Oak's Corner: Week 2 Worries?

Oak's Corner: Week 2 Worries?

This article is part of our Oak's Corner series.

As we near the end of the second week of baseball season, it's starting to feel normal to have games on every night, and I'm starting to figure out whom I have on each team and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. It's important not to overreact to the standings or a player's stat line after 10 games, but it is time to get a feel for your teams to figure out what you may need to address before a category gets away from you. Patience certainly is a virtue in fantasy baseball but so is taking a hard look at your team and being realistic about a weakness that needs to be addressed. For example, I have one NFBC team that is weak at corner infield and I failed to address it because I assumed Adrian Beltre was coming back, but with his setup, it is a real issue I need to solve. Week two is a good time to take a step back to get an honest picture of my teams and try to anticipate the issues and attempt to address them now.

The Week That Was


  • One of the biggest themes/complaints about the start of this season has been the frustrating struggles of many of the offensive players drafted in the first two rounds. Miguel Cabrera had his first homer and RBI on Thursday, Mookie Betts doesn't have an RBI, home run or stolen base, Trea Turner hasn't scored or driven in a run and is now

As we near the end of the second week of baseball season, it's starting to feel normal to have games on every night, and I'm starting to figure out whom I have on each team and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. It's important not to overreact to the standings or a player's stat line after 10 games, but it is time to get a feel for your teams to figure out what you may need to address before a category gets away from you. Patience certainly is a virtue in fantasy baseball but so is taking a hard look at your team and being realistic about a weakness that needs to be addressed. For example, I have one NFBC team that is weak at corner infield and I failed to address it because I assumed Adrian Beltre was coming back, but with his setup, it is a real issue I need to solve. Week two is a good time to take a step back to get an honest picture of my teams and try to anticipate the issues and attempt to address them now.

The Week That Was


  • One of the biggest themes/complaints about the start of this season has been the frustrating struggles of many of the offensive players drafted in the first two rounds. Miguel Cabrera had his first homer and RBI on Thursday, Mookie Betts doesn't have an RBI, home run or stolen base, Trea Turner hasn't scored or driven in a run and is now on the DL, Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .172 with one homer, and Trevor Story is still hitting .143 even after his long tater off Madison Bumgarner Thursday night. Most teams have only played nine or 10 games, but after the excitement of draft day and the season starting, it certainly can be maddening to see our top guys struggle out of the box.

    It's beyond obvious to say not to worry about slow starts, and everyone says it, and while I'm nowhere near even thinking about worrying about Miggy or Mookie, I am a touch (but just a touch) concerned about Encarnacion and Story, both due to their current strikeout rates. Of course these samples are small, but with someone who never strikes out more than 20 percent of the time, Encarnacion's current 35 percent strikeout rate does raise an initial yellow flag.

    My slight concern about Story comes from his 35 percent strikeout rate and the fact that he is not hitting the ball hard so far, as shown by his putrid 16.7 percent hard hit rate coming into Thursday night's game. He's likely just scuffling and if he had this 10-game stretch in-season I'd likely not notice and Coors Field provides him a nice floor, but I'll definitely be watching his at-bats this weekend in San Francisco to see if he starts to make some harder contact. Thursday night was a good start with the afore-mentioned homer off Bumgarner.

  • I liked Jose Reyes at his ADP coming into this season, but he has started as poorly as anyone in baseball. Reyes was out of the starting lineup on Thursday and is now a brutal 2-for-38 through the first nine games of the season. Reyes has been striking out way more than usual at a 28.9 percent clip while only drawing one walk so far. Reyes doesn't have a steal or a homer and currently sports an abysmal 11.5 percent hard hit rate. At 33, Reyes is past his prime, and while it's still early, he's someone whose slow start concerns me, even though I'm pretty sure his .077 BABIP is going to rise.just a tad.

  • I rarely shut up about Jake Lamb, who was a big target for me in drafts and is rapidly becoming one of my favorite hitters to watch. Prior to this season, Lamb's hard hit rate went from 32.2 percent in 2014 to 36.3 percent in 2015 to 39.4 percent in 2016. He broke out power-wise in 2016 with 29 homers, but his .249 average held down his value. His season was really a tale of two halves as he hit only .197 with nine homers in the second half. Lamb had a bruised hand that affected him in July, and my theory this offseason was that the hand injury affected him throughout the second half. Lamb was flat out elite in the first half, hitting .291 with 20 homers and a .983 OPS. He's started 2017 on fire with a .342 batting average and a sizzling 56 percent hard hit rate. The only concern so far this year is a bump in his strikeout rate to 30.2 percent. I love the Diamondbacks lineup and Chase Field, and Lamb is slotted perfectly in the middle of it. The last piece holding Lamb from being a fantasy star is increasing his effectiveness against lefties as his 2016 OPS against lefties was only .625. The first time Lamb falls into a slump, I'd attempt approaching his owner for a trade.

