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Fantasy Stock Watch: Keeper Edition 5

The offseason is around the corner, so if you have questions about a player’s keeper value, ask for a stock tip!

Stock Up logoJonathan SchoopHe had nice sleeper value entering 2016 and produced well, raising his profile (and price) for 2017. Now he’s fully broken out and will cost a lot for 2018, whether redraft or keeper. There’s a lot to like here, and I believe he can produce a nearly full repeat, so bid with confidence.

From 2015 to 2016, his FB% and HR/FB dipped a little, but they rebounded in 2017, and with a full season of at bats, it means 30+ HR should have been expected. He’s slightly raised his LD% for three seasons, and his hard hit rate was above average in 2017, so it stands to reason he could keep a BABIP a little above average. That plus more home runs means the batting average is capable of remaining above .280. He also improved his walk rate, O-Swing%, and SwStr% — great signs that he’s learning plate discipline and maturing as a hitter.

He was pretty consistent from first half to second half, and he played 5 games at SS, so depending on your league rules he could play at either middle infield position. Maybe you can still find him at a discount due to Baltimore’s lack of major market, or because some don’t buy into a repeat. However, he shouldn’t disappoint you in 2018 and beyond.

Adam DuvallDuvall’s price before 2017 varied because many didn’t think he could repeat. It turns out he did a great job imitating last year’s stats, hitting over 30 HR with a low (but not horrific) average. Now that he’s established himself, his value’s floor will be higher. It’s a matter of whether you think he can take another step forward, and though I’m okay with a repeat, I won’t overpay, and I don’t see further growth.

His batted ball profile was nearly identical, with a few more fly balls. His BABIP was league average, up from last year, which explains the slight uptick in batting average. His HR/FB dipped a bit from 2016, which doesn’t seem awful. He simply needed a few more at bats to reach 30 HR. On the surface it seems he’s a solid investment.

But you have to look at his collapse in the second half, from a 19% HR/FB to 11%. His hard hit rate dropped in the second half, as did his LD%, which means the lower BABIP wasn’t all bad luck. He struck out a bit more to boot. His production dipped in the second half of 2016 too, so maybe this is just how he is, but it makes me slightly concerned. I’d say sell him by noting his final stat line, or perhaps move him early in 2018 if he’s off to another hot start. But there are stabler skill sets out there, and considering home runs were at an all-time high last year, don’t go the extra buck for his 30 HR.

Zach GreinkeHow did Greinke respond to his second worst season in 2016? He came out of the gate strong, with elite WHIP and strikeouts in the first half. Even though he cooled a bit in the second half, and he’s entering his mid-thirties, he proved he’s not done and is capable of being a top-25 starting pitcher for at least a few more years. Write off 2016’s performance as due to the injury, and if you can stomach “old” players, there’s no reason not to pay full price for him. Just don’t overbid.

His fastball velocity has been between 91-91 mph for five years now, but he’s been trending a bit down for four of them, resting at exactly 91.0 mph in 2017. That said, his SwStr% was a career best. Those seem like good traits, but what worries me is that he’s getting the swing and miss by throwing out of the zone a lot (career low Zone%). If hitters stop chasing, that could turn ugly quick. He’s an ace who excels at making hitters look foolish, so maybe I’m worrying for nothing, but keep a close eye on it next year.

Although he’s allowing a few more home runs than in his prime, the numbers aren’t overly scary. The fact that he limits walks and still strikes out hitters keeps his strand rate high, and an MLB average BABIP means his WHIP is still a big plus. But he did give up a lot more hard hits last year, his second highest rate, so again, it bears monitoring, and it shows slight chinks in the armor. He’s still a great pitcher, but he’s not the safest #1 SP option for fantasy. I’d love to get him as my second ace if I’m going SP-heavy.

Charlie MortonAny year there are postseason heroics, your name is going to get out there. It turns out 2017 was a breakout campaign for him, even despite some gopheritis in the first half. It’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll go for in 2018, but there are skills here that are worth bidding on, and there are crazier picks for your #3 SP. I’m going to gamble on him next year.

He’s always been a ground ball pitcher, which appeals to me. Though he lost a few points from his career level, he’s still over 50%, so there’s no worry there. His BABIP stays near the league average, and a slightly higher HR/FB is mitigated by a FB% lower than average. The good news is that he’s suddenly found new velocity and found a way to increase his K/9, reaching 10.0 in 2017. It was steady all season, so I want to believe it’s repeatable next year. My only concern is that he’s using PEDs, because most 33-year-olds don’t suddenly see their fastball velocity to 95 mph. Then again, maybe it’s just been the constant health issues keeping him from his potential. His walk rate isn’t great, but it’s tolerable if the strikeouts continue. Don’t target him as a #2 SP, but I’m okay with his risk as a #3 guy.




