Closing Time in Colorado
Rockies’ manager Bud Black dropped a bit of a bomb on fantasy owners on Monday, when he announced that veteran right-hander Wade Davis would open the season as the team’s closer.
It’s not surprising in the sense that Davis has 137 career saves to his name -- including a league-leading 43 in his first season with the Rockies in 2018 -- it’s surprising because of how downright awful he was in 2019.
The 34-year-old hurler registered a cringe-inducing 8.65 ERA, 1.875 WHIP and 42/29 K/BB ratio over 42 ⅔ innings. He posted his lowest strikeout rate since being shifted to the bullpen in 2014, the highest walk rate of his career, and surrendered a career-worst 1.48 HR/9.
The advanced metrics? Not much better -- as a 5.56 FIP, 5.86xFIP and 5.30 SIERA paint a similar picture. Davis served up a hard hit % of 39.8% -- far and away the highest of his career.
The most disturbing trend though, is the dip in fastball velocity. When Davis burst onto the scene in the Royals’ bullpen in 2014, his fastball averaged 96.7 mph. It dipped to 95.5 in his final season with the Royals, 94.6 in 2017 with the Cubs and 94.4 in his first season with the Rockies in 2018. In 2019 though, he lost more than another full mph, settling at 93.3 on average. For a pitch that he features more than half the time, that’s simply not going to get it done.
What has to be frustrating for early fantasy drafters, is that the Rockies have a ready-made replacement already in Scott Oberg -- you know, the guy who succeeded in the role after Davis failed in 2019.
Fresh off of signing a three-year, $13 million contract extension in December, Oberg was expected to begin the season as the Rockies’ closer. After all, he posted a stellar 2.25 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 58/23 K/BB ratio across 56 frames during the 2019 season -- converting five saves in the process.
Oberg has been coming off the board in fantasy drafts around pick 240 overall. That number is going to drop like a rock in the next few weeks -- even with the likelihood that Davis loses the role to him at some point during the 2020 campaign. Davis on the other hand, has been an afterthought in early drafts, with an ADP outside the top 450 players overall. He’ll probably climb to around pick 300 or so -- putting him with the likes of Matt Magill, Mychal Givens and Tony Watson as last-ditch efforts to capture saves if missing in the early and middle rounds.
Diamondbacks extend Ahmed
Coming off of a career season -- and in his final year of arbitration -- the Diamondbacks locked up shortstop Nick Ahmed with a four-year, $32.5 million contract extension on Monday.
After earning $3.663 million in 2018, Ahmed had requested $6.95 million from the Diamondbacks in arbitration, while the club countered at $6.6 million.
There are also incentives in the deal that can bring the total higher. Zach Buchanan of The Athletic hears that Ahmed will make $6 million in 2020, $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022, and $10 million in 2023, with a $1 million signing bonus.
He's coming off a season where he slashed .254/.316/.437 with 19 homers, 82 RBI and eight steals -- all of those numbers career highs -- while also winning his second consecutive Gold Glove at shortstop.
While he’s unlikely to repeat those numbers across the board, he does enough with the bat to still be a worthwhile middle infield option in the later rounds of mixed league drafts. If looking to secure a bit of pop and a handful of steals from the position -- after pick 350 overall -- Ahmed seems like an appealing choice.
Buzz Around Taijuan
Taijuan Walker may be close to finding a new home. The 27-year-old hurler worked out in front of around 20 scouts a few days ago and is now said to be mulling multiple offers.
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reported on Monday that the Mariners have a “standing offer” out to the free agent right-hander.
That offer, according to Divish, consists of a one-year deal and an opportunity at securing the fifth spot in the Mariners’ Opening Day rotation. Walker was a first round pick of the Mariners (43rd overall) in the 2010 draft and remained in their organization through the 2016 season.
Walker then appeared in Cubs’ spring camp on Monday for an additional workout, though no deal is in place as of yet.
The last two years have been extremely difficult for him though, as Tommy John surgery and a shoulder issue limited him to just 14 innings in four starts.
When healthy, Walker looked like one of the top up-and-coming right-handed arms in the league. If he winds up landing a spot in a big league rotation to begin the season, he’ll certainly be worthy of a flier in the later rounds of mixed league fantasy drafts. Over the last few weeks, his average draft position in NFBC leagues has sat outside the top 450 players overall.
American League Quick Hits: MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox are "close" to a deal with free agent outfielder Kevin Pillar. … Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday that the club is aiming for Shohei Ohtani (elbow) to return as a pitcher in mid-May. … The Mariners signed Carlos Gonzalez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. … The Red Sox named bench coach Ron Roenicke as their interim manager. … The Rays signed veteran left-hander Aaron Loup to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training … The Mariners sent Matt Festa outright to Triple-A Tacoma. … Daniel Mengden underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow on Monday, a procedure that involved shaving off a small spur in the "posterior aspect of the olecranon." He’s expected to be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks. … The Angels claimed Jose Quijada off of waivers from the Marlins, designating Parker Markel for assignment in the process. … The Orioles claimed Ramon Urias off of waivers from the Cardinals and designated Pat Valaika for assignment. … Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Tuesday that Byron Buxton (shoulder) could be in spring games by mid-March. … The Rangers inked Taylor Jungmann to a minor league contract. … Chris Sale will be eased into spring training action due to illness. … The Mariners signed Wei-Yin Chen and Manny Banuelos to minor league deals with invitations to spring training. … Blue Jays RHP prospect Eric Pardinho underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. … Rays’ right-hander Charlie Morton said that he is considering retiring after the 2020 season. … ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that Astros owner Jim Crane will meet with the team on Wednesday to discuss how the team's sign-stealing scandal should be addressed publicly.
National League Quick Hits: The Cubs agreed to a minor league contract with longtime former Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis. Per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Kipnis' deal with the Cubbies will be worth $1 million, plus incentives. … The Padres signed outfielder Juan Lagares to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that he’ll make $1.4 million if he makes the big league roster -- and also has the potential to earn an additional $1 million in incentives. … Brandon Morrow (elbow) said on Monday that he has already thrown four bullpen sessions this spring without issue. … The Padres signed Gordon Beckham to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. … Jeurys Familia says he dropped 30 pounds over the offseason. … Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Monday that Tyler Chatwood is being prepared to fill the fifth starter role this season. His primary competitors for that role are Alec Mills and Colin Rea. … The Giants claimed Jarlin Garcia off of waivers from the Marlins, designating Burch Smith for assignment. … After completing their blockbuster deal with the Red Sox and flipping Kenta Maeda to the Twins, the Dodgers freed up space on the 40-man roster by designating Tyler White and Kyle Garlick for assignment. … Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that the club is hopeful David Robertson (elbow) will return during the second half of the season. … Anthony Swarzak and Drew Storen will each be a couple of days late to Phillies’ camp due to family issues. … The Phillies sent J.D. Hammer outright to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. … Rockies’ hurler Tim Melville suffered a cracked rib and will be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks. … Brendan Rodgers (shoulder) isn't expected to be an option at the major league level until May. … The Reds sent Sal Romano outright to Triple-A Louisville. … Dellin Betances (shoulder, Achilles) said that he will be "ready for Opening Day.". ... The Giants signed Trevor Cahill to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports that the Rockies have won their arbitration hearing with Tony Wolters.