Perusing the names atop early-season leaderboards is always fun. Take, for example, earned run average among all starters who have thrown at least ten innings this year. Three pitchers are tied for first, having not given up a run this year. Mike Clevinger was ace-like last year, and he’s been otherworldly in 2019. Matt Moore was good, and then he was hurt. CC Sabathia was hurt, and now he’s good. But the surprising name is the guy who’s fourth: Jordan Lyles.
Lyles is a former well-regarded prospect in the Rockies system who flamed out because he couldn’t miss bats. After signing on with Pittsburgh this offseason as rotation depth, the righty has suddenly taken off. Lyles checks in with a 0.53 ERA across three starts and seventeen innings for the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, and has quickly gone from depth arm to third in the rotation behind stalwarts Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer. With pitching always in short supply in fantasy, it’s worth looking at whether ace Lyles is sustainable, or at least worth a pickup.
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Fantasy baseball rosters are littered with the corpses of hot start mirages turned albatrosses. Chris Shelton, Matt Moore, Yasmany Tomas . . . all have teased early and faded late, taking many a fantasy season with them. Let’s take a look at some fast starters and see if any late-March stars might catch you some lightning in a bottle.
Aren’t tiny samples the best? Through the end of March 31 – that’s fifteen plate appearances – the Cardinals second sacker was hitting .571/.600/1.071, good for a .688 wOBA and 288 wRC+. That seems pretty good, right? Wong probably went undrafted in your league after posting just a 98 wRC+ last year with 15 HR+SB, and production like that won’t get it done at a position as deep as second base.
Once upon a time, Matt Harvey was good. Awesome, in fact! Then the Mets overused him. Harvey suffered through Tommy John surgery, thoracic outlet syndrome, and just general ineffectiveness before the former draft day darling was essentially forgotten this year. Right now, the erstwhile Dark Knight of Gotham is being drafted outside the top 120 pitchers and top 400 players. That’s for good reason; last year’s 4.94 ERA and 4.57 FIP don’t inspire much confidence. But it also makes the Dark Knight someone who makes a remarkably good sleeper, especially in a traditionally starting pitching class. Harvey might have the most upside of any undrafted pitcher this year – because we know what he can do at his best, and that’s a top-5 pitcher in baseball.
So here it is – my first bold predictions piece. I love making bold predictions, and all of these will probably turn out to be wrong, but here goes.
1. Yasiel Puig finishes in the top-5 of the MVP Voting.
Expecting Puig to break out in the friendly confines of the Great American (Launching Pad) Ballpark isn’t bold, but I think this is. Last year, Puig posted his best wRC+ since 2014, and the best major league .ISO of his career. Even better, his strikeout (19.6%) and walk (8.1%) rates stayed pretty much in the range of his career marks (19.2% and 9.2% , respectively), meaning he wasn’t selling out for power. Puig also raked at a .270/.329/.546 rate in the second half, suggesting that he might have even more power than what he showed this year. Moving to a hitter-friendly ballpark in a division with weaker pitching, a deceptively good lineup, and in a contract year, I expect Puig to obliterate his career highs in just about every counting stat except stolen bases. I expect 30 homers, 100 RBIs, and an OPS better than .900, and a .300/.400/.500 season with 40+ homers wouldn’t surprise me.
Last week, Brad Johnson talked about being a “tryhard.” Brad described one way of being a “tryhard” as hoarding assets in the draft.
Sheryl decided to roster not one, not two, but FIVE catchers. As a reminder, ottoneu is a two catcher league with a 162 game cap for the position. So you need about 1.5 catchers. A total of $34 was spent on these backstops. She openly shopped her depth during the draft. While it sounds like fun to corner a market, have you ever seen it work? I haven’t.
I don’t doubt that Brad hasn’t seen it work. But just because he hasn’t seen it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Here’s proof: after the draft, I had spent $34 on 5 catchers.