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
Minor League Preview: Texas League
One Call Away: 30 Starting Pitcher Prospects
Moving on Up: Robert Stephenson
Kyle Schwarber leaves game with ankle sprain
The Cubs have so much talent that when catcher Kyle Schwarber showed everyone that his bat was way ahead of his glove, the Cubs were forced to call him up to the big leagues at the risk of slowing his ability to catch at the big league level. With Miguel Montero entrenched as the Cubs every day catcher, the Cubs moved Schwarber to left field where he has played for a good part of his short big league career.
Last night, he started in left field, and Cubs fans and his fantasy owners received a scare after he and center fielder Dexter Flower collided on a fly ball hit into the left-center field gap by Diamondbacks shortstop Jean Segura. The two collided violently, and you can see the replay in the link below.
If you’re going to hit two homers, why not make one an inside-the-parker? https://t.co/vSV18J6BTQ #ChevyBaseballhttps://t.co/RhDyVlmsBn— MLB (@MLB) April 8, 2016
Schwarber could not put pressure on his left leg after the collision and left the field via a golf cart, and he was in obvious pain. During the game, Schwarzer was diagnosed with an ankle sprain, and will get an MRI on his left ankle today to determine the severity of the injury. Upon leaving the game, manager Joe Maddon moved third baseman Kris Bryant to left field and brought in Tommy La Stella to play third.
The loss of Schwarber means more playing time for outfielder Jorge Soler, so if he is available in your league, make sure you grab him this morning. I own Soler in the Tout Wars NL only league, as well as an NL only home league. Solar is owned in just 45% of ESPN leagues right now, so go grab him if you play in an ESPN league. Javier Baez could receive more playing time once he returns from the disabled list, but he was hit in the helmet with a pitch earlier in the week, so the Cubs plan to slow play his return from the wrist injury.
Home runs are up this season
I know we have yet to play a week's worth of games in the 2016 season, but I was looking at the league stats over at FanGraphs this morning, and saw that there have been 109 home runs hit in only 3.487 plate appearances, or one home run in every 32 plate appearances. In the first month of the 2015 season, there were 592 home runs hit in 24,708 plate appearances, or one home run every 42 plate appearances. Pro-rating the early pace for the first month of the season, we could see 774 home runs in April, or a 31% increase.
Last season, there were 4,909 home runs hit, but we saw an increase in home runs hit in the second half vs the first half. In the first half, there was a home run hit every 39 plate appearance, in the second half, one every 35 plate appearances. If the 31% increase we have seen thus far is extended all season, we could see 6,472 home runs hit in 2016. This is obviously a small sample size, but we all know that home runs increase when the weather gets warmer, so don't be surprised to see higher scoring games once we get into June and the summer months.
Schwarber's teammate Anthony Rizzo enjoyed a spectacular night at the plate last night, going 3-4 with a home run, walk, 3 runs scored and 6 RBI in the Cubs 14-6 win over the Diamondbacks. Rizzo, a first round pick in most fantasy drafts this season, is off to a hot start, hitting .455 with 2 home runs, 5 runs scored and 9 RBI. Rizzo has at least a hit and an RBI in each of the Cubs first three games.
Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, and some think he can build on that breakout in 2016. Last night, he went 3-3 with a walk, two doubles, a triple, two runs scored and an RBI in the Diamondbacks loss to the Cubs. Peralta has multiple hits in three of the Diamondbacks first four games.
Reds outfielder Jay Bruce was the subject of several offseason trade rumors, and coming off a bit of a disappointing season at the plate in 2015, the pressure was on Bruce to get off to a good start in 2016. He is doing just that, as he has hits in each of the Reds first three games. He enjoyed a big day at the plate on Thursday afternoon, going 3-4 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in the Reds 10-6 win over the Phillies.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is not afraid to manage his own way. Before the season began, Mackanin indicated he could use up to five guys in the closer role at the back end of the Phillies bullpen this season. Through their first three games, Mackanin's top two choices to close, David Hernandez and Dalier Hinojosa, have struggled, both blowing save opportunities. Yesterday, Mackanin used Hinojosa in the eighth inning of a game where the Phillies were down by four runs, and a day after Hinojosa blew a one run lead in the ninth inning. This kind of move usually indicates that Mackanin will use a different option in the closer role going forward, and he confirmed that after the game, stating that reliever Jeanmar Gomez will get the next save opportunity. I think whichever reliever gets the first save for the Phillies will keep the job for a bit, but this situation seems to be very fluid, so don't go out dropping someone of value for Gomez if you need a closer.
The Phillies are in rebuild as you know, so they will try anyone who can pitch effectively in leverage situations this season. But a name to remember for those of you in keeper/dynasty leagues, is Double A reliever Severino Gonzalez. He was used as a starter prior to this season, but he pitched out of the bullpen in Reading's game last night, striking out three of the four batters he faced. Maybe the Phillies want to limit his innings by using him in the bullpen, but if role has changed, and I am not sure it has, he could be someone to keep on your radar this season.
The Astros held an open tryout at first base this spring, with Jonathan Singleton, Tyler White and top prospect A.J. Reed competing for the starting role. Reed is the Astros first baseman of the future, but Singleton had the upper hand, as he is already on the 40 man roster, and has some big league experience. Singleton struggled this spring and was sent to AAA, with Tyler White winning the starting job. White is a 25 year old prospect, who doesn't hit for much power, but what he does do well is get on base. In Triple A last season, he walked more than he struck out, hitting .362-.467-.559 with 19 doubles, 7 home runs, 37 runs scored and 59 RBI in 259 plate appearances. In his 236 plate appearances in Double A last season, he hit .284-.415-.426 with 6 doubles, 7 home runs, 33 runs scored and 40 RBI. Once again, he walked more than he struck out. Yesterday, he enjoyed a big day at the plate, going 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBI in the Astros 8-5 loss to the Yankees. White should be the Astros every day starter at first base until the front office deems Reed ready to play every day at the big league level. Until then, White should play every day. He is owned in just 11% of ESPN leagues at the moment, so if you have room to stash a hitter who could help you should an injury arise, grab him now.
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