We hope everybody is ready because Turning Two Sports is about to hit readers with the next edition of Burning the Wire Major League Baseball. Now about 4 weeks into the regular season, your roster issues are starting to become noticeable. Studs are flopping and getting injured but there are a handful of potential gems sitting out on your wire just ready to be scooped up for the hot summer run.
Let’s Burn the Wire.
Kurt Suzuki – This is not the Kurt Suzuki you remember from the Minnesota Twins. This Kurt Suzuki has completely revamped his swing and the results are stellar. His walk rate is up to 12% (career 6.3%), his K-rate is down to 2% (career 12.6%), and his BABIP is right on tracks with his career norm (.263). the ungodly 6.00 BB/K ratio is a bit unsustainable, but Suzuki’s start cannot be ignored. There is sleeper top 5 catcher potential here at a position starved for relevancy.
Eric Thames – Across the industry people were down on Thames heading into the 2018 season, which saw his ADP plummet to around #200 overall. Once teams saw how crowded this Brewers lineup is, it got worse. However, Domingo Santana has struggled, Christian Yelich is on the DL, and Ryan Braun’s name has surfaced in trade talks in addition to him having his own injury concerns. While Thames will continue to struggle, and probably sit against many lefties, his power potential makes him a perfect bench player for any deep fantasy baseball league. His raw power is matched by very few. He’s off to a cool 1.012 OPS with 7 homers. Had the Brewers been getting on base, Thames’ numbers would be comparable to the red hot start of Matt Davidson, though I vastly prefer Thames.
Joe Mauer – Nobody is going to go to the waiver wire and get excited about seeing Joe Mauer, but you may be one of those teams to either (a) punt first base or (b) own Wil Myers or Anthony Rizzo in a deep league. You could do a whole lot worse than Joe Mauer. You have guys out there that consistently tank your ratios at this position, but Joe Mauer will never hurt you. He’s off to the .364 start at the dish after hitting .305 last year in a full season. He’s almost a guaranteed .300+ hitter but offers almost nothing in the way of power. This drives his ownership way down, but it’s unwarranted. Take the red-headed stepchild who was once the Gary Sanchez of fantasy drafts.
Yuli Gurriel –If he’s still out there, he may be the best first baseman on your wire. Over 139 games in 2017 Gurriell slashed .299/.332/.486 to go with 18 homers and 75 RBI and only 62 strikeouts. That type of proficiency is rare at first base, and given his immensely talented lineup I wouldn’t be leaving Yuli out there on any 12+ team leagues.
Jed Lowrie – Already with 6 homeruns and 21 RBI in the early going, Lowrie looks like an uber-sleeper in 2018. His wOBA is a blistering .437 so far in 2018, and if you dig a bit deeper you’ll see that more people should’ve been onboard this train. In 2017, Lowrie posted his highest wOBA at a major league level at .347. His walk rate jumped to 11.3% and his strikeout rate lowered to 15.5%, which is very efficient. Even with his hot start in 2018 his strikeout rate is at 18.0%, which is the highest it’s been since 2009. If we assume his strikeout rate will even out in the general 16.2% range that is his career norm, one can expect Lowrie to flirt with a batting average in the .270s as a floor with upper .280s as a ceiling.
Also Consider: Asdrubal Cabrera, Yangervis Solarte, Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick
Jeimer Candelario – Candelario could end up being one of the savvier free agent pickups of the 2018 fantasy season. He is firmly entrenched as the starting third baseman for the Tigers. He does still have his struggles with lefties, but with a .436 wOBA against RHP he looks like a legitimate major league talent at the hot corner. He flashed his potential in limited action last year with a .283 average and a .784 OPS in 127 at bats for the Tigers.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of reasons to like Asdrubal. The longtime Indian finds himself in the cleanup spot of the Mets lineup, and also finds himself with 2B, 3B, and SS eligibility. That right there makes him roster worthy in all but the shallowest of leagues. Now off to a .343 start with 4 homers, one might expect we see the 2016 Asdrubal that hit 23 homers and slugged .280 rather than the mediocre (but still valuable) 2017 version that also slugged .280 but had far less power. Given his reliability with batting average, and the fact that he’s hitting cleanup most nights, you can expect Asdrubal to flirt with 80 or more RBI in 2018 after not eclipsing more than 62 in either of the last two seasons on the Mets.
