Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. At the tender age of 14 my father purchased my first car, a fresh off the assembly line, baby boy blue Geo Tracker. Okay, so maybe 14 is pushing the car ownership window a bit, but my father was not a man of reason. My father’s mind was made up: I was to have a car, and the time between 14 and 16 (permit age) was to be spent honing my craft as his designated driver to and from the local bootlegger’s.
Over the years that baby blue Geo Tracker was my chariot for a special lady friend or two. Naturally over the course of several years the “special lady friend” catalog will provide you with a variety of characters. For most, the character flaws, quirks, or batshit craziness surfaces quickly. Those are the easy ones; you cut your loses, smile about the memories, and simply move on. The remaining special lady friends had some traction to them. While ultimately things did not work out with any of these individuals, overall there were more good times than bad, yet enough warning signs that things could be heading south very quickly.
Some warning signs are ignored initially but become apparent as the frequency of them increases. Some warning signs may be minor changes that are taking away from the day-to-day relationship quality. And sometimes a warning sign will occur in which it’s not possible for you to distance yourself from the relationship quickly enough. Needless to say, when one of those aforementioned special lady friends pulled into the driveway one summer evening in a fresh off the assembly line, baby girl pink Geo Tracker, that was the only warning sign ever needed.
In many ways a 162-game fantasy baseball season is like any past or present relationship in your life. Within it you’ll find some positives, but ultimately your success will be determined by both having the right mix and working diligently to keep it sustained. We are at the point in the season where the body of work may have a tendency to cloud one’s judgment.
For this post I wanted to look at four players whose 2016 baseball card stats would suggest a stellar campaign. Four players whose owners likely couldn’t be happier with what has happened thus far. At the same time, however, there are warning signs. Some may slap you in the face; some may be based solely on my perception, but regardless they are signs telling me that what you’ve come to expect may not be what you will be getting moving forward.
.284 AVG/ 11 HR/ 59 Runs/ 37 RBI/ 16 SB
I turned into a googly-eyed school girl over Herrera earlier this season; high walk rates will do it to me every time. Herrera posted a 22.1% walk rate during the first month of the season. I felt if this was legit the SB opportunities would increase, leaving you with a potential 25 plus stolen base option with double-digit home run potential. Once again, if you look at the body of work you see a player who has managed to more than double his walk rate, and his K% of 18.2 is nearly 6% better than last season and seems to match what a reasonable projection would be based off Minor League data.
If you break the data down by month you’ll find Herrera’s overall numbers are skewed heavily by the 22.1% BB in April. His walk rate dropped down to 9.4% in May, 7% in June, and 5.9% in July. Reinventing yourself can be a difficult task. June and July have produced what was likely projected from Herrera this season when based on career marks and Minor League track record. Herrera’s April will be a big factor in surpassing his 2015 totals, but from this point forward I believe you’re looking at a .280 hitter with rather empty counting numbers.
9 Wins/ 2.48 ERA/ 1.14 WHIP/ 150 K/ 123.1 IP
When your comp is the Norse God of Thunder, you know you’ve hit the Big Time. After an unforgettable playoff run, Thor managed to increase his legend in the early part of 2016. Syndergaard posted a sub-2.00 ERA in both April and May of this season, and with that came strikeout totals greater than 11 K/9 as well as a BB/9 below 1.30. Syndergaard was easily on his way to Top 5 consideration and the popular choice to play 2nd fiddle only to Clayton Kershaw.
Hitters managed a mere .220 AVG against with a wOBA south of .240. While the season line still looks incredible, the warning signs have been apparent for a couple of months now. First and foremost: the bone spurs issue. While Syndergaard will attempt to pitch through them, the potential impact has already surfaced as he has had multiple abbreviated starts because of them. While the short-term outlook is unclear from a health standpoint, Syndergaard’s quality of work hasn’t been the same.
In 30.1 June innings, Syndergaard managed an ordinary 3.86 ERA. Meanwhile, hitters managed a .268 BAA with a wOBA of .307. Syndergaard was the recipient of some bad luck in June (.356 BABIP, 66.3% LOB), yet while his K/9 of 10.09 was still very solid, his K% of 26.4% had dropped nearly 10% points from April’s 36.2% mark. While July’s ERA of 2.45 suggests Thor has returned to Asgard, the underlying numbers would suggest otherwise. His BB/9 of 3.07 was double that of his first half number of 1.53. His opponent BAA was at a season high of .277 which marks a four-month upward trend. Like BAA, Thor’s wOBA has seen a big increase. For July that number was .323; that’s nearly 100 points higher than April’s .234 mark, and the upward trend has continued for the 4th straight month.
Since June, Syndergaard has made 10 starts. In those 10 starts he has managed six quality starts. While I applaud the QS effort, I didn’t pay the premium on Syndergaard to be a 4.50 ERA pitcher with a plus K skill. Of those 10 starts, only 3 managed at least 7 IP with less than 3 runs. Last season Syndergaard pitched in 179.2 innings between AAA and the majors. Add in 19 postseason innings and you’re looking at 198.2 IP. In 2014 Syndergaard had 133 IP under his belt; perhaps the 49% increase could be yet another warning sign, suggesting 2016 may not be the season we thought it would be.
