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 struggling this spring that have them most concerned:
Q. Which infielder’s spring slump is most alarming?
Brandon Funston: BRAD MILLER. You figure there is probably going to be some HR regression coming off a breakout 30-HR campaign that featured a HR/FB rate (20.4) more than double his career average entering the season. And the 13:1 K-to-BB rate and sub-Mendoza Line average this spring doesn’t inspire thoughts of him improving on his .243 BA from ’16, which was right in line with his career average (.246).
Dalton Del Don: CHRIS CARTER. Despite leading the National League with 41 homers last season, Carter struggled to find an everyday job in free agency. While he landed in a good spot in New York in theory thanks to a terrific hitter’s park and unproven competition at first base, he’s done himself no favors by hitting .122 this spring with a whopping 22 strikeouts over 41 at bats. Meanwhile, Greg Bird is sporting a 1.447 OPS. Carter will be lucky to open the year in a platoon at this point.
Scott Pianowski: Carter was my first inclination, because on these spring questions, you follow the strikeouts and walks. I see the pause on Miller, too. I don’t know if I have the stomach for DANNY ESPINOSA, a late-round pick in some circles. He’s been doing his normal thing this spring — three walks against 15 strikeouts, .222/.271/.289 slash, no home runs. The pop will eventually show up, but it could be a long summer in the OC.
Q. Which outfielder’s spring slump is most alarming?
Funston: JASON HEYWARD. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I couldn’t help reaching in drafts on Heyward because of the allure of his talents, but the wheels fell of his game last season and he certainly seems to still be stalled out this spring (.455 OPS in 1st 40 ABs). He’s still only 27, but he’s light years away from a ’12 campaign that saw him finish as a top 35 overall roto value.
Del Don: JORGE SOLER. Still just 25 years old, there’s plenty of time for Soler to develop into the star many believe he can be. Freed from a crowded Cubs outfield, he’s certainly going to be given every opportunity now in Kansas City. But Soler is batting a hideous .122/.234/.146 as of this writing, which is the seventh-worst OPS among those with at least 30 at bats this spring. He also has a 30.0 K%, so a breakout sure doesn’t appear imminent (Kauffman Stadium has also suppressed HRs for RHB by 19 percent over the last three seasons, tied for the highest in the AL over that span).
Andy Behrens: ERIC THAMES’ stats from his years in Korea are almost comical and he has a full-time role waiting for him this season, so I’m definitely intrigued. But his spring hasn’t really been anything special (10-for-35, HR), and we’re not talking about some young prospect (30). I’ve seen a few bidding wars break out for Thames, and I haven’t been willing to engage.
Q. Which pitcher’s spring slump is most alarming?
Funston: DANNY SALAZAR. Really, you could make a case for anyone on the Indians’ staff right now, as the entire rotation is being abused this spring. As for Salazar, there’s no denying the quality of his stuff, including one of the better changeups in the game. But his BB/9 rate (4.1) took a fairly large step back last year, which makes his spring-leading 12 walks a bit concerning.
Behrens: SONNY GRAY entered spring as a plausible bounce back candidate, but then the D-backs hammered him for seven runs in an abbreviated early-March appearance. Never a good sign. After that mauling, he’s been sidelined by a lat strain. He’s a pitcher dealing with an injury, coming off an atrocious season, and the defense behind him his perhaps the league’s worst. I’ll pass, thanks.
Pianowski: Gray is the best answer to this question, because you get to link up poor performance to an injury. I’ll sign off there. Also put me down for ADAM WAINWRIGHT, one of my favorite pitchers of all time. I want to believe in a comeback. But when I see a paltry nine strikeouts, against seven walks, and a 8.59 ERA over five appearances, I’m hesitant to bid.