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Thread: Fantasy Baseball News 2018

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  1. #26  
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    Karablog: Is Verlander a top-five pitcher? Which five pitchers are poised to join top 10 in 2018?
    Eric Karabell

    It has become obvious that
    Houston Astros
    Justin Verlander
    really, really likes pitching for this franchise. Verlander mowed down the
    Los Angeles Angels
    on Wednesday night for a five-hit shutout. Through 15 starts for the Astros, including late last season after the trade from the
    Detroit Tigers
    , he boasts a ridiculous 1.05 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and K rate of 11 per nine innings, and according to trusted colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft, Verlander has never had a stretch quite like this in his 15-year career. Verlander is 35, but he has never looked better.

    Verlander rose to the No. 2 option on the ESPN Player Rater, behind only Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and a shade ahead of Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, precocious Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies and, of course, the best of the best, Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who was hitless in four at-bats against Verlander on Wednesday. The question seems worth posing then: What more does Verlander, who was not exactly Matt Moore, Chris Tillman or Bartolo Colon -- wait, he is actually good again -- prior to this stretch of historic excellence, need to do to permeate the hallowed top tier of starting pitchers?

    Well, I still view the Big Four of Scherzer, Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale and injured Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw as their own separate group, with Verlander among several that are knocking on the proverbial door. The longer Kershaw is on the mend and off the mound the more likely it will become, for me, a Big Three. Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg is close, along with Kluber's teammate Carlos Carrasco, Verlander's pal Gerrit Cole and a pair of New York Mets right-handers. I cannot give a clear answer to what it will take for Verlander or anyone else to move up even more. It is mostly feel, and I feel like Verlander is right there, perhaps in the No. 5 slot, ready to pounce to top-tier territory if Kershaw is out another month.

    Verlander certainly seems rejuvenated as he misses more bats, cuts down on the walks, induces more ground balls and forces far less hard contact than what we call normal. We really do not need to study his BABIP and strand rate for proof his ERA is likely to double soon, because nobody ends up with a 1.05 ERA, but Verlander's FIP is 2.20 and his xFIP is 3.51. There is a part of me that believes Verlander is thriving to this degree because he is happy competing for a contender that will participate in meaningful October action, an organization that makes smart decisions to aid its players, whether it is with usage, lineups, positioning, whatever. Perhaps Verlander wins the AL Cy Young award again and finishes up a top-5 starting pitcher. I would not be at all surprised.

    Regardless, it seems rather boring to project which pitchers we already view as top-10 options will push their way into the top four, so here are pitchers I think can legitimately make their way into the top 10. While each is universally rostered, they are not generally in any top-10 discussion for this season and perhaps beyond.

    Charlie Morton, Houston Astros: Yep, the Astros are really, really good. The only knock I see against this revitalized version of journeyman Morton is his history of injury, but we continue to evaluate Kershaw as a fantasy star with fewer starts than most stars. Morton is not Kershaw, of course, but look at these numbers! If he and colleague Lance McCullers Jr. actually make 30 starts, the Astros might never lose. Dare to dream, but if Morton can turn his career around statistically, perhaps he can stay on the field more than in the past as well.

    James Paxton, Seattle Mariners: As with Morton, I think the only legitimate question is about health. Paxton has yet to top 136 big league innings in a season, but he is a major strikeout lefty and still improving. Realize Paxton is holding right-handed hitters to a .163 batting average and .492 OPS. Lefties are curiously hitting .424 with a 1.270 OPS. Which of those numbers is most likely to change? When Paxton starts dominating lefties we will see more flirtations with no-hitters.

    Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies: He will need to keep his ERA and WHIP low because he will not be whiffing more than a hitter per inning in totality, but his groundball tendencies tell us that is possible. Some balancing of the BABIP and strand rate are coming for him as well. All the Phillies starters are outperforming expectations -- and permitting excellent soft contact rates -- and we cannot ignore the organization's analytical tendencies playing a key role.

    Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians: Social media seems to be giving him more angst than opposing hitters. Bauer breezed through the Tigers on Wednesday for 10 strikeouts over eight shutout innings and there are no red flags here. His 2.59 ERA is adding up. I say it finishes on the good side of 3.00, with a strikeout per frame.

    Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox: Laugh if you must because of last season and his most recent performances, but Porcello's 3.28 ERA actually looks a bit unlucky. He has outperformed the metrics. If anyone limits the walks and the home runs, and is durable, which Porcello certainly is, good things can happen. I do not see another 22 wins pending, but the other stats from his award-winning 2016 campaign can.

    Wednesday recap

    Box scores


    Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: 2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI

    Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians: 3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI

    Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: 2-for-5, HR, 2 R

    J.A. Happ, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Nick Pivetta, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K


    Mark Trumbo, OF, Baltimore Orioles: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Joey Gallo, 1B, Texas Rangers: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Matt Koch, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

    Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets: 4 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

    Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

    Wednesday takeaways

    Chris Sale's first 10 starts in 2017: 73 innings.
    First 10 starts in 2018: 63 innings.
    Which is what the new Red Sox staff intended to do -- hold him back early to keep him fresher for the second half.

    - Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 17, 2018

    • Sale investors could not have liked seeing their ace removed after five innings on Wednesday night, but he did throw 102 pitches and frankly, I had no issue with his removal. Sale walked four Oakland Athletics and lacked command. Marcus Semien homered off him in the fifth inning on a pitch that did not go where I think Sale intended. Yes, Sale has thrown fewer innings this season but he remains the No. 6 starting pitcher on the Player Rater. Do not complain.

    • Big Bartolo Colon earned many laughs for a play Wednesday in which his belly was given credit for stopping a ground ball and aiding an out. Colon acknowledged this after the game, to everyone's glee. Still, I cannot possibly recommend Colon for fantasy purposes, even though he boasts a 2.82 ERA and 0.84 WHIP through seven starts and 51 innings for the Texas Rangers. Yes, I have rostered Colon in a few recent seasons in deep leagues, and somehow he gets away with throwing slow fastballs and getting outs, but sometimes things turn quickly. Plus, he does not miss bats. The lack of strikeouts is a concern. This ERA is not legit; his FIP is 4.53. I hate to be negative, but it will not be a belly full of laughs when the ERA jumps two runs.

    • Boston Red Sox catcher/utility Blake Swihart is in the news because he is not playing enough and wants a trade elsewhere. OK, so this stuff happens, but generally with more established veterans. Swihart is 26 and a career .260 hitter. He is hitting .138 in 32 PA. I think there is something there for deep-league fantasy relevance if he gets moved to, say, the Minnesota Twins, who will be sans catcher Jason Castro the rest of the season, but let us not go overboard. Swihart can switch hit and draw a walk, but does not project to hit for power. I do not think mixed leaguers need to stash him or quickly add him if a trade occurs.

    San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has homered on three straight days, each at home. Wow! It is like watching a young Willie McCovey! Sorry, while I would add Belt in mixed leagues because even as a 20-homer guy he is helpful -- and he still has never reached 20 homers in a season -- but this nice 2018 has not convinced me yet that he will be a top-10 first baseman. It is not like he was bashing road home runs in recent seasons. This is only somewhat about his challenging home ballpark.

    • Now it appears the Seattle Mariners will move Dee Gordon back to second base in the absence of an actual big league second baseman on the 40-man roster that is not suspended. Do not expect tangible statistical change in Gordon at the plate, though the upgrade defensively in center field -- and it does not matter who the Mariners choose there, because it is an upgrade -- could aid the pitchers, notably non-strikeout options like Mike Leake. Guillermo Heredia lacks power and speed to aid fantasy managers. There is no enticing outfield prospect ready for promotion. Little changes here for fantasy.

    Injuries of note:

    Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has an oblique injury and does not want the team to place him on the DL, but c'mon, this seems inevitable. Or, Marte will play through it, struggle to hit and make things worse. I want to be optimistic, but take a week off, Starling, everyone seems to be doing it. Marte has played well so far, hitting for average and providing five-category goodness. I, for one, would prefer a week off and a return to health so he can keep doing it as opposed to aggravating the malady and wrecking his numbers. By the way, over-discussed prospect Austin Meadows has one home run at Triple-A Indianapolis in 131 plate appearances. Stop discussing Meadows for fantasy, even if he gets the call.

    Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/outfielder Ryan Braun claims he is headed to the DL with back tightness. Braun, as with New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes, has been a frequent visitor to the sidelines in recent seasons, but hey, when they are active, they always hit! Anyone else frustrated by this behavior? Braun should be fine in a few weeks and he will always hit, but the good days are over. The Brewers have their outfield in place without him anyway, and Domingo Santana, who so many dumped in early April, homered Wednesday. Good times are pending.

    Closing time

    Phillies manager Gabe Kapler angered all the Edubray Ramos investors out there by removing the right-hander one out from a save, but you know what, managers should not manage for the save rule in the first place! Ramos, as predicted here, is not long for many saves. Kapler brought in deposed closer Hector Neris for the final out and nobody earned the "save." Good for Kapler. I think the two options here are several Phillies start getting occasional saves, or Neris returns to getting them all.


    • Look, there went another home run! Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer is back on the mound with his 5.64 ERA, for a road outing at Messrs. Trout and Ohtani. Archer has permitted "only" nine home runs, far from the league lead -- Josh Tomlin is on pace to permit 58 of them! -- but I do not think Archer is going to get that ERA below 4 pitching the way he is. Perhaps he needs a change of scenery, like to L.A.! Anyway, I have concerns.

    • Atlanta Braves lefty Ozzie Albies gets another lefty hurler to feast on, as the Chicago Cubs send Jon Lester to the bump. Albies is a great DFS play with his 1.283 OPS against lefties, which is actually seventh among hitters with 25 PAs against lefties. (Check out Christian Villanueva!). The Braves are legit. I am curious how rookie Michael Soroka performs because one or two more rough outings and he heads back to Triple-A, and I do not want to see that.


  2. #27  
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    Top fantasy baseball free agents by position
    Eric Karabell

    Fantasy baseball managers should regularly check the waiver wire, as perhaps a player is lurking who will soon perform well and add depth to your team, and it will offer you the shot to make a trade for another need. Patience is a virtue, but we often see even the most veteran of managers cutting reliable players too soon after 30 at-bats or several starts. That really should not happen, but we know it does!

    The purpose of this weekly blog is to identify undervalued players who could potentially be available in your league(s), so without further ado, let us get to it!

    Players rostered in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues are not eligible for inclusion on this list.


    Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds (17.6 percent rostered): His strong plate discipline adds value for points formats and OBP ones, and the Devin Mesoraco trade makes it easier for Barnhart to secure playing time. Barnhart is an elite defender, and with his on-base skills could turn into J.T. Realmuto. It is a safe batting average and perhaps he hits 10 homers. By the way, I am marginally interested in Mesoraco now as well. If he can simply stay healthy, we know he can hit.

    Nick Hundley, San Francisco Giants (3.8 percent): The issue is he just does not play enough because Buster Posey is there. Posey has played first base only four times. Hundley can hit a bit but he would frustrate those who need more at-bats.

    Blake Swihart, Boston Red Sox (0.3 percent): He wants a trade way outta town and perhaps he gets it soon to a needy team, but I would have a tough time stashing Swihart in any ESPN standard league in which only one catcher is needed. It is not like this is a future Posey or Gary Sanchez. Perhaps Barnhart.

    Others: James McCann, Detroit Tigers; Martin Maldonado, Los Angeles Angels; Tyler Flowers, Atlanta Braves; Manny Pina, Milwaukee BrewersCorner infield:

    C.J. Cron, Tampa Bay Rays (43.2 percent): It is hardly his first time appearing in this space, but he has really taken to batting second in the lineup and has homered three times in the past week. It likely will not last, and I still prefer Minnesota Twins option Logan Morrison because he has proved -- and as recently as last season -- that he can hit a ton of home runs. Cron can be useful.

