Few players had a better opening week than Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds. He has started the season by going 9 for 22 with three home runs, four runs scored, and eight RBIs. His early production caught the eye of fantasy owners who made him one of the most-added players of the past week. Reynolds’ ownership percentage has gone from 4 percent to 41 percent in CBS leagues. He experienced a similar spike in ESPN leagues, where he went from 1.5 percent owned to 41.6 percent owned. Reynolds was the second-most added player on Yahoo this week, checking in behind only Kendall Graveman. In 60 percent of leagues, there’s still a chance you could add Reynolds to your roster. The obvious question is: Should you?
We’ll start by looking at the good and the bad when it comes to Reynolds. At the close of the article, a suggested decision will be offered (buy, sell or hold). Is Reynolds a viable fantasy option moving forward?
At this point owners, are only dealing with a week’s worth of data. It’s an incredibly small sample, and it’s impossible to spot any long-lasting trends yet. But if there is one positive sign to be optimistic about, it might be Reynolds’ strikeout rate.
For his career, Reynolds has a whiff rate of 31 percent. He’s never finished a season with a strikeout rate under 25 percent. However, he did take a positive step forward a season ago by dropping it to a career low 25.4 percent. So far in 2017, Reynolds’ whiff rate is 16.7 percent. If there was any real change to his approach this past season, it looks like those gains might hold this year.
Reynolds also has shown the ability in the past to provide major power production. From 2009-2012, he had three straight seasons hitting at least 32 homers, and he clubbed a career-high 44 in 2009. It’s been a number of years since he’s looked like that type of player, and it’s safe to assume that, at his current age, his power production will be diminished.
The move to Coors Field seemed to provide Reynolds with a bump in a couple of categories in which he’s typically struggled. His batting average was a career-high .282 a season ago, and his .356 OBP was noticeably higher than his .327 career mark. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t see much of a bump in power production at the same time.
The obvious issue with Reynolds is that he could quickly be out of a job. Ian Desmond was supposed to be the starting first baseman in Colorado this season, but he’s been out since mid-March with a broken hand. Publicly, the team has said that Desmond should only be out four-to-six weeks, and it sounds as if he’s progressing on schedule. Desmond could be back in Colorado’s lineup in a matter of weeks. Even with a hot start, that would leave Reynolds without a regular spot in the Rockies lineup. The team has much more incentive to play Desmond, who they signed to a 5-year, $70 million deal this offseason, than Reynolds (1-year, $1.5 million). There really is nowhere else they can play Reynolds defensively (unless you wanted to put him in the outfield, but my guess is you don’t).
Reynolds’ track record should also give fantasy owners plenty of caution when assessing this recent outburst. He hasn’t hit 20 home runs since 2014, and the highest batting average he tallied since 2010 was .230 before last season’s .282 mark. PECOTA projected Reynolds to finish this year with a .237 BA and 12 home runs. Those numbers are much closer to what owners should expect than something like .260 with 20+ long balls. At 33 years old, it’s more than likely that Reynolds’ best days are behind him.
Buyer’s Guide: Sell (unless he’s simply a short-term CI option).
The playing-time concerns hang over Reynolds’ hot start like a dark cloud. Unless Desmond experiences a setback, there’s just not any realistic way Reynolds will see regular playing time this season. You might hang on to Reynolds through the first few weeks of Desmond’s return to ensure the injury doesn’t flare up but, beyond that, there’s not much season-long value here.
The one exception to selling on Reynolds is if you simply need a short-term stopgap at a corner-infield spot. He’s going to be the everyday first baseman until Desmond returns, and he’s likely to return more value at this point than any other option readily available in the free-agent pool. If you’re heavily relying on Reynolds for the rest of the season, something could have gone wrong on draft night.
If you own Reynolds, now is the time to try and deal him for whatever you can get. Maybe there’s an owner in your league struggling at 1B/3B. Reynolds could be an attractive option to them given the production they’re looking at after a week’s worth of games. If you can get an owner to bite and return anything of value, now is the time to do it.
