Not all that much has changed in the baseball world from when we last spoke yesterday evening, but we did have a few more spring standouts to kick today off with. After that, it's actionable content after actionable content after actionable content with a highlight of Frank Stampfl's latest Breakouts 2.0, a review of Scott White's Tout Wars team and Chris Towers' take on what you need to watch for in the World Baseball Classic at it pertains to your Fantasy Baseball teams and drafts in 2023.
But first, let's give our flowers to Rangers SS Corey Seager for crushing his third Cactus League homer, Red Sox 1B Triston Casas for reaching base three times and leading the Red Sox to victory, White Sox SP Lance Lynn for working four scoreless innings and Athletics SP Shintaro Fjuinami for striking out three Diamondbacks.
Now let's get to it. And remember, for a longer breakdown of Frank's Breakouts and just about anything else you'll see in here, make sure to check out the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Frank's Breakouts 2.0
Almost a month later, Frank still has several holdovers from Breakouts 1.0 but also several newcomers who have joined the ranks since. For the complete breakdown of Breakouts 2.0, you can find that here. And if you've listened to the FBT podcast this week, you've heard the back and forth between Chris and Scott about what actually constitutes a breakout .. a sleeper .. etc., but for today's purposes we're making the exec decision to qualify all of Frank's picks as true breakout candidates.
Here are a few of the newcomers who caught my attention.
Gunnar Henderson, 3B, Orioles
From Frank: "Arguably the top prospect in all of baseball, Gunnar Henderson made his debut with the Orioles late last season. In 34 games, he hit .259 with a .348 OBP, four homers and one steal. The Statcast data was pretty impressive, too. Henderson posted a 92.4 MPH average exit velocity, 53.7% hard-hit rate and ranked in the 91st percentile in sprint speed. The big power and speed was supported in the minors last season, too, where Henderson launched 19 home runs to go along with 22 steals.
"As expected, the soon-to-be 22-year old is not a perfect player. The 26% strikeout rate and 60% ground ball rate in the majors are, initially, a cause for concern. Here's why I'm not that worried. Henderson had a great feel for the strike zone, chasing pitches outside the zone just 23% of the time. His swinging strike rate was also just 10.3%. Both marks were much better than league average. As for the ground balls, it hasn't really been an issue for Henderson at any level in the minors. I think Henderson could hit 20-25 home runs with 10-15 steals as a rookie this season at a pretty awful third base position."
Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies
From Frank: "Am I buying too much into spring training? Perhaps. Alec Bohm took a huge step forward last season, batting .280 with 13 home runs, 79 runs and 72 RBI. He lowered his strikeout rate from 26.6% in 2021 to 17.4% in 2022. He also raised the launch angle as we've been begging him to. Bohm posted a career-high 30.5% fly ball rate, which pairs well with his hard contact. Bohm has always hit the ball hard, posting an average exit velocity up over 90 MPH in each of his three seasons. Now we just need to unlock that power. It may be happening.
"Bohm is up to three homers in 17 at-bats this spring and as highlighted by Scott White in his spring training roundup, Bohm added 10-15 pounds of muscle this offseason. Watching a few Phillies games this spring, I've also heard their broadcast talk about how manager Rob Thomson wants Bohm to pull the ball more this season. So we have added muscle to go along with more of a pull-heavy approach? That kind of feels like a breakout on the horizon. If it works out, Bohm could hit .280 with 20-25 home runs in the middle of a good Phillies lineup. If you miss out on the top-tier third basemen (and Jordan Walker), I'd target somebody like Bohm later on."
Blake Snell, SP, Padres
From Frank: "Admittedly, this is a weird one for me. I was all the way out on Blake Snell last season as he's been terribly inefficient and banged up the past few years. I looked like a genius after his first seven starts last season and then that was gone. Over Snell's final 17 starts, he posted a 2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, and a 15.3% swinging strike rate. Those are borderline top-12 starting pitcher level numbers. What fueled that stretch? He traded changeups for more sliders and threw more strikes.
"Snell gets in trouble when he thinks too much. He has a mid-90s fastball with a 22% whiff rate and two breaking pitches with whiff rates over 43%. Snell should really ditch the changeup and lean into his breaking pitches more. There's also a lower floor here as Snell has struggled with health. He hasn't thrown more than 128.2 innings since his Cy Young 2018 campaign. Of course this is anecdotal, but players sometimes magically find a way to stay healthy in contract years. Perhaps that will be Snell this season. I like targeting Snell as my SP3 in the 10th round of drafts."
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Scott's Tout Wars team
One of the things that's going to happen when you draft as often as Scott does is that you're not going to like a team you drafted. You hope that when those cases arise, they are mock drafts and not real ones, but Scott wasn't so lucky. He was indifferent! He was the meh emoji.
He drafted his Tout Wars team and in part due to his own mistake in picking the wrong draft slot and wasn't all that thrilled with how it turned out. I looked it over and didn't feel as strongly as Scott and even liked a few of his mid-round picks a lot from a value standpoint.
Here's a link to Scott's team, the draft and a full breakdown.
Here's how Scott described his 2023 Tout Wars draft experience going:
"A piece of writing generally turns out better when there's emotion behind it, and in years past, I've gotten pretty emotional about the Tout Wars team I just drafted...It's a big contest, after all -- maybe the most esteemed in all of Fantasy Baseball. I've won it once, and I'd like to win it again. So I tend to have big feelings, whether positive or negative, once the dust from the draft has settled.
