and in a lineup that should score among the most runs in baseball. Instead, Brock Holt has been named Boston’s starting left fielder on Opening Day, and he’s eligible at seemingly every position in Yahoo leagues, so the latter has become the much more desirable fantasy asset.
A.J. Pollock: Well, this is infuriating for those who spent a second round pick on someone who just fractured his elbow two days before the season starts. Yes, this is an overly obvious “stock down,” and I try to avoid including those based solely on injuries, so let’s move beyond giving Pollock owners condolences and say this upgrades the value of Yasmany Tomas, who had seemingly lost his starting role in Arizona’s outfield to Socrates Brito despite posting a 1.026 OPS this spring. With Pollock out for the foreseeable future, it sure seems like this opens up plenty of playing time for Tomas, putting him back on the fantasy radar.
D.J. LeMahieu: He’s somehow slated to open the year batting eighth for the Rockies despite a .358 OBP last season. These types of decisions are obviously subject to change at any time, but it’s certainly not good news for fantasy owners. And even as someone who may benefit from this decision, Trevor Story, who’s now likely to be Colorado’s No. 2 hitter, is no longer a sure thing to be a regular beyond the first month of the season with the recent revelation Jose Reyes won’t be charged with a crime (he’s still subject to a suspension by MLB). There’s a lot of uncertainty going on with the Rockies’ middle infield right now.