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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pickups List

Back by popular demand in 2020... RotoBaller has brought back for the MLB draft season and regular season our Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers and Waiver Wire Pickups List.  Be sure to also use our other lineup tools shown in the icons below.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire by MLB Position

ALL - C - 1B - 2B - SS - 3B - OF - SP - RP

 

Nate Lowe (1B, TB) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 13% of leagues ANALYSIS: Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Nate Lowe has taken over regular first base duties for the team following the injury to Ji-Man Choi (hamstring), who is out for the rest of the regular season. Lowe made his 2020 debut on September 2. Through his... Read More

2 months ago

Brady Singer (SP, KC) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 28% of leagues ANALYSIS: Here's what Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer has done over his past two starts: 14 innings, three hits, three walks, zero runs and 16 strikeouts. Needless to say, the Royals rookie appears to be hitting his stride. Singer struggled over his first... Read More

2 months ago

Dean Kremer (SP, BAL) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 31% of leagues ANALYSIS: Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer has been on a fantastic run to begin his major league career. Through three starts, he has posted a 1.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 11.3 K/9. He went at least five innings in each of his three starts, allowing... Read More

2 months ago

Bobby Dalbec (1B/3B, BOS) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 21% of leagues ANALYSIS: Boston Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Bobby Dalbec has been on home run-or-bust mode since making his MLB debut in late August. Over his first 54 at-bats, he recorded 13 hits, six of which were home runs. Five of those home runs came in five... Read More

2 months ago

Justin Dunn (SP, SEA) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 17% of leagues ANALYSIS: Solid starting pitching became more and more scarce as the year has progressed so finding someone who could bump up your fantasy team's pitching stats in the final week of the season could be what puts you over the edge. Justin Dunn is someone... Read More

2 months ago


Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 20% of leagues ANALYSIS: Although the Mets have once again flattered to deceive and are on the brink of missing the playoffs again, they actually have had a good offensive season and lead the league in wRC+ (weighted runs created plus). A contributor to that has been... Read More

2 months ago

Stefan Crichton (RP, ARI) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 18% of leagues ANALYSIS: With a week of the season left, if you are in need of saves you will be willing to take them from wherever you can get them. So the fact that a team's closer is available in 82% of leagues is pretty staggering.... Read More

2 months ago

Manuel Margot (OF, TB) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 18% of leagues ANALYSIS: Any concerns about Manuel Margot's playing time to finish the season were allayed when Austin Meadows hit the 10-day IL with an oblique injury that will see him miss the remainder of the regular season. Margot has had a solid season playing in 41... Read More

2 months ago

Dane Dunning (SP, CWS) - Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 36% of leagues ANALYSIS: Despite me telling you to roster Dane Dunning last Sunday after he compiled a 1-0 record in his first four starts with a 2.70 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 21 Ks in 20.0 IP, he's only been added to 10% more rosters. What did he do... Read More

2 months ago

Matt Barnes (RP, BOS) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 9

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 30% of Leagues ANALYSIS: It's been a rough season for Red Sox pitching in 2020 by just about every metric you can look at. Since Brandon Workman was traded to the Phillies, Matt Barnes is now the one guy to roster out of a bad Boston... Read More

2 months ago


Yan Gomes (C, WAS) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 9

BALLER MOVE: Add in Two-Catcher Leagues OWNED IN: 4% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Throughout most of his career, Yan Gomes has never been much of a flashy fantasy pick. He's good for between 10 and 15 home runs, with an OK average, but not really much else. Since his All-Star 2018 season, Gomes has been in... Read More

2 months ago

Austin Barnes (C, LAD) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in Two-Catcher Leagues ROSTERED IN: 4% of leagues ANALYSIS: Picture this scenario: the 2020 MLB season is winding down, you need stolen bases wherever you can get them, and you aren't fortunate enough to roster the likes of J.T. Realmuto, Christian Vazquez, or Isiah Kiner-Falefa at backstop. In two-catcher leagues where the pickens get... Read More

2 months ago

Jared Walsh (1B, LAA) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 1% of leagues ANALYSIS: Jared Walsh is a rare creature, in that, he has been both a successful pitcher and batter throughout his minor league career since entering the Angels farm system from Georgia in 2015. Last season, in his first big league run with Los Angeles, Walsh... Read More

2 months ago

Rafael Dolis (RP, TOR) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 30% of leagues ANALYSIS: Rafael Dolis had a seven-year MLB hiatus, but after an extended run over in Japan, he has been a pivotal asset in the Blue Jays bullpen for the 2020 campaign. Ken Giles may have just returned from the IL and is slated to be... Read More

2 months ago

Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 26% of leagues ANALYSIS: Full disclosure: the main drawback with Tyler Mahle is David Bell's propensity to pull him early, as evidenced by his Sunday outing of 2.2 IP, four hits, four walks, three earned runs, and three strikeouts. In fact, Sunday's game against St.Louis marks the fourth... Read More

2 months ago


Alex Dickerson (OF, SF) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 30% of leagues ANALYSIS: San Francisco Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson has been absolutely mashing so far through September. He bashed three home runs in his first game of the month, a game in which he had a total of five hits, five runs and six RBI. Over... Read More

3 months ago

J.A. Happ (SP, NYY) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 31% of leagues ANALYSIS: After a shaky start to the season, New York Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ has started to settle in and produce some solid results. In his latest start, against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, Happ went 6 1/3 innings and allowed four hits,... Read More

3 months ago

Dane Dunning (SP, CWS) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 25% of leagues ANALYSIS:  The White Sox have a supply of exciting young pitchers and Dane Dunning has certainly shined brightly in his debut season with a 1-0 record in four starts, 2.70 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 21 Ks in 20.0 IP. The White Sox currently lead... Read More

3 months ago

Andres Gimenez (2B/SS, NYM) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 14% of leagues ANALYSIS: A big part of the upcoming final fortnight of the fantasy season is catching up in categories you're lacking in to squeak out as many roto points as you can. So those of you in need of stolen bases should look no further than... Read More

3 months ago

Willi Castro (3B/SS, DET) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 9% of leagues ANALYSIS: The Detroit Tigers have been better than expected this year and despite sporting a 20-24 record and likely missing out on the playoffs, they have some exciting players on their roster including infielder Willi Castro. Castro didn't make his season debut until August... Read More

3 months ago


DJ Stewart (OF, BAL) - Week 9 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 15% of leagues ANALYSIS: DJ Stewart started off his year going 0 for 22 before being optioned to the Orioles alternate training site in early August. Stewart was recalled on September 01st and went 0 for 6 in his first two games back before going on an... Read More

3 months ago

Clint Frazier (OF, NYY) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 9

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 30% of Leagues ANALYSIS: The Yankees' offense is a shell of what we expected them to be in the preseason, but that's led to the emergence of Clint Frazier who has taken full advantage of his first crack at everyday at-bats. Frazier was a former top prospect... Read More

3 months ago

Willy Adames (SS, TB) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 8

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 32% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Before being called up in 2018, Willy Adames was regarded as a high-floor, five-tool prospect who profiled as a perennial All-Star. Despite hitting 20 HR last year, Adames came into this season well outside the top-15 fantasy shortstops. Recently, however, he’s been making a... Read More

3 months ago

Ryan Mountcastle (1B/OF, BAL) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 8

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 30% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Mountcastle is one of the more recent prospects to be called up and he’s already smacked three homers in his first 13 games. What’s more, he has stacked up five multi-hit games during that time. Mountcastle’s .244 ISO is higher than his... Read More

3 months ago

Alec Bohm (3B, PHI) - Waiver Wire Pickups Week 8

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 20% of Leagues ANALYSIS: The Phillies organization and fantasy managers have to be ecstatic about Bohm’s work so far this season. He’s flashed his above-average power and hit tool throughout his 19-game stint thus far. While the small-sample numbers aren’t overwhelming, Bohm has been viable as an everyday... Read More

3 months ago


Victor Reyes (OF, DET) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 26% of leagues ANALYSIS: A two-hit performance on Sunday extended Victor Reyes' current hitting streak to seven games. He's tallied multiple hits in four of those contests, and just prior to the streak had a four-hit game as well. All those base knocks have his overall line up... Read More

3 months ago

Austin Slater (1B/OF, SFG) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 29% of leagues ANALYSIS: Austin Slater was just beginning to attract serious attention from fantasy managers when he suffered a groin strain on August 21. He returned from the injured list over the weekend and was immediately installed in the leadoff spot for San Francisco. An eighth-round draft... Read More

3 months ago

Brandon Belt (1B/OF, SFG) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 36% of leagues ANALYSIS: For nigh on a decade, Brandon Belt has been somewhat of a siren song for fantasy managers. His high quality contact and advanced plate approach have rarely yielded exciting results in our game, however. That's at least partly attributable to his home park, which is... Read More

3 months ago

Dane Dunning (SP, CHW) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 21% of leagues ANALYSIS: While his third start of the 2020 season didn't live up to the standard he set with his first two turns, Dane Dunning looks like the real deal. The rookie has solid ratios (3.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and 18 strikeouts in his 14 innings of... Read More

3 months ago

Nick Madrigal (2B/SS, CWS) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 30% of leagues ANALYSIS: Nick Madrigal was a popular draft-day target among fantasy managers, although the slight on him was being an "empty batting average guy". There was no question Madrigal could hit for a good average but he lacked any power in his Minor League career having... Read More

3 months ago


Ty France (2B/3B, SEA) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 3% of leagues ANALYSIS: The Mariners acquired Ty France from the Padres in the trade headlined by Austin Nola going in the opposite direction. While in San Diego, France found it difficult to get regular playing, featuring in just 20 of the team's 36 games and logging... Read More

3 months ago

Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 12% of leagues ANALYSIS: With just three weeks remaining this season, fantasy managers are scrambling to boost stats wherever they can and no more so than searching for saves. So the fact Richard Rodriguez is rostered in just 12% of leagues is surprising. Granted, the Pirates have... Read More

3 months ago

Josh Fleming (SP, TB) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 25% of leagues ANALYSIS: The depleted Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff has been boosted by rookie Josh Fleming, with three wins from his three starts, a 3.52 ERA and 1.04 WHIP from 15.1 IP. Two of his starts have come against the Marlins including Friday's 5.0 IP, 4... Read More

3 months ago

Deivi Garcia (SP, NYY) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED IN: 34% of leagues ANALYSIS: We've reached that part of the season where any pitcher with a pulse is worth consideration for rostering in fantasy. Deivi Garcia certainly has a pulse and after two starts for the Yankees, has emerged as a viable fantasy option. Garcia has had contrasting... Read More

3 months ago

Ke'Bryan Hayes (3B, PIT) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 8% of leagues ANALYSIS: Ke'Bryan Hayes was called up to the Pirates this last week and homered in his first Major League appearance. Through four games, Hayes has a .357/.400/.786 slash line with three extra-base hits. Unfortunately for Hayes, he's one of the worst offenses in the... Read More

3 months ago


Sam Hilliard (OF, COL) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 14% of leagues ANALYSIS: Sam Hilliard has been putting up eyebrow-raising numbers since arriving in the Colorado farm system in 2015 from Wichita State (21 HR and 37 SB in 2017 for Single-A+ Lancaster), but 2019 was a particularly triumphant year (causing eyebrows to raise so high they're hitting... Read More

