Fantasy Baseball Riders/Fallers: Spring Training Week 1

Spring has officially sprung on the major league baseball and fantasy baseball season, so it can only mean it’s time for one thing. We get to take extremely small samples from parks that are irrelevant to regular season play and make rash decisions!

Who are the risers and fallers so far?

We know that “Spring Training stats don’t matter,” but that’s not going to stop Mr. and Mrs. Joe. Q. Baseball from watching Ernie Clement bat .556 with a 1.278 OPS and concludes we need to adjust the ranks. We call these people Magazine Readers. Don’t be like those people.

Here are things that do potentially matter; things you can watch for in Spring games:

  • Lineup position (especially repetitive lineup slot)
  • Games played – especially true for rookies who are getting long looks
  • Strikeout rate for hitters – is a player having trouble catching up to pitching
  • Walk rate for pitchers – if we hear they are experimenting with a new pitch we can dismiss, but their command needs to stabilize before the season

Let’s take a look at some risers and fallers through the first week of spring games.

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Risers

Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds – Here’s your first week MVP so far, ladies and gentlemen. Across his nine plate appearances, India is slashing .571/.667/1.429 (yes, that’s an OPS over 2,000). He has two homers and two walks already, pushing forward the story from last year that he has pop to go along with an elite batting eye.

India is going to get a chance to play every day and hit atop the Reds’ lineup anytime he rolls out there. That’s automatic 650 plate appearances if he can stay healthy. Even if he cuts in his current spring walk rate (22%) in half, that’s an elite number. In OBP leagues, India deserves a bump up from his ADP of pick 88 in recent NFBC leagues.

Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels – Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout are the oddsmakers’ favorites to take home AL MVP before the season starts this year, but it’s Adell who is out here looking like Babe Ruth with the bat so far.

In 14 plate appearances, Adell 1.143 OPS including two monster home runs.

Adell has more plate appearances than any other Angels’ outfielder this spring, so it’s clear they are giving him a looooong look to make sure he is ready to take over a spot in the top half of the lineup. Past issues are creeping up, however. He has a 35% strikeout rate and a 0% walk rate in his five games. The Angels will really be looking to see if the gains he made in his strikeout rate last year (22.9%, down from 41.7% in 2020) will stick. If they do, prepare for Adell to fly past his projections of about 20 homers and 70 RBI this season.

CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres – We know with some certainty that Ha-Seong Kim is going to play shortstop for the San Diego Padres until Fernando Tatis Jr. returns sometime mid-summer. But Abrams – the top prospect in the Padres’ organization – is certainly making management think about it.

Through 14 plate appearances this spring, Abrams is batting .417 with a .917 slugging percentage including two of his own home runs. The strikeout rate is a modest 25% so he is not up there looking lost in his plate appearances.

Do a quick twitter search for CJ Abrams and you will see that Padres’ fans are already calling for him to be in the opening day lineup. The odds are against that right now, but there is any number of ways Abrams could eventually make this roster in 2022.

More terrible play from Wil Myers or Eric Hosmer could force their hand. Another injury could shuffle things around and cause Jake Cronenworth to move off second, that position open for Abrams leaving. Jurickson Profar could absolutely fail again and be sent to the bench. And even when Tatis comes back, he doesn’t have the best reputation for staying healthy.

If Abrams gets some seasoning at AAA and kills it there, it’s likely he is an upgrade over three or four hitters in this lineup by late summer. If you’re in a deep league this year, don’t be afraid to throw a dart at Abrams a good bit earlier than his ADP of 640.

Fallers

Nolan Gorman, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals – This is not exactly the audition the hot young second base prospect probably dreamed about before Spring Training began. Gorman, who is likely to start the year in the minors anyway, has been absolutely miserable at the plate.

Among all players with at least 12 plate appearances through one week, Gorman’s 46% strikeout rate ranked only behind Mallex Smith for worst in the majors. He has a .154/.154/.154 slash line with no walks and no extra base hits. His slash last year in AAA was .274/.320/.465.

Since we know Gorman isn’t replacing Tommy Edman anytime soon, his primary competition for a starting gig are Paul DeJong and Corey Dickerson. But at this point, it looks like he won’t even be able to beat out Edmundo Sosa for the backup infielder spot.

Cody Bellinger, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers – News came out this week that Bellinger is still tinkering with his swing and his mechanics which now raises an important question. When you constantly tinker with something you usually get to a point where it either works or you admit it’s broken, right?

Whatever his most recent adjustments are, it’s not paying off in the early going. In his 10 plate appearances this spring, Bellinger has a .522 OPS. It’s not time to panic yet, but it’s certainly time to monitor.

Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, Minnesota Twins – Young Twins’ 1B/OF has seen action in only three of six games for the Twins through March 23rd. That in and of itself is not a problem. But in those three games, he has hit 3rd, 4th, and 8th. Again, not really a problem but we don’t like the 8th thrown in there. The game he hit eighth, however, is the one game this spring that most resembled an Opening Day lineup for the Twins.

The only player who hit behind Kirilloff that day was shortstop Nick Gordon. We know Carlos Correa will occupy a top-five spot in the lineup in the regular season. Will Luis Arraez fall behind Kirilloff? Will Kirilloff drop to ninth?

In the six games the Twins have played, Kirilloff has six plate appearances while other first baseman Miguel Sano, Curtis Terry, and Aaron Sabato all have eight or more. Kirilloff has a roster spot locked down for 2022, but seeing him relegated to the eighth spot is not a trend we want to see. Monitor Kirilloff’s lineup slot in the days to come and bump him down a round or so if he sticks in that spot.

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