Stock Down Logo

Josh DonaldsonMaybe putting Donaldson in the Down category is a bit harsh, because he missed significant time but still managed 33 HR in just over 400 AB. However, given that we expected him to be a top-20 bat, and because of that injury, and because he’s “old” now, there’s a chance he falls in ADP for 2018. If he does slip at all, be sure that you gobble him up, because the bat is still legit, even if there’s a red flag or two.

He posted career bests in FB% and HR/FB — strong signs that his power will continue despite his aging. It’s true that his hard hit rate was down from the last two years, but all of that drop came from grounders, not his fly balls or line drives. Frankly, I don’t care if he hits the ball a bit weaker when it’s on the ground. In the same vein, his BABIP dipped a bit from previous years, but most of that was via grounders, and given his calf injury, it makes sense that he wasn’t beating out as many infield hits.

The biggest nitpick I can manage is a higher K%. He made a little less contact in 2017, and though his SwStr% rose from 2016, it wasn’t as high as 2015. He’s still walking a lot, so I don’t care about a few more strikeouts because his overall game isn’t on the verge of collapse. I bet you can find him for a discount, so buy if you can. Even more important, don’t sell at a huge loss.

Matt CarpenterIt was a weird year for Carpenter. The batting average was extremly consistent for three years, and then it plummeted in 2017. He still hit home runs, but he hasn’t been able to get back over 25 again. And then he was shut down early due to a shoulder issue. I can’t deny the risk here, but the drop in perceived value may make him an attractive buy-low target.

Ever since he traded some batting average for more loft, he’s been able to sustain 20+ home runs. However, it seems part of his batting average struggles in 2017 were due to too much loft. His high FB% (and lower LD%) months also came with dips in his BABIP. Fly balls are the worst on BABIP, and so if he isn’t hitting the ball out of the park, it means he’s going to suffer low BABIP and low average. His LD% was a career low despite a good hard hit rate. If he can put a few more fly balls back in to line drives, and if he gets a little luck on his side, he should get up to at least .265.

That 28 HR spike looked great in 2015, but his HR/FB has dropped each year since. Despite a career high FB% in 2017, that means his home run total didn’t improve. Again, he’s a solid enough hitter to perhaps get this back on track, but he needs to realize that simply more loft doesn’t equal more power. I believe a 2015 repeat is out of the question, but he should get back to 2016 levels.

Michael WachaI really don’t know what to make of Wacha at this point. He was supposed to be an ace, and then 2016’s second half saw extreme gopheritis and an implosion. He improved in 2017, but it’s still not ace (or even #2 SP) statistics. Perhaps he was still recovering from his shoulder issues? Some may want to give him yet another chance, but I say it’s better to steer clear and sell on him if possible.

His walk rate has been steady his whole career, but he found some extra strikeouts in 2017. A career best F-Strike% helped him out, as did new life on his fastball velocity. That improved velocity has some hoping that his shoulder is now healthier and a breakout is around the corner. I’m not so sure. The fact is that he had two great months helped by both skill and luck spikes, but the rest of his season was pretty awful. You could argue that BABIP played a factor in those bad months, but he had three similar bad months last year. It seems he just doesn’t have things figured out yet. You definitely can’t expect more than a #3 SP for 2018. Maybe if he takes a step forward next year, he could get back to a #2 SP, but don’t pay for it now.

Blake SnellI wanted to make Snell a sleeper entering 2017, but that awful walk rate prevented me from investing too much. He started off this year with a poor first half, but he seemed to redeem himself starting in July. A rough WHIP and the walks may continue to keep fantasy owners away, but for 2018 I’ve seen enough good signs that I’ll take him as a sleeper.

In his rookie year he had a HR/FB well below average, but in 2017 he’s had to deal with a higher rate (13% in first half). That plus his BB/9 over 5.0 in the first half soured his owners early on. However, after his return from the minors he’s been an improved pitcher, and there’s a lot to like moving forward. His walk rate from July on was just 3.2, which is 2.0 better than last year. Although his K/9 was down from 2016, he got better as the year went on, and his SwStr% supports the growth. He reduced his line drives from last year, so hitters aren’t just teeing off on him. The fact remains that he’s still a few steps away from a major breakout, but given that you can probably get him dirt cheap, I’ll roll the dice on at least some growth.

 

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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.

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