3 months ago

Victor Reyes (OF, DET) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 7% of leagues ANALYSIS: 25-year-old Victor Reyes was never a top-rated prospect as he bounced around from the Atlanta and Arizona organizations before finding a home in Detroit, but he was able to earn a spot with the big league Tigers for the shortened 2020 campaign after an... Read More

3 months ago

Jacob Stallings (C, PIT) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in Two-Catcher Leagues OWNED IN: 3% of leagues ANALYSIS: On a very stitched-together 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates squad, even Jacob Stallings name doesn't tend to stick out, and it certainly didn't jump off the page before the season started when compared to fellow Buccos backstops John Ryan Murphy and Luke Maile. While Maile hit the... Read More

3 months ago

Danny Duffy (SP, KC) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 26% of leagues ANALYSIS: Danny Duffy has put in a ton of work for the Royals over the years as both a starter and occasional reliever, and after a couple of seasons where he appeared to be losing his touch, Duffy is back to some good old Danny... Read More

3 months ago

Ty Buttrey (RP, LAA) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 22% of leagues ANALYSIS: The pressure is about as low as it can get for members of the 12-22 Los Angeles Angels bullpen, as Hoby Milner and Cam Bedrosian are currently sidelined on the IL; Jaime Barria isn't even currently with the major league club; and the likes... Read More

3 months ago


Zach Eflin (SP, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues OWNED IN: 15% of leagues ANALYSIS: Zach Eflin has been intermittently useful for fantasy purposes over the past couple of seasons, but he's never flashed this kind of strikeout ability before. After tossing seven strong innings in a win over the Braves on Saturday, the 26-year-old now has 37 punchouts in... Read More

3 months ago

Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 16% of leagues ANALYSIS: Even after a rough outing on Saturday, Richard Rodriguez remains arguably the Pirates' best option for the ninth inning while Keone Kela is on the shelf. The 30-year-old had locked down his last two save opportunities before surrendering a walk-off home run against the... Read More

3 months ago

Alec Bohm (3B, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 22% of leagues ANALYSIS: A quiet week has his overall numbers looking a little less impressive than before, but rookie Alec Bohm looks like the real deal. After going 3-for-3 and hitting his first major league home run last Sunday, the 24-year-old was hitting .344 with a .993 OPS... Read More

3 months ago

Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF, MIA) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 33% of leagues ANALYSIS: Jon Berti came into the 2020 season as a cheap fantasy source of stolen bases and he's lived up to that reputation so far with eight steals (tied for second in the MLB). Berti did start the season as the Marlins no.2 hitting, making... Read More

3 months ago

Spencer Turnbull (SP, DET) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 34% of leagues ANALYSIS: Spencer Turnbull has seen the leagues he's rostered in drop after a disappointing outing last week against the White Sox, where he lasted just 2.0 IP, giving up three earned runs on four walks and two hits. While Turnbull's control has been a problem... Read More

3 months ago


Kevin Gausman (SP/RP, SF) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 29% of leagues ANALYSIS: Kevin Gausman continues to be under rostered and continues to run into bad luck. He's pitched in seven games (six starts) totalling 35.2 IP and has a 1-2 record, a 4.54 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Why is he considered unlucky? Well, Gausman has... Read More

3 months ago

Willy Adames (SS, TB) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 20% of leagues ANALYSIS: When a shortstop hits 20 home runs with a .254/.317/.418 slash line, it used to put them into consideration for drafting in all fantasy leagues. Willy Adames did just that last season yet wasn't drafted much heading into 2020 and is still under... Read More

3 months ago

Justus Sheffield (SP, SEA) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 27% of leagues ANALYSIS: After an inauspicious start to his Major League career, Justus Sheffield is emerging as the type of starting pitcher the Mariners wanted in his age 24 season after acquiring him from the Yankees in the James Paxton trade. After putting up a 0-1... Read More

3 months ago

Ryan Mountcastle (SS/OF, BAL) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 12% of leagues ANALYSIS: Baltimore Orioles eventually called up Ryan Mountcastle after Chris Davis and his .357 OPS hit the IL. Mountcastle arguably should have started the season with the Orioles as he'd put up a .312/.344/.527 slash line in Triple-A last year, also hitting 25 homers... Read More

3 months ago

Josh Staumont (RP, KC) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 8% of leagues ANALYSIS: The Kansas City Royals have had quite an interesting year when it comes to bullpen management, as we have seen Trevor Rosenthal blast out of the gates with six saves as the Royals primary closer and longtime veteran Greg Holland has picked up a... Read More

3 months ago


Johnny Cueto (SP, SF) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 32% of leagues ANALYSIS: Johnny Cueto has quietly been one of the best starting pitchers in the game since his debut for the Reds in 2008, but the jury was out on how Cueto's career would proceed as a San Francisco Giant after injuries held him to making... Read More

3 months ago

Alec Bohm (3B, PHI) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 21% of leagues ANALYSIS: It has been virtually raining top-50 prospects in the MLB over the past week, with several extremely talented and high-profile young players getting the call up to the major leagues to provide a much-needed boost to their clubs in the race for the playoffs... Read More

3 months ago

Sean Murphy (C, OAK) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 23% of leagues ANALYSIS: If you took a look at any preseason odds for who would win the AL Rookie of the Year distinction for this season, you certainly saw Sean Murphy on the majority of shortlists, and that projection was well earned after Murphy earned five doubles,... Read More

3 months ago

Joey Bart (C, SF) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 32% of leagues ANALYSIS: With a decent record yet a fifth-place standing in the ultra-competitive NL West, the San Francisco Giants, not satisfied with the play of either Tyler Heineman or Chadwick Tromp at backstop, made a huge decision this past week by calling up highly-touted catching prospect... Read More

3 months ago

Cristian Pache (OF, ATL) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 11% of leagues ANALYSIS: With Atlanta outfielders Ronald Acuna Jr. and now Nick Markakis sidelined on the IL, the Braves were in need of someone to step up immediately, and they chose to direct that call of duty to consensus top-25 prospect Cristian Pache. While Pache has only... Read More

3 months ago


Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 37% of leagues ANALYSIS: Robbie Grossman has always demonstrated excellent plate discipline. At varying points throughout his major-league career, he has also flashed both pop and speed. He just hadn't really put everything together consistently over a long period of time, which is a big reason why he's in... Read More

3 months ago

Elieser Hernandez (SP, MIA) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues OWNED IN: 35% of leagues ANALYSIS: Though he hadn't earned a win in 2020 until his most recent start against the Nationals, Elieser Hernandez has pitched quite well thus far. After that victorious effort on Friday, the 25-year-old boasts pristine ratios (2.29 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) and 25 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.... Read More

3 months ago

Austin Nola (C/1B/2B, SEA) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 32% of leagues ANALYSIS: The Seattle Mariners have been one of the sneaky-good offenses in the league and catcher Austin Nola has been a big part of it. Nola has been particularly good this past week with seven RBI and six runs scored in his last six games.... Read More

3 months ago

Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 22% of leagues ANALYSIS: New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo has been one of the most patient hitters in the league so far this year. Through 26 games, Nimmo has a 1:1 K/BB rate with 22 walks and 22 strikeouts. Hitting at the top of the Mets lineup,... Read More

3 months ago

Nick Ahmed (SS, ARI) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 27% of leagues ANALYSIS: Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed had a dreadful start to the year, going just 2-for-25 with no extra-base hits in July. However, August has been a completely different story. Through his first 18 games of August, Ahmed slashed .349/.397/.556 with three home runs, four... Read More

3 months ago


Kole Calhoun (OF, ARI) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 33% of leagues ANALYSIS: Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kole Calhoun had his power breakout season last year when he hit a career-high 33 home runs. So far, he's carried that power breakout into 2020. Through his first 24 games of 2020, Calhoun slashed .239/.330/.534 with 7 home runs and... Read More

3 months ago

Kevin Gausman (SP/RP, SF) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 31% of leagues ANALYSIS: San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Kevin Gausman has been pitching well so far in August. He earned his first quality start of the year on August 9 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, no walks and just one... Read More

3 months ago

Mike Brosseau (2B/3B/OF, TB) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 3% of leagues ANALYSIS: Mike Brosseau has emerged from the Rays roster as a 'leftie-masher', someone who crushes left-handed pitching but isn't a regular in the lineup. That is a bit harsh on the utility man and he's someone who does deserve greater consideration. While it is... Read More

3 months ago

Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 14% of leagues ANALYSIS: Aaron Judge is expected to return to the Yankees lineup early next week after a short IL stint. The return of the right fielder looks like it will render Mike Tauchman into fourth outfielder duties since the 'emergence' of Clint Frazier. That may... Read More

3 months ago

Jake Cronenworth (1B/2B/SS, SD) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 12% of leagues ANALYSIS: Jake Cronenworth has been one of the more interesting stories in the 2020 baseball season. The 26-year-old rookie was a two-way player in College before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. He didn't throw a pitch in professional baseball until... Read More

3 months ago


Asdrubal Cabrera (1B/2B/3B, WSH) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 33% of leagues ANALYSIS: Veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera is showing no signs of slowing down in his age 34 season, finding himself the cleanup hitter for the World Champion Washington Nationals. A .266/.330/.544 slash line and five home runs in 21 games isn't particularly eye-catching, but his 16... Read More

3 months ago

Jordan Montgomery (SP, NYY) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 26% of leagues ANALYSIS: The Yankees injury bug continues to rip through the clubhouse and with James Paxton now out for a few weeks, Jordan Montgomery is the defacto SP3 for the Bronx Bombers behind Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka. Montgomery is no stranger to the IL... Read More

3 months ago

Taylor Williams (RP, SEA) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 27% of leagues ANALYSIS: Taylor Williams continues to be under-rostered in fantasy. As the closer in Seattle, Williams has five saves on the season with a 3.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 11.0 IP. Williams has emerged from nowhere in the preseason to be the ninth-inning... Read More

3 months ago

Miguel Castro (RP, BAL) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in Very Deep Leagues/Saves+Holds Leagues ROSTERED IN: 2% of leagues ANALYSIS: Miguel Castro made his MLB debut back in 2015 for the Toronto Blue Jays, and in the five years since, Castro has had an up and down career as a bullpen prospect for the Jays, Rockies, and now the Baltimore Orioles (unfortunately bouncing... Read More

3 months ago

Zack Burdi (RP, CWS) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in Very Deep Leagues/Saves+Holds Leagues ROSTERED IN: 0% of leagues ANALYSIS: It hasn't always been the easiest path to the majors for the Burdi brothers of the University of Louisville, and Nick Burdi saw his season ended almost immediately after being named the interim closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, Zack Burdi has made... Read More

3 months ago


Casey Mize (SP, DET) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 24% of leagues ANALYSIS: No one expected the Detroit Tigers to be contending for a playoff spot one-third of the way through this season, and now the organization is in the precarious predicament of what to do with the upper echelon of its prospect pool. Now that Ivan... Read More

3 months ago

Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 15% of leagues ANALYSIS: Brandon Nimmo is always worth paying attention to for his talent and power/speed capabilities, and it might be easy to lose sight of his production this season while fellow Met Michael Conforto has the hot hand, but Nimmo is off to a hot start... Read More

