If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Rougned Odor – Well, Odor is providing the same power and speed as last year, and he’s on pace to match both 2016 marks. However, what’s hurt his value for those who drafted him very early is the .220 batting average. Things were more dire in April and May, before Odor started hitting a lot of home runs. Can we expect a full bounce back after his hot July?
His season BABIP is just .244, which is the main culprit for his low batting average. His BABIP is particularly bad with runners on, and that’s at least partly bad luck, but he may also be pressing. His plate discipline has taken a bit of a hit this year, though it’s not an outrageous difference. Mostly I expect his average to rebound because his first half batted ball profile and hard hit rate aren’t really different from 2016. If you can buy low due to the low average, you could end up with a steal.
Anthony Rendon – Rendon was supposed to become a .290/30/20 threat after his 2014, but he has mostly disappointed since. Like many touted players, it’s taken a few years for his ADP to come down and match his newly expected production. This year he has a career high average, and he should set a career high in home runs if healthy. So is he finally reaching his full potential, or is this another random occurrence that’ll inflate his 2018 ADP?
Here are my nitpicks. His LD% isn’t particularly amazing, so it’s hard to expect the batting average to remain that high. He isn’t running as much anymore, which is common for players as they age, especially ones who have fought off lower body injuries. But those are minor quibbles.
In the second half of 2016, he started lofting the ball more (51% fly balls). That trend has continued into 2017 (46%), and he’s added a career best HR/FB of 15%. He’s greatly improved his plate discipline to the point that he walks more than he strikes out — a rarity these days. He’s making a bit more contact and has a hard hit rate above the league average. I could see him tailing off a little, and you always have to worry about injuries, but he may well finish the year with a .290/30/10 line. Looks like I’m going to have to boost him in my rankings for 2018 after mostly passing on him this year.
Mike Clevinger – The inexperienced prospect with strikeout potential has been a pleasant surprise for the Indians. He had some sleeper value, and so far his ERA and WHIP are great. However, you should expect some bumps and bruises in the second half, because he’s not quite this good.
Despite a HR/FB a bit above average and a high BB/9 of 4.7, he’s managed a 79% strand rate and a BABIP of .231. His LD% is a bit high at 23%, and it’s risen every month he’s pitched (19%, 26%, 28%). There’s some clear luck helping out his ratios, and he can’t continue outpitching the metrics forever. Yes, his strikeout potential is solid, and he generates a lot of swinging strikes to maintain it, but he doesn’t throw a lot of pitches in the zone, and when hitters wise up, things will get even worse. In fact, they may have figured it out because his BB/9 has gone up every month. The stats look good for now, but you’re better off selling immediately.
Drew Pomeranz – It seems 2016 was further proof that getting out of Colorado should be the goal of every pitcher. He’s improved his ERA as the season’s gone on, but he’s fighting a high WHIP compared to the last few years. Moving forward, I’m expecting more good than bad from Pomeranz.
He missed just a little bit of time to start the year, and it seems he was still shaking off the rust because his April HR/FB was inflated (23%) and his GB% was quite low for him, but he has been much better since. A huge BABIP spike was mostly to blame for his May struggles. When looking at the season as a whole, his K/9 and BB/9 are in line with last year, so his skills should keep him under a 4.00 ERA.
One thing to note is that he has seen a drop in K/9 in June and July, going from over 11.0 in the first two months to under 8.5. In a very small sample of two July starts, his BB/9 has risen. But overall I expect his slight ground ball tilt and improved first pitch strike rate to maintain his value for the rest of the year.
Kendrys Morales – The full-time DH seems likely to repeat his 2016 production with enough at bats, but he’s struggled as of late. As I look to the second half, I worry there are a few red flags that mean his days of 30 HR may already be over. That may seem odd given his 21% HR/FB, but hear me out.
Morales has a higher GB% (49%) this year than the previous two seasons (44-45%), despite the better HR/FB. What’s more, his walk rate has dropped a bit, and he has a career high K%. His contact rate has dropped over 5% from last year, and he has career highs in O-Swing% and SwStr%, capping his batting average. Plenty of sluggers get away with trading contact for a bit more pop, but he’s in his mid-thirties, and as a DH-only option in most leagues, you can usually find better than a guy who may hit 25+ but not offer much else.
Ian Kinsler – A late-career resurgence in 2016 had Kinsler climbing the preseason ranks yet again. He had an awful average in April, no power in May, and then hit his stride in June before faltering again in early July. He’s a veteran hitter who can be helpful in the second half, but you have to set your expectations well below the 2016 power surge.
The low average in April may have been partly due to a very low BABIP. However, he’s generally had a much lower BABIP all season — it’s not just in April. Look to his 2011-12 campaigns to realize this happens to him occasionally, especially when his LD% is low. he’s lost 4-5% off his line drive rate from 2015-16, and without line drives, his BABIP and average won’t return.
As for the power loss, his 8% HR/FB is right back where it had been before 2016, in line with his career. That said, his hard hit rate is well above league average, and he’s hitting more fly balls than ever (49%), so he may well hit more homers in the second half than the first. That said, I’ll still be surprised if he reaches 23 HR. Without a strong average and 2016 power, he’s a sell candidate, or perhaps a buy very low guy.
Homer Bailey – Remember 2013-14, when Bailey was relevant? It’s getting harder and harder to recall. I realize his stock wasn’t very high entering 2017, but someone’s always going to take him for a last pick stash in the hopes they hit on his mighty return due to his great K/9 and good BB/9 in 2016. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. So can he get back on pace in the second half?
There was clear rust on his June starts with an insane HR/FB, and his BB/9 was 9.6. Both of those have corrected in a small sample size of two July starts, but now his K/9 is well below last year at 6.2 for the season, and it’s even lower in July (5.7). His poor results in June were also because hitters lit him up with a 32% line drive rate, helping to support his supposedly unlucky BABIP. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope if you have plenty of bench space and don’t need to rotate your SP. However, three years of missing major time mean I’m not biting.
Taijuan Walker – Some had faith that he would take a big step forward in 2017, and so far he’s at least improved his ERA. However, his WHIP has been trending up for years, and in 2017 it’s due to a high walk rate. Maybe he’s closer to two steps forward, one step back, but can we bet on a strong finish to the season?
It’s yet another mixed bag for him, but little by little, there’s more positive than negative. He’s improved his GB/FB ratios, and he’s got his HR/FB down to the league average. That helps explain the improved ERA. As I said, the walk rate has jumped, and he has a career high BABIP (though it’s not much above the MLB average). That explains the higher WHIP. The good news is his K/9 and SwStr% are holding steady, and he’s facing more batters per game and getting a little deeper into games.
Don’t forget that he’s still under 25 despite pitching in his third full season. His floor is getting a bit higher, and that ceiling could still be great if he can put it all together in one year. A buy low here would be okay, but I don’t know that you’ll find a seller. If you own him, I wouldn’t be afraid of selling to fill a need if it’s redraft format. For keeper leagues, I’d probably lean toward holding on and hoping for another step forward in 2018.
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