Fantasy baseball Roundtable: Top rookies, closers and more
Which rookie will contribute the most to fantasy squads the rest of the season? With chaos in the closer ranks, which ninth-inning arms are currently top tier? Which of the numerous current injured players in the smartest DL stash? Our experts Michael Beller and Eric Mack weigh in on that and more.
1. If you could own one rookie the rest of the way, who would it be?
Mack: Here is the thing about rookie fantasy values: they're fleeting. The veterans provide the consistent results, while rookies are best trusted in spurts. Right now, Shelby Miller is king, but Hyun-Jin Ryu might be stronger down the stretch, because he's pitched more than 200 innings in a season before. However, I prefer bats over pitchers, and since Evan Gattis and Jedd Gyorko are fringe mixed-league options right now, I am going to reference SI.com's preseason rookie picks and select Wil Myers. He's heating up in Triple-A, delivering five homers, 15 RBI, a stolen base a .393 average over his past seven games. If this hot streak continues, he is going to arrive before the rough mid-June Super Two period expires. Because this rookie class has been underwhelming, even a disappointing Triple-A player stands as my pick for the top rookie to have from here on out.
Beller: Mack makes a strong argument for going with a bat over an arm, and if we were talking strictly about the best rookie hitter for the remainder of the season, I, too, would want Myers. However, I'm still strongly in Miller's corner. We know he's going to be in the Cardinals' rotation for the remainder of the year, and even though he has already begun to slow down in the rate categories, he will remain a great source of strikeouts and, likely, wins for the rest of the season. Myers has been hot at Durham, but we're not really sure when the Rays will bring him back to the majors. That's why I give Miller a slight nod for now.
2. Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson were top-five closer options in most drafts, but they're both struggling; based on the results to date, which closers occupy that top tier of true trust now?
Mack: Like rookie success, closer trust is also fleeting. There's no one like Mariano Rivera anymore, and even Rivera isn't pitching like himself on his farewell tour. If we drafted today, here is how I would rank the top five closers in fantasy: 1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL; 2. Aroldis Chapman, CIN; 3. Jonathan Papelbon, PHI; 4. Rivera, NYY; and 5. Rafael Soriano, WAS. I lean on the tried and true, so I'm not including the early 2013 surprises like Jason Grilli, Edward Mujica and Addison Reed. Like all statistical analysis, sample size is important when it comes to trusting closers.
Beller: I don't mean to be a jerk, but anyone drafting Rodney thinking he'd be anywhere near what he was last year deserves this flop of a season he's having. And that adds to the point that closer performance is among the most volatile parts of fantasy baseball. For me, the top five closers are as follows: 1. Rivera, 2. Kimbrel, 3. Chapman, 4. Sergio Romo, SFG, and 5. Grilli, PIT. Romo and Grilli are in the discussion for me because of their strikeout rates. My next tier would include Papelbon, Reed and Soriano.
3. The Phillies are a mess, but which players can continue to be useful in fantasy?
Mack: An owner should absolutely feel fine about Cole Hamels (despite his 1-8 record) and Cliff Lee; they are still top 25 fantasy starters, if not top 15. Also, I discussed above how Papelbon should be among the top three closers, even though his saves total is somewhat suppressed because of the Phillies' slow start. This is a veteran team that still will find its stride this summer. Veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are past their prime and currently banged up, but they will find the warmer weather easier on their aging bodies and scorch in the batter's box. We have seen Domonic Brown prove to be a revelation, finally, and he should be active in all leagues right now. I am far less confident in Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young reaching their previously lofty levels.
Beller: Hamels and Lee are still Hamels and Lee. You shouldn't feel any differently about either of them than you did back in March. If for some reason their owners in your league are testing the trade waters, something that is especially plausible with Hamels given his record, see if you can take advantage. Heading into the year, I was selling Rollins and Young, and they haven't done anything to persuade me I was wrong for doing so. Brown is finally living up to his potential, and, as Mack said, he should be universally owned. That leaves the old mainstays, Howard and Utley. The former said his left knee will probably bother him the rest of the season, but he should heat up along with the weather. I'd be surprised if he didn't get to 30 homers on the year. As for Utley, I'd say he was already giving owners a nice level of production before hitting the DL. Most anyone would take .272/.339/.475 with seven homers, 25 RBI, 21 runs and five steals from a second baseman. So long as he doesn't miss too much time with the oblique injury, he'll likely be one of the best options at second base for the rest of the season.
4. Which currently injured player is best to stash on your DL right now?
Mack: Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), David Price (triceps), Ian Kinsler (intercostal), Jose Reyes (ankle), Hanley Ramirez (hamstring) and Curtis Granderson (hand) are all obvious stars fantasy owners cannot cut, but Brandon Beachy (elbow) and Daniel Hudson (elbow) are the quiet commodities who are widely available to fantasy owners right now. Both are potential top-25 fantasy aces coming off Tommy John surgery and they can prove to be must-start pitchers in the second-half of the season. Pitching is always sketchy in fantasy, so if you can deal your current aces for bats and take fliers on guys like Beachy and Hudson, you can make you team strong for the stretch run.
Beller: Darn. Mack took all the low-hanging fruit, and that's the tastiest. Everyone he mentioned is well worth stashing on your DL. Owners should also take a look at Michael Pineda, who is expected to throw about 60-70 pitches in a simulated game later this week. Assuming everything remains on track for his return from shoulder surgery, he'll make a handful of starts on a rehab assignment with an eye on returning to the Yankees rotation early in the second half of the season. Don't forget what he did as a rookie with the Mariners in 2011, posting a 3.74 ERA, 3.42 FIP and 1.10 WHIP while striking out 173 batters in 171 innings.
5. I've been stashing Wil Myers all year, but have also acquired a solid corps of starting outfielders (Trout/Harper/Gonzalez/Stanton). My question is: Do I drop Myers for Nick Franklin? Franklin would be my third shortstop behind Desmond and Castro and will eventually gain second base eligibility. But is Franklin's immediate use a better play than Myers' potential? I play in a 12-team, non-keeper mixed league.
-- Jon Haliniak, Rochester, NY
Mack: No way. Franklin is a mere middle infielder and we have already seen more significant talents fail us -- namely Dustin Ackley, the guy Franklin is replacing in Seattle. Myers has the kind of pop that can ignite a fantasy team, even if he really has yet to show it down in Triple-A. I would actually prefer to see a prospect struggle down there, make adjustments and come up to the majors prepared to conquer his weaknesses than have someone that might be tricked into thinking he has everything all figured out. The Show is a different beast, and Myers is going to do far more damage in fantasy than any other rookie hitter.
Beller: Myers is one of the top prospects in all of baseball, a former Minor League Player of the Year who is likely on the verge of returning to the majors. Franklin is a middle infielder who might help solve an immediate need, but doesn't really move the needle all that much in terms of improving your team as a whole. Not only does Myers translate to the majors far better than does Franklin, Myers can be a huge asset on your team whether you keep him, package him in a trade or trade off some of your existing outfield depth while sliding Myers into one of those spots. Keep Myers.