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
Let’s take a look at a few pitchers who may be available in your league who are off to hot starts. One key to success in fantasy leagues is to quickly identify the true breakout players early in the season, and separating them from the fakeout players — those whose success is a mirage. Last season saw unexpected breakouts from Matt Shoemaker, Collin McHugh and Jacob deGrom. The owners who snared them received a very nice boost to their championship hopes, whereas those owners who grabbed Dan Haren, Aaron Harang or Martin Perez after their hot starts ended up getting burned. So what we need to do is determine whether each of these pitchers is likely to continue their success.
Odrisamer Despaigne, Padres — 1 Win, 0.77 ERA, 0.34 WHIP, 4 Ks in 11.2 innings.
The 28 year old Cuban defector started the season in the minors but was promoted after Ian Kennedy went down with an injury. Despaigne pitched 96 innings for the Padres last year and put up a tidy 3.36 ERA. That is the good news. The bad news is his xFIP was 4.01, and xFIP is a much better predictor of future ERA than previous ERA is. Despaigne also exhibits a very low strikeout rate 5.75 K/9 for his career. That is a problem for two reasons. The first is that pitchers with strikeout rates that low are incredibly unlikely to put up good ERAs for long. The second reason is that strikeouts are a key fantasy scoring category and Despaigne is not going to help you there. Despaigne does not have anything close to overpowering stuff. He is a smoke-and-mirrors junkballer similar to Livan Hernandez or Bronson Arroyo. Despaigne plays half his games in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark and the Padres have made huge upgrades to their offense, two factors that will help Despaigne. Verdict: Fakeout. Won’t be terrible but should not be targeted for your team. Decent injury replacement. Can be used as a streamer in two-start weeks at home.
Nick Martinez, Rangers — 2 Wins, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 Ks in 14 innings. Continue reading
Much has been made about the fact that Chicago Cubs 2014 first round draft pick Kyle Schwarber might not stick behind the plate and could ultimately be moved to outfield full time. How is this going to affect the slugger’s fantasy value? Should we move him down the rankings if he is not a catcher? Is it better for us as fantasy team owners for Schwarber to remain a catcher or move to the outfield? Let’s keep in mind that there have been a lot of players who were catchers as amateurs who “failed” to remain at catcher through their minor league years. Bryce Harper, Pablo Sandoval, Joey Votto, Dale Murphy, Craig Biggio and many others began their careers as catchers and went on to stardom at other positions. The bottom line is that if a guy can hit it doesn’t matter too much what position he plays. Positional scarcity should not be a major issue when ranking prospects.
We have all heard the case for positional scarcity and how it affects a player’s fantasy value. If you have two players who both have the exact same statistics, the one who plays the rarer position is a lot more valuable. Clearly, catcher is a scarce position and there are only a small handful of legitimate hitters who wear the mask. If you are starting Buster Posey or Jonathan Lucroy at catcher then you will have a large advantage over teams starting Jason Castro or Miguel Montero.
Just How Scarce are They?
That is all true without question, but in terms of fantasy baseball that is often overblown. Continue reading
The most valuable commodity in dynasty league baseball is a young player coming off an excellent season. 25 year old Danny Duffy fits the bill. He put up a 2.53 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 149.1 innings this year. He finished the season ranked #34 among starting pitchers on Yahoo, #52 on CBS and #36 on ESPN’s Player Rater. He also got a ton of media attention because his team made it all the way through the playoffs into the World Series. His owners are thrilled to have him and almost everybody else wants him. Because of his youth and great season Duffy should have a ton of fantasy value right now, right? Yes, Duffy does have a lot of trade value, but he does not offer a lot of real production value moving forward.
Unfortunately Duffy’s fantasy stats are hiding some nasty surprises. Continue reading
Everybody who plays in a dynasty league loves prospects. Even if you didn’t care about minor leaguers before joining a dynasty league you quickly learned how critically important young players are. There is a good chance it opened up your mind to the wonderful world of prospecting. That’s what got me started. We all crave those elite prospects for our minor league rosters, so much so that their trade values soar into the stratosphere. The key to success is to spot those future superstars before your leaguemates do. If you wait for the annual top prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America to be published it will be too late. That might have worked 5 years ago but the volume of prospect information available to fantasy leaguers has exploded. So unless you grab them early you will be scrambling for the next Mike Trout and Matt Harvey at the same time as everyone else in your league. What you really need to do is identify those studs before they hit the big lists that everyone sees. You need to dig early and dig deep so you can snare these guys cheaply before their values skyrocket. That is the Holy Grail of dynasty league dominance. Here at The Dynasty Guru we will keep you up to date on the future stars you need to know about.
Many of the top 10 most elite prospects in baseball spent time in the low minors as relatively unheralded nobodies before shooting to the top of the lists. Many guys who become elite prospects were not 1st round draft picks nor celebrated amateur players. Some of the best players in the major leagues were never considered elite prospects. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and many more elite fantasy players never made it anywhere near the top of a prospect list. That means we could have obtained those guys for free if we had been smart enough to predict how good they would become. Let’s take a shot at doing that now. Continue reading
The Cleveland Indians have not been known for producing a lot of good fantasy pitchers down through the years. But things are changing on the shores of Lake Erie. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway has turned things around in amazing fashion since taking over in 2013, culminating with the 2014 Cy Young Award won by 28 year old former nobody Corey Kluber. Obviously it is way too late for you to get a bargain on Kluber, but you can still buy low on several other high-upside starting pitchers on the Indians’ staff. Continue reading
Julio Teheran has been a fantasy stud the last two seasons, fulfilling the hopes of dynasty leaguers who have watched him grow from an uber-elite prospect into a legitimate ace hurler. Still only 23 years old with his health intact, it seems he is poised to dominate the league for years to come. So why am I advising you to trade him? Because there are some red flags in his underlying peripheral stats that warn of darker days ahead. In my opinion his value is higher right now than it ever will be again, so this winter is the ideal time to cash him in and invest in a safer commodity.
The Good Stuff
Teheran’s 2014 season was a fantasy owner’s dream: 14-13 record, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 186 strikeouts spread over 221 innings. That excellent production drove a high proportion of his owners to league championships. It is no surprise that he finished the season ranked as the 14th best starting pitcher in 5×5 leagues and a top 50 overall player regardless of position. Given his youth and name recognition, Teheran would be one of the first pitchers taken in new dynasty leagues having their inaugural drafts. His trade value is sky high.
The not so Good Stuff