Fantasy Stock Watch: Morales, Cron, Lugo, Vogt

Stock Up logoKendrys Morales He was the darling of fantasy teams last season, but he’s cooled a bit in popularity. The batting average is the biggest reason why (three months under .230), but his power has actually increased this year. In fact, his HR/FB% has gone up for four consecutive half seasons. His hard hit rate is one of the best of his career, and his BABIP is below his personal average, so there could be a bit of bad luck there. He’s hitting fewer grounders in the last two seasons. I’d use him with confidence for the rest of 2016. Deep leagues where power is scarce should consider holding on to him, because despite a drop in contact rate, I’m betting his 20+ HR ways will continue for another year, and his average should be closer to his career norm (.272).

CJ Cron Power and some batting average potential has been his calling card for a few seasons, but he didn’t have certain playing time. Then in 2016, when he was slated to be a starter, he broke his hand. One hot week has him high in the recent rankings, but he has a few bad weeks surrounding it. Hand injuries can linger a bit, so I’m very hopeful for 2017, but the rest of 2016 may be hit or miss. For the season, he’s raised his contact rate, though his walk rate is still pretty bad. He’s converted a few more grounders into line drives and fly balls, which can only help his average and home runs. His hard hit rate isn’t much above league average, and the HR/FB% isn’t elite, but it’s above average. I don’t know how much more growth we’ll see out of him, but he’s only 26 this year, and a hitter who can go .280 with 20-25 home runs in a full season is going to have decent value moving forward.

Seth Lugo With the rotating DL stings for Mets starters, Lugo has had the chance to get out of the bullpen, and he’s looked pretty good in four starts. There’s a bit of luck to his ERA and WHIP, with strand rate and BABIP hinting at some regression, and a HR/FB rate of 5% could easily come up given his 40% fly ball rate. His K/9 is down a bit as a starter, but he’s held a good walk rate, which is something I want to see from young arms. The velocity isn’t elite, but it’s solid, and his first pitch strike percentage is good. When combined with a swinging strike rate slightly above average, it may bode well for future growth in K/9. He plays for a contender, and pitchers who can start games are always in demand. For 2016, his playing time may be a bit uncertain based on who’s hurt or coming back to the rotation. For 2017, he’s a sleeper to keep an eye on, and deep keepers should consider holding on to him.

Wily Peralta Here’s a pitcher who tempted me with potential sleeper value for years and I finally gave up on him. But hey, he had a solid August, so is there hope for a rebound? I’m not buying it. A BABIP and strand rate well above his career levels is why he did well last month. His strikeout rate has never been strong, and his walk rate has risen for three straight seasons. He does manage to keep the ball on the ground, but in 2016 he has a career high HR/FB rate (20%), so he’s earned that ERA. The Brewers aren’t going anywhere as a team, and he’s had plenty of seasons to figure it out. It would take a complete revamp (maybe a new team and pitching coach) to make me even look at him in 2017 and beyond. For this year, you’re not safe using him for a playoff push. I’d rather run with rookies than use his mediocre profile.





Stock Down LogoMartin PradoHis AB totals were dropping for years, leaving fewer fantasy teams willing to invest in him because he’d essentially become an empty batting average, and even that wasn’t very strong in 2015. This year he’s on pace to come near 600 AB, and he’s hitting over .300 after three seasons stuck in the .280s. His power is still on the decline, but that was never his strong point anyway. That said, he has put up two weeks of hitting under the Mendoza line. When you lack power and speed, and average is your primary selling point, that’s going to result in some drops. He’s suddenly making less contact and hitting very few line drives so I don’t know whether pitchers have found a hole in his swing, or he’s playing hurt, but it seems uncharacteristic compared to his season and career. For 2016, his BABIP is driving the higher average, and at least his runs and RBIs are rather strong, but I’m not optimistic about him moving forward, either in 2016 or beyond. He won’t have any chance at MI eligibility in 2017, and you don’t want his batting profile at CI. Use him only as an injury replacement from now on.

Stephen VogtA surprise in 2014, and reasonable value in 2015 despite an injury-riddled second half that brought down his unsustainably hot start. For 2016, you could classify him as a disappointment. I’d hoped he’d break 500 AB, but he hasn’t played well enough to warrant it. As it turns out, he’s very much the player form 2014, not the lucky breakout star of early 2015. That’s okay, because he still have value, but when his hard hit rate is dropping, and his fly ball rate is high, you can understand the pedestrian HR/FB%. He gave back the walks from 2015, so he profiles more as a solid #2 catcher than a top-10 option. His breakout was a nice story for a while, but it’s time to move on, and you shouldn’t look to keep him except in nearly full dynasty formats.

Edinson VolquezIt’s not a good sign when your entire season has been downhill since April. The Royals wanted an innings eater, and he’s done okay in that regard, but for fantasy purposes, most of us have steered clear, and with good reason. Those who looked at his metrics knew the sub-4.00 ERA wasn’t going to hold up forever. His best season in the last eight years was due to luck in BABIP and strand rate, and in 2016 he’s been unlucky there. That said, it’s not all just luck, because he’s pitching worse, with his highest HR/FB% in five seasons. He might get back to near his career level in ERA and WHIP for 2016 or 2017, but even then he’s hardly worth rostering except in deep AL-only leagues. Leave him in the FA pool, and never get this desperate.

Chad KuhlHe’d had a run of decent to good starts, usually reaching 6 IP. But his last two starts have been shorter, with one lasting only 2 IP. That landed him low in the recent rankings, but there’s some potential value moving forward. His strikeout rate isn’t high, but he has a solid walk rate and a very strong GB% in August. His first pitch strike rate is low, but if he can raise it, he may be able to use his okay swinging strike rate to increase his K/9. The grounders will help him beat his FIP and prevent home runs. Pittsburgh can often get good value out of their starters, and I will consider him a sleeper for the endgame in 2017. Looking forward, he’ll never be an ace or even a #2 starter, but his profile could provide value based on his draft position.

 

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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.