Friday, July 21, 2017


All ace pitchers eventually face mortality.  The pitching arm only has so many bullets in it before trouble arises in the form of decreased velocity and increased penchant for injury.  Such scenarios have befallen Seattle Mariners ace SP Felix Hernandez over the last two years; a stretch that followed a decade where "King Felix" was a top five fantasy baseball power pitcher.  As durable an arm as there was in the game, Hernandez was a 200-plus K dynamo who combined strikeout ability and good control in the Pacific Northwest.  Still as he moved toward the age of 30, Hernandez began to leak velocity that made him more hittable and resulted in the his ERA and WHIP spiking.  Since 2014 when Hernandez logged a splendid 2.14 ERA, the following two-plus seasons have seen that number rise to 3.53, 3.82, and his current 3.88 mark.  His WHIP?  Try 1.18, 1.32, and currently 1.36 during the same span.  Throw in some long DL stints both in 2016 and this season and Hernandez looked like he was toast like other big-armed hurlers.

Despite all this, Hernandez at the age of 31 may be in the process of reinventing himself based on his last few outings.  Since giving up 5 runs in 6 innings on July 4, Hernandez has reeled off three very good starts since then in giving up just 11 hits in 18 innings and a total of 2 earned runs.  Also in those 18 innings, Hernandez struck out a very impressive 22 batters.  The strikeouts in particular were impressive and a firm reminder of Hernandez' former ace days.  So what could be at work here?  Well for one thing Hernandez has seen his K/9 jump back up to 8.63 from the woeful 7.16 in 2016 which surely helps. Hernandez is also relying more on his offspeed stuff instead of the pure heat which is keeping hitters off balance again.  Both good signs in the short-term at least.  With a still very good 2.30 BB/9 rate, Hernandez is turning the tide on his career a bit.

Still for all these positive, Hernandez is giving up a ton of home runs now which is a direct result of the dip in velocity.  His 1.87 HR/9 is truly horrific and makes any one start by Hernandez a possible dud.  This is the risk we live with now in owning Hernandez as he simply is not the power arm he once was.  Overall though, Hernandez can still be a help by the looks of it.


Alarms began to go off when it was revealed early Friday that the Dallas Cowboys had brought in free agent running back Denard Robinson for a workout.  Already employing Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden as backups to starter Ezekiel Elliott, the thinking went that the Cowboys were preparing for the much-reported imminent suspension that is coming the latter's way.  Elliott himself has accepted that a suspension is on the way according to reports and the recent bar fight to go on top of the previous domestic violence incident could mean the term could go as high as six games.  Thus first rounds in early fantasy football drafts are in chaos over Elliott's suspension and like with Le'Veon Bell a year ago, the talent simply can't win out in terms of being a top three pick when games missed are already guaranteed.  I already have stated that Elliott is now well behind both Bell and David Johnson in the running back hierarchy and you can make the case he deserves to go behind LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, and Jay Ajayi also.  Drop Elliott down to late first round status at the very least.


Tommy Pham:  2/4 with his 13th HR while hitting .309.  If you didn't know any better, you would think Pham was a top tier five-tool fantasy baseball outfielder.

Lucas Duda:  1/4 with his 17th HR while hitting .246.  Duda doing everything he can to get traded.

Wilmer Flores:  1/1 with his 8th HR while hitting .281.  Red Sox are somewhat intrigued with Flores for 3B but can't see that happening.

Trevor Rosenthal:  took the loss with 1 ER in .2 IP with an ERA of 3.89.  I swear I see Kyle Farnsworth when Rosenthal pitches.

Brett Cecil:  sixth blown save with 1 ER in 1 IP with an ERA of 3.69.  No matter what uniform he wears, the guy can't close.

Eugenio Suarez:  2/3 with 2 home runs (15 for season) while hitting .256.  Suarez has proven he can't hit for average but he is a useful player who can threaten 20/15.

