The fantasy may have ended, but I still can’t get enough. I’m excited to devour all the 2016 stats and help make recommendations for next draft season. For right now though, I’m calling out to you folks lucky enough to play in keeper and dynasty leagues with offseason roster moves. I’ve got a couple of ideas that you might be able to capitalize on now. We’ll start things off with one hitter and one pitcher to potentially buy low on.
Some fantasy analysts aren’t big on picking sample sizes from within a season (such as second half stats). I generally agree with that notion unless there is a narrative that can color those stats. Two years ago, Anthony Rendon was an MVP candidate and a fantasy darling. In 2015 he was injured and bad when he did play. This past year he was a mix of the two.
There’s a few things at play here. First of all, his batted ball profile for the season was almost identical to his breakout 2014 season. Take a look at those numbers courtesy of Fangraphs:
|LD %||GB %||FB %|
The line drive percentage is virtually the same, and there was a slight uptick in fly balls.
Now let’s take a look at his hard hit percentages between the two years.
|2014||14.7 %||47.5 %||37.8 %|
|2016||13.8 %||49.8 %||36.5 %|
That looks pretty similar too, huh? Most Rendon owners will tell you that he was really bad in the first half and pretty good in the 2nd half. Let’s look at just how good he was over his last 68 games:
Over that same period, his flyball percentage skyrocketed to 52%. This would explain and legitimize the increased power output he showed in the second half. I think we could see this improvement carry over to 2017 now that he is fully healthy and has knocked all of the rust off.
In addition to the power uptick, I would expect the steals to come back up a bit as he feels more confident about his health. Dusty baker loves to run as the young Trea Turner can already attest. Rendon figures to have a prominent role in the stacked Nats lineup as well, so he figures to be a good source of counting stats.
We’ve already gotten a glimpse of what his ceiling might look like. He had tremendous pedigree and should be a top-10 staple at third baseman for years to come with the upside to crack into the top 5 any given year.
My projections have Rendon doing the following in 155 games:
I’d sign up for that. The Rendon owner in your dynasty league might be turned off by the uneven 2016 campaign. Maybe he or she is overanalyzing the loss of his 2B/MI designation. Or maybe the owner is underrating him by comparing him to the ridiculous quartet at the very top of the third base tier (see our rankings here). There’s a potential great buying opportunity here. Jump on it if the price is right.
I have a few “go to” tactics when it comes to seeking out a trade. One of my favorite of these strategies is going after guys that may have caused emotional pain to their owners. Carrasco went down very late in the season and may well have cost their owner a playoff round or even a championship when he exited his final start one batter into the game.
On top of that, Carrasco is one of the few pitchers in the league with a very high floor while also possessing the upside to potentially be one of the best pitchers in baseball if everything broke right. It doesn’t really feel like he’s valued that way in most leagues, though.
In 2016 he had a 12% swinging strike rate, tied with Justin Verlander for 12th in the bigs (minimum 140 IP). On top of having swing and miss stuff, which generates plenty of Ks, he only walks around two guys a game. That adds up to a 4.41 K/BB rate. That kind of rate is awesome and is especially valuable for those of you in points leagues.
His ERA was up a bit this past year, largely because he gave up 3 more home runs in 37 ⅓ less innings than he registered in 2015. Let’s take a look at why that might have happened. His HR/FB% was about 4% higher than his career average and around 3% higher than 2015. I don’t think that’s the culprit, though, but it may have contributed slightly. Hitters also hit more balls hard off of him this year. Let’s take a look at the batted ball profile for the last 3 years:
|2014||19.6 %||55.5 %||24.9 %|
|2015||17.6 %||54.9 %||27.5 %|
|2016||16.0 %||47.6 %||36.4 %|
I believe this increase in hard contact is due to hitters feasting on his fastball. Pitch FX gave his four seam fastball a large negative value when it has traditionally been more of a neutral pitch. This seems like a fluke to me as his average fastball velocity was only down around a half mile per hour. Expect that number, as well as the HR/FB% rate to normalize. That should help him return to an ERA of 3.00 or below.
On to less statistically based and more observational points. The Indians made it to the World Series this year. They were successful partially because they scored the 5th most runs in baseball this year (2nd in the AL) and the lineup should be good again next year. Carrasco also has an elite infield defense behind him with Lindor and Ramirez holding down the left side. That’s pretty useful for someone who has a track record of inducing about 50% ground balls. The outfield should get better as well with the return of Michael Brantley from a long injury. Finally, they have arguably the best back end relievers in the league with Miller and Allen closing out games. That means Carrasco is less likely than many others to lose wins care of blown saves.
If you get 185 innings out of Carrasco, I believe he is a lock for 200 strikeouts and is as strong of a candidate for 14+ wins as anyone. For years people have suggested Stephen Strasburg will have “the year.” I feel the same way about Carrasco and think that 2017 could very well be the one. If he can go over 200 innings for the first time in his career I believe he will be a Cy Young favorite.
Good luck buying low on these two guys. I really think that each of them can get back to stud status and even surpass their previous achievements. In the next few weeks and months I’ll give you some more guys to buy low on as well as some guys to sell. Thanks for reading and make sure to make the most of your offseason.
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