Everyone loves rookie nookie. Male upperclassmen scout the incoming class of freshmen girls like a hungry pride of lions stalking an oblivious herd of wildebeest and then pounce when the first opportunity presents itself. Fantasy baseball owners are the same way. They’re predators who stalk their prospect prey until call-ups are announced, and then the feeding frenzy on the waiver wire begins. This week’s prized target is Addison Russell (+66.4%), the new jewel of the Chicago Cubs minor league system ever since Kris Bryant was promoted just a couple of weeks ago. Due to the recent injury to Tommy La Stella and the early struggles of Arismendy Alcantara, Russell got the big league call and many a race to the waiver wire ensued. After all, young middle infielders with power and speed who possess ceilings as high and beautiful as the Sistine Chapel don’t come along every day. Those in redraft formats might want to take a cold shower though. Entering yesterday’s play (22 PA), Russell was sporting a .136/.136/.227 triple slash and had yet to draw a walk except for a dozen back to the dugout (54.5% K%) thus far. His plate discipline numbers make this approach look effective. Small sample size to be sure, but Steamer isn’t terribly optimistic as far as his ROS projections go: 35/9/38/10/.235 in 362 PA. Hang onto Russell for the upside if you have him, but don’t expect a fantasy superstar this season. Those who own him in dynasty leagues can party like it’s 1999. Or roughly 2025. You know what I mean. Here are a couple of this week’s other big adds and drops in fantasy baseball:
Chris Young – 45.8% owned (+ 42.5%)
Looks like Krispie’s career has come full circle. From 2007 to 2011 with the Diamondbacks, he was essentially a George Springer type of player, averaging 23 HRs, 20 SBs, and a .240 batting average due to his propensity to strikeout (career 22.5% K%). Since 2012, Young’s per season production fell to 12 HRs, 9 SBs, and a .217 BA. In the early stages of this season, he’s experienced a rebirth, producing a .320/.382/.660 triple slash with 4 homers in his first 17 games (56 PA). His K% is down to 17.9% and his .340 ISO is the 5th best in baseball among players who have made at least 50 plate appearances. Has the old Krispie returned? Well, he hasn’t even attempted a steal yet and his .333 BABIP (.273 career) and 15% LD% (18.6% career; 20.8% MLB average in ’14) suggest that a batting average correction could be just around the corner. His average fly ball distance of 272.15 feet ranks just 114th among all qualified players this season as well. This Krispie’s no treat. TRASH.
Steve Pearce – 37.3% owned (- 44.4%)
I had quite a little man crush on Pearce entering the 2015 season to be honest with you. Among all MLB players with a minimum of 300 PA last season, he was tied with Tulo for the 6th highest ISO (.263), had the 5th highest wOBA (.404), and produced the 6th best wRC+ (161) as well. He produced a .293/.373/.556 triple slash while launching 21 home runs and even chipping in 5 steals in just 383 PA, if you’re interested in more fantasy-relevant numbers. Toss in dual 1B/OF eligibility and an ADP outside of the top 200 and Pearce seemed like a no-brainer to queue up on draft day. How does he have just a .196/.288/.314 triple slash through 15 games? Nothing too alarming about his 10.2% BB% and 22.0% K% (10.4% and 19.8% respectively in ’14). LD% is up to 25.6% from 19.4% last season. Infield fly ball percentage is down to 6.7% from 9.2%. He’s always hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed throughout most of his career, but that hasn’t been the case thus far this season (.654 OPS vs RHP; .464 OPS vs LHP). What gives? Pearce’s flukishly low .216 BABIP sticks out like a sore thumb. Considering his tendency to pull the vast majority of his batted balls (even more so than usual this season), I’m not convinced that number will rebound all the way to his 2014 level (.322), but something in the .285-.290 range seems reasonable, which would improve his overall production considerably. Unfortunately, Baltimore’s corner outfield and DH spots are very crowded, with Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snider, Jimmy Paredes, Delmon Young, and David Lough all competing for at-bats. Pearce’s slow start has caused him to start only two out of the Orioles last eight games. While I remain hopeful for a turnaround, a player can’t produce if he’s not on the field. TRASH.