    Mark Reynolds, Washington Nationals (8.3 percent): He homered twice in his first game after being promoted thanks to the Ryan Zimmerman DL stint, but Zimmerman should not be out for long. Reynolds hit 30 home runs in 2017 and one could argue he is a better option than the current Zimmerman, but I doubt the Nationals agree. Still, one never knows for sure.

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (18.6 percent): There is little doubt the Hall of Famer's son can rake. I just do not think it is reasonable to expect the Blue Jays to call him up to the majors straight from Double-A anytime soon. Perhaps if Josh Donaldson suffered a long-term injury we would see it, but I am skeptical. Still, for some people just the chance of a Guerrero promotion is enough. Teams do strange things. Guerrero could be called up tomorrow ... or not until 2019. I mean that.

    Others: Logan Morrison, Minnesota Twins; Danny Valencia, Baltimore Orioles; Colin Moran, Pittsburgh Pirates; Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins; John Hicks, Detroit Tigers; Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals

    Middle infield:

    Niko Goodrum, Detroit Tigers (7.7 percent): This is hardly some top prospect emerging, but a journeyman type who reached double digits in home runs and steals at Triple-A last season, and the Tigers have many at-bats to give. It does not mean Goodrum is a special player. He just has opportunity.

    Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (20.9 percent): The veteran has certainly hit well in the past few weeks, and he averaged 15 home runs over the past three seasons. Playing time is not an issue. He hits left-handed pitching well enough. Crawford is not an exciting pickup, but useful.

    Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (10.2 percent): His appeal will rise expeditiously as soon as the organization announces he is a mere days away from returning to the Red Sox, and that could be really soon. Pedroia is not the player he once was, but even last season he hit for average and scored runs from the No. 2 lineup spot. I doubt we see four months of unbridled health, but when he plays, he should hit.

    Others: Yolmer Sanchez, Chicago White Sox; Daniel Descalso, Arizona Diamondbacks; Matt Duffy, Tampa Bay Rays; Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers


    Franmil Reyes, San Diego Padres (18.6 percent): He has been in the big leagues for just a few days but a monster stretch of power in Triple-A got him the promotion, and the Padres are obviously intrigued. So are fantasy managers, who have been a bit too excited. Hitting in the Pacific Coast League is not like the majors, but if your last outfielder is not doing much, take a chance. There will be, perhaps mistakenly, plenty of chances to re-acquire the likes of Domingo Santana, Steven Souza Jr. and Dexter Fowler. I would stick with the veterans, personally.

    Rajai Davis, Cleveland Indians (0.8 percent): He is not, for baseball purposes, young, but Davis has stolen many, many bases in his career and the skills have not left him. Davis boasts eight steals in a mere 82 PA. The Indians should not play him regularly, but he has led off the past two games and if that continues, Davis could return to 30 steals. Do you have anyone on your roster likely to steal 30 bases?

    Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds (44.7 percent): Let him represent, for this week, any number of proven veterans who are currently available in more ESPN leagues than they are rostered. Duvall clubbed 31 home runs last season and 33 the year prior. He has eight blasts this season, and two in the past three games. We know what he is and it is likely better than what the unknown Reyes, who has not failed yet, will do.

    Clint Frazier, New York Yankees (4.4 percent): I actually expect Frazier to end up back in Triple-A soon, but the Yankees could give him some chances in the outfield at the expense of struggling Aaron Hicks and if it goes well, who knows. Frazier gives me a Steven Souza Jr. vibe, as he can provide power and stolen bases from the right side, but will also swing and miss more than we would prefer. Still, Souza is underrated and again, if you add Frazier and it does not work out, there are so many veterans out there to get, minimizing the risk.

    Others: Jon Jay and Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals; Denard Span and Mallex Smith, Tampa Bay Rays; Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres; Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles; Albert Almora Jr., Chicago Cubs

    Starting pitcher:

    Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels (13.4 percent): He worked his way back from Tommy John surgery late last season and so far in 2018 the left-hander has thrived. Heaney misses bats and gives a Sean Manaea vibe. One of them is out there in more than 85 percent of leagues, though.

