The NFL regular season kicks off in less than 15 weeks. Between now and then, fans of the virtual game will closely watch quarterback competitions, mull muddy backfields, and ruminate over rehab related timetables. To honor this summer-long quest for clarity, each week I’ll be highlighting one of fantasy’s most pressing questions. First up… the Bears backfield.
Per the Chicago Tribune, John Fox recently intimated that he’d likely use a “hot hand” approach at running back. An RBBC enthusiast since the early 2000’s, Fox’s comments aren’t particularly shocking, but they do bring into question the values of Jeremy Langford and Jordan Howard.
After Matt Forte’s official departure from the team, many had assumed that Langford would inherit the vet’s touches. A wrench was thrown into this supposition, however, when the Bears selected Howard in the fifth round of last month’s draft. A physical player with excellent vision and power, Howard appears to have everything that Langford lacks.
Yet, according to current ADP data, Langford is the fifteenth RB coming off of the board, being drafted in the latter half of the third round (3.10). Ironically he’s going just after Forte, and ahead of players like DeMarco Murray and Carlos Hyde. That’s awfully high for a guy whose coach is already admitting he’s aiming to employ a tandem.
After Forte returned from injury in Week 12, both he and Langford were in a near 50-50 timeshare through the end of the season. Over the ensuing four weeks, Forte averaged nearly 49 percent of snaps. Whereas, Langford was on the field for 46 percent of snaps (Note: I did not include Week 17 in my calculation as Forte was allowed a final bow of sorts, and given 90 percent of the offensive snaps.)
In that time, Langford wasn’t particularly good. While he did flash some receiving ability in Week 10 with an 83-yard score against the Rams, he also dropped eight balls (the most of any RB in 2015) and posted a catch percentage of just 55 percent. Drafted in part due to his previous experience as a wide receiver, those stats are far from stud status.
Furthermore, Langford’s rushing production underwhelmed, as he averaged just 3.6 YPC. His after contact numbers were even worse at just 1.8 yards, placing him among the bottom fifteen players at the position for that statistical category. These stats suggest that scouts who dinged the Michigan State product for his lack of physicality and toughness between the tackles were indeed correct.
It’s no wonder then that the Bears went out and got a guy who weighs twenty more pounds and doesn’t shy away from contact. While there’s likely to be a learning curve for the rookie, and admitting that Coach Fox has a tendency to defer to experience over youth, Howard is still the back to own in Chicago. With fantasy managers dubious about the unknown, the former Hoosier presents absurd late-round value. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him handle 10-12 touches per game, mixing in on early-downs and at the goal line.
Attempting to craft a next-gen version of Stephen Davis and Deshaun Foster in the Windy City, Fox is revving the run in 2016. Howard owners are going to enjoy being along for the ride.
Which FF dilemma is making you go Hmmm? Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF and suggest future editions of Pressing Questions.
The Yahoo Fantasy Baseball '16 season is two months old. As we move steadily into the summer portion of the season, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski and Andy Behrens take a look at the late-May movers and shakers that should pique the interest of fantasy owners. Let's get to it ...
|Top 5 hitters owned in 50 percent of leagues or less to target right now
|1.Devon Travis, Tor - He's been occupying a DL slot on every one of my fantasy squads - he's back, and he's likely to be back at the top of the Jays lineup soon
||1.Leonys Martin, Sea - You knew about the wheels already, and now he's launching a homer every other day.||1. Leonys Martin, OF, Sea - Speed has always been real; now, walks have spiked and he’s switched stance to go for power
|2. Leonys Martin, Sea - One of 4 players with 9+ HR and 7+ SB (Harper, Altuve, Betts) - change in plate approach (more fly balls) working wonders
||2.Devon Travis, Tor - Last call on a second baseman who hit .300-plus last season, with pop and speed. You have to like the lineup, too.
||2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Bal - Average is acceptable and he’s probably going to hit 25-30 homers
|3. Yasmany Tomas, Ari - Has a healthy OPS (.833) - like Martin, another Cuban benefitting from more loft in his swing in '16
3.Jonathan Schoop, Bal - Here's another way-too-available second baseman from the A.L. East, with plenty of power.
|3. Devon Travis, 2B, Tor - Will probably be in the leadoff role soon; Toronto lineup likely to pick it up
|4. Michael Saunders, Tor - His OPS (.933) is top 20 in MLB among those with 150+ plate appearances
4.Rajai Davis, Cle - He's playing every day and running at every opportunity (11 SB). We know the speed is legit, too.
|4. Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B, Min - Covers two positions that are tricky to fill, producing all over the stat sheet
|5. Jhonny Peralta, StL - Top 10 roto SS each of past 2 seasons is on minor league rehab (thumb), should return by month's end
||5. Michael Saunders, Tor - Plenty of power, and he's hitting for average, too. Again, lots of fantasy goodness in this lineup.||5. Chris Hermann, C, Ari - Catchers are a mess this year; Arizona is looking for excuses to get Hermann into the lineup more
|Top 5 pitchers owned in 50 percent of leagues or less to target right now|
|1. Sean Doolittle, Oak - Has been lights out lately, while closer Ryan Madson has stumbled - worth a spec play||1.Will Harris, Hou - We've had this conversation before. Harris is striking out a batter per inning and hasn't allowed a run in forever.||1. Mike Leake, SP, Cin - Get your strikeouts elsewhere, but he’s rounding into form — outstanding last four turns
|2. Hector Neris, Phi - 10th-best K/9 rate (11.7), third-best WHIP (0.72) among all pitchers with at least 20+ IP
||2.Nathan Eovaldi, NYY - He's on decent run lately, the WHIP is tiny, and he's got Tampa Bay up next.
||2. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, NYY - When the ERA and WHIP don’t agree, trust the WHIP; he’s always had a major-league heater, as well
|3. Kevin Gausman, Bal - Love the pedigree and the heater, not to mention the 2.70 ERA, 1.12 WHIP over his first 36.2 IP of '16||
3.Kevin Gausman, Bal - Gausman hovering around 50 percent ownership still seems crazy, considering his stuff, his ratios and K-upside.
|3. Matt Wisler, SP, Atl - Team is obviously terrible, but 3.08/1.03 ratios play for anyone
|4. Darren O'Day, Bal - Who can't use 60-70 IP of ridiculous ratios and at least a K/IP?
||4.Kelvin Herrera, KC - Another high-K, low-ratio reliever to help you reach an innings-limit. Guys like this have serious value, even in non-closing roles.||4. Jameson Taillon, SP, Pit - If you’re investing in Pittsburgh’s Super 2, Taillon looks more ready for June call
|5. Erasmo Ramirez, TB - He's 17-8 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 154 K in 200.1 IP as a member of the Rays
||5. Jameson Taillon, Pit - He has 51 Ks and just 5 BBs in 49.1 IP, and the team is now saving his innings for the big leagues.||5. Will Harris, RP, Hou - Page me when he finally allows a run; he dominated last year (1.90/0.90) as well
|Top 5 hitters owned in 15 percent of leagues or less to target right now|
|1. Matt Adams, StL - Has been toip 30 roto bat since April 29th, hitting .383 with 5 HRs in that 19-game span
||1.Matt Adams, STL - Yeah, I know, he's disappointed you before. But he's on a power binge lately, hitting timely bombs.||1. Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, Tex - Gets a week to show his stuff while Odor sits out; had category juice at Round Rock
|2. Brandon Guyer, TB - Taking advantage of regular playing time with an OPS in the .900s (including 5 HRs in May)
||2.Adam Duvall, Cin - Another useful power source, Duvall is going to easily top 20 homers this season. He reached the 30-homer plateau twice in minors.
||2. Jose Ramirez, Utility, Cle - Four positions of coverage, tied to a plus lineup
|3. Adam Duvall, Cin - Lots of Ks, but the 30+ HR pace to go with a .250 BA is more than acceptable
3. Mallex Smith, Atl - Get on board, people. He's hit well over the past month, and his speed is near the top of the charts. Swiped 57 bags in the minors last year.
|3. Adam Duvall, OF, Cin - Power is legitimate, park is friendly, lineup spot secure
|4. Trayce Thompson, LAD - Has been flashing his power skills and very encouraging that his K% in 225 ABs at MLB level much better than his minors rate||4. Brandon Guyer, TB - Leading off for Tampa Bay recently, plus he's been a multi-hit robot. Not a disaster in any fantasy category.||4. Brandon Guyer, OF, TB - Having fun as a short-term rental in Tampa, settling into leadoff spot
|5. Johnny Giavotella, LAA - He's hitting .355 in May - long ago an intriguing prospect, worth a flyer to see if he's late blooming||5. Alex Bregman, Hou - He's slashing .320/.424/.680 at Double-A, transitioning from short to third, clearly a path to the bigs.||5. Trayce Thompson, OF, LA - Outfield will be crowded like a SoCal freeway soon, but all he’s done thus far is hit
|Top 5 pitchers owned in 15 percent of leagues or less to target right now|
|1. Danny Duffy, KC - 96 mph average fastball, FIP-supported 2.13 ERA, 10.3 K/9 - yeah, he has my attention||1. Michael Fulmer, Det - He's had a few rough starts, sure, but he was brilliant in his last turn, striking out 11 batters over 7.0 frames.||1. Danny Duffy, SP/RP, KC - Post-hype case deserves a long look in rotation; heater up to 96 this year
|2. Seung-Hwan Oh, Stl - The 15% owned or under crowd still offers some nice shutdown middleman options, with Oh at the top of my list
||2. Nate Jones, CWS - Filthy stuff, high K-rate, and he's the understudy to Robertson.
||2. Blake Snell, SP, TB - Looked fine in his first close-up, should be back soon
|3. Junior Guerra, Mil - Has a nice fastball (94 mph) and a punchout splitter - has been a top 40 SP in the past month
3. Ryan Buchter, SD - He's a high-K reliever with great ratios (0.93 WHIP), working behind Fernando Rodney. Seems promising, no?
|3. Junior Guerra, SP, Mil - You strike out 11 Cubs, you get my attention; fanning a batter per inning
|4. Ryan Buchter, SD - His ridiculous numbers make him hard to ignore in the 15% crowd
||4. Nick Tropeano, LAA - Not a hard-thrower, but a high swinging-strike rate nonetheless. He gets a K-friendly Astros lineup in his next start.||4. Ryan Buchter, RP, SD - Lefties have no chance and righties not doing much better; stealth ratio protection (0.79/0.93) in San Diego
|5. Michael Fulmer, Det - Tigers top SP prospect has 17 K in past 11.1 IP - worth Watch Listing if not owning
||5. Lucas Giolito, Was - Walks have been an issue, but his stuff is of the highest quality. We may yet see him join the Nats this year.||5. CC Sabathia, SP, NYY - I thought he was cooked, but a 2.83/1.23 start deserves re-evaluation
|MLB players from your fantasy past that evoke the most positive memories
|1. Ichiro - He was a three-category monster for the first eight years of his career, always one that I was anxiously reaching for in drafts
||1. Raul Mondesi - You could basically never, ever outbid me for Mondesi, a 20/20 machine. I like to imagine that my fantasy teams have retired No. 43.||1. Tony Phillips - Runs scored and wide-ranging positions, my two favorite things. Had sneaky pop, too.
|2. Roger Clemens - Got him for $1 in his monster '86 breakout season - it was one of the best joy rides of my fantasy career
||2. Ichiro - If you wanted to name your team "Honey Nut Ichiros," then you pretty much had to own him. He's within 20 hits of becoming the new international Hit King, by the way.
||2. Chipper Jones - Glamour player on a glamour team; constant exposure was a nifty perk in the pre-package days
|3. Vladimir Guerrero - Always loved him, always sweated out whether I would be able to get him in my draft - his lowest batting average in any season was .290
3. Marquis Grissom - He had a 20/20 phase to his career, plus he was a 70-steal guy in the early days.
|3. The 1995 Indians - Still the best offense I've ever seen; look at this insane collection of average, speed and power
|4. Ivan Rodriguez - I owned Pudge a lot over the years (mostly the really good pre-35 years) - his '99 MVP season was ethereal
||4. Pedro Martinez - Those numbers, in that era, were insane. Seriously insane. Six seasons with a sub-1.00 WHIP, when all the batters were chemically enhanced.||4. Raul Ibanez - The patron saint of the boring but produtive vet, he's always an All-Star to me|
|5. Chris Sabo, Cin - I bought into Spudsmania from the get-go - he was a fun own those first few years before the Reds' "Nerd at Third" started to fade quickly
||5. Dmitri Young - He brought me such joy. It was a fantasy weakness.||5. Ty Wigginton - The patron saint of production found off the wire; he's always there when you need him. The Wiggiest of Wiggys.
Steven Matz: Since getting blown up in his first start of the year, Matz has a 1.35 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP with a 42:6 K:BB ratio over 40.0 innings, winning all six of his starts. His 21.1 K-BB% ranks top-10 among all starters in MLB, and among those ahead of him, only Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Nola have a higher GB/FB ratio than Matz’s 2.07. His average fastball velocity (93.4 mph) is the highest among all left-handed starters in baseball, and Matz is one of only three SPs to have four scoreless starts of at least six innings this year (Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw are the others). Health remains a legit concern with Matz, but performance wise, there’s little reason he won’t finish as a top-10 fantasy SP.
Joey Gallo: He had eight homers in just 84 at bats in Triple-A while showing improved plate discipline with a 24:22 K:BB ratio. His strikeout rate will likely always lead to a lower batting average, but with Shin-Soo Choo and Drew Stubbs both hitting the DL, Gallo should get a chance at mostly regular at bats in Texas (especially with Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland hitting so poorly as well). Gallo’s floor is low, but his power upside makes him worth grabbing in all fantasy leagues right now.
Brandon Guyer: Thanks to injuries, Guyer is not only now an everyday player for the Rays, he’s also hitting leadoff. His current .315/.412/.559 line is almost certainly over his head, but he did sport a .359 OBP last season with a combined 18 homers/steals over just 332 at bats, and Guyer is owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, which doesn’t make much sense.
Carlos Beltran: Even after an 0-for-4 performance Wednesday, Beltran has raised his OPS 150 points over the past six games, when he’s hit .400 with 10 RBI. He’s yet to attempt a steal this season, but he’s quietly on pace to finish with 36 homers, 86 runs scored and 104 RBI during his age 39 season. Beltran is a candidate to be traded, and while that could be considered a plus since New York has scored the sixth fewest runs in baseball, fantasy owners probably shouldn’t be rooting for a move away from Yankee Stadium.
Julio Teheran: Over his last six starts, he has a 0.89 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP with a 42:9 K:BB ratio over 40.2 innings. He has just one win this season despite a 2.57 ERA over 10 starts, as the Braves have given him just 2.10 runs per start, which is the second lowest in baseball. A lack of run support should remain a problem for Teheran, and his .247 BABIP is due for some correction (although he’s allowing just a 15.7 LD%, which ranks eighth lowest in MLB), but he’s pitched much better this season after last year’s disappointing campaign.
Giancarlo Stanton: He’s in the middle of an epic slump, as Stanton has hit .107/.219/.214 over his past eight games, striking out a whopping 18 times over 28 at bats. One of the league’s premier sluggers, he’s now batting .197 against right-handed pitchers this season and is on pace to strike out 215 times over 151 games. His contact rate is clearly becoming a major concern. This slump actually goes back even further, as he’s batted .119 over his past 59 ABs, and to make matters worse, he’s now missing action with soreness in his right side, although maybe it’s a positive an injury has possibly been the culprit to this dire slump, as the alternative is actually worse.
Jose Abreu: His three-hit game Tuesday was remarkably his first of the season, and he followed that up with another Wednesday. Still, the recent hot streak leaves him with a .739 OPS, and he has one homer over his past 71 at bats and is on pace to club just 20 this season over 628 ABs despite playing in U.S. Cellular Field, which has increased home runs by 13 percent for RHB over the past three seasons (the third-most in the American League). After being the No. 6 most valuable fantasy hitter during his rookie year in 2014, Abreu is currently the No. 221 ranked fantasy player.
Brian Dozier: After recording a .639 OPS post All-Star break last season, Dozier has struggled so far in 2016, especially against right-handers, whom he’s hit .181/.271/.304 against. His 71 wRC+ is the 20th worst in all of baseball, and among the 80 players with at least a 9.1 BB% as Dozier has, only Mark Teixeira has a worse batting average. With Eduardo Nunez’s breakout at the plate and Eduardo Escobar’s return from the DL (he’s a strong defender), Dozier is actually no longer a sure thing in the Twins’ starting lineup.
Joe Mauer: After finishing April with a .321/.453/.440 line, he’s hit .228/.299/.316 in May, totaling 10 extra-base hits over 163 at bats this season. Mauer gets a boost in OBP leagues, and he has nearly as many walks as strikeouts while hitting in the middle of Minnesota’s lineup, but the Twins have scored the fewest runs in the American League, and among first basemen, Mauer’s three homers rank No. 28 in MLB.
Michael Wacha: He hasn’t lasted more than 4.0 innings in any of his last three starts, when he’s surrendered 20 runs (16 earned) with eight walks over 12.0 innings. Wacha’s velocity is way down (92.8 mph) compared to last year (94.2), and his 7.6 SwStr% is easily a career low and ranks 89th among all starters in baseball. Wacha has had some unfortunate luck with a BABIP (.349) and LOB% (61.7) both well off his career marks (.288 and 73.6), but his xFIP (.394) is outside the top-50 among starters, so it’s clear he hasn’t been nearly what fantasy owners expected.
My full lineup (for all games starting after 4 pm PT):
SP: Joe Ross ($41) - It's a light slate for Thursday, and it shows in the list of available starting options. Ross looks like the top option on the hill as he has posted a rock solid 2.70 ERA this season, despite having lost his past four decisions. His last win, however, was a 6 IP, 1ER effort against a St. Louis squad that he'll oppose on Thursday.
SP: Danny Duffy ($32) - The hope here is that Duffy, making his third start of the season after opening the year in relief, will be able to log the five innings needed to earn a win - he's likely to be on a pitch count in the 75-80 range. If he can exit with a lead in hand, he'll have the AL's top bullpen (2.49 ERA) to help him keep the victory in tact.
C: Salvador Perez ($15) - Plenty to like about Perez for Thursday, including his 12-game hitting streak and his 4-for-11 (1 HR) career track record against White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez.
1B: David Ortiz ($24) - Big Papi has been the eighth-most valuable fantasy bat in '16, and nobody has put a hurt on right-handed pitching (he'll face Colorado RHP Jon Gray) to the level that Ortiz has (1.166 OPS).
2B: Omar Infante ($7) - Looking to preserve a few dollars by going with a serviceable cheap middle infielder. Infante fills the bill, as he's hit in four straight games (three extra-base hits) and has driven in five runs in that span.
3B: Travis Shaw ($19) - Shaw has crushed righties (facing Rockies RHP Jon Gray) to the tune of a .981 OPS this season.
SS: Xander Bogaerts ($22) - Bogaerts has quietly amassed an 18-game hitting streak in the shadow of teammate Jackie Bradley's 29-game run. He's been the best shortstop in fantasy this season and, simply put, he's established himself as one of the elite hitters in the game.
OF: Jarrod Dyson ($10) - Dyson, riding a six-game hitting streak, has a history card (5-for-6) to believe in vs. White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez.
OF: Carlos Gonzalez ($13) - CarGo has pulled out of a mid-May slump with six hits in his past 12 at-bats. He's never faced Boston RHP Clay Buccholz before, but Gonzalez has produced a .317 batting average against RHP this season, while Buccholz has allowed a .310 clip to lefty hitters.
OF: Mark Trumbo ($17) - Trumbo has been struggling of late, but he offers the nice HR upside (5th in MLB with 13) we crave in the DFS game. And it's worth noting, he's hitting over .300 vs. right-handed pitchers this season and is 2-for-4 in his career vs. Houston RHP Lance McCullers.
Andy Behrens and Dalton Del Don open discussing Matt Harvey's continual struggles and what to do with him. The duo then talk about the impending returns of Yu Darvish and Devon Travis. We also go over the most popular waiver wire adds and why you should own Nathan Eovaldi and Jameson Taillon, among others, in an all fantasy baseball podcast.
The Matt Harvey show has been a Broadway flop this year. Maybe a Julio Urias showing in New York will fare better.
Just know up front — this show could be one night, only.
Yep, the Dodgers are making the call for their left-handed, teenaged wunderkind prospect. Alex Wood is dealing with triceps tendinitis, so Urias, 19, is penciled into the Friday slot against the Mets. It’s a shame it’s a road game — you’d want the Vin Scully backdrop for this. (But it is the Yahoo free game of the day, so stream all you like, streamers.)
Fantasy owners will probably want to stream this one, too. Urias opened the year as MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect, and he’s been toying with the competition at Triple-A (41 IP, 1.10 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 44 K, 8 BB). He’s a fun watch, a three-pitch pitcher (fastball, curve, change) and a master of changing speeds and angles.
Earlier this year, there was talk of Urias joining the Dodgers but as a reliever. That might become the plan later this season. The club certainly wants to be careful with their kid prospect. Urias made just 18 starts last year, totaling 80.1 innings. He got to 87.2 innings the year before. He's the youngest debut pitcher since Felix Hernandez in 2005.
There are no guarantees with prospect grabbing, of course. For every Noah Syndergaard who exploded last year, we can show you a Jose Berrios, who’s struggled this year. The stage does different things to pitchers, and there are so many minuscule things that go into the success or failure of any one start.
Nonetheless, there’s pedigree here, there’s talent here, and the Mets are no worrisome matchup (they’re 11th in the National League in runs). If you feel like jumping on board, Urias is still unowned in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues.
-- If 19 isn’t your number, maybe 13 will be. Alex Rodriguez homered in a rehab start Wednesday, a fun day at the park if you like bat flips and bat dogs. He's going to be activated Thursday.
Rodriguez was off to a dreadful start to this season, but he did hit three home runs right before his DL stint and he was the No. 71 overall player in Yahoo’s game last season. He’s surprisingly 61-percent available at the moment, even with the (now expiring) DL tag. I don't think the tank is empty.
-- The Blue Jays offense hasn’t been as fun as expected this year, but maybe the return of Devon Travis will spark the club. Travis, you’ll recall, was useful when healthy last year (.304/.361/.498), showing some pop as well (eight homers). He only stole three bases, but he was a running threat in the minors, too.
He’s into his age-25 season, coming back slowly from a shoulder injury. He went 1-for-4 in his recall debut Wednesday. The Jays are keeping Travis tucked in the bottom of the order for now, but John Gibbons is open-minded to a quick promotion if Travis gets something going. You can add Travis in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues.
-- Wednesday was a fun day for Leonys Martin, here on the Arcade. We argued about his power development and going-forward value, then we watched him steal another base in the Wednesday win over Oakland. Alas, Martin also tweaked his hamstring, and might miss a couple of games. Perhaps it’s a respite for anyone slow to the draw; he’s still free in 65 percent of Yahoo leagues. The approach is new and it sure looks legitimate, amigos. I’m invested, I hope you will be, too.
-- Sticking with the rehab theme of today’s secondary bullets, let’s share a word about Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay’s underrated infielder. He’s aiming for a return in the middle of June, and he’s already started to take infield practice.
You might recall I tend to hold low expectations on most long-term injury recoveries, but Forsythe might get out of this with less than a month on the sidelines. I’m surprised he’s chased down to 55 percent in Yahoo leagues; get good use out of your DL tags. I added him in one deeper league last week; surprised he was available.
On today's program, Brad Evans and Liz Loza discuss the hot fantasy football headlines from around the NFL – surgery for Tyler Eifert, a clean bill of health for Dion Lewis, and three potential landing spots for Arian Foster.
Additionally, our gridiron gurus play a game of overvalued/undervalued deciding what side of the fence Marcus Mariota, Eli Manning, Mark Ingram, Jonathan Stewart, A.J. Green, and Keenan Allen are on. Plus, we answer your pressing Twitter questions.
Ryan Madson ended up on a few of my rosters this March, and I feel fortunate through the first quarter of the season. He took control of an uncertain Oakland closing situation, racking up a quick 11 saves. He’s already earned far more than the buy-in cost.
Nonetheless, the save chase being what it is, there’s some blood in the water. It might be a good time to move on from Madson (preferably in a trade), or a good time to speculate on a new Oakland closer in the near future.
Madson’s latest appearance was the messiest one, a blown save at Seattle on Tuesday night. He served up a nothing change to Leonys Martin, and Martin deposited it over the right-field fence. No doubter. Game over. Party in the streets, Funston.
While Madson’s resume still has plenty of selling points —11-for-13 on saves, 2.66 ERA — some of the other numbers don’t look so hot. He’s only struck out 14 men in 20.1 innings, and he’s piled up seven walks. His 1.33 WHIP doesn’t jibe with the tidy ERA, and when an ERA and WHIP don’t match up, I tend to trust the WHIP. Most of the ERA estimators claim Madson really isn’t pitching that well: 4.14 FIP, 4.41 xFIP, 4.25 SIERA.
