The World Baseball Classic rolls on and we're now entering the next stage of the tournament. Before we get there, we have some accolades to share. Shohei Ohtani was named the WBC MVP for Pool B after batting a cool .500 with a homer and eight RBI. That's not all he did, of course, he racked up five strikeouts through four shutout innings to help Japan advance to the quarterfinals. Team USA routed Canada 12-1 behind a dominant performance from old-but-not-forgotten starting pitcher Lance Lynn (a Frank Stampfl value pick for 2023) and Mike Trout.
Now, the WBC has been fun for sure, but it's draft season, baby! We need to focus on what's important here. And that's your upcoming drafts. I know this is a big weekend coming up for drafts, so we'll focus today's newsletter on the new editions of Sleepers and Busts, from Frank and Scott. We'll also touch on Scott's breakdown of key developments from the spring and how they should impact your roster building. Before all that, let's recap some of the news nuggets you'll need to know:
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News & notes
Reds 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand was one of the hottest hitters this spring and the entire FBT crew was starting to get excited about his sleeper appeal, but he was reassigned to minor league camp on Tuesday. The 23-year-old prospect will eventually be back. He batted a scorching .577 with four bombs and 13 RBI in the Cactus League.
Popular breakout candidate SP Hunter Greene racked up seven strikeouts over five innings in the Cactus League on Tuesday. He allowed one earned run, two hits and perhaps most importantly, didn't walk a batter.
Popular breakout (he's no longer a sleeper, right??) candidate Jordan Walker (3B, Cardinals) was back in the lineup for Tuesday after dealing with a shoulder scare this weekend. Walker might have more helium than any other player in the Fantasy Baseball landscape this spring. Everyone loves him, people are reaching 50 picks above ADP to get him, and said ADP has risen. We're getting close to the point where it's going to be difficult for him to pay off his ADP.
Mets SP Kodai Senga (finger) has progressed and was seen throwing a bullpen session today (Tuesday). The expectation remains that Senga will be ready for the start of the regular season despite dealing with finger tendinitis in his right finger. This doesn't appear to be a major concern for Senga.
Mets OF Starling Marte returned to the lineup for his Grapefruit League game on Tuesday. He was being tested for a concussion so it's a good sign he's back so soon. The 34-year-old has been a popular player to avoid and he's fallen well past his ADP in just about every draft I've edited or participated in so far this spring.
Diamondbacks 1B Christian Walker was removed from Monday's Cactus League for precautionary reasons but this is nothing Fantasy Baseball managers should be concerned with. Scott likes Walker's value in drafts and has described him as a discounted version of Matt Olson.
Mariners SP Robbie Ray dominated Monday's Cactus League outing with six strikeouts over just three innings of one run ball. Ray is entering his age-31 season and Chris Towers views him as one of the better overall values in his draft range.
Brewers SP Corbin Burnes ripped off five strikeouts during four shutout innings on Monday. He looked the part as this year's SP1.
H2H categories mock draft review
Ahh yes, there is nothing quite like consuming a draft or mock draft with a similar format to yours to get you prepared for drafts. And if you play in a H2H Categories league and your draft is coming, we've got you covered today. More specifically, if you're playing in this format AND picking from the No. 1 overall spot, you're going to get some insight into what that looks like today as well. Our own Scott White picked from No. 1 overall and wasn't as thrilled with picking from that spot as you might've expected. Why? Simply put -- he didn't get one of his coveted elite third basemen.
If you want the full results for this H2H draft, and let's be honest who doesn't -- you can find them here.
Here's how Scott's team played out (Round, followed by Overall Pick):
1.1: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
2.24: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
3.25: Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
4.48: Cedric Mullins, OF, Orioles
5.49 Emanuel Clase, RP, Guardians
6.72: Max Fried, SP, Braves
7.73: Salvador Perez, C, Royals
8.96: Robbie Ray, SP, Blue Jays
9.97: Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox
10.120: Nate Lowe, 1B, Rangers
11.121: Christian Walker, 1B, Diamondbacks
12.144: Daniel Bard, RP, Rockies
13.145: Charlie Morton, SP, Braves
14.168: Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies
15.169: Reid Detmers, SP, Angels
16.192: Javier Baez, SS, Tigers
17.193: Scott Barlow, RP, Royals
18.216: Garrett Mitchell, OF, Brewers
19.217: Jake Fraley, OF, Reds
20.240: Miles Mikolas, SP, Cardinals
21.241: Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees
22.264: Tyler Anderson, SP, Angels
23.265: Brett Baty, 3B, Mets
Here's who participated in this mock and their Twitter handle -- please follow them on social for great content!