3 months ago

Nick Solak (2B/3B/OF, TEX) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 25% of leagues ANALYSIS: This is a season when every AB matters and defensive versatility can help maximize those opportunities, and with availability in the outfield and the corner and middle infield, Nick Solak presents can easily be plugged in on any given day. The former Louisville Cardinal... Read More

3 months ago

Pablo Lopez (SP, MIA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 23% of leagues ANALYSIS: Pablo Lopez is one of several young and promising starting pitchers for the Miami Marlins, and though his time in the big leagues thus far has been a bit shaky, he is off to an excellent start so far in 2020. In three starts,... Read More

3 months ago

Taylor Williams (RP, SEA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues OWNED IN: 24% of leagues ANALYSIS: As one might expect from a team that's emerged victorious in just seven of 22 games thus far, the Mariners don't find themselves with a ton of save opportunities. However, three of the five they've had so far have gone to Taylor Williams. While... Read More

3 months ago


Mitch Moreland (1B, BOS) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 32% of leagues ANALYSIS: Mitch Moreland has been an intermittently useful fantasy bat for the past decade, with four 20+ home run seasons to his credit despite only once eclipsing 500 at-bats in a season. Last year, he hit 19 homers in just 335 plate appearances, and he already... Read More

3 months ago

Brian Anderson (3B/OF, MIA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues OWNED IN: 34% of leagues ANALYSIS: Brian Anderson had a quietly useful 2019 season, producing an .811 OPS, 20 home runs, 123 R+BI, and five stolen bases. So far in 2020, he looks to have taken a step forward. The Marlins had a handful of games postponed due to a COVID... Read More

3 months ago

Ty Buttrey (RP, LAA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 14% of leagues ANALYSIS: Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Ty Buttrey appears to be the top candidate for saves right now on the team, despite the fact that he's been anything but smooth in the closer role so far this year. Buttrey has converted just two of his... Read More

3 months ago

Cole Sulser (RP, BAL) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 23% of leagues ANALYSIS: In true-to-form, bizarre 2020 fashion, the Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to a fantastic start to the year, winning 10 of their first 17 games. As a result, it might mean that this year we need to pay more attention to whoever is closing... Read More

3 months ago

Alec Bohm (3B, PHI) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED IN: 18% of leagues ANALYSIS: Philadelphia Phillies top prospect Alec Bohm made his MLB debut this past Thursday, going 1-for-4 with a double in the game. Bohm is an elite prospect who did a little bit of everything in the minor leagues. Last year, over 125 games split at... Read More

3 months ago


 




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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice Editor Note MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Playing For Keeps: Managing 2020 In A Keeper League

Something you've probably heard from many in the fantasy baseball community - including yours truly just last week in this space - is that you'll need to be ruthless in managing your squad(s) this season. With 102 fewer games than we're used to, there's precious little time to waste waiting for a player, no matter how talented, to get going. More than any other season, fortune is likely to favor the bold.

Simple enough, right? Kill your darlings, as Faulkner once said. Terminate with extreme prejudice. Cut that bum and don't look back. Be brutally unsentimental. Good talk, now let's watch the game.

That's all well and good in redraft leagues, where your roster decisions only impact the current campaign. But in keeper formats where one wrong move could have you kicking yourself for years, how do you reconcile the aggression that the moment demands without completely ruining your future? Or is it worth risking such a decision when the race for the prize is as wide open as it probably ever will be? The way I brain it, you have three paths from which to choose.

 

Stay the Course

With this strategy, you don't deviate much from your modus operandi - at least not in a way that reverberates beyond this aberrant season. Go ahead and punt a category or change it up with your moves on the margins, but make no roster decisions that drastically impact the future. No win-now trades, no non-fringe assets thrown on the chopping block  simply for having a rough week. Just ride it out with the core you've assembled and hope it works out. If not, transfer that hope to "hoping that we have a full and reasonably normal 2021 season."

 

Shoot the Moon

Typically, the fantasy baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. That's certainly not the case in 2020. There are a number of logistical challenges to managing a fake baseball team this year, but it's theoretically never been easier to win a championship because you only need to do well for two months. Anyone who's played this game before can recall plenty of times either they or their opponents put together a red-hot stretch in an otherwise unremarkable season-long performance. Chaos tends to breed parity because anything can happen; much as the arc of history bends toward justice, the arc of a 162-game season bends toward players, teams, and even fantasy owners who are more talented.

Why not take advantage by pushing your chips in on this year? Flags fly forever, after all. And while some may place an asterisk by any 2020 title, you can make the argument that navigating the absolute madness of a pandemic-wracked season and adjusting your management style accordingly reflects pretty damn well on your abilities. Also, consider the type of person who typically assigns asterisks to things. Do you really care what they think? And with where things seem to be headed (not just with COVID, but with the looming labor strife that seems certain to be apocalyptic in scale), all we really have is now.

 

Thread the Needle

Are you not swayed overmuch by either of the above approaches? Then hedge your bets. Don't bet the farm or blow things up, but feel free to take a couple of moderate to large swings and see what develops.  You can make moves that are consequential, but stop short of being seismic. The foundation can remain intact while you remodel a few rooms, so to speak.

There's no fun in simply going through the motions and writing off an entire season, truncated and precarious as it may be. You invested time and perhaps money into this team already, so you may as well compete hard despite everything. At the same time, it'd be a tough pill to swallow if you mortgaged the future for a two-month season that didn't even result in eternal glory.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.



Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy baseball articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

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2020 Hindsight? What This Season Can Teach Fantasy Owners

What will this baseball season mean?

Questions abound with regard to the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves, not least of which is whether or not MLB can even manage to complete its planned 60-game season. Coronavirus rages on without an end in sight, and the league's apparent inability or unwillingness to develop and enforce effective protocols does not inspire much hope.

Let's suppose, for the sake of both argument and the premise of this article, that we do get through the next two months. Is there anything of value to be gleaned from the chaos by fantasy owners?

 

What Is This? I Don't Even...

To be blunt, you're not going to get a whole lot of useful or actionable data this year. 60 games is barely a third of a normal campaign, and it's difficult enough to draw meaningful conclusions from a full season. That would be true even if games were being played in normal circumstances, which they are decidedly not. Players may be impacted by the lack of fans in attendance, concern about their health or that of their loved ones, their routines being blown to smithereens, or a thousand other factors that are impossible to quantify.

Judging by how the first week of action has gone, a bunch of players are going to contract the virus, while many others suffer injuries that are likely at least partly attributable to the unusual schedule caused by the pandemic. All that aside, slumps are inevitable for the vast majority of players, and even a brief lull could have a concerted impact on overall production. Analysis will have to be on a case-by-case basis as always, but it's gonna be tough to ding anyone too much for lackluster results.

Conversely, and perversely, it'll be hard to give a guy too much credit for success. We've seen any number of players put together a great couple of weeks or months that proved little, other than the fact that even the worst player in MLB is a world-class athlete capable of staggering feats. Nobody is going to crack 300 plate appearances or 100 innings this year. Those aren't exactly large enough samples to confidently proclaim that a breakout has occurred. We miss often enough on those in normal times.

So what can you learn from whatever rough approximation of a season we receive in 2020?

 

Lessons to Learn

The importance of diligence: At various points in my years writing about this game, I've underlined how crucial it is to stay on top of in-season management. Knowing your league settings inside and out, checking your lineups closely, and regularly reviewing the waiver wire are winning habits anytime, but even more so in the current environment. With such a short runway, you can't afford to leave at-bats or innings on the bench or to miss out on a waiver wire add.

The value of ruthlessness: Patience is usually a virtue, but even in a 162-game slate, sitting on your hands for too long can cost you dearly. With a 60-game schedule, almost every player's leash gets shorter. You're obviously not cutting Mike Trout after a couple of hitless games in a row, but the guys at the end of the roster might be a different story. Honestly, this will be a personal struggle, as I tend toward a stoic management style, but these are simply different times that require a different approach.

The merits of flexibility: In addition to being thorough and unsentimental, the ability to adapt is going to be pivotal in a season where seemingly anything could happen and everything could change from one day to the next. Being rigid in your thinking simply won't serve you well.

The fun of risk-taking: If ever there were a season to just cut loose and throw crap at the wall to see what sticks, it's this one. That wild or off-the-wall strategy you've toyed with for years but never had the guts to implement? Now's the time, because really...

The freedom of nihilism: ...if you have a bad season, who cares? Assuming you weren't crazy enough to put a bunch of money on the wacky game show that is the 2020 season, anyway. In the end, as he so often has, Carl Brutananadilewski said it best.

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.



Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy baseball articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

More Fantasy Baseball Analysis




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Updated 2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find:

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note Featured Baseball #2 MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: FIP and xFIP

The first advanced pitching stat most fantasy owners encounter is FIP. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, and attempts to measure a pitcher's actual skill instead of the effects of luck or his supporting cast. According to the DIPS theory, pitchers control only Ks, BBs, and home runs allowed. Therefore, Ks, walks, and dingers are the only inputs to determine the number.

For fantasy purposes, it is sufficient to understand the three primary inputs listed above and the fact that the stat is on the ERA scale. That means that if a FIP would be a good ERA, it is a strong FIP. The math is perfect, meaning that the league average FIP and ERA are identical (4.51 in 2019).

Sometimes xFIP is cited instead of FIP. The "x" stands for expected, and the stat is rooted in the fact that HR/FB varies for pitchers just as much as hitters. While FIP uses a player's actual homers allowed, xFIP charges him with a league-average amount of homers based on his fly balls allowed. Some pitchers are consistently more or less homer-prone than average, but studies show xFIP is a more reliable predictor of future ERA than regular FIP.

 

How to Use FIP and xFIP

This predictive nature of FIP and xFIP is the reason fantasy owners should care about them. Both metrics predict future ERA more reliably than ERA itself, making them a good go-to stat to determine if an early breakout may be for real or if a struggling superstar is likely to rebound. All things being equal, it is generally expected that a pitcher's ERA will regress towards his current FIP and xFIP over the long season.

For example, Marcus Stroman began the 2019 season on fire, posting a 1.43 ERA in March and April. However, his 3.90 xFIP suggested that he was nowhere near as good as he looked. Sure enough, his ERA ballooned to 4.31 in May (4.55 xFIP) and continued to fluctuate wildly throughout the year, including both highs (1.80 ERA in July) and lows (4.91 in August). If you started counting on him based on his hot start in April, you likely ended up disappointed.

There are certain types of pitchers that may consistently defy FIP. The first is knuckleball guys, who have challenged DIPS theory since its introduction. Sadly, nobody really threw a knuckleball in 2019, nor are any expected to make a fantasy impact in 2020.

The other type is simply called a "FIP-beater" that manages to control the quality of contact against him to the point that he outperforms his peripheral stats. Johnny Cueto has been a poster boy for this group for a while. He posted a sterling 2.25 ERA in 2014 before following it up with a solid 3.44 mark the next year. The 2016 season saw Cueto return to ace status with an ERA of 2.79.

