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Thread: Fantasy Baseball News 2018

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  1. #76  
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    These toolsy prospects can make a big league impact in 2019

    Tommy Rancel
    ESPN PLUS


    As the season winds down and the major and minor league rosters become intertwined, we are at the point where pure numbers do not matter much. Instead, what I want to do here is look at individual skills.

    The parameters are as followed: these players are still on a minor league roster, but close enough that you should know them. There may be a dynamite A-baller who has all the tools, but in redraft leagues he is irrelevant for 2019. Also, this is not a 20-80 scale ranking, although a few of those numbers will be tossed around.

    Today, the focus will be on hitters who are among the best with hit tool, power and speed. You can translate those to mean average, home runs, stolen bases with runs and RBI byproducts of those core skills.

    Hit Tool/Average

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B Toronto Blue Jays - The younger Guerrero was even better than advertised in 2018. In his last season as a teenager, he hit .381 across several levels in 95 games. It is an 80-hit tool that comes with great pitch recognition. Double-A is my litmus test for most prospects. Guerrero hit .402 in over 260 plate appearances there. He's going to win at least one batting title if not multiple.

    Nick Senzel, 2B/3B/SS Cincinnati Reds - Senzel does not have the 80 grade, but I do not think there was a hitter more prepared to face big league pitching prior to his season-ending injury. There is a consistently and fluidity to his at-bats that almost seems immune to slumps because the stroke is so compact with easy motion. I think he will challenge .300 as a regular middle infielder.

    Keston Hiura, 2B Milwaukee Brewers - Coming out of the University of California at Irvine, Hiura was one of the top pure bats in the 2017 draft class. Without a true defensive home, hitting remains his one stand out skill and what will ultimately carry him to the majors. He is a .313 hitter in over 700 career plate appearances. He reached Double-A this season and should make his debut in 2019. I do question if Milwaukee is the right spot. A team with a designated hitter would probably be better.

    Power/Home Runs

    Eloy Jimenez, OF Chicago White Sox - Whether you agree if it is right or wrong, Jimenez is not in a major league roster for reasons other than baseball. His power is the prodigious kind that was talked about with Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge in recent seasons. He is much more Judge than Gallo as he is a pretty good hitter otherwise and unlike Judge probably won't strikeout 200 times. It is 40 home run potential that will be in the majors next season; probably sometime after April 15 because of baserunning or something else ridiculous.

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B Toronto Blue Jays - Here is that soon-to-be-man again. Not only does Guerrero Jr. have a 80 hit tool, but the power potential is right there as well. He topped 20 home runs for the first time in a season despite missing about six weeks to injury. Along with an average above .300, he should top 60 or even 70 extra-base hits in a season with at least half of those clearing the wall.

    Peter Alonso, 1B New York Mets - Another slugger that should be in the majors; however, "reasons." Alonso is more of the typical power hitting prospect that comes with a lot of boom and a considerable amount of bust. He smashed 36 long balls this season including 21 in Triple-A. He also struck out 78 times in 67 games for Las Vegas. There are better hitters with perhaps more raw power, but he has big time in-game power and is close to showing that at the highest level.

    Speed/Steals

    Jorge Mateo, SS/2B Oakland Athletics - Mateo makes this list for a second straight season which is a gift and a curse. It means he is still among the fastest runners in the minors. At the same time, it means he is still in the minors. I ended his portion last season by saying "he is a legit 50-steal threat in the majors, provided he can get on base enough to commit such grand theft." That is still the case. He reached based only 28 percent of the time in 2018. He was still able to steal 25 bases and collect 16 triples. Speed is only a useful tool if you have opportunities to actually use it.

    Corey Ray, OF Milwaukee Brewers - The fifth overall pick in 2016, Ray has a combination of speed and power that could make him a superstar if he could hit the ball consistently. Look at these numbers for example. Playing for Double-A Biloxi, Ray collected 66 extra-base hits including 27 home runs while stealing 37 bases in 44 chances. He also hit .241 and struck out 176 times. He's an easy 70 runner that can be a dynamic offensive weapon and defender. Hitting will determine if he is a star or a reserve.

    Bo Bichette, SS/2B Toronto Blue Jays - Vlad Jr.'s "running" partner for most of the past two seasons, Bichette does not have a tremendous speed grade, but moves well enough along the bases to impact the game with his legs. He stole 32 bases this season -- although his efficiency can improve -- while tallying 43 doubles and seven triples. Not only could he steal 20 or more bags as a major leaguer, but the constant threat of being in scoring position means a ton of runs scored hitting in front of Guerrero Jr. and others.
     

  2. #77  
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    Finding the best fantasy options on the surprisingly good A's

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS


    Those millions of people who read my colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft's weekly Fantasy Forecaster know full well that the Oakland Athletics boast a sweet road schedule this week at Baltimore -- rain permitting -- and Tampa Bay. The Athletics lead baseball in road OPS and home runs, but it is hardly just outfielder Khris Davis and his 41 home runs doing the damage. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty and third baseman Matt Chapman are each among the 30 most valuable options on the 30-day Player Rater, while middle infielders Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie and surprise rookie outfielder Ramon Laureano are not far behind.

