It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means. I’ll be addressing 10 burning questions that I’m looking either for answers for during the week or questions that may help fantasy managers navigate the week-to-week grind of their team.
* You’ll notice three values for Shohei Ohtani: Hitter-Only, Pitcher-Only, Combined.
Fantasy Baseball Burning Questions
How long do you give struggling players?
It all depends on the draft cost associated with them, no? If it’s someone that you drafted in the last round of drafts, you should be comfortable with moving on from them immediately. When it’s someone you’ve invested notable draft equity into, it’s more difficult not to see it through for longer.
My rule of thumb is typically waiting until a week into May before making an extreme move – and for players I’ve drafted with my first seven or eight picks, I usually move that line out to June.
It’s a long, long season, folks.
Any confirmation biases confirmed?
And even though it is a long season, we are all human and want to take victory laps early. It could be with Jacob deGrom getting hurt (despite the number of arms who have gone down already) or it could be a player we thought would be good continuing to perform at high levels.
Here are a few players who I’m fighting off the urge to victory lap on:
Jake McCarthy (OF – ARI) – McCarthy was my easiest fade of the season, as I didn’t believe in the talent nor the opportunity that others saw. So far, I feel smart, as he’s slashing .170/.264/.234 with two steals and a .064 ISO.
Xander Bogaerts (SS – SD) – I’ve stopped caring about the Statcast data for Bogaerts, as he’s outperformed his numbers for almost his entire career. I’ve decided to embrace it, instead, and have a few board bets out there for Bogaerts to finish as a top-10 shortstop. So far, so good.
Luis Arraez (2B – MIA) – He was one of my favorite late-round targets for batting average, and while he hasn’t hit the ball hard at all, he’s putting up an absurd 207 wRC+. That trade really was a win-win for Miami and Minnesota.
What’s up with Edward Cabrera?
Just a reminder that I take questions on Twitter for this column every week. This one came in from @ChinskiTweets. He was concerned about Cabrera, as well as another pitcher who we’ll talk about in a bit.
It’s been a frustrating year for all those involved with Cabrera, as he has the lights-out stuff but has been all over the place with his command and control through three starts. While his last one was better, he still failed to go more than five innings and only had four strikeouts.
The first thing that I notice with E-Cab is that the power changeup – his best pitch – is a pitch that he’s been struggling to locate. Because of that, he’s been forced to throw his 4-seamer 35.3 percent of the time. The fastball has just an 8 Whiff% so far, down from 22.4 last year.
With the fastball, Cabrera is leaving it up in the zone, but not high enough to induce whiffs on it. Cabrera should have better days ahead of him, but it all comes down to getting command of his changeup. If he can do that, the whiffs should come. He’s a hold.
Thoughts on Jameson Taillon?
Chinski also asked about Taillon, too, so let’s look under the hood a bit. The first thing that I notice is that Taillon is throwing his cutter a lot more this season.
After throwing it 11.1 percent of the time last season, Jame-O is throwing it 26 percent of the time – more than any other pitch of his. It’s getting absolutely annihilated, though, as it has a .529 average against and an xBA of .302.
What I’d like to see is less of an emphasis on the cutter and more of an emphasis on the sinker and curveball. There were arguably his two best pitches last year – at least as a pitch to induce contact and to turn to as an out-pitch.
Who are some players rostered in 50 percent of leagues or fewer I should target?
Here are 10 hitters and pitchers who you should add to your watchlist who are available in 21-50 percent of leagues (using Yahoo rostership numbers).
What about 20 percent?
Like above, here are 10 hitters and pitchers rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues or fewer who should be on your deep-league radar.
Who are you encouraged by?
Quite a few players, actually. I’m looking forward to the point in the season where we can stop saying “it’s early,” because it feels like too much of a cop-out. But there are some encouraging signs that we can look at and apply early on.
Here are some players I’m encouraged by.
Matt Chapman (3B – TOR) – How can you not be? We’ve always questioned the bat – his defense is absurdly good – but Chappy is looking like a top 5 third baseman at this point.
Yandy Diaz (1B,3B – TB) – He’s always hit the ball extremely hard, but he’s starting to lift it, too, which is resulting in the power numbers we’ve been craving.
Nolan Gorman (2B – STL) – No one is talking about what Gorman is doing because we are all obsessed with Jarred Kelenic this week. But Gorman has a .450 xwOBA and has lowered his strikeout rate to 23.3 percent.
Graham Ashcraft (SP – CIN) – He’s getting away with a cutter/slider approach right now, though the slider is the superior pitch. Still, if he paints the edges with the cutter, he can continue the hot start to the season.
Who has you concerned?
I pretty much don’t worry about anyone early on who I wasn’t worried about in Spring Training. But a few players I’m slightly concerned about are:
- Lance Lynn: I had him here last week, too, but I’m watching his start as I write this so it’s recency bias.
- Trey Mancini: I love the human and I really hope he turns it around. But right now, it’s hard to justify having his bat in the lineup each day. Mancini has a league-worst -0.7 WAR with a 1.7 BB% and 30 K%.
- Alek Manoah: The velocity is down. The pitches are hittable. He has at least four walks in his last three starts, and his high-water mark for strikeouts is five this season.
Any random findings?
A few, actually. Thanks for asking, Michael.
- Kodai Senga‘s ghost fork has an xBA of .033 lol. That’s the lowest of any pitch by any starting pitcher (splitters by Darvish and Gilbert are next at .044 xBA)
- Manoah’s slider (7) has the second-worst Run Value of any pitch in baseball this year.
- There are four players with an average exit velocity of at least 90 mph who have yet to record a Barrel this season. Two of them are White Sox: Elvis Andrus, Anthony Rendon, J.P. Crawford, Gavin Sheets.
- Brady Singer has allowed 36 95-MPH+ balls this season (70.6%). The highest among any starter last year was Yusei Kikuchi (47.9%).
Is Nico Hoerner … good?
Yeah, he’s good. This is a dumb question (I asked it to myself).
But I think what we are getting at here is whether or not we can expect this level of speed from him for the rest of the season. Hoerner leads all players in stolen bases so far this season, putting up nine in 10 attempts.
His previous high was set last year with 20. Steamer, for example, projected him for 22 steals at the beginning of the season, and he’s nearly half-way to that mark.
It could go either way. It could go the way of A.J. Pollock in 2018, who had six steals in March and April and ended up with 13 on the year. Or it could go the way of Lorenzo Cain, who had eight in March and April in 2018 and ended up with 30.
We can’t overlook the bigger bases, as well as the ability to take bigger leads, to pair with Hoerner’s elite-level sprint speed.
He looks like a legit 30-steal guy this season.