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Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ROBBIE RAY LANDS ON DL MONDAY WITH STRAINED OBLIQUE

                                                                

In a move that should surprise no one, the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday placed fireballing starter Robbie Ray on the 10-day DL due to suffering a left oblique strain during his last start on Sunday.  Subsequent testing done on the oblique shows that Ray suffered a Grade 2 strain and so it is almost a given that he will be out past the initial; 10 days of his DL stint and likely more on the line of a month.  While Ray had not pitched well early on in the season (4.88 ERA ,1.52 WHIP), he still was a very potent strikeout guy as he punched out a ridiculous 45 batters in only 27.2 IP.  Even though it will be June before we see Ray again, he is too talented not to stash away and none of his possible replacements among Kris Medlen, T.J. McFarland, or Braden Shipley is worth adding to your fantasy baseball roster in his place. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: COREY SEAGER DONE FOR 2018 DUE TO TOMMY JOHN SURGERY

                                                               

Updating an earlier item, it was an elbow and not a bum hip that caused Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager to be scratched from the team's lineup Monday and the fresh injury was a more serious one in a major way.  It was reported about an hour ago that Seager will undergo Tommy John surgery due to having suffered a torn UCL in his elbow and so his 2018 season is finished right in its tracks.  While Seager was coming off a somewhat down 2017 campaign (compared to his terrific 2016 breakout), he still retained some very high expectations during drafts this past spring and often went in the second or third round in most fantasy baseball leagues.  Now all of Seager's owners received just 2 home runs and a .267 average for their troubles.  As of now, Chris Taylor is starting at shortstop in Seager's place Monday and that could be the arrangement moving forward.  The bigger story of course is Seager now being nothing but wire trash as he should be cut in all leagues.  Wow. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: COREY SEAGER SUFFERS HIP FLEXOR SETBACK, HEADING TO DL

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was scratched from the team's lineup Monday and reports are now circulating that he will be placed on the 10-day DL due to suffering a setback with his previous hip flexor injury.  Having first suffered the injury this past Friday, Seager returned to play through the weekend before he reported renewed pain in the hip early Monday.  An official announcement is expected before the day is through.  As far as Seager and fantasy baseball are concerned, the star is starting to dim here as Seager dealt with injuries through big chunks of 2017 which helped drop his numbers a bit and disappointed his owners who were expecting 2016 blockbuster digits.  Seager was hitting just .267 with 2 home runs leading into the injury and it is fair to wonder if he has fully earned the injury-prone tag.  Stash Seager away but so far I am not impressed by what we have seen and this coming from someone who liked the value he presented this season. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: DANIEL MURPHY (KNEE) RETURN IS IMMINENT

                                                                  

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy has officially re-joined the team on Monda after finally completing his rehab work from last year's microfracture surgery in his knee.  While the Nats have not decided yet if Murphy will be sent on a quick minor league stint to get his bat up to speed, there are also rumblings he may simply be activated and thrown right back into the lineup.  Whatever the decision ultimately is, Murphy's return is imminent and so his patient fantasy baseball owners will get the smooth-swinging second baseman back to give their teams a May boost.  What should be noted though (and this is something I mentioned all winter and into the spring) is that Murphy is likely going to return with zero speed (no more steals) and possibly a downgrade in power given the fact he is moving into his mid-30's and is coming off a very serious surgery.  The injury risk also remains very high here as Murphy is getting older and has a lot of games under his ledger.  So his owners may not be getting the All-Star monster of the last two years but instead a nice second baseman who will help but not at those crazy rates. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: DJ LeMAHIEU PLACED ON 10-DAY DL MONDAY DUE TO HAMSTRING STRAIN

                                                                 

Having gotten off to a red-hot start to the season batting at or near the top of the Colorado Rockies lineup, second baseman DJ LeMahieu caught quite a bit of attention from the fantasy baseball community when he came out and smashed 5 home runs in the month of April which if the season ended today, would be 6 fewer than he hit for all 2017.  Known primarily as a two-category guy whose value was built almost solely on his ability to hit .300 and score a bunch of runs, the power outburst was eye-opening due to the fact LeMahieu only once reached double-digits in home run in 7 previous MLB seasons.  While that early flurry slowed down considerably the last two weeks, LeMahieu was still batting .290 with 12 RBI and 17 runs with 3 steals before he suffered a left hamstring strain that ultimately necessitated a 10-day DL stint Monday.  The Rockies were speaking optimistically about LeMahieu only needing the minimum amount of time on the DL and so he should be stashed in almost all fantasy baseball formats.  Again, I am not buying the early home run push but instead continue to respect LeMahieu as a low-end daily fantasy baseball second baseman due to his .300 average and boatload of runs with some steals thrown in as a bonus.  


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: ANTHONY RIZZO 1B CHICAGO CUBS

When it came to prospective first round picks for 2018 fantasy baseball, one of the more rock-solid dependable players on paper would have been Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.  Still in the younger stage of his prime at 28, Rizzo's offensive numbers since arriving in Chicago have been downright silly in how similar they were each season.  Consider that from 2014 through 2017, Rizzo hit 32 home runs 3 times and 31 the other year.  Want more?  How about Rizzo driving in between 101 and 109 batters each of the last three seasons.  Then there are the runs scored where Rizzo has come in at 94 twice and 99 during that same span.  No matter where you looked, Rizzo was as safe a player as you can possibly project which made his late first-round price tag well worth the cost.  With all that said, things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse when it comes to Rizzo this season as he has endured both injuries (back) and a horrific slump that has him sitting with a .157 average going into Monday night's games.  With just 1 home runs and 8 runs scored/RBI, Rizzo arguably has been one of the biggest busts of the season.  So as we always do in this space, let's dig in and find out what is going wrong and if this will continue:

As far as the average is concerned, there are some obvious red flags that have developed here, with the first being Rizzo's pathetic 4.9 BB/9 rate.  This number is in major outlier territory as Rizzohas been at 11.00 BB/9 or better in that category each of the last four seasons and was at 13.2 a year ago which is tremendous.  My theory for what is going on there is that Rizzo's timing got all screwed up when he hit the DL with a back injury and he has been pressing ever since.  Having not patience like Rizzo has shown this season is a major reason for the average hit and so no shock there are struggles in the latter.  A spike in Rizzo's K/9 rate (his 17.3 mark is up from 13.0 the year before) doesn't help either. 

Now on the flip side there, Rizzo has gotten horrendous BABIP luck as shown by his ridiculous .182 mark.  That is downright hideous bad luck and so that number will eventually move a bit back towards the mean which means an average rise.  The fact Rizzo is getting such bad luck has led to the pressing and so here we are.  Once those hits start falling in, count on Rizzo going back to his patience and low strikeout ways that made him such a star in the first place. 

Now in terms of the power, that too is related to the jumpiness Rizzo is experiencing at the dish and so we have a key reason for the fact he has just one home runs so far.  Rizzo's fly ball rate is actually up slightly this season so no overall worries about the approach there.  Again, once the luck begins to even out, Rizzo will start looking like his old self.

When you put it all together, do yourself a favor and try to steal Rizzo from his impatient owner.  Rizzo is still in his prime and is such a dependable slugger that this won't go on for much longer.  The buy low window will only stay open for a bit longer so be sure to strike now before it is too late and the opportunity goes on by. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SUNDAY

Teoscar Hernandez:  2/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .316.  Hernandez looks here to stay but don't buy the average as his .351 BABIP is not sustainable.  The power is real though and Hernandez won't be a .250 slugger since he is drawing walks as shown by his 10.0 BB/9.  Solid beginning.

Yangervis Solarte:  2/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .231.  We have seen Solarte hit for average for too long to think he will be a .230 guy.  Look for incremental improvements there but the bigger story is the power uptick which makes sense going from San Diego to Toronto.  I would hold.

Kevin Pillar:  1/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .310.  Another home run from arguably the most underrated outfielder in fantasy baseball.

J.A. Happ:  7 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 3.50.  Yeah I can't think of many pitchers who have had their best years after going to Rogers Center as a home base.

Ozzie Albies:  2/5 with his 9th HR and 3rd SB while hitting .293.  Surprised Albies didn't pitch in this one as well since he literally did everything.  Unbelievably, Albies is the top players in all of fantasy baseball so far in 2018.

Ronald Acuna:  2/3 with his first SB while hitting .421.  I said Acuna was probably bored in the minors which is why he struggled and that he would go nuts when promoted.  Which is pretty much exactly what has happened.

Vince Velasquez:  6 ER in 4 IP with an ERA of 5.70. Yeah he looked like a competent major league pitcher for like 5 minutes this season before reality caught up.  I still firmly think Velasquez can be a dominant reliever if just given the chance.

Luke Weaver:  5.1 IP 6 H 4 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 5.17.  Another dud from Weaver who is starting to do a good Luis Castillo impersonation.

Rick Porcello:  7.2 IP 7 H 3 ER 0 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.23.  I know I have an unreasonable bias against this guy but I just can't see Porcello holding up these ratios in the AL East.  I would listen to all offers and also put him out there.

Caleb Smith:  7 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K with an ERA of 4.40.  The 1.26 WHIP is a positive and makes the high ERA more easy to digest.  Smith has always missed bats at a high rate in the minors so no quibble there but he also has some of the worst control imaginable so not going crazy here.

Michael Taylor:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .221.  This is Kevin Pillar with a worse average.

Gio Gonzalez:  7 IP 6 H 1 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.67.  The 1.43 WHIP is hideous which means this bomb will go off very soon.  Get out now.

George Springer:  2/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .267. Springer has been known to go on insane home run binges so this is the start of the latest one.

Gerrit Cole:  6.2 IP 6 H 3 ER 0 BB 12 K with an ERA of 1.73.  The biggest competitor to Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young Award will possibly come from his teammate.

