Fantasy Stock Watch: Grichuk, Valbuena, Leake, Eovaldi

I’m willing to give the Cubs a mulligan for their recent poor play. The fact that they took two of three from the Mets, and have been winning since getting past their 24 straight days of games, is going to start the second half on a positive note. Add in the fact that Theo/Jed will likely make a nice deadline trade to improve the team, and you’re looking at your NL champs for 2016. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pray to every deity who ever existed that Bryant, Rizzo, Arrieta, and Lester stay healthy and strong for the rest of the season…

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Randal Grichuk Grichuk struggled, was sent to the minors, and has done well since being called up due to injuries. Is he back, or is it an illusion? First, his two worst months were partly bad luck due to a crazy low BABIP despite a hard hit rate above league average. That said, he was hitting quite a few grounders and not many line drives. In July, his BABIP is now lucky even though his hard hit rate has fallen below average. However, you’re really rostering him for his power, and that’s intact (29% HR/FB in July). His contact rate is pretty good for a slugger, and he’s elevating the ball to help his home run total. Consider the first half of 2016 a learning hiccup and expect him to reach 20+ HR for the season.

Luis Valbuena He keeps under the radar due to various issues over the last few years (part-time, platoon). But the Astros get him on the field, and he’s not suffering from awful platoon splits in 2016. In fact, 2015’s struggles against lefties were at least partly bad luck due to BABIP. This season, he’s keeping the ball in the air and has a strong HR/FB%. He is also managing a good average in the last two months, which is partly supported by his very high line drive rate. With one of the best SLG% on the team, he’ll keep playing for a contender, and I expect 20+ HR even if his average comes back down to .260.

Mike Leake He has given up zero walks in six of his last eight starts. He has managed double digit strikeouts the last two starts, but for the season his K/9 is in line with his career norm, so don’t expect that to continue. His ground ball tilt helps mitigate his gopheritis, but because of that higher HR/FB ratio, he’ll never be a 3.50 ERA guy. He’s been hot lately, but his body of work is large enough for you to know that all you can expect for the rest of 2016 is what he’s done for the last 2.5 seasons. If someone wants to trade for him, sell high for sure. But otherwise, he’s a useable piece as a bench starter or #5 SP.

Nathan Eovaldi The season stats look pretty ugly for Eovaldi: 4.93 ER, 1.37 WHIP. After four good starts, he had five bad ones and lost his spot in the rotation. However, he recently got the chance for a start and gave up just 1 earned run. When added with his relief appearances, his two-week stats have been bright. Buyer beware, however. First, there’s no certainty he will stick in the rotation. He’s still dealing with gopheritis, though his July HR/FB ratio is at least league average. His BABIP is very lucky in July, meaning his WHIP could balloon back up. The most troubling issue has been his collapsing K/9 all season long, and now his walk rate is jumping up too. I like his potential long-term value, but redraft teams need to steer clear for 2016 because he could explode at any time.

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Steven SouzaA hip injury derailed his playing time in 2016, and he’s been pretty bad in the last two weeks. His season stats look okay with the power production, but all the home runs came in the first two months, and he’s been cold for far too long, even when accounting for the injury. His hard contact rate is horrific, he hits too many grounders to capitalize on his early HR/FB, and his plate approach is scary (poor contact, low BB%). For keeper leagues, I’m willing to look forward to 2017 if you keep 12+ players. For 2016, however, he’s not shown he can turn it around this year, and the Rays have been awful as a team. It’s time to drop him outright in redraft leagues and find someone else.

Kendrys MoralesHe’s provided solid power, but the rest of his game has been a little scary, with him hitting below .230 for three months. What’s particularly troubling is his anemic contact rate in July (67%), which is very atypical when compared to his career level (80%). That said, you’re rostering Morales mostly for his power, and his HR/FB has risen every month. He has a low BABIP in July, which is repressing his average, but he’s sporting a high line drive rate, so it seems more bad luck than a complete abandonment of plate discipline. Even so, you need to forget about his days of hitting .290 because without his hot June average, he’d actually be a BA liablity for the season. The only bonus is that he’s managed five games in right field, so leagues with low eligibility rules can get him out of the DH slot. I’d hold on to him for the power production until he starts to fade. Or if you can get full value for him to fill a need elsewhere, take it and hope the other guy doesn’t notice the BA risk.

CC SabathiaWell, that solid run was fun while it lasted. After putting together seven starts with 0-2 ER, Sabathia has been bad for a month, giving up at least 4 ER in five straight starts. There may be some bad luck to factor in with a high BABIP despite a low line drive rate, and he’s suffering from a touch of gopheritis too. His recent K/9 and BB/9 aren’t that different from his season number, but they’re down from his hot stretch. His great May also was a result of unsustainable strand rate and lucky BABIP, so despite his improved metrics in that hot streak, it’s not likely to return. He is what he is now, an innings eater with high volatility and an occasional hot streak. He’s not worth rostering at this point, and he’ll hurt more than he’ll help you.

Jerad EickoffHis low rank for the last two weeks comes from one awful outing (8 ER). Other than that, he’s been pretty stable for a while, giving up only 1-2 ER in six of his last eight starts. His metrics have been a bit all over the place this season, with two months of high K/9 and two months below the fantasy average. His walk rate has been higher in the last two months, but it’s still manageable because it’s under 3.0 BB/9. His strand rate in July is unlucky considering he’s not giving up tons of homers or suffering from a high BABIP, so expect more of the same from him, with his season stats a good projection moving forward.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.