Frank Stampfl, Scott White, and I have planted our flags for the last time this preseason, and we've got an updated lists from all three of us. I don't want to make you have to scroll any further down, so let's get to it, shall we?

Sleepers 2.0

Scott White's Sleepers

"No team has made a higher priority of promoting prospects than the Padres, who in spring trainings past have handed surprise opening day assignments to players like Chris Paddack, Fernando Tatis and C.J. Abrams. They're poised to do the same with Jackson Merrill, a consensus top-20 prospect who barely reached Double-A as a 20-year-old last year. He was merely OK there, it's worth noting, batting .273 with a .782 OPS, but scouts rave about his plate coverage and ability to hit fellow lefties, projecting big power gains in his future.

The Padres entered spring training with two outfield jobs unclaimed and have already earmarked one for the young shortstop. Here's how AJ Cassavell, the team's beat writer for MLB.com, put it at the beginning of the spring: "If Merrill can prove it at the plate, he'll be on the roster." Pretty definitive. So far, the 20-year-old has done a nice job putting bat to ball and has been a regular presence on the bases. And even playing out of position, he's been up to the task defensively.

Is he actually ready for this? I have my doubts. Petco Park isn't a great venue for power, and Merrill has yet to show he's fully developed in that regard, as good as the hit tool may be. But when a prospect of this pedigree has the inside track on at-bats, you take him and hope for the best, particularly when the cost is essentially nothing."

Frank Stampfl's Sleepers

"By most people's definition, Teoscar Hernandez is not a sleeper. Everybody knows who Hernandez is. He's a well-established player and is getting paid $23.5 million by the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. I do, however, think Hernandez is undervalued and that people are sleeping on his upside in this lineup. What's most enticing with Hernandez might be the fact that he's out of Seattle. Nothing against the Emerald City but Hernandez revealed he didn't see the ball well in T-Mobile Park last year. The numbers back that up. Hernandez hit just .217 with a .643 OPS at home last season while batting .290 with an .835 OPS on the road. Hernandez will now call Dodger Stadium home, the second-best ballpark for right-handed power, according to Statcast.

Hernandez is still a standout in terms of quality of contact, too. Last season he posted a 91.3 MPH average exit velocity with a 13.8% barrel rate, which ranked 81st and 88th percentile, respectively. Hernandez is still pretty damn fast, too, as his sprint speed ranked in the 82nd percentile. Of course, he's not perfect. The plate discipline has always been a concern. Hernandez is an impatient hitter who chases pitches outside of the strike zone often. Even with that, he's posted 25-plus home runs in each of the last four full seasons. Can Hernandez get back to his breakout 2021 numbers? Probably not, but I do think he's still capable of popping 30 home runs with 8-10 steals and gaudy counting stats in that Dodgers lineup. Target Hernandez as your OF2 on draft day and he might just deliver OF1 numbers."

Chris Towers' Sleepers

"Miller made it to the majors last season despite having thrown just 36.2 innings across his first two professional seasons, and while he showed really impressive stuff, he struggle to hold up as a starter. That's not exactly a surprise, and a move to the bullpen has kind of always felt inevitable, given Miller's profile. That move is coming this season, and I think Miller has the potential to be one of the best relievers in the league. 

In 72.2 innings of work as a professional, Miller has 107 strikeouts, a 37.8% strikeout rate that would basically match Devin Williams' mark from last season. Miller still has to be named the A's closer, and his ceiling will still be limited by, you know, being the A's closer. But we got a taste of what his stuff can do at the MLB level last season, and he looked more than up for the job. I'm excited to see what he can do while focusing on relieving full time. It could be special."

Breakouts 2.0 

Chris' Breakouts

"This is another one where the breakout case might just be as simple as, "Just do what you did in the second half again." Casas hit .305/.406/.590 from July 1 on, with a 40-homer pace, and while the Red Sox did protect him from some of the tougher lefties on the schedule, I'm not sure they really needed to: In 97 PA against them, he had a .340 expected wOBA, and that'll play. 

He sported terrific quality of contact metrics even before the breakout, which is what made it easy to buy into his second-half success. There's going to be some swing-and-miss in Casas' game, but Fenway Park should help make up for some of what he loses on the batting average side of things. Could Cases hit .300 with 40 homers? It's a lot easier to buy the possibility when he spent half of his rookie season doing exactly that."

Frank's Breakouts

"It's been an interesting start to Suzuki's career. We've seen improvement and flashes of brilliance but have yet to see it over a full season. 2023 proved to be quite the experience. First off, his season was delayed due to an oblique injury he suffered in spring training. Suzuki returned in mid-April and hit quite well through May. Everything came crashing down after that. Suzuki was essentially lost for two months, batting .212 with a .578 OPS throughout June and July. Then Cubs manager David Ross described Suzuki as being "in between" with his swing. He was given a few days off early in August but once he returned, it was all systems go.

Over the final 47 games, Suzuki hit .356/.414/.672 with 11 home runs, supported by a 91 MPH average exit velocity and a 12.9% barrel rate. Everything is there for Suzuki to excel regardless of format. The statcast data supports a legit power bat plus he ranks 79th percentile in sprint speed, which at least gives us hope he can steal 10-15 bases. Suzuki also has a great feel for the plate for those who play in H2H points formats or leagues with OBP. He rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone and does a great job avoiding whiffs. Everything is there for Suzuki to have a monster year. I'm confident he'll finally put it all together in 2024, which could result in batting .280-plus with 30 home runs and 10-15 steals."

