Darius is a fantasy staff writer at Baseball Prospectus.
Darius Austin: Hi everyone, first time doing this so let's stick with easy questions about how good Mike Trout is (extremely).
Dusty (Colorado): Hey Darius, was wondering your thoughts on Twins SS prospect Wander Javier. Do you think he has a shot to be an impact player?
Darius Austin: He just hit a ton as an 18-year-old in Rookie ball and scouts love the tools, so yes, but he was also an 18-year-old in Rookie ball. Long way to go, plenty of upside.
Chris (Baltimore): Barraclough or Steckenrider for da Fish?
Darius Austin: Can I say Brad Ziegler? Assuming the Marlins move him too, then I'll go Barraclough. The walk rate might make you throw up a bit but he's more established on the team and it's not as though Steckenrider has exceptional control.
Cole Whittier (Pasadena, CA): Who are the five best prospects who will debut in MLB this season? (cup o' coffee incl.)
Darius Austin: Assuming Ohtani doesn't count, Acuna, Torres, Senzel, Jimenez...and I think we may well see Vlad Jr. late on, so I'll say him.
SteveRossBB (Canberra): Hey Darius,
Where do you rank Robbie Ray this year and do you think he's a Cy Young contender in 2018?
Darius Austin: Towards the back end of the top 20. Strikeout potential is obviously still huge, but he didn't make any strides with the walk rate and without a step forwards there, he'll need a big slice of luck again to have elite ratios and be in Cy Young territory. I'll be very happy to be proven wrong!
Shawn miller (F4l backroom ): Luis medina info por favor please? Means a lot
Darius Austin: I am certainly no expert so I will point you in the direction of the Yankees Top 10 here at BP, where he is discussed in detail. Excellent fastball, good changeup, and extremely young with plenty of unsurprising control issues for an 18-year-old with a high-nineties fastball is the quick version. Another player with a long way to go but plenty of upside.
Tatt Mhompson (St. Louis): What is the chance Luke Gregerson actually gets 20+ saves?
Darius Austin: 40%? Seems to be the front-runner but he doesn't have that proven closer reputation that makes you think they're just going to automatically run him out there, and has spent most of his career in setup-type roles. I think he's still the most likely to get saves, but I'm not so sure about it that I'm willing to go over 50%.
Chuck Anderson (Oshkosh WI): Do you think the Mets have a plan? Short-term? Long-term? Who are they?
Darius Austin: I think people in the organization have plans. I don't know whether they are good plans or even if those plans are consistent across the org. I am sure there are plenty of smart people working for the team, and they also have an ownership situation which is, to put it mildly, not great. And no, I don't know why they hate Wilmer Flores.
bmmcmahon (Los Angeles): After selling at the deadline last season, I have a lot of keeper options to sort through. I am in a standard 12-team mixed-league 5x5 roto league with a $260 budget, but we use OBP instead of AVG and SV + 1/2 H instead of just saves. We can keep 5 MLB players; the first year without a price increase, in subsequent years price goes up $10 each year. We can also keep one minor leaguer (I have both Mejia and Acuna and could burn an MLB slot on one of them if I want) I have the following possible keepers:
Nomar Mazara $11
Justin Turner $9
Gio Gonzalez $4
Jerad Eickhoff $2
Jon Gray $2
Julio Teheran $2
Orlando Arcia $2
Joey Gallo $1
Rafael Devers $1
Rhys Hoskins $1
Travis Shaw $1
Francisco Mejia $1
Ronald Acuna $1
Which 6 would you keep?
Darius Austin: As much as I think he's the safest bet here, I'm tempted to throw back Turner just based the on the savings and your quantity of $1 options. I'll say Turner, Gallo, Devers, Hoskins, Shaw, Acuna, but I wouldn't blame you for saving the money on Turner and keeping Gray instead.
Tom Pringle (The Azores): Do you think Freddie Galvis will see much of a change in his power at Petco? He's always been one that *could* generate a lot of power, but never really achieved.
Darius Austin: Petco isn't the worst place to hit homers in the league, but it's not far off. I think Galvis has found a way to make the most of his power, and he's still not a very good hitter. There's always those extra games in Coors Field, though...
Andrew D (Canada): Which pitcher are you looking to target most outside of the top 30 and why?
