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Fantasy Stock Watch: Week 24

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

Stock Up logoMatt Olson Hitting 8 HR in the last 14 days will get you on the Stock Up list. Olson’s ugly average in June and no home runs in a small July sample didn’t wow us, but now he’s found a groove. What can we expect for the rest of the year, and what about 2018?

He showed great power in the minors, and it’s translated so far. The hard hit rate supports his  high HR/FB, though you have to assume he can’t sustain a 39% rate all season. His BABIP has been up and down the last two months, but his average has remained high. Don’t be fooled by that — his September average is fueled by the fact that he has 6 HR in 39 AB. He’s not speedy, and he doesn’t hit many line drives to sustain a high BABIP. He’s more likely to hit under .270 for the rest of the year than over it.

This year he’s in a platoon, and I wonder whether he can be a full-time guy in 2018. He’s able to take walks even if his contact isn’t amazing, so if you want to gamble on him late as a CI option, you could do worse. But you’d better have an alternate CI on your roster just in case.

Eric Hosmer He certainly hasn’t been consistent in average and power the last three years, but he’s always proven valuable. Now in 2017, he’s finally put the categories together for current career bests in both. As he enters his late twenties, are we finally seeing him take the next step, or are the gods of luck simply aligning for him? It’s a bit of both.

In 2014 and 2016 when his average dropped, so did his LD% and his BABIP. When his LD% and BABIP are high, which is more often than not, he’s fully capable of hitting over .290. This year his LD% and BABIP are career highs — hence the .324 average. However, his hard hit rate is down a little, so it feels like it’s a bit more luck than any skill growth here.

As for power, his HR/FB looks impressive — until you remember that his fly ball rate is tiny due to a ground ball tilt over 50%. When he gets hold of one, he can send it out, but don’t expect him to become a consistent 30 HR guy. I have a hard time penciling him in for 25 HR next year, even though he’s reached 24+ two years in a row.

Overall, he’s the same player with the same ceiling: good average and decent power. This isn’t a true breakout where his metrics have drastically changed and he’ll reach even new heights in 2018. If I had to choose, I’d take the under on .295/26/100 production next year. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went over that, but I won’t pay the expected top dollar for it.

Andrew AlbersSay it with me: small sample size. That said, after three mediocre starts, he’s had two great ones in September. Let’s not forget that he’s old for a new face, at 31. But have the Mariners stumbled upon a waiver wire gem? Sadly, no.

He’s not a strikeout guy, but he has solid control so far, which helps mitigate the damage. He doesn’t have the fastball speed or SwStr% to improve the K/9. And a drop in F-Strike in September doesn’t support his improved BB/9. He’s going to be more like a Fister or Roark in the old days, where he can hang in there only if the walks remain.

Next, he’s getting lucky in strand rate, as well as September BABIP. Given his high LD% and league average HR/FB, there’s no way his strand rate stays at 84%, and I’d expect his lucky BABIP to return to normal any day. The fact is that he’s more mirage than surprise breakout pitcher.

Corey KluberAfter 2015-16, some didn’t think he could repeat a sub-3.00 ERA, but he’s had no problem maintaining it this year. His only hiccup was his April ERA and then missing time due to his back, but since he’s returned, he’s been truly elite. Entering 2018, forget about Clayton Kershaw, who’s had injury issues for two seasons and so isn’t quite as reliable. I’m taking Kluber as the top SP in the game, and for many good reasons.

He has an insanely great K/9 that’s fully supported by a sky-high 16% swinging strike rate. Oh, and if the strikeouts weren’t enough, he pairs that with an ever-improving walk rate, which is a career best at 1.7 BB/9 and is even better in the second half at 1.2. Frankly, with those results, a strand rate of just 78% seems low. The one thing you can nitpick is that his HR/FB and HR/9 aren’t his best results, but he’s basically league average there, and his fly ball rate is relatively low anyway (34%).

There’s no reason to expect Kluber to slow down here. The results are mostly skill-based, not luck. You’re looking at a floor of 2016, and his ceiling is a full repeat of this year. Do whatever you can to trade for him.




Stock Down Logo

David Peralta To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement, and yet he’s still provided good value. An injury-sunk 2016 meant we were hoping for a good bounce back, but the wrist may take a bit longer to recover, at least in terms of the power we’d expected. Moving forward, he’s a great #2 OF, but we can’t project a big breakout into the next tier, especially with his slow down in September.

The biggest issue with his game is ground balls. He hits far too many, with a career rate of 52%. However, unlike Hosmer, Peralta doesn’t have the well above average HR/FB to help bolster his low FB%. He’s basically average in hard hit rate and HR/FB, so although he may flirt with 20 HR in the future, it’s more likely to be in the 15-17 range.

