2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week Three Roundup

Masahiro Tanaka fantasy baseball
Photo credit: Hiro Sensei

When it comes to fantasy baseball there are a lot of unknowns fantasy owners must deal with. Whether it comes down to players going down unexpectedly with injuries, trying to figure out if a little known player can keep up his production, or accounting for circumstances like a player changing teams and environments, fantasy owners must prepare to adjust their teams on the fly due to situations like these.

A couple weeks into the season, fantasy owners may be feeling great about some risky picks due to excellent starts, while others may be muttering not so nice things under their breath due to a frustrating start from a high draft pick. For established Major League Baseball players, a cold start may not necessarily mean as much as one coming from a rookie trying to adjust to the big leagues. Each player is in a different situation though so each player must be assessed separate from one another to figure out if said player is worth what you thought he was.

With that being said, lets take a look at some of the biggest news in MLB from the current week.

Tanaka Time

Speaking of unknowns, trying to decipher how Masahiro Tanaka would adjust from pitching in Japan to pitching with the New York Yankees was one of the biggest questions going into draft day. Some thought he would still be extremely effective while others were hesitant to anoint him a top fantasy pitcher as they wanted to see him produce first. Lets just say that after three starts Tanaka looks to be worth every penny of the seven-year, $155 million deal the Yankees signed him to in the offseason.

After Wednesday’s stellar start that earned him a win against the Chicago Cubs (8 IP, 2 hits allowed, 1 BB, 10 K’s), Tanaka is sporting a 2.05 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and has a 28/2 K/BB ratio in 22 IP. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, Tanaka has a SwStr% of 17.2% and he leads MLB in swings and misses through his three starts. Obviously three starts is a small sample size, but the early returns are encouraging for those who drafted him to be a SP2/SP3 type. At this stage of the game, it looks like Tanaka could post reliable SP1 value if he can keep his strikeout rate up.

I’m certainly not advising to trade him, but his value right now is at an all-time high and his name may cause owners to spend a little more than they might if said player didn’t have such a big name. Tell your fellow competitors that Tanaka is available and see what kind of offers you can get. With his gaudy statistics now, other owners are surely salivating at the thought of getting Tanaka on their squad. Tanaka will certainly be worth a king’s ransom.

Giancarlo Going Going Gone

If you haven’t took notice of Giancarlo Stanton‘s coming out party in 2014, you might want to start right about now. Stanton is off to a scorching start for the Miami Marlins in 2014. In only 16 games, Stanton is hitting .299 with 5 home runs, 21 RBI, and 12 runs. Stanton’s otherwordly power has been on display early and often this season, take a look at this behemoth 484-foot home run Stanton hit earlier this season.

Gif credit: LarryBrownSports
Gif credit: LarryBrownSports

Two numbers that jump off the page while looking at Stanton are his K% and BABIP. This season, Stanton has a K% of 27.9 and his BABIP is an astounding .385. I combined these two numbers because it suggests that Stanton’s current batting average of .299 is probably unsustainable. Last season Stanton only batted .249 and his K% was nearly identical to the one he’s posting in 2014, it’s too hard to sustain that high of an average when you are striking out nearly 30 percent of the time. Additionally, Stanton can’t keep up the BABIP all year and as that falls so will his average.

Now that we’ve got the discouraging numbers out of the way, it’s time to talk about some encouraging numbers from Stanton. His 22.7% line drive rate would be a career-high and is 4.5 percentage points better than last year. Stanton would also be posting a career-high in fly ball rate (43.2%).

Talent and power have never been a question for Stanton, he’s already had two 30+ home run seasons, but staying on the field has been. In his three previous years as a starter, Stanton has logged 150, 123, and 116 games. Obviously you would like to see his games played trend up not down, but if he can stay healthy this year, Stanton might finally be able to produce a 40 or 50 homer season that many have envisioned from him.

The 24-year-old right fielder is one of the best power hitters in the game, now the next step for him is to become one of the best overall hitters in the game. I wouldn’t be selling Stanton shares at this point in time unless the offer you are looking at is one you can’t refuse, it seems like Stanton may be in store for a breakout campaign.

Springer Gets the Call

After a much scrutinized decision to not let George Springer open the 2014 season with the Houston Astros, the Astros have summoned up their best prospect to the majors only a few weeks after the fact. Springer certainly forced the Astros hand as he was hitting .353 with three homers, nine RBI, and four steals in his first 13 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Springer figures to be the Astros right fielder for the foreseeable future and Springer needs to be picked up in all fantasy formats.