Adam Duvall:  1/5 with his 4th HR and 2nd SB while hitting .177.  Duvall noticed that no one in the fantasy baseball community was talking about him so he made sure to do what he could to get noticed in this game.  We still don't care.

Tyler Chatwood:  7 IP 2 H 0 ER 3 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.83.  Chatwood is lucky he has the ERA he currently is carrying around given his complete lack of control this season.  The fact you can't trust him in any one start makes him a no-go for me in fantasy baseball.

Ryon Healy:  3.4 with 2 home runs (3 for season) while hitting .211.  This is a quality 25-home run bat that is likely just sitting there in your league's waiver wire.  Go pick him up.

Robinson Cano:  2/5 with his third HR while hitting .313.  The home run per game rate is slowing down here which could be a concession to age but the swing is still there.

Mitch Haniger:  3/5 with his 10th HR while hitting .309.  Just to show you we all make HIDEOUS mistakes in fantasy baseball, I cut Haniger a few days into the season.  YUP!

Trey Mancini:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .272.  Another underrated young hitter who is now putting back-to-back solid seasons together.

Pedro Alvarez:  2/4 with 2 home runs (6 for season) while hitting .237.  If you choose to ride it out, be my guest.

Gary Sanchez:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .207.  Sanchez had a 10.5 BB/9 in 2016 and that mark is at 6.7 right now.  Add in a very unlucky .197 BABIP and that explains the average.  The power has already come around and the average will too.  Stay patient.

Nick Kingham:  7 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Yeah I took a ton of abuse yesterday for saying last week to not bother with Kingham due to a mediocre K rate. Talk about oversimplification.  For one thing, I meant for Kingham's minor league career where 4 times out of 8 stops he was under 7.50 with his K/9 which is not good by any means.  Also, Kingham had a 4.13 ERA at Triple-A a year ago and debuted yesterday at 26 so this is not Clayton Kersahw coming up.  Great first start no doubt but Kingham took advantage of hitters who have no video or book on him so let's see a few more starts before we start drawing conclusions. 


Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: STRAINED OBLIQUE MEANS ROBBIE RAY HEADED TO DL

                                                               

Updating an earlier item, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray is likely headed to the disabled list after he was diagnosed with a strained left oblique suffered during his Sunday start versus the Washington Nationals.  While Ray's owners can be thankful it was not an elbow or UCL related, a strained oblique as we all know is 95 percent of the time a 2-to-3 week absence.  Even though Ray had not been pitching that well coming into the start, he still was striking out a boatload of batters and was regaining some of the velocity that was not there at the beginning of the season.  Obviously, you stash Ray and hope his absence is on the short end of things. 




2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: D-BACKS PITCHER ROBBIE RAY EXITS WITH APPARENT INJURY

                                                                

Arizona Diamondbacks hard-throwing starting pitcher Robbie Ray was forced out of his Sunday start in the second inning after suffering some sort of unknown injury at this point and he is currently headed for testing.  Already the concern is stark considering that Ray is another classic potential Tommy John guy in that he throws very hard and is on the younger side and so this exit is not to be taken lightly.  It did look like Ray was favoring his side which could indicate an oblique but that is just guessing at this point.  An update should come soon but all Ray owners (including yours truly in Experts) should be holding their breath.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING INJURY NEWS: WIL MYERS BACK TO THE DL WITH AN OBLIQUE STRAIN

It has been a very tough start to the 2018 fantasy baseball season for those invested in San Diego Padres outfielder Wil Myers who went to the disabled list a second time Sunday due to a strained oblique he suffered Saturday night swinging versus the New York Mets.  Myers earlier spent time on the DL with a nerve issue in his arm and now this which is undoubtedly frustrating to all his fantasy baseball owners.  While he was sitting on a decent .300 average with 1 home run  and 1 steal, Myers will likely be out longer than the 10-day minimum due to the nature of oblique strains.  Obviously you stash him but Myers has been a moderate bust so far as a result of all the missed games. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL LINEUP ISSUES: RONALD ACUNA UP TO 2ND IN ORDER SUNDAY

The Atlanta Braves are shifting around the lineup Sunday, with top outfield prospect Ronald Acuna batting second, while running fool outfielder Ender Inciarte is being shifted to ninth.  It is an interesting decision since Inciarte has been running wild on the bases with 12 steals already but his bat has gone through some pronounced ups and downs.  Be that as it may, Inciarte has been red hot of late with a .346 average in his last 11 games but Ozzie Albies will not inherit the leadoff spot.  As far as fantasy baseball is concerned, the biggest beneficiaries are Albies and Acuna who will get more at-bats in the first two spots.  For Albies, it will also give him the chance to swipe more bases which is the only thing that has lagged a bit so far.  Inciarte meanwhile gets a downgrade since his running chances will dry up some and he also will get fewer good pitches to hit. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: DON MATTINGLY REFUSES TO ENDORSE KYLE BARRACLOUGH SUNDAY

Saying that incumbent closer Brad Ziegler was not 100 percent healthy on Saturday night, Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly claimed early Sunday that was the impetus in his decision to use Kyle Barraclough to close out the team's win over the Colorado Rockies.  Having been a top setup man for the last few years, Barraclough punched out 3 batters in the ninth inning to pick up the clean save and thus open up diaglogue about whether or not he was now the guy.  Mattingly then proceeded to throw cold water on the development with his point about Ziegler's health and so we are back to square one here at least for now.  It is really utterly ridiculous that Mattingly would even entertain the idea of going back to the pathetic Ziegler considering how he has toted around an ERA north of 7.00 all season and also watching how dominant Barraclough was on Saturday but that seems to be what is taking place with this situation.  Be that as it may, add Barraclough everywhere because this charade can't go on forever. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SATURDAY

Scott Schebler:  1/3 with his third HR while hitting .317.  I said all last season that Schebler was a much more capable average hitter to go with the power since he dealt with some brutal BAPIP luck.  He is putting both skills together this time around.

Carson Fulmer:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 3 BB 3 K with an ERA of 4.32.  The WHIP is 1.48, he pitches in the AL, and his rates are all screaming "Avoid!"

Junior Guerra:  6 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 0.82.  There is no new magic formula here.  Guerre still sucks as his BABIP is incredibly lucky at .244 and his strand rate is quite fortunate as well.  Add it up and Guerra's XFIP ERA is 4.06.  In other words, the usual mediocre Guerra.  Also his 3.38 BB/9 is a joke as well.

Jose Quintana:  7 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 5.74.  Things couldn't have been any worse leading into this one and so this was greatly needed.  An unlucky.339 BABIP is part of the problem but Quintana has also dropped off a cliff in strikeouts (from 9.87 a year ago to 7.32 now).  The control remains hideous (5.03 BB/9) and overall I am not liking what I am seeing here at all.

David Peralta:  3/4 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .322.  15-20 home runs is the absolute ceiling here but Peralta is a more than proven .300 stick whose operation in the leadoff spot has all A.J. Pollock owners jealous.

Ryan Zimmerman:  2/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .200. I don't think there is a fantasy baseball veteran out there who thought 2017 was repeatable.

Patrick Corbin:  6.2 IP 7 H 3 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.25.  This qualifies as Corbin getting shelled this season.

Robinson Chirinos:  2/4 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .186.  The Mike Zunino Special.

Jurickson Profar:  1/3 with his first HR while hitting .227.  This would have been so much more exciting in 2012. 

Kevin Pillar:  2/4 with 2 home runs (3 for season) while hitting .309.  Why doesn't anyone ever include Pillar in the power/speed outfielder discussion? 

Yonder Alonso:  2/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .236.  This is some power binge that Alonso is on right now and obviously, you ride it all the way out.

Jean Segura:  3/5 with his second HR and 5th SB while hitting .300.  The HR/SB Special here and Segura once again is having a fine season.  He feels like old news in today's fantasy baseball but Segura is still quite young despite it feeling like he has been around forever. 

Carlos Carrasco:  4 ER in 3 IP with an ERA of 3.08.  With a 0.95 WHIP, Carrasco overall has been tremendous and every bit a fantasy baseball ace.  Nothing to worry about yet. 

Nelson Cruz:  4/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .290.  The guy has had one of the best ever careers after the age of 30 I have seen in a long while. 

David Price:  5 ER in 5.2 IP with an ERA of 3.78.  This guy drives me insane. 

Rafael Devers:  3/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .278. Devers has done just enough to keep himself about the "Crisis Point" level but his fantasy baseball owners would admit to being a bit disappointed thus far. 

Wilson Ramos:  3/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .292.  Almost as hot as Yonder Alonso. 

Chris Taylor:  3/6 with his 4th HR while hitting .232.  Signs of life finally.  Was not a fan of Taylor heading into the season as there was a lot of fluke tendencies to his season a year ago but he is certainly better than what he has shown. 

Walker Buehler:  5 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 1.80.  The Dodgers are babying Buehler a but in not allowing to go past five innings but he has been very good.  The future is bright here and could include an eventual challenge to ace status. 

Chris Stratton:  6 ER in 1.1 IP with an ERA of 3.90.  So I did a piece a week ago on Stratton where I said he was a "Mirage" and now this.  There we go. 

Charlie Blackmon:  1/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .281. Blackmon was back at leadoff which is good or bad depending on how you view this. Whether it is more runs and less RBI or the opposite, Blackmon continues to pound the baseball which is all that matters. 

Yoenis Cespedes:  1/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .218.  Cespedes has been an average drain to all of his fantasy baseball owners (including me) so any power contribution is fully appreciated.  He is getting a bit up there but not to where he should be dropping off this sharply.  A mystery. 

Christian Villanueva:  1/3 with his 8th HR while hitting .348. I admit I dismissed this guy when this home runs began to go out but maybe he is in fact just a late bloomer. 

Francy Cordero:  1/5 with his 6th HR while hitting .237.  Lots of surprising offensive contributions on the San Diego Padres this season but through it all, Eric Hosmer still sucks.