Jake Lamb:  2/5 with 2 home runs (22 for season) while hitting .274.  The average is sliding like it should as Lamb in no way, shape, or form is a .300 hitter.  Boy that power is potent though.  Think NL version of Miguel Sano.

Gregory Polanco:  1/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .268.  While appreciative, most Polanco owners are down in the standings based on his no-show first half.

Dustin Pedroia:  3/5 with is sixth HR while hitting .315.  Yeah Pedroia can still swing it with the best of them.  Wheels are shot though.

Justin Smoak:  3/5 with 2 home runs (26 for season) while hitting .289.  Like a two-homer bonanza today.

Jonathan Schoop:  2/5 with his 19th HR while hitting .302.  So all you Rougned Odor or Brian Dozier owners:  you could have had this guy the whole time about ten rounds later in this past spring's draft.

Cole Hamels:  7 ER in 5.1 IP with an ERA of 3.78.  The stuff on Hamels is so suddenly diminished it is scary.  It really is no shock though considering how age and how durable he has been in his career.  The one bad thing about durability in pitchers is that the arm goes limp earlier with all those innings.

Adam Jones:  2/5 with his 17th HR while hitting .267.  Like a boomerang, Jones is steaming toward his customary 25 home runs.

Mark Trumbo:  1/4 with his 16th HR while hitting .250.  What funny here is that 16 home runs at this juncture of the season is a nice total but all Trumbo owners are pissed off since they wanted 40 easy.

Chris Davis:  1/4 with his 17th HR while hitting .218.  The insane contract the O's gave this guy will cost them a supreme talent in Manny Machado before or at free agency next offseason.

Eric Hosmer:  2/3 with his 14th HR while hitting .315.  Maybe now Hosmer can finally settle into some offensive consistency and be the Joey Votto-lite I said he had the potential to be.

Michael Fulmer:  5 ER in 2.2 IP with an ERA of 3.35.  This is about where I expected Fulmer's ERA to be this season in calling for regression from his 2016 rates.  Worked out nicely.

Felix Hernandez:  7 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 9 K with an ERA of 3.88.  This is the best bite I have seen on King Felix's stuff since 2015.  No joke.

Luis Severino:  7 IP 8 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 3.21.  Love the toughness here as Severino battled extra base runners but still pitched seven shutout frames.  Maturity 101.

Hunter Renfroe:  1/4 with his 17th HR while hitting .231.  Not sure anybody needs a flawed home run hitter in their lineup given the plethora of such sluggers in 2017 but Renfroe is healthy again.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Having stalled in their pursuit of Detroit Tigers closer Justin Wilson, the Houston Astros are going full-court press on Baltimore Orioles stopper Zach Britton according to ESPN's Buster Olney.  It has been no secret that the Astros are trying to add pieces to both their bullpen and rotation but to this point they have not gotten to the end point on anything.  They have pretty much been connected to every name out there that is available and really it is a matter of who takes their offer first.


Recently acquired New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier will make his first start for the team Thursday night after serving as a late-game replacement in his debut Wednesday.  Frazier came over to the Yanks late Tuesday from the Chicago White Sox where he was hitting .207 with 16 home runs and 44 RBI.  With some rotten luck on the batted ball and better numbers on the road than at Chicago, Frazier is a decent bet to post some very good numbers the rest of the way with the Yankees.  Get him back in your lineup.


Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger will return to the lineup Thursday after missing four games with an injured finger.  In between what has been a series of injuries this season, Haniger is performing at the dish to the tune of a .265 average with 7 home runs and 3 steals.  A recent slump knocked down the average a bit but Haniger has become a decent breakout story when he is on the field.


It appears as though the New York Yankees have become the leaders in the Sonny Gray sweepstakes.  Multiple outlets are reporting that the A's have given the Yankees their asking price and that the two sides continue to try and find common ground on a deal for Gray.  With the Yankees having gotten Todd Frazier on Tuesday, it is believed that Yonder Alonso is not part of the talks.  The Yanks have refused to budge on not included Clint Frazier in any deal and instead are trying to get the A's to considering other prospects such as Jorge Mateo or some lower-level arms.