    Piscotty is the noticeable one of late for his 11-game hitting streak, which includes five home runs and 16 runs batted in for that stretch. The former St. Louis Cardinal slumped last season to a .235 batting average and single-digit home runs despite gains in plate discipline, and spent time at Triple-A Memphis. What most did not know is that Piscotty's mother was dying of ALS, and the Cardinals and Athletics worked out the winter trade to return Piscotty to the Bay Area for her final days. She passed in May. These are human beings first, baseball players second.

    From a fantasy standpoint, seeing Piscotty struggle in 2017 to stay healthy and productive, and moving to a pitchers' ballpark in another league, it was a bit tough to make the case for a return to top-30 outfielder relevance, as Piscotty had achieved in 2016. Well, he is closing in on that mark. Piscotty has 15 of his 23 home runs in road games, with an OPS nearly 100 points greater, and he is hitting .357 this month with four blasts. His hard-hit percentage has risen from 32.7 percent to 41.7 percent, and he has been smarter with the pitches he attacks in the strike zone. Add it up and we have the No. 37 outfielder for the season, and rising.


    Chapman is a potential 35-homer option in the future, Semien one of the few middle infielders on a path to 15 or more home runs and stolen bases and Lowrie, despite years of injuries and inconsistent performance, has managed to produce all season long and might knock in 100 runs. My favorite Oakland player to watch of late has been Laureano, he of the rifle outfield arm that has embarrassed several baserunners.

    He also can hit! Laureano has achieved 1.5 WAR in his 102 plate appearances with excellent defense but also a .912 OPS, featuring 5 home runs and 4 steals. There is ample swing-and-miss in his approach, but the right-handed batter is doing this against right-handed pitching as well. Laureano homered twice on Friday versus Texas. He is an excellent addition for this week's attractive road slate.

    As for the starting pitchers, only right-hander Mike Fiers inspires confidence at this point. Right-hander Trevor Cahill was thriving in home games but lost all control Sunday against the Rangers, issuing six walks while retiring eight hitters. Cahill beat the Yankees earlier in the week but went only five innings. With a mere eight strikeouts in his past four outings, move on. Edwin Jackson has not eclipsed five innings in four of five chances. Daniel Mengden boasts an awesome mustache, but it does not help him miss bats. Sean Manaea looks done. The Athletics are playoff-bound and could do damage thanks to the offense, defense and bullpen.

    Sunday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RJustin Turner, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-for-5, HR, 2 RBIRonald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves: 2-for-3, HR, SB, 3 RAndrew Heaney, SP, Los Angeles Angels: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 KReynaldo Lopez, SP, Chicago White Sox: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

    Lowlights:

    Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres: 0-for-4, 3 KJustin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: 0-for-4, 4 KDallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros: 6 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K• Trevor Cahill, SP, Oakland Athletics: 2 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 1 KBrad Boxberger, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

    Weekend takeaways:
    Jorge López is the fifth pitcher to lose a perfect game in the 9th inning since the last perfect game by Félix Hernández in 2012. pic.twitter.com/E2RuoDx9U3
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 9, 2018

    • Wait, who? That is Jorge Lopez, a right-hander for the Kansas City Royals acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Mike Moustakas trade back in July, and he nearly made history on Saturday night until Max Kepler walked and Robbie Grossman singled in the ninth inning. Lopez used to be an intriguing prospect until he ran into the thin air of Triple-A Colorado Springs, but walks and inconsistency plagued him. The Royals might have something here, though fantasy managers should still stay away. Lopez allowed two earned runs in 15 innings over his past two outings, and walked only one, but there is little evidence he can control the walks moving forward. Keep an eye on Lopez. He is 25 and he should get a rotation spot in 2019.

    Shohei Ohtani was fantasy's top player over the past seven days on the Player Rater, and that was all hitting. Pretty impressive. One can easily make the case to utilize Ohtani in your DH slot the final weeks of the season. Others in the top 20 for the past week who are more readily available include Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar, who just keeps on hitting and running without anyone noticing, plus Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and, as predicted Friday, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who smacked two home runs in Saturday's game at Oakland.

    • Quite a few fantasy managers were ready to part with Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto when he hit the DL last month but they were not complaining this past weekend when he homered twice and knocked in seven runs. Votto has a mere 11 home runs in 129 games, which is obviously substandard for him. He smacked 36 blasts last season and hit .320. Do not underestimate him in 2019 drafts. He could easily return to those numbers.

    • Those needing stolen bases should again look at Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields, as he hit leadoff Sunday for the second time since the All-Star break and stole two bases and scored twice. DeShields was supposed to steal 30 bases this season, but injuries and performance have hampered him and he is at 20. Still, it would not be stunning if he stole 30 in 2019. He is 25. And by the way, seven players have 30 stolen bases. It is hardly common. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez became the first player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases since Mike Trout and Ryan Braun did so in 2012.

    Health report:

    Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said he would return from abdominal surgery before the end of the season, and he was right. He could play Monday. Abreu will likely fall short of his fourth 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign, but not by much. Activate him this week and make him a top-50 option in 2019.

    Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk ran into a stool while trying to catch a fly ball Sunday, and could miss time. Yep, it happened. I saw it. Those pesky stools! Grichuk is hitting .294 with 10 home runs since the All-Star break, so as with Piscotty, leaving St. Louis did not ruin his career. There is top-30 outfield potential here as well so let us hope he plays again soon.

    Closing time:

    St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez saved Sunday's win and was named closer, so we can all part with Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks. Martinez was a top-20 starter in March but now, well, things change. If Martinez is closing next season he could absolutely be a top-10 relief option, though I think we would all prefer the 200 innings.

