For me, draft season was in full force for me by February, with a NFBC slow draft. Continuing to update my projections and valuations for my upcoming drafts was addicting, but after concluding my last draft, time was at a standstill. After my team lost A.J. Pollock in an unwarranted slide at home plate against the Royals, I was tilting. I only have one share, but that’s enough to feel the burn. Especially when you’re competing in a league with shark-infested water. I was anxiously awaiting Royals Opening Night two days later. Kansas City prevailing in familiar fashion against the New York Mets was so sweet, that losing a cornerstone to one of my squads was an afterthought. All week MLB.tv has been playing in the house, trying to catch as much as I can while working from home.
The leading headline of week one is Trevor Story. Story slugged six home runs in his first four career games, becoming the first player in the modern era to hit a dinger in each of his first four games in the process. The Rockies rookie shortstop does come with some prospect pedigree, but the book out on him was very mixed. Many scouts are concerned that he has too much swing-and-miss to be able to maintain a solid batting average throughout his big league career. It is easy to suggest folks to "Sell High", but that’s easier said than done. In most leagues, owners are fairly competent, so just bank the stats and just pat yourself on the back and reap the profits from your minimal investment. If you’re in a league with fish, by all means see if they’ll take the bait. A pitcher you have valued as a Top-30 starter that is off to a bit of a sluggish start is a starting point.
Another "story" to steal headlines this week is the soul crushing blow of Chicago Cubs masher Kyle Schwarber being lost for the year, after tearing two knee ligaments in an outfield collision. Schwarber was the second catcher off the board in most formats and had an average draft position (ADP) of 37th overall in NFBC league. In two-catcher formats, you’ll really be scraping the bottom of the barrel for an A.J. Pierzynski or Chris Iannetta echelon of backstop. You can stash Rockies catcher Tom Murphy, or New York Yankees Gary Sanchez in hopes of a promotion, but I rarely stash catching prospects unless you have ample enough bench spots. The loss of the Cubs slugger does open up an opportunity for post-hype sleeper Jorge Soler to play regularly. It is highly unlikely he’ll be available in 15-team leagues or deeper, but in one of my 12-team leagues he was dropped earlier this week, and I will be bidding aggressively. There is a lot of swing-and-miss with the kid, but he is worth a flier at the very least.
Ken Giles was expected to be inserted as Houston Astros closer, but they decided to stick with the veteran Luke Gregerson instead. Gregerson has a career 2.78 ERA with a 3.6 K/BB ratio. He’s lacked the strikeouts to be considered an elite reliever, but he’s rock solid. A 60% ground ball rate last year instills even more confidence in young manager A.J. Hinch sticking with the vet. The Astros will instead save Giles for high-leverage situations in the 7th and 8th innings. I am just afraid for Giles owners that Gregerson is good enough to make it difficult for him to relinquish the role. If you drafted Giles in standard 12-team leagues or deeper don’t cut bait just yet. You invested a pretty penny, so you need to ride it out a while. He should be able to help you out in the ratios department. You can expect him to vulture some saves as well.
Carlos Correa, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Jean Segura are all off to scorching starts. Correa is an untouchable asset in even redrafts, and I wouldn’t be looking to sell the other pieces either. Segura, much like Story, is a worthy candidate of selling "high", I am just skeptical he will get a return to make it worth your while. Shortstop is thin, so I would only be focusing on a trade involving Segura unless I already had a top-5 shortstop in a league with no middle infielder spot.
Here are some quick takes on some other players that are a little off the grid that have caught my attention thus far. The sample size is minuscule, but this is the starting point, as I gradually begin to formulate opinions on how certain players should be valued moving forward.
1B Tyler White, Houston Astros:
White lacks the pedigree as a 33rd round selection in the 2013 draft, but he raked his way through the minors, to a line of .298/.409/.465. The combination of elite contact and walk rates make him very intriguing. It is worth nothing he has more career walks than punch outs in pro ball. His ownership is rapidly rising, with a 10-15 start and three dingers out of the opening gate. Blue chip prospect A.J. Reed was assigned to AAA for more seasoning, but with the Astros in "win now" mode, he could be promoted rather abruptly if White does falter. I expect White to remain a platoon option off the bench, even if Reed does grab hold of a full-time role. He is eligible at third base in Yahoo leagues, making him even more desirable.
