Fantasy Stock Watch: Espinosa, Phillips, Smyly

Stock Up logoBrandon Phillips Another year older, another decline in value. It seems Phillips may surpass his HR total from 2015, but the stolen bases are down, and there’s little value to a declining hitter on a team who’s selling this season. He’s hitting well above .400 this month, but it’s all thanks to an inflated BABIP, and even though his LD% is high, he’s going to fall back to earth. The HR/FB% is nice in August, but he had a 0% the previous two months. Basically, you know he’s declining and too old to be reliable, and you should only use him on an as-needed basis to fill an injury reserve role.

Keon Broxton For August, a BA over .300 and 7 stolen bases is a nice commodity. There’s no denying his speed, and at least he can take walks with the best of them (15%). But his contact rate is horrific for the season (57%), and he may end up on the worse side of a platoon. There’s hope because his contact is better in the second half (64%) compared to the first half (48%). His wheels will help maintain an above-average BABIP, but with a BABIP over .500 in August, you know it’s going to drop. The Brewers are also a poor team as a whole, so his value may be limited unless you really need steals or are in an OBP league. I’d speculate on 2017 for deep keeper and NL-only leagues, and you can use him while he’s hot right now, but it’s not a safe profile to assume he’ll continue to produce at July and August levels.

Drew Smyly You love the strikeouts, so maybe you’ve tolerated the high ERA and the lack of wins and quality starts. He still has a good walk rate, and the WHIP is reasonable (though not as shiny as last year). What hurts Smyly the most is his gopheritis, with a higher than average HR/FB ratio and a rising FB% for four seasons. The Rays have struggled this year, but Smyly can still provide value for you moving forward. He may just need to adjust his approach a little; he’s throwing the cutter more and the slider less, compared to his more successful 2015. He’s throwing far more fastballs according to PITCHf/x data. I don’t know whether the breaking stuff hurts his arm, so he’s opted for more fastballs, but if he stops throwing so many of them, there’s hope he could be a surprise for the end of the season. Looking past 2016, I’m still optimistic he’ll have strong keeper value, so hope he gets back on track in September and improves his future value.

Michael Fulmer After a rocky May, Fulmer’s been in elite territory in terms of ERA, WHIP, and walk rate. His strikeouts are only average for fantasy purposes, but his velocity is very high, and his swinging strike rate is a bit above average. This means that given time he could easily figure out his strikeout pitch and blossom into a starter with a K/9 above 9.00. What’s more, he has a great ground ball tilt, and the Tigers are contenders. There’s really nothing I can nitpick here. His strand rate and BABIP are a bit lucky, sure, but given that he induces grounders, he can keep stranding runners, and ground balls result in a low hitter average. Invest strongly in this kid’s future, because even if he comes back down to earth a little, he’s still young and has the ceiling to grow further to counteract any luck.

Stock Down LogoMelky CabreraHe keeps finding ways to stay on fantasy rosters, but is he worth it? The good news is that there’s nothing in his metrics to indicate a drop-off in skills. He’s the same hitter he’s been for a few seasons, although he’s lost a little in the HR/FB% so won’t break 15 home runs again. August has been hard on him, and he’s suffering from a spike in GB%, which has killed his BABIP. He seems to hit homers in bunches, and his last two months have been pretty cold. I surprise myself by saying he’s useful as a #4 or #5 OF, but at this point you know what you’re getting, and there’s no reason to assume he will do better than .290 with 3 HR the rest of the way.

Danny EspinosaThat batting average is never going to be pretty, and his speed has deserted him. However, there’s reason to hope that he’s still improving after that 2014 collapse. For starters, he’s projected to set a new career high in home runs. That career low in contact rate from 2014 has gotten back to his norm, even though it’s not sexy. But perhaps most important, he’s hitting more fly balls and sporting his second best HR/FB ratio, which explains the power surge. His season outlook is more tolerable than his monthly breakdown, where he’s hit under .210 every month but June. And clearly his power distribution isn’t even, because hit 9 home runs in his one hot month. The ground balls are up in August, further sapping his chances of hitting a homer. He’s clearly a streaky hitter, and if you can stand the BA hit, I’d start him at the first sign of new life.

Edinson VolquezTwo seasons of almost above average, and now 2016 has seen him return to his 2011-13 form. What happened here? He hasn’t been a strikeout guy for about four years, but he’s currently sporting a full-season low in K/9. The walk rate is steady if unspectactular. His HR/FB% is a little higher than his 2014-15 level, and his BABIP is higher (but not overly unlucky). These factors have contributed to a poor strand rate despite a good GB%, and the simple fact was that he had some season-long luck in his last two seasons. For the second half of the year, he’s had worse gopheritis due to a shift in grounders to fly balls. His K/9 has also plummeted. There may be a bit of bad luck in his 3 August starts, but again, we aren’t talking about some highly skilled ace. He hasn’t been worth rostering for most of the year, so you should drop him now if you haven’t already.

Hector SantiagoA shift to a more spacious home park hasn’t helped Santiago in August, where he had two starts in Minnesota. Despite an improved walk rate since his trade, his strikeout rate has also dropped, and he’s not fooling hitters, who have a 25% line drive rate against him this month. A 18% HR/FB% isn’t helping matters either, so that strand rate below 50% is earned, unfortunately. In 2016 there’s no use in continuing with him. If you’re looking to 2017 in a deep keeper league, I have hope he can take an offseason to figure things out and get back on track, and Minnesota should help him more than Los Angeles as a home park. He’s been rosterable for three seasons, so don’t fully give up if you have 15+ keepers, but he’ll be on a short leash in 2017, and if someone else wanted to acquire him from you to speculate, don’t hesitate to move him.


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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.