    • It is hard to believe Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Brad Boxberger still has the closer role after a brutal weekend against Atlanta. Boxberger has 32 saves but only one, along with three losses, in his past four appearances. Ender Inciarte hit one to the moon off him Sunday. Archie Bradley has not been performing any better so perhaps Jake Diekman or Brad Ziegler gets a shot. No, really.

    W2W4:

    • Milwaukee Brewers lefty Wade Miley faces Chicago Cubs lefty Jon Lester on ESPN+ and while I never would have imagined recommending the former, the fact is he has a 2.12 ERA in 12 starts this season, and a 1.17 WHIP. You do not get wins or whiffs but decent innings, yes. Miley had a 5.61 ERA with Baltimore last season, and it cannot be all about Baltimore.

    Adam Wainwright returns after missing months for the Cardinals but does not come recommended for fantasy. For one, he is likely on a pitch count. For two, his ERA since the start of 2016 is 4.76, with a 1.46 WHIP. The good times are in the past. This team might make the playoffs with Wainwright starting and Martinez closing. Unbelievable.

    • Do not ignore Colorado Rockies right-hander German Marquez, for he is facing a scuffling Arizona lineup and has struck out 24 hitters in his past two starts. Marquez does have a 5.50 home ERA this season, as opposed to 2.83 on the road, but each of his past five home starts have been six or more innings with three or fewer runs, and many whiffs. Do not look at season numbers; look at recent trends. This fellow is good.


     

  3. #78  
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    Jonathan Villar, Amed Rosario among top players to pick up

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS




    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar homered on Tuesday, and he stole two bases in a game a few days before that. He has hit .291 with 7 home runs and 12 steals since the All-Star break.

    He is not producing quite as he did in his amazing 2016, when he was arguably the fantasy MVP and definitely a top-10 player, but Villar has resurrected his current season far from the spotlight and a pennant race in Maryland. He stands as the No. 3 option on the 30-day Player Rater and yet ... he remains available in roughly 56 percent of ESPN standard leagues.

    OK, I get it. Fantasy football is underway, hoops and hockey are close, and for many fantasy baseball leagues, half the managers might have checked out. Well, I have not checked out! These are the critical final weeks of the season, and Villar illustrates the fact that there are useful statistical assets sitting there lonely on free agency, simply waiting for an eager, desperate fantasy baseball manager to love them.

    Inspired by a longtime fantasy-playing friend who asked for precisely this advice for roto, here are some of those hitting options by category, all available in at least 50 percent of ESPN standard formats.

    Batting average: Other than Villar, hitting a cool .299 over the past 30 days, try one of many Tampa Bay Rays going unnoticed this season but performing nicely of late, like Joey Wendle, Kevin Kiermaier, Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe (the Rays are playing great). In addition, there is the Cardinals' Kolten Wong, the Mets' Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo, Pittsburgh's Adam Frazier and Colin Moran, and a bevy of others mentioned in other statistical categories below as well. It is tough to predict batting average for most. We know the power hitters could keep providing power, but batting average is different. Wendle has been solid (No. 48 hitter on the 30-day rater) and is eligible at three positions. I definitely recommend him.

    Runs scored: There will be obvious overlap here as well, but I cannot fathom why Mets shortstop Amed Rosario remains out there in two-thirds of leagues. He has hit .291 with 27 runs and 9 steals since Aug. 1, and it all looks legit. He has outplayed Trea Turner in that span, and he appears a similar statistical option moving forward, but next season Turner goes in Round 1 and Rosario, I do not know, perhaps Round 15? Adames has scored 23 runs since Aug. 1. Look for players atop lineups, whether they offer speed or not. Detroit third baseman Jeimer Candelario has struggled in the second half, but he has scored more runs than Villar, Manny Machado, Rhys Hoskins and Jose Ramirez since Aug. 1.

    Home runs and runs batted in: We can probably combine these two stats since the first ties directly into the second. So many great options available! Houston's Tyler White just surpassed 50 percent rostered, but young Padres outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes have not. I question batting average for them for a full season, but each is close to .300 over the past month, and with legit power. They are hitting well at home too. I also like Royals first baseman Ryan O'Hearn, slugging .637 in 102 at-bats, with 10 home runs. He had power in the minors too. Baltimore's Trey Mancini, the Cardinals' Paul DeJong, the Yankees' Luke Voit, Atlanta's Dansby Swanson, Cincinnati's Phillip Ervin and Scott Schebler, and the White Sox's Daniel Palka qualify as well. Check schedules for opposing pitchers, too. O'Hearn has to face lefties the next two games, but after that, the lefty hitter has sweet matchups.

    Stolen bases: No player has stolen more bases since the All-Star break than Royals middle infielders Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi. Merrifield is awesome, a potential top-50 pick next year. Mondesi is rostered in 19 percent of leagues. Go get him. Royals teammate Alex Gordon has seven steals over 30 days, which makes no sense, and he is adding no other value, but hey, if you need the steals then get him. Other than Villar, Rosario, McNeil, Wendle and Mallex Smith, the latter just passing the 50 percent threshold but perhaps available in your league anyway, look at the Padres' Travis Jankowski, the White Sox's Yolmer Sanchez, Detroit's Niko Goodrum, the Mets' Todd Frazier and I really like Oakland's Ramon Laureano, who is more than just a rifle arm in center field. Cleveland's Greg Allen is running, but the Josh Donaldson activation likely costs him some playing time. The latest injury to Roman Quinn costs him time. Terrance Gore has five stolen bases for the Cubs in his 10 days with the club, but that is almost literally all he offers. He has batted twice! Still, five more steals from him could decide your league.

    Tuesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals: 5-for-8, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs

    Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees: 2-for-3, HR, 4 RBIs

    David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: 1-for-3, HR, SB, 2 RBIs

    Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves: 9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians: 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K

    Lowlights:

    Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: 1-for-7, 4 K

    Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies: 0-for-4, 4 K

    Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals: 4 2/3 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

    Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Detroit Tigers: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

    Luke Weaver, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: 2/3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

    Tuesday takeaways:

    Edwin Encarnación hit his 30th HR of the season. He's the 3rd Indians player with 30+ HR in 2018.
    It's the 5th time in franchise history the Indians have had 3 30-HR hitters, and the first time since 1999, when Manny Ramírez , Richie Sexson and Jim Thome did so.
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 12, 2018

    • The Indians threw together a lineup on Tuesday with All-Stars at literally every hitting spot. No, it is true. Encarnacion is one of them, of course, and it is the seventh-consecutive season he has reached 30 home runs, which is about as good as one can get on the consistency-meter. No, Encarnacion is not helping your batting average -- he never really did -- but he is not Joey Gallo, either. Oh, by the way, the Indians debuted third baseman Josh Donaldson, and he was quiet in four at-bats out of the No. 5 lineup spot, but at least he looked healthy. What a lineup this could be if everyone is clicking. I doubt Donaldson is deployed every game from here on out, but he can still aid a fantasy team.

    • Bieber was the star of the game with his 11 strikeouts and three hits allowed over 6 2/3 innings, and he continues to evolve into an occasional pitcher we must take seriously. I invested in Bieber in several leagues, both fantasy and simulation, because his control is impeccable and I thought he would miss bats. Well, he struck out two Rays hitters in each of the first five innings Tuesday, which is rare in itself. Bieber issued a season-high three walks. He has allowed too many hits to lefty hitters, but if he can minimize that and keep the K rate, watch out. His current 4.32 ERA does not match the 3.01 FIP. Believe the FIP.

    Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale and his sore shoulder came off the DL in what was projected to be a two-inning stint, but he threw 26 pitches in the first inning and that was it! Sale's inning was run-free, but he allowed a hit, and he hit Kendrys Morales. Who knows if Sale gets to throw 100 pitches in any game the rest of the month? Do not cut Sale, but for those on start limits, the bench might be a safer spot for the Cy Young contender depending on workload.

    • It is hard to believe how good Washington's Soto is. Not only did he homer twice in the second game of the doubleheader sweep in Philadelphia, putting him on a short list of players who hit for this much power as a teenager, he is hitting the ball to all fields, and his plate discipline remains top-notch. It is a joy to watch. Soto has 70 walks versus 88 strikeouts! There are only three players qualified for the batting title with a batting average of at least .300, an on-base percentage better than .400 and a slugging percentage higher than .500 (Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Mike Trout). Soto is doing this at age 19! He even made a brilliant catch in left field, jumping into the stands. Ronald Acuna Jr. might win top rookie honors, but Soto is also, right with him, a future superstar.

    Health report:

    • Padres second baseman Luis Urias pulled his left hamstring on Tuesday and is likely done for the season. Do not look at his .208 batting average next March. Urias is a high-contact hitter with enough pop to hit double-digit home runs, and he should be the team's No. 2 hitter for years to come. I cannot say he makes my top-10 second basemen, but he is not far from it.

    • Atlanta Braves third baseman Johan Camargo, with a .318 batting average and five home runs over the past 30 days, injured a groin Tuesday and likely sits for Charlie Culberson for a few days, at least. Culberson, of course, replaced Camargo and homered. The Braves are cruising to the NL East title and do not figure to be pushing injured players into the lineup.

    W2W4:

    Los Angeles Angels right-hander Ty Buttrey appears to be the team's new closer, as he saved games Tuesday and last Friday. Buttrey, 25, was always a big strikeout option in the minors for Boston, but not a closer. He came to L.A. in the Ian Kinsler trade, and with Blake Parker handling eighth-inning work, and not all that well, Buttrey could be a legit closer.

    • With Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley pitching so poorly that they cannot be used in leverage situations for a bit, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo turned to Yoshihisa Hirano, and he earned save No. 1 with no issues. Hirano does not throw with great velocity, but he gets outs. Lefty Jake Diekman actually started the ninth inning and put a few men on base, so he should continue to get ninth-inning work as well.

    W2W4:

    • Check out Milwaukee right-hander Chase Anderson and Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. Anderson has fine numbers this season despite the 29 home runs, a figure eclipsed by only Dylan Bundy and Bartolo Colon. His WHIP works at 1.16, so if all he does is allow home runs, we can live with it. Hendricks allowed four runs in his most recent outing, but one earned, so that makes four earned runs total over four starts. Much better. Watch to see if Kyle Schwarber and his sore back return to the Chicago lineup.

    • I would sit Yankees right-hander Luis Severino at Minnesota because I want to win my league championship, and relying on a pitcher with the third-most earned runs allowed since the All-Star break seems counterproductive to that goal, at least to me. Severino has two quality starts, out of 11 chances, since July 1. I know how great he was last season, and I do not care because he is struggling mightily. Even this current Twins lineup can do damage.
     