The surprising Minnesota Twins will acquire veteran starter Jaime Garcia from the Atlanta Braves as reported by Ken Rosenthal. The Twins are trying to shore up their rotation heading down the stretch and Garcia can help.  While his 4.33 ERA and 1.33 WHIP is elevated, Garcia has proven himself to be a very good SP 5.  Moving to the AL though is not ideal from a fantasy baseball angle.  


-The Texans Rangers activated injured reliever Keone Kela on Thursday and there is the strong possibility that the fireballer will go right into the closer role for the team.  On numbers alone this makes perfect sense as Kela has pitched to a 2.64 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and struck out a closer-like 42 batters in 30.2 innings.  Already the Rangers have been through Matt Bush and Sam Dyson this season but Kela looks like the best of the bunch given the numbers.  He is worth an immediate look to see if he is still available as that pickup could pay big dividends.

-It looks like the Tampa Bay Rays are fully involved in the relief pitcher marketplace and in particular have targeted Miami Marlins closer A.J. Ramos and Detroit Tigers stopper Justin Wilson.  Of course both Ramos and Wilson would move to setup in Tampa Bay behind the very capable Alex Colome but the bigger story then would be picking up their replacements which we think are Kyle Barraclough and Shane Greene respectively.


A few days ago I shared with your all the QB's in 2017 fantasy football that I will target in the upcoming Experts League Draft.  Always a proponent for waiting to draft a passer in single-QB leagues, these are the guys I will avoid for this season.

Aaron Rodgers:  Simply put, I am not using my first round pick on a quarterback and this is where Rodgers typically gets picked.  No doubt the top QB in the game, Rodgers is a temptation for sure.  However you are much better off taking a WR or RB in Round 1 and taking advantage of the depth here in single-passer leagues.

Cam Newton:  I said prior to last season that Newton was a major bust waiting to happen and that is exactly what took place.  I saw right through the outlier 2015 MVP campaign of Newton and still stuck by my premise that he is a seriously flawed passer who is also a physical risk.  With Newton ordered to run less this season, all the signs are pointing in the wrong direction.

Ben Roethlisberger:  Listen I respect Big Ben as a fantasy football passer immensely but I can't get into bed with a guy who is almost guaranteed to miss time as he has done almost every year of his career.  You want to minimize as much as you can in the draft and on that front, Roethlisberger comes up short.

Dak Prescott:  There is no debating the fact Prescott was spectacularly good in his rookie season but the price tag will no doubt overinflate given the high visibility of being a Cowboys QB.  In addition, the Cowboys are arguably the most run-dependent team in the NFL and that will really put a hurt on Prescott's counting numbers in yardage and TD's.

Andrew Luck:  Again I love the talent but Luck is becoming a human boxing bag as he operates behind a pathetic Indy offensive line.  Like with Big Ben, the injury risk is too much to ignore.


The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs are both still keeping tabs on Detroit Tigers ace SP Justin Verlander.  While no deal is anywhere imminent, both teams are trying to figure out how to make Verlander's very high salary work.

Analysis:  Verlander has been mostly awful this season like I predicted he would be but he still may be able to help enough down the stretch to at least eat innings and collect K's.  A move to the NL would help the bottom line fantasy baseball value which means this situation should be watched.


The MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away and some big-time closer names are already being prominently mentioned in rumors.  We have already seen the Washington Nationals made a deal for new closer Sean Doolittle who may share the gig with Ryan Madson who came over in the same trade with the Oakland A's.  We also have seen David Robertson traded away from his closing job with the Chicago White Sox to a setup role with the New York Yankees.  In Robertson's place became Tyler Clippard who the Yanks sent Chicago's way.  Count on some others trades re-shaping the closer landscape and so let's identify who could be possible replacements.

