If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Eddie Rosario – I’ve liked him for several seasons, but a lack of playing time and the inability to put everything together has forced him to develop slowly. However, he has made important steps in 2017, and it’s time to start investing in him again. His speed and improved hard hit rate is keeping his BABIP well above the league average, so don’t expect much decline there because it’s not luck. He’s certainly capable of double digit steals, if given the green light. And he is clearly growing into his power stroke, because his HR/FB has gone up every season, with a healthy 16% in 2017.
What’s more exciting, and what will keep him in the lineup, is his new and improved plate discipline. His walk rate was abysmal last year at 3%, and though it’s still not great, he has doubled it to 6% in 2017. From last year, he has also greatly improved his contact rate (73% to 78%) and swinging strike rate (15.3% to 11.8%). Every year he is swinging out of the zone less often.
Rosario has now given himself a better floor for batting average, and with luck he could end 2017 with a .290/20/10 line. He makes for a nice keeper option in deep leagues, but at the least he should be a sleeper target in 2018 drafts.
CJ Cron – Most of use were hoping for a breakout in 2017. He promptly fell on his face with awful first half numbers, a DL stint, and two demotions. Then since July, he’s finally turned it on, with seven home runs since the All-Star break. With the improved stats, is he worth a flier for your playoff push?
I may live to regret it, but count me in yet again. He’s lofting the ball more than ever now, and his LD% is nearly a career best. In August his hard hit rate is well above league average. I’m excited about his strong HR/FB, but the one cautionary note I’ll make is that he had two stellar months in 2016, with the rest of the season lacking. Pay attention to September to see if he can keep it up for all the second half. If he can, then there’s hope he’ll make a nice buy-low target in 2018. For the playoff push this season, keep riding him until he gives you reason to doubt him.
Kenta Maeda – After a strong debut in 2016, it was reasonable to expect a full repeat. April was ugly, with major gopheritis (2.3 HR/9) and a slightly unlucky BABIP. However his strikeouts and walks were still solid, and since then he’s been much better, even with the brief bullpen stint. I’m optimistic he can find another gear in 2018, and for the rest of this season, he’s a great investment.
In two of the last three months, his BB/9 has been under 2.0, and his K/9 has been above 10.0. Strong SwStr% and F-Strike% support this level of dominance. He’s had two lucky BABIP months, but his overall skill set means that a lot of his high strand rate is because of him and not good luck. I’d expect an ERA under 3.50 the rest of the way and a WHIP under 1.10. There’s nice keeper value here in deep keeper leagues or NL-only formats.
Trevor Bauer – Like Maeda, some strong skills were offset by gopheritis early in the season. Then he continued to struggle in the next several months, with a BB/9 that rose from April to July. However, in August he is sporting a strong ERA and a decent WHIP. Has he finally figured it all out, or is this just a brief blip on the radar?
Well, he’s still giving up home runs this month, with a 2.2 HR/9. However, they’ve all been solo shots, because his strand rate is a miraculous 100%. Obviously that rate can’t continue, so luck is a huge factor in his shiny ERA. He’s still striking out batters like crazy, but until this month, his SwStr% hasn’t backed it up, and his F-Strike% is down from last year.
Bauer has lost some of his ground ball tilt: 43% in the second half, compared to 48% in the first half and 49% in 2016. He suddenly stopped walking batters by posting a 1.7 BB/9, but it’s just one month, and you can’t excuse all his 2017 struggles in that area. Look to September: if he maintains a BB/9 under 2.5 and can reduce the home runs, maybe there’s something to speculate on next season. However, I’m not really sold on him, and right now he’s a one-category guy.
Xander Bogaerts – The surge in power from 2016 didn’t stick, and he’s struggled hard in the second half. Bogaerts isn’t going to repeat the top-5 shortstop value he’s produced the last two years. You can argue there’s some bad luck here, but I’m looking at a complete drop in skills. It makes him a riskier keeper compared to the other youth studs (Seager, Correa, Machado). If you own him, be wary moving forward.
His first half in 2017 was remarkably similar to 2016: BA above .300, a BABIP above .370 despite a GB% over 50%, more SB than second half. However, his home runs are down this year with just 8% HR/FB in the first half, and that’s dropped to 3% since July. You can point to a very low BABIP, but his hard hit rate is well below the league average, and a higher FB% with no pop makes for easy outs. Plus, just like last year, he has stopped running as often in the second half.
Right now, you have to assume the 21 HR from 2016 are an aberration. Even in 2014, when he had double-digit homers, it was with a HR/FB below league average — he got there due to a 41% fly ball rate, which he’s nowhere near nowadays. Honestly, you have to set this year’s projected totals as your baseline for the future: .275/10/15. That’s not worth the price most of us are paying for him. Sell him to a Boston fan if you can.
Jackie Bradley – Maybe the knee injury slowed him early on. But from month to month, he’s not been consistent, and he’s been particularly bad in August. One month of excellent BA is propping up his season total, and he’s only had strong power in two months. When you factor in the ups and downs in skill and luck, it makes it hard to trust he’ll get back to 2016 level.
This month, he’s not hitting the ball hard at all, and he has a GB% spike. His contact rate has also plummeted. His free-swinging ways are clear across the season, with a career high in SwStr% and O-Swing%. The low average in August isn’t a BABIP thing — it’s due to his 36% strikeout rate. The loss in FB% also means the power isn’t coming back, especially given that he went from 18% HR/FB in 2016 to 15% in the first half and then 11% in the second half.
Looking to next season, I’m putting the high-end of my projections at .260 and 23 HR. But as with most players, the previous season is the biggest indicator, and he’s at a .255 and 18 HR pace. Don’t reach for him in 2018.
German Marquez – It’s always hard to trust Colorado pitchers, and Marquez hasn’t been consistent this season. This month’s ERA and WHIP aren’t good, but they aren’t even the worst he’s had this year. Particularly worrisome is the season worst K/9 and BB/9. But he’s certainly shown some growth this year, so can you expect him to turn it around for the rest of 2017?
Despite the odd drop in K/9 for August, his SwStr% is actually strong at 10%, so it’s more likely he improves for the rest of the season. It’s also his best month for F-Strike%, so the walks could get better, though he needs to keep challenging hitters. For the season he has had some bad luck in strand rate, which are partly due to spikes in BABIP. However, he’s also giving up high LD% in some months, so it’s not all poor luck. His stats since the beginning of July look better, even with the three worse starts in August. That gives me hope he can continue improving and find the next level in 2018.
Ivan Nova – After the first half, it seemed staying in Pittsburgh was just what he needed. However, July and August have been rough on Nova and his owners. Most of that has been his fault, with extremely high HR/FB and HR/9. There’s some good news in the metrics, but the home runs are on him, and things won’t get any better without a change there. That said, let’s look at the rest of his numbers.
The good news is that his walk rate has still been elite for the year (1.3 BB/9), at least until August (2.9). Also, his K/9 has been better in the second half, up from a poor 5.0 K/9 to 7.5. Strong F-Strike% and a SwStr% slightly above average help explain the improvement there. But good ratios aren’t enough to make a pitcher valuable.
His ground ball tilt is gone, and it’s been dropping every half season the last two seasons: 55%, 52%, 48%, 45%. He’s also giving up far more line drives this year, at 24%. That’s hurting his BABIP, which in turn doesn’t help his strand rate in the second half. His BABIP has been above .330 three months this year, whereas last year it was over .330 only once.
Come 2018, I’m taking a flier on Nova, hoping he can get past the gopheritis. However, for the rest of this year, he’s not safe to use.
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