Each week, Yahoo fantasy experts Brandon Funston, Andy Behrens, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and Brad Evans forecast the future of some of the most interesting fantasy story lines across the majors.
Jose Abreu, leading the league in long-balls, rest of season homers 29.5
Brad – OVER. What Abreu has achieved in a short period of time is no fluke. His raw, uninhibited power is very, very real. As the weather warms on the South Side, the odds of the first baseman reaching 40 bombs will only increase. Bank on him hitting the milestone.
Scott – A regretful UNDER, though I fully believe in Abreu's skills. The real regret is having zero shares of Abreu. But the gut feel is that pitchers will adjust to him a modest amount, and a career-long trend of getting plunked by pitches could lead to a DL trip. Nonetheless, I salute anyone who got this call right in March. I certainly didn't.
Andy – OVER. Assuming good health, Abreu clearly has a shot at another 30-plus homers. He does his hitting in a power-friendly park, and the warm-weather months are just beginning. Abreu is going to beat everyone's preseason forecast, no matter how bullish.
Scott – IWAKUMA is coming off a finger injury, Minor a shoulder problem. You know which one is less concerning. #JapeneseIce
Andy – IWAKUMA, but I like really both starters. I just traded for Minor in the Friends & Family League, in fact. Iwakuma gets the nod from me, however, because his injury (finger) isn't quite as troubling as Minor's (shoulder).
Dalton – MINOR. Coming off a shoulder injury is admittedly more worrisome than a finger, but Minor pitches in the easier league and is six years younger. The Braves continuously get better production than expected from their pitchers, and Minor is the type of talent who could succeed in any organization. His upside is greater than Iwakuma's.
Justin Morneau, in the midst of a revival in the friendly Colorado air, rest of season home runs 19.5
Andy – UNDER. I won't say this is an impossible number, not in Coors Field. But it's close to a best-case scenario. Health is an ongoing concern for a 32-year-old with Morneau's history, and it's not as if he was ever an elite power hitter.
Dalton – UNDER. He's off to a great start and obviously has Coors Field on his side. But this is someone who hasn't hit 20 homers in a season since 2009. Morneau is also hitting more groundballs (1.57 GB/FB) than at any point in his career this season.
Brandon – OVER. Yes, I think Morneau can average four home runs a month the rest of the way, which is what he'd need here. It should be noted that he hit 37 doubles last season, which was the third-best mark of his career. Now in the thin air of Colorado, some of those doubles should translate into home runs. And given that his swing% is at a career high, it appears that he understands what a good situation he has landed in. Keep swinging, Morneau.
K/9 Konundrum - Who will finish with the highest: Jesse Chavez, Yordano Ventura, Drew Hutchinson or Jenrry Meija?
Dalton – VENTURA. I must admit I didn't expect Ventura to be this successful in run prevention right away, but I'm pretty sure he's the only one of this group (actually, he's the only one in all of baseball) averaging 96.8 mph with his fastball. His SwStr% is 12.3! While Ventura's ERA is sure to regress, his K rate should actually increase moving forward.
Brandon – VENTURA. This is based on the fact that KC says that Ventura will not have a pitch limit, though I'm not sure I trust that they will keep trotting him out to the hill late in the year if the team is well back in the standings. Chavez would be my second choice and I don't have him that far back of Ventura.
Scott – If VENTURA'S electric arsenal doesn't do something for you, consult a physician.
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte, recently demoted to the seventh spot, rest of season runs 64.5
Brandon – UNDER. The huge whiff rate is well known here, and he's hit just .248 since the '13 All-Star break.
Scott – UNDER. Horrible contact rate, and the slow-starting Pirates are just about ready to enter full-fledged Clint Hurdle tinkering mode.
Andy – OVER, because I NEED IT TO BE TRUE. I'm really hoping Marte's 3-for-7, two-steal performance during Thursday's double-header is a springboard. We'll see him back at the top of Pittsburgh's lineup card soon enough.
