Everyone loves a good story. You know, the one that you sit down to, read to your kids, and it leads to that happy ending. In the fantasy game folks like to think that they are living a fairytale existence. Sometimes they get lulled to sleep by a players hot start, or the name on the back of his jersey, and they think that it's going to be all hugs, kisses and lollipops. Being the downer that The Oracle is, he's hear to bring cloudy skies, rain and nightmares as he shines the light on three players that maybe should have some muted expectations moving forward in Justin Upton, Jose Bautista and Taijuan Walker.
THE HOT STARTER
Justin Upton was one of a handful of players who could legitimately be called the fantasy MVP of April. In his first month as a member of the Braves Upton was everything he could be as he hit .298 with 12 homers, 19 RBIs and 22 runs scored on his way to a 1.136 OPS. It looked like the Braves had hit the jackpot adding a player who was on his way to that aforementioned MVP like season. That hot start also blinded folks in the fantasy game into resting on their laurels with Upton. Are you one of those folks, one who watched in April and then just forgot about Upton because you “knew” he would be fine? If you are, here's a reality check. Upton not only hasn't kept up his early season pace, he's actually been AWFUL ever since. Over his last 47 games Upton has produced the shockingly pathetic numbers:
Yes, his SLG has been been lower than his OBP.
Three homers and 15 RBIs.
Remember he had 12 and 19 in April (26 games).
I know it's amazing to think but guess what, Justin Upton hasn't been any better than B.J. Upton since the start of May.
Justin: .209-3-15-25-3 with a .626 OPS
B.J.: .199-5-12-13-3 with a .643 OPS
So, are you ready to come to the realization that Justin may not be the answer to your teams woes this season? Don't forget that Justin has hit exactly 17 homers in two of the past three seasons meaning that his power woes the past two months actually aren't as shocking as you might think they are. He'll also need to pick things up though on the base paths as his total of six steals is well off the pace that has seen him steal at least 18 bags each of the past four seasons.
On the plus side, even though his average is down he continues to get on base, his .351 OBP is right on his career .356 mark, so his average is likely to improve as we move forward (his 0.55 BB/K rate would be a career best, and he's hit at least .273 in 4-straight seasons so his current .241 mark is likely going up). Still, his uneven play should cause you a lot of pause... or at least a lot more than it likely has.
“Mixing vodka and Red Bull can be deadly, warn experts.” If this article is true I'm surely nearing the end of my expected lifespan cause I'm often seen on a Friday night sucking those puppies down like a man given water for the first time after spending three days on a raft at sea after a plan crash.
THE POWER STAR
Everyone loves Jose Bautista (there are many of you out there that would accept a marriage proposal from him without giving it a second thought. I know who you are.). The guy did blast 97 homers with 227 RBIs and 214 runs scored in 2010-11, so I understand the love. However, injuries held him to 92 games played last season and he lost third base eligibility in most leagues. Still, he went deep 27 times with 65 RBIs last season flashing the power bat that he had become, so his stock was still very high entering play this season. Should it have been? Should people be as excited as they are when they send me trade proposals that have them netting the Jays' power hitter?
(1) Bautista has a career .252 batting average. I've said this over and over, but here it is again.
Bautista has hit .265 once in nine big league seasons. Once.
In the seven seasons in which he has had 375 plate appearances, that's 14 half seasons, he's had one half season in which he hit .300. One.
He's hitting .247 currently. He's nothing but league average in that category.
(2) He's never reached 10 steals in a season. He has five steals right now so he could get there, but he's just not a big threat on the base paths.
Given those two points, I've always been surprised at how many folks fall all over themselves to add Bautista in a 5x5 league (in leagues that use OBP or OPS it's a totally different story as Bautista does excel there).
(3) Bautista has hit 16 homers with 43 RBIs and 48 runs scored this season in 69 games. Let's pro-rate that effort to, oh I don't know, 145 games. If we do that here's what we end up with for Bautista: .247-34-90-101. That's a strong season no doubt, but is it elite? Before you say yes check out the following set of numbers.
Obviously those are two virtually identical seasons.
Line #1 is the 145 game pro-rated pace of Bautista in 2013.
Line #2 is the 145 game effort of Josh Willingham in 2012.
Anyone consider Josh Willingham's 2012 season to be an elite effort? Maybe you should reassess how you view Jose Bautista? Just a thought.
THE NEXT GREAT ONE
Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Tony Cingrani, Tyler Skaggs, Kevin Gausman, Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler, Dan Straily, Gerrit Cole, Wily Peralta, Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi... on and on it goes, and by “it” I mean the parade of young arms that steal the heart of fantasy owners worldwide. Problem is, more times than not these hurlers fail to live up to expectations, at least initially (think how long it's taken Julio Teheran to finally show the talent that everyone knew was there). Regardless, people salivate at the thought of adding the next great arm to their staff.
Taijuan Walker of the Mariners is one of the elite pitching prospects in the game, no one disputes that fact, and the whispers are growing into a low roar in the fantasy game around when he will be promoted and start dominating in the big leagues. That roar grew even louder when in his first start at Triple-A he tossed six shutout innings. The hype train kicked into a whole other gear with folks in the fantasy universe clamoring for the Mariners to call up the phenom. Here's my take on the impressive young righty.
He throws hard. He hit 97 mph in his Triple-A outing – the pitch explodes out of his hand. He also shows solid command with his off-speed pitches. This “stuff” says that Walker has the potential to be a big league ace.
Walker has flashed a 3.40 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 320.1 minor league innings (he's got a losing record at 19-23 for what it's worth). He's also struck out more than a batter per inning with 340 punchouts, though he's struggled at times with the free passes as his 3.5 BB/9 mark would attest. Batters have had a tough time squaring up his pitches – see the 16.3 percent line drive rate they have produced – but it's not like Walker is a dominating ground ball arm (his minor league GB/FB is 1.20). A strong skill set, but one that could use some honing.
That said, the guy is 20 years old. Twenty. "He's much more mature physically than a year ago, to think that he's here doing this at age 20 at this level is really, you can really fantasize about what's going to happen in the future with him," Tacoma manager John Stearns said.
And that's the main rub here. If you own Walker in a dynasty league you are in fantastic shape. If you are talking about a traditional re-draft league though, what should your level of excitement be with a guy who has, literally, thrown one game above A-Ball? Don't forget about an innings cap as well. After throwing 96.2 innings in 2011 and 126.2 last season, how far will the Mariners push the 30 year old this season? After all, he's already up to 90 innings pitches.
Beyond those considerations, there is the question of what the Mariners envision their rotation to look like at the big league level? The fact is the Mariners are blessed with three young arms that they hope will be rotation fixtures for a long time: Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. The club also has Erasmo Ramirez at Triple-A, I'm a big fan of his skill set, and don't forget about Brandon Maurer who opened the year with the Mariners' starting staff in the big leagues. That's five arms right there that are all big league quality. In The Show the Mariners are currently running out the following five arms: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman. I think a case could be made the Walker has the second best arm in the organization behind King Felix, but he's also just 20 years old, has little experience, and has so many other arms to compete with for a spot in the Mariners' rotation. Those of you in 10/12 team mixed leagues can safely move on from Walker for now, though those of you in 15 teamers could certainly consider adding him to your reserve group. That said, it's no lock that he enters the Mariners' starting rotation at any point this season, and even if he does it might be very late in the year. I'd advise being cautious.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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