Yes, I’m a Cubs fan, but that’s not why Jorge Soler makes the Risers list. There’s optimism abounding for Cubs fans, and he’s just one of the bright spots for the future.
Players on the Rise
Jorge Soler – I’m already sick of the pun “Soler power,” but I’m certainly not sick of watching him hit. Yes, his BABIP in 22 AB is unsustainable. But there are no red flags early on. His contact rate isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly decent and near league average. He also has a respectable walk rate at 8%, and unlike some power prospects, he sports a very healthy FB% so far. I am always suspicious of batters who may have a strong HR/FB but have a large ground ball tilt, because fewer fly balls means fewer homers. Soler doesn’t have that problem because he hits plenty of fly balls. Even on a relatively bad team, his power and approach can be a huge boost for the final month of the season.
Gregor Blanco – He’s hitting well at the end of August and into September, and he finally decided to hit some HR to boot. However, 3 of his 4 HR are in August, and I don’t expect him to repeat that monthly total at the end of the season. Without any real power, his average is more dependent on his BABIP, and he’s not a player who can consistently keep that above league average. As a #4 OF in deep leagues, he’s worth plugging in if you have no one better, but unless you really need any SB you can find, I’d rather play someone with more power potential in September.
Bryce Harper – He has 4 HR in the last seven days, as well as a BA above .300. The downside is that they’re all solo shots, so his RBI total is weak for that much power, but you should simply be happy that he’s healthy and playing full-time. I don’t like his lower contact rate this season, and his GB/FB isn’t as conducive to hitting HR as it could be, so he’s a bit of a risk for 2015 — and I wouldn’t blame you if you even started to ratchet down his long-term value as well. He has to be healthy, and he has to show he really can hit 30 HR for him to be worthy of his status as a top-10 franchise player. Even this year, experts were picking him near the top for people to build a team around, but I would rather have someone who has played a full season and has a stable, high BA.
Scott Feldman – He threw a complete game shutout in his last start, and aside from one stinker (7 ER) in his last seven starts, he’s been pretty decent. After a very rocky July, he’s been worth using full-time in August. He won’t help in strikeouts, but when he has his walks under control like he does right now, he gives his team a chance to win. Houston isn’t the best team, so those in a playoff H2H matchup may want to look elsewhere, but I’d use him as a #5 SP in roto leagues for the last month.
Odrisamer Despaigne – He’s gone 7 IP with 1 ER in his last two starts, his walks are solid after a spike in July, and he’s capable of striking out a lot of guys (8 K and 9 K in two starts in August). He has shown a ground ball tilt at times, and his home park helps keep down home runs as well. Starters on teams like the Padres often get overlooked except in very deep leagues, but he could help you out even in 12-team leagues. Don’t forget to check weekly and monthly ranks in order to find useful “no-name” guys like Despaigne.
Carlos Carrasco – I’ll admit that I’ve avoided including him in the past, simply because I don’t trust him. However, by the rankings I can’t ignore him as a weekly Riser. He had an awful beginning to the year and lost his spot in the rotation, though some of that horribleness can definitely be attributed to bad luck in BABIP and strand rate. He was fine as a middle reliever, but that doesn’t warrant much value in most leagues. Now that he’s starting again, he’s been both good and lucky. His BABIP and strand rate aren’t sustainable, but his stills are solid (K/9, BB/9, GB%, swinging strike percent), so for September make sure you use him to boost your numbers.
Players on the Decline
Curtis Granderson – Let’s face it: if you’re starting him, you’re desperate for some power. However, a 1-for-24 slide has him ranked as the worst hitter in the last seven days. For the season, his monthly stats form a pretty normal parabolic arc: April was horrible, he got better and hit for power in the middle months (along with a .300 BA in June), and now he’s fallen back to cringe-worthy production. He’s a veteran who may be able to turn it around, but he’s also old and playing in a big home stadium. He did have an anemic BABIP in August, but then again he wasn’t making as great of contact, and his HR/FB fell to 2%. There are safer options for September, but if you really are desperate for a power source, I can’t fault you for trying him.
Alberto Callaspo – There seem to be no shortage of bad slumps in the last seven days. Callaspo is 1 for 20, he doesn’t offer speed or power, and Dunn will take away AB opportunities for him and many other hitters. His only value is in his utility player status, but when a high contact rate doesn’t result in a good BA, there’s really no reason to roster him, even if he plays for a playoff contender.
Nolan Arenado – He had a good August as a whole, but the last week and the beginning of September aren’t impressive. BABIP may be whispering to Lady Luck and taking away some hits, but overall his game is solid moving forward. He still hits a lot of fly balls, and he makes good contact. His line drive percentage is down during this slump, but I don’t see why it can’t bounce back at any moment. There’s no way I’d risk sitting him in favor of some waiver wire pickup. Stick with the guy who’s done well all season.
Tommy Milone – He’s had a string of mediocre starts, and though the last one wasn’t his worst, it doesn’t provide much optimism for September. His strand rate looks a bit unlucky in August, until you consider his rather high HR/FB. The BABIP is also high, but that’s bound to happen when batters are teeing off on your pitches with a line drive rate of 31%. I wouldn’t risk using him — not even if he had two-starts at his pitcher-friendly home field.
Jeremy Hellickson – After a run of productivity, he’s been down for two straight starts. He had a nice August, but one can’t help but wonder whether missing so much time this season will catch up with him. His strikeouts and walks are trending in the wrong direction, and he’s giving up home runs now. It’s a coin flip as to whether this is a blip on the radar or a sign of future struggles this season. I like him to shake off the rust in 2015, but if you have safer options for September, I’d use them.
Ricky Nolasco – One good game followed by a clunker. It seems he’s all over the map, and in any given start he could give up 0 ER or 7 ER. In his last seven starts, he’s given up 0-1 ER twice, but 4+ ER five times. There’s not a lot of middle ground lately. Pure sabermetrictians have kept hoping he’d break out for years because he has a nice K/BB and had developed a decent GB/FB ratio, but by now it’s clear that he’s a poor fantasy option and should only be used in the very best of situations. Even then, I’d rather roll the dice on some youngster randomly pitching a good game than risk Nolasco blowing up my team ERA.