Andrew MillerFantasy Baseball

Rookie Report, Week 2: Miller, Fernandez and Teheran

Shelby Miller made his first 2013 start Saturday in San Francisco, and while it wasn’t as good as his first major-league start last October he looked like he belonged in the majors while facing the world champs. Miller didn’t make it out of the sixth inning after walking Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, but was bailed out by Randy Choate. It appeared Miller started overthrowing in the fifth inning and that caused his command, which had been stellar throughout the game, to disappear. He threw first-pitch strikes to 75 percent of the batters he faced and was able to live on the outside edges of the plate to both righties and lefties. Even when Miller missed his desired target, he still threw strikes, which hurt him sometimes, however. Both Pence, on a homer in the second, and Angel Pagan, on a single in the third, hit poorly located balls hard. Miller threw mostly a 90-to-93-mph fastball and a 79-to-80-mph curveball, and while he didn’t make many batters miss he was able to get several swings and misses with his curveball low in the zone.

Outside of a few batters in the fifth and sixth, Miller had a good start to the season. He probably shouldn’t be consistently owned in all leagues, but as a spot starter he could provide good value.

Jose Fernandez had one of the best major-league debuts in history Sunday in New York. Paul Swydan notes at Fangraphs that Fernandez’s game score of 64 was tied for the fifth-best mark of any pitcher 20 or younger in his MLB debut. The 20-year-old struck out eight in only five innings while allowing only four base-runners. He struck out 42 percent of the batters he faced and put up an impressive 11.2 swinging strike rate. His 74.3 contact rate was almost four percentage points better than league average, too. Like Miller, Fernandez threw mostly fastballs and curveballs, with the fastball sitting 93-95 with late life and a 12-6 curve with nasty movement that kept the Mets off-balance all day long. Fernandez’s only mistake of the game – a hanging curve that Anthony Recker hit for a double – was really his only big mistake of the game. He also gave up more fly balls than grounders, but that shouldn’t matter much with him pitching his home games in spacious Marlins Park. If I had to choose between Miller and Fernandez for 2013 I’d go with Fernandez, as his stuff looked better and he had a lot better success missing bats.

Julio Teheran didn’t fare nearly as well in his first start of the season as Miller and Fernandez did in their first starts. Teheran gave up five earned runs in five innings on eight hits with only two strikeouts against the Cubs on Saturday. Luis Valbuena hit an 87-mph fastball for a home run, and Anthony Rizzo crushed a 72-mph curveball out of the park. Keep in mind the Cubs have only hit four other home runs on the year and rank second to last in OPS. Even though Teheran had a good ground ball rate and limited fly balls, he still allowed way too much contact and didn’t take advantage of a weak-hitting lineup. While his four-seam fastball was good, his two-seamers were underwhelming and his off-speed pitches seemingly are easy to see out of his hand and time up. He also pitched too much in the zone, not making hitters chase much outside. Teheran, at just 22, still has plenty of potential and the ability to become what most scouts and analysts saw in him a couple years ago when he was highly ranked among all top prospect lists. But we definitely need to see more consistent performances from him before you roster him and trust him to start for you.

Monitoring the Minors

  • Mike Zunino (Seattle) has a cool 1.433 OPS through his first six games at Triple-A Tacoma. He has eight extra-base hits, including four homers. Zunino’s is a name commonly thrown around as a possible impactful mid-season call-up who could immediately help the Mariners and your fantasy team. Keep your eyes and ears alert for his name in the future.
  • Last year’s No. 2 overall pick Byron Buxton (Minnesota) has done very well in his first taste of A ball. In five games the 19-year-old has collected 10 hits including a double, triple and two homers in 20 at-bats. He’s stolen two bases, walked three times and struck out five times.
  • Zack Wheeler, the Mets’ future ace, has struggled early in the season. In two starts, Wheeler has given up six runs (three earned) in only 8.2 innings with six walks and only nine strikeouts. Reports say Wheeler has dealt with a blister on his throwing hand that could contribute to his struggles, so there’s no reason to worry about his performance so far. Chances are he’ll be in the majors this year as he has some of the highest upside of any minor-league pitcher.
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