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Thread: Fantasy Baseball News 2018

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  1. #51  
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    Making sense of the San Francisco bullpen

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER




    If you are looking for a big league bullpen with experienced closers, check out the San Francisco Giants. Right-handers Mark Melancon and Sam Dyson and lefty Tony Watson boast 267 career saves between them, while Hunter Strickland, currently on the disabled list due to his own anger, closed competently earlier this season.

    Meanwhile, left-hander Will Smith entered 2018 with one career save, missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery and debuted this season on May 2. So who is the Giants closer leading into the All-Star break? If you guessed it is Will Smith, you win a prize and no, I am not going to tell you anyone saw this coming. It is, just, baseball.


    Smith's ascension to the ninth-inning role is a stark reminder to the dismissive that previous experience is not a prerequisite for closing success. Smith has certainly been a decent relief pitcher in the past, and for those in the fantasy world seeking holds, he was one of the better options with the 2014-15 Milwaukee Brewers. He seemed primed to close in 2016, but right-hander Jeremy Jeffress handled the role until Tyler Thornburg took over. A trade made Smith a member of the contending Giants on deadline day and he resumed his effective setup role for right-hander Santiago Casilla thereafter.

    The Giants have three saves in the past two weeks and Smith has them all, although fantasy managers seem to be a bit slow in realizing this. Sure, it is wholly possible that Dyson, Watson or Melancon earns the next save chance, and that is the order of likelihood that I would place on each pitcher doing so, but Smith is the guy for now. Strickland is not going to pitch again this month, and when he returns, who knows how he slots in. He was not exactly Kenley Jansen while he was closing. Smith, however, has been dominant in the past month, earning the right for a more leveraged role.

    Fantasy managers should be more interested and Smith is the most-added reliever over the past week, but he remains available in 85 percent of standard leagues, despite a 1.03 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He has really thrived since June began. Over the past 30 days, Smith is second among all relief pitchers -- to Texas Rangers right-hander Jose LeClerc, of all people -- with 16.68 strikeouts per nine innings. Smith has permitted one run over 14 1/3 innings since June 1, with 25 strikeouts. He has outperformed Milwaukee's Josh Hader in that span quite easily.

    I think Smith is going to keep the closing role for as long as he is effective, which sounds like a weak prediction, but I still expect Dyson to be in play at some point against slugging right-handed batters. Dyson has rebounded from last season, and while he is hardly piling on the strikeouts, he is still doing better in that department than Melancon, who has not earned a late-inning role, despite his vast experience and lofty paycheck. Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million contract heading into 2017, and he has thrown 43 mainly rough innings for the Giants. One would presume if he raises his performance, he will earn a greater role based on the money, but it certainly does not appear imminent.

    Smith is not your normal left-handed relief pitcher, as he has always had the ability to retire right-handed batters, but we often see managers simply dismiss pitchers for less. After all, we can normally count the number of lefty closers from year to year on one hand. Currently we have Smith, Baltimore's Zach Britton, the Yankees' Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh's Felipe Vazquez, San Diego's Brad Hand and Washington's Sean Doolittle. Smith has relatively even career splits against hitters, and this season right-handers have four hits in 45 at-bats. That .089 batting average is not likely to continue, but then again, nobody is promising you it will or that Smith will save 15 more games. He could, though.

    So keep doing what you are doing, Will Smith, and the Giants and fantasy managers will love you for it. Oh, and happy birthday, by the way. Smith turned 29 on Tuesday.

    Other reliever thoughts

    -- So, what is going on with Rangers lefty LeClerc? Right-hander Keone Kela is the undisputed closer, and while it is possible this last-place team trades him -- they should, really -- I have not heard such rumors. LeClerc, like Smith, has yet to allow a home run this season, which is likely to change soon. LeClerc got my attention on Sunday when he struck out five Tigers for all his outs. He is a walker, but if Kela is hurt or traded, he has a chance at saves.

    -- Hader, meanwhile, somehow allowed a pair of Miami Marlins home runs in Monday's loss, and his investors have to be wondering if the outing is a harbinger of bad tidings. Hader is not pitching poorly, but to me he is not pitching enough. Perhaps that is by design. The Brewers have a healthy Corey Knebel and Jeffress, after all. Hader could be tired. He has pitched twice in 12 days. I would not send him to free agency yet, but be on the watch.

    -- Lefty strikeout contemporary Andrew Miller could return to the Cleveland Indians right after the All-Star break, and with it could come many strikeouts. After all, Miller led all relievers in strikeouts over 2016-17 and had a 1.45 ERA in that span. He can be great, but knee woes have hampered him. One would presume the Indians will be extra cautious here, as the division title is imminent. Fantasy managers should be as well.

    -- More Astros saves the rest of the season? I think Hector Rondon will get eight saves, and Ken Giles will get seven. That is not a lot of saves, but when Houston wins, they tend to win by more than a few runs. The Astros as a team are tied for 17th in saves with 23 of them over 15 weeks, and they are tied for 22nd in save chances. Sorry if you expected more.

    -- Has anyone noticed that Arizona's Archie Bradley already boasts 23 holds? Last year's big league leader was Minnesota Twins lefty Taylor Rogers with only 30. Myriad pitchers are on pace to top that mark. Bradley had 25 holds last season. Perhaps he closes in 2019.

