Regan's Rumblings: Getting a Jump on Free Agents

Regan's Rumblings: Getting a Jump on Free Agents

This article is part of our Regan's Rumblings series.

By the time I get around to writing this next week, we will have a couple days' worth of baseball watching under our collective belts and the panic among fans whose teams are 0-2 will be palpable. We'll also overreact if a guy like Chris Sale has a bad outing or if Bryce Harper starts 1-for-7 with three strikeouts and, gasp, no home runs. Insert your favorite mantra here. Mine is: "It's a marathon, not a sprint." True, but if an unexpected reliever gets an early save or a guy like Byron Buxton (shallow leagues only here) starts off 6-for-8 with two home runs and three steals, you have to pounce quickly or be at risk of being out-maneuvered by your fellow owners.

So who might there be to pounce on in your Week 1 waiver period? It's all league dependent, of course, in relation to who may be available, but if we assume 12-team mixed league and 25-man rosters, that's 300 players. Looking at players ranked below that on our RotoWire Cheat Sheet, here are some potential Week 1 targets:

Yasmani Grandal, C, LAD

Grandal has had just 16 spring at-bats due to a forearm injury, but in those at-bats he's hit .375/.412/.688 and a 100-percent healthy Grandal is certainly among the 12 best fantasy catchers in the league. Hitting .282/.401/.526 in the first half of 2015, he flashed top-three catching ability before a sore shoulder caused a massive second-half drop-off. His health will be a concern

By the time I get around to writing this next week, we will have a couple days' worth of baseball watching under our collective belts and the panic among fans whose teams are 0-2 will be palpable. We'll also overreact if a guy like Chris Sale has a bad outing or if Bryce Harper starts 1-for-7 with three strikeouts and, gasp, no home runs. Insert your favorite mantra here. Mine is: "It's a marathon, not a sprint." True, but if an unexpected reliever gets an early save or a guy like Byron Buxton (shallow leagues only here) starts off 6-for-8 with two home runs and three steals, you have to pounce quickly or be at risk of being out-maneuvered by your fellow owners.

So who might there be to pounce on in your Week 1 waiver period? It's all league dependent, of course, in relation to who may be available, but if we assume 12-team mixed league and 25-man rosters, that's 300 players. Looking at players ranked below that on our RotoWire Cheat Sheet, here are some potential Week 1 targets:

Yasmani Grandal, C, LAD

Grandal has had just 16 spring at-bats due to a forearm injury, but in those at-bats he's hit .375/.412/.688 and a 100-percent healthy Grandal is certainly among the 12 best fantasy catchers in the league. Hitting .282/.401/.526 in the first half of 2015, he flashed top-three catching ability before a sore shoulder caused a massive second-half drop-off. His health will be a concern sure, but if you need a catcher late or even off the waiver wire in shallow leagues, he's worth a look. I don't play in any leagues where Grandal has gone unowned, but in one-catcher 12-team mixed leagues, he could be out there to be had.

Tyler White, 1B, HOU

By all accounts, White has beat out the likes of potential flameout Jon Singleton and top prospect A.J. Reed for the Opening Day first base job. Hitting .348/.446/.543 will often do that. White was a relative unknown entering spring. At 25, White is a bit of a late bloomer, as his next big league at-bat will be his first, but in 116 games last year between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .325/.442/.496 with a modest 14 homers and more walks (84) than strikeouts (73). The lack of power he's shown so far may very well lead to a quick debut for Reed, but White looks like he'll have plenty of value in deeper leagues, particularly in OBP formats.

Jose Peraza, 2B, CIN

Peraza has yet to lock up a roster spot this spring, and given he's still just 22 with minor-league options, he's far from a sure thing to have a lot of 2016 value. Brandon Phillips mans second base, and with a crowded outfield situation, it's possible Peraza opens 2016 in Triple-A. He could even slot at shortstop with Zack Cozart not a huge roadblock, and overall, seeing 350-400 plate appearances from Peraza this year would not be a surprise. Even that could easily result in 30-plus steals with 60 runs and a .280 BA.

