About three months ago, Jurickson Profar had the world in the palm of his hand. His assured emergence in spring training would push three-time All-Star Ian Kinsler to either the outfield or first base. Or maybe the team would trade Elvis Andrus to accommodate the 20-year-old. Or, perhaps, they'd trade Profar to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton.
None of this came to pass. Profar ended up hitting .216 in 51 spring at-bats, stealing two bases and managing just two extra-base hits. He was sent to the minors, tabbed as baseball's top prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America, and promptly hit .278 with four home runs and six steals in 37 PCL games. A Kinsler injury hastened his recall, and a nation of Fantasy players went nutty over Profar, adding him in 29 percent of leagues -- driving his ownership up to 78 percent. Even Ron Washington's insistence that Profar would split time at second base with Leury Garcia couldn't slow down the frenzy, and with Profar starting two games in a row before Wednesday's day off, it seemed like a bit of a hollow promise from the manager.
Through two games, Profar has one hit and two RBI. When Kinsler returns, there's no guarantee Profar will stick with the Rangers. In fact, Profar's value is tied to a series of unknowns; the best we can do is map out logical scenarios:
1. Profar plays. We must first assume that the talk of a Garcia/Profar split is just Washington talking, and Profar will get at least 75 percent of the at-bats.
2. Profar plays well. Say Profar gets the at-bats. He still has to play well in order for the Rangers to consider keeping him on the roster. There's always a chance he's hitting .220 when Kinsler returns.
3. Something else happens to a Ranger. So Profar plays and he plays well. You still need to make room for him. The most likely scenario would be another infielder (or Lance Berkman) getting hurt, which would/could give us any number of ensuing unlikely combinations (Adrian Beltre gets hurt, Andrus/Kinsler/Profar plays third; Nelson Cruz is hurt, Moreland goes to the outfield and Kinsler plays first). This is assuming that Jeff Baker and/or Garcia don't leapfrog Profar in the pecking order for at-bats at third, a position which the middle infielders have never played. A less-likely scenario is that Profar/Andrus/Kinsler get traded for a pitcher. But more on that later.
In short, things all have to break just the right way for Profar to stick around past Kinsler's return. So I am passing on the gamble and going after someone like Dayan Viciedo (owned in 58 percent of leagues) instead. It may come back to haunt me if everything breaks for Profar, but the downside is just a little too large and looming for comfort.
The Big Leaps
Scott Feldman, SP, Cubs (60 ownership, up from 35 percent)
Feldman's velocity is about a mile and a half lower than his career average. His 7.1 K/9 is the highest of his career, but still below a point where he would be worth the ERA and WHIP risk. And his BABIP is an unsustainably-low .236. Yet, to quote the ageless Angela Lansbury, it seems there's something there that wasn't there before.
Maybe it's the switch to the National League, where Feldman doesn't have to face the DH every nine batters. Perhaps it's a 1.45 GB/FB rate, which is helping to keep the ball in the park (despite his HR/FB ratio sitting at about his career level). At 30 and not having to worry about bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, maybe it's just the ease of knowing he's going to be a starter this season. Whatever it is, Feldman looks very good right now, with a 2.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. While nearly every number to this point in his career suggests he's due for a correction -- a 4.64 career ERA (including a 4.67 ERA against National League teams in interleague play) and little difference in splits between starting and relieving -- there's a chance that Feldman has simply figured things out later in his career (like Kyle Lohse and Ryan Vogelsong prior to this year). I'm not willing to drop a Mike Minor to find out, but if I had a Brandon McCarthy sitting on the edge of my bench, I might consider rolling the dice with Feldman.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.95
Over/under on K/9 (season): 7.0
Over/under on starts (season): 28
Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles (34 percent, up from 15)
After spending much of Tuesday trying to figure out whether Jake Arrieta or T.J. McFarland would make Thursday's start for the Orioles, the Fantasy world got a nice surprise when Buck Showalter announced that it would be prospect Kevin Gausman taking the ball instead.
The Orioles have a recent string of bad luck with their high-profile pitching prospects. You can get lost in the string of would-be awesomeness that has come up, gotten hammered, sent back down, turned out to be stellar in the minors, called back up, and then promptly gotten hammered again. Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, and even Chris Tillman (to a lesser degree) have all gotten hopes up, then failed to carry over their minor league success to the majors. Gausman has leap-frogged uber-prospect Dylan Bundy (thanks in part to a Bundy injury), but has a tough minor league track record to glean anything from. Gausman doesn't have that dominating sub-3.00 ERA, but he does have a sparkling 1.00 WHIP, with 62 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings. He's only started 13 games -- with eight of those coming above High-A -- but he's already 22 years old and was a spectacular college pitcher.
The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Gausman is a top prospect, but nobody's sure what to expect from him in his debut. And once you push aside all the related jitters and debut-related intangible factors, you're going to need a second start to get a feel for what Gausman can really do. Once that's all said and done, a would-be owner has to figure out how long Gausman can stay in the rotation, and just how deep into the season he can go, considering he only has 13 starts in his professional career.
Add it all up, and it seems like Gausman has a ton of potential, but just enough question marks to want to hold onto that Tony Cingrani stash and pass on the Orioles youngster (Note: my colleagues probably totally disagree with this sentiment). Gausman has a ton of talent and a bright future, but dumping the wrong player to add him could backfire in a mixed Fantasy league.
