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The Eye Test: Early Bats and Arms

In this series, I will give you my personal scouting report from watching lots of baseball during the week while trying to leverage my perspective as a former college ballplayer and lifelong baseball fan.  I will also do my best to fuse this visual examination with the underlying statistics that we all know and love to provide the most accurate analysis possible.

Hitters

Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals

HE’S BACCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!! I’m feeling mighty cocky about my prediction of his return to MVP status this year.  The narrative that he was injured seems to be playing out in a very true fashion.  He just looks awesome up at the plate, appearing locked in, and he is spitting on balls that he was starting to chase last year.

Harper might be my #1 player over Trout and Betts in re-draft and OBP leagues. The guy is an animal.  He is the best fantasy player as long as he’s healthy.  The problem is that qualifier.  I still wince every time he dives for a ball in the outfield.  There’s no cheapies here either.  The guy is SMOKING the ball.  He hit a 461 foot homer off the Phillies the other day where the exit velocity was just shy of 110 MPH.  Here’s the kicker: Trea Turner has been on the DL babying his hammy.  Things could get even better for Harper now that his speedy table setter returns.  I’m absolutely giddy.

Alex Bregman: Houston Astros

Bregman has been a bit of a disappointment in the results department so far.  He is still taking good at bats and hitting the ball pretty hard, though.   I’ve see him robbed of several hits by great defense as well.  He just looks like a really good baseball player.  He works counts.  He takes the extra  base when he can.  I watched Bregman turn on a 98 mph fastball which cut in on his hands.  I also watched Bregman take the extra base when he saw a deuce in the dirt out of the pitcher’s hand. The guy is just a baller.  

The hits will start to fall for him and the rest of the Houston lineup, which has been a slow starter on the whole.  I was lucky enough to grow up watching the dominant Yankees teams in the ‘90s.  I watched players like Jeter, Bernie, and O’Neil wear out other teams.  This guy would fit right in on those teams.  See if you can buy low from someone who might be panicking.  Let’s not forget that he is one of the highest touted prospects of the past 5 years.  He did make the leap from AA straight to the pros, but he has already shown he can produce at this level and I’m not worried at all.

Andrew Benintendi: Boston Red Sox

It’s still very early, so I will definitely be giving updates throughout the year as we get larger samples.  It’s called the “Eye Test” because we are trying to match stats, rumors, pedigree, etc. with actual baseball play.  But let’s be a little more literal here and just make some observations about how Benintendi actually looks.

He looks like someone I wouldn’t let my daughter date.  He looks like someone who wouldn’t have invited me to parties in high school.  He looks like someone who would tell his dad to deny me a bank loan.  Okay, I’m done… I think.  

Benintendi looks legit as a player, with some qualification when it comes to fantasy.  He has a really good contact approach,which has resulted in him only striking out just 9 times in his first 73 PAs this year.  That’s pretty studly for a young buck.  I think he might be a bit overhyped in Roto and Category leagues.  He should generally bat .300 with his elite contact skills, and he may even develop into an annual batting title candidate.

I don’t really see the pop though.  He was being touted as a lock for 15-15 or maybe even 20-20.  I just don’t see it.  He will still be very useful in any format if he has a big batting average and good counting stats, but I think it might be worth seeing what you can get for him in Roto and Category leagues as the hype seems to outweigh the production in those formats.  I’d probably just stand pat with him in points leagues unless you get a crazy offer.  He should hit his share of doubles (Fenway Park); that combined with his lack of strikeouts is such an asset in points leagues.  

Low strikeout totals for the relative production are a big part of what made guys like Ben Zobrist and Jose Bautista way more value in points leagues than standard roto.  This was also the case for Michael Brantley who is kind of what I’m hoping for with Benintendi.  I think he might end up being a Brantley lite.  Some level of production between peak Brantley and peak Zobrist.  So again, he does pass my eye test, but do be sure to mind your format.