Jean Segura, SS, ARI

It's not quite "official," but from manager Chip Hale's comments, it appears Segura will be the team's everyday shortstop and leadoff hitter, giving him tremendous fantasy upside hitting in front of the likes of A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. All Segura has done this spring is hit .517 with 30 hits, tied with one Nolan Arenado for the most of any player this spring. He's hit three home runs and swiped five bases while scoring 16 runs in 17 games. Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings also are competing for middle infield at-bats, but for now at least, it seems Segura will play pretty much every day. His ADP is rising.

Jake Lamb, 3B, ARI

Another Arizona position player, Lamb is having an excellent spring, batting .392/.508/.686 with 14 RBI and 12 BB in 51 at-bats. Inflated spring stats aside, Lamb finished last year with a modest .263/.331/.386 in 350 big league at-bats, and he's flashed lines such as .318/.389/.551 in the minors. In that park with 550 at-bats, Lamb should show more power than he did last year, perhaps approaching 20 home runs with a fair amount of walks while hitting in the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup. Like many young LH hitters, Lamb has struggled with southpaws, batting just .200/.274/.267 against them last year. At Double-A Mobile in 2014, though, he took them for a .340 BA in 97 at-bats, so perhaps there's more than platoon potential here. Lamb is ranked 31st among third baseman, but it's easy to see top-20 upside.

Rusney Castillo, OF, BOS

Castillo is expected to initially man the lesser half of a platoon with Brock Holt, but given Castillo's $72 million contract, it may just be a matter of time before raw talent wins out. Castillo has yet to make noise this spring, and last year's .253/.288/.359 is ugly, but more than one scout saw great raw ability and upside in Castillo, otherwise he wouldn't have such a contract. He might ultimately wind up as a bust, but it's foolish to write him off just yet.

Anthony Gose, OF, TOR

With Cameron Maybin out for a good part of April due to a wrist injury, Gose will be the team's Opening Day CF, and with a hot start, he can lock down at least the good half of a platoon when Maybin returns. Gose, of course, is known for his speed, swiping 23 bags in 485 at-bats last year and as many as 76 in a minor league season several years ago. Gose hit just .182 through his first 50 spring plate appearances, so he likely won't lead off this year, but even hitting near the bottom of the order with regular playing time should produce 20-plus steals.

Avisail Garcia, OF, CHW

Garcia came into Wednesday's action batting a healthy .353-4-16 while striking out in just 12.7 percent of his plate appearances versus a rate of nearly double that in 2015. Of course, facing "real" pitchers when games count will push that number up, it's an encouraging start for the talented Garcia. He hit a disappointing .257/.309/.365 in 601 plate appearances for the White Sox a year ago, and with that, he's understandably gone undrafted in many leagues. Still, he's capable of a 15 HR/10 SB season, and if he can carry over his newfound contact rate into April, Garcia could get his average up in the .280-plus range. Whether that's enough to make him a top-300 player is questionable, but in a 12-team league that starts five outfielders, he might have value.

Matt Moore, SP, TB

Another draft Wednesday, another one of my teams in which I ended up with Matt Moore. I think it has to be a combination of three things: his left-handedness, the fact the Rays seem to turn out pitchers like the Cubs turn out position players and, yes, the fact he flashed top-of-the-rotation stuff pre-Tommy John. This spring, Moore has surrendered just two runs in 16.1 innings (counting the Cuba game) and is locked into the No. 4 spot in the rotation. Coming off surgery, Moore could be limited to about 160 innings, but that could come with 160-plus strikeouts and an ERA in the low-3.00s based on what we've seen this spring.