Justin Wilson:  Recent reports indicate that up to a ridiculous 13 teams are involved in trade talks for the Tigers lefty closer.  That means it is almost a guarantee Wilson will be moved and the two obvious possible replacements are hard-throwing Bruce Rondon and setup man Shane Greene.  A failed starter, Greene has pitched to a 2.93 ERA and registered a very impressive 9.84 K/9 rate.  It is clear Greene's repertoire works better in the bullpen as he has gotten hit hard when starting and so on merit, he is the handcuff.  Rondon has been a popular possible future closer candidate for the Tigers in the past but his horrific control makes him a bad fit.

Zach Britton:  The Baltimore Orioles have said that Britton is set to resume closing games after his almost entire first half was ravaged by injuries.  A consensus top three closer entering into the season and coming off a nearly flawless 2016, the Orioles are prepared to trade him away.  Part of the reason for that is the success of Brad Brach in Britton's place this season and so if anyone dropped the latter, pick him up immediately.

A.J. Ramos:  The Miami Marlins have already traded away top setup man David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners and Ramos is reportedly next to go.  Always plagued by shoddy control, Ramos has ridden impressive strikeout totals to show himself to be a competent mid-tier closer.  In his place figures to be strikeout machine Kyle Barraclough but the righty has not exactly been lights out with a 3.53 ERA and brutal 6.23 BB/9.  Still Barraclough is just one year removed from a 2.85 ERA and 14.00 K/9 so he should be given a chance.

Addison Reed:  The New York Mets have no reason to hold onto the free agent-to-be Reed and so expect a deal to get done here soon.  Count on the Mets going to a committee involving Paul Sewald and Jerry Blevins until Jeurys Familia returns to health.


Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is not planning a holdout during training camp as he and the team continue discussing a new contract.

Analysis:  Great news as it removes a major potential issue for the first round of drafts. Bell should be at worst the second name off the board in all fantasy football leagues.  


Giancarlo Stanton:  1/4 with his 30th HR while hitting .275.  Stanton has takes the MLB lead in homers and is just ten away from reaching 40 for the first time in his career.  Shocked it has taken this long to happen.

Christian Yelich:  1/3 with his 9th HR while hitting .282.  While he has been solid, Yelich has not built on his 2016 numbers and on that front, he has been disappointing.

Ender Inciarte:  2/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .306.  Inciarte's home run rate has come back closer to his pre-2017 levels but he still has been terrific and a very good fantasy baseball value.  As far as leadoff hitters are concerned, Inciarte is one of the best.

Tyler Flowers:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .293.  Flowers can't even believe the average himself.

Javier Baez:  2/4 with his 12th HR while hitting .275.  Like with Yelich, Baez has been good but not great.  He still strikes out too much and doesn't get the consistent time to be more than a bench player in fantasy baseball circles.

Mike Montgomery:  6 IP 2 H 1 ER 1 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.83.  Montgomery has shown that he can be a viable starter for the Cubs and as an SP 5 in fantasy baseball.  He doesn't have the shine to be much more than that but he still works as a nice rotation support piece.

Miguel Sano:  1/4 with his 23rd HR while hitting .272.  If not for one Aaron Judge, Mr. Sano could be fully in the running for MVP.

Jordan Montgomery:  6 ER in 6 IP with an ERA of 4.09.  We have reached the fatigue stage of the season for young pitchers in their first full foray into the major leagues.  It is rarely pretty.

Ben Gamel:  1/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .319.  A bit of an empty average from Gamel but there is no denying the fact the Mariners have a piece to work with for their future outfield.

James Paxton:  7 IP 6 H 1 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.05.  Silencing the Murderers' Row lineup that is the Houston Astros always earns an additional "well done" and it is a reminder how good of a pitcher Paxton is when not being let down by ill health.

