Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 3 Prospect Report: Touki Torches

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It was an extremely busy week for this author. The Masters was a masterful four-day event that saw the Tiger comeback win him his money back in the FanDuel MEGA Eagle tournament (thank you, Jesus). The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing and have seen some crazy underdogs win road games and series. And, I watched my first episode of Game of Thrones.

Yep – the first one I’ve ever watched is Season 8, Episode 1. You should’ve seen the look on my coworkers’ faces when I asked them what the ‘weird blue eyes’ meant. I’ve also decided to suspend my Season 8 viewing and go back to the beginning now. Have I already encountered too many spoilers? Hopefully not.

To cap off the week, I was able to dig into some minor league data and map out some Double-A and collegiate games to attend to do some fantasy scouting. How fun is that? I’m looking to keep this sportstacular month of April going with some live looks that I can share in this weekly prospect report.


But enough about my antics – let’s catch up on some minor league action through the first two weeks!

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 3 Prospect Report

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Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves

It’s finally Touki time! As a Braves fan, we are on a first-name basis. No, this has nothing to do with my brain always wanting to put the ‘i’ in his last name after the ‘u’. Does that happen to anyone else?

Anyway, Touki was able to force his way back into the rotation after a masterful performance in relief of Sean Newcomb. The latter could not get out of the third inning and the former took it from there. In fact, the Braves went as far as to send Newcomb down to work on his control issues. Shocker. Now, Touki gets a chance this weekend to prove his worth with a start against the Indians. By the way, that makes him a viable starting option off of the waiver wire.

As with all Atlanta arms other than Mike Foltynewicz (upon return), there’s always the possibility of getting demoted or relegated to the bullpen. With Max Fried pitching well and Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman getting the veteran treatment, that fifth spot is turning into a game of musical chairs. This week, Touki found the lucky seat, but who will it be next? Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, and Kyle Wright (mentioned later) will require a few starts at Triple-A. However, it’s Mike Soroka, who also joins the rotation this week, that worries me. As much as I wish that Teheran would go to a long-relief role, it’ll be either Soroka or Touki getting knocked out upon Folty’s return. If you can manage it, pick up both and play the waiting game.

Erik Swanson, SP, Seattle Mariners

Seattle may have stolen a mid-rotation starter from the Yankees. Acquired in the deal sending James Paxton to New York, Swanson has already made his mark on the big leagues. He was already called up and sent down earlier this season, but an injury to Wade LeBlanc gave him another chance. He proceeded to shut down the Indians in six innings to the tune of one run, five strikeouts, and no walks. LeBlanc’s strained oblique should keep him out at least a month, which gives Swanson a solid opportunity.

Therefore, you should consider picking up for the back-end of your fantasy rotation. He was fantastic across three levels for the Yankees last year with high K/BB ratios and an enviable three-pitch mix. His one downfall may be the long-ball as his flyball rate was high in the minors. However, with his home park and terrific outfield defense, his HR/FB rate should be suppressed for the most part. The reverse side of this is that it was Cleveland he performed well against – not exactly a lineup of world-beaters there. IT won’t cost you much to find out if his performance was a fluke or not, though.

Optioned

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Kyle Wright, SP, Atlanta Braves

In a corresponding move for Touki’s call-up, the Braves had to send someone down and that turned out to be Wright along with Bryse Wilson. After a few up-and-down starts in his big league debut, the Braves thought it best to send him down to regain some confidence. After all, he hadn’t pitched much at Triple-A Gwinnett last year and this was a tall task for him coming out of spring.

When I watched him pitch, it was simply a lack of control, which was uncharacteristic of him relative to his minor league days. It must have been a combination of nerves and the opposing offenses he was facing. After a rough start against Philly, he dominated against the Marlins and was terrible against the Mets. You won’t find many rookie starters that wouldn’t do the same against those opponents, so I’m not too worried about his long-term prospects.

Injury Update

Hitters

  • The news on Alex Kirilloff is that there is no news. Since suffering a wrist injury in Spring Training (of which I cannot find evidence of), he’s been shelved by the front office. However, upon his return, he will make his 2019 debut at Double-A Pensacola, which is quite an impressive feat given where he was at the start of 2018. His expected return is in late April, but with this news, I’m willing to push it back to May.
  • Standout Seattle prospect Julio Rodriguez was turning heads in the early going with a 172 wRC+ in nine games. A plunk on the wrist in his most recent at-bat has seen him sit out the last few days. X-rays came back negative, so he should be back in short order. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on, though.

Pitchers

  • Good news, Brent Honeywell enthusiasts! He pitched in a simulated game last week and should start ramping up the rehab with starts in the minors soon. The Rays don’t expect him to pitch in the majors until the summer. A rotation of Honeywell, Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton should terrify opponents, especially Boston and New York if they can’t get their acts together.
  • Jose Suarez is rehabbing in extended Spring Training for the Angels. This is a particularly interesting name given the state of the Angels’ starting rotation. The starting staff is currently in the bottom five of the majors in ERA, FIP, and K-BB%. Suarez had a chance to break with them out of camp until his shoulder injury, so it stands to reason that he could move up quickly.
  • In the latest edition of ‘I have no idea where to find minor league injury news’, we come to Michel Baez. He was placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation on April 1st and we haven’t heard anything since. Sigh.

Three Up!

Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF, Houston Astros

If you’ve followed my minor league articles in the past, you’ll know that I love Alvarez. He’s built like a tree, has a swing as smooth as a saxophone, and power to all fields as seen in the video above.