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Half-a-week’s worth of major-league games are behind us. What better time to speculate wildly about the arrival of the game’s top prospects, to parse medical reports (and teams’ misdirection regarding those reports), and to hypothesize irresponsibly about who is on the brink of a closing gig. It’s the return of the Stash List!
In case you’re not familiar from years past, here are the four types of players eligible for inclusion:
- Minor leaguers: anyone currently in the minors.
- Major leaguers on the DL: anyone currently on the disabled list who is owned in fewer than 25 percent of ESPN leagues. The restriction is there to exclude obvious players like Steven Matz.
- Closers-in-waiting: any reliever who is not actively getting saves and is owned in fewer than 25 percent of ESPN leagues. This excludes pitchers who are in committees, and setup men who are widely owned, such as Nate Jones for example.
- Others-in-waiting: any other player who is not currently active in the role that would net him the most fantasy value. This includes pitchers who are in line for a rotation spot but are not currently there, and position players who are not receiving regular playing time. This excludes players like Javy Baez who would surely benefit from a full-time role, but who already receive enough playing time to be relevant in all leagues.
And with that out of the way, let’s get on with the list:
1. Julio Urias (LHP)—Los Angeles Dodgers
The prevailing line of thought a few weeks ago was that Urias would head to extended spring training when camp broke. Instead, the Dodgers optioned him to High-A. He isn’t expected to pitch there and will instead open his season at Triple-A Oklahoma City at a time to be determined. Urias missed a couple of weeks in mid-March with strep throat and hasn’t yet thrown three innings in an outing. Expect him to come down with strep throat another time or two in the coming weeks as he attempts to accomplish the dual goals of stretching out away from the majors and saving his arm for October 2021.
2. Yoan Moncada (2B)—Chicago White Sox
The top fantasy prospect in the game will start at Triple-A Charlotte, and Tyler Saladino isn’t going to stand in his way for long. I do have concerns about Moncada’s swing-and-miss denting his near-term value, especially given his lack of experience at the upper levels. His game-changing speed and power on contact balance that risk with a potentially substantial reward.
3. Jorge Soler (OF)—Kansas City Royals
Soler is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on April 9, but will require more time than that since he hasn’t swung a bat since Feb. 26. Given his injury history and the fact that oblique injuries can linger and/or recur, it’s fair to be concerned. Soler will be the Royals’ everyday right fielder as soon as he’s ready to come back. At just 25 years old, he still has a tremendous amount of untapped potential and the Royals are hoping regular playing time will draw it out.
4. Michael Conforto (OF)—New York Mets
Thanks to a .300/.323/.500 triple-slash this spring and a Juan Lagares injury, Conforto made the Mets’ Opening Day roster, even if nobody told the Citi Field PA guy. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere for him to play, which is a bit of a problem in a game where scoring is based on accumulation of statistics.
5. Collin McHugh (RHP)—Houston Astros
Tools are fun and all, but responsible stashing includes taking value wherever your league mates give it to you. McHugh’s ERA and WHIP have worsened in both of the two years since his out-of-nowhere 2014 breakout, which I suppose is driving his way-too-low 16 percent ownership rate. He’ll strike out a shade less than one batter per inning and should win double digits. That’s back-end value even if the ratios don’t correct, and I think they will. McHugh is slated to pitch Opening Day in Triple-A as he works his way back from dead arm this spring. That his arm perished is no surprise considering his extraordinary breaking ball usage.
6. Jose Berrios (RHP)—Minnesota Twins
Berrios was atrocious in the big leagues last season, yes. You don’t hear much about the 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 10.1 strikeouts per nine he tallied in 111.1 Triple-A innings, though. Maybe Berrios’ 2016 season is evidence that demonstrates the gulf between Triple-A and the majors, or maybe we just shouldn’t weight a 58.1 inning sample so heavily. If he can correct the rumored pitch tipping and throw a first pitch strike more often than 55.2 percent of the time – 29th lowest among 328 pitchers that threw at least 50 innings – I like his chances at a useful fantasy season. Berrios didn’t pitch much this spring because he represented Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Minnesota as soon as he can get in the requisite reps in Rochester.
