So we have waited all offseason for the MLB season to start, and now we find ourselves a week and a half through the 26 week long season. For those of you like myself who find themselves in at least a handful of leagues, this week and a half has felt like eternity. I begin with the premise of not hitting the panic button this early on in the season. Buy, I must admit I’ve already questioned whether or not I should drop Player A for Player B, if taking particular player(s) in round X of the draft was the right move. On the other hand, I do have some teams where everything seems to be going as planned.
When we use these complicated things called brains, we can sometimes get ourselves in trouble. When our brain is focused on on two ideas that contradict, we suffer cognitive dissonance. Nothing causes this more readily than dealing with a player or two that has gotten off to a slow start. You know it’s a long season and that you need to have patience for struggling players. But, you also have to be assertive on working the waiver wire or else your struggling team can quickly fall too far behind the pack to catch up.
We have to be cognizant of the players that are struggling and the stock you have invested in them. So for example two players that are off to a slow start are Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Brad Miller of the Rays. We know Kris Bryant is a stud who was taken in the top three or four rounds of your drafts and will dig his way out of his .200 batting average. So, you are not scouring the waiver wire looking for a possible replacement. Then we have a player like Brad Miller who built a tiny amount of hype coming to Tampa Bay from Seattle and is currently hitting at a .059 clip. Now Miller will not be this bad for the whole season. But you should be actively checking out free agents who can be a possible upgrade for your struggling players who you may have taken in the double-digit rounds of your drafts. In conclusion, this is the fine line we walk between being patient and assertive that is paramount in having success in your leagues this season.
This week we will take a look at players off to slow starts for each of the teams in the division, while taking a look at some players that are off to a hot start and could add some value to your roster.
- White Sox 5-2
- Royals 5-2
- Tigers 4-2
- Indians 2-3
- Twins 0-7
The White Sox are tied for leading the division at the moment and if they want to stay anywhere close to the top of their division and contending for a playoff spot, they will have to receive more of what they got out of their pitching staff in the first week. We know Chris Sale is a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and Jose Quintana is a solid consistent starter, the question arises with sophomore Carlos Rodon and if he can replicate his second half numbers from 2015. In the first series of the season the rotation benefited from facing a less-than-formidable A’s lineup and only issued three walks over 25 and two-thirds innings. Matt Latos is a player that you can probably pick up off waivers and use him in starts when facing a team like the Athletics. His velocity has been down since coming back from injury that derailed his promising young start in Cincinnati. The White Sox made a low-cost investment in picking up Latos, and you as an owner can do the same by picking him up and using him in two-start weeks or juicy match-ups and get cheap innings and a possible win. Adam Eaton is off to a solid start to the season slashing a .417/.481/.542 with a whopping 1.023 OPS. Now while these numbers are not sustainable, this should be a guy that should hover around a .300 average for you and help in four to five categories. One player who worries me a bit is newly acquired Todd Frazier who after the All-Star break and his Home Run Derby victory slashed a dreadful .220/.274/.390. So far in 2016 a change of scenery has not helped as he is sitting at a miserable .207/.258/.448 slash line and while the Toddfather is a career .256 hitter, will we see the Frazier who smashed 25 HR before All-Star break, or the guy who stumbled down the stretch only hitting 10 HR?
The defending champs are tied atop the division at the moment and seemingly picked up right where they left off. On Tuesday night the Royals had a tilt with the Astros that went right on schedule with how the Royals want to play ball. Kris Medlen got the start for the Royals and went five innings, surrendering only two runs. Although the Royals offense is based off of contact and efficiency rather than power, Lorenzo Cain’s three-run home-run in the first inning was all Kansas City needed when all was said and done. Just like last year Medlen handed the ball over to the bullpen after five frames and the combination of Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, and Wade Davis finished the job bringing the Royals to a 5-2 record. Besides 6-foot-10 soft tossing Chris Young, the Royals have gotten solid starting pitching from their other four starters. With this devastating bullpen, if you own any of their starters and they can hold a lead going into the fifth or sixth inning, you have a pretty solid chance of picking up a victory. If Ian Kennedy is available on your waiver wire you should go scoop him up, as he looks to build off of his first start and win as a Royal where he pitched a scoreless six and two-thirds innings while fanning seven batters. With a solid career K/9 of 8.32 he could provide you with some solid strikeout numbers and a good bet for double-digit wins as he plays for a much better team than the one he left behind in San Diego.