  • I'm positive the Sean Manaea owner in your league drafted him because he likes him, but Manaea would be a prime trade target for me right now if his owner is even wavering a little bit with the 7.15 ERA through his first two starts. I have watched both of Manaea's starts and thought he pitched really well, but he was victimized by a couple of weird innings. In Manaea's most recent start, Adam Rosales was playing left field (please don't ask me why) and broke back on a catchable fly ball with two outs and was followed two batters later by a Joey Gallo three-run homer. Later in the game, a hit by pitch and an error led to a three-run inning where the bullpen failed to strand any runners. In that start, Manaea had 10 strikeouts in 5.1 innings while only walking two. Most impressively, the stat buried behind Manaea's ugly ERA is an absurdly high 19.1 Percent swinging rate; the strikeouts are real and more are coming. The window to trade for Manaea is going to be small and short, if at all possible in your league, act now.

  • Nick Castellanos finds himself in a prime lineup spot in Detroit between Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera after his semi-breakout in 2016 during which he hit 18 homers. The breakout could have been full fledged, but he suffered a fractured left hand after getting hit by a pitch in August. After an 0-5 on Thursday, Castellanos finds himself only hitting .222, but his .231 BABIP isn't going to last considering his insane 66.7 percent hard hit rate clip. While he of course won't keep up that rate, if he continues to hit the ball hard often, the batting average is going to come and his runs scored should be exceptional once Miggy and Victor Martinez heat up. The eye test on Castellanos is also really good, as he looks quite comfortable at the plate and has hit into a lot of hard outs so far. Castellanos is another guy whose owner probably likes him, but if you can in any way play up the early batting average struggles, I would love to be able to acquire him before he and the Tigers lineup really gets rolling.

  • Robbie Ray had a gem of a line against the Giants on Tuesday, hurling 6.2 scoreless innings while striking out eight. However, a closer look into Ray has me concerned. To go along with those eight strikeouts, Ray walked five, and Gorkys Hernandez hit a fly ball in the second inning with the bases that looked like a grand slam but was caught at the wall. The issue I had with Ray coming into drafts was the elevated hard hit rate in each of his first three years, averaging nearly 36 percent. A quick scan of the early hard hit allowed rate leaders shows Ray on the top of the list (tied with A.J. Griffin) at 51.7 percent. If I owned Ray, I'd move him now off that gem, he just gives up too many hard hit balls, especially with half his games at Chase Field.

  • Greg Holland looks fantastic so far in his Rockie purple, tossing six scoreless innings for six saves and only allowing two infield singles and registering eight punch-outs in that stretch. He has double the number of saves of the next closer in the National League and has a firm grasp on the closer role in Colorado.

FAAB Watch

Jordan Montgomery won the Yankees' fifth start job with a strong spring training where he sported a 3.20 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP to go with 17 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick has been strong in the minors (2.55 ERA in 102 AA innings in 2016), and the Yankees like him so much they added him to the 40-man roster and cut another player in order to have him join the rotation. I watched his start on Wednesday and was very impressed, mostly with his pitch mix and sequencing. He mixed and matched a fastball, cutter, slider and changeup, working his way through 4.2 innings while striking out seven. The usual caveats about the AL East and pitching in Yankee Stadium apply, but I'll be bidding on Montgomery this weekend if available as I consider his upside very real.

Derek Holland hasn't been good since an injury-shortened 2014 where he was very good but only over 37 innings. He was hurt again in 2015 throwing only 58.2 innings with a 4.91 ERA and struggled again last year, compiling a 4.95 ERA in 107.1 innings and his K/9 crashed to 5.62. Holland has moved to the White Sox and has only allowed two earned runs in 12 innings through his first two starts. Holland has a double start week coming up and when combined, with his strong beginning to the season, he should attract some attention in FAAB. I'm going to pass on Holland as I don't trust him with only two starts, especially since the strikeouts are still only at 6.75 K/9 so far, which is supported with only a 7.2 percent swinging strike rate. When put together with the last two seasons and pitching in a tough home park, I'll let someone else grab Holland this weekend.