Nolan Arenado:  5/6 with 3 home runs (21 for season) and 7 RBI while hitting .309.  Love the headline on that says "Unfairenado."  That's the feeling we all have playing fantasy baseball against the guy who owns the Colorado third baseman.

Charlie Blackmon:  3/3 with his 23rd HR while hitting .329.  Left early with an injury scare but all seems well here.  Gigantic WHEW!

Trevor Story:  3/4 with his 12th HR while hitting .235.  The Rockies had to drop him all the way to seventh in the order to get something out of him.  Not much worse than Kyle Schwarber this season in terms of unmet expectations but I warned you in MARCH about BOTH.  Yes lots of caps today.

Sonny Gray:  6.1 IP 7 H 2 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERa of 3.66.  It has no doubt been a comeback season for Gray but nothing to the point of being in the ace region which he was before 2016.

Domingo Santana:  3/5 with his 16th HR while hitting .294.  Now you would rather have Santana over Eric Thames.  Who would have said that in April?

Gerrit Cole:  7 IP 6 H 1 ER 0 BB 10 K with an ERA of 4.18.  I owned Cole earlier in the season in the Experts League and it was not a good experience.  The K's only flash once in awhile and he always seems to get his head beat in once every four starts.  Too much volatility.

Corey Knebel:  fifth blown save with 1 ER in 1 IP with an ERA of 1.79.  Lots of blown saves from Knebel but he does as little damage as possible when doing it so as to not sound alarms.

Adam Jones:  3/5 with his 16th HR while hitting .266.  Jones just keeps on going.

Joey Gallo:  1/4 with his 22nd HR while hitting .191.  Now maybe the hype will die down here since Gallo is as limited a home run hitter as there is in fantasy baseball.

Zack Cozart:  4/6 with his 11th HR while hitting .321.  I should do a poll asking who has been the bigger fantasy baseball surprise this season:  Cozart or Scooter Gennett.

David Peralta:  3/5 with his 9th HR while hitting .318.  If Peralta had just a wee bit more power, the masses would be going crazy here.

Jacob DeGrom:  6.2 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 3.37.  DeGrom remains completely locked in right now as he has reached a month now of being unhittable.  It is not the smoothest of rides but DeGrom fully back as a fantasy baseball ace.

Aaron Sanchez:  4 IP 6 H 3 ER 5 BB 2 K with an ERA of 4.25.  Likely headed back to the DL again with a blister.  Yeah I said he would go bust and he has on every front.

Kelvin Herrera:  exits after giving up 2 ER in .1 IP with an ERA of 4.75.  Herrera was sick so maybe that was it or maybe he realized he sucked last night (and has for large stretches of this season) and bailed out.  Pick up Soria in case.  What a bust.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


By Michael Wong

In quickly responding to the shock and disappointment of having been trumped by the New York Yankees of all teams in losing out on both trade targets Todd Frazier and David Robertson on Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox have turned their full attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of their rebound.  Specifically, the Red Sox are now fully discussing both closer Felipe Rivero and third baseman Josh Harrison as part of a package deal.  To this point the Pirates have been quiet when it comes to making deals leading up to the July deadline but they are expected to move at least Harrison and likely outfielder Andrew McCutchen if they have the chance.  The Red Sox are also heavily scouting not only Lucas Duda and Addison Reed from the New York Mets but also Wilmer Flores who became a recent target.

-The Oakland A's continue to reinforce their reputation as being very tough to deal with as they are not gaining any traction moving either starter Sonny Gray or first baseman Yonder Alonso.  While they did trade Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Washington Nationals, the Yankees in particular were turned out by the asking price for Gray and Alonso.

-Speaking of the Nats, they are not done addressing the bullpen as they have had talks with the Baltimore Orioles about both Darren O'Day and Brad Brach and also continue to check in on Justin Wilson.

-Wilson has become the major hot property on Wednesday and I reported earlier in the day that he was close to being moved.  While that has not happened yet, I am still hearing it is imminent and that the Houston Astros have made the best offer thus far.


