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Engel's Insider Angles: The Mets and N.L. East

The Fantasy Sports Writers Association award-winning Fantasy Baseball Insider Series continues on RotoBaller.com! Every year, Scott Engel talks to prime MLB sources to get exclusive nuggets of information.

On the condition of anonymity, former and current players, executives, scouts and media members provide their unfiltered insights on key players and situations, and Scott supplies his fantasy baseball viewpoints on their commentaries. These reports contain many viewpoints that you will not find anywhere else, from the truest experts on the game:

This season’s Insider Series continues with an Opening Week look at the New York Mets and some other highlighted performers in the National League East from a former Major League pitcher. This player now works as a MLB analyst after taking the mound for several National League teams for over a decade. He helps us review some of the key players you may have drafted from the N.L. East this preseason.

Featured Promo: Get any full-season MLB and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Team Sync platform, Premium articles, daily Matchup Rating projections, 15 lineup tools, DFS cheat sheets, Research Stations, Lineup Optimizers and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Opening Week Insider Insights

J.D. Davis

“The defense is obviously the big question mark there, but he will hit enough to see regular time in the lineup. He actually did get better defensively last year, so he will get the opportunity to be the guy at third base. The Mets didn’t make a trade to cover the position. You will see that he won’t chase more pitches than he should and he will hit to all fields. There will be plenty of RBI opportunities for him in the No. 7 hole and he can hit 20 to 25 homers with a .270-plus batting average.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: There was an obvious amount of skepticism baked into Davis’ NFBC ADP of 255.2. Jonathan Villar was actually going ahead of him at 214.8. There has been some fantasy speculation that Davis’ defensive shortcomings could lead to Villar eventually starting in the infield. But I have heard longtime chatter among some of those who cover the Mets that Davis deserves a chance to start and now he will get it. The Mets did not acquire a true everyday third baseman to supplant him as this source indicated. As long as Davis does the job adequately. you can get a really good value return on him. RotoBaller’s ATC Projections have him at .275 with 17 homers. The Cutter Projections put Davis at 77 RBI with a .349 OBP.

 

Dominic Smith 

“His bat will get him in the lineup as much as possible. Last season was a turning point for him. He did what was projected for him and now he is very comfortable. The game has slowed down for him. We finally saw the power and ability to hit to all fields. I don’t think his defense is actually that bad. He will never be a Gold Glove outfielder but he can be serviceable”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: While he may lose a few later-game at-bats for a defensive replacement, Smith has continued to look good this spring and he has arrived as a lineup lock for the Mets despite the hopes of a National League DH being dashed. Last season, Smith’s XBA of .301 was in the Top 5 percent of the league, as was his xSLG of .563. His WOBA of .413 was Top 3 percent and the XWOBA of .390 was in the Top 7 percent. Before the 2019 season, Smith said he thought he could bloom a little bit later than many people expected, and that is exactly what has happened. He will provide a very satisfying return for those who tabbed him at an ADP of 123.6.

 

Edwin Diaz 

“He benefitted from having no fans last year. Having fans back and seeing him possibly get booed will be interesting. I do think he holds onto the job. The mental aspect of getting booed in your home stadium while warming up had to be a little bit much. I do think he is over it, for the most part. As we have seen in the movie 'For The Love of the Game', the 'clearing of the mechanism' is a real thing. When you are struggling you hear every fan in the stands. But you learn from those experiences.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: As another source indicated in my previous Insider Report, Diaz could be a boom or bust fantasy option for those who drafted him at an ADP of 77.7. The numbers were there last year for sure, but the fans and the added pressure was not. The stuff certainly is not in doubt, but Diaz has to still prove he will not unravel when things don’t go his way in front of Mets supporters. Last season he allowed only two homers in 25.2 innings pitched. That was a positive sign for sure. Either you will have any elite fantasy closer to rely on, or you could see him give way to Trevor May at some point. There is no middle ground to foresee. This source is betting on Diaz getting the job done effectively this season.

