Yainer Diaz is doing Yainer Diaz things. He’s hitting .300 and leads the team in RBI but has a higher batting average than on base percentage thanks to six strikeouts and zero walks. He’s also not catching all that much. Might be a frustrating piece for our game.
Korey Lee’s having a nice spring, slashing .269/.345/.538 with two steals. I’m skeptical that either guy could really push Martin Maldonado for his job given the club’s obvious preference for veteran defense behind the dish.
David Hensley would be a unique replacement for Jose Altuve as a 6’6” second baseman, but he’s our best bet for fantasy topside while Altuve is sidelined. Mauricio Dubon figures to play there as well, but Dubon hasn’t hit, and Hensley hasn’t stopped hitting since late summer 2019.
Luis Santana intrigued me before the Altuve break, and I’m still interested, but he hasn’t played with the big club in spring.
Justin Dirden has a .480 on base percentage in 20 at bats, and Corey Julks is slugging .517. Michael Brantley will open the season on the injured list, which should open the door for one or the other (probably Dirden, but I’m not even supposed to be talking about him).
If you’ve been around a while, you might recall I’ve adorned a lot of words around the name Jayden Murray, a former Rays prospect who posted a 0.73 WHIP across 38.1 innings of a Double-A season in 2021. He’s been great so far this year, tossing eight shutout innings with a 0.50 WHIP. Could work his way into a Houston-trademark swingman role this year.
Hunter Brown has likely done enough to secure the opening left by Lance McCullers, recording a 1.11 WHIP in nine innings.
Ronel Blanco has been in Houston’s system since 2016 and appears to be ascending this spring, striking out 17 batters in 14 innings with a 0.64 ERA. He’s up to 50 pitches after starting Tuesday’s game and, like Murray, fits the Houston swingman profile to a tee.
Jo Adell has 19 strikeouts, two walks and a .283 OBP in 43 at bats.
Logan O’Hoppe isn’t exactly crushing it either, but his focus is probably on the pitching staff, and .240/.345/.400 would be a plus offensive season for a backstop.
Mickey Moniak is on fire (.405/.436/.622) and could push Adell back to Triple-A.
Jared Walsh looks healthy (.367/.472/.567) and will be a huge draft-season value if he returns to form.
Jordyn Adams has 11 strikeouts and seven walks alongside his slash line of .320/.469/.520 with one home run and two stolen bases in 25 at bats. He’ll always demand a semi-regular check-in because he’s a 99th percentile athlete.
Whatever buying window was open for Ben Joyce before spring training has been slowly closing since the first time he hit 104 on a big league broadcast. Hope you’re already inside.
Esteury Ruiz is locking down the centerfield job, flashing some leather and slashing .289/.378/.447 with five stolen bases, five walks and four strikeouts. He’s somehow underrated for our game.
Kevin Smith is slashing .364/.432/.606 with two homers and a steal. No good reason we can’t get a sequel to his disappointing debut season.
If I had to sketch out an opening day lineup right now, Conner Capel would be in a corner outfield spot. He was drafted by Cleveland in 2016, spent a couple years with them and then five years with the Cardinals. Good orgs to have in your prospect bones. He controls the strike zone well and wouldn’t embarrass the A’s if they ran him out there every day.
Ryan Noda has had no luck this year, slashing .184/.333/.342 with 21 strikeouts and leading the team with 38 at bats. Oakland tends to commit to the bit when they find a guy like Noda, so he could get a long look even if the early outcomes aren’t especially promising.
Despite a general feeling of doom and gloom around the franchise, we’ve seen some good things out of this camp in a general sense. Shea Langeliers, Brent Rookier, Cristian Pache, Zack Gelof, Lawrence Butler, and Nick Allen have all played well. Butler especially looks great, slashing .550/.625/1.000 with a homer and two steals in 20 at bats. In an organization without a lot of off-the-bus all-stars, Butler’s physicality stands out.
The team announced it would keep Shintaro Fujinami on a six-day schedule, but that doesn’t necessarily require a six-man rotation from jump street thanks to the April off days. Smart move on their part to maximize Fuji’s familiarity this way, and equally smart to roll with six starters when the time comes. They’ve got a lot of young arms to evaluate and develop, and this should help them avoid overworking anyone who happens to be succeeding.
Veteran club without much playing time to go around. It’s really just left field that’s unsettled, and Jarred Kelenic is slashing .410/.439/.872 with four home runs and three stolen bases. The price is right for a post-hype flier.
If Kelenic can’t do the job, Cooper Hummel could step in. He hit his fourth spring home run Tuesday and is slashing .333/.389/.818. Like Kelenic, he was not ready for prime time when Seattle first needed him. In 201 plate appearances last year, he slashed .176/.274/.307 with a 31.8 percent strikeout rate.
Bryce Miller’s time is nigh, but he’ll need something to go wrong in a stacked rotation, and even then, Taylor Dollard or Emerson Hancock could get the first chance.
Josh Jung said he was feeling much better this year after shoulder surgery, and the results have backed him up so far: .342/.372/.763 with three home runs in 38 at bats. All systems go for one of the late-ish lifeboats for anyone stranded on third-base island.
Josh H. Smith had a bad rookie year, hitting .197 in 73 games, but he’s trying to get back on track in the new year and slashing .344/.462/.469. He’s a tough out, but I think the new baseball causes him some topside problems unless he learns to turn on more pitches. Robbie Grossman is playing well and has left field sewn up, but he’s not exactly Mr. Topside either.
Justin Foscue is slugging .889 with three home runs in 18 at bats. I’ve been low on him as a blocked middle infielder with below average defensive chops and no speed, but this team has Brad Miller and Mitch Garver rotating at designated hitter, and Foscue can hit more than enough to slide those guys to the slide.
Ezequiel Duran feels like a playing-time sleeper. He could figure into that DH mix and could be the first man in at three different infield spots. He had just 78 games above High-A when he debuted last year, obscuring his near-term upside. He’s slashing .326/.356/.512 in 43 at bats.
If it isn’t Duran who takes the first infield opening, it could be Luisangel Acuña, hitting .381 with a homer this spring.
Cole Ragans is throwing hard. He’ll open in the bullpen but would be an interesting starter if he gets an opportunity. Same goes for Brock Burke, who the club teased as a possible starter this winter.
Thanks for reading!