The dog days of summer are in full effect, but the heat seems to agree with the surging Cubs, Royals, and Blue Jays. I wasn’t convinced either way regarding the extra wild card, but I can certainly see the appeal in this fluke year where the Cubs currently have the third best record in the National League – and yet are third in their own division. With that said, let’s take a look at players heating up more than August, and some guys who are colder than January.
Khris Davis – Davis was a sleeper pick of mine this season, but he’s generally been a disappointment if you drafted him as anything higher than your #4 OF – and many people did. He’s been hot over the last two weeks, and the power is legit. He’s greatly improved his walk rate (perhaps pitchers finally respect his power?), and the trade of Carlos Gomez opened up playing time. That being said, his contact rate has fallen to a level that scares me (68%), and his hard hit rate for the season is worse than previous years. He’s had a nice run, but for the rest of the season I’m still wary of him helping with anything but home runs.
David Peralta – Peralta ranks well in 5×5 over the last two weeks despite only 2 home runs, but he’s hit 6 homers in July-August. He also gives you a very high BA and a lot of RBIs in this hot streak. Yes, his BABIP is inflated, but he’s hitting the ball hard in the second half and sports a strong LD%, so it’s partly backed up. He’s simply dialed in and producing well. His HR/FB is likely a bit high/lucky right now, but it’s not so high that he couldn’t sustain it for the rest of the season. I really like Peralta and think that even without the SB I hoped for, he’ll become a perennial .290, 20 HR option.
Chris Bassitt – You may not recognize his name yet, because Oakland pitchers tend to fly under the radar for too long, but in July and August he has 6 QS out of 7 games started. After having some early season control issues (5.2 BB/9 in just 16 IP), he’s sporting a 1.5 BB/9 in the second half, along with a solid 7.5 K/9. The strikeouts are up even higher in August’s three starts (9.6), which helps him make this list. There’s a bit of luck in his BABIP, but it’s not a ridiculous amount and he does play in a pitcher-friendly home stadium. It’s the walk rate that really cements his tiny WHIP. For the rest of the season, I’d keep rolling the dice with him until the rest of the league figures him out.
Marco Estrada – He’s not the big name in the rotation, but he’s certainly providing value. His issue is going deep in games (only 19 IP in 3 GS), because his stamina hasn’t been built up due to SP/RP splits the last two seasons, but he’s at least capable of going 6 innings and earning a QS – which he’s done more consistently in the second half. He’s a fly ball pitcher but somehow keeps a respectable HR/FB ratio, so there’s less concern of gopheritis. That being said, his K/9 and BB/9 are trending the wrong way for four straight years, and his BABIP is a bit lucky this season. The surface stats are shinier than his skill metrics, so you’re better off selling high. He could help in a playoff run, but he’s not a safe bet.
Madison Bumgarner – Can we just take a minute to talk about his amazing season, and his amazing month, and his overall amazingness? I normally try to avoid the superstars in the Hot column, simply because they’re obviously strong choices nearly every week. However, I wanted an excuse to talk about Bumgarner just a little. He’s improved his K/9 and BB/9 this season, and though the ERA is “high” for a super-elite ace (in this modern era of super pitchers), his WHIP is stellar. Oh, and he provides his own run support too, with a HR this week. I had the slightest concern entering this season due to his high innings in 2014, but he’s proven all doubters wrong. Maybe in 2016 he’ll struggle… or 2026.
JJ Hardy – It’s clearly been a bad contract for the Orioles, and it’s only the first year of the new extension. However, after a down year in 2014 at the end of his contract, Hardy has been even worse in 2015 at the start of his new one. Yes, he contributes in ways beyond his bat, but for fantasy purposes, that’s what we look at. I’ll grant that he’s dealt with a shoulder issue this season, but there’s no point in using him anymore in 2015. In fact, if you had stopped a month ago, that still would have been too much leeway for him.
Anthony Rendon – Rendon was the guy I was going to hang my redraft team on for the Fantasy Assembly redraft season. Instead, it’s been an injury-plagued year, and he’s missed loads of time due to an oblique injury and then a quad injury. It goes without saying that he’s still a talented young player, but this is a lost season and you’ll just have to take whatever he can get you. I’d trade him in a redraft league if someone else wants to exchange you a solid MI option. In keeper leagues, needless to say you should stand pat. His BABIP is very low in August, but that’s in spite of a high LD%. Is it extreme bad luck? Or is it the fact that he’s coming back from a quad issue? Your guess is as good as mine.
Brandon Moss – I was worried the trade to St. Louis would cut into his playing time, and that seems to be the case. Even though the Cardinals gave him a lot of starts immediately after acquiring him, he can’t find a groove. He says his offseason hip surgery has made it tough to be mechanically consistent during 2015, so bear that in mind when thinking about 2016 value and rankings; he may bounce back next year and be a surprise 25+ HR guy. But for this season, with likely part-time duties and issues with his swing, you want to stay far away except in leagues that count walks.
Trevor Bauer – He’s had a bad season, really, but the last two weeks land him pretty low in the rankings as well. His only plus is the fact that he maintains a good K/9 above 8.0 every month. The minus is… well, everything else. He can’t find the strike zone, with a varying BB/9 every month that goes from as low as 1.6 to as high as 5.6. His most recent issue has been gopheritis, with a 25% HR/FB since July. July wasn’t a bad month otherwise, but the homers inflated his ERA to 4.59 – which sadly is his best in the last three months. The guy still has talent, but without consistency you can’t even roster him in redraft leagues, and I’m not sure I’d stash him on the bench even in keeper leagues for 2016. There are too many good SP options out there nowadays.
Kyle Gibson – It seems I’ve had Gibson on my radar for years now. He was supposed to be a pretty nice prospect back in the day. But his K/9 doesn’t make him that valuable in fantasy formats, and though he’s improved on his ERA every season so far, it’s still not good by today’s standards, at 3.99. I like guys with ground ball tilts, but he’s reminding me a bit too much of Doug Fister, without the elite walk rate. There are hints of upside in his metrics, but he hasn’t put it all together. Given the type of pitcher he is, he really needs the entire package to come together in order to be fantasy relevant. I’d pass on him in 2015 and likely 2016 as well.
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