Fantasy Forward: Will Thames be this year’s “Story”?

Remembering it’s only the third week of the regular season, the Yankees own the longest win streak in baseball (8 games) with the White Sox in town to wrap up their home stand. In the senior circuit, the Braves modest five game streak leads the way. With the premise of when is too early to panic, Cubs fans seem to be frustrated by the team’s slow start combined with the struggles of its bullpen.

Like many will advise, take the long view approach to the marathon season which fantasy baseball presents. Having immediate results feels great, but one-tenth of the games do not lapse until later this week.

The earth is round, water’s wet, and Rich Hill returns to the disabled for his second stint matching his number of starts on the season. Reports suggest he is amenable to returning with a potential role in the bullpen, making him a very expensive version, and much less reliable one, than fellow southpaw, Andrew Miller. Pirates third baseman Jung-Ho Kang’s appeal will be on May 25th, putting him out until at least this date with his return pending the hearing’s results along with acquiring a work VISA. Marcus Semien’s injury hurts his owners, and the A’s seem set on keeping Franklin Barreto in Triple-A to promote his development. According to reports, Kendall Graveman will only miss one start during his stay on the shelf.

Huston Street experienced a slight setback during his rehab, and the Angels transferred him to the 60-day disabled list with mild shoulder impingement. There’s no confirmation Sam Dyson’s bruised ego landed him on the disabled list, but odds suggest it’s performance based and he turned down a trip to the minors to figure it out. For some good news, Jason Kipnis could make his season debut with the Indians when they arrive in Chicago. Keep tabs on Matt Carpenter who is off to a slow start and missed last night’s game due to his finger injury from Sunday night.

Hitting Highlights and Notes of Interest

  • After a hot start to 2016, many felt the time to sell high on Trevor Story was around now. An injury later in the season befell the hot rookie, and history may be repeating itself. Eric Thames hit a home run for the fifth straight game in Chicago off of John Lackey last night. Thames tied a Brewers team record with the home run streak and became the first player since Carlos Lee in 2006 to accrue seven home runs in the team’s first 14 games.
  • Speaking of hot, Freddie Freeman accomplished a feat only two other Atlanta players have done with two home runs and two doubles in the same game. Only Adam LaRoche and Felipe Alou have done so since the franchise moved to Atlanta.
  • Overshadowed by Thames’ hot start, Ryan Braun has amassed five home runs and four stolen bases to start the year. The rumor mill surrounding him will heat up next month, but Braun double dipped on power and speed last night as well.
  • Yasiel Puig did not have a strong game at the plate, but did walk for the 10th time during his 56th plate appearance this season. Last year it took Puig 231 such appearances to match the walk total to start 2017.
  • Padres catcher Austin Hedges may have landed on your waiver wire due to his 0-for-24 opening to the season. But, he is six for his last 14 with two doubles and hit his second home run of the year Monday night. Speculate.
  • Mookie Betts extended his plate appearance streak without a strikeout to 123, but also hit a double in his last at-bat. Hits and contact are nice, fantasy owners need his power to resurface which seems en route.
  • Both Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz homered in Seattle to the delight of their fantasy owners. Cano’s swing may be locking in, and if Cruz heats up at the same time, this lineup only becomes deeper. The duo combined for 82 dingers last year.
  • Another player to track in Seattle could be Taylor Motter. He homered for the third time on Monday. Although he is playing shortstop with Jean Segura due back, Motter can also play first base where Danny Valencia’s .163 average resides.
  • Matt Holliday returned to the Yankees lineup and delivered a three-run home run to propel them to another win. His back sidelined him, but fantasy owners must have him active during home games for the power upside.
  • Speaking of power upside, Aaron Judge launched his fourth home run with his average sitting at .275.

Starting Pitcher Exploits

  • Allowing five of the first nine batters faced is less than ideal, but Danny Salazar bounced back to finish strong with seven strikeouts in six innings of work in Minnesota. He held the Twins to one earned run and generated eight swinging strikes with his change-up.
  • Rookie Jordan “Gumby” Montgomery won his first game with the Yankees. He may have stayed in a bit long, but Montgomery held the White Sox to seven hits and three earned runs with four strikeouts. Montgomery’s 11 strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched to start his career may be enticing.
  • Ivan Nova and Lance Lynn engaged in a pitching duel with Lynn coming out on top. Nova gave up two earned runs in the complete game loss while Lynn held the Pirates to three hits with five strikeouts over seven innings. Nova’s ERA sits at 2.25, but his record stands at 1 – 2.
  • Ride the wave with Charlie Morton while it lasts. He won against the Angels at home, but lasted only five innings with five strikeouts. His 84.8 strand rate and 4.30 xFIP suggest some bumps in the road, especially when factoring in Morton’s career 67.8 left-on-base percentage.
  • A.J. Griffin turned in exactly what the Rangers needed, and at one point retired 14 straight A’s batters during his six innings of work. Tread lightly; he flashed this same upside to start last season as well.
  • Robbie Ray struck out 10 Dodgers on the road with his slider inducing eight swinging strikes. Ray did walk four, but lasted seven innings with only one earned run allowed to lower his season ERA to 1.96.
  • Brandon McCarthy seemed to be on his way to a win until he tired a bit in the fifth inning. He finished with eight strikeouts, but needs to be able to work deeper into games to garner much-needed wins for Los Angeles.
  • After the Marlins traversed the country, they ran into Ariel Miranda who fired seven shutout innings with four hits allowed and five strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.06 to start the year.

Bullpen musings

  • Remember when Craig Kimbrel’s stock fell during drafts this year? He saved his third game in as many days and struck out seven of the nine batters he faced in three perfect appearances. Impressive.
  • Astros closer Ken Giles bounced back with a much-needed clean outing, striking out two during his save Monday night.
  • While many chase Matt Bush on the waiver wire, with money already spent on Jeremy Jeffress and Tony Barnette by others, taking a long view approach and stashing Keone Kela could be the cheapest way to get saves eventually in the Texas bullpen.
  • While something seems off with Seung Hwan-Oh, he did record his first save last night. However, he’s allowed a run in four of his last five appearances with his velocities down two MPH on each of his pitches. More disturbing, Oh has only struck out two in 5.2 innings of work. Stashing Trevor Rosenthal may be necessary as a handcuff.
  • It’s still early, but Brandon Maurer gave up the winning walk-off hit in Atlanta during a tie game. He does have five strikeouts in five innings of work, but Carter Capps return looms and could eventually displace Maurer in the ninth inning.

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Greg Jewett

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I am a father, PE teacher & fantasy baseball writer. Using saber metrics & information to evaluate players & trends is exciting to me."Passion is the oxygen of the soul." Bill Butler

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