If anyone has player requests this year, leave a comment. I’ll write them up for the next week or respond below.
Kevin Kiermaier – That long injury ruined his season in terms of total stats, but his keeper potential is all the better because of it, if you can trade for him on the cheap. With the usual caveat that injury risks take a hit in value, I’m gambling on Kiermaier for 2018.
The big jump in fly balls from 2016 didn’t carry over to this season, but he’s improved his HR/FB for three straight seasons, so as he enters his prime and further recovers from his wrist issue in 2016, I believe he can keep up this rate and reach 15+ home runs next year. His speed is still legit, though he’s been running less often since coming back from this year’s hip injury. With health, he’s a potential 25 SB guy.
As for his batted balls, he’s hitting more grounders and fewer line drives this year. Perhaps you could argue some of that is due to the injuries, but the fact remains his hard hit rate is down from last year. Despite that, his BABIP is high in 2017, so the average isn’t sustainable — you’re looking at a return to his .260 ways. But, especially in roto formats, his decent power/speed combo is a good value. Try him one more time in 2018 and hope he can remain healthy.
Rhys Hoskins – Let’s remember that it’s only been a month, but Rhys is still hitting in the first week of August, so I thought I’d take a look. Given that he didn’t enter 2017 as a big-name touted prospect, are we simply looking at a flash in the pan who could easily fade in September and in 2018? I’m cautiously optimistic that he can hold his own.
The power was evident in the minors, and it’s followed him to the majors with a vengeance. An insane HR/FB of 36% doesn’t seem sustainable, but he also hits a lot of fly balls (47%), and his hard hit rate is off the charts. He’s crushing the ball, so as crazy as it seems, he’s mostly earning that huge HR/FB. And he also has an elite LD%, which is further proof he’s squaring up well and punishing pitchers.
As for plate discipline, his walk rate is great at 15%, and he has positive Pitch Values /100 for every pitch except the splitter. It’s not that he’s only crushing fastballs, or only hitting offspeed. His contact rate is above average, and he’s not swinging out of the zone a lot. His swinging strike rate is a tiny 5.7%, nearly half of the league average. Although the league often adjusts to new hitters, I feel his skills and metrics mostly support his breakout, and though I won’t pay insane prices for him, I’m looking to acquire Hoskins in any format.
Stephen Strasburg – At one point, he was on pace for 200 IP. Turns out he won’t make that mark, coming short yet again. The guy still has elite skills for the most part, but his career has been a bit disappointing when we think about what could have been. Regardless, it’s been a successful season for Strasburg, so what can we expect for the rest of the season and in 2018?
His velocity took a small step up compared to recent seasons, and his swinging strike rate is almost a career best. With those aspects in mind, his K/9 of 10.3 seems a little low. Perhaps it’s due to a slight drop in F-Strike% and the fact that he doesn’t have the elite BB/9 from 2014-15 anymore. Even so, I’d pencil in a 11.0 K/9 for next year. If he can ever get his walk rate back below 2.3, he’ll find another gear.
He’s managing one of his best HR/FB and HR/9, which is partly helped by a spike in GB% and a dip in LD% compared to 2015-16. That’s helped keep his BABIP lower than it’s been for several seasons, which also helps his strand rate. As a matter of fact, he really only had one home run month, in June. If you exclude that, his ratios look even more elite than they already are.
The bottom line is that if he can ever reach 200 IP again, he’s an immediate top-5 fantasy SP. The health is a concern, but given other aces like Kershaw are now starting to have injury warts, I’m taking the risk with Strasburg.
Tanner Roark – Well, you’ve gotta hand it to him. He usually has an “every other year” positive value, but this year is a down year. August was a solid month for him, so maybe he’s figuring things out? To be honest, despite some signs of improvement, I’m still staying away from this guy.
The good news is that he’s posting a career best K/9, and it’s even better in the second half. His swinging strike rate is somewhat supporting the improvement, so kudos to him for that. He’s still managing a good ground ball tilt, which usually helps mitigate home runs and unlucky BABIP.
The bad news is that his HR/FB and HR/9 is his second worst of his career, so the ground balls aren’t doing enough. What’s more, even a league average BABIP results in a poor WHIP, which in turns hurts his ERA. The metrics under his control indicate most of the poor stats are his fault. What’s more, part of his appeal years ago was his elite walk rate, which has been climbing and is now sitting above 3.0. He’s not attacking the zone as much as he used to, and it’s hurting him. I’d rather have the 1.8 BB/9 than 0.7 more K/9 from last year.
