Posted by: Scott Rowland
Week 3 is all wrapped up. Things are looking good in Chicago with the White Sox leading the AL in wins, and the Cubs are tied with the Nationals in the NL with Wins. So far the Astros are the big disappointments, managing only 6 wins – this team should be much better.
Ryan Braun is looking like the Ryan Braun of old, holding the #5 spot on the ESPN player rater over the last 2 weeks, along with some top 20 surprises in Randal Grichuk, and Odubel Herrera. Mike Trout is outside of the top 30, and Jose Bautista doesn’t look like someone deserving of a $150M contract. Those are some of the ups and downs on Ball Street, let’s look at some recent performances.
Colby Rasmus: Like Daniel Murphy, Rasmus was a hero for the Astros in the playoffs last year, and he seemed to carry some of that momentum into 2016. Over the last 2 weeks he is batting .273 and carrying an impressive 21.4% walk rate. His five home runs over this same period is good for the 5th most in baseball. Batting cleanup for what should continue to be a very good Astros lineup will put him in line to keep up his healthy RBI totals.
Rasmus did strike out more than league average over the last two weeks, however it was an improvement over his previous 3 year trend. Don’t expect the more than double walk rate to continue, as he has never shown this kind of eye before. We have seen flashes of similar performances in the past, and he will have good weeks in the future, but the last two weeks won’t be the norm for the season.
Jason Hammel: One of the poster boys for first/second half splits, Jason Hammel is once again having a good start to the season. His 3 wins over the last 2 weeks are tied for tops in baseball to go along with a 0.50 ERA which leads the other players with 3 wins in that time-frame. The Cubs offense will keep getting him wins even as the ERA comes up. His 8.25 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9 are both near league average, so he won’t hurt you in the ratios.
Most owners will be hesitant to trade for him due to his splits as well as the fact that he is performing a bit over his head at the time. Hammel altered his workout in the off-season to focus on his lower body, so perhaps he’ll be able to sustain his success into the second half this season. Enjoy the good starts, innings, and wins you’ll get from running him out there week after week.
Kenta Maeda: Maeda was taken (on average) as the 54th starting pitcher in drafts. There were some concerns, but his stuff seems to be translating very well to the majors. He has started three games in the last two weeks (19.1 innings), posting 2 wins and a 0.47 ERA with a 8.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Running a 100% strand rate is not sustainable so the ERA will rise, but the other numbers are sustainable.
Owners who took a gamble on the import have been pleasantly surprised with how good he has been. He has tied a major league record, only giving up 1 earned run in his first four starts. While his strikeout and walk numbers are better than league average, they are not elite. It’s yet to be seen how offenses will fare seeing him for a second or third time. This is a great time to start shopping him to see if you can get an upgrade. One example of this: an owner in one of my leagues was just able to send Maeda and Fowler to get David Price.
Verdict: Strong Sell
Jerad Eickhoff: Eickhoff was taken on average at 394th overall and 125th among starters – largely undrafted in standard 12 team leagues. He has been picked up in leagues since then, but is still only owned in about 43% of ESPN leagues. His surface stats: a 4.19 ERA with 1 win, 2 losses, and three home runs allowed over the last two weeks show a pitcher who appears to be struggling. Combine that with his draft position and it may be asked why Eickhoff should be owned. When you look outside the 5×5 world we see an excellent 11.64 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 combined with a 3.12 FIP and 3.16 xFIP.
To improve on his ERA he’ll need to improve on the 1.4 HR/9 and 38% ground ball rate he has shown the last 2 weeks. Playing for the Phillies will also limit his win potential as they will be one of the worst teams in the NL. There are probably fewer than 150 innings in store for him this season so those in redraft leagues will want to temper their expectations. In dynasty or deeper keeper leagues he will have more appeal due to his age and potential upside.
Verdict: Sell (redraft)/Buy (dynasty)
Tyler White: After a red-hot start to the season Tyler White has cooled off considerably. During the last two weeks he’s batting well below the Mendoza line (.149) with only 2 home runs, 2 runs scored, and 4 RBIs. Batting 5th in the Astros lineup should continue to afford him quite a few RBI opportunities. Luckily for White, top prospect, AJ Reed is not forcing the issue with an outstanding performance at AAA right now
White has been making good contact, having hard contact on nearly 12% more balls than league average, and is showing a back up the middle approach, both of which should be leading to a better outcome for him. His .172 BABIP over this time-frame is the culprit of his bad average and counting stats. As this stabilizes his average and counting stats will rise, and he should continue to hit well enough to ensure a spot in the lineup.
Verdict: Strong Buy
Hanley Ramirez: 2015 was easily the worst year in the career of Hanley Ramirez. He came into 2016 hoping to turn things around, and the first few days of the season looked good; then things started to fall apart. Over the last two weeks he has batted .232 with no home runs. A 30% strikeout rate and mere 3.3% walk rate, combined with swinging at more than 40% of pitches outside the zone show he’s not having patience and may be pressing at the plate.
After watching his struggles last year, both offensively and defensively, and moving to first base this season; if Ramirez doesn’t turn it around at the plate soon he may find himself losing playing time – even with that huge contract (see Pablo Sandoval).
Verdict: Strong Sell
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