Sabermetricians never saw Cueto that highly, however. His 3.30 FIP and 3.21 xFIP in 2014 made that campaign's 2.25 ERA look like a fluke, while his regression in 2015 (3.44 ERA, but 3.53 FIP and 3.78 xFIP) seemed like a harbinger of things to come. His sterling ERA in 2016 (2.79 ERA) was again undermined by considerably larger FIP (2.96) and xFIP (3.42) marks. Many analysts projected his demise in each of these years only to be proven wrong.

In 2017, they were proven correct. Cueto struggled to a 4.52 ERA, with a FIP (4.49) and xFIP (4.45) to match. His ERA rebounded to 3.23 in 2018 in an injury-shortened campaign (53 IP), but his underlying metrics (4.37 FIP, 4.67 xFIP) suggested that he was actually as bad as the previous year. Injuries limited him to 16 ineffective innings last season, leaving him as a wild card for 2020.

Pitchers like this rarely make good fantasy investments. Strikeouts are a key component of FIP, so pitchers who defy it are still lacking in a common fantasy category. Why risk a poor ERA for two-category upside? There is an ongoing debate in the sabermetric community though, so my word is not gospel on the subject.

 

What is SIERA?

SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive ERA and attempts to measure a pitcher's true talent more accurately than FIP and xFIP. It is marginally more predictive than xFIP, but its increased complexity may not be worth it. The stat assumes that ground ball pitchers will have a lower BABIP on grounders than other pitchers, while fly ball pitchers will have lower HR/FB marks. It is also adjusted for overall run-scoring environment and a pitcher's home park.

That may sound good, but remember that those adjustments won't affect your fantasy team's bottom line. German Marquez posted a 4.76 ERA for the Rockies last year, but his SIERA was only 3.85 in part to "correct" for Coors Field. Obviously, pitching at Coors will not improve your fantasy team's ERA. SIERA is also not on the ERA scale, with a league average of 4.41 to the 4.51 the other metrics last season.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, FIP and xFIP are metrics that try to determine the ERA a given pitcher deserves based only on the outcomes he actually controls: Ks, BBs, and home runs allowed. While FIP uses the pitcher's actual homers allowed, xFIP regresses it to the league average figure. Both metrics are on the ERA scale, and may be used to predict future ERA with more accuracy than ERA alone. Check out some of these articles if you want to learn more about applying sabermetrics within a fantasy context.

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Who To Draft? Our MLB Comparison Tool Helps You Decide

Who to draft? RotoBaller provides this great free player comparison tool which can help you make your tough fantasy baseball draft day decisions on who to draft. Whether you're comparing pitchers, outfielders, hitters vs. pitchers, or any other combination - our tool gives you advice on who to draft.

 

Draft Decisions & Player Comparisons

Compare any two MLB players and their projected fantasy values, to see which player is recommended for your fantasy baseball drafts based on ADPs and staff rankings.

 

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Who Should I Draft?

This is a common question we all ask ourselves during fantasy baseball draft season. That's why we put together this simple but very useful tool to compare players and assist in making your draft picks.

Tough draft decisions to make? Can't decide between a few players? Not sure who to draft? Compare any two MLB players and see who our staff recommends for your drafts. Our team of fantasy baseball analysts are here to help you win.




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Early Mock Draft Analysis: MLB Mixed Leagues

Don't tell us it's not draft season yet! Truth be told, the RotoBaller crew was already planning a mock draft days after the World Series ended. As it turns out, we decided to wait until some free agent moves were made and settled for a slow draft that began shortly after the Winter Meetings.

We gathered some of our finest fantasy baseball writers in order to conduct a 10-team, 24-round, mixed-league redraft mock. Once the draft wrapped up, I sat down (figuratively) with each participant to get their takes on some of the more interesting picks or strategies they employed.

Once you finish deciphering the color-coded graph below (it's a beaut, ain't it?), you can read about the thought processes behind the final result.

 

Early Mock Draft Results

Click on image above for full-size view

 

Riley Mrack

Ronald Acuna is becoming more popular as the #1 overall pick over Mike Trout. How confident are you that he will live up to expectations and did you have any pause before that selection?

I had no hesitation when selecting Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pick for a few reasons. He was three steals away from being the fifth player ever to join the illustrious 40/40 club at age-21 and is the only player capable of reaching these marks again in 2020. Trout is undoubtedly a superior overall hitter, but after three straight injury-shortened seasons and an 11-steal 2019 campaign, his double-digit SB streak is in jeopardy. Acuna Jr.'s speed is the difference-maker for me since they are comparable in all five roto categories except for thefts.

You were the first to take a reliever (Hader) and secured three closers in the first 12 rounds. Is this something you typically do and why?

I generally don't reach for relievers, but I felt this was a good opportunity to try this strategy. 30-save closers are becoming a rare commodity, so I locked up three players who should put up sterling ratios and maintain the ninth-inning job all season. Drafting at the turn also affected my mentality because I would rather start a reliever run than miss the boat on it completely. Judging by how my team turned out, I'd implement this strategy in some leagues so I won't have to rely on volatile arms or scavenge the waiver wire all season looking for saves.

 

Michael Grennell

You were the first one to draft two SP, in rounds 2 & 3. How important do you think it is to grab at least one ace early this year?

Starting pitchers and outfielders will always have the most shallow free agent pool after the draft, since most owners will be drafting five or more at those positions as opposed to drafting one or two at the infield positions. That means that after the first round most owners should prioritize either a top tier starter or outfielder in order to maximize your team's potential. It's far better to grab a Scherzer/Buehler/Flaherty/Clevinger early on, than wait until around the 10th round and have Madison Bumgarner as your best pitcher.

Aristides Aquino is a polarizing player this draft season. What are reasonable expectations for him and can we consider him an OF3 in most mixed leagues?

If there was one pick I would do over it would be Aquino; I think I would've tried waiting another round to grab him. Obviously, he had that amazing stretch in August, but that production fell off drastically in the final month of the season. But that performance in August intrigues me, and he has averaged 22 homers over his last four seasons in the minors. I think owners should look at him as a fringe OF3 in most formats but a definite OF4.

 

Ellis Canady

Aside from Yelich and a handful of steals from Harper, your team might be devoid of speed as you don't seem to have a true speedster on your team. Do you intentionally forego SB in order to bolster other stats or was this a matter of best player available in each round?

Speed is an important category as there are few players that sell the product you need. There are really only three ways to tackle it: speedster-heavy, spread the responsibility, and punt the category. The last one is not an option for me. Since I didn’t draft a speedster in the first round (Trea Turner), I chose to spread the responsibility, which is usually my preferred method. I expect Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, Keston Hiura, Bo Bichette, Adam Eaton, and Amed Rosario to pitch in double-digit steals. Add a dash of stolen bases from a few of the others (George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, Rafael Devers, Andrew McCutchen) and I should be comfortably competitive in the category.

With the wealth of quality shortstops around, waiting to grab Bo Bichette as your starter seems like a calculated risk. Are you expecting a full-blown breakout season?

As stated, the shortstop position is rich with talent. I’m pleased to get Bo Bichette in the 12th round with the potential. His hand was broke in April of 2019, but he still returned and provided 11 homers and four stolen bases with a .384 wOBA after a promotion to the big leagues. I’m not naïve to think 2020 will be filled with funnel cakes and lemonade. However, I’d set the floor at a 20/20 guy with a very good batting average. Just in case, I backed him up with a 15/15 guy in Amed Rosario.

 

Scott Engel

Was grabbing Pete Alonso in round three a case of prioritizing an upper-tier first baseman because of the lack of depth there or are you just a believer that he'll repeat last year's numbers?

At that point, I could not pass on Alonso for the power and RBI production. The combination of his average Launch Angle and Barrel rate should translate into another big power year. If his Average Exit Velocity climbs, the results could be massive.

Between Adalberto Mondesi, Tim Anderson, Oscar Mercado and Mallex Smith, you'd be a sure bet to lead the league in steals. Do you make it a point to go after potential category-winners in SB?

I am always gunning for speed. Power is easier to come by. I like to space it throughout the draft to build a good final product in that regard.

 

Kev Mahserejian

You were the last analyst to select a relief pitcher and all three of your RP combined for 31 saves last year. Do you believe chasing closers early is a mistake?

Unless a closer sees an egregious fall in price, I typically stray away from drafting them early on. It's a strategy I've maintained throughout the years that has won me my fair share of leagues. I do not necessarily think it is a mistake to chase closers early if you hit on them. However, the position of closer is so volatile year-to-year in enough cases that I will choose to play my cards elsewhere. Several closers always pop up on the waiver wire throughout the season and I would prefer to bank on those and the ones I draft late than any early in drafts.

Are you surprised that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fell to you at the 85th overall pick?

Vlad Jr. dropping that far is crazy. I get it, he underwhelmed in his first taste of the show but he was the number one overall prospect for a reason; he can hit and he will this year. I probably should have taken him even earlier to be quite honest.

 

Mike Schwarzenbach

You took a very slugger-heavy approach by selecting Yordan Alvarez, Khris Davis, Joey Gallo, and Franmil Reyes. Are you concerned about your average and steals taking a hit?

In the most power-happy era in baseball history, I definitely wanted to prioritize players that could set the pace in power stats. Starting my team with Bregman and Story set up batting average nicely while adding more power to the sluggers drafted later. Steals, on the other hand, are definitely a concern for this squad. By the time I realized the hole I was in, it was too late to find a player capable of making a real difference in steals without dragging down every other category meaning I will certainly make steals a priority much earlier in future roto drafts this season.

Your Alex Bregman pick at #6 overall occurred before the Astros sign-stealing scandal completely unfolded and A.J. Hinch was fired. Would you reconsider that pick or do you feel it will have no effect on him?

Not at all, Bregman is one of the brightest young stars in the game and I don't believe you blast 41 homers with 122 runs and 112 RBI just by stealing signs. Furthermore, MLB's investigation noted Astros players abandoned the sign-stealing in 2018 as they believed it was losing effectiveness bringing into question if he was even cheating during last year's second-place MVP finish. We may never know for sure what occurred behind the scenes in Houston, but Bregman is a former top prospect with the batted ball data to back up his monster numbers from 2019. Bregman is still sixth in my rankings and I'll take him there in every draft if given the opportunity.

 

Nicklaus Gaut

You didn't take a single closer and your only two RP are setup men (Nick Anderson and Giovanny Gallegos). Is punting saves something you recommend?

While I don't totally recommend punting saves, I'm more comfortable drafting that way in a 10-person league, as there should be plenty of opportunities if I stay diligent on the waiver wire. With Gallegos and Anderson, I have two elite setup men who, if they had the closer's job currently, would see their draft stock skyrocket. Best-case scenario, Gallegos takes over as Cardinals closer with Carlos Martinez set to return to starting and Anderson collects around 10 saves as a key member of the Rays yearly closer-carousel. Worst-case, I only get a handful of saves but still get elite ratios and strikeouts, with the pair combining for 203 K in 139 innings last season, with a 2.78 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. The average winner in NFBC leagues last year drafted, on average, 1.5 closers; I think I'm over halfway there.

You chose Chris Paddack ahead of veterans like Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer, and Yu Darvish. Do rumors of an innings cap or past injury worry you at all?

