Fantasy baseball roundtable: Heyward's surgery, Miller's start, more
When will the Braves' players quit falling victim to injury? Which pitchers are on pace for major strikeout tallies this season? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack have some answers, along with a bit of NFL Draft talk, in this week's roundtable.
Mack: I felt compelled to give our readers an update on the SI.com fantasy baseball mock draft standings this week, but after taking a look, I decided to keep it to ourselves and say it's way too early to acknowledge the results. Let's focus on the process. Right, Beller? (Editor's note: We performed the draft using the CBSSports.com fantasy tool, and decided to let it run its course through the season without making any changes. Beller currently is in last place and Mack is not much higher.)
The team that I drafted is, like so many teams right now, struggling with injury. Johnny Cueto, Matt Harrison, Brian McCann and Gordon Beckham are on the DL, while David Freese and Stephen Drew haven't done much since returning. The rest of my lineup reads like an All-Slow-Starts team: Victor Martinez, Josh Hamilton, Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton.
But, hey, Matt Harvey and Jim Johnson look great in the early going!
Can't wait to see where this team winds up once Harvey and Johnson cool off. Sigh.
Speaking of feeling sick to the stomach, Heyward is the latest star to go down, undergoing an emergency appendectomy on April 22. Some reports had him missing just a week, but the Braves placed him on the 15-day DL. Evan Gattis can perhaps fill in as an outfielder, when he's not needed behind the plate. What a revelation Gattis has been, hitting six homers in his first 16 games -- like a modern-day Kevin Maas.
My first question to you, Beller, is who will back in the Braves' lineup first: McCann behind the plate -- he's hoping for early May -- or Heyward?
Beller: I'm actually on the mock draft page a fair amount because I use it to check percent availability in CBS leagues when writing the Waiver Wire every week. I've been cool with keeping my place in the standings under wraps until this point. In my defense, I drafted guys like Curtis Granderson, Brett Lawrie, Adam Eaton and Carlos Ruiz -- had we been playing it out for real, I would have active players in there. But yes, my team still looks ugly, and that's with great Aprils from Joey Votto, Adam Jones, Clayton Kershaw, Jeff Samardzija and Wilin Rosario. Thankfully, there isn't anything on the line over there. Otherwise, I wouldn't be too happy with the proceedings.
I'm not a Braves fan and I don't own Heyward in any leagues, but as a baseball fan I hate to see him on the DL. As a league's rising star, he's a ton of fun to watch, and you don't want to see a guy like that lose time in any season. Hopefully the appendicitis was a factor in his slow start, because he's a joy on the field when he is playing well. Given that the Braves expect McCann to begin a rehab assignment later this week, I'll make him a slight favorite over Heyward to get back to Atlanta's lineup first. We'll set the line as McCann -115, Heyward +105.
You mentioned Harvey, and we have talked about the phenom in this space before. But what about his fellow rookie sensation, Cardinals' hurler Shelby Miller? He looked great again Monday, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings while striking out eight in a win over the Nationals. Through four starts, he has a 2.16 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 26 strikeouts against just seven walks. Am I too bullish thinking he can strike out 170 batters while piling up 15-17 wins with a strong St. Louis team behind him?
Mack: You are right on target with Miller's ceiling this year. He surpassed 150 innings last season, and reaching 180, if not 190, is entirely possible. With his current strikeout rate, 170 strikeouts and 15-plus victories is certainly doable.
We probably underrated Harvey and Miller going into drafts, although they may still hit the first-year wall in the second half of the season. Both pitchers are must-starts in all leagues right now.
Back to Heyward, briefly: It will be interesting to see if the reported non-invasive procedure truly gets him back when he's first eligible to come off the DL (May 7).
Switching gears now, as we fantasy experts are being overtaken by the excitement of the NFL draft. Wise fantasy football owners follow it closely, which is especially important with the smashing rookie successes we've seen recently. But I just don't see a real impact fantasy rookie for 2013 right now.
Quarterbacks Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley are probably best served holding a clipboard for a year. Wide receivers Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Quinton Patton look more like long-term projects than NFL-ready pass-catchers. Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz are the top tight end prospects, but that position is a crapshoot in fantasy even at the top, as we learned a season ago.