His average is rather shiny, though not as good as his 2015 season. He sports a career BABIP a bit above the norm, so he seems to have a pretty high floor for batting average. However, two things to note that make me more pessimistic: his unimpressive LD% (a career low in 2017), and his league average hard hit rate. He has enough contact and plate discipline to stay above .280 each year, but I’m not expecting .295+ to be his new normal.

He’s good, and he helps across the board, but no metrics indicate he’s about to turn the corner. Add in the fact that he doesn’t have a super high AB total despite avoiding the DL this season, and you have to wonder whether he’ll ever reach 550 AB to better pile up on the counting stats. Don’t overbid or overpay on him, but he’s a useful piece and decent keeper in medium to deep leagues.

Cory Spangenberg When he first was making the prospect lists, we were hoping for a high-BA, high-SB guy. Last year he had a quad injury, which put his immediate speed in jeopardy. So instead, he decided to reach double-digit home runs, hitting more of them than he has stolen bases. The Padres aren’t generally known for putting out fantasy worthy hitters, but can he buck the trend in 2018?

I’m not sure he’s going to repeat next year. The theme of this week seems to be players with high GB% that hit quite a few HR. Spangenberg has a better HR/FB than Peralta, but it’s a career best that’s bolstered by a high second half rate. Rather than being power growth, it seems to be more luck. His FB% is quite low, his hard hit rate is below league average, and he’s been completely silent in September after two hot months. That indicates more of a hot streak or lucky trend than it does a consistent growth and breakout.

Despite his speed, he’s not running tons. Maybe you can blame the quad injury, but for 2018 you should cap your SB expectations at 20. And though his speed helps him keep up a good BABIP despite all the grounders, I have a hard time believing he’s going to stay above .265 every season. You could do worse for a MI in the endgame of a deep league, but he’s riskier than most.

Dan Straily I saw Straily’s Yahoo Own% at above 50% and thought perhaps he was simply a two-start pitcher when I happened to check. As it turns out, he’s a quietly effective year, managing to put together two decent seasons in a row. However, he seems to be running out of gas this year, with a poor ERA and WHIP in September. Is that all this is? Is he back to a reliable late-rotation arm? Or is it about to blow up in his face yet again?

It’s a mixed bag, but that means I’m steering clear. The good news is that he’s finally lowered his BB/9 to under 3.0, which is supported by a career best F-Strike%. He’s also tied a career high K/9 at 8.1, which is supported by good SwStr% results and a gain in fastball velocity. It means he’s rosterable, but the rest of the metrics don’t do him any favors.

His fly ball tendencies doesn’t pair well with a high HR/9 of 1.4, which is even worse in the second half (1.9). His strikeouts have dipped in the second half. And though a high BABIP may be partly to blame in September, his overall profile doesn’t inspire confidence that he can’t get any better than league average in categories like strand rate. Righties are teeing off on him, so he has reverse platoon splits that aren’t based in luck. He’s riding a fine line that’s too volatile for my liking. Only use him if you need an IR pitcher.

Kenta MaedaI’d hoped for a repeat of 2016, and after a rough April, he was back on track for three months. But the August and September results have been poor in ERA despite his solid WHIP. What can we project for 2018 at this point? Is he suffering a small bout of bad luck, or will he be more of a risk next year?

I really want to give him a mulligan because of his strong skills. His K/9 and BB/9 are great, a step up from last year. He’s upped his velocity and F-Strike% to support the gains. As he enters his thirties, that’s a good profile to have. His batted ball breakdown doesn’t hurt or help, and his BABIP should remain league average.

However, the issue is gopheritis. His first half in 2016 was basically league average, but then it jumped to 15% in the second half. In 2017, he’s been above average in both halves, with a 18% since August. He’s upping his velocity and K/9 since the first half, but it seems when he makes mistakes, hitters are punishing him. In these two months he’s also seeing a sudden increase in FB% (43%, 52%) compared to the previous three months (37%, 38%, 32%). His offspeed stuff (slider, changeup) are far less effective than last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those losses have come in the second half.

I’m probably gambling on him next year in redraft leagues, but I don’t know that I’d go the extra dollar on him, and I wouldn’t trade for him in keeper leagues. Despite the Dodgers being a powerhouse, Maeda isn’t even in their top-4 starters right now, with Darvish included. Medium risk, high reward. But the risk is one big flaw, and gopheritis usually doesn’t go away just like that.

 

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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.

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