Josh James Gaining Traction
On Tuesday, Astros’ pitching coach Brent Strom told reporters that right-hander Josh James looked “very impressive” so far in his bid to claim the fifth and final spot in the club’s Opening Day rotation.
"James has been very impressive," Strom told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "Credit to James. All winter long between Dan Howells, [head minor league] strength conditioning coach, and [bullpen coach] Josh Miller and the stuff we've done on the video, he's transformed his delivery."
The reason that James has worked his way into becoming the favorite to land the fifth starter spot, is due to the fact that Brad Peacock is dealing with a recurrence of nerve damage symptoms in his neck. Framber Valdez and Austin Pruitt represent his primary competition for the role.
James could be an exciting late-round sleeper in fantasy drafts this spring after tallying 100 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings last season while working almost exclusively in relief. During that time, he registered a 4.70 ERA (3.77 xFIP), 1.32 WHIP and 100/35 K/BB ratio. Over the last two weeks, James has been popping off of NFBC draft boards as the 316th player overall on average.
If he indeed secures the final spot in the rotation, that number is going to soar as we get closer to March. The only thing really holding him back will be his workload. James has never thrown more than 137 ⅓ innings in a season professionally and tallied only 64 ⅔ innings during the 2019 campaign. Even the most optimistic of projections will have him topping out around 150 innings pitched in 2020. It’s not a reason to avoid him in fantasy drafts - especially at his current depressed price - but it is something to keep in mind and to plan around if deciding to call his name.
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Moving on Down
Nationals’ superstar shortstop Trea Turner confirmed Tuesday that he has spoken to Nationals manager Dave Martinez about moving from leadoff to the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
"We'll see," said Turner. "I talked to Davey briefly about it. I thought it was kind of a joke for the last month or so. But now I guess it's somewhat serious." Martinez first mentioned the idea back in mid-January and suggested that Victor Robles could potentially step in at leadoff, with Adam Eaton presumably sticking in the No. 2 hole.
Such a move would likely hurt Turner’s fantasy value, as it would mean fewer runs scored and possibly fewer stolen base attempts, but he could obviously see an uptick in RBI opportunities. The situation warrants monitoring through the early part of the 2020 season as the Nats navigate somewhat unfamiliar waters following the departure of Anthony Rendon.
The 26-year-old was a five-category fantasy monster during the 2019 season, slashing a robust .298/.353/.497 with 19 homers, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored and 35 stolen bases in only 122 games. Extrapolate those numbers out to a full season’s worth of games, and there’s no wonder why Turner is currently being drafted as the 10th overall player in NFBC drafts over the last two weeks.
Cranky Shoulder for Judge
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday that Aaron Judge has "crankiness and soreness" in his right shoulder. He was initially held out of batting practice on Tuesday with what was termed “maintenance on his right shoulder”.
Judge has been dealing with the issue for a couple of weeks, though an MRI showed "not much change." He's shut down from hitting for now, but the Yankees don't think at this time that it will impact his readiness for the season. For now, he's just going to get a late start on the spring.
That’s never the type of news that you want to be hearing about a player that you’re likely to have to invest a second round pick in to acquire. Over the last two weeks, Judge’s average draft position has sat at 26th overall.
The 27-year-old slugger was limited to just 102 games during the 2019 campaign, where he slashed .272/.381/.540 with 27 homers, 55 RBI, 75 runs scored and three swipes.
Red Sox Still Talking Myers
According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are still talking to the Red Sox about a possible trade involving Wil Myers.
Myers was linked to the Red Sox as part of the Mookie Betts trade talks, but the possibility is still alive even though the former AL MVP ended up with the division rival Dodgers. In fact, Acee writes that talks have been ongoing in the past two days, with the Padres hoping to get the Red Sox to pick up about half of the $61 million remaining on Myers' contract. Cal Quantrill is also a target of the Red Sox, though Luis Campusano and Gabriel Arias have been involved as well. It's unclear who the Padres would receive in return, but it appears they are mostly motivated to secure some salary relief.
