Fantasy Baseball OSR Report: Johnny Cueto Es En Fuego
We officially have one week of baseball in the books. God it feels great to actually be able to watch a game that means something. To track box scores of stats that actually counts towards my team. With that always comes good and bad in the form of hot starts and cold starts.
Unfortunately, the nature of all Fantasy sports means kneejerk reactions. Out of any Fantasy sport, they are most dangerous here.
If you would have told any Fantasy owner that Jonathan Lucroy and Victor Martinez would each have a stolen base but Billy Hamilton wouldn’t, they would have laughed. I mean come on, the guy is the next coming of Vince Coleman, and he should have six by now! The fact that he struck out six times in his first 12 atbats doesn’t help matters. Jamming his left middle finger on a steal attempt seals the deal on an absolute worst case scenario start for the speedy youngster.
Before you ask, the answer is no, you shouldn’t cut him, and you also shouldn’t take any lowball trade offers for him either.
There is a term thrown around by many experts called small sample size (SSS). A career worth of minor league numbers typically are not a SSS. One week, albeit a bad one, to start a major league career is. There were plenty of reasons to have reservations about whether Billy Hamilton would succeed this season. If you drafted him you should know all of them and felt his game changing speed was more than enough reason to take the risk. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and give the kid some time to settle in.
Three DL stints derailed Johnny Cueto’s 2013 season, holding him to just 11 starts. A myriad of injuries actually held him to only 68 starts over his last three seasons combined. He did, however, post stellar numbers when on the mound in the form of a 2.61 ERA over 433.2 innings pitched.
Fantasy owners had a classic risk/reward candidate when deciding whether to take a chance. So far, reward is winning. Cueto hasn’t tallied a win yet, but he has struck out 17 over his 14 innings pitched while posting a 1.93 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. While the numbers are good, what’s better is his velocity has spiked. His average fastball thus far has been 93.4 MPH, .9 MPH higher than last year. He modified his delivery last year to try and limit injury and the result actually has him throwing harder. I would be crazy if I told you I was sold on the fact that this guy can stay healthy.
What I can tell you is that if his mechanical tweak does keep him on the mound then he is going to be one of the biggest steals in Fantasy Drafts this year.
Heading into this season, to say that the Rockies centerfield situation was muddled would be an understatement. Prospect Corey Dickerson had impressive minor league numbers and held his own upon a midseason promotion last year. The club also brought in Drew Stubbs from Cleveland; a move that was very interesting considering his power/speed combo. Then there was Charlie Blackmon, the man who, for all intents and purposes, was the third horse in this race, even after batting .309 with six homers and 22 RBI over 246 atbats. Both Stubbs and Dickerson outperformed Blackmon this spring, but it has been Blackmon who has received a bulk of the playing time thus far. In case you weren’t aware, he has run with the opportunity, hitting .542 with a homer and six RBIs. All but one of his atbats has come out of the leadoff slot. That, my friend, is the telling factor here, and the reason I think Blackmon holds this job. This team needs a table setter, and Blackmon’s hot start should lock him in as the man. He is definitely worth adding at this point if you need help in the outfield.
Many were down on Melky Cabrera heading into this season. His 50game PED suspension didn’t help matters. A knee injury limited him to just 72 games last year as well, creating additional doubt about his mixed league worthiness. If that wasn’t enough, he also had a tumor removed from his lower back near his spinal cord last September as well. This offseason, he worked out with Jose Bautista in an effort to bring his “A” game this year. It definitely looks like we all need to get on that regimen because Cabrera has been on an absolute tear to start the season. It feels like he has been around forever, but he is still just 29, right in that age range where we can still see a step forward. While I don’t believe in the power, he has plenty of ability to hit for average while offering solid counting stats as well. He is currently owned in 74 percent of leagues polled.
That number will rise. If you need to get your hands on a reliable fourth outfielder you can do a lot worse. Cabrera isn’t elite; I won’t tell you he is. That doesn’t mean he isn’t better than the last couple of guys you drafted.
Baseball is funny sometimes. As I take a look around the league in general, there are interesting stats floating out there. Through their first 164 at-bats, Kansas City is the only team without a homer. The Yankees have one through their first 204. The Mets and Cardinals have yet to steal a base, while the Yankees and Dodgers lead the league with eight apiece. I definitely wouldn’t have pegged those two teams to run this much to start the season. The Rockies lead the league in ground ball-to-fly-ball ratio (1.33) and double play balls (10). If this trend continues, they aren’t going to be taking advantage of that thin Rocky Mountain air. San Diego (7) and Cincinnati (9) have the fewest extra base hits in the league. The Brewers lead the league in team ERA at 1.45 while the Twins are still in last at 6.20, despite their offseason acquisitions. Possibly the most interesting stat of all was that the Tigers have only struck out 27 batters through their first 46 innings, dead last in the league. They led all of baseball last year with 1,428. The moral of this story is that this is just one week. The ebbs and flows of the game will even out and the cream always rises to the top.
Yovani Gallardo has always been an interesting guy from a Fantasy perspective. I mean, it’s hard not to like a guy with a career K/9 of 8.82 over 1109.2 innings. But with those strong strikeout totals came 1.30 WHIP that had been continually moving up. Last year Fantasy owners hit a breaking point when they saw his K/9 drop to a career low 7.17 while his WHIP climbed to 1.36 and opposing batters hit a career high .256 against him. This year he was drafted outside the Top 50 in just about all mixed leagues. Well, through two starts this season (12.2 innings) he has yet to give up an earned run, only allowed a pair of walks and opposing hitters have hit just .224 against him. Did I mention these starts came against Atlanta and Boston as well? Is it time to jump on back on the bandwagon? I say, not so fast. Sure, the competition was solid, but both these teams are off to extremely slow starts offensively. Boston ranks 24 and Atlanta ranks tied for 28 well, good for a 4.97 K/9. If I owned him, I would keep him seated for a few more starts before tossing him in my lineup. Nothing I see proves he is anything better than what we saw from him last year.
I made a mistake this draft season. I bit hard on the Javier Baez hype. It’s hard not to love what I saw this spring. The fact that they actually wanted to see him at second base had me believing he had a shot at breaking camp with the team. This caused me to back off another guy I liked; Emilio Bonifacio. You see, I figured Bonifacio would see five starts a week scattered between second base and the outfield. He has gotten that playing time early and run with it, literally. Bonifacio has posted a .500 average with five runs scored and four stolen bases over his first 31 plate appearances. This kind of start ensures he will continue to see the field. One thing that this guy never has truly been guaranteed throughout his career is playing time. With it though, he has proven he can be an elite source of stolen bases. He stole 30 bases in 64 games back in ’12 with the Marlins and swiped another 31 bags last year with sporadic playing time between the Blue Jays and Royals. Bonifacio is going to get playing time this year, and with it I am very confident he finishes as a Top10 option in steals this year. Grab him while you can folks, this time next week he won’t be available.