Just for a quick update on C Francisco Mejia, the minor league baseball season has just started. Mejia played in two games with one coming behind the plate and the other in left field. He has one hit in eight at-bats with four Ks.
The catching free agent pool in 12-team leagues looks barren. After about ten days of baseball, four starting catchers on the DL – Matt Wieters, Mike Zunino, Salvador Perez, and J.J. Realmuto. The only two players worthy of filling in at the moment based on playing time are Francisco Cervelli and Manny Pina.
Pina has four hits in his last 15 at-bats with a home run and two RBI. Over 450 at-bats, Manny projects as 12 to 15 home runs player with about 50 runs and RBI. Cervelli only has four hits in 25 at-bats on the year with four RBI. He had no upside in power with a chance at neutral batting average.
When looking at the weak playing pool at catcher, it points more toward rostering Mejia as a buy-and-hold. He’s career .292 hitter in the minors with 40 HRs, 246 RBI, and 18 SBs in 1,506 at-bats.
With Ian Kinsler on the DL, Luis Valbuena has been in the lineup in seven of the last eight days (8-for-26 with two HRs and five RBI). In most seasons, Valbuena works his way into a platoon role while offering 20+ HRs with 450+ at-bats. He’s only worthy of a short-term injury cover until Kinsler returns to the starting lineup. After that, he’ll compete for at-bats at DH with Shohei Ohtani.
Joe Mauer could be poised for a big season with him being a free agent in 2019. His production is minimal after six games (no HRs and one RBI), but he has a hit in each game (8-for-22) with four walks and only two Ks. The last time Joe was set to become a free agent; he hit .365 with 28 HRs and 96 RBI over 523 at-bats. That season has never been repeated over his eight-year, $185 million contract. I don’t expect greatness, but an edge in batting average and a bump in power wouldn’t surprise me. Mauer needs 1,006 hits to reach 3,000 at age 35.
The A’s have hit Jed Lowrie in the third spot in the batting order over the last week. He responded with a four-game hitting streak (nine-for-16) with two HRs and five RBI. On the year, he’s hitting .341 with two HRs, and seven RBI. Jed falls more into the ride him while he’s hot category than a long-term play. His upside in power is minimal while offering no speed.
Cesar Hernandez landed in the free agent poor this week most likely due to the emergence of Scott Kingery. Hernandez is doing his best to hold him off over his first seven games (.308 with one HR, two RBI, and two SBs) while batting in the leadoff spot. Kingery played at 1B, 3B, SS, and OF in his six starts. J.P. Crawford looks like the weak link in the starting lineup (1-for-19) pointing to Hernandez continuing to start on most nights while hitting in a desirable part of the batting order. Invest in the possible speed upside while knowing his batting average will be an asset. Cesar may not be dead in power as well (nine HRs over 511 at-bats in 2017).
Maybe I was sleeping at the wheel in my 12-team league as Matt Chapman remains a free agent. After 37 at-bats, Chapman has three HRs and eight RBI. For the record, I had Jake Lamb at 3rd base, Wil Myers at CO, and Maikel Franco at DH. With two injuries to cover, Chapman will be a top priority for me. As I mentioned last week, Matt has a 40+ HR upside based on his 23 HRs over 304 at-bats in 2015 at High A and 36 HRs over 504 at-bats in 2016 between AA and AAA.
Christian Villanueva may fall into the fluke category this week after hitting three HRs with five RBI on April 3rd. He started the last five games (6-for-17 with four runs, three HRs, and six RBI). Last season Christian played well at AAA (.296 with 20 HRs and 86 RBI over 398 at-bats) while holding his own over short at-bats (32) in the majors (.344 with four HRs and seven RBI). Villanueva has a chance to steal the third base job in San Diego and run with it. Chase Headley only has six at-bats over the last week, and he doesn’t have a hit in 12 at-bats on the year. Possible short-term injury cover that turns out to be a nice buy-and-hold.
The A’s called up Franklin Barreto on Saturday. His path to playing time will come in the outfield until Oakland moves Jed Lowrie. Barreto played well this spring (.293 with three HRs, ten RBI, and three SBs over 58 at-bats), but he did have 18 Ks. In his first and only game at AAA in 2018, he went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. At age 21 at AAA in 2017, Franklin hit .290 with 15 HRs, 54 RBI, and 15 SBs over 469 at-bats. For him to have early success in the majors, Barreto must do a better job controlling the strikes zone.
Freddy Galvis is the best option at short in my free agent pool. He has ten hits in 30 at-bats with two HRs, one HR, and five RBI. Galvis has the talent to be a 15/15 player, but his runs and RBI will be short due hitting at the bottom of the lineup.
Last week I mentioned Preston Tucker as an early season cover for Ronald Acuna in the majors, Well, Tucker played well enough where he wants to keep the job long-term. Tucker has ten hits in 26 at-bats this year with two HRs and nine RBI. Acuna went 0-4 for his first minor league game with a K. Preston flashed upside over 492 at-bats at AAA in 2017 (.250 with 24 HRs and 96 RBI). There’s more here than meets the eye, but his window for playing is at the mercy of Mr. Acuna.
