Itâ€™s reached that silly point in the season when fantasy GMs decide to roll the dice with guys making major league debuts instead of proven commodities. Real baseball teams (you know, the ones that actually play the games that help fantasy GMs accumulate stats) are no longer concerned with arbitration clocks and will start bringing up the guys that were probably good enough to break camp with the big club.
This column takes a very hard line when evaluating prospects. They are simply guys that other less athletic guys rave about to get clicks on a website until proven wrong. So, before you go out and spend heavily in FAAB bidding or release a useful veteran for a guy that â€œmightâ€ be something someday, please read Singles Only carefully.
Tampa Bay Rays uber-prospect Wil Myers is due to be called up in the next ten days or so. Myers was anointed as the 2013 Mike Trout/Bryce Harper by some fantasy pundits because he is 1. A highly regarded prospect and 2. Plays the outfield. He is nowhere near as good at baseball as Trout or Harper. Trout and Harper are once (or in their case, twice) in a generation prospects. They just happened to be called up at roughly the same time and will likely be forever linked, compared and discussed together.
Myers isnâ€™t quite that guy. His hype train gained a lot of steam thanks to the 37 homers and .987 OPS he spread across Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. The concern is that a large chunk of those numbers were accumulated in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. This is the league that made people think George Arias was the next great third baseman. Myers has spent his 2013 season in the much more balanced International League and his OPS has slipped to .874. Still solid numbers, but not the â€œgood-god-call-this-guy-up-yesterdayâ€ numbers that he posted in the PCL.
Myers has posted a BB% over 10.0% at every stop in the minors, but those walks also come with a K% over 20.0% each of the last three years. Myers could very well come up and struggle. Itâ€™s a good idea to treat Myers as a lottery ticket. Enjoy it if he puts up numbers right away, but have a backup plan in mind. This isnâ€™t the move to bet a season on.
The two guys that might be linked in a similar way to Trout and Harper are Pittsburgh prospect Gerrit Cole and Mets youngster Zack Wheeler. Both have been hyped to the moon, but both have red flags that fantasy GMs need to be aware of. Also, for ever Tony Cingrani that dominates, there is a Jake Odorizzi that struggles.
Gerrit Cole has had a weird season. His Kâ€™s are down (17.5% this year at Triple-A vs. 23.8% last year at Double-A), his walks are up (10.5% this year at Triple-A vs. 9.1% last year at Double-A), but his results have been about the same (2.91 ERA at Triple-A this year vs. 2.90 ERA at Double-A last year). Itâ€™s impossible to know if he was working on something or under instructions to make adjustments, but the FIP numbers on Cole arenâ€™t kind.
The flaws are slightly more obvious with Zack Wheeler. Wheeler has struggled with walks at almost every level heâ€™s pitched at (11.9% BB% last year, 9.2% this year), but heâ€™s spent 2013 in the offense-inflated PCL and could actually benefit from throwing half his games at Citi Field.
The walk totals have been a little high, but heâ€™s struck out a lot of batters everywhere heâ€™s pitched. Scouts and scouting pundits claim that he has the best fastball-curveball combo in the minors. Those of us who donâ€™t follow the PCL will have to wait until Friday to see if thatâ€™s remotely true.
Wheeler also gets the better matchup this week. Wheeler gets to make his debut at home against the Cubs, while Cole gets the Giants in Pittsburgh. Both should be treated similarly to Myers. They’re scratch’n'win cards until proven wrong, but Wheeler is the better choice to stream this week.
As the Rays, Mets and Pirates bring their elite prospects up, one team is taking the wait-and-see approach. The St. Louis Cardinals have two position players that are supposedly about as ready as it gets in Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong. Neither are a good bet to be called up any time soon unless there is a catastrophic injury. Matt Carpenter has locked down the second base job by posting a .899 OPS and there is no room in the outfield with Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday manning the corner outfield spots.
Wong and Taveras have nothing to do but bide their time and continue to put up numbers in the minors. Taveras was posting a .846 OPS at Triple-A before he came down with the dreaded high ankle sprain. Wong owns a .824 OPS at Triple-A and won the organizationâ€™s Player of the Month award for May. He hit .375 with four homers and eight RBIs. Too bad they donâ€™t count in fantasy baseball.