OF Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays:
Post-hype sleepers are favorite targets of mine. After being vastly over-drafted a year ago, he could be had for peanuts this year. His NFBC ADP was 268th. Despite, the hot start, I remain skeptical of him climbing into OF #3 territory. He has to jump a pitch early in the at bat to do any damage. Souza has good plate discipline, with a career 10% BB rate, but when he isn’t walking with two strikes he’s walking back to the dugout. Three dingers the opening week is great, but a 21% swinging-strike rate is setting off alarm bells. It is possible he will see some growth, but even so I am not comfortable capping his batting average upside as anything more than .240-250. You will still profit nicely, because he is a nice blend of power and speed as your #4-5 OF.
SP Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays:
Sanchez was off my radar in drafts this year because I didn’t expect him to start, and Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen were the ones vying for saves. His peripherals from a year ago also pushed me away from him. Now in the rotation, Sanchez threw 12 changeups in his first start, almost surpassing his season total of 15 from a year ago. In a limited career sample, the pitch has a few extra inches of fade from average. I also like the shape of his two-seamer and curve ball. His arsenal is prime for keeping lefties in check, but lacks a slider or cutter as a put way pitch for some handed batters. There is a lot of sleeper appeal, and his ownership is skyrocketed, so it is unlikely he’s on your wire unless it’s a shallow league. I picked him up, but still taking a wait-and-see approach. I want to see how he fares against the Yankees before I confidently insert him into my lineup.
SP Juan Nicasio, Pittsburg Pirates:
The hype-train came on late in spring training, and I missed out on getting any shares. Pitching coach Ray Searage has worked his magic on numerous pitchers before, and Nicasio appears to be the latest project. Nicasio was effective out of the pen last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and to me that is where he is best suited. The right-hander is a fastball/slider guy, and there is nothing special about either pitch besides velocity. He averaged 95 mph on his fastball in his debut against the right handed heavy Cardinals. In his days with Colorado, he was sitting more 93. Even if he can maintain the uptick, I am skeptical he can be anything more than a streamer, but I’ve been wrong before with Searage projects. If you notice his velocity dipping, run for the hills.
SP Brandon Finnegan, Cincinnati Reds:
This is a familiar name to most Royals fans. In 2014, he became the first player in history to pitch In the College World Series and MLB World Series in the same year. In his debut this week against the Phillies he hurled a quality start - 6 innings and 2 ER with 9 K’s. He faced the lowly Phillies, so hold off on jumping with joy, but it was still a promising start nonetheless. His sinker was 92-93 MPH which is a couple ticks better than a league-average left-hander. His slider is his best pitch, a very formidable weapon against same handed batters. His changeup had decent arm side run, and solid drop. The team context caps his potential for this year, but he should be owned in all 15 team-leagues.
SP Vincent Velasquez/Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies:
These are my clear cut favorite pitchers I’ve profiled. Both impressed in their debuts, and before I say more you should check your waiver wires. Velasquez’s stuff truly impressed, he was mostly sitting 93-94 with his fastball, with an extra inch of "rise" compared to average. While the separation in velocity from his fastball wasn’t fantastic, it was pure filth, with a few extra inches of fade" from average. The curveball only flashed decent horizontal movement, but has solid drop. He can use it against both-handed batters for ground balls.
Nola lacks some of the upside of Velasquez, but he’s polished and should be able to take on a heavier workload since he pitched 187 innings between three stops last year. His fastball sits 89-90, which puts him at risk to have occasional bouts with gopher-itis. His control is fantastic, but his strikes must also be quality ones. He has to keep the ball down at all costs. If he develops even a decent cutter or slider, he could take a massive leap forward. My favorite thing about the arsenal is that his curve plays so well off the fastball, changing eye levels. He won’t win you leagues, but he should be a fixture to your staff.