If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment and I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Marwin Gonzalez – Marwin isn’t getting full playing time, but over the last two weeks he’s still an elite value. That part-time stint may mean he’s still available in your league. Well, he has been in the process of trading a bit of contact for more power, and then he added double-digit steals in 2016. Ignore the speed, because it’s not where his value lies. Joe Maddon has helped prove that super-utility guys can have value, even if they only play three-quarters of the time. The question is, should you pick him up?
It’s a bit of a mixed bag here. He’s taking more walks and being selective, and he’s lofting the ball more than last year, which helps his home run barrage. However, he’s not really hitting the ball all that hard compared to the major league average, and despite the fact that he should have above-average HR power, it’s really hard to believe he can sustain a 39% HR/FB. Also, he’s still hitting a lot of ground balls, and his line drive rate is single digits (which helps explain the low BABIP). He’s either making an out or hitting it out (9 HR, 19 H), and that rate isn’t sustainable.
Something’s gotta give at some point, and the most likely outcome is that his fly balls start falling in play more. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, his average standard distance and his average true distance are 20 feet below the league average. I feel he still has value as a plug-and-play guy, especially on daily lineups, but don’t count on a 30 HR season.
Cody Bellinger – He’s been near the top of prospect lists this offseason, and so far he is showing why. Between Joc Pederson getting hurt and then Adrian Gonzalez being shelved, I’m hopeful Bellinger can force the Dodgers to keep him in the majors. The good news is that unless you decide his HR/FB isn’t legit, there’s not a lot of obvious luck to his current stats.
His BABIP is right around the league average. He’s taking walks and making above-average contact. He has a little speed to beat out grounders and even steal some bases. And right now he’s lofting the ball and muscling pitches out of the park. The high HR/FB is backed up by a hard hit rate well above league average. Even if his batting average slips to .270-.280, he’s a must-buy option in any format. The only issue for redrafts is whether he’ll stay up the rest of the season.
Nate Karns – It feels like he has been on the cusp for a few seasons, though 2016 was a step back and caused the Mariners to trade him. Walks were an issue last year, and he’s improved his rate to 3.1 BB/9, which is perhaps slightly high in today’s pitching-rich environment, but is far better than the 4.6 he posted in 2016. He’s known for his strikeout potential, and he’s settled in to that 9.0 K/9 range with a swinging strike rate to back it up. The ERA and strand rate are higher than they could be this year because he’s giving up too many home runs with a 19% HR/FB.
However, what gives me great hope is that so far he is sporting an elite ground ball rate. Despite the too-high HR/FB, if he keeps the ball on the ground, that will help mitigate the damage. His breaking pitches are showing better PITCHf/x values this year, and he’s making batters chase out of the zone while also inducing more weak contact. You do need to monitor his HR/FB and BB/9, but he’s yet again on the verge of a breakout – especially if he can keep up the new ground ball rate.
Jose Quintana – From undervalued #2 SP to a disappointing 2017. When looking at ERA and WHIP, it seems nothing has gone right for Quintana this season. However, despite the lumps, he’s been better in recent weeks, and there are signs that he can still turn it around for the rest of the season.
His BABIP is a big high given that his LD% is lower than recent years, but honestly, he’s had higher BABIP with better results. The problem with his WHIP is the spike in walk rate. For a pitcher who has been well above average in BB/9 for years (his highest in the previous three seasons was 2.3), he’s ballooned to a 4.0. He’s throwing a few more pitches out of the zone, and some hitters are swinging, but overall it’s hurting his game. His first pitch strike rate is still high, so hopefully this is a small aberration. PITCHf/x says he has gone from throwing a four-seam and a two-seam to only throwing a four-seam, and his pitch value for his fastball has plummeted.
The rest of his metrics aren’t scary or great. His HR/FB is in line with his career. His FB% is higher than his early career, but it was higher in 2016 and he still did well. Whatever is going on with his fastball is going to determine his value for the rest of this season. His track record is decent enough that I’d gamble and buy low, or hold on to him.
