2019 MLB Draft Guide: Second-Year Players
Fantasy baseball insights into players who may or may not find themselves in the dreaded sophomore slump.
The rookie class of 2017 was a hard one to top when factoring in the performances of Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger alone, but the 2018 rookie crop was remarkably impressive in all facets. The problem is what happens when the flash in the pan success of the rookie campaign has to turn into something more sustainable for the long-term.
Pitchers and hitters alike will have to make adjustments for their second full season in the majors as the tape and tendencies have made their way around the league. Those who make the adjustments the best are the ones we are hoping to find in our drafts or keep in our keeper and dynasty leagues. This piece will highlight some of those guys, who are primed for either duplicate seasons, or improved campaigns for 2019 of the 69 hitters (not including the three other hitters who fell within three at-bats shy) and 77 pitchers who cracked the rookie status barriers in 2018.
The catcher position is barren with a ‘B’ across both leagues for the last few seasons and this year is shaping up to be no different until the burgeoning crop of young catchers come up from the minors. There are a few of note, however, heading into their second season in the big leagues in 2019.
Jorge Alfaro , PHI
Alfaro was the main piece in the Cole Hamels deal in 2015 and it’s finally paying off, though catchers do take a bit more time to mature than other position players. Through 108 games in 2018 he played quite well with a .262/.324/.407 slash line with a .406 BABIP and .314 wOBA with 10 homers, 37 RBI, 35 runs, and three steals to boot in 377 plate appearances. The problem came in the more advanced numbers. His K% was 36.6 which is the highest mark of his career in a sample size larger than ten games and his 4.8% BB-rate was a bit lower than his mid-fives rate that he posted in three of the last four seasons that he’s played 100+ games. Even worse was his plate discipline that he showed, or frankly didn’t. Out of anyone that had a minimum of 200 PA’s last year, Alfaro had the worst Swinging Strike % at 23.8% and the highest swing rate overall at 61.1%. If Alfaro can get a grasp on plate discipline, his contact profiles and the park he plays in should translate to about the same average, a slightly better OBP and a few more homers for the second-year backstop.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa , TEX
The nearly 24-year-old catcher was a bit of a surprise performer for the Rangers last year in what was the start of a rebuilding effort. He slashed .261/.325/.357 with a .306 BABIP and .301 wOBA and an 81 wRC+ mark. Four homers, 43, runs, 34 RBI, and seven steals came with that slash line as did position versatility with him playing 30+ games both at catcher and third base and 19 at second base as well. The four homers nearly doubled his career total that previously sat at five from his 2017 Double-A season in 129 games there, but he also had 20 XBH last year, which was his second-highest total in a season yet. He is getting a boost from playing in GlobeLife Stadium but with a 7.1% BB-rate and 15.7% K-rate his slash line should stay intact in 2019. Plus he benefits from a pretty even split of 38.7%, 31.7%, and 29.7% in his spray chart from pull% to Oppo%. Look for Kiner-Falefa to find playing time around the infield as Texas is still in the midst of a big rebuild.
The terrible Orioles 2018 season may repeat itself in 2019 and both guys will likely see plenty of time behind the plate. Heading into spring training Wynns is the leading candidate to be the starting catcher so we will start there. Wynns finally broke into the majors last year and played 42 games for the big club while slashing .255/.287/.382 with a .296 BABIP and a .291 wOBA and four homers, 16 runs, and 11 RBI for a depressed offensive squad. His best season so far came in 2017 at Double-A where he played 105 games and slashed .281/.377/.419 with 10 homers, 54 runs, 46 RBI, and a steal. If he produces something similar to that line, then he’s a low-end starting catcher. Chance Sisco on the other hand, is supposed to be the catcher to replace Matt Wieters . So far, however, that hasn’t been the case in a limited sample. In 73 total games combined between 2017 and 2018 with 63 coming in 2018, Sisco has a triple-slash of .251/.356/.395 with four home runs, 20 RBI, 16 runs, and a steal. Granted he will have just turned 24 by about a month around the time the season starts and catchers take time to mature, but that limited sample isn’t comforting from nearly any perspective and keep in mind that the most home runs he’s hit in a season was nine in 2017 over 107 games between Triple-A Norfolk and Baltimore.
Carson Kelly , ARI
Kelly was pretty much the centerpiece of the Paul Goldschmidt trade between the Cardinals and the D-backs. He has long been known as a great defensive backstop and one who has thrown out 32.4% of base stealers in his career, the problem is his bat hasn’t quite caught up just yet. Across 247 games at Double-A and Triple-A he slashed .280/.364/.413 with 23 home runs, 118 runs, and 114 RBI, which puts him at about 12 dingers, 56 runs, and 54 RBI per 130 games. That, by all means, is a decent total for a catcher but for a guy who’s been the top catching prospect in baseball since pretty much 2014, we’d expect a bit more. He is listed as the backup behind Álex Ávila on the depth chart to start spring, but expect him to make a run at starting in the early season.
Willians Astudillo, MIN
Astudillo has been a man of many teams during his nine years in the minors going between the Phillies, Braves, Diamondbacks, and finally the Twins. He made it to the show last year and played 30 games for the Twins splitting time behind the plate and at third base and a bit at second as well. The 27-year-old had an impressive line of .355/.371/.516 with three home runs, 21 RBI, and nine runs scored. Aside from the high average, the really impressive part of Astudillo’s tools is the fact that for his entire pro career dating back to 2009, he’s never posted a K% of higher than 4.8. To put that in perspective, he played 108 games between Triple-A Rochester and the Twins last year and struck out just 17 total times in 379 at bats. In the last three years, the best mark in the majors was Andrelton Simmons this year at 7.3% (nearly double Astudillo’s rate). Now expecting him to produce anywhere close to that average again is unlikely given that the last time he hit that well was a 52-game stretch in rookie ball in 2011 when he hit .361 but hitting in the .280-.290 range for a full season is possible while splitting time between third base and catcher in Minneapolis, and boy does he have power.
There were 16 first baseman to hit 20 or more homers last year across the majors and eight of those hit 25 or more. That’s a fairly deep position since everyone in a 12-14 team league would have a 20+ homer guy at the spot. That means that some of the following guys can be found as sleepers and have breakout years.
