Harrison Bader, 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Breakout

Harrison Bader first caught my eye when I went searching for the next A.J. Reed way back in January. Then, I ranked him 51st overall in my Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects post in February. Finally, I smacked the “sleeper” label on him, ranking him 7th in my Dynasty League Prospect Sleepers article in early April. But now, he has graduated to an entirely new level. He is officially being promoted to a full blown breakout. And with that, comes even more hype.

The St. Louis Cardinals pushed the 21-year-old Bader, OF, all the way to Double-A to start the 2016 season. They likely saw what I saw, that Bader can flat out hit. He raked at the University of Florida last year, slashing .297/.393/.566, with 17 homers, and 8 steals in 67 games, and then raked immediately upon reaching pro ball, slashing .311/.368/.523, with 11 homers, and 17 steals in 61 games splitting time between Low-A and Single-A. Even with those eye popping numbers, it would have been reasonable to think he would struggle a bit in his first taste of Double-A. He hasn’t. After blasting homers in back-to-back games, Bader’s season line stands at .342/.398/.539, with 4 homers, and 2 steals in 19 games. While his highly drafted contemporaries from the 2015 draft, Andrew Benintendi (7th overall) and Ian Happ (9th overall), have been putting up cute numbers in High-A, Bader (100th overall) is doing the same thing in a grown man’s league.

Bader’s excellent start is not without a red flag or two. He has struck out 22 times and walked only 4 times. While he has hit 4 homers, he has only 3 other extra base hits. His BABIP sits at .440.  In other words, his batting average is due to drop precipitously. He has also been caught stealing 5 times. For a guy who is not known as a burner, and more of an opportunistic base stealer, his poor stolen base percentage exposes his lack of true stolen base upside once he reaches the majors.

The positives still far outweigh the negatives. Leave it to St. Louis to unearth another underrated gem. It is obvious they value bat speed and exit velocity to the utmost degree, and Bader possesses both in spades. Maybe the rest of the league will catch up one day. If you were waiting to see more from Bader before picking him up, consider his dominance at Double-A your more. He is a future 5-category producer with more power than speed, and should break into the majors sometime in 2017.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Top 5 Underrated TV Comedies

It seems like all of the very best comedies on television are underrated these days. They are on these obscure channels, that are the sister channel, of the sister channel of a major network. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the best comedy on TV, is on FXX. Even FX was too mainstream for them! Fox had to create an entirely new channel with an extra “X” on it just for them! All of the comedies in my Top 5 TV Comedies article that I wrote last December can be included on this list too, and in fact, I could have easily titled that article, “Top 5 Underrated TV Comedies,” as well. So, for this article, I had to dig even deeper. Here are the Top 5 Even More Underrated TV Comedies:

1) Maron – Bet you don’t know what channel number IFC is on without looking? But that is where you will find Marc Maron’s brilliant show, Maron. The show takes all of Maron’s signature neuroticism, anger, and insecurities, and packages it in a style similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm. There are even a few wisdom bombs dropped in here and there. Season 4 premieres on May 4, and I highly recommend giving this show a shot.

2) Grace and Frankie – Netflix might be easy to find, but you will have to pay an extra $9.99/month to get it. It is worth it, as they are starting to cultivate some of the very best comedies on TV, and Grace and Frankie might be the best of them all. And the most underrated. You wouldn’t think a show about four senior citizens would be in my wheelhouse, but funny is funny, and this show is funny. The material is all very new and fresh, and the acting is nothing short of outstanding. Season 2 premieres on May 6.

3) Episodes – Another underrated show on a premium channel, Showtime. Episodes is a hybrid British/American comedy that satirizes Hollywood. The show stars Matt LeBlanc, who is surprisingly very funny in it, but it is really more of an ensemble cast, and all of them play their roles perfectly. It is a very understated and witty show that deserves more attention. Season 5 is currently in production, and a release date has not been announced.

4) Review – You can find Review on Comedy Central, which is as close to mainstream as it gets for this list. Review is a show within a show, where one man attempts to review all of life’s experiences, both the good and the bad. It is truly very unique and there is nothing to really compare it to, other than the Australian TV show that is was adapted from, but you get my point. Season 3 will be their final season, and a release date has not been announced.

5) The Carbonaro Effect – truTV is the most underrated TV channel, period. This spot could have easily gone to Those Who Can’t, Billy on the Street, or Fameless, but the new season of The Carbonaro Effect is on right now, and they are absolutely killing it. It is a prank show, where a magician goes undercover and creates hilarious illusions to fool unsuspecting marks. The show makes you realize how easily people’s minds can be blown when they see a great illusion that they were not expecting to see. Like I mentioned earlier, Season 2 is airing now, and truTV is constantly marathoning all of their shows, which is awesome.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 3

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 3:

Brendan Rodgers COL, SS – And so it begins. Rodgers is dominating Single-A, triple-slashing .313/.380/.594, with 5 homers, and 2 steals in 16 games. The bandwagon is not going to be big enough to hold everyone if he keeps this up.

Tyler O’Neill SEA, OF – I gave you a Tyler O’Neill Sleeper post in February, and he has checked every box and then some at Double-A this season. He is triple-slashing .311/.386/.557 with 4 homers in 16 games. His K% is down a bit and his BB% is way up. I’d be thinking about buying right about now.

Yoan Moncada BOS, 2B – Triple-slashing .350/.474/.483, with 13 steals, and no homers in 17 games at High-A. I mean, for $63 million you would think the guy can hit at least one homer already 🙂

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – .333/.390/.623, with 4 steals, and no homers in 17 games at High-A. What are with these Red Sox prospects destroying High-A but not hitting a single homer? More power, please.

Victor Robles WASH, OF – Just keeps raking. Assuming he is owned in all dynasty leagues, don’t sell unless you are getting a premium return. And if he is not owned, pick him up already!

Ian Happ CHC, 2B/OF – The Cubs seriously don’t need any more stud prospects, but Gee Wilikers, they have one. Happ is crushing High-A with a slash line of .313/.450/.547, to go along with 3 homers and 3 steals in 18 games. Who the fuck knows where he is going to fit in on Chicago’s overstuffed roster? That’s right, I just dropped a “Gee Wilikers” and “fuck” in the same paragraph. I’m crazy like that!

Lucas Giolito WASH, RHP ­– Control has been choppy in the early going as he builds his pitch count up (8 BB in 11.2 IP). I would expect to see Giolito in the majors at some point this season, but the Nats are going to treat him with kid gloves all year.

Julio Urias LAD, LHP – Bounced back from his shaky 2nd start by going 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BB, and 8 K in his start this week. He is destroying the PCL as a 19-year-old. It doesn’t get much more impressive than this.

Jose Berrios MIN, RHP ­– It took him a couple of starts to get that signature command and control going, but it’s back, as he went 7 shutout innings, striking out 7, and walking only 1 in his last start. Expect continued dominance until he gets called up.

Blake Snell TB, LHP – If you needed any more reassurance that Snell is a stud, he delivered a gem in his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium (5 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 6 K). He has a 13.2 K/9 in Triple-A this season as well.

Aaron Blair ATL, RHP – If you needed any more reassurance that Blair is an uninspiring fantasy prospect, he delivered a dud in his Major League debut at Turner Field (5.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BB, 1 K). To his credit, he was dominating Triple-A before the spot start (19 IP, 3 ER, 10 Hits, 5 BB, 22K).

John Lamb CIN, LHP – Has a 19.06 ERA in his first two rehab starts coming back from off-season back surgery. Yes, you read that right. 19.06 ERA! He will have to pitch much better than this before Cincinnati gives him his rotation spot back.

Josh Bell PIT, 1B – Hello there, power stroke. Nice of you to show up. Bell’s 3 homers this year is already almost halfway to the total number of homers he hit all of last season. Combine that with his already strong contact skills, and the arrow is pointing up.

Hunter Renfroe SD, OF – Finally got it going in a big way this week, hitting his first four homers and stealing his first bag of the season. He is knocking on the door of the majors, and is about as exciting as a Padres hitting prospect gets these days.

Javier Guerra SD, SS – I didn’t fully believe in the power he displayed last season, but smashing 3 homers in his first 16 games at High-A is proving it might be for real. It has come with an increase in strikeouts, though, and he still does not have much speed. Guerra isn’t my favorite prospect, but the guy has talent.

Orlando Arcia MIL, SS – The 21-year-old Arcia is holding his own in Triple-A to begin the year, hitting .295, with one homer, and an 8/5 K/BB in 16 games. He hasn’t stolen a base yet, but the hit tool is more important at this point anyway.

Alen Hanson PIT, 2B – Hitting .327 and has swiped five bags in his first 11 games of the season at Triple-A. The speed looks great, but he has struck out 16 times and walked only twice, so I’m expecting that average to come down pretty quickly.

Francis Martes HOU, RHP – Has been struggling in the early going at Double-A (10.2 IP, 8 ER, 8 Hits, 8 BB, 9K). It seems his meteoric rise through the minors might be hitting a temporary roadblock.

Edwin Diaz SEA, RHP – Since I told you to pick up Diaz in my week 1 rundown, he has continued his assault on Double-A, and his season line now stands at 2.45/0.86/32 with only 3 walks in 22 IP.

Justus Sheffield CLE, LHP – The 19-year-old Sheffield has been excellent in his first 4 starts at High-A, putting up a pitching of 2.45/1.09/18 in 18.1 IP. The control hasn’t been great, but he walked only one batter in his last start.

Jameson Taillon PIT, RHP – Continues to mow down Triple-A hitters (16 IP, 3 ER, 13 Hits, 0 BB, 16 K) and is proving his arm injuries are behind him.

James Kaprielian NYY, RHP – Another start, another gem. Struck out 9 batters in 6 IP.

Kohl Stewart MIN, RHP – The 4th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Stewart might finally be adding some strikeouts to his profile. His K/9 is way up this year to 10.9, and his pitching line stands at 2.60/0.81/21 in 17.1 IP at High-A.

Lucas Sims ATL, RHP – Sporting a ridiculous 14.2 K/9 in 19.2 IP. Problem is, the walk rate is just as ridiculous (6.4 BB/9), and if he can’t get his control, um, under control, he might be destined for the bullpen.

Yusniel Diaz LAD, OF – The Dodgers paid $31 million to get Diaz this off season, and he is starting to show why. The 19-year-old has gone nuclear this week at High-A, and his season line now stands at .267/.314/.600, with 3 homers, and 2 steals in 12 games. He wasn’t known as a big power hitter in Cuba, but if the power is developing, he can be one exciting fantasy prospect.

Ryan O’Hearn KC, 1B/OF – An 8th round pick in the 2014 draft, O’Hearn has done nothing but rake in the minors. He jacked 27 homers last season between Single-A and High-A, and is off to a blazing start this season, slashing .380/.430/.718 with 6 homers in 18 games at High-A. He has a sweet lefty swing with power to all fields. He strikes out too much, and he doesn’t really have a position, but if you are looking for a dirt cheap power prospect to take a shot on, O’Hearn should certainly have your attention.

Josh Ockimey BOS, 1B – Ockimey is another dirt cheap power hitting 1B you should have your eye on. A 5th round pick in the 2014 draft, the 20-year-old Ockimey has already blasted 5 homers in his first 16 games at Single-A. He is your prototypical power/strikeouts/walks 1st baseman.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Slow Starters

We all want our prospects to put up video game numbers (unless you suck at video games), as they rip through the minors en route to Trevor Storying the big leagues. That is the dream. The reality is many times much different. It brings me no pleasure to write this, but here are the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Slow Starters:

Derek Fisher HOU, OF – First, he gets fired as the New York Knicks head coach, and now, he is off to a slow start in his first taste of Double-A (.213/.302/.383). Derek Fisher can’t catch a break. The good news is that he has a 9/6 K/BB in 12 games, and jacked his 2nd homer of the season last night. He struck out 132 times in 123 games between Single-A and High-A last season, so I’m actually more encouraged by this “slow” start than I am discouraged. I would hold in all leagues, or try to buy low.

Tim Anderson CHW, SS – Triple-slashing .182/.182/.227 with a 13/0 K/BB in his first 10 games at Triple-A. He was coming off a wrist injury to start the season, so we are a long way off from panicking.

Carson Fulmer CHW, RHP ­– I covered Fulmer’s slow start in my week 1 and 2 prospect rundowns because it was so spectacularly bad. His 3rd start was a step in the right direction (5.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BB, 5 K), but his season line still stands at 8.53/1.74/8 in 12.2 IP. Not pretty.

Gary Sanchez NYY, C – After dominating the Arizona Fall League, Sanchez is off to a slow start at Triple-A, slashing .175/.250/.450 with 2 homers in 10 games. The power numbers are there, and his 8/3 K/BB is more or less in line with his career numbers, so I would expect the singles to start dropping at a normal rate too.

Willie Calhoun LAD, 2B – Williiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! You were supposed to be the next A.J. Reed! But even A.J. Reed didn’t start his first full minor league season in Double-A. The Dodgers were aggressive with the 21-year-old Calhoun, and he has not responded to the tune of .216/.245/.255 with no homers in 13 games. His BABIP sits at .268, so there is probably some bad luck at play, but his .043 ISO is not exactly encouraging either. The sample still isn’t large enough to make any determinations, but it would be nice to see him get it going a little bit.

Raimel Tapia COL, OF – It seems like all of Colorado’s prospects have gotten off to hot starts (Story, Dahl, Wall), but now we get to one who hasn’t. Tapia is slashing .212/.311/.250 with an 8/8 K/BB in 13 games at Double-A. Tapia is a streaky hitter, and considering the excellent K/BB, I’m expecting a hot streak any minute now.

Franklin Barreto OAK, SS – Like a few others on this list, Barreto has hit the Double-A roadblock. The 20-year-old Barreto is slashing a dismal .152/.188/.239 with a 15/2 K/BB in 12 games. He does have 1 homer and 3 steals, but he has looked seriously overmatched so far.

Nick Williams PHI, OF – Now we come to a few players that I was down on in the preseason. Williams has slashed .214/.250/.286 with no homers in 12 games in his first taste of Triple-A. If you liked him before the season, this shouldn’t change your opinion too much, but if you didn’t, well, you are still down on him.

Rafael Devers BOS, 3B – I was lower on Devers than most due to his distance from the majors and the considerable development he still had left to fully tap into that raw potential. The 19-year-old Devers has triple-slashed .135/.250/.250 with 1 homer in 14 games at High-A so far. This changes nothing about his future MLB potential, but it just highlights that he still has a long way to go.

Gleybor Torres CHC, SS – Triple-slashing .113/.266/.226, with 1 homer, and 1 steal in 14 games at High-A. Even with the massive hype he was getting this offseason, I was still down on him because of the lack of big power or speed.

Jack Flaherty STL, RHP – 7.84/2.03/8 in 10.1 IP at High-A. It is really just one bad start that has demolished his season line, so I wouldn’t worry at all.

Jacob Nottingham MIL, C – .150/.227/.325 with 2 homers in 12 games at Double-A. The power looks good (.189 ISO) and the K and BB rates are in line with his career numbers, so once his .115 BABIP regresses, he should be fine.

Matt Olson OAK, 1B – Olson’s power numbers took a hit last season at Double-A after leaving the comfy confines of the Cal League, so it would have been nice to see the power fully return in the hitter friendly PCL, but it was not to be to start the year. He has slashed .143/.311/.286 with 1 homer in his first 12 games at Triple-A. Considering the large dimensions of Oakland’s home ballpark, and that he plays a deep position, I’m starting to wonder how high his fantasy potential really is.

Dominic Smith NYM, 1B – Smith wasn’t hitting homers these past few seasons, but his elite contact skills made him an intriguing fantasy prospect. Well, now he isn’t hitting homers or making contact. The 20-year-old Smith is slashing .196/.226/.353, with 1 homer, and a 13/2 K/BB in 12 games at Double-A. He is much younger than his competition, and the raw talent is still huge, so patience is the name of the game here.

Jake Thompson PHI, RHP – 5.14/1.57/12 in 14 IP at Triple-A. I wasn’t a huge fan to begin the year, and I’m still not a fan.

Braden Shipley ARI, RHP – The PCL has done Shipley no favors to start the year, as his pitching line stands at 5.71/1.44/7 in 17.1 IP. This coming off a season where he struck out only 118 batters in 156.2 IP at Double-A. In fantasy, where K’s mean almost everything, I would be jumping off this bandwagon if you didn’t already last season.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

SyFy, 12 Monkeys Review

In theory, I should be a huge fan of the SyFy channel. I love reading Sci-Fi novels (two personal favorites are Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart and 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks) and I love watching Sci-Fi movies (too many to even begin to start naming them), but every time I have attempted to get into a show on the SyFy channel, I was left seriously unimpressed. So, it was with great trepidation that I once again went down the SyFy rabbit hole, and tested my luck on a show titled 12 Monkeys. This time, I was not disappointed.

12 Monkeys is the television adaptation of the 1995 movie starring Bruce Willis. It is a fast paced, time traveling roller coaster ride.  Long story short, a deadly virus wipes out humanity in the future, and a small group of survivors build a time machine in order to send someone back in time to save the world. The story, special effects, and direction are all on point, but what really makes 12 Monkeys special, is the excellent acting. Aaron Stanford plays the man responsible for saving the world, Amanda Schull plays a doctor from the present who reluctantly becomes Stanford’s ally, Kirk Acevedo plays Stanford’s partner and best friend, Emily Hampshire plays a mental patient who is the catalyst to spread the virus, and Barbara Sukowa plays the scientist who built the time machine. I would love to highlight a few of them for outstanding performances, but all of them absolutely kill it in their roles. It is movie quality acting all around.

If the action-packed plot and brilliant acting aren’t enough, the season 2 premiere includes a fun surprise for fans of the show Impractical Jokers. Brian “Q” Quinn makes his acting debut by playing a very eligible bachelor at a speed dating event, and wouldn’t you know it, he unsuspectingly helps to save the world! If you read my Who is the Best Impractical Joker? article, you know I am a big fan of the show, so it was pretty cool to see Q pop up out of nowhere.

SyFy finally got one right with 12 Monkeys. There might be a few plot holes here and there, and maybe they cheated a little bit by adapting an already successful movie, but I’ll still count it. It is an extremely entertaining show that you will not want to turn off. Season 1 is currently not available anywhere for free, but you can watch the season 2 premiere here.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 2

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the week 2 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown:

Tyler Glasnow PIT, RHP – Control issues? What control issues? Glasnow struck out 9 batters and walked none over 5 IP in his 2nd start of the season. This obviously doesn’t mean he is Greg Maddux now, but it’s a start.

Julio Urias LAD, LHP – After dominating in his season debut at Triple-A (5 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BB, 9K), Urias had a rocky 2nd outing (5 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BB, 3K). He gave up 2 homers, but one was a PCL, windblown cheapie, and he finished strong by retiring 9 of the last 11 batters he faced. His fastball reached 96 MPH, and he relied on a hard slider that acted like a cutter at times as his breaking pitch. His changeup wasn’t working for him at all.

A.J. Reed HOU, 1B – Reed finally got on the board this week launching his first 2 homers at Triple-A. He has also struck out 11 times in 9 games, and is hitting .237. Tyler White has thrown a monkey wrench in Reed’s quick ascent to the majors, but spending a little extra time at Triple-A won’t hurt him anyway.

Brad Zimmer CLE, OF – Zimmer began to fill up the box score this week as well, hitting his first 2 homers and stealing his first 2 bases at Double-A. Like Reed, it has come with strikeouts (13 K’s in 9 GP) and a low average (.222).

Bobby Bradley CLE, 1B – More power and strikeouts. Bradley knocked his first 2 dingers at High-A, and has struck out 15 times in 9 games.

Josh Hader MIL, LHP – Hader carried his strong Spring Training performance into the regular season, as he has dominated Double-A hitters to begin the year (9 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BB, 12 K in 2 GS). He doesn’t have much left to prove at the Double-A level at this point.

Joey Gallo TEX, 3B – With the Rangers signing Adrian Beltre to a 2-year contract extension, the prospect crunch got even tighter in Texas. Gallo is destroying Triple-A in the early going, slashing .333/.432/.778 with 4 homers in 10 games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the top trade chip at the deadline this season.

Trea Turner WASH, SS – Hitting .424, with 1 homer, and 4 steals in his first 9 games at Triple-A this year. Meanwhile, Danny Espinoza and his .161 AVG is doing one of the best prospect blocking jobs I have even seen, and I lived through the Stephen Drew fiasco in New York.

Alex Bregman HOU, SS – Double-A hasn’t slowed Bregman down at all, as he is completely tearing the level up to the tune of .400/.467/.800, with 5 homers, 1 steal, and only 3 K’s in 10 games. The only question left is where is he going to play in Houston’s stacked infield?

Dansby Swanson ATL, SS – Triple-slashing .341/.408/.477, with 6 doubles (no homers), and 3 steals in 11 games at High-A. No homers? High-A? Step your game up guy who was picked before Bregman.

Carson Fulmer CHW, RHP – Fulmer’s second start (5 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 4 BB, 3 K) did not do much to quell the concerns after his horrible season debut. It is still very early, and he is likely just working out some early season kinks, but it is definitely something to watch.

Sean Manaea OAK, LHP – The hype has started to roll for Manaea, and for good reason, as the 24-year-old has struck out 17 batters and walked only 2 in 12 IP at Triple-A. Health is still the biggest concern here, as the talent has never been an issue.

Dillon Tate TEX, RHP – Followed up his strong season debut by striking out 10 batters in 6 IP in his 2nd start at Single-A. I think it is time to see him against tougher competition.

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS – It might be time to start getting excited. Mondesi built on his strong opening week at Double-A with an equally impressive week 2. His season line now stands at .314/.400/.686, with 3 jacks, 6 steals, and a 6/5 K/BB in 9 games. I would say the time is now to buy, but it might already be too late.

David Dahl COL, OF – The power explosion has arrived! Dahl has smashed 5 homers and is slugging .609, to go along with 3 steals, in 11 games at Double-A. That power/speed combo is sure going to look nice at Coors.

Forrest Wall COL, 2B – Wall is off to a hot start at High-A, triple-slashing .381/.447/.571, with 1 homer, and 3 steals in 9 games. I thought I was already very high on all of Colorado’s prospects, but man, maybe I should have been even higher on them.

Harrison Bader STL, OF – One of my favorite sleepers heading into 2016, Bader has responded to St. Louis pushing him to Double-A to open the season (unlike someone else I know, cough-Willie Calhoun-cough). He is triple-slashing .350/.366/.516, with 1 homer, and 1 steal in 9 games. He has also struck out 13 times and walked only once, so it is not all roses.

Grant Holmes LAD, RHP – After tiring down the stretch last season in August and September, it is nice to see Holmes off to a strong start this year at High-A (11 IP, 0 ER, 7 Hits, 4 BB, 12 K in 2 GS). His ETA is a few years down the road, but the strikeout potential is worth the wait.

Willson Contreras CHC, C – Contreras is proving his 2015 breakout is for real, as he hasn’t missed a beat at Triple-A this season. He is hitting .429, with 3 K’s, and 2 BB’s in 9 games. The only thing left for him to do is to add some more home run power.

Trey Mancini BAL, 1B – Another player who is making his 2015 breakout stand up. Mancini has already launched 5 homers in 10 games at Double-A, and has maintained a .324 AVG while doing so.

Jameson Taillon PIT, RHP – Taillon exceeded all expectations in his first start since 2013, putting up a line of 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BB, and 6 K at Triple-A. His fastball was hitting 94 MPH. At this rate, the 24-year-old Taillon might jump back ahead of Glasnow if a rotation spot opens up in Pittsburgh.

Brent Honeywell TB, RHP – Honeywell has been lights out to start the season at High-A, putting up a line of 0.50/0.72/19 in 18 IP. It is nice to see the K’s tick up after they took a dip when he was promoted to High-A in 2015.

Clint Frazier CLE, OF – In my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post, I said Frazier is a breakout waiting to happen, and well, it might be happening. He is slashing .325/.386/.575, with 2 homers, and 1 steal in 9 games at Double-A. The sky is the limit for this kid.

Renato Nunez OAK, 3B – Nunez homered in back to back games, and has now put up an .890 OPS in his first 9 games at Triple-A. And oh yea, Nunez was the other guy I called a breakout waiting to happen in my top 100 prospects post.

Jorge Alfaro PHI, C – Triple-slashing .500/.526/.750 and hit 1 homer in 8 games at Double-A. The talent has always been there, it was just a matter of putting it together. He is putting it together.

Michael Fulmer DET, RHP – 11 IP, 1 ER, 9 Hits, 4 BB, and 14 K’s in 2 GS at Triple-A. The 2015 breakout was for real.

Matt Chapman OAK, 3B – Smashed 2 homers yesterday, and now has 3 homers and a .953 OPS in 10 games at Double-A. He hit 23 homers in only 80 games last season in the Cal League, so seeing the power show up in a less hitter friendly environment is good to see.

James Kaprielian NYY, RHP – The buzz is starting to build around last year’s 16th overall pick in the draft. Kappy (as Girardi is sure to call him, if he hasn’t already) followed up his terrific season debut (5 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BB, 9 K) with a 1 hitter in 7 IP in his 2nd outing. His season line stands at 0.75/0.50/13 in 12 IP and he is drawing rave reviews from everyone that sees him. He is currently at High-A, but expect him to move fast through the Yankees system.

Travis Demeritte TEX, 2B – Wrote a Travis Demeritte, 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Breakout post. He tacked on another homer since that post, as well.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

New York Knicks Futility and Betting on the NBA Playoffs

My beloved New York Knicks have had a winning record just three times in the last 15 years. They’ve made the playoffs four times and won a single playoff series in that timespan. They went 32-50 this season, and I’m pretty sure they traded away their 2016 1st round pick in the Stephen Marbury deal … or was it the Andrea Bargnani trade? Oh, that’s right, it was the Carmelo Anthony trade. The one where they traded away half of their roster and multiple draft picks for a player that was going to be a free agent in a few months anyway. All of this to say, being a Knicks fan can and will drive a man to gamble. It’s all we have during playoff time! And with the new Commish, Adam Silver, giving his stamp of approval, there is no reason not to throw away some of your hard earned cash in the name of entertainment. Here are the bets I’m eyeing for the 2016 NBA Playoffs:

San Antonio Spurs +400 to win NBA Championship

After winning the Championship in 2014 to avenge their heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat the year before, the Spurs came into last season fat and happy, literally. Which was perfect for the Golden State Warriors, as they never had to go through the defending champs on their title run. But they won’t be so lucky this time. Not only did the Spurs come back refocused this season, but they came back reloaded, as well, adding LaMarcus Aldridge and David West. While the Warriors were going all out to break the all-time regular season wins record, the Spurs were lying in wait, resting their players, and preparing solely for their inevitable Western Conference Finals matchup.

I do think the Golden State Warriors will win the NBA Championship, but at -150 odds, that bet just isn’t any fun. And I think the Spurs and Warriors are much closer than the odds reflect. I’m a contrarian bettor by nature, and I’m going to ride with the Spurs at +400.

Cleveland Cavaliers -260 to win Eastern Conference

LeBron has been on an absolute tear since going into “playoff mode,” and I just don’t see a team in the East good enough to knock the Cavs off with him playing at this level. I don’t love the odds, and I might be better off just betting on them series to series, but I’ll place a small bet on them at -260 to start, and go from there.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Travis Demeritte, 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Breakout

Travis Demeritte is the Minor League version of Trevor Story. Like Story, he has been red hot to start the season, triple-slashing .435/.481/1.304, with 5 homers, and 2 steals in his first 6 games at High-A. Like Story, he absolutely crushes the ball when he makes contact, but has a history of struggling to make contact in the first place. And most importantly, like Story, he has a last name that is low hanging fruit for people that like to make corny puns. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you … this time. So why isn’t everyone hyping Demeritte to death like they are Story? Well, probably because nobody plays in a MiLB Fantasy League. But we do play in Dynasty Leagues, and now is the time to jump on the Demeritte bandwagon.

The Texas Rangers selected Demeritte, 2B, out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He showed his considerable talent right off the bat, putting up an .856 OPS, with 4 homers, and 5 steals in 39 Rookie ball games. It also came with a 28% K%. He then cranked up the power and strikeouts even more in 2014 at Single-A, jacking 25 homers with a 36.7% K%. Even with his considerable strikeout issues, the power surge made Demeritte an interesting sleeper candidate going into 2015. It turned out he would have bigger problems than strikeouts to deal with.

After displaying that same power/strikeout profile in the first 48 games of 2015, Demeritte got popped for taking the banned substance furosemide, a known masking agent for other drugs, and was suspended for 80 games. Coming into 2016, it was fair to wonder how much of that power was natural, and how much was drug induced. But as you know from my opener, we don’t have to wonder anymore, as the power is very real (or he found a better masking agent). He is still striking out 29.6% of the time, but if Story has taught us anything, it is that players with strikeout issues can succeed if they smack the crap outta the ball when they do make contact, and Demeritte does just that.

