Happy Wednesday, everyone! As I've mentioned previously, the World Baseball Classic really hooked me this year, and this is the first time in my life I paid attention. It culminated Tuesday night with an epic finals game that had me glued to my TV screen as I cheered on the USA. We lost to Japan 3-2 but the coolest moment came in the ninth inning. Heading into the game, we weren't sure if Japan would actually pitch Shohei Ohtani but they did and he worked a scoreless ninth inning to protect a one-run lead after having already gone 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. Ohtani's single was cool -- it was of the infield variety and only happened because he ran home-to-first in 4.16 seconds. I'm not sure I could get to first base in 10 seconds. But the coolest moment came during his scoreless ninth inning when he matched up against Angels teammate Mike Trout for the first time ever. He struck out Trout to close the game.
Here's the wild stat! Trout has had three swinging strikes in only 24 of his 6,174 career MLB plate appearances. Against Ohtani? Trout has three swinging strikes!
Below, we'll dive into the newest edition of Busts 2.0 from Frank Stampfl. We'll also take a look at Scott White's top prospects you need to be stashing on the back end of your benches NOW (remember, benches are for upside!) and we'll also take a look into Scott's breakdowns of the most notable bullpen situations right now and how they impact your Fantasy Baseball leagues.
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It's another week of Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts -- and we're kicking things off with Stampfl's latest sleepers. His complete 2.0 includes late-rounders to stash, post-hype prospects and bounce backs. You can find every pick here.
These were some of my favorite Frank picks:
Alek Manoah, SP, Blue Jays: ADP 56.4
From Frank: "I'm sure I'm going to lose some people right off the top here. Let me first provide a reminder that I like the pitcher Alek Manoah, the energy he brings to the mound and his fiery competitiveness. What I don't like are the numbers I see under the hood. Of the top-27 starting pitchers being drafted on average, Manoah had the lowest strikeout percentage last season at 22.9%. His swinging strike rate went from 12.6% as a rookie to 11.2% in his sophomore season. On top of the strikeouts, Manoah is a fly-ball pitcher and the Blue Jays made significant changes to Rogers Centre.
"The Blue Jays are pulling the right-center field wall in from 375 feet to 359 feet. While they did raise the wall four feet, that's a pretty drastic change for a right-handed pitcher who relies on fly-ball outs. Opposing left-handed batters will likely pop more home runs to the pull side in 2023. Lastly, Manoah pitched to a 2.24 ERA last season but that came with a 3.35 FIP and 3.31 xERA. I'm expecting his ERA to be closer to those peripheral numbers with less than a strikeout per inning. While that is a very good pitcher, it's not worthy of being drafted as the SP17 off the board. "
Dansby Swanson, SS, Cubs: ADP 74.6
From Frank: "I don't believe Dansby Swanson will bottom out, but I do think he's overvalued for multiple reasons. Let's start with the performance. Swanson was a true five-category contributor last year, posting career-highs in runs (99), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18). I have to imagine the counting stats will come down going from the Braves stacked lineup to the Cubs not-so-stacked lineup. Swanson also came back down to earth in the second half, hitting .254 with a .702 OPS. His line drive rate and hard contact went down while his ground ball rate went up.
"The next reason I'm avoiding Swanson is I generally try to avoid players who signed a big contract to a new team directly after having a career year. It's more anecdotal than anything, but there are tons of examples throughout baseball history of players much better than Swanson struggling after changing teams. Lastly is the cost. Swanson's ADP is not egregious, but he's being drafted ahead of other talented shortstops like Tim Anderson and Wander Franco. I'd rather wait a couple of rounds and even take Willy Adames or Corey Seager."
Camilo Doval, RP, Giants: ADP 113.6
From Frank: "I have a long, complicated history with Gabe Kapler going back to his days with the Phillies, mostly because of his bullpen usage. Last year Kapler did a radio interview a few weeks before the season and told us that Jake McGee was the Giants' closer. McGee finished the season with three saves while Camilo Doval picked up 27 of them. Doval was actually very solid in his first full season, but there are a few things I'm worried about with him. First up has to be the control or lack thereof. Doval's strikeouts and walks both went in opposite directions last season, posting an unsteady 3.99 BB/9. As a result, Doval finished the season with a 1.24 WHIP, much higher than a typical closer.
