I wear two hats on this site. When I’m not writing about fantasy baseball, Rotoworld has me on the NFL Draft beat, which means I spent this past weekend glued to the television as Mel Kiper and Todd McShay slobbered over game tape porn (the duo, at times icy towards one another in the past, seem to have become chums, which, for some reason, soothes me).
My disparate Rotoworld assignments have a lot in common. On the NFL Draft side, I’m asked to watch games, read as much national draft coverage as I can, simplify the argument of the writer, and add my own twist or projection in the news blurb. On the baseball side, I’m asked to essentially do the same, only most of my opinions are derived from stats and not personal observations nor conjecture from the Kiper/McShay/Mike Mayock community.
As an NFL Draft writer, I can watch Teddy Bridgewater’s games and study his measurables and make an accurate-enough prediction about how he’ll translate to the pros (my take: very well; steal at No. 32). Am I right? No idea. But I know I have about as much information available to me as everybody else who has made a prediction about Teddy’s future.
As a fantasy baseball writer, however, predictions are more nuanced, because there’s a wealth of numerical knowledge available, and many different ways of interpreting it (collegiate stats of NFL prospects are essentially meaningless). Matthew Pouliot, Drew Silva, D.J. Short and I could look at one specific batter and give you four different opinions about his current fantasy value based on all sorts of variables that we have chosen to value differently.
At a certain point on Thursday night, during Bridgewater’s first-round freefall (during the season, he was considered a potential No. 1 overall pick), I started to see parallels between the NFL’s reactionary, nitpicky relationship to Teddy B and fantasy baseball owners’ reactionary, nitpicky relationship with another formerly elite prospect whose reputation has taken a hit in recent weeks. And that’s where we’re going to kick off the Week That Was....
- Fantasy owners couldn’t wait to give up on George Springer, the much-hyped Houston prodigy, dropping him en masse following a .185/.254/.215 line through last Sunday. Springer seemingly made them regret that decision last week, blasting his first homer of the season on Thursday, belting another Saturday, and hitting safely in 11 of his last 13 games. Only that apparently isn’t the case, as Springer is owned in less than 40% of ESPN leagues and is held in 44% of Yahoo! leagues.
Let’s not bury the lead: Springer should be owned in all leagues and formats. The outfielder’s uneasy acclimation to the bigs wasn’t necessarily a surprise and is explained by the one major hole in his game—he strikes out too often. This is not new information. Major League pitchers have exploited Springer’s long swing by whiffing him in more than one-third of his at-bats (33 strikeouts and 20 hits in 88 ABs over 22 games). Springer is a tireless worker and a natural talent, so those pitchers better enjoy picking on him while they can. He’s been fooled and rendered off balance by off-speed stuff (pounding the ball into the ground on more than half of his at-bats), but you can bet Springer will get comfortable with MLB pitch sequencing and arsenal quality very quickly.
The strikeout issue will never go away. One look at either Springer’s minor league numbers or swing will tell you that. Don’t concern yourself. He has high-voltage power, and runs like a jaguar, ensuring the homers and steals will be there by the end of the year. You have to cross your fingers on the batting average during Springer’s rookie campaign (he hit better than .300 on the farm, including .353 at Triple-A Earlier this year), and you’re also going to have to remain patient. If you have to stick him on your mixed league bench until he puts together one great week, do it. I’ve kept Springer in my starting lineup in Rotoworld’s 13-team baseball staff league since his promotion. Sure, the first few weeks were rough, but no freely available talent has upside even close. I’ll ride his ship until it sinks. If Springer is sent down later this year, go ahead and nudge me off the plank of wood I’m clinging to like Rose with Jack in Titanic.
- Past Week That Was free-agent SP addition suggestions have worked out well—including Jesse Chavez, Nate Eovaldi, and Wily Peralta—so let's try again. Phil Hughes isn’t a must-add in mixed leagues yet, but we’re going to discuss him now because he must officially be monitored and I’m only published once a week.
Hughes began his Twins’ career 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA through three starts, cementing the opinion of cynics who blasted Minnesota’s winter gamble, but he’s been dynamite since. Dating back to April 20, Hughes is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four outings. I can’t give him a full mixed league endorsement quite yet—I’d love the K/9 rate to get closer to 8—but there are extremely encouraging signs coming from the former top prospect.