Roark is a pitcher who needs everything to break his way in order to put up shiny stats, and it’s too risky to rely on him if you have to pay more than a buck.
Nomar Mazara – A hot HR streak in 2016 helped establish Mazara as a full-time player this year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t broken out like we’d hoped in 2017. Moving forward, there are too many red flags here for me to go all-in on him as a keeper in shallow to medium leagues. I’m gonna be honest: this isn’t pretty.
Despite the potential home run power, it’s not even all that impressive when you consider his FB% is low (34%) and his HR/FB is only a little above average (13%). That home run rate is down from last year’s breakout. What’s more, he has clear struggles against lefties the last two years, which means he could end up in a platoon long-term. He also isn’t hitting outside of Texas this season. I know Arlington is a hitter’s park, but he did okay last season, so there’s more going on here. Turns out it could be at least partly BABIP related (.236 on the road), but it’s also likely pitchers are adjusting to him, because he’s swinging and missing more, and his contact is down a bit. Next year, take him very, very late in the draft if you want to gamble, but don’t reach in the middle rounds for him.
Zack Cozart – This is easily the best season of Cozart’s career. That is more of a criticism than a compliment, because he’s never healthy. He’s set a new personal best in home runs and in fewer at bats, but again, the fewer at bats is a constant concern. As he moves further into his thirties, what can you expect from him for the rest of the season, and in 2018?
The only two seasons he’s hit above .260, he’s has a rather lucky BABIP. More home runs will also help pad his average, but he hasn’t turned into a pure hitter who can keep reaching .290, so keep that in mind for next year. Another nitpick is that despite good speed scores, he simply doesn’t steal bases.
The good news is that there does seem to be some growth here. He’s walking more often, shaving 5% off of his O-Swing%. He swings and misses less often too. The HR/FB (14%) is his best since his rookie year, and though I don’t fully buy into it, I believe he can keep it above 10%. There’s hope for his future development… if only he could stay on the field. And the health is the biggest reason you shouldn’t target him for anything more than the MI slot or a bench bat.
Matt Moore – I’ve written about him a few times in the last two years, and it’s no secret that I don’t trust him. I wasn’t convinced by his decent 2016, and this year his ERA and WHIP have gone up, which is no surprise. Let’s take a look at Moore’s metrics and see if there’s any hope for 2018.
The good news is pretty slim here. His walk rate, which I used to trumpet about, is okay in San Francisco, but it’s still not great in this era at 3.3 BB/9. At least he’s improved it in the second half (2.4), but his first half was just as bad as his early career (3.9), so I don’t see this as a growth step. His K/9 isn’t bad, and given his first pitch strike rate and slightly above average O-Swing%, it could potentially get a bit better. But now we get on to the bad news.
His BABIP looks high at first glance, but his hard hit rate is the problem. When you give up so many hard hits, it’s going to inflate the BABIP. He’s also sporting a HR/FB that’s the second highest of his career, so the low strand rate isn’t bad luck either. He’s losing some velocity in the second half too. Looking forward, there’s nothing promising here. He’s an injury replacement guy for your fantasy team, nothing more.
Jameson Taillon – From breakout potential to a dud of a season. That’s gotta be frustrating, and keeper owners can only hope that there’s a glimmer of turnaround for 2018. My outlook for him is mixed, so be careful as you decide on whether to hang on to him.
The good news is that he’s still keeping the ball on the ground, and his strikeout rate has improved. His velocity is up, and his first pitch strike rate is solid. Although his swinging strikes are the same as 2016, if they can go up at all next year, it’ll support his strikeout growth. Given his solid GB%, the high BABIP is a little confusing and seems more luck than anything. However, his LD% is higher, so when batters aren’t hitting it into the ground, they seem to be making decent contact. Even so, I’m optimistic his BABIP and WHIP will drop next season. He’s also cut his HR/FB from 15% to 10%, so the high BABIP is more to blame for his ERA than gopheritis. The down side is his walk rate jumping above 3.0, when he had an elite rate in 2016. Without a BB/9 under 2.5, his WHIP won’t get under 1.20. But he still has the potential to be a solid #3 fantasy SP — just not a #1 or top-tier #2 guy.
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