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Fantasy Baseball Edge: Injuries, Breakouts, And Blowups

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By Matt Cott, Matthew Schwimmer & Moe Koltun of Roto Analysis

While it’s only 10 days into April, it seems like ages ago that we were only dealing with spring training stats. There seem to be millions of moving parts in motion now, so we at RotoAnalysis are here to help decipher some of the key happenings in your early season matchups. The three categories we will look at are guys dealing with injuries, guys who seem to breaking out, and guys who seem to be blowing up.

Injuries

Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B

Freeman was just placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right oblique. The good news for fantasy owners is that the strain doesn’t appear to be too serious, with Freeman coming out and saying that, if necessary, he could easily play through it. While the cautious approach seems frustrating to owners, in the long run this move should actually be considered beneficial to Freeman’s fantasy value. Oblique injuries have the tendency to run a lot longer than their projected timetables if not given the proper time to fully heal. From a statistical standpoint, Freeman was putting up raw numbers in line with the rest of his career stats, and actually hitting the ball in the air significantly more than he previously has (in an admittedly extremely small sample). If the Freeman owner in your league is scared whatsoever by this injury, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy low—this is a blip in the road, and nothing more. Freeman should finish the season with around 135 games played, 25 homers, 85+ RBIs and 85+ runs.

Jered Weaver, Angels SP

The Angels right-hander broke his non-throwing elbow in his last start against the Rangers. The injury should sideline the starter for just over a month and hopefully the time off allows him to fix any other minor injuries he’s dealing with. Weaver’s fastball velocity so far this season had been 85.5 MPH; down significantly from his 87.8 MPH figure last year and 89.1 MPH the year before. As his velocity has dropped, Weaver has seen his HR/FB ratio skyrocket, causing concern amongst the fantasy community. The non-throwing elbow will have no long-term affects on Weaver, but there should be plenty of concern for his throwing arm once he returns. Take a serious look at his velocity during his rehab starts and first appearances when he’s back in the rotation. In the meantime, the Angels will look toward Garrett Richards, who should provide AL-Only value.

Breakouts

Dexter Fowler, Rockies OF

Given Carlos Gonzalez’s recent success, fantasy owners are used to seeing Rockies outfielders in the top 10 of the player rater. However, after a week and a half it is Fowler holding that top 10 spot. While he is definitely a guy with upside, this pace is ridiculous and this breakout is not sustainable. Before this season, Fowler averaged a home run every 76.5 at bats, but so far this year he’s at a home run every 8.3 at bats. His HR/FB rate is at 50% from a career rate of 7%. While he has decent speed and average tools, his power is going to decline big time and I would sell on him ASAP.

Matt Harvey, Mets SP

The former first-round pick burst onto the major league scene last year where he posted a 2.73 ERA. More impressively, Harvey’s fastball averaged 94.7 MPH and helped him post a K/9 just north of 10. In this early season, Harvey has shown that was not a fluke and improved by posting a 1.17 FIP and a 12.21 K/9. While it’s obvious neither of this figures will last the entire year, Harvey’s arsenal is greatly improved from his minor league days thanks in large part to a slider that has become an excellent pitch that Harvey can rely on. As a prospect, Harvey was thought to not have the potential to be a frontline starter, but that has changed as all of Harvey’s stuff has improved. Harvey does need to continue to improve his command, but no more than what is normal for a pitcher of his age. Harvey is quickly becoming the young ace of this pitching rotation and is not too far away from being the ace of fantasy staffs for years to come. There’s still room on the bandwagon, so hop on!

Blowups

Julio Teheran, Braves SP

After an exciting and encouraging spring training, Julio Teheran did his best Ricky Nolasco impression in his first start of the season, allowing an earned run per inning in his five innings of work against the Cubs and striking out a lowly two batters. After a little digging, the problem in the start seems simple: Teheran could not locate his curveball at all. In the past, Teheran’s lack of a third pitch has been criticized by scouts, and that issue was never more present than during that start. He threw 24 curveballs during the game, and only 9 of them (37.5%) were located in the lower third of the zone or lower. That means nearly two thirds of Teheran’s curveballs were hangers, which allowed batters to basically not even worry about the pitch, and let them key in on his straighter stuff and just watch for a shift in velocity rather than both movement and velocity. Until he figures out how to locate his breaker, I would not be comfortable starting Teheran in shallower than a 16-team league unless it was under extremely favorable spot-start circumstances. I’m not saying to give up on Teheran—far from it, actually. The kid is still only 22 years old, and his fastball and changeup are both legitimate major league pitches. Opportunity plus upside always has a chance to yield good results. But until we see more, leave Teheran on the bench and see if he can pull his stuff together.

Tim Lincecum, Giants SP

Going into the season, Lincecum was a name that was a mystery for fantasy owners. Would he be his old self or the control-less freak from 2012? After just 2 starts, it’s pretty clear he will remain the latter. While his strikeouts have been good at 9 K/9, his walk rate of 9 BB/9 is absolutely ridiculous. What’s worse is his velocity remained as low as it was last year. After years of his fastball velocity hovering around 92 mph, it has been down to 90 mph recently; the pitch that was once his best weapon is now his biggest weakness. He struggles to locate it and in turn can’t set up any of his other pitches. It was going to be a hit or miss situation with Lincecum’s fantasy value this season, and it’s going to be a miss. Let him go or deal him for somebody who still thinks he has that upside.

Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.

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