This is a time in the fantasy baseball season where your email becomes full of league alerts about trades proposals. The midway point of the season signals a time where owners need to examine their roster, figure out where they are sitting currently, and begin to make moves to get that team to where it needs to be. For some of us, that is in the playoffs gunning for a championship. For others, it may be gathering pieces for the future as you prepare for next year (or your next fantasy sport).
Over the past two weeks we have looked at a handful of guys who owners could target as buy-lows, or sell at peak value as sell-highs. This week, I wanted to discuss a few players who are having breakout season and appear to be on track to continue doing so through the rest of the year. These are the players who owners want to keep rostered, as trading them could give another team in your league a huge helping hand. Expect the players mentioned here to continue producing at a high rate for the remainder of the season, and if you want any of them, be prepared to pay a hefty price to pry them from another team.
Wil Myers (OF, 1B)
.286/.351/.522 – 19 HR – 60 RBI – 61 R – 15 SB
THIS is the Wil Myers Royals/Rays/Padres fans have been waiting for, and maybe the one Royals/Rays fans don’t want to see now. It could be argued Myers has been the National League fantasy MVP, and deservedly so. The former top-prospect is on his way to a potential 35/25 season, and that in itself is incredible.
A significant part of this is the fact Myers has been able to stay healthy; he has already appeared in 87 games and seems primed to skyrocket past his career high of 88 games back in 2013. His BB% and K% (9.5% and 20.6% respectively) are very similar to his career numbers and his .317 BABIP is is good but nothing crazy. So what exactly is Myers doing differently? One could point at his terrific .236 ISO as an explanation for the career high in home runs. Maybe the most important improvement Myers has made is the fact that he has learned how to hit to all fields.
Utilizing the whole field can be extremely significant in a hitter’s development and to their numbers. We could see that in last year’s breakout of all breakouts, Bryce Harper. While Myers may not be having a season to that extent, what he has done so far is fairly remarkable. Myers is currently listed as the number seven overall hitter on ESPN’s player rater with the likes of Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Josh Donaldson. Of all first basemen on the player rater, Myers is first by a fairly large margin. The 25-year-old seems to be coming into his own, and all of his numbers indicate the same thing. If you were considering trading Myers, I would think twice before you do. This guy could help you not only for the remainder of the season, but possibly years to come in keeper or dynasty leagues.
Jake Lamb (3B)
.291/.372/.612 – 20 HR – 61 RBI – 49 R – 3 SB
In the preseason, Jake Lamb was a guy who I thought, with the right opportunity, could turn in a big season. So far this year he has delivered on that. His splits look that of a near platoon player (.314 against RHP and .200 against LHP), which is the main reason it took Lamb’s ownership rate so long to reflect his real value. Despite his struggles against lefties, Lamb has still played in 86 games this season showing that Arizona is willing to give the 25-year-old his hacks. Eno Sarris of FanGraphs talked about Lamb in a bold prediction article back in March. Sarris’ bold Lamb prediction was the third basemen would have a power surge and hit 20 home runs. Now, halfway through the 2016 season, Lamb has 20 homers. Sarris’ pointed out how he liked that Lamb had put in a year of adjustments including a decision to stop hitting so many balls on the ground, which in turn would hopefully lead to more power.
Last season Lamb battled a left foot injury throughout the year. While his 2015 was not terrible by any means, his production could have been better if he was healthy. This season Lamb has been both healthy and productive, and if owners were able to get a share of him before his ownership spiked then you’ve had quite a treat so far. Sure, his .322 ISO is almost sure to come down over the course of the second half, but even if Lamb cuts his HR total in half for the rest of the summer (worst case scenario) owners are looking at a 30 HR guy. My advice here is to stand pat. Lamb may not be a superstar, but he is certainly an above average contributor who has a safe lineup spot with the Diamondbacks.
Drew Pomeranz (LHP)
8-7 – 2.47 ERA – 1.06 WHIP – 115 K
Drew Pomeranz is another guy I had my eyes on heading into the 2016 season. He was coming off a solid overall year with the Oakland Athletics and seemed to be figuring a few things out. Since moving to San Diego, however, the former 5th overall pick has broken out. His 10.15 K/9 is by far the best mark of his career. He is walking 3.62 batters per nine – a number just about in line with the rest of his career. And more importantly he is keeping the ball in the park with 0.74 HR/9 while supporting a .240 BABIP which appears to be sustainable. While being traded to Boston may seem like a downgrade in terms of his home park, it is a pretty outstanding upgrade when it comes to run support. Add all of this together and you have a guy who should help your pitching staff out quite a bit in the second half.
Pomeranz himself said the fact that he found a cutter just before the start of this year’s spring training has helped him improve twofold as a starting pitcher. This in turn helped him earn a spot in the Padres rotation as many teams believed he could only pitch out of the bullpen with his fastball and curveball. Funny enough, according to Fangraphs, it was a minor league teammate who helped Pomeranz develop his cutter by actually showing it to him.
Another thing I love about Pomeranz is how he described his recent success during the All-Star break. Along with his new cutter, Pomeranz gave credit to the “passage of time” for helping him figure things out. He went on to explain how he simply was not ready to be successful when he was first drafted.
With all of this being said, the only real worry owners should have with Pomeranz is his innings. So far this year he has thrown 102 innings, a career high in the bigs and just 13 innings high of the max number of innings in any year, but I’m willing to take the chance. There’s something about Pomeranz that I really like. I know that isn’t exactly brilliant analysis, but there are a few points across the season where owners have to go with their gut.
Steven Wright (RHP)
10-5 – 2.68 ERA – 1.21 WHIP – 94 K
Knuckleball pitchers aren’t supposed to be doing what Steven Wright has done this year. Sure, R.A. Dicky had a ridiculous season back in 2012, but we’ll toss that in the extreme outlier file. Typically, we can expect a low strikeout rate and high walk rate with knuckleballers. Wright, however, has a 7.42 K/9 which isn’t eye-popping by any means, but it will certainly get the job done. He has also been able to limit his walks, averaging 3.39 per nine. He is currently ranked 19th of all pitchers on ESPN’s player rater and has been hanging in the top-20 for a good portion of the season. All things considered here, his breakout looks legit.
Wright’s ERA may begin to rise a little bit in the second half, but that’s to be expected with his 3.64 FIP, but this shouldn’t hurt your fantasy team. One advantage Wright has with being a knuckleball pitcher is the fact that it’s not all that taxing on one’s arm. Since Wright has not been a huge innings eater in his career, his primary pitch could help him get to 200 this year seeing that he has already logged 114.
Part of Wright’s success this season is the fact that he’s not leaning on his knuckler as much as he used to. He still throws the knuckleball 78.6% of the time, but that is the lowest rate of his career. He has thrown both his fastball and curveball this year more than any other year. While we know for a fact Pomeranz figured something out and made a change, we don’t with Wright. And in the end, that’s okay. All of his peripherals suggest he’s in line to continue what he has done this season, pitch well.
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