It’s been a rather royal start to the season for the team residing in Kansas City.
The Royals sport the second-best record in the majors, rank third in runs per game (5.25), first in hits (10.56) and, as a team, sport the highest batting average in the league, too (.301). They’ve gotten some tremendous production from some key offensive pieces, who are now emerging into potentially must-start options in fantasy land. Of course, almost four weeks into the season, plenty of players have seen their fantasy values climb upward. And with that, others values are taking punches.
I mean, am I right, Yordano?
Let’s stay in Kansas City where two guys in particular are seeing the baseball very well.
Lorenzo Cain, CF
It’s early, but Cain has been one of the best players in all of fantasy baseball thus far, ranking fourth overall on ESPN’s Player Rater. To open the year, the talented center fielder ranks 3rd in the AL in batting average (.390), 9th in RBI (12), fourth in runs (13), 1st in stolen bases (5), 9th in slugging (.571) and, finally, 7th in OPS (1.034). There have been only two instances where Cain failed to record at least one hit, which means he’s provided fantasy owners with at least one base knock about 87 percent of the time. That helps his on-base percentage, and, of course, when a speedster like Cain is on base often, you can bet he’ll try to swipe a bag or two. His strikeout rate is down about 10 percent from last season, while his ground ball rate is down nearly 12 percent. Of course, Cain needs to stay healthy, as he’s missed nearly 150 games over the last three seasons. The Royals are typically a smart hitting team, which allows Cain to both drive in and score plenty of runs as the number-three hitter.
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Speaking of runs, the Royals strong-hitting lineup has helped Moustakas score 14 runs so far. Only Sam Fuld of the Athletics has scored more (15) in the American League. Moustakas, a former top prospect, has always had the tools to be a very good professional player, but his struggles against southpaws limited his ability. However, he’s appeared to have adjusted top open the 2015 season, batting .324 with one home run and three doubles in 34 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Batting second for the Royals, Kansas City appears to be trusting Moustakas a lot more against left-handed pitching, which could be very beneficial for his value. And a few weeks ago, he belted an opposite field home run, his first EVER. Signs like this are promising, showing people that the 26-year old is making the adjustments necessary. That age 26 season just so happens to be the one where players tend to enter their prime and breakout. We shall see, but so far, so good.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, 1B
A few years ago, Joey Votto was a unanimous top-three first baseman, as well as a first-round draft pick. But after suffering multiple injuries and a decline in power, Votto has become a value in fantasy drafts, being selected on average 88th overall in ESPN drafts.
Those who grabbed him are thrilled.
So far, Votto ranks 1st in the National League in home runs (6), 2nd in RBI (15), 10th in runs (12), 2nd in slugging (.688) and 2nd in OPS (1.149). The six home runs have been nice, after hitting just 44 combined over the last three injury-plagued seasons. Already one of the most patient and intelligent hitters in baseball, Votto also has the second-most walks in the National league (14), and is only swinging at 15 percent of pitches landing outside the strike zone, which is a career-best for one of the game’s wisest hitters. But he’s also been a bit more aggressive at the plate this year, swinging at nearly 72 percent of pitches landing inside the strike zone, up seven percent from a season ago.
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays, 2B
Travis’ stock is obviously on the rise, seeing as he’s a top-10 overall option on the Player Rater. Five home runs, 16 RBI and a .375 batting average are the reason why. Batting second in a powerful Toronto lineup that has produced the most runs per game (5.71) is definitely valuable, but I’m a tad hesitant.
First off, he’s only walking about four percent of the time, which is a bit alarming. His BABIP is also an insane .372, which will regress. But when asked about where his power surge came from, Travis admitted he doesn’t know, which to me indicates that it very well might not last.
Mike Fiers, Milwaukee Brewers, SP
No surprise here, but anyone who gives up two grand slams in the same game probably isn’t doing too hot in fantasy. Fiers is now 0-3 on the year with an ERA just under seven. Not that he necessarily throws heat anyway, but his fastball velocity is down and he is surrendering a fly ball almost 50 percent of the time. Meanwhile, his ground ball rate is also down, a rather bad combination for a starting pitcher.
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers, 3B
Hear me out.
I’m not panicking over Beltre by any means. This is a guy who has batted at least .315 in three straight seasons, as well as at least 30 home runs in three of the last five. However, he has gotten off to a slow start, and it seems like Beltre is fantasy baseball’s Frank Gore, as players just wait and wait for him to decline. At age 36, could this be the year? Maybe, maybe not, but Beltre has gone hitless in eight of his 16 games, while his walk rate is down about two percent from a season ago. However, he’s still a solid buy low candidate, as he’s only striking out five percent of the time, which means he’s at least putting the ball in play a large portion of the time. He also has a pretty unfortunate .158 BABIP. But having said that, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to tail off a bit, especially after seeing a hit in power in 2014, belting just 19 homers after hitting at least 30 in the three years prior.
Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays, SS
Reyes is still playing games, but he isn’t 100 percent, which kind of scares the crap out of me. Rib injuries can be tricky, and while Reyes isn’t a power hitter, it still impacts his follow through and hitting motion. Reyes also isn’t a stranger to the disabled list, and I have a feeling we’ll see him make a few trips sooner or later. He’s trying to fight through it right now, but with a guy who has been known to miss time, I’m a bit nervous.