Running backs are always an interesting case, particularly after you see where the top backs land; however this might be the first year in the modern era no back is selected in Round 1 (The last draft I could find where there wasn't a first-round back taken was 1963 -- that year there were only 14 teams picking in Round 1.)
Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin are the top prospects on most boards. If not for Marcus Lattimore's second major knee reconstruction, we might have had a legit game-breaker to target -- he would have been a sure first-rounder.
Hopefully, we get some intriguing rookies in the right places -- say, an elite receiver for the Patriots or Ravens. At the very least, we are going to have endless hours of must-see TV this weekend.
Who are you most looking forward to, fantasy-wise, in this year's draft class?
Beller: That nugget you dug up on running backs in the first round is pretty crazy, but it might not be the only streak to end this year. The Big Ten looks likely to be completely shut out on Thursday night. If that happens, it will be the first time no Big Ten player was selected in the first round since 1953. At least my Midwest brethren and I can take solace in the fact that we no longer have to deal with the Legends and Leaders divisions.
I'm not really a huge fan of any draftee's fantasy prospects for the coming season, and we can write off the quarterbacks right away. Obviously there isn't a Robert Griffin III or an Andrew Luck or a Russell Wilson, but there might not even be a Ryan Tannehill, at least in terms of rookie-year production. (And Browns fans -- sadly note the absence of Brandon Weeden from the previous sentence.)
Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy could be intriguing depending on where they end up, but neither is going to move the needle too much in fantasy drafts. For me, the three players fantasy owners will want to keep their eyes on are Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Eifert. Unless a team trades up for Tavon Austin, he's probably going to end up in an environment that will hinder him as a rookie. Allen, Patterson and Eifert could both end up landing with good teams featuring strong offenses picking at the back of the round. Like you said, if Allen or Patterson wind up with the Patriots or Ravens, watch out.
And now back to baseball. We're getting to that point of the season when owners drop players who were taken during the back half of the draft and just aren't producing. While that's justifiable most of the time, owners could also be jumping the gun in a few specific cases. One guy I wouldn't get rid of quite yet is Ben Revere. He has been a rate killer this year, hitting just .215 with a .243 OBP. He also has a .254 BABIP, his infield-hit percentage is less than half of his previous career low, he hasn't popped out once, and he's hitting three-quarters of his balls in play on the ground. It's only a matter of time before his batting average and OBP rebound, and when they do, he'll be stealing bases at the pace we expected. And even though he has reached base in fewer than one-quarter of his plate appearances, he still has five swipes on the year.
Mack: Agreed on Revere, he's still set up to have a strong season for rotisserie owners. He and the Phillies offense are going to heat up with the unseasonably cool weather. It is still early after all, even if it's not too early to look ahead to fantasy football with this week's NFL Draft.
Just quickly on Patterson, because I am writing the Top 10 things to watch in the NFL Draft: He is real raw, having played just one season at Tennessee. Fast, yes, but until I see him land with an elite passing team, I am going to call him the next Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Beller, I did see that you picked Justin Upton for your Game 1 lineup in of the DraftDay.com Experts Challenge and he homered for the 10th and 11th times Tuesday. Bravo! It was nice to see you in the other half of the bracket, too. It means we can possibly meet for the championship and prove SI.com has the best darn fantasy analysts on the old world wide web.
By the way, what a remarkable start Justin has had; he's on pace to challenge Barry Bonds' record of 73 homers! (Half-joking there, but seriously considering having some fun with on-pace numbers in this Sunday's Weekly Planner.)
Heck, even B.J. Upton (from my team above) hit his third homer, breaking out of his slow start. My column from Atlanta is proving prophetic! It looks like huge years for both, so buy on B.J. now, if you still can.
And now, to our loyal readers: Send us a fantasy topic you're eager to see us discuss in the roundtable next week. It can be anything from how to deal with injuries to what players to buy low or what draft picks helped themselves the most from the situation they wound up in with their new team. Include your name and where you're from and we will feature it in next Wednesday's Roundtable edition. Until then, fantasy comrades.