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Fantasy Stock Watch: Keeper Edition 2

The offseason is around the corner, so if you have questions about a player’s keeper value, ask for a stock tip!

Stock Up logoDee GordonDid you gamble yet again on Billy Hamilton with the hope that he’d reach crazy stolen base totals? Entering 2017, I was targeting Gordon for speed, and it was the much better value. Gordon came back from his 2016 suspension strong, except for his average, and he was even better in 2017. This is your stolen base champion in 2017 and beyond.

Look, there’s not a lot to say about Gordon’s game. He puts the ball in play, usually on the ground, and he beats it out with his speed. He doesn’t hit it hard, but he makes good contact, and he can hit enough line drives to get on base a lot. He walks less often than Hamilton, but his batting average is much higher. And he can run — a lot. You’re only going to get three categories from him, but he’s elite in all three, and he’s worth more than full price as long as his legs hold up.

Tommy PhamTommy Pham had an oblique injury that short-circuited 2016, he somehow managed to put up a crazy high HR/FB, and he had a horrendous contact rate to go with it. There was no guarantee he’d get much playing time entering 2017, but Grichuk and Piscotty struggled, and Fowler got hurt. Then Pham decided to be far and away the best offensive force on the Cardinals, and no one saw that coming. Moving forward, my wariness is higher than my willingness to pay full price.

When Pham hits the ball in the air, he does it with authority. He proved his high HR/FB wasn’t a fluke, and his fly ball distance was high. However, bear in mind that his overall hard hit rate wasn’t only slightly above league, and he hits more than 50% grounders. That puts his ability to repeat 20 HR in question. As for speed, Pham was given the green light a lot more than his previous seasons, and his speed is a bit above average, but I have a hard time guaranteeing 20 SB moving forward. That said, he takes a lot of walks, so he has a better chance than most.

His batting average was a bit lucky, given only a 22% line drive rate and a not-elite hard hit rate. His BABIP was too high to be sustainable given these factors, and so his average is more likely to be at or below .290 in 2018. His contact rate rebounded from 2016, so either the oblique injury hindered him that year, or he learned to be far more selective (nearly 6% drop in O-Swing%), or both. The at bats will affect his final counting numbers, but I’m not penciling him in for a 20/20 repeat, unless he can reach 550 AB.

Chase AndersonAn oblique injury marred an otherwise stellar breakout season for Anderson. Most of us didn’t see this coming after mediocre metrics and results from 2015-16. So is he a flash in the pan where everything went right for a year? Or does he have some true value moving forward as a keeper?

With most breakout players, you must have a little bit of doubt or concern, but Anderson did make improvements to his game. If he can keep the skill gains, he has a good value entering 2018. For the previous two years, his K/9 and SwStr% were subpar, and his walk rate jumped in 2016. But in 2017, he improved his velocity and SwStr%, which supported a solid 8.5 K/9. He got his walk rate back to a decent rate (2.6), and he managed to cut his LD% and hard hit rate. The decrease in hard hits helps explain his drop in HR/FB from 15% to 9%.

Overall projections should be nice to Anderson next season, but mind the slightly lucky BABIP and strand rate. He’s more likely to be over a 3.20 ERA and 1.10 WHIP than under it, but he should easily avoid his 2016 stats. He makes for a slightly risky #2 SP. I may not pay the going rate, but I couldn’t blame someone else for doing so.

Brad PeacockLike Chase Anderson, Peacock entered 2017 without many expectations. Peacock had a prospect pedigree, but he’d mostly disappointed until a decent showing as a starter in September 2016. Even then, he struggled with his walk rate, which was a big reason why I didn’t project him to have value in 2017. However, with his second half this year, he’s shown he was a top prospect for a reason, and I’ll gamble on him as a keeper in deep leagues.

Let’s start with the walks. It’s still not above average, but after two bad months (as a reliever in April, and his first full month of starting in June), he managed to keep his BB/9 at 3.0 for the second half. He threw more strikes, and more first pitch strikes, and if he can hold on to those gains, then the future is bright. What’s more, he put up a 9.6 K/9 in the second half, including two months over 11.0 as a starter. His SwStr% is above average, so he should remain above 9.0 as long as he keeps attacking the zone, and that’ll keep his strand rate on the high side.

Since 2016 he’s done a better job of limiting line drives, and this year he solved his gopheritis. He also put up a career best GB%. The down side is that he hasn’t been doing this for years, so there’s some risk due to a lack of consistency. However, it looks like he’s taken the next step forward and figured out how to pitch instead of throw. With the potentially elite K/9, I’m going full price on him.