Even with a supposed limit on his innings, I was happy to get Paddack at #87, which was about a round after I had him valued. Especially because the pitchers that went in the next two rounds were a lot of guys I happen to be down on, like Bumgarner, Bauer, and Eduardo Rodriguez. I did consider Yu Darvish here - someone I'm really high on - but he comes packaged with even more risk than the average pitcher with his long and storied injury history. I'm seeing Paddack being projected for between 165-170 inning, which seems reasonable to me, though I do think 175 IP is on the table. Given the type of production I anticipate, I think Paddack will return more than a chunk of fantasy profit.

 

Pierre Camus

Nolan Arenado has already fallen out of the first round in many early drafts, including this one. How much should the ongoing feud between he and the Rockies, along with a potential trade, concern fantasy owners?

While he certainly doesn't seem happy, it's not as if we have to fear a holdout or a loss of playing time. If Arenado does stay in Colorado, that's actually the best-case scenario because he'll remain in the heart of the lineup for a strong offense in the best ballpark there is. A move to the Cardinals or Rangers still wouldn't put him below Anthony Rendon or Rafael Devers in my estimation, so at this point he could be a bargain if you can get him outside the top-15.

At starting pitcher, you took on a mix of injury risk (Luis Severino, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Minor, Jameson Taillon) and inexperience (Tyler Glasnow, Griffin Canning, Sandy Alcantara, Josh James). What was your strategy?

Ultimately, every pitcher comes with risk. Even a "safe" player like Corey Kluber, who had thrown 200+ innings in five straight years, succumbed to serious injury last year, while a first-round pick like Chris Sale tanked many teams with uneven play before going on the shelf. I shoot for strikeouts early and then try to hedge the ratios later with guys like Taillon and Alcantara. We've seen guys like Folty and Glasnow look dominant in flashes, so if I can hit on one for a full season, it was worth it even if the other doesn't pan out.

 

Marc Hulet

What do you expect out of Shohei Ohtani this year and do you think he'll be worth a rotation spot in all fantasy leagues?

I felt pretty good about taking a little bit of a risk on Ohtani because I already had Cole and Syndergaard locked up. The Angels club is always going to do everything it can to win and, while it lacks pitching depth, Ohtani is the best pitcher on the staff so a healthy number of the club's wins those should end up under his name. He was likely only scratching the surface of his potential on the mound in 2018. I believe we have a pitcher here that will miss bats and generate a lot of strikeouts — but I do have some minor reservations about how well he (as a fly-ball pitcher) will fare with the home run totals if the juiced ball is still hanging around. I have a potential ace here.

You nabbed rookie starters Jesus Luzardo, Brendan McKay, and Nate Pearson. Which one do you believe represents the best draft value in redraft leagues?

Outside of MacKenzie Gore, Luzardo and Pearson probably have the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect in baseball and they’re almost MLB ready so I don’t expect a huge learning curve from them but I do have concerns about how many innings they’ll be allowed to throw in 2020 with Luzardo coming back from a serious shoulder injury and Pearson also having his innings suppressed in recent seasons due to (less concerning) injury. So that leaves me with McKay as the best pick for 2020 because we can probably hope for around 160 innings from a guy who is still in his infancy as a full-time pitcher but has shown he’s not far off from having three or four plus offerings with above-average control. He’s also on a team, the Rays, that should be pretty good in 2020. If I was confident Luzardo was going to throw more than 120 innings in the Majors then I’d switch my vote, though, because he just might have the better overall fantasy results.

 

Bill Dubiel

You stacked your rotation early, taking Jacob deGrom in the first round, followed by Aaron Nola, Luis Castillo, and Jose Berrios within the first six rounds. Was this a matter of getting value where it fell or are you making a point of loading up on elite pitching this year?

In my pre-season analysis, I found that there were quite a few bats I knew I could get later in the draft that I would be extremely comfortable with over the course of a season. I didn't feel as strongly about starting pitching, and therefore I decided to load up on high-end starters. I was able to snag four guys who have fairly reliable floors but still enough upside where I can gain an advantage throughout the season there. Likely expect some regression with Castillo, but still that's four guys who will eat innings, approach or surpass 200 K, and likely keep their ERA under 3.75.

Now that he's signed with Atlanta, does Marcell Ozuna at 91 feel like a bargain or are there concerns about how he might fit with a new team in a crowded outfield?

Marcell Ozuna at 91 feels like a pretty good bargain to me, as he's going to occupy a prime position in what will be, in my estimation, one of the National League's best offenses. He's been a healthy everyday mainstay in whatever lineup he's been in, tallying 549 at-bats or more in each of the last four years. The depth in Atlanta's outfield doesn't concern me, as Ozuna should be prioritized as the second-best option behind Acuna. It'll be Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis who need to battle for at-bats throughout the season.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips 2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Draft Targets Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

How To Win Your Fantasy Baseball Leagues on Draft Day

I hate intros. Nobody takes the time to read these things. I could say whatever I wanted and it would literally pass zero sets of eyes. Watch.... I have hemorrhoids! See? No one. But in the rare occasion that one of you sad saps does in fact read this paragraph before jumping to the meat and potatoes, allow me to admit that I am no one special. I have never enjoyed the financial freedom to enter high stakes fantasy leagues. You won't find my name on any NFBC leader boards this year. When I finally close the laptop for good down the road, I will not receive any votes to the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame.

But what I have is almost 20 years of fantasy draft experience, keen observation skills, and the ability to run the table in the RotoBaller Experts staff league the past two seasons. Do I win my leagues by scouring the waiver wire and fleecing the other managers in trades? Not even close. I have been on Active Duty for the past seven years and am a father of two, so I have very little time for in-season management aside from the 10 minutes I set aside in the morning to set my lineups (enter the new obsession of my life, Best Ball drafts). I have found 90% of my success in fantasy baseball comes from D-Day, or as it is more commonly known, Draft Day.

For the first time ever, I sat down and thought about how I handle fantasy drafts. I broke down all that information into my Top 10 Draft Tips. I hope you are mentally prepared on how you plan to spend all those winnings this year.

 

Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Draft Tips

1. Become an expert on your league's settings

I see it EVERY year. The draft room is filling up, the countdown reaches 10 minutes, and someone in the chat asks a question about the League scoring or categories. Welp, that's one less guy you have to worry about this season. If you can't recite the league's settings as if you were the commissioner, you aren't ready to draft. This is why you see so many commissioners win leagues in less-competitive leagues. They created the league's settings, the other guys learn it as they go.

Let me try a real-life metaphor. I play softball and flag football year-round. There is one quick way to tell if a player is good/experienced when you ask them if they want to play on your team. Player A says, "Sure I'd love to play, I played ball in high school." Then in the first game, they get six consecutive penalties for flag guarding, illegal contact, and not fastening their flags on correctly. Player B, on the other hand, replies to your question with five other questions, "Is it 7-on-7 or 8-on-8? Is it contact blocking or screening? USFTL rules?" You see the difference?

Serious fantasy players know that an entire draft strategy revolves around the league settings. Points leagues, H2H, Roto, they all should make you draft differently. Even breaking that down further, what point value does the league award each statistic? Plug those numbers into Mike Trout and Max Scherzer's projections real quick. Does the league favor hitting or pitching? Is it an H2H Categories overall record or One-Win league? Will you need to win as many categories as possible or can you stack up on 60% of the categories to ensure the W each week? Does the league have a weekly transaction limit that will prevent you from streaming SP every day? STUDY YOUR LEAGUE'S SETTINGS BEFORE DRAFT DAY!

2. Know your opponents

Rarely in this day and age does your average fantasy baseball manager join a random draft filled with completely random people. The league is either filled with your friends, or you are invited by a friend to join a league that is filled with his/her friends. This can and should be used to your advantage. If this is your league of friends, you probably already have all the data you need; who values RP higher than any other human on the planet, who tries to draft a full squad from their favorite team, who ends up letting the timer run out to auto-draft every other pick because they are too cheap to upgrade their internet package. If this is a league you were invited to, make sure you ask your mutual connection for a manager rundown.

All of this seemingly useless data, if in the right hands, can be used and analyzed to form a draft strategy. I understand this tip will not be applicable in every league. If you join a DC on NFBC, chances are you won't know anyone you are drafting with. But even if that is the case, do some investigative research on the manager names and Twitter handles. You might be surprised how much you will learn. Hell, you might even find that manager's public rankings available. Now you know your late-round sleeper target won't make it past Team 4 in the 6th round. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

3. Have a hand-picked rankings list

This is a fairly obvious tip. But it is probably my most OCD-driven task for my draft set up. First, building off Tip #1, make sure the rankings you choose/build are specific to the league type. Standard rankings won't be of much use in a Points League draft. For the majority of managers who do not have time to make their own rankings, find a set of public expert rankings that match your thoughts the closest. THESE RANKINGS WILL PREVENT REGRETFUL PANIC PICKS with the clock winding down, so while searching through sites to find a set that resembles how you would want to draft, make sure you filter by position to ensure they won't cause you to take any guys you don't like over some guys you are high on for the season.

During my drafts, I use split-screen with half my screen showing the draft board and half showing my exported rankings on an excel spreadsheet. Having a printout to follow along is just as good as long as you are able to keep your friends at your draft party from seeing who you have circled and teed up as your next target.

4. Stay focused....and sober?

I know this may hurt some feelings, because alcohol and fantasy drafts seemingly go so well together, especially if you have an active trash-talking league. But if you have money on the line, why would you be willing to throw that away for a few drinks that can be reserved for celebrating immediately following a great draft? Thoughts on adult beverage use aside, remaining focused throughout the entire draft is a necessity.

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE ON THE CLOCK TO DETERMINE WHO YOU ARE DRAFTING.

The second I have made my pick, I instantly move on to my next set of targets. I am looking at my roster to determine positional leagues, I am looking at my projections to determine statistical needs, I am looking at each manager that stands in the way of my next pick and analyzing what they need and who they may take away from my queue. Continuously updating your rankings list by removing drafted players is a great forcing-function to stay focused and up to the second during your draft. I simply delete the players from my excel spreadsheet. You could also cross them off your printed out list.

In order to execute this tip flawlessly, you also need to have some emergency scenario prep-time before the draft starts. Have snacks and drinks readily accessible. Have your phone ready with the draft app pulled up, just in case you lose wifi with your laptop or in case you need to go mobile and make a run to the bathroom. Make sure your significant other is fully aware that you are unavailable for the next X hours so you are not called away to let the dog out or put the kids to bed. Every second counts.

5. Don't let site ADP and rankings control you, let them pace you

If you follow Tip #3, you are already ahead of the curve on not drafting based off the draft board rankings provided by the site. But what is important to realize here is that I am not telling you to ignore the site's list, because it is very easy to use it to your advantage. Rarely in life do you get to see what your opponents see. In a fantasy draft, you are all looking at the same board, you know who is at the top and what players someone would have to scroll four times to even find. So instead of using the draft board to decide who to choose, use it to decide when to choose your guys. I knew I was drafting Chris Paddack in every draft last season, but I never went into a draft with a specific round I would target him. Instead, I analyzed the league and draft board to determine when to draft him while maximizing the value.