    Nick Pivetta, Philadelphia Phillies (32.1 percent): It is not his first time on this list, as the strikeout right-hander continues to impress. I do not view him as a spot starter anymore. He should be far more popular. His colleague Vince Velasquez is trending in that direction as well.

    Chad Kuhl, Pittsburgh Pirates (22.5 percent): There does not appear to be major upside for this right-hander, nor his colleague Nick Kingham, who should start this weekend, but they are mid-rotation options. Kuhl has thrown quality starts in four of five chances, and with K's.

    Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (20.3 percent): A repeat option from last week because I feel strongly this can be the best rookie hurler in the NL this season.

    Others: Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins; Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins; Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies; Kyle Freeland, Colorado Rockies; Jaime Barria, Los Angeles Angels; Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers

    Relief pitcher:

    Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers (40.6 percent): A repeat customer in this space, Greene is not elite, but there is nobody else earning saves in this bullpen. He can surpass 25 saves, even if it is a tad ugly, just like the guy who appears leading the "others" section literally every week.

    Jim Johnson, Los Angeles Angels (3.9 percent): Fellow right-hander Justin Anderson is also an option for manager Mike Scioscia, but when in doubt, go with experience. Johnson could win and lose the closer role several times in 2018!

    Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds (4.2 percent): This week's strikeout setup man with little chance of future saves, Garrett really is thriving and he is being used for more than one inning. Wild as a starting pitcher, Garrett has eight strikeouts in his past two appearances. I think right-hander Jared Hughes would take over for saves if Raisel Iglesias gets traded elsewhere. Other setup men with K potential to look at include Boston's Joe Kelly, Pittsburgh's Richard Rodriguez and Washington's Ryan Madson.

    Others: Fernando Rodney, Minnesota Twins (Emphatically yes, he will continue appear in this space every week until he gets to 50 percent rostered!); Brad Ziegler, Miami Marlins, Tyler Clippard, Toronto Blue Jays

  3. #28  
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    Who is the early-season fantasy MVP?
    Eric Karabell

    It is probably safe to say most of us expected Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies to be an important fantasy option, but nobody expected these numbers, and we would all like to re-draft with him going in the first three rounds. Albies enters the eighth weekend of the 2018 MLB season one home run off the major league lead and fourth overall on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater, and all this from a 15th-round selection in ESPN ADP. Hey, Mookie Betts is awesome, but he was the No. 5 overall pick. Mike Trout is obviously awesome. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are as well, but nobody has provided fantasy managers the value Albies has and thus, with roughly a quarter of the season complete, he is an easy call at this point for fantasy.

    The diminutive Albies was supposed to derive statistical value with stolen bases and runs scored, and he is doing that, plus a lot more. The original ESPN Fantasy projections called for a .270 batting average with 10 home runs, 29 stolen bases and 86 runs scored. Those looked reasonable to me! One could certainly argue Albies should have been more popular in drafts, but nobody expected this much power. Albies hit six home runs in his 244 plate appearances with the Braves last season after launching nine blasts in 97 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. That in itself was surprising since Albies hit 15 home runs during four minor league seasons and 1,744 plate appearances. I thought he would build up to the high-teens in home runs in a year or two. Instead, he has 13 home runs and a pace for 50 on May 18. He is 5-foot-8. Betts is maybe an inch taller. Height does not seem to matter anymore.

    Normally we would call the stunning emergence of power this 21-year-old switch-hitter has supplied unsustainable because, well, he had never shown skill like this, but I cannot do that. He is doing it now and the underlying numbers do not scream fluke. Sure, I would like to see Albies take a few more walks -- I would like 90 percent of hitters to do this, really -- but I do not see a major stretch of strikeouts approaching, either. Albies makes plenty of contact. I always worry a bit when a switch-hitter boasts stats so unbalanced with his work against right-handers -- the majority of pitchers -- clearly the weaker side, but a .783 OPS while hitting left-handed is not exactly awful. Albies is destroying lefties with a 1.283 OPS. That should not continue, and nor will the power pace, but a total of 25 home runs, 20 stolen bases and well past 100 runs -- he has 40 in 42 games! -- should keep Albies a top-20 hitter at the least, even if the batting average drops.

