We are back at it again. The 2021 Cactus League Week One Update. The sights, sounds, and heat mean baseball is around the corner.
The first installment of the Cactus League Update is going to hit harder than a Jose Abreu home run. We are going to discuss a pitcher and hitter who are looking to bounce back from last season. We will also highlight a few position battles to look out for.
If you have not checked out Keith Lott's 2021 World Series predictions it gives you a good indication of where the power balance in the Spring Training lies (hint: it's where the saguaro grows).
With each weekly update, I will highlight players of interest project how their year will turn out and analyze some of the more pressing position battles happening among these teams. So, without further ado, let's get to it.
2021 Fantasy Baseball Week 1 Cactus League Update
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Bounce back Candidates
Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) March 2, 2021
Rumors that Gallo was going to be traded in the offseason did not stop his swagger. In Gallo's first three games of spring training, he hit three home runs. On Saturday, Gallo went 0 for 3 but his Cactus League average still sits at .444.
On Sunday as of this writing, he was 1-for-2 with a home run off of Walker Buehler.
Gallo has one of the top exit velocities in baseball at 91.2 MPH (85th percentile). I expect this number to rise back to his career average in the 94-95 MPH range. Last year was his second-lowest ever, the only time he was lower was in his injury-plagued 2016 season.
FantasyPros lists Gallo as the 39th best outfielder. I think FantasyPros has put him too low on their list. He is a top 25 OF if he goes back to his 2019 season. He can get you home runs, RBI's, and runs. On a team where their are not many other fantasy players if he can get the top of the order to produce it will only make his value rise.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
If I were to tell you from 2015-2020 that Mad-Bum's Spring Training ERA was 6.15, would you believe me? Well, somehow he was able to get the kinks out because in that five-year span his regular-season ERA was 3.94.
The Diamondbacks are so concerned they are talking about possibly having Bumgarner not start on Opening Day and giving the nod to Zac Gallen. After discussions of this, Bumgarner in his first start of Spring Training pitched two innings and had six strikeouts. Mad-Bum is one of the biggest competitors in baseball and will not go down without a fight as the Diamondbacks ace.
Even though I believe he is past his prime when it comes to being one of the top pitchers in baseball, he is still a quality ace on a not-so-good team. Because of his terrible 2020 I think you can see him fall to the 9th-11th rounds in re-draft formats. So, keep an eye out for him as a late-round flier in the twilight of his career.
San Diego Padres 2B, Jake Cronenworth vs Ha-Seong Kim vs. Jurickson Profar
The runner-up for NL rookie of the year vs. the international signee vs the veteran. All three of these guys go into camp with the potential to be the opening day starter for one of the best teams in baseball. Let's breakdown so far how each player has done up to this point in Spring Training.
Through Saturday's games, Cronenworth is batting .400 with one double. Last season, Cronenworth was in the 94th percentile for expected OBP and 98th percentile for expected BA per statcast.
This almost makes him a surefire lock to be in the starting lineup come Opening Day. The real question is where, with his versatility Cronenworth can play SS, 2B, and 1B in both Yahoo and ESPN. There are also talks that he could start in left foeld which would increase his fantasy value even more.
The Korean import was one of the many big moves that the Padres made in the offseason. The big reason they brought in Kim was to play 2B even though he was a SS in the KBO. Through Saturday's games, Kim has two hits in ten at-bats. Typically KBO hitters take a little more time adjusting to big league hitting than KBO pitchers. As Spring Training moves on keep an eye on if Kim moves his way to the top of the 2B battle.
The eldest statesmen of the three. Profar has yet to get a hit in eight plate appearances this Spring. His value as a once top prospect is long gone and is now seen as the outsider trying to get that starting spot. With the way Spring has been going for Profar he is looking to be the odd man out in this three-way battle.
Cronenworth starts in LF and Kim is the starting 2B on Opening Day.
Cleveland Baseball Team SS, Amed Rosario vs Andres Gimenez
With the departure of do-everything star Francisco Lindor to the Mets. The SS position for the Cleveland Baseball Team is a two-man race between the young Gimenez and Rosario. Both of the players came over in the Lindor trade where they battled it out last year for the Mets.
Rosario was the Mets SS since the 2017 season has never really been the offensive threat that the Mets hoped he would be, as he carries a career .268 BA with a .403 Slugging percentage. This has translated over to his Spring with his slugging percentage of .400 with an OBP of .571. As impressive as these numbers might look if you dive deeper he actually might be on the outside looking in. This is because Gimenez is actually having a better Spring.
The young SS has had a great start to Spring Training with an OBP of .571, a BA of .571, and a slugging percentage of 1.286. Not only are those great numbers he ranks in the 99th percentile in outs above average and ranks in the top six percentile in sprint speed. He has a great chance to be one of the top base stealers in the majors this season.
I believe that Gimenez gets the starting nod at SS but Rosario will start at 2B.
Stay tuned for next week where I evaluate the players who had a great 2020 season. Let's see if their 2020 magic carries over to the 2021 season. We will also look at some pitching battles that could have major implications for the upcoming season.
If there is a certain player or team you want me to highlight in a coming article tweet at me @MantelJosh and I will make sure to add them in a future article.
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