The offseason is around the corner, so if you have questions about a player’s keeper value, ask for a stock tip!
Francisco Lindor – Raise your hand if you thought Lindor would smack 30 HR this year. Yeah, you’re lying. He was supposed to be a speed-first guy with a high floor in batting average. Instead, he’s retooled himself to get the ball in the air more, and the average has been lower. It goes without saying that he’s a great keeper option. But it’s helpful to know what kind of player you have, so you can project your team needs. What does Lindor bring in 2018?
The power is mostly legit. He had a GB% at 50% for two seasons, and then he transferred 10% to get to 40% fly balls, along with an above-average 14% HR/FB. He’s been better in the second half, which is supported by an uptick in hard hit rate. Add in his still-high contact rate, and I’d set his new floor at 25 HR, with a full repeat in 2018 entirely possible.
He wasn’t running as often early in the year, but he’s picked it up in August and September, to more match his speedy first half in 2016. And his average took a bit hit in the first half of 2017 primarily due to some bad luck in BABIP. More fly balls may mean a slightly lower BABIP ceiling, compared to hitting it in the ground and beating it out, but you can ignore that .250 average in the first half. All told, 2018 could be another step up. He could easily hit .300 for the season, along with 30 HR and 20+ SB. A true five-tool fantasy stud.
Nick Castellanos – I was hoping for a nice breakout from him to start 2017, but his first half frustrated many owners. If you stopped paying attention at the start of June, you’ve missed a nice resurgence. His second half has been great, and it gives me hope for 2018. He could be a sneaky keeper pick in deeper leagues, if you can trade for him.
He’s a line drive hitter who can keep his BABIP well above average. At first glance, his low average in the first half doesn’t seem bad luck, but given his BABIP was below his career level, it mostly wasn’t his fault, especially with a 26% line drive rate and a better hard rate than his second half. He was hitting a few more grounders, which probably hurt him, but his power output was decent via HR/FB — he simply had fewer fly balls to work with.
Since June, he’s hitting over .300 with 19 HR. His fly ball rate is back to normal, and his HR/FB is a career best. He’s slightly improved his O-Swing%, SwStr%, and contact rate, showing that he’s maturing as a hitter. Entering 2018, he’s a legitimate threat for a .280/30/100 season. You could do worse for a 3B or CI, and the fact that he may come at a discount is a bonus.
Daniel Mengden – His talent in the high minors from 2016 hasn’t yet translated, but his two starts this month look good. As always, small sample size is my disclaimer, but let’s take a look at what it could mean for the rest of 2017 and 2018.
He doesn’t offer elite velocity, but a 2.0 BB/9 is helping him during this recent cup of coffee. He had a 2.7 BB/9 in the minors last year, so if he can keep it under 3.0, he has a chance to stick. His K/9 in the minors is up from last year, but it’s not showing up in the majors, capping his ceiling for now. However, note that his SwStr% in the last two starts is high, indicating the strikeouts could come. Right now he also shows a GB% tilt in September, but based on his previous work, this seems unlikely to stick for a full year. Whereas last year he was unlucky in BABIP and strand rate, this year he’s very lucky in both.
He’s note secure in the rotation for next year, so you should only consider him as a keeper in deep dynasty and/or AL-only formats. That said, there are worse pitchers you could take a gamble on for a buck. I’d simply want to make sure he had a secure role in the rotation for 2018 first.
Carson Fulmer – Two September starts, two quality starts. Some see him more as a closer, but I feel he has a chance to stick in the rotation long-term. There should be a battle in spring training, and Fulmer could win out. The biggest caveat is his walk rate. Let’s take a look.
Decent velocity and SwStr% support his nice K/9 in his two starts. He does walk too many batters, even in his AAA stats, and that’s a concern. But in his small sample, his F-Strike% is better than last year, and he’s still learning. Another potential issue is his very high FB% this year. It should get better with more innings, because he was in the 40-45% range for his minors career. His BABIP has been quite lucky so far, as has his strand rate.
All told, he’s a high-risk, medium-reward starting option for AL-only leagues next year. The walk rate is just a bit too high for me to expect anything more than a #5 fantasy SP, and it’s more likely he’s just a bench option unless you’re desperate.
Ian Desmond – Too much missed time has killed his counting stats for 2017, making him a disappointment for what you had to pay after a strong 2016 season. A broken hand delayed the start of his season, and then he had calf strain problems for two DL stints. But forget about 2017 — what about his future value in hitter-friendly Colorado?
