If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Miguel Sano – The power has always been there, but the rest of his game lagged behind. So far in 2017, I’d say it’s caught up. He’s doing everything right, including a great batting average. Has he finally arrived, and can we expect elite production moving forward?
If you can stomach the scary-low contact rate and some BA regression, then this is a good profile to buy. Sano doesn’t swing out of the zone all that often, but he has a lot of swing-and-miss to his approach, and that’s not changing. Also, he certainly can’t keep up a BABIP of .479, so don’t expect an average over .260 for the rest of the year. Even when his BABIP is above the MLB average, his average isn’t very good.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. His walk rate is great, and as I said, he doesn’t chase out of the zone. The more he gets on base, the better his runs will be. Then there’s his power. He lofts the ball nearly half the time, and it keeps leaving the park (30% HR/FB). That isn’t going to change much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 40 home runs this year. He profiles like the latest version of Adam Dunn. It’s a good buy, but odds are any sellers are asking you to pay for his .300 BA, so it may be hard to make a deal in redraft formats.
Jake Lamb – He displayed his power last year, but many were skeptical due to his awful second half. That made for a nice buying opportunity this year, and the faithful have been rewarded. Not only is he on pace to hit 30 home runs, but his average is better, and he should put up personal bests in runs and RBI. So is he the real deal this time around?
Yes, this is legit. He’s being more selective at the plate while making better contact, and he has improved his swinging strikes. This points to growth in plate discipline, which is supported by his improved BB%. Somehow he has managed to also raise his K% a little, but I am confident the rest of the growth far outweighs this one small negative.
Last year, his first half HR/FB was a stunning 28%, but it dropped to 14% in the second half as he dealt with a hand injury and perhaps some regression. However, so far this year he is right back to 28%, so he’s proving it’s a repeatable skill. The fact that he’s hitting more fly balls in May than April also bodes well for his final home run count. The one negative is that his batting average is due to a lucky BABIP. He’s not hitting tons of line drives, and his hard hit rate isn’t exceptional, so expect an average closer to .260 for the rest of the year. That’s still solid enough for fantasy, and I’m buying on Lamb if I can.
Jose Berrios – His call-up last year didn’t go well, aside from the K/9 in the early going. In two starts this year he has looked unhittable. But of course, we know it’s a tiny sample, so it can’t continue. The question is what kind of skill growth has he displayed from last season? Again, small sample bias applies, but I think there’s room for optimism.
When he sported his 12.0 K/9 in four early starts last year, his first pitch strike rate and swinging strike rate didn’t really back up the results, and of course he had an outrageously high walk rate. This year, he’s pounding the zone early, and he’s making batters miss more often. Even though the K/9 is under 9.0, it is still solid, and this time the metrics back up the results, with room for more.
He’s also not walking people yet (1.2 BB/9), which is supported by his six minor starts this year (1.8). He hasn’t given up a home run despite a very high FB%, and those pop flies are leading to a lucky BABIP. His pitch values are all better than last year. A final reminder: small sample! Still, this is a promising start for a touted prospect, and I’m buying for 2017 to see how he’ll hold up.
Danny Duffy – Duffy has been up and down in his career, but he turned a corner in 2016, and his ERA and WHIP from 2017 indicate he’s continuing that success. His last three starts have been particularly great. So can we expect more of the same moving forward?
He has only had two stinkers (6 earned runs apiece), so it feels mean to complain. I want to believe, but there are a few things to nitpick. The first thing to note is that his K/9 has dropped nearly 2.5 from last season. One one hand, his swinging strike rate is still high at 13%, but his velocity is down, and his breaking ball isn’t as effective as last year.
His walk rate is up from a career best, so maybe it was unrealistic to expect him to keep all the gains, but a 3.0 BB/9 doesn’t put him in the top-tier of pitchers. Also, he’s currently sporting just a 3% HR/FB, and given he has been at or above league average there the last two seasons, I’m assuming some regression is coming.
Duffy is good, but he’s not a #1 fantasy SP like some are portraying him. Don’t buy too high on him.
Maikel Franco – When he was in the minors, we drooled over his power potential, with a little concern for batting average. His 2015 rookie season was a decent show, with a good average but a bit less power than we’d hoped. Since then, nothing has gone right for Franco. So should you hold on to him for a turnaround?
He won’t be a top-12 guy, but there’s room for optimism under the surface. The batting average is horrible, but that BABIP seems unlucky, even considering his low-speed and slight GB% tilt. His HR/FB has dropped for three seasons, but it’s still a little above league average, so 20 home runs is likely. The good signs of growth aren’t in his results (yet), but they’re there in his plate discipline. He’s striking out less often, with a lower swinging strike rate. He is swinging out of the zone less often too. And though his LD% isn’t stellar, it’s a personal best. When you combine that with his improved hard hit rate, it signals that he’s on the verge of a breakout.
I’d gamble on a batting average above .265 for the rest of the way, if all else goes well, and any month-long power surge will likely put him over 25 homers for the year. His best of the 2017 season is yet to come.
Albert Pujols – Another year, another chip off of his production and value. Some hamstring issues have plagued him this year, but I think his decline is more age and skill related than just the minor injury issue. I have nothing to point to that indicates a silver lining or a major glimmer of hope. Frankly, any league format except AL-only should consider dropping him.
How do you dash all hopes? How about setting career worst numbers in several important categories? From HR/FB to contact rate to GB%, he is hitting all the red flags. Oh, and he’s setting career worst in K% and BB% too. His April was really awful, and he showed signs of life in May — before the hammy injury. It’s finally time to move on from Pujols and forget about the glory he brought you in years past.
Vince Velasquez – We’ve loved his strikeouts for a few seasons, but the rest of his game hasn’t fully fallen into place. With the Phillies in a rebuilding mode, he’ll keep getting chances to mature and put it all together. But is he worth rostering right now with his recent struggles?
If you’re not a gambler, stay away. However, there is a small glimmer of hope. The red flags are numerous for now: His K/9 is still above 9.0, but it’s down from 2016, when it was over 10.0. More troubling to me is that his BB/9 has jumped to over 4.0, and that’s not acceptable in today’s game. His swinging strike rate and first pitch strike rate are good, so maybe he can reverse the negatives trends, but it’s clear he has to learn how to pitch and not just throw 95 mph. Even more troubling is the gopheritis, which went from troubling in 2016 to horrific in 2017 (21%). The long-term potential is still there, but he’s not worth the bumps and bruises for redraft leagues.
Kendall Graveman – A shiny April (2.25 ERA, 1.oo WHIP) was followed by a dismal May (5.48, 1.57) with just one good start. He looked like he had promise for growth after 2015, but 2016 wasn’t his breakthrough. His 2017 stats look better on the surface, so is he finally a reliable #5 SP for fantasy?
Check back in 2018, and even then I don’t expect any more development. His K/9 and BB/9 dropped from 2015 to 2016. This year they’ve both gone back up, so in a way he’s back to square one. He doesn’t miss bats, so there’s no more strikeout potential. His GB% is nice, but his HR/FB is higher than the league average, and this year is a career high FB%, which is still pretty low (31%).
At age 26 maybe he can take another step, but frankly his season ratios look like the best you can hope for, and as May has proved, there’s more risk than reward.
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