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A tradition since 2010, RotoExperts At the Park is now available to you on RotoExperts.com and its partners. Over the past seven seasons, my exclusive interviews with Major League Baseball players and coaches, designed to bring you key Fantasy Baseball insights, have only been available on radio. Now, in an effort for a wider audience to enjoy my Q and As with your most important Fantasy players, you’ll be able to find the clips right here, as well as On Demand via iTunes, Google Play, Audioboom and other sources. When you come here for the audio, I will add in some key extra Fantasy insights. In this edition, we will start with the Phillies and Mets.
Changeup still evolving for Jerad Eickhoff
In the clip below, the Phillies starter talks about how he worked more on polishing his changeup this spring to further diversify his arsenal. Eickoff has already developed a fine curveball, which he learned in the Texas system before the Cole Hamels trade. Last season he used the changeup only 5.2 percent of the time, and this year he has yet to show a lot of confidence in it now that play has begun for real. He has used it only 1.6 percent of the time. He is throwing his slider a bit more than last year, and his curve usage has increased from 24.2 to 29.5 percent of the time.
Eickhoff has not won a game yet, but he has a 2.55 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. He has already fashioned a 9.12 K/9 rate, and the early results have been promising, although his BABIP seems a bit low at .238 and he also has a 82.6 percent strand rate. Eickhoff should be a very steady middle of the staff Fantasy starter this season. If he can start developing more confidence in that fourth pitch as the season progresses, Fantasy owners can feel even more comfortable with him as a reliable option who regularly works to keep hitters off balance.
Phillies Insider with Matt Gelb
I covered a few key subjects on the Phillies with beat writer Matt Gelb, who covers the team for Philly.com, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On Cesar Hernandez’s early power surge: “He’s put on a little bit of weight. He’s added some strength. He just looks so much more comfortable at the plate. He looks like a guy who is locked in and is not giving away at-bats. Right now he’s confident and the confidence is carrying him.”
Engel’s Angle: Hernandez has more homers (four) than steals (three) right now. The power is an unexpected bonus, but you drafted him for the speed, and the 26.7 HR/FB rate is outrageous. So is the .434 BABIP. Ultimately, he should hit .285 with about 13 homers.
On the closer situation: “Joaquin Benoit is a one inning pitcher, he’s a little older, it’s very possible they trade him in July.”
Engel’s Angle: Hector Neris can keep the job if he starts looking less vulnerable very soon. If not, the team can use Benoit as an alternative. Neris has not locked up the job just yet, but it appears the team wants him to so it can unload Benoit, who turns 40 in late July.
On Vincent Velasquez: “He’s still trying to figure it out. But this guy has higher upside than any other pitcher on their staff right now. He has electric stuff, more than Nola. If he can figure it out and stop trying to strike everyone out, I think they should stick with him in the rotation, see if he can learn it because he has a lot of potential there.”
Engel’s Angle: His first two starts were very rough, and Velasquez already has a 1.67 WHIP. This may be a season of a lot of highs and lows for Velasquez’s owners, as he is just 24 years old and is still learning on the job. He may continue to help you in Ks while torturing your WHIP.
On the top prospects: “I think Jorge Alfaro is going to spend the majority of the season in Triple-A. It’s his last option year, they want him to have a full year at Triple-A. Roman Quinn is off to a slow start but if there is an injury you could see him come up. J.P. Crawford, same thing.”
Engel’s Angle: I would listen to the man here. The Phillies are not expected to be contenders, but all three of these prospects need to show for awhile offensively before you can start thinking of them as waiver adds.
Mets hitting coach Kevin Long on Jay Bruce and more
In the clip below, you’ll hear some great insights from Mets hitting coach Kevin Long on a few notable Mets. When I spoke to Long, Travis d’Arnaud was hitting .270, but his average has fallen since. Long talks about some offseason changes d’Arnaud made to his hitting mechanics. If he can stay healthy, d’Arnaud can hit about .270 with a home run total in the mid-teens. He’s a must-start No. 2 Fantasy catcher when available.
Jay Bruce has been very good so far in April, and Long and I discuss Bruce’s rather newfound and growing respect for analytics, which he detailed in a recent New York Times article. Bruce had the second best HR and RBI totals of his career last year and that is often forgotten because of his August struggles when he first came to New York. With some further adjustments this offseason, Bruce could have his best year yet.
Long also talks about Mets Baseball Research Director T.J. Barra and his influence on the team. He also talks about Asdrubal Cabrera coming off a career year, and why Neil Walker was headed for one last season. We also touched briefly on the David Wright situation. Cabrera and Walker were two terrific later round picks this season and Wright’s outlook remains highly uncertain.
Travis d’Arnaud talks hitting and pitching
The Mets catcher further expands on his mechanical tweaks at the plate, which led to a historic night at the plate earlier this month for a Mets backstop. He also touches on the returns of Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey this year. Wheeler has been hurt by some big innings but has looked encouraging, and d’Arnaud believes Harvey’s swagger and rhythm has returned.