Joey Luchessi:  5/2 IP 4 H 2 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.78. I watched every pitch on Luchessi last night in doing deep homework here and a few things stood out:  1.  His delivery is beyond funky and very tough for opposing hitters to pick up the pitch which boosts the K's  2.  The kid has a rising fastball that also generates a ton of whiffs.  3.  I am fully on board here as a truly emerging power arm.

Jason Vargas:  9 ER in 3.2 IP with an ERA of 22.09.  I hope after the game Mickey Callaway didn't guarantee Vargas' next start like he once did with Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. 

Nick Markakis:  1/2 with his 4th HR while hitting .307.  No speed anymore like the early Baltimore days but Markakis is still hitting ropes all over as he fully entered into the underrated portion of his career beginning in 2010.  I mocked the four-year deal the Atlanta Braves handed to him four years ago but Markakis has been a decent buy. 

Mike Foltynewicz:  6 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.53.  While Blake Snell gets most of the love, don't miss the fact that this guy is also stepping up into the big-time now that he has made inroads with his control. 

Miguel Cabrera:  3/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .333.  A big talking point in the preseason was whether or not Miguel Cabrera was done as an early round slugger in fantasy baseball and through a month of the season, the answer is an obvious no.  He looks like he wants to challenge for a batting title again and the exit velocities are still on par with his prime.  The one thing I will say though is that the back problems could be showing up in his decreased home run per game rate compared to the heyday. 

Victor Martinez:  1/5 with his second HR while hitting .237.  Martinez can still be a help as a backup bat in deeper leagues but not much at this stage. 

Francisco Cervelli:  1/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .307.  The guy can still hit and in today's catcher pathetic fantasy baseball, Cervelli is a near top-five guy which is comical. 

Jake Flaherty:  5 IP 4 H 3 ER 4 BB 2 K with an ERA of 3.60.  It was a visually impressive outing by Flaherty but the Cards should do themselves a favor and give the talented kid some leash.

George Springer:  2/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .257.  Nothing happening here to be concerned about as Springer's average dip is just solely to an unlucky BABIP.

Jose Altuve:  4/5 with his second HR while hitting .351.  Joey Votto is calling Altuve for hitting tips. My goodness the batting averages the last few seasons have been simply insane.  Altuve's fly ball rate is up slightly but the home run rate is off from the last two years.  Either way, this is nitpicking at the highest order.

Lance McCullers:  7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.71.  The WHIP is down to 1.21 as McCullers is really dealing now.  Kerry Wood comparison right down to the injury right? 

Tim Anderson:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .278.  So overblown the concerns about Anderson's average since he has beaten that curve since coming up.  He gets part-time leadoff duty with Yoan Moncada and has been well worth daily usage. 

Masahiro Tanaka:  6 IP 2 H 1 ER 2 BB 9 K with an ERA of 4.37. The 1.03 WHIP shows you hoiw good Tanaka is actually pitching but the home runs skew everything. 



Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: AARON NOLA SP PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Heading into the 2018 fantasy baseball, annual favorite of this peanut stand Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies was a big target of mine yet again when it came to drafts.  Unfortunately, the price on Nola became so high after years of being able to steal him late that he went out of my range and so I own no shares of the guy this season in my two competitive leagues despite my ending admiration/love for the guy.  While Nola is off to a nice start as he currently sits with a 2.58 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, there are some things about his season so far that have drawn my attention. 

Now on the surface, there is no quibbling with Nola's tremendous ratios to begin the season and it shows just how tough a pitcher he is for an opposing hitter in any one of his given starts.  Underneath the surface though, there are a few items that deserve a closer look and the first centers on Nola's ugly strikeouts numbers so far.  Going into his next outing, Nola currently sits with a BELOW-average 6.57 K/9 and that in fact is a mark you would typically see out of a classic soft-tosser.  This after Nola hinted at a possible run at 200 strikeouts going forward when he put forth a sparkling 9.86 K/9 last season in his big breakout (3.54 ERA).  What is doubly interesting is that Nola's velocity checks out as his current average of 93.1 on his fastball is UP from a year ago when he was at 92.7.  So what gives there?  My theory is that opposing hitters have figured out a tell on Nola and that they are not swinging as aggressively this time around. With more and more video of Nola circulating around, it is now up to him to get that swinging rate back up.  A second issue that caught my attention is Nola's very lucky .235 BABIP.  That number is in no way sustainable and Nola's FIP (3.25) and XFIP (3.95) indicate trouble ahead. 

Now on the flip side, Nola is showing tremendous control with a 2.35 BB/9 and his 0.47 HR/9 is absolutely terrific and very important considering he operates in a home ballpark that gives up a lot of homers.  So Nola is pitching very well on some fronts but not on others.  When everything is taken into consideration, I think Nola will be just fine in terms of his overall product and that the K's will come forward as the weather continues to heat up.  Nola has always done his best K work the second half of the season and that should be the case yet again.  If you are holding stock in Nola. I would keep him around and not entertain offers despite the fact he should give back his ERA a bit due to the lucky BABIP.  The guy will be a strong SP 2 when you take it in all in so stay the course. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: FRIDAY

Yu Darvish:  6 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 5.26.  We still don't have definitive word if Darvish is tipping his pitches or if he has simply not a bit of his stuff after Tommy John surgery but what I will say that is that he is fine velocity was at 94.9 which is where he has been each of the last three seasons and higher than in 2014 before the procedure. 

Asdrubal Cabrera:  2/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .333.  What is interesting here is that Cabrera has always been under-priced due to my belief he was always held up to his one superstar outlier campaign years ago.  The guy has been a terrific buy for the New York Mets the last three seasons and he is still showcasing a very solid offensive game to help as a daily guy in deeper setups. 

Franchy Cordero: 2/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .241.  Just to show you how much the fantasy baseball overvalues average, Cordero is likely going to go 15/15 or 20/20 but yet he won't get the credit that deserves due to him likely hitting around .250 due to all those K's.

Jacob DeGrom:  7.1 IP 5 H 0 ER 3 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.06.  The WHIP is 1.04 and DeGrom is now 3-0 when he should be 5-0 due to some bullpen meltdowns.  Whatever you paid for him at the draft, you got a bargain. 

Manny Machado:  2/3 with his 9th HR while hitting .356.  Combine an already top player with impending free agency and you get the early fantasy baseball MVP.

Pedro Alvarez:  2/3 with 2 home runs (4 for season) while hitting .218.  I am obligated to talk about any two home run game so here it is.  Moving on.

Chris Tillman:  7 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 7.03. Great start but if you pick up Tillman you need another hobby other than this. 

A.J. Pollock:  3/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .286.  Pollock is on pace for a career-best in home runs and batting behind Paul Goldschmidt likely has something to do with that.  Where are the steals though?

Zack Godley:  5 IP 10 H 4 ER 3 BB 4 K with an ERA of 3.81.  Starting to worry here as Godley's WHIP is 1.41 and so his ERA should be even worse.  One-year wonder is possible. 

Stephen Strasburg:  5 ER in 6.1 IP with an ERA of 3.63.  Once again, Strasburg always seems to pitch to a higher ERA than his hype and stuff would suggest. 

Odubel Herrera:  2/4 with 2 home runs (3 for season) while hitting .348.  I have always been a big booster of Herrera's but he has yet to put a full season together.  Maybe it happens now with the hype having died down quite a bit.

Aaron Nola:  7 IP 7 H 3 ER 1 BB 4 K with an ERA of 2.58.  The K's are WAY down (6.57compared to 9.86 last season) but the velocity is fine.  You can get away with a dip in K's in the NL but the sticker price on Nola this season had 180-plus whiffs in the forecast. 

Gregory Polanco:  2/6 with his 6th HR while hitting .213.  Polanco has been in a gigantic slump but at least he is still hitting for power on the rare occasions he is connecting.  Either way, it always seems to be something that is held back numbers-wise. 

Miles Mikolas:  7 IP 6 H 2 ER 0 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.27.  So far the reclamation project that has been Miles Mikolas for the St. Louis Cardinals has been nothing but a smashing success and his advanced metrics all point to this being legitimate.  A 0.55 BB/9 is insane control and Mikolas' strikeouts have been trending upwards.  This is a legit guy. 

Joey Gallo:  2/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .240.  Wow Gallo hitting .240 is like .340 for anyone else. 

Marcus Stroman:  6 ER in 5.1 IP with an ERA of 8.88.  There may not be a worse pitcher in all of fantasy baseball season.  What happened to this guy? 

Wilson Ramos:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .261.  Ramos may be the most disrespected catcher in all of fantasy baseball. 

Blake Snell:  7.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 1 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.52.  We are officially watching the berth of the next big strikeout pitcher who could reach ace status by the end of the season. 

Mitch Haniger:  2/3 with his 9th HR while hitting .307.  Incredible stuff happening here.  This is a hold all the way as Haniger is really this good. 

Edwin Encarnacion:  1/4 with his 6th HR while hitting .180.  Encarnacion is showing signs of snapping out of his pathetic funk the first month of the season and this makes sense as his playing body clock is likely already in May which is his best month by a mile historically given that the season began the last week of March. 

Mike Zunino:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .214.  Zunino has hit typical one hit that went for a home run and nothing else.  Sorry can't stomach that average even at catcher. 

Francisco Lindor:  3/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .235.  I did a piece a week ago saying Lindor would be just fine as the season goes on and that already looks to be the case.  The guy is still a top 15 player in all of baseball and the numbers will reflect that by the end of the season.  There was never any buy low window here either. 

Michael Brantley:  3/3 with his second HR while hitting .344.  Brantley is a line drive machine and he can hit .315 in his sleep so he retains very good OF 3 value no matter how many games he misses with injury. 