12 Wins/ 2.87 ERA/ 1.08 WHIP/ 192 K/ 131.2 IP
Nothing in the numbers suggests Fernandez’s 2016 has been less than the above statline would tell you. In some ways one could look at Fernandez and argue that the results could be even better. With a .331 BABIP and a HR/FB rate of 11.8%, Fernandez’s current xFIP sits at 2.29, over 50 points below his current ERA. Take away April’s 4.40 BB/9 and you’re looking at consistent peripherals that are void of concerning trends. Despite all of the numbers to support his greatness, I still find myself with reservations in stating Fernandez’s Top 5-10 status is here to stay.
At 24, Fernandez is listed at 6-2/215 according to Fangraphs. From they eyeball test, Fernandez’s trunk sure looks like it’ is holding a little more than 215 these days. I watched every pitch of his Cubs start earlier this week. I don’t know if it was the 12 beers or just old Cubs flashbacks, but I could swear Heathcliff Slocumb had been reincarnated with a new pitching arsenal. While attempting to project a person’s physical appearance could be viewed as a senseless exercise, if proved correct it could be of great value. If Fernandez’s fitness isn’t where it needs to be, couldn’t one surmise that a 66 IP increase from last season may be nearing a wall of some point?
While Fernandez has posted a stellar K rate of 13.35 K/9 and solid control (2.03 BB/9), his ERA was 4.35 in July while hitters’ OPS of .741 was over 100 points higher than his previous season high of .629 back in April. Could it simply be a bad month, or could that proverbial wall be soon upon us? With the Marlins in the thick of the Postseason race I can’t envision Miami pulling the plug on Fernandez despite the innings increase. If the Marlins should falter down the stretch the decision to rest Fernandez would seem to be a given. I suspect the innings increase will ultimately affects Fernandez’s performance to the point you’d be better off with what you could get for him now than Fernandez himself.
.275 AVG/ 20 HR/ 70 Runs/ 66 RBI/ 21 SB
In 2012 Wil Myers was named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year. Naturally the hype associated with such an honor tagged Myers as an up and coming fantasy superstar. When Myers made his MLB debut in 2013, fantasy players and MLB fans alike anxiously watched as the newest future superstar took the field. After a solid rookie season in which he appeared in 88 games, injuries derailed his 2014 season ultimately resulting in the end of his Rays tenure and a move to San Diego.
Despite a change in scenery Myers did little to change his script in 2015 as he managed to only appear in 60 games due to injury. The story, though, has taken an interesting turn in 2016. After an excellent first half, Myers was the poster boy for the hometown Padres at the 2016 All-Star game, all the while being a top-25 option for fantasy player. From an underlying numbers standpoint, Myers 2016 season looks legit. His plate discipline numbers and BABIP sync with his career numbers. Myers has improved his pull numbers this season; not in a manner of increasing his pull rate, but rather hitting the ball to all fields at a much higher rate this season.
The SB potential has been the most impressive number. In 2010, Myers attempted 18 stolen bases between two levels of A-ball. This season Myers has attempted 24 stolen bases and has been successful 88% of the time. Once again I have found myself spending more time praising the player than tearing them apart. My concerns regarding Myers are once again not found in spray charts and heat maps. Last week the Padres sent Matt Kemp to the Braves in order to close the chapter on last season’s Free Agency fiasco. I know that Matt Kemp wasn’t the best Padres player; you know the Matt Kemp of today was more often than not a liability, but to the casual fan Matt Kemp was the most recognizable Padre. That was until the All-Star celebration when the former can’t-miss Superstar was recognized as such.
Wil Myers now finds himself in uncharted waters; he is now the heart of the lineup filled with second-hand parts and nice role players. How Myers will handle this situation remains to be seen, but I’m inclined to believe there will be struggles. While the Padres have been very effective offensively here of late, I’m skeptical the supporting cast around him will generate strong counting number potential. Up to this point Myers has been very active on the base paths. Does that get scaled back to a degree in fear of injury, or perhaps for strategic reasons? I would find it difficult to be able to move Myers straight up for a top-25 player, but a 1-1 swap for a top-50 player should certainly be in play. From this point forward I believe you’d be happy with that return.
Not all warning signs are the same. Some may be derived from data, some may come from the gut, and some may come in the form of a pink Geo Tracker pulling up the driveway. The pink Geo Tracker opened the door to what my future was to be: coordinated outfits and His-and-Hers vanity plates. I wanted no part of that, and within days that relationship dissolved. Aside from injuries, fantasy baseball rarely gives you a pink Geo Tracker moment. Along the road one incident or issue becomes two, with likely a third to follow. In order to be successful it’s important for you to identify the first or second incident and do the necessary work to ensure incident three doesn’t adversely affect you. With the stretch run upon us, now is not the time to be dealing with ineffective options that you expected to be part of your foundation.
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