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Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WELCOME TO THE SHOW: JUAN SOTO OUTFIELDER WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Victor Robles?  No try Juan Soto as the Howie Kendrick minor league replacement in the outfield for the Washington Nationals starting with Sunday's game.  It was Soto who will be promoted by the team to fill in for the DL'ed Kendrick and prospect hounds are hard at work Sunday making sure he is on their rosters.  As far as Soto is concerned, he certainly earned the call despite being only 19!!!! as he has hit a collective .362 with 14 homers, 52 RBI, and 33 runs scored in his minor league stints across three levels going into his Nats debut.  When digging into Soto's game, he seems like a natural given the fact he doesn't strike out (just a 16.1 K/9 at Double-A) and also draws a ton of walks (12.9 BB/9 at the same level) which speaks to the quality of his batting approach.  Add in the big power and Soto is an immediate add in all fantasy baseball leagues.  Soto for sure benefitted from the fact Robles is on the DL with an elbow injury but still the fact the Nats think he can handle major league pitching at 19 is telling regarding how high they think the ceiling can go.  We are backers of Soto as well since you just don't see an approach like this from someone so young.  Go get him now.




2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SATURDAY

Sean Manaea:  4 ER in 5 IP with an ERA of 2.71.  There were 8 baserunners as Manaea was just so-so for the second start in a row.  Right after the no-hitter I said Manaea was a sell as he is still rocking a very lucky BABIP and his last two outings are already moving him back to the mean.

Ian Happ:  3/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .257.  Things are looking up a bit here as Happ really couldn't be any worse but it is only a matter of time until the super talent comes completely to the surface.  Happ has not been helped by Joe Maddon jerking him all over the order and into and out of the lineup but I would still hold if you could as I think Happ will see his best days in the next four months.

Luis Castillo:  5 IP 6 H 1 ER 5 BB 4 K with an ERA of 5.61.  One step forward and two steps back for Castillo is has looked nothing like the emerging talent he was a year ago.  He is having trouble repeating his delivery which shows in the walks and the confidence has taken a major hit as well.  Man I want to say to continue to hold since you paid a lot to get Castillo but I can't justify this any longer.

Brandon Crawford:  3/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .302.  Crawford has been a quietly good shortstop for awhile now and he certainly has his place as a slam-dunk backup in terms of fantasy baseball.  Also, Crawford is on the short list of top option if your starter goes down with injury which means looking at you Corey Seager owners.

Jon Gray:  5 ER in 3.2 IP with an ERA of 5.34.  You can't ever trust Gray in any one start so essentially there is no reason to ever own him.

Tanner Roark:  7 IP 6 H 3 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.39.  Criminally underrated.

Ross Stripling:  6 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.08.  Eye-catching outing no doubt but need to see this again before I dive in.

Odubel Herrera:  1/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .353.  The breakout I always have been waiting for.

Michael Brantley:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .333.  Brantley could be growing into a bit more power as he fully moves into his prime years and that could make the yield even more sweeter when you consider the always tremendous average.

Alex Bregman:  1/4 with his fourth HR while hitting .259. Listen, Bregman's owners really need to take a deep breath and relax as this kid is the real deal and will be a star shortly.  He tends to do his best work when the summer gets here and so anyone who trades him now is completely foolish.

Carlos Correa:  1/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .281.  Just wish the speed was still part of the deal.

Corey Kluber:  7 IP 6 H 2 ER 0 BB 10 K with an ERA of 2.36.  Still as good as there is without the injury volatility like we see out of Mr. Kershaw.

Cody Bellinger:  1/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .257.  Still well behind his per game home run pace of a year ago but like with Andrew Benintendi (until recently), this is what a sophomore jinx looks like.

Max Scherzer:  7 IP 5 H 2 ER 3 BB 13 K with an ERA of 1.78.  When Scherzer wins his third Cy Young this season, we can make the debate that he has been just as good or better than Clayton Kershaw.

Travis Jankowski:  3/5 with 2 steals (7 for season) while hitting .390.  That's 3 more hits and 2 more steals since I told you to pick him up.  Jankowski will do anything he can to stick in the lineup which means run every chance he gets.

Mookie Betts:  1/4 with his 15th HR while hitting .368.  Again how could anyone have possibly taken Trea Turner over this guy?  Talk about overthinking things.

