MLB Barometer - House of the Reyes Sun
Whether you run a fantasy site, research and write about baseball, or manage more fantasy teams than you have fingers, how many of you feel like you were born to do this? I'm guessing most of us - baseball is our love and passion and it's those moments from our youth that have helped define it. For me, it was October 15, 1988 - my Russian grandparents thought I'd lost my mind upon jumping around uncontrollably after Kirk Gibson hit that improbable World Series Game 1 home run (FYI, Russians don't like baseball, period). I was nine years old, already obsessed with collecting baseball cards and updating category stat leaders from the newspaper box scores every day in Homeroom. As I got older, distractions like "studying" and "girls" would interfere with my true passion until my statistics savant college buddy Steve Zacks introduced me to salary cap baseball games at CDM Sports. I was instantly and incessantly hooked.
At this point in life, I work full time, am planning my wedding in August and spend more late hours researching and writing about baseball and football than I do sleeping, all the while trying to manage FAAB on multiple fantasy teams - and I love every freaking moment of it. But more so, my writing experiences make me wholeheartedly appreciate my colleagues and the influencers in this industry. In addition to the previously mentioned, these gals and guys also produce and record podcasts, innovate and create new content and most importantly, raise a family, playing a supportive and productive part in their children's lives. Many of the personalities you hear on Sirius XM fantasy radio and the experts you follow on fantasy sites for over a decade now are some of the most hard-working, nicest and humble people you'll ever meet.
I'm not trying to kiss ass here - I'm simply telling you how it is. In my experiences, the experts and leaders of our industry are amazingly genuine and helpful human beings - kids at heart who enjoy their lives because they have the opportunity to live out their dreams every single day. Sure, competition exists like it does in every other industry, but there's just a different, more humanistic, harmonious vibe about it. Makes you wonder what our planet would be like if world leaders liked and understood baseball - and perhaps got together in Geneva every March for a 14-team mixed 5x5 roto draft league.
Derek Norris, C OAK - The bearded wonder has been tearing the cover off the ball including two home runs and 6 RBI against Nationals ace Gio Gonzalez yesterday. The 25-year-old backstop has been earning deserved playing time, hitting .419 over his last two weeks and .385 on the season. Most impressive is the .405 against RHP in 57 at-bats after hitting .149 against them with no homers in 114 at-bats in 2013. The .419 BABIP is, of course, unsustainable as is the career low 12% strikeout rate, but 2014 is certainly a coming-out party for Norris who is should be able to top the 20 HR mark this season and provide great value for fantasy owners.
Jose Reyes, SS TOR - Reyes will undoubtedly continue to rise as long as he stays of the disabled list, especially as we head into the summer at the nice hitters park in Toronto with guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista hitting behind him in the lineup. Reyes' painful ankle injury last spring affected his ability to run when he returned to action as he posted his lowest SB per game total of his career (.16) - a far cry from his SB every other game days (.50) with the Mets half a decade ago. Reyes has stolen four bases in his last five games and will start to raise his pitiful .209 BA closer to his career norm of .290. Reyes has the potential to lead the AL in both runs and stolen bases this year.
Corey Dickerson, OF COL - Dickerson was a popular late round sleeper heading into the season with the possibility of leading off for the Rockies. The enigmatic Charlie Blackmon put a kibosh on that, but Dickerson has still been displaying hitting prowess in the opportunities he's received this year including a 4-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI line against the Reds on Friday. The crowded outfield situation will become even murkier as Michael Cuddyer makes his way off the DL. Dickerson is hitting .375 with a 1.108 OPS through 53 AB and the bottom line is fantasy owners need to be patient with his playing time and keep Dickerson on their squads as we all know good managers find a way to get talented bats playing time.
Tom Koehler, SP MIA - "A deal with the devil". That's what a fellow NFBC player in Vegas told me Koehler made after hitting 97 mph on his fastball, looking like a new pitcher in spring training. This NFBC guy happens to work for the Marlins and I took that information to heart, selecting Koehler with my 30th and final pick in my NFBC Main draft the following day. Koehler has pitched 15 consecutive scoreless innings in wins over the Dodgers and Mets and enters week seven with a 1.99 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. The 5.76 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9 leaves much to be desired and an expectation of obvious regression is on the horizon, but Koehler has sparkled this year, giving up more than 2 ER only once in seven starts. Meanwhile, Koehler heads to two pitchers parks in the NL West this week (@ LAD, @ SF) and will look to stymie teams stacked with hot bats like those of Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Yasiel Puig.