Just one day after the Houston Astros and the fantasy baseball owners of Carlos Correa lost the star shortstop for pretty much the remainder of the 2017 season with a torn ligament in his thumb, the Chicago Cubs and the fantasy baseball owners of star third baseman Kris Bryant got their own scare Wednesday.  Bryant was forced out of the team's matinee with what the team is now officially calling a sprained left pinkie and he is being considered day-to-day.  Thus all seems well here but the Cubs will likely have Bryant go under some more testing to make sure there are no fractures that the initial X-rays did not pick up.  While a finger is such a small part of the human body, an injury there is potentially debilitating for a major league hitter as they often results in monthly stints on the DL.

As we await any further updated on Bryant, now is also a good time to check in on his numbers.  Drafted in the top five in many fantasy baseball leagues this season and for good reason, monster numbers on the level of 40 home runs and 110 RBI were expected from Bryant.  Alas, he was not even selected to the All-Star game as he didn't even win the fan vote.  While Bryant's overall numbers are very good, 9 out of 10 of his owners would admit to being a bit letdown.  That is how high the bar is set for the 25-year-old.  So in terms of the numbers, Bryant went into game action Wednesday with the following statistics:

19 HR
61 R
40 RBI
7 SB

Again the numbers are very solid indeed but are down across the aboard from what Bryant accomplished a year ago when he hit 39 home runs, scored 121 runs, drove in 102, stole 8, and batted .292.  Clearly the 2016 numbers were of the video game variety and would be almost impossible to duplicate but Bryant is well down from those rates.  Keep in mind though that Bryant is still just 25 and that there are some other factors at work here.

Delving into the advanced metrics, there are very good signs here as Bryant has IMPROVED both his K.9 (22.0 in 2016, 19.8 in 2017) and BB/9 rates (10.7 in 2016, 16.0 in 2017).  So why has the average fallen?  Bryant's BABIP has gone from a quite lucky .332 in 2016 to this year's .302.  The .302 mark is average but Bryant has good speed and often players with that skill can be in the .320 BABIP range.  So some simply bad luck on the batted ball has hurt Bryant's average some but nothing terrible.  Also opposing pitchers are being much more careful throwing to Bryant this season and so his power numbers predictably dropped as they did for Bryce Harper in 2016 when he was coming off his own video game campaign.

So in essence, Kris Bryant is doing just fine in terms of his approach and rates.  Yes the numbers are down but Bryant is making improvements in the places that he should.  He will be fine.  In fact if any Bryant owner out there wants to deal him away, I am waiting for the opportunity to get my hands on the kid.


When it comes to the current state of prospects in Major League Baseball, there are the Chicago White Sox and then everybody else.  With an already insane haul of top shelf talent in the pipeline from previous trades last summer, the White Sox added to their farm system by acquiring top New York Yankees outfield prospect Blake Rutherford late Tuesday night in a package for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle.  With the roster now pretty barren, the team called up third base and consensus top five prospect overall in Yoan Moncada to make his debut on Wednesday.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last summer, Moncada is considered a true five-category future star who has amazing speed, athleticism, and power that is now starting to explode.  Prior to the promotion, Moncada was hitting .285 with 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases a Triple-A and so the category juice is already well established.  With all that said, Moncada does have a potentially big problem to deal with and that is strikeouts.  Even with all those glowing numbers on the farm this season, Moncada's 28.6 K/9 there is pathetic and obviously that number should go up immediately once he is in the majors.  That means Moncada's average is going to be a liability initially but the one good thing there is that he draws walks to help offset the damage with the whiffs (13.7 BB/9).  That walk rate is very impressive but again we don't want another Byron Buxton here in terms of a guy who has power and speed but couldn't hit a major league offspeed pitch.

Be that as it may, Moncada needs to be added everywhere.  The talent is real and obvious and as long as he gets the strikeouts under control at least somewhat, the steals and homers will begin to take off in earnest.