The pressure of succeeding Derek Jeter in New York is a convenient narrative for the early season struggles of Didi Gregorius but the more likely reason for his mediocre play is that he’s just not very good. With some track record of league-average hitting against righties and 13 homers in roughly 700 major league plate appearances I thought he made for an okay platoon option in 2015, especially given the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Through the first month of 2015, he’s hitting .221/.280/.250 with no home runs and his .235/.273/.275 triple slash against northpaws is only marginally better than his overall line. Perhaps more worrisome are his struggles in the field, his supposed strength. Among regular shortstops, he’s the fifth worst by UZR and while he ranks somewhat better by Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA metric (11th worst), he’s still nearly a bottom third defender thus far. These numbers come with a couple valid caveats; Gregorious just turned 25 and we’re still talking about sample sizes that are insignificant, especially on the defensive metrics. On the other hand, if Gregorius isn’t hitting or fielding, there’s not much reason for a competitive Yankees team to continue to run him out there. Let’s have a look at their other short- and long-term options.
There is a surprisingly large group of ace pitchers who turned in dismal performances in April. These are guys whose fantasy owners were counting on them to anchor their rotations. The question now is if we should pounce on these guys while their owners are panicking or if we should steer clear of a sinking ship.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals — 4.60 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 2-2 Record, 30 Strikeouts in 29 innings
Strasburg came into the season as a consensus top 5 pitcher in baseball but is currently ranked as the #1028 overall player in Yahoo 5×5 leagues, which means he has returned negative value to his fantasy owners and ranks below pitchers who have not even played yet this year. His WHIP is awful, but it is mostly due to a freakishly high .402 BABIP. He has allowed only 8 walks and one measly home run this year. His 9.20 K/9 is slightly lower than his career 10.29 rate, but it is still very good. His walk rate is right at his career average as well. Strasburg has also been unlucky with his 64.4% Strand Rate that is well below the 72% league average. The bottom line is that Strasburg has pitched as a nearly-elite pitcher this year despite his poor results. Expect him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball over the rest of the season. Verdict: Go Get Him! Strong buy low target.
Corey Kluber, Indians — 4.24 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 0-3 Record, 36 Strikeouts in 34 innings Continue reading
Even the Reds couldn’t have thought trading Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins would have worked out this well but here we are. A mere four starts into the season and DeSclafani has a sparkling 1.04 ERA while his more decorated colleague has posted a hideous mark of 6.86.
On the surface the trade looked like a good move for the Marlins who were getting a 27-year-old Latos coming off of his fifth straight season of posting a sub 3.50 ERA. Latos would be a year removed from his health issues and the ballpark in Miami is considerably more favorable to pitchers that the hitter friendly confines of Great American. The centerpiece coming back to the Reds was the 25-year-old DeSclafani who posted a terrible 6.27 ERA over his 33 innings with the Marlins last year and whose upside seemed limited. DeSclafani had other ideas about his upside, so let’s take a look at how he is succeeding and if he can keep it up.
Few fantasy prospects have captivated my imagination in recent memory like Rangers farmhand Ryan Cordell. Granted, I may be the only one, as he’s owned in less than one percent of CBS Leagues. Somebody out there has to own him besides me, so I know it’s not quite to the level of this, but needless to say, he’s available in your league. Cordell checks off a lot of the boxes that you look for in a fantasy prospect, as he’s an athletic 6’4″, 205 lbs, he hits for average (.294 career), has big time power (led all California high schoolers with 14 homers as a senior and hit 13 in 89 games in 2014), steals bases (21 in 2014), and is in an organization with a big league park conducive to offense. So why the hell is he still in Single-A ball, and repeating High-A for that matter, after putting up a .914 OPS in 2014?
I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching for relief options early this fantasy season. It’s a tedious exercise, predicated on assigning too much value to small samples and guessing about eventual roles. Sound like fun? I didn’t think so, but that’s why I’m here for you.
Yimi Garcia, Los Angeles Dodgers
If you’re just now learning about Yimi, it’s probably too late for a pickup but his performance warrants discussion anyhow. Through 9.2 innings, Garcia has struck out 16 and walked only three, while allowing one unearned run. He picked up his first save of the season on Friday and has quickly ascended to a ninth inning option. Garcia has a minor league track record of gaudy strikeout totals despite lacking overpowering stuff. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s but deception helps it play up. Garcia gets incredibly low and compact and his the ball explodes out of his side-winding arm as his delivery uncoils. He throws the fastball three quarters of the time but keeps hitters off balance with an improved slider that he adds or subtracts velocity to/from, as needed.
There goes my streak of not making a terrible pun-oriented headline here at TDG. If you are disgusted by the pun, you can leave the rest of this article behind and move on. But if you’re looking for a potential cheap closing option, you may want to continue reading.
Proven closers are perhaps the most expensive and overrated commodities in the fantasy world. Sometimes you’d have to pay a steep price for a mediocre reliever who just lacks up saves. There are only a handful of closers who hold their jobs for more than 3 years. As you may already know, picking up young, unproven relievers with dominant stuff and waiting until they get the chances to close would be a way to get lots of saves for cheap.
Keone Kela is one of those up-and-coming dominant 9th inning guys who are still sleeping. The 6’1″ flamethrower was drafted out of Everett Community College in Washington in the 12th round by the Rangers in 2012. Since then, he’s generated a preponderance of whiffs on his way to the big leagues.
Last week I looked at some hot starting pitchers. This week we examine some unexpectedly hot hitters. One key to success in fantasy leagues is to quickly identify the true breakout players early in the season and separate them from the fakeout players — those whose success is a mirage. All of the players below are currently ranked among the top 40 hitters in 5×5 leagues in the early part of the season. None of them were ranked in the top 100 hitters in preseason lists, most of them way were not in the top 200 either. Let’s find out if these guys are real gold or fool’s gold.
Devon Travis, Blue Jays — .385 AVG, 4 HRs, 11 Runs, 15 RBI, 1 Steal
Obtained from the Tigers over the winter, Travis has taken over as the Blue Jays starting second baseman. He spent all of last season in Double-A and skipped Triple-A entirely. Coming into this season Travis did not make any of the Top 100 prospect lists, but did make some of the “players to watch” lists. Travis is only five feet nine inches tall, so the power is a surprise. He did hit 18 home runs in the low minors in 2013. Travis is a promising young player but is unlikely to continue hitting anywhere near as well as he has so far this year. Verdict: Breakout. Good solid fantasy-worthy middle infielder, but not a star. Projects for .280 AVG, 15 homers, 80 Runs, 70 RBI, 15 steals.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals — .375 AVG, 2 HRs 13 Runs, 12 RBI, 5 Steals