(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
Well, the first week of the season was a wild one, but the second week has been a violent and brutal one with DL stints popping up like zits on prom night. But injury creates opportunity for others to shine, like that oily forehead, and the waiver wire battles can get fierce to fight for them, and yeah I’m done with that awful analogy. To the players!
Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics) – Chappie has certainly been performing like a baseball droid. He looks like a whole new player, hitting .349 with 3 home runs, 9 R, and 8 RBI in 49 PA, and what’s most encouraging is his 6/9 BB/K ratio. This seems to be not a fluke, as it’s backed by a reduction in O-Swing from 26.6% to a stingy 16.8%, and an increased contact rate as well, yet he’s doing that with a 54.8% Hard Contact rate and 95.0 mph average exit velocity. With these significant improvements, it would not be surprising to see him atop the AL WAR leaderboards by season’s end. While he won’t continue quite at this clip with a 30% HR/FB, I believe he’s the real deal and should be added and started in all leagues, so you can sing “Matt Chap, Matt Chap-man! I want to buy, a Matt Chapman!” …Or not.
Joe Panik (2B, San Francisco Giants) – I don’t just like Panik because his last name is just a few letters away from mine. The typically punchless high-average role player has looked like a slugger thus far, with 3 homers behind his .306 Avg, backed by a career-best 33.3% Hard%. While his 27.4% HR/FB sticks out like a sore thumb against his 6.3% career mark, he reportedly altered his Joe mechaniks and has a swing retooled for more power. While I still wouldn’t expect him to crank 20, if he can even reach 15 with his typical .300 AVG and plus walk rate, he goes from being waiver fodder to being a must-own in 15-team and 12-team leagues. I always tend to trust hitters with a good bat to improve their game, so if you need help in your MI, it’d be wise to Panik.
Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies) – Yes, I know he’s Maikel Franco, that bad-attitude guy that burned you that you love to hate. But no, I will not quit him, not yet. In his age 25 season, he’s off to a fine start, hitting .308 with 2 home runs and a 10.0% K% rate that equals his BB% rate. I am intrigued especially due to his crazy 58.3% FB%, which, when combined with a career-best 50% pull rate, makes me think he could pop 30 homers this year. xStats seems rather bullish, with an xAVG of .280 and xSLG of .555, which, while below his current marks, still crush his xStats from previous years. Hitters with plus power and contact shouldn’t be given up on, and he very well could be 2018’s answer to 2017 Mike Moustakas. While it’s likely seen as overhyped and overaggressive, I’m buying and starting in all 15-team as well as 12-team, and wouldn’t fault an owner in need to scoop him in 10-team as well.
Colin Moran (3B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – Mr. Moran isn’t just the alias of a Gambino family underboss anymore (and a great Mighty Mighty Bosstones song), showing why he was labeled by many a preseason sleeper. He’s hit .344 with a homer and a solid 8.6% BB% and 14.3% K% with a career-best 38.5% Hard% and 38.5% FB%, though he’s currently hitting to opposite field a whopping 46.2% xStats sees Moran as no fluke, giving him an xAVG of .330 with an xSLG of .584, the latter of which currently trounces his SLG of .500. If he’s not still on waivers, this may be a splendid opportunity to “buy high” on him, since he likely won’t cost much. He should be owned in 15-team and deeper 12-team formats, since if xStats is right despite the tiny sample, he could be a top-15 3B the rest of the way, perhaps even top-10.
Preston Tucker (OF, Atlanta Braves) – Okay, so I used to be a fan of Tucker, so I don’t like to throw cold water on the fact he’s the most added player on ESPN, now at 53.4%. He already seems to be cooling off from his scorching first week. But he also isn’t a total fluke, as xStats projects him for a .296 xAVG and .461 xSLG that aren’t far below his current marks. While he lacks plate discipline, his strong batted ball profile makes him a useful bat in 15-team formats and worth streaming in deeper 12-teams. That may not seem glowing, but IMO that’s a pretty good endorsement for him considering he’s Preston Tucker.
Jed Lowrie (2B, Oakland Athletics) – He keeps on trucking, so he could win the 2018 Jed Power and Associates award. He’s already cranked two homers with a .313 average, and with his typically good walk rates and low K rates, he sure looks like discount Joe Panik. While you may be scared off by his higher K rate, his peripherals actually show a career-best Z-contact of 93.0% with no increase in chase rate, and he’s doing that while rocking a 42.4% Hard%. He needed a hot start to ward off Barreto, but it seems like his playing time is safe for now, with perhaps better opportunity down the road when he is likely traded. He should be owned in all 15-teamers, and in 12-teamers he makes a cromulent injury replacement.