Ronald Guzman , TEX
We have come upon another member of the rebuilding Rangers in Guzman, who took over the first base gig from Joey Gallo last year and played 117 games. It was a solid enough debut for him with a .235/.306/.416 slash line with a .299 BABIP and .312 wOBA and 16 HR, 58 RBI, 46 runs, and a steal for a bonus. There are some good things and a few bad things about the advanced stats that came along with that performance, such as his 16% HR/FB rate that puts him near elite and his contact splits of 17.6% soft, 49.4% medium, and 33.0% hard contact put him in the above average range across the board. Guzman however, wasn’t great when looking at K-rate (28.3%), SwStr% (14.0%), and Swing% (50.6) though. If he qualified last year, having at least 3.1 at-bats/team game played, he’d have ranked inside the top-10 for worst marks in K-rate and swinging strike percentage and inside the top-25 for worst marks in swing percentage regardless of position across the league. Guzman’s 2019 year should be a bit better than his 2018 campaign with a higher average, on-base, and a tick higher slugging percentage and he could crack the 20-home run mark.
Jake Bauers , CLE
The first baseman/outfielder was talked about in the Old Faces, New Places piece as well since he’s now a member the Cleveland Indians but he’s also in this piece because 2018 was his rookie campaign. A guy that was mostly an unheralded prospect throughout his time in the minor leagues between the Padres and Rays systems, he had put up two-straight years of both double-digit homers and steals before 2018. Bauers split last season between Triple-A and Tampa compiling a .231/.331/.400 slash line with 16 home runs, 79 runs, 72 RBI, and 16 steals with a 12.6% BB-rate and 24.6% K-rate. Most of his time in the field was spent at first base as he started 69 games in the corner infield while posting a respectable .992 fielding percentage. He was already being talked about as a sleeper in 2019 in terms of improving his major league batting average that was hovering just over the Mendoza line and now with the upgrade to Progressive Field and a better lineup around him, it’s a better bet that his overall stat line improves in Cleveland to his .260-.270 average he had most of his time in the minors. He also still provides 15-20 home run upside with 15 steals while fitting at first base and outfield in all formats.
Ryan O'Hearn, KC
O’Hearn is a guy who has been touted for a couple of years now, starting in the prospect reports and now in this piece as a guy going into his sophomore year in the majors. The presumed starting first baseman for Kansas City got a taste of the big leagues last year playing 44 games with 149 at-bats after playing 100 games at Triple-A Omaha with 353 at-bats. Over that span, he combined for a .241/.331/.452 slash line with 23 home runs, 82 RBI, 70 runs, and two steals and a solid .212 ISO mark. In 2017, while splitting the year between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, slashed .253/.329/.455 in 479 at-bats with 22 home runs, 64 RBI, 55 runs, and a steal in 133 games. Just in case you were wondering, the 2016 campaign for O’Hearn saw him hit .274/.351/.478 with 22 homers, 78 RBI, 62 runs, and three steals. So, there is a multi-year history of the first baseman putting up solid numbers across the board and when he jumped to the majors, he didn’t skip a beat. Expecting 25+ home runs and a .260 average is within his abilities and with a speedy lineup in front of him, the RBI count could go up as well.
Christian Walker , ARI
Walker has been back and forth between Triple-A and the majors a few times already in his career with both Baltimore and Arizona. While he’s been up and down starting in 2014, he didn’t crack the rookie designations until the 2018 season when he went over the days on active roster limits of 40 days. At 27 years old, he is one of the oldest players on this list but he’s on here because of his new-found role in Arizona following the trade of Paul Goldschmidt making Walker the starter in the desert. The stat line isn’t good for Walker with a .170/.262/.421 slash, six home runs, nine RBI, nine runs, and a steal in 61 career games and 88 at-bats. That’s not a lot to go on but in his time at Triple-A he hit 112 homers in 625 games at that level and he’s hit 32 in a single season before. There isn’t much of a reason to draft Walker unless you are desperate for a flier very late in the draft.
Peter O'Brien , MIA
In case you haven’t noticed, Miami has a severely depleted roster and that’s what led Peter O’Brien to be the starting first baseman for the Marlins heading into 2019. In his 58 career major league games he’s hit .221/.281/.486 with 10 home runs, 22 RBI, and 15 runs which isn’t much to go on and in that span he’s also posted a 35.3% K-rate in 140 at-bats. O’Brien’s best two years were in 2014 and 2015 when he bounced around the Yankees and Diamondbacks systems between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, and a touch of the majors in Arizona. In 106 games in 2014 he slashed .271/.316/.594 with 34 homers, 74 RBI, and 67 runs while in 2015 he posted a .286/.336/.556 slash with 27 long balls, 110 RBI, 78 runs, and a steal in 139 at-bats mostly at Triple-A. After an abject disaster that was his 2017 season in which he played for four separate teams and never hit anywhere, the 2018 campaign started to turn it around with a .225/.331/.509 slash with 34 homers, 96 RBI, 64 runs, and a steal in 132 games between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. Clearly he has a checkered history but he’s got big power and if he figures out the offensive side of the game just a bit, he could be a sneaky play as a waiver wire get after the draft.
Second, and middle infield in general, is deep heading into this season with 26 different keystone hitters going for double-digit homers and eight of those at 21 or more and 15 going for 15 or more dingers. Again, like first base, you can find sleepers amongst this list.
Ryan McMahon , COL
McMahon had some buzz around him heading into last year’s drafts following an impressive 2017 campaign at Triple-A and a taste of the majors in September of that year as well. There were openings in the infield for McMahon to get a nice usage and he was going to play at Coors Field, which automatically boosted his offensive profile. The problem was it didn’t pan out. Slashing .232/.307/.376 in 91 games with five homers, 19 RBI, 17 runs, and one steal was the best he could muster in Colorado. However, that doesn’t describe in full his 2018 season since he played 55 games at Triple-A Albuquerque. In those games he hit .290/.339/.531 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI, 40 runs, and he swiped three bags. McMahon also played 70 games there in 2017 bringing his combined total in Albuquerque to .337/.380/.577 with 25 dingers, 104 RBI, 86 runs, and seven thefts in 125 games. If he gets playing time he clearly has the tools to be a productive player, the problem is that with the signing of Daniel Murphy that could eat playing time in the keystone and Ian Desmond and Murphy will split time at first base as well and that doesn’t include Garrett Hampson.
