Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Prospect Report: Finally

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(Sorry, I was hoping to post this on Friday. Enjoy!)

When I wrote the pitching planners, I used to have a theme that was relevant to my starts and sits. Now that my structure for the prospect report is pretty much set every week, I get a little bored.

Let randomness ensue!

This week, I want to talk about a couple of bands that have really been floating my boat lately. The first is Manchester Orchestra, an indie/alternative rock group. I have been listening to them for the last decade or so and their music just continues to hit me right. I rekindled my love for them this past weekend while driving to and from a family get-together a few hours down the road. From their heavy lyrics from lead singer Andy Hull to the energetic guitar and drums, it’s always a great experience listening to their work.

Additionally, I’ve been jiving to the jazzy sounds of Blood, Sweat, & Tears. In particular, I’ve been playing their self-titled album non-stop since I stumbled upon the record in my collection. It feels like it was produced for a movie circa 1985, but then you flip the album over and see a 1968 stamp. What?! It was so ahead of its time and is just so easy to listen to while lounging at the house. For those who think they don’t know who this is, go listen to “Spinning Wheel” followed by “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. Both are timeless classics that BS&T never receive credit for from the general public. The entire second half of the album is freaking beautiful for that matter.

Where was I? Oh, right, baseball! Here are a few thousand words to make up for this blubbery introduction.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 4 Prospect Report

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Promoted

Vlad Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

I mean, there’s not a ton to say here, right? He’s already owned in every fantasy league out there, dude’s a monster, and dude’s going to be a great fantasy asset. Based on the recent performance of young players in their debut seasons, plug him right into your lineups and never look back.

Wow, I think that was the laziest/easiest writeup I’ve ever done. Thanks, Vladito!

Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington Nationals

And now, to bring my article title altogether – FINALLY!

I said it in the first prospect report of the year and it finally came true. At some point, the Nationals were going to get tired of the middle infield options they were running out there and call this dude up. They have a history of being antsy with their prospects and it showed again. He should play every day at shortstop and finally kick Wilmer Difo out of the lineup.

In 18 games at Triple-A, he was clowning opposing pitchers with a 1.142 OPS and 19.3% BB%. While Steamer projects him at a sub-0.750 OPS this year, we know that they are typically pessimistic with prospects. As an example, despite what Fernando Tatis Jr. is doing to major league pitchers right now, Steamer still pegs him for a sub-100 wRC+ for the rest of the season. Kieboom is a mature hitter for his age and should step right in as a 20-10 threat with an above-average triple-slash. For a 2018 comparison, he could give you something like Chris Taylor‘s line in the MI spot of your lineup.

For that reason, this is a guy who absolutely warrants a pickup in a league bereft of middle infield options. Your team needs a change of scenery from guys like Brian Dozier and Jurickson Profar.

Cole Tucker, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

Another middle infielder that warrants a pickup for different reasons is Tucker, who I touched a bit on last week before he got called up. Injuries to various players led to his call-up and I don’t believe he will ever look back.

Tucker certainly looks the part with his luscious hair and wiry frame. His speed is even more impressive to me since I’ve seen him relative to his major league peers. The dude is flying down basepaths and is an absolute joy to watch. He’s posting pretty good numbers in his first week of games with a 121 wRC+. However, for fantasy purposes, it’s been an empty average sort-of bat. We are still waiting for his first stolen base although he’s only had two singles and a walk thus far. We aren’t going to tell him to quit hitting doubles, are we?

Anyway, Tucker is definitely a waiver wire option for those in search of steals. As I said last week, his glove will keep him in the lineup so we are just hoping for ample stolen bases with a decent average. As I also mentioned last week, if his power plays up, he can give us Jonathan Villar-type stats. That’s useful at middle infield! Between Tucker and Kieboom, if we took steals out of the equation, I would take Kieboom for the power and run production.

Michael Chavis, IF, Boston Red Sox

This dude is a straight-up gangster. If you haven’t seen his at-bats yet for the Red Sox, go give them a look. He is harming baseballs to the tune of a 95.9 MPH exit velocity on his first 12 batted balls. I know, it’s a complete overreaction to 12 batted balls, but it is very impressive how much power he can summon. He’s already become good friends with the Green Monster, smashing two homers over the wall.

With yet another injury to Dustin Pedroia, the versatile Chavis will be transitioning to second base from his normal position at third base. Boston is confident in his defensive ability and desperately wants his bat in the lineup. He’s consistently batting in the 7-hole and has no platoon issues right now unless you are somehow a believer in Tzu-Wei Lin. He can also fill in at first and third whenever the Red Sox want to give resting days to Rafael Devers and Mitch Moreland.