The 21-year-old’s also making a strong push to join the majors right now. In his first 12 games, he’s popped seven homers and has a walk rate (19.6%) that is higher than his strikeout rate (17.6%). His 0.517 wOBA and 204 wRC+ across that span are among the top five in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and you can add this league to the list of leagues that did not faze him in his development as a hitter.



The major knock on Alvarez is his defensive ability, which I didn’t get to witness since he was the designated hitter when I saw him. That should tell you enough though – he was DH’ed in a Double-A game because of his defense. However, the DH spot is open for Houston as long as Tyler White keeps underperforming. If Alvarez keeps this up, there’s no way Houston keeps him down. He would warrant an immediate pickup in redraft leagues and should already be owned and cherished in your dynasty leagues.

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

One of the few Triple-A hitters that are performing to the level of Alvarez is Biggio. As of this writing, he’s also striking out (15.2%) less than walking (17.4%) and proving once again that his change in philosophy towards power at the plate is not a fluke. After posting a 0.247 ISO in 132 games at Double-A last year, he’s got a 0.243 ISO in his first 12 matches at Triple-A.

I would hope that the Jays would feel inclined to call him up early in the summer. He can play at second, third, or in the outfield, which gives him great versatility and more guys to beat out. Speaking of guys to beat out, have you seen this Jays roster? They have a lot of average-at-best bats filling up the lineup like Billy McKinney, Brandon Drury, and Alen Hanson. You gotta think Vlad Guerrero Jr. takes the third base job in short order, but there are still two or three spots for Biggio to claim.

For an offense in the lower quartile of most crucial categories, one has to think that Toronto prospects will get their shot. Given Biggio’s hot start, his opportunity could come sooner rather than later.

Cole Tucker, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

Known for his lightning speed and defensive prowess, Tucker is now providing more pop in the early going. He’s popped a couple of bombs along with three doubles and a triple in his first 11 games in Triple-A.

Watching him throughout the Arizona Fall League, this comes as no surprise to me as he does look like he’s got more power in the swing. His current 0.220 ISO may not be in the cards, but I don’t think Steamer gives him enough credit at 0.101 either. If he can give us a 0.120 to 0.130 ISO with his stolen base ability and walk rate, we could have a Jonathan Villar-type of fantasy player. In rotisserie formats in dynasty leagues, that’s incredibly juicy in the middle infield! (Not to mention that he will get a juiced ball, which makes things even juicier!)

Looking down the road, it’s hard to picture anyone blocking him. He’s the top middle infield prospect in the system and the Bucs don’t have much at the major league level. Adam Frazier and Erik Gonzalez are just eating innings until Pittsburgh thinks Tucker is ready. That could be as early as July or as late as 2020. Long-term, his defense will allow him to achieve everyday at-bats and allow him to build his offensive game.

Three Down!

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Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

This Tucker is headed in the opposite direction as the previous one. Any time you are putting up negative wRC+ numbers, there is cause for concern. It’s wise to chalk this up as just a typical slump for a consensus top-ten prospect, but those who took a flier on him in redraft leagues have to be bummed. They also have to be wondering if he is now droppable in their 15-teamer.

With Alvarez performing like he is, it’s tough to envision Tucker getting a call-up anytime soon. If he were hitting well, he would be an easy promotion to take the place of the Jake MarisnickJosh Reddick platoon. Alas, his cold start is costing him major league at-bats and Alvarez has likely leap-frogged him in the pecking order of Triple-A guys to be called up. Tucker is still preferred in the dynasty realm, but I think I would take Alvarez over Tucker for 2019 major-league statistics.

I could also be incredibly biased towards Alvarez having seen him in person. Internal conflict resides in my frontal lobe. On to the next guy…

Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

Similarly to the Tucker-Alvarez situation in Houston is the Bichette-Biggio situation in Toronto. As Bichette struggles at Triple-A, it appears that Biggio would be first in line to take a middle infield spot should it come up in the summer. The good news here is that he’s starting to heat up at the plate. He’s currently on an eight-game hitting streak, but six of those games just saw one hit. Nonetheless, it’s a good sign for Bichette moving forward.

Which brings me to my next point, there’s no cause for concern here at all. Bichette is a top-ten fantasy prospect and one week of statistics can’t change that. Dynasty owners will be rewarded for their patience with Bichette once he is called up this year.

Isan Diaz, 2B, Miami Marlins

Now, here’s a player that I am truly concerned about. Once believed to be a three-true-outcome hitter, he’s starting to change his philosophy for the worse. Whether it’s intentional or not, he’s pulling the ball less and putting the ball on the ground more in Triple-A. Now, back in the day, everyone would be all for this change. However, it’s 2019 and the Gallo/Moncada ways of life are welcomed. We want the old Isan back! Walk at that 15% rate, strike out at that 30% rate, and pull some balls to the moon!

From a fantasy perspective, I’m wondering what his upside looks like now. I am of the belief that his stolen bases are a product of smart baserunning. I could see ten steals a season, but not much more. So, where does that leave him? Well, he could likely put up decent OBP with a subpar average. Additionally, if he can return to his roots, you see the homer potential in the mid-20’s. It could look very similar to Moncada’s 2018 line, which is still useful in fantasy circles. However, if this new philosophy change sticks around, you could be getting empty OBP, which just sounds terrible. He is a player whose plate approach I will be monitoring in the early going.

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Live Look-In

I’ve got nothing here for you this week. Again. It might be a third straight week in Week 4. Or does this author have a trick up his sleeve? Stay tuned!


Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Tyler Thompson

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