Perhaps it’s not too late to get out while the selling is good. We are talking about a 35-year-old reliever, after all, and someone with a career ERA of 3.43. Good player, sure. Hardly a rock of gibraltar.
If you’re speculating on future saves here, Fernando Rodriguez and Sean Doolittle have both been throwing the ball well, and certainly miss more bats than Madson. Doolittle was the team’s closer in 2014; last year was marred by injuries. Rodriguez has been the bridge man of late, Doolittle getting more work as a rover.
And before we close the book on Tuesday night’s result, let’s sound the last call for a Martin pickup.
Sure, the game-winning homer he conked came on an absolute meatball, that’s true. Nonetheless, he’s been tremendous at the top of the Seattle lineup. A .259/.337/.483 slash might not make you tingly (especially since we play in a world where we have to care about batting average), but check the pace of his counting stats: 32 home runs, 25 steals, 79 runs, 68 RBIs. Why is this man still unowned in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues? (Maybe it's a pronunciation issue: Mar-TEEN is correct.)
Martin has been fantasy worthy in the past: he was a Top 50 outfielder with Texas in both 2013 and 2014. He's proven himself as a stolen-base contributor before; it's the power that you're probably suspicious of (let's accept one thing: he has altered his approach). The walk rate is solid. And very quietly, Seattle's offense is No. 8 in the majors in runs scored.
If you want to see how I frame Martin against other outfielders, your Shuffle Up is here.
Until the Mets get a red Batphone in the dugout (under a cake cover), there are gonna be problems.
Matt Harvey is far from the only ace struggling these days, of course. Take Michael Wacha in St. Louis. Okay, Wacha entered the year more as a No. 2 or No. 3 in the minds of most, but what he’s been through a quarter of the year is batting practice. The Cubs pounded him for eight runs Tuesday, pushing his ERA over 5.
Wacha’s fastball is down 1.4 ticks from last year, and while his strikeout rate is static, walks and line drives are up. SIERA suggests an ERA over four, while the FIP brothers sell in the high 3s.
Wacha’s ownability largely depends on your league context (and yes, just about every fantasy question comes down to context eventually — you guys know that). From this point forward I’d pay for an ERA in the mid-to-high 3s. A strikeout rate around 7/9 is a killer if your innings are capped, but not a big deal in head-to-head or uncapped formats. He’s still in a good league and park, just keep him away from the Cubs. Washington and San Francisco are up next on the schedule.
-- I feel like we should check in with Byron Buxton every once in a while; sure, he’s been a mess at the major league level, but the payoff still could be great. Rochester held him out for a week due to back spasms, but Buxton has returned to game action.
He’s slashing .316/.375/.526 at Triple-A, with four homers, four steals, eight walks in 23 games. He’s still striking out about once per game, but at least it’s an improvement over what we saw in Minnesota. He’s going to be back sooner or later, probably sooner.
With more options available for contests starting at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Wednesday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: Steven Wright $41
SP: Scott Kazmir $36
C: Brian McCann $16
1B: David Ortiz $24
2B: Starlin Castro $10
3B: Justin Turner $10
SS: Carlos Correa $19
OF: Carlos Beltran $16
OF: Brett Gardner $14
OF: Trayce Thompson $14
There are no real aces to choose during Wednesday’s later slate, so let’s go with Wright, who has a 2.52 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP on the year, as he should continue to get strong run support with the Red Sox big favorites (-185)...Kazmir has been shaky this season, but he’s at home facing a Reds team that’s lost nine straight games and has the worst run differential (-94) in major league baseball.
After going relatively cheap with pitchers, there are few better ways to spend the extra money than on Ortiz, who’s batting .341 with 10 homers over 123 at bats versus right-handers this year and owns a 1.246 OPS at home...Turner has raised his OPS more than 50 points over the past five games, hits third in the Dodgers lineup and remains dirt cheap at $10...Teammate Thompson, meanwhile, continues to be underpriced at $14...Correa’s talent isn’t reflected by his $19 price tag, and he faces a pitcher with an 18:10 K:BB ratio over 36.2 innings this season.
In Castro, McCann, Gardner and Beltran, I’m stacking Yankees at home. While Marco Estrada has pitched well this year, he’s a fly ball pitcher, so he has a tough task at Yankee Stadium, especially against left-handed batters. Gardner has a .917 OPS at home, while Beltran has eight homers over 105 at bats versus righties this season and is batting .476 with 10 RBI over his past five games.
Good luck with your contests Wednesday.
The idea is 5x5 value for rest of season. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. I didn't rank anyone on the DL, or anyone in the minors. Everyone seems to be more optimistic on injury returnees and hot prospects (hi, Buxton) than I am.
The prices are unscientific in nature, and players at the same price are considered even. I'm just looking for a way to show the pockets of value as I see them. I don't look at old prices when I construct these -- it's all from scratch. I don't even see the point of looking back there; live in the present, look to the future.
I welcome your respectful disagreement. Obviously you will feel passionate about what you don't agree with, that's why we have a game. The discussion can be deep and illuminating if you want it to be.
And remember the golden rule -- a player doesn't gain value because you like him, nor does he lose value because you don't like him.
Prices now, comments later tonight. I reserve the right to make changes in this list during the first 24 hours. Win the debate, win the rank.
If I missed someone, let me know. I'm on Twitter, @scott_pianowski.
$34 Mike Trout
$33 Bryce Harper
$32 Mookie Betts
$29 Yoenis Cespedes
$27 Kris Bryant
$23 Charlie Blackmon
$23 Andrew McCutchen
$22 J.D. Martinez
$22 Giancarlo Stanton
$21 Starling Marte
$21 Ben Zobrist
$20 George Springer
$19 Ian Desmond
$19 Ryan Braun
$19 Lorenzo Cain
$19 Jose Bautista
$19 Chris Davis
The lovely thing about Betts is that he's currently the No. 2 hitter in 5x5 value but he's not playing close to his peak. His average and OBP are down from last year. He's been rather mediocre on the road. But the context is just about perfect -- he's the leadoff man for a loaded offense (MLB's best right now) in a hitter-friendly park, he's a young player with fresh legs (anyone can get hurt, but youth is how to bet) and he has a wide range of skills. I don't understand how he made it into the Second Round of our Yahoo reboot draft; heck, maybe I should have taken him mid-first.
I’m glad Stanton isn’t on any of my teams. People sure love their spectacles. Sure, he’ll hit some homers, knock in some runs. The batting average is at risk with all the strikeouts, and even at his best he probably won’t help you there. He’s probably done running, and I’m not going to throw a parade for someone who scores 20 runs in 42 games. First-round pick? Sucker play. (Yes, I realize I said much of the same for Cespedes in the last year and change. You win, Cespedes.)
$18 Dexter Fowler
$18 Nelson Cruz
$17 Hanley Ramirez
$17 Mark Trumbo
$17 Stephen Piscotty
$17 Gregory Polanco
$17 Carlos Gonzalez
$16 Hunter Pence
$16 Christian Yelich
$16 Jackie Bradley
$16 Marcell Ozuna
$15 Adam Jones
$15 Leonys Martin
$14 Steven Souza
$14 Adam Eaton
$14 Melvin Upton
$13 Josh Harrison
$13 Michael Saunders
$13 Matt Kemp
$13 Justin Upton
$12 Rajai Davis
$12 Odubel Herrera
$12 Jay Bruce
$12 Michael Conforto
$12 Wil Myers
$12 Brandon Belt
$12 Billy Burns
$12 Cameron Maybin
$12 Khris Davis
I don't know who is making the call, but the Mets are idiots every time they sit Conforto against lefties. If you want him to develop against them, let the guy play against them. In the meantime, it takes a chunk out of his fantasy value, since we want counting stats, even if it helps his efficiency numbers . . . Cargo has been ice-cold after a hot start, but the Rockies have a heavy chunk of Coors Field games once the Boston series is over. It's a good time to buy on a lot of their key players who have underperformed; Blackmon, too . . . I have some key shares of Oakland's Davis, so I hope the moon shots keep coming. But he's a huge average risk, his K/BB rate stinks, and he's not running at all. There's some value here, but he's basically the outfield's version of Chris Carter . . . The quickest way to validate Herrera is to look at his contact and plate-discipline rates.
$11 Gerardo Parra
$11 Miguel Sano
$10 Colby Rasmus
$10 Kole Calhoun
$10 Randal Grichuk
$10 Brett Gardner
$10 Jacoby Ellsbury
$10 Nomar Mazara
$10 Danny Valencia
$10 Jason Heyward
$10 Carlos Beltran
$10 Joc Pederson
$10 Yasiel Puig
$9 Yasmany Tomas
$9 Brandon Guyer
$9 Matt Holliday
$9 Curtis Granderson
$8 Ben Revere
$8 Steve Pearce
$7 Trayce Thompson
$7 Brandon Drury
$7 Kevin Pillar
$7 Billy Hamilton
$7 Alex Gordon
$6 Joey Gallo
$5 Brandon Moss
$5 Jeremy Hazelbaker
$5 Melky Cabrera
$5 Adam Duvall
$5 Chris Owings
$5 Jose Ramirez
$5 Coco Crisp
$5 John Jaso
$5 Daniel Santana
$5 Paulo Orlando
$5 Brad Miller
$5 Derek Dietrich
$5 Jarrod Dyson
$4 Jayson Werth
$4 Denard Span
$4 Angel Pagan
$4 Mark Reynolds
$4 Mallex Smith
$4 Joey Rickard
$4 Matt Joyce
$4 Seth Smith
$4 Ryan Raburn
$4 Nolan Reimold
$4 Domingo Santana
The Braves should let Smith hit first or second, let him run into mistakes, let him grow. You've been had, Atlanta . . . I wish Miller would hike up the average, because I love the position flex and the category juice . . . The second I hear the Dodgers make a commitment to Thompson, I'm pushing him up to double digits.
$3 Avisail Garcia
$3 Kirk Nieuwenhuis
$3 Marwin Gonzalez
$3 Steven Moya
$2 Jon Jay
$2 Nick Markakis
$2 Marlon Byrd
$2 Austin Jackson
$2 Drew Stubbs
$2 Eddie Rosario
$2 Ryan Rua
$2 Norichika Aoki
$2 Ichiro Suzuki
$2 Jorge Soler
$2 Rafael Ortega
$2 Aaron Hicks
$2 Lonnie Chisenhall
$2 Ender Inciarte
$2 Mikie Mahtook
$1 Michael Taylor
$1 Alex Presley
$1 Chris Coghlan
$1 Chris Young
My full lineup (for all games starting after 4 pm PT):
SP: Chris Sale ($60) - You can't complain about a $60 price tag when you are talking about a pitcher who has nine wins in nine starts, and a 0.99 ERA in his past seven outings. Just pull out the wallet and pay up.
SP: Nathan Karns ($40) - Karns is 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his past five starts, including a home win against Oakland on May 2. And it doesn't hurt Karns that Oakland is without OF Josh Reddick (thumb), who hit a HR off Karns in an early April matchup.
C: Salvador Perez ($11) - Not a bad value for an All-Star catcher with a nine-game hitting streak coming off a five-hit game and facing Minnesota RHP Ervin Santana, who has allowed more success to right-handed hitters than lefties this season.
1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($11) - The price is nice for the veteran Gonzalez. He's hitting .292 vs. RHP this season, and will face a righty in Cincy's Dan Wright, who will be making his MLB debut.
2B: Johnny Giavotella ($14) - Giavotella is one of the hottest bats in the league at the moment, riding a 12-game hitting streak, seven of them of the multi-hit variety. With an undaunting matchup (Texas LHP Martin Perez), he's a nice dice roll for the price.
3B: Manny Machado ($21) - For the $21 cost, you can buy Boston's Travis Shaw or Oakland's Danny Valencia? Or, you can have an AL MVP candidate in a matchup against Houston RHP Doug Fister, who Machado has three hits (including a HR) against in six career at-bats. I know who I'm taking.
SS: Didi Gregorius ($10) - Looking for some cheap upside at SS? Didi is your man. He's on a six-game hitting streak, and is 5-for-9 in his past two contests. And he's a respectable 3-for-10 in his career vs. Toronto RHP R.A. Dickey.
OF: Seth Smith ($13) - I like Smith's chances of breaking out of a mini-funk tonight against Oakland RHP Kendall Graveman, who has allowed 39 hits in his past 25 IP.
OF: Nomar Mazara ($12) - Texas' impressive rookie outfielder already has 14 multi-hit efforts in first 39 MLB games and has homered in two of his past five contests. And he's also tearing up right-handed pitching (.888 OPS with all six of his home runs), which is what he'll be facing in Angels RHP Jhoulys Chacin, he of the 5.21 ERA on the season.
OF: Jon Jay ($8) - For a mere $8 you get a hitter with a .898 OPS in 24 career at-bats (2-for-6 in two meetings this season) vs. Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija.
Just about every Texas Rangers outfielder, past or present, is currently injured — everyone from Oddibe McDowell and Gary Ward to Shin-Soo Choo and Drew Stubbs. Nobody is healthy, it seems. Choo and Stubbs both hit the DL on Monday, dealing with hamstring and toe injuries, and we also learned that Josh Hamilton will undergo season-ending knee surgery
With everyone ailing, the Rangers have again recalled power prospect Joey Gallo from Triple-A. Hopefully Gallo's third visit to the big league roster will be more successful than the previous trips. Last year, in two extended stints with Texas, Gallo managed to hit six home runs and swipe three bases, but he slashed just .204/.301/.417 and struck out a ridiculous 57 times in 108 at-bats. He's significantly reduced his K-rate at Round Rock this season — from 39.5 percent in 2015 to 22.6 — and he's done so without sacrificing power. Gallo is slugging .639 through 24 games while reaching base at a .415 clip. He has nearly as many bases-on-balls (22) as strikeouts (24) this season, which is not his usual profile.
So there's hope, is what I'm saying. Gallo is still just 22 years old, and his power potential is almost unrivaled. Here's a sample, if you've never witnessed his work. He's already produced a pair of 40-homer seasons in the minors.
It seems unlikely Texas would have called up Gallo to a part-time role, but we obviously can't make any guarantees, either. The Rangers have also promoted Jared Hoying, a 27-year-old non-prospect who''s hit well at Round Rock this season. Ryan Rua remains in the picture as well. But Gallo can play first, third, DH and both corner outfield spots, so he has a few paths to the lineup card. Add if you need a lottery ticket in the power categories.
• The Rich Hill revival continued on Monday, as the ancient left-hander tossed 8.0 shutout innings against the M's, scattering eight single and walking no one. Hill lowered his season ERA to 2.18 and his WHIP to 1.11. He's struck out 65 batters over 57.2 innings. Wish I could say I saw this coming, but, well ... nope. I have zero shares. Made no effort to snag Hill earlier in the year, even after the first of his 10-K games. Tip of the cap to those who trusted him; you are encouraged to take a victory lap in comments.
• Nick Tropeano isn't a particularly hard-thrower, maxing out at 91-92 mph, but he continues to pile up Ks. He struck out six batters over 6.2 scoreless innings in a win against the Rangers on Monday night, allowing only four hits and one walk. For the year, he's up to 49 Ks in 50.1 frames. Tropeano's 1.47 WHIP doesn't seem like it can possibly coexist with his 2.86 ERA, but it's tough not to like that swinging-strike rate of 12.6 percent. He'll face the Astros' strikeout-prone lineup on Sunday, so keep him in mind as an end-of-week streaming option.
• Brandon Guyer went 3-for-5 with a homer from the lead-off spot for Tampa Bay on Monday, his third straight multi-hit effort. Guyer can offer speed, run-scoring, low-level pop and run-scoring, if you need such things. He's only 6 percent owned at the moment, and various Rays injuries have cleared his route to everyday at-bats.
• If you're a Justin Upton owner, it almost feels like a lucky break that your guy didn't face Vincent Velasquez on Monday, because that was basically a guaranteed 0-for-4 with three Ks. I have no easy answers for your Upton problems, but I feel compelled to share this fact: his BABIP is currently .354, well above his career rate. So as bad as he's been this season, the guy has actually benefited from a bit of good luck. His major issue is a total inability to put anything in play. Upton's K-percentage is an atrocious 37.1 and his swinging-strike rate is 14.5. He's considered day-to-day with a minor quad issue at the moment. I'm tied to him in two leagues and I desperately wish someone would come to me with a buy-low offer. Please. I want out. (Let's deal, TedBell.)
• If you have a few minutes to spare — and you've made it to the fifth bullet in a fantasy post, so you probably do — then check out this MiLB.com feature about the night Rickey Henderson stole seven bases in a minor league game. Fun stuff.
• Paulo Orlando produced yet another three-hit line for the Royals, his third in five games. The 30-year-old is now slashing .400/.412/.538 over 68 plate appearances. No one should expect this surge to last, obviously, because Orlando has been a .275/.324/.403 hitter over 10 minor league seasons. But if you're looking for a hot bat in daily or in a deep league, give him a test-drive.
• It's a little aggravating that Matt Adams doesn't see the field every day, because he's been sneakily good lately. Adams delivered a game-tying pinch-hit two-run homer against John Lackey on Monday night, setting up Randal Grichuk's ninth-inning walk-off. Adams has been feasting in May, slashing .333/.388/.578 with three homers, so he's back on the fantasy radar.
When does a bad start become a bad season? When does a great start become a great season?
We're a quarter of the way through the 2016 MLB dance. The pictue is coming more into focus now.
Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski are here to help you sort through the maze. Among the topics discussed: struggling aces Matt Harvey, Sonny Gray and Dallas Keuchel; the spectacle of Giancarlo Stanton; two Upton brothers going in opposite directions; and the oddly-underowned Leonis Martin. Talk some baseball with us.
Be sure to check the game-time weather conditions before finalizing lineups. Let's make good Monday choices, people.
P Clayton Kershaw, LAD, $61 (vs. Cin) – Not sure if you'd heard, but Kershaw is skilled in the pitching arts. He's posted double-digit Ks in six straight games, which is ridiculous, and his season WHIP is 0.70 (also ridiculous).
P Ian Kennedy, KC, $42 (at Min) – Kennedy has posted quality ratios for the season, and he's coming off a 9-K, two-run effort against Boston. Surely he can deal with the Twins.
C Derek Norris, SD, $7 (Cueto) – When you start a $61 pitcher, you're probably going to punt a position elsewhere. Norris has had a miserable year, but he did deliver XBHs on Friday and Saturday. Any positive contribution would be welcome at this price.
1B Matt Adams, STL, $13 (Lackey) – Quietly useful in recent weeks, Adams is slashing .318/.375/.500 in May.
2B Cesar Hernandez, Phi, $12 (Pelfrey) – I cannot get over the fact that a team with a payroll of $174 million is somehow starting Mike Pelfrey. I mean ... wow.
3B Maikel Franco, Phi, $16 (Pelfrey) – Again, this is more about Big Pelf than it is Franco, although Maikel is coming off a 2-for-4 effort on Sunday.
SS Alcides Escobar, KC, $11 (Nolasco) – Escobar is 7-for-22 against Nolasco in his career, just like pretty much everyone else in baseball.
OF Bryce Harper, Was, $22 (Colon) – The game's best hitter (Harper, not Bartolo) is facing a right-handed starter who's allowed eight earned runs and five walks over his last 9.2 innings.
OF Ben Revere, Was, $9 (Colon) – It's been a rough start to the season for Revere, but he's gone 7-for-14 with a pair of steals over his last three games. He's also 8-for-24 in his career against Colon.
OF Howie Kendrick, LAD, $7 (Finnegan) – Hey, I was down to my last $7. Kendrick had a huge day in that 17-inning marathon on Sunday, going 4-for-8 with two doubles and a homer.
Daniel Murphy had an .862 OPS in August last year and followed that up with a .909 OPS in September. He then hit .328/.391/.724 with seven homers over 58 at bats against some of the best pitching in baseball during the postseason. He’s added six more homers in the early going this year, when he also leads major league baseball by a wide margin with a .387 batting average. He’s pulling the ball and hitting fly balls far more than previously in his career, and it’s pretty clear this is no small sample fluke. His 175 wRC+ ranks No. 4 in baseball. Murphy has been a top-15 fantasy hitter in 2016, and while a .387 BA is obviously unsustainable, he should be treated as a truly elite middle infielder moving forward.
TV Talk: “Horace and Pete” is so, so good. Louis C.K. is a genius...The series finale for “Banshee” was well done. Really underrated show, albeit one extremely over the top...I know it had its share of detractors, but I seriously kind of liked “The Family”...This season of “Game Of Thrones” is easily one of its best yet.
Matt Harvey has been one of the biggest busts of the 2016 season, as he sports a 5.77 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP, and his six losses are tied for the most in the NL. His average FB velocity and SwStr% are both career lows, although both remain plenty strong (94.0 mph, 10.7%). Harvey deserves plenty of blame, and it’s clear he’s been anything but sharp after throwing 211 innings while returning from Tommy John surgery last season, but there’s a strong argument he’s been rather unlucky as well. His .385 BABIP is nearly 100 points higher than his career mark (.288) despite a 23.6 Soft% that ranks 12th highest in baseball.
If Asdrubal Cabrera fields a would-be double play cleanly Thursday, Harvey pitches a scoreless inning. Instead, an error resulted in seven runs scored (four earned because “you can’t assume a double play”), chasing Harvey out of the game in the third inning. His 62.2 LOB% is the sixth lowest in baseball (and well below his 76.0% career mark). Harvey is someone who truly has his fantasy owners worried at this point, and there was even talk of sending him to the minors, so now is the time to see if you can get him at 65-70 cents on the dollar.
Headlines of the Week: Man Fined For Driving 3 Trucks Stacked Together Down Freeway...In-Ear Device That Translates Foreign Languages In Real Time...Cleveland Man Asks To Use Neighbor’s Phone, Strips Naked And Steals Her Canes...Mom Fights Son Over Taco Bell Burrito...Woman Accused Of Taking Bat To Man’s Car For Staying In Front Of Gas Pump For Too Long.
Quick Hits: Steven Matz’s 21.1 K-BB% is better than Chris Sale’s and his 54.2 GB% ranks top-15 among all starters. He has a 21:1 K:BB ratio with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.58 WHIP in May. Only health can prevent him from being a top-12 fantasy starter moving forward...Here’s Colby Lewis taking a 101 mph liner off his head that results in your average pop out...Eduardo Nunez is hitting .320 and has three homers with eight steals, yet the shortstop is owned in just 32 percent of Yahoo leagues. There was some concern he’d lose playing time once Trevor Plouffe returned, but he’s remained a fixture atop Minnesota’s lineup despite his defensive shortcomings at SS. Nunez has quietly been a top-12 fantasy shortstop this season...Giancarlo Stanton entered Sunday as the first position player in the past 50 years to go hitless with 15 strikeouts in a five-game span (h/t Buster Olney). Over his last 52 at bats, he’s batting .096 with 27 strikeouts while committing as many errors (two) as he has extra-base hits. Stanton’s slump is reaching epic proportions.
Police Blotter: Babysitter Takes Kids Along For Bank Robbery...Teen Gets 9 Years For Kidnapping His Great-Grandma...Man Arrested With Gun, Marijuana And Box Of Squirrels...Robber Demands To Use Victim’s Bathroom Before Stealing Car At Gunpoint.