Nick Senzel – With the news that Eugenio Suarez hit the DL, Senzel was promoted to Triple-A and is playing mostly third base for Louisville. This should come as an interesting development for the top prospect. Clearly, the Reds are planning for his promotion to a Major League level, and clearly that will be at third base pending what becomes of Suarez. If you play in a deep league where prospect stashing is at a premium, Senzel just asserted himself to the top of the list.
Also Consider: Yangervis Solarte
Dansby Swanson – Once baseball’s top prospect, Swanson fell out of favor after a lackluster 2017, which is a bit unfair for a 24 year old. He’s shown some great poise in the early going of 2018. Full disclaimer though, his BB% is at an all-time low and the K-rate is still over 20%, so there may be some luck involved. But baseball is a game of streaks, and you have to ride the hot ones. Expect the .352 average to lower and expect some growing pains for the talented youngster, but the long term outlook should remain optimistic.
Yangervis Solarte – the longtime journeyman finds himself in a beneficial spot in the heart of the Toronto batting order in a hitter friendly stadium. He has position eligibility all over the place, and finds himself locked into an everyday role. Solarte is also absolutely mashing righties so far to the tune of a .458 wOBA but still struggles against left handed pitching.
Also Consider: Asdrubal Cabrera
Corey Dickerson – Everyone was down on Dickerson heading into the 2018 season, but why? If it was because the Rays outright released him for no reason at all, then shame on us. You are talking about a guy who hit .282 with 27 home runs in 2017, and has hit the ground running with a .313 batting average in the early going on a surprising Pirates squad. The most impressive part of the hot start is the 11.8% k-rate which is by far the lowest of his major league career. It’s less than half of what it was the previous two years (north of 24%). If he keeps this up, what a steal.
Michael Brantley – Brantley is often a forgotten man in the fantasy world, but the only reason why is his inability to stay on the field. Brantley has never been bad, he’s just never healthy. Just take a look at his career numbers of a .293 average and a .773 OPS. The kryptonite is the fact that he’s played 101 games over the last two seasons.
Also Consider: Eric Thames, Howie Kendrick
Bartolo Colon – Don’t laugh, you could do so much worse. Will Colon keep up his 1.45 ERA and under 1 BB/9 all season? Probably not. But the 2.33 FIP is nothing to sneeze at. He does have an 86.2 Left on Base percentage, which is not very nice. I’m not advocating you add Bartolo and hold him for the remainder of the year. I am advocating that you should add this guy and use him until the wheels fall off. Maybe you can even sell high.
Joey Lucchesi – One guy I would not sell high on is Joey Lucchesi. As a prospect, Lucchesi was severely undervalued due to his lack of firepower in his pitches. One metric you can’t measure is success, and that is something Lucchesi has had at all levels. His BB/9 is under two, and his career normal suggest it would be just over two. His LOB% doesn’t raise any red flags, and his FIP is astounding at 1.98 with a .296 BABIP. There will be inevitable correction, but pitching in San Diego usually benefits pitchers greatly.
Other Considerations: Reynaldo Lopez, Chad Bettis
Chris Devenski – Ken Giles has really struggled for most of his Astros career. He hasn’t become the front-end closer you expected him to become in the Phillies system. This has opened the door for Devenski to claim his stake as the team’s closer, and it’s well deserved. Devenski has been an elite bullpen arm for a number of years now, and it’s coming together now. Hitters just can’t catch up to him. He doesn’t walk batters, he’s consistently around a 40% ground ball rate, and his FIP is a masterful 2.80 so far in 2018 with a BABIP of .263.
Josh Hader – Josh Hader might win the 2018 Man Crush Award from Turning Two Sports. This kid is absolutely filthy. His K/9 is an astounding 19.29, as he has 25 strikeouts in 11.2 innings pitched. If you are looking for the next Wade Davis, Dellin Betances, or Andrew Miller, this might be your guy. Just keep in mind he may eventually move to the rotation at some point, but don’t let that deter you. Hader is here to stay.
Nate Jones – Nate Jones is a speculative add given Soria’s struggles combined with Jones receiving the last save opportunity, which he converted. The White Sox may not win many games in 2018, but when they do I’d hedge on Nate Jones receiving the majority of the save chances. He’s a vastly superior pitcher to Soria.