Ball Street: The Roto Exchange – Week 12

Ball Street The Roto Exchange LogoIs the grind of the season getting to you full-season managers? It’s certainly hard to admit defeat this early in the season, but don’t be afraid to make some waiver wire additions of hot players in the hopes of picking up a few points in redraft leagues.

As for keeper formats, it’s never too late to start thinking about trading away 2016 pieces for potential keeper upgrades, and the sooner you make those trades, the more value you can get for your rentals.

Trade away, and fill your open slots with hot streaks from the FA pool, because you never know who may continue it all year and become a keeper commodity (see: Blackmon and Dickerson, from previous seasons). With that said, let’s look at some hot and cold players from the last two weeks.

Stock Up

Michael Saunders – The long-awaited power/speed prospect has given up on speed after knee issues, but he’s been able to produce in home runs and batting average this year. His production has been particularly hot in the last 14 days, with 6 HR and a .390 average. Can he continue his early season success? Not likely. His LD% isn’t much above his career level, but his BABIP is unsustainably lucky, so the BA is going to fall, though perhaps not to the sub-.250 we’ve come to expect. Other metrics like his contact rate, hard hit rate, and walk rate aren’t greatly different from his norm either, which doesn’t bode well.

However, the power may be mostly legit. It’s likely going to fall from his current 22% HR/FB rate, but Toronto is a good home park to have, and he’s been at or above 19% every month this year. He’s also hitting a few more fly balls (41%) compared to 2012-14 (35-37%). If he can stay healthy — a big if — he may flirt with 30 HR on the season, but I’m taking the under, and I’d sell now if I could get a proven star or keeper in return.

Kevin PillarLet’s keep it in Toronto, where the balls are flying out of the park. Pillar isn’t known for his power, but he’s hit four home runs in the last two weeks. And despite a .258 BA for the season, he’s hit .333 during this recent stretch. Is there sneaky value to be had here? Not as much as you’d like. For starters, his primary value last season came from his stolen bases, where he netted 25 against just 4 CS. This season he only has six steals so far, but has been caught three times. His raw speed scores were never lightning level like Jarrod Dyson or Billy Burns, so if he’s not as successful, he may get fewer chances.

He’s also hitting more grounders, and without elite speed, that results in more outs. Not to mention he’s getting on base less (3% walk rate), meaning fewer opportunities. His BA isn’t going to go up without a better hard hit rate and LD%. That leaves his seemingly new burst of power, and it’s not sustainable. Pillar has an 18% HR/FB rate for June, after rates of 4% and 3% the previous months. This is simply a lucky spike, like he had in 2015 (two months above 8% HR/FB, three months under 5%). His glove will keep the AB coming, but without better SB success, I’m wary of his value moving forward.

Mitch Moreland – I keep hoping for the next step from Moreland, and he’s been hot recently. But overall his game is the same as it’s always been, which is good and bad. It’s bad in that I’m giving up on a big breakout for 2016, but it’s good because his poor season BA isn’t going to stick. His May average was awful, but it was due to very bad BABIP luck, because he put up his best hard hit rate of the season during that time.

He’ll always hit homers, with a good HR/FB rate of 18% – matching 2015’s rate, and his other metrics don’t indicate any major loss of skill. With playing time, he should reach 20+ home runs this year, and I’m willing to bet on a better BA moving forward. Don’t expect a second-half surge, but do expect a small improvement.

Robbie Ray – His 2015 stats had me hoping for a bit more in 2016, and Ray has been solid the last two weeks, though it’s just two starts. His season numbers are less exciting to me, and I have to admit it was probably too early in his career for him to take the next step forward. The good news is a higher K/9 and a lower FB%, which are key components for his future success. However, his HR/FB% has doubled from last year, he’s giving up more line drives than I like, and his walk rate has also risen, helping to mitigate the strikeout success.

His BABIP suggests there’s some bad luck, but with a 24% line drive rate, the BABIP won’t fall to league average. His quality starts are less than half his total games, which illustrates his struggles. That said, his walk rate, ERA, and WHIP are better in June than his previous two months and are more in line with what he did in 2015. Deep keeper leagues should retain his services and hope for further growth, but redraft leagues are probably better off trading or dropping him if they want any sort of consistency.

Matt Shoemaker – Shoemaker made owners cringe in April, and most teams had hit the Drop button by May. However, he’s been quite good ever since, and his season numbers only look bad due to accounting for that awful month. He has continued his hot streak the last two weeks, so can it continue? Turns out there’s a mixed bag here, but I believe there’s sneaky value to mine.

