We’re just as excited as anyone that Opening Day is fast approaching, but we also want to be careful not to overrate its importance for Scoresheet. There’s no guarantee that a player who makes the roster for day one will stick around come May. So here, we list a player we’ll be monitoring on each NL team (we went through the AL last week). Some of these guys are in position battles that potentially won’t be resolved for months. Others are finally getting an opportunity for consistent playing time. And a third group need to find that final gear to achieve (Scoresheet) stardom. Or at least be worthy of a keeper slot.
It feels as though everybody in baseball is hitting the eject button on Yasmany Tomas at the same exact time. Although poor preseason play is no more relevant for foreign nationals than for American players (Hyun-jin Ryu received similarly poor reviews for his preseason play), one thing that’s clear is that the Snakes need another third baseman lined up. Lamb may be in the precarious position where he comes up early enough in the season to blow his eligibility, but not play well enough to be an automatic keeper choice going forward (especially if Tomas or Brandon Drury continues to pose a threat to his playing time). We tentatively believe Lamb has the skills to justify his draft position.
One of the side effects of suddenly becoming a terrible team is that there are fewer players on the roster of interest to potentially push for time in 2015. Instead, we’ll be tracking Miller, who’s likely to be kept on a 2016 roster almost regardless of how he performs. The uncertainty around his recent slide, however, and mixed reports on whether he’s been pulling out of it (not in the spring start we saw), will determine whether he should be protected as a building block or as a back-end depth starter in your rotation.
It’s tempting to say “Pick ‘em” with this embarrassment of riches, but Baez has to be the most unpredictable player on the team at the moment. 94 percent of his owners kept him last year (and rightly so), but so far they’ve been rewarded with a half-season performance below replacement level. Baez is so young that he’s still quite likely to be a solid keeper for some time in this league, but an owner should start being concerned that they’ll be spending 2-3 years of keeper slots on him before they see any good returns. Baez’s struggles also open up last-chance spots for Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella, both of whom could easily head this paragraph as well.
Again, the thrill of the unknown makes an otherwise fairly dreary team exciting. The Reds have a farm system that’s surprisingly pitching-rich, and Iglesias cuts the line to become the first of the youngsters to land in the majors. Many scouts and scouty types seem to be suggesting that he has a reliever’s profile. This may well be true, but we generally believe that relievers are made, not born, and the question has more to do with whether he’s any good in the first place. Tony Cingrani owners may be wondering why his season isn’t more interesting, but that ship may have already sailed—he’d be a tough 2016 keeper even if he returns to the rotation and ends up on a team that doesn’t seem to despise his very essence.
Every player who holds a bat in Coors Field is almost inherently interesting, but the Rockies weird hesitance on cutting the cord with Wilin Rosario is causing a pileup at the catching position. Scoresheet owners should be rooting for McKenry, who’s probably the best hitter at the position and also a Gold Glover, assuming you’ve been trapped in a room Clockwork Orange-style watching game film of Rosario. Hundley and Rosario will cut into his at bats, and may even force him off the team, but a valuable offensive catcher is worth a speculative pick, even if Fort starts the year in the minors.
It’s spring 2015, so everyone in Dodger blue this side of Charley Steiner is a player to watch. Grandal isn’t a perfect pick here, as he was kept in 82 percent of leagues, and will likely be kept again if he just matches his 2014. The signs are there for a breakout, however, as the Dodgers have cleared a little room for him, and he’s putting his indiscretions and injuries a little further in the rearview mirror. The Petco exit alone helps him, but if he steps forward, he could be pushing teams towards the playoffs, and rewarding the 18 percent of you who made a solid early-round pick.
We try to be optimists in these previews, but outside of the stars who’ll be rostered forever, the Marlins most interesting players are almost universally downside risks, from Dee Gordon to Jarred Cosart to Dan Haren. The standout here is Latos. While Cosart is projected to decline, he’s also a crossover, meaning that owners should only be out a draft pick. Latos, on the other hand, was kept in 98 percent of leagues. The declining fastball, injury woes, and massive increase in batter contact rate have led some people and projection systems to run screaming for the exits. PECOTA, on the other hand, remains quite rosy, and predicts a strong bounce back. The difference is probably between that of an early game playoff starter and that of a farm system candidate. We only know one thing for certain: Mat Latos’ cat is still named Cat Latos.