Ian Kinsler – Kinsler has been defying age for a few years, but right now it seems his 35 years has caught up to him. He is not hitting for any average and the power is down. Those who drafted him and paid the 2016 price have been swindled. Is it time to bail on the veteran second baseman?
It seems the Tigers’ opponents haven’t been afraid of the batters behind Kinsler. He’s been leading off, but Nick Castellanos and Victor Martinez aren’t hitting well this year, and even Miguel Cabrera is mortal. As such, Kinsler is seeing a career low for pitches in the strike zone, hence his career high walk rate. His contact is down from his peak but is in line with 2016. His batted ball profile is mostly in line with his career, though his LD% is a bit low. That low LD% plus the extra FB% that aren’t leaving the park help explain his very low BABIP. Given that he’s hitting the ball harder than any other year in his career, I’m sure his batting average will rebound.
The power outage hurts, and at first I’d caution owners to not expect more than 15 HR for the year. However, given that he’s hitting the ball hard and hitting a lot of fly balls, it stands to reason that his HR/FB of 7% is bound to rise. He may not reach 30 HR due to the slow start, but he could surprise with 20 HR the rest of the way. I’m a fan of veterans and expect him to adjust. Don’t give up hope just yet.
Brandon Belt – Man, he’s been enticing us for years and years. You keep expecting a breakout, and something happens (often an injury). He has always been a bit more of a line drive hitter than a power bat, but still owners have kept hoping for a .290, 25 HR season that never came. Now that he’s 29 and struggling, can we finally close the book on the potential for an amazing career year?
The only positives are that his walk rate is still elite, and his HR/FB is above average. However, that’s where the good news ends, and there are plenty of red flags. His line drive rate is still good, but he’s not hitting the ball hard, and his ground ball rate has spiked. This helps justify the low (for him) BABIP, so it’s not just bad luck that’s killing his average. He’s striking out more despite the great walk rate, and a career low FB% is hindering the good HR/FB. Maybe he’s playing through a minor injury? Otherwise, I’ve never been as high on Belt as others, and I see no reason to buy low and hop he turns it around.
Jordan Zimmermann – The Tigers certainly weren’t expecting this when they signed Zimm to a big contract. I used to love his elite BB/9 and small ground ball tilt, and at least he put up average K/9. However, his BB/9 is on a four-year rise to 2.7, and for a control pitcher, that’s not acceptable. The strikeouts are even lower too. We’re not off to a good start.
His HR/FB has spiked to 15%, a career high, and he’s paired that with a rising FB% as well. Heck, it’s not rising, it’s through the roof at 50%. He’s earned that low strand rate, so it’s not bad luck. Frankly, your best hope is that he’s pitching hurt, because otherwise he has nothing to blame these results on. A starter who doesn’t strike out batters and gives up two homers per nine innings is nearly unrosterable in the majors, let alone on your fantasy team. Avoid him at all costs.
Julio Teheran – Although he had a lot of owners touting him entering 2017, he’s been up and down in recent years, and it seems 2017 is a down year. A rise in BB/9 and HR/FB derailed his 2015 season, but he got back on track in 2016. Is it the same this year, and can owners expect just a few small adjustments before he gets back to a solid #2 SP?
Unfortunately, there’s more to worry about in 2017. Not only has his BB/9 reached a career high, but his K/9 has fallen as well. His swinging strike rate has fallen just slightly, and though it’s not by much, his average fastball velocity is a career low. He has his best first pitch strike rate, but the at bats are getting away from him, and he has the lowest Zone% of his career. Going by the PITCHf/x values, none of his pitches are as effective as his good 2016 and 2014 seasons. Given that he faded in the second half of 2016, I worry that he’s not going to get back to the days of a sub-3.50 ERA. For this year, he may not even break 4.00. If you can find someone who still believes in him, I’d sell, even at a partial discount.
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