Rich Hill, SP, OAK

The 12 walks and 16.71 ERA in seven official spring innings is obviously a concern, as yes, spring training stats in many cases DO matter. Hill, though, reported feeling better in his last outing, a minor league one (stats don't "count") in which he walked five more hitters in five innings, but the way he finished 2015 in games that mattered can't be ignored. After functioning as a Triple-A reliever in the Nationals' organization, Hill detoured to a stint in the Independent League before joining the Red Sox in August. After a five-start stint in Triple-A, Hill made four starts for the Red Sox that were spectacular and unexpected: 29 innings. 1.55 ERA, 36:5 K:BB. The improved control shown in September really makes the walks he put on the board this spring difficult to understand. Hopefully he'll figure things out quickly and get off to a nice start. Otherwise, a prospect along the lines of a Sean Manaea could get a quick callup.

Mike Fiers, SP, HOU

With Lance McCullers slated to open the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, Fiers is the obvious candidate to fill No. 5 starter duties to open the season. Fiers had a no-hitter and 180 strikeouts to his credit last year, and with a decent 3.69 ERA, he probably deserved the spot anyway. Now Fiers will compete with Scott Feldman and Doug Fister for what will be two slots once McCullers returns, likely sometime in April. A well-below average fastball (89.4 mph) hasn't prevented Fiers from posting a career 8.9 K/9, and if he can get last year's 3.2 BB/9 down near 2014 levels (2.1), he has the look of a reliable fantasy starter and a potential solid waiver wire grab.

Top-5 Setup Men Most Likely to Close

Arodys Vizcaino (ATL) - Jason Grilli obviously isn't the future, and the future should come in the form of Vizcaino in short order. Vizcaino this spring has yet to allow a run in seven innings with 11 strikeouts while Grilli has been touched for three runs in four innings. I suspect the Braves will roll with Grilli initially, if only to build his trade value, but Vizcaino's talent should overtake that of Grilli rather quickly.

Tony Cingrani (CIN) -
J.J. Hoover has yet to allow a run this spring, so he could shock the fantasy community and vacuum up 35 saves this season, but what we saw last year from Hoover was far from encouraging. His K/9 dropped from 10.8 in 2014 to 7.3 in 2015 while his BB/9 showed little progress, clocking in at a subpar 4.3. He's allowed more than a HR per inning in his career and his 1.2 GB/FB ratio is less than stellar. Jumbo Diaz and Cingrani check in as alternatives, with Cingrani my preference. In 10.1 innings this spring, Cingrani has allowed just one earned run with a 12:5 K:BB while Diaz sports a 7.00 ERA. I could see Cingrani netting 20-plus saves this year.

Corey Knebel (MIL) -
With Will Smith likely gettin' jiggy with it on the DL with a knee injury until sometime in June, Jeremy Jeffress is next man up as the rebuilding Brewers' closer. Jeffress certainly has the stuff, posting a 2.65 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 68 innings last year, but can he repeat and hold down the pressure-packed ninth inning? It's certainly possible, but I could see it not working out, at which point the Brewers would turn to Michael Blazek, or my personal favorite, Corey Knebel. Knebel has had an up-and-down spring, but in 2015, he averaged 94.9 mph with his fastball en route to posting a 3.22 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. The next step would be to drive down his 1.4 HR/9 and cut out a few walks, but he has closer stuff.

Dalier Hinojosa (PHI) -
A couple bad outings have Andrew Bailey apparently dropping out as a closer candidate, leaving David Hernandez as the likely next in line, with Hinojosa probably second man up. Hinojosa is a Cuban import originally signed by the Red Sox in 2013, and at the ripe old age of 30, he may be closing in on fantasy relevance for the first time. Hinojisa averaged 93.1 mph with his fastball in 24.2 big league innings a year ago, and if he can drive down his 4.0 BB/9, perhaps he'll net more than a handful of saves.

Kevin Quackenbush (SD) -
Fernando Rodney has a pair of 48-save seasons in his last four years, but last year took a big step back with a 4.74 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He's also 39 and has dealt with a sore hamstring this spring, so expecting him to hold up enough to toss 60 more effective innings in 2016 is asking a lot. Quackenbush would appear to be next in line given the ugly springs by Drew Pomeranz (8.38 ERA) and Brandon Maurer (18.00 EA and 16 hits in just eight innings).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Regan
David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year and the 2010 Baseball Writer of the Year.
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