Fantasy Stock Watch: Week 13

If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.

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Cody BellingerIf you’ve hit 9 HR in two weeks, you deserve getting mentioned in the “who’s hot” section. He has more home runs than his age, and in just a third of a full season’s worth of at bats. I loved Bellinger as a prospect, and given that I don’t like most of them, that’s saying something. He’s going to end up with an extremely valuable 2017 season. It’s just a matter of how much he slows down, if any.

Let’s get the few negatives out of the way. He does strike out more than I’d like, nearing 30%. There’s a lot of swing and miss to his game, as his contact rate and SwStr% show. But aside from that? He’s golden, and plenty of players have dealt with the same problems while having a great career.

Despite the strikeouts, he does have plate discipline. His walk rate is solid, and he swings out of the zone less than the league average. His approach bodes well for the future, and I think he could be like Kris Bryant in terms of improving his contact rate quickly and early in his career. His average won’t hurt you and isn’t in danger of going any lower, with a BABIP near league average. But man, does he kill the ball when he gets it in the air. His hard hit rate is well above the league average, and he lofts the ball 50% of the time. Hard hits in the air mean a 33% HR/FB. It’s likely that rate will come down a little, but I don’t see why he can’t keep it above 25% all year, so he’s still elite. Add in the fact that he has enough speed to contribute 10+ stolen bases, and you’re looking at the rookie of the year who will become a fantasy baseball superstar.

Michael Taylor I’ve been following him as a deeper prospect for years. He’s getting major league at bats now, but the risks he had as a prospect have followed him to the bigs. After a slow April, things have seemingly turned around for Taylor. Is he finally living up to his potential? Right now, the power and speed are pretty legit. The decent batting average is not, and that’s a big concern for me.

Let’s start with the good. He hit for good power last year with a 17% HR/FB. This year, he’s bumped it up to 22%, and he’s also hitting more fly balls. Add in his solid speed and a willingness to run, and it’s possible he ends up with a 20/20 season. This is what I’ve always liked about him, and he may deliver on that promise. Except…

The good average is a mirage. He has an unsustainable BABIP, especially given his rather low LD%. What’s more, he isn’t hitting the ball harder than the league average. But the most worrisome part is his poor contact and high swinging strike rate. A low walk rate means he simply doesn’t have good plate discipline, and his warts could be easily exposed. When his BABIP falls, the average will plummet back to his usual .230 level. If he can’t control the strikeouts and his swing-and-miss, then he won’t be hitting many home runs or getting on base to steal. I’d say sell now unless you have a lot of OF depth and can afford a low batting average.

Jaco deGrom It’s been a bad season for Met starters, mostly due to health but also because some haven’t pitched like they could. Right now deGrom is their best hope among the young core. A great April turned into a bumpy May, but he’s been back on track in June in terms of ERA and WHIP. Will deGrom continue as the ace for 2017?

There’s mostly good here, but he’s not a true #1 fantasy ace. The new best in K/9 is supported by an elite SwStr%. A little bit of a ground ball tilt aids his ratios, and his spacious home stadium helps too. He’s been going deep into games without having outrageous pitch counts, like an ace should. The foundation for future growth into a star is here.

However, bear in mind his higher HR/FB this season, which has gone up for three years. What’s more, his BB/9 is also on the rise, and a 3.4 in 2017 is keeping him out of the top tier. These two factors are holding him back right now. He could improve these at any time, whether this year or the next. For keeper leagues I’d definitely hold on. For redraft leagues, if you can move him for an essential position on your roster, I’d at least consider it.

Jose Quintana I certainly didn’t expect this kind of season from Quintana. Mr. Consistent is suddenly not. When he finally reached top #2 SP status and climbed the preseason rankings to step out of sleeper status, of course this is the year he’s struggled. However, in June he’s been back to his old ways with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP under 1.15. Is the nightmare behind us, or do we need to worry about a relapse?

