Another week, another stock report. As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. To the report!
Many times in fantasy we get caught up in chasing potential, both real and imagined, especially when building our rotations. This leads to us running after insane K potential, ignoring severe control issues and going with the ‘big name’ (even when they are on the decline) in the hopes that they can recapture that magic. We all overlook the workhorses. Those pitchers who, while lacking the ceiling of some of the other options, rarely disappoint on an extreme level, and can usually be counted on for average to above average production.
When healthy, Ryu has been this type of starter in fantasy. Nothing too flashy, but generally something solid to count on with a few stretches where he stands out. In 2018 Ryu has been quietly pitching very well, posting a 2.87 ERA in 15.2IP while striking out batters at a 30.7% clip. He has been especially good over his last two starts, allowing only 2 ER (1.50 ERA) in 12 innings while striking out 17 batters. His advanced metrics support his numbers (2.80 FIP, 3.23 xFIP, 3.11 SIERA), and while you may think his BB/9 is higher than you might like (3.45 BB/9), it is skewed by his abysmal first start of the season where he walked five batters. In his two starts since, he has walked one batter while hitting one other.
Ryu’s SwStr% is slightly down so far in 2018 (9.3% compared to 10.9% in 2017), so while you will probably see a drop in his current strikeout production he should make up for that by improving his BB% as the season progresses now that he is further from his shoulder injury.
Cabrera has been a nice surprise this season, slamming 4 HR through the first 16 games with a .339/.382/.613 slash line. He has never been one to strikeout too much, only whiffing 14.7% of the time in 2018, and he has maintained the same SwStr% as last season (8.1%) so far.
His BABIP is a bit high currently (.347), and his lower than average LD% so far (17%) supports the idea that he has been a bit lucky thus far, though not absurdly so. I would like to see him increase his BB% from the current 5.9% level to something closer to what he posted last season (9.3%), but even something in that ballpark would be fine. Either way he should provide solid middle infield production moving forward even when he slows down from his torrid start.
Not too many hitters have started 2018 off as well as Villanueva, who is absolutely mashing the ball over his past 7 games, posting a glittering .450/.577/1.000 line in that time with 3 bombs for good measure. On the short season Villanueva is hitting .327/.421/.776, and is currently tied for 3rd in the majors with 6 home runs. For someone whose ADP was sitting at 475.44 as the season began, he has provided elite level production. But is it sustainable?
Villanueva is currently rocking a .417 BABIP, which is a good deal higher than what he averaged in the minor leagues, and a bit lucky. His best BABIP in the minors was .388 in 51 games for the Rangers Rookie-ball affiliate, and after that his highest mark was .338 in Advanced A-ball in 2012. Most of his other performances have seen him around the .300 level, and while he did post a .389 BABIP during his 12 game stint with the Friars last season, it is more likely that he will return to something similar to his previous levels in the minors.
That being said, there are several things to like about Villanueva. His current LD% (20%) is right around league average and gives some indication his BABIP might not be as inflated as it could be. He is generating a lot of hard contact so far (36.7% Hard%), and is hitting a lot of fly balls as well (53.3%), which gives more support to his power production thus far. On the other side, he is striking out a lot (33.3% K%), and an advanced look supports this rate as both his SwStr% (17.5%) and chase rate on balls outside the strike zone (40.2%) are pretty healthy. He is walking on an average pace (8.8%) so far, which is a nice skill to have, and he does have a record of solid production in the minors to show that his MLB success, while inflated, is not out of nowhere.
While you will definitely see a drop in production out of Villanueva, he has enough tools in his skillset to still be valuable as the season progresses, even if/when his power and BABIP take their inevitable drop.
Archer has been one of the more perplexing starters in fantasy over the past two seasons. He entered 2016 coming off a monster year (3.23 ERA, 252 K’s), but in the two seasons since many have oddly considered him a disappointment, mainly due to his 4.05 ERA overall in 2016 and 2017. This is incredibly unfair, and is more a product of the expectations owners had after his excellent 2015 campaign. The past two seasons Archer has been incredibly consistent, tossing almost exactly 201IP in both of those campaigns, and his strikeout totals have been in line with his 2015 production, as both subsequent seasons saw him post well above average K%’s (27.4% 2016, 29.2% 2017).
The frustrating part about Archer for many owners is that they always expect more from him, no matter how good he has been. His advanced metrics (4.02 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 3.40 xFIP in 2016; 4.07 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 3.35 xFIP in 2017) for both seasons beat his actual production by a good bit, making owners upset when he doesn’t perform to those standards. Chris Archer has a perception problem in fantasy baseball:
All of these starters, (and several others), went before Archer on draft day, but his performance is not too different from these other fantasy aces, especially when you look at him compared with Jacob deGrom. All this to say that despite Archer’s rough start to 2018 (7.84 ERA, 1.694 WHIP), you would be foolish to think this will continue for the rest of the year. His advanced metrics (4.70 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA) show that his current performance is not likely to continue, and he is still striking out batters at an above average rate (25%). I expect his walks will drop back to the normal levels, and when they do you will still have a top-tier pitcher, even if he never achieves the Kershaw-like levels many wanted him to.
Encarnacion has been ice-cold in 2018, hitting .135 with only 3 extra base hits, though all three are home runs. His slow start has seen him striking out a lot, fanning 28.3% of the time as compared to 19.9% in 2017. While his slow start is frustrating and will bring out those who worry it is a sign of decline due to his age (35), there are some signs that this is not the case.
He is a notoriously slow starter, posting a .238/.319/.427 line in his career for March/April, and he usually heats up as the summer goes along, so this start is not out of the ordinary for him. Despite his slow start, he is still generating a good deal of hard contact (34.3% Hard%), which is a good sign for him moving forward. He is currently posting a minuscule .125 BABIP, and while he has never been a BABIP monster, his current level is extreme and should improve – although his 14.3% LD% so far is concerning.
The past seven days have not been good to Josh Bell. The young buccaneer has struggled to an empty .179/.233/.250 line in seven games, and so far has not built too much on his solid 2017 season. His overall slash line has taken a dive as well (.269/.333/.373), and he has not been hitting for much power at all, notching one HR and only 5 extra base hits on the season.
His LD% is basement level currently (12%), and he has been grounding out more this season as well (56%). The biggest worry for me is that his current production is built on a .340 BABIP, much higher than the .278 mark he posted last season, and I expect that to drop back to a similar level unless his current line drive rate picks up to support this uptick in BABIP.
He is still walking at an above average rate (9.3%), but definitely needs to show more power moving forward to justify his position and draft spot.
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