Chavis is a very interesting addition for me in even the shallowest of leagues. While the injuries to Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez might not keep them out for much longer, Chavis has looked fantastic at the plate. It would be hard for Boston to send him down if he’s hitting well and the other two guys both have negative wRC+ ratios. Especially if you have a rotating bench spot, Chavis is worth a pickup if only for a week. He should gain eligibility at 2B quickly and give you some nice power up the middle.

Ryan Cordell, OF, Chicago White Sox

Here’s a 27-year-old post-hype prospect that many of you may not remember. With Daniel Palka getting optioned, Cordell is up with the White Sox and doing damage with his opportunity. Injuries and trades have derailed his development over the last several years, but he seems to have finally found a home with Chicago.

His plate discipline isn’t great, but he is certainly a stat-stuffer. He kinda reminds me of when Keon Broxton was first coming up with Milwaukee and had that one great fantasy season. If given the at-bats, Cordell will give you a decent power-speed combination at the expense of AVG and OBP. He’s a sneaky pickup in your deep, rotisserie dynasty leagues where major league production is hard to come by.

Ty France, IF, San Diego Padres

Here he is, the man that’s sweeping the nation. And I’m not talking about his last name! Crickets, I know.

Because of the lack of production at the keystone for a contending Padres club, San Diego has called upon their hottest hitter in the upper minors. As of this writing, I have yet to see what their plan is with France and Ian Kinsler at second, but come on. You don’t call this kid up for fun and Kinsler has a wRC+ (43) that is almost his age (36).

Now, I actually saw France in person at one of his Double-A matches in 2018. He was kind of an afterthought with some of the other talents on the field (Tatis Jr., Logan Allen, etc.) but he did have a couple of bright moments. Apparently, in Triple-A, he decided to just flip a switch and start dominating. In just over 200 plate appearances at the level between 2018 and 2019, he popped 14 homers and drove in 47 runs.

I don’t know what to tell you here for redraft leagues – he may be a value play in 15-teamers on your waiver wire. However, in deeper dynasty leagues, there are many leagues where he is unowned. Fantrax has him at 14% ownership, which seems low although I don’t know what the splits are for Fantrax leagues. I would certainly throw a dart on him – it just depends on your roster, as always.

Optioned

Luis Urias, 2B, San Diego Padres

The main reason why France gets his chance is because of the blown opportunity by Urias. I love Urias and am a believer in him long-term. However, a putrid start certainly warranted an option back down to Triple-A. Urias was completely overmatched at the major league level, striking out 11 times in just 24 at-bats. The 23-game start to his major league career over the last two seasons has been anything but promising with a 0.167/0.256/0.278 slash.

Again, this could be a product of the Padres not giving him a long enough leash. That’s what I’m buying anyway. But, you can’t blame them for wanting to slow things down for Urias at his age. I wouldn’t quit on him in your dynasty leagues, but he’s definitely droppable in 99.9% of redraft leagues.



Corbin Burnes, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

He definitely got burned at the major league level, specifically by the long ball. Giving up 11 homers in just four starts is what gives you a 9.85 FIP along with a 3.78 xFIP. Honestly, everything else looks great – we’ve got a 17.8% K-BB% and a variety of pitches to work with. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see the distance on the dingers he’s given up to decide whether or not he’s getting unlucky. I didn’t come away with much – an average home run distance of 403 feet and in the 33rd percentile of the league in exit-velocity allowed. Just not very good.

However, he’s still got great stuff and he just needs to refine his control. Perhaps a few starts in the minor leagues could do that, but the Brewers could be motivated to throw him in the bullpen like he was last year. He will be back up with the big league club this summer, but it’s a matter of role.

Injury Update

Hitters

  • You get a broken hand, and you get a broken hand, and you… This week has just felt like one big broken hand for prospects. Bo Bichette was on a hot streak towards Toronto before his incident. Joey Bart was getting rave reviews in Double-A and will now be sidelined. Heck, even Bubba Thompson got in on the action. All of these guys should be out until June.
  • Here is your last call, redraft league-goers – check to see if Nick Senzel is on your waiver wire. He’s back in Triple-A action this week and the Reds have no service-time reasons to keep him down for long. Despite the surprisingly amazing performance of their starting rotation, the Reds are below 0.500 because of their cold bats. After he warms up for a week or so, he should be called up to take many appearances in the middle infield and outfield.

Pitchers

  • Right when I published my article last week, there was a new development on Brent Honeywell. My apologies to the Redditor who called me out on this – I avoid Reddit as it brings me nothing but stress and anxiety. Anyway, Honeywell ended up needing a visit to Dr. James Andrews, which is never a fun sentence to type. While no structural damage was found, he will still need a month or so off to rest. Don’t expect him to pick up a baseball until June.
  • Padres’ pitching prospects are perceivably in painful positions. Adrian Morejon threw out four pitches and his back in his most recent start. He should be back in a couple of weeks. More seriously, Anderson Espinoza underwent Tommy John surgery, his second one in four years. That’s a sad development for a promising prospect and we hope for a full recovery and epic comeback.

