Prospect Call Ups
Our minor league team of writers, Jason Hunt, Michael Schwarz and Domenic Lanza, have been doing a fantastic job in covering all of the prospect calls ups this season, and yesterday was no different, as they addressed the fantasy impact of two pitching prospects who will be making their big league debuts over the next few days, and you can find them in the links below:
Taijuan Walker: Is he finally reaching his potential?
In his 29 starts last season, a season where he went 11-8 with a 4.56 ERA, 1.20 WHIP while striking out about eight batters per nine innings, Mariners starter Taijuan Walker had ten starts where he pitched six innings or more and gave up two earned runs or less. Pretty good, but he also had plenty of disastrous starts as well. This season, he has already made four starts where he has gone six innings or more and given up two earned runs or fewer, including Monday's gem vs the Astros.
On Monday night, Walker dominated the Astros, giving up just one earned run on 6 hits, a walk and 11 strikeouts over 7 innings of work. He is now 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, and a 25-3 strikeout to walk rate in 25 innings. It's only for starts, small sample size for sure, but his strikeout and ground ball rates are up, while his walk rate and hard hit rates are down. If he can continue pitching like this, he won't pitch to a 1.44 ERA all season, his peripheral stats show that he could be a top 30 starter by season's end.
Walker is still available in about 25% of leagues right now, so if you play in a mixed or AL only league and need a starter, Walker should be atop your list of starting pitchers to target.
I traded for White Sox starter Jose Quintana in my AL only keeper league a week or two before our draft back in late March, giving up a first round farm draft pick for him, and after his performance over his first five starts, I am happy I did so. Last night, Quintana dominated the Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre, shutting them out on 4 hits, 3 walks and 10 strikeouts over 6 innings in the White Sox 4-0 win. The win moved his record to 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA, 1.81 FIP, 1.11 WHIP and a 32-8 strikeout to walk rate in 30.2 innings. He has given up two runs or fewer in all five of his starts this far, going six or more innings in four of those starts. According to FanGraphs pitching leaderboard, Quintana is tied with Giants starter Johnny Cueto as the second best starter in the game behind Mets ace Noah Syndergaard with a 1.3 fWAR.
I liked Giants first baseman Brandon Belt coming into the season, advising our readers to target him in drafts this season. Yesterday, Belt had a big day at the plate, going 3-4 with 2 runs scored and 5 RBI in the Giants 13-9 win over the Padres. Belt came within a home run of hitting for the cycle, and is now hitting .303-.402-.513 with 3 home runs, 13 runs scored, 16 RBI and an excellent 13-14 strikeout to walk rate. If he played in any other ballpark, his home run total would rise, but the deep caverns of AT&T Park are going to limit his home run totals for the next five seasons. That said, he has the power to reach the 20 home run plateau, and I think he is on the cusp of a breakout season.
Due to the depth at the second base position, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia fell down our rankings in the offseason, but he is doing his best to get back into the top five with his early season performance. Yesterday, Pedroia went 3-5 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in the Red Sox 9-4 win over the Braves. Pedroia has multiple hits in six of his last seven games, and raised his slash line to .333-.381-.522 with 3 home runs, 17 runs scored and 12 RBI. The Red Sox are attempting more stolen bases this season, and Pedroia vowed in spring training to run more this season, yet he has yet to attempt a steal to date.
Angels closer Huston Street will be shelved for at least 15 days, and probably more, with an oblique strain. He was injured during warm ups last night. In his absence, Joe Smith will handle ninth inning duties, and earned his first save last night in the Angels 4-2 win.
One of the more surprising hitters in the first three weeks of the season has been Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who is filling in for the injured Jhonny Peralta. The Cardinals seem to have an endless supply of prospects, and Diaz is another from their deep farm system, Last night, Diaz went 2-4 with a walk, home runs, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI in the Cardinals 11-4 win over the Diamondbacks. On the season, Diaz is hitting .468-.500-.823 with 4 home runs, 8 doubles, a triple, 18 runs scored, 13 RBI and a stolen base. Diaz has some pop, but his extremely high BABIP tells me things go down from here for Diaz. He is still available in about 30% of leagues right now, so if you want to ride his hot streak, go out and grab him. If you own him, see if you can deal him for an upgrade before he begins to come back to earth.
I am on record, and I probably wrote it a number of times on these pages, saying that Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado won't hit 40 home runs again after doing so in 2015. Well.......he is doing his best to make me look wrong on that prediction. Last night, Arenado went 3-6 with a home run and 2 runs scored in the Rockies 9-8 extra inning loss to the Pirates. He is now hitting .289-.359-.663 with 9 home runs, 20 runs scored, and 20 RBI. He is even walking more than he strikes out. He was a first round pick in many drafts this season, and for some reason, I still don't think he gets enough love and praise from the MLB media. He is damn good, and I never thought he would hit for this much power. And his power isn't just a Coors Field phenomena, as he hit more home runs on the road than at home last year.
All Robinson Cano does is hit home runs, it appears. Last night, the Mariners second baseman went 2-5 with a home run and 3 RBI in the Mariners 7-4 loss to the Astros. Cano is hitting "just" .247-.319-.565 with 8 home runs, 12 runs scored and 24 RBI. On Tuesday night, Cano went 2-4 with a home run and 6 RBI, and he has driven in 10 runs over his last three games. What seems strange to me is that he has hit 8 home runs, yet his hard hit rate tells another story, as he is squaring up the ball just under 25% of the time this season, and his 26.7% HR/FB% is 10% higher than last season. Either he starts making more hard contact or he fewer balls will be leaving the yard going forward.
If you are looking for more fantasy baseball coverage, make sure you check out Fantasy Rundown, where you can find links to all of the best fantasy coverage on the internet.