Giancarlo Stanton's face greeted me as I walked into the office Thursday.
No, it wasn't the actual player (shocker, I know), rather it was a copy of our 2015 RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Guide, fresh off the presses. It's great to see something you've worked so hard on finally come to fruition. I'm really proud of our final product this year, and hope you all find this year's edition to be one of the best yet. If you haven't done so already, you can order a copy here.
Before we get into the news of the day, I first wanted to give my two cents on the Travis Snider trade from Tuesday. Derek VanRiper went into detail regarding the implications of the deal in Wednesday's Round Tripper.
The biggest beneficiary of the deal is Gregory Polanco (NFBC ADP: 133.03), who is now firmly locked in as the Pirates' right fielder entering spring training. GM Neal Huntington suggested in December that the job was probably Polanco's to lose, but the 23-year-old did just that late in the 2014 season following an extended slump, and the value of peace of mind can't be understated with a young player like Polanco. However, while the trade will almost certainly push Polanco's ADP higher, I'm not sure it should. Don't get me wrong, I think Polanco is a phenomenal talent, but where he's going on average seems pretty fair to me. His drop in ISO between levels last season (from .175 to .108) and second-half walk rate (7.2%) worry me a bit. I don't think I'd take him over Jorge Soler (NFBC ADP: 125.47) or Marcell Ozuna (NFBC ADP: 138.36).
Snider, meanwhile, should benefit from the upgrade in home park, and could end up returning nice value in AL-only leagues, if you can get him while the price is right. The soon-to-be 27-year-old trimmed his strikeout rate from 2013 by nearly eight percent (from 26.3% to 18.7%) while also improving his walk rate, and his line-drive rate of 19.4% was his best since 2009.
Although his path is now blocked with the addition of Snider, I think Dariel Alvarez still makes for a decent speculative target in very deep formats like the NFBC. The 26-year-old Alvarez has posted impressive numbers in his two seasons in affiliated baseball.
Also, now is the time of year when many publications release their top prospects lists. We recently updated the site to reflect James Anderson's rankings, which can also be found in this year's magazine. James, who you can find on Twitter @RealJRAnderson, and I will be starting an all-new RotoWire Prospect Podcast soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. From year to year, there is inherently so much turnover on prospect lists, with players graduating to the majors and other falling off due to performance.
Quickly, here are a few players who may have fallen off many lists who I think could return to the prospect spotlight, either later this year or in 2016.
Phil Ervin, OF, CIN - Heralded for his hit tool coming into the year, Ervin slashed just .237/.305/.376 with seven homers in 132 games with Low-A Dayton in 2014. He did, however, swipe 30 bases in 35 attempts, and offseason wrist surgery may have significantly hampered his abilities at the dish.
Manny Banuelos, P, ATL - Maybe I'm buying too much into the name brand here, but I'm expecting Banuelos to be better in his second season coming off Tommy John surgery. Home runs were an issue last season (1.2 HR/9), but the lefty fared well against right-handed hitting at Triple-A (.234 BAA) and a hot start could put him in contention for a rotation spot. He may even compete for a starting gig this spring.
Trey Ball, P, BOS - The 20-year-old couldn't buy an out early last season, but he finished with a 3.36 ERA and .234 BAA in 13 second-half starts for Low-A Greenville, and a 2.03 ERA in August (26.2 innings). Ball is still a long ways off, but the upside is there. He could be one of the quickest risers following inseason promotions.
Notes from Thursday:
Jayson Werth (NFBC ADP: 130.78) will indeed spend five days in jail for reckless driving, though it's largely moot for fantasy purposes. He will serve the sentence over the course of a few weekends, and it doesn't sound like any discipline from the league is coming. Of far more concern for prospective fantasy owners is the healthy of Werth's shoulder, which he had surgically repaired earlier this month. While there's a chance Werth could be ready by Opening Day, I have some reservations given the nature of the injury. That said, the downside seems to be already built in to his price.
The news on Garrett Richards (NFBC ADP: 165.86) has been extremely positive, with the Angels now expecting he'll return sometime in April. That may be slightly optimistic, but Richards is expected to progress to mound work in the near future and his ADP may be headed north in a hurry. Matt Moore (NFBC ADP: 401.47) resumed throwing off a mound Tuesday, clearing a major hurdle in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He's not expected back until June.
Roenis Elias (NFBC ADP: 406.97) is expected to be ready for spring training. Elbow soreness forced Elias to shut down his throwing program in October, but it sounds like he'll be close to full strength when pitchers and catchers report. He'll need to prove the issue is behind him to beat out Taijuan Walker (NFBC ADP: 256.31) for the final rotation spot. Walker clearly has the edge in terms of talent, but I wouldn't count Elias out. Manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't exactly patient with the young Walker last season.
Twins manager Paul Molitor said Danny Santana (NFBC ADP: 121.06) will compete with Eduardo Escobar for the starting job at short this spring, seemingly taking Santana out of the conversation for the center field role. Jordan Schafer thus makes for a more appealing speculative add in deeper leagues, as he has more fantasy upside than Aaron Hicks given his ability on the basepaths and against right-handed pitching.
On a somewhat unrelated note, Topps releases its 2015 Series 1 next week. I'm by no means an avid baseball card collector, but I certainly enjoy opening packs from time to time, as it still sparks a small sense of excitement within me. I may have to buy a pack or two in hopes of landing the 50 Cent first-pitch card. Seriously, they made a card commemorating that debacle.