Fantasy Stock Watch: Week 16

If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.

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Andrew McCutchen Knee injuries have dropped his stolen base total. A thumb injury was the likely culprit for his bad batting average in 2016. As McCutchen enters his thirties, owners wonder whether he can get back to a strong value that’s near the top-25. After a slow start to 2017, he’s been on fire in June in July. As we move into the second half, don’t expect him to slow down. The elite bat is back.

He’s increased his line drive rate every month this year, and his hard hit rate is well above average. A low BABIP was mostly to blame for May’s batting average, and he’s gotten back to walking far more often in the last two months (15%). His HR/FB has gone up every month, indicating the dip in 2016 was likely due to injuries. He was striking out more often than his career rate early in the year, but now he’s lowered his K% to his best mark in the last four years, and his low swinging strike rate backs up his success. He’s getting “old” now, so you can’t expect his 2012-13 peak, but with health a .285/25/10 season is his floor.

Paul DeJong Well, the Cardinals middle infield isn’t doing what we’d hoped or expected this year. Aledmys Diaz was demoted, and Kolten Wong was injured. I liked both of those guys for strong seasons in 2017. Instead, DeJong has seen recent playing time and is providing that impact bat. I won’t deny his power and strong HR/FB, but what about the rest of his game?

It’s safe to say that we’re dealing with a small sample size, and there are signs of luck in his metrics. A very high BABIP that isn’t sustainable (over .400 in July) will see his average drop. Yes, he’s hitting the ball hard, with lots of line drives, but it’s still going to fall some. Although I like him to keep a HR/FB above 20% due to his good power, it’s hard to believe July’s 33% rate will keep up all  year. What’s more, the free-swinging ways will catch up to him. He swings out of the zone a lot, and he swings and misses a lot. Given his complete lack of BB% (which has gone down every level he’s advanced in the minors), it stands to reason that MLB teams will find some weaknesses and exploit them.

I’ll ride his hot streak in redraft leagues, but he wasn’t a highly touted prospect, and his profile doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in me. If you can flip him for a much better prospect or young bat, I’d do so.

Michael Fulmer I’ve been keeping my eye on Fulmer all year, even when I don’t own him. I was skeptical of a full repeat entering 2017, but I knew he had good skills with growth potential, so his results should surprise me. A month ago he hit a rough patch when I wrote about him. Now he’s back on a hot streak.

Remember when I said he was bouncing around in terms of luck? Well, chalk up his July success to good luck more than anything. His BABIP is below .180, so that’s extreme good luck. His July strand rate is rather high given his HR/FB and complete lack of strikeouts (3.2 K/9). Long term, there’s still a lot to like here, but he isn’t yet putting it all together. Redraft owners should sell while he’s this hot, if they can get a great haul for him. Keeper leagues have a tougher choice, but I’d probably hold because I like his future potential.

Lance Lynn Missing 2016 really didn’t slow Lynn down, and he’s been hot for most of this season, with the exception of two really awful starts in June. What can you expect for the rest of 2017? He’s pretty solid, but I’d caution against assuming he can keep it up all year, especially given this is his first year back from TJS.

His strand rate seems high at 80%, but he’s maintained that rate for his last three seasons, so it seems more skill than pure luck. I like that he’s slightly improved his BB/9 in 2017, but his K/BB has been consistent for three years as well, at 2.5–which is fine but not elite. The big help to his WHIP this year has been due to a BABIP below .250. That’s bound to increase given that his hard hit rate is higher than recent years. He’s also been lucky when it comes to home runs, with a career worst HR/FB but most of them coming with few or no runners on base. It’s been a nice first half, but bear in mind that the wheels could come off a bit as the season progresses. I’d sell high in redraft if you can.




