Fantasy Baseball Weekly Rundown: 4/28 – 5/5

I don’t want to keep writing about Mookie Betts every week because we know how good he is and he continues to embarrass Major League pitching. I’m just kidding, I love writing about Mookie, he’s the Betts! Sorry about that, but his OPS is over 2.0 this past week, and on the season he leads the league in AVG, HR, Runs, ISO, wOBA, OPS, WAR, saving 3rd World Countries, etc. His batting average is higher than his BABIP, .363 BA with a .313 BABIP, LOL. So, yeah I “heart” you Mookie.

Meanwhile, A.J. Pollock is doing his thing with five dongs and two steals in the last week+. I actually believe he’s a damn good player and this is his talent level when healthy. The problem is, he’s almost never healthy. That being said, he is healthy and I’m not selling. You likely drafted him after guys like Starling Marte and Elvis Andrus and if he can stay healthy you are looking at a top 25 type season. Something in the vicinity of 30 home runs and 25 steals. HUMIDOR WHAT!

Kevin Pillar has got a nice power/speed stretch going with three homers and two steals this past week. Oh nice, he’s kind of like a poor man’s Pollock. A poor Pollock is that even a thing? I don’t even know and I’m half Polish. This is more or less a hot streak for Pillar. I’d pick him up for now, but I’m not buying him at this level for the rest of the season. He’s going to wear down and go back to his true talent level. That’s ok, the 6 steals could end up around 15-18 with 14-15 homers. That’s a solid forth or fifth OF, so, yes he should be owned in all 12-teamers.

Old Man Nick Markakis is doing something he hasn’t done since his days in Baltimore. He’s hitting .458 with three home runs in the last seven days and has six dingers on the year after only having eight in all of 2017. It took Markakis until August to hit his sixth homer in 2017. I checked his batted ball profile along with xStats, and if you’re wondering, no, this will not last. He has however improved his plate discipline and should be a good source of AVG and OBP (for those leagues) and should be hitting in a good spot in one of the most exciting lineups in the league. He still likely ends up around .285/.360 with 12-14 homers, no speed but probably around 85+ RBI.

Dee Gordon is hitting a crazy .630 with five steals over the last week and has taken over the league lead in steals with 14. This is what Dee does, he steals bases. Any concerns about slowing down went out the window but his .415 BABIP won’t last. Yeah, he’s a .340 BABIP guy. Ok, so he’s basically a .290 hitter with 55-60 steals. Oh, that’s exactly what I projected him for this offseason. Great!

Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor started slow this year and fantasy owners were worried. What are their numbers now?  Ramirez is hitting .293 with 9 HR and 3 steals and is walking more than he’s striking out; Lindor is hitting .283 with 7 HR and 5 steals. Sounds like they are both going to be just fine. Everyone relax.

Quick hit: Eugenio Suarez came back from a fractured thumb in like 3 weeks! How? I don’t know but It doesn’t matter, he’s killing it with 2 HR and 12 RBI in the last 7 days. He’s now got 4 HR, 20 RBI and hitting over .300 in only 16 games. He shouldn’t be available but I’m buying his breakout.

FREEZING HITTERS
Kris Bryant and his dreamy blue eyes is 4 for his last 23. He does have a homer but to be honest, it was wind aided and was 2 rows deep at Wrigley. What’s interesting is that KB has reduced his strikeout rate and SwStr for the fourth straight year. That’s good but his FB% and launch angle are down. If you were expecting 40 HR from KB, you’re going to be disappointed. He’s more of a 25-30 HR hitter but he might hit .300, so that’s something, right?

This is the Cubs portion of the article; Javy Baez is hitting .200 in the last seven days with no homers. He has managed one steal so maybe he can weather these slumps by stealing bases. Doubtful, the Cubs are next to last in steals as a team. But he’s walking more, nope. I said this before, he had as many IBB as BB in 2017 because he hit in front of the pitcher. If he’s hitting higher in the order it’s good for his counting stats but bad for his OBP. Maddon has already moved him down after one bad week, so who knows what to expect. He’s still swinging out of the zone just as much and missing nearly the same as 2017. I’d be selling Baez and would have done it two weeks ago.

