Daniel Rathman tells you what you need to know.
Daniel Rathman: With the Giants/Brewers matinee on in the background, let's get this thing started...
Sweet Lou (Pittsburgh): Hi Daniel,
We now have the good (AJ Burnett), the bad (JMac), and the ugly (JSanchez). Is this SSS for all, or is there any hope that the bad and ugly get a little better and prettier, and AJ stays good?
Daniel Rathman: Hey, Sweet Lou.
Having watched Jonathan Sanchez vacillate between solid and terrible during his time with the Giants, I'm afraid the ugly might stay ugly. I do think there's hope with James McDonald, though, perhaps once he learns how to better utilize his new approach (which R.J. Anderson detailed earlier this week: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20251).
And I do believe that A.J. Burnett will be as effective this year as he was last. Considering he was a 3.3 WARP pitcher in 2012, there's plenty to like about that.
Dan Rozenson (Washington, DC): Buying or selling Atlanta's streak as being something bigger than just a nice early-season stretch?
Daniel Rathman: Thanks for the question, Dan.
The Braves aren't going to play .850 ball all year, but there's no question in my mind that they're one of the best teams in baseball. As I wrote in the WYNTK a few days ago, their 12-2 start is even more impressive when you consider the players—Freddie Freeman, Brandon Beachy, Brian McCann, et al—who are on the shelf. There's a lot more where this is coming from.
touchstoneQu (Erie): So far, it looks like the Nava/Gomes and Smith/Young platoons are working out. Do you think they maintain production and playing time RoY? Will other teams start to copy Boston and Oakland, if so?
Daniel Rathman: I like the thinking behind both of those platoons, touchstoneQu, and I do expect them to remain productive throughout the year. Given the success that the A's had last year—and that the Rays have seen with their platoons—it seems likely that copycats will emerge, especially among small-market teams.
TJ (Eagan, MN): Please rank as long-term keepers: Jose Fernandez, Tony Cingrani, Jessie Biddle and Zach Lee. Thanks!
Daniel Rathman: This is probably a question better suited for our prospect or fantasy crews, TJ, but I'll throw in my $0.02. I'd go Fernandez, Lee, Biddle, Cingrani with a sizable gap between Fernandez and the other three.
Rick (Pittsburgh): How many more career wins for Jonathan Sanchez, and in what years will he get each of them?
Daniel Rathman: That's a fun question, Rick. Purely guessing, I'll say 16—five this year, five next year, and then a few crumbs as a spring-training invitee that sticks once or twice down the road.
Jordan (Water World): Do you think the Red Sox are capable of winning at the pace they're at? They don't seem like a fantastic team on paper, so do they eventually regress, or are they going to be able to continue to hold off teams like the Rays and Yankees?
Daniel Rathman: I certainly don't see the Red Sox as a .700-winning-percentage team, Jordan, but they seem deep enough to hang around in the NL East, especially if their rotation holds up. An 85-win year is definitely attainable, perhaps a bit more.
Marco (California): Can you think of any guys who are currently in the minors that have a good chance of coming up and making an impact in the majors this year?
Also, when we get through the Super Two deadline, which prospects do you think will be called up?
Daniel Rathman: Three names that immediately jump to mind, Marco: Nolan Arenado (3B, COL), Wil Myers (OF, TBR), and Anthony Rendon (INF, WSH). Arenado should be ready to take over at the hot corner for the Rockies in the near future. The Rays might not be able to keep Myers in the minors for much longer, unless their current position players turn things around at the plate. And with Danny Espinosa scuffling, the Nats could look for an internal upgrade at second base, which a healthy Rendon could provide.
Matt (San Mateo): How many starts will the Giants need to get from pitchers other than Zito, Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong and Bumgarner? Who will get those starts?
Daniel Rathman: Rotation health has certainly been a major asset to the Giants in recent years, Matt, but the luck has to run out eventually, and with Lincecum struggling, it might not even take an injury. After only needing two last year, I'll say 12 this year, all of which will be picked up internally. My guess is that Chris Heston will get the first look, with Mike Kickham and Yusmeiro Petit in the mix, though all three have been knocked around at Triple-A Fresno.
nubber (tx): Do you think Trevor Rosenthal eventually takes over the 9th inning or is Mujica good enough to hold it?
Daniel Rathman: I think that between Rosenthal's early struggles and his own ability, Mujica can retain the job for a long time. With Mujica, you can be confident that he won't suffer a three-walk meltdown, and he has proven effective against both lefties and righties throughout his career. He might not have the strikeout rates you'd typically associate with a dominant closer, but he's definitely an adequate option.
Truman (Seahaven): When assessing the starts of young players like Bradley Jr and Hicks: just not ready, sample size, or deep structural flaws revealed in each player's game?
Daniel Rathman: For me, this is more about them needing a little more minor-league seasoning than about "deep structural flaws." Hicks and Bradley, it seems, largely got their jobs because of hot springs, and spring training statistics aren't always indicative of readiness. It's tough to post good numbers when you're striking out more than 30 percent of the time and hitting more than 70 percent of your balls in play on the ground, like Bradley is, and even tougher when you have 20 strikeouts in 51 PAs, as Hicks does. I don't think either was expected to start the year in the majors at the beginning of March, so expecting them to perform from the get-go was overly optimistic.
kyle n. (Charlotte): I follow the Rays high-a affiliate because i live in Charlotte, and was very impressed with Jesse Hahn's line last night. can you tell me more about him and what is his potential?