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Chris DavisIt may seem like I’m picking on HR-only hitters this offseason. Although it’s true that they’re not my favorite type of player, it’s not my fault that many of them had bad years in 2017. It’s definitely not my fault that a guy who averaged 39 HR over five seasons hit only 26 this year. Crash Davis had a hiccup, but is he likely to rebound, or is this the start of his decline despite his relative young age?

I have to preface my analysis by acknowledging that he had an oblique injury. That can certainly affect him and his swing. However, his July return didn’t really show rust, because his hard hit rate that month was his best of the season, as was his LD%. Instead, perhaps the oblique affected his ability to loft the ball, because his FB% was down in the second half, from 43% to 37%. Therefore even though his HR/FB didn’t drop very much, his fewer home runs may be partly explained this way.

That said, Davis is a clear one-trick pony, and that’s always risky, especially as he ages. He has a lot of swing and miss to his game and doesnt’ make good contact. Though he’s tried to be more selective at the plate the last two years (Swing% below 43%, vs. career 48%), his K% spiked to a career high 37%. His power is still nice at 25% HR/FB, but his best two seasons were 29%, and it seems his new level is more 30-35 HR with 500 AB. If you can get him for a huge discount in 2018, I would use him as a CI, but there’s still a lot of risk there. It’s best to pass when you can find home runs everywhere.

Kole CalhounI’ve been hoping Calhoun would take the next step and have a breakout season, or at least match his 2015 production. It turns out that was likely a career year, and his 2016-17 is the baseline we can expect moving forward. But at this point, a 2017 repeat seems more likely than a return to even 2016 levels, where he had a better average and FB%.

Calhoun’s been walked more often since his career year, but his average reached a new low in 2017. His hard hit rate was lower than 2016, his BABIP was a little low. Whether his BABIP will bounce remains to be seen, but it’s safer to project under .265 than over it. As for his power, he was never that much above average, and he even dipped below average in 2016. If he stays around 12% HR/FB instead of his career best 16%, and if his FB% remains near 35% instead of his career best 40%, then you can’t count on more than 20 homers.

The Angels simply aren’t a good team, and Calhoun is only an average player. That’s going to hurt him in terms of runs and RBI, and he doesn’t have any truly strong skills to gamble on. There’s no keeper value here, even in AL-only leagues — I’d rather gamble on someone with upside rather than a player who’s reached his ceiling and shows no signs of improving.

Masahiro TanakaAfter three strong seasons, Tanaka looked pedestrian in 2017, and his ERA was poor. It’s a gopheritis issue, and though that’s his only major issue, it’s one of the worst to have. He’s been dropped early in one of my contract keeper leagues, which means owners are clearly frustrated. However, this is a good buying opportunity if you can handle some risk or already have a solid #1 SP.

His gopheritis got better in the second half, even if it’s still too high to be safe. He dropped from 24% HR/FB and 2.1 HR/9 to 18% and 1.4 from July on. Of course, his September was nearly as bad as the first half, but the other two months give me hope he can work through the issue and improve in 2018. The low strand rate is not bad luck — this is all his doing. But if he can solve it, you’re looking at a near elite pitcher.

Tanaka made gains in strikeouts, with career bests in velocity, SwStr%, and K/9. Even though his walk rate went up a little to a career high, it’s still a great 2.1, so no worries there. He also dealt with an unlucky BABIP, especially given he lowered his LD% from 2016 and put up a career best GB%. His hard hit rate was his second lowest of his four seasons, and he induces a lot of infield flies. I want a safe bet on my team first, but I’m optimistic that Tanaka can get back to being an ace. His second half ERA was 3.90, and I’ll take the under on that for next year, along with 200 strikeouts.

Julio TeheranThree seasons that are above average, and two seasons that are poor. He’s also been inconsistent from first half to second half in the last two years, even when it comes to which half was good and which half was bad. Remember that he’s just entering his late twenties, but also remember that despite his good years, he’s no sure thing and can fall apart in any season. For that reason, he’s best avoided in shallow keeper leagues.

His velocity, SwStr%, and K/9 are relatively consistent for five years, though 2017 was a career low in K/9 for his full seasons. His batted ball profile is also stable when looking at whole seasons. His clearest issues during bad years are BB/9 and HR/FB. In 2015 and 2017, his BB/9 (3.3, 3.4) and HR/FB (13%, 14%) were his worst two years in those stats. In his good seasons, his BB/9 has stayed below 2.2, and his HR/FB has been at or below 10%.

He’s shown he can do well in other years, but of his last three seasons, two are bad. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence moving forward, and you can’t assume he’ll have a good 2018, even though his K/9 and HR/FB did improve in the second half. He’s marketed as the ace of the Braves, but in fantasy I wouldn’t slot him higher than a #3 SP. In NL-only leagues you have to gamble on him at some point, but I’m avoiding him in mixed leagues because his strikeouts aren’t great, and two big red flags are too risky.

 

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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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