Quick Hits Part Deux: The Cubs have a +58 run differential during Jake Arrieta starts this season, which is tied for the best ever during a pitcher’s first nine outings. Other than Chicago, only the Red Sox have a better run differential as a team in 2016....From Sunday to Friday, the Giants’ relievers tossed a total of one inning...Michael Fulmer was the key component in last year’s Yoenis Cespedes trade, and after Saturday’s 11:1 K:BB ratio performance, he’s firmly on the fantasy radar. He now has 33 strikeouts over 26.1 innings this season...Here’s my MLB Stock Watch column in case you missed it, and if you’re into fantasy football, be sure to check out this week’s podcast...Saturday marked the first ninth inning save opportunity for the Twins this month...Khris Davis has launched 32 home runs since August 1, a span of 359 at bats. He's tied with the other Chris Davis for the most long balls over that stretch...Meanwhile, teammate Marcus Semien is on pace to hit 36 homers this year, yet the middle infielder is owned in just 43 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Longread of the Week: The False Promise Of DNA Testing
Quick Hits Part Tres: Just one of Jose Quintana’s 57 fly balls have gone over the fence, as his 1.8 HR/FB% is easily the lowest in baseball. Meanwhile, 10 of Cole Hamels’ 39 fly balls have left the yard this season...I nominate this Dillon Gee offering as the pitch of the year...The MLB record for strikeouts in a season is 223. Justin Upton is on pace to finish with 249...Devon Travis had a .304-38-8-35-3 line over just 217 at bats last season before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his year. There’s no guarantee he’ll be 100 percent when he returns, but the middle infielder should be back soon, and he’s well worth stashing if you have an open DL spot right now...This Jason Heyward catch was legit...Rajai Davis has four homers and 10 steals in only 126 at bats this season, and Michael Brantley continues to deal with shoulder problems. Davis is somehow owned in just 32 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Dalton Del Don
SP Noah Syndergaard, $57, vs. Milwaukee
SP Jerad Eickhoff, $35, vs. Atlanta
C Stephen Vogt, $13, vs. NYY (Pineda)
1B Adrian Gonzalez, $13, at San Diego (Rea)
2B Brandon Phillips, $11, vs. Seattle (Miley)
3B Maikel Franco, $15, vs. Atlanta (Kelly)
SS Zack Cozart, $9, vs. Seattle (Miley)
OF Gregory Polanco, $21, vs. Colorado (Bettis)
OF Michael Taylor, $8, at Miami (Conley)
OF Trayce Thompson, $11, at San Diego (Rea)
I was willing to pay up for Syndergaard, as the Mets are a whopping -250 favorites...Eickhoff has a 4:1 K:BB ratio this year and gets the struggling Braves offense at a moderate cost...At $11, Thompson continues to be one of the bigger bargains available, and Polanco has a .925 OPS and a 21:20 K:BB ratio with four homers and four steals over 126 at bats versus right-handers this season.
SP Noah Syndergaard, $57, vs. Milwaukee
SP Kenta Maeda, $45, at San Diego
C Francisco Cervelli, $12, vs. Colorado (Bettis)
1B Adam Lind, $14, at Cincinnati (Simon)
2B Cristian Adames, $7, at Pittsburgh (Nicasio)
3B David Freese, $9, vs. Colorado (Bettis)
SS Zack Cozart, $9, vs. Seattle (Miley)
OF Leonys Martin, $14, at Cincinnati (Simon)
OF Nori Aoki, $14, at Cincinnati (Simon)
OF Ender Inciarte, $11, at Philadelphia (Eickhoff)
Getting Syndergaard into the lineup required some punts and semi-punts on offense, but that -250 jumps out at you, not to mention all the potential empty swings from the Milwaukee lineup . . . I also love Maeda in a big park, and I’m going to have some fun with Seattle’s lefties against Alfredo Simon (ERA over 10, nine homers in 31.1 innings).
Does the thought of drafting a QB early make you ill? Well in this edition of the Docs, Liz Loza and Brad Evans write prescriptions for late-round signal callers. Loza advises a heavy dose of Eli Manning. Meanwhile, Evans suggests the dual-threat talents of Marcus Mariota. Will the vet or the upstart overachieve in 2016? Read their case studies below and declare a winner in the comments section.
Evans unleashes in favor of Mariota:
In his rookie campaign, the ballyhooed quarterback delivered on his promise, for the most part. He displayed considerable pocket poise (No. 8 in under-pressure accuracy percentage), excelled on play action and occasionally tallied starter-level production for fantasy purposes. In fact his 0.51 fantasy points per dropback, according to Pro Football Focus, was the eighth-best mark at the position, greatly outdistancing Eli (0.47). Despite his struggles with the deep ball, largely due to constant duress, the youngster surpassed the 20 fantasy-point mark in eight of 12 games. His 204.0 total fantasy points was the ninth-best output by a rookie QB ever.
And that #TeamHuevos was Mariota just scratching the surface.
The Titans are a developing juggernaut. Flush with draft picks thanks to the Los Angeles Rams’ man-crush for Jared Goff, they fortified the offensive line by selecting OT Jack Conklin and added more muscle to the ground game by picking up Derrick Henry. The former Heisman winner and DeMarco Murray give Tennessee the 1-2 ground punch it sorely missed last year. Their presence should ease pressure on Mariota and create more exploitable opportunities for the QB downfield. The addition of sure-handed WR Rishard Matthews was another win. Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham, Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker are a respectable arsenal.
More enticing, Mike Mularkey is adamant about taking advantage of Mariota’s legs, which were terribly underutilized last year. Within the coach’s ‘exotic smashmouth’ offense, roughly 6-8 designed QB runs per game aren’t out of the question. That happens and Mariota is sure to land in the 500-600 rushing yards range, a salivating prospect for fantasy. Chip in a likely 4,000 passing yards and 30-plus total touchdowns and he's sure to turn a hefty profit.
Outside of Younger Manning possessing no rhythm, there’s nothing wrong with the vet. He’s durable, proven and has arguably the game’s best wide receiver, Odell Beckham, at his disposal. However, Mariota’s multidimensionality and the Titans’ encouraging offseason scores the ‘upside’ edge. Oh, and the near two-round differential (Mariota ADP: 123.3, Eli: 100.5) is also attractive.
When the dust settles on 2016, Mariota will be the more valuable passer and a fixture inside the QB top-10.
Loza stands tall for Manning: The subject of many a meme, Manning has long been a hard-to-trust fantasy commodity. Whether it’s his penchant for turning over the ball or his uncanny resemblance to a Jim Henson creation, the two-time Super Bowl Champion has always failed to receive a modicum of the respect that his older brother commanded.
Yet, Manning has been an FF QB1 over the last two seasons, finishing among the top-ten players at the position in 2014 and 2015. This past year, with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., he scored a career-high 35TDs and passed for over 4,400 yards. Moreover, he closed out his eleventh season starting all sixteen regular season games… that’s 187 consecutive starts (including post-season outings) since 2005.
In an attempt to keep the ultra-durable vet upright, the G-Men added to and shuffled around their offensive line. The tinkering appeared to work as Football Outsiders ranked New York’s line the sixth best in terms of pass protection. Sacked 27 times, Manning saw the ground on twelve fewer occasions than Mariota (39 sacks on 12 games). Additionally, the Titans pass protecting unit came in dead last, per the aforementioned metrics site.
While Tennessee’s signal caller absolutely boasts upside and mobility, the offense in which he’s playing is decidedly bland. The smashmouth, I’ll buy into. Its exoticness, however, remains to be seen.
In 2015, the Titans called just 581 passing plays. Compare that to the Gaints’ 666, which was the fourth most in the league. Additionally, Mariota’s weapons are an unbalanced blend of aging and unproven talents. Manning on the other hand, not only gets to throw to OBJ, but will also have a more fully integrated Shane Vereen as well as dynamic rookie WR Sterling Shepard at his disposal.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Manning is currently the twelfth QB being selected in fantasy drafts, coming off the board in the middle of the ninth round. Given his recent numbers there’s no reason to believe he won’t return on that value. While Mariota is a rising talent and fine stash for redrafters, Manning remains the closest thing to a sure thing an owner can snatch up after round six.
SEE ALSO: Randall Cobb vs Kelvin Benjamin
Odubel Herrera: After walking 28 times over 495 at bats last season, Herrera has 30 over 147 ABs so far in 2016. His .438 OBP ranks fourth best in all of baseball. Walk rates for batters typically stabilize around 120 plate appearances, and Herrera is up to 181 on the year, so this sure doesn’t look like a fluke. For someone who stole 34 bags as a 19-year-old in the minors (in fewer than 120 games), his modest 6-for-9 SB success rate has been disappointing, especially given how often he’s been on first base. But it’s hard for fantasy owners to complain too much, as he was a later round pick and is on pace to finish with a line of .327-96-15-50-23. Herrera was also a steal for the Phillies, as the Rule 5 pick has already accumulated 1.9 WAR this season.
Cameron Maybin: Patient owners (and those with DL slots) have been rewarded, as Maybin has multiple hits in three of his first four games back while recording a steal during each contest. It feels like he’s been around forever, but Maybin is still just 29 years old, and he combined for 33 homers/steals last season in 505 at bats. He’s a career 80 percent successful base stealer, and it’s clear he has the green light in Detroit. Maybin is somehow owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo leagues, but that number should quickly start to rise.
Trayce Thompson: He entered spring training somewhere around fifth on the Dodgers’ outfield depth chart, but seven weeks into the season, Thompson has been one of the team’s best hitters and is a fixture in the lineup (now batting ahead of Yasiel Puig). Klay’s little brother quietly owns an .897 career OPS with 11 homers over 204 at bats. He doesn’t have noticeable splits, so there’s no reason to platoon him, and if he keeps hitting like this, Thompson will keep his job even after Andre Ethier eventually returns. Thompson is owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues. His wRc+ (142) is right on par with Nolan Arenado’s (145).
Rick Porcello: Thanks to a career high 8.59 K/9 rate, Porcello’s 1.09 WHIP is easily a career low. In fact, his next lowest was 1.23, and his career mark is 1.35. He’s due for some regression, as his .266 BABIP is likely unsustainable given his groundball tendencies (his career hit rate is .311), but the newfound strikeout ability should help counter that, and wins should remain plentiful with the Red Sox’s bats on his side (he’s been given a whopping 6.0 runs of support per start).
Jonathan Lucroy: After a relatively slow start, Lucroy has homered in three of the past six games and suddenly owns the highest OPS (.862) among all catchers in baseball (he also leads the position in runs scored with 23). He’s back to the hitter he was before last season’s injury-riddled down year, and with the catcher position being as thin as ever due to injuries and poor performance, Lucroy is an extremely valuable fantasy commodity.
Felix Hernandez: It’s unusual to put a pitcher with a 2.47 ERA on the stock down list, but there are too many red flags with Hernandez not to be concerned. A sub-2.50 ERA rarely comes with a 1.20 WHIP, and his 9.3 K-BB% not only is a career worst, but it’s nearly half his career mark (16.2%) and ranks No. 83 among all starters. King Felix’s 8.8 SwStr% is also a career low (he’s fanned four batters or fewer in five of his last six starts), as is his average fastball velocity (89.9 mph), which is nearly two full mph lower than last season. There’s no doubt Hernandez can remain a successful pitcher with diminished stuff, but if there’s anyone in your league who still values his big name (and current shiny ERA) like a top fantasy SP, now is the time to shop him, as this pitcher no longer resembles the King he once was.
Jason Heyward: He’s taking walks and has a handful of steals, but Heyward just recently hit his first homer of the season this week. Dating back to last year, he’s hit five home runs over his past 448 at bats, and his current .282 slugging percentage is the third lowest among all hitters in baseball (his .611 OPS is the lowest among all right fielders). To make matters worse, Heyward exited Friday night’s game with an injury suffered while making this fantastic catch.
Lucas Duda: Since May 5, he’s batting .170 with just one RBI and two extra-base hits over 41 at bats. Duda’s .240 BABIP is nearly 50 points below his career mark (.287), but his BB% (7.9) is easily a career worst, and his Hard% (34.0) is his lowest since his rookie season. He’s been downright worthless against southpaws (.042/.115/.167), so fantasy owners should at minimum be platooning him if at all possible.
Kendrys Morales: He was the No. 33 ranked fantasy hitter last year, but Morales has been brutal so far in 2016, sporting an anemic .196/.251/.333 line. The switch-hitter has been especially bad against right-handed pitchers, whom he’s posted a .466 OPS against. First base is deep, so it makes sense fantasy owners are getting impatient, as Morales is only owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues after having a preseason ADP of 126.
Justin Upton: At some point, a slump becomes meaningful, and Upton is entering that territory. He has a long track record of being an above average hitter but sits with a .599 OPS on May 20, having yet to homer this month. He also has just one stolen base attempt on the year after attempting 24 last season (admittedly it’s tough to steal when not on base). Upton has played in 41 games this season. He’s struck out at least once in 38 of them. He’s always been a streaky hitter, and it’s possible the ugly start can be chalked up to something as simple as joining the American League for the first time in his career, but Upton’s 37.3 K% is by far the worst in baseball, and just imagine how ugly his batting average would be if not for his .354 BABIP. The major league record for strikeouts in a season is 223. Upton is on pace to finish with 253.
P Joe Ross, Was, $40 (at Mia)
P Kevin Gausman, Bal, $36 (at LAA)
C Yasmani Grandal, LAD, $12 (C. Vargas)
1B Anthony Rizzo, CHC, $23 (M. Cain)
2B Chase Utley, LAD, $10 (C. Vargas)
3B Adrian Beltre, Tex, $16 (M. Fiers)
SS Carlos Correa, Hou, $20 (C. Ramos)
OF Dexter Fowler, CHC, $19 (M. Cain)
OF Shin-Soo Choo, Tex, $13 (M. Fiers)
OF Yasiel Puig, LAD, $10 (C. Vargas)
P Felix Hernandez, Sea, $49 (at Cin)
P Masahiro Tanaka, NYY, $43 (at Oak)
C Christian Vazquez, LAD, $10 (T. Bauer)
1B Prince Fielder, Tex, $10 (M. Fiers)
2B Chase Utley, LAD, $10 (C. Vargas)
3B Adrian Beltre, Tex, $16 (M. Fiers)
SS Jean Segura, Ari, $16 (M. Leake)
OF Mike Trout, LAA, $25 (K. Gausman)
OF Gerardo Parra, Col, $11 (J. Niese)
OF Yasiel Puig, LAD, $10 (C. Vargas)
Here we are, the third week of May, and Matt Harvey has a 5.77 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. He’s torching your ratios. He’s frustrating you every five days. We know all the right questions, but it’s hard to find answers.
The Nationals kicked Harvey around Thursday night, collecting nine runs (six earned), knocking the Mets ace out in the third inning. New York’s shoddy defense didn’t help.
Let’s be fair about this, Washington’s offense doesn’t present a nightmare matchup, not in 2016. The Nats are 19th in weighted on-base average, 19th in weighted runs created, 19th in offensive WAR. For all the wonderful stuff we say about Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy (homer Thursday), this is a lineup with holes all over it.
At some point, someone on the Mets going to blame the mechanics. That’s what pitchers do, that’s what coaches do, that’s what organizational mouthpieces do. It’s the mechanics, right?
And when any big-name pitcher slumps, we always worry about possible injury. Harvey’s average fastball is 94.0 mph this year, almost two full ticks down from last year. His swinging strike rate is the lowest of his career. Strikeouts are down a bit, walks up, exit velocity is way up. Batters are cranking line drives 29.2 percent of the time against Harvey, which sounds absurd.
Maybe he’s not sick, but he’s definitely not well.
There’s been some talk of Harvey skipping his next start, a reasonable plan of attack. Take a step away, take a break, reevaluate. Work on those mechanics. Run some tests. Take a deep breath. No one wins a trophy in May, anyway.
I don’t own any Harvey shares in 2016, but that’s just a happy accident. I expected all four of the Mets aces to be strong pitchers this year; I certainly would have rubber stamped your Harvey selection. His comeback season last year passed the eye test and the stat test. If I had any fear about Harvey, it’s only the type of fear I have for all pitchers, athletes asked to do an unnatural act over and over, often until it breaks down their body. Gravity usually wins.
Harvey’s probably a forced owned in most fantasy leagues. That’s not exciting advice, but I don’t see another path. His trade value is collapsed so much at the moment, I can’t advocate a sell-low. Your best angle is probably to hope he comes out of this, even if it's just for a start or two — then you can think of selling when the price has rebounded, some. I know plenty of Mets fans, how about you?
If you’re getting decent trade offers right this moment, toss them out in the comments. I’ll give my two cents, if you want them. Is there a market in your league? How are your leaguemates handling Harvey Danger?
• While the East Coast was dealing with Harvey’s mess and fallout, the Bay Area had a different problem to sort through. Josh Reddick, off to a terrific start for the Athletics, is going to be down for a while. He busted his left thumb on a head-first slide (gotta stop those head first slides, man) and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Reddick’s been an easy profit player through the first quarter of the season, off to a .322-21-5-18-4 start. He collected a home run and a steal in Thursday’s loss to the Yankees — he was actually hurt on the stolen base. It’s a shame to see Reddick go down because the lineup was starting to come together, with Danny Valencia healthy again and Khris Davis in a groove.
The rehab time isn’t the only problem with Reddick, or cases like him. When we ultimately returns, we have to worry about timing coming back. When I hear a timetable like 4-6 weeks, I usually start with the higher end as my assumption, and then I’ll add some time for sharpness. I’m not fooling myself into thinking there’s an eager Reddick trade market, but if I could liquidate my Reddick shares for 70-80 percent right now, I’d strongly consider it.
I’m generally the pessimist when it comes to a return from a long-term injury. Season to taste. Your mileage may vary.
If you’re looking for an outfield-eligible to replace Reddick, here are some guys I recommend (in no particular order):
- Rajai Davis (19 percent, going off at top of Cleveland order)
- Steve Pearce (23 percent, covers three spots, rebounding to 2014 form)
- Leonys Martin (five percent, five homers, five steals, little respect)
- Adam Duvall (17 percent, an average risk but power is legit)
- Trayce Thompson (seven percent, pushing more for time in LA)
- Danny Santana (four percent, does one thing but does it quite well)
Guerra’s fourth start for Milwaukee was certainly an eye-catcher: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 11 K, and his third victory. It comes on the heels of six clean innings against San Diego. He allowed four runs over six innings in each of his first two starts.
Most of his decade-long baseball career has been spent in various minor-league parks and busses, along with extensive international play. Heck, Guerra was a catcher back when he originally signed as a teenager. He didn’t make his major-league debut until a cup of coffee last year with the White Sox. That's perseverance for you.
When Guerra stopped the Padres last week, it wasn't a big story. But 11 punchouts against the Cubs, that gets your attention. His next start comes conveniently in Atlanta, the best target in the majors. Point and click, steam police. If you’d like more of a Guerra scouting report, Kyle Lesniewski has some notes here. Maybe there's some deep-league value to be had.
My full lineup:
SP: Gerrit Cole $51
SP: Aaron Nola $45
C: Dioner Navarro $7
1B: Edwin Encarnacion $15
2B: Jonathan Schoop $12
3B: Josh Donaldson $17
SS: Marcus Semien $16
OF: Khris Davis $17
OF: Yasiel Puig $9
OF: Trayce Thompson $10
Cole is at home against a Rockies team that typically struggles on the road, and the Pirates are the biggest favorites on the board Friday (-210)...Nola has been one of the biggest breakout stars among starters so far in 2016, as he sports a 2.89 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP while his 24.1 K-BB% ranks No. 5 in MLB. He faces a Braves team that’s hit 15 homers this season (the next lowest has hit 31).
Tyler Duffey has pitched well this season, but it’s been a small sample, and Donaldson and Encarnacion are underpriced here. After a slow start, Encarnacion has turned it on in May (.923 OPS), while Donaldson has slumped badly this month (.182/.299/.258) yet is still on pace to score 132 runs this season...Navarro has hit .343 at home this year, while Schoop gets a lefty.
Thompson and Puig also get the platoon advantage, and the former has hit far better than his $10 price tag suggests...Semien is on pace to hit 39 homers this season, while Davis has four long balls over his past three games. In fact, Davis has launched 32 home runs since August 1. He and Semien get to face CC Sabathia, who’s averaging a career low 88.1 mph with his fastball and allowed 25 homers to right-handed batters over 530 at bats last season.
Good luck with your contests Friday.
The Buzz: There's dissension in the ranks. After a year in which 58.3 percent of RB1s and RB2s failed to measure up (finishing within three spots of their respective tiers), an increasing number of drafters are abandoning the running theory for ZeroRB. Some stubborn fantasy strategists, though divided on which RB is deserving of top honors, continue to cling to traditional tactics. Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson and David Johnson are candidates for the distinction. The Desert Bird, however, is the one who should fall off draft boards first as an overall top-five pick.
Why the sophomore rusher is an oasis in the desert
Pump up the volume. The "v" word is the most seductive expression in fantasy. The mere thought of a player getting his mitts on the ball some 300-plus times is enthralling. Johnson is clearly that guy.
With only a partially fossilized Chris Johnson and injury-prone, change-of-pace Andre Ellington on roster, DJ has very little competition. Sure, his backups will be sprinkled in here and there, but, as Bruce Arians himself recently noted, Johnson "earned the bell cow" role last year amassing 4.7 yards per carry, 114.5 total yards per game and six touchdowns over the regular season's final six games. His equivalent 19.0 fantasy points per contest in standard Yahoo leagues ranked No. 1 over that stretch. Adding fuel to the fire, the outspoken head coach even went as far to say he believes the rusher "has a chance to be one of the all-time best." When you're throwing around "all-time" superlatives, it's evident who the featured back is. Bank on DJ netting some 20 touches per game, a workload only three RBs – Devonta Freeman, Peterson and Doug Martin – averaged in 2015.
In other words, Johnson is a true unicorn.
Secondary metrics. Excitement about Johnson in the analytics community prior to last spring's NFL Draft was over the moon. At the Combine, he graded out as a 'top performer' at his position in five of six categories, including the 40-yard dash (4.50). His considerable athleticism, strength, size (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) and versatilty had salivary glands working overtime. Only his aggressiveness on interior runs was questioned, a concern that was soon quelled.
Living up to his immense promise, Johnson was more than a cursory stats standout. He gained 57.4 percent of his yards after initial contact, forced a missed tackle 21.7 percent of the time and ripped off one fewer 15-plus yard run, on 57 fewer attempts, than fellow rookie T.J. Yeldon.
Favorable surroundings. Arizona is flush with offensive talent. Whether looking at Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders, the line, lambasted in previous seasons, ranked top-three in run-blocking and top-six in second-level and open-field runs. Given its strength and the passing arsenal comprised of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown and it's easy to argue the environment around Johnson is substantially more nourishing than what Gurley and Peterson are in. Stacked boxes will again be scarce in the desert.
Second-half cakewalk. Make no mistake, Johnson has a tough road up until the Cardinals' bye in Week 9. Unfriendly matchups against New England, the Jets, Seattle and Carolina will be no walk in the park. Still, the rusher proved nearly matchup proof last year, evidenced in his efforts against St. Louis (22-99-0, 2-21-1) and Minnesota (19-92-0, 5-31-0). Through volume alone, he should pull an ace against a stacked deck.
Once he weathers the first-half storm, numerous pot-raking performances are in the offing. His schedule Weeks 10-15 is THE easiest among RBs, featuring softies San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington and New Orleans. A Week 16 visit to Seattle will be daunting, but he's very capable of blazing a fiery trail to fantasy Super Bowls.
Bottom Line: Three-down workhorses in this timeshare age are a rarity. On draft day, while everyone else is zigging (drafting WRs or Gronk), riverboat gamblers should zag (go RB). After all, no two years in the NFL are ever the same. Last year's anomalous bust rate is unlikely to be duplicated. Keep in mind from 2009-2014, RBs fell short of expectations at a 43.1 percent clip. A regression to the mean is entirely probable. And Johnson will be one reason why. Bell (knee injury recovery), Gurley (bad line, Jared Goff) and Peterson (advanced age, gross passing offense) are greater risks.
Naysayers will argue Johnson is the next C.J. Anderson, a doomed-to-fail rusher who reached the RB pinnacle only over a small sample size. Though the latter is based in truth, the situation Johnson is involved in, as stated above, is not only different, it's set up for success. If he flirts with 2,000 combined yards and 15 total touchdowns it would be no shocker special.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise.
Andy Behrens and Dalton Del Don open by answering Twitter questions from listeners, addressing when to draft quarterbacks in six-point per TD leagues and which players with injury concerns to avoid. The duo then talk about players in which they rank differently in a dissenting opinions segment, highlighted by Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Thomas Rawls and Matt Forte, among others. Football season is fast approaching, and the Fantasy Freak Show is here to help get you prepared in an all NFL edition of the podcast.
My full lineup (for all games starting after 4 pm PT):
SP: Chris Sale ($60) - The top dollar pitcher on Thursday's board should be worth the heavy cost - he's won all eight of his starts, and the only one that wasn't a Quality Start was a 5.1 IP, 1 ER effort at Baltimore on May 1
SP: Michael Wacha ($44) - I like Wacha at home, where he has a 2.01 ERA this season, and a 2.61 mark for his career
C: Dioner Navarro ($7) - No certainty to play, obviously, but if he does, I want him at the bargain-basement price - he has a good (albeit limited) history vs. Houston starter Colin McHugh (2-for-5), and has hit well recently (5-for-12 in his past four contests)
1B: John Jaso ($13) - Atlanta SP Mike Foltynewicz has had major issues against lefty hitters in his short career (.974 OPS allowed), so I like the odss of Jaso, who has hit 39 of his 40 career homers against RHP, taikng advantage of Thursday's situation
2B: Jimmy Paredes ($7) - Paredes has a hit in each of his first two games of the season, including a home run on Wednesday, so I expect him to be back in the lineup Thursday vs. Minnesota RHP Ervin Santana - Paredes, a switch hitter, has also fared much better against righties for his career
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall ($13) - Chisenhall is 3-for-6 since returning from the bereavement list - he'll face Cincy starter Tim Adleman, who has allowed a .615 SLG% to lefties this season
SS: Zack Cozart ($16) - Cozart, hitting .320 on the season, collected three hits on Wednesday and will face a Cleveland starter, Josh Timlin, who he is 5-for-8 against in his career
OF: Yasiel Puig ($9) - All you are looking for is plausible upside when you are fishing at the bottom of the DFS outfield list, and Puig at least offers that. Admittedly, he's started the season poorly, but he does have a hit in each of his past two games and is 3-for-10 in his career against Angels starter Jhoulys Chacin
OF: Josh Reddick ($17) - Reddick has a hit in each of his past four games and owns a .349 batting average vs. RHP this season - he'll face Yankees righty Ivan Nova
OF: Jay Bruce ($17) - Bruce is on a roll of four consecutive multi-hit games, including two home runs in Wednesday's contest -- Bruce has now hit seven of his eight home runs in his home park, where he'll be on Thursday
Like many things in the Houston dugout this year, Luke Gregerson has been less than expected. He’s already blown three saves, and his 3.86 ERA is higher than expected. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate modestly down. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll be holding the Astros closing gig all season.
