Fantasy Stock Watch: Gyorko, Villar, Shields, Weaver

The trade deadline is coming up shortly, or it may even be past in some of your leagues. I’m always looking for the extra piece I need on my contenders (why is it always MI for me?), and it’s a nice time to upgrade keepers in the leagues where I’m already out of the running (sell those closers and performing veterans like Beltran). Whatever side of the aisle you find yourself, buyer or seller, good luck in your deals.

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Jedd Gyorko Seven home runs in the last two weeks will certainly get the attention of fantasy managers. With Peralta and Carpenter on the DL, Gyorko will continue getting plenty of playing time. Those homers are helping to boost his average, yet he’s sporting just a league average BABIP, so he’s clearly making pitchers pay, and it’s not all luck. In fact he had bad luck in his June stats, with a low BABIP despite a hard hit rate well above average. He’s going to fall a bit from his July power surge and BA spike, but take his season stats as a whole and use them to project his last two months, and you’ll have a versatile hitter who can qualify at two plus positions and hit 25 total home runs. I’d pick him up from the FA pool if available, and I’d even consider trading for him if my MI was weak.

Jonathan Villar From Gyorko’s power to Villar’s speed. But wait, even Villar has put up two homers recently, and he had four in June. Most managers may not realize he has kept at least league average power the last three seasons, so it’s not really a fluke, though don’t expect him to reach 15 HR for the year. But that speed and a good average will pay dividends for your team, and it’s not a fluke. He hits the ball on the ground all the time and motors to first base, like many speesters. But he doesn’t have a high contact rate like Revere and many others, and his BABIP near .400 for July isn’t sustainable. That said, the bit of power he has, along with a decent line drive rate, will keep his average above .280 for 2016, and he could flirt with 50 SB. He makes a great waiver wire grab, but I wouldn’t actively seek him out in trades due to the likely decline in average and the mediocrity of the Brewers.

Hisashi Iwakuma His ERA through four July starts make us think back to his first two seasons in the majors. His WHIP is as great as ever. But this is one pitcher I’m selling on in all formats. Why? His K/9 has dropped every month of 2016, and it’s down by 1.0+ from his last three years. His average velocity is dropping. His walk rate is higher this season (though still stellar compared to other pitchers). And his ground ball tilt has been reduced to merely average. More fly balls mean that his slightly high HR/FB% is going to show up in his ERA, and it has, with a 3.94 season mark. He’s clearly aging and has lost some of his effectiveness. He may be okay through the rest of 2016, but he’s risky, and I’d be wary of receiving him in any trade.

James Shields An amazing ERA and WHIP have fantasy managers wondering if the former ace has figured things out. He hasn’t, and you shouldn’t assume he’s worth rostering right now. The only good news is that his walk rate has finally got back under 3.0 in a month, but a career low in first pitch strikes and a low swinging strike rate means this isn’t a stable skill. His July WHIP is a mirage due to an insanely lucky BABIP under .200. His strand rate is also very lucky (and unsustainably) high. The strikeouts remain very low compared to 2015, and in fact his 2016 K/9 is currently a career low. Any start now, he could explode back to a 4.50 ERA pitcher, and you don’t want to be caught with him on your team when the inevitable happens. Trade him away if you can find a taker due to his lucky July.

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Cameron RuppWhy the Phillies are playing Carlos Ruiz as much as they are, I’ll never know. Perhaps it’s because Rupp has struggled in two of the last three weeks. Even so, Rupp is the future, and his decent skills across the board are going to help fantasy teams in 2016 and beyond. For June and July, his HR/FB rate has been over 20%, and even if it falls a bit moving forward, it’s clear he has the pop to produce 15 plus home runs from behind the plate. He’s simply hitting the ball harder the last two months, and he has a decent to good contact rate and walk rate in July. Catcher is often a crapshoot outside of the top-5 names, but I’m happy to run with Rupp as my primary catcher, despite the potential growing pains.

Josh HarrisonThat solid 2014 is starting to become a distant memory. Everything has fallen from that point, including power, speed, and health. After two great months in BA and SB to start the season, he has been horrific, with an average below .200. His average is greatly dependent on his ability to hit line drives (which drives his BABIP above average), and given that his rate in June and July has been nearly half of what it was in April and May, this isn’t just bad luck. His speed is legit when healthy, so he’ll probably set a career high in stolen bases this year, but the power is well below league average, and you can’t expect him to pull off a BA higher than .250 the rest of the way. Trade him to teams desperately needing steals, but otherwise don’t count on getting any value from him moving forward.

Ian KennedyThe reigning gopheritis champion of 2016 has been bad for a while, and there’s no improvement in sight. The good news is that he’s maintaining his above average strikeout rate, and his walk rate is tolerable. He’s even getting a little lucky in BABIP, so his WHIP is okay. But those home runs are killing his game, with a HR/FB rate above 20% the last two months. He’s sporting his highest FB% (and lowest GB%) in a full season. I don’t know whether he’s tipping pitchers or simply not getting the ball down enough, but a nice strikeout rate isn’t enough to continue running him out there. Bench him until you see marked improvement in his gopheritis. If you’re in a playoff hunt, and you have safter options available, it’s probably time to cut him loose.

Jered WeaverHe’s had a handful of decent starts since mid-June, but he’s back in the doghouse with his most recent game (6 ER). His decline was obvious from 2014 to 2015, and it doesn’t seem he’ll recover. Everything you want to look at has red flags: three years of declining K/9, four years of rising HR/FB%, career low GB%, and a sharp drop in velocity the last two years. His skill set makes him a #4 or #5 starter for MLB teams. For fantasy purposes, there’s no reason to roster him in any format, barring perhaps a 20-team AL-only league — and even then, I’d pass in favor of a minor leaguer who at least can’t hurt my team stats.


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Kevin Jebens

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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.