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Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Giant Offer

by George Bissell
Updated On: February 28, 2019, 1:14 am ET

It’s been over 48 hours since Nolan Arenado signed a massive eight-year, $260 million contract extension with the Rockies, and a week since Manny Machado inked a record 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres, yet the Bryce Harper free agency saga remains unresolved. This isn’t quite a George R.R. Martin situation, but it’s getting a bit surreal that Harper hasn’t found a long-term home. However, there was a new development Wednesday when Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reported that the Giants have discussed a 10-year deal with the free agent outfielder. It was previously believed that the Giants only had interest in Harper on a short-term deal. The 10-year offer--in addition to the fact that Hunter Strickland is no longer on the roster--would presumably put them right in the running with the Phillies, who have long been viewed as the favorite to land the 26-year-old superstar.

Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group reported on Wednesday that Giants CEO Larry Baer and new team president Farhan Zaidi flew to Las Vegas on Tuesday to meet with Harper and his agent, Scott Boras. It was the second reported meeting between the two parties. At this point, the Phillies appear to still have the highest offer on the table, but the Dodgers and Giants seem to be squarely in the mix to land Harper. From a fantasy perspective, Oracle Park isn’t an ideal landing spot for the lefty slugger, especially in contrast to the much more hitter friendly environments of Citizens Bank Park and Dodger Stadium. Per Baseball Prospectus’ park factors data, Oracle Park has ranked among the worst for left-handed home run power in each of the last eight seasons. With spring training in full swing, it feels like only a matter of time before Harper chooses a destination.

Bryce Harper, Fantasy Baseball Preview

Bryce Harper had a tale of two halves in 2018, but reached 100 RBI for the first time in his career. He is expected to be drafted in the first two round, regardless where he signs.
Feb 27, 2019

Guerrero Destined For Buffalo

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins effectively slammed the door on the idea that Vladimir Guerrero Jr.--the consensus top prospect in baseball and potential franchise cornerstone--could force his way onto the team's’ Opening Day roster. In a radio interview with MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, Atkins said of Guerrero, “I just don’t see him as a major-league player. He’s 19.” Toronto is fully expected to play the service time game with Vlad Jr., which means that we won't see him in the big leagues until sometime around mid-to-late April, and it’s hard to blame them. This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. We witnessed it most recently when the Braves held Ronald Acuna down until late-April last season. Perhaps the most egregious example in recent years belongs to the Cubs, who buried 23-year-old slugger Kris Bryant in Triple-A Iowa for nearly three weeks, back in 2015.

Of course, the Blue Jays aren’t the villains here. It’s a broken system, which is at the epicenter of the problem. Simply put, Rebuilding franchises have zero incentive to promote someone like Guerrero (and other top hitting prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Fernando Tatis Jr.) before they can gain an extra year of team control. However, the borderline absurd justification in this case is a terrible look. Especially since Nationals’ phenom Juan Soto had played all of 23 games above Single-A, before recording a historic .292/.406/.517 triple-slash line at the big-league level as a teenager last year. After hitting .381/.437/.637 with 47 extra-base hits (20 homers) and walking nearly as many times (36) as he struck out (37) in 91 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year, Guerrero received an 80 overall prospect grade from Baseball America, the highest grade possible on the 20/80 scouting scale. He has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level. It isn’t just scouts who believe that he’s ready to annihilate major-league pitching. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection system forecasts Guerrero as a three-win player, hitting .310/.370/.527 with 21 homers in just over 450 big-league plate appearances this year.

Urias Back in Dodgers’ Mix, James Out in Houston

It’s extremely difficult, perhaps even foolish, to draw any firm conclusions in spring training. However, there were a pair of intriguing headlines Wednesday concerning the starting rotation mix in both Houston and Los Angeles. Let’s start with a positive development out of Dodgers camp, where manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he hasn't ruled out having southpaw Julio Urias, who threw a scoreless inning Wednesday in his Cactus League debut against the Athletics, begin the year in the starting rotation. The 22-year-old southpaw missed nearly all of last season due to shoulder surgery, but was a factor out of the bullpen throughout the postseason. While it had been previously reported that Urias would likely begin the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, the Dodgers have apparently reversed course in the wake of Clayton Kershaw’s shoulder injury, which could pave the way for him to earn a spot in the Opening Day rotation.  

Meanwhile, the headline with the biggest fantasy implications emerged from Astros camp on Wednesday when manager A.J. Hinch told reporters that hard-throwing right-hander Josh James has a strained right quadriceps muscle and will be limited to flat-ground throwing for awhile. He also added that the injury “probably takes him out of the conversation” for the team’s fifth rotation spot. It’s a brutal development for a hard-throwing prospect, who should’ve been on every savvy fantasy owners’ “sleeper” list. With James out of the mix, it appears as though Collin McHugh, Wade Miley are now locks for the Opening Day rotation, with Framber Valdez and Brad Peacock as the go-to options when the need for a fifth starter arises in mid-April.

Even if he won’t begin the year in the rotation, James still possesses a ton of fantasy upside and is worth targeting in the reserve rounds of deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats. Let’s not overlook how extremely impressive the 25-year-old flamethrower looked in his first exposure to the major-leagues last year. After a dominant 17-start run (12.92 K/9 over 92 2/3 innings) at Triple-A forced a September call-up, he posted a microscopic 2.35 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 29:7 K/BB ratio over six appearances (three starts) over the final month of the season. Perhaps he got a bit lucky in terms of run prevention, but according to Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Run Average (DRA) metric, James’ 3.20 DRA would’ve ranked 25th out of 140 starting pitchers with at least 100 innings of work. Don’t forget about the strikeout upside. Per Baseball-Reference, James was one of only 14 starters to strike out more than 11 batters per-nine in 2018. Obviously, drawing definitive conclusions based on a small sample could be a mistake, but it’s hard to deny that James profiles as an extremely attractive sleeper candidate and his draft-day price tag just dropped significantly. This is an investment opportunity that could return a substantial profit on a per-start basis.

American League Quick Hits: Francisco Lindor (calf) has progressed to taking groundballs on his knees … Shohei Ohtani (elbow) took 40 swings off a tee on Wednesday … Khris Davis (calf) continues to take at-bats on the minor league side of Athletics camp … Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Collin McHugh is dealing with back soreness … Ryan Brasier (toe) will play catch on Thursday … Matt Harvey (glute) is scheduled to appear in a "B" game this Saturday … Athletics left-handed pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo struck out three over two scoreless innings Wednesday in his start against the Dodgers … Daniel Vogelbach homered and walked twice Wednesday against the Indians … Domingo Santana also went 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBI in that contest … Christin Stewart went 2-for-4 with a grand slam Wednesday against the Yankees … Josh Harrison singled and walked twice as the Tigers' leadoff man in that one … Brandon Drury went 2-for-3 with a stolen base Wednesday against the Pirates … Yonder Alonso went 1-for-3 with a solo homer Wednesday against the Reds … Chance Sisco went 3-for-3 with a pair of two-run homers and five RBI Wednesday against the split-squad Red Sox … Michael Chavis slugged his third home run of the spring Wednesday against the Orioles … Daniel Robertson went 2-for-2 with a home run, double and three RBI Wednesday against the split-squad Red Sox … Jake Bauers launched a two-run homer Wednesday against the Brewers … Shane Bieber tossed a pair of scoreless frames Wednesday in a start against the Brewers … Reynaldo Lopez allowed two runs over two innings on Wednesday in his Cactus League debut against the Reds … Mike Leake fired three scoreless innings in his Cactus League start on Wednesday against the Indians … Ryne Stanek struck out two in a perfect frame against the Red Sox on Wednesday … Trevor Cahill allowed five runs on two hits over one-plus inning on Wednesday in his start against the Rockies.

National League Quick Hits: Zack Wheeler said the Mets have yet to approach him about a contract extension … Cardinals signed catcher Matt Wieters to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Buster Posey (hip) will make his Cactus League debut Friday against the Reds … Kenley Jansen (heart) is slated to make his Cactus League debut next week … Padres shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. hit his second homer of the spring on Wednesday … Franmil Reyes went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks … German Marquez surrendered one run over two innings Wednesday in a Cactus League start against the Angels … Jhoulys Chacin threw a scoreless inning Wednesday in a start against the Indians … Jeremy Hellickson turned in a pair of scoreless innings with three strikeouts in a start against the Astros on Wednesday … Cole Hamels hurled two scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Rangers … Joey Lucchesi allowed a run over two innings on Wednesday in his start against the Diamondbacks … Trevor Story hit his first homer of the spring Wednesday against the Angels … Michael Taylor went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and two runs scored Wednesday against the Astros … Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk against the Twins on Wednesday … J.D. Davis went 3-for-5 with a homer Wednesday in the Mets’ win over the Marlins … Lewis Brinson went deep twice Wednesday against the Mets … Willson Contreras slugged his second home run of the spring Wednesday against the Rangers … Wei-Yin Chen was tagged for five runs over 1 1/3 innings by the Mets on Wednesday … Phillies outfielder Roman Quinn has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain … Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro (knee) has been cleared to resume baseball activities … Peter Moylan has announced his retirement after 12 major-league seasons.