What the Astros might do if Gregerson needed a break, that’s open to question. Ken Giles is the big name because of what the team traded to acquire him in the offseason, but Will Harris has been the eighth-inning sheriff — and the much better pitcher this year.
Let’s go to the stats. Giles is still stuck with a 6.61 ERA and 1.65 WHIP, though he hasn’t been scored upon in his last six appearances. Mostly, he’s been hurt by four home-run balls. His K/BB rate is starting to get where we want it, even with the occasional touch of wildness: 21 punchouts against seven walks. He’s still making the radar gun pop in the 96 mph range.
Harris can’t match Giles on the radar gun, but he’s been a bagel parade for most of the last two seasons. Last year he posted a sparkling 1.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, and this year he’s given up a scant one run over 19.2 terrific innings (11 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 20 K). The Astros have used him as the eighth-inning guy, the bridge to Gregerson when the leverage situation is high.
There’s no singular rule of thumb with an eighth-inning wipeout reliever. Some teams prefer to keep that type of setup man in the eighth no matter what’s going on with the save chase, while other teams could view their eighth-inning option as the next closing choice should things go bad with the incumbent. Perhaps the Astros will give Giles a closing look later this year because they feel obligated to justify the expensive (and foolish) package they shipped to Philadelphia in the Giles trade. Perhaps the Astros will consider Harris’s success tied to a solidified and defined role, and not want to mess with it.
I don’t have the Astros plan here, or their passwords. All I can say is this: Harris is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues, and that feels light to me. Even if he’s not closing, I want the quality innings. And Giles feels a bit bloated at 46 percent. I’m not ready to trust him in the short term, even if the long-term has a reasonable chance of getting sorted out.
Your call, save chaser. Your call, innings chaser. What’s your take in Houston?
• Oakland’s ballpark is well documented as a difficult place for hitters, but when someone like Khris Davis gets on a hot streak, the size of the yard doesn’t matter much. Davis conked another homer in Wednesday’s 8-2 victory (along with two walks), giving him six in his last nine games. He’s collected 33 home runs since last year’s All-Star break. His Yahoo ownership has finally pushed up to 57 percent, closer to where it belongs (though I’d like to see it move higher).
It’s time to get Danny Valencia into that ownership tier, too. Valencia doesn’t have the raw power of Davis, but he’s probably a better hitter. He proved himself during last year’s .290/.345/.519 campaign, splitting time with Toronto and Oakland, and he’s posted a .357/.393/.607 slash when healthy this year. He’s been a monster since returning to action 11 days ago, homering six times and hitting .455 over 33 at-bats. He had three hits in Wednesday’s win, which is why we’re writing about him two straight days in this space.
If you look at Valencia’s career splits, you’re going to find someone who looks like a platoon candidate. His OPS is .672 against righties and .882 against lefties. But at some point over the last two years, he’s learned how to hit against all kinds of pitching. Last year he slashed .285/.325/.556 against right-handers, and this year he’s been good against righties, unreal against lefties.
Valencia is 31, so I understand why some owners might already have him filed and categorized. An older player taking on new roles, acquiring new skills, that can be a tricky thing. Just know the A’s like Valencia in the middle of their lineup, he qualifies at two Yahoo positions (third, outfield), and he’s absolutely crushing the ball right now. What’s not to like?
• A few days ago on Twitter, I made an offhand remark about how I didn’t have a stake in the Cleveland offense. The Tribe made me regret that during a three-game demolition of the Reds, piling up 36 runs along the way. Cleveland is now the No. 9 club in runs scored — not a juggernaut, but at least ahead of the mean. They'll play the fourth game of the series Thursday.
Veteran Rajai Davis has been the triggerman of late. He's scored nine runs this week, including a two-homer, one-steal game Wednesday. His ninth-inning clout off Tony Cingrani (aye, that Reds bullpen) forced extra innings, ultimately leading to Cleveland’s 8-7 victory. Given how difficult it is to find speed these days, Davis is worth owning for his nine steals alone. The four homers are merely a bonus. He trades at a modest 11 percent in Yahoo leagues.
Teammate Jose Ramirez is a more difficult call, since he doesn’t offer any specific category juice. He’s only hit one home run in 104 at-bats, along with two steals in four attempts. Nonetheless, he’s on a .317/.372/.433 wave at the moment, and he qualifies at four Yahoo positions (every field spot but first base and catcher). Kick the tires for the Cincinnati finale, and then see if Ramirez can keep it going during the weekend series at Fenway Park.
• Ryan Buchter is another reliever who might be lost in the fantasy shuffle right now. He’s a non-closing lefty for San Diego (he did pick up one rogue save earlier this month), which explains his low ownership tag. But look at the wipeout numbers: 19 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 10 BB, 25 K. I’ll make room for a guy like that.
Buchter’s brief career shows the ability to get all hitters out — lefties are absolutely helpless against him, but righties are slashing a mere .179/.283/.308. Fernando Rodney hasn’t done anything wrong as San Diego’s closer, but if anything went awry, perhaps Buchter would enter the mix. He’s unclaimed freight in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.
We are at roughly the quarter pole of the '16 fantasy baseball season, a decent enough sample size to work with as the Yahoo fantasy baseball brain trust decided to re-evaluate the roto landscape by way of a 10-round mock draft exercise.
We had each of our six participating pundits - special thanks to Rotowire's Chris Liss for joining the usual Yahoo roto voices - playing the owner for two separate teams in order to simulate a 12-team draft environment. And we put no position requirements/restrictions on this draft, so the results would give us a better idea of how players' values are currently being viewed without the bias of having to weigh position need into the process. So here is an at-a-glance breakdown of our at-the-moment mock draft (with some of my commentary thrown in to spots where it seemed most appropriate):
1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD, SP -- 88:4 K-to-BB ratio - in leagues with Innings Pitched caps, like the Yahoo default, Kershaw makes perfect sense as the No. 1 choice. (Chris Liss 1)
2. Bryce Harper, Was, OF -- (Chris Liss 2)
3. Mike Trout, LAA, OF -- (Dalton Del Don 1)
4. Jose Altuve, Hou, 2B -- As a three-category speed stud, he was good enough to go top 15 on average in preseason drafts. After showing big power for the past six weeks (9 HR), he's taken his stock into the top 5. (Dalton Del Don 2)
5. Manny Machado, Bal, 3/S -- (Brandon Funston 1)
6. Nolan Arenado, Col, 3B -- (Brandon Funston 2)
7. Jake Arrieta, ChC, SP -- If Kershaw is an acceptable No. 1 overall pick, then Arrieta should be, as well. In his past 220 IP (comprising 31 starts going back to the beginning of June '15), he owns a 25-2 record, with a 1.23 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 224 strikeouts. Just read that stat line again, because it's beyond ridiculous. (Scott Pianowski 1)
8. Josh Donaldson, Tor, 3B -- (Scott Pianowski 2)
9. Paul Goldschmidt, Ari, 1B -- (Andy Behrens 1)
10. Anthony Rizzo, ChC, 1B -- (Andy Behrens 2)
11. Miguel Cabrera, Det, 1B -- (Michael Salfino 1)
12. Giancarlo Stanton, Mia, OF -- (Micheal Salfino 2)
1. Carlos Correa, Hou, SS -- (Salfino 2)
2. Ryan Braun, Mil, OF -- (Salfino 1)
3. Mookie Betts, Bos, OF -- (Behrens 2)
4. Noah Syndergaard, NYM, SP -- His average fastball is a league-high 98 mph (no other starter is within 1 mph of him). Heard ESPN's Jayson Stark mention that he's thrown 100-plus mph fastballs over 40 times this season, while rest of the league combined has five such heaters. At 23 years old, he might be the most valued real-life pitching commodity in professional baseball. (Behrens 1)
5. Kris Bryant, ChC, 3/O -- (Pianowski 2)
6. Edwin Encarnacion, Tor, 1B -- (Pianowski 1)
7. Stephen Strasburg, Was, SP -- (Funston 2)
8. Robinson Cano, Sea, 2B -- He's back in the top 20 here (and currently No. 6 overall in the Y! game). Maybe we shouldn't have penalized him so much (No. 51.6 ADP in preseason Yahoo drafts) for one bad half-season of baseball (first three months of '15) in the past eight years. (Funston 1)
9. Chris Sale, ChW, SP -- (Del Don 2)
10. Madison Bumgarner, SF, SP -- (Del Don 1)
11. Max Scherzer, Was, SP -- Consensus No. 2 overall SP pick fell to No. 7 in this draft, though Liss picked him right before his 20 K game, which means he probably would be back in the top 5, at least, had we to do this again - 20 K can go along way towards erasing any lingering doubts about a rocky start - and in talking to Dalton Del Don, he conceded that he would have at least taken him instead of Bumgarner if he were to get a re-do. (Liss 2)
12. Andrew McCutchen, Pit, OF -- (Liss 1)
1. Chris Davis, Bal, 1/O -- (Liss 1)
2. Starling Marte, Pit, OF -- (Liss 2)
3. Xander Bogaerts, Bos, SS -- (Del Don 1)
4. Jose Bautista, Tor, OF -- (Del Don 2)
5. Jose Fernandez, Mia, SP -- (Funston 1)
6. Yoenis Cespedes, NYM, OF -- In 91 games in a Mets uniform, .285, 29 HR, 76 RBI, 61 R, 5 SB. I'll admit, part of me wanted to pass on him if only to to watch Mr. Pianowski, renowned Cespedes skeptic, be forced to wrestle with the decision to draft or pass on him (Funston 2)
7. Buster Posey, SF, C -- (Pianowski 1)
8. Jose Abreu, ChW, 1B -- (Pianowski 2)
9. Carlos Gonzalez, Col, OF -- (Behrens 1)
10. George Springer, Hou, OF -- (Behrens 2)
11. Michael Brantley, Cle, OF -- Five solid roto reasons to love Brantley, but I suspect this would have been a much tougher trigger to pull if we were playing this draft out given the shoulder issues (currently back on the DL) (Salfino 1)
12. J.D. Martinez, Det, OF -- (Salfino 2)
1. Christian Yelich, Mia, OF -- Quite a move up the charts for Yelich, who went, on average, at No 123.4 in preseason Yahoo drafts. He's still a prolific ground pounder, which should keep the batting average in lofty territory, though we should probably expect a regression in his current .525 SLG%, which is more than 100 points above his career average (.418) (Salfino 2)
2. Aroldis Chapman, NYY, RP -- First closer off the board, the formerly suspended Chapman goes pick No. 38 overall, starting a closer run that will see 10 more stoppers come off the board within the next 23 selections - (Salfino 1)
3. Charlie Blackmon, Col OF -- (Behrens 2)
4. Todd Frazier, ChW, 3B -- (Behrens 1)
5. Rougned Odor, Tex, 2B -- Has certainly packed a punch in that Texas lineup (bah, bum, bump!) (Pianowski 2)
6. Eric Hosmer, KC, 1B -- (Pianowski 1)
7. Kenley Jansen, LAD, RP -- (Funston 2)
8. Wade Davis, KC, RP -- (Funston 1)
9. Joey Votto, Cin, 1B -- (Del Don 2)
10. Nelson Cruz, Sea, OF -- (Del Don 1)
11. Corey Kluber, Cle, SP -- (Liss 2)
12. David Price, Bos, SP -- It's easier to not sweat a 6.00 ERA when it comes with a 12.19 K/9 rate and a 2.55 FIP (Liss 1)
1. Zach Britton, Bal, RP -- You might never know in what rotation the next great closer is toiling - Britton 4.86 ERA, 1.49 K/BB rate in 250 IP as a starter, 1.72 ERA, 4.05 K/BB in 162 IP as a reliever (Liss 1)
2. Mark Melancon, Pit, RP -- (Liss 2)
3. Hector Rondon, ChC, RP -- (Del Don 1)
4. Craig Kimbrel, Bos, RP -- (Del Don 2)
5. Adrian Beltre, Tex, 3B -- (Funston 1)
6. Jacob deGrom, NYM, SP -- (Funston 2)
7. Ian Kinsler, Det, 2B -- (Pianowski 1)
8. Gerrit Cole, Pit, SP -- (Pianowski 2)
9. Matt Kemp, SD, OF -- (Behrens 1)
10. David Robertson, ChW, RP -- (Behrens 2)
11. Jeurys Familia, NYM, RP -- (Salfino 1)
12. Trevor Rosenthal, StL, RP -- (Salfino 2)
1. Robert Osuna, Tor, RP -- (Salfino 2)
2. Daniel Murphy, Was, 1/2/3 -- Another major mover, Murphy, a playoffs mega-monster in '15, went No. 146.3 in average Yahoo preseason drafts, but No. 62 overall here. No question, hitting right after Bryce Harper (.444 OBP) is the mother of all catbird seats (Salfino 1)
3. Cole Hamels, Tex, SP -- (Behrens 2)
4. Jason Kipnis, Cle, 2B -- (Behrens 1)
5. Jon Lester, ChC, SP -- (Pianowski 2)
6. Matt Carpenter, StL, 2/3 -- (Pianowski 1)
7. David Ortiz, Bos, 1B-- (Funston 2)
8. Adam Jones, Bal, OF -- (Funston 1)
9. Matt Harvey, NYM, SP -- (Del Don 2)
10. Johnny Cueto, SF, SP -- (Del Don 1)
11. Carlos Carrasco, Cle, SP-- (Liss 2)
12. Lorenzo Cain, KC, OF -- (Liss 1)
1. Chris Archer, TB, SP -- (Liss 1)
2. Trevor Story, Col, SS -- Who would have thought a year ago that Colorado shortstop prospect Story would be the toast of early '16, and would be deemed a more prized fantasy asset than then-Rockies All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (who went to Behrens seven picks down this list)? (Liss 2)
3. Danny Salazar, Cle, SP -- (Del Don 1)
4. Hunter Pence, SF -- (Del Don 2)
5. Brandon Belt, SF, 1/O -- .947 OPS, fourth in the league in Walks - just salt in the wound as I targeted him in every preseason draft and failed to land him in every preseason draft (Funston 1)
6. Francisco Lindor, Cle, SS -- (Funston 2)
7. Dexter Fowler, ChC, OF -- Despite playing five full seasons in Colorado, no place has treated his fantasy numbers as well as Chicago (Pianowski 1)
8. Hanley Ramirez, Bos, 1/O -- (Pianowski 2)
9. Troy Tulowitzki, Tor, SS -- (Behrens 1)
10. Yu Darvish, Tex, SP -- Throwing 97 mph in rehab from Tommy John surgery, Behrens gets a potential bargain at pick No. 82 as Darvish gets set to return to the Rangers rotation (Behrens 2)
11. Jean Segura, Ari, SS -- No. 34 player currently in the Y! game is still BB-averse, but at least he's swinging less often, especially at pitches out of the strike zone (Salfino 1)
12. Victor Martinez, Det, 1B -- (Salfino 2)
1. Taijuan Walker, Sea, SP -- (Salfino 2)
2. Byung-ho Park, Min, 1B -- (Salfino 1)
3. Ben Zobrist, ChC, 2B -- (Behrens 2)
4. Gregory Polanco, Pit, OF -- (Behrens 1)
5. Ian Desmond, Tex, S/O -- Could be the Rodney Dangerfield of roto, and Pianowski loves to scoop those guys up at a discount - our community didn't love him during the time he was putting together three consecutive 20/20 seasons from the shortstop position, and we treated him like he had leprosy after he went just 19/13 last season, finishing as the No. 12 roto SS. And here he is playing at a top 20 level in the '16 Y! game, yet falling to No. 89 in this draft. (Pianowski 2)
6. Odubel Herrera, Phi, OF -- Already has more walks in 140 ABs than he had last season in 147 games (495 AB) - may think it's crazy taking a Rule 5 guy from last season this high, but he's an athletic 24-year-old with great speed and serviceable pop that has shown the patience to see more pitches than everyone save Jose Bautista and Paul Goldschmidt. (Pianowski 1)
7. Yasiel Puig, LAD, OF -- I'm admittedly a sucker for his physical skills, especially as he's just 25 years old and holds a .837 career OPS in over 1,500 plate appearances. His '16 has been ugly, but I'll definitely take my chances at this point (pick No. 91 overall) (Funston 2)
8. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD, 1B -- (Funston 1)
9. Kenta Maeda, LAD, SP -- (Del Don 2)
10. Dustin Pedroia, Bos, 2B -- (Del Don 1)
11. Miguel Sano, Min, 3/O -- (Liss 2)
12. Corey Seager, LAD, SS -- Back-to-back Seagers for Liss - the joy of mock drafts. The younger Seager has an .855 OPS in LA, the elder an .844 OPS in Seattle. The middle brother, Justin, has a .592 OPS for Class-A Bakersfield. I guess he's the Cooper Manning of the Seager clan (Liss 1)
1. Kyle Seager, Sea, 3B -- (Liss 1)
2. Gerardo Parra, Col, OF -- He was the easiest sleeper call in preseason drafts, as he was the No. 99 Y! player in the '15 game splitting the season between Milwaukee and Baltimore. Should we really be shocked to see him at No. 72 this season, as a member of the Colorado Rockies? (Liss 2)
3. Drew Smyly, TB, SP -- (Del Don 1)
4. Jeff Samardzija, SF, SP -- (Del Don 2)
5. Felix Hernandez, Sea, SP -- (Funston 1)
6. Maikel Franco, Phi, 3B -- (Funston 2)
7. Zack Greinke, Ari, SP -- The pitcher that nobody wanted to take - falls from 36.2 ADP in preseason to 103 here - fastball at a career low (91.1 mph), but Quality Start in three of past four turns is encouraging, as is 27 K in 26 IP (Pianowski 1)
8. Jose Quintana, ChW, SP -- (Pianowski 2)
9. A.J. Ramos, Mia, RP -- (Behrens 1)
10. Jake McGee, Col, RP -- (Behrens 2)
11. Evan Longoria, TB, 3B -- (Salfino 1)
12. Addison Russell, ChC, 2/3 -- (Salfino 2)
1. Nick Castellanos, Det, 3B -- Sure, there's some luck going on here (.394 BABIP), but as Fangraph's Eno Sarris explains, there's reason for optimism that his career year will continue to be just that. (Salfino 2)
2. Welington Castillo, Ari, C -- Maybe could have argued that Jonathan Lucroy should have been the second catcher off the board (he's currently the top backstop in the Y! game), but Welington has 24 home runs in 395 ABs in Arizona, which certainly makes him a justifiable choice (Salfino 1)
3. Adam Eaton, ChW, OF -- (Behrens 2)
4. Santiago Casilla, SF, RP -- (Behrens 1)
5. Stephen Piscotty, StL, OF -- (Pianowski 2)
6. Francisco Rodriguez, Det, RP -- (Pianowski 1)
7. Jason Heyward, ChC, OF -- (Funston 2)
8. Mark Trumbo, Bal, 1/O -- Not sure I don't like him better than Byung-ho Park, taken two rounds earlier, given the environment in which each play - can both hit .250ish with 30-35 home runs? Yes. Can both drive in 100 baserunners? That's where Trumbo plays the Baltimore lineup trump card (Funston 1)
9. Jung Ho Kang, Pit, 3/S -- (Del Don 2)
10. Aaron Nola, Phi, SP -- (Del Don 1)
11. Justin Upton, Det, OF -- The hitter nobody wanted to take - No. 47.2 ADP in preseason drafts, a nearly Mr. Irrelevant No. 119 here. Unlike Greinke, there's no real strong recent signs of a turnaround for Upton (8 BB, 62 K) save for the fact that he didn't strike out in his last game, which was just the third time that has happened this season (Liss 2)
12. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY, SP -- (Liss 1)
I had some viewing options late on a Tuesday night. Ultimately it came down to two choices on the dish.
Somewhere in the 500s, I could watch The Last Days of Disco. It’s a talky bunch of ennui about 20-somethings too early for a mid-life crisis, the end of the Studio 54 era. Whit Stillman being who he is, the story bounces around a bit. It ends, optimistically, with a sing-along of Love Train.
Somewhere in the 700s, I could watch The Last Days of Tolleson. A high-scoring game between the Rangers and Athletics, ultimately capped by another train wreck in the Texas bullpen. It ends happily for the Oakland home folks, with a sing-along of Celebration.
This being a baseball column, we’ll focus on the scene in Oakland.
Shawn Tolleson led a charmed life as Texas closer last year, but he’s on his last legs this season. He’s already blown four saves, he’s carrying an ERA over nine, and he’s served up five homers on the year. Tuesday’s game-capping slam from Khris Davis hasn’t landed yet. Texas fancies itself a playoff contender, so it probably can’t let Tolleson’s reign of terror last much longer. (Manager Jeff Banister didn't say anything declarative after the loss, which is standard operating procedure. You get some sleep before you make the big decision.)
Sam Dyson has been a reliable bullpen understudy since joining the Rangers late last year (1.43 ERA, ground-ball rate in the high-60s), and he has a couple of rogue saves this season. He’d be my first guess to the new Texas closer, and he’s available in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues. We sounded the alarm right after the Davis homer; Dyson has already been grabbed about 4,000 times in Wednesday transactions.
If you need to look deeper for a longshot play, perhaps Matt Bush could be of interest. The former infield prospect wasted most of his 20s, getting into legal trouble and eventually spending time in prison. He’s back in baseball now, he’s switched positions (moving from shortstop to pitcher), and he’s become a comeback, redemption story. Bush opened the year with 17 quality innings at Triple-A (2.65/0.77), and he's given the Rangers three clean innings since his call-up.
For those in the thinnest of mixed leagues, we should also mention Davis, one of those notorious streak hitters. He clubbed three homers in the Tuesday comeback, giving him 11 on the year. You’re not going to get a fun average or OBP with this guy (he’s slashing .228/.257/.490), but he does have 38 home runs over his last 537 at-bats. If you believe in the short-term hot hand — and don’t laugh, some eggheads do support it — you have to figure Davis reaches the seats again this week.
He’s available to 53 percent of Yahoo seasonal owners, and 100 percent of DFS owners willing to chase the story. Let's swing for the seats.
• Before we leave Oakland for good, let’s get a look at what Danny Valencia is up to. He’s healthy again and crushing the ball, on an 8-for-17 tear with six home runs (another one Tuesday) over his last five games. For some reason, he’s still unowned in about 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Valencia will happily man third base or the outfield for you.
Valencia might look like a spec play to some, but he really isn’t. He gave us a .290/.345/.519 line with 18 home runs over 378 at-bats last year, playing with Toronto and Oakland. His career splits suggest more of a platoon specialist, but he’s hit lefties and righties for the last two seasons. If he can avoid further injuries, he'll be playing every day.
• Home runs aren’t everything for an offense, but that’s been the story for the Rays. Down in Tampa, it’s home run or bust. The Rays are tied for first with their 55 home runs, but they’re merely 23rd in runs scored. That’s what you get from a .233/.306/.427 slash, and a ballpark that mutes scoring.
Sometimes the scoring comes easier on the road. Tampa Bay had a 12-2 party at Skydome on Tuesday, and there are some interesting, fantasy-worthy pieces to this offense.
Brandon Guyer looks comfortable as the temporary leadoff man, slashing along at .317/.418/.537. Brad Miller’s seasonal numbers don’t look like much, but over the last month he’s collected four homers and a couple of steals. He qualifies at three positions in the Yahoo game.
And then there’s Steve Pearce, a former Wiggy who shocked the world with Baltimore in 2014. He didn’t do much last year, but he’s needed in Tampa Bay and coming through: six homers in 83 at-bats, .392 OBP, three positions of eligibility (first, second, outfield). He’s still ready to grab in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues, and he’ll surely be playing while Logan Forsythe is on the disabled list.
