Fantasy baseball Roundtable: Is Harvey the best pitcher in baseball?
Matt Harvey is on fire right now, so can he be traded for anyone right now? Should the Mets call up Zack Wheeler as soon as possible, or hold off to preserve him for the future? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack give their opinions on those topics and more.
Do you have a fantasy question that you want our experts to answer? Leave it in the comments below, and we'll tackle it next week.
1. Matt Harvey, one of SI's cover boys this week, looks like the best pitcher in baseball right now. If not No. 1, he's at least in the top five. We asked this a month ago, but would you trade Harvey for anyone right now?
Beller: We did ask this a month ago, and I believe someone said I was crazy for saying I'd trade Adam Wainwright, James Shields and Yovani Gallardo Harvey. Care to restate that assertion, Mack?
I may be enjoying my victory lap, but if anyone offered me a slow-starting pitcher on the order of Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander or David Price for Harvey in a redraft league, I'd accept that trade in a heartbeat. I don't know where you stand, but I think I even prefer Shelby Miller to Harvey for the rest of the year. That might be a roundtable topic for next week.
Mack: Well, Harvey is clearly better than I gave him credit for, but it is still too early to call him a top-five fantasy starter, much less the best pitcher in fantasy. I can still name 10 pitchers I would rather have for the duration of the season.
Pitchers just don't dominate like this in their first full season in the major leagues, particularly in the second half. I have to agree with Beller -- blech! -- Harvey is a must-have over Shields and Gallardo, but I don't think owners should trade Wainwright for him. Wainwright is still more likely to dominate late in the season.
Other pitchers I find more intriguing than Harvey: Verlander, Strasburg, Price, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain. Chris Sale, Cliff Lee and Jon Lester may even qualify for that group, while Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver can try to make a case when they return from (non-throwing) arm injuries. So, Harvey is a top 15 pitcher now, but until he proves capable of going beyond 200 innings year-in and year-out, we cannot put him in that elite class.
Right now, he's on pace for around 240 innings, so the non-contending Mets would be wise to manage him late in the season. There is no reason to push him in September when they are going to be 20 games behind the Nationals and Braves in the NL East. Harvey has a huge future, and the Mets need to protect it. Fantasy owners will want to keep this in mind when dealing with Harvey's value in non-keeper leagues.
2. Another Mets pitcher, Zack Wheeler, is the most-owned minor league pitcher in fantasy. Should the Mets just call the right hander up immediately to end the suspense?
Beller: Wheeler is the most-owned pitcher in the minors for good reason, and he's certainly making a case for a promotion. He's 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA and 3.55 FIP and has 47 strikeouts in 43.1 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, but still, the Mets shouldn't feel pressured to double-down on their young starters by promoting Wheeler. It might please his fantasy owners, but the Mets aren't going anywhere this season, and Wheeler is just as important to their future plans as Harvey is. They should do what's best for their future, not what's best for Wheeler's fantasy owners.
Mack: I agree, the Mets need to manage Wheeler with the future in mind. However, if not for a clavicle issue that required a trip to New York for an exam, Wheeler would be on the must-watch list for imminent prospect call-ups. The New York media tends to stir up unnecessary buzz very frequently, but Wheeler has pitched like he is ready for the major leagues. He can be a 10-win, 3.50 ERA starting pitcher -- a must-have in mixed leagues -- from the moment he arrives in the major leagues.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson said this week's "Super Two" status would not be a factor in the decision to call up Wheeler. Many believed that delaying his arbitration clock one more year would keep the Mets from calling him up until mid-June. The Mets are behaving like a money-conscious organization right now, but they don't have to be. They will bring up Wheeler when he is ready to help the team, and that time is coming very soon. After missing his next start due to the clavicle exam in New York, Wheeler might just need to prove healthy and effective in one more start before he gets a different kind of look in New York.
I have a hunch that Wheeler makes his first start for the Mets before June 1, assuming he averts disaster with his current shoulder issue.
