Vlad steps onto the big stage
Vlad Guerrero Jr. made his long-anticipated major league debut on Friday night against the Athletics. His fantasy owners around the world savored the moment that they finally got to insert their prized prospect into their starting lineups. Guerrero received an ovation from the Toronto faithful for every move he made before, during and after the game, which is a sign of just how excited Blue Jays fans and fantasy baseball aficionados are about this top-flight talent. He fielded a grounder in the first inning and got a hearty round of applause. He came to the plate for the first time and the crowd chanted "Let's go Vladdy!" He grounded out to the first baseman in the second inning and got another hearty round of applause.
In his second at-bat he slammed a deep drive to left field, the crowd screamed but Chad Pinder leaped up and caught the drive at the top of the wall. In his third at bat he smacked a warning track shot to right field for another out as the crowd roared again. He justified the applause in the ninth inning by slicing a double down the right field line as the Jays rallied for the victory. It was the first hit among what is likely to be thousands of hits over the next 15 years or so. The 20-year-old phenom is the best pure hitting prospect the game has seen for years. He won't steal bases and he won't win any Gold Glove awards but who cares? This dude can hit!
He was years younger than average at every level of the minor leagues yet he put up a career .331/.413/.531 slash line with 44 homers and 209 RBI in 288 minor league games. He walked more than he struck out (150 BBs, 139 Ks). He is more likely to win batting titles than home run crowns in his early years but the power will grow as time goes by.
Along with the excitement and anticipation comes sky-high expectations. Oftentimes a hot-shot prospect's peak fantasy value comes on the day he breaks into the league. Not every "generational talent" turns into a superstar. For every Ken Griffey Jr. there is a Delmon Young. For every Alex Rodriguez there is a Jason Heyward. For every Joe Mauer there is a Matt Wieters. For every Bryce Harper there is a Jurickson Profar. For every Stephen Strasburg there is a Lucas Giolito. For every Ronald Acuna there is a Byron Buxton. All of those guys were top overall prospects and each of them was called a "once-in-a-generation" superstar in the making. Sometimes the game's top prospects just turn out to be good rather than great -- think Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon and Wil Myers. Elite prospects can even fail miserably -- just ask Brandon Wood, Jesus Montero, Dylan Bundy or Domonic Brown.
Sometimes even the ones that do become stars take a while to do so. Mike Trout might be the best player in the history of the game yet he had a .220 batting average his first year. Barry Bonds had a .223 batting average in 113 games his rookie year. Yoan Moncada had a .234 batting average and set some embarrassing strikeout records in his first two seasons before showing signs of a breakout this year. Fantasy owners shouldn't fall in love with Vladito before he earns it on a major league ballfield. It's great to be excited about Guerrero, just don't sell the farm to get him -- and if you already have him don't turn down a fantastic offer from an over-excited leaguemate. I'm not trying to be a negative Nancy but if we want to win our fantasy leagues we have to make tough calls sometimes. The level of excitement surrounding Vlad right now might make him more valuable as a trade chip than a stat-producer in your lineup.
More Prospect Call-ups
Nationals' shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom made his major league debut a memorable one against the Padres. He slugged a game-tying solo homer in the eighth inning for his first big-league hit. Prior to the promotion, the 21-year-old was batting .379/.506/.636 with three home runs, 18 RBI, one stolen base, and 14 runs scored through 18 games in Triple-A this year. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Kieboom "is going to play a lot." He started at shortstop on Friday and should play there pretty much every day until Trea Turner (finger) returns from the injured list in two or three weeks. When Turner returns, Kieboom could move to second base in place of the struggling Brian Dozier.
Angels' top pitching prospect Griffin Canning will make his big league debut on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. The 22-year-old right-hander was the Angels' second-round selection from the 2017 draft. He made three terrific starts at Triple-A Salt Lake this season, compiling a 0.56 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 17/2 K/BB ratio across 16 innings.
Rookie outfielder Eloy Jimenez crashed into the wall in Friday's game against the Tigers and had to leave the ballgame with a sprained ankle. X-rays were negative for a fracture. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday. The White Sox don't think it is a serious injury and termed the procedure precautionary. Jimenez hasn't caught fire yet. He is slashing .241/.294/.380 with three homers and eight RBI in 21 games. He is another cautionary tale to show that elite prospects aren't always worthy of fantasy rosters in their first taste of the big leagues. There is usually an adjustment period.
Don't Sleep on Winker
Jesse Winker went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and scored three runs as the Reds thrashed the Cardinals on Friday. Now might be your last chance to add Winker off the waiver wire or to get him for a reasonable price in a trade. He is currently owned in only 45 percent of Yahoo leagues and 69 percent of CBS leagues. Winker is fully healthy for the first time since breaking into the majors in 2017. He played with an aching shoulder for years but finally had surgery to get that fixed last September and looks like a different player now.
The 25-year-old outfielder is displaying far more power this year than ever before. He hit seven home runs in 47 games as a rookie in 2017. He hit seven home runs in 89 games last year and now has seven home runs in 25 games in 2019. He had a .162 Isolated Power through his first two seasons and has bumped that mark up to .273 so far in 2019. Is the added power just a fluke? A hot streak? Or is this newfound power the new normal for Winker? I am confident this is his true talent level. He got off to a slow start in terms of batting average this year, largely due to a flukishly unlucky .189 BABIP so far in 2019. His BABIP was .332 in his first two years and that is more like what we should expect moving forward for Winker. He has a long track record in his professional career of producing high batting averages and stellar on-base percentages. He had a .299 batting average and a .405 on-base percentage last year. That OBP would have been the 4th-best in the majors if he had played enough to qualify.