• Carlos Gomez is out of our fantasy lives for a couple of weeks, so everyone exhale. The Astros made the move Tuesday, placing Gomez on the disabled list, citing a rib cage injury. Gomez has a nightmare .182/.238/.248 slash through the opening six weeks, with no home runs. He wasn’t much of a fantasy asset last year, either.
I only had one Gomez share and found it to be untradeable; eventually I cut Gomez for Valencia last week. I could use a DL spot on Gomez in a couple of leagues going forward, but I’m not going to bother. His confidence is shot, his body isn’t right. And I’m not convinced the Astros see him as part of the solution for the balance of 2016.
You’re welcome to disagree, of course. That’s why we have a game. In some leagues, your buy-in cost is very low. I’m just reiterating what I’ve said for most of the year, I don’t see much value in Gomez. His swing is messed up, his body might be breaking down. And why throw him a strike when he'll swing at a ball?
On today's pedal-to-the-metal program, Brad Evans and Liz Loza discuss the hot fantasy football headliens from around the NFL – fallout from Sammy Watkins' latest setback, Doug Baldwin's "run more" comments and Matt Jones' ringing endorsement.
Additionally, our pigskin prognosticators played a game of overvalued/undervalued deciding what side of the fence Tyrod Taylor, Devonta Freeman, Ameer Abdullah, Randall Cobb and Gary Barnidge are on. Plus, we answered your pressing Twitter questions.
With more options available for contests starting at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Wednesday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: John Lackey $44
SP: Francisco Liriano $39
C: Yan Gomes $11
1B: Mark Teixeira $12
2B: Starlin Castro $16
3B: Josh Donaldson $20
SS: Didi Gregorius $12
OF: Yoenis Cespedes $21
OF: Trayce Thompson $7
OF: Carlos Beltran $18
Lackey is having a terrific season, as he owns a 0.97 WHIP and a 47:10 K:BB ratio over 48.1 innings. He gets a Brewers team that’s struck out the third most times in all of baseball, and the Cubs are big favorites (-185)...The Pirates are also heavily favored (-190) over a dreadful Braves team that’s scored by far the fewest runs in MLB, and although Liriano has downright ugly numbers overall, he’s allowed just one run with 16 strikeouts over 12.2 innings at home this season.
Gomes has homered three times with eight RBI over his past four games, while Donaldson has three homers over 14 career at bats versus Jake Odorizzi, who’s been pounded by right-handed batters (.509 slugging against) in 2016...Thompson has quietly had a very productive season with a .307/.358/.613 line, and he now owns a career .925 OPS over 197 at bats. He’s a steal priced at just $7...Meanwhile, Cespedes is hitting .381/.567/.762 against southpaws this season.
Miller owns a hideous 6.94 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP on the year with a 22:23 K:BB ratio. He’s allowed 21 earned runs over 25.1 innings at home, as Chase Field continues to play as one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball. Miller’s average fastball velocity is a career low, and his 6.4 SwStr% ranks in the bottom five in baseball among starters. In a terrific hitting environment against a pitcher who’s struggling mightily, it seems like a good time to stack Yankees, so I went with Castro, Gregorius, Beltran and Teixeira, all of whom were also reasonably priced.
Good luck with your contests Wednesday.
Today we tackle the big one, the elusive one, the erratic one, those maddening starting pitchers.
The idea is 5x5 value for rest of season. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. I didn't rank anyone on the DL, or anyone in the minors. Everyone seems to be more optimistic on injury returnees and hot prospects (hi, Berrios) than I am.
The prices are unscientific in nature, and players at the same price are considered even. I'm just looking for a way to show the pockets of value as I see them. I don't look at old prices when I construct these -- it's all from scratch. I don't even see the point of looking back there; live in the present, look to the future.
I welcome your respectful disagreement. Obviously you will feel passionate about what you don't agree with, that's why we have a game. The discussion can be deep and illuminating if you want it to be.
And remember the golden rule -- a player doesn't gain value because you like him, nor does he lose value because you don't like him.
Prices now, comments later tonight. I reserve the right to make changes in this list during the first 24 hours. Win the debate, win the rank.
If I missed someone, let me know. I'm on Twitter, @scott_pianowski.
$34 Clayton Kershaw
$32 Jake Arrieta
$30 Chris Sale
$29 Noah Syndergaard
$28 Max Scherzer
$25 Madison Bumgarner
$24 Stephen Strasburg
$22 Jon Lester
$22 Jose Fernandez
$22 Gerrit Cole
$20 Corey Kluber
$20 David Price
$20 Johnny Cueto
$19 Jose Quintana
$19 Danny Salazar
$18 Felix Hernandez
$18 Jacob deGrom
$18 Zack Greinke
$17 Matt Harvey
$16 Aaron Nola
$16 Chris Archer
For most of Quintana’s career, he’s been a tough-luck case. His career high in wins is nine, for crying out loud. In his last two seasons, his peripherally-suggested ERA was better than his actual one. You had to figure at some point, the baseball gods would decide to give The Q a break.
It looks like 2016 is that season.
Quintana already has five wins in his first eight starts of the fresh season, and while he’s been good at keeping the ball in the park his entire career, a HR/FB rate of 1.9 percent isn’t real. That said, his 1.54 ERA, while unsustainable, is more supported than you might suspect (FIP says 2.20). He’s pushed his strikeout rate over eight, and his walks are down an eyelash. And after a down season with his fastball last year, Quintana’s getting better results (and better velocity) with his heater this season.
Nola's path to success is simple: the best curveball in the majors, and it's not even close . . . I'd push all the Mets higher if I knew they were 100 percent healthy, but no one other than Syndergaard looks completely healthy at the top of this rotation . . . Hernandez has to live off his off-speed stuff more often than not, but he's talented and smart enough to at least succeed that way, even if he can't dominate the way he has in the past.
$15 Vincent Velasquez
$15 Jeff Samardzija
$15 Cole Hamels
$14 Rick Porcello
$14 Drew Pomeranz
$14 Jaime Garcia
$14 John Lackey
$14 Drew Smyly
$14 Carlos Martinez
$13 Jordan Zimmermann
$13 Kenta Maeda
$13 Taijuan Walker
$13 Michael Wacha
$12 Jason Hammel
$12 Rich Hill
$12 Steven Matz
$12 Joe Ross
$12 Sonny Gray
$12 Justin Verlander
$12 Jake Odorizzi
$11 Chris Tillman
$11 Kyle Hendricks
$11 Masahiro Tanaka
$11 Hector Santiago
$10 Dallas Keuchel
$10 Gio Gonzalez
$10 Francisco Liriano
$10 Marcus Stroman
$10 James Shields
$10 Rubby De La Rosa
Pomeranz is another guy with a delightful bender, and I'd love to rank him higher, but there are two obvious caveats. First off, he's never gone deep into a season (we should approach him as a five-month story, not a six-month pitcher), and he's still walking too many guys. That said, the NL West has plenty of pitcher-friendly parks, and Pomeranz also has an extensive pedigree to comfort us (look at the top of that 2010 draft) . . . I don't see any obvious answers with Keuchel. He's smart and he can make do with less velocity than most pitchers, but when I see him struggling to throw strikes to even the weakest hitters in a lineup (check the Minnesota start again), I get concerned that there might be a physical problem. I take no joy in these comments, he's one of my very favorites to watch . . . De La Rosa finally is figuring out how to get left-handed batters out, and that's a major difference. He's always had a power arm and high-strikeout potential . . . I'd like Stroman with more strikeouts and a different division (even if the Yankees have decided not to hit this year). And a double-digit uniform might help, too . . . I don't have any shares of Maeda, regretfully, but I'm curious to see how he holds up his second and third time around the league.
$9 Ian Kennedy
$9 Wei-Yin Chen
$8 Kevin Gausman
$7 J.A. Happ
$7 Julio Teheran
$7 Lance McCullers
$6 Tyler Duffey
$6 Josh Tomlin
$6 Marco Estrada
$6 Tanner Roark
$6 Adam Conley
$6 Juan Nicasio
$6 Nathan Karns
$6 Patrick Corbin
$6 Steven Wright
$5 Jimmy Nelson
$5 Aaron Sanchez
$5 Nathan Eovaldi
$5 Hisashi Iwakuma
$5 Collin McHugh
$5 Matt Moore
$5 Matt Wisler
$4 Jerad Eickhoff
$4 Matt Andriese
$3 Bartolo Colon
$3 Colby Lewis
$3 Trevor Bauer
$3 Ervin Santana
$3 A.J. Griffin
$2 Yordano Ventura
$2 Jesse Hahn
$2 Doug Fister
$2 Scott Kazmir
$2 Alex Wood
$2 Mike Leake
$2 Carlos Rodon
$2 Tyler Chatwood
$2 Adam Wainwright
$2 Dan Straily
$1 Mike Foltynewicz
$1 Mat Latos
$1 Jeremy Hellickson
$1 Jonathan Gray
$1 Justin Nicolino
$1 Wade Miley
$1 R.A. Dickey
$1 Brandon Finnegan
$1 Derek Holland
$1 Jon Niese
$1 Tom Koehler
$1 Michael Pineda
$0 Edinson Volquez
$0 C.C. Sabathia
$0 Mike Fiers
$0 John Lamb
$0 Miguel Gonzalez
$0 Yovani Gallardo
$0 Ubaldo Jimenez
$0 Anibal Sanchez
$0 Jered Weaver
$0 Phil Hughes
$0 Matt Cain
$0 Shelby Miller
$0 Kyle Gibson
$0 Jeff Locke
$0 Chase Anderson
$0 Clay Buchholz
$0 Matt Shoemaker
$0 Luis Severino
$0 Jake Peavy
$0 Wily Peralta
-$3 Mike Pelfrey
My full lineup:
SP: Clayton Kershaw ($60) - Brings a 77:4 K-to-BB ratio into this contest against Angels' starter Jered Weaver, who owns a WHIP (1.59) that's nearly as high as Kershaw's ERA (1.74)
SP: Danny Salazar ($51) - Among those with at least six starts, Salazar's 1.90 ERA is eighth-best in MLB, while opposing Reds starter Alfredo Simon (8.67) sports the league's worst - I like Salazar's chances
C: Matt Wieters ($9) - Goes against M's starter Wade Miley, who has allowed 14 hits and 11 runs over 6.1 career innings (two starts) at Camden Yards - Wieters accounted for one of those hits against Miley, that being a home run.
1B: Freddie Freeman ($17) - Hard to ignore the history card in Freeman's matchup vs. Pirates starter Juan Nicasio. In the 12 career ABs that the Braves' first baseman has logged against Nicasio, Freeman has collected six hits, and has gone deep four times
2B: Kolten Wong ($8) - Wong is riding a nice little four-game hitting streak, and he should draw the start vs. Colorado RHP Chad Bettis, who has actually pitched worse outside of Coors Field this season (4.91 ERA)
3B: Maikel Franco ($13) - Franco has produced an .838 OPS vs. LHP this season, and faces Miami southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who Franco homered against (2-for-5) in a meeting earlier this month
SS: Corey Seager ($18) - Seager is white-hot at the moment, hitting .425 with four home runs in his past 10 games - he's facing Angels RHP Jered Weaver, who has allowed the fifth-highest OPS (.925) among starters this season
OF: Matt Joyce ($9) - With Starling Marte on paternity leave, righty-killer Joyce, who homered on Monday, is a nice low-budget option as he should be back in the lineup vs. Atlanta rookie RHP Aaron Blair, who has allowed a .314 batting average to opposing left-handed bats
OF: Mallex Smith ($8) - Smith has handled RHP well (.292 batting average) and faces Pirates righty Juan Nicasio, who has had little success against lefty bats (.302 BA, .854 OPS allowed)
OF: Tyler Naquin ($7) - The rookie lefty is a cheap way to get a piece of the action against Reds starter Alfredo Simon, who has been shelled for nine home runs in just 27 IP this season - Note: If Lonnie Chisenhall returns off the Bereavement List on Tuesday, Naquin will likely be sent back down - Kelly Johnson and Michael Bourn would be decent alternative options for a $7 outfielder
Cameron Maybin spent the first six weeks of the regular season and most of his spring on the disabled list, recovering first from a fractured wrist, then a shoulder issue. Maybin finally returned to action for Detroit on Monday, starting in center and batting seventh. Like all Tigers batters, he took part in the early pummeling of Twins starter Jose Berrios (0.2 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 4 BB), then he continued to reach base against left-hander Pat Dean. When all the numbers were in — and Detroit had narrowly avoided losing a game they should have controlled — Maybin had gone 2-for-2 with a walk a stolen base and one run scored.
Not such a bad 2016 debut.
Most of you are well aware of the 29-year-old Maybin's various strengths and limitations, so we won't waste time with a full bio. We'll just remind you that Maybin has a 40-steal season on his resume (23 last season) and he's not a total liability in terms of power. He cleared the fence 10 times for Atlanta in 2015. If you're a fantasy owner seeking a speed boost, he can certainly help. Maybin is only owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment, so he's available to most of you.
Anthony Gose was optioned to Toledo when Maybin arrived, so he can't hurt us anymore.
• Sticking with that weird Minnesota-Detroit box score, you'll note that Eduardo Nunez went 2-for-5 with one RBI and his seventh steal of the season, batting second for the Twins. He raised his season slash to .333/.375/.471. Nunez carries SS/3B eligibility, so he's a useful bench piece.
• Adam Duvall homered again for Cincinnati, his fifth bomb in his last 12 games. Duvall delivered a pair of 30-homer seasons in the minors, so his power surge is no fluke. Our Rotoworld friends discussed him in greater detail over here. You shouldn't expect Duvall to hit for average, but the pop will continue.
• Marcell Ozuna extended his hitting streak to 16 games when he homered off Jerad Eickhoff in Philly. Ozuna is slashing a ridiculous .417/.435/.683 so far in May, with four homers and 10 RBIs. He remains un-owned in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• How sad are the Braves? So sad that Jon Niese struck out six Atlanta batters over six innings, allowing just two runs. NIESE! The Pittsburgh left-hander lowered his WHIP to a still-terrible 1.54. Stream against Atlanta whenever possible, you guys.
• Steve Pearce went 2-for-4 with a walk, one homer and three RBIs against the Jays on Monday, as Tampa Bay absolutely hammered J.A. Happ and friends. Pearce has gone 7-for-22 with three home runs over his last six games, and he's reaching base at a .370 clip for the season. He also carries unusual position eligibility (1B/2B/OF), which bumps his value.
• Oakland left-hander Sean Manaea was finally less awful, earning a win over Texas, allowing just four hits and one run over 6.2 innings. He's done very little to this point to inspire confidence among fantasy owners, but that guy piled up Ks in the minors (257 in 214.0 IP). He remains a name for the watch-list.
• Fernando Salas earned a save for the Angels on Monday, pitching a clean inning against the Dodgers. Joe Smith was unavailable, having pitched in three straight games. Not much to see here. No action required.
They're fighting in Texas. They're striking out in Houston and Detroit. They're getting cuffed around in St. Louis. We have much to discuss.
Rougned Odor, Carlos Gomez, Adam Wainwright and Justin Upton are some of the headliners today. Funston and Pianow are here to help.
For all intents and purposes, wide receivers Randall Cobb (42.1 ADP, WR21) and Kelvin Benjamin (31.6 ADP, WR17) were on semi-permanent vacations in 2015. The lanky Panthers target missed the entire season due to a knee injury. Meanwhile, his contemporary, like the Packers offense as a whole, did backstrokes in a statistical cesspool. Which wideout will bounce back biggest this fall? Liz Loza and Brad Evans exchange pleasantries.
Loza butters up Cobb: More melty than sharp, 2015 proved to be a year most Cheddar Heads would rather not relive. Falling from the sixth most prolific squad in 2014 to the twenty-sixth ranked offense this past year, the Packer’s found themselves uncharacteristically shredded on more than a few occasions. From Jordy Nelson’s season-long absence to Eddie Lacy’s ballooning waistline, Green Bay’s obstacles were many. Unfortunately, they also contributed to Cobb’s dip in production.
After gutting through an AC joint injury he suffered in the preseason to puncturing his lung in the divisional round of the playoffs, Cobb’s most recent campaign was cringe worthy from start to finish. Struggling to get open (in large part due to the pain) and getting zero help from the painfully inefficient Davante Adams, the former Pro-Bowler closed out the year with WR3 numbers. While the targets were there, Cobb struggled to convert, posting a 64 percent catch rate, which was the lowest of his five-year career.
Clearly, the guy’s a bum and should be considered fantasy poison, right?
He’s a young and gifted player with a defined skill set. Who, despite an underwhelming stat line, averaged 5.7 yards after the catch, which placed him among the top twenty players at the position for that statistical category. He’s just not a No. 1 wideout. So what?!? Instead, he’s the second best option on a team oft rich with points and helmed by one of the most surgical passers in the league. If he stays healthy and is asked to do his job as a high volume slot/gadget guy then he can and will deliver stats similar to those he posted in 2014.
Small and savvy, Cobb is antithetical in nearly every way to the looming and raw Benjamin. While just six months separate the two players in age, Cobb will enter his sixth professional campaign this fall, whereas Benjamin will take the field in only his second regular season. Of course, an ACL injury prematurely sidelined Benjamin from his sophomore outing, but there’s a point to be made about age and experience.
The kid’s upside is obvious, and he’s an absolute beast in the red zone. But he’s also a limited route runner who failed to convert nearly 50 percent of his targets in 2014. Additionally, Carolina is a run-first operation. The Panthers proved last year that they didn’t need Benjamin’s size to win. I’m sure they’ll be glad to have it back and I trust he’ll be fully recovered by the fall, but to pass on Cobb’s precision – especially given his discount coming off of a seemingly jinxed year – is shortsighted.
Evans reaches 373.15 degrees Kelvin: After Benjamin’s one-year siesta due to a nasty knee setback, it’s easy to forget how special his rookie campaign was in 2014. That year, the youngster made a cannonball splash notching 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine scores. His corresponding 9.7 fantasy points per game in standard formats ranked No. 20 at the position and was the 11th-best first-year effort by a WR since 2000. Considering he displayed butter hands (12 drops) and was limited by Carolina’s largely conservative offense (51:49 percent pass-to-run split), what he achieved was nothing short of remarkable.
The 25-year-old is on the fast track to return at full-speed when Panthers training camp opens in late July. Though not quite 100 percent, he has actively participated in OTAs without a setback. Assuming that upward trend continues he should operate without inhibition Week 1 versus Denver. Throw in Cam Newton’s improved efficiency (career-best 7.1 TD% and 99.2 QB rating in ’15) along with the Panthers’ likely increased vulnerability on pass D minus Josh Norman, and Benjamin is a strong candidate to match or even best his Year 1 numbers.
Cobb was absolutely rancid a season ago. Jordy Nelson’s absence combined with Green Bay’s permeable offensive line partially explain the drop off. Still, much of the blame falls on the slot man’s shoulders. He posted career worsts in dropped passes (12), catch percentage (62.1) and missed tackles forced (12). He’s better than where he finished in ’15 (WR40), but, entering his sixth season, it’s becoming more and more glaring his 2014 breakthrough was an anomaly.
Though Benjamin is going some 10-15 picks before Cobb in early drafts, Carolina's premier red-zone threat is the surer bet.
SEE ALSO: Ryan Mathews vs. C.J. Anderson
David Ortiz is 40 years old and somehow leads major league baseball with a 1.101 OPS and ranks second in RBI with 33. He’s the No. 8 ranked fantasy hitter and fell a single short of the cycle Saturday, marking the first time in his career (2,291 games played) he had a double, triple and homer in a game (and became the oldest player ever to do so). There’s little to suggest Big Papi’s hot start is a fluke, as his 46.5 Hard% is the second highest in baseball, and his 19.2 HR/FB% is right in line with his career mark (18.7). Fenway Park actually suppresses home runs for left-handed batters more than any in the American League (it’s decreased them by 30 percent over the past three seasons), but it’s a big help in batting average, and it sure is beneficial hitting in the middle of this Red Sox lineup that’s scored the most runs in baseball.
Ortiz’s 193 wRC+ is a career high and to give that perspective, the highest wRC+ by a player during an age 40 season was Willie Mays (157) in 1971. This torrid stretch dates back to last year, when Big Papi posted a .325/.401/.701 line after the All-Star break. In fact, he has 32 homers with 98 RBI over 362 at bats since then. Despite the gaudy numbers, fantasy owners (including myself) seemingly aren’t treating him as the truly elite hitter he is, as Ortiz lasted until the middle of the sixth round in our recent midseason mock draft (full results to be released this week). In trade talks, Ortiz should really be treated like a top-15 fantasy player right now and moving forward.
Quick Hits: For someone who hits a ton of groundballs, it’s pretty crazy Christian Yelich leads MLB in “average true distance” during his five home runs this season (432.2 feet). Conversely, Dustin Pedroia ranks last in the category (358.2 feet)...Over his past 76.0 innings, Scott Kazmir has allowed 19 home runs, which is especially remarkable considering that’s come while pitching for the A’s and the Dodgers...Michael Pineda, meanwhile, has upped the ante, as he’s served up nine long balls over 27.2 innings at home this season. Since the start of last year, he’s given up a whopping 25 homers over 117.1 innings at Yankee Stadium. Pineda has also yet to induce a single pop up this season...Teammate Luis Severino has the third highest average fastball velocity (95.4 mph), yet his SwStr% (7.5) is bottom-15 in MLB...This right cross delivered by Rougned Odor is no joke...Tyler Duffey has quietly produced a 23:5 K:BB ratio over 24.1 innings through four starts, with a 1.85 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Wins may be tough to come by pitching for the Twins, but he’s intriguing and is owned in just 11% of Yahoo leagues.
Headlines of the Week: Woman Falls Over At Home And Regains Sight After 20 Years Of Blindness...Baby Born With 31 Fingers And Toes In China...Man Shoots Self But Doesn’t Realize It Until 3 Days Later...This Burger King Has A Full-Service Sauna Inside...Woman Follows GPS; Ends Up In Ontario Lake.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Freddie Freeman has a healthy .277/.377/.462 line yet is on pace to score just 68 runs and record 45 RBI with 27 homers thanks to an unfathomably bad offense around him. In fact, the Braves have hit nine homers this season, a mere 46 fewer than the Orioles. The next lowest team is the Phillies with 29 bombs...While Baltimore leads MLB in long balls, they are 5-of-10 on stolen base attempts this year...Noah Syndergaard, meanwhile, has allowed base runners to go 14-of-16 on SB attempts...Here’s my latest MLB Stock Watch column in case you missed it...Here’s Johnny Cueto swinging like Happy Gilmore...Erasmo Ramirez is owned in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues despite being the No. 8 ranked player so far, as fantasy owners rightfully see the fluky nature of relief wins. He’s on pace to record 28 wins this year in 139.2 innings...Drew Smyly owns the second-best K-BB% (25.4) among all starters in baseball.
Police Blotter: Man Kills Brother In Argument Over Cheeseburger, Police Say...Naked Oklahoma Man Explained That He Went Cuckoo Due To “Coco Puffs”...World’s Dumbest Vandal Arrested For Spray Painting “CHEETER” On Ex-Girlfriend’s Car...Guy Busted With DUI In Stolen Ambulance...Man Pulls Two Bags Of Pot From Underwear In Front Of Courtroom (the transcript here is gold).
Longread of the Week: Should Prostitution Be A Crime?
Bonus Longread of the Week: The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball
Quick Hits Part Tres: A.J. Ramos is having a weird year, as he somehow has a 1.13 ERA and is a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities despite walking 11 batters in 16.0 innings...This was a neat base running trick...This Ender Inciarte fake out resulted in a double play...Jered Weaver became the first pitcher this season to get through the first nine hitters in the Cardinals lineup in order Thursday. He proceeded to give up eight earned runs before getting knocked out of the game over the next three innings...Rubby De La Rosa owns a 45:15 K:BB ratio over 43.1 innings to go along with a 1.06 WHIP and a 1.83 GB/FB ratio. He has an average fastball velocity of 94.6 mph. This breakout sure looks real...Tony Cingrani and Sam Dyson are seemingly now closing and might very well be available in your league...Jeremy Hellickson’s 24.9 K% ranks top-25 and his 12.3 SwStr% ranks top-15 among starters in MLB, yet he’s owned in just 13% of Yahoo leagues. Go pick him up.
Before finalizing your lineups, be sure to check the game-time weather conditions. Let's take a crack at the Monday slate...
P Kenta Maeda, LAD, $46 (vs. LAA) – Maeda has been mostly brilliant, posting a 1.02 WHIP with a swinging-strike percentage of 12.1. The Angels' lineup at this stage is basically Mike Trout and eight outs, so I like the matchup.