Drew Pomeranz, SP OAK - The emergence of Pomeranz has been long-awaited after dominating with a 10.5+ K/9 for the past few years in the Rockies and Indians minor league systems. Pomeranz joined the A's in the offseason in a trade for the oft-injured Brett Anderson and has pitched extremely well in middle relief, snagging a spot in the rotation last week with the demotion of Dan Straily to Triple-A. Pomeranz's solid ratios (1.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) have mostly come in middle relief, but he pitched extremely well in his first start - a five inning win against the Mariners last week. The lefty relies mainly on his 92 mph fastball but also deploys a cutter that appears to be developing. Pomeranz is a popular FAAB pick up this week as he hopes to stick in a rotation that has suffered much turmoil with season-ending injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin.
Hitters: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B TOR, Eric Hosmer, 1B KC, Alcides Escobar SS KC, Colby Rasmus, OF TOR
Pitchers: Jered Weaver, SP LAA, Robbie Erlin, SP SD, Mike Leake, SP CIN, Mark Melancon, RP PIT
Not Falling For It: Juan Francisco, 3B TOR, Henderson Alvarez, SP MIA
Adam Dunn, DH CHW - Sure, he still has power and his current .248 BA is 10 points higher than his career average, but Dunn faces mostly RHP and strikes out about 30% of the time. As he heads into the twilight of his career, Dunn appears to be more helpful in daily fantasy leagues when he hits in the middle of the lineup against subpar fly ball pitchers than he is on season long squads due to his ability to drain your team's batting average. Dunn hit 34 HR last year and can potentially reach that number again, but he's a difficult player to time and is a headache most owners don't want to deal with - especially given how difficult non-counting stats like batting average are to catch up in.
Xander Bogaerts, SS BOS - A highly touted prospect and extremely popular heading into fantasy drafts this year, Bogaerts was expected to contend for the AL ROY award. A good rookie season is certainly still possible, but Bogaerts' first six weeks have left much to be desired. He is off to a disappointing start (1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB) and has been striking out much too often (25% -- 35 K in 140 PA). Bogaerts is in the midst of the first slump of his career (.067 this past week, .172 so far in May) but the struggles with runners in scoring position (.125 BA) will most certainly improve this summer. Grab Bogaerts on the cheap from an impatient owner, especially in Yahoo! leagues where he is eligible at SS and 3B.
Marcus Semien, IF, CHW - Semien was a savvy late round CI picked up in 15 team draft leagues, earning 2B eligibility early on in the season with Gordon Beckham sidelined. Semien's first six weeks have been a mixed bag with signs of potential. He drove in 15 runs last month hitting mostly second in the lineup, but struggled to make contact consistently and striking out 29% of the time. Going into week seven, he's at .220 and hits near the bottom of the lineup now that Beckham has returned. Further muddying the waters, 3B LHB Conor Gillaspie is back in the mix against right handed pitchers, leaving Semien in a part time role for the time being.
Chris Archer, SP TB - Archer finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting after a sterling 3.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP season in 129 innings of action last season. His average draft position of 208 (per NFBC ADP) made him available in the middle rounds this year which appeared to be a bargain give he'd be taking the mound for half of his starts in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. Archer has been unreliable this season and quite brutal away from Tropicana (.319 OBA, 6.35 ERA in 23 IP) including a 12 H, 7 ER mutilation in Camden Yards. Last Sunday was rough as Archer struggled to put batters away with two strikes counts (CLE was 6-11 with 2 BB) - something he has addressed and looks to work on. Archer is mature and skilled enough to put his rough start behind him and right his ship.
Tommy Hunter, RP BAL - Hunter secured Baltimore's ninth innings duties somewhat by default following the offseason departure of Jim Johnson. He was among the final closers selected in most fantasy drafts this spring (rightfully so, we trusted Jose Veras the least) and it appears Hunter is holding the job by a thread despite his 11 saves on the season. John Axford was removed from ninth innings in Cleveland this week after being covered in the "Fallers" section here last week and Hunter may be the next to succumb. He's blown two saves so far, has given up four earned runs in his last three appearances and his ratios (4.40 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) look shaky through six weeks of action. Both Darren O'Day (0.64 ERA in 14 IP) and revitalized lefty Zach Britton (0.84 ERA in 21 IP) are possible options to take over should Buck Showalter decide a change is necessary.
Hitters: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C MIA, Ian Desmond, SS WAS, Dayan Viciedo, OF CHW, BJ Upton, OF ATL
Pitchers: Hector Santiago, SP LAA, Dan Straily, SP OAK, Robbie Ross, SP TEX, Martin Perez, SP TEX
Not Falling For It: Adrian Gonzalez, 1B LAD, Felix Hernandez, SP SEA