The Trade Deadline has come and passed. A few players/Padres are still switching teams (Tyson Ross, Jordan Lyles), but for the most part, the major transactions are over. Teams have made their moves and are aiming for their shot at immortality in October/November.
For fantasy leagues however, whether your trade deadline has passed or not, there is still time to look for low-owned, potentially impact players. After a couple outlooks, I take a look at potential impact adds at each position.
Could Jonathan Villar be Relevant Again?
The question is not “Can Jonathan Villar reclaim his 2016 glory,” the question is if he can be relevant. He has speed. He has power, at least enough to stick out next to his speed. The question is purely based on the hit tool, and particularly the plate discipline.
After 2016, I was raving about Jonathan Villar, his multi-tooled approach, and his ability to repeat as a major fantasy asset in 2017. His 2016 O-Swing%, or the % of pitches outside of the K-Zone that Villar swung at, was incredibly low. His combination of Swinging in the K-Zone and not chasing pitches was very on par with elite Plate Discipline hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Votto in 2016. This plate discipline looked relatively sustainable to me— except that it wasn’t. He chased 5% more often in 2017, and his overall Swing% jumped up as well. His BB% declined from over 11% to under 7%.
His Plate Discipline, while perhaps not nearly as good as I believed it might be following 2016, is still decent. The problem is that, with his limited contact potential, a Jonathan Villar with poor Plate Discipline generates far more Soft Contact, and far more easy outs. In 2016, Villar struck out 25.6% of the time with an 11.3% Pop-Up% and 20.5% Soft%. In 2017, these metrics raised respectively to 30.3%, 13.8%, and 27.0%. I don’t think it would be a stretch for me to allege that the worst outcomes for a hitter are Strikeouts, Pop-Ups, and Soft-Contact. Without his plate discipline, Villar is definitely at risk of hitting for a .220 or worse BA with the current state of his performance.
But what can he do? Villar to me represents a player that can likely be had for nothing, has a more clear job now, a similarly pro-HR park, and the kind of rare speed that can really change a fantasy lineup. He doesn’t need to hit .240, and he doesn’t need to be the player who won fantasy leagues in 2016. He has 17 HRs and 37 SBs over his last two partial seasons and 729 PAs, meaning that a 15/30 pace for Villar is still not really outside of the realm of possibility. All you then need him to do is hit into a little batted ball luck and hit .240-.260 for him to be a borderline top 100 player. Keep in mind when considering the past two seasons: a lot of what has taken away from Villar’s fantasy value is the combination of his poor performance AND his inability to stay on the field, for performance or health. Maybe the Breyvic Valera’s of the world relegate Villar even on this O’s team, but I doubt it. This acquisition doesn’t make sense for the Orioles if they don’t give him a shot to bounce back. If he’s locked into everyday PT with his Speed, Jonathan Villar deserves to be picked up in some of the 90+% of leagues he is currently available in.
Final Verdict: Jonathan Villar has been bad the last two years, but a lot of his overall lack of fantasy value has been from his lack of full-time Plate Appearances. Someone with Villar’s speed doesn’t need to be a good baseball player to be a good fantasy asset. He does, however, demand to be played. He has a far more clear opportunity for that now, and I think a change of pace combined with Villar’s sub-10% Ownership% mean that now is a good time to take a flier on a player who could be a true impact MI for the rest of the season, making Villar a strong BUY.
Who is Carlos Rodon?
I think the heading question, as I’m addressing it, has to be taken as a multiple-choice-esque question with options ranging from the player he was at 23-24 and one of the better pitchers in Baseball. Let’s just start with who Carlos Rodon was prior to 2018.
Many who follow prospects knew who Carlos Rodon was far before he was even eligible for the Draft as a College Pitcher. Even a year out, Rodon was considered a clear top prospect of the draft class, as a well polished pitcher with a projectable Fastball and wipe-out Slider that were expected to translate quickly to the MLB level. The change-up was still a variable for Rodon.
When Rodon began his career as an MLB Starter, he struggled a bit with his control (3.8 BB/9) and his splits (.222/.294/.306 v. LHH; .256/.338/.412 v. RHH) while excelling in early career strikeouts (9.2 K/9) and finishing his first couple years with mixed results (3.95 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). Digging a bit deeper, it isn’t hard to see the disparity in why these results occur: the need to continue to lean on one particular pitch.
Carlos Rodon’s Slider has absolutely immaculate metrics. Throughout the first few seasons of Rodon’s career, the Slider had limited hitters to a .162 BA and .244 SLG while striking out 233 batters. The second best pitch on any of these metrics? His second lowest single-pitch BA is .282, second lowest SLG% .463, and second highest K total 96. Rodon has had a disproportionate amount of his career success come via the Slider. This is an obvious double-edged sword. It is obviously encouraging that Rodon can create such great results on this pitch, but ultimately he may be a bit more “Chris Archer” with fewer Ks if he can’t bring the repertoire together.