  4. #79  
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    Karablog: Searching for the next Blake Snell

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS


    Hall of Famer Randy Johnson walked more than 100 hitters in three consecutive seasons early in his career with the Seattle Mariners. My, ahem, ancestors have regaled me with bedtime stories of his greatness -- how they absolutely loved the strikeouts and the potential of greatness, if only the wild lefty could simply harness his control. Well, in 1993, it happened, and Johnson moved up from being a "curiosity" with mad upside to a Cy Young-caliber ace and created his special path of historical greatness. Sometimes it takes a bit of time.

    Walkers can be scary to invest in, and I tend to be wary of anyone who can't throw strikes on a consistent basis, but young Blake Snell always showed massive strikeout upside, and it is why we kept investing. The Tampa Bay Rays left-hander seemed to figure things out midway through last season, cutting into his walk rate without missing bats. After going winless for the first four months of 2017, his second season, Snell went 5-1 from Aug. 1 on. He posted a 2.90 ERA, finding more success with his curveball and inducing weak contact, which has continued into 2018. We could see the path to greatness, but Snell nevertheless went ignored in ESPN ADP, falling all the way to Round 23. Today, that seems ridiculous.

    Snell will be one of the top 10 pitchers in 2019 drafts for sure, and he might even have a Cy Young Award on his mantel after winning his 19th game on Wednesday, when he toyed with the AL Central champion Indians over seven pristine innings. Jose Ramirez homered, and that was it, Cleveland's lone hit. Snell struck out nine for the third-consecutive outing, lowering his ERA to 2.03 and his WHIP to 0.98. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are the lone starting pitchers ahead of him on the Player Rater, due to more innings pitched and strikeouts.

    We all know how good Snell is now, but how can fantasy managers prepare for the next breakout that suddenly finds control? Well, that's a good question. Snell was not among last season's walk leaders because he missed time and too many of his outings were short ones. His walk rate, which is a far better indicator of issues, was exorbitant. Wade Miley, Derek Holland and Jhoulys Chacin are examples of walk leaders from last season who have greatly improved in 2018, but they are not young.

    Next spring, I will be throwing a late pick at Chicago White Sox right-handers Lucas Giolito and/or Reynaldo Lopez. Giolito is second in baseball in walks, behind only Cubs right-hander Tyler Chatwood, but if Snell's emergence taught us anything, it's that season-long numbers are not as important as second-half trends. Giolito boasts a 4.98 ERA and 1.26 WHIP after the All-Star break, with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. His first half was brutal. I care about the second half and, no matter what happens in his final few outings, he already made his point. No, I do not think Giolito is the next Snell. He can be the next Mike Foltynewicz, though. Jon Gray can do it. Many pitchers who start out lacking control can suddenly discover it, so be willing to invest.

    Wednesday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:



    Lowlights:



    Wednesday takeaways:

    If hypothetically, @JakeOdorizzi were no-hitting the Yankees through 7 innings, we would love to inform you of said situation.
    This is totally a hypothetical, so there is no way if this was really happening that we could jinx it. pic.twitter.com/7zHyMcVGRl
    - MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2018


    • Odorizzi finally allowed a hit and left after 7.1 innings and 120 pitches on Wednesday, eventually earning his sixth win in 16 decisions. His ERA is 4.41. It has not been the best season for Odorizzi. Still, more eyes were on Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, who allowed four hits and a run in 5.2 innings. His line looks good, perhaps better than he actually pitched, but no matter. I cannot make any case to activate Severino in a fantasy league for the rest of the season, as he faces the Red Sox twice and the Rays once. It is up to you.



    • Boston's Price, however, was awesome again on Wednesday and is now fourth in ERA since the All-Star break, trailing Trevor Williams, Wheeler and Snell. That's it. Price last lost a game on July 1, and nine of his past 10 outings have been quality starts. Was I necessarily wrong about Price? Well, he has made 28 starts, winning 15 with a 3.42 ERA and over a 9.00 K/9. I did not think the elbow would hold up for this many starts, and I will be cautious in 2019, but he has to be a top-20 starter in the rankings.
    • I cannot get enough of those runnin' Royals. Whit Merrifield stole two more bases, and Adalberto Mondesi has four steals in nine September games. Even Alex Gordon has three. One might wonder about 2019 if there is a new manager, but Mondesi has 22 steals in 58 games and 211 PA. Extrapolate that out, and it is mind-boggling for this era. He could be a terrific fantasy option, even without any plate discipline. Oh, and Merrifield was on so many bust lists this season and now is the No. 20 overall option on the Player Rater. Sometimes you just have to believe.


    Health report:


    • White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada has a sore hip, so his race to break the all-time strikeout record is on hold. Moncada has a whopping 196 whiffs. Wow! No, he will not be hitting .280 with that K-rate of 33 percent and, unfortunately, he is not stealing many bases. He is also just 23. Give him a late look in 2019.



    • Mariners left-hander James Paxton has an illness and will not be starting on Friday night against the Angels. Well, at least it is not his arm. Paxton has made 26 starts. He will not reach 30. Again. Sigh.


    Closing time:


    • Perhaps it's simply time to give up on the Arizona bullpen. Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley have been so awful that Yoshihisa Hirano saved Tuesday's win. However, on Wednesday, LeMahieu homered off him, and it was another crushing Arizona defeat. Brad Ziegler might be next, but how can that go well?