Pitchers

Francisco Liriano: Toronto Blue Jays

Ballpark, league, and presidential tax returns are all things that do not matter to Francisco Liriano. The only thing that matters, for some reason, is that Russell Martin is catching for him.  His stuff is as nasty as it has ever been, particularly the slider. The velocity is still solid, and his split change has some very nasty fade.  All of his pitches have so much life that it makes control a bit of a headache for him.  Martin somehow knows how to set up in a way where Liriano throws strikes.  This also seems to make sense because in the first Liriano disaster, he couldn’t throw a strike because his pitches were moving more than a Gypsy thief.  

I came into the season high on him, and he passes the eye test for me.  If for some reason you hear Martin isn’t going to catch for him – I wouldn’t start him, but the stuff is still electric.  He’s always going to strike people out as well as struggle with some walks – the definition of effectively wild.  I think the final line will be worth it most nights.  Pick him off waivers if you can, or trade for him if you can catch someone that thinks they’re selling high.  I made an excessive trade preseason of Adam Eaton for him post draft when I found myself with a middling staff and a surplus of outfielders.  I think that trade will be a win-win.

Liriano has backed up his disaster first start with highly impressive outings against good lineups.  He struck out Mookie Betts for Christ’s sake!   Betts hadn’t struck out  in the Trump administration to that point.  Here’s the deal. Liriano will be terrible a few times per year, but it will be worth it for all the other great starts.  If Martin is his battery mate, deploy him with confidence in every matchup and ballpark except Coors.

Drew Pomeranz: Boston Red Sox

Watched him since he was locked up in matchup with my boy Dylan Bundy whom I profiled in the first installation of the eye test.  I was a year early on Pomeranz, predicting the breakout in spacious Oakland a couple of years back.  He ended up being legitimately awesome with the Padres in the first half last year before fading a bit with the BoSox.  I feel like people unfairly degraded Pomeranz based on that shaky stint at the end of the year instead of looking at the full season.

I had a lot of interest in Pomeranz coming into 2017, but was scared off by reports of a bad elbow.  When I hear pitcher and elbow… I run.  Not literally since I think cardio is a scam.  Pitchers are already so hard to project and rely on, so when I hear forearm tightness or anything with an elbow, I just completely avoid the player.  Watching Pomeranz in his start on Thursday, the stuff seems up to snuff.  He had the solid velocity with life, living in the 92-93 MPH range which is fine from the left side – he has one of the best hooks from the left side in the majors.  It was on full display.  He didn’t have the best command so he only ended up lasting 5.1 innings, but I was mostly impressed with what I saw.  

The stuff looks great, which should help him be successful on a team that figures to give him all the support a starter could ever ask for. A powerful offense, great defense, and awesome bullpen are all things that factor heavily in helping a starter to be successful.  Pomeranz passes my eye test, and I would see if the owner in your league would be open to selling.  Maybe the inflated ERA and lackluster finish to 2016 will allow you to get him at a discount.  I would value him as an SP 4 with upside to be an SP 2.

Wade Davis: Chicago Cubs

Still really good, but the stuff looks less impressive.  No more 98-100 MPH, and I feel like it’s not coming back.  Fortunately he is on a great team that should give him lots of save opportunities and an awesome defense will help keep that BABIP extra low.  He’s still a really good pitcher but I’m a little scared of the injury stuff given the diminished stuff.  

I think he’s worth trading with a spare part for one of the truly elite closers with better K potential.  I would trade him straight up or with a spare part for Kimbrel, Chapman, or Jansen.  On the flip side, I still think he has got a great chance at being a valuable closer and would deal for him in a situation where I needed saves.

Davis sort of passes my eye test, which is just to say that he is still clearly a savvy, effective pitcher on an awesome team, but the 91.16 MPH average on Statcast does leave me slightly gun-shy.  I like closers that throw gas 95+ ideally with another nasty pitch.

 

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Mike Sheehan
Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.

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