After gopheritis in April, he’s reined in the home runs, and after the April spike in BB/9, he’s turned in two months even better than 2015’s 1.8 rate. His LD% has dropped for three straight months, though his BABIP remains a bit high; this could mean he’s still experiencing a small bit of bad luck. And most important, his K/9 has jumped from 7.7 in 2015 and 7.0 in April to over 10.0 for May and June. This strikeout surge is well supported by an insance 17% swinging strike rate! He’s less effective on the road, but you can do worse for a guy who likely cost you nothing but a waiver wire pickup in May. If he retains these K/BB skills for another month, it’ll be more of a true breakout than just a small surge.



Stock Down

Jed LowrieRemember when we were excited for his power and position versatility? Remember that one year when he was healthy and good? It seems like such a long time ago now. Lowrie’s hitting .290 for the season, but he’s hit only .244 in the last two weeks with no production whatsoever. His contact rate is decent, and this year he’s hitting a ton of line drives, which result in an inflated BABIP. Batting average is helpful nowadays, but the rest of his game means he’s not worth using anymore.

His ability to hit 15 home runs is gone, with a noticeable drop in FB% this season and a career worst HR/FB ratio. Yes, some of that FB% has gone to line drives, which is still helpful, but given that he’s not accumulating runs or RBIs, he’s looking like a modern-day version of Placido Polanco. His FB% is on the rise for the third month, so maybe he’ll manage a hot second half and hit 8 home runs, but it’s not worth betting on with a roster spot.

Neil WalkerWalker has shown a nice power stroke despite his spacious new home park. However, he’s been cold recently. So is this a return to his middling ways? There’s no denying his crazy HR barrage in April was unsustainable, but June has seen him battle a back issue, which at least partly explains his .200 batting average and the power outage. Health is a wild card, but assuming he can get near 100% again, there’s hope that Walker can return to his slugging ways.

He has traded some contact rate for a greatly increased fly balls percentage, generating more homers as a result. I’ve always liked Walker even if he doesn’t often break into the top-8 at second base. Again, assuming health is with him, he’ll continue being valuable throughout 2016.

Wei-Yen ChenTwo seasons of an ERA below 3.60 and a WHIP below 1.25 starts to look attractive. Now Chen’s blown up in 2016, and people are wondering why.

He has been particularly bad recently, but the trend in surface stats has been all season long. So what went wrong? Actually, not much. Chen was never as good as his ERA appeared in 2014-15, with an expected ERA up to 0.67 higher. His K/9 is trending up slightly for the year, but so is his BB/9 (and his K/9 dropped from May to June, while his BB/9 continues to rise). His strand rate looks to be a bit unlucky, but it’s also due to a career high HR/FB ratio, which results in the high ERA.

The fact is his surface stats always sat on the edge of a knife, and this season his lack of any great skill, aside from the walk rate, has him hurting your team more than helping. He’s not worth trading away because you won’t get any value. Just dump him and move on.

Jimmy NelsonNelson had two great months of production to start 2016, but June has led to struggles. What’s going on here? For the season, his walk and strikeout rates are trending in the wrong direction, and his swinging strike rate and first pitch strike rate have dropped too. These problems are simply amplified in June (4.5 BB/9, 5.0 K/9). Although Nelson may be suffering from some bad luck in strand rate and BABIP for June, he was experiencing very lucky rates in April and May — hence the sparkly ERA and WHIP. Factor that in with the sharp drop in skills for June, plus a bit of lost velocity, and it’s cause for concern.

Can he regain his form? Sure, but it’s not going to be with a sub-3.25 ERA like he had early on. It seems there’s little chance for improvement on 2015’s stats, and he’s not getting any younger at this point. I don’t see any breakout in Nelson’s future, so he’s only worth using in very deep leagues. Even then, I’d bench him for July until he proves he’s out of his slump.

Jeremy HellicksonHere’s yet another case of a pitcher doing well for two months, then falling apart. Hellickson looked like a nice value play early on, but there’s not much to indicate he can be anything more than a waiver wire pickup.

For the first two months he sported improved K/9 and BB/9, but they have both tanked in June, resulting in season totals barely above his other recent seasons. At first glance his FB% has dropped for three straight years, but those few percentage points are now in LD%, which doesn’t help his overall game. What’s more, his HR/FB ratio is currently a career high by 6%, and in Philadelphia that isn’t going to help him, so the small gains in FB% are moot.

I may give him another few weeks on the bench to see if he can adjust, but teams with small rosters should have no hesitation about moving on now.

 

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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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