This is when Tip #2 really comes into play as well. NFL teams do this all the time during the draft. They may have a "projected third-round player" rated much higher than other teams and have them as the best available player when they are picking late in the first round. But for the most part, even though I know there are some terrible GMs in NFL, you don't see them making the reach. Because they know he will still be available at their next pick based on, I don't know, Mel Kiper's board, and knowing the other teams in between their next pick don't need a player at that position or didn't even bring in that player for a workout. DON'T REACH UNTIL YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO.

I always use the term, take what the league gives you. This is exactly what I mean by that. Go in with a strategy, and use your opponent's tendencies and the draft board to fine-tune it as you go. Lastly, don't forget reverse psychology. That chat function in drafts can be a gnarly tool for PSYOPS. You don't want to let a player you label as a huge bust drop far enough for an opponent to actually still get value out of him. So once that player is near the top of the board, maybe drop a little "I can't believe player X is still available". Poof! The player is drafted within the next three picks.

6. Understand team needs vs. best player available

This is a hard one to force during a draft, and is probably pretty unpopular. But I will say this, fantasy leagues are not won by the best players, they are won by the best team. Do not be the team that has a stud on the bench every week because you decided to draft three first basemen because they were the best players available. But also don't be the team that passes on a great bench bat to draft a catcher that is going to ultimately hurt your overall stat lines because you don't have one yet. It has to be a perfect balance (foreshadowing Tip #7!) that unfortunately can only come with experience. In order to gain/refresh that experience for each season, MOCK DRAFT YOUR BUTT OFF. But even if you have zero available time to mock, at least go into the draft cognizant of this understanding.

7. Balance, balance, balance

This is my bread and butter right here and it really shows in Roto leagues where, obviously, balance across all statistics is crucial for those points in the standings. If a player does not benefit my team in over 50% of the hitting/pitching categories, I don't want them. Punting categories, even in a H2H cats league is a dangerous and high-risk operation. When you willingly accept a weakness on your team, you are guaranteeing an L in a certain category, while subsequently needing everything to go right over a full season to overcome the guaranteed weakness.

As we all know, nothing in fantasy ever goes right over a full season. So you punt steals as a team, and then Joey Gallo gets hurt for a month. Now your team is mediocre on power and still has nothing for speed. Let's say that team is in a H2H cats league and avoids injury somehow, but there are still the ebbs and flows that go with the law of averages. So your team will go on a power cold-streak at some point, and they aren't stealing bases still, so you lose four match-ups in a row and miss the playoffs by one win. So statistical balance not only benefits Roto leagues, it acts as a safety net that will keep you from plummeting in any league. Let's take a look at hitters I drafted in one of my winning Roto Leagues last year; RotoBaller Experts League - Standard Roto Auction:

Starling Marte (23 HR/25 SB), Xander Bogaerts (great in 4 of 5 cats), Tim Anderson (18/17), JT Realmuto (25/9 at my Catcher position), Yasiel Puig (24/19). Cody Bellinger (47/15), Marcell Ozuna (29/12), Ryan Braun (22/11), Austin Meadows (33/12), Fernando Tatis (22/16)... sure I probably wouldn't have been able to pull that off in a snake draft, but you get the point of the skill balance I target. Even when it gets late in drafts when these kinds of players no longer exist, you can still keep the balance with off-setting one-dimensional hitters. After I drafted the above hitters, I then grabbed Franmil Reyes (37 HR) and Jose Peraza (23 SB....in 2018).

Since my pillars (players) are all spread out and balanced throughout my building (team), when Starling Marte goes down or gets cold, the building still stands. When Fernando Tatis Jr. goes down, the building still stands. Even when Cody freakin' Bellinger goes down, the building still stands. When you build a team solely on skillset and punt others, and one of your pillars goes down, the building starts to sway because all the pillars are on one side of the building. If two pillars go down at the same time, it's probably going to collapse. This tip obviously does not just apply to hitting categories, but I will save my spiel on pitchers for Tip #10.

8. Start the trends, don't join them

"If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" Well, then why are you drafting a lower-tiered closer in the eighth round just because everyone else is? Joining a run can destroy any chance at a player returning value, it throws you off your strategy, and frankly just makes you look silly. Back to the TAKE WHAT THE LEAGUE GIVES YOU, bob when the others weave. Everyone is frantically trying to get a closer? That opens up an opportunity to snag your SP3. You're in a points league and the top-five picks are SP because the league favors pitching? SP6 or Ronald Acuna.....thanks for the money folks.

9. Use the queue for "off the page" players

My draft queue is always loaded with my late-round flyers/sleepers/targets. I don't want to forget them. Even if I am following along with my rankings, sometimes stuff happens. Also if I were to lose connection exactly as my pick came up, at least I would know that the impending auto-pick would be one of MY guys. Using the queue in conjunction with the site rankings board is also a fun strategy I like to utilize it to time my picks. Once one of my guys I have "starred" rolls up into visibility on the draft board, I know everyone in the league was just reminded of their existence. I try to keep them "off the page", aka snag them just before that moment.

10. *JB's Special Advice* 

For the most part, these last nine draft tips were fairly general, not even geared specifically to baseball. But Draft Tip #10 is a strategy I use in baseball every single year and kills Roto/H2H Category leagues. I call it JB's Bullpen method.

Back in Tip #7, I spoke about the importance of balance on a team. For your pitching staff, I find this even more important. You need steady, solid, balance and to be frank with you, that is not possible with a bunch of SP on your roster. Yeah, you can attack W and K, but your ERA and WHIP have no chance. There are like 10 SP in all of baseball I would trust with my team's ERA and WHIP all season and you want to fill your roster with them? In a standard league, I will roster ~13 pitchers. Of the 13 pitchers, I will NOT have more than five SP. That means the other eight are RP - and I don't care if they are closers right now or not. For years, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were my anchors, then Josh Hader emerged, and every year a new crop of setup studs emerge like Giovany Gallegos.

Let's look at some examples, shall we? The eight RP I ended the season with in that Roto league I mentioned previously were:

Take Brandon Workman and Emilio Pagan. Both were for the most part undrafted in leagues, or late stashes because Boston's bullpen situation was sketchy. Combine their end of season stats and you have 14 W, 36 SV, 200 K, 2.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP. I just created a bonafide ace that also acts as his team's closer - created from two under-the-radar RP - and I can do this three more times with my other guys!

How hard do you think it was to draft this group of relievers last season? Extremely easy, and very cheap. All below 2.80 ERA and all below 1.09 WHIP. Sprinkle in all the saves you pick up along the way as they change roles in the bullpen and you've just won three of five pitching categories. Now you just grab some SP to get over IP Minimums and get mid-range points in W and K. They don't even have to be studs, because like I said your ERA and WHIP are nailed to the top of the standings already. Take some chances on some young flyers. Enjoy the flexibility and the relief from the stress of seeing your starters get blown up all week. Go ahead, make that call to the bullpen.

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2019 Fantasy Baseball Season Review - RotoBaller Staff Picks

Playoff fever is in full effect but sadly, the fantasy baseball season has come to an end. We're not ready to let go just yet, so the RotoBaller staff decided to look back at the 2019 season from a fantasy perspective in order to dole out awards for top sleeper, bust, and of course, MVP.

We also look forward to next season by projecting who could be the next big thing and whose value could rise or fall dramatically within a year's time. After all, what good does it do to look back if it doesn't help us learn for the future?

We never stop updating our rankings either. Check here for our latest 2020 player values, which will be continually refreshed throughout the offseason.

 

Who is the 2019 Fantasy MVP?

Ronald Acuna. 41 home runs, 37 stolen bases, .280/.365/.518 slash line, 127 runs, 101 RBI. Obviously Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and Mike Trout all had amazing seasons, but it's hard to ignore this level of production from Acuna, especially since he likely wasn't taken in the top-five overall. -Andy Patton

Although Ronald Acuna was the best player in fantasy this year, he was typically taken in the first or second round of drafts. I have to give the award to the Polar Bear because Pete Alonso helped many a team win the HR category in 5x5 leagues and was taken outside the top 200 overall. He also finished fourth in the majors with 120 RBI and 24th in runs with 103. This is exactly the kind of draft pick that you hope to nail each season. -Pierre Camus

Christian Yelich is the only answer here. He's gonna be the 2020 version of "guy fantasy owners take instead of Trout first overall and wish they hadn't." Catchy title, that one! But dude has been a monster for two years running now, so maybe this time it works out. -Kyle Bishop

Cody Bellinger. The combination of his huge home run total along with the 15 stolen bases and .305 average while qualifying at multiple positions puts him ahead of the rest of the pack. -Billy Stonick

Justin Verlander. In a year where starting pitcher was as volatile as ever, Verlander was a rock week in and week out for fantasy owners. Verlander led the league in innings pitched, wins, and WHIP. He finished fourth in ERA and was one of only two pitchers to put up 300 strikeouts. He was at his best when it matted most in fantasy, with a 2.08 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 39 September innings. -Mike Schwarzenbach

Ketel Marte was the lowest preseason ranked player inside the End of Season Top 20. Basically a free 97/32/92/10/.329 with MIF/OF eligibility. -JB Branson

 

Which sleeper were you spot on about this season?

In 2018, Shane Bieber's 3.23 FIP was significantly better than his 4.55 ERA making him an obvious choice to improve. He threw 194 1/3 innings in 2018 making him a prime candidate to hit the 200-inning threshold for an organization that has produced several quality pitchers over the past few years. -Mike Schwarzenbach

I went with Marcus Semien early for his multiple seasons of power/speed production, and it paid off in a way bigger way than I had even anticipated. Ketel Marte also broke out in a ridiculous way that few could have expected even with his breakout campaign last season. -Brady Grove

I've been a fan of Jorge Polanco for a long time and this year, he finally went supernova...at least in the first two months. That sizzling start may not be representative of his true talent, but Polanco proved he's a quality player in fantasy with a top 80 season. -Kyle Bishop

I was positive Jonathan Villar would return massive value on his March ADP, and I wasn't disappointed. Forty steals, 20 HR, and a positive batting average play even if you're on a team as bad as the 2019 Orioles. Unfortunately, he might be a bust next year if the ball is normalized. -Rick Lucks

Does Rafael Devers count? Between my Boston bias and the debate whether he was truly a sleeper after his prospect hype, I'll go with it. I knew the kid had big boy power somewhere in there, and some of his postseason ABs last year showed me he was an elite hitter. -JB Branson

 

Who was your biggest draft-day bust?

Giancarlo Stanton. He missed nearly the entire year, but the Yankees never really announced that he would do so. As a result, a lot of owners burned a high draft pick and a roster spot on a guy who really contributed nothing. That said, Stanton's contact quality is still special and I'm eager to buy him at a discounted price relative to 2019. -Rick Lucks

Manny Machado. His strikeout rate spiked, his launch angle dropped to the lowest it had been in five years, his barrel % dropped to the lowest it had been in five years, and his XBA was barely above league average. I didn't expect him to be a top-five player, but I certainly didn't expect that precipitous a fall. -Billy Stonick

Drafting Andrew Benintendi at the end of the second round was not smart. I drafted him, blinded by the hope of progress towards a steady 20/20 guy. I should have looked at the facts, his lack of exit velocity at the very least. If you’re looking for guys that hit fewer homers in the Pinky ball era, Benny is on the list (13 HR in 2019 compared to 16 the year prior). -Ellis Canady

Taking Jean Segura as my starting shortstop hurt in a couple of leagues. Not that .280/12/60 is terrible for a shortstop but he was expected to be a .300 hitter who scored more runs in this Phillies offense. Instead, he saw a decline in every major category, most notably steals (10). A fifth-round price tag seemed reasonable at the time. -Pierre Camus

Byron Buxton had a chance to be a catalyst for a top-tier offense but injuries sapped him of all value Jose Ramirez - disappointed mightily in first half, rebounded, got hurt again. -Kyle Ringstad

Even with injury issues, I thought Justin Upton would be a great across-the-board statistical contributor but he came up flat in a crushing manner. -Brady Grove

 

Who is next year's top comeback player?