There was some bad luck with a partially unlucky strand rate and BABIP early on. However, part of that poor strand rate was his own doing, because he’s had a rising HR/FB for a few years. What’s more, his 2017 rate of 13% is the same as his 2016 second half. The other negative that’s his fault is an awful walk rate. After staying under 2.5 for three years, he’s up to 3.3 this season. That’s not horrible, but it’s a big jump for an alleged ace, especially given his rather high first pitch strike rate.

There’s a little upside with an improved K/9 this year. His SwStr% is slightly better in June than the first two months, so here’s hoping he can keep it up. He’s not a lost cause, but he’s not out of the woods either. If you can buy him cheap from a frustrated owner, go for it. Just don’t expect his 2016 results for the rest of this year.




Stock Down LogoStarlin Castro He is still on my personal radar because I’m a Cubs fan, and hey, I did buy an autograph card of his. Last year he set a career high in home runs, and this season he’s back to a high average hitter. Lately, he’s cooled a bit, so is he about to disappoint Yankee fans? The short answer is no. His current struggles are likely linked to his hamstring injury. That said, let’s look at his metrics this year.

There may be a bit of luck in his BABIP, given his LD% isn’t very high. As such, the average is bound to come down — and it has, each month. He’s still capable of staying over .290 for the year, but the .300+ is luck-fueled. The good news is that his new HR/FB level seems sustainable in Yankee Stadium, so 20 home runs are within reach again. He still doesn’t walk, and he’s stopped the running game completely, but for a MI, he’ll keep being a solid investment.

Yonder Alonso I haven’t talked much about him this year, but it’s a clear breakout career season for Alonso. He’s almost doubled his previous season best in home runs, and we’re only halfway through. He’s kept raking the last two weeks, so what are the chances he finishes strong in 2017?

I’m skeptical but also optimistic. On one hand, there are a lot of factors that don’t vary much from his career norm. His hard hit rate is above the MLB average, but it’s not much better than any previous season. His LD% and BABIP are in line with his career. What has changed greatly is his fly ball rate and HR/FB. Both are insanely high compared to his previous seasons. It seems he’s sacrificing some contact in order to loft the ball more, and it’s working. He’s not even hitting fly balls harder than previous seasons — he’s simply getting more fly balls in the air, and more are going over the fence.

I could see some cooling off, and maybe pitchers find a hole to his new swing (his SwStr% is already up). Also of note is that his hard hit rate is down in June. But he doesn’t seem likely to collapse, so if you were fortunate to grab him, don’t sell low.

Rich Hill The storybook 2016 had him climbing the SP ranks, but I was skeptical. Turns out my pessimism paid off, because a blister issue has caused him to miss time, just like he’s done every year in his career except one. I can’t speak to exactly how much his blister has affected his metrics, though it’s safe to say his BB/9 has probably suffered a little. Still, let’s take a look at his season so far.

His results are a mixed bag, but they’re mostly negative. His two April starts had the best montly ERA, but it’s only two starts, and what’s more, his ERA and WHIP should have been even better because his strand rate and BABIP were lucky. But he had gopheritis, his BB/9 ballooned to over 5.0, and his K/9 was low for him at 7.9.

Before you say that two starts isn’t much of a sample, his walk rate has been horrendous all year (5.8 in May, 5.0 in June). The strikeouts have been getting better, but that’s the only positive. He went from a small ground ball tilt in 2016 to a fly ball tilt in 2017, which isn’t going to help his numbers. Add in his injury risk, and it’s clear that you should sell if you can get anything for him.

Dylan Bundy He made my Stock Up list earlier this year. Now he’s on the downswing. For the season, his ratios are better than 2017, so most owners are still optimistic. But is the shine fading on his early hot start?

Yeah, it’s mostly his fault. His HR/FB and FB% have risen every month, which has resulted in a June ERA of 5.93. His walk rate has gone up every month as well, from 1.7 in April to 4.3 in June — that’s killed his WHIP. At least his K/9 has jumped in June. Though it’s supported by a SwStr% above the league average, his first pitch strike is down from the early season and last year. If you want to average out the elite month with the awful month, you basically get his May stats (and his season total). Set that as your baseline, and don’t expect him to get back to an extra strong performance.

 

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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.