    -- Eight different Philadelphia Phillies pitchers have saves this season. Eight! Seranthony Dominguez remains the one pitcher you want in fantasy, but right-hander Victor Arano is likely to keep getting chances as well. Dominguez enters games to face the opposition's top hitters and sometimes gets a save. Well, Arano also has three saves in the past week. This should continue, and it makes Arano potentially more valuable, I think, than either of the Houston closers. When the Phillies win, it is generally a close game.
     

  2. #52  
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    Buster Posey is hurting, but still has plenty of value

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER



    I found it interesting that San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Monday that the recent hip injury suffered by Buster Posey, the one that will keep him from participating in next week's All-Star Game, was the reason for his decreased power.

    When exactly did Posey hurt the hip? Last month, or in 2016? I am not trying to be facetious, but the fact is that despite Posey, still only 31, blessing the Giants and fantasy managers with a terrific career, he has hit a total of 31 home runs over his past 361 games and 1,500 plate appearances since the start of 2016. New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez hit 33 home runs just last season. Posey's power left a while ago.

    That does not mean Posey can no longer be a terrific fantasy option. After all, I still have him among my top 100 overall, though behind Miami Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto because he is having the superior season and it does not appear the least bit fluky. Realmuto is not Max Muncy, you know. He has been an excellent fantasy option for three seasons, hitting for average and stealing more bases than all the other catchers combined, and now he hits for power as well. Realmuto jacked 17 home runs last season, and when he returns later this week from the paternity list -- congrats to him and his wife, as their first child was born Tuesday! -- he returns to his pace of 20. Realmuto is fantasy's top catcher now.

    Posey investors in re-draft formats should not worry, though, and probably should celebrate him missing the All-Star festivities. We do not earn fantasy points for exhibition contests, and catchers need more rest than most. Posey has caught 852 games in his career, so it is hardly a surprise to see some wear and tear affect him. He is also on pace for single-digit home runs and fewer than 50 runs batted in. However, thanks to the nice batting average and runs scored, still excellent for the position, he ranks seventh among backstops on the season Player Rater. He has one fewer walk than strikeout. Nobody is saying to drop Posey, but this hip injury gives us a chance to reflect on his actual value and future. To some, it might be troubling.

    There is little question Posey has more value to the Giants behind the plate, rather than at first base, and the same goes for fantasy managers. Few catchers, frankly, would have value without catcher eligibility. Posey ranks No. 142 among batters on the Rater, behind Niko Goodrum, Josh Reddick and Albert Pujols. As a catcher, he matters.

    The hip injury shows up in Posey's metrics, as he has hit fewer line drives and more ground balls, which is never positive, but his hard-hit percentage is a career best. His plate discipline remains excellent. I have tired of counting on catchers like Mike Zunino, who hit for power but won't even reach their weight in batting average. Posey is safe for batting average, but is he really just Francisco Cervelli with more batting average and runs? Nobody wants to think that.

    For those rostering Posey in dynasty/keeper formats, sure, get modestly concerned. The organization chose sure thing Joey Bart out of Georgia Tech with the No. 2 pick last month, and his timetable for the majors could be 2020. Posey's best stats are behind him, and the future probably lies at first base -- and we stopped recommending Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer many years ago. Perhaps Posey, becoming free of donning the so-called tools of ignorance on a more regular basis, returns to hitting 20 home runs while keeping the high batting average. Playing catcher is ridiculously tough physically, and Posey is hardly a defensive liability. He is simply hurting.

    Posey was hitless in five at-bats on Monday out of the No. 2 lineup spot against what appeared to be a rejuvenated Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who got 19 outs on strikeouts and grounders. Many Giants struggled in this one. Posey is on the schedule to get an injection for the hip inflammation soon and in addition to next week off might need a DL stint at some point, but even then, I would not recommend fantasy managers run away. He looks like he simply needs a break, as we all do. Realmuto is getting one this week. Yadier Molina, replacing Posey on the All-Star team, recently had a long break. Catchers get hurt. So few of them are reliable for fantasy managers annually that Posey retains value, but he might soon fall out of my top three at his position, and top 100 overall, if all we get statistically is batting average and runs scored. He still matters, but just a bit less than he used to.


    Monday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: 2-for-3, HR, 4 RBI, SB

    Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds: 4-for-5, HR, 3 RBI

    Stephen Piscotty, OF, Oakland Athletics: 3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI

    Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

    • Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs: 8 1/3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

    Lowlights:

    Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees: 1-for-8, 5 K

    Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets: 1-for-7, 4 K

    Francisco Liriano, SP, Detroit Tigers: 2 1/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Luis Perdomo, SP, San Diego Padres: 7 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

    Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

    Monday takeaways:

    J.D. Martinez hit his 28th HR of the season in Monday's win over the Rangers. The @RedSox improve to 24-3 when he homers this season.
    Martinez now has 60 HR and 153 RBI in his last 162 games. pic.twitter.com/qpvqnwxgqk
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 10, 2018

    • I think we have come to the point that J.D. Martinez deserves top-10 consideration in fantasy. I have him at No. 13, but is that enough? This is a Triple Crown threat, and best I can tell, the main concern with him is durability, since he last played in more than 120 games in 2015. Is Giancarlo Stanton really safer for a full season of playing time? I don't think he is, and Martinez is superior in batting average, which is why Martinez leaped past Stanton and many others in my rankings last week. What are we missing? Martinez is the No. 3 hitter on the Player Rater after Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez. So far, he is Mike Trout sans the stolen bases, but with a lot more RBIs. I think Martinez moves into my top 10 soon.

    Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer returned from his DL stint and did not look right, finally succumbing to baserunners in the third inning for three runs, and leaving after one out in the fourth. Archer threw strikes and the velocity looked OK, and his next outing against the Twins this weekend will be an important one for his fantasy value. Should it be? I would argue it should not, since this is a K-per-inning option capable of much more, and perhaps a trade will return him to past glories. He remains outside my top-20 starting pitchers, but should be rostered in all formats. This is actually a wise time to trade for him, for real and fantasy.

    • As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent injured Yasiel Puig to the DL, where he figures to miss the rest of July at least. Andrew Toles earned the promotion and the start in center field, and he contributed two hits, two RBIs and two runs. Toles should play the next few weeks, and with this outfield, perhaps many more. Remember, this was the team's leadoff hitter last April before he tore his knee in the outfield, and he can hit for average and steal a base.

    Injuries of note:

    • Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant homered in his rehab appearance Monday for Double-A Tennessee and could return to the major league club any day now, so be prepared. I sat Bryant in a weekly league because he might not return until Friday, but in a daily format, he goes active right away.

    Closing time:

    Baltimore Orioles lefty Zach Britton retired the Yankees without major incident in the ninth inning Monday for his second save of his brief season, and first since June 23. Yes, the Orioles do not offer many late-inning leads for their pitchers. Britton has shown better command of his often-unhittable sinker and a wise fantasy manager would consider this opportunity to trade Britton for largely any other top-15 closer. For one, the Orioles are awful, perhaps historically so. Save chances will not come often. Two, if they are smart -- and they seldom seem to be -- they will trade Britton and most contenders would use him in a setup role. Unlike some Orioles, I cannot imagine Britton telling reporters, when it comes to future role, "I am a closer. Period." Regardless, Brad Brach was awful again on Monday, and if Britton goes elsewhere, I think Mychal Givens has earned the chance to close. But again, we are talking about perhaps 12 save opportunities the rest of the way.

    W2W4:

    Yankees right-hander
    Masahiro Tanaka
    returns from his long DL stint to face the awful Orioles, and while I normally would be cautious in activating a pitcher in this situation, I'm not with this opponent. Tanaka is having a weird statistical season, with a WHIP so low it generally tells us the ERA will follow, but thanks to a home run rate rivaling last season's, we worry. Tanaka does not allow myriad runners, but the home runs ruin his ERA. OK, so perhaps
    Mark Trumbo
    and
    Adam Jones
    take him deep, but three runs over six innings sounds fair.


    The
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    and
    Colorado Rockies
    meet in Denver with lefties
    Patrick Corbin
    and
    Tyler Anderson
    on the mound. Corbin has permitted two earned runs over his past three outings, so that really gets tested in the thin air. He has made eight starts at Coors Field and his ERA is 7.11. That number is good for late night snacks, not an ERA. Anderson is a breakout performer who has permitted nary a run in his past two outings, and one came at home. He is also piling on the whiffs. Neither fellow comes recommended for today due to venue, but I bet each performs better than expected.

     

  3. #53  
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    Evaluating hitters with low batting averages

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Five hitters qualified for the batting title remain in the porous hitting club that could not be further away from a batting title. These are the players hitting on the wrong side of .200 for the season. While one might think no fantasy manager would want any part of these players, that is not always the case. In fact, the best way to raise a composite batting average for a fantasy team is often to invest in hitters that have to improve. A sub-.200 batting average for a proven veteran nearly always rises above that level.


    I have been thinking about this lately because Los Angeles Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, who fell off the relevancy board for fantasy managers last season when his batting average tanked, has raised his batting average 27 points since coming off the disabled list three weeks ago. It is currently at .180. That is not much, but it beats .153. Calhoun homered on Tuesday, his fifth in those 20 games. If you added Calhoun three weeks ago, he has helped you.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is another one and I admitted a few weeks ago I was no longer interested in his services on my fantasy teams, and moved on. As they say in "Rounders," bad judgment! Schoop was hitting .197 when July began. Ten days and games later he is hitting .432 this month with seven extra-base hits and as colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft reports, seven of his hits have gone to the opposite field, which really is not his game. Schoop, and perhaps Calhoun, have made adjustments to return to relevance.

    It is an arbitrary number, this sub-.200 batting average -- is Adam Duvall any different hitting .204? -- but regardless, here are the five hitters because, like Calhoun and Schoop have shown, anything is possible.

    Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: Even when he hit .215 last year he managed 26 home runs. This version of Davis seems far from that, and he has actually lowered his K rate a bit. The shifting really hurts Davis's chances of hitting better than, say, .220. If he provided the power of another option on this list, that would be different, but Davis looks like the worst player in baseball, even worse than Albert Pujols, who has been below replacement level since the start of 2017.

    Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins: A rookie serving a DL stint for hip inflammation, Brinson reminds many of former big leaguer Mike Cameron, who never flirted with a batting title himself, but hit for enough power and stole enough bases that we still coveted him at times. Brinson drew walks in the minors, so give him time. What concerns me is that he has attempted only two stolen bases. This should be a 20/20 option within two years, so try to keep him in dynasty formats.