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Xander BogaertsBy most fantasy valuations, Bogaerts is having another solid year, with a value over $20. But after his 20 HR in 2016 and his .320 average in 2015, this year has been a bit disappointing. He’s not bad by any means, and we have to adjust our expectations compared to the golden age of fantasy hitters, but now he’s also had an awful July, hitting under .160. Can he right the ship?

Well, he’s not my top pick at shortstop for the rest of the year. He’s not a power hitter, and he hits too many balls on the ground to reach 20 HR in the near future. His hard hit rate is just league average for his career. Honestly, his profile doesn’t seem to explain his high BABIP. His LD%, hard hit rate, and contact aren’t high. He’s managing a lot of infield hits, which helps his ground ball BABIP. But despite the decent speed, his SB totals aren’t all that impressive; he may set a career high this year, but it may be only 15.

He’s been touted as an elite shortstop, and it seems his floor is pretty high. But his overall game doesn’t shout “first or second round pick” to me. Keeper leagues will feel obligated to hold on to him, but I’d trade him in any format if I can get a good return.

Corey Seager Another touted shortstop has had a seemingly rough July by fantasy ranks. However, that’s simply due to a lack of HR and runs. He’s still hitting over .300 and has a respectable 7 RBI so far this month. Even so, let’s take a look at his metrics and see what the second half holds for him.

I’ll start with the negatives. His K% is up a little from last year, and his contact rate has dropped a bit too. He’s striking out a lot in July, and the month’s BABIP can’t keep up, especially with a drop in LD%, so July’s average seems more luck than skill right now. But that’s all the bad I can muster for Seager. His future, and the rest of 2017 is still very bright.

He’s swinging out of the zone less often, and he’s feasting on fastballs. His hard rate is through the roof, especially the last two months. A spike in GB% this month has kept his home runs in check, but his HR/FB is still 25%, and his season GB% is much better. He’s a solid player who should come very close to repeating 2016’s numbers. Unlike Bogaerts, this is a shortstop I can get behind — which is why I own him in my favorite keeper league.

Masahiro Tanaka The Yankee ace hasn’t acted like one in 2017. May was clearly his worst month, but he’s only been below a 4.00 ERA in one month, and that was just barely. As more owners throw in the towel and drop him or put him on the block, should you gamble on him? Many pundits like his second half chances, but I’m more skeptical. For his first three years, his K/9 dropped each season before rebounding in 2017. He’s officially improved it every month this year. His walk rate is also elite, especially in the last two months. So the skill base seems pretty strong. Why not buy?

Well, the things that are sinking him are home runs and seemingly unlucky BABIP and strand rate. But a high HR/FB and a low strand rate go hand in hand. Despite his ground ball tilt, a HR/FB of 23% (and a HR/9 of 2.0) is going to keep his ERA inflated. His sinker and fastball are ineffective, and so he’s throwing them less, but he can’t live off his slider forever. Even if his BABIP does drop a little, improving his WHIP, the ERA issue, fewer wins, and lower QS are going to continue hounding him.

Zach Wheeler Confession time on my bad trade of the year. About six weeks ago, I moved Greg Holland for Wheeler. I thought that a health-risk closer in Colorado couldn’t keep it up, and that Wheeler’s decent upside would be worth it despite the IP limit this season. Holland has been worse in June/July than April/May with fewer saves, but Wheeler had a horrendous June before seemingly turning things around this month. So what are Wheeler’s prospects for the rest of the season?

I wouldn’t hold your breath for a strong finish. It’s a mixed bag, but given the IP limit, he’s not worth using unless you’re stuck with him like I am. His K/9 has been pretty consistent and decent, but his BB/9 is too high at 4.0. June seems like bad luck at first glance, with a very high BABIP and low strand rate, until you notice his extremely high LD% and HR/9. He was earning those poor results. In July he’s improved his BABIP and strand rate, lowered his LD%, and netted a ground ball rate over 60%. That could help him the rest of the way, but he’s not quite back to his 2014 level. Much better for deep keeper leagues, but that’s the only league that should hold on to him.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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