Alex Bregman – After scuffling in July, he’s been very solid for a youngster. Needless to say, keeper leagues will see him already on a team, but he’s still available in some redraft leagues. His high average in September is BABIP luck, but he should still be capable of putting up the .274 he hit in August, and an above average LD% hints at more upside. His power is legit, and he hits plenty of fly balls, so the long-term power outlook is good. One thing to watch out for is his lower contact rate and walk rate in September — teams may be adjusting to him and we’ll need to see how he responds for the rest of the season and in 2017. But overall you’re looking at a valuable asset for the future, so go the extra buck.
Ender Inciarte – This year I touted the high-BA, high-SB guys, and Inciarte has been a mixed bag. However, that’s primarily because a hamstring injury affected him early in the season so he lost some playing time and hasn’t run quite as often as 2015. That said, he should still flirt with 20 SB and a .300 average this season, and he’s been red-hot in the second half. Some BABIP luck is propping up the August average, but he can maintain a rate better than the league average. I’d use him for any playoff run this year, and for 2017 he may fall into a sleeper value due to his missed time which affected his counting stats. Invest with confidence, and NL-only leagues and deep keeper leagues will want to consider holding on to him.
Kyle Hendricks – I normally try to steer away from players owned in over 90% of leagues, but as a Cubs fan, I have to give Hendricks and his no-hit bid some attention. He had more of a ground ball tilt in the first half, and he has elite defense behind him, which has helped him maintain a seemingly lucky BABIP. There may well be some luck there, but he’s also amazing at inducing very weak contact, so there’s more skill to his FIP/ERA split better than most pitchers. He pounds the strike zone early in the count, he’s improved his swinging strike rate in the second half despite low velocity, and there’s no reason that you shouldn’t expect a #2 SP performance from him in 2017. I’d overpay as a Cubs fan, but even if you’re not one too, you should look to acquire him. Not all fantasy aces have to be flamethrowers, and he’ll help you in WHIP, ERA, and wins beyond this season, plus give you average or better in strikeouts.
Adam Morgan – An ugly first half has turned into a tolerable second half, though some may pass him by due to a still-high ERA. As always, his main issue has been gopheritis, and the home park isn’t going to ease his growing pains. That said, he’s improved his walk rate from good in the first half (2.3 BB/9) to great (1.7). Despite a small drop in K/9, he’s increased his first pitch strike rate, and his 11% swinging strike rate is better than league average, so I could see him reach 7.5-8.0 K/9 in the near future. In the second half, he’s also converted 5% fly balls to grounders, and if he can hold that new GB%, it gives me hope for his long-term potential. He’ll be undervalued in 2017, though not without some risk. I like him as an endgame pick with high risk, high upside.
Angel Pagan – Injuries have kept him from over 520 AB for the last three years, and 2016 looks to be the fourth. That’s what kept him from most rosters, because his skill set is at least decent across the board, and if he ever stayed healthy, he’d put up solid #3 OF numbers. In fact, his HR/FB% in 2016 is a career best aside from his short rookie campaign, though it’s only major league average. His struggles in September are a bit of an enigma: very low BABIP and high GB%, but a great hard hit rate and his best monthly HR/FB% of the year. The fact remains that he’s a high-risk player in any given situation. If he’s healthy, he still may struggle mightily (hitting .200 or lower in six months from 2015-16). I always marvel at his potential before a season, but I have to pass when it comes to the draft. Use him as an injury replacement when your drafted players go down, but don’t expect this resurgence to stick in his age 36 season next year.
Joe Panik – There could be value in an empty BA for this fantasy landscape, and that’s what Panik offered in 2015. This year has been a disappointment for many reasons. First, he recovered from a back injury at the end of 2015, only to deal with concussions issues in 2016. Some fantasy pundits had him poised for a breakout in 2016, so was it just the concussion that kept him from producing? Not in my opinion. He does have great plate discipline and contact rate, and his hard hit rate is at or better than league average. However, he’s not a power hitter, with a 7% HR/FB% for two straight years and a fly ball rate near 35%. His BABIP is a bit unlucky this year, perhaps, but he’s also dropped his LD%. He has some speed, but the Giants don’t give him the green light. His value is driven by simply gaining a lot of playing time and driving up his counting stats. Until he can consistently hit .290 or the Giants finally let him steal bases, you’re looking at a serviceable second baseman, but likely not a top-10 or even top-15 option.
AJ Griffin – Missing two years is going to affect any player, let alone a pitcher. In terms of BABIP and strand rate, he’s in line with his previous season. However, his velocity has been down from his pre-surgery days, and he doesn’t miss bats at a rate above average. His strikeouts went up a little, but so did his walk rate. These don’t bode well for him taking major strides in 2017. Also, his HR/FB% has risen in his three seasons from league average to 16%, and when you’re a fly ball pitcher, that’s going to sink your ERA. The Rangers aren’t going to give him a chance to start unless they have injury issues, so if their rotation is healthy in 2017, Griffin is the odd man out. He may have value as a last-round pick for deep leagues, but his skill set doesn’t impress me enough to risk drafting and stashing him all season, given his risks.
Ricky Nolasco – Yet another ugly season from him, and his September starts give no hope. Despite a lucky BABIP and an average HR/FB%, he can’t help but give up runs, with a 40% strand rate in his two September starts. Frankly, if you’re rostering him, there’s little point in talking sense to you. I like his K/BB%, but that’s all he has going for him, and the strikeouts aren’t high enough to be of fantasy value anyway. A change of scenery to LA didn’t help, and his only chance of providing a dollar in value for 2017 lies in extreme luck or a trade to a team with a huge home park.
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