I didn't have a single share of Blake Snell in 2019, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. I boldly predicted that his ERA would more than double, which it did. Injuries certainly didn't help, but that Snell would experience at least some measure of pullback seemed obvious. The degree was surprising, though, and I expect to snag him in several leagues next year given the likely overcorrection of his draft price. -Kyle Bishop

Noah Syndergaard was snake-bit in 2019. His xFIP is nearly a half a run below his ERA, he stranded almost 10% fewer runners than in 2018, his HR/9 more than doubled, and yet he still struck out and walked batters at almost an identical clip to 2018. I would expect his price tag to be a little deflated on draft day, but I think he'll be a top-15 pitcher again next year. -Billy Stonick

When you start the conversation with $300 million, 32 long balls can be considered a disappointment. More was expected of Manny Machado, even in Petco Park. In his five full seasons prior to 2019, 66 was the lowest total of extra-base hits Machado had accrued. This year, he only compiled 55 extra-base hits. A full season hitting behind Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2020 can only be beneficial. Maybe he'll get feisty and steal a couple more bases. -Ellis Canady

It was hardly a Joey Votto-like season for Joey Votto, but he still maintained a 12.5% walk rate, with 41.5% hard contact, and 10.1% soft contact on batted balls. The majority of his skill set declines less than that of natural power or speed with age, so there's a great chance he gets back among the league's OBP leaders next year while hopefully getting in on more of the Reds young offense. -Brady Grove

Lorenzo Cain was only good in fantasy leagues that count defensive metrics last season, but a lot of his peripheral stats were comparable to his career averages. He hasn't lost the athleticism that made him such a spark for the Brewers in 2018 (assuming he gets healthy), so he could come back and contribute steals for owners starved for them. -Rick Lucks

Andrew Benintendi is far too athletic and too good of an overall hitter to not be giving us 20/20, top-50 fantasy seasons. -JB Branson

Corbin Burnes was terrible this year, but his fastball velocity and spin rate are among the top in the league. I think if Milwaukee gives him a rotation spot he could be a top-75 arm next year. -Andy Patton

 

Who will be drafted too high next year?

Hyun-Jin Ryu, and I honestly hope I'm wrong about this. But Ryu has battled health issues for the better part of half a decade, and he's only getting older. He's always been good when healthy, but the price for his services is likely to be too high, given the risk involved. -Kyle Bishop

Tim Anderson batted .335 and won the batting title in 2019. He had never hit higher than .283 in the Majors before this year and needed a .399 BABIP to put up the numbers he did this season. While the average went up, there were minimal gains in his batted ball data with only marginal improvement in hard-hit rate and line-drive rate. Anderson can be a usable fantasy asset, but 2019 was an extreme outlier. -Mike Schwarzenbach

While Yuli Gurriel is a decent source of batting average, his hard-hit rate and exit velocity don't match up at all with his 31 home runs from this past season. I think a .290 average with 20 or so home runs, like he did in 2018, is more the expectation, and this past year will be an aberration. -Andy Patton

Rafael Devers had a stellar 2019, but his plate discipline got marginally worse and he still didn't lift the ball the way a power hitter should. Owners banking on a repeat are likely to be disappointed when he returns to the borderline CI play he was before 2019. -Rick Lucks

Danny Santana blew up but I won’t be paying up just because he’s in the 20/20 club. His 41.9%Chase & 15.7%SwingStrike rates are crazy. A 71.6% Contact rate isn’t even league average. Plus, a regression in BABIP (.353) is sure to deflate a .283AVG. Unknown: How will the new Arlington stadium/park/field play? -Ellis Canady

Domingo German got very lucky with BABIP and had an inflated win total. -Kyle Ringstad

 

Who are your top sleepers for 2020 (hitter and pitcher)?

J.D. Davis deserves not only more respect but more playing time as he was platooned most of the season. Davis didn’t get regular PT until the latter part of the season and he didn’t disappoint (13HR, .335AVG in the second half). The real treat, and reason we should be coming back again in 2020, is the 91.4 MPH avg exit velocity. If new management keeps him in the lineup, good things will happen.

Masked in a 4.07 ERA, Dinelson Lamet had a 3.60 ERA (3.79 FIP) with a 25.7% K-BB in 10 starts during August and September. A full offseason removed from Tommy John and hopefully some time to continue to develop his curveball will go a long way towards sustaining production similar to the last two months of 2019. -Ellis Canady

As far as established Major League hitters ready to break out, I believe Jordan Luplow could perform similarly to the way former teammate Austin Meadows did this year. Luplow flexed good power, bopping 15 homers in 225 at-bats along with an 89.3 MPH exit velocity. A hamstring strain took away a month of action and wiped away his second-half value. I'm also eyeing Travis Demeritte as a power option in the infield now that he has a chance to establish himself with the rebuilding Tigers.

As far as pitchers, I'll double up again by saying that Daniel Ponce de Leon showed enough to trust as a mid-rotation arm if he retains that role in St. Louis. My deep sleeper is Lucas Sims, who has a spin rate in the 99th percentile for both his fastball and curve. -Pierre Camus

Garrett Hampson has a nice power/speed combo in Coors. Tyler Glasnow will be overlooked despite an outstanding 2019. -Kyle Ringstad

Tommy Edman - I think this speed/pop combo is legit. Last month he went 22/6/14/6/.350. At pitcher, the Sean Manaea comeback is on! He is fully recovered from his torn labrum and looked untouchable in September. -JB Branson

I have to go with Sean Manaea for my pitcher. I didn't really believe he'd return much value to owners who took a flyer on him down the stretch. He killed it, and since I'm currently recovering from a torn labrum (the same injury that he returned from), I find myself rooting for him. As for a bat, I'm all in on Oscar Mercado. .280, 20/20, 100 runs, gonna probably go in the middle rounds. Pure profit. -Kyle Bishop

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 26 - Buy or Sell?

With under a week to go, streaming is the name of the game if you need power. The more available a player has been, the more likely they are to be a riser in this edition, and fallers are more likely to be rostered since you have drops to go with your pickups. Additionally, the site of the games of the last weekend is particularly important now.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through September 23rd unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Kyle Lewis (OF, SEA)

Season Total: 6 HR, .327/.358/.755, .653 xSLG, .276 xBA (.379 xISO), 89.7 mph at 9.7 degrees (100.5 mph EVAB), 9 barrels, 53 PA.

Lewis homered 11 times in the minors this season in 517 plate appearances. He has more than half that many in just over 10% of the plate appearances in his MLB stint. How?

By killing the ball. More specifically, by killing it in the air, where he's averaged triple digits worth of exit velocity despite a sub-90 overall EV. The barrel rate and xISO also demonstrate that Lewis has not lucked his way into the blazing hot start.

What Lewis would do over 162 is up for debate, but you only have to worry about the next few days, and this streak is real. Seattle is at home the rest of the season, and T-Mobile Park has been a completely average home run park this season. That's plenty enough to roll with this where you can.

 

Austin Hays (OF, BAL)

Season Total: 4 HR, .314/.364/.627, .437 xSLG, .267 xBA (.170 xISO), 87.6 mph at 10.1 degrees (91.8 mph EVAB), 3 barrels, 55 PA.

Hays' last two weeks don't quite cover his full season like Lewis's do, but it's close, so we'll just use the season numbers again. And it's not nearly as fun a picture as Lewis gives; for example, Hays' xSLG and xISO are more than 200 points below Lewis'.

This is really not an impressive power profile but a luck-infused hot streak. As such, you probably don't want to go with this for a last-minute power boost.

On the plus side, the Orioles are still in Toronto Wednesday, but then visit Boston for the final set. Fenway has played surprisingly large this season for home runs, so it's not a great place for Hays. If you have him and home runs are what you're after, keep him for the last Toronto game and then try to find something else over the past four days. If you don't have him, pass.

 

Tommy Edman (IF, STL)

Last 14 days: 4 HR, .404/.481/.787, .569 xSLG, .359 xBA (.210 xISO), 88.2 mph at 12.7 degrees, 4 barrels, 54 PA.

Season Total: 11 HR, .298/.340/.500, .421 xSLG, .277 xBA (.144 xISO), 87.1 mph at 13.9 degrees (91.0 mph EVAB), 13 barrels, 321 PA.

Statcast mostly really likes Edman's last few weeks, but not terribly so from a power perspective. The regression-suggesting Statcast numbers are still there, but the star-worthy front line numbers are not.

In other words, Statcast has Edman as a pretty uninspiring power option over the full season. Of course, he also has just 11 home runs in 321 plate appearances, so the real question is whether the streak is real enough to chase in the final week.

With four barrels and a .210 xISO, if home runs are the goal, Edman's streak doesn't necessarily forebode very well. The Cardinals host the Cubs in the final weekend for a series that is extremely likely not to matter a bit in the standings. Edman will probably still mostly play, but the fact that Busch Stadium has been MLB's third-worst for home runs this season ahead of just Kansas City and San Francisco is also discouraging. Don't expect much power from Edman as the season concludes.

 

Adam Engel (OF, CWS)

Last 14 days: 4 HR, .350/.350/.700, .455 xSLG, .241 xBA (.214 xISO), 89.3 mph at 7.1 degrees, 3 barrels, 40 PA.

Season Total: 6 HR, .244/.307/.392, .332 xSLG, .220 xBA (.112 xISO), 83.8 mph at 9.4 degrees (90.5 mph EVAB), 8 barrels, 229 PA.

The Engel home run spate is a weird one. Not so much based on the Statcast within--although a 245-point gap between SLG and xSLG is noteworthy--but just because of how light-hitting Engel is historically. He has 29% as many home runs in the past two weeks as in the previous two years and five-plus months.

There's still an xISO above .200 here in the past two weeks, so Engel isn't entirely uninteresting. Just mostly, based on his history. The launch angle is actually lower than usual as well of late, so this is pretty much a pass.

In the very deepest of leagues, maybe a shot is worth it with the White Sox playing Thursday (unlike the three teams above) at their bandbox. Four games there against the inept Tigers is a good match-up. Just be wary that the .700 slugging percentage of the last two weeks isn't particularly likely.

 

Ji-Man Choi (1B, TB)

Last 14 days: 4 HR, .270/.417/.649, .480 xSLG, .226 xBA (.254 xISO), 96.7 mph at 11.5 degrees, 3 barrels, 48 PA.