Now I haven’t been discussing Rodon’s 2018 as of yet. Rodon, to date, has been considerably better in 2018, at least in terms of ERA. His 2018 ERA of 2.94 is very solid especially in a hitter friendly Guaranteed Rate Park environment. Some of his numbers, the .212 BABIP for instance, suggests that there’s a bit of fluke into what Rodon’s doing. But between the BABIP and the K/9, what interests me the most about Rodon is the performance of the Fastball and Change-Up, particularly the Change. It has always been a projectable pitch, and this year it is finally putting up some solid numbers, allowing only a .310 SLG. The whiffs aren’t great, and I still believe that there’s some statistical adjustment to this change-up coming, but if Rodon truly has improved this pitch— if he can throw a legitimate third pitch that can limit damage against opposing hitters/righties, than Rodon can take a legitimate step towards fulfilling on his top prospect promise.
His splits have already evened this year— while his career OPS v. LHP has barely changed from .599 (2015-2017) to .598 (2018), his career OPS v. RHP has improved from .795 (2015-2017) to .616 (2018). Small sample? Absolutely. But it is a small sample of making the improvements I want to see from Carlos Rodon.
Final Verdict: This one is more of a “Hold” than a “Buy” for me. I do think there’s going to be some significant regression coming. I don’t completely buy into the change-up continuing to produce as it has to date. But he’s filling in the right gaps for me. Unless I can get a surprising offer, I’m not likely to sell. I would buy if the owner isn’t too keen on him, but given the current asking price he’s a HOLD.
Special: Impact Players
A month or two ago I dealt with under owned players that represented good adds at every position. Today I’m going to do something similar but a bit different. When I usually rank and value players, I place a high importance on likelihood of success. The goal with these players is to find players that aren’t necessarily the most likely to find success, but rather have a bit of extra upside in their game that allows them to have a potentially large impact over the past two months.
I am using 25.0% as a threshold by ESPN Ownership%’s.
Austin Hedges — May not be the typical idea of an impact bat as a defense-first catcher, but Hedges is hot right now, and with the already guaranteed playing time, Hedges does have a chance in my mind to ride out this hot streak and be a potentially impact catcher for the rest of the season. Hedges is currently only 7.5% owned.
Steven Pearce — Full disclosure, I absolutely hated the potentials I was tasked with sifting through for rest of season value. The best chance I see of a player being a true impact under 25.0% owned is if Steven Pearce can earn himself a greater role with the Boston Red Sox. He’s swinging a hot bat right now and does technically carry some flexibility, albeit for a team that is stuffed full about everywhere. But if Moreland were to be hurt, or if Pearce found another way into a full time role, then I do believe there’s an avenue for quite a bit of upside in Steven Pearce. Hard to own in Weekly leagues. 13.6% Owned.
Jonathan Villar — Part of the reason I was compelled to write this column was due to its association with Villar, who I profile above. I’m not confident he has rest of season value. But there’s very few players who are 10.3% owned and have both a full time job and the ability to hit half a dozen homers and steal a dozen bases. He is the perfect player for this column— a true potential impact, but not necessarily a floor play.
Jeimer Candelairo — Matt Duffy, SS pick below, also works here, and is a preferable target to me. Candelairo has struggled this year after a hot start, but he is a solid, talented hitting prospect who will have every chance to succeed for the rest of the season. With September ball coming, I think Candelairo, 12.4% owned, fits this category.
Matt Duffy — Don’t know if he quite fits the essence of the list, because I believe he has a substantial floor when he’s healthy. That said, Duffy is my favorite pick at the Shortstop position to be added potentially with a strong chance of having a rest of season impact on fantasy rosters. Duffy’s ownership% isn’t quite in the 3.0% toilet is was early in the season, but 21.7% doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either.
Kevin Kiermaier — Easily my biggest whiff this year, injury or not, I truly believe that at his peak health Kevin Kiermaier is a top 100 player. He can hit for a decent average and possesses both power and speed. He’s healthy now, and recently had a decent stretch to end the month of July. If Kiermaier can produce a .250 or better average the rest of the way it could come with a half dozen HRs and a dozen SBs similar to Jonathan Villar, but with a hit tool I believe in more. Kiermaier is only 9.1% owned.
Outfield is a bigger category, so here’s a couple extras just under the 25.0% threshold: Manny Margot (San Diego) and Mallex Smith (Tampa Bay). Margot is a potential all around player with some power and quite a bit of speed at the top of a line-up. Smith is more of a one trick pony, but when he gets running it is a very good trick.
That’s all I have for this week. Next week I’ll focus on some Impact rest of season SPs, as well as a few other players.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday July 29th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #131 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 Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Sunday and he focuses on spot starting pitchers for the coming week.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts, and James Wilk live August 2nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #87 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything NFC South!