Old Faces in New Places: NL East
The NL East has turned into one of the more competitive divisions in baseball, and the major contenders all made a lot of moves. There is a lot to discuss here so why waste your time with an intro, let’s just get to the good stuff.
Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies. I'm not gonna go too deep here on Harper because I don't have a lot of good things to say. I wonder how much he will run now that the Phillies have invested so much money in him. I wonder if he will hit over .250, because he hasn't in two of the last three seasons. Is he a guy that will remain motivated after getting paid? He does go to the middle of a great lineup in a great hitters park, and with McCutchen and Segura (who we will talk about later) hitting in front of him, he should have a good chance to knock in a lot of runs. Hopefully, because last year was the only time in his career he drove in 100 runs. 13th overall? No thanks, not for me.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves. It has now been two injury plagued years for Donaldson, and he certainly seems older than his 33 years. Even though he has been sidelined for a large chunk in 17-18, he still was incredibly productive while playing with 8 homers in just 52 games last year, and 33 in 113 games the year before. If you go with Donaldson as your starter I would have a reasonably solid back up option, but even in his new home in Atlanta I still think he is a very viable option as your starting third baseman.
Edwin Diaz, RP, New York Mets. Diaz had a year for the ages last season with an unbelievable 57 saves and 124 strikeouts in just 73.1 innings. Will he be the latest in the Mets curse of big time guys who have come to their team and started to suck? I’ll say this, I drafted Jeurys Familia in more than one draft lol. But I am not hoping for such troubles for the Mets or for Diaz. He has great strikeout potential, and on paper the Mets should at least be a .500 team, so the save opportunities should be there for Diaz. I have been in drafts where he is the first closer off the board, and while I don’t like him that much he is certainly in the top 3-5.
JT Realmuto, C, Philadelphia Phillies. He has been one of the more consistent offensive catchers in baseball in the last two years, which you may have missed because he was buried on the Marlins. But Realmuto checks all of the boxes off the board for fantasy catchers. Pretty solid batting average, nice power for the position, and he will even swipe you maybe five bases. He goes from a cavernous stadium in Miami to a hitters paradise in Philadelphia which should only help his numbers. I still like Gary Sanchez a little more as the top fantasy catcher, but Realmuto is certainly number two and a sixth to seventh round pick.
Wilson Ramos, C, New York Mets. Ramos has come a long way since his injury plagued early years that included him being kidnapped in 2011. Yeah, look it up if you don’t remember that. He still isn’t exactly the picture of health, but Ramos has played 110 games in three of the last four years, and also hit 15 home runs in three of the last four. Unlike most catchers that have a little bit of pop, Ramos actually hits for a pretty good batting average and has topped the .300 mark in two of the last three. He is having an amazing Spring and is coming in among the top few catchers in drafts and I view him in that range as well.
Patrick Corbin, SP, Washington Nationals. The big land of the free agent class of pitcher was Patrick Corbin. The Nats certainly opened the pocketbook in a big way. It was perfect timing for a Scott Boras client to have a career year while up for a contract. I don’t expect Corbin to repeat any of his totals from 2018, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a top 20 pitcher. He is generally good for a strikeout an inning, but outside of last year he did have a tendency to walk too many batters. As the Nats third starter (until Strasburg gets hurt) he won’t have the huge burden of being an ace, but with the contract he got he will need to be successful. I expect him to win 13 games with an ERA around 3.60 and about 160 strikeouts and am not quite as high on him as some others.
Jean Segura, SS, Philadelphia Phillies. There’s nothing not to like about Segura. A shortstop that is a .300 hitter with double digit home run capability that can also steal 20 plus bases. With boppers like Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper to hit behind him in the lineup as well, Segura is essentially a lock to score 100 runs as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped 15 home runs in that tiny ballpark in Philly. He is definitely a top ten shortstop for 2019.
