The regular season is about to begin, and several players have impressed during Spring Training play. Whether it is an increased strikeout rate, consistency with every pitch in the arsenal, or a prospect finally developing in the biggest of stages, a few players have seen their stock go up. However, not everything has gone so smoothly for others. Timeshares, slumps, and minor league assignments have some ballplayers’ outlook looking murky at best.
Each week, Nerd Fantasy Sports will bring you three players who are trending up, and three who aren’t looking so good. A player’s presence in any of these lists will never be injury-related.
Trevor Rogers, SP, Miami Marlins
The talented left-hander’s stock is on the rise after he locked up a rotation spot thanks to a wonderful performance in Spring Training. The 23-year-old showed some flashes last year while making his MLB debut after skipping Triple-A, but in the end, it was evident that he needed more seasoning: he finished with a 6.11 ERA in 28.0 innings with a high 4.18 BB/9 and 1.61 HR/9. However, there were some positive signs for the future: a 30 percent strikeout rate and a 4.33 FIP.
Rogers came to Spring Training throwing significantly harder, topping 96 mph. In total, he has thrown 19 innings and has accumulated 29 punchouts. He has three different pitches with which he can miss bats, and is worth a late-round pick if you still have an upcoming draft. If he, by any chance, is on your waiver wire, run and grab him.
Advice: Pick up in all formats.
Domingo German, SP, New York Yankees
Entering the spring, Domingo German was a clear avoid in drafts. He was coming off a year-long suspension for domestic violence, which is extremely disturbing, and he wasn’t assured a spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
A few weeks later, a public (and private) apology and a string of very impressive outings have him firmly on the radar as a mid-to-late round darling. He made the Yankees’ rotation and was very impressive during Grapefruit League play, with a 1.38 ERA in 13.0 frames. He struck out 17 hitters. If he pitches well, there will be innings for him even when Luis Severino returns, so go ahead and add German to your pitching staff.
Advice: Draft with confidence and hold.
Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds still haven’t named a starter at second base, but rookie Jonathan India, who has prospect pedigree and has already played some games in Double-A, has likely hit his way into the lineup during Spring Training. India has hit .313/.441/.604 so far in Spring Training with five doubles, three homers, seven RBI and a 1.045 OPS in 48 plate appearances. He also stole two bases.
India may strike out a bunch, but he will also take his walks, has power and speed from a middle infield position, making him a good pickup if he ends up with the starting gig at second base. Even if he doesn’t, he should be up soon, so he is worth a speculative add.
Advice: Pick up in deep leagues, monitor in shallow formats
Ha-seong Kim, SS/2B, San Diego Padres
Even though the Padres enjoyed a breakout season by Jake Cronenworth and have Fernando Tatis at shortstop, they committed $28 million on a four-year contract with Korean middle infielder Ha-seong Kim.
Kim lost several games with “aches and pains” and now that he is healthy again, he is getting some looks in the outfield, a position that he has never played before. The problem is that the Padres have a crowded outfield, too. If Kim hits, the Padres will find at-bats for him. But so far in Spring Training, he has a .167/.314/.167 line with no homers or steals. He is running out of time to make an impression, but his 15-15 upside warrants some patience.
Renato Nunez, 1B, Detroit Tigers
After hitting 31 bombs in 2019 and 12 in the shortened 2020 campaign, one wouldn’t think Renato Nunez should be looking for a spot on a major league roster. But the Baltimore Orioles decided to cut costs and made him a free agent, and he latched on with the Detroit Tigers.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have a good spring (.194/.219/.355) and didn’t make the roster. He will wait for an opportunity in Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate instead. With no roster spot to open the season, those in shallow leagues have no choice but to cut the cord. Deep leaguers with spacious benches can make some room for him and, if/when he gets the call, enjoy a HR-RBI guy that won’t tear up their batting average.
Advice: Drop in shallow leagues, hold in 15+ teamers with deep benches.
Will Smith, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Smith has had a great spring training and enjoyed a breakout season in 2020, hitting .289/.401/.579 with eight round-trippers and a 163 wRC+, meaning that he was 63 percent better than his peers.
His arrow is trending down, however, and not because his skill level. Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts recently said that he plans to start Smith around 90 games during the 162-game season, significantly lowering his ceiling. If you can somehow pair him with Austin Barnes (it requires a deep bench, though) it would be the ideal scenario. If not, Smith’s offensive excellence will likely guarantee a top-10 finish in fantasy value, but he won’t be in the top-3 as it would have happened with a bigger workload.
Advice: Plug-and-play as a backend C1, but lower expectations