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Astros’ Gerrit Cole Stickin’ with the Heat

Astros’ Gerrit Cole Stickin’ with the Heat
Michael Waterloo April 10, 2018 11:18AM EDT
Heading into the season, the A’s were looked at as being a sneaky good offense for Fantasy owners to target. So far, they haven’t disappointed. That makes what Shohei Ohtani did against them in two starts even more impressive. But no, this isn’t an Ohtani post, because those are everywhere (rightfully so!). This is a post looking at the power-hitting Matt from Oakland.

Wait, no. Let’s be more specific. It’s not Matt Olson, who received most of the offseason hype after his power performance last season. It’s about his teammate, Matt Chapman, who is off to a blazing start for the A’s. Third base is a polarizing position, as it can be seen as both deep or shallow, depending on who you ask. Chapman isn’t looking to just be known as the best Matt on his team, but also as a potential Top 12 third baseman with his hot start. But can Chapman keep up his play to his current level?

I’m afraid not, as his numbers are similar to last year’s. He’s cut down his strikeout rate from 28.2 to 20 percent, and he’s raised his walk rate slightly from 9.8 to 11.1 percent. It’s so early in the year, though, that one three-strikeout or three walk game will drastically change his numbers.

It’s not just his .429 BABIP or .375 average that will come down (this isn’t me saying anything groundbreaking here, folks); it’s his line-drive rate of 19.4 percent that still fails to impress. It’s up from 16 percent last year, but 19 percent would have been tied for 108th in baseball last year.

Chapman is a must-start going forward in roto and category leagues, but he’s a better utility or corner infielder. If you can sell him to the Eugenio Suarez owner as a true sell-high candidate, though, you should sell him at his highest value.

Here’s what else is catching my eye from around the league.

Oops

If you were down on Michael Conforto heading into your drafts, don’t worry. You were far from alone. Conforto could end up being the player that makes Fantasy experts look worse than any other player this year. We weren’t wrong, though, to question how productive – or how much playing time – Conforto would get this year. He did hurt his shoulder swinging, and the injury he was trying to come back from has a zero-success rate, albeit the injury has only been suffered by pitchers, in the past.

But Conforto found himself back in the Mets lineup late last week, as he homered off Stephen Strasburg in his first game back. Not a bad season debut. What’s more, he was parked at the top of the Mets’ lineup. If healthy, as the 183rd pick based on NFBC ADP data, Conforto could be a league-winner.

Not Sexy, But Useful

What was encouraging for Ian Happ owners last week was that Joe Maddon finally started Happ against southpaw Brent Suter. The bad news, though, is Happ struck out four more times. Sheesh. Happ now has 17 strikeouts on the season, which is the third-most in baseball. Yes, Happ should play just about every day, but we know Maddon isn’t going to do that.

Enter Ben Zobrist. Remember him? He’s long been a Maddon favorite, and it looks like he’s going to get regular playing time toward the top of the Cubs’ lineup (which will be fine, everyone!). He’s a better points league option as opposed to roto or category leagues with his nice walk rate and low strikeout rate, but he’s useful in any format. He may not be sexy, but it’s often the overlooked veterans that end up making the biggest difference on Fantasy teams.

You Got to Let Him Fly

Brad Peacock could end up being a huge value for roto and category league players this year, as it appears the Astros are going to use him in a multitude of ways. So far, Peacock has a save for Houston, as well as a three-inning win late in a game. That’s not to mention that if (when, c’mon, now) a Houston starter gets injured or “injured,” Peacock should fill in nicely for both the Astros and Fantasy owners. He’s worth an offer in your league if the Peacock owner is frustrated that he’s not in the rotation.

Preston Tucker Must Die Play

Even though Ronald Acuna could make his debut this weekend, one soon-to-be teammate isn’t impressed, as Preston Tucker is doing everything he can to keep his bat in the lineup. So far on the year, Tucker is a hitting machine, with a .370 average (.400 BABIP), .451 wOBA and two homers.

Tucker is a good post-hype sleeper, but that won’t be enough to block Acuna. He could, however, be better than Nick Markakis, who is fine, but too vanilla. The Braves have no reason not to at least see if Tucker can keep this up to some level. He’s worth a roster spot for now in five-outfielder leagues.

Mr. Anderson … Anderson

Speaking of post-hype sleepers, Tim Anderson scoffs at your thinking that stolen bases are down. Anderson is on pace for 100 steals this year! OK, that’s extreme, but is a 40-steal season out of the question? I’m not quite sure. Anderson has the pedigree, but he also has horrible plate discipline with his 30 percent strikeout rate.

In roto leagues and category leagues, Anderson is a must-play option as long as he stays hot, and there’s a realistic chance he could be a starter for you all season. His five stolen bases are more than early-stolen base options Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton have combined as of Monday evening.

As Cole As the Other Side of the Pillow

Gerrit Cole, for the most part, has always been a really, really good pitcher for Fantasy, and in real life. But he hasn’t been the ace that’s he’s been made out to be. The move to Houston, though, gave him that ceiling that he didn’t have in Pittsburgh. It’s in part the team around him and the front office, but it’s also that the Astros throw the second-fewest fastballs behind only the Rangers last year.

The Astros started a trend by throwing more secondary (breaking) pitches and not focusing on the fastballs as much. That, we thought, would be key for Cole. And he has, so far, looked like a different pitcher with his 14.14 K/9 so far this year. But are the Astros taking a different approach with Cole? He’s thrown his fastball 54.9 percent of the time, which goes against what we know the focus has been for them. It’s fewer fastballs on average than Cole has thrown in the past, while upping his slider usage, but it’s still unexpected. Secondary stuff or not, Cole is a fantastic SP2 in all formats.

Gerrit Cole Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

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