If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Lorenzo Cain – It’s safe to say his low stolen base total from 2016 was due to that hammy injury. He’s already matched his stolen base total from last year, and in fewer at bats. He has a good floor for his batting average, and the hard hit rate is a little above average. Fewer grounders and more fly balls are going to help him maintain a high BABIP.
Add in career bests in BB% and HR/FB, and it’s no surprise that Cain is having a high-value season. However, there are some potential points of concern in those two stats. His walk rate was fantastic in April (15%) but has dropped a lot since (9%, 7%). That one big month is propping up his season numbers. For HR/FB, it’s the same thing: he wasn’t hitting home runs in the first two months (5%, 3%), but then he exploded in June (40%). His hard hit rate has been going up each month, so it’s not all luck per se — the higher home run rate is supported by some skill.
He’s not Mr. Consistent, but by season’s end he’ll get the job done, so keep him in your lineup.
Edwin Encarnacion – In my 5×5 4-keeper league, I always have one dud keeper every season. I was worried Encarnacion was going to be my dud this season after a .200 batting average and .353 SLG in April. However, the metrics seemed to indicate he’d get back on track, and in June he’s rewarded those who were patient. But can he be this good the rest of the way?
Don’t let his age fool you — the power is legit, just like it’s been for years. This makes four years of HR/FB improvement, and he’s gotten better each month this season. His hard hit rate is still above average, even more so than last year. That has helped his LD% and therefore his BABIP.
Perhaps the only red flag is the choice to trade contact for his continued power. His contact has been dropping for years, and a career high SwStr% could eventually catch up with him and affect his production. It means there may be some batting average downside in the future, especially if his BABIP gets back to his career average.
Corey Kluber – His impressive 2016 and postseason may have worn him down a bit, and the back injury in May didn’t help. However, he’s proved doubters wrong as he has found a new gear in June. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the rest of his season.
In his four starts since returning from the disabled list, it’s been ace-level pitching. His K/9 of 12.5 is even better than his 2016 level (9.5), and his walk rate (1.3) has returned to his elite level. His season SwStr% and FpK% is a career best, so the whiffs should continue. After some early season gopheritis, Kluber hasn’t given up a home run in June, and his season GB% is vying for a career best.
Maybe you have to worry about his durability, or maybe he won’t go quite as deep into games as he has in the past. However, if Kluber is on the mound, he should be a top-5 SP moving forward.
Alex Meyer – His strikeout rate has been intriguing, but that walk rate is a big turnoff. After a rocky start to 2017, Meyer has been better in June. The issue is whether he can keep improving, or whether there are luck factors in play that you need to worry about. As it turns out, it’s both luck and skills, resulting in a perfect storm to create his shiny 1.19 ERA.
The good news? His K/9 has been over 10.0 in both May and June. He’s also improved his walk rate during that time. He doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, and his ground ball tilt in June bodes well for his future. The bad news? His “improved” BB/9 in June is still 4.8, which is too high. He struggles with first pitch strikes, and with Zone% in general. Also, he’s seeing some luck with his BABIP (a little) and his strand rate (a lot) in June. And his durability is in question with back issues this year and shoulder issues last season.
If you just need extra strikeouts and can take on the risk of a bad WHIP, then Meyer has value. But there’s a reason I dropped him this month when I had to make a roster move. High risk, high reward.
Hanley Ramirez – He was dropped outright in my 5×5 league… and no one bothered claiming him on waivers. That lingering shoulder issues keeps him stuck at DH, which doesn’t help his playing time. The injury is also sapping his HR/FB compared to the last two seasons. He’s essentially stopped running altogether, so even the nine stolen bases from last year are out of reach. This is the second year out of the last three where his BABIP has been under .300, hence the low batting average.
Ramirez is not facing a complete collapse. He’s walking more, but perhaps it’s due to being able to take fewer big swings out of the zone because of his shoulder. His hard hit rate is a bit above average, like it was last year. He simply wasn’t going to repeat last year’s 30 home runs, and if you drafted him with that expectation, you’re taking a hard loss in value. That said, if he’s in your FA pool and you need a DH, he’s worth gambling on.
Tim Anderson – Anderson seemed like a solid bet for a sleeper shortstop who could at least provide good speed. Some doubted his budding power, but so far he has more home runs than stolen bases. Frankly, that’s more a critique on his disappointing stolen base total so far. By end of year, he’ll still have value, but not in the way most of us expected.
The power he has shown is league average, but it’s legit and in line with what he showed in 2016. He’s hitting a few more fly balls too, so that average HR/FB could result in 15+ home runs for the year. His BABIP is still above average, but he couldn’t sustain his lucky mark from last year, so the batting average is down. The lower average, plus the fact that he can’t take a walk is stifling his ability to produce stolen bases. What’s more, he’s running less often even when he does get on base.
A .260/15/20 year is possible, but I was more hoping for a 10/30 season. It’s further proof that stolen bases are a rare commodity.
Michael Fulmer – He entered this season as a solid sleeper investment, so much so that he wasn’t really a true sleeper. So far he’s been pretty good, but lately he has hit a rough patch, with a 6.50 ERA in three June starts. His owners are starting to wonder whether this is just a bump in the road, or whether he was too good to be true.
Fulmer’s issues are mostly bad luck right now. He hasn’t given up a home run since April, yet his strand rate in June is extremely poor at 52%. His June BABIP is over .340, so as that regresses, his ratios will start looking more like his old self. That said, be aware that he can’t avoid giving up home runs forever. Also, his strikeout and walk rates have bounced around from month to month, and they’ve been poorer this month. His 2017 K/9 is down from last year, so he’s not going to be a #2 SP anytime soon, but he’s still a solid mid-rotation arm.
David Price – From rotation anchor to huge risk. This happens too often with starting pitchers. The elbow issue has resulted in a poor start to his 2017 campaign. The issue is whether you believe it’s simply shaking off the rust due to his late start, or whether the elbow is still bothering him. I refuse to believe his skills have magically eroded, but something is going on because it’s not just luck in the metrics.
His feel doesn’t seem to be there, because his high BB/9 is uncharacteristic for him. His K/9 is also low compared to the previous three seasons, despite a SwStr% in line with past years. He’s throwing in the zone far less than usual, so whether he’s not getting close calls or he’s simply missing big, the fact remains that he has to get back to attacking the zone.
However, when he throws it in the zone, he’s getting called on it. A career high FB% and HR/FB are making his ERA balloon. The irony is that his hard hit rate isn’t even that bad, and his BABIP is on the lucky side. He’s a crapshoot for the rest of 2017. Watch for his BB/9 and gopheritis to improve before you even consider trying to buy low on him.
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