Paul DeJong is 3 for his last 16 with no homers,one run and no RBI in the last seven days. At least he’s but his K rate down to 31.7% though, right? This is the real Paul DeJong. The power is legit, but he’s going to have a lot more stretches like this one with a few hot streaks in between. They will very few and far between. I’m not buying DeJong, I’d be selling.

Rhys Hoskins was looking like a God among men through his first 70 or so games in the Majors. However, his line over the last week looks like this .083 with no homers, 1 R, 1 RBI, and an astonishing 11 strikeouts! This is just a slump, he’s still walking at just under 20%. If you thought Hoskins was going to turn into a .300 40 110 hitter in his first full season, then you will be disappointed. I think he could be that at his peak, but right now he hits too many fly balls to hit for a very high average. He’s more of a .260 hitter with 30+ homer power and great on base skills. I’d buy if someone is jumping ship.

HOT PITCHERS
Nick Kingham crowned as this week’s rundown pitcher of the week. I’m sorry, that was lame. Kingham ruled his opponents this week. I’ll let myself out.  2 starts with 16 Ks, 4 ER and 2 W this past week. Another Tommy John Surgery pitcher for the Pirates to ruin. His slider has been reinvented which means he’s got 3 plus pitches. He looks like the real deal. He’s not going to over power hitters but mixes in his secondary pitches very well. If it wasn’t for the 2-run jack by Domingo Santana in his last start, he’s would have completed another gem. I’m buying Kingham in all 12 team leagues and deeper.

Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole are my fifth and sixth best SPs right now. It’s way too late to buy Gerrit Cole but I believe in his stuff this year. The Pirates have got to be kicking themselves right now for not letting Cole use pine tar while pitching. LOL, I’m JK, right Tyler Bauer? Anyways, he’s got 77 strike out against 9 walks! He’s going to be very good this year but the high launch angle (18 degrees) and hard hit rate of 38% could create a few blowups in the future. Although when you strikeout everyone, does it matter? Sevy while not an dominant has given up an average launch angle of only 5.8 degrees and backs it up with a 52% ground ball rate. He’s got the safer floor than Cole by limiting home runs and keeping the ball on the ground.

Blake Snell’s like teen spirit is on a roll! I wrote that sleeper post back in December. He hasn’t given up more than 2 ER in a single start since his 2nd start of the season against the Yanks. He’s keeping his walks way down and finally missing bats like he was in the minors. You are witnessing Snell’s breakout and it Snells damn good! I’m buying him as a borderline top 30 SP. If an owner isn’t as fond of him, make an offer for him.

Sean Newcomb has put together a couple of very good starts. He’s kind of like Blake Snell back in 2017 but with more strikeout upside. He’s always had great stuff and high swing and miss numbers but his control has historically been bad. Well, he’s only walked 2 batters and struck out 16 in his last two starts. I like this kid and I’d be buying in 12 team and deeper leagues. His Zone% is up 3% so if he can keep the walks down, he’ll be very valuable. Expect some 4 IP 5 ER with 4 or 5 walk games but the good should out weight the bad.

Freezing Hurlers
David Price’s struggles hit a climax (and not in a good way) on Thursday night. He’s given up 12 ER and 19 base runners in his last 9 ⅓ innings. What’s up David? Do we need to get Dennis Eckersley to take trash about you again? I’m beginning to think Price’s best days are behind him. His average FB velocity is around 93 mph. Back when he was an ace, he was slinging it between 95 and 97 mph. His secondary offerings are just not that great. Without a dominant fastball you can see his K rate dropping and the walk rate is nearly up to 10%. I’d hold for now, he’s a good veteran pitcher. I want to see a few more starts and how he adjusts.

Carlos Carrasco serving up cookies to opposing batters in his last two starts. Tehehe. Carrasco’s skills all look to be intact. His velocity is fine, his walk rate is good, and his swings and misses are there, but the strikeouts are down (they will come back up). The only change is an increase in fly balls. His launch angle against is up 4 degrees from 2017. Maybe he gives up 2 more HRs than last year, so what. I’m not all that concerned, if a Carrasco owner is selling, I’m buying.

Jason Vargas and Chris Tillman can go back to being ignored in fantasy. Unless you’re stacking hitters against them. I wouldn’t be owning either of these guys or even streaming them. I’d actually be surprised if they are both pitching in the Majors in September this year.