Daniel Rathman: I own Hahn in a dynasty league, Kyle, and have been intrigued by him since he was drafted, but our prospect staff can offer a lot more details about his upside. Check out today's Minor League Update (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20274) from Zach Mortimer for more info.
grandslam28 (chicago): Thoughts on the Astros manager benching JD Martinez for swining at a high 80s fastball the other day?
Daniel Rathman: Bo Porter knows his players better than I do, grandslam28, so I think it's fair to side with him on the decision. With Joe Saunders having cruised through the first three innings, Porter had reason to be upset with Martinez for making the second out of the inning on the second pitch. That said, if the benching was heavily influenced by the result, then I'd have some concerns with it.
Paul (Kansas City): Through 250 MLB games, Mike Moustakas' 162-game average is a pathetic .246 batting average with 16 homers and a .685 OPS. He pops up to third so often teams would be smart to shift their second basemen to the left side when he bats. Even worse, he seems to be regressing. I know the Royals are invested and don't have better options, but is it too soon to give up on him for fantasy purposes?
Daniel Rathman: It's worth being patient with Moustakas a little longer, because he's only 24, but the popups to third and occasional struggles with left-handed pitching are definitely legitimate concerns. On the other hand, he's walking a bit more and striking out less in the early going, so if he can find a way to square up more balls, a breakthrough could be coming. If his defense is as good as it graded out to be in FRAA and UZR last year, he'll always be more valuable to the Royals than to fantasy owners, but I would wait another year before cutting bait.
Mike (Michigan): Which players have been the biggest surprise for you in the early going? Do you think those players will continue to do well, or is an early-season fluke?
Daniel Rathman: Jean Segura has probably been the most pleasant surprise, and while I don't expect him to maintain a .380s batting average, it sure looks like the Brewers have found a long-term solution at shortstop. On the pitching side, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez have been immensely impressive—more than anyone could really have expected, especially for Fernandez, who is only 20. I'm looking forward to seeing if he can keep it going against a better offense in a tough park tonight.
Joel (Seattle): Do I have reason to hope as a Mariners fan? Ackley, Montero, Smoak struggles all make me sick. Give me something to hope for!
Daniel Rathman: In the short run, there definitely are concerns with those young position players, Joel, but the pitching coming through the pipeline should be a source of optimism. Of the three, I think Ackley has the best shot of turning things around this year; he looked better at the plate last night, in an admittedly small, anecdotal sample.
Marshall (Truckee): If Cingrani comes out and has three or four or six dominant starts, do we get to ignore the scouting naysayers and just accept that the stats are truly predictive? Or do we just assume that the lack of whatever that scouts are seeing will catch up to him?
Daniel Rathman: It's worth breaking down what the scouts are saying about Cingrani into two parts, Marshall. The deception in his delivery is outstanding, and it's the driving force behind his upper-minors strikeout totals—something that scouts will readily tell you. The concern is that his secondary offerings lag behind, and from that standpoint, a 4-6 start run of success may not portend similar results the second and third times hitters see him. This is another case where we'll need a full season of data to conclude whether Cingrani needs to improve his breaking ball or if he's ready to perform in the majors.
jordan (osu): Where is Jay Bruce's power?!?!?!
Daniel Rathman: Hey, jordan. I wouldn't worry about Bruce yet, at least from a power perspective. He's hitting more liners and grounders than deep flies, and if those rates stabilize at their career norms, the home runs will come. He's a fantasy buy-low candidate for me if the power outage continues for another week or two and redraft owners get impatient.
Steve (IL): Do you think AJ Pollock and Brandon Crawford can continue to produce at this level for the rest of the year?
Daniel Rathman: I haven't seen enough of Pollock to give an educated comment on him, Steve, but (anecdotally) Crawford looks stronger this year and I could see him threatening double digits in home runs. The improvements in his walk and strikeout rates also are promising. He won't finish with an OPS above 900, but I wouldn't be stunned if he winds up a well-above-average overall shortstop.
mrollo1 (Haddonfield, NJ): Any chance that Jesse Biddle or Adam Morgan get called up this year for the Phillies?
Daniel Rathman: I think both would benefit from another full year in the minors, but if one is going to debut this year, my money would definitely be on Morgan.
Will (Omaha): If the Giants botched some paperwork and Hector Sanchez somehow became an unrestricted free agent right now, what sort of contract would he get?
Daniel Rathman: That's an fun thought, Will ... hmmm. Hector's defense makes my blood pressure rise, but he could be an above-average backup or a second-division starter, and he's a 1+ player. I think he'd land a three-year, $6-8 million deal from a catching-poor team, which could then go year-to-year with him in the later stages of arbitration.
nubber (tx): How would you rank for the rest of the season: Justin Masterson, Carlos Villanueva, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis
Daniel Rathman: He certainly won't maintain a 0.64 ERA, but I've like Carlos Villanueva for a while. So, I'll say Villanueva, Santana, Masterson, Davis.
Johnny (Boston): Would you stream Tehren today vs the Pirates? He looked better at the end of his last start, but the Pirates have been scoring runs lately.
Daniel Rathman: It's a worthwhile stream, for me, if you badly need a win, since Jeff Locke hasn't set the world on fire in his first two starts. That said, I'd be prepared for some possible rate-stat damage, and if you need help there, I'd look for a different option.
nubber (tx): What's been the problem with Brandon Belt?
Daniel Rathman: Bruce Bochy mentioned some mechanical inconsistencies, but batted-ball luck has been as much of a problem as anything. He hit four balls hard in Tuesday's game and came away with next to nothing; a .231 BABIP and 28.2% line-drive rate won't jibe for long.
Daniel Rathman: And, with that, I've gotta run. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Looking forward to doing this again soon!