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Thursday 23rd Nov 2017

With a couple of more weeks left in the regular season, let's continue our prep and look at a bunch of guys you might want to be a tad wary of when 2017 rolls around.

In contextualizing this, I must say that this year an alarming number of players actually performed as predicted. We may have had doubts about D.J. LeMahieu, or Rick Porcello, but as examples both comported themselves well, actually improving upon the 2015 numbers we were not sure were there to stay.

But, that meant the focus this year is on a lot more younger players than normal, as we focus on high fliers who have become underachievers, so that simply means let your leaguemates take the high level risk, but should many of these youngin's slip to the later rounds, suddenly you may indeed have a sleeper.

J.A. Happ (P, Blue Jays): OK, Happ had a solid 2009 (12-4, 2.93, 1.235), but essentially Happ is a career 81-65, 4.00 hurler, with a 1.336 WHIP and just 7.7 whiffs per nine innings. Yes, the Toronto lefty has had a monster year and will likely win 20 (at present he is 19-4, 3.27, 1.164), but we are talking a career high in innings (176.3 at present) and no real history of being anyone other than Ryan Vogelsong after he toiled for nine years and suddenly became good. I have had Happ on teams a lot, and normally, the junk baller is effective in April, then loses it thereafter. Happ is a decent $9 gamble as a #3 or #4 starter, but I would not risk much more on him.

Adam Duvall (OF, Reds): OBP will indeed be a common theme today, and Duvall, who is 28 and just completing his first full season, has a ton of power but not a lot of discipline at the dish. In the stats world, we have an .800 OPS fueled largely by a .505 Slugging Percentage, barely augmented by a .295 OBP. Duvall has struck out 149 times this year to just 36 walks, but even in the Minors, he recorded 216 walks to 527 strikeouts (.338 OBP), so the outfielder had trouble getting his bat on the ball. Clearly, MLB has given in to homers even if they come with a high number of strikeouts (think Chris Carter), but I would be a lot less enamored of the drain on my other numbers the homers might try to offset.

Byron Buxton (OF, Twins): A stark contrast to Duvall, Buxton is six years younger than the Reds flychaser, but his contact rate is not much better in the Majors, as he has logged .219-9-37 totals with a .269 OBP and 23 walks to 144 strikeouts. Buxton does indeed have a bunch more upside and potential, as the Twinkies outfielder had a solid .380 OBP in the Minors over 325 games, and he could well start to really deliver the numbers in a few years (think Wil Myers), but I am guessing 2017 will not be much happier on the stats.

Tim Anderson (SS, White Sox): Another youngster who has comported himself well enough as a rookie (.280-7-25 with 10 steals) but who does not look like any kind of long-term solution to much at the top spot of the order. Anderson has struck out 101 times this year, to just 10 walks at US Cellular, but his minor league numbers of 78 walks to 461 whiffs doesn't bode that well, and once there is a book on the kid, he must adjust or languish, most likely on reserves or in Triple-A.

Yoan Moncada (3B, Red Sox): Maybe Moncada will be a big star, but with one walk to ten strikeouts this year, I am guessing at best he is a few years off. With Travis Shaw solid enough in the interim, I would simply not expect much for a few more years when positions and maturity push the now 21-year-old infielder--who arguably can rake at the lower levels--into the limelight. Moncada is worth grabbing and stashing, but I am not expecting much of a serious contribution until 2018, if not later.

Melvin/Justin Upton (OF, Jays/Tigers): So strange: Melvin hits .241-20-61 (albeit with 26 swipes) and resurrects his career at 31, while Justin goes to Detroit and hits .236-24-74 and his career looks like it is tanking. Truth is they have both simply become big swingers who just are not the complete players we once imagined, and more recently hoped for. Melvin has a .264 OBP this year while Justin is at .297. I don't care what anyone says, the objective of baseball is to get on base and score runs. Neither has convinced me they will improve their skills, and the investment in either suggests more towards erosion of said abilities.

Jason Heyward (OF, Cubs): He is hitting .228-6-43 over 491 at-bats with the best team in baseball? Double Ugh. The .618 OPS makes it Triple Ugh. I just don't know about this guy, but with the riches the Cubbies have all over, and their experience now as a very fine team, Theo can kiss Jason goodbye. Where he lands, I don't know, but I would not trust Heyward again until 2018, and that depends on his contact and on-base numbers in 2017. I don't even like Heyward (or the Uptons, for that matter) as sleepers next year.

Collin McHugh (P, Astros): Truth is he was never as good as his solid 2015 (19-7, 3.89) and was always much more like his 162-game mean of 14-12, 4.22 with a 1.302 WHIP. This year he is 11-10, 4.66, with an awful 1.475 WHIP, much more down to earth, and what we expected. But, as a fifth or sixth starter, I prefer Ervin Santana and Nathan Eovaldi by a long shot.

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