Yonder Alonso:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .221.  Alonso is having a big first-half power binge like he did a year ago and so he is validating that performance but this time it is coming with an abysmal average.  This is proof positive Alonso is swinging for the fences as he came up as a .300-hitting first baseman with no power and now the opposite has taken place.

Corey Kluber:  8.2 IP 4 H 3 ER 3 BB 10 K with an ERA of 2.18.  I know he is a monster and all but I always get nervous when any of my pitchers go more than 7 innings given the injury factor. 

Jose Peraza:  4/6 with 2 home runs (2 for season) while hitting .286. A post-hype sleeper made good?  I think so.  Peraza has always run like the wind but his solid minor league averages failed to make the jump to the majors until this season.  Entrenched in the second spot in the order, Peraza will score a ton of runs in front of Joey Votto at the very least. 

Joey Votto:  3/3 with his 4th HR while hitting .280.  If anyone ever sends me a message asking me what is wrong with Joey Votto, I will never correspond with you again.  The guy is one of the best hitters I have ever seen.

Luis Castillo:  5 ER in 1 IP with an ERA of 7.85.  Enjoy the bus ride back to the minors bro.  See you maybe during the summer.  A complete abomination. 

Sean Manaea:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 1.03.  No-hits Boston and then bucks the trend of pitching poorly after such an outing by completely shutting down Houston.  Have not seen back-to-back outings like this in a long while. 

Matt Davidson:  2/5 with 2 home runs (9 for season) while hitting .237.  Another double dose of bombs from Davidson who is doing his typical thing with big power and ugly averages.  What is that worth to you? 

Mike Moustakas:  2/6 with his 8th HR while hitting .311.  If this doesn't get Moustakas paid, nothing will.


Friday, April 27, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: ADAM EATON CONTINUED ABSENCE A BOON TO TREA TURNER

During his meeting with the team's reporters on Friday, Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez admitted that leadoff hitter/outfielder Adam Eaton is not ready to return to the team after he has now missed three weeks with a deep bone bruise in his left ankle.  No stranger to injury as he missed virtually the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, Eaton's continues absence from the lineup has been nothing but a boon to the fantasy baseball value of shortstop Trea Turner who has been a staple in the leadoff spot while his teammate has been out.  Turner has done his best work during that span as he has used his good batting eye and speed to get on base and wreak havoc to the run of stealing a bunch of bases.  Now up to ten steals on the year with a .267 average and 1 home run, Turner has looked every bit the first round monster we all forecasted him to be.  Previously though, Turner was far from that lofty player as he was hitting sixth in the Nationals lineup.  That led to Turner struggling to use his speed to pick up stolen bases and he also saw fewer good pitches to hit as well.  So in essence, Eaton's misfortune has been a big plus for Turner and his fantasy baseball owners.  The fact that Eaton is not yet ready to return also means Turner has more of a chance to lock down the leadoff spot for good and that would be tremendous news in terms of his prospective numbers.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: HAS CLAYTON KERSHAW LOST SOME OF HIS ALLURE?

What?  Blasphemy!  How could anyone in their right mind ever question anything when it comes to Los Angeles Dodgers ace and annual Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw?  After all, Kershaw is already engineering one of the greatest careers ever for a pitcher and even now at the age of 30 he is sitting with a splendid 2.84 ERA and 1.13 WHIP as the calendar gets set to turn to May.  Well when you take off the blinders for just a second, some things are starting to emerge here that are not so rosy and they are subjects yours truly has talked about the last two years in touting Max Scherzer as the top pitcher in fantasy baseball.  Before delving into the numbers, it needs to be said again that Kershaw is becoming an annual health risk as he has spent sizable time on the disabled list each of the last two seasons and back and hip problems were alarming causes of the time away.  That alone is quite concerning but then when you get into the numbers, more issues arise.

With regards to the numbers, Kershaw's currently touting a 9.95 K/9 rate that if the season ended today, would be his worst mark since 2013.  In addition, Kershaw has seen his BB/9 rate go over 2.00 (2.13) for the first time since 2012 and he comes off an unbelievably bad 6-walk start Wednesday in terms of lack of control.  Want more?  How about the fact Kershaw is giving up home runs at a rate never seen before, with his 1.18 HR/9 matching the career-worst mark he put up last season.  These are not trends folks as we are possibly already seeing years and years of very heavy usage coming to the forefront in Kershaw's ill health and declining ratios.  None of this though compares to the fact that as of this writing, Kershaw's 91.9 average fastball velocity is down from 93.1 a year ago which is a major drop and again indicates trouble with the guy's arm and strength.  While we are not suggesting Kershaw is not still a fantasy baseball ace, we will point out that at least for now, he is not the first-round guy who was a sure-thing monster just a year ago.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: THURSDAY

Ozzie Albies:  2/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .288.  I am running out of glowing words here for Albies. What I mentioned earlier on Twitter is that most in the fantasy baseball industry anticipated around 15 home runs here and now we may see 35.  Since Ronald Acuna got all of the hype, Albies was a draft pick that ended up in the teens in terms of round.  As a result, there is not a single better value play among hitters or pitchers for 2018 so far and second is not even close.

Ronald Acuna:  3/4 with his first HR while hitting .444.  Like I am watching Mike Trout debut all over again.  Acuna will be a first round pick next season.  Take it to the bank.

Joey Votto:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .256.  Third home run this week for Votto who is raging hot and making any early concerns about him completely moot.

Sean Newcomb:  6 IP 5 H 4 ER 3 BB 7 K with an ERA of 4.23.  Watching Newcomb pitch is like watching a young Trevor Bauer.  So much potential but so much wildness.

Starling Marte:  1/3 with his 8th SB while hitting.  281.  All seems well here statistically as Marte comes off his 2017 steroid suspension.  You wonder why Dee Gordon and Marte as far as being guys build on speed needed to take the juice given that added bulk would likely slow them down a bit but at least any perceived gamble on Marte in drafts last spring seem like much adieu about nothing.

Ivan Nova:  8 IP 6 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.32.  I said earlier in the year when Nova got hit hard that his low WHIP was an indication he was actually pitching well.  It is a reminder to always focus on WHIP more than ERA due to the lesser amount of luck involved.

Michael Fulmer:  6 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K with an ERA of 2.76.  I don't have confidence in Fulmer long-term given his elbow scares and mediocre K/9 in the AL (this outing notwithstanding) and so if you are an owner of his, entertain offers.

Eduardo Escobar:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .303.  Escobar has shown that he can quiet 10/10 or 15/15 value and he is likely sitting there on your waiver wire given the Target Field discrimination regarding almost all Minny hitters.  Take a look.

Gary Sanchez:  1/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .202.  Sanchez seems to be a Justin Upton clone in terms of extended hot and cold streaks but he is really heating up right now.

Fernando Rodney:  third blown save in a row with 2 ER without getting an out with a 6.75.  We have given Rodney his last closing rites too many times to count but with a 2.10 WHIP as well, this really feels like it could be it.  Run and pick up Addison Reed.

David Peralta:  2/3 with his 3rd HR while hitting .317.  Do yourself a favor and check out what a solid OF 3/4 Peralta has been the last few seasons. He won't light the world on fire in any category but Peralta can fill in very effectively in a pinch.

Matt Koch:  6 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 4 K with an ERA of 1.93.  Don't even think about it.  This is a guy who had a 8.40 ERA in 45 Triple-A innings a year ago and whose K/9 rates are a joke.

Noah Syndergaard:  7.1 IP 6 H 1 ER 0 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.86.  This is why you should try not to have a wins category in your fantasy baseball league.  So much random luck involved.

C.J. Cron:  1/5 with his sixth HR while hitting .264.  Tough to say where this will go since Cron has never been allowed to play a full season in MLB (your fault Mike Scoscia) but at the very least Cron is already working nicely as your UTIL or CI bat.

Wilson Ramos:  2/4 with his 2nd HR while hitting .262. Ramos always tends to get better as the season goes along and he should be started everywhere now that he has pulled out from his early slump.  The fantasy baseball community never shows any patience for Ramos but this peanut stand has always seen the value here as the very rare catcher who puts up numbers with no one paying attention.

Adam Jones:  3/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .267.  Haven't heard much from Jones since his red-hot first 10 days of the 2018 season but he will always be there for you in a "break glass in emergency" deal.

Chris Archer:  5.1 IP 11 H 4 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 6.61.  We are now into the second month of the season which means the numbers are more stable by the day in terms of reflecting true ability for the given campaign and for Archer, this is about as bad a story as one can get for a pitcher.  I still think the guy is not healthy but I also admit I have made way too many excuses for the guy in being seduced by all the strikeouts in the past.  You almost can't even start Archer now and that makes him one of the bigger busts so far this season given his SP 2 price tag. 

Dylan Bundy:  7 ER in 4.2 IP with an ERA of 2.97.  The WHIP is already up to 1.29 and I will bet the farm Bundy finishes with an ERA over 4.00.  Sell right now. 

James Paxton:  6 IP 5 H 2 ER 3 BB 10 K with an ERA of 5.12.  Once again Paxton showing ace ability but there has been massive inconsistency this season as the AL version of Robbie Ray. 

Kyle Schwarber:  1/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .286.  Average is slowly leaking which is a concern since power is never in question. 

Kyle Hendricks:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.10.  After an injury-marred 2017, Hendricks' price dropped to where it should have been in the first place in 2017 off his fluky good 2016 campaign.  The strikeouts won't ever wow you but Hendricks has proven himself to be a top SP 3. 

J.D. Martinez:  2/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .306.  Martinez has been as advertised so nothing to add here which is what you want from your top picks. 

Justin Smoak:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .241.  Smoak has gotten unlucky with the batted ball so there is hope for an average turnaround but through the first month he has looked more like the underachiever he always was prevous to 2017. 

Yoan Moncada:  3/5 with his sixth HR while hitting .264.  It it happening people.  Moncada is turning into a star right before out eyes. 