    Joey Gallo, 1B/3B/OF, Texas Rangers: Gallo's .189 batting average is only 20 points worse than what he finished at least season, and while it is little consolation, it is worth pointing out he draws walks so the batting average does not have the impact of what, say, Schoop's does. Gallo also has 21 home runs. Davis does not. Personally, I have no shares of Gallo anywhere, though he is rostered in more than 85 percent of leagues, understandably so. I understand there is value here, but you know he cannot hit for average. The power and defensive versatility is nice, but Schoop hit .293 last season. Gallo might not hit .193. Do not expect this batting average to rise.

    Logan Morrison, 1B, Minnesota Twins: Hitter of 38 home runs for last season's Rays, Morrison might not reach 20 this season, and he is playing on a one-year contract. He needs to play well. Morrison is another left-handed victim of the shift and yes, it has made me at least think about whether to invest in hitters of his ilk. Jay Bruce, for example, looked a lot better before everyone shifted him like crazy. I do not agree with calls to outlaw shifting, but sure, I will be reconsidering some lefty pull hitters in the future, at least compared to other options. Morrison's K rate is down, his contact rate is up, and he is hitting more fly balls. A .184 BABIP against right-handed pitching is playing a role here, but Morrison seems capable of turning things around. He hit .244 in May with four homers and a high walk rate. For those in deeper formats, he can repeat that.

    Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals: Since there is nothing to see here and the Royals should have known this -- though the .199-hitting Escobar started in center field last night, which is worse -- let us use this space to discuss Adalberto Mondesi, the 22-year-old son of a former player that has intrigued us for a few years. Mondesi homered, knocked in four runs and was successful on one of two stolen base attempts Tuesday. It is quite a full night for him. Mondesi has Schoop-like plate discipline, which is going to be a problem and because he lacks the power and strength of Schoop, I doubt he can hit better than .250 consistently in the majors. He can run though and offers second base and shortstop eligibility. I cannot fathom why the Royals would not play Mondesi regularly, somewhere, and let him develop. I think he can steal 20 bases this season. I also would not be surprised if he hits around .200. Buyer beware.

    By the way, there are some interesting names hitting worse than .220, including Bryce Harper, Michael Conforto and Jason Kipnis. Harper has to be hurt, and talented as he is, I am not trading for him unless the price really drops. I doubt it will. Also, please do not ever tell me about how contract years automatically push players to perform so much better. Harper is not performing better. Conforto is clearly hurt with the shoulder, and I hope he is healthy for 2019. Kipnis is also clearly playing through something, as he cannot touch power right-handers or run as he used to.


    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Manny Machado, SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Alex Bregman, SS/3B, Houston Astros: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals: 4-for-5, HR, 2 RBI

    Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 12 K

    Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago Cubs: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

    Lowlights:

    Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: 0-for-5, 4 K

    Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Yovani Gallardo, SP, Texas Rangers: 5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

    Mike Leake, SP, Seattle Mariners: 4 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Cody Allen, RP, Cleveland Indians: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    By scoring 9 runs tonight against the Twins, the @Royals posted their largest scoring output since May 30...also against the Twins.
    In fact, the Royals snapped a 30-game streak of scoring 5 runs or fewer.
    That was the longest such streak since the Mets (40 games) in 1979. pic.twitter.com/IvasQgFba3
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 11, 2018

    • I would like to share with you the names of several Royals hitters to invest in, but I just cannot do it. I have an obligation to tell the truth when analyzing performance, you know. I am pleased that Whit Merrifield is performing even better than I expected, and I seemed like one of the few that expected anything close to what he did last year. I thought Merrifield, who kind of came from nowhere to hit .288 and lead the AL in steals last season, would hit fewer home runs. That seemed obvious. Merrifield might hit 10. However, he is hitting .306 and running, and added outfield eligibility. I am a big fan. Other than that, move on. Third baseman Mike Moustakas might hit 30 home runs for another team soon, but he has otherwise been quiet. Catcher Sal Perez has become an automatic out lately. Jorge Soler is on the DL. How did this franchise let all this happen?

    • There has been talk in Philadelphia about replacing Maikel Franco with Moustakas but you know what, Franco, for all that is wrong with him -- and there is plenty -- now boasts the better OPS. Franco is really enjoying himself in the No. 8 lineup spot over 10 games, hitting .394 with a 1.124 OPS. A few of his walks have been intentional with the pitcher on deck but still, Franco is hitting right-handed pitching. Being benched for J.P. Crawford motivated him, one presumes. I still cannot recommend him for standard leagues, because there are holes in this swing and the bad streaks cancel the good ones, and who knows if he is still playing regularly come August, but sure, keep an eye on this.

    Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman stymied the Atlanta Braves over seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits. Stroman can be compared to the sub-.200 hitters in some ways. His 5.90 ERA is obviously going in the right direction, though I still think he was a bit overrated heading into the season. Stroman's career WHIP is 1.28. That does not help us. His K rate is 7.3. Nor does that. However, like a Schoop or Calhoun, he is not this bad. It remains a good time to acquire him.

    Boston Red Sox bench option Blake Swihart had a few hits and runs batted in to raise his batting average to .200. He did so playing catcher, a spot that could be open for him -- if he hits -- with Christian Vazquez out until September after finger surgery. Swihart, who is outfield eligible, should be a good hitter for average and provide double-digit pop. Those in multi-catcher formats should see if he keeps getting at-bats.