Andrew Benintendi:  2/3 with his 4th HR and 8th SB while hitting .275.  This is what I wrote the other day about Benintendi "Having already hit .305 this month (since gone up) compared to .242 in March/April, Benintendi is starting to really heat up.  That means the numbers will continue to flow and likely at a much higher rate moving towards the rest of the season.  Now is about the last chance you will have to buy low on Benintendi but if you are already a lucky owner, take comfort in the fact he will be supplying those numbers you anticipated real soon."  

Rafael Devers:  1/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .243.  Devers is fighting it a bit with a 26.2 K/9 but the power has been just fine.

Rick Porcello:  6 IP 6 H 3 ER 3 BB 9 K with an ERA of 3.39.  Lots of baserunners but the strikeouts bailed Porcello out.  ERA inching up to 4.00 as I anticipated it would.

Jose Abreu:  3/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .306.  Typically awesome/stable Abreu.

Christian Yelich:  1/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .299.  Same Miami Marlins version of Yelich still but I am holding out hope for 25 homers.

Jesus Aguilar:  1/3 with his sixth HR while hitting .327.  Especially those in deep leagues should have been all over this by now.

Freddy Peralta:  4 IP 3 H 4 ER 6 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.72.  The control is simply brutal here as Peralta is just 21 and still not capable of harnessing his explosive fastball.  This is why relying on young power arms is always so risky.

Freddie Freeman:  1/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .317.  Tough to remember that Freeman is still pretty damn good considering he is surrounded by such insane young talent.

Sean Newcomb:  6 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.39.  Newcomb can actually get away with some walks considering his stuff is as tough to hit as anyone in all of baseball already.

Mike Trout:  2/4 with his 14th HR while hitting .296.  The King.

Andrew Heaney:  6 IP 3 H 0 ER 5 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.35.  The control was shockingly not there since that is what Heaney was known for coming up the minor league ladder but six scoreless with those K's works nicely.

Giancarlo Stanton:  1/5 with his 11th HR while hitting .259.  Like the trajectory Stanton is on now as he is following last year's path which meant an ugly April followed by power dominance the rest of the way.

Gleyber Torres:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .325.  Would love to see Torres in the upper part of the lineup but that is nitpicking at its finest.

Gary Sanchez:  4/5 with 2 home runs (12 for season) while hitting .225.  The hits are now dropping in as Sanchez' .215 BABIP is ridiculously unlucky. 

James Paxton:  9 IP 3 H 3 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.30.  This is why you swallow hard when you draft Paxton each season with regards to his health.  The payoff is immense in terms of pitching results. 

Ian Happ:  1/3 with his 7th HR while hitting .259 in Game 2.  Yeah he is on fire. 

Jose Quintana:  7 IP 1 H 0 ER 4 BB 7 K with an ERA of 4.47.  Finally.  Geez Quintana makes us want to rip our hair out. 


Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL TREND OR MIRAGE: NICK PIVETTA SP PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Well, that was pretty darn nice.  11 strikeouts with 2 hits given up and no earned runs was put forth by emerging Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta on Wednesday and the splendid outing lowered his season numbers to just a 3.72 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.  Those ratios are certainly very appeasing to those in the fantasy baseball community and the fact Pivetta is now into his second month pitching well adds to the legitimacy of what we are seeing out of the guy.  What is also key here is that after Pivetta suffered an epic beatdown on May 4th to the tune of 6 earned runs in just 1 IP, he came right back and tossed 12 total innings spanning two starts in giving up just two total earned runs.  That shows Pivetta has the crucial skills of both putting ugly starts behind him (speaking to good mental acumen) but also the ability to combat any tendencies hitters figured out against him  Being able to adjust on the fly is so important for a young hurler and Pivetta seems very capable on that front.

Now the question of course is whether or not Pivetta can continues to pitch at the nice level he has been out for most of this season.  Checking out the advanced metrics holds the clue and there are some good things there.  The first is that Pivetta's 10.37 K/9 is making Aaron Nola proud and Pivetta is also showing impressive control as shown by his 2.15 BB/9.  Operating in a massive home runs park, Pivetta's HR/9 of 0.98 is decent enough as well which again speaks to how he is not beating himself.  Add all those up and you gave a legitimate pitcher who is yielding legitimate results.  As a matter of fact, Pivetta should be getting even better ratio results as his FIP (3.10) and XFIP (3.29) bear out.  The bottom line here is that we are seeing a very impressive breakout from Pivetta and other than concerns about fatigue in August, there is nothing really speaking to any sort of giveback on the numbers this season.

