Tom Lorenzo and Brad Rysz debate four youngsters who made the big league club, but still carry some risk on your fantasy roster.
Brad: I prefer my fantasy players like I do my women: young, talented and quick around the bases. There are tons of prospects out there, and RotoExperts main man, Bill Root, let’s you know who to keep an eye on each week.
This week, Tom and I figured anything Bill can do, we can do better. Rookies are hard to predict, especially considering we’ve had some stellar opening acts from Ryan Braun (OF, MIL), Evan Longoria (3B, TAM) and Edinson Volquez(SP, CIN) the past few seasons. Everyone wants to know: who’s the next Braun? The quick answer? Nobody.
Braun had the best rookie season since this one guy they call Pujols. Ever heard of him? In most cases, rookies struggle.
The adjustment to increased pressure, larger crowds and an extended season leads to slumps and inconsistencies. I spend a lot of time following minors (ballplayers, not women), trying to figure out who has the tools to succeed on the next level. Tom, how do you view minors (ballplayers, not women)?
Tom: Brad, I know you’re setting me up here to admit that I too am into minors. And I applaud you for that. In all seriousness, I’m with you on this one.
I actually left work early last year to watch the Worldwide Leader’s debut broadcast of the MLB amateur draft. This year, the draft has actually come to me. Little known fact (and please don’t stalk me, Brad) but I live just a stone’s throw away from super-prospect Stephen Strasburg.
If you’re not aware of who Stephen Strasburg is, let me put it into perspective for you, you might want to save that No. 1 waiver claim for this summer because he is said to be the most dominant pitching prospect “ever”, and he’s pretty much ready to step in and throw at the big league level as we speak.
And no, Brad, I’m not telling you which direction I throw stones at his house from.
DEXTER FOWLER, OF, COLORADO
38 AB, 10 H, 5 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB, .263 AVG
With just 64 career Major League at-bats to his name, Dexter Fowler has already piqued many owners’ interest with his plus tools.
Is it too soon for fantasy owners to start rostering this gifted 23-year-old, or has Fowler shown manager Clint Hurdle enough early on to warrant a healthy amount of at-bats?
Tom: Remember that final rap battle in the movie 8 Mile when Eminem goes on the defensive and plays his opponents hand and repudiates each line of attack before he’s even able to ‘spit’?
Well, you are about to witness a similar smackdown of sorts. First, Brad is going to tell you that the reason why you shouldn’t like Fowler is because the ABs aren’t going to be there with so many pieces to the Colorado outfield puzzle.
He’ll tell you that Fowler might be the odd-man-out on too many occasions. Brad then will try and sway you in the direction of Ryan Spilborghs (OF, COL), but take heed that Fowler has more homeruns, steals, walks, plus an equal number of runs scored, and half the amount of strikeouts as Spilborghs does.
He also tops Spilly in OBP and SLG%. Brad will finally point out that Fowler’s OBP of .333 is mediocre for a leadoff batter, but for such an aggressive young hitter, that shouldn’t matter much.
Do you remember what Jose Reyes’(SS, NYM) OBP was in his first full season (2005)? In 733 plate appearances Reyes posted a .300 OBP, yet still managed to steal 60 bases and score 99 runs.
Of course I don’t expect Fowler to even sniff those numbers this year, but with 500-plus ABs I think we can see 12-15 homers, 25 steals, and 90 runs while playing half of his games in Coors Field.
Spilborghs won’t come close to any of those numbers. Deep leagues and certainly NL-only leagues should take notice, because Fowler looks like he is a nice Mother Lode option this season. Brad, I just dropped the mic at your feet...you’re up.
Brad: First off, if you are Eminem, I’m Bubba Sparxxx. Second, you make us recall Jose Reyes’ first full season, and then tell us Fowler will never “sniff those numbers”, as you put it. What are you sniffing, Tom?
As much as I’d love to put you in your place and turn this into verbal warfare, I think I’ll hold my ammunition for awhile. The problem with your argument is that you continue to compare Fowler to Spliborghs. They both play at the same time, with Smith getting the raw end of the deal.
The two should complement each other well throughout the season. What definitely impresses me most with Fowler is his patience at the plate (7:4 K/BB ratio).
Spilborghs is striking out far too much and that has resulted in Fowler leading off when he plays. Let’s face it, the Rockies aren’t going to the World Series this year (sorry, Colorado fans), and Fowler serves no purpose in the bigs if he isn’t going to play.
I’ll agree with your predictions above, and add that he’ll probably finish somewhere north of .270. He’s proven that he’s a legitimate five-tool player and if that doesn’t speak Mother Lode, then I don’t know what does.
Tom: East and West coast rappers can unite after all…
TREVOR CAHILL, SP, OAKLAND
3 GS, 0 W, 5 K, 13 BB, 2.60 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
With very little professional baseball experience under his belt, Trevor Cahill was called upon this season to make a huge leap to the majors.
At just 21 years of age, Cahill is hoping to maintain his spot in the A’s rotation, though early control issues might send fantasy owners heading for the hills.
Cahill currently leads the AL in walks, with 13, but did our fantasy experts expect anything but some early struggles from the young righty?
Tom: At first glance the only positive statistic to come from Cahill’s first three starts is his 2.60 ERA over his 17.1 innings pitched. Other than that, it looks like Cahill is having a hard time finding the plate. Those 13 walks and the 1.44 WHIP are not encouraging signs for a young pitcher.
But, there are certainly a number of things you should like about Cahill. We know that with most young pitchers the tendency is to come into the bigs and try and nibble the plate, punching out every batter they face. This is exactly what Trevor Cahill seems to be doing.
