The term ace gets thrown around quite often, but depending on the context, it can have several meanings. Each team has their “ace,” even if he doesn’t match up to the top-tier pitchers in the league. For Fantasy purposes, there are about 20 pitchers that one could make a case of being an ace. Outside of them, however, you’re looking for high-upside players, safe players and players who are under the radar.
For Junior Guerra, he’s the Milwaukee Brewers de facto ace, and far too under-owned in Fantasy leagues.
What does his ace presence on the Brewers have to do with anything? Well, at 31, the Brewers may just let the converted catcher go. No innings limits. No pitch counts. No protecting him for the future.
The Brewers are in a rebuild, and they want pitchers, pitchers and more pitchers. Guerra is arbitration eligible in 2019, and coming into this season, he had just 174 innings total pitcher since 2006 – including a three-year layoff between 2008 with the Mets High-A team and in the Mexican league in 2012.
On the season, Guerra is 3-1, with a 3.47 ERA. His strikeout rate is 8.92 with a .292 BABIP and a 38.9 percent groundball rate. His FIP indicates that he could actually improve, as it’s sitting at 2.84.
Including his last start against the Cardinals, who absolutely crush right-handed pitching, Guerra has a four-start stretch where he allowed three earned runs twice and shutout the opponent twice. In the starts against the Cardinals, Braves, Cubs and Padres, Guerra has 27 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
The weapon for Guerra has been the use of his splitter. Of the 130 splitters that he’s thrown this year, Guerra has a 45.5 percent groundball rate with the pitch, including no home runs allowed. The average velocity for his splitter sits around 85.1 mph, and he’s held opponents to a .146 average against with 17 strikeouts using the pitch.
Look, Guerra isn’t going to be an ace for your staff. He won’t even be one of your top four pitchers. However, if you are looking for a guy who is more than a two-start option with a high strikeout rate, look no further than Guerra, who is owned in just 20.3 percent of ESPN leagues and eight percent of Yahoo! leagues.
The next Carlos Correa?
Okay, while he may not have the exact upside that Carlos Correa has, the Astros don’t have far to look for their next impact bat at the minor league level. While A.J. Reed got much of the hype in the offseason for his big power bat, Alex Bregman has scouts and Fantasy players raving and anticipating his eventual call up.
“He’s a game changer. He has the potential to make the impact for the Astros that Correa did last year,” one scout told me.
The Astros have already made adjustments with Bregman, as the No. 2 pick in the 2015 and natural shortstop has been playing games at third base in Double-A. Ironically – or not – the Astros have a giant void to fill at third on their big league roster.
What can Bregman bring to the table from a Fantasy perspective? Well, he is a must-own grab whenever he gets the call. While prospects have disappointed us for the most part this year, he’s a worthy stash to beat the rush now. On the season at Corpus Christi, the 22-year-old is slashing .313/.423/.626 with 12 homers, 35 RBIs and three stolen bases in four chances.
Trea Turner will get the call first of the prospects, but while Turner’s main attribute that he brings to the table is speed, Bregman is a better all-around contributor with SS eligibility already attached to his name.
Those in 10-team leagues can wait until he’s called up, but those in 12-team leagues or larger can stash Bregman now, as it’s a matter of when, not if, he gets the call up. Bregman is currently owned in four percent of Yahoo! leagues and 3.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
Speaking of Astros prospects not named Reed, 23-year-old pitcher Joe Musgrove has been getting attention for his performance in the minors this season. Musgrove, between six games in Double-A and four at Triple-A, has a 1.64 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP while holding opponents to a .230 batting average against and striking out 50 hitters in 49.1 innings.
Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Musgrove doesn’t get the attention that fellow prospects Blake Snell, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito, Alex Reyes, Jose Berrios, Julio Urias, Sean Newcomb and even Robert Stephenson get, but he belongs in the same conversation as all of them. For the rest of the year, I’d rank them Snell, Glasnow, Urias, Musgrove, Berrios, Taillon, Newcomb, Giolito and Stephenson for potential impact for Fantasy.
The Astros rotation is a mess, with Doug Fister (!?!?!?) having arguably the best season of any of their pitchers thus far with Dallas Keuchel turning into a pumpkin, Collin McHugh’s Jekyll and Hyde routine and Lance McCullers control issues. The opening is there for Musgrove to make an impact for the Astros sooner rather than later. In 10-team leagues, he can be ignored. In 12-team leagues or larger, he’s worthy of a stash before more people (owned in one percent of leagues in Yahoo! and less than one percent of leagues in ESPN) catch on to him.
Cubs Déjà Vu
This time last year, we started getting excited for Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber to make his debut in the big leagues. The impact he had on Fantasy teams was resounding, as the masher hit his way to being the second catcher off the boards in 2016 drafts.
Without a position to play, really, Schwarber was put in the outfield, where he tore his ACL and LCL during the first week of the season after a collision with Dexter Fowler. While the Cubs would love his bat in the lineup, they’re doing just fine. However, proving that the rich only get richer sometimes, another big-time catching prospect could find his way to the Windy City shortly, as Willson Contreras has been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A Iowa, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.
On the season, the 24-year-old Venezuelan has a line of .337/.427/.574 with eight home runs, 35 RBIs, 26 strikeouts and 24 walks in 169 at-bats. His OBP and OPS are toward the top of the PCL, and while Miguel Montero has the lock on catching job for the Cubbies for now, it won’t be long before Contreras stops knocking on the door to the majors, but breaks it down instead.
With the black hole that has been catcher this season, Contreras is a worthy stash in all 12-team leagues or larger, and can be picked up in all leagues once he gets the call. Contreras is owned in 2.2 percent of ESPN leagues and two percent of leagues in Yahoo!.