Was I waiting on Willie Calhoun's clearance to immediately push him up my list? Kind of. Well, that and my son was born last week. And, well, Major League Baseball's upcoming season is still almost completely up in the air, although basically playing Spring Training games that matter was floated in reports last week.
So, what's the rush? There isn't one, really. However, discussing Willie Calhoun is a welcomed distraction from COVID-19 quarantine.
(Note: if you see a mention of playing time or statistics, just know it's in reference to a 162-game schedule. It's impossible to predict what the MLB schedule will look like after quarantine. However, Razzball/Steamer projects have updated to a projection of a 100-game MLB season. I'm not trying to contradict myself. Basically, if there is a reference to a guy playing like 130 games it's referring to a 162-game normal season. But the numerical fantasy slash line you'll see is based off 100 games.
Note two: ADP was taken from the most recent two-week sample of NFBC Online Championships results.)
Let. Willie. Hit.
No. 126 – Willie Calhoun – OF – Texas Rangers
Razzball/Steamer projections: 45/16/52/1/.267
Current NFBC ADP: No. 185
Razzball Player Rater projection: 158
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 390
Quick thoughts: Give me all the Willie Calhoun shares. Calhoun hit 21 homers in 337 PA in 2019 and finished with a .256 ISO and 15.7 K%. Only players with a better ISO and better K%: Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Ketel Marte.
Recently, Calhoun returned to full baseball activities after being hit by a jaw-breaking Julio Urias pitch. It’s always fair to wonder if batters will be mentally affected by an event like that, but my tinfoil hat is reserved for COVID-19 discussions only right now.
No. 127 – Andrew McCutchen – OF – Philadelphia Phillies
Razzball/Steamer projections: 60/18/48/5/.259
Current NFBC ADP: 219
Razzball Player Rater projection: 109
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: N/A
Quick thoughts: Before last season’s knee injury, McCutchen played 150+ games for nine-straight seasons. With more time to strengthen his knee, the 33-year-old outfielder should be a solid source of counting stats and presents the possibility of adding a handful steals to your roster. He’s never eclipsed the 100-RBI mark, but he's also scored at least 81 runs in every full season he’s played.
No. 128 – Alex Verdugo – OF – Boston Red Sox
Razzball/Steamer projections: 41/8/35/3/.307
Current NFBC ADP: 221
Razzball Player Rater projection: 216
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 447
Quick thoughts: His selection totally depends on his health entering the season. If he’s going to be healthy for whenever Opening Day is or very soon thereafter, he’s a top 100 fantasy player. If not, there is some concern that could push him down this list even further. The talent isn’t questioned, and he’s probably going to hit in a good spot in a solid Boston lineup with everyday playing time.
Like the two players above, Verdugo is benefiting from the delayed start to the season.
No. 129 – Jesus Luzardo – SP – Oakland Athletics
Razzball/Steamer projections: 6-5, 3.98 ERA, 83.2 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 86 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 87
Razzball Player Rater projection: 210
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: N/A
Quick thoughts: The stuff is sexual and violent. “It gets the people going!” shouted in my Will Ferrell voice. So, what’s the issue? Luzardo has thrown more than 5.0 innings just twice in his pro career. The Athletics haven’t designated a specific innings limit, and with the shortened season, who knows how that impacts his workload? However, we know he will be closely monitored, especially if Oakland wants him available in the postseason.
No. 130 – Brandon Woodruff – SP – Milwaukee Brewers
Razzball/Steamer projections: 7-6, 4.05 ERA, 107.0 IP, 1.27 WHIP, 118 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 74
Razzball Player Rater projection: 134
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 153
Quick thoughts: Woodruff throws very hard, strikes out a lot of batters, and does a good job of preventing hitters from hitting the ball very hard. In 2019, he increased his slider and sinker velocity; while I’m not normally in favor of starters that rely on sinkers, his rates well. The profile, in terms of pitch values, suggests some regression, but look at some of this similarity score names:
velocity and movement: Frankie Montas, Jon Gray, Max Scherzer
batted ball profile: Jose Alvarado, Jacob deGrom, Walker Buehler
That’s good company.
