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: Pacific Coast League
Minor League Preview: International League
Minor League Preview: Southern League
Moving on Up: Robert Stephenson
Carlos Correa showing why he's deserving of 1st round pick
This offseason, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was the recipient of lots of love from fantasy owners as he was tagged as a first round pick in 2016 fantasy drafts. After his terrific rookie season, where he hit .279 with 22 home runs, 52 runs scored, 68 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 432 plate appearances in 99 games, many, including me, felt he could be a top 10-12 pick in fantasy drafts, as he has the potential to put up a 30 home run, 20 stolen base season.
He has certainly made owners look smart for drafting him in the first round thus far, especially after going 4-5 with 2 home runs and 2 RBI performance in the Astros 16-6 loss to the Yankees last night. He now has 3 home runs and 4 RBI in the Astros first two games of the season.
It would be silly to look at his on pace projections after two games, but he very well could be one of the top 5 fantasy hitters by the end of the season, if not before. Projecting him to put up a 30 home run, 20 stolen base season might end up looking too conservative.
Kenta Maeda shuts out the Padres
Coming into the season, we really had no idea what to expect from Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda in 2016, as he had never pitched in the major leagues and was dealing with an elbow issue. His performance in spring training helped mold expectations heading into fantasy drafts. He isn't an overpowering or dominating starter like Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw, but he keeps hitters off balance at the dish, and that is exactly what he did on Wednesday night in San Diego.
Maeda shut out the Padres on 5 hits, no walks and 4 strikeouts over six innings in the Dodgers third consecutive shutout win. Maeda struck out four and induced 12 ground ball outs in his six innings of work, good for a 72% ground ball rate. An extreme ground ball rate can overcome a lack of strikeouts. Just ask Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, who didn't begin to strike out hitters till the second half of the 2015 season.
In addition to pitching six shutout innings, Maeda also helped his cause by hitting a home run off of Padres starter Andrew Cashner, the Dodgers first home run of the season.
I think Maeda was undervalued coming into the season, and I could see him putting up an ERA in the 3.30-3.50 range with a sub-1.20 WHIP and around severn strikeouts per nine innings. In other words, there are worse options out there.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is answering his critics in the early going of the 2016 season, as he is making lots of hard contact, and that continued last night. Puig went 3-4 with a home run and two singles in the Dodgers 7-0 win over the Padres. According to Fangraphs, his hard hit percentage in the first three games sits at 88.9%, which leads MLB. Yes, it is only three games, but along with his increased walk rate shows that he appears more focused at the plate in 2016.
The Yankees gave up a very good reliever in Adam Warren to acquire second baseman Starlin Castro this offseason, but the deal, at this point, is looking like a smart move by Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Yesterday, Castro had a big day at the plate, going 4-5 with a home run and 5 RBI in the Yankees 16-6 win over the Astros. Castro is batting in the lower part of the Yankees lineup, but if he continues to hit like this, he could move up to the five or six spot. I thought he could put up a 20 home run season in 2015, but maybe I was just a year too early.
I admittedly ranked Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano too low in our consensus rankings in the offseason. Cano is building off of his strong 2015 second half in the first week of the season. Yesterday, he went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in the Mariners 9-5 win over the Rangers. Cano took Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson deep with one on in the ninth inning, and now has 4 home runs and 7 RBI in his first three games of the season.
The Rays gave up former top prospect Will Myers to acquire outfielder Steven Souza last offseason, and Souza disappointed Rays fans and his fantasy owners, as he hit just .225 with 16 home runs, 59 runs scored, 40 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 426 plate appearances, while striking out in more than a third of his plate appearances. He is off to a good start to the 2016 season after his big day at the plate yesterday. Souza went 4-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI in the Rays 5-3 win over the Blue Jays. He now has three home runs in the first week of the season, and could be well on his way to a breakout season.
Fantasy owners and Blue Jays fans received a scare yesterday after third baseman Josh Donaldson came up lame after running out a grounder. He was diagnosed with a strained calf and is listed as day to day, so he should be back in the Blue Jays lineup in the next few days.
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has made a living out of resurrecting the careers of failed starters. He has had success with Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, among others. His current project is offseason acquisition Juan Nicasio. Nicasio had a great spring, holding hitters to a .189 average while striking out 24 and walking just 5 in 15 innings of work. His spring performance increased his fantasy value on draft day, and yesterday he showed us his spring performance was no fluke as he limited the Cardinals to just one run on 2 hits, no walks and 7 strikeouts over 6 innings in the Pirates 5-1 win. Nicasio is owned in just over 25% of ESPN leagues right now, so now is the time to grab him, or at least use him as a spot starter.
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