"But this time? Big shrug emoji."
In it, Scott touched on a lesson I learned a long time ago -- do everything in your power to avoid drafting from the end of snake drafts. It's so hard to rack up value picks when you're picking consecutively and then not again for almost 30 picks (in Scott's case, in a 15-team league).
From Scott: "But that's what happens when you're picking 15th (or first, I would imagine) and have to wait 28 picks for your next pair of picks. You can't time it up perfectly to collect all your favorites, anticipating what will be there the next time around. You just have to take the best of what's available and hope it all fits together in the end.
"It's foreign to me because it more or less forces me to abandon the approach I've staked my reputation to over the past 15 years. Positional tiers are practically meaningless when you have to wait so long in between picks. A point of pride for me in this draft, then, is that I didn't reach for a player out of fear of what wouldn't make it back to me. In fact, I think most of my picks were relative values. Still, the end result feels a little off simply because it's not the team I'm used to."
Check out the link above to see Scott's entire starting roster and bench plus his breakdown of his team.
Scott's key takeaways on the draft:
- For once, I wasn't having to play catch-up in stolen bases, having secured a quality number with my first (Tatis), third (Albies) and fifth (Robert) picks. Eventually, I added rookies Miguel Vargas (Round 14) and Ezequiel Tovar (Round 16), who should also be of real help in the category, but I never felt urgency to add more, which helped with my take-what-you're-given approach.
- Same is true for saves. As much as I hate drafting a closer in Round 5, I recognized the necessity of taking Raisel Iglesias there, and then watched as Ryan Pressly, Ryan Helsley, Felix Bautista, Clay Holmes and Camilo Doval all came off the board before my next pick. It made it so I didn't have to stretch for another closer, content to grab Daniel Bard in Round 12 and, just for good measure, Craig Kimbrel in Round 20. I don't have supreme confidence in Kimbrel at this point, but if the Phillies were to settle on any one choice for saves, it would most likely be him. I'm not sure Seranthony Dominguez should be going three rounds earlier.
- My favorite pick, probably, was Tony Gonsolin at 195th overall, 65 spots later than usual due to a twisted ankle that's not even supposed to keep him out for the start of the year. Thanks to everyone for that gift. In fact, every one of my picks from Round 13 through 17 (Gonsolin, Miguel Vargas, Ketel Marte, Tovar and Miles Mikolas) was better value than I could have hoped for.
- The plan is for Mitch Garver to take over as my second catcher once he gains eligibility there, which I'm hoping will be by Week 3. He's expected to split time between catcher and DH for the Rangers this year, which hopefully gives him a nice at-bat advantage.
- I sold out hard for upside in the late rounds, targeting IL stashes like Lance McCullers and Trevor Story and surging rookies like Drey Jameson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. The Andrew Painter pick stands out the most, though. If his elbow injury is as minor as rumored, then his big-league debut may be delayed by only a few weeks. Just a week ago, he would have gone 10 rounds earlier.
What to watch for in the WBC
The World Baseball Classic is a fun thing for seamheads everywhere as a little appetizer before the main course that is the 2023 MLB season. This is the first time the WBC is back since 2017 and it's already underway. We've completed two games of the WBC so far -- the first two games of Pool A played in Taichung, Taiwan. This Saturday brings eight more games on the schedule with start times ranging from 5 a.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET.
Wednesday's WBC scores
- Netherlands 4, Cuba 2 (box score)
- Panama 12, Chinese Taipei 5 (box score)
- Mike Axisa has more on the WBC here.
"The first round features four five-team pools and each team plays every other team in its pool once. The teams with the two best records in each pool advance to what is essentially a single-elimination eight-team tournament. Here is the full WBC schedule and here is everything you need to know about this year's event."
Chris thinks the Netherlands could make a run to the final four teams, "the Netherlands team is still powered by Aruban and Curaçaoan stars like Xander Bogaerts and Wladimir Balentien."
Here are some MLB players Chris has his eye on. You can find the rest of Chris' breakdown and players to watch here.
- Jose Berrios, SP, TOR (Puerto Rico) – Berrios has a lot to prove coming off a disastrous 2022 season, but the problem is, there isn't one specific thing we'll be able to point to and say, "Aha, he's figured it out." Berrios' velocity and movement were mostly fine last season, he just didn't really command his pitches well enough consistently enough, and 50-75 pitches in the WBC isn't going to prove he's fixed it or not. Still, I'll certainly feel better about my late-round fliers if he pitches well.
- Luis Robert, OF, CHW (Cuba) – The biggest issue for Robert in his career has been health, so we primarily want to see him get through this unscathed. However, we'd also like to see him driving the ball in the air consistently after his launch angle dropped to a career-low 10.0 degrees last season. Robert still made plenty of contact and hit the ball hard, but it was too often on the ground. We want doubles and homers, not singles.
- Jurickson Profar, OF, FA (Netherlands) – Profar remains unsigned, which is a surprise after he posted a 3.1 WAR for the Padres last season. There's no shortage of teams that could use an above-average bat who can credibly play all over the field, and the WBC will serve as a tryout of sorts for Profar.