Yangervis Solarte (2B/SS/3B, Toronto Blue Jays) – I call him “Stroll-arte” because the man sure can take a walk. So far he’s drawn a pass in 9 of his 38 PA, for a 20.9% BB rate that’s more than DOUBLE his 11.6% K rate. That’s nuts. It’s also going to normalize, but his 26.9% chase rate compared to last year’s 34.5% does indicate real improvement. He’s also hitting .294 with 2 dingers and playing nearly every day. That combined with his multi-position eligibility makes him a sneaky useful add in 15-teamers, and a fine play in 12-team OBP formats. Just make sure he’s in the lineup every day and he’ll give you no reason to be Yang-nervous.
Franklin Barreto (SS/2B, Oakland Athletics) – He’s my favorite kind of prospect in that he’s still young and talented but the hype has died down after an ugly first stint in the majors. While his playing time is uncertain, Melvin says he’ll play some in the OF with Pinder out, and could spell Lowrie at second. His strikeout rate isn’t encouraging, but he could have enough pure hitting and speed to make up for it, a la Tim Anderson. Personally I don’t expect this to be the stint in which he carves out a full-time role, but I’d still gamble on him in 18-team and most 15-team leagues.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, Seattle Mariners) – He’s Vogelback, and you can own him for a Vogelsong. Vogelbach turned some heads with his power surge in spring training, and David Laurilia at Fangraphs wrote how it was part of an intentional effort to retool his swing for power a la Yonder Alonso. Now, granted, he hasn’t hit a single homer since the year started, and his ownership is only up to a meager 2.1% due to Healy’s injury. But I still like what I see so far under the ugly surface. Despite his .059 ISO, he has a career-best 54.5% Hard% to go with a career-best 36.4% Hard%. And while his 33.3% K rate to his 4.2% BB% is ugly, his 14.9% Chase rate is the best of his career and suggests a double digit walk rate, and even with a lower contact rate, is still a solid 9.5%. Swstr% which indicates his K rate should be below 30% I would recommend adding him in AL-only and streaming in 18-team formats In 15-team I would monitor closely unless you can stash him on a deep bench, as he’s my pick for the next unheralded hitter breakout of the month.
Orlando Arcia (SS, Milwaukee Brewers) – Maybe if we call him OrAIRo instead of OrLANDo, he’ll stop hitting so many balls into the ground. He’s currently hitting a GB/FB ratio of 2.0, with 62.7% wormburners. His xAVG of .177 is ugly, but even worse is his xSLG of .209. Yuck. He’s apparently healthy and young enough to figure it out, but in redrafts you don’t have to wait for that, as his likely upside isn’t nearly as great as once envisioned and inching closer to a speedier Brandon Crawford, so that 50% Own rate is too damn high.. I’d cut in 12-team formats, and shallow 15-teamers so he doesn’t turn your team into a Farce-cia.
Ryon Healy (1B/3B, Seattle Mariners) – To forego the low-hanging fruit pun, he is seeming more and more a fad like the roller-shoes of the same name. I hate to kick someone while they’re down as he’s on the DL, but even in leagues with multiple DL spots, he’s probably not worth waiting on even for a short period. He was posting career worst swinging strike rates and only 16% Hard Contact. I am a bigger fan of Vogelbach and expect Healy to be Wally Pipp-ed by the time he returns, receiving only Danny Valencia-like playing time? Do you want another Danny Valencia? Didn’t think so. Drop in 12-teamers and heck, 15-teamers can probably do better as well.
Jason Kipnis (2B/OF, Cleveland Indians) – There must be something in the water in Cleveland. Oh right, toxic industrial sludge, the usual. But Kipnis has been among the worst, with a .098 average with no homers. He started building up hype in the spring, drawing undeserved comparisons to Kinsler, but Kip is a guy who probably only had .260-15-15 upside when healthy, and him being fully healthy seems like a longshot at this point. While his K/BB doesn’t look so bad, xStats gives him a pathetic .199 xAVG, and .349 xSLG, so just because he’s been unlucky, doesn’t mean he hasn’t also just stunk. While I’d still hold in deeper 15-team, In 12-team formats, you can and should Jason Skipthis.
Chapman or Franco? Who would you prefer if you had a choice? I am a Franco guy, but I have also lived through many unplayable stretches of his career.
Chapman, not close.
Chapman without hesitation. I like Franco for a rebound but Chapman’s star emergence blows him out of the water
Thanks. At one point Franco was what Chapman is.
Have you noticed any concrete changes with Franco that might hint at a breakout? Brad Johnson noted that he’s made a changed to his stance that has allowed him to stay through the ball longer and at the same time improve his launch angle. The fact that his xWOBA suggests that he has actually underperformed his advanced metrics thus far have me very intrigued.
