We’re two weeks into the season, and so far not everything has gone according to plan – in real life and fantasy wise. The Nationals can Cubs are leading the way with 9 and 10 wins respectively. On the flip side the Twins, Marlins and Braves have managed a combined 10 wins.
Bryce Harper, Starling Marte, Chris Davis and Carlos Gonzalez are in the top 10 on the ESPN player rater, but so are Jeremy Hazelbaker, Angel Pagan and Melvin Upton. Pitchers like Joe Ross and Vincent Velasquez are right up there with the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta.
Meanwhile Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton can’t hit their weight, and Matt Harvey and Corey Kluber are looking more like streaming options than fantasy aces. Hopefully your fantasy teams have managed to start off hot. If not, don’t worry too much as it is way too early to panic. Values are always changing here on Ball Street. With that said, here are some early performances to take note of.
Daniel Murphy: After batting .281 with 14 home runs in 2015, Murphy is off to an outstanding start batting .432 with 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, and 7 runs scored. He’s batting 4th or 5th most games – right behind Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman – and should continue to see a lot of RBI opportunities. Currently he is on a pace for a 24 HR, 98 RBI, 85 run season.
Obviously Murphy won’t continue to hit .432, and he seems like he may be selling out for power a little bit, striking out at the highest rate of his career outside of his rookie year. I think as the average comes down more towards his career norm of .290 we’ll see his other stats normalize a bit. I also think he’ll continue to hit for a bit more power than previous years which means a slightly higher strikeout rate than we’ve seen in past seasons.
Dexter Fowler: Leading off for the Cubs is an enviable position to be in, and Fowler is making the most of this opportunity early on, batting .375 with 2 home runs, 9 RBIs, 9 runs scored and 1 stolen base. Most impressive is his .510 OBP, fueled not only by his great average but a career high 17.6% walk rate. When you have some combination of Heyward, Zobrist, Rizzo, Bryant, and Soler behind you getting on base half the time will lead to some gaudy numbers.
Fowler, like all players when we look at the last two good weeks numbers, won’t continue to hit .375/.510/.650, but the underlying numbers support his strong performance continuing. The Cubs as a team have bought into the strategy of being patient and making the opposing teams pitcher work. I can see Fowler improving on last years OBP, having similar power numbers, and scoring 100 runs again.
Joe Ross: Ross joined the Nationals staff last year and showed decent production in just over one-third of a season. He’s off to a ridiculous start so far, going 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 14.2 innings. His opponents were the Phillies and the Marlins, and while neither team is in the top half of the league offensively, he did what a good pitcher should do against a lesser team.
His underlying numbers say he should have given up a few more runs in those two starts – he won’t continue to strand 90% of runners. We would like to see a few more strikeouts than a 6.14 K/9 before fully buying into a breakout season. He should continue to be a good pitcher, and he has great value being a member of a team that should score a decent amount of runs and win a bunch of games.
The downside in redraft leagues is that since this is only his second year pitching in the big leagues, we won’t see a full slate of innings so plan accordingly as we get later into the season. Those in keeper and dynasty leagues might want to target him when he reaches his innings cap.
Verdict: Hold/Strong Buy
Adam Wainwright: After dialing in to an expert’s draft to ask why he was drafted so low, we’re starting to see what the trepidation was about. Wainwright has given up 15 earned runs in 16.1 innings along with walked 9 batters and struck out only 7.
There are a few things of note here. He’s only leaving 55.6% of runners on base, about 20% below his career norm. He’s also allowing more fly balls, and his ground ball rate is down about 10%.
By most accounts Wainwright should not be this bad. The velocity is right in line with his career norms, however his fastball has flattened out, looking like his 2012 fastball. His value will be low right now, and while I don’t expect him to return to top 25 pitcher status, he should be better than he has been.
If you’ve drafted Wainwright, you’re going to be left holding the bag waiting for him to turn it around – that or taking a huge loss in a trade depending on where you drafted him.
Drew Smyly: Smyly has started 2 games for the Rays (both losses) putting up an ERA of 4.61 in 13.2 innings. He was bitten by the long ball, giving up three home runs so far. His HR/FB rate of 15.8% is the highest in his career and will almost certainly come down. So far he has only stranded 44% of runners this season which is 30% lower than his career rate.
Smyly is striking people out at a career high, and walking opponents at a career low. He has always had a good K/BB rate, but it is outstanding so far this year. The HR% will never be great due to the number of fly balls he allows, but it will assuredly come down from where it is (1.98). As the HR% comes down so will his ERA.
Russell Martin: Batting 6th or 7th in an elite offense usually leads to a good number of RBI opportunities; Russell Martin has 1 through the first 12 games of the season. He’s batting .108 with not one extra base hit, just four singles, 2 walks and 18 strikeouts. This is a brutal start for a catcher who has produced some good value the past few seasons.
Martin is swinging more often at pitches out of the zone and less often on those inside, and the contact is down overall. His contact rate has never been below 76.8%. bit it’s sitting at 65.2% after two weeks.While I believe the contact will eventually move closer to his career average and the strikeout rate will go down (currently 43.9%), I am still not buy a big resurgence. He should still be decently productive and finish the year as a top 10 catcher. In redraft leagues with only one catcher you’re probably stuck with him, but in a dynasty or keeper league I’d look for any chance to sell him.
Verdict: Hold/Strong Sell
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