More than month in now. Lots of performances to keep up with as you chase that fantasy crown. Lucky for you, the Stock Watch is here to make sure you are aware of who is producing, who is not, and exactly what is behind those performances. It keeps you from cutting bait too soon and helps you know when to look past a player’s struggles for the perfect moment to buy.
As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions.
- Max Kepler
Four home runs in the past week. A .417 ISO over the last two. Kepler has been working hard to catch up after stumbling out of the gate early. He now boasts seven home runs to go along with a .278/.353/.567 line, which coincidentally line up very well to his expected output per Statcast (.276 XBA/.371 XWOBA/.513 XSLG). Jumps in his Hard Hit% (+5.8%), Average Exit Velocity (+2.4 MPH), and Barrel% (+3%) are some of the underlying factors driving his current performance, especially in the power department:
Pulling the ball 56.2% of the time (+13.1% in 2019) has not hurt either. His 20.8% HR/FB% is well above his usual output (high of 15.2% came in 2016) but it is not out of the question that he could replicate something close to that mark if he can maintain his current quality of contact. One thing I really love about his 2019: Kepler’s current approach (10.8% BB% and 17.6% K%). He has maintained a strong walk rate and a perfectly acceptable strikeout rate despite selling out a bit more for power.
One thing I do not like: his platoon splits. While Kepler has consistently struggled against left handed pitching (.200/.270/.333) in his career, he has been even worse in limited action against them in 2019 (.167/.211/.333). Another metric that worries me: his current 13.7% LD% (10% last 2 weeks). While his XBA is not far off from his actual average, that dismal LD% partnered with his sharp increase in Pull% makes me worried for his batting average moving forward. Interesting signs of a breakout for Kepler if he can keep it all together, though a few warning signs remain.
- Michael Chavis
Chavis’s first 10 MLB games have already included a few solid highlights, including a double in his first at bat and three home runs, including this 441 foot blast against the Tampa Bay Rays:
Power was always part of Chavis’s game in the minor leagues, including 2017 when he slammed 31 home runs over two levels. Scouts also assigned him 50/55 GamePower and 65/65 RawPower scores during their evaluations of him. Despite his above average power, he has not struggled too much with strikeouts apart from a 30.6% rate back in 2015.
Injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt mean Chavis will have the opportunity to show that he deserves a continued presence in the Red Sox lineup. He brings a big bat for someone with keystone eligibility, and has the potential to produce with consistent playing time. Questions about his Hit tool (40/40 Grade) do exist, however, and only time will tell if he has the ability to consistently hit MLB pitching.
- Caleb Smith
Smith took a while to reach the big leagues, but man has he made up for lost time to open 2019. The Miami southpaw is striking out 33.9% of batter faced (15.6% SwStr%) and walking only 6.4%, generally doing his best to be unhittable over his first five starts. While his 2.17 ERA is nothing to sneer at, advanced looks are impressed with what they see (2.63 FIP, 3.02 xFIP, 2.99 SIERA), backing up the idea that MLB hitters have something to fear when they head down to South Florida. Smith currently ranks fifth in K% for all MLB, placing him in some pretty strong territory to start the year:
- Willy Adames
Count me as one who was high on Adames coming into the season. I thought he would build on the potential he showed in 85 games last season, and he still may, though not much is supporting that idea currently. The young Ray is wasting away at the plate, posting a .200/.265/.300 line overall (.118/.189/.206 over the last two weeks). His expected stats are not much better (.230 XBA/.290 XWOBA/.359 XSLG) and his 3.6% Launch Angle does not do much for anyone in the power department.
Given that aforementioned Launch Angle, you will likely be unsurprised to learn that Adames is struggling to avoid ground balls, killing worms with 61% of his batted balls. That represents a 7.9% increase over last year, mostly at the expense of his FB% (-10.1% in 2019). Adames looks overmatched at the plate. He needs to improve his approach (29.6% K%, 13.6% SwStr%, 7.1% BB%) if he is going to provide any value this season.
- Manny Machado
The $300 million dollar man is easing into life in San Diego, swatting only four home runs to go along with a .236/.325/.368 line. Machado has not homered since April 12 and has generally struggled to hit the ball with the same authority we have seen in previous seasons (-3.4% Barrel%, -0.9 MPH Average Exit Velocity, -5.9% Hard Hit%). He has struggled more at Petco so far (.241/.317/.315 in 15 games), especially in the power department (three of his four home runs came away from San Diego).
While his first few games as a Padre have not come with the usual fireworks we expect from Machado, it is too early to cut bait or sell him at a discount. He has done too much to prove his place as one of the top infielders in fantasy over the past few years. He is one to keep an eye on. While some will attribute his struggles to him pressing at the plate given the expectations of his new contract, he may just be adjusting to league pitching given his limited experience in the N.L. (66 games in 2018).