Our minor league team of writers led by Jason Hunt are taking a look at where some of the top prospects in the game are scheduled to start the 2016 season. Below are links to the leagues they have covered to date:
Minor League Previews
Minor League Preview: Eastern League
Minor League Preview: Pacific Coast League
Minor League Preview: International League
Minor League Preview: Southern League
Minor League Preview: Texas League
Minor League Preview: Carolina League
Minor League Preview: Florida State League
Minor League Preview: Midwest League
Minor League Preview: South Atlantic League
One Call Away: 30 Starting pitching prospects who could get the call
Prospect Call Ups
Moving on Up: Robert Stephenson
Mike Trout off to a slow start
Angels outfielder Mike Trout was probably the first overall pick in the majority of mixed league drafts this season, and for good reason. He has been the best fantasy player in the game over the last four seasons, so his slow start to the 2016 season was a little unexpected. He is currently hitting third in an Angels lineup that is......pretty boring to say the least. Here is a look at Saturday's lineup:
Taking a closer look at that lineup and it probably shouldn't be that much of a surprise that Trout is struggling to start the season, hitting just .231-.326-.359 with a home run, 4 runs scored, 6 RBI and a stolen base. First baseman Albert Pujols is off to an even slower start, hitting just .195-.267-.293.....yikes. How many years left on that ten year deal? His hard hit rate, according to FanGraphs, is down from 41% last season to just 29% this year.
I know it's early, but every great hitter has a down year, but by no means is this time to panic with Trout. He will be fine, yet his season ending numbers may appear disappointing come September.
We are two weeks into the season and the closer roles for several teams are still up in the air, including the back of the Oakland Athletics bullpen. Yesterday, Ryan Madson worked the ninth inning, allowing a hit, walk and an unearned run, but still earned his third save of the season. This was after Sean Doolittle got the last out of the eighth inning. Doolittle worked the ninth inning of Friday's 4-2 loss as well, so his use by manager Bob Melvin has been suspect. At this point, you have to think that Madson has moved into the closer role for the time being, and it is safe to pick him up in all leagues. He is currently available in 66% of ESPN leagues right now, so grab him if you need a closer.
Coming into the season, I was pretty high on Astros outfielder George Springer, ranking him as my 3rd ranked fantasy outfielder. Similar to Trout, Springer is off to a slow start to the 2016 season, but yesterday he went 3-4 with a home run and 2 RBI in the Astros 5-3 loss to the Tigers. Springer is now hitting .250-.308-.417 with 2 home runs, 5 runs scored, 7 RBI, a stolen base and a 15-4 strikeout to walk rate in 52 plate appearances. Everyone knows he has the potential to his 30 home runs and steal 25-30 bases, but the thing holding him back from moving up fantasy rankings is the strikeouts. His strikeout rate sits around 29% at the moment, up from 24% last season. Springer is usually a slow starter, so if you have an owner who is ready to deal him, I would offer market value for him.
The Padres have struggled to score runs this season, as they have already been shut out five times in their first twelve games. Last night in Arizona, they scraped in a run in the eighth inning to tie to score at 3 and ended up winning in 14 innings on a game winning home run from outfielder Melvin Upton. Upton has lost all of his fantasy appeal but has hit well in the first two weeks of the season. He went 3-7 with the home run, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI and a stolen base last night and is now hitting ,293-.341-.463 with 2 home runs, 7 runs scored, 4 RBI and 3 stolen bases in 5 attempts. The fact that he has attempted five stolen bases thus far makes him an attractive hitter to pick up off of you league waiver wire if you are in need of steals. He is available in almost every league, as he is owned in just 2.8% of leagues right now.
The Diamondbacks gave up a boatload of talent in exchange for starter Shelby Miller this offseason, giving up outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair and shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson. Yeah. The Braves from office must have popped the champagne bottles after completing that deal. Making his third start of the season last night, Miller left in the second inning with a cut on his pitching hand. He left after giving up 2 runs on 2 hits, 3 walks and a strikeout in 1.2 innings. In his first three starts, Miller is 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA, 1.82 WHIP and a 9-6 strikeout to walk rate in 12.2 innings. Not what the Diamondbacks expected when they traded for him a few months ago.
Mets ace Matt Harvey isn't pitching like an ace through the first two weeks of the season. Yesterday, he was cruising through the first four innings in his start vs the Indians, then fell apart in the fifth and sixth innings, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Harvey has now given up 3 runs or more in each of his three starts this season, and is now 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and an unspectacular 9-7 strikeout to walk rate in 17.1 innings. His fastball velocity is down a bit, but it is early, and there were reports last night that indicated that he is working through some mechanical issues when pitching with men on base. It's too early to bail on Harvey, so if you own him you just have to sit tight. Actually, if you have an owner who is ready to deal him, make an offer.
One pitcher who I am beginning to worry about is Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. Yesterday, he was knocked around for 7 runs on 10 hits, a walk and 2 strikeouts in 5.1 innings in their 9-8 loss to the Reds. In his first three starts thus far, Wainwright has given up 3, 5 and 7 runs and has yet to pitch more than six innings. He is currently 0-2 with a 8.27 ERA, 1.90 WHIP and a 7-9 strikeout to walk rate in 16.1 innings, which is very uncharacteristic of Wainwright. I imagine his ownership rate will begin to decline should he continue to pitch like this.
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