    Injuries of note:

    • Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards left his outing prematurely clutching his forearm and while I am not a doctor, I know that is not good. Richards has already made 16 starts, 10 more than in either of his past two seasons, and he has shown signs of being a top-30 starter. Now, we wonder when he will pitch again. He has had elbow woes that were not surgically fixed, quite famously in fact, and this ... well, let us wait for clarity. It would be a shame.

    • Washington Nationals lefty closer Sean Doolittle succumbed to the DL with toe inflammation, and will not perform in the All-Star Game. I believe if it was August Doolittle would still be pitching, but the Nationals can give him the rest of this week off and a longer vacation. In other words, do not panic here. Kelvin Herrera will get the saves this week, but I do think Doolittle returns when eligible.

    Closing time:

    • What a nightmare outing for Cleveland Indians right-hander Cody Allen, who was summoned with a 4-0 lead and was ultimately charged with six earned runs, the final half on a Joey Votto double off a struggling right-hander that was supposed to be a veteran lefty. Allen was wild, though unlucky. He hit a guy, but the first two hits he permitted were not 100 mph line drives by any means. The Adam Duvall double was a shot, though. Then there was an intentional walk and an unintentional one and he was gone. Dan Otero was supposed to be Oliver Perez, but communication broke down. How does that even happen? Who lets Otero face Joey Votto? Regardless, I am not worried about Allen. It was a bad night, that is all. There is nobody else to close for this team. Lefty Andrew Miller might return from the DL this month, but Allen had a 3.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP entering Tuesday. He is fine, a borderline top-10 fantasy closer. Nobody calls him Kimbrel.

    • Things did not improve for Houston Astros right-hander Ken Giles as he did not retire any of the three Oakland hitters he faced in his non-save chance and then he seemed unhappy, shall we say nicely, with manager A.J. Hinch for removing him. Giles still has not blown a save this year, but I half expect he is on another team before August. Perhaps he gets saves for that one. I do not see 10 saves for him the rest of this season with the Astros, especially now.

    W2W4:

    • The Cubs might have third baseman Kris Bryant back for the matchup with Johnny Cueto in San Francisco, but if you have Bryant, you know to play him. Is Cueto safe after that first outing off the DL when he permitted 10 hits and five runs? Stick with him, but be concerned if this one goes awry. Also, watch the Giants' Alen Hanson. He should be playing regularly and he can be a five-category aid in deep formats.

    We spoke on Monday's Fantasy Focus baseball podcast -- yes, we still have a show twice a week -- about struggling lefties with walk issues perhaps turning into Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and the best I came up with was Sean Newcomb and perhaps Danny Duffy. I totally whiffed on Chicago White Sox youngster Carlos Rodon, who walked six in his most recent outing. A strikeout hurler lurks if Rodon can find control, but it is his fourth year and one can reasonably wonder if it will ever show up. He faces the Cardinals.

    • Current Texas Rangers are hitting .123 with a .381 OPS against Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale. How can this not be a 12-K performance over seven shutout frames? Bartolo Colon, meanwhile, should have a far tougher time. Rafael Devers is 2-for-3 against Colon with a pair of home runs. DFS alert!

     

  4. #54  
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    Evaluating the New York Mets' outfield, and where Tim Tebow could fit in

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Most fantasy managers have to know that Tim Tebow, the polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner and current outfielder in the New York Mets farm system, is not likely to procure much or any fantasy relevance either this season or in the future. There, I wrote it. I am not intending to be at all mean or disrespectful of this nice man -- and he really is quite nice in person -- but if you want my honest opinion, there it is. I often say or write negative things about Maikel Franco and Tyler Chatwood, too, and those are not the least bit personal, either. Those guys have hurt a fantasy team or two of mine, and perhaps yours.

    I cannot predict Tebow will have much statistical impact for fantasy managers, but he is on my mind today because he always seems to be on someone's mind, and he participated in Wednesday night's Eastern League All-Star game in Trenton, New Jersey, that colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft and I gleefully attended. Tebow batted ninth and assumed the designated hitter spot for the East squad. The left-handed hitter sliced a double just fair down the left field line in his first at-bat against legitimate pitching prospect Beau Burrows, struggling to catch up to his fastball but enjoying the result, and then he was quiet over three appearances thereafter, culminating in a ninth-inning strikeout against another hard-thrower. The game ended in a 4-4 tie.


    I could have chosen to lead today's blog entry with thoughts on Kris Bryant, Chris Sale or even Ken Giles, but hey, this is Tim Tebow! Everyone seems to be interested, even if most claim they are not. Give him credit and plenty of it. However, Tebow, is not a legitimate prospect, mainly due to being 30 years old, but the numbers also tell us there is not much to grasp. He is hitting a competent .270 for Double-A Binghamton but with a .423 BABIP, which tells us he has been fortunate to hit that number. He is quite a bit older than all the pitchers he faces. Tebow has five home runs over 76 games and 267 plate appearances. He strikes out 35.6 percent of the time, right around the Joey Gallo mark. Tebow has three walks and 27 whiffs against left-handed pitching. All these numbers are not likely to improve against big-league hurlers.