Matt Davidson:  2/3 with 2 home runs (7 for season) while hitting .225.  Home runs were flying out everywhere in K.C. last night and Davidson got into the fun with two.  The average is in the gutter like I said it would and honestly you really should have little need to bother with that considering how many home runs are on the wire. 

Jorge Soler:  2/3 with his 2nd HR while hitting .279.  Soler is doing pretty well right now and is worth an add in deeper leagues as a bench guy considering he is still young and retains potential. 


Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: FERNANDO RODNEY ON THE BRINK, ADDISON REED NEED TO BE ADDED PRONTO

Channeling the spirit of former journeyman closer Kevin Gregg, Minnesota Twins closer Fernando Rodney has seemingly made a career out of being one of the worst stoppers each year but on the flip side, produced just enough to continue getting chances with a new team each season.  2018 was looking to be more of the same as Rodney signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins who had an opening at closer and a decent spring earned him the role despite being 41.  Alas, we may finally have reached the end of the line with Rodney who blew this third straight save on Thursday in giving up a two-run home run to New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez without getting one out.  The dreadful performance raised Rodney's season ERA to a horrendous 6.75 and his WHIP a downright comical 2.10.  Those numbers are pretty much as bad as it gets and with the Twins looking to be contenders again this season, look for a change to be made here as Addison Reed will likely be the replacement.  Reed has certainly earned a look since he has pitched to a very good 2.77 ERA and 1.00 WHIP and he has experience as a closer with the Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and New York Mets to be a decent guy to take over the ninth inning.  This is an instant action move here as Reed is likely gone in many leagues but is around in enough to make it worth stopping right now to go see if he is, in fact, available.  

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: YASMANI GRANDAL CATCHER LOS ANGELES DODGERS

With it already being an annual challenge to find a competent player even in shallow formats, addressing the catcher position in yearly fantasy baseball leagues has become a beyond frustrating chore that has grown even worse in 2018.  Through the first month-plus of the season, the catcher position has been one big cesspool of nasty numbers and underachievement that has made it double difficult for those who take part in leagues that start two from here.  That means the few catchers who are actually doing something positive this season should earn a little more respect than usual and one player who has earned his keep so far is the Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasmai Grandal.  Once a top hitting prospect in the San Diego Padres system, Grandal transitioned into a guy who was a good average but light power guy in the minors to a very impressive home run hitter who also struggled to bat .240 in the majors.  Entering into the 2018 season at the age of 29, Grandal was also getting heat from backup Austin Barnes who make inroads to the starting job during the playoffs the previous season.  Fast forward to present day and the scorching hot Grandal has put up the following numbers to challenge Yadier Molina as the most productive catcher so far in 2018 fantasy baseball:

.324
4 HR
18 RBI
12 R
0 SB
19.3 K/9
12.0 BB/9
.373 BABIP

Looking at the numbers, what quickly stands out is the .324 batting average which brings back memories from Grandal's minor league days.  That number does seem to be well in outlier mode though since Grandal has hit under .230 every season except one since 2013.  Still, Grandal has made some solid inroads with his overall hitting approach as his current 19.3 K/9 is WAY down from the ugly 27.0 mark he put forth the year prior.  Going along with this is the fact Grandal is drawing walks at a very impressive clip as shown by the 12.0 BB/9 rate.  When you are not striking out frequently and are drawing walks, the batting average will go up and so Grandal is absolutely making progress there.  Of course, the .373 BABIP is not sustainable long-term but Grandal could hit .275 given his strikeout and walk rates which at catcher is like hitting .300.

As far as the rest of the numbers are concerned, Grandal has always shown good power in the majors and he has hit 27 and 22 home runs the last two seasons as evidence of this.  Another 20 home runs is almost certain and Grandal has fully re-established himself as the Dodgers' unquestioned starter the rest of the way barring any injury.  Put it all together and Grandal has been a tremendous buy no matter the league.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: WEDNESDAY

Justin Verlander:  7 IP 4 H 2 ER 0 BB 9 K with an ERA of 1.36.  Verlander is insanely dominant right now and this is the best he has looked since his Cy Young Detroit days.  In fact, you would have to bet Verlander as the early AL Cy Young favorite.  Shocked he is still dealing like this considering how hard he throws and how many innings are under his belt.

Felix Hernandez:  6 IP 7 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 4.96.  This is about as solid a start as you can expect now from Hernandez which speaks to how eroded his stuff has become after years as a perennial ace.

Mike Zunino:  2/4 with his second HR while hitting .200.  Yeah Zunino's average is where it should be.

Yoan Moncada:  1/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .244.  Moncada is showing baby step progress the last two weeks but his K/9 is INSANE at 38.0.

Tyson Ross:  4IP 6 H 4 ER 3 BB 7 K with an ERA of 3.64.  Listen you should never have started Ross in Colorado so you deserve the hit if you did.  With that said, Ross still punched out 7 as he his stuff continues to look very potent like in his pre-TOS days.  Start liberally at home.

Jon Gray:  6 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 11 K with an ERA of 5.79.  It was San Diego so already we take this outing with a strong grain of salt.  Gray can punch out batters with the best of them but the patience meter has just about run out here.

Trea Turner:  5/6 with his 10th SB while hitting .267.  That is the first-round Trea Turner we all love.  He is running like a madman and has been a monster out of the leadoff spot in place of Adam Eaton.  The only thing is that Eaton is due back soon which means Dave Martinez has a big decision to make.  The right one is to leave Turner where he is.

Max Scherzer:  6 IP 5 H 2 ER 2 BB 10 K with a 1.62 ERA.  Simply the best.

Jeff Samardzija:  3.2 IP 8 H 6 ER 3 BB 3 K with an ERA of 6.23.  Samardzija is like the opposing of Matt Cain in that he always seems to pitch worse than his advanced peripherals suggest.  A major home run problem seems to just be getting worse so he is the NL version of Masahiro Tanaka which is not a good thing.

Leonys Martin:  2/6 with his third HR while hitting .278 in Game 1.  Martin is leading off for the Tigers and he has developed more power in the last few seasons to go with 15-steal speed.  Definitely worth an add in deeper mixed leagues.

Jeimer Candelario:  3/6 with his 4th HR while hitting .292.  Still just 23, Candelario has shown a smooth swing since the start of the season and should have been owned weeks ago.  There is a chance he is still sitting there on the wire though since he was not an overly buzzy prospect but this development has legs to it.

Nick Castellanos:  4/5 with his 2nd HR while hitting .337. Yeah, the power has been a bit lighter than anticipated to this point but Castellanos has still been swinging a very hot bat.  I was incredibly bullish on Castellanos all spring and fully stand by that assessment.

Francisco Cervelli:  3/4 with his third HR while hitting .292.  With catcher being such a cesspool this season, I am not kidding when I say Cervelli is now a must-start in single-catcher leagues.

Jameson Taillon:  7 ER in 3.2 IP with an ERA of 4.91.  Just like with Luke Weaver, Taillon has gone from dominant to human punching bag seemingly overnight.  This is what happens with young and raw pitchers but the 1.17 WHIP for Taillon shows there is light at the end of the struggling tunnel here.  Don't drop him just yet.

Mookie Betts:  2/5 with 2 home runs (8 for season) while hitting .350.  So ridiculous that Betts went past the 5th overall pick in many fantasy baseball drafts this past March.  All because his average slide a bit due to an unlucky BABIP.  The fantasy baseball community overrates average so much it is crazy since it is such a cut-and-dry number but the same thing was done to Manny Machado and look how that turned out. 

Yangervis Solarte:  1/4 with his sixth HR while hitting .237.  Solarte has been in a bit of a slump but at least the power uptick continues onward. 

Eduardo Rodriguez:  6.2 IP 6 H 3 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 3.63.  Rodriguez is now up to 3 wins already or 3 wins since I said to pick him up.  The strikeouts tend to come and go here for some reason and we all know the challenges of the AL East but Rodriguez has the ability to be a top SP 4.

Steven Matz:  3.1 IP 5 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K with an ERA of 4.98.  Just like with Matt Harvey, Mets manager Mickey Callaway is not guaranteeing the next start for Matz.  None of Matz' dwindling fantasy baseball owners should either. 

Michael Wacha:  6 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.62.  Wacha has always been a decent first-half pitcher but his 1.35 WHIP show trouble lying underneath the surface. 

Didi Gregorious:  3/3 with his 9th HR while hitting .372.  Hands down Gregorious is your early leader for 2018 fantasy baseball MVP.

Tyler Austin:  2/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .305.  The Yankees have been big Greg Bird apologists through all his injuries and slumps, so they really need to take the blinders off in order to see terrific job Austin is doing. The numbers should always matter in the end and so when Bird gets back, Austin should not lose his gig if he is still going like this on a per game basis. 

Lance Lynn:  6 ER in 3.2 IP with an ERA of 7.71.  Wow with Lynn and Alex Cobb challenging each other to see who can pitch the worst in all of baseball, let is be a reminder that free agent starters need to have their home set up prior to spring training or else this happens. 

Sonny Gray:  4.2 IP 6 H 3 ER 5 BB 4 K with a 7.71 ERA.  More garbage from Gray who is getting his head beaten in the way he did back in 2016.  Didn't think that slop could be topped but Gray is doing his best to get there. 

Ozzie Albies:  2/4 with his 7th HR while hitting .283.  There are just no word anymore.

Ender Inciarte:  3/5 with 2 steals (9 for season) while hitting .276.  Man I got so many e-mails and tweets asking me whether or not they should dump Inciarte which was kind of crazy.  I have always been among his biggest boosters so I get I may have blinders but this guy can hit .300 in his sleep and now it looks like he wants to go for 40 steals which is a nice cherry on the top of the sundae. 

Joey Votto:  2/4 with his second HR while hitting .256.  Yeah, Votto will be hitting .315 around May 15. 