1) Scott White, CBS Sports (@CBSScottWhite)
2) David Mendelson, Triple Play Fantasy (@DMendy02)
3) JR Fenton, TGFBI participant (@JohnRussell215)
4) Nick Fox, NBC Sports (@CT_FOX)
5) R.J. White, CBS Sports (@rjwhite1)
6) Frank Stampfl, CBS Sports (@Roto_Frank)
7) George Kurtz, Sportsgrid (@GeorgeKurtz)
8) Tim Kanak, Fantasy Aceball (@fantasyaceball)
9) Rob Sherwood, Fantrax (@rob_sherwood)
10) Chris Towers, CBS Sports (@CTowersCBS)
11) Jake Holland, The Toss Up podcast (@jakebaseball17)
12) Raymond Atherton, Fantasy Aceball (@RaymondAtherton)
And Scott's key takeaways from the draft:
- Why not take the suspense out of it and grab Jose Ramirez No. 1 overall, you ask? Because Aaron Judge might double him up in home runs. You need those category standouts in this format especially because everything is scored a week at a time. If a player provides just a modest amount of something over the course of a season, the distribution from week to week will be totally unpredictable. You want those easy category wins, and I think one of the easiest is home runs, which is why I didn't shy away from drafting Pete Alonso, Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez, Nate Lowe and Christian Walker alongside Judge. The best part is that every home run also comes with a run and at least one RBI.
- Once it became clear I was going the thrifty route at both shortstop and third base, I needed my two utility spots to be as impactful as possible, and so my best decision, I think, was double tapping Lowe and Walker in Rounds 10-11. Each had slipped about 20-30 spots, and having three first basemen in my lineup created some chaos for the rest of the league. It also gave me an imposing power surplus that should make up for those obvious warts. Unlike third base, shortstop should still turn out OK. One of Ezequiel Tovar, Javier Baez and Anthony Volpe will come through.
- Even picking in the middle of Round 2, George Kurtz wasn't willing to risk going without a stud third baseman. He picked Manny Machado seventh overall, which is the earliest I've seen him go. He then paired him with Bo Bichette, which seems like a reasonable enough start. It's not like any of the outfielders he could have taken with that No.7 pick -- Mookie Betts, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez -- are entirely worry-free.
- After the initial tumult, there's a growing consensus that Carlos Rodon's strained forearm and Joe Musgrove's fractured toe aren't so bad, really. Both went in Round 8 of this draft, at 86th and 91st overall, which isn't so far off from my latest rankings.
- Corbin Carroll continues to fly up draft boards, going 38th overall in this one. Other picks that stood out include Lars Nootbaar (128), Miguel Vargas (158) and Reid Detmers (169). Hard to find a sleeper with this group!
Key spring takeaways
Scott has been scouring spring training for the most important Fantasy Baseball nuggets that should impact your draft strategy and can hopefully alter your season. It's why we love him. Every year he dives deeper into the things that actually matter during the spring. You can find his entire spring roundup here.
One of the players who caught my attention in his write up was Tigers OF Riley Greene who is a Chris Towers favorite sleeper/value play this draft season.
Here's what Scott had to say about what he's seen from Greene thus far:
Riley Greene's swing looks 'perfect'
The second-year player is off to a good start this spring, batting .320 (8 for 25) with two homers, two doubles and a stolen base, but the exit velocity readings have been just as impressive, according to MLB.com. Greene has hit at least eight balls in excess of 103 mph (Statcast isn't available for every spring training game), and unlike last year, when he too often put the ball on the ground, seven of these were put in the air.
Greene talked earlier this spring about wanting to hit the ball on the ground less, but rather than focusing on launch angle, he's thinking more in terms of backspin and an up-the-middle approach. "In [batting practice] and in my early work, I want to spin the ball correctly. I want true backspin," he said. "I don't want topspin. I don't want a hook. I want true backspin wherever I hit it, because that means I'm staying through the ball, swing is perfect. That's kind of what I look for. I just think homers to left-center field in BP."
Another potential late-round target for your outfield if you play in leagues that require you to start five should be Reds' OF Jake Fraley, according to Scott.
Stock up for Jake Fraley
Though he already made an impression by batting .295 (51 for 173) with 11 homers, three steals, a .377 on-base percentage and a .903 OPS in 53 games after returning from a knee injury last summer, Fraley is aiming to be a big part of manager David Bell's plans this year. He has already hit two home runs and stolen three bases this spring, batting .375 (9 for 24). "He's really improving on a daily basis as an overall baseball player," manager David Bell said. "He's just in a really good place."
As impressive as the power/speed combo is the on-base ability. Fittingly, Bell has batted Fraley no lower than fourth in any game this spring and has used him in the leadoff spot twice. The 27-year-old is beginning to gain traction as a sleeper in five-outfielder leagues.
Also, keep an eye on multi-eligible (2B, 3B, OF) batter Brendan Donovan as another sleeper.
Brendan Donovan powers up
It was defense, contact hitting and on-base ability that secured Donovan a third-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year, but according to MLB.com, the 26-year-old is looking to enhance his game with the most valuable contribution of all: power. He already has four home runs this spring for the Cardinals after hitting five all of last season, and apparently, it's no accident. He worked with Marucci Clubhouse sports facility in Baton Rouge, La., this offseason to become a more efficient hitter. Among the findings: he can handle a heavier bat with a "hockey puck" knob that allows him to rip his hands through the zone faster.
"I'm not really swinging harder; I'm just learning to use my body more efficiently," said Donovan. "Nothing changes with my swing; it's just that my body is loading better so that I can swing the bat faster." Power for Donovan -- who's eligible at second base, third base and the outfield -- would be a complete game-changer, and while you don't want to overvalue spring stats, his explanation makes him someone to consider late in drafts.