    Still, because of the situation the New York Mets happen to be in, with a poor 2018 club, many empty seats at Citi Field and the likes of infielder Ty Kelly embarrassingly starting games in left field of late, Tebow is likely to play outfield in the majors this season. We should be OK with that. It is not as if he is taking a roster spot of some great, deserving player. Tebow is an attraction, and this is a business. Pay to see him play if you desire. Tebow is rostered in 0.2 percent of ESPN standard leagues, which is not much, but still somehow a bit generous. But it's a cool story, and I want to see it play out. I just have no interest in adding him to my fantasy roster when it happens, but if Tebow stunningly hits like Max Muncy in September, sure, I will write about it then, too, and admit I was wrong.

    We should, in relation, be discussing the grand disappointment that is the legitimate Mets outfield. For example, it sure seems to me that Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $110-million contract before last season, is one of the most overrated players in fantasy. Yes, he has twice surpassed 30 home runs in his career, which spans seven seasons and four big league clubs, but he sure does miss a lot of games. Cespedes can hit, but he cannot help the Mets or us from the bench, and he has not played in two months with a hip injury. He missed half of last season with leg woes. He is 32, and I doubt he suddenly becomes an iron man, even if he moves to first base. We cannot drop him in re-draft formats, as he could play next week and can obviously matter statistically. The Mets are bad, though, and I cannot see Cespedes playing in 75 percent of their games from here on out. For next year, by the way, he figures to be a top-100 option in the rankings, but I will surely avoid him.

    Meanwhile, right fielder Jay Bruce, has been one of the more durable, consistent players for a decade. He has an injured hip, as well, but I feel like he played through the injury and actually wants to return quickly. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. Bruce is hitting .212 with three home runs. I have written about how opponent shifting has hurt him more than it has others. Bruce is a lefty pull hitter, albeit one hitting plenty of fly balls, and nobody expected him to hit .300, but .250 with 30 homers has become his norm. Perhaps he gets right in the second half -- I am optimistic. Next season, I am far more likely to invest in Bruce in Round 15 than Cespedes in Round 10.

    Michael Conforto is clearly still hampered by his left shoulder, which he tore last August and had surgically repaired, and his hard-rate has cratered. He is hitting many more ground balls and cannot catch up to fastballs. Conforto remains a dynasty favorite, but for this year, I would move on in re-draft formats. I cannot see a second-half resurrection. I am hoping his career can get back on track, but am also fearful. Conforto assuredly gets selected ahead of Bruce next season, but I am not sure about the value.

    Jose Bautista is playing regularly because the Mets need three outfielders to do so each day. He draws his walks and ... well, that's all. The power is mostly gone. Then there is Brandon Nimmo. He is awesome. OK, he is not as awesome as he appeared a month ago, but he blasted the walk-off winner on Wednesday and should be the center fielder the rest of the way and into 2019. Conforto is not a center fielder. I think, if Nimmo gets 550 at-bats next season, he would hit around .260 with 16 home runs and 12 steals. Perhaps he could be a poor man's Adam Eaton, when Eaton was with the Chicago White Sox. If the Mets commit to Nimmo in 2019 -- and one never knows with the Mets -- he would likely make my top-40 outfielders.

    The point is, there is an obvious scenario in which Tebow, Nimmo and Bautista log regular outfield at-bats in September. No help, other than Tebow, is on the immediate way. Unfortunately, for fantasy managers, that is simply not going to be much help.

    Wednesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 6 RBI

    Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Marco Gonzales, SP, Seattle Mariners: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Lowlights:

    Tommy Pham, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-for-4, 4 K

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

    Lance McCullers Jr., SP, Houston Astros: 4 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 1 K

    Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Shelby Miller, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Wednesday takeaways:


    • The Rockies padded their offensive stats with 19 runs in the first four innings against the Diamondbacks, and more than half the outs Arizona "pitchers" earned came from non-pitchers. Kudos to Daniel Descalso and Alex Avila. The big story from this game is not that Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond combined for three home runs and 11 RBI, or the hitters pitching, but Shelby Miller left early with elbow discomfort. I cannot say I thought Miller would be a top-50 starter for the second half, but I was intrigued. There was promise back in 2015. Now, the Diamondbacks really need more pitchers.

    • The Chicago Cubs welcomed back Kris Bryant, and he homered in his first game and walked twice. He is fine and belongs on any list of buy-low options. With Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward getting on base, this really is a nice, deep lineup with everyone contributing. The Cubs are going to have a big August.

    • Chris Sale did as expected and shut down the Rangers over seven innings, but little did I know he would do precisely as expected from Wednesday's blog, which said he would whiff 12 over seven shutout innings. Sale passed Max Scherzer to become fantasy's top pitcher on the Player Rater, but that list will change as three of the top five are on the schedule to pitch Thursday (including Corey Kluber and Luis Severino). If you want to trade any hitter in the game, including Mike Trout, straight up for Sale or Scherzer, I would not laugh.• Rough outing for Lance McCullers, most notably the five walks versus one strikeout, two batters he hit and two wild pitches. He was coming off an outing with 12 whiffs and nary a free pass, so nobody should panic here, but with a 3.77 ERA and 3.69 FIP, this might not be a top-20 fantasy starter yet. This is the third time this season McCullers has permitted six or more runs in a start.