Zack Grienke:  6 IP 9 H 5 ER 1 BB 9 K with an ERA of 4.80.  Greinke is pitching quite well despite the ERA as his 1.13 WHIP is very good and he is missing bats at a high rate still.  Yes the velocity decrease is a valid concern but I am not on board that worry train just yet.

Jake Arrieta:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 2 K with an ERA of 1.82.  Arrieta is pitching very well but the approach is a bit different now in that he is trusting his defense more than ever.  That has to do with Arrieta getting older and losing some sizzle on his stuff but otherwise, there should be no complaints here. 

Francisco Lindor:  1/3 with his third HR while hitting .222.  The power per game is down quite a bit from a year ago and the average is ghastly for someone who has been lauded as one of the best pure hitters in baseball.  Come on bro.  Let's get with it. 

Edwin Encarnacion:  2/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .173.  Perhaps Encarnacion senses that his best month (May) is almost upon us. 

Trevor Bauer:  6.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 3 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.41.  For the 1717924362th time, maybe THIS is the year Bauer's Cy Young-caliber arm rockets to SP 1/2 status.  Off to a nice start there. 

J.T. Realmuto:  2/6 with 2 home runs (4 for season) while hitting .385.  Nice Mike Piazza impersonation going on here.

Yasmani Grandal:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .324.  No one is mentioning it but Grandal is having a superb season which gets even extra credit when it comes at catcher.  Status Report on the way. 

Matt Kemp:  1/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .313.  You really can't find a more dependable OF 3 than this. 

Clayton Kershaw:  5 IP 5 H 3 ER 6 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.84.  6 walks is insane for Kershaw who would go two months with that number.  This is still a superstar arm but Kershaw is showing small signs that his invincibility is not there completely anymore. 




Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY FALLOUT: ERIC THAMES LIKELY OUT UNTIL LATE JUNE OR JULY DUE TO TORN UCL IN THUMB

For the second consecutive season, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames has been a power hitting monster in April as he sat with 7 home runs, 13 RBI, and a .250 batting average going into Wednesday's action.  Having been the darling of the game last April when Thames went nuclear in his first month back in MLB after years spent torturing Korean pitching, fast starts certainly was becoming the trend here.  Unfortunately, Thames won't be able to build off his big start this time around as it was revealed he had a torn UCL in his thumb and the expected time he will be out likely will range in the 6-8 week range.  This means Thames won't return to active duty until sometime in late June or early July and so those in more shallow formats really have no choice but to cut the guy loose.  Thames has cemented his status since coming back to the States as a big-time power producer who on the flip side was a batting average liability due to a penchant for striking out.  In the meantime, the Brewers will likely use Ryan Braun more at first base in Thames' absence and that at least should help minimize some wear-and-tear there.  Either way, Thames's power will certainly be missed while he is out. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: ZACH BRITTON AIMING FOR LATE MAY RETURN

We are a day behind schedule but didn't forget about our weekly staple Closing Time where we look at the world of the ninth inning so that you can stay ahead of the saves game.

-The Baltimore Orioles have had a tough time in the ninth inning seemingly since the start of the season as fill-in closer Brad Brach has not been able to reprise the very good job he did while filling in for an injured Zach Britton a year ago.  Sitting with a 5.19 ERA as of this writing, Brach may even yield saves to Darren O'Day before Britton returns.  With regards to Britton's possible return, he was able to throw a bullpen session off the mound on Tuesday and if all goes well, a late May or early June return is possible.  Britton is making his way back from a torn Achilles tendon but he struggled to live up to his 2016 levels a year ago when on the mound.  Either way, Britton is a much better option than either Brach or O'Day so his return will be nothing but a boost to his patient owners.

-It seems like the new thing that is en vogue now with managers in 2018 is to use their closers for more than one inning to secure a save.  Whether it has been Josh Hader, Jeurys Familia, Edwin Diaz, or Raisel Iglesias, all of those stoppers and more are seeing more multi-save chances than in recent memory.  While this is not such a concern early in the season, by the time summer arrives fatigue and/or injuries could rear their ugly heads as a result.  This is something to keep a close eye on going forward.

-A change seems to be afoot in St. Louis as Cardinals manager Mike Matheney flip flipped Greg Holland and Bud Norris this past weekend.  With Holland throwing in the ninth following Norris in the eighth, it seems the former will now begin getting saves which the latter had been doing prior.  Perhaps it was Norris giving up a run in each of his last two secured saves that gave Matheney the opening to make the change but hold Norris if you are an owner as Holland has looked nothing but shaky since his debut a few weeks ago.

-If Hector Neris hits the skids are some point (not an outlandish thought), Victor Arano now needs to be considered the possible replacement.  Arano has been terrific with a 0.00 ERA and 0.29 WHIP in 10.1 innings with 11 strikeouts this season and his power arsenal seems like it would be a good fit in the ninth inning.

-Archie Bradley was a popular sleeper pick in 2018 fantasy baseball drafts among closers as he had a terrific 2017 campaign in setup and there was no obvious answer to fill the team's ninth-inning gap. Well, Brad Boxberger wound up getting the gig and it looked like the right call early on as he was dominant for most of early April.  Boxberger has hit the skids of late though and Bradley was called on to secure his second save of the season this past weekend. While Boxberger is not officially out yet, Bradley should be added where available just in case.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL INJURY WATCH: ADRIAN BELTRE LIKELY HEADED TO DL WITH STRAINED HAMSTRING

Age spares no one even if that person is a future MLB Hall of Famer as we found out again Tuesday night when Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre suffered a strained left hamstring that almost certainly will land him on the 10-day DL beginning on Wednesday.  Having already secured enshrinement in Cooperstown according to this peanut stand given both his top-notch hitting and defense, Beltre is now 39 and he has been dealing with more and more injuries the last few seasons.  The real shame of it is that Beltre can still hit as he goes into the DL stint with a .310 average and 1 home run, 11 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  Be that as it may, Beltre is likely out for longer than the 10-day minimum given his age and he is only worth a stash in deeper formats since his power is beginning to erode on a per game basis. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WELCOME TO THE SHOW: RONALD ACUNA OUTFIELDER ATLANTA BRAVES

Well that took long enough.  After over a month of waiting, the Atlanta Braves finally called up consensus number 1 prospect in all of baseball Ronald Acuna late Tuesday night and he is expected to be in the lineup for Wednesday's game in the outfield.  Just 20-years-old, Acuna is considered as close to a can't miss prospect as you can get due to his breathtaking power/speed game that translated to a cumulative 21 homers and 44 stolen bases and batted .325 across the three levels of the minors in 2017.  While Acuna did get off to a very rough start to the minor league season, some of that can be chalked up to disappointment over not making then Braves after he tore it up in spring training.  While he hit just .215 with a 27.5 K/9, Acuna also walked a bunch (11.0 BB/9) which is always a good sign in terms of figuring out the strike zone.  Right now the Braves have not said yet where they plan to have Acuna in the batting order but he is a future 2 or 3 hitter based on his skills and the numbers should begin to pile up in a hurry.  Those who have waited this long for Acuna may have a tough time keeping initial expectations in check but the guy is the real deal and is likely headed for first-round fantasy baseball status next spring. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: TUESDAY

Marcos Gonzalez:  6 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K with an ERA of 4.37.  Nice outing for sure but let's move onto something more important.

Wilson Contreras:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .274.  Man, it took more than a month for Contreras to hit the home run column and let's just hope he is simply a slow starter.  I think Conteras' big second half last season overpriced his value going into 2018 but catcher is so laughably bad that it won't take much for him to be a top 3 guy here.

Kyle Schwarber:  2/5 with 2 home runs (6 for season) while hitting .302.  K/9 down 5.0 this season which has helped and the walks are up by the same margin.  I am pleased so far.

Ian Happ:  3/4 with his third HR while hitting .259.  Listen, Happ is way too talented to keep struggling the way he has so stay the course in deeper leagues.  Hopefully, the move down the Cubs order will take pressure off so that Happ can show that talent.

Joey Votto:  1/4 with his first HR while hitting .247.  Wow, I can't believe it took this long for Votto to go yard.  While it has been a tough slog to this point, it would not shock me in the least if he literally hit .350 the rest of the way.  With that said, Votto is now into his mid-30's which is not something to ignore.

Scooter Gennett:  2/3 with his first HR while hitting .283.  Gennett had like 10 home runs by this time last year in what I feel in my gut was one of the all-time outlier campaigns.

Tyler Mahle:  6 IP 3 H 3 ER 2 BB 11 K with an ERA of 5.00.  Well, that was pretty impressive.  Alas, Mahle still has a 5.00 ERA after this gem so no reason to run to the wire just yet.

Freddie Freeman:  2/4 with 2 home runs (4 for season) while hitting .304.  Wish I owned shares here but I don't.  Freeman was the object of everyone's eye and for good reason this spring and as long as he avoids HBP's to his hand, an MVP campaign could be in the cards.

Kurt Suzuki:  2/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .315.  The guy is acting like Yadier Molina in his 30's.

Aaron Judge:  3/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .341.  I mean look at that batting average!  That is really all that matters here since Judge can hit 45 homers in his sleep.

Didi Gregorious:  3/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .347.  While we all worried about how anyone could possibly replace Derek Jeter at shortstop for the New York Yankees, maybe we need to now worry about who will one day replace Didi.

Gary Sanchez:  2/4 with 2 home runs (5 for season) while hitting .208. Sanchez has been lockstep with Giancarlo Stanton in terms of being an early letdown for his fantasy baseball owners but other than a tiny 3.1 BB/9, Sanchez' rates seem fine which means the numbers spigot will begin to open and stay that way.

Jose Berrios:  5 ER in 4 IP with an ERA of 2.84.  It was going to be toigh to do considering the way he was throwing but I would have given strong consideration to sitting a young pitcher like Berrios in the cauldron that is Yankee Stadium.  He got through it without getting completely destroyed (7 K's) so back to stardom we go.