7. Reynaldo Lopez (RHP)—Chicago White Sox
8. Lucas Giolito (RHP)—Chicago White Sox
I still like Giolito more as a long-term option because of the upside. This ordering reflects my opinion that Reynaldo will be up first in 2017. At 23 years old, Lopez is hardly a finished product, but we have a better idea of what he can be since his stuff is in tact and his development is forward-moving. Giolito, on the other hand, enters a hugely important developmental year seeking to settle on some consistent mechanics and recover fastball velocity that went missing last season. The White Sox have no incentive whatsoever to rush Giolito through that process, or to make him attempt it against major-league hitters.
9. Martin Prado (3B)—Miami Marlins
Prado was the 18th-most valuable third baseman in 2016 according to ESPN’s player rater. If he hits in the top third of a top-heavy Marlins offense again, the counting stats should be there to complement his usually excellent batting average. Prado currently is on the 10-day disabled list but has been cleared to resume baseball activities.
10. Wilson Ramos (C)—Tampa Bay Rays
11. Tom Murphy (C)—Colorado Rockies
12. Devin Mesoraco (C)—Cincinnati Reds
Unless you own one of a small handful of options, you should be buying lottery tickets at the catcher position. Can I interest you in one that’s disabled? Ramos hit the 60-day version and won’t return until June at the earliest. It’s been three weeks since Murphy fractured his forearm on Anthony Rizzo’s bat. The recovery period was quoted as 4-6 weeks at the time, so it shouldn’t be too long before he’s back on the field. How often is an open question, given the Rockies’ apparent affinity for Tony Wolters. Mesoraco will begin 2017 in Double-A and Reds manager Bryan Price suggested he’d have to catch back-to-back nine-inning games before being activated. I acknowledge that these are all dubious investments for both injury and performance-related reasons, but catcher is such a wasteland that all three are worth an aggressive placement on this list.
13. Austin Meadows (OF)—Pittsburgh Pirates
Have you heard that the Pirates tried to trade Andrew McCutchen this offseason and might attempt to do so again depending on how he and the team play? If and when that happens, Meadows will be an immediate five-category contributor. He impressed this spring, hitting .333/.423/.556 in an extended look while all three of the Pirates’ starting outfielders played in the WBC.
14. Jose De Leon (RHP)—Tampa Bay Rays
De Leon will open on the minor-league disabled list with “forearm muscle discomfort,” whatever that is. Non-medically speaking, it is an issue for a pitcher who hasn’t yet thrown 120 innings in any of his three full professional seasons. The Rays, as usual, have incredible starting depth in the major leagues and upper levels of the minors. De Leon is at risk of moving down or off this list if he doesn’t return to action quickly, and in full form.
15. Blake Swihart (C)—Boston Red Sox
It wouldn’t be real Stash List without a Blake Swihart appearance.
16. Bradley Zimmer (OF)—Cleveland Indians
Man alive I’m ready for the minor league season to begin so I can begin quoting you small-sample minor-league stats instead of small-sample spring-training stats. Alas, it hasn’t, so allow me to tell you that Zimmer raked to the tune of a .358/.424/.660 line with three bombs and four steals this spring. More importantly, he only struck out 13 times in 58 plate appearances, a potential sign of progress after he struck out 171 times in 130 Double-A and Triple-A games a season ago. If Zimmer can carry the spring trend into the regular season, he’ll be up before long. Even with a healthy Michael Brantley, the Indians are giving outfield at-bats to the likes of Abraham Almonte and Austin Jackson.