    Albies is the lone top-10 option on the current Player Rater not chosen in the first seven rounds of ADP, on average, so this is quite the easy call on early fantasy MVP. Who else makes my top 5? Glad you asked! Enjoy your weekend!

    Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels: The pitching numbers feel about right with my expectations, even if he has been a bit all or nothing. Ohtani is missing plenty of bats, but lacks the volume of other top-20 -- heck, even top-50 -- starters. There are 122 pitchers with more innings so far. That is a problem, of course, but then again, hitting 150 innings was always a big concern. On pitching stats alone Ohtani is barely a top-50 hurler so far. Offensively, though, he looks terrific and surprising, with his .977 OPS and six home runs, and he is two players in one. According to the Rater, Ohtani has actually been more valuable in fantasy as a hitter, but adding the pitching and hitting he has been more valuable, if utilized for all his goodness, than Freddie Freeman, Chris Sale and all but 15 players. Ohtani was a 12th-round ADP choice. It is impossible to quantify the actual value and, to be clear, this process I am using is all subjective anyway to find MVPs, but Ohtani has been worth it and, frankly, must-see TV.

    Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves: Here comes a second Atlanta hitter and surprisingly it is the one that lost his leadoff spot to Albies and is providing fantasy value in only one category. However, that one category matters a lot. Inciarte has turned into Billy Hamilton at this point. He leads the majors in stolen bases with 18, which is a pace for 69. Inciarte stole 22 bases in 2017. Like Forrest Gump, he just feels like running, and we applaud his efforts. Inciarte was a top-100 pick, ever so barely, and his stolen bases are currently the most valuable individual statistic in fantasy so stop worrying about where he hits in the lineup.

    Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox: While value is nice, sometimes we must recognize when even the first-round selections are doing something truly special. Betts leads the No. 2 option on the Rater, Verlander, by a ton. In fact, the difference in how much more valuable Betts has been than Verlander roughly matches the difference in Verlander versus players just outside the top 25. Betts is on pace for 48 home runs, 103 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, 169 runs scored -- that one is unbelievable! -- and is hitting .364. I suspect fantasy historian Tristan H. Cockcroft would have a hard time finding any season more valuable than that!

    Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs: He was chosen in the same round as Ohtani and ranks 21st on the Player Rater, on pace for 41 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was probably the closest to those numbers in 2017, as he hit 36 home runs and stole 18 bases. Trout ended up at 33 and 22. I do not think Baez will hit 41 home runs, and the fact it has been more than 100 plate appearances since his last walk is frightening, but he should provide great value this season even if he settles in around 30 home runs and 15 steals, while offering dual middle infield eligibility. As for Goldschmidt, well, let us just say we wanted to head into the weekend on a positive note, but if we decide a blog entry on the non-MVP choices (LVP!) makes sense, his name will be prominently mentioned. His investors know.

    Sean Manaea, SP, Oakland Athletics: Let him represent the pitchers that were chosen late in drafts or, in his case, not at all. Manaea is 23rd on the Rater and eighth among starting pitchers, a shade ahead of Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin, Houston right-hander Charlie Morton and a myriad of others that have outshone so many early-round choices. It seems to me that Manaea, Corbin and Morton can keep this going, too. Kudos to future Hall of Famer Verlander, cementing his case this season, but he was a fourth-round choice. Extreme value, as always, is critical.

    Thursday recap

    Box scores


    Khris Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: 4-for-4, HR, 3 R

    Justin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-for-4, 5 RBIs

    Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox: 3-for-4, 2 R, 3 SB

    Kenta Maeda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 7 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

    David Price, SP, Boston Red Sox: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K


    Andrew McCutchen, OF, San Francisco Giants: 0-for-5, 4 K

    Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles: 4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

    Aaron Sanchez, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K

    Caleb Smith, SP, Miami Marlins: 3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

    Thursday takeaways:

    Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer entered his Thursday night outing in Anaheim with a frightening 5.64 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, along with a strikeout rate unlike his past few seasons. Fantasy managers seemed ready to move on. Then on Thursday, Archer pitched well, tossing 6 2/3 shutout frames, albeit with four walks. Is Archer back? Well, it seems like a wise time for fantasy managers -- and perhaps the Rays as well -- to see what is out there in return before he starts again next Wednesday at home against the Red Sox. His value might not be higher for a while. Then again, Archer is a proven top-20 pitcher and I believe a trade to a contender would improve his numbers. Look what it did last season for Verlander. I rank Archer just outside my top-20 hurlers, and expect an ERA in the 4 range from here on out, but with more strikeouts than most. I might be in the minority on this one.