Segura’s 2014, rough in many ways, sent him down to the end of the keeper rankings for 2015. He’s young enough to where he can get back on track, but not every projection system is optimistic that he’ll be able to do so. Considering the circumstances, we’ll be rooting for him, but this year is going to determine whether both you and the Brewers start looking for replacements.
The Mets’ entire rotation seems to be a fascinating collection of talent this year, as sturdy-ish veterans will be pushed by hard charging rookies throughout the year. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard are getting the early buzz, and could be the first through the gate in case of further injury, but they’re likely keepers in 2016 even if returns are mixed. Montero, on the other hand, has a wide range of potential possibilities, ranging from a no. 3 starter in a favorable ballpark to a fungible up-and-down middle reliever who will be almost impossible to protect after the season. One of our favorites, we’d love to see him get 10-12 solid starts just to prove it to us one way or another.
We don’t want to pile on any phans, so let’s just be thankful for the young players that the Phillies do have, including their embarrassment of mild riches at third base. Asche is getting pushed from behind by Maikel Franco (who may not have the bat or glove to hold the position, granted), but is nearing keeper status himself. He was kept in 48 percent of leagues last year, and with a full season, it wouldn’t take much of a breakout for that number to sharply rise. The uncertainty around him, coupled with his middling potential, have served to depress his ownership to this point, but he’s a decent early season gamble who you can hopefully back away from without much penalty if it goes sour.
Nearly the entire Pirates organization has been raving about Sanchez this spring. The former top draft pick rededicated himself to the game this offseason after quite candidly getting sick of seeing himself passed over time and again for ex-New York Yankees. Very often, spring heroes turn out to be Jake Fox, but there is smoke here, and Sanchez is someone to monitor in deeper and 12-team leagues. His plate discipline will limit his upside even if he does manage to carve out some playing time, but catchers hold extra value in Scoresheet, and it’s not as though Francisco Cervelli is impenetrable.
As has been mentioned a more than a few times this offseason, the Padres’ makeover has imbalanced the team to the point at which their current roster is almost untenable. It’s tempting to select Carlos Quentin or Will Venable here, players who probably belong on another team, and see how far their talent will carry them. But in the end, it’s the center field experiment that fascinates us. We’ll be watching the defensive ratings that Scoresheet tracks (UZR, range factor) closely to see if Myers surprises enough to become a below average CF in 2016, rather than a 2.09 or so disasterpiece at the position. In the meantime, he’ll be doing his best to prove that it’s 2014 that was the fluke, and not his Rookie of the Year offensive campaign. The difference in outcomes between his best-case scenario and its converse is fairly staggering.
Susac will lose his rookie status this season playing as Buster Posey’s backup. We know that for sure. What happens next is the difference between a solid keeper and a player who bounces around from team to team for the next few years. Susac’s bat is marginal for the position, and only truly valuable as a regular catcher. If he does get an opportunity with San Francisco, however, he’ll be worth something, and if he gets moved, he’ll likely be worth even more. This isn’t breaking new ground, but the biggest impact on Susac’s value over the next 12 months has more to do with Buster Posey’s health than his own play.
Wong was kept in 90 percent of leagues this offseason, but has he really earned that kind of esteem? Projection systems have him performing at about the same level as Omar Infante in 2015, and it’s not as though he’s particularly young. This isn’t roto, and the stolen bases don’t particularly help your team much either. He’s unlikely to be a true replacement level player, and thus will have some value to your team, but he really needs to take a step forward to be worth that kind of universal keeper status again.
The Nats love him, fans love him, and he’ll be roaming the Red Porch this spring, but what is he, exactly? Taylor’s saving grace is that he played enough to score a 2.13 defensive rating, making him a fairly rare commodity—a backup center fielder. That said, while the Nats consider Taylor a contact guy, he currently strikes out too much for that to be the case, and he doesn’t do anything else exceptionally well either. A strong start to the season may convince the Nats to push out Span, and a weak one will probably cause Taylor owners (66 percent as a keeper) to be a poor keeper choice.