TREND OR MIRAGE:  TREND  

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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: FRIDAY

Travis Jankowski:  2/4 with 5th SB while hitting .370.  It has been a massive struggle to hit previously in the majors but Jankowski is really working it nicely this season with a phenomenal 14.3 BB/9 and a drastically lowered K/9 rate of 19.0.  Add in the 30-steal speed and newly minted leadoff duties and Jankowski is the latest speed asset which needs to be owned everywhere.

Paul Goldschmidt:  0/4 with 4 K while hitting .203.  There is no debate that Goldy has been hands down the biggest fantasy baseball bust of the season and by a mile I might add.  The humidor talk/effects no doubt has had an effect but that may be overstating things a bit as well.  Still just 30, Goldschmidt should be flat in his prime but there is trouble everywhere such as a K/9 that has exploded to 31.6 from 22.1 a year ago.  Even more crazy is that his.295 BABIP is right around the median line so Goldy is earning his .203.  I would like to say it will get better but something is completely amiss here as Goldschmidt seemingly lost it overnight which is crazy considering his age.

Jacob DeGrom:  7 IP 6 H 1 ER 0 BB 13 K with an ERA of 1.75.  In between the elbow issue, DeGrom is having a Zack Greinke Los Angeles Dodgers season right now with the nuclear amount of strikeouts.  He just keeps getting better which is amazing since he was already so good to begin with.

Dustin Fowler:  2/3 with his first HR and second SB while hitting .227.  Fowler was a top prospect in the NY Yankees system before making his way to Oakland so he should be added on pedigree alone.  There was a 3/8 split in HR/SB with a .310 average at Triple-A before the promotion so we are talking multiple skills that play well in fantasy baseball.  Make the add.

Jonathan Schoop:  1/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .243.  Schoop still in the "settling in" time period when it comes to his stats after missing time with injury so pay no attention to the average.

Mookie Betts:  3/5 with his 14th HR while hitting .371.  Your fantasy baseball MVP is right here.

Jon Lester:  6 IP 2 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.52.  Vintage Lester here but he is a major sell by the end of July given the age and fatigue factor.  Still, think he ends up with ERA of 3.50 or higher.

Dan Straily:  7 IP 3 H 0 ER 3 BB 6 K with an ERA of 3.60.  Straily is always there as your "break class in case of emergency" SP 5.

Kyle Gibson:  5 ER in 5.1 IP with an ERA of 3.96.  I always shake my head when I see people in the fantasy baseball community owning Gibson.  I mean we have seen this horror show act too any times to count and he has been an absolute fraud leading into this outing with his ERA under 4.00.  Will be 4.50 or higher real soon.  Tiger can't change his stripes.

Jesus Aguilar:  3/4 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .326.  Injuries in the Milwaukee lineup is opening up chances for Aguilar for now and so those in NL-only leagues or deep formats can dive in and see where it takes you.

Edwin Encarnacion:  2/3 with his 10th HR while hitting .215.  May has not really gone according to plan here as it usually does and if by the end of the month it hasn't changed, we can write Encarnacion off as nothing more than a backup at best.

George Springer:  2/3 with his 9th HR and 1st SB while hitting .294.  Boy if only those steals could be more consistent, we would be talking about a first-round guy.

Jose Altuve:  1/4 while hitting .308.  Altuve has just 2 home runs and 2 steals which is far from what his owners expected in using the second pick on him in 99 percent of drafts.  Not saying there is any cause for alarm overall but Altuve is at the age now where the steals could start to dry up a bit and the 20 home run power was never supported with his advanced metrics.

Charlie Morton:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 1.94.  Home runs are my only remaining concern here but otherwise Morton has been arguably the best value play pitcher drafted this past spring.

Whit Merrifield:  3/4 with 3 steals (12 for season) while hitting .300.  Facing Gary Sanchez is always time to run wild but Merrifield has been terrific regardless and 2017 is being fully validated so far.

Salvador Perez:  2/3 with his sixth HR while hitting .258.  Nothing but dependability here at a position where there is virtually none.

