Players on the Rise
Chris Carter – Anyone who’s hit 6 HR in the last week has to be on this list. His power isn’t under scrutiny, though — it’s the rest of his game. What are the positives? His HR/FB is over 20% for a third straight year; again, no one’s questioning his power. He’s even hitting more fly balls this year, which explains why he’s nearly matched his HR total from last year despite fewer AB. And because of his power, he’s generating a good amount of RBI, ranked just outside the top-25 hitters. However, there’s a lot of red flags here. His walk rate is down for the third straight year. It’s true that he’s posting his best contact rate since his rookie season, but it’s still a horrific 65%. And even though his BABIP is a bit low (due to his high FB%, because fly balls that don’t leave the park are often outs), he’s still not hitting any better than .230 for the season; the BA is propped up by those HR, and any decrease will lead to worse average. If you’re desperate for HR and RBI, he’s serviceable. But there’s not much hope for any significant improvement on his game in any other category.
Corey Dickerson – He homered in three straight games this week, and he’s going to continue to get playing time. That’s all you really need to know. He’s cooled from his first half when his BABIP was over .400, but now that he’s normalized a bit more, he’s still producing in every category. There’s not much else to say about a player who’s provided good value every month of the year. He’s not going to be available in the FA pool, but for keeper leagues, if you can get him in a trade, do so.
Travis Snider – Can you sense the pattern for batters on the rise? Homers have been abundant for Snider as well. He had a slow start to his season, followed by some lucky metrics in June and July. August has been in between the two, and not all that great except for the 3 HR in this last week. Unless you really need playing time for a #4 or #5 OF, I wouldn’t recommend Snider above the other Pirate outfielders, including Harrison. He hits his HR in bunches, and there’s no guarantee he’ll do so again.
Jon Lester – Well, at least he didn’t pull a Jason Hammel and explode upon arriving in Oakland. His last two starts had high K totals, even though he gave up 3 ER in his last one. The new home park may help reduce his HR/FB, but he hasn’t struggled with that since 2012. I’m less high on him as a long-term keeper simply because we don’t know where he’ll end up, but redraft leagues should make use of him for their playoff stretches.
Tsuyoshi Wada – He’s been a Band-Aid for the Cubs rotation since the trade of Samardzija and Hammel, and he’s had a good week. In fact he’s only had one bad game, where he gave up 5 ER. For deep keeper leagues, bear in mind that he’s not young at 33, but for the playoff stretch this year, I like his potential contribution. To be fair, he’s been a bit lucky in BABIP and strand rate this month, but he’s also improved his K/9 and BB/9 from July to August, so it’s possible for him to post an ERA below 3.50 the rest of the way along with decent strikeout totals.
Players on the Decline
Josh Rutledge – Y’know, he teased with some intriguing power and speed early in his career, but since then he’s giving his owners the cold shoulder. Now that Tulo’s out for the season, Rutledge may get more playing time, but he doesn’t really deserve it when looking at his offense. Yes, his BABIP is very unlucky in August, but part of that is due to his poor approach: he’s not making hard contact, he has a high GB%, and his contact rate is awful. I would pass on him right now even if I was desperate for playing time due to injury; I’d rather get a part-time player doing well than gamble on Rutledge proving he’s worth a roster spot.
Martin Prado – He’s not doing so well this month, and especially this week. However, one point of hope is that his BABIP is unsustainably low, so with some normalization his BA should improve going forward. I do wonder whether he’s trying too hard for the fences, though, because his FB% has skyrocketed: his highest monthly rate in Arizona this season was 29%, but in August he’s at 43%. His contact rate is also down, so he may be pushing to prove himself and provide some power for his new team. The approach isn’t working. I’d give him a mulligan for now, but teams in the playoffs may want a safer option for the rest of the season.
Oscar Taveras – He hasn’t done much of anything since his call-up, and the short answer is that it isn’t going to change this season. He’s sporting a ground ball rate over 50% every month, so when you look at that allegedly low BABIP, don’t think that it’ll regress to near .300 and he’ll suddenly start hitting better. If you hit the ball into the ground that much and don’t have the speed of Juan Pierre or Billy Hamilton, then you’re going to get out a lot. This is the kind of prospect that can be maddening for keeper owners: he’s too talented to release, but for playoff runs he’s just taking up space (hopefully on your bench). For redraft leagues, if you haven’t dropped him by now, do so ASAP.
John Lackey – After a nice debut for Saint Louis, he put up a stinker in his last start. With starters it’s hard to judge them on just one or two starts early in a month, so my caution is in regard to his whole season. He’s been a bit inconsistent from month to month, with lucky BABIP and bad strand rate in one month, followed by the opposite the next month. His strong K/9 dropped in June, but he still retained a great BB/9. Then in July when his strikeouts bounce back a bit, his walk rate rose as well. The season totals still look respectable, but if you’re in your playoffs right now, there are safer options. If you can trade him and get decent value in return, I’d strongly consider it.
Miles Mikolas – I’ll be surprised if most of you didn’t say, “Who?” He’s got 8 starts under his belt, but 3 were horrendous and 2 were blah, which outweighs his 3 decent starts. Texas wanted to give him a look because of his strong minor league stats (and major league equivalencies). However, those skills have not translated to the MLB level, with a poor K/9 for fantasy purposes and a K/BB under 1.5. Leave him in the FA pool even when he’s a two-start pitcher. Dynasty teams in full rebuild may want to consider stashing him, but I’m not holding my breath for a good value in 2015, given that he was mostly a reliever in the minors. That means he’ll need to stretch out more as a starter, or he may simply end up in the bullpen as a middle man, which doesn’t help most fantasy teams.