Joey Wendle , TB
Wendle got his first full-season taste of the majors in 2018 in Tampa Bay and he certainly made the most of it. A stat line composed of a .300/.354/.435 triple slash with seven round trippers, 62 runs, 61 RBI, and 16 steals was good as was his .353 BABIP and .338 wOBA and impressive 116 wRC+ mark. The only knock I can make on Wendle is hopefully seeing his BB% increase from 6.8% in 2019 as he had a 96:37 K:BB ratio in 487 at-bats last year. Granted that walk rate was one of the highest marks of his career, but still upping his OBP while keeping the average high would be a nice improvement for the now 28-year-old second baseman. He’s never really been a big power hitter with his max homers in the upper levels coming in 2016 at Triple-A for Oakland with 12 in 125 games, so seeing much more than seven shouldn’t be expected.
Gleyber Torres , NYY
Torres showed the world why he was considered one of, if not, the top prospect(s) in baseball at the time of the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs when he came up for the Yankees this past year. Playing primarily at second base for the Bronx Bombers, Torres hit .271/.340/.480 with 24 home runs, 77 RBI, 54 runs, and six steals in 123 games, which landed him in the top-three of the AL Rookie of the Year voting. A couple of things to keep in mind for Torres heading into 2019 is that his 8.7% BB-rate is lower than his typical double-digit mark and the 25.2% K-rate should fall, likely below 20% since every time he’s had a second year at a level it has fallen between five-to-ten percent each time. His on-base mark of .340 in 2018 is the lowest mark of his career and the gap between average and OBP of 69 points is the lowest since his A-ball days in 2015 when it was 40, on account of a .293 average. If he starts taking more walks, the sky’s the limit for the 22-year-old keystone.
Jeff McNeil, NYM
The poor 2018 season for the Mets, along with all of the injuries and trade deadline selling, allowed McNeil to have a three-level season as he jumped from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas and finally to the majors for the last 63 games of the season. If we’re combining all stops for McNeil in the 2018 season, and why not do it, he played 151 games with 564 at-bats while slashing .337/.399/.558 with 22 home runs, 107 runs, 90 RBI, and 13 steals. That’s a heck of season. The problem is, it may not be repeatable. The 14 home runs he hit in 57 games at Double-A last year was 1.4 times the amount (10) he’d hit in his entire career before that point and then he went on to nearly equal that total with another eight between Triple-A and the majors. He had three seasons of double-digit steals prior to last year so the speed is there. The bigger problem for McNeil is that there likely isn’t a spot for him in an everyday role in 2019, unless he beats out Todd Frazier , Dominic Smith , Peter Alonso, T.J. Rivera , or Jed Lowrie in spring training or early in the season.
Niko Goodrum , DET
Detroit is rebuilding. It’s entirely possible that Nicholas Castellanos won’t be on the roster come Opening Day and aside from him and an aging Miguel Cabrera , there isn’t another household name on the roster. Goodrum isn’t a household name, nor, at 26 years old, is he a guy that’s a feature of the rebuilding effort, but he is a guy that has some intriguing upside heading into 2019. He will qualify at first, second, and outfield this coming season having played at least 20 games at each position in 2018. Add to that his solid stat line of a .245/.315/.432 with 16 homers, 55 runs, 53 RBI, and 12 steals and his value is looking up. Now that average needs to come up about 20 points but he is capable of that, having hit .260 or better multiple times in the upper levels of the minors. Goodrum also had a BABIP of .312 and wOBA of .322 which both suggest the average is lower than expected. Heading into the season Goodrum is expected to be a utility man off the bench backing up first, second, third, and right field. However, if Castellanos gets moved, Goodrum is the starter and even in his current role he should get plenty of at-bats to continue getting double-digit homers and steals.
Franklin Barreto , OAK
Barreto was the key piece the A’s got back in the Josh Donaldson trade back before the 2015 season, and since then he’s steadily worked his way up the ranks of the minors, though he has played 192 games at Triple-A for them with just 57 in the majors to this point. In those 57 games, the middle infielder has a triple slash of .215/.252/.424 with a .320 BABIP and .286 wOBA, seven home runs, 22 RBI, 20 runs, and two steals, which isn’t much of a stat line for a former top prospect of theirs. This year the GM David Forst has already come out and said that Barreto will be a utility guy for them and will see time all over the field to try and get his bat in the lineup since they believe it will still play at the highest level. Those comments though should scare prospective fantasy owners because while he is trying to focus on getting his offense rolling he’ll be worried and wondering about where he’ll play in the field next and if he’ll play outfield (which they have suggested he will), a spot he’s rarely, if ever, played.
The hot corner may be the deepest position in 2019. Not to harp on homers as the defining stat, but power is what people love in reality and fantasy. Fifteen third baseman hit 20 or more homers including six over 30 and that’s with Justin Turner , Kris Bryant , Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano having worse seasons than expected for a variety of reasons. If all four of those have expected seasons, that’s nearly 20 guys with 20 or more homers and likely a dozen with more than 25 round-trippers.
Brian Anderson , MIA
Anderson was a guy that was being talked about as a potential sleeper coming into last season since the torn down Marlins roster had several vacancies and Anderson was hitting double-digit home runs in three of his four pro seasons. While he wasn’t quite as productive as we’d had hoped he’d be, a .273/.357/.400 slash with 11 dingers, 87 runs, 65 RBI, and two steals isn’t half bad for a guy that split time with 64 games started at the hot corner and 89 started in right and without much of an offense around him. Things to build off of are his near 10% BB-rate, sub-20% K-rate, a spray chart that saw 38.4% pull, 35.4% center, and 26.1% opposite field, and a great set of contact splits of 16.2% soft, 45.6% medium, and 38.2% hard contact. All of that plus a .332 BABIP and .333 wOBA and 113 wRC+ show that he was a better hitter than his stats give him credit for. Anderson could be in line for an uptick of production in 2019 whether or not J.T. Realmuto gets dealt.
Miguel Andujar , NYY
Andujar is, as of this writing, still the starting third baseman for the Yankees but the rumors continue to swirl about trade deals that he’s involved in or would be based on different signings. The offense is clearly not the issue for the young third baseman as his first full-season in the big leagues saw him post a .297/.328/.527 line with 27 home runs, 92 RBI, 83 runs, and two steals and nab a top-three finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. The defense has been the source of the consternation surrounding him as he had 15 errors at the hot corner in 136 games, and that’s after having 17 in 118 games across three levels in 2017. A .948 fielding percentage isn’t anything close to what’s serviceable, however defense can be improved upon with field work, hit tools like what he possesses are what’s special. For 2019, some regression should be expected from the youngster as he falls back to a .270-.280 average and closer to 20-25 home runs with an OBP that’s slightly higher than his 2018 mark.
