Spring Training is here! The games began in earnest on Saturday, and we’re set to see some key storylines unfold — storylines that will undoubtedly have an impact on the 2020 fantasy baseball season.
So, on that note, here are 10 bold predictions for exhibition season!
We’ll have to wait for the Betts-n-Bellinger show to really start
The idea of Mookie Betts batting leadoff and Cody Bellinger in behind him no doubt has Dodgers fans salivating, but those expecting a bash-brother-like spring will probably be disappointed.
I expect both hitters to be motivated in exhibitions to try to show exactly what they’re capable of in the at-bats they’ll get, and I expect some overextension on their part because of it. Lest we forget, both Betts and Bellinger had extremely quiet exhibitions in 2019, with neither batting above .250 (Betts had 42 at-bats, Bellinger 53).
Rarely does hype become reality this early in the baseball calendar. But of course, what you do in spring training doesn’t always reveal what you’ll do in the regular season.
And on that note, this is just a spring thing — eventually, if both stay healthy, Betts and Bellinger will become what everyone thinks they’ll be: The most feared top of the order in MLB. That said, fans will have to wait to see this machine in full operating order — and don’t expect much ADP movement, if any, for these two MVP-caliber players before the regular season begins.
Nolan Arenado is NOT traded during Spring Training
Even though I’m probably not going to draft him out of fear of a trade away from Coors Field, I do not believe the Rockies will find a willing trade partner for Nolan Arenado during exhibitions.
Ever since the apparent rift between Arenado and upper management became apparent, the rumor mill has been churning. Most recently, a reported star-for-star deal was tossed into the fray, one that would apparently send Nolan Arenado to the Cubs and Kris Bryant to the Rockies.
Yet Spring Training is here and nothing has happened. Arenado himself has stated that he doesn’t hold grudges and that he’s ready to do his job. Colorado would be well within their rights to ask for a king’s ransom in return for Arenado. These kinds of things take time.
If the relationship between Arenado and the organization really IS irreparable, a trade won’t happen this soon — but it could happen sometime during the regular season, especially if the Rockies’ win-loss record falls off a cliff.
Nate Pearson’s ridiculous stuff steals the show
Though the Blue Jays didn’t have a successful season in 2019, they injected excitement in their fan base thanks to young talent. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio represent a core that could solidify a lineup. In 2020, the Blue Jays could call up the future lynchpin of their rotation, and I think we see it happen this spring.
Nate Pearson, Toronto’s No. 1-rated prospect, is 23 years old and reaches triple-digit-mph with seeming ease. He shot up the Minor League ranks en route to posting a 2.30 ERA and a .176 BAA with 119 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings pitched. He’s probably not going to make the Jays rotation by Opening Day, but he’s set to put on a show this spring.
Then again, considering the current names on the Blue Jays rotation (outside of Hyun-jin Ryu), winning a spot this spring isn’t the craziest idea in the world, especially when you consider how open the Jays are to giving their prospects a shot. The likeliest of outcomes is Pearson getting the call-up sometime in May, but he’ll make us remember him during exhibitions.
Jose Ramirez enters first-round conversation
For many fantasy managers, Jose Ramirez’s full 2019 season was a bit of a disappointment. His first-half numbers were ... well, .218/.308/.344 with seven home runs.
His second half, however — that’s more like it, with .327/.365/.739 and 16 homers.
Ramirez’s BABIP in 2019 was a full 30 points lower than his career mark, so you can expect that to change in his favor in 2020, and it’ll begin in Spring Training. I expect him to carry his late-season momentum into exhibitions and make the most of his 40-50 at-bats, and *drumroll* enter the first-round conversation in fantasy drafts.
Luis Robert will have a quiet spring
Just as his partner in prized-prospect crime Eloy Jimenez did in 2019, I think five-tool beast Luis Robert will find adjusting to major league pitching difficult this spring. The center field job in Chicago is already Robert’s to lose, and while I’d be spit-water-out-of-my-mouth shocked if that were to happen, I don’t expect his bat to take off in the coming weeks. Robert destroyed minor league pitching, yet still had a 24.7K% in Triple-A last season (223 plate appearances). Major League pitching is a whole different beast, and we’ll see that this spring as Robert takes his very first major-league at-bats.
