In this series, I will give you my personal scouting report from watching lots of baseball during the week while trying to leverage my perspective as a former college ballplayer and lifelong baseball fan. I will also do my best to fuse this visual examination with the underlying statistics that we all know and love to provide the most accurate analysis possible.
I’ve spent a lot of column space on some of my calls that seem promising in the early going. Thought it might make sense to take an early look at some of the guys that have not lived up to my early analysis.
Carlos Gomez: Texas Rangers
As I am writing this, Carlos Gomez has just hit for the cycle. Still, the other Cargo is having a disappointing start. He went into that contest hovering around the “Mendoza Line” and is yet to deliver on any of the sleeper appeal that he had before the season. There were reasons to be optimistic before the season as he seemingly figured some things out at the end of 2016. I was even more excited when I saw him leading off for what figured to be a potent Rangers lineup.
So what’s going on with Cargo 2.0? There are some numbers that suggest hope. First of all, his current K% is 24.8%, which is within one point of where it was in 2013 (24.7%) when he was in his absolute prime. He has been hitting 44.3% fly balls, which would actually be the highest total at the major league level. Gomez is also hitting 33.8% of his balls and a measly 18.5% of his contact has been soft. These numbers profile an above average hitter, not someone that’s completely washed up.
Gomez has undergone the eye test from this author pretty closely this year as I have quite a few shares of Rangers on my various teams. He looks… okay. He looks exactly okay. Not explosive or swaggerific like days past. The numbers suggest that there’s a bit more in the tank. Just don’t expect peak production. But there’s no reason he can’t be a top 35-40 outfielder in Roto.
Eye Test Advice: Hold or target in deep roto leagues. Drop for higher upside in shallower formats, especially ones that ding you for Ks. If this cycle is the start of a hot steak then he might even be worth rostering in those leagues, but I would wait to see more.
Corey Dickerson: Tampa Bay Rays
I profiled Steven Souza in my last installment. It is starting to occur to me that my editor, Jim Finch, was right about which Rays outfielder would matter more. He was all in on Dickerson whereas I was hopeful of a potential skills improvement. Dickerson was once considered a top-10 outfielder in his Coors days, and I had basically written him off once he was relegated to the weirdly spacious Tropicana Field. Dickerson was probably better than you realized last year having finished up with 24 bombs.
Dickerson has some good things going on. He is making hard contact at a 37.5% rate, which is bordering on great! That helps explain the high BABIP (.369). Additionally, Dickerson has had some pretty high BABIP numbers in the past. Yes, some of those were at Coors where everyone enjoys a bump, but he also had some high BABIP years in the minors as well. Not saying it will remain that high, but saying that maybe his average projection is closer to .280 than the .260 I had envisioned.
Dickerson is not a particularly flashy player. His approach isn’t as masterful as some other players, but he does definitely battle. It is also nice to see him staying in against lefties. He had a particularly good AB against Liriano on Saturday that gave me some added hope. I do wish he would walk a bit more, but it’s hard to argue with the results so far.
Eye Test Advice: He should be owned in 12-teams leagues or deeper, as well as 10-team leagues while he is hot. Dickerson passes the eye test as a solid 3rd or 4th outfielder. So he isn’t the top-25 player he might have been at Coors, but he should be a productive player moving forward. I would target him in trades since you can probably get him cheap. His brand name lost a lot of it’s luster after leaving Coors so take advantage where you can.
Luis Severino: New York Yankees
I had largely written off Severino. I am a Yankee fan and have grown very skeptical of the hype surrounding Bronx bound prospects. He was an abomination last year. There were narratives about pitch tipping that I didn’t buy since he was very effective in the bullpen, but not as a starter. To me, that meant he was just not cut out to be a starter, but that hopefully he could become another Betances like reliever for my beloved Yanks. Even this year, I mostly ignored starts against the White Sox and the Rays. The most recent performance against the Red Sox finally has me on notice.
Statcast says his average fastball is sitting just shy of 97 MPH, which is serious cheddar. He accumulated at least 10 swinging strikes in every start this year, which is good enough to give him an impressive 12% swinging strike percentage. According to Fangraphs Pitch FX, some of his success might be attributed to improvement of his changeup:
It has historically been more of a “show me” pitch than anything. He’s actually throwing it slightly less than last year as well, down to 9% from 9.9%, so it’s not the quantity of changeups but the quality that seems to be helping Severino. He has turned a bad pitch into one with positive value, which is huge.
Severino crushes the eye test. He looks unbelievable. The stuff is insane. Think about all those years that people have fawned over Pineda’s potential. Severino looks like he could be everything we’ve always wished of Pineda and maybe more! He throws 2-3 MPH harder than Pineda, the slider is comparable, and he’s actually added a decent third pitch.
Eye Test Advice: Pick up in any league where he is available. Buy high in any points leagues where starters with relief eligibility have added value. You can also try to sell high, especially in leagues with Yankee fans. I saw him dealt for Carlos Martinez in one league and Paxton in another. I’ll take those offers 10 times out of 10. I’d be pretty happy to own him though, so only deal him if you are actually selling high.
Dallas Keuchel: Houston Astros
This one is pretty surprising to me. Keuchel has been DOMINANT so far. He wasn’t quite a flat-out avoid for me in draft season, but he wasn’t far off. I normally love using recency bias as a draft weapon. Just with Keuchel, there were two narratives for why he was bad in 2016. One was injury, which is usually a great one to buy back in on if they’re healed up. The second one was this idea that he was getting less called strikes. The idea that a guy, who generally lives under 90MPH, was so reliant on umpires for success scared the bejesus out of me. He is enfuego out of the gate here, though.
Keuchel is currently 4-0 with a 1.22 ERA and a WHIP of 0.84. Before even having a look under the hood, we can surmise that these numbers are probably unsustainable for anyone except maybe Kershaw. His xFIP is a respectable 3.33 while his FIP is a less impressive 3.76. The hard hit percentage against him is down 6.8% from last year, though, and his ground ball percentage is way up. It’s at an absolutely astounding 65.6%. That’s one way to overcome an underwhelming 6.57 K/9.
Keuchel looks amazing. He looks way more like the stud that shut the Yankees out in a playoff game than he does like the bum we saw last year. The numbers support what my eyes told me. Basically what my eyes told me is that he is definitely back to being an asset, just likely not back to being an ace. I’m still scared of everything I was scared of during draft season, though. While I’m encouraged that he looks good again, I am still scared of a guy that throws 88 MPH and is reliant on called strikes to be above average.
Eye Test Advice: I would try to sell high. Try to find someone who thinks Cy Keuchel is in the house like it’s 2015. Think the true value is still useful, but more of a top 25-40 pitcher rather than the ace he once was. Hold if you must, but I would insta-trade him for almost any consensus top-20 starting pitcher.
If you’re not visiting Fantasy Rundown for all your fantasy baseball needs – you’re doing it wrong.