P J.A. Happ, Tor, $46 (vs. TB) – Tampa Bay ranks last in the A.L. in runs and next-to-last in team OBP. Happ hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start this season, and he's given up just one run in 15.2 innings so far this month.
C Tyler Flowers, Atl, $7 (Niese) – Here's a nice matchup at a position-punting price. Niese has been crushed by right-handed batters this season: 8 HR, 15 XBH, .309 AVG, .928 OPS.
1B Carlos Santana, Cle, $17 (Lamb) – Good things often happen when Santana gets to face a left-handed pitcher: career .276/.385/.440.
2B Starlin Castro, NYY, $14 (Ray) – Castro gets a handedness edge here, as he's a career .296/.344/.418 hitter vs. LHPs. Ray has allowed a career .364 OBP to right-handed batters. Castro is 2-for-2 against him, for what it's worth.
3B Adrian Beltre, Tex, $18 (Manaea) – Manaea's first three starts have not gone well (2.05 WHIP), and RHBs are really drilling him (18-for-41, 4 HR). So I'm happy to roll with Beltre, a man who's hit .293/.366/.492 for his career vs. left-handers.
SS Elvis Andrus, Tex, $12 (Manaea) – Another right-handed bat against Manaea. Check Elvis' career and season numbers against LHPs for additional details.
OF Marcell Ozuna, Mia, $17 (Eickhoff) – Ozuna is pretty much Earth's hottest hitter at the moment. He's put together a 15-game hitting streak, with multiple hits in eight of his last 12.
OF Lorenzo Cain, KC, $18 (Porcello) – Cain has been a machine lately, slashing .358/.404/.547 for the month. He has a decent history against Porcello, too (5-for-13).
OF Paulo Orlando, KC, $7 (Porcello) – Orlando has received regular playing time lately, mostly at the expense of Jarrod Dyson, and he's keeping his average north of .300. He consistently swiped 20-plus bags in the minors with modest power.
Dalton Del Don
SP Rubby De La Rosa, $38, vs. San Francisco
SP Danny Duffy, $30, vs. Atlanta
C Brian McCann, $14, vs. CWS (Gonzalez)
1B Paul Goldschmidt, $21, vs. San Francisco (Cain)
2B Scooter Gennett, $12, vs. San Diego (Vargas)
3B Josh Donaldson, $24, at Texas (Ramos)
SS Troy Tulowitzki, $9, at Texas (Ramos)
OF Nelson Cruz, $19, vs. LAA (Santiago)
OF Carlos Beltran, $16, vs. CWS (Gonzalez)
OF Brock Holt, $13, vs. Houston (Devenski)
I mixed it up and spent far less than usual on pitching, as De La Rosa has quietly been effective this season (9.33 K/9, 1.12 WHIP), and I wanted to fade Matt Cain (went with Paul Goldschmidt as well)...Duffy likely won’t go more than 5-6 innings during his first start of the year, but it’s rare you can back a pitcher for $30 whose team is the biggest favorite on the board (-190)...Donaldson, Tulowitzki and Cruz are all facing lefties, while Holt continues to be undervalued (the over/under in that game is 11).
SP Kevin Gausman, $39, vs. Detroit
SP Danny Duffy, $30, vs. Atlanta
C Steven Vogt, $8, at TB (Moore)
1B Hanley Ramirez, $18, vs. Hou (Devenski)
2B Dustin Pedroia, $18, vs. Houston (Devenski)
3B Josh Donaldson, $24, at Texas (Ramos)
SS Didi Gregorius, $10, vs. Chicago (Gonzalez)
OF Jackie Bradley, $21, vs. Houston (Devenski)
OF Jose Bautista, $18, at Texas (Ramos)
OF Brock Holt, $13, vs. Houston (Devenski)
Went with cheaper pitchers so I could get two stacks I wanted — the Red Sox at home against a pitcher with a short resume, and two major Blue Jays against a lefty. Such a strategy forced me to go punt at catcher and shortstop, which I was willing to do. My secondary lineup will have De La Rosa, like D3; it looks like De La Rosa is finally figuring out how to retire lefty batters, the only hurdle to a major breakout season.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: Over the last nine games, he’s hit .514 with five homers, nine runs scored and 17 RBI, as there isn’t a hotter hitter in all of baseball. Bradley’s high strikeout rate suggests his batting average is eventually going to come crashing down, but he hit 10 home runs in just 221 at bats last season, so the power seems real. He’s 26 years old so he’s just now entering his prime, and Bradley’s strong defense should keep him in the lineup even during the inevitable slump. He recently moved to No. 2 in Boston’s lineup, which is especially beneficial considering the team has scored the most runs in MLB. Bradley could go down as the best waiver wire add in 2016.
Jeff Samardzija: After giving up the most earned runs among all starters in baseball last season, many expected a bounce back in 2016, and so far it couldn’t have gone better. Moving from a hitter’s park in the American League to a pitcher’s venue in the N.L. West, Samardzija has benefitted greatly, as he currently sports a 2.88 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with a 47:13 K:BB ratio over 56.1 innings. His four-seam fastball velocity is a bit down (albeit still strong), but he’s throwing his cutter more than ever, and the results have been a career-high groundball rate (1.77 GB/FB). It helps that the Giants field a plus defensive infield, and Samardzija also owns a healthy 10.1 SwStr%. He sure looks like a top-25 fantasy starter moving forward.
Marcell Ozuna: He entered April 30 with a .654 OPS and has raised that mark 198 points in a dozen games since, a span in which he’s clubbed four homers. After posting a 1.56 GB/FB ratio last year, he’s recorded a 1.08 mark in 2016, and more fly balls should continue to result in more home runs. Ozuna is still just 25 years old, so plenty of potential remains. And for those who play DFS take note - he’s destroying left-handers this season (.391/.417/.870).
Ben Zobrist: He’s a 35-year-old middle infielder who entered the season seemingly in decline, but Zobrist has been terrific so far in 2016, posting a .310/.434/.487 line with 26 walks and 15 strikeouts. Batting either third or fifth for a Cubs team that’s scored the second most runs in baseball, he’s on pace to finish with a .310-129-24-133-5 line. Zobrist has been a top-25 fantasy player to date, and while he’s not going to keep this pace, he also doesn’t particularly feel like a sell high candidate. Fantasy owners should enjoy the steal they got at their draft over the rest of the year.
Lance McCullers: He got beat up during his first start back from the disabled list, but the key is he appears to be healthy and fully recovered from his shoulder woes. McCullers averaged a solid 93.6 mph with his fastball during his 2016 debut, and a poor start can easily be forgiven in Fenway Park. The 22-year-old posted a 3.22 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with 129 strikeouts over 125.2 innings last season as a rookie, and he’s somehow still available in more than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Yaisel Puig: He homered Friday, which is hopefully the end of what has been a brutal slump. In fact, over his past 94 at bats (including Friday’s long ball), Puig has hit .181/.189/.309 with a 24:1 K:BB ratio (he drew five walks over his first 26 ABs this season). Puig’s IFFB% (24.4) is the second highest in MLB, and his Swing% (56.8) ranks No. 4, so the plate discipline has all but vanished. Puig still frequently makes highlight worthy throws on defense, and he remains capable of much more at the plate, but so far he’s been a major disappointment. Here are his wRC+ marks over his four-year career, respectively: 160, 147, 111, 85. That’s a troubling trend, especially for someone who’s still just 25 years old.
Sonny Gray: With a 6.00 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP, Gray has been one of the bigger busts so far in 2016. It hasn’t been just bad luck either, as he’s accompanied that with a poor 34:18 K:BB ratio. Gray’s 8.2 SwStr% is a career low, and while his fastball velocity is a bit down, the big worry is his usual dominant curveball has been anything but.
Yordano Ventura: He recorded a 3.56 ERA with 98 strikeouts over 91.0 innings after the All-Star break last year, and at age 25, now is the time Ventura should be fully breaking out. Instead, he’s sitting with a 4.62 ERA and an unsightly 1.57 WHIP to go along with an ugly 26:28 K:BB ratio over 37.0 innings this season. His average fastball velocity has declined every year he’s been in the league (97.5, 97.0, 96.4, 94.4), with the latest being especially worrisome since it’s a full 2.0 mph less than last season. It’s pretty eye opening Ventura’s 4.62 ERA is accompanied by a .236 BABIP.
Michael Brantley: What a disaster for those who not only spent a mid-round pick on him but also occupied a roster spot holding onto him since. Brantley hit .213/.279/.282 with just one steal over 39 at bats before his shoulder started hurting again, landing him back on the disabled list. The Indians should give him extended rest to make sure he’s close to 100 percent when he returns next time.
Prince Fielder: Through 134 at bats, Fielder sits at .194/.255/.291 this season, as he’s been a huge bust. His .220 BABIP is surely unlucky, but it’s also come with his lowest Hard% (25.5) and his second highest Soft% (19.1) of his career. Fielder’s wRC+ (40) is the sixth lowest in major league baseball. He’s 32 years old, so it’s unlikely he’s suddenly done, but it’s been a rough start to 2016 for the slugger. Still, there’s too long of a track record not to expect a rebound soon, so Fielder is someone to target if his owner in your league is getting impatient.
P Aaron Nola, Phi, $44 (vs. Cin)
P Stephen Strasburg, Was, $57 (vs. Mia)
C Chris Iannetta, Sea, $12 (J. Chacin)
1B Adrian Gonzalez, LAD, $12 (C. Martinez)
2B Jonathan Schoop, Bal, $11 (An. Sanchez)
3B Cheslor Cuthbert, KC, $10 (M. Foltynewicz)
SS Alexei Ramirez, SD, $11 (W. Peralta)
OF Nelson Cruz, Sea, $19 (J. Chacin)
OF Alex Presley, Mil, $7 (A. Cashner)
OF Nomar Mazara, Tex, $16 (M. Estrada)
P Stephen Strasburg, Was, $57 (vs. Mia)
P Hisashi Iwakuma, Sea, $39 (vs. LAA)
C Stephen Vogt, Oak, $12 (M. Andriese)
1B Victor Martinez, Det, $16 (M. Wright)
2B DJ LeMahieu, Col, $16 (L. Verrett)
3B Maikel Franco, Phi, $13 (T. Adleman)
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Tor, $13 (C. Lewis)
OF Hunter Pence, SF, $19 (P. Corbin)
OF Nori Aoki, Sea, $12 (J. Chacin)
OF Kelly Johnson, Atl, $7 (D. Gee)
Andy Behrens and Dalton Del Don open by talking a little postseason NBA but quickly transition to baseball, where they discuss the latest rough outing by Dallas Keuchel. The duo then go over a midseason mock draft currently taking place and why Jose Altuve is now clearly a top-five pick. We also highlight all the hottest waiver wire adds in the latest edition of the Yahoo Fantasy Freak show podcast.
With just one day game, I’m going to concentrate on Friday’s later slate.
My full lineup:
SP: Edinson Volquez $39
SP: Jake Odorizzi $39
C: Russell Martin $8
1B: Brandon Belt $22
2B: Scooter Gennett $9
3B: Matt Duffy $15
SS: Troy Tulowitzki $13
OF: Bryce Harper $24
OF: Jay Bruce $14
OF: Marcell Ozuna $16
Volquez has a 1.37 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP with a 27:5 K:BB ratio over 26.1 innings at home this season and faces a Braves offense that’s scored the fewest runs in major league baseball. The Royals are the biggest favorites on the board Friday (-178), yet there are a dozen pitchers more expensive than Volquez...Odorizzi comes at a similar discount for someone who’s been dominant at home this year (1.09 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 23:6 K:BB ratio over 24.2 innings).
Martin has been horrendous but that’s why he’s now at a bargain basement price. He gets a lefty Friday and should be in the lineup after the Blue Jays had an off day Thursday...Belt quietly has posted a .311/.440/.521 line this season with six more walks than strikeouts. He and Duffy get the benefit of Chase Field and a pitcher in Shelby Miller who’s allowed 24 runs over 29.1 innings in 2016.
Gennett has a .905 OPS, but he’s not priced as such because he recently spent time on the DL...Tulowitzki has been terrible, but it’s tough not going with him at this price, especially against a southpaw (he had a .940 OPS against them last year)...Not going with an ace allowed me to fit Harper into my lineup (make sure his suspension doesn't kick in), while Bruce has slugged .541 against right-handed pitchers this season and faces Jeremy Hellickson, who’s served up nine long balls over 36.2 innings...Ozuna has raised his OPS 198 points since April 30 and has hit .381/.381/.905 against lefties this season.
Good luck with your contests Friday.
Score one for Dustin Pedroia, pitching coach. Boston’s veteran middle infielder spotted a minor and correctable flaw in David Price’s mechanics last week, and the fix was a smash in Thursday’s romp over Houston. Price worked into the seventh inning, allowed just six hits and one walk, gave up run, struck out 12. Take another big name off the restricted list. There’s not much to talk about here. Price still has to deal with a tricky park and division, but we’ll sign off on him going forward.
Dallas Keuchel, you ask? Ah, that’s the rub. Keuchel was a mess once again, and he’s one of the trickier calls on the current pitcher board.
Keuchel’s Crooked Number Tour continued at Fenway (6 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 2 HR), pushing his ERA to 5.58 and his WHIP to 1.60. His fastball velocity has dropped 1.5 mph from last year, and he’s had minor leakage with his ground-ball rate (slightly down) and home-run rate (slightly up). Keuchel’s walk rate is perhaps the most troubling; last year it was under two per nine innings, but this year it’s almost to four.
Keuchel’s allowing a .349 hit rate on balls in play, as batters as hitting the ball much harder against him than they did last year. The ERA estimators suggest he’s been a little unlucky, but not grossly so: a 4.04 FIP or a 3.77 xFIP wouldn’t match what you expected in March.
You want to give Boston’s hitters some credit for Thursday’s big number — the Red Sox have the best offense in the game right now — but not all of Keuchel’s 2016 struggles can be written off so easily. The Rangers got him for six runs in Arlington, okay, that makes sense. Getting kicked around by the Twins and Mariners, that’s not so easily explained. Perhaps more home cooking will be a salve for Keuchel going forward — he was just about untouchable at the Juice Box last year, and he still has a reasonable 3.26 ERA in Houston this season. The five road starts have been the major problem (7.04/1.73, 15 walks against 27 strikeouts).
Keuchel pitches at the White Sox next week, a turn I’d suggest you avoid. After that, I’ll tentatively put him on the mound for a home start against Baltimore. He’s still one of the smartest pitchers around, a terrific fielder, a lefty with a heavy ground-ball profile. There are still logical reasons to expect a notable return. But I’d like a prove-it start before I become more committed to the story.
• Whatever J.A. Happ is having for breakfast these days, pour me a bowl of it, too. Happ has a snappy five victorires in his last six starts, the latest an 8.2 inning bagel parade at San Francisco (6 H, 3 BB, 5 K). The ERA is down to 2.05, the WHIP trimmed to 1.16.
We saw two Happs in 2015, a meatball machine in Seattle (4.64/1.41) and an 11-start wizard in Pittsburgh (1.86/1.03). Is Ray Searage that incredible as a pitching whisperer? Is Francisco Cervelli that unreal as a pitch framer? Does PNC Park help pitchers that much? How much of it can be traced to the NL life, where the pitchers give away outs and most teams don’t try for the big inning?
Happ had nowhere to hide when he signed with Toronto the offseason, but so far, so good. It’s been mostly a pitch-to-contact story, with a K rate under six and a friendly .277 BABIP. The ground-ball rate is nothing special. The homer clip is an eyelash under normal levels, but not something that’s screaming out “correction.”
Happ’s hard-hit rate is at a five-year low, so let’s give him some credit for that. He’s nudged his swinging strike up a bit. Working with Russell Martin doesn’t hurt, another excellent stealer of strikes behind the plate.
At this point, Happ looks like an automatic punch, no matter the opponent. Tampa Bay and Minnesota wait on the schedule, two teams you want to attack.
• Variance has been the name of the James Shields game in 2016, but the arrow was pointing up Thursday at Milwaukee. Shields didn’t allow a run over seven innings (7 H, 0 BB), and his nine strikeouts were a seasonal high. He’s taken the ERA down to 3.12, a tidy number.
And maybe that’s a sellable number, too. Shields has the cushy ERA despite a 1.31 WHIP and a K/BB rate that’s barely over two (when ERA and WHIP tell a different story, I tend to trust the WHIP). Between his current ERA and last year’s 216 strikeouts, some of you might be able to cash in on a little overinflated name value.
Let’s look at some of the other key indicators. The strikeout rate has tumbled from last year, strand rate has been fortunate, FIP and xFIP both suggest an ERA over four. Shields has also lost a full mph off his fastball. It’s not that I’m calling for an outright collapse, but I’d rather be early than late to the story, and Shields is in the middle of an age-34 season. Tell the other guys you want to “move a pitcher,” see if they pick out Shields’s name. This could be your window.
• Mallex Smith needs to show something quickly if he’s going to stick in Atlanta, and perhaps he’s starting to do just that. Smith has steals in his last two games, and is on a reasonable 10-for-30 binge over last last nine starts. The Braves are giving Smith plenty of freedom on the bases — he’s swiped six thus far, been caught four times.
The only immediate killjoy to the story is a weekend set at Kansas City: the Royals have cut down 12-of-22 attempting to steal, the best rate in the league. But there are many good draws down the road for Smith, especially in the NL; the Phillies, Cubs and Mets are in the bottom six in steal percentage allowed. Oh, if only Smith could run against his own team, too (thieves are 26-for-32 against Atlanta).
Smith is unowned in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues. I’ll be watching him closely for the next few days. Rabbit, run.
The Buzz: After the Dallas Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick, the fantasy community became instantly divided. Zeke zealots contend he's a legitimate first-round pick, a presumed high-volume rusher placed in an ideal situation. Naysayers, however, argue he's an unproven product destined to ruin your fake franchise as a committee rusher. Yours truly, like most industry folks, unequivocally sides with the former group.
Why sinking a first-rounder in the rookie isn't Looney Tunes
A particular set of skills. Liam Neeson would have a hard time disposing of Elliott. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the No. 2 ranked FBS back in pass-blocking last season. He also gained 57.4 percent of his yards after initial contact, forced a missed tackle on 18.7 percent of his totes and caught 92.9 percent of targeted passes. The youngster is powerful, patient and versatile, a legit three-down workhorse in an age dominated by timeshares. His lone weakness: falling victim to 'bed selfies.' That's it. It's no wonder why some NFL scouts believe he's the most complete rusher to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.
Projected volume. Skittish investors believe Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will challenge the youngster for touches. However, that perspective couldn't be further from the truth. Jerry Jones didn't spend the FOURTH OVERALL PICK on a committee back. The leathery GM said after the Draft a RB of Elliott's talents "doesn't need a year or two of acclimation," adding, the rookie "will hit the ground running." If you think he will be eased in, you're not thinking. He was handpicked to help alleviate pressure on Jones' brittle QB, Tony Romo, and keep the Dallas defense fresh. Bank on at least 17-20 touches per game starting Week 1.
Offensive environment. In fantasy terms, landing in Dallas is a verifiable jackpot. The offensive line is comprised of beefy dudes pizza buffet operators fear. When they show up famished at your door, be prepared to churn out meat-layered pies. Whether looking at PFF or Football Outsiders' metrics, Big D's man movers ranked top-five in run-blocking last year. Toss in the Romo-to-Dez Bryant connection and Elliott is sure to see plentiful wide holes.
Strength of schedule. Defensive turnover is commonplace in the NFL on a year-in, year-out basis. Though many teams have made personnel/coaching changes to reignite their units, several remain works in progress. With that in mind, Dallas boasts the fourth-easiest fantasy RB schedule as tabulated by FF Toolbox. Equally promising, the Cowboys are slated to face the Giants (7th-most fantasy points allowed to RBs in '15), Bucs (19th) and Lions (13th) during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16). From start to finish, Elliott, provided he stays healthy, is likely to be a championship roster cornerstone.
Bottom Line: It's virtually impossible not to like Elliott. Naturally those who fly the #TeamRaisins flag will express their fears of the unknown, but 18 first-year running backs have finished inside the RB top-12 since 2000. Spectacular showings during a rusher's inaugural campaign are far from atypical.
In Dallas, a fantasy star is about to be born. Zeke is a unique talent thrust into a nourishing environment. Expectations should be high. It's not hyperbole he finishes atop the RB ranks come year's end. On my big board, only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell rank above him. He's that good folks. My fearless forecast: 266 carries, 1,173 rushing yards, 47 receptions, 463 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns. And that might be conservative.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise.
My full lineup, which is an exercise in building an offense on an extreme budget:
SP: Clayton Kershaw ($58) - A man that needs no introduction/explanantion.
SP: Vince Velasquez ($49) - Velasquez is coming off his shakiest outing of the year (4 ER, 6 IP @ MIA), but he's still holding opponents to just a .188 batting average, and he'll be facing the league's worst offense (by far) in the Atlanta Braves.
C: Christian Vazquez ($8) - Just looking for a warm body here - Vazquez is coming off a three-hit game and will face Houston LHP Dallas Kuechel, who has been a disaster on the road (5.84 ERA, 1.62 WHIP).
1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($12) - Nice price on Gonzalez considering that he's owned Bartolo Colon in his career (11-for-24, 2 HR). Gonzo comes into the game with four hits in his past seven ABs.
2B: Kolten Wong ($8) - Wong has been pretty terrible this season, but we know he's a player with some pop/speed upside that should be in the lineup against a RHP (Jered Weaver) that is allowing the sixth-highest BA (.309) to opposing hitters this season.
3B: Aaron Hill ($14) - Hill is hitting .405 with 10 RBI in 11 May games, and he's homered an average of roughly once every 10 ABs in his career vs. San Diego RHP James Shields (4 HRs in 42 ABs, 1.005 OPS)
SS: Jose Iglesias ($9) - Hit his first home run of the season on Wednesday and is facing Baltimore RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, who Iglesias has collected three hits (including a HR) in the four career ABs against him.
OF: Lorenzo Cain ($13) - Has delivered multiple hits in six of 10 May games, including a HR hat trick on Tuesday to open the series against the Yankees.
OF: Adam Jones ($13) - Jones has a hit in four straight games, and a home run in each of his past two contests. And he'll face Detroit RHP Mike Pelfrey, who has been just about the most hittable starter in MLB, to this point - his .355 Batting Average Against is second-worst to only Wily Peralta (.372) among pitchers with at least 20 IP.
OF: Yasmany Tomas ($13) - Is hitting .478 in 23 ABs this month and had a home run the only time he's faced Johnny Cueto in his career (1-for-3).
I try not to lead this column with stupendous feats done by the universally owned, but sometimes you can’t avoid it.
Hey, Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers. Go add Max Scherzer!
Scherzer’s the fourth member of the 20-strikeout club (Roger Clemens did it twice; Kerry Wood — in the best game I’ve ever seen pitched — and Randy Johnson did it once). Scherzer didn’t walk anyone, and he got to 20 strikeouts in the midst of a competitive, stressful 3-2 victory. No cruise control in this one.
It hasn’t been the quickest start for Scherzer: 4.15 ERA, 1.17 WHIP. Most of the under-the-hood stuff will defend him. His strikeout rate is the highest it’s ever been, and his fastball velocity is basically unchanged from last year. His swinging-strike rate is down a spec, but still elite. He’s been bitten by the home-run ball (20.4 percent of his fly balls have left the park), which can be bad luck, bad location, bad sequencing — take your pick. I think most will agree, there’s nothing to worry about here. Scherzer seems fine, approved for ace usage the rest of the year.
We should talk a little bit about the team Mad Max mowed down, the Tigers. Detroit’s been a disappointment as we hit the middle of May, ranking 17th in both runs scored and weighted on-base average. If you want strikeouts, it’s a good team to attack — Detroit ranks fourth in strikeout rate. It’s a shame the Tigers don’t have more left-handed presence in the lineup — other than switch-hitter Victor Martinez, there isn’t much here.
Perhaps this will comfort you if you need a Baltimore pitcher for the upcoming four-game set against Detroit. Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Mike Wright (no), and Kevin Gausman are lined up at Camden Yards. Tillman (59 percent) and Gausman (28 percent) are curiously underowned in Yahoo leagues.
• Drew Pomeranz picked the wrong day to throw a gem at the Cubs — all the action's on the other side of the mall. Pomeranz scattered six baserunners over six scoreless innings at Wrigley Field, rolling up 10 strikeouts. He’s now carrying a 1.80 and 1.08 WHIP. His strikeout rate is an eyelash higher than Scherzer’s.
It’s a shame Pomeranz had to waste three years of his pro career in Colorado. Big things were expected when he went fifth overall in the loaded 2010 Draft, but Coors Field chews pitchers up and spits them out. Pomeranz got things under control in Oakland the last two years, sometimes as a starter and sometimes as a reliever, and he’s been nails for the Padres this season.