Like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. before him (Vladdy hit just .211/.250/.316 in 19 at-bats last year in Spring Training), Robert will be given as much time as he needs to adjust to the speed and power of pitching at the highest level. But let’s be honest — it’s only a matter of time before The Panther catches up.
The Reds score more double-digit runs than any other team
The Cincinnati Reds did a complete 180 in terms of team identity in 2019. We’ve been used to the Reds being an offensive force without much pitching success for many seasons. That changed completely in 2019, as Cincy was one of the top teams in total ERA, yet near the bottom of the barrel in offensive production.
They made moves this offseason to change that. The Reds added Nicholas Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Mike Moustakas, and Freddy Galvis in the hopes of jump-starting an offense that already included Joey Votto, Nick Senzel, and Eugenio Suarez. (Suarez is now expected to be ready for Opening Day after offseason shoulder surgery.)
We’ll see the results of those additions in exhibitions, and don’t be surprised if the ADPs of Reds’ hitters start rising after the runs start piling on.
Zac Gallen continues to prove he belongs
As of this writing, Zac Gallen is buried toward the bottom of the Diamondbacks’ rotation, but I expect some changes to be made by Opening Day.
Gallen was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2019, pitching well after being called up by the Miami Marlins, and continuing that stretch of play after being traded to Arizona. He never gave up more than three earned runs, even in starts when he didn’t have his best stuff (and that includes an outing at Coors Field, a horrifying venue for a rookie pitcher).
With just 80 Major League innings under his belt, I expect Gallen to come motivated into exhibitions and try to carry his 2019 success into 2020.
Mitch Keller redeems himself from Day 1
The same 2019 success story cannot be told about Mitch Keller. Keller is a much more touted prospect than Gallen, but while Gallen can look back at 2019 with a smile, Keller probably is ready to put it in the rearview mirror. He ended 2019 with a 1-5 record and a scary 7.13 ERA.
Yet if you look closer at his stats, you find signs of hope. Keller’s 2019 FIP was 3.19, nearly four points lower than his final ERA. His BABIP was a sky-scraping .475. Runners were left on base just 59.6% of the time. Those surface stats were in direct contrast with Keller’s minor-league body of work (he has a 3.12 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in six minor league seasons), not to mention his overall talent.
Expect a renewed Keller in exhibitions, one who knows there’s a spot for the taking in the Pirates’ rotation. His current 241 ADP should see a change for the better by the time Opening Day comes around.
Luis Severino is held out of Spring Training, forcing talk of Deivi Garcia
To the distress of Yankee fans and fantasy managers alike, news dropped of Luis Severino being shut down due to forearm soreness, the same injury that kept him out of the majority of the 2019 season. James Paxton is already out for 3-4 months. If Severino is forced to miss regular season action, that will leave the Yankees rotation with ace offseason acquisition Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and a group of pitchers aiming for a spot.
One of those pitchers could be Yankees top prospect Deivi Garcia, who already has begun turning heads. The Yankees will go with a five-man rotation to start the season, so the 20-year-old Garcia — a career 3.37 ERA pitcher with a 1.14 WHIP and 416 strikeouts in 293.2 innings — has a chance to make the rotation.
Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Michael King and Luis Cessa probably have the inside track for the final spot considering they’ve experienced success in MLB with the Yankees. But expect the hype around Garcia to only continue to grow the more time Severino misses and the more the rookie lights it up in Spring Training.
The Astros get into at least one brawl
I see it happening.
Maybe it’s Justin Verlander staring a hitter down after they strike out. Maybe it’s a pitcher throwing a high fastball that’s a bit too high at Jose Altuve, or maybe someone throws behind Carlos Correa. Either way, I see tempers flaring before the regular season starts as teams get their first chance at a form of revenge against the Astros.
None of their players’ ADPs are affected by this.
What are some of your predictions for Spring Training? Let us know in the comments below and hit us up @YahooFantasy!