Angels’ Shohei Ohtani Impresses, Phillies’ Aaron Nola Could Disappoint
Let’s face it – we still don’t know a lot about the 2018 season. Some teams have only a few games under their belts, while others are having cancellations due to the snow. But we can look back at what we did witness from the first games of the season, which is now five days old.
Here are my observations from Fantasy perspectives.
Shohei Ohtani is as Good as Advertised
There was literally no reason to panic over what Shohei Ohtani did in spring training. But given the lens he was being viewed with, I do get it, to an extent. Ohtani brought it during his debut Sunday, making A’s hitters whiff at his splitter that just fell off the face of the earth.
Shohei Ohtani embarrasses Matt Olson again, this time with a 90mph Splitter. pic.twitter.com/MG4c9eKVu8
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) April 1, 2018
Aside from one slider which he hung to Matt Chapman, Ohtani was as advertised, sitting regularly at 98-99. His velocity ranged from 100 to 74, which for all of you who struggle at math is a 26-mph difference. That’s … Noah Syndergaard-like. It’s just one start, but Ohtani is must watch – and must start in Fantasy – every time out.
The hitting version, though, is not. He recorded a base hit on his first at-bat, but it was a dribbler that found its way through the infield. The hitting version of Ohtani isn’t worth owning in Yahoo leagues, and unless you’re in a daily lineups league, Ohtani shouldn’t be seeing your starting roster as a hitter. The volume of at-bats just won’t be there.
Xander Bogaerts Breakout?
We’ve been treating Xander Bogaerts like a Fantasy superstar, even though he’s not close to being one. Sure, he’s fine at the position, and I wouldn’t mind starting him, but his play doesn’t justify his ADP. But could this be the year that Bogaerts is actually good, and we don’t have to make excuses for his play? Well, he’s off to a nice start for the Red Sox, as Bogaerts entered the week 8-17 with five doubles and one homer. The most impressive part, though, is that Bogaerts is tearing the cover off the ball. He has four hits of over 100-mph exit velocity, which is two fewer than last year. This might be the year Bogaerts finally lives up to his potential without any fluky outliers.
Jameson Taillon the GOAT
Do people realize how good Jameson Taillon was for Fantasy in the first half last year? He had a 2.73 ERA, with 59 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched. All we remember, though, are his second-half numbers, highlighted by a 5.96 ERA and .312 batting average against. The guy was battling cancer, and we are going to hold those numbers against him?
He was being criminally overlooked this year, and Monday, he had an impressive debut, where he struck out nine Twins, while allowing four hits and two earned runs in 5.1 innings against the Twins, as he relied heavily on his filthy curveball.
Jameson Taillon with a curveball looking just like Jose Berrios' deuce from Sunday.
Absolutely beautiful. pic.twitter.com/ql42nExFJG
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) April 2, 2018
It’s funny that Nick mentions Jose Berrios in his Twitter caption, because Taillon was the pitcher I was suggesting that people wait on instead of taking Berrios at his 101 ADP, according to NFBC. Taillon, 174 NFBC ADP, will prove to be the better value this year. He’s worth buying high on after his stellar debut.
Jose Berrios Can Be Really, Really Good
The first complete game shutout of 2018 went to Berrios. I’m … surprised. Not because Berrios isn’t good – he is – but because he’s a young pitcher, making his first start of the season, when teams are still fully stretching their guys out. When Berrios is on, his stuff is as electric as anyone’s, with his breaking stuff nearly unhittable. But while Berrios has shown these flashes, he’s also shown inconsistencies, just like any other young pitcher.
Berrios was being overdrafted for my liking, and after this start, he was earning comparisons to the late Jose Fernandez. If someone in your league views Berrios like this after one start, you need to minimize this window, go to your league home page and sell him right now. He’s going to be an inconsistent SP3, but if you can get high-end SP2 value for him, it’s a no-brainer.
Why Does Joe Maddon Hate Ian Happ?
Ian Happ was ready for 2018. He took the first pitch of the entire baseball season deep off the Marlins’ Jose Urena. What was his reward? Well, he was benched two of the next three games against lefties Caleb Smith and Dillon Peters. That’s not exactly encouraging. Yes, he has eight strikeouts so far, but if he is not starting against pitchers like Smith and Peters, he is not going to be starting against the elite southpaws.
Joe Maddon needs to get out of his own way and play Happ 145 games this year, and opt for him against lefties over Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber.
Jesse Winker Table-setter
Jesse Winker didn’t just start in two of the Reds’ first three games – he led off. Winker was thought to be the fourth option in the Cincy four-outfielder rotation, behind Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall, but he may be the preferred option for the Reds and Fantasy owners. Winker leading off is huge news for his owners, as at-bats are a criminally underappreciated stat in Fantasy Baseball … which is why this news stinks for Hamilton and his owners.
Hamilton hit ninth in Game 1, sat on the bench during Game 2 and hit leadoff with Winker on the bench in Game 3 against the Nationals. Hamilton can steal from the nine-hole, but he needs that extra at-bat each game to maximize his value. This platoon is worth keeping a close eye on daily.
Trea Turner Buried
When Dusty Baker went away, the sound of rejoicing you heard was from Nationals fans, as well as Trea Turner owners. Turner seemed cemented in the first or second part of the batting order, which was huge for his steals totals. But when the Opening Day lineup came out, Turner was slotted … sixth? Was it a typo? Nope. Howie Kendrick was slotted above him in the batting order.
Now, this doesn’t kill his production, but would he be my third pick off the board today with this news? No, he wouldn’t. I’d move him to fourth or fifth behind Nolan Arenado and Mookie Betts. His projected runs total will take a hit, and the increased RBIs won’t be enough to make up for the loss of value at runs and steals.
This may not be for the entire season, and as a Turner owner, you better hope he finds the top of the order soon.
Gabe Kapler: Smartest Man in the Room
Personally, I feel all of the Gabe Kapler nonsense is being overblown. I’m a big fan of his, and I understand what he’s doing. Thanks to Brian Dozier and Chance Cisco for taking the eye off of Philadelphia for a day or two.
When Kapler pulled Aaron Nola in the sixth inning while he was dealing, it definitely raised some eyebrows, but again, I totally get what he was doing. In real life, I love it! I don’t know if it’s sustainable, as he’s used 21 pitchers in three games this season as of Monday morning. For Fantasy, though, it’s not good news. If Kapler sticks with this approach throughout the year, Nola and his fellow Philly starters may not matter much in Fantasy, as the innings just won’t be there for the counting stats. It’s a good buy-low opportunity for Nola and Jake Arrieta, but approach with caution.
Shohei Ohtani Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot
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