Jay Bruce:  3/5 with his 2nd HR while hitting .222.  Bruce has been dogged with a foot issue the first month of the season which is why the numbers just haven't been there but with guys like this, all it takes is one game such as last night to get things going again.  Dust him off.

Yoenis Cespedes:  1/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .195.  Still struggling as the homer was his only hit and the strikeouts are completely out of whack.  Cespedes says he is going to start playing golf again since that helped his daily swing in the past but that also could lead to leg injuries.

Tommy Pham:  3/3 with his third HR while hitting .348.  Pham is not fooling around with regards to his stated desire to show last year was no fluke.  Thank you for your efforts sir.

Luke Weaver:  4.2 IP 2 H 4 ER 6 BB 4 K with an ERA of 4.85.  Wow it has all gone to sh!t for Weaver in like the span of two weeks.  His mechanics seem all out of whack now and he is certainly benching material his next time out.

Robbie Ray:  4.2 IP 5 H 3 ER 3 BB 11 K with an ERA of 5.13.  Speaking of mechanics out of whack, I give up this guy.  While we appreciate the massive K's, I as a Ray owner would trade a few each start to get some damn consistency.

Rick Porcello:  7 IP 3 H 3 ER 3 BB 9 K with an ERA of 1.93.  Porcello is dealing right now I have to admit.  The K/9 has jumped to 8.82 despite a dip in velocity but Porcello once again is as clean with walks (1.10 BB/9) as it gets.

J.A. Happ:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 10 K with an ERA of 3.72.  Happ has really had an impressive second act to his previously journeyman career and the fact he is doing this in the AL East is double impressive.  The problem is if you are a Happ owner, don't you never feel comfortable in any start you go with him in?

Andrew Triggs:  6 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K with an ERA of 4.70.  You may think it is safe to go back to the Triggs well but you would be thinking wrong. 

Michael Taylor:  1/4 with his second HR while hitting .220.  Same story as always here in terms of Taylor not being able to hit but showing tremendous power/speed ability.  May be an annual tease but Taylor at the very least is running at a very high clip so he should be owned everywhere. 

Brandon Belt:  1/3 with his sixth HR while hitting.292.  I said in March Belt looked like a very under-the-radar pick at the end of your draft and here we are.  The guy could always hit but just couldn't stay upright. 

Mac Williamson:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .316.  This guy could always hit for massive power but no average (disregard the fluke mark he has now).  Ride this out until the 40.0 K/9 gets going in full force. 

Trevor Story:  1/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .250.  The man is hot!

Eric Lauer:  6 ER in 3 IP with an ERA of 18.00.  Brutal that the Padres gave Lauer's first start to him in Colorado.  You can't judge ANYTHING on this given the nerves and Coors combination.  The has good strikeout ability but he is strictly a monitor guy if he gets another shot. 

Lorenzo Cain:  2/3 with his third HR while hitting .316.  Torii Hunter you mantle of being my annually favorite outfielder is being worn well by this guy now. 

Travis Shaw:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .291.  Shaw is fully in the "standard operating procedure" mode of his fantasy baseball classification which is where you want to be. 



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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That's right it is that time again.  We are proud to announce that The Fantasy Sports Boss 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Guide will come out Wednesday, May 3rd after updating it for the 2018 NFL Draft.  This 100-page book-form draft guide has all the usual trimmings such as sleepers, busts, Rookie Report, Ten Burning Questions, Overrated/Underrated, and of course our position rankings and analysis that go deeper and more lengthy than any other publication.  Use the BUY NOW tab below or to the right at the top of the homepage to get your copy with Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley on the cover.




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2018 FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: FRANCISCO LINDOR SS CLEVELAND INDIANS

While still just 24-years-old, Cleveland Indians All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor has already reached the point of being a consensus superstar top-tier player both in rel-life and in fantasy baseball as the 2018 season got underway.  That is what happens when you come up in 2015 at the age of 21 to hit 12 home runs, steal 12 bases, and bat .313 as a rookie and then follow that up with two more potent campaigns to full place him at the top of the shortstop list for 2018 drafts.  Having been drafted as early as the late first-round, Lindor had very high expectations attached to his name and rightfully so considering the ADP.  Throw in the fact Lindor came off a 2017 season that saw him boost the power to a superstar amount of 33 home runs but for the first time ever, failed to hit .300 as his average dropped to .273.  Blame for the latter though centered on an unlucky .275 BABIP and so there was optimism that Lindor could blend the power gain with the average going back to the .300 level.

Fast forward to present day and Lindor has been a bit of a letdown through a month of the season.  The average is the big issue once again as Lindor is hitting only .224 going into Tuesday's games and he has only 2 home runs which is a decent per game drop from the year prior.  While Lindor is still running (4 steals), the overall package is falling short of what was anticipated.  Trying to figure out if this will change means going into the advanced statistics world and on that front, there is a sense of optimism moving forward.  For one thing, Lindor's 22.3 K/9 is WAY above his typically excellent 12.0 rate in that category and shows a guy who is likely just battling a slump to begin the year.  Lindior is not exactly swinging for the fences either as his flyball rate is down a bit so that is not the main cause for the drop in average.  In addition, Lindor is getting unlucky with the batted ball as his .274 BABIP shows.  Guys with good speed like Lindor don't typically have BABIP's that low and so count on a comeback there real soon.  On the flip side, we did worry that the power uptick a year ago was in outlier territory and so far that looks to be the case.

When you put it all together, Franciso Lindor is too young and too good a hitter to continue residing in his current average range.  It is only a matter of time before Lindor is hitting ropes all over the diamond and getting the average back up to .280 or so.  There is not likely to be a buy low window on such a player like Lindor but those who do own him should remain patient.  Things will be changing for the better and soon. 


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: MONDAY

Yonder Alonso:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .225.  You can dust Alonso off now that he has shown a pulse. 

Carlos Carrasco:  7.1 IP 6 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.31.  Now 4-0, Carrasco looks like he wants to get in on some Cy Young action. 

Kevin Gausman:  8 IP 4 H 2 ER 1 BB 7 K with an ERA of 4.66.  Man if only Gausman were in the NL, he would be so much more interesting. 

Nick Markakis:  3/4 with his third HR while hitting .301.  We all mocked the four-year contract the Atlanta Braves handed Markakis but the guy has actually performed pretty darn well as a good average contact hitter who always seems to post good counting stats in runs and RBI. 

Scott Schebler:  2/5 with his second HR while hitting .292.  Interesting that Schebler batted leadoff here and he showed a year ago he can hit 25 home runs and is capable of a better average since he dealt with a lot of poor BABIP luck last season.  Worth an add. 

Mike Foltynewicz:  4.2 IP 3 H 2 ER 4 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.77.  Folty continues to flash top-end ability but he is not quite there yet. 

Franchy Cordero:  2/6 with his 4th HR while hitting .256.  Cordero will strike out a bunch and not hit for average but this is a quietly potential 20/20 player who is hidden in the screen of San Diego and the bias of Petco Park .

Eric Hosmer:  2/2 with his first SB while hitting .259. The steal is at least something for Hosmer who through one month has not supplied many fantasy baseball-friendly numbers. Remember this guy has always been more name brand than big-time production and the move to San Diego accomplished the rare feat of making it a DOWNGRADE leaving Kansas City's pitching-leaning abode. 

Nolan Arenado:  2/4 with his 4th HR while hitting .353.  Arenado is trying to make up for those games missed during suspension by homering every day this week.

Trevor Story:  1/3 with his 5th HR while hitting .247.  Listen, I have never quibbled with Story's power through all the endless criticism I have sent his way. Now that his previously overrated ADP has dropped sharply leading into the season, he actually moved slightly into value mode.

Didi Gregorious:  1/5 with his 7th HR and 24th RBI while hitting .324.  I asked the other day if you would still take Corey Seager over Didi Gregorious if you had to do the draft over (you wouldn't). Maybe I should have also asked if you would take Francisco Lindor over a guy who is looking like he wants to challenge for the Triple Crown at SHORTSTOP!

Giancarlo Stanton:  4/4 with his 5th HR while hitting .224.  Clear signs of progress here as Stanton has been swinging a good bat the last 4 games or so.  Still I worry here given the spotlight of NY and the fact Stanton is already well behind expectations pace

Miguel Andujar:  2/5 with his third HR while hitting .316. Kudos to those who remained rightfully patient here as Andujar has one of the better swings I have seen from a young hitter.  The Yankees infield may be getting a bit more crowded soon but no way Andujar goes back down if he continues to hit like this. 

Tyler Austin:  2/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .296.  Starting to think maybe the Yankees should be paying more attention to Austin and less to Greg Bird going forward. 

Masahiro Tanaka:  6.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 5 K with an ERA of 5.28. Well, look it here:  no homers and an excellent outing to go with it. 

Delino DeShields:  2/4 with 2 steals (2 for season) while hitting .200.  Said the other day to pick up DeShields if you need a steals boost.  I do prefer him over Mallex Smith. 

Trevor Cahill:  5 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.25. Those in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues should take a look at Cahill.  He gained both velocity and K's beginning in 2016 when he overhauled his delivery and it seems to still be sticking.  At least always use at home. 

Mitch Haniger:  2/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .324.  The real deal. 

Yoan Moncada:  3/5 with his 4th HR while hitting .240.  Maybe, just maybe the light bulb has finally gone off here.  Strikeouts will always be an issue but Moncada is beginning to look comfortable at leadoff and that is where he could end up going 15/15 or better.  The arrow is pointing back upwards. 

Mike Leake:  8 ER in 3.1 IP with an ERA of 6.59.  Leake has always been a slow starter but there is no reason to wait around here given the mediocre profile. 

