If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Elvis Andrus – The reliable speedster often disappointed owners because he seemed to have the ability to reach 30+ steals, but usually totaled no more than 25 swipes. This year he has busted out, and not just in speed. He’s already set a career high in home runs despite being halfway through the season. His batting average is above .300 for the second consecutive year. And he’s running more than ever, successfully, even if his speed scores are down from his early career.
If you’re risk averse and can afford to trade Andrus, I’d do so. A look at his metrics indicate that he doesn’t seem to be doing enough things differently to warrant the explosion of success. The high average is partly due to a high BABIP. Granted that it is in line with last year so he can clearly hold it at this level, but it could easily fall back some in the second half. His batted ball profile is essentially in line with his past two seasons, and his hard hit rate is high for his career, but only league average. He’s lost his plate discipline, swinging out of the zone more, missing more often, making career low contact, and putting up a career worst in BB% and K%.
Given these factors, even if his HR/FB doesn’t fall (which I expect it to do), the other risks mean you should not pay top-25 status for him the rest of the way.
Orlando Arcia – He was supposed to be a great stolen base source, and anything else would be gravy. So far the speed hasn’t really been there, but he has surprised in batting average and power. What can we expect going forward? The early signs are good, and if anything, he could add more stolen bases.
Arcia is not running as often as last year, and his speed scores are down a little. That said, we know he has the wheels, so if the team gives him the green light, he should be able to net 15 stolen bases for the year. Because of his speed and ground ball tilt, he can continue putting up a BABIP above the league average, so even if the batting average falls a little, you don’t have to worry about 2016’s .219 coming back. As for the home runs, his HR/FB isn’t outrageously high, and his hard hit rate is up from last season.
I’d take the under on doubling his season total, so expect fewer than 15 home runs, but that’s still a good number to pair with 15 stolen bases and a .280 average.
Aaron Nola – A decent rookie showing transitioned into a hot start to 2016, but he cooled and ended up missing time with an elbow injury. In 2017 he has been decent when looking at his season totals, but he’s really only kicked it into gear since June. Moving forward, it’s anybody’s guess as to what Nola will do.
His K/9 is down from last year, and that’s partly due to a varying SwStr% each month, along with a higher BB/9. For the season he’s still solid at 9.0 K/9, but I don’t expect more from him in the second half. He’s had bad luck in strand rate and BABIP, especially in April. But he has also had a month of gopheritis (May’s 23% HR/FB), which is his fault. These factors have made his ERA and WHIP move all over.
What worries me the most is that his batted ball profile has shifted. Last year and early this season he had a good ground ball tilt with over 50% grounders. In June his grounders dropped to just 42%. That’s not awful, and he had good results, but I’d rather see him get back to 50% to mitigate any potential gopheritis resurgence.
A lot of pitchers are risky, and he’s not worse than any other, but don’t look for a breakout.
Adalberto Mejia – If a prospect doesn’t have elite status, can he still be valuable on your fantasy team? Mejia is near the top of the recent rankings mostly due to his 3 wins and two starts with no runs. A lot of desperate teams may opt to pick him up, especially if he is a two-start option. However, you should continue to ignore him despite the lucky collection of wins.
The first and most obvious issue I have is his walk rate. In this day and age, anything above a 3.5 BB/9 is very risky. He’s at 4.5 for the year, and his K/9 of 7.4 isn’t strong enough to offset it. His BABIP is league average, and if anything his strand rate is slightly lucky, so there’s nowhere but up for his 4.32 ERA to go, especially with a HR/FB of 15%.
There’s no reason to gamble on a pitcher like Mejia unless you’re in the deepest of leagues.
Yoenis Cespedes – The injury earlier this year put a good dent in his value. He came back and hit well in June, but he’s back on the shelf right now with a hammy cramp. It’s highly likely that his recent two-week drop has been due to battling the hamstring injury’s return. In one recent week he had a 6% line drive rate, along with an anemic hard hit rate. That’s uncharacteristic for him. A low BABIP is to blame for the low average, but again, it’s the injury causing the poor metrics, which causes the poor results.
Cespedes is certainly capable of hitting well when healthy. The problem is he can’t stay on the field, and that’s why I had no second thoughts on trading him this season in a win-now move.
Jason Kipnis – He started his career with essentially 15/30 results, and since then he has been a bit of a disappointment, even though he has provided MI value. That is, until 2016, when he busted out with a 23/15 season. However, 2017 has been his worst year so far. Is there much hope for a strong finish? Can we just blame the shoulder injury that kept him out in April?
Given his decent track record, I’m willing to pin most of his struggles on the shoulder. However, we can’t assume all of it is injury related, and regardless, we have to work with the metrics and results he has produced. His hard hit rate is down from the last two seasons but is near his career level and the MLB average. His HR/FB is down from 2016’s career year but is also league average. Then you look at his BABIP and see it is very low, so you may assume he has a lot of bounce back potential.
However, this year Kipnis showing more chinks in the armor. Whether it’s due to the shoulder or other issues, the fact remains he won’t become an All-Star level performer in the second half. His contact rate is normal for him, but he’s swinging out of the zone at a career high level. His swinging strike rate is also a career high. As for that low BABIP, it’s at least partly due to a career worst LD% and that decreased hard hit rate. He’s not making good contact either, with a career high IFFB%.
Again, blame the shoulder, but the fact is he isn’t the same hitter he was in his solid 2016 year, so sell if you can get someone to buy on a second half surge.
Justin Verlander – An amazing second half in 2016 had everyone touting his return to greatness. However, the results in 2017 have been anything but ace caliber. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.35 or a WHIP under 1.30 in any month. When it comes to a second half turn-around, I’m betting against the veteran.
Despite a sudden and amazing late-career velocity surge on his fastball, it’s not doing him any good. His K/9 is down from last year, as is his swinging strike rate. What’s more, his first pitch strike rate is the lowest in five years. That helps partly explain his increased walk rate, but it doesn’t cover all of his career worst BB/9 of 4.3. If he can’t control the higher velocity, he should go back to being crafty and avoiding walks.
Another cause for concern is his batted ball profile. Two of his three highest HR/FB in his career have been in 2016 and 2017. His LD% is a career high this year, and his contact rate is one of the higher in his career, showing hitters are squaring up well against him. When they do square up, they’re killing the ball, with his career worst hard hit rate. These factors mean that his seemingly low BABIP and strand rate are not due to bad luck. He’s not pitching well, so the blame’s on him.
If you can sell for anything decent, then do so. Maybe a Tigers fan wants him, or if he gets traded near the deadline, someone might want to bite. But I’m avoiding him at all costs and don’t expect a rebound.
Marco Estrada – He has seemingly outperformed some of his metrics for years, and he started 2017 with solid results in ERA and WHIP. However, June has Estrada exploding, and not in a good way. A 9.11 ERA in 6 starts has ballooned his season ratios. Has he simply run out of luck, or is there something else going on here?
This is a mixed bag for sure. When you look at his June BABIP (over .400) and strand rate (under 60%), it’s clear there’s some bad luck occurring. However, he’s also giving up more line drives, which means the BABIP isn’t just bad luck. His walk rate also skyrocketed, and his swinging strike rate dropped, which made his K/9 fall after elite numbers in April and May. And even though Estrada’s a fly ball pitcher, his GB% is insanely low recently, hurting his strand rate.
On the season, his numbers don’t look awful, so maybe you can say this is just blip on the radar. Watch his July starts carefully, and if he doesn’t show signs of decreasing his BB/9 and LD%, then trade before his value falls through.
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