FANTASY PLAYS: Cheers for Thames, fears for Bautista

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We're three weeks into the fantasy baseball season, and we have some pleasant surprises and a few more situations that will make you shed a tear. Who are we cheering and fearing this week?



Eric Thames, MIL - How's this for a return to Major League Baseball? Thames carried doubt after coming back to the US from the Korean League. It's understandable after Thames barely produced in his first MLB stint and then was a 40/40 player in Korea. So far, the results have been excellent. Thames hasn't stolen a base yet, which is a tad concerning with how much the Brewers run, but he has hit seven home runs in 14 games. Before you go thinking Thames can hit 40-plus home runs in the states, know that his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is .419, which is unsustainable. The good news is that Thames is making great contact (52.6 Hard percentage and 23.7 LD percentage) and striking out just 19 percent of the time. Thames has shown good patience at the plate and an eye for hits. This is a hot streak, but Thames won't fall off into obscurity. He can hit 30-plus home runs and be a Top 25 outfielder.

Steven Souza, TB - Sometimes players are late to break out, and that's the case with Souza. To be fair, Souza has been slow to the party his entire career. Souza took seven years to reach the majors, so it's not overwhelmingly surprising that he's breaking out at nearly 28 years old. The most significant change for Souza is his approach at the plate. Souza worked on his swing and patience this offseason, and we are seeing the results. Souza is striking out just 25 percent of the time, compared to a 33.1 career mark, and he's walking 14.7 percent of the time (9.1 career). His added patience has allowed Souza to square up at better pitches with better quality contact, as seen is his high 36.6 LD percentage. Souza is hitting a bit over his head, seen in his .436 BABIP, but the improvement isn't all luck, as Souza made strides in his approach. Buy in and enjoy OF4/5 value from Souza this year.


Blake Treinen, WSH - We're back to a closer headache in Washington. After the surprise choice of Treinen closing Nationals games, Dusty Baker announced that Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley would be sharing opportunities with Treinen losing his job. That move was warranted as Treinen has a 7.11 ERA through eight appearances with six walks and 10 hits in 6.1 innings (2.53 WHIP). Despite Kelley having the best strikeout numbers and history, Baker and the team don't seem too fond of him in the closer's role, so we have to deal with the shared duty. Glover doesn't have the strikeout upside of Kelley, but if you need saves, grab both if available. If you are OK in the saves department, it would be better to save your FAAB budget or waiver position, as this bullpen looks to frustrate owners all year.

Starling Marte, PIT - In case you missed the news, Marte has been suspended 80 games for a positive PED test. How do you replace Marte? Short answer is you don't. You're not going to find a .300 hitter with double-digit home run power and 40-plus steals off the waiver wire. The power is easy to overcome, and if you hit on a Thames-type player, you may have made up for that loss already. The steals are the real concern. If Marte was your main source, you might have to face facts and finish near the bottom. I'm not saying to punt the steals category, but you need to understand that replacing Marte is exceptionally difficult. Some options that you can trade for cheaply are Brett Gardner, Keon Broxton and Kevin Pillar. Gardner isn't a 40-stolen base threat anymore, but he can put up around 25. Broxton started slow last year and might even hit the minors again, but he is a true 20/30 threat. Pillar isn't doing much besides carrying a good average so far, but he too can steal 20-plus bases. Don't give up hope, just get creative.


Jose Bautista, TOR - Like many, I expected a bounce back year for Bautista, especially after he talked about feeling slighted during contract negotiations. So far, Bautista isn't even worthy of a $1 million dollar contract. Bautista is hitting .109 with 22 strikeouts in 15 games. At this point, putting up his disappointing 2016 numbers would be a good thing. The Blue Jays lineup is off to a horrendous start, and Josh Donaldson is on the DL for a few weeks. If you want to risk Bautista's upside and buy low, feel free, but don't pay more than OF4/5 value. Bautista is simply lost at the plate.


The Brewers continue to strike out more than most, and Amir Garrett has been a pleasant surprise. Both he and Mike Foltynewicz of the Braves are quality options against them. The Rays lineup is weak and striking out over 27 percent of the time. Dylan Bundy and Francisco Liriano are great plays in Week 4. The Orioles strike out quite a bit and struggle against lefties. Key in on that this season and in Week 4 with Jordan Montgomery. Luis Severino is a strong play too given his hot start.


This column was provided to The Associated Press by Jake Ciely of the Fantasy Sports Network,