Now that he is hitting the ball harder and further than ever before we could be watching the early stages of one of the best all-around hitters in the major leagues. Think of a .300/.400/.475 batter with 30 home runs, 90 RBI and 110 runs scored annually. He is not a good runner and won't steal bases for his fantasy owners though. He will be elite in 4x4 leagues and merely stellar in 5x5 leagues. In points leagues he will be even better because he walks almost as often as he strikes out and could be among the league leaders in on-base percentage. Buy!
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** Braves catcher Tyler Flowers went 4-for-4 and smacked two home runs in a loss to the Rockies.
** The Mariners' Nelson Cruz went 3-for-4 with a pair of solo homers in Friday’s win over the Orioles. The 38-year-old designated hitter has a .308 batting average with five home runs and 15 RBI.
** White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hit two balls over the fence on the fly but only got credit for one home run. Say what? He blasted a two-run homer in the sixth inning. He came to the plate again in the seventh with two runners on base and promptly hit the ball over the left field wall and circled the bases for what appeared to be a three-run bomb. But upon review it was ruled that he passed Tim Anderson on the basepaths and he was called out. The two baserunners scored on the play and Abreu was given credit for a single rather than a homer. Altogether on the evening he went 4-for-5 with one homer and five RBI in the win over the Tigers.
NL Quick Hits: Max Scherzer struck out 10 batters while allowing two runs over seven innings in a no-decision against the Padres. He notched his 2500th career strikeout in the contest and has 54 strikeouts and five walks in 39 1/3 innings this year, although it's come with a 4.12 ERA... Yasiel Puig went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in a 12-1 demolition of the Cardinals... Curt Casali went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs during a win over the Cardinals... Anthony DeSclafani turned in a gem, shutting out the Cardinals for six innings to earn a win... Miles Mikolas was charged with four runs and a loss against the Reds... Nolan Arenado went 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored in an 8-4 win over the Braves... Trevor Story went 2-for-5 with a solo dinger and two runs scored in a win over the Braves... Jose Urena pitched well in a losing effort against the Phillies, surrendering two runs on four hits over seven strong innings... Jerad Eickhoff was dominant in Friday's victory over the Marlins, racking up six strikeouts over seven innings of shutout baseball... Bryce Harper clobbered his sixth home run, a two-run shot against the Marlins... Daniel Murphy went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in a win over the Braves in Atlanta... Max Fried was touched up for four runs in 5 1/3 innings and took a loss to the Rockies... Kirby Yates notched his MLB-leading 13th save Friday against the Nationals... Matt Strahm yielded two runs over six innings in a no-decision against the Nationals... Madison Bumgarner gave up five runs and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees... Jacob deGrom (elbow) scuffled again on Friday, this time allowing five runs over four innings of work against the Brewers... Hyun-Jin Ryu limited the Pirates to two runs over seven innings and struck out 10 to win... Chris Archer surrendered six runs in four innings Friday in a loss to the Dodgers... Cody Bellinger hit his 13th homer, singled and walked against the Pirates... Adam Jones went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI as the Diamondbacks beat the Cubs 8-3... Robbie Ray picked up his first win of the season after allowing three runs in five innings against the Cubs... Kyle Hendricks was tagged for seven runs in five innings by the Diamondbacks.
AL Quick Hits: Francisco Lindor finished 2-for-5 with a pair of homers and three RBI in a victory over the Astros.... Corey Kluber yielded three runs over five innings in a no-decision against the Astros... Tyler Skaggs blanked the Royals for five innings and struck out five in his return from a sprained ankle... Making his season debut, Danny Duffy yielded three runs in five innings in a loss to the Angels... Albert Pujols hit his fourth homer... Ryan O'Hearn went 0-for-3 and struck out twice in the loss to the Angels and now owns a .169 batting average... Collin McHugh was handed a no-decision after yielding three runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Indians... Brad Hand struck out three batters in the ninth inning to secure his eighth save of the season against the Astros... Carlos Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a walk against the Astros... Michael Brantley went 2-for-5 with a double and a single against the Indians... Carlos Rodon was destroyed in a no-decision against the Tigers, giving up eight runs on nine hits over three-plus innings. His ERA climbed to 4.94 with the disastrous outing... Tim Anderson crushed a walk-off solo homer against the Tigers. He went 4-for-6 with a double, three runs scored, two RBI and a stolen base... Daniel Norris was hit hard in a no-decision against the White Sox, allowing four runs on 10 hits over his five frames... Nicholas Castellanos homered for the second consecutive game as the Tigers fell to the White Sox... Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-6 and slugged his first home run of the season as the Tigers lost to the White Sox... Martin Perez fired six innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 win over the Orioles... Alex Cobb was tagged for five runs — four earned — over four innings in a loss to the Twins... Max Kepler went 2-for-4 with a long solo homer against the Orioles... Trey Mancini went 3-for-5 in a loss to the Twins. He’s batting .349/.400/.614 in 120 plate appearances overall... Marcus Stroman gave up just one hit over seven scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Athletics. He now has a sterling 1.43 ERA through six starts... Mike Fiers surrendered two runs over seven innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays... Eric Sogard went 2-for-3 with a leadoff homer and a walk against the Athletics... Rangers activated Rougned Odor from the 10-day injured list... Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters Friday that Joey Wendle (wrist) will likely be sidelined 6-8 weeks... Edwin Encarnacion went 2-for-4 with a homer, four RBI and a walk as the Mariners edged the Rangers 5-4 in 11 innings... Shelby Miller gave up four runs in five innings and walked five in a no-decision against the Mariners... Nomar Mazara went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI against the Mariners... Rougned Odor went 0-for-5 and struck out four times Friday in his return from the injured list... Luke Voit went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double, three RBI and a walk to lead the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Giants... James Paxton allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings and struck out eight against the Giants.