    • Ryan Pressly got the save for the Astros because Roberto Osuna and Hector Rondon were deemed to be unavailable. Pressly has emerged with a terrific season and should soon reach 100 strikeouts. Four relief pitchers have hit that triple-digit milestone. Pressly might well be someone's closer in 2019.


    W2W4:

    • Rain permitting, the Red Sox will send lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to the hill against Toronto, and while his most recent outing against Houston went poorly, this is someone to invest in. Rodriguez boasts 126 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. He does not go deep into games, but with the offense on this club, he still has four more wins than looming NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.
    • It's a big series for the Dodgers and Cardinals, and one would normally say that anyone facing Clayton Kershaw is worth sitting, but Cardinals LHP Austin Gomber is 4-0 as a starter with a 2.78 ERA and decent strikeouts. Do not automatically sit Gomber. After all, the Cardinals do lead the major leagues in runs since the All-Star break.

     

  5. #80  
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    Karablog: Top closer trends of 2018 and strategies for next season

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS


    The AL West tells us quite a bit about why investing in closers -- either for dynasty purposes or early in redraft formats -- can be so dangerous. Back in March, the closers for this division were, in order of their average draft position, Edwin Diaz and Ken Giles in Round 11, and then considerably later on it was Blake Treinen, Blake Parker and Alex Claudio. Diaz has had an incredible season, as has late-round pick Treinen, but Giles was bad and then traded, Parker has shared the role and does not appear to have it today while Claudio has one save all season, and recently started a game.

    Diaz and Treinen are fighting it out statistically to end up the top closer on the Player Rater, but regardless of how it finishes up, Oakland's option deserves the MVP award among relief pitchers for fantasy purposes. Sure, Diaz has 56 saves and 120 strikeouts. The former stat could still break the all-time record and the latter ranks second among all relief pitchers to Milwaukee Brewers lefty Josh Hader. Treinen boasts, entering Tuesday, mirror-image ERA and WHIP figures of 0.85 with 37 saves and 7 wins. One of them, however, barely was a selection in most drafts. He is the winner.

    As the six-month journey of a season comes to its end, let us celebrate the relief pitchers that helped us in fantasy and discuss a few trends as well.

    Not all about saves: Sure, we love the three pitchers who have crossed 40 saves for the season, with Boston's Craig Kimbrel and Colorado's Wade Davis joining Diaz, but we crave ERA, strikeouts and consistency. Dominance helps, too. Hader has 11 saves this season, but leads relievers with 133 strikeouts, and that latter number ties him with starters Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta and Eduardo Rodriguez at No. 65. That is incredible and incredibly valuable. Hader, like Cleveland's Andrew Miller in recent seasons, should be a coveted selection even if the saves are not there.

    Not so bad after all: Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Kenley Jansen was the consensus No. 1 choice among relief pitchers in drafts, in the fourth round and just a bit ahead of Kimbrel, but we could all see in early April that something was not quite right. Jansen struggled to find fastball velocity and avoid home runs and eventually hit the disabled list in August with an irregular heartbeat, which could need offseason repair. Overall, his numbers place him sixth among closers on the Rater. We can live with that. I maintain that closers are not worthy selections early in drafts, and several from the top-5 on draft day have had issues (Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna, Corey Knebel).

    Not so valuable after all: While Treinen, Diaz and Hader comprise the top-tier of fantasy MVP options at relief pitcher, there is no shortage of LVP choices based on ADP. Start with Milwaukee's Knebel, a successful closer for one season who could not maintain health, consistency and control in his follow-up. Knebel was a bust of a ninth-round pick. Giles and Cody Allen followed a few rounds later and neither has been great, but at least they have saved games. Later on in drafts, we see that Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller and Hector Neris were hardly worth it. It is tough to make a declarative statement about what that teaches us moving ahead. I will rely on one-year closers. Knebel can still be a great one.

    Not afraid to trade: Fantasy managers get over-worried about closers that could be on the real-life move. Well, more than a few closers traded uniforms this summer, but Brad Hand, Osuna and Giles continued to save games for their new teams. Alex Colome, Fernando Rodney, Keone Kela, Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria did not. Stuff like this is unpredictable, so do not try to guess next April. Raisel Iglesias and Shane Greene could have joined them, but they did not. Roles change during a season. Ask Tampa Bay's Sergio Romo, who saved six games total the previous three seasons, started five games for the Rays and now boasts 22 saves.

    Not bad for a rookie: St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Jordan Hicks averages more than 100 MPH with his fastball, and that is something we have never seen before. The Cardinals seemed apprehensive about giving him consistent save chances, going with Greg Holland, Bud Norris and now former starter Carlos Martinez, but Hicks sure seems to have lofty save and strikeout totals in his future, perhaps in 2019. A.J. Minter and Seranthony Dominguez lead rookies with 14 saves apiece; the former figured to set up Arodys Vizcaino in Atlanta, then seized the role, while the latter was a starter in the minor leagues for Philadelphia until they became desperate in the bullpen. These fellows should get a chance for saves in 2019 and beyond, as well as rookies Trevor Hildenberger, Drew Steckenrider and Ty Buttrey.

