Welcome to the Week 9 Fantasy Baseball Stock Report. The theme for this week is youth. There is an incredible amount of young stars on the rise in baseball, and their impact is being felt in the fake baseball world. It’s quite an exciting time to be a baseball fan!
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
The Astros made a splash over the weekend by calling up arguably the top prospect in all of baseball. It was a largely unexpected move, as most believed the very earliest that the 20-year-old would see the Majors would be sometime in late-July. Nonetheless, he has arrived, and should instantly become an everyday player for the up-and-coming Astros. For the future, he has 20/20 upside with a good AVG. Considering that there are only about 3.5 months left on the season, and that he is only a 20-year-old rookie (meaning an adjustment period is likely), a good projection rest of season would look something like 10 HR, 10 SB, and an AVG around .275. As weak as the SS position has been this season, that puts him in the top 10 SS conversation.
Lance McCullers, SP, Houston Astros
McCullers is yet another example of Houston’s embarrassment of prospect riches. Despite never pitching above Double-A, the 21-year-old righty has performed admirably in 4 starts since his call up. The key has been an improved changeup and improved command. He’s still walking a few too many batters, but the strikeouts have been great (29 in 28.2 IP). He has the ability to become a #2 or #3 starter when he reaches his potential, but curb any crazy projections for now. A realistic line, considering the total walks and hits given up (18 so far) would be an ERA in the high threes, a WHIP around 1.35, and about a strikeout per inning. McCullers is definitely worth a look in most leagues.
Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics
Burns is really good at one thing: running really fast. He has done a fantastic job since becoming the primary lead-off hitter for Oakland, putting up .314/.356/.431 slash line, scoring 19 R, and stealing 10 bases in just 33 games. Don’t buy the 2 HR (he had 2 total in 4+ seasons in the minors), but as long as he keeps getting on base and as long as the Athletics outfielders continue to be injury-prone, he should continue to score runs and steal bases atop the A’s lineup.
Carson Smith, RP, Seattle Mariners
After weeks of Mariners fans calling for his head, Fernando Rodney was finally “benched to work on his mechanics”. Smith cleanly converted his first save opportunity on June 6, after posting stellar numbers in 26 appearances as a set-up man, not allowing a base runner and striking one out. It is likely that both Rodney and Smith will get save chances in the future, but for the future, Smith is the one to own. He has a wide arsenal of pitches for a reliever, and can get both righties and lefties out. He’s the closer-in-waiting in Seattle, but as long as Rodney is there, it will be tough to get a good hold on the job.
Also keep an eye on:
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants
Cameron Maybin, OF, Atlanta Braves
Chi Chi Gonzalez, SP, Texas Rangers
Mike Pelfrey, SP, Minnesota Twins
Chad Bettis, SP, Colorado Rockies
Jimmy Paredes, OF/DH, Baltimore Orioles
After a hot start, Paredes has fallen off considerably at the plate, to the surprise of very few. He had a fantastic first month-and-a-half in which he slashed .346/.376/.625 with 6 HR, 1 SB, 18 R scored, and 22 RBI in just 109 PAs (through May 19), but since May 19, Paredes is batting just .232/.260/.261 with 0 HR, 2 SB, 6 R, and 4 RBI in 73 PAs. A .395 BABIP in those first 109 PAs screamed regression, but even during his slump, his BABIP has been high (.356). His problem appears to be plate discipline, as he is striking out in over one-third of his PAs in his slump (34.2%), while only walking 4.1% of the time. The time to sell on Paredes—if anyone was buying—has long passed, and the outlook for the rest of the season doesn’t appear to be too bright. Now that catcher Matt Wieters has returned, it is likely that Paredes will start to lose playing time at DH (his primary position) due to the Orioles desire to ease Wieters back into catching.
Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres
Cashner has had a rough couple of outings after a good start to his 2015 season (not counting his first start on April 8 where he gave up five earned in five innings). Over his last two starts, he has given up 12 ER, including 2 HR, and 19 H in just 10.1 IP. He issued a season-high 5 BB in his last outing while only striking out two, which seems strange when you consider his bizarre 4.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 12 K line from his previous outing.
The question with Cashner has always been health, as the skills have front-of-the-rotation potential, but it appears his recent struggles are due to inconsistent command. The safest advice here would be to hold on to Cashner and hope for him to get it back on track or maybe even target him in a trade, if his owner has soured on him. Despite his ERA climbing more than a full run (3.00 to 4.05) over his last two starts, his xFIP and SIERA have him at 3.39 and 3.41, respectively, so there is reason to believe he will get back on track.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals
Despite having 5+ seasons in the big leagues under his belt, Escobar has never really established a baseline slash line or even a baseline BABIP over his career. His numbers in that regard have fluctuated wildly, but the one thing he has always done, besides play great defense, is steal bases. That is, until this year. So far, through 46 games and 207 PAs, Escobar has attempted just 6 stolen bases, converting 4 of them. That is well off pace to steal the 25+ that you could put him down as a lock for prior to this season. Granted, he was dealing with some injury issues earlier in the season, but by all accounts is back to normal health-wise. As weak as SS has been this season, it’s not likely that you have any better options, or that there are any better options out on the waiver wire, but if there are (ahem, Carlos Correa), I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to cut ties with Escobar.
Hector Rondon, RP, Chicago Cubs
Should we really be surprised anymore when the mad scientist Joe Maddon makes a move like this? After walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game versus the Washington Nationals, Rondon was pulled by Maddon in favor of Pedro Strop, who converted the save. This came as somewhat of a surprise, as Rondon had only given up 3 base runners in his last 4 outings, and overall had been pretty decent this year. Reports indicate that both Rondon and Strop should get save opportunities in the future, but on Sunday, when Strop was unavailable, Maddon elected to use Rondon in the eighth and give Jason Motte the save opportunity, which he converted. If you own any of these three, you need to hold onto them until we get more solid information on how the Chicago bullpen will be handled.
Also keep an eye on:
Caleb Joseph, C, Baltimore Orioles
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
Mike Wright, SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles
Phil Hughes, SP, Minnesota Twins
Aaron Harang, SP, Philadelphia Phillies