What's that? Zack Wheeler might be only a week away?
What are you doing, guys? Come on, let's clear some roster space for him! Figure out who's most expendable and cut him loose! It's now-or-never time! Let's move, move, move, move!
Forget it. I already know. I may play the fool on TV, but when the lights go out and the camera stops, I'm right there with you on Wheeler.
He's a little late to the party.
Since finding out about his probable promotion for the Mets' three-game series against the Cubs June 14-16, you know how many leagues I've added him in? Zippo. Shoot, I'm still trying to find space for Dan Straily.
Or Kevin Gausman. Or Michael Wacha. Or Brandon Beachy. Or Tyler Skaggs. Or Francisco Liriano. Or Jarrod Parker. Or John Lackey. Oh, and now Tony Cingrani might come back for another start with Johnny Cueto on the DL. Wonderful.
When it comes to high-upside starting pitchers, the waiver wire abounds, more now than ever before in my 14 years playing Fantasy Baseball.
I mean, it's June already. Regress, I say!
Now, I realize it's mostly the shallower-league owners yawning with me on Wheeler. In deeper leagues -- ones where teams roster 350 players or more -- adding him is as obvious as adding any of those other pitchers I rattled off just now.
|1.||Wil Myers, OF, Rays||77|
|2.||Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets||67|
|3.||Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds||58|
|4.||Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals||45|
|5.||Josh Rutledge, SS, Rockies||41|
|6.||Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds||35|
|7.||Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates||34|
|8.||Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins||31|
|9.||Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets||31|
|10.||Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians||30|
But in most of those leagues, Wheeler is already owned. At 67 percent, he's less available than Straily, Gausman or Lackey -- pitchers who I'd say deserve a roster spot over him.
In other words, if I told you to do with Wheeler what I usually tell you to do with top prospects getting the call -- drop what you're doing and pick him up now -- I don't know exactly who I'd be talking to.
So instead, I'll use this space to prioritize, assessing Wheeler in relation to other recent and/or eventual call-ups such as Gausman, Wacha, Skaggs and Cingrani.
First of all, I want to stress that if you happen to play in a league where Wheeler is the only one of these pitchers available, add him. Add him now. In a vacuum, I'd be thrilled to own a player with his potential. It's not always possible, but it's always advisable.
Baseball America rated him the best of this crop coming into the season and fifth-best among all pitching prospects, behind only Dylan Bundy, Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller and Gerrit Cole. So yeah, big deal.
Of course, with that ranking, you'd think he'd automatically take priority over Gausman, Wacha, Skaggs and Cingrani. You'd think.
But of course, those four have improved their stock since then. Gausman, the first pitcher selected in the 2012 draft, now has some sort of professional track record to go along with his sparkling pedigree. And it's already propelled him to the majors, where he's already shown he can keep his head above water. That's important.
Wacha, another elite arm downgraded to begin the year by his limited minor-league track record, dominated this spring and kept it up with a 2.05 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over nine starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, making the jump to Triple-A after only 21 innings in the lower levels of the minors. And, oh yeah, he two-hit the Royals over seven innings in his major-league debut May 30. Also important.
Meanwhile, Skaggs struck out nine in his season debut May 27 and began this season one spot behind Wheeler in the Baseball America rankings, and Cingrani has already proven his penchant for strikeouts will translate to the majors with his six-start stint earlier this year. But since both are short-term fill-ins for well-established pitchers who've recently gone on the DL (with Cingrani not even guaranteed that much), safe to say they belong at the back of the line.
And Wheeler? In that same Pacific Coast League where Wacha dominated, he's gone back and forth, settling at a 3.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Granted, minor-league numbers don't tell the whole story. Matt Harvey's were similarly uninspiring last year, and he dominated the majors upon his arrival. But while they're far from the end-all, be-all, they say something.
And for Wheeler, they say "hmm."
Hmm. I wonder if his struggles at Triple-A are really just the product of a hitter-friendly league. Hmm. I wonder if he can get away with walking four batters per nine innings in the big leagues, as he has throughout his minor-league career. Hmm. I wonder if he's as ready as the Mets think he is.
Hmm. Maybe I should just stick with Gausman and/or Wacha.
Those are my top two. Because they've already mastered the strike zone, their talents are more likely to translate right away. No, their leashes aren't as long as Wheeler's, who arrives for good when he arrives, but given the alternatives, their teams shouldn't have much trouble keeping them around if they perform up to expectations.
Wheeler is a not-so-distant third -- 75th in my starting pitcher rankings compared to 59th and 60th, at last update -- and to be honest, each pitcher's next start (or in Wheeler's case, his first) could reshuffle the deck. It's that close.
But for now, I like what I have in Gausman and Wacha enough to let Wheeler go to someone else, if that's my only choice.
Put it that way, and I'm almost glad Cingrani isn't coming back for good.
If I asked you to guess who is leading the minor leagues in stolen bases, undoubtedly your first guess would be Reds prospect Billy Hamilton and your second guess would probably be Astros prospect Delino DeShields. You'd be wrong in both cases.
It's quite shocking, especially since both players broke 100 steals in the minors last season and Hamilton set an all-time record with 155 steals, which broke Vince Coleman's 30-year-old record. What Hamilton and DeShields did on the base paths last season was nothing short of spectacular and boosted their long-term Fantasy keeper appeal.
Sadly, neither player is close to White Sox prospect Micah Johnson, who has a baseball-best 47 steals through Monday's games. Hamilton is among the top 10 minor leaguers with 30 steals, but DeShields is barely in the top 100 with 14 steals.
It seems in both cases Hamilton and DeShields are focusing on other aspects of their games and have cooled it on the base paths. It's not like their speed has disappeared, which certainly isn't the case with Hamilton, who legged out an inside-the-park home run in 14.3 seconds Monday for Triple-A Louisville.
For Hamilton, he's been tasked with improving his presence as a left-handed hitter and transitioning to the outfield. Louisville manager Jim Riggleman, who also managed Hamilton in Double-A last season, recently told MLB.com that Hamilton slowing down on the base paths isn't necessarily bad for his development.
"There were a couple of times (last year) where we were losing, his run didn't mean as much and we allowed him to run," Riggleman said. "In the big leagues, that's not going to happen. It's something he will adjust to -- just because you can steal a base doesn't mean that you should."
As Fantasy owners, that's not what we want to hear. Once in the majors, we want Hamilton to run as much as possible because the more stolen bases he has, then the more valuable he is as a Fantasy option. But there's no need to worry about Hamilton's drop in stolen bases in 2013. He should run plenty once in the majors, which could be later this summer, so he remains a viable long-term keeper in all formats.
The bigger concern should be for DeShields, who could see his Fantasy ownership decline if he doesn't start to flash the stolen-base potential he showcased in 2012.
DeShields has been caught stealing eight times in 41 games this season after he was caught 19 times in just 135 games last season. And it's not like moving up the organizational ladder is the problem. DeShields did have 18 stolen bases in 24 games for Lancaster last season, so tougher opposition doesn't appear to be a legitimate excuse.
Now on to five more players making headlines in the minors ...
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros
Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks
Andrew Heaney, SP, Marlins
Henry Urrutia, OF, Orioles
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado