Gregory Polanco (OF-PIT) - I had sort of passed on Polanco as a 2018 breakout candidate, but maybe I was wrong. Polanco had an RBI double and four walks in five plate appearances Monday, though he failed steal a base. Through four games, Polanco is now 5-for-14 with a home run, three doubles, six walks, and a stolen base. After seeing his OPS regress from .786 to .696 last year, Polanco could find himself with an .800+ mark in 2018. The walks are super-encouraging, as while the sample size is obviously low, Polanco now has a 31.6% BB% versus a 6.6% mark last year and a 9% mark in 2016. Polanco also hit .327/.365/.612 this spring, and now hitting second between Josh Harrison and Starling Marte, Polanco should be in a prime spot to hit more in the .270+ range with a 20/20 season very possible.
Tyler Mahle (SP-CIN) - Mahle's spring ended on a sour note with a four inning-six run outing, but he's out of the date strong in the regular season. Monday, Mahle held a Cubs lineup full of regulars to just one hit over six shutout innings. He walked two and struck out seven, with the lone hit being a Javier Baez triple. Mahle would sit at or near the back-end of the rotation if everyone were healthy, so this impressive outing came at a good time for his future rotation chances. Mahle walked 11 in 20 innings for the Reds last year en route to a 2.70 ERA, but given his minor league BB/9 last year was 1.9, this shouldn't be an issue going forward. The 6'3" righty should stick in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Time will tell if Mahle is anything more than Mike Leake, but even then, in deep leagues, that's not necessarily a bad comp.
Domingo Santana (OF-MIL) - Santana was not in Monday's lineups against the Padres after playing in the first three games of the season and batting .250/.357/.333 with a double, RBI, and a pair of walks. This log-jam is going to be frustrating all year, but at least we're getting a little clarity around how the PA's will be distributed. Eric Thames will play against most, if not all, RHP and sit against all LHP. Christian Yelich will likely be in there most every day along with Lorenzo Cain. Against RHP, Santana or Braun will sit most often. It's pretty incredible that a guy who hit .278/.371/.505 with 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases will rotate in and out of the lineup, but after trading for Yelich and signing Cain this winter, that's what we're left with unless a trade (most likely Braun or Santana) help alleviate this log jam. Santana does strike out a lot (29.3% K% last year), but who's to say with regular at-bats that we wouldn't continue to improve that metric given his 2016 K% was 32.4%.
Jameson Taillon (SP-PIT) - He may have lasted just 5.1 innings, but it was a solid first start of 2018 for Taillon. At home against the Twins, Taillon allowed just one run on four hits. He didn't walk a batter while fanning nine and allowing a solo homer to Brian Dozier. Taillon has already gone through Tommy John surgery and cancer in his young career, but the 25-year-old should be poised for 180-200 innings and offers some breakout potential. Given his 2017 4.44 ERA and lower 3.52 FIP, it seems he had some bad luck on the mound as well last year. He did see his BB/9 spike from 1.5 to 3.1 compared to 2016, so if he can get that number more in the 2.5 range, Taillon should be a lock for a 3.50 or so ERA, if not much lower. I think he will finish in the top-40 of starting pitchers from a fantasy perspective, with the possibility of more as long as he holds up physically.
Miles Mikolas (SP-STL) - Mikolas is trying to be the pitching version of Eric Thames, with the exception was that Mikolas spent three years in Japan Thames was in Korea for three seasons. Mikolas finished with a 4.75 ERA and 18:5 K:BB in 22.2 innings this spring, but did finish very strong. In his first MLB game since 2014 on Monday, Mikolas was hit pretty hard, allowing four runs on seven hits over 5.2 innings. He struck out five and walked none, but also allowed three home runs. He threw strikes all day (64 in 91 pitches), but also appeared hittable at times. Mikolas was in the 93-95 mph range generally with his fastball, hitting 97 as a high, so the velocity was there. Now he just needs to add location, but with the excellent control and velocity, Mikolas still deserves a look in fantasy leagues, as the home run rate will come down.
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