Colin Moran , PIT
Pittsburgh had an issue heading into 2018 since Jung Ho Kang was still not available to be on the team, and frankly they just didn’t trust him yet either. Enter Moran to take the starting third base role as a 25-year-old rookie and being on his third team in his pro career. It wasn’t a bad debut with a .277/.340/.407 split with 11 home runs, 58 RBI, and 49 runs in 144 games for an offensively depressed team. The BB-rate and K-rate were amongst the best of his career at 8.4% and 17.6% respectively and he struck out less than 85 times all season. His best season in the pros came in 2017 when went from Triple-A to a brief stint in the majors that saw him post a .303/.370/.542 slash line with 19 home runs, 66 RBI, 56 runs, 9.4% BB-rate, and a 16.5% K-rate over the course of 89 games and 323 at-bats. Moran’s contact splits of 15.3% soft, 52.1% medium, and 32.6% hard put him about average when putting them together so there may not be much more in the way of power to come. Kang is back with the team, but expected to be the backup to Moran meaning that he should have the leeway to play like he did last year without pressure.
Renato Núñez , BAL
Yes Baltimore is terrible and they could challenge the modern record for losses in a season but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t interesting players on the team. Nunez is one of those guys. He played in a handful of games in the majors up until 2018 that is, when he played 73 of his 90 career major league games. In those 70 games between Texas and Baltimore, Nunez put up a .258/.322/.419 slash line with eight homers, 28 runs, and 22 RBI while manning the hot corner for most of those games. Now granted, nothing stands out about that stat line but keep in mind that 2018 was the first year since 2012 that Nunez didn’t hit at least 18 home runs and a few of those years he hit 29 and 33 bombs. Still just 24, he’s got time to continue to develop, which he certainly needs with the glove (he committed 12 errors last year) but with no real other option on the team for third base, Nunez should have the time to show what he can possibly do.
Hunter Dozier , KC
Dozier is a former eighth overall draft pick back in 2013 but it’s taken him longer to pan out than what was expected at first. The 2016 season saw him hit his stride with the best season he’s posted to this point with a .296/.366/.533 triple slash, 23 home runs, 79 runs, 75 RBI, and seven steals in 129 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha along with career-highs in ISO (.236) and BB-rate (9.9%) and BABIP (.352). That being said, his 110-game stint in the majors has been far worse than his career best season with a .228/.279/.388 slash with 11 homers, 40 runs, 35 RBI and two steals in 381 at-bats. He is slated to be the Royals Opening Day starter at third base, assuming they don’t re-sign Mike Moustakas on another one-year deal, and Dozier should be able to hit 15-18 long balls with a .230-.240 average in 2019, which makes him a backup third baseman for fantasy purposes.
Short is an incredibly deep and good position for five-category players with 14 guys having posted double-digit totals in both homers and steals or were one away from that in one of the categories. Four of those guys went 20/20 or better. This list is again late-round sleeper candidates for breakout seasons in 2019.
Scott Kingery, PHI
All spring training last year we heard the love for Kingery and the potential upside that we look for in prospects and rookies coming up to the big club. The only problem is that Kingery didn’t live up to the hype at all, even with a full season of work. He mostly played at shortstop last year but he also spent time at third and second and in the outfield while hitting .226/.267/.338 with eight home runs, 55 runs, 35 RBI, and 10 steals. Here’s the thing though, Kingery has only had one really productive season across the board, which happened in 2017. In 132 games and 543 at-bats, Kingery launched 26 homers, 103 runs, 65 RBI, and 29 steals behind a .304/.359/.530 slash line. The other three seasons aside from 2017, he had single-digit home runs and two of them had a .250 average or below with 55 or fewer runs and 35 or fewer RBI which aren’t good, especially in an age with a lot of offensive middle infield options. He is now slated to be a utility man this year and given his normal stat lines, that’s about the best spot for him.
Willy Adames , TB
Adames is a guy that’s been in the upper echelon of not only Rays prospects, but also the top shortstop prospects for the last four seasons. In that time Adames has managed to put up very consistent seasons in the last three years with averages between .274-.282, OBP’s of .350-.372, and SLG marks of .409-.430 with 10-14 homers, 74-89 runs, 57-68 RBI, and 9-13 steals while performing as a solid defensive shortstop. His strikeout rate was the highest of his career last year and the walk rate was the lowest, though still a very good 9.6% mark so if he wants to improve his stats heading to 2019, simply being more patient at the plate should help him put up another solid season.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. , TOR
For the time being, Gurriel is the starting shortstop in Toronto, holding it until Bo Bichette is ready to join the big club likely in the second half of this season. Gurriel made a three-level jump last year as he started in Double-A New Hampshire and then went to Triple-A Buffalo before playing 65 games in the majors and did it all with a very good stat line of a .290/.319/.455 with 18 home runs, 79 RBI, 57 runs, and five steals in 116 games and 455 at-bats. There are only two pro seasons to go off of for Gurriel as he joined the Blue Jays in 2017 and the 2018 campaign was a far better sample size of his abilities than the prior season was. I expect him to regress somewhat in 2019 as the average drops to more in the .270 range, which could bring the OBP below .300 while he puts up 12-15 home runs with a handful of steals while holding the starting job.
J.P. Crawford , SEA
I’ve been saying for a while that Crawford was a highly rated prospect because of his defensive ability and not because of his bat. In six pro seasons he’s got two with double-digit home run totals and his batting average has fallen every year. It started at .308 in 53 games of rookie and low-A ball and fell all the way down to .211 in 2018 between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the majors. He just doesn’t have offensive upside and now goes to Seattle, which is tougher on hitters than Citizen Bank is and that shouldn’t help him either. There are plenty of other middle infield and shortstop-eligible players to focus on.
A lot of talk centered around the rookie crop of outfielders from last year, and why shouldn’t it have? Two of the NL Rookie of the Year candidates came from this spot and even beyond those two, there are plenty of intriguing options sitting here. Those that play in three-outfielder leagues will likely only hit on two or three of these guys, but with five outfield spots, you’ll need to look at more than that from this list.
