Written by: Ray Butler
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Allow me to preface the words you’re about to read with this: IT’S EARLY! But it’s never too early to speculate on small samples, right?
Let’s dive in to some observations I’ve made throughout the first week and a half….
- How about Seuly Matias, huh? Four bombs, a triple and a single thru four games in Low-A Lexington. That’s quite a start to full season ball. I ranked Matias 155th in my 2018 top 200 MLB prospect list. I feel like it wasn’t an overly aggressive ranking, but I’ve been bullish on the Dominican Republic native’s skillset while also remaining cautious because we’ve seen so little of him. In other words, I’m glad he comfortably made my list. And make no mistake about it: Matias’s four-game sample so far this season is no fluke. Dude can RAKE. That’s why Baseball Prospectus ranked Matias 85th in their top 101 dynasty prospect list this preseason, comparing his realistic ceiling to “the next next Eloy Jimenez” in the process. Matias is only 19 and has a long, long way to go. He’s certainly trending upward based on a minuscule sample, but he won’t make a legitimate big-league fantasy impact until late 2020 at the earliest, so keep that in mind as you’re deciding whether he’s worth rostering in your league format.
- Lewis Brinson has had a rough go of things offensively to start the regular season, but what’s the outlook look like? So early in the season, BABIP is the first thing I always check with struggling hitters. Going into Sunday, Brinson’s BABIP sat at .259, which should positively regress to a number closer to .300 sooner rather than later thanks to Brinson’s plus speed (and that would mean we see a nice bump in Brinson’s triple slash numbers relatively soon). The next thing I look at is contact-type percent. Those numbers are more worrisome for Brinson, whose soft contact % has increased while hard hit % has decreased compared to last season. However, those numbers normally take longer to stabilize, so I’m not going to panic just yet. If you take a look at how pitchers are attacking the centerfielder, it appears Brinson is seeing far fewer fastballs this season compared to his stint in Milwaukee in 2017. In other words, pitchers may have adjusted to Brinson’s approach, now he needs time to adjust to the adjustment. Lastly, he’s playing home games in a new venue. For a new organization. I think it’s certainly appropriate to be lenient before becoming critical of production. In general, I suggest caution and patience before doing anything rash with Brinson on your fantasy team. The Marlins would be asinine to demote Brinson to AAA, so I expect him to get ample opportunity to get comfortable in Miami’s every day lineup. Brinson making an everyday impact for your fantasy team this season should have never been the plan anyways, so keep him on your bench and keep your eye on the peripherals.
- Thanks to an abundance of starting pitcher depth, Robert Gsellman was relegated (?) to the Mets bullpen to start the 2018 season. The 24-year-old right hander has been solid in his abbreviated role, though, striking out nine over 7 innings of work. He’s allowed only four hits and one run. As of first pitch on Sunday Night Baseball, he had a negative FIP and xFIP (he walked a pair in two innings of work on SNB, so that’s likely not the case now). Gsellman’s fastball velocity is up over 1 MPH compared to last season, but he’s used his secondary offerings more so far as a reliever than he did in the past as a starter. If you’ve got room on your roster, he’s got quite a bit of SPARP intrigue moving forward, and he could always be stretched back out to fill a spot in the rotation if needed down the stretch (I should also note that teammate Seth Lugo has excelled from the bullpen so far this season as well). Also, if you have room on your roster, I’m totally jealous of you right now.
- Julio Pablo Martinez has yet to make his stateside professional debut, but that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most talked-about prospects over the past month since signing with the Rangers. A 5’10, 180 pound left-hander, Martinez possesses plus (possibly plus-plus) speed and above-average raw power. He profiles as a top-of-the-order centerfielder, but there’s still a lot of unknown here. His plate discipline has been up and down (he walked often while playing in Cuba, but his K:BB ratio was less-than-stellar while playing in the Canadian-American Association. I’m probably most interested in seeing his on base ability and just-how-good the BABIP looks thanks to his speed. Consider me skeptical. However, if everything breaks right, I could see Martinez being a top-50ish prospect next preseason. It’s less likely, but I could also see him being a borderline top 200 prospect next preseason. Once he’s ready to debut, the Rangers will likely place him at High-A Down East, which would make for some interesting managerial decisions since Leody Taveras currently patrols center field for the Wood Ducks.
- As a fantasy baseball player who plays in an OBP league and owns Andrew Benintendi, I fall more-and-more in love with the left fielder every single day. Coming into Sunday, Benintendi had an OBP of .371 despite a .154 AVG and a horrid BABIP of .174. How about a walk-rate just under 26%, folks? Benintendi’s BABIP should stabilize close to .300 this season, so I shouldn’t have to tell you what that means is about to happen.
- The best fantasy player so far this baseball season? According to Fantrax, it’s Didi Gregorius. I maintain that Gregorius remains one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. That, combined with my prediction that Xander Bogaerts bounces back in a big way this season (so far, so good), puts me in a pretty pleasing light with shortstops this season. So here’s my heat check: I’m liking what I’m seeing from Tim Anderson so far. The strikeouts are up, sure, but so are the walks. And seeing as Anderson’s career strikeout numbers in the big leagues are closer to 27% and not the 33% he currently sits at, I’m willing to blindly believe it’ll normalize for the better relatively soon. The walks, on the other hand, are something I’m desperately hoping are here to stay. Anderson hasn’t posted a BB% over 5% at any level since 2013, but he’s sitting at 13.3% (as of pregame Sunday). He has 3 HRs and 4 SBs in just seven games. The AVG is a mediocre .269, but the OBP is a tasty .367. Beginning to see what improved discipline would mean? Anderson is a career .268 hitter in the big leagues, so there’s likely no positive regression coming on that front. However, at this rate, Anderson is going to take a huge step forward in fantasy circles this season, especially if his OBP remains north of .350 instead of the career mark of .291 he’s posted to this point in his career. He’s certainly a middle infielder to keep an eye on moving forward.
- I tried my best to acquire Gregory Polanco this offseason, but it seems as though his buy-low window is officially closed. The Pirates outfielder worked to retool both his swing and his body this offseason, and it’s paid early dividends. The move never really made sense for me anyways (I rostered J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael Conforto all offseason in a 3 OF, 1 UTIL league), but a bounceback campaign for Polanco in 2018 seemed like a no-brainer. If you held on to him for the entirety of last season and still roster him, I tip my cap to you. You deserve the benefits you’re currently reaping.
- Staying with the Pirates, Jameson Taillon has shown some encouraging signs in the early-going that he’s ready to take the next step this season. Taillon is built like a thoroughbred, has unbelievable pedigree and the stuff to match. Injuries have been a burden for Taillon throughout his professional career, so remaining healthy will be large factor in the 26-year-old’s prominence moving forward. If he can stay unencumbered by injury, the sky is the limit.
- Ten off-the-fantasy-radar players worthy of your consideration as you’re preparing your waiver wire moves of the week (listed in no order): Joe Panik, Tyler Skaggs, Mike Foltynewicz, Dansby Swanson, Preston Tucker, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Triggs, Tyson Ross, Marco Gonzales, Chris Owings. Panik and Gonzales are repeat-offenders from my high-value player list for this season. Late underrated add: Nick Pivetta. More about him soon.
- Consider this a bonus bullet point. Ready for a hot take? Juan Soto has a higher fantasy ceiling than fellow-Nationals prospect Victor Robles. Have a great week!
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Featured image courtesy of Baseball Prospectus