    Not-too-early 2019 rankings: First of all, my first relief pitchers do not show up in the first five rounds of my rankings. Jansen, Kimbrel, Diaz and Treinen feel like a top tier on their own, but more like Round 8 or so. If I do not get them at all, so be it. Give me JosPene Leclerc and Kirby Yates 15 rounds later! Perhaps Mr. Rodney sticks around and finds work as a closer somewhere. He was performing just fine in Minnesota! The rest of my early top-10 closers is Chapman, Felipe Vazquez, Osuna, Hand, Davis and at No. 10, Hader. Love those strikeouts even if Knebel and/or Jeremy Jeffress get the ninth inning.

    Monday recap

    Box scores

    Highlights:

    Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: 4-for-4, HR, 4 RBI

    Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

    • Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle Mariners: 1-for-1, HR, 4 RBI

    Ryan Borucki, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs: 8 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

    Lowlights:

    Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: 0-for-4, 3 K

    Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays: 0-for-3, 2 K

    Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves: 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K

    Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies: 2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

    Hector Rondon, RP, Houston Astros: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

    Recent takeaways:

    Christian Yelich is the 5th player in MLB history with multiple cycles in one season, joining Long John Reilly (1883), Tip O'Neill (1887), Babe Herman (1931) and Aaron Hill (2012).

    He's the first to hit multiple cycles against the same team in the same season.
    h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/lqMPTe4zFe
    - ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 18, 2018

    • For those still playing for something in 2018, it had to be a joy to watch Yelich run around the bases on Monday night and perhaps secure the NL MVP award as well. Then again, Yelich was the No. 40 in ESPN ADP this season and is rostered everywhere. I suspect he might be a top-20 selection in 2019, especially if he wins the MVP award. Yelich is a true five-category player. As for available Brewers, I cannot help but notice another Domingo Santana home run, and wonder what team gets him for 2019. I will likely be recommending Santana, who was so great in 2017, if guaranteed to play next year. Frankly, he should be playing over Ryan Braun (.227 batting average in the past month), but whatever. On the mound, lefty Wade Miley tossed five shutout innings. He has a 2.08 ERA in 14 starts but remains readily available. I do not know what more we need to see. Yes, Miley was awful the past three seasons in the American League. He is not awful today.

    Kansas City Royals infielder Adalberto Mondesi, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are the top options on the Player Rater over the past week. Mondesi just keeps running; that is 25 stolen bases in 63 games, with nine home runs. Yes, that is more home runs than walks and I do not care. I might rank him top-100 overall next season on the chance he hits 20 homers with 50 steals. Soto is awesome, of course, and we knew that, but his three-steal game over the weekend adds another surprising dimension. Soto did not run in the minors. He is 19. He can run if he wants to. Puig had a three-homer game over the weekend and is closing in on a 20/20 season. He still does not hit left-handed pitching, but does plenty of damage to right-handers. He is a fine third outfielder in fantasy.

    Zack Wheeler, Miles Mikolas, Luis Castillo, Borucki and Hendricks are the top pitchers on the Rater for the past week. Wheeler has been amazing the second half of the season and while I think he falls just a bit short of my top 20 starters for 2019 rankings, he is not far from that. Comparing him to Foltynewicz, who was terrible on Monday, is interesting. Wheeler probably has more upside. Mikolas is not a big strikeout option, but his first season back in MLB has been a great success, with 16 wins and a 3.02 ERA. This does not mean all American pitchers returning from Japan will be awesome, though. Castillo was great as a rookie, and inconsistent in the follow-up season. I will likely pretend he was better than his numbers showed this season for 2019 drafts. Borucki is a rather ordinary lefty sans major strikeout potential. Hendricks might return to the top 20 after a nice close to his season.

    Health report:

    Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts experienced left-side soreness Sunday but claims he will play on Tuesday. Fantasy managers with something to play for hope he not only plays but he plays well. We do not need a hero going 2-for-20 this week. I cannot imagine the Red Sox, with the AL East and home field all but clinched, let Betts play if he is not close to 100 percent.

    • Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, certainly a candidate for fantasy MVP among the hitters this season due to his amazing numbers and the acquisition cost (for a blog entry next week!), left his game during a Monday at-bat with elbow soreness. It was strange. Story might need some rest. Again, this does not help weekly managers, but in daily formats, as long as we have clarity on whether he is in the lineup, we can react.

    Closing time:

    San Francisco Giants lefty Will Smith earned his 13th save, and should get a chance to remain the closer next spring as well, even if Melancon is right. Lefty save options are out there, from Hand to Sean Doolittle, Minter, Jace Fry and Vazquez, so it is good to see open-minded real-life managers out there.

    W2W4:

    Kyle Freeland and Clayton Kershaw face off in a critical game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers won Monday and they lead the NL West. Some will say Freeland is a poor option because he is facing the awesome, future Hall of Famer lefty Kershaw, but Freeland ranks better on the season Rater. He has 15 wins and a 2.96 ERA and it might be the best season for a Rockies starter, ever. Do not bench him. By the way, Matt Holliday should be in the Rockies lineup, and he homered off Kershaw last week.

    Austin Gomber and Anibal Sanchez is not quite the same level of matchup, but catch these fellows on ESPN in another big game. The Cardinals are fighting for the wild card, while the Braves should cruise to the NL East title but would like to rest players next week. Gomber's most recent outing was his worst in a long time. It is best to keep trusting the lefty, who has been consistent. Sanchez had a walks problem in his most recent outing, but the 3.01 season ERA is legit, and comes with strikeouts. I would prefer Sanchez for this matchup.

