The major league trade deadline is one week from today at 4:00 p.m. That date serves as a red flag to all league owners that the fantasy trade deadline is quickly approaching.
If you have not taken stock of your team and assessed your needs I suggest you do so now. Those of you in keeper leagues need to make an important decision as well regarding injured players and minor league stashes. Do you sell those potential future building blocks and injured stars for a shot at the title, or do you have enough ammunition to hold these players and still make a run at things.
With that said: here are this weeks targets and trades.
Todd Frazier – Yankees
My biggest whiffs on preseason calls have been related to my hometown team (See Judge and Severino). So while this analysis is not purely me trying to atone and wear my homer hat, I am excited to make this argument.
Todd Frazier has been a massive disappointment this year after popping 40 bombs for the fairer shaded Sox last year. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
I see a lot to like with Frazier. His strikeout rate is down about 3% from last year, and his walk rate has spiked – currently an epic 13.9%. That is a sign of someone with a good approach and not someone who is completely lost at the plate. Most of the batted profile is pretty similar to last year. He is hitting the ball hard at a nearly identical rate (31.8%) and is still putting the ball in the air 46.8%. He also has a respectable 18.8% line drive rate. The BABIP shouldn’t be high given the amount of balls he hits in the air, and worse still, the number of balls he pops up in the infield (18.6 IFFB%). I still think a .213 leaves some room for positive regression.
Finally, I’m going to buy into the narrative here. He’s a Toms River boy who got to meet the great Derek Jeter as a kid. The Yankees have a young, contending team. It might make me sound like a charlatan or a sucker, but I do think this can have an effect on a guy like Frazier. I’m also hopeful that the Yankees hitting coach can help cut into those infield pop ups because a rate of nearly 20% is a huge drain on a hitter with an otherwise intriguing profile.
I would definitely trade for Todd Frazier. His owners are frustrated and it shouldn’t take much. I’ve seen him traded for Wil Myers as well as streaming level pitchers in the past few weeks. He also might be on your wire in shallower leagues ( 72% owned in ESPN). Even if he doesn’t turn things around completely, I can see a power spike coming given his new home park and division.
Marco Estrada – Blue Jays
I really like Marco Estrada. He is one of the pitchers that has been able to turn the so-called “flyball revolution” to his favor. He has joined guys like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in becoming highly effective flyball pitchers by reaping the benefits of batters low BABIPs on balls of that variety. He has obviously never been at the level of a JV or Mad Max, but he has been a highly effective pitcher for some time now. Let’s see if we can figure out why he is screwing the pooch so hard this year.
The first place I always go for pitchers is walk and strikeout rates. His strikeout rate is very respectable 22.4%, but his walk rate is a somewhat alarming 9.5%. While the walk rate is cause for concern, both numbers are within a half percentage point of his 2016 numbers.
He has also seen a slight velocity spike, and while he has never been a flamethrower, he has been making it work with a high-80s heater the past few years so breaking into the 90s can’t be a bad thing.
Yes, he outpitched his peripherals last year, so some people might say this is overdue regression. However, he has outperformed his peripherals since joining the Blue Jays, and there is reason for it.
The low BABIP on fly balls goes a long way. He has also been especially good at getting people to pop up in the infield. A flyball in the infield is as good as a strikeout for a pitcher. He elicited a ridiculous 16.8% last year, and while that number has dropped this year, 12% is still a very high and respectable number. I think the drop in pop ups as well as a slight bump in HR/FB rate partially explain Estrada’s bad luck. Overall, though, he seems to be the same pitcher he was last year.
I have added Estrada in a few deeper leagues as he is only owned in about 50% of ESPN leagues. I would try to trade someone from the streaming class for him, or someone in the mix for a closing job that isn’t actually any good or is doing OK but probably won’t hold the job. I’ve seen him dealt for both Tyler Clippard and Andrew Cashner. I would do either of those and will actually talk a bit about Clippard below.
Michael Conforto – Mets
I’m not going to dig into this at all. I look around and see other fantasy sites disrespecting him with ranks outside of the top 30 OF. That’s just silly if you ask me. If you can find anyone who values him there then I reckon you can get yourself a top 15 OF in Conforto for a bargain price!
Tyler Clippard – White Sox
Tyler Clippard has had a nice career as a reliever. He even had a pretty nice start to the season this year before completely imploding. Since the D-Rob and Frazier trade, he has been named the closer for the White Sox. Obviously saves are very important in roto leagues, especially those of the deeper variety. I don’t blame you if you need to pick him up, but overall I am selling the idea that he will be able to keep the job.
If you’ve watched Clippard pitch this season, you are probably not overwhelmed with his stuff. Fangraphs agrees with this notion as the only pitch he has above average is his changeup, which sits at a robust value of 0.3. His changeup also doesn’t have much action and relies more on a difference in speed from his heater. That fastball has also lost some mustard over the last few years and is sitting around 91 MPH. That’s not very good for a closer.
Chicago is also a hitters park with a bad team that’s not likely to give him many opportunities anyway. His 25% K rate isn’t too shabby given his aforementioned lack of stuff, but he has paired that with a really untrustworthy 12.4% walk rate. Closers really can’t afford to give up homers or to be prolific walk givers – It tends to end very badly. I think it will here as well unless he suddenly gains back 2-3 MPH in velocity which would make his change better again. Don’t see any of that happening.
I wouldn’t bother picking Clippard up in any but the deepest of leagues. I would try to keep my eye on his handcuff, Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak has actually had a good year and might be worth owning. Trade Clippard if anyone will buy, but I imagine you’d just be dropping him for a better relief option. That’s fine too.
Jonathan Lucroy – Rangers
I’m pretty upset to be writing this one. I’ve been a huge Lucroy owner for years and enjoyed taking the steep discount on him compared to Posey. I’ve benefited from that lower draft value which has helped me raise several championship banners. This is one of those times where I hope my analysis ends up being wrong.
If we take a look at everything that’s going on, I think it’s mostly bad news. The only two good things he has going for him is the strikeout rate is down to a career low (10.6%), and his BABIP is also about 40 points off of his career average. Most wil think it’s just bad BABIP luck; unfortunately I don’t think it’s that simple.
He is hitting a barf worthy 55% of his balls in play on the ground. That’s terrible news for any non-Billy Hamilton hitter, but it is definitely worse news for a catcher. He is also only hitting the ball hard about 23% of the time when his career average is closer to 35%. This kind of explains the bad BABIP and is why I’m so worried.
He is 31 now and we all know that catchers don’t age that well. I think, at best, there’s an injury we don’t know about that is hampering him. He was pretty bad two years ago for that exact reason before bouncing back in 2016. I will be back in if that narrative and value pop up again in the 2018 draft season. For this year, though, it’s pretty disconcerting when Lucroy can’t even fight off Chirinos for playing time.
I am at the point of punting on Lucroy for this year. Again, if an injury narrative arises in the offseason, I might buy back in next year. For now, I would trade him for almost anything. In shallow leagues (10 and 12 team) I am legitimately considering dropping him. It’s a sad day for me, but even as bad as the catcher position is – I can’t handle his lack of production anymore.
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