- Despite his diminished power numbers so far, Tommy Pham could be even more valuable in fantasy leagues this year. Joey Votto's lack of power is less encouraging for owners.
This week brings the debut of the SI.com fantasy baseball Stock Ticker, a weekly column that will cover players moving up and down the fantasy rankings. Two important points to understand about the Stock Ticker before we get going:
First, this column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Mike Trout into an occasional slump. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be significantly recalibrated.
Second, this isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates across the fantasy baseball landscape will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Domingo Santana, OF, Mariners
Santana is off to a blazing start in his first season with the Mariners, hitting .345/.429/.618 with four homers, three steals and 19 RBI in 64 plate appearances. Last year was a disaster for him, with a slow start and Jesus Aguilar’s emergence knocking him out of Milwaukee’s everyday lineup. Still, he’s just a season removed from hitting .278/.371/.505 with 30 homers, 15 steals and 85 RBI. His strikeout rate this season is down to 23.4%, while his walk rate is 12.5%. For sake of comparison, he struck out in 29.3% of his plate appearances back in what appeared to be a breakout season in 2017. Santana’s already looking like a steal this season.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, Mariners
We’ll stick in Seattle, where Vogelbach is forcing his way into the everyday lineup. He may never be a true full-time player, but he’s certainly going to get enough run to be on the radar in all fantasy leagues. Vogelbach has five homers, four doubles, nine RBI, and six walks against seven strikeouts in 29 plate appearances this season. He’s also getting a barrel in 16.7% of his plate appearances, good for fifth in the league behind Gary Sanchez, Pete Alonso, Mike Trout and Jose Abreu.
Tommy Pham, OF, Rays
We were awfully high on Pham coming into this season, boldly predicting that he’d be a 30-homer, 20-steal player. He has yet to leave the yard early on in 2019, but already has five steals in 56 plate appearances. The power will come, though, admittedly, he’s already behind the eight-ball in terms of getting to 30 jacks. Still, given the resurgence of the longball this season, there’s more value in Pham going 20-30 than there is in him going 30-20. Given how much he’s running though the first two weeks of the season, he could easily get to 30 steals.
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Orioles
There may not be a lot to cheer in Baltimore this season, but Mancini could be the exception. He’s already got five homers in 48 plate appearances, carrying a .372/.417/.767 slash line into play on Wednesday. We know Mancini’s power is for real. He had a 19.8% HR/FB ratio in 2017 and 20.9% mark last year, hitting 24 homers both seasons. With some mounting evidence that there’s a little more life in the ball this year than there was last year, we could see him surpass 30 bombs this season.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
Far too many people wrote off the 25-year-old Anderson as a finished product coming into this year. Nevermind the fact that he’s in his mid-20s, was a first-round pick in 2013, and has played just two full seasons in the majors. Anderson is what he is, a high-strikeout guy with poor contact skills, but plenty of power and speed. That, of course, was always overstated, and anyone who believed Anderson could start making more contact this season is being rewarded. He’s hitting .515/.529/.758 with two homers and three steals in 34 plate appearances. Even more importantly, he has just six strikeouts, which translates to a strikeout rate of 17.6%. If Anderson can keep his strikeout rate in this neighborhood, he’s going to take off this season.
Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
The Mets are already being rewarded for shunning service-time shenanigans and rewarding Alonso with the spot on the Opening Day roster that he earned. He already looks like the NL Rookie of the Year candidate so many pegged him as, hitting .385/.429/.923 with five homers, six doubles and 14 RBI in 42 plate appearances. He does have 14 strikeouts against three walks, but we can live with that given what he does when he puts the ball in play. He’s playing every day and living at the top of the Mets’ order, giving him immediate breakout potential.
German Marquez, SP, Rockies
I was out on Marquez this draft season because of his lack of a track record and the concerns that always surround a Rockies pitcher. Marquez made his first Coors Field start of the season on Tuesday, allowing five runs on seven hits, including two homers, in five innings. He was great in his first two starts of the year away from home, though allowed one run on five hits in 13 innings, striking out 14 and walking six. The walks are a concern, but the strikeouts are here to stay. Marquez’s four-seamer is at 96.3 mph and his two-seamer is at 94.8 mph, while the slider and curve both have whiff rates north of 25%. Coors Field is always going to be a problem, but now that we know we can trust the strikeouts, Marquez is looking like he was at least appropriately priced, if not underappreciated, during draft season.
Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox
Sale’s the most obvious faller through the first two weeks of the season. His velocity is way down, with his four-seamer sitting in the low-90s, and he has just eight strikeouts while facing 61 batters. His velocity boucned back a bit in his third start of the season on Tuesday, but he allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings to a Toronto lineup that isn't likely to be among the best in the league. It's still early for a pitcher with Sale's reputation, but it’d be silly to pretend that anyone invested in him shouldn’t be at least a little concerned. He dealt with injury last year and turned 30 right after Opening Day. Add in the fact that the Red Sox have designs on defending their World Series title—and Sale’s role in that effort—and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them limit his workload for a huge chunk of the season.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
I wasn't buying into the idea that 2018 was a cliff season for Votto, especially for his power, but it’s starting to look like that might be the case. Votto has just one homer, and a .441 slugging percentage in 39 plate appearances this season. If Votto isn’t hitting for power, then we could be talking about him as someone who’s barely a top-15 first baseman.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers
Aguilar is off to a terrible start this season, going 4-for-36 with zero homers and seven strikeouts. The strikeout rate is perfectly acceptable, and he does have six walks, but that’s not why fantasy owners went after Aguilar during draft season. He needs to be someone who hits 30-plus homers to justify where he was drafted, and he simply looks lost in terms of his power stroke. His fly-ball and ground-ball rates are exactly even at 37.9%, compared with 40.9% and 35.4%, respectively, last year.
Miles Mikolas, SP, Cardinals
Mikolas was one of the great stories of the 2018 season, pitching to a 2.38 ERA and 1.07 WHIP after spending three years pitching in Japan. He struck out just 18.1% of the batters he faced, though, so we knew he had little margin for error this season. He’s coming down on the wrong side of that, allowing 11 earned runs on 17 hits, including four homers, in 16 innings. His strikeout rate is down from the low-but-acceptable 18.1% to an anemic 11.3%. There’s legitimate cause for concern here. Mikolas was drafted as a No. 3 starting pitcher, but he could be no more than a backend rotation option in fantasy leagues.