Are we finally in the clear? I’m a younger fellow and haven’t experienced as many baseball Aprils as many of my readers and co-workers. But that has to be one of the worst Aprils in recent memory. It has literally brought to the table the idea of pretty much not playing baseball at all in the month, or at least keeping it away entirely from stadiums that would be more “at-risk.”
What the weather has also done is fueled debates with weather-related instances of excuse. Plenty of pitchers have won “cold-weather” games. Plenty of balls have died quietly in the air or hitters have come to the plate locked up and not fluid in their mechanics. The weather can also effect pitchers too, particularly those who may struggle controlling/gripping the ball more than others in the cold. Now though, all those excuses are about to be gone.
If your offense has been struggling to date, and you’ve just been hoping for a heat-up, the actual weather heat-up may just be what you need. And hopefully, this article can help you spot a few more guys potentially worth adding or moving to improve that fantasy offense.
Evaluating Trendy Hitters
Ronald Acuna & Gleyber Torres
I’ve written quite a bit already this season about the call-ups and value of both Acuna and Torres. Right now each is hitting above .300 and providing daily value for fantasy teams, but I still don’t know if I’m shying away from shopping either one of these players. I may very well have underrated Ronald Acuna coming into the year, but right now his value might be really high. As I said last week, if you want to enjoy the ride on either of these players, I won’t knock you for it. But personally, I wouldn’t be desperate to move him. I’d be seeing if anyone wanted to pay an extra premium to ride that ride. **All of my pieces apply to redraft leagues, but for these two it ESPECIALLY applies for redraft. Acuna and Torres are potential core blue chips in a Dynasty build.
Escobar, the 3B / SS / DH on ESPN leagues playing in Minnesota, is actually ESPN’s most added player as of right now. Presumably, this has a lot to do with notable injuries, primarily Corey Seager, who needed replacement in just about every league. I like Escobar as a player who has solid value in Mixed Leagues particularly as a rotational part between 3B / SS / CI / MI. I don’t however think the upside is too much more than a utility man at this time. The LD% is excellent but that is a fluctuating stat and his BB / K are within his career norms. If the ownership% increase is due to a change in perception, I would try to sell high. I don’t believe many owners would pay too much for Escobar, but he is a solid and flexible fantasy asset.
Peraza is the trickiest one for me because I don’t necessarily believe in him as a hitter yet, but speed is such a valuable commodity in Fantasy baseball. He’s still not walking, but he does seem to be making better contact in terms of Hard% as well as a pretty sharp decline in Pop-Up% in the early results. Peraza‘s speed makes him a very high upside player, so he’s another player like Acuna and Torres that I’m not willing to move for just anything. But, my lack of faith in his ability to sustain success and get on-base as a professional hitter is still there. So I would be willing to hear those offers and see if I could find a way to sell of Peraza to a speed needy team for a player I could never have dreamed of acquiring for Peraza‘s price.
There’s been a bit written about Anthony Rizzo and his struggles so far this year. Obviously the back injury has something to do with it and the time spent on the DL makes that a relatively easy argument. Pitchers seem to be attacking Rizzo more as he’s walking less and seeing a career high proportion of his pitches in the strike zone. He’s starting to heat up a bit though, and if the DL stint has made his back feel a bit better perhaps he could start turning it around. His abysmal BABIP alone is a reason to recommend Rizzo as a Buy-Low. So why isn’t Rizzo a buy-low? Because you obviously can’t use the back injury to write-off the seasonal performance struggles without worrying that the back is still an issue. I don’t believe Rizzo‘s broken by any means in terms of his baseball ability, and if he is healthy I’m sure he will adjust and heat up and improve at the plate. But is he healthy?
Buying & Selling After Week 5, 2018
At this point, I’ve already fallen on the sword. I don’t believe I can make it any worse. Ian Desmond continues to possess three traits that very few hitters in baseball can claim: Speed, Power, and Coors Field. So far, the latter hasn’t helped Desmond enough to make his Batting Average not absolutely dreadful. Maybe I’m giving the Whale of Park Factors too much credit. I really don’t think I am though. I think we see Desmond start to trend upwards throughout May. It’s been a bumpy ride but I still see him finishing with a .260 or better average, 20 HRs, and 20 SBs, and you don’t have to pay nearly the price for that to get him in a trade right now.
Kinsler should probably headline this section, as he is the player I am most intrigued by on this list, and the one that I am most enthusiastic about going out and getting. Kinsler is off to another rough start, and at his age that’s really scary. It is scaring me a little. But it isn’t scaring me enough to ignore the fact that Kinsler has a better BB% (8.9%) than K% (6.3%) so far this year. He’ll threaten 100 Rs (at least per 155-162 games), have a decent average, and decent power and speed numbers as well. The .231 BABIP will come around.
Scott Kingery & Dansby Swanson
I’m a bit less enthusiastic about these guys than Kinsler despite their youth. There’s a lot to like about Kingery and Swanson. There’s also a lot, primarily the early strikeouts from both hitters, not to like. Swanson got off to a hot start but his BABIP is over .380 and his K% is high, and in recent weeks he’s been banged up and trending downward according to Adds/Drops. Kingery was an early season darling after a contract extension, but has since hit .217 in the Majors. Kingery is going to have at least 2B/SS eligibility and he has logged time at 3B and OF as well. Kingery could be at worst a super-utility infielder, and if any of these young players takes another step forward, it could be great for your fantasy team.