"Doval also started working on a sinker last year, which helped him induce ground balls at an elite 56% rate. Now we have shift restrictions to worry about and the Giants defense is considered lackluster by many. Doval already had a 1.24 WHIP and will likely give up even more hits? Woof. Lastly, the Giants signed a very talented reliever in Taylor Rogers to a hefty three-year, $33 million deal. Rogers has closing experience and could push Doval should he struggle. Drafting closers is already a headache. I'd rather not start with one by taking Doval."
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Prospects to stash NOW
These players are for the end of your benches in leagues that go deeper than 300 players drafted. As Scott said, "Naturally, they don't all need to be drafted in every league. In leagues where fewer than 300 players are rostered, I probably wouldn't bother with any of them. I also want to stress that these 12 are only to get us started. Younger, higher-upside prospects like Elly De La Cruz, Zac Veen and Jasson Dominguez could shorten their timetables in short order, leapfrogging some of these players. That's why I'll be keeping you updated with a Prospects Report throughout the year."
Your benches should be filled with upside plays in all Fantasy games, and Fantasy baseball is no different. Scott White gets that and he wants to make sure you do as well. So he comes up with a ranking of the best prospects to stash on your benches now. You are adding them with the idea in mind that they won't be paying off now -- the payoff comes later. It could be May, it could be June, but either way you're going to be happy you added these prospects in March/April.
Scott broke down the 12 best prospects to stash here.
There are the three who stood out most to me and will be on every bench of mine that I can get them on!
1) Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers
2022 minors: .331 BA (492 AB), 11 HR, 24 SB, .883 OPS, 52 BB, 63 K
From Scott: "The hype for Frelick may seem overblown given that he's lacking in the most fundamental Fantasy skill -- power hitting. But he's so talented in every other way, specializing in those categories that are most difficult to fill late that he'll soon be a godsend in five-outfielder leagues especially. He offers more assurances than the typical prospect, having already mastered Triple-A with a .365 (69 for 189) batting average and more walks (19) than strikeouts (16) in 46 games. His 70-grade speed will allow him to feast on the new pickoff limitations, and his plate discipline is tailor-made for the leadoff spot. Plus, right field is already looking like a trouble spot for the Brewers."
3) Brett Baty, 3B, Mets
2022 minors: .315 BA (362 AB), 19 HR, .943 OPS, 49 BB, 104 K
From Scott: "Helping Baty's case is that he's eligible at what figures to be the most painful position for anyone who didn't make an early-round investment in it. Multiple somebodies in your league will be dying for third base help by the hope he's up -- which, to be fair, could still be opening day. Ultimately, I think Eduardo Escobar's big September after recovering from an oblique injury grants him a temporary reprieve, but he's gotten some exposure to left field this spring, perhaps in anticipation of shifting to a utility role. Baty impressed in the little we saw of him last year, delivering superlative exit velocities, even against fellow left-handers, and striking out at just a 19 percent rate."
7) Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Reds
2022 minors: .304 BA (484 AB), 32 HR, .955 OPS, 40 BB, 137 K
From Scott: "Arguably the biggest riser of spring training, Encarnacion-Strand looked like he might force his way into the starting lineup with a .577 (16 for 26) batting average and four home runs. And these weren't your ordinary home runs. Of course, the 23-year-old's power wasn't in question given that he homered 32 times between High-A and Double-A, driving in 114 runs in just 122 games. Most impressive is that he struck out just twice in 12 games, showing an improved focus that might propel him to new heights offensively. Encarnacion-Strand's opening day hopes came to an abrupt end once Joey Votto declared himself fully recovered from offseason biceps and rotator cuff surgery, but the former MVP is clearly playing out the string now at age 39."
Bullpen situations to know
Scott did an excellent job breaking down every team's bullpen situation here: It's your guide to saves, hold and committee situations that you need to know about.
Here are a couple of the bullpen situations that stood out to me:
White Sox: Scott's confidence in the top guy is low here, but he also doesn't feel like a committee is all that likely. I'm interested in Reynaldo Lopez over Kendall Graveman even if it feels like Graveman might get the first crack at it. Lopez has a better skillset and I like betting on talent in bullpen situations that aren't all that likely to end in a committee. Of course, be wary of left-handed White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer, who might be the best of the bunch but is likely to serve as their lefty specialist. He will get some saves.
Tigers: Scott's confidence in Detroit's top guy Alex Lange is low, but he's also not expecting a committee. I am somewhat intrigued by Lange's skill set. His control is not where it needs to be but man can he garner a swinging strike. I love the strikeout upside and if he can find his command he will lock in as the closer (and probably give you more strikeouts than all but the elite closers).