Harrison Bader , STL
Bader has been a pretty well-known prospect amongst the ranks of the Cardinals youngsters as he had the ability to post 15-20 home run and 15-20 steal seasons basically his whole time in the minors. In 2018 he really got the chance to show what he can do at the highest level over the course of 138 games in St. Louis and he looked decent. There isn’t one particular skill that stands out for Bader, except maybe his 60-grade speed, but they are all average-to-above average hence the ability to hit for average, get on base at a good clip, and have a nice power-speed combination. The 24-year-old outfielder is slated to be the starting center fielder for the Cards in 2019 and given what he showed last year I see no reason why he can’t produce a similar season once again, though with a lower K% and more RBI than the 37 total from 2018.
Ronald Acuna , ATL
The defending NL ROY winner set the MLB world on fire last year with his complete mastery of the game, and his record setting number of leadoff home runs. A .293/.366/.552 slash line with 26 dingers, 78 runs, 64 RBI, and 16 steals in just 111 games propelled him to being named the National League’s Rookie of the Year. No part of that stat line is shocking and there should be no reason why he can’t have a better season in terms of counting stats in 2019 if he can play more games. It turns out that the biggest determinant for his stat line might be where the Braves decide to hit him in their order since they are considering either batting him leadoff or in the cleanup spot. The biggest difference will be in the RBI and steals counts so for owner’s sake and his value, the leadoff spot is probably the best spot for him.
Juan Soto , WAS
Soto was a known prospect in the Nationals system, but one that wasn’t supposed to come up for at least another year and possibly two. At 19 years old and still at A-ball at the start of the season, he was a long shot to play such a pivotal role in the Nationals season from May onward, but injuries forced their hand. In fact in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined he had put up a .362/.418/.535 slash line with eight home runs, 50 RBI, 46 runs, and six steals in 83 games and 301 at-bats between rookie ball, Low-A, and A-ball. The 2018 season saw him make a four-level jump from A-ball to the majors with a .311/.421/.581 triple slash with 36 round trippers, 122 RBI, 110 runs, and eight steals in 155 games and 566 at-bats. To give you an idea of how good the 2018 season was, if we extrapolate the 2016-17 combined stats up to 155 games, he’d have hit 15 HR, 94 RBI, 86 runs, and 11 steals. It is likely that he will see some regression in 2019 simply because pitchers will adjust to him and it’s unlikely that his 16% BB-rate will stay up that high either.
Jesse Winker , CIN
Winker is a contact first outfielder who came up with the Reds in 2017 for a bit and then played exclusively in Cincinnati in 2018. He’s posted a near .300 batting average for his career, just like he has in the majors with a .299/.397/.460 slash line in 136 games and 402 at-bats. He does have 14 home runs, 59 runs, 58 RBI, and one steal in that span which is solid enough for a guy that generally grades at just below-average for power. The Reds have improved their lineup this year with the influx of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the outfield and that could help Winker in the runs department but aside from a .290-.300 average and 10-12 home runs there isn’t much more to his profile than that.
Franmil Reyes , SD
Reyes is perhaps the best power hitter in the young crop of Padres coming up in the next couple of years and that power has improved each of the last four seasons. Reyes came up midway through the 2018 season and in the 87 games played in San Diego, a .280/.340/.498 slash line with 16 home runs, 36 runs, and 31 RBI followed as he was perhaps the brightest spot of the offense with a team-leading 129 wRC+ shows. He’s in the lineup to hit the ball hard, that’s it. Not for defense as he’s a below-league-average defender in the outfield, and not for steals or really even average, though the 2018 mark was reassuring. There are some issues though, such as his 28.1% K-rate, his 49.2% GB rate, a lack of XBH aside from the long balls, and his sub-70% contact rate in general. A high strikeout rate is able to be dealt with if he keeps hitting home runs at the rate he’s been hitting them the last couple of seasons, but the GB% can really drop his AVG and OBP, especially if teams bring out the shift against him since he’s a pull hitter when on the ground.
Austin Meadows , TB
Meadows was part of the deadline blockbuster for the Pirates to acquire Chris Archer and Meadows was the key piece headed back to Tampa. The 2018 campaign was the best one of the career for Meadows as he played 128 games with 439 at-bats, .296/.338/.504 slash line, 18 home runs, 65 runs, 60 RBI, and 17 steals. Meadows has seemingly been a household name for several years even though he’s only 23 years old, but that’s what happens when you’re a ninth overall pick in a June draft and you’re at Triple-A for the last three years. During his 59-game stint in the majors he smashed six homers, 19 runs, 17 RBI, and five steals which isn’t bad in 1/3 of a season and that extrapolates to pretty close to what he did last on the whole. Tampa is a much better hitter’s park than PNC and the entire AL East division is a better hitter’s division than the NL Central is, which should allow him to replicate the 2018 season he had.
Jordan Luplow , CLE
We touched on Luplow in the Old Faces, New Places piece that came out earlier in the week and his change from Pittsburgh to Cleveland for this upcoming season. This is what was written there “During the 2018 season, Luplow split time between Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh throughout 125 games while hitting .264/.346/.439 with 11 home runs, 57 runs, 56 RBI, and nine steals which all told is a usable stat line. His best season came in 2017, however, as he played 144 games between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors with a combined stat line of .286/.364/.504 with 26 homers, 80 runs, 67 RBI, and five steals while playing corner outfield. Cleveland needed a new left fielder since Michael Brantley left for Houston in free agency and that’s where Luplow comes in. He is penciled in as the starter ahead of Jake Bauers as the backup and given Luplow’s decent combo of power and speed and ability to hit for a solid average, he could have some late flier status in drafts this year.” One thing to add to that is similar to his former teammate in Austin Meadows , and that is that Progressive Field is a better hitter’s park than PNC is however the rest of the stadiums in that division aren’t outstanding hitter’s park.
Cedric Mullins, BAL
Another guy who came up for the now rebuilding Orioles last year is Cedric Mullins who was another three-level player in 2018. Across those three levels, Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors, Mullins put up a .273/.336/.435 slash with 15 home runs, 99 runs, 57 RBI, and 23 steals in 153 games for a guy that’s been fairly unheralded coming through the system. It’s not the first time that he’s put up a similar stat line as he slashed .273/.321/.464 with 14 HR, 79 runs, 55 RBI, and 30 steals over 124 games played in A-Ball in 2016. The best tool for him is his 60-grade speed but the others are close to average if not just below. That being said, 2018 was already the third season in his four-year career in which he’s put up double-digit homers and steals no matter the level. Expect 2019 to be the fourth in five years as he replaces Adam Jones in center field in Camden Yards.