This season I drafted Jorge Soler on a ton of my teams. I expected him to hit in a favorable part of the Royals lineup with a great opportunity for playing time in 2018. When a player in the majors comes out of the game slowly while lacking a starting major league resume, it invites doubt into a Fantasy owners mind. Soler doesn’t have a hit in 11 at-bats, which led to a couple of days off over the last week. Kansas City doesn’t have a ton of talent in the outfield at the AAA level giving Jorge a longer rope to find his rhythm. I’m still a fan, and I have to believe in my research. He’ll be free in the waiver pool this week, and most non-believers will give him the boot on Sunday. I’m holding or buying low. I still expect a 20/80 type season with a chance to make a run at 30+ home runs. Two hot days will move his early season stats into a favorable area.
In the preseason, I dismissed Kyle Tucker as a starting option in Houston based their major league options in the outfield. The more a hear about him and see his production and upside, the more I realize I should have rostered him at the very least on my AL auction teams. Tucker hit .274 in 2017 between High A and AA with 25 HRs, 90 RBI, and 21 SBs over 464 at-bats. This season he’s starting at AAA, which puts him a phone call away from the majors. Kyle crushed the ball this spring (.409 with five HRs, 21 RBI, and two SBs in 44 at-bats) while doing a good job controlling the strike zone (nine Ks). If given a chance, I would make sure to buy Tucker before he hits the ground running in the majors.
Jurickson Profar hasn’t lived up to his early hype for the Rangers. He doesn’t have a clear path to at-bats, but the injury to Delino DeShields does open a small window of playing time. Profar appeared to have a 20/20 skill set after seeing his results at A (.286 with 12 HRs, 65 RBI, and 23 SBs over 430 at-bats) and AA (.281 with 14 HRs, 62 RBI, and 16 SBs over 480 at-bats) in 2011 and 2012 at age 18 and 19. He’s lost his way over the last couple of seasons after being hurt in 2014 and 2015. This season he played at 2B, 3B, SS, and OF. He’s not a buy right now, but he may turn into a Brandon Phillips type player in 2016 (post-hype player).
A rainout cost Ben Lively double starts last week. He’ll have that opportunity this week. In his first start of the year, Ben allowed two runs over 5.2 innings with five Ks. He pitched exceptionally well at AAA in 2017 (3.15 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 97 innings with 82 Ks). This week Lively faces the Reds at home and the Rays on the road. Excellent double starting option.
The Angels are expected to call up Nick Tropeano this week after Matt Shoemaker ended up on the DL. In his first start at AAA, Tropeano went 3.2 innings with no runs allowed and seven Ks. His short outing was due to a high pitch count (95). In spring training. Nick threw the ball well (three runs over 8.2 innings with 11 Ks. Possible buy and hold, but he does draw a start in Texas and in Boston over the next two weeks
Yonny Chirinos looks poised to keep a starting job for the Rays. After tossing four shutout innings with three Ks vs. Boston on April 1st, Chirinos pitched great a start against the Red Sox on the road (no runs over five innings with no walks and four Ks) in his next outing. Facing the same team twice over a week tends to be losing play in Fantasy baseball. His success and 2017 minor league resume (13-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 141 Ks over 168.1 innings) point to a nice career in the majors. Yonny has a 36-17 career record in the minors with a 2.75 ERA and 363 Ks over 474.1 innings.
Before spring training, I liked the potential upside of Andrew Heaney. A bum left elbow in March left me running for cover in the draft season in the high-stakes market. After starting the year in the DL. Heaney will make his major debut for LA this week. In his only minor league start, Andrew allowed one run over 6.1 innings with six Ks. Player to watch, but I would drive him carefully in shallow leagues until he has some innings under his belt.
Hyun-Jin Ryu struggled in his first start (three runs, five hits, five walks, and two Ks over 3.2 innings) sending smoke signals to Fantasy owners that Walker Buehler could be closer to the majors than expected. In his first minor league start, Buehler allowed one run over four innings with five Ks. Last season over three levels of the minors, Walker had a 3.35 ERA with 125 Ks over 88.2 innings.
Corey Knebel blew out his hamstring this week opening up a closer job in Milwaukee. His injury will keep him out for six-to-eight weeks at the minimum. The Brewers gave Jacob Barnes the first shot to close, but he lost his way (two runs, three hits, and two walks over two -thirds of an inning). Before that outing, Barnes didn’t allow a run over six innings with five Ks. Last season Jacob had a couple of nice stretches where he looked closer-worthy. Even with his poor outing, I’m taking a swing that he’ll keep the job while Knebel is on the DL.
Josh Hader has the best arm in the Brewers’ bullpen, but they know his future role is in the starting rotation. After five innings in 2018, Hader has a 1.80 ERA with ten Ks over five innings. Still a dark horse for saves if Barnes and company can’t get it done.
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