No. 131 – Cavan Biggio – 2B – Toronto Blue Jays
Razzball/Steamer projections: 47/13/42/8/.235
Current NFBC ADP: 126
Razzball Player Rater projection: 222
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 263
Quick thoughts: Only one hitter ranked ahead of the man himself, Mike Trout, in SwSp% (sweet spot) last season - Cavan Biggio. Biggio was one of nine hitters with a SwSp% of 40% or better and top 100 barrel%. Yeah, you’re going to take a batting average hit, but the chances are solid for average or better contribution in every other category; he was a perfect 14-of-14 in stolen base attempts last season.
With his versatility on defense, there’s a decent chance Biggio picks up positional flexibility too.
No. 132 – Max Fried – SP – Atlanta Braves
Razzball/Steamer projections: 7-5, 3.58 ERA, 99.2 IP, 1.29 WHIP, 104 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 128
Razzball Player Rater projection: 132
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 123
Quick thoughts: Once upon a time, the discussion about Fried was whether he’d be a reliever or starter. Now, he’s a popular industry pick to be a darkhorse Cy Young candidate thanks to the addition of a good slider in 2019. But the main weapon is still the curve, which ranks sixth in active spin (spin efficiency); so, not only does it spin a ton, but almost all its average spin positively influences the pitch break.
As popular as Fried is, he doesn’t arrive to drafts without risk, mainly the control and walk rate. Fortunately for Fried, when he does give up contact, it’s hardly ever hard contact. An upside pick in this position? Certainly. Just know it wasn’t long ago some thought he’d be destined for a bullpen role because of the inability to throw strikes with a full arsenal.
No. 133 – Jake Odorizzi – SP – Minnesota Twins
Razzball/Steamer projections: 7-6, 4.58 ERA, 99.1 IP, 1.30 WHIP, 104 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 184
Razzball Player Rater projection: 199
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 95
Quick thoughts: Odorizzi dramatically increased the amount of pitches he threw in the strike zone and decreased the contact rate on those pitches. That’s good. And his whiff% improved too thanks partially to improved fastball velocity that never dipped all season. He’s started 28 games or more six years in a row.
Guaranteed goosebumps: whispering "Lamet's slider" into a fantasy player's ear
No. 134 – Dinelson Lamet – SP – San Diego Padres
Razzball/Steamer projections: 6-5, 3.71 ERA, 94.0 IP, 1.21 WHIP, 120 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 119
Razzball Player Rater projection: 115
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 407 (injury-shortened)
Quick thoughts: Normally, when you see a two-pitch pitcher – Statcast classified Lamet as throwing curves and sliders with nearly identical velocity, but it’s just a slider – with Lamet’s stuff, he’s in the bullpen. But Lamet is a starter and punches out hitters at an elite rate. The problem? His fastball, despite its big-time velocity, gets hammered and it’s difficult to pitch three times through the order with just two pitches, especially if one gets hit hard.
For a second, though, allow yourself to wonder if he could just throw a changeup occasionally for a strike… yeah, feels like free beer. Lamet is a safe bet for elite strikeout contribution, has PETCO working in his favor, and could get better. Or he could stay the same, which isn’t all that bad.
No. 135 – Amed Rosario – SS – New York Mets
Razzball/Steamer projections: 44/9/44/12/.276
Current NFBC ADP: 127
Razzball Player Rater projection: 120
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 87
Quick thoughts: If we assume Brandon Nimmo will get hurt like usual, Rosario won’t hit at the bottom of the lineup long. But as long as he does, it’ll ding his value some. A legitimate bet to hit 20 homers and swipe 20 bags, or the equivalent, inefficiently, Rosario could exceed his ADP significantly if he can get more at-bats near the top of the lineup. Otherwise, his runs and RBI sill be negatively influenced.
Just 24-years-old, Rosario improved his contact and whiff rates last season and we haven’t seen the best of the former elite prospect yet.
No. 136 – Ken Giles – RP – Toronto Blue Jays
Razzball/Steamer projections: 2-2, 16, 3.55 ERA, 36.1 IP, 46 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 108
Razzball Player Rater projection: 130
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 174
Quick thoughts: Canada has been good to Giles. He posted fantastic strikeout, ERA, FIP, xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA numbers last season. The risk is present he’s dealt near the deadline, but it’s also possible the Baby Jays hang in the race a little longer than expected, especially with a likely shortened season possibly opening the door for more teams. And who the hell knows when a trade deadline would be now?