    • On Wednesday, ESPN features a doubleheader with David Price meeting Luis Severino in the first game and Tyler Anderson at Dodger Stadium against Walker Buehler after. I would sit Severino, who has a 6.35 ERA since the All-Star break, against this awesome offense. I would sit Anderson, who was so good for so long this season but is winless with a 7.40 ERA since the break. He has been awful in road games, too.
     

  6. #81  
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    Which September call-ups made the biggest impression?

    Tommy Rancel
    ESPN PLUS


    Unlike in years past, in 2018, the September call-up has been more about role players than impact stars. There was plenty of potential with
    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    and
    Eloy Jimenez
    , but those teams opted to play conservative when it came to service-time accrual. Alas, there is no
    Corey Seager
    type carrying his veteran team to the playoffs and yours to the finish line.


    Instead, we have a mix of starting pitchers trying to be relievers for contenders or positioning themselves for a rotation spot on teams well out of it. We have a pair of promising backstops -- for different reasons -- and a few outfielders who could be big-time players in 2018. Some of the names below can help in a pinch right now, but most will have more opportunity to offer assistance next season.

    In no particular order, here we go...

    Kyle Wright, P Atlanta BravesThe fifth overall pick in 2017, Wright was called up to the big leagues after a strong season across two levels. He struck out 28 batters in 28 2/3 innings after being promoted to Triple-A, but he has struggled as a reliever at the highest level. Typically in control, he has walked six batters in five innings. You can keep him off the radar for the rest of 2018, but he will be a starter once again in 2019 and do so at the big league level.

    Touki Toussaint, P Atlanta BravesToussaint has started two of his three appearances since being recalled, but like Wright, he has lost sight of the strike zone. He walked five batters in less than five innings in his last start. In his lone relief appearance, he faced nine batters, walking four, while collecting just three outs. It is a tough situation for young starters to switch roles late in the year. Toussaint will be in the running for a rotation spot sometime next season.

    Nick Ciuffo, C Tampa Bay RaysThe former first-round pick was a surprise call-up after fellow catcher Adam Moore had passport issues early in the month. Ciuffo started the season on a 50-game suspension but ends it in the running to be the Rays' primary catcher. He is an above-average defender with decent pop from the left side. The Rays will likely let him go to battle with Michael Perez next spring, with the winner taking the lion's share of time behind the plate.

    Alex Verdugo, OF Los Angeles DodgersVerdugo was called to Los Angeles for a third time this season. He has appeared in 13 games but only collected 24 plate appearances. The main outfielders for the Dodgers are all under contract next season, meaning something is going to have to change for him to get significant work next season. That could mean the Dodgers moving a veteran or moving Verdugo for a bigger piece of the puzzle.

    Victor Robles, OF Washington NationalsAfter missing most of the first half of the season due to injury, Robles is back in Washington, where he is receiving a fair amount of playing time down the stretch. With the potential departure of Bryce Harper, the Nationals could be counting heavily on Robles and Juan Soto next season. Robles is a good hitter, with a feel for the strike zone and top-shelf speed. One of the top-10 prospects in baseball, he should play even more over the next 10 days and further position himself for a full-time gig in 2019.

    Erick Fedde, P Washington NationalsFedde missed some time this summer with shoulder stiffness. He is back now and starting games for the Nationals, and will go into 2019 competing for a permanent spot. He has 22 strikeouts in 15 innings this month, while limiting opposing batters to a .154 average. Leading with a mid-90s sinker, he has posted a 63 percent groundball rate. The sinker along with cutter, slider and offspeed give him a well-rounded mix. He is a talented arm with an opportunity to carve a place on a team in transition.

    Francisco Mejia, C San Diego PadresIn his first start, Mejia blasted two home runs. He added a grand slam earlier this week. Playing as part of a time share with Austin Hedges, Mejia will receive a handful more starts for the rest of the year before pushing the incumbent in the spring. Mejia is a top-of-the-order type of hitter who will carry catcher eligibility. He is definitely one you want to remember going into 2019 and could help in a pinch if you're desperate right now.

    Justus Sheffield, P New York YankeesSheffield was a late call-up as his Triple-A club advanced in the playoffs. A candidate for a rotation spot next season, he will spend the next few weeks as a reliever with the Yankees, a role they have been preparing him for in the minors. As a starter, he works in the 92-95 area, but as a reliever, I would expect him to stay on the higher side with potentially more as he empties the tank. He does not have much value right now, but I expect him to be a key figure for 2019.

    Sandy Alcantara, P Miami MarlinsSpeaking of key figures for 2019, Alcantara might be the Marlins' best starter heading into next season. Armed with an elite fastball, he posted back-to-back seven-inning gems to start the month before losing control his last time out. With a big fastball and long levers, that will happen from time to time. The Marlins may not be very competitive next year, but Alcantara is in a great spot as far as talent and opportunity. Miami closes out with the Reds, Nationals and Mets. He is a streaming option if you need one.

    Willie Calhoun, OF/DH Texas RangersCalhoun is finally getting some run with the Rangers. He belted a home run on Sunday and will need to continue to show power if he is going to hit himself into the lineup come 2019. He is limited to left field or designated hitter, with little speed. The good news is, for fantasy purposes, the defense does not matter, and the speed can be made up elsewhere. It only works if he hits around .280 and approaches 30 home runs. He topped those numbers in 2017, but only the average followed into 2018. The power is the key to relevance.
     

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