Fantasy Baseball: April Revelations
Wednesday marks the final day of the first month of the season. Can you believe we’re already one-sixth of the way through the schedule? That means the Cubs only have five more months to try to win a series. They’re running out of time!
The end of the first month of the season also gives us a nice benchmark to take stock of what we’ve learned so far this year. For example, we know that Michael Pineda is not the sneakiest pitcher in the league. We also learned that Yankees fans are not too fond of Robinson Cano anymore. It’s safe to say the relationship is strained.
Aside from general storylines, fantasy players have uncovered a trove of instructive information to help evaluate players going forward. These are the biggest revelations from a wild April in fantasy baseball.
Jose Abreu was worth the hype…
Abreu, a Cuban defector with a season in which he hit .453 in the Cuban League in his past, was the subject of much offseason debate. Was he worth the 6-year, $68 million contract that the White Sox lavished on him? Would he be as good as former Cuban league peer Yoenis Cespedes? After April we know those answers are “yes” and “Yoenis who?” respectively.
The 27-year old Abreu was a one-man wrecking crew in the season’s first month, breaking April rookie records for home runs (10) and RBI (31) and posting a .266/.336/.615 slash line. He obviously won’t continue that line of production as he’s hit home runs on an absurd 33 percent of his fly balls. On the other hand, the White Sox have led the league in runs, so his RBI totals should stay high. If you took a flier on him in the late rounds, you’re probably dancing like Terio right now.
…And so was Masahiro Tanaka
The Yankees broke the bank to get Tanaka, giving him a seven-year, $155 million, contract, the fifth-largest in history for a pitcher, in January, Then, in February, New York GM Brian Cashman said the Japanese hurler had merely No. 3 starter potential. Naturally, fans were a little confused about what to expect.
Tanaka has put to rest any confusion about his ability through the season’s first month. He is unquestionably the ace of the AL East-leading Yankees’ pitching staff and his filthy splitter has induced the second-most swings of any pitch in baseball. He has posted an otherworldly strikeout to walk ratio of nearly 11:1 and his peripheral stats (2.04 xFIP) are mostly in line with his old-school ones (2.27 ERA), so he won’t regress much as the season goes on. He’s not quite Steve Nebraska-good, but he’s close.
Sonny Gray isn’t a secret anymore
The A’s 2011 first-round pick progressed quickly through the minors and was scintillating after his mid-season debut a season ago, posting a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts. Still, his ADP on ESPN this year was just 170, probably because he’s still only 24 years old.
Those who picked him around that spot have been treated to one of the best value picks in all of fantasy, as Gray has continued his rise to the top of the AL’s pitching pecking order. All six of Gray’s starts have been quality and he’s second in the league with a 1.76 ERA. He’s the real deal and should be for years to come.
Mike Trout is fantastic and fun to watch
Oh wait, we knew that already? Ok, moving on.
Charlie Blackmon is pretty good at hitting a baseball
Blackmon, a 27-year old who has never played a full big-league season was the No. 1 player on the ESPN player rater as recently as April 26. Let that sink in. With all of the bright stars in today’s game, Blackmon was the fantasy MVP of the season’s first three weeks.
Obviously, he’s not going to hit .390 all season as he has so far; his .370 BABIP isn’t sustainable. However, he can provide value in almost every category. He has 20-20 ability and this season he’s cut way back on his strikeout rate, dropping it from 19 percent to just 5.9 percent. For the first time, he’s walking more than he’s striking out, a good indicator of future success. He’s not the best player in baseball, but he’s finally in the big leagues to stay and he should be on your fantasy team.
Evan Gattis isn’t a one-year wonder
Gattis burst on the scene last year as El Oso Blanco (The White Bear), the type of overnight sensation that isn’t supposed to happen in today’s era of 24-hour media coverage. He ended up as the 14th-most valuable fantasy catcher in 2013, despite playing just 105 games and sporting a .255 BABIP.
In April, the Atlanta catcher proved that last year’s flash in the pan isn’t not going away anytime soon, as he hit .308 and slugged .621 while putting himself on a 36-homer pace. He still strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough, but when a player has his janitorial ID from his job before baseball as his Twitter avatar, you forgive these things.
The Machine is back
Albert Pujols had been so consistently spectacular for so long that it was awkward and strange to see him struggle for the first time in his career over the last two seasons. So far in 2014, however, Pujols has looked like the hitter that terrorized the National League for a mind-bending 11-year stretch.
The man whose services the Angels paid $240 million to secure hit nine home runs and knocked in 22 in April. Even adjusting for career average HR/FB rates, he’s on a 39-homer pace, which would be his most since 2010. Even better, he’s hitting a respectable .274 despite a .235 BABIP that will correct itself soon. He’ll be at .300 or above by June. Oh yeah, he also did this.
Congrats Prince Albert.
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