What does Shohei Ohtani's return mean and other fantasy nuggets

Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani waves before the team's baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Shohei Ohtani made his season debut Tuesday night, hitting third in the Angels’ lineup. With pitching out of the equation this season, Ohtani can concentrate on being Los Angeles’ full-time DH (at least versus righties), and for how exciting he was as a pitching prospect, don’t forget he also recorded an impressive 152 wRC+ as a rookie hitter. That number jumped to 182 versus right-handed pitchers, and to put that in perspective, only Mike Trout (191) and Mookie Betts (185) finished with higher wRC+ marks last season. Digging a little deeper, Ohtani ranked in the top 5% of the league in Hard Hit% (50.2), Barrel% (16.0), wOBA (.390) and exit velocity (92.6 mph). Pretty impressive for a rookie learning a new culture.

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Fast enough to add 15+ steals, Ohtani should also benefit from a park in Anaheim that’s suddenly become arguably the most favorable in baseball for homers after lowering the outfield fences before last season (especially for lefties, who saw HRs boosted by 34% last season, with only Yankee Stadium higher). He’s Util-eligible only, but batting directly behind Trout (he hit third Tuesday despite facing a lefty), Ohtani should be a fantasy beast moving forward. He’s still available in more than 35% of Yahoo leagues.


Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

He went 4-for-5 with three homers and six RBI on Tuesday night, giving him four big flies on the season. Turner entered with career-highs in exit velocity and Hard Hit%, so it was only a matter of time before more balls went over the fence. It was the first ever three-homer game for Turner, who posted the second-highest wRC+ (190) in MLB after the All-Star break last season (after spending the first half recovering from wrist surgery). It’s nice to see some power from Turner, but it’s now too late to try to trade for him.

Mike Fiers, Oakland A’s

He tossed his second career no-hitter, allowing just two walks and striking out six Reds, who entered having scored 37 runs over their last four games. The game nearly didn’t happen after being delayed 90 minutes because of light failure at the Coliseum (one day after Cincy’s game against San Francisco was delayed thanks to bees), and it took 131 pitches and Ramon Laureano robbing Joey Votto of a homer for the no-no to occur. Fiers still sits with a 5.48 ERA on the season, but that’s accompanied by a 1.24 WHIP and a solid 34:13 K:BB ratio. He’s just 8% owned in fantasy leagues and gets a home start against the lowly Cleveland offense next time out.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

He went 1-for-4 with another strikeout and is hitting just .162/.244/.189 over the first 37 at-bats of his career. The 26.8 K% is quite surprising, and he’s oddly hit 18 ground balls to just four fly balls, owning a curious -8.9 degree launch angle. He’s a special prospect, so I’m paying zero attention to the extremely small sample and expecting Guerrero Jr. to be a top-25 fantasy hitter from here on out.

Mac Williamson, San Francisco Giants

He celebrated getting recalled to San Francisco by going 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBI. It came in Coors Field, but Williamson was absolutely destroying Triple-A pitching (.378/.459/.756 with nine homers over 82 at-bats). He should get a real opportunity in a Giants outfield that’s entirely replaceable and he impressed last season before a concussion ruined the rest of his year. Williamson is at least worth a flier in deeper fantasy leagues … Evan Longoria’s long ball Tuesday marked the first time the Giants have hit a homer during the first three innings of a game this season. Wow.

Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

He picked up a win Tuesday by holding Cleveland scoreless over 7.1 innings. The former top prospect was one of the bigger busts last season, when he recorded an MLB-worst 5.56 FIP (and -0.1 WAR). Giolito is throwing his fastball about one mph harder this season, and he’s seen his SwStr% skyrocket from 8.3 last year to 13.1. Tuesday’s outing came against a struggling Cleveland offense that entered tied for an MLB-low 68 wRC+, and his exit velocity (91.8 mph) ranks in the bottom 6% of the league, but Giolito has a strong pedigree and is now up to 38 strikeouts over 31.0 innings on the year, so he’s back on the fantasy radar. He’s still available in more than 75% of leagues.

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

He was caught stealing and doesn’t have a stolen base since April 12. After recording 30 steals last season, Betts has just one so far in 2019. Some mild regression was hardly unexpected coming off last season’s career year, but fantasy owners won’t be happy if Betts continues not to run.

Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

One day after I wrote about Harper’s multi-hit drought and called him a faller, he immediately gets two hits Tuesday, including this grand slam, as my powers remain strong (Freddy Peralta also recorded a win with five scoreless innings of relief Tuesday night). Harper didn’t strike out Tuesday after fanning seven times over his previous 12 at-bats.

Hyun-jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers

He tossed a “Maddux,” throwing a shutout using just 93 pitches. Ryu now owns a 2.03 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP with a ridiculous 45:2 K:BB ratio over 44.1 innings. Health will remain an obstacle, but Ryu is a legit Cy Young contender. It’s insane how deep this Dodgers pitching staff is.

Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals

He clubbed his ninth homer of the year, already matching last year’s total in nearly 100 fewer at bats. Soler has a solid 114 wRC+, but that’s come with ugly defense, a 33.1 K% and a 6.5 BB%. Still, fantasy owners will certainly take the production, especially considering Soler’s cheap cost at draft tables. The power is nice, but just realize he owns an expected batting average of .212.

Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates

He had a low ADP and is still owned in just 40% of leagues because it was unclear how much time Polanco would miss to open the year coming off serious shoulder surgery, but his return turned out to be much sooner than expected. It’s no surprise Polanco was off to a slow start (he entered Tuesday with a .643 OPS over 40 at-bats) with no spring training and coming off the injury (Michael Conforto had a similarly slow first month coming off the same surgery), but Polanco homered Tuesday, and hopefully it’s a sign of him returning to full strength. Polanco carries legit breakout potential (and it helps he’ll have an improved Josh Bell hitting behind him), and the window to buy-low will be closing fast.

Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

He homered for the third straight game (giving him eight RBI over that span), and after not going deep over the first 22 games of the season, he’s done so five times over the last 10. Bryant is hitting the ball harder than ever, striking out less than ever, and walking more than ever. Bryant suddenly owns a 137 wRC+; a slow start to the season has quickly vanished.

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