Latest posts by Josh Gross (see all)
- NBA DraftKings & FanDuel Picks Saturday March 17th - March 17, 2018
- NBA DraftKings & FanDuel Picks Friday March 16th - March 16, 2018
- NBA DraftKings & FanDuel Picks Thursday March 15th - March 15, 2018
To preview the upcoming MLB season, I’m going to take a look at five rookies to keep an eye on heading into April that figure to make the biggest impact not only in baseball this season, but in DFS as well. Many are unfamiliar with prospects as they develop, and never really get a chance to see what they’re capable of until Spring Training arrives each year. As a season long Keeper League player, I keep a close eye on Minor League Baseball throughout the year to track the development of all the top prospects. So, let’s take a look at the five I believe are destined to make the biggest impact in 2018.
- Who else but the Japanese Babe Ruth to begin this article. Now, I don’t believe DraftKings or FanDuel has announced how they plan on utilizing Shohei Ohtani’s eligibility. One would figure he’ll be in both the pitcher and batter player pools. According to Yahoo Sports! writer Jeff Passan, as scout told him “Ohtani looks like a High School hitter who has never seen a curveball before in his life”. That is quite a scary description of his ability at the plate as he makes his transition over to the Major Leagues. Of course, he dominated pitchers in Japan, but it’s a much different pool of talent than that of Major League pitchers. Personally, I don’t see him making much of an impact at the plate this season, and really wouldn’t be surprised if he ultimately ditches it all together. He does have quite a nice swing, but if he can’t track a breaking ball, he’s doomed. Shohei Ohtani the pitcher is another story. Looking at past Japanese studs to make the transition over to America, more have made an immediate impact than have failed all togehter. Masahiro Tanaka, Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda remain servicable starters in the Big Leagues. Ohtani has the best stuff of any of them. According to MLB Pipeline, Ohtani’s Fastball grades an 80/80, while his slider and splitter grade 65/80, both well above average. His slider by the way, is absolutely FILTHY.
This is a slider that Shohei Ohtani threw in his final NPB start pic.twitter.com/ytFqvEXQei
— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) December 1, 2017
His command can be inconsistent at times, and it should be expected early on as he adjusts to the different baseballs MLB uses. Pitching in the AL West, he’ll make his starts in Angels Stadium, which ranked 19th in Runs per ESPN’s Park Factor, and 18th in Home Runs, both below average. When looking at Tanaka and Darvish’s numbers in Japan in comparison to Ohtani’s, Tanaka and Darvish owned K/9’s under 9.0 throughout their time in the Nippon League, owning HR/9 of just 0.5. Ohtani’s HR/9 is identical, but his K/9 was 10.3, and in his large three year sample from 2014-2016, sat at 10.9 per nine. As I alluded to earlier, his command can get away from him at times, and it showed in Japan, as he had the worst BB/9 of the three at 3.3. Having thrown a lot of innings early in his pro career, the Angels will likely be safe with him throughout his rookie campaign, but his electric stuff will be difficult to not roster.
- You will all learn over the year that Ronald Acuna is one of my favorite talents in the sport. At 19 years old last season, he advanced from High A Ball to Triple A, impressing at each level, and IMPROVING at each level. Something I can honestly say hasn’t been done since Mike Trout, and even Trout didn’t accomplish it all in one season. At each level last season, Acuna’s strikeout rate dropped, and his walk rate improved. His stride at the plate reminds me a lot of Bryce Harper, which is where he gets much of the violence in his swing from.
Ronald Acuna’s stride length at the plate reminds me of Bryce Harper pic.twitter.com/GV4V4h5ipL
— Josh Gross (@josh3302) January 22, 2018
Acuna impressed in the Arizona Fall League, and has begun his Spring Training the same way, including a ridiculous home run off Masahiro Tanaka
Braves super-prospect Ronald Acuña, currently the top prospect in baseball, just hit an absolute rocket off of Masahiro Tanaka. pic.twitter.com/bLumLmtgvl
— Gabriel Baumgaertner (@gbaumgaertner) March 2, 2018
Scouts say he’s the most advanced hitter in all of Minor League Baseball, and is ready to make a direct impact with the Braves. SunTrust Ballpark turned out to be one of the top hitters ballparks in all of baseball last season, so he’s going to get a nice boost as a result. He possesses plus speed, in addition to raw power, and some scouts have said they believe he has 30 HR, 40 SB potential when he reaches his ceiling. For now, he’s someone capable of hitting 2nd in this Braves lineup, behind Ender Inciarte and in front of Freddie Freeman, which would give him some of the best protection in all of baseball. This kid is legit, and the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. In DFS, think Trea Turner skillset with more overall potential.
- With Colorado moving on from Mark Reynolds, it’s Ryan McMahon locked in at First Base for Colorado. You can expect to be using McMahon plenty this season in your Coors Field stacks, as he possesses some of the best pop in baseball, and gets the added benefit of hitting in Coors Field. He hit .355 across Double and Triple-A last season, hitting 20 bombs over the year, along with 88 RBI’s. It’s not clear where he’ll hit in this Rockies lineup, but he’s sure to see plenty of RBI opportunities.
- One of the two prizes in the Chris Sale trade, Michael Kopech appears ready to make his Big League debut. Whether that happens out of camp, or once Super Two reaches remains to be seen, but he’s going to be up for quite a bit this season. His make-up, actually resembles fellow rookie Shohei Ohtani, if you take a look at their deliveries from the front.
Ohtani and Kopech–Arm Action (front view) pic.twitter.com/MXsaQwCC26
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 4, 2018
Kopech’s fastball has touched 103, but it sits at 96-99. Yes, sits near 99. With 172 Strikeouts in just 134 innings last season, he’s a high upside arm, but can get a little wild at times, which will create high pitch counts. To begin, he may end up being someone with a max of 5 innings a start, because of inflated pitch counts, but he’s going to have double digit strikeout upside at the same time. He allowed just six Home Runs in his 134 innings of work last year, so while Guaranteed Rate Field rates as the seventh best ballpark for Home Runs according to ESPN’s Park Factor, his stuff simply may be too good to hit out. We all know how important high strikeout upside arms can be in DFS, and Kopech is going to be one from the very beginning.
- The big piece from the Yu Darvish trade was Willie Calhoun, a second baseman by trade, converted to left field by Texas to get his bat in the lineup. He’s a left-handed bat whose makeup is actually very similar to Rougned Odor. He did spend some time in the big leagues last September. He produced 31 Home Runs last season in the Minors in the PCL league and will have the benefit of hitting in Globe Life Park, which ranked second in Runs per ESPN Park Factor, and ninth in Home Runs. It’s possible he gets platooned with Ryan Rua, who dominates lefties, and but Calhoun held his own against southpaws last season, hitting .292 in 89 AB’s, producing 6 HR’s and a .562 SLG. The Rangers figure to be in the basement of the AL West this season, so they’ll get Calhoun as many AB’s as possible, and he has the mold to be something special.