Springer has the speed/power skill set that so many fantasy owners covet, all one has to do is look at his 2013 season statistics in Triple-A and you start to realize the potential for Springer. In 135 games across Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, Springer batted .303/.411/.600 with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases. Simply mind-boggling numbers. Springer may not hit the ground running like Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig have the last couple seasons, but it’s certainly not crazy to think Springer could be a 20/20 player the rest of the way.

As I’m writing this, Springer is 1-4 with a run and a walk tonight in his game against the Kansas City Royals. The Astros let Springer hit in the second spot in the batting order and that bodes well for his fantasy value. Like the Astros, fantasy owners may be catching lightning in a bottle with this move, and it will certainly be fun to watch his progress throughout the season.

Gordon > Hamilton?

One of the most highly criticized players coming into the season was Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. Known for his trailblazing speed, owners who selected Hamilton were banking on the fact that he would provide 70+ steals and singlehandedly win them the stolen base category. The question was whether or not he would be able to hit enough to accumulate all those steals. Early on, the answer has been a resounding no, but it’s still early.

Another player whose skill set is eerily similar to Hamilton’s is Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon. A forgotten man coming into the season, many fantasy owners dismissed reports that Gordon would be the starting second baseman on Opening Day and pointed to his horrific batting numbers to suggest that the role wouldn’t last. You have to be able to do other things than steal bases to be an everyday player, so why bother?

To the surprise of many, Gordon has been able to produce so far in 2014. In 12 games, Gordon is batting .372 with one homer, five RBI, five runs, and 10 steals. Compared to Hamilton’s four steals and .170/.170/.340 slash line, Gordon looks like the vastly superior player at this point in time. Hamilton was going as early as Round 5 in certain instances while Gordon was probably drafted in the last few rounds or not drafted at all.

Gordon may not be able to keep it up as he is a career .264 hitter, but his strikeout rate has decreased by nearly seven percent this year compared to last. At the very least, owners have to ride the hot streak for as long as it lasts and can at least bank on the fact that Gordon will be providing plenty of steals along the way. If you’re in need of speed, Gordon is your man.

Health Report

Year in and year out injuries devastate many players, teams, and fantasy owners over the course of the season. Injuries are to be expected in a grueling 162 game season, but that doesn’t make the sting any less painful when you are personally affected by an injury. The start of the 2014 season has seen an abundance of DL stints and the hits just kept on coming this week.

Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara have both been sidelined for the last few days due to right shoulder soreness. Both situations seem to be minor though and the players will get back in games this week. Just to be safe, Kimbrel owners should pick up David Carpenter in case the injury lingers while Uehara owners should pick up Edward Mujica.

After dealing with some shoulder soreness last week, Ryan Zimmerman was back to mashing on the diamond only to fracture his right thumb after diving back to second base to avoid a pickoff attempt. In his first 10 games, Zimmerman hit .364 with two home runs, six RBI, and four runs. Zimmerman is expected to be out 4-6 weeks and owners can only put him on the bench or stash him on the DL spot and wait for his return.

After throwing seven shutout innings against the Reds, you wouldn’t think that bad news would be on the horizon for Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb. Bad news is exactly what Cobb got though as he was diagnosed with a strained left oblique that will keep him out 4-6 weeks. It’s an unfortunate setback for Cobb and his owners as he was off to a strong start (1-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.89 WHIP). Cobb was a popular breakout pick this season and he certainly seemed well on his way before the oblique injury. Owners just have to hope that he can come back on the earlier side of the projected timetable.

Another talented pitching prospect was affected by injury as Seattle Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker has been shut down for the next two weeks with a right shoulder impingement. This news is especially disappointing because his rehab start on Tuesday was supposed to be his final one before he was called up to the Mariners. Walker has been dealing with shoulder issues since Spring Training and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll make a significant contribution to the Mariners at all this season. At this point, owners in redraft leagues can probably drop Walker for the time being without a second thought as there is too much uncertainty surrounding his situation.

Last but not least, Kole Calhoun will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a severe ankle sprain. Deemed a popular sleeper pick coming into the season, Calhoun got off to a slow start but was really starting to come on lately as he had collected three straight multi-hit games in a row. Hitting high in the Los Angeles Angels batting lineup, Calhoun had already crossed home plate 12 times in 14 games. Calhoun had also already hit three home runs to go along with six RBI. If you have the depth and bench spots to provide for it, try hanging onto Calhoun until he comes back because once he does he can be a great addition to any squad.

Thanks to Yahoo and FanGraphs for providing the statistical information. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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