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Early Impressions make Lasting Perceptions

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. Eighteen years ago my weekend social calendar was booked with the best High School parties in town.  Twenty years ago I walked across stage for my own graduation. If you do the math that puts me a little beyond the shelf-life for a High School socialite. We’ve all labeled these individuals as losers and hangers-on. I myself faced the same criticisms during my prolonged High School Festivus.

On one such occasion an acquaintance of mine hosted a soirée with a large High School following. The home-field advantage of sorts had me on top of my game that evening. The beverages tasted better, the pickup lines were on point; the good times were in rotation and I was the axis. The good vibes lasted the duration of the evening, but my social peak did not. Before the night was over I found myself mistaking a utility room for a bathroom, leaving at least one lasting impression on one of the nights biggest fans.

*****

The MLB season is filled with many ups and downs. Players in particular rarely post consistent levels of success from month to month, much less week to week. Every team has those building block pieces that you simply plug into your lineup, never giving them a second thought no matter how bad it gets. Most players, however, fall under the fringe umbrella in fantasy.

Bad starts lead to lost faith; lost faith becomes waiver wire additions. Two weeks later the same player begins to play well. Solid production leads to renewed faith, renewed faith leads to your newest waiver wire gem. That exact cycle plays out countless times throughout a season. Once 162 games have been played by all 30 teams, those players then become assessed based on their final season line.

We’re well past the point of owners having already lost faith in many of their draft day treasures, a number of which can already be found on a waiver wire near you. Some may be bitterly being held on to solely because of the draft day commitment. Today I wanted to look at three players in particular who have had rather pedestrian starts. These three players are most likely not viewed as core players, but they’re certainly a group where a certain level of production is expected.

Due to a slow starts out of the gate it’s quite possible that their current owner has been left with a bitter taste in their mouths. Often times once an opinion is formed, people aren’t willing to accept anything other than what they believe.

The following players began the season rather poorly  in some degree, but if you’ve taken the time to look as of late their fortunes appear to be turning. Should any of these players be found on a waiver wire near you, look beyond the numbers to this point. For those under ownership of another, I suggest sending an offer. The slow start is all the owners will remember, making the asking price as good as it will ever be.



Carlos Gonzalez
.237 AVG/4 HR/24 Runs/17 RBI

At 95% owned, the draft day price tag on CarGo is driving his ownership rates much more than his production. Combine the struggles with age and the power decline last season, the current asking price for CarGo could be a career low.

While the overall statistics haven’t been there, the plate skills have remained steady. His 9.1 walk rate is his highest since 2013, while his 20.1 K% is right in line with last season and just above his career low of 19.4%.  The batted ball profile has a little less appeal. His GB/FB rate of 1.68 marks a four-year increase and would serve as his career high mark to this point. More ground balls with a higher pull rate and declining hard contact could put some doubt into how much growth potential his .237 batting average has.

Over the last 14 days CarGo has managed to hit near .300 and has posted nearly half of his run total as well as doubling up his home run total. During that span CarGo has featured a K% of 15.9 along with a slight bump in BB% at 9.5. He has still had the strong ground ball lean, but perhaps most important of all would be the 17% soft contact rate – a 3% decline over his 2017 total thus far. While this did not directly bleed into increased Hard contact, the decline in Weak contact for a GB hitter will assist in the improvement of BABIP.  

You’re no longer looking at the 40/100/100 threat, but I see no reason CarGo won’t push a .270 average with 25 home runs and 180 combined runs + RBIs.

Mark Trumbo
.268 AVG/ 7 HR/ 33 Runs/ 26 RBI

Mark Trumbo’s slashline won’t exactly send you off screaming.  His .268 AVG is above league average, and the 33 Runs has him on pace for 100. What Trumbo does possess is baggage. In 2014 and 2015 he was only relevant in league-only and 15-team mixed type leagues. So after the 47 home run and 108 RBI last season, Trumbo’s draft day value had not exactly come to a complete 180. An NFBC ADP of 74 Overall placed Trumbo below unproven talents such as Christian Yelich and Gregory Polanco, as well as the aging Andrew McCutchen and his declining production.

Where Trumbo owners may be growing tired is in the home run department. You draft Trumbo expecting a home run total ranking in the top-third of the league.  His current pace is just above 20. He does have 7, but six of those have occurred within the last 30 days. That is a long stretch of home run emptiness that still makes for a fresh wound to so many Trumbo owners. With a less than stellar track record, more and more fantasy owners are willing to make 2016 the outlier rather than expecting Trumbo’s bottom line to resemble what we witnessed last season.

Up to this point his average hasn’t been enough to make up for any perceived loss of power. If you look closer, though, Trumbo has posted a batting average north of .300 for both the last 14 days (.365) as well as the last 30 days (.333).  If this growth can hold up I’m not sure Trumbo will need the 40 home runs to build on his Run and RBI totals.

Take advantage of the slow start and act quickly. Players such as Trumbo can produce a 4 home run week at the drop of a hat. Another one of those could close the door on potential trade value.

Adam Wainwright
4.20 ERA/ 5  Wins/ 1.54 WHIP

After a strong July last season, Wainwright’s value plummeted.  In August of last season Waino posted an ERA north of 6.00 and managed only to trim a run off that total in 35.2 Sept/Oct innings. Factor in the 66 innings workload with the unsightly ERA and Wainwright may have been the least valuable pitcher during last season’s stretch run.

Wainwright came with a draft day discount at 64th overall among SP and 235 overall ADP in NFBC drafts. The modest price suggested that a cloud of doubt had at least began to form over one of the most consistent arms over the last half decade outside of the lost 2015.

Even the most avid supporters of Wainwright began bailing ship after five April starts netted a 6.12 ERA and 184 WHIP. If anyone had bothered to pay attention Wainwright’s underlying numbers were very refreshing in regards to what we had come to expect. His K% during that time was 22% while his BB% was just a notch below 6.00. Combine those stellar numbers with a GB/FB rate of nearly 2.00, and to no surprise, Wainwright’s xFIP was 3.24.

The results were much better in the month of May. In six starts Wainwright has posted a 2.21 ERA with a WHIP of 1.25.  Naturally both his walk and strikeout rates have declined during this stretch. Funny how baseball works sometimes. Even with the decline, the overall body of work suggest those who had rebound hopes for Wainwright will be proven correct. His Contact rate of 80.9% marks his lowest total since 2014. The same can be said for his 8.4% SwStr%. Wainwright’s 20% strikeout rate is his best mark since 2013. A 3.79 ERA and 1.49 WHIP mask a much better pitcher than owners currently see.

A few of those buy-low windows may have closed. There may be some owners that want to bail out now in fear of regression, while others may not look at the weekly/monthly breakdown and just see a somewhat disappointing bottom line. Use that to your advantage when targeting him.

*****

A couple of days ago I ran into a female that was in attendance on the aforementioned party. Within the first 15 seconds of the conversation she reminds me of that night when I calmly opened the utility room door, proceeded to vomit on the floor, and gently closed the door as if I owned the place. In 18 years since that day, nothing that I have done has replaced that particular moment for her. For her, my timeline begins and ends with that one particular moment.

As fantasy owners we often label players too quickly. We become over-sensitive to the results to date instead of looking at a player’s production of late and/or the growth that may have come with it. The players noted above haven’t had a productive season overall, but lately they’ve possessed plenty of value.

For those who currently own them, their value is likely tied to those slow beginnings. For you they offer plenty of potential value at a below market price. Two data points that lead to varying perceptions on the same player. Ultimately, the perception you have is derived from your vomit in the utility room moment.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.

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