If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Eduardo Nunez – Changing teams hasn’t slowed him down — if anything, he’s picked it up a bit since joining Boston. The super utility glove is also providing much-needed batting average and steals, and he’s hit over .300 in every month except April. He’s also consistently hit 2 home runs in every month except April, but what you really want him for is his stolen bases and ability to play everywhere. In case you had even the slightest doubt, there’s nothing but good news in my analysis for Nunez.
He’s a classic ground ball hitter with high-speed. He’ll keep beating his BABIP because of it, plus the fact that he’s hitting more line drives and is hitting the ball harder. He’s received a bump due to his new home park as well, which may help explain his August spike in HR/FB. Even if that home run rate doesn’t keep up, there’s a chance he could reach 13 home runs with luck. He still has speed, and Boston isn’t curtailing his running game, so he’s going to provide another stellar season, and he’s worth keeping for 2018.
Joey Gallo – To nobody’s surprise, Gallo has reached 30 home runs. Also to nobody’s surprise, he’s flirting with the Mendoza line. Simply put, you’re getting what you expected from him this season. But is there hope for a change in his projections anytime soon?
Don’t hold your breath. He lofts the ball at an insane pace, with 59% fly balls. That means more easy outs if the ball doesn’t leave the yard. And as it turns out, his hard hit rate is only league average, so despite the high HR/FB, it’s not necessarily a sure thing he can bank on every season. That’ll suppress his BABIP and his average. He also doesn’t make much contact, further hurting his average. The good news for OBP leagues is that he takes walks, so the best you can hope for is the newest version of Adam Dunn: a .220 average and 40 HR. That has value, especially at third base, but don’t expect that he’ll turn the corner and hit even .250.
Danny Salazar – He’s not Mr. Consistency, which has held back his fantasy value, but we can’t give up on a strikeout guy like him. A rough start early, particularly May, bloated his ratios as he dealt with control issues (and gopheritis in May). He also had a very high BABIP early on, though it was partly supported by a high LD%.
But look at those strikeout metrics. An elite K/9 is supported by his insane swinging strike rate. He’s also improved his first pitch strike rate this season, which should help him in the long-term with his BB/9. The strikeouts help him maintain a seemingly lucky strand rate, so without the HR/FB blip of May, his ERA should stay much better. We keep hoping for even better stats than 2015. He’s struggled with a few things, but he’s also made great strides. For the rest of 2017, and for keeper leagues, it’s still hard to pass on his elite potential. Just know that he comes with extra risk due to health and inconsistency.
Luis Severino – Severino has been good all season, but he has arguably been even better since July. It’s not all luck that’s keeping his stats looking shiny, so owners should ride him through the playoffs. Overall it’s a great skill set to own, but there’s a small cause for concern. First let’s look at his pluses.
He’s maintained his fastball velocity all season, and it’s better than last year. A good uptick in swinging strikes and first pitch strikes has bolstered his K/9, which has jumped over 2.0 from 2016, and which is better since July (11.0) compared to the first three months (10.2). His walk rate is very solid at 2.3 — a big improvement from last season. His luck factors in BABIP and strand rate are neutral, so he could end up with a random month that’s even better if luck favored him.
For the season, his ground ball rate is a plus, at above 50%. However, my concern is that since July, it’s been much lower (41%). I’m sure he can get back to his ground ball ways, but if he doesn’t, there’s a bit more risk to his ERA because his HR/FB (12%) is above average. That said, it won’t stop me from investing in Severino, and he’s SP gold for keeper leagues.
Eric Thames – One of the biggest surprises this season is having his second slump of the season. After a June where he hit .163, he’s hitting .160 in August. What’s more, the power has slowed from his ridiculously hot start in April. So do you risk using him for a playoff run, or do you trade him at the deadline?
Keeping him is riskier than I like. The good news is that his FB% and HR/FB aren’t a lot lower in the second half. His walk rate is still great. However, the August struggles are notable. His FB% has dropped a lot in August, and his hard hit rate is well below average, so he’s not driving the ball. More grounders and weak hits mean his low BABIP isn’t just bad luck, though I expect he can raise it a bit. Also, more gounders mean that his nice HR/FB is less effective. His contact has been worse in the second half as well.
It’s entirely possible he turns it around and gets back to something near his July stats, although you can’t count on that .280 average because he had an extremely lucky BABIP. If you can sell him based on his first half, do it now and get something valuable for him.
Jose Bautista – Another slugger who has a low average and potentially big power. But Bautista has been on the decline for a while now. I suppose you can rely on him assuming you did not put much value in your preseason projections. Needless to say, my analysis isn’t good for him.
A three-year decline in HR/FB, and he was already well down from his peak years. A low BABIP is par for the course for him, but he’s also hitting the ball with less force — currently his hard hit rate is below the league average. A sharp decline in his contact rate this season pairs with an increase in his swinging strikes, creating his worst K% and BB% in nine years.
Then when you look at his monthly totals, you realize he did the majority of his home run damage in one month. With only 3 homers since the start of July, there’s no real value here, and I’d be tempted to even drop him if you’re stacked in the outfield and are past your trade deadline.
Rick Porcello – Man, Boston doesn’t seem capable of turning their free agent dollars into good starting pitching, with Price and Porcello struggling. I hate to say “I told you so,” but Porcello was a huge risk despite his two seasons with good ERA and WHIP. Some still view him as a nice grab, pointing to certain metrics, but I’m still staying away. Here’s why.
Why is there hope for the future? Well, his K/9 and BB/9 are very solid, so on one hand, you hope he can get a little lucky and turn it around. However, look at his career stats. This season’s BABIP seems high at first glance, but he’s had many, many seasons like this before, with two previous seasons at this level. His HR/FB is a bit high, but before you think it’s a fluke, he has matched this rate in three other years. What’s worse, his batted ball profile is flipping from ground ball heavy to more fly balls. That explains his career worst HR/9 in 2017.
Porcello has only two good seasons, and everything had to break right for him (lucky BABIP and HR/FB compared to his career rates). His strikeouts aren’t worth the hits to ERA and WHIP. Avoid him in the future.
Steven Matz – He’s missed time this year, but June looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. Then the wheels fell off. I’d like to tell you it’s all bad luck, but unfortunately it’s not a good outlook for the rest of 2017. Here’s the problem.
Gopheritis is the first glaring problem. Despite a low fly ball rate, he has a HR/9 of 1.7, causing his low strand rate. He’s giving up more line drives in the second half, which partly explains his high BABIP, though there’s likely some bad luck as well. His K/9 has taken a hit from last year, and it’s partly due to a lower SwStr%.
When looking at his season as two halves, there’s some good news. He’s been better recently in K/9 and SwStr%, so it’s likely his elbow injury affected him a lot early on. He’s also maintaining a good walk rate and a ground ball tilt. Long term, his value is still pretty high. But for 2017, it’s best to cut and run.
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