LaTroy Hawkins, who entered the big leagues when Biggie and Tupac were still alive (1995), rest of season saves 24.5
Scott – UNDER. Gravity always wins, and heck, the guy is 41.
Andy – OVER. Rex Brothers hasn't been anything special this season (4.26 ERA, 1.26 WHIP), so it's not as if anyone is putting heat on Hawkins.
Brad – OVER. Unbelievably, the ancient reliever, at 41 years young, hasn't crumbled. His 3.97 K/9 is unsightly for a closer, but his impeccable command (1.59 BB/9) and noteworthy velocity (92.3 mph fastball average) aren't discouraging. Considering how poorly Rex Brothers has pitched, Hawkins' leash is very long.
Out of nowhere K artist Collin McHugh, who has an 11.19 K/9 in his first two starts with the 'Stros, rest of season ERA 3.99
Andy – OVER. He's been a nice story for Houston recently, but there's not much in his history suggesting we should expect better-than-league-average ratios. I'm out.
Brandon – UNDER. Not by much, but McHugh has looked very impressive and when he dominated Seattle, manager Lloyd McClendon claimed that he wasn't the pitcher that was described in the scouting report. He's switched exclusively to a four-seam fastball, and it has yielded fantastic results, thus far. And using his slider heavily against lefties has also produced excellent numbers. I'll put him down for 3.90 the rest of the way.
Dalton – OVER. McHugh's ERA in Triple-A last season was 3.42, and while that came mostly in the hitter-friendly PCL, he's a soon to be 27 year old who's never been much of a prospect. I'm skeptical.
Speedster Rajai Davis, seeing regular time in the leadoff spot for the Tigers, rest of season steals 32.5
Brandon – OVER, easy. He'd likely top this mark even if he wasn't seeing regular playing time. He'd only need to reach 41 steals for the season to top this number, which is something he's accomplished in four of the past five campaigns.
Dalton – OVER. Davis has averaged 45.5 steals while playing in just 250 games over the past two seasons. He's also already up to eight swipes this year. Davis is a safe bet to reach this number should he not suffer a serious injury.
Scott – OVER. Brad Ausmus is still forming opinions on his Tigers and has no reason to distrust or skim against Davis. Rabbit, run.
Matt Cain, who has surrendered at least five earned in two of his past four starts, rest of season ERA 3.49
Dalton – UNDER. Cain's average fastball velocity (91.4 mph) is his highest since 2010, and his GB/FB ratio (1.26) is the best of his career, while his HR/FB% (14.7) is his worst ever. His 9.3 SwStr% is the second-best mark of his career, so while there's some legitimate concern Cain's previous ability to prevent home runs unlike the great majority of pitchers is now regressing, there's also plenty of reason to expect him to bounce back nicely over the rest of 2014.
Scott – UNDER, though I'm glad I don't own him. But the park can still hide (or at least soothe) a set of declining skills.
Andy – OVER. This is really an aggressive number, considering Cain's performance since 2013. I'd sign off on an ERA in the neighborhood of 3.70, but that's as low as I'll go.
Pick Me Up. State your case for one (Owned in less than 25-percent of Yahoo leagues): Dayan Viciedo, Will Venable, James Loney, Marcus Semien or Scooter Gennett?
Scott – GENNETT offers a good batting slot and a stable batting average, and enough category-juice potential to get by. (If I knew Semien would keep a job the entire season, he'd likely be the play.)
Andy – These guys fill different needs/roster spots, so it's an odd collection of names. But I'll say SEMIEN, both for his position eligibility (2B/3B) and his power/speed potential. He hit 19 homers in the high minors last season, swiping 24 bags. He's legit.
Brandon – SEMIEN. He's paying off for me as a reserve pick in my AL-only league. With his solid power/speed numbers in the minors and very little standing in his way at 2B/3B in Chicago, the opportunity for him was there for the taking, and take he did. With his 15/15 upside, an ability to draw walks and a spot amidst the the upper part of the White Sox lineup, he's where I'd put my money among this group.