Would you drop Todd Frazier for him?
Yeah I think it’s good to be bold at this point in the season, so yes I’ll bet on the good things I’ve seen and heard. I’d drop Frazier for him and not look back… Franco could’ve still outperformed Frazier even before the swing changes!
I watch a lot of him and I don’t see a big difference. I don’t think his mechanics have ever been the issue. I think he fails because of a hitch that he creates when he gets a pitch he likes. If you have ever played baseball, then you know what I am talking about when you recognize that you just got your pitch and you try to do too much with it. That is also the thing that a hitter could grow out of with experience. I think he just misses mistake pitches too frequently – combine that with poor approach and you have an extremely gifted hitter who consistently sabotages himself, which is the kind of thing that he could fix mentally.
Probably worth mentioning that he was looking drop-able a week ago. A couple bombs carry a ton of weight this early in the season. His hit yesterday was complete garbage. I love him if you can’t tell, but I haven’t seen anything different. Dude has always been capable of going on a tear. If he were ever able to put it together, the ceiling is more like 40 than 30 HR.
I mean, you’re not wrong, numbers can take a big swing early and Maikel did a lot of his damage in a 20-run trouncing against Miami beer-league pitching. And yeah I know the good pitch hitch issue… it’s still early enough he can fix it. And still, even if the changes don’t last, his likely floor isn’t far from Frazier’s projections, and Maikel’s likely ceiling is higher so I’d still make that move.
Nobody wants Franco to figure it out more than I do… maybe his immediate family, but I am right there with them. I worry that he hasn’t figured it out yet and I highly question whether he ever will.
Side note – Chapman is no longer there and I am regretting it. You were right!
14-team OBP league, Solarte or A.Cabrera at SS going forward?
I’d probably still ride out Cabrera’s hot bat for now, since when healthy he’ll be more likely than Solarte to start every day. Solarte could well post a career-best walk rate but it won’t be anywhere near this high by season’s end.
Appreciate the feedback. The articles on this site are terrific, and the site has really evolved over even the last year.
Thanks so much, Chris! Yeah Nick is awesome at making this site better and better, and it’s an honor to get to write for awesome fans of the site like you!
12 team mixed, 5×5 roto: Moran or Belt ROS?
Moran all the way, yes even in OBP. I’m concerned by Belt posting a Keon Broxton-esque whiff rate of 18.1%, among other things.
Hey Ben, what are you’re thoughts on Grichuk this year? I’m in a 12 team points keeper and using him as a bench player. However, i’m getting the feeling i could be doing better with someone else… thoughts?
Hey Listen up, I think he can be Gri-chucked off your roster in 12-team. His whiff rate is way up at 18% and it seems that Granderson and Pearce have already supplanted him somewhat, and of course then there’s Teoscar in the wings. His power-only profile isn’t so special anymore, I’m sure in a 12-team that you can find someone more useful on waivers
Thanks, Ben! Great article BTW
You wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Chapman led the AL in WAR this year? Really? Mike Trout would like a word.
I guess in my mind “atop the leaderboard” meant “among the top of the leaderboard” but that usage may be technically incorrect. No, barring injury, I don’t see him out-WARing Trout. He’ll be damn good though.
BP — What did the dictionary say to the pencil?
Mark my words.
Heh, good one.
Nobody is talking about Brian Anderson on Miami, but he’s doing just as much as Moran if not more. Your thoughts?
Nah I’m not as hyped on Anderson. He has made some improvements to his contact and chase rate that could make him more of a .260-.270 guy, but I still don’t believe in him having power with a 23% Hard Hit rate. He’s kind of like Moran before Moran’s power breakthrough
Hey Ben, good stuff in here. I’m in a H2H Points league. In my draft, every 2B I wanted was taken just before I was going to pick them. I ended up punting the position and a taking a very late round flyer on Moncada but I can’t start him until he gets his Ks under control. I want to stash him for a couple months to see if he breaks out at some point due to his upside. For the time being, who do you prefer between Panik, Lowrie and C Hernandez?
I’d go Panik, though these are all good options.
Colin Moran or Dansby Swanson ROS, let’s pretend positional eligibility doesn’t matter
So positional eligibility doesn’t matter, and you’re still considering Dansby over Moran? That’s crazy go nuts. Even WITH positional eligibility I’m with Moran all the way
Solarte or Moran? I like Solarte’s multiple position eligibility and BB rate but those xStats on Moran are sexy.
It’s close but unless you have a severe positional need I’m inclined to go Moran