Matt Harvey has been DFAed by the Mets as he refused to be sent to the minors. Wow, that escalated quickly. What a fall from grace for the Dark Knight. Back in 2015 his fastball averaged 96.7 mph and this year he averaged 92.6 mph. Here’s really the only other stat you need to know, in 2015 his xwOBA against was an incredible .255 and this year it’s .400! So basically, he turned every hitter into Alcides Escobar in 2015 and he’s turning everyone into Mike Trout now.

Second Base – The Choice is Yours

I am going to round out the infield with second baseman as the regular season is literally eight days away! Some people have already had their drafts but this upcoming weekend is the last big time-frame for fantasy baseball drafts. I’d like to get the starting pitcher “The Choice is Yours” but I’ve been busy writing a few articles for draft preparation over at FantasyPros, so go check it out. If I can’t get to it, I’ll post all the pitchers I’m way higher/lower on than Yahoo ADP. Today I’m looking at five mystery second baseman using ZIPS projections and NFBC ADP. Second base is similar to shortstops in that I can’t believe how deep the position is compared to years past. There’s just so much offensive talent in today’s game, I wouldn’t put extra weight on positions like 2B and SS like in the past when they were considered shallow. Get your guys and get your numbers, catcher is the only shallow position in my opinion. Let’s look at our 2B mystery players.

2B ZIPS Projections   NFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.283207484284
Player B0.25421637112103
Player C0.25629868614104
Player D0.25528778511128
Player E0.26116835811184

Player A looks like a safe bet to at least contribute in four categories but clearly has no speed. However, he’s doesn’t appear to excel in any single category. This AL veteran has long been considered one of the best second basemen of the last decade and has made eight All-Star appearances. Ok, this one is pretty easy, Player A is Robinson Cano. He’s not a bad “safe” pick but he’s 35 years old and his home runs totals the last four seasons are 14, 21, 39, and 23. The 39 in 2016 appears to be an outlier for an aging veteran who never really had elite power. Cano has always been a high contact guy with elevated BABIPs which typically were justified. However, his BABIP is trending in the wrong direction from .334 in 2014 and on a steady decline to .294 last year. Cano is no longer a .300 hitter and I expect the batting and average and power to continue their downward descent. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player B is one of the more exciting players to watch. He’s a wizard defensively and can hit some moon shots (when he connects). He’s on my hometown team so I get a lot of exposure to him, he’s only 25 years old and has over 360 games played in the majors. Player B is Javy Baez. Yes, he did have a solid season last year with a .273, 23 HR and 10 steals in only 508 plate appearances. If you’ve been visiting my site, you know I’m not a huge fan, here’s my bust post I wrote back in January. Click bait! Anyways, the keys points are that he swings at everything, doesn’t make a lot of contact, and doesn’t hit the ball hard constantly. Playing time could be an issue with Joe Maddon and the Cubs if he doesn’t kick the old habits. His stat line was just fine last year but xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304. If that isn’t bad enough, Javy was second to last in both O-Swing% and SwStr% which means he chased pitches out of the zone and swung and missed almost as much as anybody in the league. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player C looks like the best combination of power and speed based on ZIPS projections. He’s also one of the three players clumped in a tight ADP window that includes Baez and Player D below. Based on his projections, there’s no reason he should be drafted at the same ADP as Baez and I already wrote about my displeasure for the Baez ADP. The issue is that Player C hit an atrocious .204 last year! Ok, so Player C is Rougned Odor. Yes, the strikeout rate went up to a career-worst 24.9% and his plate discipline is poor, but it’s not as bad as Baez’. He still managed to hit 30 home runs and steal 15 bases which were nearly identical to 2016 and he’s only 24 years old. Bottom line is his BABIP won’t be .224 again and the power is legit justified by a 37% hard contact rate. A .250-30-14 season is much more likely for Odor is 2018. GET WITH THIS. 

Player D looks almost identical to Odor with a little less speed and maybe that’s why his ADP is a little lower. Player D is also very young (only 23), has a lot of swing and miss to his game, but actually has an above average walk rate, unlike the rest of this list. He also has a playing time issue similar to Baez but is eligible in the outfield as well. Player D is Ian Happ. I really like young players with good walk rates, it shows maturity and potential upside. His 30+% K rate is bad but his profile looks good in that he hits about 40% fly balls and only had a 3.2% IFFB rate, meaning he’s getting good value out of his fly balls, hence the 25% HR/FB rate. I don’t think he will repeat that but he did hit 24 home runs in only 413 plate appearances. So he has a little more power than Baez and a little less speed with a better walk rate, I’ll take my chances with Happ two rounds later. GET WITH THIS.