 

Taijuan Walker 

“I have always liked him. He is very similar to James Paxton. He has plus potential when he pitches, but there are always the question marks about injuries. He pitched really well in Toronto, but how it carries over into the New York atmosphere remains to be seen. Working with Pete Walker in Toronto really helped him. If he stays healthy he could be the best offseason signing of the year as a back end of the rotation type of guy.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: As this source pointed out, Walker has altered his pitch selection, and that has made a significant difference in his outlook. Until last season, he had always relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, throwing it consistently in the range of the high 50s to mid 60s in terms of percentages. But last season he used it a career low 38.3 percent of the time and added a slider that he used 21.5 percent of the time. The result was a 2.70 ERA. But the 4.82 XFIP and .243 BABIP do raise obvious concerns. Yet if you drafted him at an ADP of 282.7, it is well worth the leap of faith to find out if he can stay healthy and build on some of the promise he displayed last season. Walker is an interesting upside play who has already publicly embraced playing in New York, and his revised arsenal can conceivably lead to quality results. The talent has always intrigued us.

 

Marcus Stroman

“He has been working a new split changeup. He has always been a guy to generate weak contact. If he can add that swing and miss pitch, his strikeouts are going to go up. I think he can bump up those K numbers. Plus, a full year off is good for his arm and body. He is a smaller guy who logs a lot of innings, so it was good for him to let his body rest and recover. He is playing for a new deal and has talked a lot, and he wants to back it up.”

Engel's Fantasy Angle: This source is predicting a strikeout per inning for Stroman, who has oozed confidence this preseason and is out to show he can be better than many expect. If you drafted Stroman at an AP of 199.3, you will gladly take the 2019 type of numbers with more strikeouts mixed in. Stroman will at least be respectable again for fantasy purposes, and it will be very interesting to see if he can generate more swings and misses this season. There's a smidgen of upside in his 2020 outlook.

 

Alec Bohm

“I liked him a lot when I saw him last year. He was not overwhelmed, especially when facing some tougher pitching in the N.L. East. He did not look like a typical rookie. He did not chase out of the zone more than he should, fouled off a lot of pitches, and put together some really good at-bats.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: This is further confirmation that Bohm is going to be well worth the ADP of 107.3 you may have landed him at. In a previous Insider Report, an MLB scout pointed out how impressed he was with Bohm’s ability to hit in pressure situations, noting that he batted.452 with RISP and .419 with runners on base. While he will not hit .333 again (.410 BABIP), the xBA of .285 shows that more than adequate returns can be expected in 2021. Bohm can certainly be a .280, 20-homer producer this year from the fifth spot in the Phillies batting order.

 

Zach Eflin

“He changed his pitching style, and reminded me a lot of Charlie Morton. He started hiding the baseball all of a sudden. It’s rare to attempt those type of adjustments at such a high level. He always had good stuff. I am expecting him to figure things out some more this year. If I am Zack Wheeler, I am taking him under my wing and helping him out. Wheeler has changed himself from a hard thrower to a more complete pitcher and can help Elfin get even better.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: Eflin looked more promising than ever in 2020, with a leap to a 28.6 K%, and his new low of a 3.97 ERA was supported by another career low, a 3.23 XFIP. The big change for Eflin was featuring his sinker as his preferred pitch (51.6 percent of the time), Even though opponents hit .310 against the pitch, the xBA against Eflin’s sinker was .237. He also upped his curveball usage to 13.1% and fashioned a 43.1% Whiff Rate on the pitch. Eflin is evolving with a renewed outlook, and if you took him at the NFBC ADP of 188.3, you have to feel optimistic.

 

Josh Bell

“This was a huge move, a very underrated trade. I think he bounces back very well. He was the No. 1 threat in Pittsburgh and they pitched around him. That made him press a lot, especially in RBI situations. On the Nationals, he can relax and not be expected to carry the load. He can hit .270 with 25-plus home runs. In Nationals Park, he can focus on hard contact and being a gap to gap hitter for doubles. He will be a more complete hitter and not press as much.”

Engel’s Fantasy Angle: Many fantasy analysts thought Bell’s 2019 season was going to be hard to match, and while that turned out to be true, he certainly fell below any conservative expectations with a very down year in 2020. Bell’s Launch Angle went from 13 to 5.9 and the K% went up from 19.2 to a career high 26.5. The GB% rose from 44.0 to 55.7. As this source indicates, a change of scenery can wipe away a lost season for Bell. We have to give some players a pass on 2020, as hitters showed they would press more in a shortened campaign. There just wasn’t much time to turn things around once a hitter fell into an extensive slump. While we won’t see the 2019 Bell this season, there should be a solid return for those who drafted him at the 144.2 ADP.



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