Darius Austin: Luis Castillo looked incredible down the stretch last year. There's a lot to like - big fastball, strikeout potential, plenty of ground balls. It's a shame he's in GABP. I also think Chase Anderson still isn't getting full credit for what he did.
Chad (OKC): I have 5 of the first 6 picks in our first year player draft for our HTH dynasty league. I feel like Ohtani is locked in at 1. Please rank your next 5 targets out of Gore,Greene,Robert,McKay,Hiura,Adell,Ramos,Royce Lewis. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your answer.
Darius Austin: I'd take Robert, Hiura, Lewis, Gore, Adell. I know some of the BP staff who know a lot more about prospects than me don't see McKay being all that great for fantasy in that he could be a fine option on both sides of the ball but nothing special at either. It's hard to see how you're going to feel too bad about any combination after the draft, though.
Paul (Denmark): Is Aroldis Chapman still a top 5 closer? Top 10? Top...?
Darius Austin: Still top 5. I have Jansen and Kimbrel ahead of him, and I have lingering concerns about his health after his wobble last year, but he rebounded nicely after that and the strikeout total is still going to be massive for a reliever.
Charlie (Sacramento): Which Justin are you more bullish on for this season - Justin Smoak or Justin Bour?
Darius Austin: Smoak for me. I believe in the changes he made and as long as he's not getting destroyed by breaking balls, I think he's going to keep hitting for plenty of power and a decent average. Bour has monstrous power but I'm not convinced that the platoon issues are gone and that could severely limit his upside.
mattofaction (Fresno, CA): What are your expectations for Steven Matz this year? I still believe in the potential, but the injuries, man, the injuries.
Darius Austin: Very low. The health issues really hurt him even when he was pitching as he just wasn't using the slider, and I need to see him healthy and using a full arsenal before I would put any significant expectations on him.
Justin Mason (SF): I just put my life savings on the Giants to win the World Series. How scared should I be and should I tell my wife?
Darius Austin: Very and yes. At least then you'll have tons of time to watch baseball when she kicks you out.
Kyle (Austin): I like Nomar Mazara. I'm holding out hope he can take a step forward. I know he is very young. Is he ever gonna be the monster we want him to be?
Darius Austin: I think there's still a good chance there is. The power is still in there, he just needs to improve his approach to tap into it more often. There's a chance he never does that too, of course, but 22 is not really the age we should be giving up on anyone on. If he was still a prospect now people would be incredibly excited about him.
Dave (DC): So... ok, we can't accurately predict the shape of production at a given position. But those predictions *are* tied, in some sense anyway, to "useful preparations...such as player evaluation and dollar values." Where does that leave us? You say tiers are useful... but your research seems to suggest they're illusory. What does your draft prep for a given position focus on?
Darius Austin: The takeaway for me (the Fact or Fiction column this week for anyone wondering) was really that people can get too tied into tiers and make the mistake of letting it override their values. I think we can have a fear of missing out on certain players or tiers at a position when often the difference isn't as great as that fear suggests. So I think tiers as a way to organise things, perhaps even as a way to indicate that you have a group of players whose error bars overlap significantly, can be useful tools. When we get caught up in thinking about a tier drop-off or a low replacement level and prioritise that over our values, that's the problem.
Ahuck Canderson (Wisconsin): How much of a bump should Yelich be getting? Is he overrated now?
Darius Austin: A round, maybe. I kinda thought he was overrated now, but then he went 57th on average last year, and he's barely in the top 50 this year, so if you factor in the park and assume that the Brewers have at least as good a lineup as the Marlins did last year, that's probably about right. Not sure I buy the power bump in Milwaukee, but it can't hurt.
Art Vandelay (NY): I really enjoy your work at Friends with Fantasy Benefits and Bat Flips and Nerds! Why are people taking Carlos Correa over Francisco Lindor? What am I missing.
Darius Austin: How is the import/export business? Correa is a 23-year-old who hit .315 and probably would have had a similar home run total to Lindor if he hadn't been hurt. Lindor has defied everyone's expectations of his offensive ability, particularly on the power front, whereas Correa was always expected to be a stud offensively. It's possible Lindor just keeps doing this and his speed makes him the better fantasy option, but there's a strong possibility that Correa outstrips him in the other four categories this year and finishes ahead.