Jake Arrieta:  3 IP 5 H 2 ER 2 BB 1 K with an ERA of 2.82.  The margin for error is so small here with the strikeouts no longer being part of the equation and so I continue to preach selling Arrieta now before the inevitable trouble arises.

Wilson Ramos:  2/5 with 2 home runs (6 for season) while hitting .282.  This is what I wrote about Ramos in my annual draft guide (why didn't you get it?):  "Remember just prior to the knee injury Ramos has clubbed 22 home runs and batted .307 for the Washington Nationals last season which shows there is big ability here.  The fact that Ramos missed so much time a year ago has kept the volume down surrounding his name and so some major value could be had here.  If you look to wait on drafting your catcher this spring, Ramos is the guy to get."  Nothing more needs to be said.  

Mike Trout:  1/3 with his 13th HR while hitting .291.  Taking slight overall backsteat to Mookie Betts but otherwise as great as ever this season.

Blake Snell:  6.2 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.07.  Was very crucial Snell came back with a big outing coming off a shellacking and he did just that.  That really speaks to the maturity or Snell who is firing on all cylinders.  This could be Jake Faria in 2019 as well.




Friday, May 18, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: FIGURE OUT ANGELS CLOSING SITUATION

When "ClosersAngels" have been trending on Twitter almost since the beginning of the 2018 season, you know the Los Angeles ninth inning situation has been anything but smooth.  With Blake Parker having flamed out in ugly fashion right at the jump, it was the previously unknown Keyan Middleton who came to the rescue by instantly becoming a very effective stopper for the team.  That is until UCL damage was found in his elbow and so Middletoni is now headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery after he exhausts his second and third opinions.  With Middleton now out of the picture, the closing situation for the Angels is in flux again a Parker, Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian, and Justin Anderson were all mentioned as possible alternatives.  So as we always do in this space, let's look at all the candidates in terms of their chances to run with the gig:

Jim Johnson:  Johnson was my initial pick here given the fact he was having a decent season until some recent struggles and the experience here dwarfs everyone else.  However we can safely remove Johnson from consideration since he pitched in the seventh inning last night in a losing 7-1 effort by the team.

Cam Bedrosian:  While Bedrosian opened some eyes by logging 6 saves in 2017, it was quite messy as he logged an ugly 4.43 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  Things have not been so smooth this season either as Bedrosian has given up 3 home runs and walked 7 batters in just 18.2 innings and you get the sense Mike Scoscia has no confidence in him as the stopper.  We don't see this happening here just yet, if at all.

Blake Parker:  The pendulum has now swung back to Parker who got an out in the ninth to pick up a win the other day and he has rebounded from an ugly spring and beginning to the season to post a 3.10, 1.28 WHIP, and struck out 22 batters in 20.1 IP.  Those are certainly closer-worthy numbers but 7 walks and 3 home runs are red flags.  Be that as it may, I have Parker as the top pick along with the following,.....

Justin Anderson:  The rookie Justin Anderson has the worst ERA of the bunch at 5.23 and his 1.55 WHIP is hideous but the kid picked up a successful save conversion a few days ago while Parker got a day of rest.  6 walks in just 10.1 innings is a problem and I have a tough time imagining Mike Scoscia would given the gig to a rookie who has not pitched that well.  With that said, this is Mike Scoscia we are talking about who we all know beats to his own drum and beat reporters who cover the team did mention Anderson as a possible alternative when Middleton first got hurt.

So when you put it all together, Blake Parker and Justin Anderson are the two you need to be on top of with regards to figuring out who will close games for the Angels the rest of the season.  If Anderson had not gotten the save the other day, I would be 100 percent all-in on Parker but maybe Scoscia gives the kid another shot since he was successful the last time out.  Pick up both if you can and see how it shakes out.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WELCOME TO THE SHOW: AUSTIN MEADOWS OUTFIELDER PITTSBURGH PIRATES