I’m still worried about his potential. Granted that a hand injury could affect his swing, but the calf injury should be less of an issue in his batted ball profile. With that said, his ground ball rate, which has always been high, has jumped to 63% this year. Even strong power hitters aren’t going to hit many homers if that many balls are going downward. This is evident in his complete lack of home runs since June. Maybe it’s just his body being beaten up, you say. But his hard hit rate is anemic as well, so whatever it is, it’s not bad luck.
He did all his stolen base damage in one month, and since the leg injuries he’s not running. He’s also getting into his thirties, when most guys slow down. He manages to keep his BABIP above the league average most years, but the second halves the last two years show what happens when he’s below .330, and the recent lack of power further hurts his batting average. If you can get him as an endgame flier, I may gamble. But don’t give him a full mulligan for 2017 due to the injuries, and definitely don’t assume he’ll get back to 2016.
Joey Gallo – You can’t ask much more from Gallo than 40 HR, and that’s what he’ll give you. For the second half, his game has been a bit better than the first half. But in September he’s not hitting the ball out of the park as much as he has in the past, especially when compared to his 11 HR in August. Even so, this is a stable skill set. The issue is whether the rest of his game will hurt you more than the power output.
Gallo’s the newest Adam Dunn wannabe. He does take walks, but he strikes out a lot. The good news is that he’s making improvements on his SwStr% and his contact rate. However, his SwStr% is still double the MLB average. So what you’re getting is OBP and power. And that power is still legit, and still near elite. His fly ball loft is extreme, even if it’s come down in the second half. And his HR/FB has actually improved since July. His average is up because his BABIP has improved, due to better hard hit rate and LD%. Don’t let the slower September scare you off. He’s actually taken good strides this year, and especially in OBP leagues, he has to be considered a very valuable power bat.
Carlos Martinez – Overall, you can’t argue with Martinez’s season numbers, and I’d take the slightly higher ERA for that nice WHIP improvement. However, he’s been off his game lately — along with all the Cardinals, and his second half ratios aren’t as strong. How much concern should you have for next year?
He’s going to have an inflated price tag next year, so pass on him, because there are some definite red flags. The good news is that his ground ball rate is still elite, above 50%. And he won’t kill you in the walk department, though a 3.1 is nowhere near good. His strikeout rate dipped in 2016 and rebounded this year to 9.5 — but his second half rate is much lower, at 8.6. He’s been better in September, but it won’t be enough to get him back above 9.0 since July. His WHIP has blown up in the second half after looking solid early on, and this happened last year too. They coincide with a BABIP correction from the first half, so this isn’t necessarily a change in approach but some luck regression.
The biggest worry is that his HR/FB and HR/9 have jumped from his previous two seasons. In the first half he was in line with his career rates, but his second half is bad: 1.5 HR/9, 22% HR/FB. Without strong BB/9, with a potentially risky K/9, and with gopheritis issues, he’s out of the top-tier of fantasy SP for me. I’d take him as a #2 guy, but if you have him as your ace in mixed leagues, your rotation needs help.
Madison Bumgarner – It’s been a frustrating season for MadBum owners, with a long injury and now a rocky September. His last start was pretty good, but the two before that were bad, with at least 5 ER. Also, his ERA has been high for him, and his K/9 took a steep drop after a career best in 2016. How’s Bumgarner look for 2018 at this point?
He’s still elite, but he’s not a top-3 SP going into next season. Whether it’s the injury or the long track record of 200+ IP, he’s not been as sharp. His walk rate is still amazing, but that’s the only safe positive for his game. His velocity was in a bit of a decline entering 2017, but he was back up to 92 mph in April. After the injury, he’s back down to 90 mph. His SwStr% after the injury is also lower than it’s been in years, despite the fact he’s attacking the strike zone even more. It means the decline in K/9 is not just bad luck.
Now add in his rising HR/FB and HR/9, both are a career worst if you ignore his cup of coffee in 2009. In April his rates were among his career best — but remember the small sample size bias. After the injury, it’s been awful gopheritis. His hard hit rate is a career high this season as well, so he’s simply not quite right. Again, maybe it’s just lingering issues from his injury, and he’ll be a Cy Young candidate in 2018. But there are safer aces to target entering 2018, so be cautious.
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