The Angels are a hot team right now, and it’s no surprise that they have 4 of the top 16 batters in the last week, which is good because none of their starters rank in the top 70 P for the week. I’ll take the hot Angels in order of highest to lowest rank, along with an eye toward keeper league value for 2015.
Players on the Rise
Howie Kendrick – He’s got a high weekly BA, and he’s hit 2 HR, but he’s likely to have a lower HR total this season than last year. At least he’s running a bit more in 2014. It goes without saying that MI can be weak, and so his stats play well enough there. I have no problem using a full-time player on MLB’s best team down the stretch, even though his BA this year is less solid that it’s been in the past. As for keeper leagues, there’s value in decent MI, but I wouldn’t keep him above any position player with even slightly better stats. He’s not going to get any better at his age.
Kole Calhoun – Back-to-back games with HR certainly helps a weekly ranking. At least early on this month, he’s putting up a higher FB% and lower GB%, which may bode well for a binge of September homers. However, if he regresses back to 45% ground balls, it will continue to keep a lid on his power. Since May he’s been improving his line drive percentage, and though he may not steal many bases, he’s got average speed to help keep his BABIP above the league average. I like this kid moving forward, and if he’s healthy for the rest of the year, he makes a great outfielder for your playoff run.
Albert Pujols – He wasn’t having a great September until his last four games, where he’s gone 8 for 19 with 2 HR. I’m very happy to see his power has bounced back from 2013, but it’s pretty safe to say that you can’t rely on .300+ and 30+ every year. Even so, if he can stay on the field he’s going to produce in some way. For next year I’d have no problem keeping Pujols as my 1B, but if you can sell high to get equal talent that’s younger, go for it.
Mike Trout – Yep, I’m still kicking myself for moving him this season in a keeper league. There’s nothing spectacular about Trout’s stat line this week, but it’s solid across the board, and that’s what he gives you all season. I like that he’s elevating his hits more, because though more fly balls can mean more easy outs, it also means more home runs, and he’s sporting a nice 17% HR/FB this year. I think it’s safe to say that his SB will continue to remain under 20 moving forward, because the team wants to keep him healthy, but the power could continue to grow, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit 40 HR in the near future. His average is below .300 for the year, and that’s a disappointment, but it’s still solid. It’s down due to fewer line drives this season compared to his first two years, which results in a lower BABIP. Not to mention he’s sporting a career-high K% in 2014. If he can ease back on the strikeouts a bit, he could hit .300 again. The silver lining is that he’s swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone compared to previous years, according to PITCHf/x.
Edit: Kevin had a family emergency so Jim Finch will be completing the rest of this edition of Ball Street.
Matt Shoemaker – Things looked bleak for the Angels when Garrett Richard’s went down for the season, but Shoemaker has softened the blow quite nicely. In the 3 starts following Richard’s injury, Shoemaker went 21.2 innings allowing 8 hits and 3 walks along with 22 strikeouts. I did not mention the earned runs because there were none. Over the course of those 3 games he blanked Boston, Miami and Oakland. He did come back to earth in a game at Minnesota, but rebounded nicely last night at Texas (minus the strikeouts). His numbers this season are below what you would expect when looking at his minor league totals, yet they are not when you consider he went from a hitters paradise in the PCL to his new spacious home in Los Angeles. For the season, Shoemaker holds a 3.25 ERA which is right in line with his xFIP (3.26) and SIERA (3.14). If you take out the 8 run shellacking he suffered against Kansas City back in June, his ERA stands at 2.76.
Next week Shoemaker is a two start pitcher, facing Seattle and Texas at home. All of Shoemakers numbers are better at home, especially his ERA which is 2.5 points below his road ERA. If you are worried about fatigue due to a long season, don’t be. Shoemaker threw 177 innings in 2011, 176 in 2012 and 189 in 2013. With his totals this year just over 150, there is plenty left in the tank. He may not always go 6 innings, but he has only allowed more than 3 earned runs in a game twice this year. This means you may not get a quality start, but Shoemaker will put you in line for a win with good ratios and close to a strikeout an inning (most nights).