    • As for Red Sox lefty David Price, who likely faces Archer his next time out, I suppose a similar deal applies. The value is high today, but might not be in a week and the difference here is injury. Price is clearly pitching through arm woes, but expecting him to pitch for all six months seems foolhardy. He went the distance on Wednesday and we know there is upside, but I cannot count on 20 more starts. I cannot count on 10 more. Man, despite Manny Machado leading the sport in home runs the Orioles are such a mess. I am starting to view the Orioles like I do the Marlins. Think about that one.

    • The Dodgers announcers seemed to think having Turner back in the lineup changes everything and the team is about to go on a major roll and win a ton of games. I can see that possibility, since the team is not this bad, but a weekend slate in Washington -- weather permitting -- is a bit different than a few games in Miami. We know Turner can hit and his presence likely does -- I can't believe I believe this -- ease things for others like Cody Bellinger. What outfielder Yasiel Puig has been doing of late is more intriguing to me. He has homered in three of four games, albeit against Marlins and Reds pitching. Still, he hit 28 blasts last season. For those with struggling fantasy offenses, acquiring slow starters like Puig is a wise strategy.

    • As we head into the weekend we see veteran first basemen Brandon Belt and C.J. Cron among the hottest hitters in the game, and among the most added. Hey, go for it! Belt has belted homers in four consecutive games and Cron has done so in three straight. Neither four-lettered player has hit as many as 20 home runs in a big league season before, and for legitimate reasons by the way, but that does not mean they cannot do so in 2018. They can. Ride the hot streaks until someone better comes along, but I do not believe this is like Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak from last season. I do not see more than 25 homers coming for Belt or Cron, whether it is home ballpark or plate discipline or durability or whatever reason suits you.

    Injuries of note:

    • Looks like Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte, as expected by some, is going to need a DL stint for his strained oblique and prospect Austin Meadows is getting his long-awaited call to the majors. It must be a wonderful, joyous time for Meadows and his family. I feel like we have been discussing him for years. Not to be pessimistic, but I see this as a rather brief promotion for the kid, who has been hitting a bunch of singles and making contact at Triple-A Indianapolis, but not much else. This is not Albies! Keep Marte rostered in all formats. He likely returns by next weekend. That is the thing about the 10-day DL; you might find yourself leaving most options active in weekly formats. I do. I do not want to miss anything.

    • Perhaps similarly, do not get too excited about the Rays promoting infielder Christian Arroyo. There is a need at shortstop and third base, in the short term, but Arroyo, who had a few singles in Archer's win on Thursday, was hitting .200 with one home run at Triple-A Durham. He was also 0-for-2 on stolen base attempts and has not really supplied much more than batting average through the minors. I just do not see a valuable fantasy asset here for short or long term. The Rays expect Matt Duffy back from his hamstring issue any day now, but all he provides is a hollow batting average.

    Closing time:

    • Four different Chicago White Sox right-handers have combined for eight saves after Nate Jones finished off the Thursday win. My advice: Ignore White Sox pitchers. The team is 11-29. I would rather rely on Shane Greene, Hector Neris and Fernando Rodney. The club to watch this weekend is the Angels after Jim Johnson, presumably in the closing picture with Keynan Middleton done until next summer, saw his ERA implode on Thursday. I think Justin Anderson gets the call over Johnson and Blake Parker. Also, why is Cardinals rookie Jordan Hicks in the majors with his 14 walks versus eight strikeouts? He is 21 and skipped Double- and Triple-A! I do not get it.