Pomeranz is long-gone in the competitive pools (though you can still add him in 37 percent of leagues, oddly). There are only two things that concern me going forward: his nagging walk problem (4.3/9) and the logical expectation that he won’t pitch a full season.
Pomeranz has never gone past 96.2 innings in a MLB campaign, and even if you add minor-league work to the mix, his seasonal high is a modest 143.1 innings. The Padres aren’t expected to contend in 2016. I suspect Pomeranz will be a five-month story for us, not a six-month story. But the way he’s pitching now, I don’t even care. Found money is found money.
Pomeranz’s next two starts are a home-and-home with San Francisco, matching up with Johnny Cueto. Sounds like appointment viewing to me.
• If you’re someone who likes to stash-and-hope with highly-touted pitching prospects, Andy Behrens posted something of interest Wednesday. The Pirates have a couple of highly-touted future aces, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, coming soon to a ballpark near you. The timing for adding these guys will greatly vary from league to league — in some leagues you need to act now, in some pools you can wait for recall, in other leagues you can audit a start or two. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, another much-ballyhooed future ace is struggling in Harrisburg, PA. Washington right-hander Lucas Giolito currently has a 4.74 ERA and 1.74 WHIP, toiling in the Double-A Eastern League. His eight starts last year at this level weren’t much better.
Giolito entered the season as a Top 10 prospect on everyone’s clipboard. He turns 22 in mid-July, so he has plenty of time to get things together. Maybe he’s bored in the minors, maybe he’s working on stuff. It’s not uncommon for high-ceiling prospects to have an occasional malaise in the minors. The bottom line is this: if you want to punch a pitching lottery ticket right this second (thinking only about one-and-done leagues), your money goes further in Pittsburgh.
Tolleson’s usage has led to 11 saves this far, though his other numbers are a mess (5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP). He struck out better than a batter per inning last year, but he’s down to 6.8/9 this year. Line drives and home runs are up, too.
Dyson is also pitching to contact, though that’s acceptable when you have a ground ball rate just under 67 percent. His 2.12 ERA isn’t completely supported by the secondary numbers (and his xFIP is just about identical to Tolleson’s), but nonetheless, let’s be aware of the situation.
Tolleson needed a day off Wednesday, which led to Dyson getting a rogue save against Chicago (10 pitches, one strikeout, clean inning). Dyson is available for pickup in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• The Rangers offense is going to be crowded when Shin-Soo Choo comes back, but Ian Desmond probably has nothing to worry about. Desmond’s critics had a field day when he slumped for the first ten games of the year, but check what Desmond has done since: .330-22-4-19-5. He’s getting on base 40 percent of the time, slugging .591.
Yes, it’s a cherry-picked sample, but just remember Desmond is still a pretty good offensive player. He’s not going anywhere.
• Given my 01824 roots, I’m thrilled to see the Boston lineup crushing everything in its path lately. The Red Sox piled on 13 more runs Wednesday, sweeping the Athletics out of town. Boston scored 40 runs in the series. Party on Lansdowne Street.
Rick Porcello picked up his sixth win, while Jackie Bradley (two homers, six RBI) continues to look legit. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Travis Shaw, who’s slashing .323/.391/.540 and stole his third base Wednesday. Boston’s the highest-scoring team in the American League, and tied with the Cubs overall. The catchers might not hit in The Hub, but every other piece of this offense looks like a blast.
As of this writing, the Pittsburgh Pirates trail first-place Chicago by eight games in the N.L. Central. The division is probably a lost cause, because the Cubs are clearly the most powerful collection of humans ever assembled for a common purpose. But a postseason berth is very much in play for Pittsburgh, as the Bucs are only 1.5 games out of a wild card spot.
We mention the Pirates' playoff positioning not because anyone around here has a rooting interest in the team, but because some of us have fantasy investments in two of the club's top prospects, right-handed starters Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Both pitchers entered the year ranked among baseball's top minor league arms according to pretty much every source for such ranks. Here's how the duo has performed this season at Triple-A Indianapolis:
Glasnow – 6 G, 33.0 IP, 13 BB, 48 Ks, 1.64 ERA, 1.77 FIP, 1.03 WHIP
Taillon – 6 G, 37.1 IP, 4 BB, 32 Ks, 1.69 ERA, 2.14 FIP, 0.78 WHIP
Badasses, basically. Both of them. It probably won't surprise you to learn that Glasnow leads his level in strikeouts and in K-percentage (37.5). He and Taillon have been ridiculous. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's big league rotation currently includes this pair of sketchy left-handed veterans:
Jonathon Niese – 7 G, 40.0 IP, 15 BB, 29 Ks, 5.63 ERA, 6.24 FIP, 1.60 WHIP
Jeff Locke – 6 G, 32.2 IP, 19 BB, 22 Ks, 4.68 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 1.68 WHIP
Without question, the two prospects have been facing a very different level of competition than the vets, so it's not fair to make a direct stat-for-stat comparison. Also, the Bucs have won six games and lost seven with Locke and Niese on the hill — not good, yet not completely disastrous. Almost tolerable.
Still, it remains awfully tough to believe that Glasnow — a 6-foot-8 flamethrower with knee-buckling curve — wouldn't be a substantial upgrade over a low-velo starter with a WHIP north of 1.60. Taillon is two years older than Glasnow, but he was sidelined by health issues in 2014 (Tommy John) and 2015 (hernia surgery). He, too, has excellent fastball velocity, as well as MLB-ready secondary pitches and stellar control. It's entirely possible that Taillon could be the first of these two elite prospects to arrive in the bigs, though workload and stamina are concerns following the long layoff. In any case, both of these guys can very clearly help the cause of a team that's lurking just outside the postseason picture.
So why, exactly, are they still pitching in Indy? When will Taillon and Glasnow arrive in the majors?
As most of you know, the answer has only a little to do with player development and readiness, and a lot to do with service time, dollars, arbitration and other weeds into which we're not gonna wander. Here's a link to an explanation of the super-two rules, if you're interested. For business-of-baseball reasons (rather than on-field reasons), it's likely we won't see these guys for a month, probably not until mid-to-late-June. And this happens every year, somewhere. It's more a baseball problem than a Pirates problem; we're not here to assign blame.
Instead, our very simple purpose today is to issue a last call on these guys for fantasy purposes. Glasnow is still available in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues; Taillon is un-owned in 95 percent. One or both will be pitching for Pittsburgh very soon, and they will be fantasy relevant. It's tough to imagine Glasnow not delivering a K per inning in the N.L., along with useful ratios. Glasnow struck out 136 batters in 109.1 innings last season, 157 in 124.1 frames the year before, 164 in 111.1 inn—
Well, you get it. He's dominant. Taillon, too. You want 'em. Get 'em now, while they're cheap.
I suppose an easy lede would be Lorenzo Cain, after his stunning three-homer game in The Bronx. Alas, Cain is essentially a universally-owned player. It’s not like you can go out and add Lorenzo Cain in any competitive league. His bustout game does not present an actionable opportunity.
But you can add Aaron Hill in Yahoo pools. And Hill, even more shockingly, has a three-homer game we can talk about.
Hill reached the seats three times in Saturday’s win at Cincinnati, and he had another big showing Tuesday at Miami (three hits, two doubles, two RBIs). After a dreadful start, he’s hiked his seasonal slash up to .265/.312/.429. That might not sound like a lot, but he has a 1.301 OPS in May. What he’s done is erase a dreadful April start.
Hill turned 34 in March. He qualifies at second and third base in the Yahoo game. If you look back far enough, you find productive seasons. He was an All-Star with Toronto in 2009, when he conked 36 homers. He went deep 26 times as recently as 2012. The Brewers have a thin roster — they have to play Hill at the moment.
Hill's line-drive and hard-hit rates have pushed up this season, positive signs. He's also walking a little bit more, and he's pulling the ball more than ever. If you rank all the 2B-eligible players over the last two weeks, he checks in at No. 6.
Sounds like someone who should be owned in more than eight percent of Yahoo leagues. Take a look in your deeper formats. Hill is the most-added offensive player in our game over the last day, but there's plenty more room for others to jump on board.
• There’s no reason to rehash the awful 17 games Byron Buxton showed at Minnesota this year. The more important angle is to recognize that he’s only 22, he has a pedigree from here to the moon, and he’s started to rebuild his confidence in Triple-A.
Although Buxton is still whiffing about once a game at Rochester, he’s nonetheless off to a .299/.356/.522 push there. He’s homered three times, stolen a base, drawn six walks. Sometimes a quick minor-league tune up is just what a young, talented prospect needs — think Kolten Wong two years ago, or Rougned Odor last season. Buxton will probably be back with the Twins this year, and I’ll want to chase the upside in a league or two, see if anything pops. He's waiting for your stash in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• The numbers aren’t obvious yet, but Rubby De La Rosa could be in the midst of a breakthrough season. The time to add could be right now.
De La Rosa has been excellent in three of his last four starts, including Tuesday’s turn at Colorado, of all places (7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K). His seasonal ERA is down to 3.93, he’s striking out over a batter per inning, he’s taken his walks down to 2.7/9.
De La Rosa’s key improvement in 2016 is a path towards getting left-handed batters out. Last year De La Rosa was tattooed in the platoon disadvantage, giving up a .315/.382/.567 slash. This year, lefties have a mere .200/.294/.317 line against him. A huge part of this turnaround is the development of De La Rosa’s slider, which has turned into a wipe-out pitch. He's also getting better mileage from his change, though he's throwing it a lot less.
His ownership level is a modest 15 percent. If you want to give De La Soul a shot, he draws the Giants (home) and Cardinals (road) over the next ten days. (And by the way, the first name is pronounced “roo-bee” not “rub-bee.” We know that matters to some of you.)
• Steve Pearce is another unheralded bat, trying to get our attention. He knocked a couple of home runs in Tuesday’s loss at Seattle, giving him four in May. His slash is a respectable .295/.377/.574. He qualifies at three positions in the Yahoo game (first, second, outfield).
Pearce was a useful player with a similar slash two years ago (along with 21 home runs in 388 at-bats), but the story fell apart in his dreadful 2015 (.218 average). Maybe that’s why he’s owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues now, despite recent production. I’m willing to give him a shot here and there, notably impressed by his current plate discipline (seven walks, seven strikeouts). Tampa Bay has uncovered sneaky contributors in the past, perhaps this is another make-good story.
• Although Alex Colome has been letter perfect in his stint as Tampa Bay’s closer, he’s just keeping the position warm for Brad Boxberger. Rays manager Kevin Cash made it official, telling the Tampa Bay Times what we needed to know. “When Box gets back . . . when Box closes games out, Alex is still going to play a huge role. We’re so fortunate that he has kind of taken to this role.”
Nonetheless, Boxberger’s return isn’t expected until late May or early June, and we can’t be sure he hits the ground running when he rejoins the Rays. Even when Boxberger is activated, I’d recommend holding all Colome shares — even in thinner pools — until the situation fully plays itself out.
Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view a six-pack of intriguing over/unders for 2016. Wednesday's theme: Post-Breakout Stars.
Doug Baldwin, who was crowned king of consistency Weeks 12-16 after scoring 11 touchdowns over five games, final WR rank this fall WR 20.5 (In other words, will he be a top-20 WR?).
Liz – UNDER. Coming off of a patellar tear, Jimmy Graham is unlikely to play football in 2016 (or ever), cementing Baldwin as Russell Wilson’s go-to option in the passing game. After all, not only is Baldwin in a contract year, but he’s also been the team’s most productive receiver for two seasons running. And with obvious question marks in Seattle’s backfield, Dougie Doug is the team’s most known and trusted quantity. I don’t foresee another 1,000+ yard and 11 TD season, but could totally fathom a 72-950-9 campaign.
Brad – OVER. What Baldwin accomplished from Weeks 12-16 was nothing short of stunning, but that level of production is entirely unsustainable. The 'Hawks' RB heavy draft is an indicator they want to return to their power run-game, ball-control roots. Michael Crabtree was the 20th-best WR last year with an 85-922-9 line. Baldwin will come close to that output, but expect him to finish in the WR23-26 range.
Scott – UNDER. I believe in the chemistry between Baldwin and Wilson, and here's the key point: Baldwin can regress significantly from last year's haul and still give us WR2 numbers. Wilson's throwing a gaggle of touchdowns to someone; who else is going to collect them?
Weekly Garbage Time All-Star Blake Bortles, who found the end-zone with arm/legs 37 total times last year, total touchdowns in the follow-up 32.5.
Brandon – OVER. Sure, Jacksonville's defense will improve after the investments it has made to upgrade it, but we are talking about a unit that allowed the second-most points per game (28) in the league. Rome wasn't built in a day, and a top 10 defense isn't built in an offseason. I expect Bortles to still have to throw it plenty. And Bortles, who has legitimate stud-level talent, has excellent weapons to work with, including a much improved running game that should help afford a few more red zone opportunities for the offense earlier in games. The improvements on offense, and that includes Bortles, who should only be expected to take another step forward in his third NFL season, should offset the loss of some garbage-time opportunities because of an improved defense.
Liz – UNDER. After significantly upgrading their defense and adding goal line gobbler Chris Ivory to the rushing attack, the Jaguars are shaping up to be a very different team in 2016. Bortles is bound for a regression, with a reduction in passing attempts and rushing stats
Scott – UNDER. I dare the rushing game to be that lousy again. I dare the defense to be that abysmal again.
Devonta Freeman, who ranked No. 1 in fantasy points per game among RBs with at least seven starts thanks to a vigorous workload, average touches per game this season 18.5?
Brad – UNDER. Freeman slowed significantly from Week 9 on averaging 3.1 yards per carry while finishing No. 41 in tackles avoided per attempt. The coaching staff understands he's not built for a 20 touch per game workload. With that in mind and given Kyle Shanahan's infatuation with Tevin Coleman, roughly 13-15 touches per game should be expected this fall for Freeman. You're sacrificing a kidney at his 13.0 ADP (RB6).
Dalton – UNDER. Banking on any running back to get 300 touches really isn't very safe, and I expect Tevin Coleman to be more involved this season. Still, I'm not as down on Freeman as many are, as it shouldn't be overlooked he saw 97 targets last year, and while he slowed in the second half, we are still talking about a back who totaled 1,634 yards with 14 touchdowns over 15 games.
Andy – UNDER. And perhaps way under. Freeman didn't really do anything special, outside his four-game binge in the first-half. His tape never matched the numbers and he finished the season with a 4.0 YPC average. There's really no reason Tevin Coleman, if healthy, can't share the Atlanta backfield workload.
Dion Lewis, who was on pace for a PPR-salivating 82 receptions before a torn ACL derailed his season last November, catches this year for the Pats 74.5.
Andy – UNDER, although I'm still plenty interested in Lewis in any scoring format. This is a big ask for a player who had ACL surgery in November. It seems reasonable for him to open the season on a snap count, assuming he's ready for Week 1.
Dalton – UNDER. I've ranked Lewis as a top-20 fantasy back entering this year, but last season's 36 receptions were a career high, so this would take quite the leap (and a newfound ability to stay healthy over a full 16 game season). He's also coming off ACL surgery.
Scott – UNDER. It's just too big an ask for a player with such a limited resume, coming off a major injury. The Patriots aren't the type of team to throw a silly amount of volume at any running back.
Waiver wire sensation Gary Barnidge, who came out of nowhere to crack the TE top-5 posting a 79-1043-9 line last year, receiving yards this fall 999.5.
Andy – Nope. Nuh-uh. UNDER. Barnidge was a wonderful story last season, the classic eighth-year breakout. But it's not reasonable to forecast 1000 receiving yards for any tight end, and certainly not for a guy tied to a low-yield offense with new coaches and a new QB. In a typical year, only one or two NFL tight ends reach the 1000-yard plateau.
Dalton – UNDER. Just four tight ends reached 1,000 receiving yards last season, albeit one was Barnidge. Still, the small number illustrates how rare the feat is, and while I think Barnidge can once again be a top-five fantasy tight end in 2016, the far safer bet is the under here.
Brandon – UNDER. This bar is just set too high. I'm still bullish on Barnidge, but we've only seen 11 1,000-yard campaigns from a tight end in the past six seasons. I think Barnidge is a TE1 slam dunk, but no way would I wager that the stars will align for him again in such a way that he'll top 1K yards again in '16.
Short answer. On a scale of 1-10 with one being a grandiose politician and 10 being every skittish Jesse Eisenberg character where do you rank on David Johnson as a top-five overall pick?
Dalton – ONE. He totaled 1,038 yards with 12 touchdowns on just 161 touches as a rookie last season, getting 4.6 YPC and impressing as a receiver. Johnson sure looks like the real deal, and he only got better when given the opportunity to start. Arizona is loaded with offensive weapons, and he'll be the team's workhorse in 2016. There's no question he should be a top-five pick. The only question I have is whether he should be the No. 1 or No. 2 running back off the board.
Liz – ONE. Top-five? That’s easy. Heck, I’d say he’s a top-three prospect. Sure, his sample size is small, but under the tutelage of Bruce Arians his skill-set has blossomed from blazing perimeter runner to bodacious bellcow. His competition includes a fading 30-year-old and a fragile scatback. The youngster is going to get fed and his owners are going to gleefully fistbump their way to championship seasons.
Brad – ONE. When it comes to Johnson projections, my confidence level mirrors an overly caffeinated Donald Trump riding a bull in front of thousands of riled-up supporters. Dude is going to be YUGE in 2016. There's plenty to like about his situation -- minimal competition, healthy offense, top-10 run-blocking line. Throw in his three-down skill set, ability to gain substantial yards after contact and pass-catching contributions and he's a viable candidate for 1,500-plus total yards and 12-15 TDs.
On today's enthusiastic episode, fantasy trumpeters Brad Evans and Liz Loza discuss the fallout from Melvin Gordon's post-microfracture news. Will the disappointing rookie strive for respectability in Year 2? Where does he stack up in average drafts? Should you consider him over similarly ranked RBs Jay Ajayi, Chris Ivory and Jeremy Hill?
Our loudmouths also offered their reaches and steals in the recent Yahoo Mock Draft and answered your pressing Twitter questions.
With more options available for contests that start at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Wednesday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: John Lackey $46
SP: Wei-Yin Chen $40
C: Brian McCann $15
1B: Hanley Ramirez $15
2B: Dustin Pedroia $19
3B: Maikel Franco $13
SS: Xander Bogaerts $20
OF: Alex Gordon $15
OF: Coco Crisp $9
OF: Chris Young $8
Lackey has a 4:1 K:BB ratio on the year to go along with a 1.09 WHIP, and he’s been especially tough at home, where he’s posted a 2.49 ERA. The Cubs have been dominant and are on a historic run differential pace, so it’s no surprise they are the biggest favorites (-210) during this slate...Chen is coming off a poor outing, but there’s still potential, and he’s reasonably priced here.
McCann is at home and sports a .313/.397/.500 line against right-handers this season. I’m also going with Gordon in Yankee Stadium, which has increased home runs for LHB by 29 percent over the past three seasons. He faces Michael Pineda, who's served up eight long balls over 33.0 innings so far...Franco has a mediocre .771 OPS, but he’s also on pace to hit 34 homers and record 88 RBI. There are 12 third basemen more expensive during Wednesday’s slate.
I stacked Red Sox against Eric Surkamp, who has a 7:11 K:BB ratio against righties this season. Ramirez, Pedroia, Bogaerts and Young should benefit as a result, and Fenway Park is a big boost for right-handed batters. Young in particular is dirt cheap at $8, and he’s posted a .961 OPS versus southpaws this year after recording a .972 OPS against them last season...I also went with a discounted Crisp, who’s scored five runs with three RBI over his last three games, so it’s a full on Fenway stack.
Good luck with your contests Wednesday.
My full lineup:
SP: Joe Ross ($43) - Ross, he of the 1.23 ERA, hosts a Detroit squad that is on a seven-game slide in which it has averaged less than 2.9 runs per game. Ross also owns a 2.28 career ERA at home.
SP: Masahiro Tanaka ($45) - You can pretty much count on something in the Quality Start neighborhood from Tanaka, who has pitched at least five innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his six turns this season. He'll oppose KC starter Kris Medlen, who owns a 6.85 ERA on the season.
C: Chris Iannetta ($8) - Iannetta's a cost-saving play here, and he's 0-for-11 in his past four games. But he's 3-for-5 in his career against Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly, so there's at least a small reason to be optimistic.
1B: Albert Pujols ($14) - Pujols hasn't hit a HR in May, but I like his upside (and the potential to end that HR drought) against starter Mike Leake, who has struggled in his short time in St. Louis (6.03 ERA).
2B: Jonathan Schoop ($12) - Schoop brings an 11-game hitting streak to his Tuesday matchup with Minnesota rookie starter Jose Berrios.
3B: Nolan Arenado ($28) - I'm willing to pay the steep price for Arenado given the home run upside. The NL home run leader (12) hosts Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa, who Arenado has homered against twice in his six career at-bats against the Diamondbacks' lefty.
SS: Brad Miller ($8) - Miller has been hitting the ball on the nose of late, with six hits in his past 16 ABs, including two home runs. And his matchup is less than daunting facing his fomrer M's team, and LHP Wade Miley (4.74 ERA).
OF: Josh Reddick ($10) - Here's a nice bargain. Reddick is dirt cheap when you consider that he's 13-for-21(.619) in his past five games and he's facing journeyman RHP Sean O'Sullivan, who owns a career 5.96 ERA in more than 300 IP.
OF: Brock Holt ($9) - For a mere $9, you get a player that has delivered top 70 offensive roto returns this season, who is riding an eight-game hitting streak and facing an Oakland rookie (Sean Manaea) who has produced a 7.20 ERA over his first two starts of his career.
OF: Ryan Braun ($23) - Braun is scorching hot, owning a 1.145 OPS mark in eight May games. He's also 4-for-5 in his career against Miami starter Adam Conley.
Moving right along with the Shuffle Up series. Rest-of-season value is what we're after. What’s happened to this point is merely an audition.
Today, we rank all those eligible at middle infield (second base, shortstop).
Assume a 5x5 scoring system. Players in the minors, suspended, or on the DL do not get ranked. I’ll add comments later in the evening, and reserve the right to make some changes. Win the discussion, win the rank. Players at the same cost are considered even.
If I've missed someone, let me know.
If you have disagreement, I’m all ears — so long as you have a reason. Remember not to add or dock value from the players just because you like them, dislike them, roster them, etc.
$32 Jose Altuve
$32 Manny Machado
$30 Carlos Correa
$23 Robinson Cano
$23 Rougned Odor
$21 Ian Kinsler
$20 Xander Bogaerts
$20 Trevor Story
What do I like about Odor? Pretty much everything. I like that he was a touted prospect prior to 2014. I love that his brother is named Rougned, too. I love that when he was demoted to Triple-A for a tune up in the middle of last season, he absolutely crushed (1.065 OPS) — and then he finished with a flourish in Texas (.292/.334/.527 over his last 88 starts, with 15 homers and five steals).
Odor is getting the ball in the air more often this year, and he’s also had a bump in his isolated power. In short, I buy the power to this point. He’s also been more aggressive on the bases; this is what it looks like when a talented player becomes confident enough to spread his wings. Odor has also taken a liking to the No. 1 slot in the Texas lineup (although he isn’t there Tuesday night, with a 1.033 OPS in 15 games there. It’s going to be a fun summer in Arlington.
$19 Francisco Lindor
$17 Brian Dozier
$17 Ben Zobrist
$17 Daniel Murphy
$16 Jason Kipnis
$16 Dustin Pedroia
$16 Matt Carpenter
$15 Logan Forsythe
$13 Ian Desmond
$13 Corey Seager
$13 D.J. LeMahieu
$13 Neil Walker
$12 Brandon Phillips
$12 Eugenio Suarez
$12 Troy Tulowitzki
Murphy’s line-drive and hard-hit rates are off the sheet, and he’s also pulling the ball more than ever before. And let’s not forget the ballistic tear he went on last October — not only did he whack seven post-season homers for the Mets, he did it against a ridiculous group of pitchers (Kershaw twice; Arrieta, Greinke, Lester, Rodney and Lester once).
It’s a shame Murphy can’t slot closer to Bryce Harper in the Washington lineup — the team, reasonably, doesn’t want to stack left-handed batters. But Murphy is going to be an asset anywhere you use him. No, he's not going to hit .400. Could he contend for the batting title? I'll give him a shot.
Perhaps I have him a little low on this page, not wanting to get overly enamored with the multiple shares I’m currently enjoying. You also get three bases of Yahoo coverage with Murphy (first, second, third).
Everyone who trashed Desmond for the first 10 days, check what he's done since (five-category stud). His defense is still a carnival, but his offensive skills are just fine, thank you.