    Injuries of note:

    • The Los Angeles Angels will most likely not have the services of right-hander Garrett Richards until the start of 2020. I do not type that lightly. I hate to see UCL replacement surgery take a pitcher down. It stinks. Richards might not opt for the surgery, but at this point, after years of pushing it away, it seems imminent. The Angels do welcome back lefty Tyler Skaggs from a DL stint to start Thursday, but they need more arms. Skaggs faces the Mariners, but I would leave him on the bench for this one.

    Closing time:

    • It seemed somewhat imminent that Astros right-hander Ken Giles would be anywhere else but in the team's bullpen soon, but instead of a trade -- which could still occur -- he was demoted to Triple-A. Giles is a bit like Colorado's Jon Gray in that the actual numbers for his season are not as bad as they appear. Giles has three walks versus 31 strikeouts, and two home runs allowed. His FIP is 2.32. I would say he will be back, but I think it is on another club, and he might close there. I think it will be tough for him, based on how he has acted (and this demotion is punitive, regardless of what the team says) to get saves this season. Feel free to send Giles to fantasy free agency.

    W2W4

    • Poor Robbie Ray was supposed to pitch in Atlanta on Friday, but because Zack Godley was needed in relief earlier this week, Ray was moved up to Thursday at Denver's Coors Field. Not good. Ray would be on my bench for this one in fantasy. He was already having control issues, and this will not help. If someone wants to acquire him from you, as if he is a safe top-20 option, see what you can get.

    • Check out Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Ross Stripling on ESPN+ at San Diego because this breakout is real and pitching in San Diego is often kind to opposing hurlers. Stripling is a bit short of qualifying for the ERA title, but his strikeout rate would rank him 14th among all starters, a bit ahead of Tampa Bay's Blake Snell, who also pitches Thursday. Stripling has been that good.
     

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    Who is the first half fantasy MVP?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    As we hit the final weekend of the ceremonial first half of the regular season, it seems a wise time to reflect on the best and worst. One member of the current top 10 on the ESPN Player Rater was not among the top 50 selected in ESPN Average Live Drafts. One member. To me, that makes it obvious who the first-half fantasy MVP would be. As for the LVP, well, that one is a bit dicier, and of course, similarly and purely subjective. Here we go!

    First-half MVP: Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B, Chicago Cubs

    Yep, this 13th-round selection is having an amazing season, on pace for 32 home runs, 119 RBI, 31 stolen bases and 103 runs scored. In addition, despite his aggressive-swinging ways -- he has walked less than once per week -- Baez is hitting .289, quite a bit better than his career mark. It is all coming together for this 25-year-old with the quick wrists and defensive acumen. Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez leads the Player Rater and is the only other player on a 30/30 pace, but the word "value" appears in MVP and Ramirez was top 25 on draft day, expected to offer fantasy managers fantastic numbers. Baez, No. 10 on the Rater and tops among all NL hitters, went a lot later.

    As for the rest of my subjective top 5 in fantasy MVP voting, certainly Ramirez and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts should be afforded major credit for their work and mixed in somewhere, but I like to acknowledge mid-round choices and those not selected at all. Despite a rough outing on Thursday, Tampa Bay Rays All-Star lefty Blake Snell is 18th on the Rater and eighth among starting pitchers, nice work for a 23rd-round pick. He was barely drafted, and in many leagues, was not. Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies went a few rounds after Baez and is on pace for 36 homers and 130 runs scored. Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar went undrafted, and could become the top free agent pickup of the season. My top 5 for today is Baez, Albies, Aguilar, Snell and generally ignored Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, who might win a batting title and hit 30 homers. Wow.

    Baez, incidentally, seems like a reasonable real-life MVP choice at this point as well, presuming the Cubs remain a playoff contender, which they certainly should. Baez has really grown as a hitter, producing a lot more line drives and raising his hard-hit percentage quite a bit. The strides he seemed to make in plate discipline last year have not really reversed; he is walking less, but also striking out less. Essentially, this aggressive hitter has decided to become more aggressive. He is not hitting more fly balls, but is also barely top 20 in home run/fly ball ratio, so that seems relatively sustainable. He could always steal bases, but seldom did. Now he is. Put simply, this all looks legit.

    First-half LVP: Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

    The fourth overall pick in ESPN ADP was Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, and some/many would nominate him, but Harper is on pace for 40 home runs and close to 100 RBI and runs. It is not what anyone expected and certainly disappointing, but he is producing something, and is 25th among outfielders on the Rater. Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was the No. 12 pick, on average, and has missed time with a back injury, but again, his numbers are helping people. Same with Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, slumping Astros outfielder George Springer and injured Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg.


    Donaldson edges out Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager for fantasy LVP honors and here is why: one of them remains rostered in more than 84 percent of leagues on the hope he returns soon and hits myriad home runs. The other was lost to season-ending elbow surgery in April and fantasy managers were able to move on without potential consequence. Dump Donaldson and he could haunt you, though that seems less likely today than two months ago. Neither third-round draft selection has helped much, but Donaldson struggled to hit through a shoulder injury and then suffered a calf injury. He is hitting .234 with five home runs in 36 games. Joey Rickard has the same five home runs in 36 games. There are 234 players with more home runs. Perhaps Donaldson will be a second-half star, but color me skeptical.

