Murderers Row is Murdering Your Fantasy Team
In my second career season of Fantasy Baseball, I played in a points league on StatsBB and Mariano Rivera was given the closer role after the Yankees allowed John Wetteland to leave via free agency. He blew a couple of saves early and his Fantasy owner was panicking because Rivera was a new closer, and he thought he was going to lose the job. I pounced.
These days, there are too many players, too many analysts, and too much information. Owners still get those urges, but rarely make mistakes like that this early in the season. We are less than two full weeks into the current Fantasy Baseball season and people are already panicking because players aren’t performing. It also means that some owners are patting themselves on the back for late round fliers that have panned out and targets that have hit the mark, which is crazy.
Conclusions are being drawn on the tiniest of samples and yet, we can’t do anything about it. Nobody is going to sell low on a struggling stud and nobody is going to buy high on a player without a track record after so few games. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a peek at some good, some bad and some heinously ugly happenings in pinstripes. It also doesn’t mean we can’t do a little analysis, throw some stuff against the wall and see if any of it makes any sense enough to stick. So, let’s give it a whirl in the opening episode of Trending and Noteworthy: The Fantasy Baseball Edition.
Murderers Row is Murdering Your Fantasy Team
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, New York Yankees
Three HRs - 20 Ks - .699 OPS - .167 BA
It’s difficult to make a claim that Stanton was over-drafted this year because he is going to hit at least 35-40 home runs with a potential ceiling of 60, and a handful of stolen bases thrown in for flavor and fun. The problem is that he is going to regress from 2017, which we’re already seeing, and he has always been an injury concern. In eight MLB seasons, he has only played 145 games or hit more than 35 home runs three times. There is a lot of risk to that potential 60 home run reward.
Stanton has been awful. It was clearly foreseeable and yet, he is still doing what owners expected from him - hitting bombs. He just isn’t doing it as well as many hoped so far. It’s too early to do anything yet. However, once we get a credible sample size to develop an argument one way or another, he will either be a buy low or sell high guy. Stay tuned. Stanton will be one of the most noteworthy first round picks of the 2018 draft.
Fear the Kraken. pic.twitter.com/yBruaKPVpK
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 12, 2018
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
One HR - Zero BBs - .063 BA
Sanchez was one of the more obvious over-drafted players of the 2018 season, making his early season struggles a gut punch. He has been an automatic out early on, and while he isn’t striking out a lot, he isn’t walking or hitting with authority either. If you haven’t learned yet, hopefully, you will listen now; don’t pay for catchers. Catcher is the one position at which a player’s contribution is at risk because of the rigors of the position regardless of the individual player’s talents. Sanchez is a great hitter with immense power, but the wear and tear of defending the position takes a toll on the best and the worst, and the injury risk is too great.
If you paid the steep draft day price, then you have to be wincing while you sit powerless to do anything about it. You should feel a level of confidence, in spite of his abysmal start, that he is going to hit at least 20-25 home runs and at some point, someone will come looking to trade for him. Owners need to accept the fact that they paid a cost on draft day that they shouldn’t have. When other owners come looking to trade for him, don’t stubbornly dig in and refuse to sell him for less than his draft day ADP cost. At some point, Sanchez will get back on track, his trade value will soar and that’s when you unload your mistake. Stay tuned. I will let you know when.
Jakob Junis, SP, Kansas City Royals
Two Starts - Two Wins - 14 Innings Pitched - Nine Ks - Zero Earned Runs - .50 WHIP
The strikeout rate is lower than Fantasy owners like to see, but his home starts are in a pitcher-friendly park, and he is owned in only 63 percent of Yahoo leagues. He is a streaming option who is starting to build a 2018 resume to justify regular starts in Fantasy rotations. He won a starting job for the Royals; maybe he’ll win one for you soon.
Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Two Starts - Two Wins - 13 IP - 20 Ks - Two BBs - 1.39 ERA
Corbin put himself on the Fantasy radar in 2013 with a breakout campaign that he has been unable to repeat since. The potential is there, and the 2018 results have been good. He is owned in 87 percent of leagues, so he isn’t an unknown, but he could be an early season trade target after dominating the strong offensive lineups of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Three HRs - 13 RBIs - .310 BA - One SB – Eight BBs – Five Ks
Fantasy followers have been projecting a breakout from Polanco for several years and maybe this is the year. He has the plus hit tool, the approach, and the power/speed combination to be an impact Fantasy outfielder. So far, he has been.
Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
One HR - Two SBs (One CS) - 12 Ks – Six BBs - .231 BA
Pham’s 2017 breakout season was more of an outlier than a trend, but he has the power and speed to be an impact player. His .306 batting average in 2017 was a surprising change from his .258 career average over 809 minor league games. His early season walk rate suggests that while the raw numbers don’t look so good, he hasn’t been as bad as his .231 batting average would suggest. Still, his low minor league walk rate and batting average suggest that Pham lacks the approach to repeat last season’s performance. However, if you believed in Pham on draft day, then you should be holding onto him or targeting him in trades based on his peripheral indicators and improved walk rates.
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves
10.1 IP – 15 Ks - Three BBs - 1.16 ERA
Having a plus arm generates excitement about the possibilities and early in 2018, there are reasons to think that a late round pick on Foltynewicz was a wise investment. Foltynewicz is being treated like a streaming option, but he deserves a full-time spot on Fantasy rosters. He is currently owned in only 41 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Three HRs - Five BBs - Nine Ks - .375 BA
I ranked Chapman as a 2017 Top 10 rookie because of his plus power and plus defense. He has always taken his walks, he has a strong approach at the plate, and he averaged a home run every four games as a minor league prospect. He has the power to be a 35-40 home run third baseman, and he is showing that early in 2018. He is owned in 77 percent of leagues, so rather than a free agent claim he is a buy low trade target.
Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Three HRs - .324 BA - 15 SOs - One BB
He doesn’t run or walk, and he strikes out disturbingly often, but he is hitting for power and he plays up the middle. If he is your brand of tea, then you should feel more assured now than on draft day that his rookie season was for real. He hit 22 home runs at Double-A in 2016 and 38 combined home runs at Double-A and St. Louis in 2017. DeJong already has three HRs in the first two weeks of 2018. It looks like this kid is going to hit some home runs.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
Three HRs - Six RBIs - Nine Runs scored - .295 BA
Choo was once a five-tool talent that flew under Fantasy radars. The batting average hasn’t been there in recent years, but If he can manage 145 games played, you can expect 20 home runs and double-digit stolen bases. If you approach the Choo owner in your league he will probably be shocked, so propose a larger trade and sneak Choo onto the back end of the deal to see if you can steal some value early in the season. Choo is 57 percent owned.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
Three HRs - Five SBs (0 CS) - .265 BA - 13 Ks
I touted Anderson as a great value up the middle during draft season, and he is proving me right early in 2018. He has the potential to hit for both average and power, and the speed to make impact contributions in stolen bases. He doesn’t have the swagger of a Didi Gregorius or Carlos Correa, or the shiny new feel of Paul DeJong, but his combination of tools and lack of sizzle make him a great value who could finish 2018 as the best Fantasy contributor at the position. He is owned in 75 percent of leagues, so he isn’t an unknown name, but he is a buy low opportunity if you pounce now.
Josh Reddick, OF, Houston Astros
Three HRs - .346 BA - Five BBs - Eight Ks
Reddick has the tools to contribute home runs and stolen bases if he can manage to stay on the field, while holding his own in batting average. The problem with Reddick is his trouble staying healthy, and the Astros are loaded with potential replacements who can fill in admirably if the Astros have a reason to use them. He is only owned in 64 percent of Yahoo leagues and while he is batting .346, you should claim and start him; but don’t be Fantasy fooled. His at bats will be challenged all season.
Preston Tucker, OF, Atlanta Braves
Two HRs - Nine RBIs - .333 BA
The Braves’ crowded outfield situation will be made more crowded with the upcoming Ronald Acuna promotion. Tucker has been a popular waiver wire addition, and he has done well early on. However, he is sitting against left-handers, he isn’t attempting to steal bases and a path to full time at bats is hard to see. Don’t waste a claim on Tucker. He is owned in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues and that number should be lower even though the likelihood is that it will actually rise. Don’t be Fantasy fooled.
Jose Pirela, OF, San Diego Padres
48 at bats - Started in all 11 Padres Games - Four extra base hits - .271 BA - One SB - One BB - 11 Ks
The Padres are another team with a crowded outfield situation, but it appears that Pirela is one of the regulars while Hunter Renfroe is the odd man out looking in. Pirela leads the team in at bats and has three multi-hit games. He’s faced both left and right-handed pitching, and he hasn’t batted lower than fourth in the lineup so far this season.
There were whispers that Pirela is a legitimate sleeper rather than a manufactured one, and he is currently owned in only seven percent of Yahoo leagues. His minor league career suggests he has the tools to contribute both home runs and stolen bases with a little more swing and miss and fewer walks than Fantasy owners like to see. He is unlikely to be a shallow league “must-start,” but he is showing early on that he can be a deeper league contributor.
Top of The List
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Zero HRs - Zero Extra Base hits - Two BBs
It’s too early in the season to come to any kind of conclusion about any player, especially one as talented as Joey Votto; but this is disturbing. He has shown zero power and it isn’t because pitchers are working around him. He has only walked twice. If it’s any consolation to Votto owners, Paul Goldschmidt has only four hits, zero home runs, and zero stolen bases. If Goldschmidt wasn’t walking (10 walks) you wouldn’t know he was playing. There is nothing you can do about Votto or Goldschmidt, so just sit tight, start ‘em and be happy when that first 3 for 5 game happens.
Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
14 IP - 22 Ks - Three BBs - One Earned Run
Cole struck out 11 batters in both of his first two outings. There were rumblings during the offseason that the Astros were going to encourage Cole to use his breaking stuff more often and that it could lead to a huge improvement. Well, he has never averaged more than a strikeout per inning in his career and so far, he has been significantly better than that. We’ll see if the new team, new coaches, and possibly a new approach will sustain itself. It looks like Cole is primed for a career year for a team that is going to provide their pitchers with a lot of run support and win a lot of games.
Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees
Three HRs - Two SBs - 10 Runs Scored - 10 RBIs - .375 BA
When Gregorius was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the New York Yankees, the thought was that he was a “glove only” guy that would defend up the middle until the Yankees found someone who could hit to play the position. Well, a short right field porch and the juiced ball has created a Fantasy monster of sorts in Didi Gregorius. He has hit 20-plus home runs with .276 and .287 batting averages in back-to-back seasons, and he has continued his slugging this season.
If you weren’t buying Gregorius after 2016, and stubbornly doubled-down on your doubts in 2017, then maybe it’s time to admit you were wrong and trade for him in 2018. We have seen proof that the Yankees’ roster is filled with regression candidates and overrated draft day selections, but Gregorius has shown he isn’t one of them. He out-homered Carlos Correa in 2017, tied for third among shortstops with 25 taters and is off and running this season, which shows that 2016 and 2017 weren’t flukes. Buy now or pay double later.
Gary Sanchez Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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