3. Josh Hamilton told the Los Angeles Times he has been playing through an illness for the last two weeks. Is this an excuse for his poor performance? Should he just shut it down until he is right? Or, should fantasy owners bench him?
Beller: Unless he's dealing with something like whatever is keeping Luol Deng out of the Bulls-Heat series, it sounds like a convenient excuse to me. The more likely explanation to me is that he's swinging himself into oblivion. He's swinging at 42.6 percent of pitches out of the strike zone and nearly 60 percent of pitches overall. Some of his success in the past has derived from his ability to hit bad balls, but things have just gotten out of hand this year. If I owned him (thankfully I don't), I would keep running him out there because I really wouldn't feel all that confident in any replacement player at this juncture. But I wouldn't feel great about it.
Mack: Hamilton, like most sluggers, is notoriously streaky. He is getting better of late -- homering for the third time in the past week -- so perhaps there is something to his illness claims. But yes, it is a convenient excuse, so if all of a sudden he starts hitting like we expect Hamilton to hit, we might as well buy it.
I dubbed Hamilton one of the biggest busts of the early rounds of fantasy baseball this season, so I'm not surprised. Free agents in the first year with a new team usually struggle. But Hamilton is still too good to perform like he has until recently. He is not a viable buy-low candidate if someone is selling him as damaged goods.
4. Fellow Angel Mike Trout has finally gotten hot. If we were to draft today for the rest of the season, who should be the No. 1 pick?
Beller: The guy I said should be No. 1 back in March: Ryan Braun. Braun has missed four games this year, yet he still has eight homers, 26 RBI and a pair of steals. He's hitting .306/.396/.579, and it still feels like his best is yet to come. Six weeks into the season, I'd still take him just slightly ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who has been the best hitter in the league thus far this year.
Mack: Clearly, Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball right now, so he should have been given more credit as the No. 1 overall pick, but don't buy Beller's contention that you should consider Braun over Trout right now.
As bad as Trout started, he's still the fourth-highest scoring hitter in fantasy in a standard league. He hit his seventh homer and stole his seventh base Tuesday night. Braun has just one more homer and a batting average about .030 higher (.315 to .286), but otherwise Trout wins the other standard rotisseries categories: RBI (27 to 26), runs (25 to 21) and steals (7 to 2).
Trout is still better than Braun through what seems like his low-water mark. If you drafted for a rotisserie league today, you still should be selecting Trout over Braun. Only Cabrera can make a case to go higher.
5. Jean Segura looks like a fantasy revelation: He's leading baseball with 13 steals, while hitting .359 with seven homers going into play Wednesday night. Where will his numbers wind up and who is going to lead fantasy in stolen bases this year?
Beller: Six weeks into the season, Segura is easily in pole position for the Return on Investment Championship. He was undrafted in the vast majority of leagues, and was little more than a late-round flier where he was drafted. The batting average and steals are legit -- Segura swiped 50 bags and hit .313/.365/.464 in 2010 at High-A Cedar Rapids in the Angels system, then stole 37 while hitting .304/..358/.413 with two different Double-A teams in 2011. The power is coming out of nowhere this year, but he is just 23 years old, so it's possible it's a skill into which he is growing. I think he leads the league with 56 stolen bases this year, while hitting .325 with 18 home runs.
Mack: Those are some sick projections for Segura, but who can argue with them right now? He is making a case to be the No. 1 shortstop in fantasy, even with Troy Tulowitzki avoiding his yearly devastating injury to date. While Segura is impossible to trade for right now, we have to assume some regression here. He is just running way too hot. He is doing what I had suspected Starlin Castro would this season.
Segura's surprising power will subside and an extended cold streak should push his average below .300, making his primary fantasy asset his 40-plus steals. Note that I predict 40-plus steals, as opposed to 50- or 60-plus, which suggests he will slow down there, too, as he wears down in his first full season in the major leagues. Jacoby Ellsbury, a free-agent-to-be, is still the most likely to lead the league in steals once he finally gets hot.
It was a recurring theme here in the Roundtable this week: Even one-quarter of the season is just too small of a sample size to make assumptions for the entire season.