Over/under on ERA (season): 3.75
Over/under on starts (season): 17
Over/under on his ownership by May 31: 80 percent
Unadvised Drop of the Week
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (68 percent, down from 76 percent)
|Player Name||% change|
|1.||Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles||37|
|2.||Jerome Williams, SP, Angels||36|
|3.||Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers||29|
|4.||Scott Feldman, SP, Cubs||25|
|5.||Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers||24|
|6.||Brandon McCarthy, SP, D-Backs||23|
|7.||Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers||21|
|8.||Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays||21|
|9.||David Phelps, RP, Yankees||20|
|10.||Francisco Liriano, SP, Pirates||18|
At 24 years old, Moustakas was heading into 2013 on the heels of a 20 home run season. A perennial top-20 prospect, Moustakas had shown big power potential in the minors (once all the math is said and done, he'd average about 30 home runs in a 600 at-bat season), with a fluctuating average (it was .282 over his minor league career), and some relatively low strikeout totals for a power hitter.
This season, Moustakas, who hit .242 last year, lowered his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate. The result? A .180 batting average, .561 OPS, and the wrath of many a Fantasy owner. His performance does have a silver lining, as it eventually led to an awesome Ned Yost rant in response to questions about Moustakas' job, which included the epic line, "Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman."
Moustakas has no real change in most of his peripherals -- he's not swinging at pitches outside of the zone and isn't hitting more ground balls than he normally would. His BABIP is .183, which is well below league average. If he can normalize that to .290, he's due for a very big correction in his average. The power should follow.
Say, for instance, that Moustakas starts to turn it around on Thursday, and gets his average up to .248 by the All-Star break. I'll just double his at-bats, for the sake of this experiment, and say he's at 278 by early July (he has 139 right now). For Moustakas to get his average up to last year's level, he'd have to go 44-for-139 (a batting average of .317 between now and July). Moustakas had 25 hits in his first 139 at-bats, so this is an increase of just 19 hits over his next 39 games. In other words, if Moustakas had one extra hit in every other game over his first 39 games (this is over-simplifying things, but it makes it easy to appreciate how close things really are to changing fortunes this early in the season), he'd be hitting .316 right now. If Moustakas can do that over his next 39 games, he'll be looking far prettier than he is right now. And if he can go on a good, old fashioned "tear" (let's say a .395 average -- or 55-for-139 -- between now and the All-Star break), you're looking at a .288 hitter in July.
Over/under on average (season): .265
Over/under on home runs (season): 24
The Flavor of Next Week
Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers (31 percent ownership)
The major downside to Martin early in the season was his platoon role with Craig Gentry. Through the team's first 26 games, Martin started 13, hitting .250 with one home run and no steals. But once May came around, Martin suddenly became the playing time favorite, starting 12 of the next 20 games, hitting .318 with a home run and five steals. And he's gotten hotter as of late, with a .345 average, a 1.000 OPS, and all five steals coming in his last 10 games.
While Martin didn't have the lofty prospect ratings of his teammate, Jurickson Profar, he did make a case for possibly turning out to be a better player. In 533 minor league at-bats, Martin hit .323, with 16 home runs and 29 steals. With a continued increase in at-bats -- which isn't a sure thing, given Gentry's not going away, hitting .306 in May with a home run and two steals -- Martin should see an increase in production. How will these at-bats come? No clue. Maybe Gentry just loses at-bats. Maybe the team sends Gentry to the Cubs in a package deal for Matt Garza. But Martin is probably going to force his way into more at-bats as he keeps playing at a high level, and the Rangers may not want to stunt the growth of the 25-year-old Cuban in a platoon for much longer.
Over/under on average (season): .301
Over/under on home runs (season): Eight
Over/under on steals (season): 20
It's a little surprising that Shuck isn't getting more respect from AL-only leaguers. Owned in just one percent of leagues, Shuck is neither exciting nor a must-add. But he is playing every day, and he's hitting .300 over a relatively large (70 at-bat) sample size. He's only struck out eight times, against six walks, and his five doubles over those 70 at-bats would stretch out to 43 total if he played an entire season.
Shuck is regularly batting ninth in the Angels lineup, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- by the middle of the game, one can look at it like he's batting leadoff, removed by one player (Erick Aybar) in the order from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Josh Hamilton. In an AL-only league, where the pool is diluted and at-bats come at a premium, Shuck is probably grossly undervalued (all things being relative, of course). Yes, he will go back to being a reserve when Peter Bourjos returns, but that's still a ways off. For now, you get an every day player who is hitting the ball well, can get on base, and will score more runs than your average player batting ninth.
Over/under on runs scored (season): 40
Over/under on average (season): .271
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Marlins (Seven percent ownership)
We're all familiar with Hechavarria's seven-RBI performance on May 5. And I could probably twist some statistics to make his numbers look really awesome from that day forward ("OMG! Nine RBI and three triples over 15 games, guys!!"). But Hechavarria's play really picked up about a week later. Over his last 10 games, Hechavarria is hitting .263 (relatively solid for a player with a .200 average on the season), with a steal, a double, and three triples. In that 10-game span, however, Hechavarria has hit first or second seven times, including a current streak of six straight games hitting in the top two spots.
Miami does not have a good offense -- with a .224 average and 125 runs scored, they are last in the majors in both categories -- so Hechavarria isn't going to reap the benefits of his new lofty batting order position. But he does have eligibility at both shortstop and third base and is playing every day. He's better than a .200 hitter and even though he just got his first steal on Monday, Hechavarria should be good for some decent speed numbers going forward. He's also, very quietly, leading the majors in triples. For Head-to-Head owners, those could be some valuable numbers from an unexpected source.
Hechavarria's not going to be a hidden gem who will bat .330 and steal 40 bases, but he will continue to get everyday at-bats and can help an NL-only team with some counting stats and positional flexibility.
Over/under on average (season): .240
Over/under on steals (season): 14
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