This is the classic Godfather Part III scene from Mr. Pacino: Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. I was finally convinced that I wouldn’t have to go back to the well with Davidson. His cold streak had brought most to my side. But then 4 HRs in two days and Davidson is soaring up ownership%’s. My take? Nothing has changed. My gripe with Davidson has always been the same: fails to hit 4-Seamers and Curves. Even during this run of hot performances, Davidson has managed 2 HRs on sinkers and 2 HRs on sliders in the last two weeks, while putting up dreadful .154 BA, .308 SLG and .167 BA, .167 SLG performances on 4-Seamers and Curveballs respectively. You may be saying to yourself “Well, he’s doing it now.” Yeah, he is. And I would even stream him in some DFS match-ups against Sinker/Slider pitchers, but as a whole this weakness is too substantial to me. I still have a hard time seeing Davidson consistently making it over the .210-.220 BA mark in a season with this profile, and I think with proper scouting reports it could be a lot worse.
More fun with pitch specifics in the AL Central! Do you want to know the easiest way to explain why Jorge Soler has never been a successful major league hitter? Because he sucks at anything not named “Fastball.” I mean seriously, just check his career numbers against three of the major pitch types, Sliders, Curves, and Change-Ups:
Bad, bad, and bad. Soler has hit a Home Run off of a Change-Up and Curveball so far this year, and his early return numbers in some of these categories are promising, but as a whole I haven’t found anything to me that really suggested his poor pitch recognition has improved. For right now, I’m selling. But I would keep an eye out for Soler. He’s easy to watch with a scouting report for baseball fans: if he’s making really good contact and tracking breaking balls/off-speed pitches really well, it may be time to ignore this advice and invest.
Final Hitting Notes
Continued Praise for Detroit’s Underrated One-Two Punch
Yeah, they may not be the best team or line-up or even players in Fantasy Baseball, but Leonys Martin and Jeimer Candelairo, who are both continuously climbing in Ownership%, are worth a look in far more fantasy leagues. Martin hasn’t been stealing bases, but I do believe he could still contribute there. Candelairo was a pretty well-regarded (and blocked) prospect when he was with the Cubs. As a Switch Hitter batting second and heating up, Candelairo is definitely not someone who is “just a guy” having a “decent run.” He’s a very talented prospect who could be maturing into something pretty good right now.
Obligatory Brandon Nimmo Mention
Had a multi-hit start. Starting again on Friday (today, from the Writer’s perspective). Cespedes was fine but left a game earlier in the week with an injury, Jay Bruce has taken many reps at first base, and Brandon Nimmo continues to tap his bat on the door. The writing is one the wall. The cracks are going to show. Nimmo is going to be necessary for this team and they’re going to agree with me very soon. Still a luxury stash due to Playing Time.
Solving the Atlanta Line-Up Situation
There is no single baseball development, injury’s not included, that has frustrated me as much as Ender Inciarte‘s demotion to the 9th spot. For one, it is bad baseball sense and bad managerial sense. Yes, there are a lot of mouths to feed in that line-up, but there is absolutely no statistical argument for batting a good hitter last. Here’s how you make the line-up: you find your best hitters, you mash them at the top, and then you readjust them a little bit. If your process is dropping good hitters to the bottom, your process is wrong. .300+ BA, .340 OBP hitters do not and should not bat 9th. It is a massive reduction in plate appearances. Better hitters should be hitting better more.
And before anyone wants to make the ludicrous argument that batting 9th isn’t so bad because he will have a lot of stolen base opportunities and such, this is just not an accurate assessment of the situation. Losing the amount of plate appearances that Inciarte will lose if the drop from 1 to 9 is permanent is SUBSTANTIAL. It doesn’t matter that “the second time through he’ll be like the lead-off hitter,” as many like to imply. That’s great, but what’s more substantial is the fact that he won’t be batting in the first inning, often in the second inning, and will likely get 1 less AB/PA than his teammates every single day, as opposed to the opposite end of that spectrum.
One last PITCHING note…
On the last MLFS radio show I was on, I aggressively recommended Dylan Bundy. I still believe Dylan Bundy turned a corner. I also don’t believe the Dylan Bundy who showed up the last two games is the same Dylan Bundy who showed up the first two, and there’s plenty of evidence here that we may be on the cusp of an injury. Bundy’s obviously never been the poster boy for health, and his Sinker, which had been averaging between 91.5 and 92.5 MPH throughout the year, was down under 90 MPH for the first time in his last outing. His start versus Cleveland was pretty masterful. He mixed his pitches, dominated with his slider, kept hitters off-balance by starting them with Curveballs, and got plenty of whiffs from a flashing-plus Change-Up. Right now I don’t know how you can touch him. Seems like an overreaction but that’s what you do when someone’s fastball drops down to 89 MPH all of a sudden. I’m not saying I sell for pennies, but I’m also not trying to acquire him right now.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 6th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #119 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Klinker. Kyle has been an owner in MLFS baseball, and basketball leagues for over 5 years. He also has a couple of championships under his belt over that span in some tough leagues. We loving refer to him as “The Red Rocket.”