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MLB Fantasy Baseball: April in Review – To Believe or Not to Believe…

As the final week of the first month of the ’17 season winds down we should begin to evaluate what we have witnessed here in the last 30 days. There is an old cliche in baseball that I’m not sure who gets credit for coining, but it goes something like, “Championships aren’t won in April, but they can be lost”. Meaning you can dig yourself such a large hole in the beginning of the season you may just not be able to get out of it. Which in fact can be a direct contradiction of another favorite quote, “The season is a marathon and not a sprint”. Ah, baseball and cliches, it’s like peanut butter and jelly!

These two cliches represent the age-old battle between pessimism and optimism.  For fantasy baseball purposes we should really focus on realism. For fantasy circles that boil down to roster evaluation. What do we feel we’ve seen enough evidence to believe in and what begs further evaluation as we choose not to believe? Successful fantasy teams do this on a regular basis, if not daily, but no need to get into that amount of minutia here. Let’s take a look at a small sampling of April story lines and determine if what we are seeing is sustainable or needs further evaluation.

What Did Eric Thames Discover in the KBO and Can He Maintain It?

[the_ad id=”384″]Even though I traded for and ultimately slot him in as my starting 1B in NL Only Roto League, I truly was not a believer in his ability. His story, though, is hard to ignore and begs to understand. My hypocrisy for playing someone I don’t believe in goes mainly to my desire to win. I will often find hot streaks and insert them into my lineup until they cool and serve me no purpose. Is Thames start to the season just a hot streak? There is an argument to be made that he was a late bloomer, who just needed time and repetition to hit his stride. I like his spot in the lineup, I like his home field for offensive output, and I like he is a lefty bat. His age doesn’t yet work against him and he has a pretty strong minor league performance record. The latter suggesting this type of output had shown it’s potential before. As with a lot of so-called “Quad-A” players, teams gave up on him. He chose to prove himself by going to Korea for three seasons and absolutely raking, (124 homers, 379 RBI, and a triple slash line of .348/.450/.720.) In his first 70 AB, he has a .371/.482/.929 line, 11 HR, and 19 RBI. Teams are going to make adjustments that may suppress these numbers going forward, but it is becoming harder not to believe in what we have seen.

Ervin Santana & Jason Vargas Will Continue to Battle for A.L. Pitching Dominance.

It is hard to ignore the April performance of both of these 34-year-olds veteran pitchers. Vargas has three starts all wins, 20.2 IP, 23 K (10/9 IP), 2 BB, with a .44 ERA, and .77 WHIP. With lengthy career stats of a 4.19 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6 K/9 IP, with 805 K in 1221 IP. All that to say he is a solid match-up type pitcher, but not to the level of what we’ve seen thus far. He still has a couple nice opponents coming up soon, but this is not a sustainable pace by someone with this many innings pitched in MLB. Santana offers maybe a little more hope maintaining success.  With career numbers after 2172 IP of 1738 K, 4.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and a winning record of 133/116; he shows signs of being a bit more productive if his current stats of 28 IP, .64 ERA, .61 WHIP, 3-0 record prove to be slightly less sustainable. Historically he actually shows a tick more K potential than Vargas does, but still, both look to have a course correction coming based on their overall history. These are two good veteran pitchers that can be utilized appropriately for game to game situations. However, I choose not to believe these two will continue to show the dominance they currently are.

Just Who the Heck is Taylor Motter and Where Does He Go From Here?

[the_ad id=”693″]Motter is one of the most interesting cases of an injury replacement fill-in here to start the season. Coming out of spring training Motter just barely won a bench role.  He didn’t get an AB in the Mariners’ first six games to start the season. Throughout the majority of his minor league career he actually showed decent pop, but struggled last year, hitting just .229/.297/.389 in 350 at-bats in Triple-A and .188/.290/.300 in 80 at-bats with the Rays. Tampa Bay sent him to Seattle to clear 40-man roster room. As Jean Segura’s back-up, he has five homers, six doubles and 12 RBI in 11 games. He has incorporated the en vogue approach to hitting focusing on getting the ball in the air.  Thus far his exit velocity rates seventh-best. His average will be an issue, but stealing bases could give him some extra value. He has not shown that tool in the majors, but he was 45-for-57 in Triple-A the last two years. I like his versatility and what he has done in limited chances, but now that Segura is back I don’t believe we will continue to see this type of production from him. He will more than likely return to a super-utility type role and that offers little to fantasy lineups.

Remember How Well Jurickson Profar Looked This Spring; What Happened?

At one point in time, this was the #1 prospect in all of baseball for the better part of two seasons. Here we are after 46 sporadic plate appearances in ’17 and it appears the Rangers have decided he isn’t able to help them as they have moved on to Ryan Rua and his  .138/.194/.138 in 29 AB to man LF. Profar finds himself back on the bench after hitting .135/.289/.135 in 37 AB. The talent is definitely there with a .277/.364/.444 line in over 1500 minor league AB. That to go along with 40 HR, 57 SB, and 201 RBI. I believe more of what his minor numbers per-injury indicate and I don’t believe what we are seeing thus far is who he has become. It may take a change of scenery and the weather to warm, but I believe better days are ahead.

Has Time Finally Caught Up to Adam Wainwright?

Outside of his hitting, the 35-year-old Wainwright has really looked old to start the season. He has yet to pitch more than 5 innings in any of his 4 starts. Adam continues to show diminished fastball velocity, poor movement on his cutter, and iffy control. In five innings he was able to strike out nine with zero walks in his last start on Friday, en route to his first win. It was, however, against the Brewers who are striking out more than any team so far this season. Right now with that game under his belt he still sits at an ERA of 6.27 and a 1.93 WHIP. Fortunately for Wainwright, he has one of the more baffling managers in baseball. Mike Matheny empowers aging veterans more than any other manager beyond logic and reason to the detriment of the team. Waino will get every chance to right this ship, but I believe his best days are long gone and what we see is what we are going to get. There may be an occasional gem or two on the horizon, but do not expect him to return to sustained success.

Are We Seeing the Benefits of a More Mature and Motivated Yasiel Puig?

Granted he is not setting the world on fire as he did when first called up in ’13. His counting stats are not overly impressive to start the season, but there are some signs of improvement. In an effort to show a more overall mature approach he has drastically improved his K/BB ratio. Granted it is only a 73 AB one month sampling, but he has gone from a career 361 K/153 BB to 13 K/12 BB to start this season. His average is still down, but OBP and Slugging are thus far an improvement over ’15 and ’16 seasons. At only 26-years-old he has made a concerted effort to harness his raw abilities. With any young player, it is easy to lose focus. There was a great article written presumably by Puig himself on mid-month. He stated his desire to be a more respectful baseball player for his team, teammates, and himself. I believe his talent will once again shine and his new mental approach will stick. Look for continued improvement as the season moves forward.

1 Comment
  1. Joe Lapinski says

    I really agree with you on Adam Wainwright. He always seemed to bounce back from injuries in the past with flying colors. Old age is a factor in which no one ever beats (unless they use PEDs like Barry Bonds), so this could be the beginning of the end for Wainwright. Luke Weaver will probably take his spot in the rotation in the near future if Wainwright doesn’t start to get back on the right track.

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