If the Red Sox ultimately do acquire the dynamic 29-year-old, it would be a major boost to his fantasy value. Not only would he free himself of the still crowded outfield situation in San Diego, but he would also be moving from one of the top pitching parks in all of baseball to one of the absolute best for right-handed power.
Even in a down season offensively in 2019, Myers still slashed .239/.321/.418 with 18 homers, 53 RBI, 58 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 490 plate appearances. Sure, the batting average isn’t pretty, but with that type of power and speed fantasy owners will absolutely take it.
Over the last two weeks, Myers has been the 285th player on average taken in fantasy drafts. It he lands in Boston, expect that number to climb well inside of the top 250, perhaps even approaching the top 200 overall.
American League Quick Hits: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Nick Solak has a chance to win the starting center field job for the Rangers this spring - which would push Danny Santana into a super-utility role. … Martin Gallegos of MLB.com believes that Franklin Barreto has a great chance of making the Opening Day roster out of spring training. He’s battling Tony Kemp, Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse for the A’s starting job at second base. … The Indians signed right-hander Zack Weiss to a minor league contract. … White Sox prospect left-hander Hunter Schryver will undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday. … The White Sox signed outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to a minor league contract. … Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that the Red Sox are close to a deal with free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy. … Francisco Lindor may not hit in the leadoff spot to begin the 2020 season for the Indians. … Astros’ hurler Frances Martes was suspended 162 games for a second violation of the MLB drug policy. … Brian Hoch of MLB.com writes that Kyle Higashioka is the favorite to win the backup catching spot for the Yankees… The Angels signed left-hander Ryan Buchter to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. … The Twins signed Cory Gearrin to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. … The Astros signed Jared Hughes to a minor league deal with a big league camp invite. … Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said he's leaning towards sticking with Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio at the top of his lineup this year. …. Nate Lowe dropped around 20 pounds during the offseason, while Astros’ superstar Alex Bregman said Monday that he’s down to 195 pounds after checking in at 215 pounds last season. … Chris Davis said Monday that he packed on 25 pounds of muscle this offseason. … Miguel Cabrera said Monday that he's back to his playing weight from 2015 after changing his diet to incorporate more vegetables.
National League Quick Hits: Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters on Tuesday that Jimmy Nelson could be a "Brandon Morrow-type" reliever… Alex Reyes is currently working on a starter's schedule ahead of Grapefruit League action. ... Part of the reason for that is that Miles Mikolas (forearm) has received a platelet-rich plasma injection and will need to rest for three to four weeks... Seth Lugo suffered a small fracture in his left pinkie toe - and won’t throw for the next three days - after sustaining the injury in his hotel room on Monday night. … Marlins manager Don Mattingly indicated Monday that Jonathan Villar will likely begin the year as the starting center fielder. … Keone Kela didn't pitch live batting practice on Tuesday due to a viral infection. He’ll be fine in a couple of days. … Dustin May is nursing a minor issue with his side, per Dodgers manager Dave Roberts…Buster Olney of ESPN reports that Scott Kazmir will throw for MLB teams this week. … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Brewers are in agreement with free agent Brock Holt. … The Dodgers sent Tyler White outright to Triple-A Oklahoma City… Brewers’ outfielder Tyrone Taylor (wrist) will not be ready to play in Cactus League games. ... Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday that Ryan Braun and Avisail Garcia will share playing time in right field. … Yoenis Cespedes (ankle) was a participant in the Mets' first full-squad workout on Monday. … Mets manager Luis Rojas said that Jed Lowrie (all of the things) had no physical restrictions in Monday's workout. … The Dodgers inked speedy outfielder Terrance Gore to a minor league contract with a big league camp invite. … The Nationals’ tentative plan is to have Starlin Castro function as their primary second baseman in 2020. … Adam Frazier said Monday that he played through a fractured right index finger and a separated right shoulder last season. … The Braves have extended the contract of manager Brian Snitker - and his entire coaching staff - through the 2021 season.