    • The Dodgers-Nationals series should be an interesting one for a myriad of reasons. I want to see the lineups, for starters. Where does Bryce Harper hit for Washington? What about Puig for the Dodgers? Does Matt Adams face the lefties or does he sit for Mark Reynolds? Rich Hill is on the schedule to pitch Saturday and we do not know if that is a good or bad thing. One could have presumed the main directions Hill's season could take would be good pitching or no pitching at all. His ERA is 6.20. I also want to watch closer Kenley Jansen, um, a bit closer. He struck out a trio of Marlins Thursday, but still does not look like the 2017 version at all. I am not buying low there.

    • Meanwhile, expected AL playoff teams meet in Houston and there will be many strikeouts to enjoy with Morton, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Lance McCullers Jr. among the expected hurlers. McCullers faces Carlos Carrasco on Sunday Night Baseball. One would think the important Indians and Astros starting pitchers are taken in all leagues at this point, so watch hitters like Michael Brantley, Marwin Gonzalez and even Rajai Davis. Look how valuable Inciarte is solely due to the stolen bases. Davis is playing regularly now as the center fielder.

  4. #29  
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    Jan 2002
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    Why Juan Soto could be here to stay
    Tommy Rancel

    We all knew Juan Soto would one day get here. He received $1.5 million from the Washington Nationals as a teenager in the summer of 2015. He tore the cover off the ball the next year at the lowest levels of the minors. He was doing the same at the A-ball level last season before a myriad of injuries limited him to just 32 games. Despite the inexperience, he was ranked 42nd on Keith Law's preseason list. Once again, we knew Soto was coming. But nobody knew he would be here before Memorial Day 2018.

    Soto started 2018 with the Nationals' full-season affiliate in Hagerstown. He hit .373 with a 1.300 OPS before he was promoted to Advanced-A Potomac after just 16 games. That might seem aggressive, but considering he spent some time with Hagerstown in 2017 and missed most of the season, it was a reasonable move at the time. Even had he started the season with Potomac, he was still far away enough from the majors that he did not factor into my preseason thoughts.

    The light bulb started to come on after he hit .371 with a 1.256 OPS for the Advanced-A affiliate and he was bumped up once again, this time to Double-A Harrisburg. Considering the rise of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it was not a far-fetched idea that the two of them should spend the summer of 2018 battling for the spotlight of the Eastern League. Then the Nationals really flipped the script and promoted Soto to the majors after just eight games.

    The promotion of Soto is directly linked to injury. Had the Nationals had Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick and Brian Goodwin still available, there would be no need for Soto. Rafael Bautista and another all-world prospect, Victor Robles, would have been ahead of Soto on the call sheet as well, but they too are out with significant injuries. The Nationals are in the business of winning, so instead of calling on a veteran or more advanced prospect in terms of experience, Mike Rizzo went for the most talented option.

    Soto, as you can see from his numbers, is a hitter. He is a career .362/.434/.609 batter. That's tremendous. It also equates to about a year's worth of professional plate appearances (512). Numbers aside, Soto has always been projected an an offense-first prospect. He is an average runner on his best days and is limited to a corner outfield position defensively.

    It is the bat that catches everyone's attention. He has solid bat speed and a refined approach at the plate. Even if he does not time his swing perfectly, he can foul off pitches with the best of them and stay alive in the at-bat. He has plus power, which has showed not only in batting practice but in actual games. Soto has 15 home runs in 40 games this year -- including an opposite-field shot for his first major league hit on Monday -- with an additional 14 extra-base hits tacked on. Hitters will hit. Soto's advanced approach should help him hit even sooner.

    Another thing we know is that the Nationals are not burning valuable service time for Soto to sit on the bench. Eaton should be back around the All-Star break, but even then Soto may be here for good. The bat and power are enough to make him a fantasy dynamo even without steals or a premium position.

    Soto has the ability to impact four categories: AVG, HR, R, RBI. Hitting in the same lineup as Bryce Harper, he should score runs and have opportunities to drive them in as well. Speaking of Harper, with his future in Washington in limbo, Soto may be seen as an heir apparent in right field. It should also be noted that Soto might be the team's best chance to win now.

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