Tyler Skaggs:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.96.  Skaggs was once a top prospect who has had endless surgeries interrupt his progress but he is throwing very well now. The advanced stats check out too as Skagg's .293 BABIP is average and his 7.90 K/9 rate is decent enough.  Watch tough matchups on the road but keep this going.

Walker Buehler:  5 IP 4 H 0 ER 3 BB 5 K with an ERA of 0.00.  Truth be told I expected more with Buehler going against the Miami Marlins but will take it.  The outing was like a microcosm of what toi expect in the immediate future here: lots of K's and too many walks but very bright overall future. 


Monday, April 23, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: MARCELL OZUNA OUTFIELDER ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Well that has not gone according to plan.  When the St. Louis Cardinals completed a trade with the Miami Marlins to acquire slugging outfielder Marcell Ozuna last winter, the thinking was that they finally filled a perennial void at the position and at the same time, adding a much-needed home run hitter as well.  The timing seemed perfect as well since Ozuna had just come off a career-best campaign in 2017 when he slugged 37 home runs, drove in 124, scored 93, and batted .312 to place himself in the OF 1 tier for the following spring's fantasy baseball launch.  Given the fact Ozuna was still just 27 and only beginning his prime years, the expectations were high for an encore in 2018.  Fast forward to present time and the first month of Ozuna's tenure in St. Louis and for his 2018 fantasy baseball owners has been anything but smooth as he went into Monday's action with the following numbers:

.247
2 HR
11 RBI
8 R
0 SB

The above are absolutely pathetic numbers from Ozuna and he is right near the top of the bigger fantasy baseball busts relative to draft position with regards to the first month of season's production.  No matter where you look, Ozuna has been a letdown and about the only stable aspect of his game has been the bagel in the steals column.  So as we always do here, let's dig in a bit more to find out what the problem is and if it can be fixed.

What stands out right away when looking at Ozuna from an advanced metrics prism is his 27.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.  Both of those numbers are awful and speak to how truly messed up Ozuna is at the dish.  Likely feeling pressure to validate numbers and also to show his new team he was worth picking up, Ozuna is really squeezing the bat right in pressing at the dish.  Consider that Ozuna has generally been a 19-22 K/9 guy and in 2017 had a very good BB/9 of 9.4 to bear this out.  So with that said, Ozuna will likely find his groove soon enough and begin to bring the average up through fewer K's and more walks.  That will also help to unleash more power as Ozuna shows more patience and waits for the pitch to drive.  Again we are talking about a 27-year-old youngsters who is just now entering into his prime so there is zero worry about any age-related decline.  Instead, Ozuna actually represents a very smart buy low in that he will never be cheaper and thus will supply some major value going forward.

So in the end, we feel strongly that Marcell Ozuna will be just fine and real soon we may add.  The guy is too talented to continue struggling like this and while I always felt he was more a 25-30 homer guy then the one who smacked 37 a year ago, Ozuna still offers a lot to those in the fantasy baseball community.


2018 FANTASY BASEBALL TREND OR MIRAGE: JED LOWRIE 2B/SS OAKLAND A'S

Sometime an old dog can learn some new trick.  Or in the case of Oakland A's infielder Jed Lowrie, those tricks all of a sudden means challenging for the batting title and venturing to a possible first 20-home run season despite reaching his mid-30's at the age of 34.  Without a doubt, the oft-injured Lowrie has been phenomenal and downright shocking with his tremendous production to begin the year and the fact he went undrafted in a high number of leagues make his addition to his current fantasy baseball owners' rosters even more valuable.  Before we go further, let's take a closer look at those numbers which sit at the following going into Monday's games:

.351
6 HR
23 RBI
12 R
0 SB

The batting average, RBI, and home runs all stand out here and on those fronts, Lowrie was as good as any non-speed hitter in fantasy baseball for the first month of the season.  Now we have to determine if it is sustainable going forward and that is where things get tricky.  For starter's a big start from an aging veteran is not an overly shocking thing because it is sort of a trend I have highlighted on here in the past.  These types of older and experienced hitters tend to do their best work in April and May given their breadth of knowledge of opposing pitchers and their understanding of how to deal with sometimes tough early weather.  That is why April tends to see boring veteran guys like Lowrie pacing the offensive field.  As the season moves along, bumps and bruises begin to add up and the production goes the other direction.  This is an especially important deal with Lowrie due to the fact his entire career has been filled with injury woes.  Counting on Lowrie to stay healthy is believing in the Tooth Fairy and so already you likely are looking at diminishing returns there.

Moving into the numbers, there are some other red flags with Lowrie, starting with his .397 BABIP which in no way is sustainable.  Lowrie is just a .263 hitter for his career and only twice in his previous 10 seasons in the game has he batted over .280.  So count on a major dip in the average department from Lowrie and it should begin sliding real soon.  Finally, the power is also way up on a per game basis and Lowrie is still waiting for his first 20-home run campaign.  While he is on the pace now and could get there considering the state of the game today offensively, it is no slam dunk by any means.

So when you put it all together, Jed Lowrie is a guy you simply ride it out until the injuries hit or the inevitable slide begins. There is no trade market to speak of for Lowrie in most fantasy baseball leagues so the best strategy to choose is go with the guy until the train goes off the tracks moving forward into the season.

Trend Or Mirage:  Mirage 

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: SUNDAY

Jose Ramirez:  2/4 with 2 home runs (7 for season) while hitting .236.  Ramirez has his own personal Home Run Derby with Manny Machado and held his own.  There is no longer any need to question the power uptick a year ago and now instead let's see how many steals Ramirez takes.

Manny Machado:  3/4 with 2 home runs (8 for season) while hitting .356.  Glad I got Machado and not Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant in the draft. 

Corey Kluber:  7 IP 6 H 3 ER 0 BB 4 K with an ERA of 1.96.  This qualifies as a shelling for Kluber. 

Teoscar Hernandez:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .343.  Or the third home run since I told you to pick him up.

Didi Gregorious:  1/3 with his 6th HR while hitting .333.  Anyone still willing to take Corey Seager over him like you all did in March?

Luis Severino:  7 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K with an ERA of 2.32.  So far Severino is showing no ill effects from the huge inning jump last season. 

Whit Merrifield:  1/5 with his third HR while hitting .266.  Like Ozzie Albies, you primarily bought Whit Meffifield for steals but instead he is giving you power.  (Commence banging head on laptop). 

Mike Moustakas:  1/5 with his sixth HR while hitting .318.  Nothing like a pissed off slugger who didn't get the payday he wanted last winter taking it all out on MLB.

C.J. Cron:  2/5 with his 5th HR and an average .273.  Third home run in two days for Cron who should be owned and started daily in all fantasy baseball leagues.  Been a few years since Cron was mentioned prominently on here but I always liked the initial potential.

Carlos Gomez:  1/5 with his third HR while hitting .160.  Only the Rays would put up with Gomez for this long. 

Christian Yelich:  1/4 with his second HR while hitting .333.  I am really hoping we no longer have to see the 2-3 home run Yelich now that he is in Milwaukee. 

Junior Guerra:  5 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 4 K with an ERA of 0.56.  Another one of those veteran arms who comes out of the gates on fire and everyone then begins to contemplate an add.  Bad idea.  He is what he is and that says Guerra is nothing but waiver fodder.  Trust me. 

Luis Castillo:  5 IP 7 H 3 ER 4 BB 3 K with an ERA of 6.51.  Castillo needs a refreshment in the minors.  Like right now.  What a bust this has turned out to be. 

Miles Mikolas:  7 IP 5 H 1 ER 0 BB 6 K with an ERA of 3.46.  The Cardinals has historically uncovered pitching sleepers such as this and Mikolas has more strikeout potential longer-term given his impressive power stuff.  With a dirt cheap price tag at the draft (or off waivers), Mikolas has been one of the terrific surprises of the season. 

Nick Pivetta:  6.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.57.  From the beginning, I said Pivetta was well worth a pickup when the season began and he looks very comfortable right now.  While I don't see Pivetta graduating to SP 3 territory, a strong SP 4 would still make him a tremendous waiver add. 

Evan Gattis:  1/5 with his first HR while hitting .217.  I don't if all those years of hard living has stolen Gattis' power but this is the second season in a row he is down in that area.  If Gattis is not hitting home runs, he is virtually useless. 

Lance McCullers:  6 IP 8 H 1 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 4.67.  Starting to see a lot of Jon Gray here and that is not a good thing. 

Mitch Haniger:  3/5 with his 7th HR while hitting .314.  Haniger has now homered in three straight games to further elevate what has been an eye-opening breakout.  We likely would have seen this last year as well but Haniger's health never cooperated.  This is a HOLD all the way.

Nomar Mazara:  1/4 with his third HR while hitting .309.  I have always kept the faith here given the fact Mazara came up at such a young age and he could have a Michael Conforto 2017 breakout this season if all goes according to plan.

Joey Gallo:  1/2 with his 7th HR while hitting .209.  The suspense will be to see if Gallo can hit .230. 

Javier Baez:  2/6 with his 7th HR while hitting .292.  Many forget that Baez was once considered as big an infield prospect as Gleyber Torres and the plate discipline is finally showing up. 

Nolan Arenado:  2/4 with his third HR while hitting .344.  Outside of injury, there was no chance of not turning a profit here.

Charlie Blackmon:  3/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .304.  Looks like Blackmon wants to challenge Arenado for the team lead in home runs. 

Patrick Corbin:  6 IP 2 H 2 ER 1 BB 11 K with an ERA of 1.89.  I swear I think I am watching a young Max Scherzer here. 

Brandon Belt:  3/5 with his 5th HR while hitting .288.  I mean the guy was a top prospect back in the day. 

Mike Trout:  1/4 with his 8th HR while hitting .306.  Still without peer. 

Johnny Cueto:  6 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 0.35.  Just like old times with this guy. 

Justin Upton:  0/3 while hitting .235.  As hot as Upton can get, he also can get ice cold like he is now at a moment's notice.