I give myself 3 demerits for not being higher on Demeritte this preseason (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), but any questions I had coming into this year have been answered. He is a boom or bust power hitting middle infielder with opportunistic speed. If you don’t mind some strikeout risk with your prospects, Demeritte is certainly one to jump on before word of his scorching start gets out.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 1

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues over the past week, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 week 1 fantasy baseball Minor League prospect rundown:

Yoan Moncada BOS, 2B – Triple-slashing, .308/.471/.462, with 4 BBs, 1 K and 4 steals in his first 18 PA at High-A. As a lifelong Yankees fan, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I see his name. He should be ours!

Tyler Glasnow PIT, RHP – Did Tyler Glasnow things in his season debut at Triple-A (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks). It’s only a matter of time before there is an opening for him in Pittsburgh’s rotation.

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – Picked up right where he left off last season, putting up a .938 OPS in his first 4 games at High-A. He could have easily started the year at Double-A like many of the other top college hitters from the 2015 class, so I would expect Benintendi to continue to put up impressive numbers until he gets his first real challenge at Double-A.

Jose Berrios MIN, RHP – Struck out 9 batters in 5 IP in his season debut at Triple-A. He walked 4 as well, but considering his past history of excellent control and command, I wouldn’t even blink an eye at that. His numbers should look ridiculous this year against overmatched minor league hitters. He is MLB ready.

J.P. Crawford PHI, SS – Off to a slow start at Double-A, slashing .235/.316/.235, with 4 Ks and 2 BBs in 4 games played. Obviously a 4 game sample is meaningless, but I’m including him in the rundown just as a reminder that his value in real life is higher than fantasy.

Joey Gallo TEX, 3B – Is now definitely being groomed to replace Adrian Beltre at 3B in 2017. He is off to strong start at Triple-A, putting up a 1.317 OPS in his first 4 games, which is nice to see after he struggled there last season (.739 OPS in 53 games).

Brendan Rodgers COL, SS – Rodgers is the forgotten Colorado SS of the future (hello Trevor Story), but while the present belongs to Story, the future may very well still belong to Rodgers. The uber-talented Rodgers has looked good in his first taste of full season pro ball, slashing .333/.375/.600 and hitting one homer in 16 PA.

Carson Fulmer CHW, RHP – Fulmer got absolutely destroyed in his season debut at Double-A, giving up 5 ERs in 2.2 IP, walking 4, and striking out none. He worked the entire game from the stretch, which is something pitchers usually do when they are trying to simplify their mechanics. It is only one start, but this is definitely something to keep your eye on.

Aaron Judge NYY, OF – After struggling with strikeouts at Triple-A last season, it would have been nice for Judge to get off to a better start this year, but it was not to be. He struck out 5 times and walked once in his first 3 games. It is too early to judge Judge (and you thought bad “Story” puns were all you had to worry about, hah!), but improving his strikeout rate will be something to watch for the rest of the season.

Victor Robles WASH, OF – He is dominating full season pro ball exactly like he dominated Rookie ball and Low-A. This kid is looking like a good bet to be the next big thing.

Anderson Espinoza BOS, RHP – 5.0 IP, 0 ERs, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, and 4 Ks in his first start at Single-A this season. The pitching version of Robles. These guys are the not too distant future.

Dillon Tate TEX, RHP – 4.2 IP, 0 ERs, 5 Hits, 1 BB, and 6 Ks in his season debut at Single-A. He is still a bit of an unknown with only one year as a starter under his belt, so the more information we get on him the better. Considering he is much more advanced than Single-A hitters, this might not tell us much either.

David Dahl COL, OF – 2 homers and a steal in his first 4 games at Double-A. If he can stay healthy, this might be the beginning of a monster season for Dahl.

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS – This is an important year for Mondesi to establish his bat as a legitimate threat. This is the first year he will be repeating a Minor League level (Double-A), and while he is still much younger than his competition, he isn’t so young that his offensive struggles can be completely ignored anymore. He’s been good so far, triple-slashing .313/.353/.688, with 2 homers and a steal in his first 4 games. If he keeps this up, he will be a top 10 prospect by the end of the season.

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – 5.2 IP, 3 ERs, 3 Hits, 1 BB, and 8 Ks in his season debut at Double-A. If he can continue to maintain the strikeout numbers he put up at Double-A in the second half of last season, his prospect status will be on the rise.

Ozzie Albies ATL, SS – Atlanta pushed the 19-year-old Albies all the way to Double-A this season, and he has responded to the tune of a .389 BA in 19 PA. Atlanta is stacked at SS with both Albies and 2015 1st overall pick Dansby Swanson (who started the year at High-A), so it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out down the line.

Tyler Jay MIN, LHP – Minnesota took a shot on the college reliever Jay with the 6th pick of the 2015 draft, and he impressed in his first outing at High-A (5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks). He will be a fast riser if he keeps turning in performances like this.