First off, he’s beating quality hitters. Hughes’ four-game winning streak came against the Royals in Kansas City, the Tigers at Target Field, the Orioles at home, and then the Tigers again, this time in Detroit (he fired seven shutout innings Friday). Secondly, Hughes is walking only 1.3 batters per nine innings right now, which almost guarantees success. Thirdly, Hughes has allowed only two homers since his first start (and four total), especially key for a pitcher tormented in the past by the long-ball.
Having finally escaped homer-friendly Yankee Stadium (in his 4-14 nightmare 2013, the right-hander had a 3.88 ERA and allowed seven homers on the road, but he coughed up 17 homers in New York and posted a 6.32 ERA; over his career, Hughes has allowed 77 home HRs and 39 road HRs), Hughes could settle in as a quality mid-rotation starter (he ranked 34th in baseball with a 3.25 K/BB ratio over the past two years, despite his struggles). Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch spells doom for fly-ball heavy right-handed pitchers, and it accosted Hughes more egregiously than most. Target Field, as Justin Morneau will tell you, saps the strength of left-handed power hitters.
Overall, Hughes is 4-1 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 32/6 K/BB ratio through 41 1/3 frames. You can probably wait on adding him (he’s owned in less than 5% of ESPN leagues), but one or two more good outings and he’ll be snapped up across formats in the blink of an eye. Keep your peepers on him Thursday at home against the Red Sox.
And while we’re talking pitchers’ fantasy stocks, my favorite buy-low in the game right now is Homer Bailey, coming off another lackluster start. He had a 3.49 ERA and 3.34 xFIP last year; he’s got a 5.36 ERA and 3.43 xFIP right now—his doubled HR rate will fall, as will the silly .369 BABIP.
It’s about time for the WTW speed round, so let's hit it:
- Yu Darvish recorded 26 outs before losing another no-hitter one-out short on Friday against the Red Sox. He punched out 12, improving to 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
- Unfortunate news out of San Francisco with Brandon Belt breaking his left thumb on Friday. He’s expected to miss several weeks. Mike Morse will cover first base in Belt’s absence, with Gregor Blanco in line to receive full-time at-bats in Morse’s old spot in left. Blanco’s speed and expected playing time mean he has to be owned in NL-only formats. Owners in deeper NL-only formats should also monitor Tyler Colvin, called up in a corresponding move when Belt was placed on the disabled list. Colvin is a streaky hitter with power—he’ll be worth an NL-only look if he starts stealing playing time.
- Asdrubal Cabrera was certain he’d hit for a cycle in Thursday’s win over the Twins, but a rookie official scorer (former Akron Beacon Journal beat writer Sheldon Ocker, literally on his first day on the new job) ruled that Cabrera’s fourth and final hit, in which he ended up on third base and seemingly completed the cycle, was actually a double with a throw home that allowed the veteran shortstop to reach third base.
Chances are his recent exploits will render his memory short. In four games since Wednesday, Cabrera is 9-for-17 with a walk, three doubles, two homers, four RBI and five runs scored (he went 0-for-4 Saturday). He entered Wednesday batting .205 with a .589 OPS, so fantasy owners are hoping he’s woken from slumber, raising his average to .246. Cabrera is motivated to keep the good times rolling: He’ll be a free agent this winter, and will be seeking a new address with Francisco Lindor on the way.
- Dynast league alert: All-World prospect Byron Buxton re-injured his left wrist on a slide over the weekend with High-A Fort Myers. He’s set to undergo an MRI on the same wrist that cost him the first five weeks of the season. Expect a Sunday update on his prognosis.
- The Padres activated Chase Headley from the 15-day disabled list after exactly 15 days on the shelf mending a strained right calf.
- Top Mets SP prospect Rafael Montero could be promoted in the coming days to bump Jenrry Mejia to the bullpen. Montero should be added in all NL-only leagues, and owners in deeper mixed leagues should jump in once he’s officially summoned.
- A "gimpy" right ankle restricted Andrew McCutchen to the bench Saturday. The Pirates haven’t addressed his issue, but expect resolution one way or the other on Sunday.
- Adam LaRoche is headed to the disabled list with a quad strain.