When he is giving hitters pitches in the strike zone they are responding with a .222 BABIP, which is well below the league’s average (.300). His current 6.2 H/9 rate also sits firmly below that of recent Cy Young award winners Roy Halladay (SP, TOR) and Tim Lincecum(SP, SF) this season.
The obvious issue here is with a young pitcher doing more than he needs to. If Cahill can cut down on the free passes and keep the ball in the ballpark (zero homeruns allowed in his first three starts), he can be a pretty effective pitcher.
As is the case with most young pitchers there are going to be some rough patches along the way. But, I still foresee him keeping a relatively low ERA and picking up 10-12 wins making him a Mother Lode candidate if you feel you can pick up the strikeouts elsewhere.
Brad: I see that you’ve mentioned Cahill’s BABIP. You’ve thrown a nice 16-inch softball right up there for me to crank out of the park. All a .222 BABIP means is that some of those batted balls are going to start turning into hits, resulting in an even higher WHIP.
I would consider dealing with his walks if he was equalizing that with strikeouts, but that clearly isn’t the case here. Cahill has only five Ks, including two games where he only had one punch-out in the game.
His minor league numbers (9.84 K/9) suggest that will become an arsenal of his game, but it may take a year or two of facing major league talent to utilize that skill.
Cahill had a decent amount of walks in the minors, so you can expect that to climb in the majors, implying that three-to-four walks per game are likely.
The A’s aren’t going to blow out a lot of teams, so Cahill will likely be pitching from behind, leading to fewer victories than one would hope for. If all he can supply is a solid ERA (which I don’t believe he can sustain), you have Fool’s Gold on your hand.
JORDAN ZIMMERMANN, SP, WAS
1 GS, 1 W, 3 K, 1 BB, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Zimmermann didn’t disappoint in his Major League debut, defeating the Atlanta Braves on Monday, tossing six solid innings of two-run ball.
The hype began after Zimmermann finished Spring Training with a 3.14 ERA in 14.1 innings with 20 Ks to only two free passes. Now that Jordan is the second Zimmerman(n) on the Nationals, can he continue this kind of production?
Brad: Is it weird that Zimmermann has pitched exactly one major league game and is already the unquestioned ace of the Nationals staff? Regardless, he has the stuff to back up that status.
Zimmermann’s fastball is his best pitch and he routinely throws it around 91-93 mph with an above-average sink on it. He constantly pounds the lower half of the plate, which results in a lot of grounders. His curveball is only average, and that may be where he finds trouble in the majors.
Nationals Park actually favored the hitter in 2008, so its reputation as a pitchers park probably has more to do with the Nationals putrid offense than anything else. We should probably hold on for a second as Tom tries to figure out who the second Zimmerman(n) on Washington is…it’s Ryan Zimmerman (3B, WAS), Tom. Now that we have his full attention, we can continue.
I think Zimmermann has the size, makeup and skill-set to succeed in our nation’s capital. At this point, we’ve had a ton of pitchers who have underperformed so far.
Ricky Nolasco (SP, FLA), Volquez, Roy Oswalt (SP, HOU), just to name a few have not started out the season well. Zimmermann will have his rough patches, like all rookies, but this Mother Lode warrants a spot on your roster.
Tom: I appreciate it when you slow things down a little for me, Brad. My concern about Zimmermann is that he’s pitching for a team that will struggle to win much more than 60 games this season.
The Nats already have run the gamut when it comes to their bullpen and their offense is spotty. When you have a case like this where you’re already concerned about Zim hitting ‘rough patches’ this adds some more cause for concern.
Like Brad said, it’s hard to knock the guy because he has great makeup and he’s pitched well in his 20 appearances in Double-A. He managed 103 Ks and only 39 walks in 106.2 innings pitched.
I like his command and composure, so I’ll run with Brad on this one and call him a Mother Lode. We’re talking about Ryan Zimmerman, right? I kid!
TRAVIS SNIDER, OF, TOR
35 AB, 10 H, 7 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB, .286 AVG
One of the best prospects in all of baseball, Snider had a cup of coffee for the big league club at the end of last year, batting .301 in 24 games.
This season, he started the year in the majors, ready to destroy big-league pitching with his prodigious power. Can he have a Braun-esque impact?
Brad: Tom, did you hear that Snider can hit baseballs a quarter-mile? He can hit a baseball over a mountain. Those were the rumors circulating before Snider made his debut for the Blue Jays.
Snider can clearly mash, evident by his two abnormally long home runs against Minnesota this past week. The problem is that he is a below-average outfielder, and the Blue Jays have an underrated offense.
The Jays are also willing to bring him along slowly, batting him ninth and sitting him against left-handers and No. 1 starters. Jose Bautista (3B, TOR) has been playing when Snider sits, but is batting a limited .344 with no RBIs.
Snider will be a middle-of-the-order mainstay for the Jays sooner rather than later, but it’ll be worth the wait. He has no speed whatsoever, but his power and patience at the plate will make this Mother Lode a perennial 30-homer, .300 hitter.
Tom: Just as I was starting to write this Jose Bautista went 4-for-5 with two runs scored against the Rangers as a replacement for Snider. Was I swayed? Of course not.
I was an early believer in Adam Lind (OF, TOR), but his batting average has dropped faster than Brad’s…panties after a night of drinking? I only throw Lind’s name out there because right now Snider doesn’t seem to be in much trouble of losing ABs to either Lind or Bautista as the season progresses.
Lind is going to even out and Bautista is merely a spare part. I would never assert that we might have another Braun on our hands, but I will concede that he has raw power to all fields, which I like.
I’ll bet that most of the 78 percent of Lind owners might be kicking themselves down the road if they miss out on this Mother Lode.
What rookies are you keeping an eye on? Brad and Tom want to know. In fact, they want to know so badly that they’ll consider writing about them next week in their column.