An onslaught of spring training injuries has dramatically changed the composition of the Rockies lineup, at least for the first month of the regular season. Big-ticket offseason free agent acquisition Ian Desmond is expected to be out until early May after undergoing surgery on his fractured left wrist, and top prospect David Dahl remains out with a stress reaction in his ribs. Needless to say, it’s been a tough few weeks for Colorado.
Fortunately, dependable veteran Gerardo Parra will slide into an everyday role in left field if Dahl isn’t ready to go on Opening Day. Mark Reynolds is expected take over on an interim basis at first base, and Parra should pick up additional playing time at the cold corner as well. The big question is how the playing time shakes out in left field over the remainder of the season. Clearly, Dahl is the superior raw talent, but given his present health concerns and propensity to strike out, there’s a chance he isn’t an everyday player right away. Let’s also not forget that Raimel Tapia is waiting in the wings, and has already earned major-league at-bats, and wasn’t overwhelmed last September. He’s one of the most polarizing real-life prospects in the game, but he’s an intriguing fantasy option that should be on the radar in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats. If you’re looking for a true dark horse NL Rookie of the Year candidate, Tapia fits the bill.
This is a murky situation long-term, but there is a bit more clarity for the immediate future now that Murphy is out four-to-six weeks with a fractured forearm. The prodigious power is Murphy’s signature carrying tool, but he’s also a strikeout machine that could become a major batting average anchor. Wolters is a vastly superior defender and superb pitcher framer as well. His defensive prowess should give him the edge over Murphy in the short-term, but he hit just .259/.327/.395 in 230 plate appearances last season. At this point, Murphy is worth stashing in NL-only formats, but both catchers can safely be ignored in mixed league drafts this spring.
Left Field Platoon
Manager Dave Roberts has made it clear that Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig will be the everyday options in center and right, leaving Toles, Hernandez, Ethier and Gutierrez to duke it out for playing time in left field. Depth isn’t necessarily a bad thing in real-life, but it’s kryptonite to fantasy owners. A mid-season injury to Pederson or Puig changes the entire dynamic, but it looks like the 25-year-old righty-masher Toles is the favorite to lock down the strong side of the platoon, with either Gutierrez or Hernandez in the lineup versus southpaws. It’s a mystery where exactly Ethier fits into the equation, but given his albatross contract, he’s not exactly a viable trade candidate either. Toles is a viable option in deeper mixed leagues that allow for daily lineup changes, but there isn’t a huge fantasy ceiling for anyone in this battle.
Sophomore sensation Julio Urias is likely begin the season in extended spring training, in an effort to limit his innings and keep him available for later in the year. However, when he is eventually called back up, he will be in the Dodgers rotation for the remainder of the season. It’s still up in the air whether Scott Kazmir or Alex Wood can stay healthy enough to hold down a permanent spot in the rotation. There are also omnipresent injury concerns surrounding Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda (and even Clayton Kershaw). The Dodgers used a major-league record 15 starting pitchers last season, and given all of the injury question marks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them approach that number again.
We have no idea how this is going to ultimately shake out, but there’s a strong probability that Kazmir and Wood open the regular season in the rotation with McCarthy coming out of the bullpen. It remains entirely up in the air what will transpire in-season with regards to health and effectiveness. The real dark horse is Stewart, who was dominant in Triple-A, and excelled during a brief major-league stint in the rotation. Unfortunately, he’s been shut down this spring with shoulder tendinitis. This is one “Choose Your Own Adventure” situation that you don’t want to be invested in aside from Urias.
Reports out of Padres camp indicate that they are intent on giving Alex Dickerson and Hunter Renfroe everyday opportunities in the outfield corners, at least to open up the regular season, while divvying up starts between Manny Margot and Travis Jankowski in center. It’s hard to be too enthusiastic about any of the options in the Padres outfield, but it’s clear that Margot is the best defender and may have the highest fantasy ceiling because of his hit tool and speed. Jankowski, who turns 26-year-old in June, is pretty much a speed-only option that has extremely limited upside. Per Mike Gianella’s retrospective player valuations, he was worth $13 in NL-only formats, on the strength of his 30 steals in 131 games last season. I’m not sold that Margot will contribute enough power to make a significant five-category impact in mixed leagues this year, but if he can get on base and run, he’s going to be relevant.
Fourth and Fifth Starter
The most intriguing speculative pickup out of this group is Corbin, who was fantastic out of the bullpen in September, posting a 1.20 ERA with 18 strikeouts and just three walks over his final seven appearances (15 innings). The 27-year-old southpaw is expected to open up the season in the rotation and is certainly worthy of a speculative pick late in NL-only formats.
Shelby Miller just doesn’t strike out enough batters to be mixed league relevant at this point. His spring training performance has been encouraging, but we need to see him do it in the regular season before investing a roster spot, even in deeper leagues. The wild card here is Bradley, the former top prospect, who may be on the outside looking in to start the year.
This is strictly for NL-only formats, but it’s worth noting that Marte is intriguing because of his stolen base potential. He’s only 23-years-old and wasn’t completely atrocious two years ago in Seattle. That’s not quite a ringing endorsement, but it’s better than nothing. If the playing time materializes, Marte could be interesting. Unlike Nick Ahmed, who would need a “Freaky Friday” situation to find his way onto the fantasy radar.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that Blach is the superior option for the Giants, especially long-term. However, the huge problem with this duel is that Cain has almost zero value to the Giants unless he’s in the starting rotation. It’s looking like the Giants are strongly considering using Blach out of the bullpen as a long reliever, at least to begin the season, and going with Cain in the fifth spot. I’m not sure you can draft either one of these two, even in NL-only leagues, but I can understand rolling the dice on Blach and hoping that Cain implodes early on.