If you drafted any of the one through five hitters on the Tigers it surely has paid dividends on the early onset of the season. Four of the five are batting above .300 highlighted by J.D Martinez who is currently hitting .440/.481/.640 in the five hole. He will have every opportunity to rake RBI hitting behind the likes of Kinsler (.370), Upton (.333), Cabrera (.273), and V. Martinez (.313). This offense has the potential to score an (expletive)-ton of runs, and they will need to do so to stay in the postseason chase. Their pitching staff has a combined ERA of 6.7 through six starts. Through two starts, Justin Verlander has struggled mightily giving up 10 earned runs through 10.1 innings pitched, striking out only seven and walking four. This is somewhat concerning for the Tigers’ organization as Verlander is back to being the team’s ‘Ace’ after the departure of David Price in the offseason. They brought in former National, Jordan Zimmerman, who got off to a nice start winning his first game as a Tiger going seven strong innings with no earned runs. The pitching staff will be the achilles heel for Detroit this year and will need Verlander to pitch like the pre-Kate Upton Cy Young version of himself. Zimmerman will be a consistent number two starter, followed by the ever-so-volatile Anibal Sanchez, newly acquired Mike Pelfrey who was destroyed in his first start, and lastly Shane Greene who will get his first start against the Pirates on Wednesday.
The Tribe are off to a 2-3 start and having a sub-par lineup especially without Michael Brantley, they will rely heavily on their starting pitching staff. In 2015, Corey Kluber had a season to forget going 9-16 over 32 starts, and was said to have an ‘unlucky’ year based off of several sabermetric measures. Well, so far in 2016, Kluber has started off 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA, so how long are we going to give Kluber the benefit of the doubt in terms of his performance? My pick for AL Cy Young, Carlos Carrasco, had far from a Cy Young-type start giving up four runs, seven hits- three of which were of the home-run variety, across five innings striking out five. Danny Salazar got off to a nice start picking up a win in his first outing and will look to build upon an impressive 2015 season. Fransisco Lindor picked up right where he left off slashing a mean .368/.429/.526 and for a prospect praised heavily for his glove, he is showing some offensive prowess at the major league level. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are off to cold starts as they are both hitting for a measly .222 average. I would look for both players to pick their play back up to their respective career marks.
Oh boy, 0-7 and when your best player offensively is washed up Joe Mauer it’s not surprising to see that despicable record. Besides Mauer (.375), and shortstop Eduardo Escobar (.370), the Twins have nobody hitting over a .200 clip. Yeah we are talking about you Brian Dozier (.192), Miguel Sano (.136), and Trevor Plouffe (.176). We knew coming into the season that phenom Byron Buxton would struggle at the plate, so his hitting .182 at the moment is not a surprise, nevertheless a little disappointing as we would like to see him take some steps forward. With no stud leading their pitching staff the Twins will have a hard time replicating their 2015 season where they missed the postseason by one game. The interesting part will be to see how long they wait to bring up Jose Berrios, their young exciting pitching prospect.
- Cubs 6-1
- Reds 5-2
- Pirates 5-3
- Cardinals 4-3
- Brewers 3-4
The Cubbies are off to a fast start in 2016 as they lead the NL Central with a 6-1 record. They suffered a devastating blow losing Kyle Schwarber for the season due to a collision in the outfield with teammate Dexter Fowler. There is some question to whether this injury could have been avoided if Schwarber was not being played out of position in the outfield just to get his bat in the lineup. But we will leave that argument for somebody else to decipher. Both of the Cub-stud pitchers are off to bedazzling starts with Jake Arrieta (2-0) with a 1.93 ERA over 14 innings, and Jon Lester (1-0) with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings, both holding opposing hitters under a .200 average. Mentioned in the intro was a struggling Kris Bryant who should not be causing you to panic with his six hits in first 30 at-bats. Teammate Anthony Rizzo also only has six hits in five less at-bats, but both will find their stroke and produce for you sooner rather than later. The interesting part will be to see how manager Joe Maddon allocates the at-bats Schwarber would have had. At the moment its Jorge Soler picking up the extra at-bats, but the seemingly never-ending young talent pool has Javier Baez recovering from a thumb injury at Triple-A Iowa and may get the bulk of those at-bats once healthy.