Daniel Palka , CHW
Palka kind of came out of nowhere to a degree in 2018 as he broke through with the White Sox, his third team in his six-year career. Then again if you look at his career as a whole his stat line isn’t that really an outlier, .246/.307/.483 slash with 30 home runs, 74 RBI, 67 runs, and three steals over 141 games fits pretty well. Now there were some outliers in his advanced metrics with a near career-high in K% (34.1) and a career-low BB% (6.7) and career-highs in pull%( 45.5) and GB% (45.8) which all attributed to his lower than normal .246 average in 2018. The counting stats fit right in as he’s now put up three seasons of 29+ homers in the last four years and he’s had four of the last five seasons in which he’s posted 74-90 RBI and 67-95 runs. If Palka can lower his K% back down to even the upper 20’s where it’s been and raise his BB% back to about 9.0 where it typically is, that .240 MLB average will go up to the .255-.260 range as he continues to compile the counting stats making him an interesting late-flier in a shallower position than most think.
Jake Cave, MIN
Cave was sent from the Yankees to the Twins in a minor offseason trade prior to last season. Throughout his career he’s been viewed as a fourth outfielder type who can give you offense when given the chance and that’s pretty much exactly what he was last year, though he started more games than expected because of the Byron Buxton letdown. His complete line from the 149 games he played last season is quite respectable with a .265/.329/.435 triple slash and 18 homers, 79 runs, 72 RBI, and six steals. Even the MLB-only portion of the line is solid at .265/.313/.473 with 13 homers, 54 runs, 45 RBI, and two steals in 91 games. The outfielder, like most guys who first come up, saw his K% shoot up to 33% in that 91-game stint after it had been in the low-to-mid-20’s for much of his time in the minors. Now that being said though, his average even with the high strikeout rate wasn’t much lower than minor league numbers generally showed but the OBP of .313 certainly took a hit. He will resume the role of fourth outfielder for Minnesota to start the 2019 season which reduces his potential value somewhat.
Ramon Laureano , OAK
The former 16th-round pick of the Astros has just now started to realize his potential as he’s heading into his age-24 season in 2019. His last three seasons have seen him hit double-digit homers and steal double-digit bags in each campaign with him maxing out at 19 long balls and 43 steals (not in the same season). The A’s have a talented core and there is no reason to think that Laureano can’t be another piece to that core especially following his 2018 season in which he hit .294/.372/.505 with 19 homers, 71 runs, 44 RBI, and 18 steals in 112 games between Triple-A Nashville and Oakland. His best season however came in 2016 splitting time between Houston’s High-A and Double-A affiliates for a total of 116 games and 417 at-bats with a .319/.428/.528 slash and 15 HR, 89 runs, 73 RBI, and 43 steals. To be clear, I don’t see a year anywhere close to that season coming in 2019 but the stats from 2018 extrapolate to 27 HR, 103 runs, 78 RBI, and 26 steals for a 162-game season so somewhere about 20 home runs, 90 runs, 60 RBI, and 20-22 steals should be within reach.
Tyler O'Neill , STL
The first thing that comes to mind with O’Neill is power. Lots of power. He’s played 255 games in the Cardinals system since coming over in a 2017 trade, 61 of those in the majors, and in that span he’s hit 66 dingers. That works out to 42 on a 162-game pace. That’s a lot of power. The 2018 season was split between St. Louis and Triple-A Memphis for O’Neill with 64 games coming at the latter and 61 at the former and his stat line is one of the more impressive of anyone on this list. A .291/.357/.625/.982 slash line with 35 home runs, 90 runs, 86 RBI, and five steals is what he was able to compile in that span and extrapolated for a 162-game season, assuming the same slash line, would give him 45 HR, 117 runs, 111 RBI, and six steals. It’s not often you see a pure prospect-for-prospect trade, and of the same position for that matter, but St. Louis clearly got themselves a talented guy. That being said, regression should occur from that overall stat line since 26 of those 35 homers were hit in the 64 games at Triple-A and I see him being more in the .270 with 25 home runs, 70 runs, 70 RBI, and a handful of steals range.
Steven Duggar, SF
Duggar is one of the new outfielders breaking through for the Giants and he’s a typical center fielder type with good speed and a decent hit tool. Since becoming a pro in 2015, he’s had one season with 10 home runs and now back-to-back seasons with six apiece. Duggar did have 16 steals last season with a respectable .267/.339/.411 line with the slugging percentage coming from the 38 doubles and five triples he had in the 119 games he played. San Francisco is clearly in a rebuild and Duggar will get a shot to play center to start the year as they have to see what they have in their 25-year-old outfielder.
Austin Slater , SF
Duggar’s teammate Austin Slate had a very similar season in 2018 with a .293/.375/.423 slash line, six home runs, 55 RBI, 53 runs, and 15 steals in 127 games between Triple-A and San Francisco. Slater, like Duggar, only has one season with double-digit home runs and he’s mostly a high-average/defensive outfielder. That’s not sexy for fantasy purposes but he’s one of those guys that’s a ballplayer and nothing really sticks out from his stat line, like most of his Giants teammates.
Greg Allen , CLE
In a run of speedy, high-average outfielders, Allen is the fourth outfielder in Cleveland heading into this season. Last season saw Allen steal 33 bags and that’s the fourth time in five seasons that Allen has swiped 30+ bags in a season, and the one in which he didn’t hit 30, he swiped 25. Now granted he’s been a starting outfielder each of those years, even starting 69 of 91 games in Cleveland, which could hurt him some in 2019 if he doesn’t in fact start in center field. Speed is always in demand during drafts and snagging Allen late could very well provide 20+ even if he doesn’t start all the time.
Lewis Brinson , MIA
It has been a struggle for Brinson to say the least since he reached Triple-A with Texas back in 2015. Since then he’s been traded to Milwaukee and then prior to last year flipped to Miami in the Christian Yelich trade. In 109 games with the Marlins last year, all at the major league level, he slashed .199/.240/.338 with 11 HR, 42 RBI, 31 runs, and two steals with just 15 other XBH. He keeps getting rope because of the tools he appears to possess but most of them haven’t shown up yet, except in fits and spurts and he’s got the ability to be a 15-20 home run and 15-20 steals guy with a decent average but he just hasn’t done it at the highest level. Given his inability to produce to this point, there’s little reason to draft him.
Magneuris Sierra , MIA
A one-tool guy is what Sierra is: speed. 70-grade speed. The problem is, like Billy Hamilton , he just doesn’t get on base enough to use that speed. Miami isn’t a great hitter’s park by any stretch and when you pair that with his mid-20s K% and a sub-5% BB-rate it doesn’t look good for Sierra. The offense around him isn’t anything to write home about either. Avoid him.
Shohei Ohtani , LAA
The Japanese import had a rookie campaign that was drawing comps to Babe Ruth in terms of two-way players are concerned. Before he went down with a torn UCL later in the season and required Tommy John surgery, he did continue hitting DH for period after the diagnosis. That TJ procedure will hold him out at the start of the season but he’s expected to be back in the DH role for much of the 2019 campaign, which is a boost to the Angels whole offense. In 114 games in L.A. he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 long balls, 61 RBI, 59 runs, and 10 steals. Depending on the league format you either got both the pitcher and hitter of Ohtani or he was two different players, clearly his pitching side won’t be a factor this year until far later in the season if at all, but the bat should play just fine since hitter’s coming back from UCL injuries are ready far sooner than pitchers.
Pitchers, in general, are more hit-and-miss than hitters from year-to-year unless you are talking about the cream of the crop and they stay healthy. The rookie class from last year showed off some very high upside arms and some who are still developing at the highest level, but have upside we have yet to see. A few will need to be taken early to snag them but others can be waited on as late-round flier status is what they amount to.
Walker Buehler , LAD
The ascension of Buehler to being arguably the ace of the Dodgers staff looks complete based off of last year’s performances, especially in the play-in game and the post-season. But lets hold up on that claim just for a second. He jumped from 98 innings pitched in the regular season in 2017, across four levels, up to 153.1 in 2018 before the 23.2 post-season innings. Nearly doubling the innings load from one season to the next in a young pitcher can have negative affects on the following season. I am not saying this will definitely happen for Buehler, but expecting it to happen would be a wise decision. His arsenal is filthy and he will be the future ace of the staff, even if Kershaw is still on the team, but the workload he had in 2018 is a cause for concern heading to 2019. An ERA closer to 3.00 with 12-14 wins in 28-30 starts is a safe projection for him but it doesn’t leave much room for error if something creeps up on him.
Jack Flaherty , STL
Flaherty was one of the Cardinals starters getting a lot of hubbub before last season given his very good 2017 campaign with him going 14-4 in 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A with 148.2 innings pitched, 2.17 ERA (3.33 FIP), 8.89 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, and 1.04 WHIP before coming to the majors in September and getting a bit roughed up. It was clear the Cards needed a starter or two in their rotation and Flaherty took one of those spots to the tune of 28 starts, 151 innings, an 8-9 record, a 3.34 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, and 10.85 K/9. That’s a heck of a year and one that placed him fifth in the NL ROY voting. Flaherty has pitched 134 innings or more in three straight years now and has three-plus pitches plus an average fourth pitch to work from which keeps hitters off-balanced as seen in his .198 BAA last year, so expecting a repeat of the 2018 season is within his ability but just be cautious that the league will start to adjust and some of his numbers could drop off slightly.
Joey Lucchesi , SD
It was a tale of two halves for the southpaw as the first half went smoothly and then came the second half. All told the lefty tallied 130 innings for the Padres with a 4.08 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, an 8-9 record, and a 10.04 K/9 rate. Lucchesi pitched 67.1 innings in the first half with a 3.34 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.22 K/9, and a .225 BAA. The second half saw him pitch 62.2 innings with a 4.88 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 10.91 K/9, and a .274 BAA. He is a typical lefty in that he’s a command-control guy and his best pitch is a 60-grade changeup with his fastball, slider, and curve all hovering around average on the 20-80 scale but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a quality starter for San Diego but he will be likely sitting in the ace spot despite really being a number three starter, which could lower his win total in 2019.
Eric Lauer , SD
Lauer was another surprising member of the Padres rotation since he’d only pitched 55 innings above High-A coming into this past season but desperate times call for desperate measures. In the 112 innings in San Diego he pitched to a 4.34 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 8.04 K/9, and a not-so-appealing 1.54 WHIP. He is another lefty but his stuff isn’t as good as his rotation-mate in Lucchesi and his best pitch is the 55-grade slider. Lauer has the better momentum since he posted a 3.15 ERA in the final 34.1 innings from last year and if he can keep batters off-balance and mix his average stuff up then maybe he can keep the ERA closer to 4.00 than 4.34.
Jaime Barria , LAA
Most of the starters for the Angels were disappointing when healthy and nearly all of them got injured at some point. In stepped Barria leading the starters in ERA and placing third in WHIP (not including the 51.1 IP thrown by Ohtani) but he was well behind the others in K/9 with a 6.8 mark in the 129.1 innings he threw for Anaheim. The 22-year-old righty isn’t going to strike a lot of guys out given that his career mark is in the mid-7.00 range since 2013 in Rookie ball. The Angels may still need Barria in the rotation, though they did add a couple of starters this offseason. If he isn’t in the rotation there is no value to him and even if he is, his value is limited with a big regression likely coming and shifting his ERA over 4.00.
Shane Bieber , CLE
In the month of June some fantasy owners had a case of Bieber Fever, and it wasn’t related to the pop singer. For a small period of time, 18.2 innings, he posted a 0.96 ERA and a 10.13 K/9 but other than that, his rookie campaign wasn’t spectacular. A 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.26 K/9, and a .283 BAA in 114.2 innings over 20 appearances (19 starts) is how it stacked up though he did have an 11-5 record, mainly due to the run support he received in his starts. The 23-year-old has great command and a plus-curveball with a slightly-above average Fastball. The 118:23 K:BB ratio is good enough to play for a full season and his 1.81 BB/9 ratio is actually the highest mark of his career in that stat. He’s slotted as the fifth starter right now, but the Indians have been rumored to be dealing at least one starter which up’s his value if that happens.