No. 137 – Kyle Schwarber – OF – Chicago Cubs
Razzball/Steamer projections: 60/23/60/3/.251
Current NFBC ADP: 138
Razzball Player Rater projection: 74
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 86
Quick thoughts: Only three hitters finished 2019 with a better hard hit%, and Schwarber slightly improved his whiff and strikeout%. You know what you’re getting, but there’s also hint of more in the tank.
No. 138 – Danny Santana – 1B/OF – Texas Rangers
Razzball/Steamer projections: 41/13/45/12/.243
Current NFBC ADP: 142
Razzball Player Rater projection: 160
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 46
Quick thoughts: Entering last season, Santana had 13 career homers. Then, he blasted 28. Red flag? Perhaps, especially if the baseball isn’t as bouncy off the bat as it was last season. However, Santana’s launch angle dramatically increased, his average exit velocity and xwOBAcon both rated very well, and his .496 xSLG wasn’t that different from the .534 actual percentage. Maybe he just figured it out.
Even if he doesn’t hit nearly whatever the equivalent of 30 homers is again, getting homers and steals here is a very nice outcome. Good luck predicting the batting average against career-highs in BABIP (.353) and xBA (.275). Again, if you believed he figured it out, you’re buying in this spot because of the likely steals; prior to 2019, Santana had 48 steals in 364 games.
No. 139 – Brandon Lowe – 2B – Tampa Bay Rays
Razzball/Steamer projections: 43/14/43/4/.247
Current NFBC ADP: 201
Razzball Player Rater projection: 253
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 387
Quick thoughts: Yes, the 37.7 whiff% and 34.6 K% are gigantic concerns. But guess what? You’re drafting second baseman Keston Hiura 100 spots earlier and he has similar issues with a higher expected batting average.
When Lowe puts the ball in play, great things happen because of his 16.3 barrel%, 40.2 sweet spot%, .507 xSLG, .501 xwOBAcon, and 46.2 hard hit%. Those numbers, among 150 batted ball events, all rank in the top 50, and only two players had a better duo of sweet spot% and barrel% - Jason Castro and Mike Trout.
Ronald Acuna, Jr.'s SwSp%, hard hit%, barrel% and barrels per PA%: 40.5, 46.9, 15.0 and 9.2.
Brandon Lowe's SwSp%, hard hit%, barrel% and barrels per PA%: 40.2, 46.2, 16.3, and 9.2.
The Rays know what they’re doing, and they clearly believe in Lowe, who is currently projected to hit leadoff against righties.
No. 140 – Christian Walker – 1B – Arizona Diamondbacks
Razzball/Steamer projections: 43/14/46/3/.246
Current NFBC ADP: 207
Razzball Player Rater projection: 247
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 105
Quick thoughts: Scheduled to hit fifth in a good lineup, Walker killed the ball last season, and his slugging percentage was 40 points lower than his expected figure. Most importantly, Walker drastically improved his chase% and lowered his whiff% noticeably too. All signs point to a similar season in 2020.
No. 141 – Joey Gallo – OF – Texas Rangers
Razzball/Steamer projections: 51/26/63/4/.223
Current NFBC ADP: 84
Razzball Player Rater projection: 118
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 327 (injury)
Quick thoughts: Gallo's career line vs. LH: .230/.324/.537; .325 BABIP and 41.1 K%. Gallo vs. LH in 2019: .333/.427/.747; 37.8 K% and .500 BABIP. We know who Gallo is, and he’s now playing home games in what’s projected to be a park not as hitter friendly as his previous.
No. 142 – Carlos Carrasco – SP – Cleveland Indians
Razzball/Steamer projections: 7-5, 3.14 ERA, 105.0 IP, 1.17 WHIP, 115 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 120
Razzball Player Rater projection: 90
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: N/A
Quick thoughts: Carrasco is winning the battle that matters most against cancer, but if we’re being frank, it does make him a bit of a wildcard heading into the season. He ranks No. 1 on the list of guys I’m rooting for this season, and I hope he returns to dominant form. I just don’t know how to rank or draft him.
No. 143 – Eduardo Escobar – 2B/3B – Arizona Diamondbacks Razzball/Steamer projections: 54/15/54/3/.257 Current NFBC ADP: 125 Razzball Player Rater projection: 148 Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 36 Quick thoughts: Escobar is an example of a prime regression candidate if the happy fun ball turns sad. He ripped 35 homers last season with a .511 slugging percentage compared to his .468 xSLG and below average hard hit%. Prior to last season, he never hit more than 23 homers, and his xwOBA was just .327 in 2019.