17. A.J. Reed (1B)—Houston Astros
18. Joey Gallo (3B)—Texas Rangers
19. Pedro Alvarez (1B)—Baltimore Orioles
20. Dan Vogelbach (1B)—Seattle Mariners
Reed is the Berrios of hitters, a highly regarded prospect whose disastrous major league stint in 2016 overshadowed a dominant Triple-A performance. I like him the best of this group of mashers by a comfortable margin, but there’s nowhere for him to play in Houston presently. A five-year, $50-million contract says that Gurriel gets a long leash, though I’m not a believer in the 33-year-old Cuban as a first-division regular. Gallo is up with the big club while Adrian Beltre’s calf heals. He gave us the full Gallo in the season’s first two games, walking once, striking out four times, and hitting a baseball approximately 794 feet. That Pedro Alvarez had to take a minor-league deal on a team with, like, seven Pedro Alvarezes already on the roster seemed like a market overcorrection to me. The path to playing time is impossibly cloudy. His ability to destroy righties is not. I like players with strange dimensions as much as the next guy, and I like prospects who are proximate to the bigs. That’s about all I’ll say about Vogelbach, lest I anger the entire rest of the fantasy staff.
21. Archie Bradley (RHP)—Arizona Diamondbacks
Hooooo boy, I know we’re not supposed to overreact to one appearance, but did you see Bradley in relief on Tuesday night? That beard is glorious. Oh, and the stuff was too. Seven of the 10 outs Bradley recorded were by way of strikeout, and he had his heater up to 99. The bullpen is probably the right place for him, but don’t count him out as a starter just yet.
22. J.P. Crawford (SS)—Philadelphia Phillies
I’m not convinced that Crawford has an impactful fantasy profile. I am convinced that Freddy Galvis isn’t going to keep us from finding out before the summer heat settles in.
23. JaCoby Jones (OF)—Detroit Tigers
24. Aaron Altherr (OF)—Philadelphia Phillies
I like both of Jones and Altherr as power-speed options with potential for expanded roles in the near future. Jones’ path is clearer, as all he has to do is outperform Tyler Collins and Mikie Mahtook to earn the bulk of the center field reps going forward. Altherr, whose work with Matt Stairs led to a big spring, has a tougher road. He’ll have to displace one of Howie Kendrick or Michael Saunders, well-paid veterans brought in this winter. Ultimately, it makes far more sense for a rebuilding Philly club to see what they have in the younger, controllable Altherr. It just might take some patience while they arrive at that conclusion.
25. Roman Quinn (OF)—Philadelphia Phillies
If it’s difficult to find time for a guy already on the major-league roster, it’s even harder to figure how Quinn gets enough at-bats to matter. He has impact speed if a spot opens up. Until then, he’ll be in Triple-A trying not to get hurt.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Alfaro, Tyler Beede, Cody Bellinger, Carter Capps, Matt Duffy, Delino DeShields, Dilson Herrera, Ketel Marte, Francis Martes, Jesse Winker
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Jeff Passan’s valuable new book, The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports—out Tuesday from HarperCollins—is an attempt to shed light on one of the most confounding dramas in contemporary baseball: the so-called “epidemic” of elbow injuries among pitchers. The thrust of the book is revealed in its final pages, when Passan indicates that he hopes his deep dive into pitching and arm health is “something that can help a lot of people.” The motivating prompt for this goal is the nettlesome question: “How can we keep the arm healthy?”
Passan’s investigation is primarily in reference to the rising number of torn ligaments and subsequent Tommy John surgeries among professionals and amateurs. In brief, the book is about a problem, and its aim is to identify solutions. It does not offer any single solution, but that’s not a failure of the book. On the contrary, it’s a testament to the ambitiousness and timeliness of the question. Instead of a magic bullet, Passan reveals that the only way to mitigate arm injuries among pitchers is to effect a cultural shift in the way arms are viewed and used from the lowest to highest levels of competition. The way to do that is to, in a sense, re-attach “the arm” to the human athletes to whom they belong, from youth to professional baseball.
There are numerous correlative causes that lead to elbow injuries among pitchers; however, the only indisputable explanation is the mere act of pitching. To add a finer shade to this maxim, overpitching on macro and micro scales—year-round competition among youth and an emphasis on velocity—are the root causes of elbow injuries. These are the types of concerns that the parents of Harley Harrington, a young pitcher Passan profiles as one of many human stories that accompany his deep dive into arm health, have to be aware of. One of the most fundamental solutions to the problem of pitcher injuries among professionals, Passan posits, is to enforce regulations in the frequency of competition among the industry of youth baseball in which Harrington might soon be pressured to participate.
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