    Among actually healthy players, or at least those playing through something, Harper, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger and Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and outfielder Byron Buxton deserve notice for this honor. We should also not ignore injured New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and overrated Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish. Thanks again, fellows. It has been a blast so far!

    Thursday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals: 3-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

    Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

    Lowlights:

    Daniel Robertson, 2B/SS/3B, Tampa Bay Rays: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Austin Romine, C, New York Yankees: 0-for-4, 4 K

    James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

    Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 7 1/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 9 K

    Kevin Gausman, SP, Baltimore Orioles: 5 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Thursday takeaways:
    Albert Pujols ties Ken Griffey Jr for 6th all-time with his 630th career home run pic.twitter.com/0fH21BpfC5
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 13, 2018

    • Give credit where due. Pujols has had a Hall of Famer career -- should go on the first ballot -- and has surely won myriad championships for fantasy managers, and he is actually aiding people today. Pujols, 38, is still barely replacement level in real life, but he is 17th among first basemen on the Player Rater -- ahead of Jose Abreu, Anthony Rizzo and Eric Hosmer, incidentally -- and on pace, after his big Thursday night, for 28 home runs and 90 RBI. That counts for something and makes him a worthy corner option even for the shallow leagues, I suppose, though the upside really does not exist. As bad as Pujols was last season, his teammates presented him the opportunity to knock in 101 runs. That was the lone category he aided fantasy managers in. He can do this again, so we thank, basically, Mike Trout for his on-base prowess.

    • The big story from the late-night Angels-Mariners game was James Paxton leaving after a few outs and a few home runs with back stiffness. Look for a DL stint for sure and we hope Paxton returns to pitch this month. He is the No. 16 starting pitcher on the Player Rater but with a long, frustrating career of injuries, and the Mariners cannot afford to lose him.

    Philadelphia Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro needed a triple for the cycle, and watching just about every one of his games this season one can spot the potential for 20 home runs and a .250 batting average, and that would make him a top-10 fantasy option. Alfaro is not there yet. He swings at everything, in or out of the strike zone, but I am a bit surprised he has not turned his natural power into more home runs yet. For those in dynasty formats, this is someone to target, if you target catchers at all, which I admit I never do. Alfaro is built like a workhorse catcher and should be hitting 20 homers soon.

    • I simply cannot believe Jose Ramirez is on his way to more than 40 home runs. I think we knew much of last season's breakout was legit, but this power is hard to believe. Ramirez has hit four home runs in three days and remains one of the few players with more walks than strikeouts. This is awesome!

    • The lone player to provide a home run and a stolen base on Thursday was Astros utility guy Tony Kemp, earning a rare start in left field with rookie Kyle Tucker sitting. Tucker will play regularly and he should produce. Kemp, over 133 plate appearances, has more walks than whiffs and I think if he played regularly he could hit .300 with 12 homers and more than 20 steals. I do not see the opportunity coming with the champs, though, but watch the offseason news. Kemp is intriguing.

    Injuries of note:

    • Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers hopes to return from his DL stint as soon as the second half commences, and according to the numbers, his shoulder injury did not seem to be a serious issue. In fact, Devers was hitting far above his season batting average in the past month and with power. This is a future star, folks, so do not get ideas about sending him to free agency because he is missing this weekend. He is 21 and boasts power and a mature approach. Again, do you realize how young he is? Wait for him. Do not wait for Dustin Pedroia; as suspected, he might be done.

    Closing time:

    • While we do not think Nationals closer Sean Doolittle will miss much time on the DL, it was a bit of a surprise to see Kelvin Herrera pitch the eighth inning with a small lead on Thursday, ceding closing duties for Ryan Madson. Sure, Madson got the save, but we were led to believe that was not the hierarchy. Herrera has sputtered of late, permitting runs in three of four appearances, and with four walks in that span. That is not cool. The point should be moot this time next week when Doolittle returns.

    W2W4:

    • The Yankees and Indians continue their series near Lake Erie with some intriguing arms on the schedule, including Shane Bieber (Friday) and Masahiro Tanaka (Sunday). Bieber continues to be a bit unlucky with the many hits allowed, but he has walked precisely one hitter in each outing. His control is impeccable. Tanaka's first outing off a long DL stint came in Baltimore, and he still could not last five innings. I would leave both Bieber and Tanaka on the bench if possible, due to the quality of opponent, but each is a key fantasy option for the second half.

    Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz is universally rostered and should be, but he might see only a few at-bats this weekend at Coors Field because he will not be summoned to handle outfield duty. That makes sense. Cruz is not a young man by baseball standards and nobody wants him to get hurt. Perhaps he can hit a homer among his pinch-hitting chances. The Mariners would not have had Paxton for this series anyway, but it will be interesting to see if lefty Wade LeBlanc and right-hander Mike Leake can give the team reasonable innings. LeBlanc is among the top 20 in MLB ERA, but does not have the innings to qualify for the ERA title. Fantasy managers have been ignoring him. I wonder if that continues if his ERA is still 3.39 in a few weeks.

    • And finally, my favorite part of All-Star weekend is Sunday's Future's Game, which unfortunately gets played during actual MLB games, which seems kind of silly to me. Regardless, as colleague Tommy Rancel so excellently pointed out, many young, interesting players will perform in this game, including Indians catcher Francisco Mejia, Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette and Oakland lefty Jesus Luzardo. Look for a follow-up column from Rancel as well.
     

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