Fantasy Baseball: Matt Davidson the Next 40 HR Hitter?
New for 2018, I'll be giving you a full house of Fantasy Baseball players (five – two hitters, three pitchers or vice versa) with the most noteworthy performances. It's my "What you might have missed over the past week" piece. For Week 1 (plus a few days), it's not just Shohei Ohtani that's impressed us already early this season.
What Did You Miss from Week 1?
Shohei Ohtani, LAA – There is no question that Ohtani had the eyes of the Fantasy Baseball world on him. His first opportunity to open those eyes came as a hitter, when Ohtani was the Angels DH against the Athletics and got a hit in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, Ohtani was 0-for-4 after that, but hold on to your seat because the ride is about to take off!
Ohtani's pitching debut started as good as one could hope, as he set down the first four batters, three by strikeout. Twitter was ablaze with everyone claiming they never lost hope during Spring Training and that Ohtani is going to be amazing. Then, the wheels came off for a bit and the overrated claims came roaring back. Ohtani gave up two singles and then a three-run home run to Matt Chapman before getting two groundouts to end the inning. It was smooth sailing from there though, as Ohtani wouldn't allow another run or hit, finishing the day with 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB and 6 K. To top it off, Ohtani DH'd in back-to-back games (April 3-4), going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, then 2-for-5 with another home run, this time off some guy named Corey Kluber. In fact, Ohtani was the only Angels batter to finish with two hits.
Is Ohtani on his way to an MVP season? Well, no, of course not… just as Ohtani wasn't on his way to being a bust after his 27.00 ERA, 4.12 WHIP and .529 BAA in 2.2 spring innings. The truth is Ohtani needed time to adjust to playing in MLB, and he'll still likely hit a few adjustment bumps along the way. With a fastball reaching 100 mph (averaging 97-98), a nasty split-finger fastball and good slider, Ohtani has the tools to strike out well more than a batter per inning and post a low-3.00 ERA. That's his true value, and that will make him a Top 20 pitcher.
For the hitting, that's all just icing and for our viewing enjoyment. Most leagues either didn't allow for Ohtani the hitter or force you to choose each week if you want to start the pitcher or hitter. If you're in a weekly roster league, you can't ever choose Ohtani the hitter (sounds like Conan's next battle). However, this early success, especially in a game against Kluber, adds appeal in daily transaction leagues.
Jake Junis, KC – Junis is one of the most added and searched pitchers in Fantasy Baseball, and it's not surprising after he blanked the Tigers for seven innings. Junis allowed just three hits while striking out six and walking one. The question is if Junis is a must-add. In 15-team leagues, Junis might not even be available. In 12-teamers, Junis is likely sitting on the wire (if your waivers haven't run), and I will give you the thumbs up on adding him in all leagues. In 10-team leagues, Junis is a decent add but not a must-own, as the strikeouts will never be great.
Junis only topped 20 in K% twice through the minors but carries a nice SOBB (StrikeOut percentage minus Base on Ball percentage) due to his quality control. At his best, Junis can be Marcus Stroman-like, as seen in the final two months last year with his 3.61 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. That also means Junis can leave you screaming into a pillow if he's having an off day. Outings with less control, an unfortunate home run rate and/or unlucky BABIP will happen, so don't expect a Top 20 ace. However, Junis does have the potential to be a breakout pitcher for 2018 with quality marks in ERA and WHIP.
Brian Anderson, MIA – Isn't it amusing when someone writes about how a player could be a breakout a week into the season and after said player has already impressed? Don't worry, I'm not here to tell you, "I told you so," when it comes to Anderson or that he's a sneaky breakout player for 2018. While I may love to tell people when I'm right, I'm not lazy on top of it. After all, if you haven't heard Anderson's name yet, you probably wouldn't be reading this piece since you're in a league with eight teams that start just three outfielders.
Anderson finished the spring hitting .275 with four home runs, 13 Runs and 11 RBI in 23 games, which had him on the Fantasy radar already. Through April 3, Anderson is hitting .320 with a homer, six Runs and six RBI. Anderson is clearly locked in as the Marlins' starting third baseman… well… for now. Martin Prado is still trying to return from knee surgery, and the Marlins will want to showcase him for a trade. If Anderson starts to struggle and Prado returns, Anderson could head back to the bench with the outfield clogged by Lewis Brinson, Derek Dietrich and Cameron Maybin, and don't forget Garrett Cooper is in the mix. But what is Anderson's upside? He has the potential to be a solid major leaguer with mid-20 pop and not much else. A full season could help Anderson top 60 Runs and RBI, but he profiles to carry a middling average. If you can sell on the hype, it would be the wise move.
Matt Davidson, CHW – Davidson was one of my favorite draft values this season, as everyone dismissed him due to his .220 AVG last year. Is Davidson going to hit over .250? No chance. Especially not with a K% of 37.2 last year. As worrisome as that rate is, Davidson has the ability to lower it a tad and get his AVG up to .240. That still wouldn't help you, but at least it wouldn't destroy your average. Truthfully, Davidson is the recent version of Todd Frazier without the handful of steals, and people are happy to own Frazier, understanding the value he brings despite hurting you in average.
Davidson hasn't even peaked power wise, as he has the ability to reach 40 homers over a full season, which would include over 160 Runs plus RBI. You're telling me that a line of a reasonable line of .230/70/30/80 isn't worth owning in all leagues? Even in 12-teamers, Davidson would bring value at the CI spot. Just suck it up when it comes to average and enjoy the three-category value.
Tyler Mahle, CIN – As with Junis, Mahle impressed in his first start and against a more fearsome Cubs lineup. Mahle doesn't have much more strikeout potential than Junis, but if he can master a third pitch, Mahle could near a strikeout per inning. Mahle relies on his fastball, technically two of them, as he throws a four-seamer and two-seamer. Mahle has an above average slider, but his changeup needs work even though it has nice movement. His curve is nothing more than a "show me" pitch and likely never will be.
The good news is that Mahle succeeds thanks to his terrific control of the strike zone. On the bad news front, Mahle needs to improve his approach to lefties, likely in getting more use out of his slider. Mahle isn't quite Bartolo Colon relying on just one pitch, but he does have similarities in that his working of the zone can help him succeed without a top-end arsenal of pitches. Mahle is a must-own in 15-team leagues and a strong watch, bordering on being a pickup in 12-teamers if needy for some pitching help. Despite his success against the Cubs, sitting him against tough lineups, especially lefty-heavy ones, is the wise move.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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