Jered Weaver – With an xFIP and SIERA both over 4.0, Weaver shouldn’t be doing what he is doing. His numbers have been on the decline for years, and yet he finds a way to defy expectations and pitch beyond what his numbers should be. For the season, Weaver holds an ERA of 3.58 with a 1.22 WHIP. Over his last 3 starts (Oak, @HOU, @CLE) Weaver has had an ERA of 2.37 with a 1.11 WHIP, that’s 3 quality starts and 2 wins. The competition level wasn’t high, but we don’t grade on a curve in fantasy. His next start is this Saturday at home vs Houston followed by another home game vs Seattle, on the road against Oakland and a potential season ending game in Seattle. Even without the final game, that’s two opponents he has already fared well against as of late and a Seattle team that doesn’t frighten anyone. I personally don’t trust Weaver and I’ve made no secret about it, but I can’t argue with what he has done this season or recently.
Players on the Decline
Yasiel Puig – It’s playoff time and odds are if Puig is on your team, he’s one of the men that brought you to the dance. Unfortunately, Puig has been anything resembling an all-star lately. For the month of August, he has a batting average of .216 with zero home runs and only 4 RBIs. This trend has continued into September with a .182 average. His groundball percentage this month has shot up to 70.6% while his flyball percentage has fallen to 11.8%. With Puig struggling and Joc Pederson on the roster, he has lost a few at bats. Besides Pederson, the Dodgers have Carl Crawford who has been on a roll for over a month now along with Andre Ethier swinging a steady bat. It’s tough to think of benching Puig as he could bust out at any time, and road games against the Rockies and Cubs next week are rather tasty. Do what you will here, but don’t say you were not warned ahead of time.
Ryan Braun – Another season of controversy is almost behind us. Braun has had his ups and downs; while his season hasn’t been bad, it is far from what owners expected from a first/second round pick. He slowed down in August with his batting average dropping to .240 for the month and that slide has continued into September with an average of .190. It’s not just Braun as it seems the entire Brewers organization has quit with only 1 win in their past 10. Braun is a better hitter at home, but with road games next week against St. Louis and Pittsburgh and given his recent struggles, you might want to check your bench and waiver wire for an alternative.
Justin Upton – After a hot July and a power surge in August, Justin is doing his best impersonation of B.J. in September. Upton is batting .163 over the past 14 days and .143 for the month of September, just in time for your fantasy playoffs. This is one of the frustrations fantasy owners have to deal with when owning the younger Upton, his bottom line will always be pretty but how he gets there can be a roller coaster. He does hit better at home (.315) so a week-long series against the Nationals and Mets might be just what the doctor ordered, and this weekend in Texas could be the catalyst for that. Upton hasn’t been slumping as long as Puig so I can’t recommend sitting him next week, but if he slumps in Texas this weekend, it is at least worth considering.
Robinson Cano – For the past 4 months, Cano’s average has been right where you would expect it to be even if the power isn’t. For the past 14 days though, Cano is batting .265 with zero homers and he looks to be going out like a lamb. You have to go back to May of last year to find a month where Cano hit this low, and he finished that month with a .257 average. He hit .267 in April of 2012, .250 in May of 2011 and .262 in September of 2010. It seems each year Cano has one sub par month, and for 2014 it looks to be September. We all love Cano, even without the power the man can hit. Unfortunately this looks like a bad time to be a Cano owner.
Dustin Pedroia – His August was actually a productive one, but the season overall has been a disappointment. Pedroia will be sidelined for the remainder of the season and is tentatively scheduled for wrist surgery sometime in the near future. Owners who have reluctantly held on to him in hopes he would have a hot September can finally move on. Those of you in keeper leagues may want to consider moving the second baseman. If thumb surgery can derail a season like it did in 2014, imagine how wrist surgery will impact his numbers in 2015.
David Wright – Speaking of players who have been a disappointment all season, Wright will soon join Pedroia on the list of stars who will watch the remainder of the season from the bench. An ailing shoulder issue that dates back to June ends the season for Wright, and like Pedroia, puts owners out of their misery. He has been on the decline for a while now so his place on this list seems inappropriate, a player lost is just as important to mention as a player on the decline.
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