David Robertson, RP, Philadelphia Phillies. It has been a couple years since Robertson has been a regular closer, but he certainly has the stuff to do it. He has enormous strikeout potential, and you don’t need me to tell you that the Phillies are going to be a big time contender this season. Seranthony Dominguez did a great job in the second half in Philadelphia last season, so there’s a chance that Robertson could find himself in the eighth inning, but I would say at least to start the year he should get save chances. He better be good though, since he has a guy who has already done the job for this team behind him. I wouldn’t stay away from Robertson completely because he would have value even as a setup man, but I wouldn’t take him among the top 20 closers either.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Philadelphia Phillies. McCutchen is obviously on the downside of his career, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value. Moving to Philadelphia could help him stay over the 20 homer plateau, but he looks to at least start the season leading off, which could hurt his RBI production. McCutchen likely will hit around .270 with say 18 homers and 15-18 stolen bases which definitely is useful for fantasy teams. He is being drafted around the 8th or 9th round which is a little rich for my liking but if you can get him as your third outfielder you could do worse than that.
Brian Dozier, 2B, Washington Nationals. Dozier has hit 20 home runs for five straight years, topping out at 42 in 2016. I don’t think anyone expects him to get near that again, but he is still a great power source as far as second basemen go. The category that will tell the tale of Dozier’s season will be his batting average. He has spent many seasons in the .230-.240 range, but at his best he hit .271. Dozier is going to hit 25+ homers in my opinion and steal a dozen bags. If he can hit .270 he could be among the top 5-7 at the position.
Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Mets. Cano is no spring chicken at 36 years old, but he still has been very productive when on the field. The 10 homers he hit in just 80 games is something I think fantasy owners can live with. He is two years removed from 39 home runs, and while I wouldn’t dream of him doing that well, I don’t think that the sand is out of the hourglass yet for Cano. Second base isn’t incredibly deep so I do believe you can feel comfortable going into the season with him as your starter at the position.
Jed Lowrie, 3B, New York Mets. Outside of batting average, Lowrie had career highs across the board in 2018, and it was the second consecutive season where he was able to play more than 150 games, which if you know Lowrie, that is a HUGE deal. He’s dinged up already this Spring, and while it isn’t serious, it isn’t what you want to see when dealing with someone with Lowrie’s lengthy injury history. He is being drafted around the 30th third baseman off the board around the 20th rounds of drafts so clearly people aren’t buying his monster season last year. I have to agree with that assessment, and if you can grab him in the 20th round, I think you got a good value.
Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki, C, Washington Nationals. Suzuki has remained fantasy relevant even though he has been splitting time the past couple years in Atlanta, and now he will move into the same situation in Washington. Can he still hit 15ish home runs despite only getting 300 at-bats for the Nationals? Gomes had a batting average in a respectable place for the first time in his career, and he has always been a great source of power at catcher. I am worried for Gomes if he goes back to hitting .220 if he will maintain regular at-bats with a possibly better hitter in Suzuki as the other option. I’d like to stay away from this situation all together if possible, but if I had to pick one I would likely go Suzuki despite Gomes fantastic Spring.
Jorge Alfaro, C, Miami Marlins. One of the top catching prospects in baseball, Alfaro isn’t an offensive powerhouse, but he certainly holds his own at the position. He has generally hit for a pretty decent average especially for a catcher, and he can hit you 15 or so home runs. He has been the catcher that I have drafted in both Tout and TGFBI so clearly I have confidence in him although he is definitely at the back end of the top 12 catchers.
Neil Walker, 1B, Miami Marlins. I do believe that the days of Neil Walker being overly fantasy relevant are behind him. Can he hit 15 home runs? Possibly, he does look to be the every day guy at first for the Marlins, and as I always say, someone has to produce runs even for the worst teams. But with the move to first he is at a position that offers many, many guys who are the same kind of hitter and better, and younger, and he is not a guy that I would consider drafting even in a deeper format.