Ceej (Pittsburgh): 10 OBP home league and I wanna go snag Trout. He wants a little more to Springer+Kluber. Would you add Albies or add in swapping my Rizzo for his Ozuna? It’s a ton, but Trout is even that much better in OBP
Darius Austin: That is a ton. I think Springer and Kluber should be enough to get it done. Trout is even better in OBP, but so are Springer and Rizzo. I would stick with what you've got if he wants even more.
Wike Merner (Tennessee): Should we begin to drop players in our ranks if the are still MLB free agents?
Darius Austin: I'm not there yet. There's still enough time left that I'm not worried about preparation or that they won't find the playing time. At some point that possibility might start to look more real but we're in uncharted territory here and if anything it might just create some good value opportunities.
Pep (Wisconsin): If you were the Brewers, which starting pitcher move would you make? Archer trade, Darvish sign, Arrietta sign, other, or none at all?
Darius Austin: I'd want Archer if possible, but you've got to think the Rays would want an absolute ton for him given his quality and contract. I'd take Darvish over Arrieta if they were the two options. Realistically I think they need to add at least one more mid-range option at minimum if they really want to contend. It sure would help if Jimmy Nelson makes a quick recovery.
Chris (Baltimore): Is it worth keeping Mike Montgomery at around pick 300 in a 15 team 5 x 5?
Darius Austin: I mean technically it could be worth it, but I think he needs to take a step forwards with his strikeouts and control AND the Cubs need to use him as a full-time starter, which they haven't shown much inclination to do so far, for him to be a significant value at that spot.
jipcho (Taipei, Taiwan): Can Willie Calhoun be the reincarnation of Kirby Puckett?
Darius Austin: The plate discipline numbers could look similar, I guess, but I'd expect more power and less average from Calhoun. He seems a very strong bet to be a great hitter, which he'll need to be with no position.
Baseball Brit (Seoul): What are the relative strengths & weaknesses of playing fantasy on: a) ESPN; b) CBS Sports; c) Yahoo; d) Other?
How many points do you think a 'win' should be worth in a standard points league. Is 5 too high/low?
Also - how does a basic dynasty league work? I'd love to get involved in one.
Darius Austin: That's a lot! I would say very much depends on preference/what you're trying to do. CBS is often considered to have the deepest player pool, for instance. There are plenty of other providers coming into the market too that offer different things. I'd play around and see what interfaces/apps you like and think about what kind of league you'd like to play in. Don't use wins is the easy answer to Question 2. Dynasty leagues come in all shapes and sizes. The basic principle is that you can keep most, if not all of your players from year to year, but beyond that there's huge scope. There are plenty of forums, groups etc. out there where you can find people looking for replacements or to start new leagues.
Dennis (Philadelphia): Nick Williams exceeded (my) expectations in 2017. What do you expect of him in 2018 and beyond?
Darius Austin: The strikeouts and extreme aggression in general concerns me. That said, he's clearly got great bat control, which he'll need if he's going to succeed with this approach. I think he'll probably have streaks where he looks outstanding and streaks where you wonder if he's a major leaguer.
Cole Whittier (Pasadena, CA): Who has the best chance of becoming an ace of this group - Whitley, Keller, Kopech, Honeywell, Puk?
Darius Austin: I'll go for Kopech. It's very close with Whitley, they both have a chance to be high-end starters, but I think Kopech is a little closer and therefore slightly more likely to reach that kind of upside (bearing in mind that 'ace' is an awfully difficult level to reach). Puk is a step behind those two, and Honeywell and Keller are safer to me but I also don't see ace upside.
Chris (Baltimore): Mondesi and Profar? Any hope for them in 2018?
Darius Austin: I definitely have hope for Mondesi. Unfortunately the Royals' love affair with Alcides Escobar continues, but Mondesi has the kind of speed that makes him interesting in fantasy even if he doesn't get a full season. I think Profar might have just missed too much time and suffered too much from the shoulder injuries. He's only 25 this month, but I don't think he's the same guy we were all excited about 5 years ago, and I don't know when - or if - he's going to get a full-time shot to show us what he can be in the majors.
Darius Austin: That'll do it for today. Thanks for the questions everyone!