A Closer Look

The same teams as last week hold most of the closer movement this week. Philadelphia removed Jeanmar Gomez from the closer role and named Joaquin Benoit as the closer on Monday afternoon. Since it happened on a Monday, there are some leagues where Benoit slid through FAAB and he definitely was bidded on. Benoit has been sharp so far this season with four scoreless outing already to go along with six strikeouts in his four innings.

The A's have narrowed their closer pool down to Sean Doolittle or Santiago Casilla based on matchups. If I'm picking, I'm still going with the better pitcher, who I think is Doolittle, but it's entirely possible they play matchups for an extended amount of time.

The Rangers closer situation continues to be a mess after Sam Dyson imploded again on Tuesday night, blowing a three-run lead to the Angels. I preferred Matt Bush as an option, but he's now encountering some shoulder soreness and is a candidate for a quick stint on the DL. Dyson is still my choice for the long-term, but in the short term, both Jeremy Jeffress or Tony Barnette could see opportunities, and Barnette was ready go for a save opportunity on Wednesday, but the Rangers scored late to extend their lead and take it out of a save situation. I can see small bids on Jeffress or Barnette for the short-term, but I'm still holding my Bush shares.

Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals have a closer situation that hasn't received much attention but could start to get interesting. Seung Hwan Oh (aka, The Final Boss) was exceptional last year and likely has a decent length of leash currently, but in watching his outings, he doesn't look like the same guy so far this season, and his velocity is down a bit from 2016. Oh has allowed five runs in his 4.2 innings and has only had one scoreless appearance. He has also not managed a strikeout in his last three appearances.

I'm not close to panicking on Oh yet but in a deeper league, I'm likely going to jump the league and put in a small bid in on Trevor Rosenthal just in case something is up with Oh. It shouldn't cost you much now, and if Oh rights the ship, Rosenthal is an easy drop in a couple weeks with no harm done or much FAAB spent. Rosenthal struggled a little bit in his last outing, allowing a run on three hits, but a glance at his velocity numbers is intriguing. Rosenthal is currently averaging 98.7 mph on his fastball in his limited work in 2017, a jump of 1.6 mph from 2016. Rosenthal's issue has been the walks, but the strikeouts have always been there, and I think he makes an intriguing speculative bid now for a very small price.

Series of the Weekend

Pittsburgh at Chicago: Last weekend, my series to watch (Cleveland at Arizona) was filled with offense, and, with a total of 28 runs over three games, it didn't disappoint, granted 21 of those were scored by Arizona. This week, I'm focusing on a series for the opposite reason: the pitchers. All three of the projected matchups this weekend between the Cubs and Pirates carry some intrigue starting with Friday afternoon where 2016 darling Kyle Hendricks faces off with 2016 disappointment Gerrit Cole. Cole has struggled in his two starts, allowing eight runs over his first 11 innings and now faces the stacked Cubs lineup in Wrigley. I'm still a Cole fan, but he needs to start to show it pretty soon and this is great opportunity.

Saturday afternoon features another interesting matchup as Jake Arrieta takes the hill against the much-hyped youngster, Tyler Glasnow. Arrieta was a bit of a polarizing pitcher in the preseason as some people considered him one of the aces while some drafters were concerned about placing him in the top tier due to his elevated walk rate in 2016. Arrieta has been his ace self so far in 2017, winning both his starts while sporting an 2.08 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings. Glasnow melted down in his first outing of the season, allowing five hits, five walks and five earned runs in only 1.2 innings against the Reds. While Glasnow clearly has great stuff, the walks have been his major issue in the minors and it will be interesting to see if he can throw strikes to the Cubs and get his season pointed in the right direction.

Finally, Sunday features the best matchup of the series with the veteran Jon Lester facing the up-and-coming Jameson Taillon. Lester is coming off his best season in 2016 and this year already has been dealing with a 1.64 ERA and 14 strikeouts through his first two starts. Taillon, the former second overall pick, was a hot commodity in drafts and has responded very well in his first two starts, allowing only two runs in 13 innings. All three of the projected pitching battles look interesting, and I look forward to seeing a very well-pitched series, especially if Glasnow can find the strike zone.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Jenstad
Scott Jenstad is a veteran of both NFBC and CDM fantasy games. He has won five NFBC Main Event league titles and finished twice in the Top 10 Overall. Scott is a hardcore fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's and Golden State Warriors. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenstad.
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