Three Up!

Justus Sheffield, SP, Seattle Mariners

I place Sheffield here because he is literally ‘up’. Sheffield will get his chance to shine after Kikuchi goes a few innings in a start on Friday. I’m writing this before his debut, so I, unfortunately, won’t be able to tell you to grab him for a cheap win opportunity. Since he is technically the second guy going and Kikuchi will not have gone long enough to qualify for the win, Sheffield back into one.

Now, for the not-so-fun part, we look into Sheffield’s Triple-A game log for 2019. There’s not much here that screams ‘call him up’ if you’re a Seattle fan. In four appearances, he walked more guys than he struck out and gave up four homers. Now, it is the PCL, where pitchers go to die, but those are just horrendous numbers. I can’t imagine Sheffield being up for more than this one outlier appearance.

Okay, let’s get back to some positivity!

Zac Gallen, SP, Miami Marlins

One guy debunking the notion of pitchers dying in the PCL is Gallen. Through four starts, Gallen has impressed with a 30.3% K-BB% and a 0.36 ERA backed by a 1.73 FIP and 2.93 xFIP.

Although it’s just four starts, it’s not like he’s doing this out of absolutely nowhere. He pitched well in the Cardinals‘ organization before being traded to the Marlins in the Marcell Ozuna deal. Then, in 25 starts for Triple-A New Orleans in 2018, he had a 15.0% K-BB% and a 3.65 ERA. This is a sign of the 23-year-old gaining confidence in a hitter-friendly league and improving his command. I haven’t caught many videos of Gallen, but the biggest change I’ve seen in his delivery is the smoothing out of what used to be a hesitation in his windup. It’s created a much more fluid motion and has likely improved his command.

The most surprising turn of events here is that there is no room for him in the Marlins rotation. Who had Miami’s staff being in the top five of FIP and WAR among starting pitching staffs in the majors for April? No one, that’s who. Guys like Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Richards have become nice streaming options in fantasy. Jose Urena isn’t pitching great but his underlying stats say he will bounce back. I think the best chance for Gallen to get a big league shot is for Sandy Alcantara to falter. His strikeout numbers are bad and teams are starting to beat him up after that gem of a first start.

Gallen is good for a dart-throw in your pitcher-hungry dynasty leagues.

Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves

HOMER ALERT – BRAVES FAN GUSHING OVER WATERS!

I really wanted to talk about both Atlanta outfield prospects, but I didn’t want to overdo the Braves talk. Both of these guys are raking at a level beyond their age range. I don’t expect either of them to get called up this year, but next year could be very interesting.

Waters, 20, is a sweet-swinging switch-hitter that leapfrogged Pache in fantasy prospect rankings after showing a better eye at the plate and more power. This year, he’s proving the Braves right with their aggressive assignment to Double-A with improved ISO and a 149 wRC+. This also comes with a terrible K/BB ratio, but he’s free-swinging at the moment to make the most of his opportunity. Can’t blame the guy! His plate discipline will be an interesting development to watch in the coming weeks as he cools off (or doesn’t?) at the plate.

Regardless, this is a guy who should be in the top 25 among fantasy prospects going into 2020. Pache shouldn’t trail far behind either. See, I kept it quick – I can be a calm fanboy!

Three Down!

Jazz Chisholm, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

Chisholm is another youngster that that got an aggressive assignment to Double-A. However, his start isn’t going so well. His 0.621 OPS leaves much to be desired along with a 37% K-rate. This came after he struck out over 32% of the time in his 36 games worth of High-A at-bats in 2018. In fact, he’s hovered around 30% for the better part of his minor league career.

The good news here is that he is still hitting for great power (0.246 ISO) after some thought his 2018 ISO numbers were fluky. He’s still showing you the uncanny ability to stuff a stat sheet even with those horrendous ratios. I expect him to settle down in Double-A over the next couple of months, which will require patience from the Diamondbacks and you, the fantasy manager.

MJ Melendez, C, Kansas City Royals

I feel like there needs to be an acronym about not trusting catching prospects, but there aren’t many words that have a ‘cp’ in it. In fact, based on a quick search online, there is only one – ‘secpar’. A secpar is a unit of distance, equivalent to 3.262 light years. In my two semesters of university physics, I was never informed of this term. I want my money back!

Back to it, Melendez is secpars away from good performance right now. His 33wRC+ and 45% K-rate (!) in his first 16 games at High-A are terrible. Like Chisholm, he’s no stranger to the punchout, striking out at a 30.3% clip in Low-A and rookie ball in 2018. Other than the 14% walk rate, there’s just nothing to hang your hat on for MJ. I would complain about his 0.83 ISO, but I think that’s just a product of not being able to make contact with the ball enough for the sample size to matter.

