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Fantasy Baseball: Aroldis Chapman Returns With A Vengeance

  • Ian Riley

I have been hit in the head with many objects throughout my life. While playing minor league baseball I was hit in the head three times in the same season, all by the same pitcher. Luckily they happened to hit the helmet. The only time I ever played paintball a guy I worked with shot me in the back of the head from less than five feet away, and in a fake wrestling match in college I took a folding chair to the skull as the referee.

Snowballs, Frisbees, basketballs, fists, elbows, forearms, and trunk doors are just some of the other things to bounce off my noggin’. I survived, and none of these instances traumatized me. Most were actually good for a laugh. I can’t picture Aroldis Chapman having any fond memories of the line drive he took to the face off of the bat of Salvador Perez.

On Sunday, exactly 54 days later, Chapman returned to the mound to close out his first game of the season against Colorado. He issued a leadoff walk to Troy Tulowitzki, but after that buckled down to strike out Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau. After struggling a bit during rehab it was really great to see him immediately return to dominant form.

For some reason this guy is still available in six percent of leagues on CBSSports. If by chance you happen to be in one of those leagues, you best be putting in a waiver claim. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little worried for the guy. You never know how a person deals with a traumatic incident like this. Chapman answered that question by pretending like it never happened.

Observation

Money motivates. Just ask Jon Lester. He offered Boston a hometown discount only to be low-balled in contract offers prior to the start of the season. Apparently, he took it personal. His 4-4 record doesn’t scream elite, but his peripheral numbers this year have been nothing short of spectacular. His K/9 sits at a career best 10.67, ERA down at 2.75, WHIP at 1.08 and BB/9 of 2.10. Through eight starts he is on pace for a career season, all at the age of 30, no less. This obviously got me wondering what was up, and the only thing that I see is that he is throwing his cutter more at the expense of his changeup. Last season, he threw it 23.2 percent of the time, this year he uses it 29.4 percent of the time. That has been a good thing according to PITCHf/x data, because it shows Lester’s cutter has been the most effective in the league. Expect his success to continue.

Speculation

Mark Teixiera hit his seventh homer of the season on Sunday, a blast into the second row of the upper deck in Milwaukee off of Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez. It was K-Rod’s first earned run and blown save of the season. For the year, Teixeira has posted a .266-15-7-16-0 line over his first 94 plate appearances. Injuries limited him to playing just 138 games in his previous two seasons, and the result had many sour on him. So far, the results have been solid for the 34-year-old Teixeira, but the question is whether it will continue? My answer is yes, provided he can keep his butt healthy and on the field. His walk and strikeout numbers are right in line with his career averages, as are his plate discipline numbers. His batting average will be an issue for the remainder of his career, courtesy of the shift he now has to deal with, but his power and run production will be of use as a pretty high quality corner infield or utility option.

Revelation

Only three players in all of baseball have more home runs than the nine Colby Rasmus has hit so far this season. The power surge has the 27-year-old lefty now owned in a season high 74 percent of leagues on CBS Sports. Could this be the year he harnesses all that talent and puts together the big season Fantasy owners have been waiting for? Unfortunately, the numbers say no, and resoundingly for that matter. His .227 batting average is bad, but his 32.9 percent strikeout percentage is downright awful. He is on pace to strike out 196 times this year. Pitchers are offering him a career low 39.9 percent of pitches he sees inside the strike zone. He is rewarding them by chasing pitches outside the zone, and missing a lot of them. This isn’t a recipe for success. The homers are going to dry up; he is hitting one for every 14.2 at-bats, an unsustainable rate. There is no reason to bother with him for your team until you see an improvement in discipline at the plate. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting on that, though.

Observation

Heading into this season, Corey Kluber was a popular arm amongst Fantasy experts. It was hard not to like a guy that posted an 8.31 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 en route to a very respectable 3.85 ERA over 26 appearances (24 starts) last season. He started off slow, giving up 14 earned runs over his first four starts, leaving him with a 5.40 ERA. Over his last four starts he has just given up six earned runs over 27.1 innings while striking out 38 batters, improving his ERA to a very respectable 3.48. It’s early, but Kluber is actually posting better numbers this year than last, upping his K/9 to 9.93 while keeping his walks down and limiting the home run. Like the aforementioned Lester, Kluber has been doing all his damage with his cutter. Opposing batters really struggled with the pitch last season, and through his first eight starts, they are having even more trouble with it this year. The breakout performance is underway folks. If you own him hold tight.

Speculation

So far this season, I have probably gotten more questions on Brian Dozier than any other player. His .238-34-9-17-12 line over his first 175 plate appearances atop the Twins order has been extremely valuable to his Fantasy owners. Everyone asks when is this kid going to fall back down to earth? My response is he brought a parachute, meaning he stabilizes, but doesn’t crash. He is walking at an absurd 16.0 percent clip right now. His ability to work a count has resulted in his soaring run and stolen base totals. I like these to continue. His power is where I think we may see a decline. Through 2,269 college and minor league at-bats Dozier had 32 homers. He has 33 through 1,014 major league at-bats. At 26, he is heading into his prime years, but expecting more than 20 homers from him would be foolish. I do, however, think we should see some improvement in terms of batting average. He was a career .355 hitter in college and a .298 hitter in the minors. With his improved discipline I expect his .238 average to creep up into the .260 range.

Revelation

Sometimes a pitchers baseline numbers don’t tell the whole story. A perfect example of that right now is Brandon McCarthy. For the season he has a posted a 1-6 record and 5.66 ERA through his first eight starts. That, however, is just about the only bad I see. His K/9 has jumped to a career best 8.50. The increased strikeouts have not resulted in more walks, as he is walking just 1.89 per nine innings. He is inducing a career high 52.3 percent ground ball rate courtesy of his sinker, while also showing improved velocity due to a new training regimen. Combine this with the fact that his strand rate is at a very low 58.4 percent (12 percent lower than his career average) and his HR/FB at 21.6 percent (11.8 percent lower than his career average), and you see a guy that is about to start posting solid numbers once things normalize for him. He is currently available in 78 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, and if you need some starting pitching help he is one of my top recommendations.

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