Spring training is well underway and, for many, a fantasy baseball draft lurks just around the corner. With that in mind, the Yahoo fantasy baseball collective offer up the players scorching the diamonds of Grapefruit and Cactus League play that they are especially giddy about:
Q. Which infielder’s sizzling production this spring has caught your attention the most?
Brandon Funston: YOAN MONCADA. Moncada’s introduction to MLB pitching late last season would have been forgettable if not for the 12 strikeouts in 19 ABs, making his cup of coffee hard to dismiss. His spring numbers started off in a similarly disturbing manner, but he’s caught fire in the past week, riding a wave of extra-base hits to an OPS north of 1.000. Opportunity abounds for the uber talent, and his recent emergence as an offensive force bodes well for his getting a shot with his new club sooner rather than later.
Dalton Del Don: RYON HEALY. He’s coming off a breakout rookie campaign in which he hit 13 homers over 269 at bats, and if his role as the future third baseman in Oakland wasn’t already totally solidified, it is now with a big spring. Healy right now is batting .333/.385/.778, which makes for a ridiculous ISO of .444. He’s shooting up my draft board yet remains affordable with an ADP of 185.3. Having said all that, I do want to be clear that I typically take spring training stats with a major grain of salt.
Scott Pianowski: Given that TREVOR STORY’S 2016 season ended with a busted thumb, I wanted to see a little something-something this month just to know everything’s okay. Four homers, .700 slugging? Okay, let’s move to the next episode.
Q. Which outfielder’s sizzling production this spring has caught your attention the most?
Funston: BRADLEY ZIMMER. The Indians’ top prospect hit 19 home runs and stole 46 bases combined across three minor league stops last season. And now he’s forcing his way onto the team’s major league radar with a sensational spring (1.050 OPS, 4 steals in first 19 games). Zimmer, an impressive athletic specimen who stands 6-foot-5, is already adept at drawing walks and hitting the ball to all fields, though he’s got some contact issues that he’s working to curb. The Indians’ outfield is loaded with question marks meaning that, although Zimmer is slated to open the season in Triple A, he’s likely to get an early-season opportunity with the Tribe. Fantasy owners will want to be prepared for when that time comes.
Del Don: MARCELL OZUNA. He looked prime for the breakout many have been expecting last year when he owned an .894 OPS on July 15, as he had hit 17 home runs over 328 at bats. But Ozuna hit just .205/.264/.336 over the final 229 ABs from that point forward. The huge drop off has mostly been written off due to injury, and a big spring further leads credence to that reasoning. Ozuna is just entering his prime, so this could be a sign of a huge season to come…If you want a deeper name, Jarrett Parker’s hot spring (.316/.422/.658) all but ensures he’s won the starting left field job in San Francisco.
Andy Behrens: MITCH HANIGER figures to be an everyday outfielder for Seattle, solidifying his role with a ridiculous spring. As of this writing, he’s slashing .404/.462/.704 and he leads all players in total hits (19). Last year in the high minors, Haniger hit .321/.419/.581 with 25 homers and 12 steals. Without question, he deserves a spot on your cheat sheet.
Pianowski: I was probably going to be in on DEXTER FOWLER anyway, but I love to see him sharp as spring comes calling: nine walks against four strikeouts, 1.034 OPS. He’s going to have a huge year setting the table for the St. Louis thumpers.
Q. Which pitcher’s sizzling production this spring has caught your attention the most?
Funston: FRANCISCO LIRIANO. Stellar springs have often led to strong regular season performances by Liriano. And vice versa. So it’s worth noting that Liriano has been almost untouchable in Grapefruit League action, whiffing 18, walking two and posting a 1.86 ERA (2 ER) in 9.2 IP. Given his strong performance with the Blue Jays down the stretch last season (49.1 IP, 52 K, 2.92 ERA) and his bargain basement price (97th SP-eligible arm going off the board in average Yahoo drafts), it makes sense to roll the dice on Liriano as one of your last rotation pieces.
Pianowski: While it’s hard to take any spring numbers at face value, the first thing I will consider is a K/BB rate. So when I see a high-pedigree pitcher like TAIJUAN WALKER roll up 25 whiffs against just two walks, you better believe I’m interested. I’ll make sure I have a share or two, even in the jagged Arizona ballpark.
Behrens: CARLOS RODON may have had you a bit worried, because the White Sox were bringing him along slowly this spring. But his exhibition debut was nearly flawless, as he fired four scoreless innings against the Angels, striking out five batters while allowing just one hit and one walk. Rodon’s stuff is pure evil, and he was excellent in the second-half last season (7-3, 3.45 ERA, 77 Ks in 73.0 IP). He’s an excellent late target in mixed leagues.