There should be brighter days for Melendez, especially with his reported plus-defense behind the plate. I get the whole Joey Gallo thing, but it can’t be this bad at High-A. I’d love to see that return to old form in short order. Once again, patience is key!

JB Bukauskas, SP, Houston Astros

Now, to the most concerning player on the list. Bukauskas was a player that I was high on coming into the year and one that some thought could break the major league roster as soon as this summer. I personally thought he would rip through the Texas League (Double-A), which has no great offenses. Instead, it’s a disappointing four appearances for Bukauskas and I don’t even want to read off the statistics. His most recent start was fantastic (9 K’s against 14 batters), but it still only went four innings.

Look, no one walks 10 guys an inning. However, walks were a problem for him last year too and it doesn’t seem like that’s been cleaned up. So, what does the future hold for Bukauskas? Do the Astros turn him into a reliever, then stretch him back out to starting later on? They have a history of doing that – Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, and now Josh James. That hurts Bukauskas’ stock quite a bit unless he gets into some high leverage situations. For the TINSTAAPP truthers out there, this is a strong case and I would not be buying low at the moment.

As a side note, I will hopefully get a chance to see him in person when the Corpus Christi Hooks come to my hometown. I’m hoping to be proved wrong!

Live Look-In

I’ve got a fun experience to share with you this week. A few friends and I attended an SEC conference battle between my Arkansas Razorbacks and the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs. A few things will need to be addressed after that opening sentence. First off, yes, they blew the College World Series last year on the last out – don’t remind me. Second, not only was this a conference rivalry, but the two teams were ranked in the top ten nationally. Third, since I was with friends, I chose not to take videos or notes. This was a casual adventure, so I didn’t want to stress myself out by multitasking.

That said, I do have some very generic notes on players from both teams. One thing is for sure, there were several players that will be interesting in your future amateur drafts for dynasty leagues. I’ll highlight a few of them in quick bullet point style.

Arkansas Razorbacks


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  • On the home side, Isaiah Campbell showed out on what the fans like to call ‘Zay Day’. He went 7.2 innings with ten strikeouts, allowing two runs on five hits and no walks. Despite his fantastic season numbers (2.44 ERA, 10.8 K/9), many thought this would be too tall a task for him. State’s elite offense ranks in the top seven nationally in batting average and slugging percentage. The hard-throwing righty handled the opposing lineup very well with a great mix of fastballs, changeups, and curveballs. He has greatly improved his draft stock since being selected in the 24th round last year.
  • Arkansas is no slouch offensively either, ranking in the top 30 in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Their best hitter this year is Dominic Fletcher, who is a powerful lefty hitting cleanup. His 0.967 OPS leads the team and his arm in centerfield matches his powerful stroke at the plate. He hit an exciting two-run bomb in the 8th inning to ice the game. He’s made major improvements in his plate discipline since I had last seen him in 2018. He ranks as the 66th overall prospect on FanGraphs’ board for the 2019 draft.
  • The highest upside on the team belongs to 2020 draft prospect Casey Martin. He gives me a very strong Alex Bregman vibe. Before you call me crazy, hear me out – I’ve seen both of them play at the collegiate level in person. Now, does Martin have the growth mindset of Bregman? That remains to be seen, but the collegiate parallels are uncanny. Both balled out as freshmen in the SEC, can switch with ease between third base and shortstop, and have a confidence about them that is infectious. The sophomore has a style of play that projects to be a five-category monster in rotisserie leagues.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • For a while there, it looked like Ethan Small might be in for a special night. The southpaw had a perfect game going through 4.2 innings and was confusing Razorback hitters. Then, the sixth inning came. Arkansas put up three runs on a walk and three hits. Consequentially, he took the loss despite his quality start. Small also had a three-pitch mix similar to Campbell’s, but it was his pitchability that caught my eye. He was changing the timing mechanism on his windup and varying his fastball velocity between 90 and 94 MPH. Small comes in at 114th on FanGraphs’ aforementioned big board.
  • The Bulldogs lead things off with Jake Mangum, who has to be the most annoying hitter for opposing pitchers. He’s going to make pitchers work harder at the plate and is the fastest player on the field at all times. He won the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2016, had a sophomore slump, then led his team to a College World Series appearance in 2018. He’s on his way to a career year here in 2019 with a 0.944 OPS in 42 games. Now, his slugging percentage might be propped up by his speed, which allows him to stretch out doubles and triples. He will need to improve his swing plane quite a bit to make noise in the minors, but he seems like the type to be receptive to those changes.

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

About Tyler Thompson

Follow me on Twitter at @therealwody. For all the latest news and best advice out there, like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

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