What he has working in his favor is a No. 3 placement versus righties in the Arizona lineup.
No. 144 – Robbie Ray – SP – Arizona Diamondbacks
Razzball/Steamer projections: 6-6, 4.12 ERA, 99.1 IP, 1.32 WHIP, 122 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 155
Razzball Player Rater projection: 151
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 150
Quick thoughts: By now you should know what you’re going to get with Ray: a lot of strikeouts, and a very small chance of a really good ERA and WHIP. Red flag: he did have a velo dip last season. Buyer beware.
Hunter Dozier hits the ball really hard and hits cleanup. Hey, the Royals have to score runs too.
No. 145 – Hunter Dozier – 3B/OF – Kansas City Royals
Razzball/Steamer projections: 44/13/50/3/.251
Current NFBC ADP: 192
Razzball Player Rater projection: 235
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 116
Quick thoughts: Although some will fairly point to the difference in a .522 slugging percentage and .471 xSLG, there’s still a lot to like about Dozier, a former first-round pick. He’s seemingly locked into playing time as a cleanup hitter, and had a solid barrel%, hard hit%, lowered his K%, and increased his BB%. Also, Dozier hit a ball 115.1 MPH last season, which finished No. 23 in max exit velocity. With a good sprint speed, there’s a chance he swipes more bags.
No. 147 – Elvis Andrus – SS – Texas Rangers
Razzball/Steamer projections: 43/8/41/13/.262
Current NFBC ADP: 141
Razzball Player Rater projection: 150
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 61
Quick thoughts: Andrus’s sprint speed fell below 27.0 ft/s last season, and although he swiped 31 bags, he was caught eight times. There’s a risk the speed takes another dive and the stolen bases dip, which would leave you with the hope he hits for an above average batting average and scores a ton of runs because the power numbers won’t be there. Plus, there isn’t really anything about the hitting profile worth getting excited about besides good contact rates.
No. 148 – J.D. Davis – 3B/OF – New York Mets
Razzball/Steamer projections: 40/13/45/2/.264
Current NFBC ADP: 177
Razzball Player Rater projection: 243
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 188
Quick thoughts: Davis’s Statcast page looks like the kind of Red Light District you’d gladly go to an ATM for. Everything about his batted-ball profile screams, in a Prince voice, “breakout.” So, what’s the issue? Well, Davis is projected to play left field for the Mets, and what happens if Yoenis Cespedes is healthy? That’s the risk. And the Mets haven’t proven able to intelligently run their franchise.
Of course, given New York’s injury issues, especially in the outfield, Davis is probably going to find his way into the lineup one way or another.
No. 149 – Tommy Edman – 2B/3B – St. Louis Cardinals
Razzball/Steamer projections: 43/8/38/11/.275
Current NFBC ADP: 136
Razzball Player Rater projection: 154
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 239
Quick thoughts: Edman swiped 15 bags and was caught just once last season thanks to finishing 24th in sprint speed. He also showed a little pop too and has defensive flexibility that should grow because he’s currently projected to start in left field. However, the Cardinals have Dylan Carlson knocking on the door, and Tyler O’Neill has shown signs of a potential breakout.
What would happen to Edman then? His glove is so good and with his versatility, you’d think he’ll still find his way into the lineup a lot, which should add to his positional flexibility.
No. 150 – Kyle Hendricks – SP – Chicago Cubs
Razzball/Steamer projections: 7-6, 4.32 ERA, 112.2 IP, 1.28 WHIP, 95 SO
Current NFBC ADP: 152
Razzball Player Rater projection: 174
Razzball Player Rater 2019 season: 134
Quick thoughts: Hendricks made headlines in a Spring Training start by throwing 89 MPH consistently. But you’re not drafting him for velo. You’re drafting him for six-straight seasons of sub 4.00 ERA and sub 1.20 WHIP.
The projection systems see regression. Why? He’s 30-years-old and was excellent at limiting hard contact last season because of his elite command. Don’t expect more than 2019. However, there’s no true reason to respect less. Hendricks will never be a projections darling despite one of the most consistent track records of any starting pitcher.
All photos courtesy of AP images.