Scott's Breakouts

"As recently as 2020 (which isn't all that recent anymore, I'll grant you), Puk was regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, having been a fixture in top-100 lists since the Athletics made him the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft. It's only because of Tommy John surgery that he wound up in the the bullpen.

But at 6-feet-7, he's built like a starter, and he showed up to spring training with the arsenal of a starter, featuring three pitches in addition to the fastball/slider combo that's yielded 11.2 K/9 in his career as a reliever. His splitter in particular has drawn rave reviews.

"That's why we're extending him and getting an extended look, because his stuff is starter stuff," manager Skip Schumaker said after Puk's first appearance of the spring.

He has the results to back it up. Through three starts this spring, Puk has yet to allow a run, striking out 15 in just 8 1/3 innings. An injury to Braxton Garrett has made it almost a foregone conclusion he'll be in the starting five to begin the year, and while there will surely be some workload management after all his years in relief, the strikeout upside is genuinely something to get excited about."

Busts 2.0 

You got my bust picks yesterday in this newsletter, but here's who Frank and Scott are avoiding as well: 

Frank's Busts

"Shield your eyes, Zac Gallen fans. That's right. This is the second year in a row I'm writing up Gallen as a bust and, uh, we all know how that turned out in 2023. Gallen had an awesome season, finishing as a top-five starting pitcher in both Roto/Categories and H2H points leagues. Maybe I'm just being too nitpicky with Gallen but that's part of the job! The first thing that stands out is that he threw 243.2 innings between the regular season and postseason combined. That's unheard of in today's game and I wonder if it could create some kind of hangover affect here in 2024. Gallen is aware of last year's workload and touched on it in this clip from earlier in the spring.

Perhaps we saw that workload start to take its toll on Gallen. In 21 starts between the second half and the postseason combined, Gallen pitched to a 4.16 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP. Aside from the workload, Gallen doesn't get as many whiffs as other "aces" and he allows a good amount of hard contact, too. Those things usually don't pair well together. Gallen's 11.2% swinging strike rate ranked 27th among qualified starting pitchers last year. His 91.5 MPH average exit velocity against ranked in the third percentile. His expected ERA was 4.18, according to Statcast. Of course, there's a chance that Gallen makes me eat my words again this year. I just have a lot of concerns for somebody being drafted as a top-10 starting pitcher."

Scott's Busts

"It's kind of layup, right? Failing to make it through a full season is what Glasnow is most known for, probably, so for me to say "you know, drafting him as your ace in Round 4 could really come back to bite you" is about the most obvious thing in the world.

So I guess I'm writing about him because I've come to realize that I can't live with that risk. I thought I could back when I wrote Busts 1.0 because, pitch for pitch, Glasnow is the most dominant starter this side of Spencer Strider. And at a time when so much of the pitcher pool has merged into an indistinguishable glob, having a reliably high-impact starter, for however long he lasts, is worth the upcharge. You'll have a big advantage whenever he's healthy, and when he's not, you'll deal with the glob like everyone else. And I still think all of that tracks, in theory.

But I just don't have the stomach for it. Glasnow's 120 innings last year were the most he's ever had in a major-league season. If you combine his major- and minor-league numbers, the most he's ever thrown over a nine-year professional career is 155 1/3, and that happened way back in 2017. He's 30 now. What's going to change? Furthermore, why would the Dodgers, with their postseason ticket basically punched already, push the envelope with him? They're going to work Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw back into the fold eventually, and they have no shortage of up-and-comers between Emmet SheehanGavin StoneKyle Hurt and Landon Knack. They'll be mixing up their starting rotation all season to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs, such that even if Glasnow were to miraculously stay healthy, he wouldn't be taking on an ace workload. And that's the best-case scenario. Ask yourself which is more likely: 160 innings or 60 innings?

Maybe if he slipped to Round 6 or 7, I could justify taking him, but my drafting experience has shown that somebody will always take him in Round 4 or 5. And I'm going to take a more trustworthy player at some other position (starting pitcher included) instead."

Chris' Busts

"This time a year ago, Anthony Volpe was a top-five prospect in baseball, but for Fantasy purposes, he was a prospect with a pretty glaring flaw in his game: He hit .249 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. He cracked the Yankees Opening Day lineup and while he was a 20-20 player, the batting average crashed to .209, and his quality of contact metrics don't suggest that there was much bad luck there – his expected average was .230, which is better, but still a huge problem. 

The biggest problem is that Volpe was just hopelessly overmatched against everything but fastballs as a rookie; Volpe had a very solid .349 xwOBA against fastballs, but his .244 xwOBA against all non-fastballs, a 15th percentile mark. If Volpe wants to run more, he could make up for what he lacked as a hitter, but 24 steals just isn't enough to justify what is typically a 10th or 11th-round pick. There's very little difference between what Trevor Story has done in parts of two disastrous seasons with the Red Sox and what Volpe did as a rookie – except for about 70 picks in ADP. Volpe had better have had one heck of a swing change this offseason."