Soto finally saw some results after spraying line drives and deep fly balls all over the field early in the season. Thursday night Soto went 4-5 with 2 2B’s and his 2nd HR of the season. Soto was a trendy breakout pick early in the spring and his early season production only reinforces those beliefs. Soto’s hitting more fly balls and showing more plate discipline than ever before. His current EYE of 1.00 and GB Rate of 33.3% are likely the result of small samples taken during a player’s hot start, but if these levels continue Soto isn’t simply going to be a sleeper catcher, he’s going to be a monster offensively. The early season performance suggests Soto’s 2007 wasn’t a fluke and the improvements he’s made in his approach and bat speed are translating to the major leagues and at the very worst he’s going to make for a decent #1 catching option (living up to the sleeper status), but the early season peripherals also suggest there could be even further upside in the young Cub.
I noted Pagan as a pre-season sleeper on the Mets but I even I didn’t expect this kind of start from Pagan. I anticipated much of Pagan’s added value coming in the speed departments where he’s flashed plus plus speed as a minor leaguer, but right now he’s displaying exceptional skills simply as a hitter. Pagan’s started the season hitting .370/.457/.519 with a dominating 3.00 EYE. Even more impressive is the early season strength in batting average isn’t being supported by a ridiculous BHIP%. His current .286 mark is about 40 points above his 3 year average, but isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a speedster with a high GB Rate. With Castillo’s injury, Pagan has moved up to the 2 hole, a slot which if he gets on base should result in some double steal attempts with Jose Reyes, and a spot that is particularly friendly to run production in front of a loaded middle of the Mets order. Pagan’s early season success shows some really strong skills and as a result deserves a bit more attention going forward.
Schuyler mentioned Fred Lewis as a sleeper to keep your eye on during the pre-season and with the injury to Dave Roberts opening some playing time, Fred Lewis is someone to start paying more attention to. Lewis minor league track record shows a player with solid OBP skills along with a decent power-speed combination. He probably should’ve been playing already but at just 27 years of age, he didn’t qualify for the AARP Giants. Lewis led-off last night and started in LF last night going 2-4 with 2 Runs scored. Roberts injury status is pretty up in the air right now as he could need knee surgery, creating an extended opportunity for Lewis. For those in deep leagues he deserves immediate consideration off the waiver wire, while those in mixed leagues can wait for some more production before moving.
Joe touched on Acosta (along with Peter Moylan) potential replacement closer options for Rafael Soriano and the Braves. While Moylan is the better pitcher, it looks as if Bobby Cox and the Braves are leaning towards using Acosta in the role. While we weren’t aware at the time, Monday’s game in Colorado looks to be our primary examination point. With Rafael Soriano unavailable (reported later), Peter Moylan came in during the 7th inning to record the Hold, while Manny Acosta was warming in the pen in the bottom of the 8th inning and top of the 9th inning. We never saw Acosta because Blaine Boyer gave up a 2 run HR to Matt Holliday and a save chance never came, but he looked to be Bobby Cox’s initial choice as a replacement. Acosta’s skill-set isn’t perfectly suited for the role, as his BB Rate has consistently been below par for his major and minor league career, but he does throw hard and can rack up strikeouts. If he’s the one with the initial opportunity he makes for the better pick up, but I can’t see Acosta holding this role very long even if Rafael Soriano’s elbow injury was more serious than explained. Acosta’s BB Rate in the minors of .58 coupled with his .61 BB Rate at the major league level might make him the next impression of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughan. For short-term benefit feel free to speculate on Acosta, but I’d be quite shocked if he were a long-term candidate for saves.
In case I haven’t made my position clear enough in the pre-season, I don’t believe in Brandon Phillips. I should clarify that to say I don’t believe in him as a 2nd round pick and really don’t see much difference between he and the 2nd echelon at 2B (Kinsler, Upton, and possibly Weeks/Cano in my opinion). I’ve mentioned before that Phillips actual skill set concerns me quite a bit. His abysmal .30 EYE is indicative of a .270’s hitter and his HR totals were wildly inflated last year by some good luck on his HR/FB Ratio. It’s early in 2008 to draw conclusions from such limited samples, but the early season trends show further regression in his EYE (.18), negatively impacted by an increasing K Rate (2006 = 15%, 2007 = 15.5%, 2008 = 25%). Again these ARE small samples, so we can take these with a bit of a grain of salt, but I continue to stress the fact that I feel Phillips is wildly overrated. He’s a 20-30 candidate who’s going to hit in the .270-.285 range, which is extremely valuable, but he certainly shouldn’t have gone in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of drafts when guys like Upton, or a better example Kinsler could be had rounds later. If you can move Phillips for 2nd or 3rd round value with a more proven established hitter and have an underrated 2B who can fill in (think Aaron Hill type) I’d move quickly.