Player E is the other old man of the group. He had one of the worst seasons of his career and is now playing for a new club. To me, his poor season was fueled by a poor BABIP because his walk rate improved, his hard contact was the highest of his career, and his approach remained well above average. Player E is Ian Kinsler. Yeah, lots of Ian talk today. Kinsler is 35 years-old but I think the projection by ZIPS is a bit low. He’s averaged 25 home runs the last two seasons and will be leading off in front of Mike Trout. His SwStr rate and K rate remaining near elite and the improvement in walk rate mean plenty of runs. I can easily see 20 homers, 10 steals with 95-105 runs. His ADP needs to be inside the top 150. GET WITH THIS.

Javy Baez Beware

This is a tough one to write as a life long Cubs fan but bias aside, Baez aside?  I have to go with what my eyes and the numbers tell me. Javier Baez had a bit of a breakout in 2017 with 23 HRs, 10 steals and managed a .273 average!  He chipped in with 75 runs and RBI apiece.  He did this with a career high 508 PAs and 145 games (though he only started 127 of them).  He’s an absolute wizard defensively that’s an absolute treat to watch and is far and away the best defensive 2B on the team and probably the best SS as well, though Addison Russell is no slouch.  Baez started 67 games at SS in 2017 mostly due to an injury to Addison Russell.  I don’t see Baez playing that many games at short this year, and if Zobrist is still getting playing time, it will be split between 2B and LF/RF.  In other words, Baez will most likely see the bench once or twice a week and will come in as a defensive replacement late in games when they have the lead.  In terms of playing time, I don’t see an increase in PA for 2018.

Batted Ball Profile and Plate Discipline

In terms of talent, he’s got great power, some speed, and that’s where the positives end for Baez on the offensive side.  Now the negatives: a career high 28.3% K rate in 2017, an unsustainable .345 BABIP, typically bats 7th or 8th in the batting order, and the previously mentioned playing time issue. The reason for the unsustainable BABIP is the fact that he only had a 15.4% line drive rate which matches what he had done in the minors as well.  He hits about 10% popups which are essentially automatic outs, and home runs aren’t included when calculating BABIP.  So where does he get a .345 BABIP from?  Grounders?  Flyballs that don’t leave the yard?  xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304.

Let’s talk about those strikeouts. Last year he had a career high 144 Ks to go along with an 18.6 SwStr%!!  Just for reference, that falls somewhere between Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.  Cool Max, but those guys hit 40 and 50 HRs last year Bro!  They are also the size of Lebron James and Baez is 6 foot 190 Lbs, soooo…..  Based on those numbers, I actually expect his strikeouts to go UP in 2018.  You don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.  He swung at 45% of pitches out of the strike zone (2nd worst in MLB) and even his zone contact was under 80% (4th worst), I’m sorry but that’s rough.  Unless he makes major adjustments this year he’s not going to get over 450 PA and come close to his numbers from 2017.

Before I get to his projections, I haven’t even mentioned the most amazing Baez stat from 2017: Baez walked a total of 30 times in 508 PA good (bad) for 5.9% BB rate; how many of those do you think were intentional walks?  …Maybe 3 or 4?  No, try 15 of them!  Exactly half of them; that ties him for 2nd in the league with Goldschmidt and some guy named Trout!  The reason for that is because he usually hits in front of the pitcher more often than not.  If you take away his IBB, his BB rate is 2.95% when he’s actually asked to work an at bat.  Somewhere Rougned Odor is shaking his head.

For this season I’ll give Baez: 465 PAs, .251/.299, 20 HRs and 9 steals 61 runs, 66 RBI. Early Mock Drafts have his ADP around 123 per fantrax.  Those numbers in this day in age belong the waivers kids. Listen, I love watching Baez and his defensive wizardry and the occasional moon shot but watching at bat after at bat where he chases three sliders a foot off the plate and in the dirt is frustrating. Here’s to me being wrong though.