Travis Demeritte TEX, 2B – The 30th overall pick in the 2013 draft, the 21-year-old Demeritte has already ripped 4 homers in his first 4 games at High-A. That now gives him 38 homers in 214 career Minor League games, to go along with 22 steals. He has major strikeout issues, but Demeritte is certainly one to watch.

Edwin Diaz SEA, RHP – Seattle’s top pitching prospect dominated in his first appearance of the season at Double-A (6.0 IP, 0 ERs, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 9 Ks). He has a 9.3 K/9 in his Minor League career, and will call the spacious confines of Safeco Field his home park. The time is probably now to grab him.

Lucas Sims ATL, RHP – The 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, the 21-year-old Sims is looking to reestablish his prospect value after a couple of uneven years. He got off to a strong start this season by striking out 9 batters and giving up only 1 hit in 5 IP at Double-A. He has the kind of strikeout potential fantasy owners love, and a pitcher’s park waiting for him in Atlanta.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty League Prospect Sleepers

Opening Day is here! No, MLB is not having another Opening Day (they’ve already had two). Today is the kick off to the 2016 MiLB season, and for Dynasty league owners, it can be just as exciting as MLB Opening Day(s). So please take a minute to stop rosterbating over your brilliant Trevor Story pick up – who I touted way back in February as a top 30 prospect (you’re welcome), but also told you to not get too excited for this year (oops … although my concerns still stand, clearly it is ok to be excited) –  and start getting ready to find the next under hyped, underrated stud. Here are the 2016 fantasy baseball dynasty league prospect sleepers that you should keep your eye on, if you haven’t scooped them already:

1) Bobby Bradley CLE, 1B – Bradley fell to the 3rd round of the 2014 draft, but that was solely due to his big signing bonus demands, and not his talent level. All he has done is rake once reaching pro ball, jacking 8 homers in 39 rookie ball games in 2014, and 27 homers in Single-A last season. The 19-year-old Bradley will start this season with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, and it won’t take long before the hype starts to catch up with the talent. I ranked Bradley 18th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

2) Derek Fisher HOU, OF – Wrote a Derek Fisher, 2016 Fantasy Prospect Sleeper article, and ranked him 20th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

3) Josh Hader MIL, LHP – A funky delivery and bullpen concerns have kept the hype for Hader in check, but considering the position the Brewers are in right now, they have every incentive to continue to develop him as a starter. The lanky 6’3’’ Hader is a strikeout machine (10.3 K/9 in Double-A last season), who relies heavily on his big fastball. If he can show improvement with his slider and/or changeup this year, more people will turn into believers. I ranked Hader 21st in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

4) Tom Murphy COL, C – Murphy hit 20 homers in 105 games last season splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, and then he hit 3 dingers in just 39 MLB PA. His defense has also improved to the point that nobody doubts he can stick at catcher. Nick Hundley’s contract runs out after this season, so the door is wide open for Murphy to win the starting job next year. His high strikeout numbers are the reason he is not more highly touted, but a poor average in not a killer at the catcher position, especially with the power he should provide at Coors. I ranked Murphy 32nd in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

5) Alen Hanson PIT, 2B – Wrote an Alen Hanson, 2016 Fantasy Prospect Sleeper article, and ranked him 33rd in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

6) Willie Calhoun LAD, 2B/OF – Covered Calhoun in my Finding the Next A.J. Reed article, and ranked him 43rd in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

7) Harrison Bader STL, OF – Covered Bader in my Finding the Next A.J. Reed article, and ranked him 51st in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

8) Jacob Faria TB, RHP – Put up a pitching line of 2.51/1.09/96 in 75.1 IP in Double-A last season. Doesn’t have the big fastball, but his delivery creates a lot of deception. Also gets a bump due to Tampa Bay’s success with developing pitchers like him. If he can keep up those strikeout numbers this season, people won’t be sleeping on him anymore. I ranked Faria 68th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

9) Jack Flaherty STL, RHP – We can “own” prospects in fantasy, but we still need to rely on actual baseball teams to develop them, and there isn’t a better team at player development than the St. Louis Cardinals. Flaherty struck out 97 batters in 95 IP in his first full season of pro ball at Single-A. His fastball sat in the low 90’s last year, but if it ticks up a bit after adding strength this offseason, he could rocket up prospect lists. I ranked Flaherty 69th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

10) Justus Sheffield CLE, LHP – Cleveland has been on fire of late developing starting pitchers. Time to jump on the bandwagon. Sheffield struck out 138 batters in 127.2 IP in Single-A last season, and actually got better as the season went along, dominating in August and September. He is undersized for a starter at 5’10’’, which is probably why he has flown under the radar, but if he keeps putting up big strikeout numbers, he will force people to take notice. I ranked Sheffield 70th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

11) Tyler O’Neill SEA, OF – Wrote a Tyler O’Neill, 2016 Fantasy Prospect Sleeper article, and ranked him 78th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post.

12) Austin Byler ARI, 1B – Covered Byler in my Finding the Next A.J. Reed article, and ranked him 99th in my 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospects post. (He is suspended for the first 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine stimulant.)

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)