Ryan Borucki , TOR
Borucki, who will be 25 years old at the start of the season, put together a very solid 2018 season split between Triple-A Buffalo and Toronto with 174.2 innings pitched in 30 starts with a 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 6.43 K/9. The young righty has been a pretty well talked about arm coming up for the Blue Jays and now he should be the third man in the rotation for a re-working Toronto team and he’s a reasonable number-three starter based on his arsenal and the career numbers he’s put up so far. I’d like to see the BAA drop some from .253 but his 0.65 HR/9 is a nice mark especially in the park and division they play in and helps his ERA stay down as well. A decent mid-rotation starter is where he fits this year too on a fantasy roster.
Dereck Rodriguez , SF
The son of Pudge is manning the other end of the battery from his Hall of Fame father and it appears to be working for him. Over 168.2 innings at Triple-A Sacramento and San Francisco, and his first season in the Giants organization, he posted a 2.98 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 7.58 K/9. Those numbers aren’t that far off from his last 276 innings pitched in the minors with a 3.84 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 7.57 K/9. Now the ERA being nearly a full run lower is a big difference, but the confines of the parks he pitched in this past season are more pitcher-friendly than anything in the Twins’ farm system has been. The Giants are, not to over use the word, rebuilding or reloading as they say by the bay and so Rodriguez will be in the rotation for 2019 again but I don’t expect his ERA to stay below 3.00 again and, in fact, it should go back up to near 4.00 and the lack of offense in San Fran doesn’t help the win total.
Yoshihisa Hirano , ARI
Hirano was a sleeper for us last year coming over to the majors for the first time and having closing experience and going to a team that needed a closer. The sleeper tag worked out to a degree as he pitched in 75 games over 66.1 innings for a 2.44 ERA and an 8.01 K/9 with a 4-3 record and three saves. That is a great debut season in a league he’s never seen hitters in before and in a pretty good hitter’s park out in the desert. However, heading into 2019 unless he’s the closer I don’t see a lot of value for him other than a ratio helper in non-hold leagues.
Brad Keller , KC
After two seasons of an ERA in the mid-four range, Keller went back down into the low-3.00’s in 2018, his second-best season in the pros behind his 2015 A-ball season. Keller was an unheralded prospect and had just reached Double-A in 2017 before getting shipped to Kansas City landing in their rotation for 20 starts while also pitching 21 more games out of the pen. He was solid as a starter over 118 innings with a 3.28 ERA and 1.35 WHIP but as a reliever in his 22.1 innings the ERA dropped to 2.01 and the WHIP fell to 1.07. It’s clear that he has stuff to hang in the majors, at least as a mid-to-back end starter but his stuff doesn’t miss bats very much with just a 6.16 K/9 and a 3.21 BB/9 so in 2019 he will likely be somewhere between his FIP (3.55) and xFIP (4.26) from this past season for his ERA.
Seranthony Dominguez , PHI
Dominguez was one of the guys getting saves in the Philly bullpen last year as he put up 16 of them, for the first saves of his pro career, with a 2.95 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP bolstering the package. His full 2018 campaign comprised 74.2 innings between Double-A Reading, Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and Philadelphia with a full weighted ERA of 2.65, WHIP of 0.87, and his best K/9 mark in his career at 11.4 in 64 games. The acquisition of David Robertson has made the back end roles a bit tricky for the Phillies but Dominguez should get the chance to start as the closer and as long as he’s not blowing saves or getting roughed up, it should be his job to keep.
Álex Reyes , STL
Reyes is a tricky case here since by some metrics he is still a rookie and by others he may have lost his rookie status by virtue of having pitched 50 innings in the majors between 2016 and 2017. He’s also tricky because of his injury history and exactly how the Cardinals will deploy him when healthy this year is unknown. In the 50 innings on the mound he’s got a 1.44 ERA and 9.71 K/9 but that is far too small of a sample size to really take those numbers seriously. What is known is that when healthy he is one of the top young arms in the game and his arsenal is one of the nastiest around. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his exact role, it’s hard to recommend him in 2019 until more is known in spring training and even into the early part of the season.
Corbin Burnes, MIL
Like Josh Hader before him, Burnes was a top pitching prospect of the Brewers and they elected to bring him up as a bullpen piece in the second half of the season to strengthen their playoff run. In 30 games with the big club, Burnes pitched to a 2.61 ERA and a 7-0 record over 38 innings. Aside from the 5.15 ERA (4.22 FIP) in Triple-A Colorado Springs last year, before getting the call to Milwaukee, all of his ERA marks had been 2.20 or below in his pro career and Colorado Springs is one of the worst parks for pitchers in the Pacific Coast League, which is already a hitter-friendly league. Burnes is set to work his way into the rotation this season as the fifth starter but I suspect he will be more of a swing man going wherever they need him. Meanwhile the 24-year-old righty has the stuff to get major leaguers out at a big clip and has the control to limit walks and hits as his near 1.00 career WHIP shows.
Jordan Hicks , STL
Wow can he light up a radar gun. His four-seamer averaged 100.9 MPH last year and his SINKER averaged 100.4 MPH. The Slider is his second-most used pitch and averages 86.2 MPH which is a nice change of pace from the other two offerings. The velocity is great and all but his control could use some definite work as his career-low in BB/9 is 3.85 and in 2018 the mark was 5.21 across 77.2 innings. Yes the flamethrower stuff is great and fun to watch but when it leads to a 3.59 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, it’s not quite as exciting. The Cardinals have Hicks and newly signed Andrew Miller in the backend of the pen and if Hicks can’t get his stuff under control, the closing gig won’t be in his future.
Adam Cimber , CLE
Cimber was a rookie relief star for much of the season last year going between San Diego and Cleveland before finishing with a 3.42 ERA in 68.1 innings and that was his worst mark by nearly 0.4 runs in his career. The Indians got him and Brad Hand last year to replace Andrew Miller and Cody Allen who both were free agents this offseason, and subsequently left the squad. Cimber is the setup man and if you need a guy that can help ratios and you get credit for holds then he’s your guy for 2019.
Drew Steckenrider , MIA
The Marlins closer position has been a revolving door for the past couple of seasons and Steckenrider is the latest guy to fill the role. He went 4-4 with five saves in 71 appearances last season with a 3.90 ERA and 3.62 FIP. That’s not good but the K/9 of 10.3 looks great, which is the lowest since the start of 2016 season. However, the strikeouts don’t matter if he can’t keep guys from scoring. Miami will not be competitive this year and may challenge for the all-time loss record but when they win it will be in a close game and thus Steckenrider will get save chances. He is one of the lowest-ranked closers heading into 2019 but if you want a flier in the very end of the draft, Steckenrider could fill that spot.