$11 Brandon Crawford
$11 Brandon Drury
$11 Jung Ho Kang
$11 Jean Segura
$10 Ketel Marte
$10 Brett Lawrie
$9 Aledmys Diaz
$9 Anthony Rendon
$9 Josh Harrison
$9 Jon Villar
$9 Matt Duffy
$8 Addison Russell
$8 Starlin Castro
$8 Justin Turner
$8 Zack Cozart
I’m trying to keep both feet on the ground with Aledmys Diaz. He spent the majority of 2015 in Double-A, where he posted a .264/.324/.421 slash in 102 games (10 homers, 6-for-11 on steals). The Cardinals are overflowing with playable infielders, especially when Jhonny Peralta comes back. Diaz has a zesty hard-hit rate, but he’s also carrying a .402 BABIP and the highest infield-hit rate in the majors. I’d at least kick the tires on a possible trade, see what your opponents thought of him.
$7 Marcus Semien
$6 Asdrubal Cabrera
$6 Brock Holt
$5 Cesar Hernandez
$5 Jed Lowrie
$5 Joe Panik
$5 Brad Miller
$5 Chase Utley
$5 Derek Detrich
$4 Elvis Andrus
$4 Jonathan Schoop
$4 Kolten Wong
$4 Martin Prado
$4 Danny Santana
$3 Jedd Gyorko
$3 Aaron Hill
$3 Alcides Escobar
$3 Javier Baez
$3 Tommy LaStella
$3 Alexei Ramirez
$2 Didi Gregorius
$2 Jimmy Rollins
$2 Jody Mercer
$2 Eduardo Nunez
$2 Chris Owings
$2 Sean Rodriguez
$2 Yunel Escobar
Andrus is hitting plenty of line drives, but he’s 2-for-5 on the bases and doesn’t gave a home run. He’s been overrated for most of his career . . . Wong could be caught up in a numbers game at some point, with the Cardinals so deep in the middle infield. At some point, a trade would make a lot of sense. He looks like a change-of-scenery player, anyway . . . I’ve been fooled by false positives with Miller before, but he does have a .912 OPS this month, with reasonable category juice on the year. I’m not quitting yet. He also qualifies at three positions . . . Schoop has made tiny inroads with his plate discipline, but the improvements are probably too small to matter. He’s ninth in the league in out-of-zone swings.
$1 Luis Valbuena
$1 Freddy Galvis
$1 Adeiny Hechavarria
$1 Chris Coghlan
$0 Howie Kendrick
$0 Jose Iglesias
$0 Nick Ahmed
$0 Omar Infante
$0 Wilmer Flores
$0 Marwin Gonzalez
Derek Dietrich entered the 2016 season without an everyday role for Miami, coming off a miserable spring (3-for-34). He made the most of his limited early opportunities, however, collecting nine hits in his first 27 at-bats. When the Dee Gordon/PED news broke, Dietrich found himself with a path to regular playing time and, well ... so far, so good.
Dietrich was batting lead-off for the Marlins on Monday and he went 3-for-5 with a triple, one RBI and a run scored. He's now slashing .407/.467/.630 for the month and .333/.417/.603 for the season with 10 extra-base hits in just 72 plate appearances. Dietrich cleared the fence 10 times in 250 at-bats last year, so the pop is real. We probably shouldn't expect him to hit for average over the long haul, but he did flash on-base ability in the minors, so he's not the worst choice to hit at the top of the order.
Fantasy-wise, Dietrich's most appealing trait if probably the fact that he's eligible at 2B, 3B and OF. He shouldn't lack for at-bats over the next two-and-a-half months, and he offers decent power numbers from a variety of roster spots, including middle-infield. His positional flexibility makes him a useful bench piece in deeper leagues and the premium lineup spot is a huge plus. Dietrich is available in pretty much all leagues as of this writing.
• Jackie Bradley Jr. kept his streak alive, hitting safely in his 15th straight game, going 3-for-5 against Oakland with a wall-scraping grand slam. Bradley has delivered back-to-back multi-hit performances and he's homered in three of his last five games. He's raised his season slash from .222/.271/.315 to .303/.353/.550 during the streak. At 26, it's perfectly reasonable to expect a breakout year from Bradley — his current numbers aren't out of line with his career minor league stats (.294/.391/.460). He isn't likely to maintain that ridiculous .377 BABIP over a full season, but there's a lot to like here, beyond the 5X5 stats. Bradley has lowered his K-rate in every big league season. Add as needed. He remains unattached in 57 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Julio Urias continued his dominance of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League on Monday, firing another 6.0 scoreless frames for Oklahoma City, striking out four. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 16 innings, lowering his season ERA to 1.50. At this point, it's almost tough to argue that the 19-year-old is being challenged. You might recall that Urias tossed six no-hit innings in his previous start. There's been talk that the Dodgers might call up the flame-throwing left-hander to assist the 'pen, so be prepared to add.
• Carlos Beltran is like a thousand years old (39) and clearly isn't the fantasy asset he used to be. But he still managed to take Chris Young deep twice on Monday, his fifth and sixth homers of the season. Beltran is one of the all-time binge players, a fun guy to own when he's healthy and rolling. Not surprisingly, he's widely available in Yahoo leagues.
• Mike Fiers encountered little resistance from Cleveland on Monday, cruising through 7.0 innings, allowing just three hits and one run. His season got off to a rough start, but he's been plenty good in three of his last four starts.
• Ketel Marte delivered one of the season's better stat lines, facing Matt Moore and the Rays. Marte went 4-for-5 with three runs, three RBIs, two doubles and his first homer of the season. He's a guy known more for speed than pop, so don't expect another home run anytime soon. Just appreciate the fact that he's on a nice run at the moment, with four multi-hit games in his last seven.
• Tony Cingrani shut the door for Cincinnati on Monday — not emphatically, exactly, but he shut it. He allowed a lead-off double to Jung Ho Kang before retiring the next three batters on a pair of groundouts and a liner to center. It was his second save over the past four days, and his first of the traditional enter-in-the-ninth variety. Cingrani is your committee head in Cincy.
We should note that the Reds have also called up minor league reliever Layne Somsen, who was off to a terrific start at Triple-A Louisville (0.86 WHIP, 15 Ks in 14.0 IP). Considering the current state of that team's overworked and under-talented bullpen, perhaps we should all file away Somsen's name.
• Doubleheader alert: San Diego and Chicago were washed out on Monday, so the teams will play two on Wednesday. Check your league's free agent pool for any available Cubs and Pads who might be useful. This is an early opportunity to pick up bonus games, to help you reach season limits.
In this episode of the Docs, Brad Evans and Liz Loza offer their diagnoses on projected RB2s Ryan Mathews and C.J. Anderson. Who will churn out the better numbers this season? Read their arguments and declare a winner in the comments section below.
Brad unfurls his tongue, naturally, for Ryan Mathews: Admittedly, my adoration for Mathews is unapologetic. Ever since he entered the league in 2010, I've been enamored with his potential. He's flashy, explosive and versatile. Recall in 2011 and 2013 he tucked inside the RB top-12 in overall fantasy production. If not for his highly consumable flesh – DAMN YOU INJURY IMP! – he would have lived up to my mammoth expectations.
Despite his downsides, Mathews is the more desirable rusher. With only rookie Wendell Smallwood as his direct competition, he's destined to entrench himself as the Eagles' early-down and goal-line rusher. Remember last year under Chip Kelly's direction, he was a productive complementary option to DeMarco Murray. Among rushers with at least 90 touches, he ranked fourth in standard fantasy points per opportunity. Additionally, his 2.7 yards after contact was equal to DJ and Lamar Miller (Thanks PFF).
Skeptics contend his injury susceptibility and unknowns surrounding Doug Pederson's offense are reasons to avoid, but, if deployed similarly as Jamaal Charles was under Pederson in KC (18.4 tchs/g in '15), he'll turn a hefty profit at his current 55.2 ADP, some 20 spots later than C.J. Anderson (35.7 ADP). Keep in mind, the Eagles offensive line ranked No. 1 last season in run-blocking on 'power' plays, an area that suits Mathews' game perfectly. On roughly 16-19 touches per game, he's more than capable of 1,300 total yards with 7-9 TDs.
To be fair, Anderson will enter training camp in the catbird seat. However, rookie Devontae Booker, an impressive three-down workhorse during his two years at Utah, is a legit workload threat. Without Peyton Manning in the picture, the learning curve for rookie RBs isn't nearly as steep. Given Booker's plus efforts as an interior runner, pass catcher and blocker, he could wrest away some 10-12 carries from Anderson right away.
Speaking as objectively as possible, Mathews is the more 'money' RB2.
Liz gets giddy about C.J. Anderson: It’s hard to be giddy about one of the biggest busts of 2015, but I do think Anderson is in line for a bounce back season. While it lasted entirely too long, the Ronnie Hillman experiment came to an official end this past February, leaving Anderson to gobble up the bulk of the carries heading into 2016. While some may see the addition of Devontae Booker as an indictment of Anderson’s workhorse status, I’d argue that drafting a 24-year-old rookie with a checkered injury past has more to do with depth and value than a lack of confidence in a player who’s rushed for 4.7 YPC in back-to-back campaigns.
Let’s be honest: volume – not power or skill - is what killed Anderson’s fantasy value last fall. Had he not sprained his toe and tweaked his ankle in Week 1 the dude would have gotten fed and put up monster stats. After all, this is a player who scored every time (save Week 20) he was allowed more than 13 totes. Additionally, he was a beast after contact, averaging 2.9 yards post-collision. For perspective, he was among the top-ten producers in that statistical category, tying Todd Gurley and Karlos Williams.
Admittedly Mathews is in a good spot. At the present moment, he appears to be the team’s RB1 and figures to be heavily featured in a run-focused offense. Still, this is a player who, over a six-year career, has only pulled off one injury-free season (2013). Yes, he’s a stud when healthy, but since 2010 he’s broken both clavicles, missed significant time due to MCL and ankle sprains, has been concussed, and is coming off of groin surgery.
With Doug Pederson as his offensive coordinator, RB Jamaal Charles averaged over 19 total touches per game. Mathews has only handled a workload that large a single time over the past two years. Perhaps that’s because his body simply can’t withstand the rigors of a full load. I usually pride myself in being “injury agnostic” (a phrase borrowed from the great Bob Harris), as illustrated by my belief in Anderson, but some guys aren’t built to last.
While both backs come with their share of concerns the safer bet is Anderson.
Bartolo Colon doesn't homer every day, kids. So this Monday podcast is very special, indeed.
We talk Price and pickups, knuckleballs and comedians, bats and Bartolo. Start your baseball week with Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski. We appreciate every download.
Before finalizing your lineups, be sure to check the game-time weather conditions. Let's take a crack at the Monday slate...
P Jon Lester, CHC, $53 (vs. SD) – Chicago's total season run-differential has already reached triple-digits, which is insane. The Cubs are simply an overwhelming favorite here, facing a last-place club that ranks near the bottom of the N.L. in runs scored. Lester has of course been terrific; he's allowed one earned run or less in five of his six starts so far this season.
P Aaron Sanchez, Tor, $39 (at SF) – Sanchez has really only had one hiccup in his six starts, he's struck out nearly a batter per inning, and his ratios are outstanding (2.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). I have to believe the Jays' lineup will put a few runs on the board against Jake Peavy on Monday night.
C Dustin Garneau or Tony Wolters, Col, $9 (Bradley) – I'll take whichever cheap backstop gets the start at Coors. Don't even have a preference. This is a nice enough flier, at a position-punting price.
1B Ben Paulsen, Col, $12 (Bradley) – Here's hoping he plays, because Archie Bradley had some issues with left-handed batters throughout his minor league career. And we get a Coors bump, too. If Paulsen isn't starting, I'll flip to Prince Fielder at the same cost.
2B Jonathan Schoop, Bal, $12 (Berrios) – Schoop is red-hot these days, coming off a 3-for-4 performance with a homer and two runs scored. He's riding an 11-game hitting streak and he's dirt-cheap.
3B Anthony Rendon, Was, $12 (An. Sanchez) – No, Rendon has not been great this season. I'll concede the point. That's why he's so cheap. He's homered twice over his last six games — his first bombs of the year — so perhaps the bat is coming alive.
SS Eduardo Nunez, Min, $10 (Wilson) – Nunez is slashing .372/.412/.517 and he's reached base in 11 straight games, with four doubles in as many days.He's swiped five bags on the season, too. This price is a gift.
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Col, $22 (Bradley) – Give me all of the left-handed hitting Rockies, please. Bradley's nine career MLB starts have produced a 1.73 WHIP. Gimme this guy as well...
OF Charlie Blackmon, Col, $21 (Bradley) – Blackmon has been raking since coming off the DL in late-April. He's gone 8-for-23 over his last six games (all on the road), with three doubles and a homer included. Keep the Colorado LHBs in your lineup through Tuesday's start against Rubby De La Rosa, by the way.
OF Ben Revere, Was, $9 (An. Sanchez) – Revere's bat began to function properly in Chicago, as he's reached base five times over the past two days.
Max Scherzer was almost unanimously the second pitcher off the board in drafts this spring, often in the mid-second round. So far he’s produced a 4.60 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, and owners have been saddled with the No. 145 overall player. Scherzer has 48 strikeouts over 46.0 innings, so his K rate remains strong (albeit not as strong as usual), but home runs have been a major problem, a theme ever since he joined the Nationals. In fact, he’s allowed 36 homers over 271.2 innings since joining Washington. He served up that same total over his final two years in Detroit, which spanned 434.2 innings. Not only is that unusual going from the A.L. to the N.L., but Nationals Park has also decreased home runs by 16 percent over the last three seasons, which is the fifth lowest in major league baseball. Scherzer’s nine homers served up are tied for the most in MLB this season.
Scherzer can remain plenty effective giving up the long ball, as he posted a 2.79 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP last season despite yielding 27 (tied for 14th most in MLB), and his current 19.1 HR/FB% should probably be considered a fluke. Scherzer’s average fastball velocity remains as strong as ever (94.0 mph), and his 12.6 SwStr% ranks No. 11 in baseball. Washington has one of the better defenses combined with a bullpen and offense that both rank in the top-10 in MLB, so Scherzer has a lot working for him. I’m betting his home run rate regresses to somewhere around his career norm of 10.5% moving forward, so he’s a pretty obvious buy-low if you can pull it off.
Headlines of the Week: Brother And Sister Inherit Disease That Will Stop Them Ever Sleeping Again...Burglar Sues Indiana Homeowner Who Shot Him During Attempted Break-In...Kim Jong-un: Leader Bans Weddings, Funerals And Freedom Of Movement In North Korea...KFC: Now Serving Chicken-Flavored Nail Polish.
Quick Hits: Since the All-Star break last season, Robinson Cano has a .323-66-27-82 line over just 406 at bats. He’s been the No. 2 fantasy hitter in 2016...Danny Salazar has been terrific so far, and while some of his peripherals suggest he’s been lucky (.205 BABIP, 3.0 HR/FB%), that will always be the case for someone with a sub-2.00 ERA. His 29.9 K% is tied for fifth-best while his 12.9 SwStr% ranks ninth in MLB. He could still improve his control, but Salazar should be treated as a true SP1 moving forward...“This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball!” Bartolo Colon now has more extra-base hits this year than Chase Headley (h/t Jared Diamond)...Jung Ho Kang posted a .913 OPS after the All-Star break in 197 at-bats before suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. He’s healthy now, even hitting two homers during his first game back. Still shortstop eligible (while playing the less demanding 3B) and available in nearly 30% of Yahoo leagues, Kang has the upside to be a top-five SS from here on out (although he’ll sit more than usual in the short term).
Police Blotter: Cops Easily Find Suspect, Thanks To Monkey On His Back...Suspect Arrested After 5 Million Bees Stolen In Quebec; Bees Remain Missing...Florida Man Calls 911 After Hearing Wife Kidnapped On Bluetooth Device.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Make sure Tyler Glasnow is owned in your league. After another dominant outing Saturday, the top prospect’s ERA now sits at 1.64, and he’s fanned 48 batters over 33.0 innings. He’ll be joining Pittsburgh’s staff soon enough and is worth the wait...Bryce Harper walked 13 times in 18 plate appearances during the recent four-game sweep against the Cubs, including six on Sunday (the same game Ryan Zimmerman set an MLB-record by leaving 14 runners on base)...The catcher position is always considered thin, but this year it’s especially been a mess, with injuries to Kyle Schwarber, Devin Mesoraco, Travis d’Arnaud and Nick Hundley. Meanwhile, Russell Martin, Matt Wieters, Derek Norris and Yan Gomes all have an OPS below .564, with three of those batting .176 or worse. Just brutal.
Song of the Week: Radiohead – “Burn The Witch”
Longread of the Week: The End Of Prison Visitation
Quick Hits Part Tres: Yasiel Puig “leads” major league baseball with a 25.7 IFFB%. Hitting pop ups is not good. As usual, Joey Votto has yet to hit one...Miguel Sano may not make contact much, but when he does, he leads MLB with a 33.8 LD%...Here’s Giancarlo Stanton hitting a 475-foot bomb that’s the longest of the year so far. He did so against Hector Neris, who owns a 1.80 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP with 28 strikeouts over 20.0 innings on the season... This play by Joe Panik might be the best of the year so far...J.J. Hoover had a truly epic run before getting sent to the minors. He entered the year as the Reds closer and proceeded to allow 17 earned runs (six homers) and 25 base runners over 10.2 innings. He had a -.05 WAR, which isn’t easy to do in 10 innings...Clayton Kershaw has a 64:3 K:BB ratio. That’s just silly.
Dalton Del Don
SP Jeff Samardzija, $46, vs. Colorado
SP Marco Estrada, $39, vs. LAD
C Tyler Flowers, $9, vs. Arizona (Corbin)
1B Miguel Cabrera, $20, vs. Texas (Perez)
2B Brandon Phillips, $16, vs. Milwaukee (Guerra)
3B Todd Frazier, $15, vs. Minnesota (Duffey)
SS Didi Gregorius, $9, vs. Boston (Wright)
OF Adam Jones, $12, vs. Oakland (Graveman)
OF Jay Bruce, $16, vs. Milwaukee (Duffey)
OF J.D. Martinez, $17, vs. Texas (Perez)
The Blue Jays are one of the biggest favorites Sunday, so Estrada seems underpriced . . . Went cheap at catcher and shortstop . . . Although Martinez is having a down year, he’s hitting .381/.391/.667 against lefties . . . Every single player in my lineup plays at home, although that wasn’t exactly on purpose.
SP Jose Quintana, $50, vs. Minnesota
SP Patrick Corbin, $36, at Atlanta
C Jonathan Lucroy, $17, at Cincinnati (Lamb)
1B Mark Canha, $8, at Baltimore (Tillman)
2B Ian Kinsler, $18, vs. Texas (Perez)
3B Aaron Hill, $9, at Cincinnati (Lamb)
SS Jonathan Villar, $17, at Cincinnati (Lamb)
OF Ryan Braun, $23, at Cincinnati (Lamb)
OF Melky Cabrera, $14, vs. Minnesota (Duffey)
OF Adam Duvall, $7, vs. Milwaukee (Guerra)
Say whatever you want about hot hand theory, but Hill is an easy punt punch after a three-homer game, plus he's in the platoon advantage . . . Hopefully a trip to Atlanta cures whatever is ailing Corbin . . . The Q is one of the biggest favorites of the day and Minnesota is an obvious strikeout parade, so I had no problem paying up.
Nick Castellanos: Despite being an interesting prospect a few years ago, Castellanos was largely ignored at draft tables entering the season, which made since considering he’d yet to post an OPS better than .721 in the majors. His 23:3 K:BB ratio suggests his batting average is likely to come crashing down, but he slugged .478 after the All-Star break last year and is up to .608 in 2016, so the power seems real. Still owned in less than 70% of Yahoo formats despite being the No. 5 fantasy third baseman so far this season, Castellanos should be added if he’s available in your league.
Hector Rondon: He wasn’t typically drafted among the top-10 closers entering the year, but Rondon currently owns a 0.87 ERA with a microscopic 0.39 WHIP. He sports a 17:0 K:BB ratio over 10.2 innings, and the zero walks are especially impressive for a pitcher who used to struggle with his control (he’s yet to throw more than 17 pitches in any inning this year). Rondon’s five saves are actually unlucky for a team that’s 22-6, but that number should jump moving forward, as it figures to really help closing for what appears to be a Cubs squad that’s the best in baseball.
Jose Quintana: He’s always been a bit underrated, but Quintana has taken his game to the next level so far in 2016 with a 1.40 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. While no one should expect those numbers to remain that low (his HR/FB% is 2.6, although to be fair, it’s really hard to have that low of an ERA while giving up many homers), Quintana’s 19.6 K-BB% and average fastball velocity are both career bests. It also helps the White Sox have an above average defense and currently sport major league baseball’s lowest bullpen ERA (2.00) by a wide margin. Quintana’s arrow continues to point up.
Dustin Pedroia: After a couple of lackluster and injury-ridden seasons, the 32-year-old is off to a great start, posting a .317/.358/.484 line with four homers. Pedroia has yet to attempt a stolen base, but he’s on pace to score 112 runs despite already resting three games. Periodic rest should continue in an attempt to keep him healthy, which is obviously no sure thing, but Pedroia has been a huge profit for his owners so far.
Aledmys Diaz: The undrafted free agent has made the most of his opportunity thanks to Jhonny Peralta’s injury, somehow posting a .398-22-5-16-1 line while nearly walking as often as he’s struck out. It seems like a fluke, but Diaz would hardly be the first player to come out of nowhere to far exceed expectations for the Cardinals.
Matt Harvey: As someone who owns multiple shares of him, I hope Harvey’s slow start turns into just a blip as much as anyone, but it’s hard not to be concerned after posting a 4.76 ERA and an ugly 1.56 WHIP through six starts. Half of those starts have come against the Braves and Phillies, who own the two lowest OPSs in all of baseball. His career K/9 is 9.25 and sits at 6.62 this season. His average fastball velocity and SwStr% are also both career-lows, while his Hard% is his highest ever. Harvey has really worn down the third time through orders and hasn’t pitched more than 6.0 innings in a start yet. It’s time to start worrying.
Tyler White: He was one of the season’s better stories early but has come crashing down ever since. In fact, White’s OPS was 1.256 on April 16. Over his next 52 at bats, he’s hitting .096/.143/.192. Put differently, his batting average was .395 12 games into the season, and his OPS has been .335 over 15 games since.
Addison Russell: He owns just a .225 batting average and a .337 slugging percentage, although Russell has played strong defense which should help him keep getting playing time. His walk rate has also been strong, but he’s somehow on pace to score just 66 runs despite a .352 OBP while playing regularly for a Cubs team that leads major league baseball in runs scored. That’s going to remain a problem hitting in the bottom of the lineup, and as colleague Scott Pianowski has pointed out, even if Russell starts hitting better, Chicago is so loaded there’s not much of a path for him to move up. The 22-year-old’s bat doesn’t look ready right now.
Delino DeShields Jr.: He was on many sleeper lists entering the year, but he’s hit .226/.301/.290 while getting caught on half of his stolen base attempts and has produced four extra-base hits in 93 at bats. Lately he’s either been batting ninth or outright benched. There’s a real chance DeShields gets sent to the minors soon.
Justin Turner: He went .294-55-16-60-5 over just 385 at bats last season, and I admittedly was high on Turner entering 2016, especially with the prospect of him hitting toward the middle of the Dodgers lineup. So far he’s been an utter disaster, still searching for his first homer on the year, which is especially odd since he’s hitting more fly balls than ever. I’d consider Turner a buy-low candidate, but it’s clear I underestimated how difficult it would be returning from microfracture knee surgery.
With more options available for contests that start at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Friday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: Noah Syndergaard $57
SP: Wei-Yin Chen $41
C: Tucker Barnhart $10
1B: Joey Votto $18
2B: Brian Dozier $16
3B: Todd Frazier $17
SS: Jed Lowrie $12
OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis $7
OF: Brandon Drury $8
OF: Carlos Beltran $13
I’m ponying up for Syndergaard, who’s been dominant this season despite coming off a small hiccup versus the Giants. The Mets are the biggest favorites on the board Friday, and this game in Petco Park has a tiny over/under of 6.5...Wei-Yi Chen hasn’t been as great as hoped after moving from the A.L East to the National League, but he still owns a 4:1 K:BB ratio and is at home facing a Phillies team with the second-lowest OPS in baseball this season.
Barnhart is cheap and has been getting more playing time since Devin Mesoraco went down, but as usual with catchers, double-check he’s in the lineup...Votto is off to an extremely slow start, but that’s why he’s priced as a discount. This is still someone who posted a .362/.535/.617 line after the All-Star break last year.
Frazier has hit much better at home all season, and after paying up for starting pitching Friday, I went a cheap route with a trio of outfielders in Nieuwenhuis, Drury and Beltran.
Good luck with your contests Friday.