Fantasy baseball notebook: Targeting Maikel Garcia for cheap speed, believing in Shane Bieber and more



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The cost of acquiring stolen bases has increased in fantasy baseball leagues. Most of the players who contribute in multiple categories, including steals, tend to go higher in drafts. There are several players who can help in the Steals category going in the middle rounds who won’t be a negative in other categories.

Maikel Garcia fits this bill. On most platforms, he is going outside the Top 200. In March NFBC drafts, his ADP is 195, although in more savvy leagues he tends to go higher. The Royals third baseman stole 23 bases last season in 515 plate appearances. He hit .272/.323/.358 with 59 runs, four home runs, and 50 RBIs. While the power numbers and counting stats aren’t ideal, there’s potential for Garcia to take a big step forward. There’s a good chance he bats leadoff in front of Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez.

Garcia hasn’t displayed much power in the majors, with a 48% ground-ball rate and 27.8% fly-ball rate last season. He had a 50.6% hard hit rate, which was in the top seventh percentile and he was in the top 13th percentile in average exit velocity (91.8 miles per hour). Garcia is a good fit for teams that have a good base of power and could use steals and runs, especially if he hits at the top of the order.

Bieber fever

Remember when spring training didn’t matter? It clearly does, and the epitome of this is Shane Bieber. The Guardians’ right-hander was going outside the Top 150 one month ago, but he went on average of 114 in NFBC drafts over the past week, and has gone in the fifth round of NFBC Main Event drafts, where pitching gets pushed up.

Bieber worked in the offseason with Driveline Baseball and increased the velocity on his fastball. Bieber’s swinging strike rate has decreased each year from 17.1% in 2020 to 10.5% last year. In four spring appearances, covering 17.1 innings, he has a 22.3% swinging strike rate to go with a 1.56 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a 19:7 K:BB ratio.

Flaherty flashing in spring

Another pitcher rising due to a strong spring is Jack Flaherty. Health has held him back in recent seasons. In 2019, Flaherty had a 2.75 ERA and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting with the Cardinals. He wasn’t good in the shortened 2020 season and had shoulder issues the next two seasons. The right-hander was healthy last season, but didn’t have good velocity and produced a 4.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and a 10.2% walk rate with the Cardinals and Orioles.

The Tigers signed him to a one-year deal this offseason and he’s looked excellent in the spring. In 18.1 innings, Flaherty has a 2.95 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 26:4 K:BB ratio. In his most recent start on Sunday, he pitched 4.2 innings, threw 87 pitches, and struck out eight with no walks and five hits allowed. He averaged 93.8 miles per hour with his fastball and maxed out at 96.1.

Encouraging news for Gausman

Kevin Gausman has fallen in drafts over the past few weeks after he was dealing with shoulder fatigue. It appeared he would begin the season on the injured list. After his spring debut on Monday, the signs are more positive.

Gausman threw 52 pitches over three innings and his fastball sat in the 95 mph range. He allowed three hits, one run, no walks and struck out seven, while getting eight swings-and-misses. If Gausman’s shoulder responds well in the days following, there’s a good chance he doesn’t start the season on the injured list. The Blue Jays will need a fifth starter on April 1 in Houston and Gausman could get the nod, although he will likely be on a pitch count.

Fraley rising

Not too long ago, there was concern for how the Reds would find at-bats for all of their talent. We tend to say these things will work out, and they have, but not in the way most anticipated. Noelvi Marte was suspended 80 games for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Matt McLain is out with a shoulder injury and TJ Friedl is out with a wrist fracture.

Those absences pave the way for Jake Fraley to get more at-bats. Fraley becomes a good late-round pick and will offer help for the early part of the season. The outfielder will likely sit against left-handers, but he will hit in the top half of the lineup in a great hitter’s park.

Injuries have limited Fraley in his career. When he was on the field last season, he was excellent — slash line of .256/.339/.443 with 41 runs, 15 home runs, 65 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

Perez cleared to throw

Many pitchers being drafted in the first half of drafts have been injured this spring. Eury Perez, one of the most exciting young pitchers in MLB, is one of them after being diagnosed with elbow inflammation. A 20-year old who averages 97.6 mph with his fastball being diagnosed with an elbow issue sounded bleak, but the latest news is positive.

The Marlins’ right-hander played catch over the weekend and reported no pain. Perez will begin the season on the injured list and will miss multiple weeks. He pitched in 19 games last season, totaling 91.1 innings, in which he had a 3.15 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 28.9% strikeout rate and 8.3% walk rate. He had a Top 10 whiff rate on three different pitches last season.

In addition to Perez, Edward Cabrera has a shoulder impingement and Braxton Garrett is behind schedule after dealing with shoulder soreness. The injuries mean Ryan Weathers and Max Meyer will begin the season in the starting rotation.

Gil wins fifth spot

Just a few weeks ago, Luis Gil wasn’t even a consideration to open the season in the Yankees’ starting rotation. An elbow injury to Gerrit Cole and a strong spring have Gil in the rotation to begin the season.

Gil made his major league debut in 2021, made a spot start in 2022, hurt his elbow when he went back to Triple-A and had to have Tommy John surgery. In the spring, Gil has a 2.87 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 37.7% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate over 15.2 innings. The key will be the walks. Gil had a walk rate of at least 10% at every level.

He has a fastball that has hit triple-digits with a good slider and an improved changeup. For leagues that ran waivers over the weekend, Gil was a hot pickup and is being drafted in the final rounds. It’s worth taking a chance on him to see if the spring performance can stick into the regular season.

(Top photo of Maikel Garcia: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)





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