With the Pittsburgh Pirates having placed outfielder Starling Marte on the 10-day DL Thursday due to the oblique strain he suffered earlier in the week, the team quickly moved to fill his void by promoting top prospect Austin Meadows to take his place.  As the 9th overall pick in the 2013 draft, the 23-year-old Meadows is looking to build off a nice start at Triple-A where he was hitting .281 with 1 home run and 8 stolen bases.  It was not all that long ago of course where Meadows was being considered as one of the very best hitting prospects in all of baseball but a rough 2017 year at Triple-A (.250/4 homers/8 steals) set him back just a bit.  No such struggles this time around and truth be told, Meadows has a nice compact swing that is low on strikeouts (15.3 K/9 this season) and speed to at least fill the steals lost when Marte got injured.  The power is where the ultimate question resides with Meadows who to this point has not exactly taken off in that area.  If Meadows can consistently add that aspect to his game, then we are talking about a possible future five-tool guy but for now that skill is not part of the equation just yet.  With that said, Meadows should be added in leagues that go 12 teams or deeper based on his potential alone.  He could very well only be up for two weeks or as long as Marte is out but if Meadows starts spraying line drives everywhere, the Pirates will find a spot for him to stick.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: THURSDAY

Yasiel Puig:  2/3 with his third HR while hitting .214.  Puig seems to have come out of his season-long rut so if you are the beyond patient owner who is still holding him, now is your chance to get him back in there.  As big of an enigma as you will ever see.

Kenta Maeda:  8 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.89.  If ever there was a matchup teed up for domination it was the Marlins for Maeda in this one.  As a Maeda owner, I have been a bit frustrated with the fact he is striking out everyone but also allowing too many runs relative to the overpowering stuff.  I stuck with it though and will for the rest of the season as Maeda's impeccable control and sweet strikeout rate means he should be at worst an SP 2.

Khris Davis:  4/4 with his 13th HR while hitting .233.  The Oakland lineup is one to avoid as they can really pound the baseball led by this guy.  Davis has carved out his place among the best home run hitters in baseball with average limitations preventing OF 1 status but he is particularly smoking right now. 

Matt Olson:  1/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .239.  Olson has gotten his home run swing in fine working order as well so he should be used liberally all over.  Then cut him when the slump arrives and rinse and repeat. 

Matt Chapman:  3/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .244.  All the Matt's were getting in on the fun last night for Oakland but the same blurb for Olson applies to Chapman.

J.D. Martinez:  1/3 with his 13th HR while hitting .344.  Left early due to a stomach bug but at least the home run came before the actual runs. 

Xander Bogaerts:  2/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .313.  Bogaerts has copied J.D. with a homer each of the last two days but he drew the line when it came to planting himself on the throne the rest of the night. As far as his game is concerned, we all know the talent is there for a blockbuster season but the injuries need to be avoided which has always been a struggle.

Mookie Betts:  3/4 with 3 steals (11 for season) while hitting .364. This guy is just insane this season but honestly, no surprises since Betts was the second pick in drafts in 2016 and only slid a bit this year due to the stupidity of overvaluing the average category which is completely full of random things.

David Price:  9 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 8 K with an ERA of 4.38.  Yeah, I cut him last week as the 1.27 WHIP, declining velocity, and other advanced red flags told me to do so.  No regrets because the guy is one of the bigger headaches to own now in fantasy baseball. 

Carlos Santana:  1/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .195.  I get the sense that the readers just look on past any Santana blurb as he is so boring it's not even funny. 

Vince Velasquez:  6.1 IP 5 H 0 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 4.37.  Even though I am his biggest critic, Velasquez has been better this season but still way too inconsistent in my book to depend on outside of deep leagues.  He struggles to repeat the arm angle/release and walking the ballpark is always in the book as well to add to the extreme risk when you start him any time out. 

Luke Weaver:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 4.37.  Like with Luis Castillo, the hope was that the weather heating up would get the stuff crackling for Weaver and so far, so good on that front.  He started getting dropped in more than a few leagues after being one of the sought-after sleepers just two months ago so pick him up is possible. 

C.J. Cron:  2/5 with his 11th HR and first SB while hitting .293.  One of the breakouts of the here and now Cron wants to steal bases as well.  I love it. 

Denard Span:  1/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .252.  Given that half the outfielders in fantasy baseball have landed on the DL the last week (Braun, Cespedes, Marte, Pollock, etc.) Span is actually somewhat interesting again which speaks volumes for how dire the situation is. 

Shohei Ohtani:  1/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .321.  This guy is straight out of a video game I swear. 

Chris Archer:  6.2 IP 2 H 0 ER 4 BB 5 K with an ERA of 5.01.  Progress I guess.  Man this guy.

Brandon Belt:  2/5 with his 10th HR while hitting .305. I said 30 homers with a .300 average is possible for Belt this season but maybe I should amend that to 40 and .300.