The red-hot start of Cincinnati has been a surprise thus far in the 2016 season and in large part due to their make-shift pitching staff. Young budding stud Rasiel Iglesias is off to a solid start striking out 12 batters over 11.2 innings, although he has given up 14 hits over that span. The real surprise has been Brandon Finnegan who was acquired in the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City last year at the deadline. He has 14 strikeouts over 12.2 innings, holding his opponents to a .095 batting average and has eligibility at relief pitcher which can be very advantageous in some set-ups. Three of their top four batters are off to hot starts highlighted by Eugenio Suarez who could be available on your waiver wire hitting at a .370 clip with four homers. Second baseman Brandon Phillips is also scorching to start the season with a .359 average, followed by veteran outfielder Jay Bruce who is hitting .333 out of the gate. Do not panic with Joey Votto and his slow start, as he has six hits on the season sporting a .222 average. Billy Hamilton is borderline drop-able as he bats at the bottom of the order with a .176 average and only one steal.
The NL Central is really a three headed race among the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals as we saw all make the postseason in the 2015 season. The Pirates look to continue to build off their recent successes that saw them end a two-decade playoff drought. They have arguably one of the most dynamic outfields with the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. Marte and Polanco both are off to nice starts as they both sit at .333 averages, with the former MVP Andrew McCutchen struggling a bit to start the season with a .258 season. Cutch is a career .297 hitter so there is no reason to start panicking here. The Pirates have two studs at the top of their rotation with Gerrit Cole and Fransisco Liriano. Cole had a rough first outing only lasting 4.2 innings, but will end up finishing as a top-15 starter when all is said and done if he stays healthy. Juan Nicosio is an interesting option who had a great first outing for the Bucs’, but then got roughed up by the Tigers in his second start. Like Finnegan he has relief pitcher eligibility which gives him some extra added value in some formats.
The Cardinals always seem to be in the picture no matter what is happening. Seemingly always having their replacement players shining for their injured starters as is the case so far in 2016. Jeremy Hazelbaker has been logging playing time for the injured Tommy Pham and is blazing with a .526/.522/1.053 slash line. You can add him for some production in the short run. But the outfield is cramped once Pham returns and since Hazelbaker does not have a strong minor league track record, there is no reason to think this level of production is sustainable. The Cardinals are solid one through five in their pitching staff, with a solid bullpen to close out games. This team will be in the hunt all the way through the 2016 season no matter what injuries may occur as they always have players stepping up.
The Brew Crew is not really a team you are too happy about if you own any of their pieces. Although they are pretty much a dumpster fire of talent, there are some valuable players to own on this Milwaukee squad. We know what Ryan Braun can give you when healthy, the only question is will he ever be 100 percent this season? He had a problematic back injury during Spring training that flared up and never seemed to fully heal before Opening Day. He is off to a productive start slashing a .292/.370/.458 and has been caught stealing once. Scooter Gennett has been a nice surprise at second base so far in 2016 hitting at a .409 clip. Chris Carter will be a cheap source of home runs as he has three already this season, but will not hit for high average. The one name to keep an eye on is Johnathon Lucroy, and we will see if he can retain any of what we saw two seasons ago that made him one of the most valuable catchers in the game, and also to see if they try and trade him at any point. Lastly, the injury to Will Smith opened the door for Jeremy Jeffress to receive all the save opportunities, which although may not be many, they are still valuable when they occur.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 14th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #9 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Our Thursday night show will do some weekly recaps, player updates, and preview the coming week end games.
Our guests this week is Bryan Luhrs, and Calvin Martin, Jr. Bryan is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports. Calvin is a veteran owner in MLFB leagues, and the commish of MLFB3.
“You can find our show on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section.”
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday April 17th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. Every week we will do a quick recap of Fr-Sat games, and a forecast of Monday through Thursday’s games.
Our guests this week are Marc Foster and Zak Sauer. Marc has been an owner in MLFS leagues 8+ years, a 3-time champion, and former writer with MLFS. He will be a frequent guest this year on our baseball shows. Zak is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, the co-host of Major League Fantasy Football weekly, and the co-host of “Sports Talk” with Lou Landers every Monday.
“You can find our show on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section.”