Season Total: 17 HR, .258/.361/.443, .444 xSLG, .250 xBA (.194 xISO), 90.9 mph at 12.5 degrees (94.5 mph EVAB), 30 barrels, 476 PA.

Choi is hitting the ball hard late. He's hit it pretty hard all season, especially when he gets it in the air. A 94.5 mph EVAB isn't spectacular but it's plenty fine. With 30 barrels, 17 home runs is a bit of an unlucky number.

The two-week run isn't as spectacular by Statcast as it might look on the surface, but the .254 expected ISO is a solid number. There are worse chances to take here.

The Rays visit Toronto for the last three games. The place has been even more homer-happy than Coors, which is impressive. Unimpressive, meanwhile, is the Toronto pitching staff.

 

Power Fallers

Yasiel Puig (OF, CIN)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .410/.500/.487, .385 xSLG, .262 xBA (.123 xISO), 92.6 mph at 13.7 degrees, 3 barrels, 46 PA.

Season Total: 24 HR, .267/.327/.459, .447 xSLG, .261 xBA (.186 xISO), 89.9 mph at 14.1 degrees (94.2 mph EVAB), 40 barrels, 597 PA.

Puig has been somewhat of a target in this column this season. But at this point he hasn't gone deep since August 16, so looking at just the past two weeks is doing him a favor, even though a .410 average has kept his value afloat outside of power considerations.

There are both good and bad signs in Puig's last two weeks. The good is the combination of exit velocity and launch angle which has produced three barrels despite the lack of home runs. Unfortunately, Puig is posting just a .123 xISO anyway.

Puig is short a couple home runs this year based on his 40 barrels, but even with 28 homers, he wouldn't be having the season people expected. Fortunately, the Indians wrap up at Nationals Park, which has been a darned good homers park in 2019. You heard it here first, Puig will go deep again before the season ends. It's probably fine to stick with him the last week.

 

Michael Brantley (OF, HOU)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .182/.289/.182, .496 xSLG, .309 xBA (.187 xISO), 89.4 mph at 11.2 degrees, 2 barrels, PA.

Season Total: 21 HR, .315/.377/.504, .461 xSLG, .296 xBA (.165 xISO), 88.6 mph at 10.5 degrees (92.5 mph EVAB), 28 barrels, 621 PA.

Brantley's never a homer-only guy, but if home runs are the category you need most, that's no reason not to inspect what he produces in the category. And it's merely solid, as usual.

But oddly, during the no-homer two weeks, he's hit the ball even better than usual per all the expected stats, xBA, xSLG, and xISO. His contact by exit velocity and launch angle is slightly up, but not really by that much.

Brantley's made perfectly fine contact, including for the power you'd expect, just without the results to show. Because he's not a massive power hitter, if you desperately need home runs at the expense of every other statistic, don't expect a huge run. But if you just need what he usually provides, stick with him to the end.

 

Josh Donaldson (3B, ATL)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .162/.256/.162, .279 xSLG, .210 xBA (.069 xISO), 91.1 mph at 18.0 degrees, 0 barrels, 43 PA.

Season Total: 37 HR, .255/.377/.520, .513 xSLG, .262 xBA (.251 xISO), 92.8 mph at 13.5 degrees (98.1 mph EVAB), 60 barrels, 640 PA.

What a bad time for Donaldson's power well to run dry. But despite the rut, there's no way to get away from him in the final week, as he's just been too good for too long including this season.

Unlike with Brantley, there's no denying that Donaldson has not hit the ball well at all lately. But for the season, his great EVAB, low HR-to-barrel ratio, and 88th percentile xSLG (and 92nd percentile xwOBA) indicate a player who even at his age can still crush the ball.

One thing working against Donaldson is the Braves ending their season at the Mets, but Citi Field has actually been a pretty average venue for home runs this season.

 

Kevin Pillar (OF, SF)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .255/.286/.277, .373 xSLG, .270 xBA (.103 xISO), 80.6 mph at 6.6 degrees, 1 barrels, 49 PA.

Season Total: 21 HR, .265/.294/.447, .395 xSLG, .258 xBA (.137 xISO), 86.0 mph at 13.7 degrees (90.7 mph EVAB), 26 barrels, 603 PA.

Run away, run away from this faster than Monty Python from a killer bunny rabbit (and please tell me you get the reference).

In some ways, Pillar hasn't quite made contact as bad as his results, but the 80.6 mph exit velocity the past two weeks is really weak. And a .373 xSLG is nothing to write home about even when it's 96 points above the actual slugging rate.

In Pillar's favor is that the Giants do play on Thursday. Working against him is that the Giants are at home the rest of the season, and Oracle Park has been by far the worst stadium for home runs this season. So despite Pillar's 21 homers this season, he's not worth the trouble.

 

Renato Nunez (3B, BAL)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .167/.306/.200, .236 xSLG, .181 xBA (.055 xISO), 90.9 mph at 20.3 degrees, 0 barrels, 36 PA.

Season Total: 29 HR, .246/.314/.457, .451 xSLG, .250 xBA (.201 xISO), 89.9 mph at 19.8 degrees (93.9 mph EVAB), 41 barrels, 579 PA.

Nunez only has 36 plate appearances the past two weeks, and so it's tough to rely on him even not taking his two-week slump into account. Averaging a 20+ launch angle often means the ball is being hit too high, and Nunez's .236 xSLG bears that out.

His season launch angle also rivals 20 degrees, however, and that hasn't hurt the overall numbers too much. His .211 ISO is about what you'd expect from the Statcast.

But when a cold spell eats into playing time, things get tough. And as was discussed with Hays, the Orioles ending the season at Fenway isn't great news for home runs. Leave your Nunez at home for this road trip.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (9/17-23)
Brett Gardner 25 PA, 2 HR, .348/.400/.652 -- Giving up on trying to explain this
Marcus Semien 25 PA, 1 HR, .381/.480/.714 -- On it goes
Rougned Odor 18 PA, 0 HR, .111/.111/.111 -- Did have one Tuesday but the streakiness is almost too much
Eloy Jimenez 25 PA, 2 HR, .458/.480/.875 -- Amazing race to the finish line continues
Randal Grichuk 33 PA, 3 HR, .258/.303/.613 -- A good week for the risers and the extra HR shows the benefits of an extra day (TOR played 7)

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (9/17-9/23)
Tommy Pham 28 PA, 0 HR, .222 .250 .296 -- Playing through injury is sometimes apparent from the stats
DJ LeMahieu 21 PA, 2 HR, .368/.429/.737 -- Back in the saddle
Max Kepler Season on the ropes as he did not take a plate appearance
Kevin Newman 23 PA, 0 HR, .174/.174/.174 -- Not surprising
Amed Rosario 24 PA, 3 HR, .250 .250 .667 -- But this is, even with the favorable parks (at CIN and at COL)

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 25 - Buy or Sell?

Less than two weeks left, and if you still need an extra home run or two, time is running out to get it. Are September's risers the answer? Are the fallers going to continue to fall?

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through September 16th unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Brett Gardner (OF, NYY)

September: 7 HR, .250/.321/.729, .378 xSLG, .198 xBA (.180 xISO), 88.3 mph at 14.7 degrees, 3 barrels, 53 PA.

Season Total: 25 HR, .249/.326/.500, .357 xSLG, .240 xBA (.117 xISO), 87.4 mph at 13.2 degrees (92.0 mph EVAB), 15 barrels, 509 PA.

We start with a tale of which to beware. All season, Gardner has not been hitting the ball at all like a 25-home run hitter, but here were are after seven in September. A xSLG-SLG gap can't possibly exceed .351. Unsurprisingly, Gardner also has the largest season gap for anyone with over 300 plate appearances.

As unlikely as Gardner's entire campaign has been, you can't blame it on the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium anymore, with multi-home run games at Detroit and Toronto so far this month and 15 of his 25 home runs on the season coming on the road.

It's still a tough call here, broken by the unassuming small sample profile. That makes this look a lot less like a real hot streak that can carry through to the end of the season. There's no need to run out and try to grab him now.

 

Marcus Semien (SS, OAK)

(Note: Semien's short-term numbers are taken at face value even though, as with last week, the resumption game between Oakland and Detroit from September 13 is still interfering with Statcast numbers.)

September: 6 HR, .354/.440/.723, .640 xSLG, .330 xBA (.310 xISO), 90.0 mph at 16.7 degrees, 8 barrels, 75 PA.

Season Total: 31 HR, .284/.365/.519, .460 xSLG, .264 xBA (.196 xISO), 88.6 mph at 14.3 degrees (93.1 mph EVAB), 44 barrels, 698 PA.

By ticking up both his launch angle and his exit velocity, Semien's blistering-hot second half has gotten even hotter in September. There aren't any red flags in this streak.

As one would entirely expect, the full-season numbers themselves don't indicate this much of a power hitter. Especially notable are the middling 93.1 mph EVAB and somewhat low .460 xSLG. But 44 barrels is perfectly able to uphold 31 home runs.

Clearly Semien is someone to use whether you've read this or not. But you don't need to worry about compensating for a shortfall here either when judging what the rest of your lineup can do for you the last week and a half.

 

Rougned Odor (2B, TEX)

September: 6 HR, .306/.370/.776, .636 xSLG, .286 xBA (.350 xISO), 92.0 mph at 16.8 degrees, 8 barrels, 54 PA.

Season Total: 27 HR, .205/.282/.435, .445 xSLG, .224 xBA (.221 xISO), 89.5 mph at 15.8 degrees (96.1 mph EVAB), 43 barrels, 537 PA.

What's this from Odor, a .300 average that is actually supported by the type of contact he's making? He's even striking out just 22.2% of the time this month.

And it's not an empty batting average with the six homers. While his contact doesn't support the power as much as it does the average, the xSLG is still plenty good enough. He's boosted his exit velocity and ever so slightly his launch angle.

Unbelievably, Odor is perfectly rosterable the rest of this season. This will especially be true with Texas at home the final week of the season.

 

Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS)

September: 6 HR, .328/.379/.705, .713 xSLG, .323 xBA (.390 xISO), 95.5 mph at 9.3 degrees, 11 barrels, 66 PA.

Season Total: 28 HR, .259/.309/.494, .489 xSLG, .257 xBA (.232 xISO), 90.9 mph at 9.0 degrees (96.7 mph EVAB), 38 barrels, 463 PA.

Get on Eloy's case two weeks ago and what happens? He puts up the rare hot streak that is entirely supported by the quality of contact. In fact, the number of barrels has Jimenez getting slightly unlucky to hit "just" six homers this month so far.

The difference, as you can see, has been in how hard Jimenez is hitting the ball. He's on his season level in launch angle, but adding several mph of oomph to his contact, hence the dramatic power improvement in September.

Keep riding this (as was actually recommended last time). You now know what Jimenez is capable of during a hot streak, rather than hoping for it, as the finish line approaches.

 

Randal Grichuk (OF, TOR)

September: 5 HR, .239/.234/.674, .521 xSLG, .232 xBA (.289 xISO), 89.3 mph at 17.0 degrees, 5 barrels, 47 PA.

Season Total: 28 HR, .235/.284/.455, .401 xSLG, .230 xBA (.171 xISO), 89.2 mph at 15.5 degrees (93.4 mph EVAB), 31 barrels, 581 PA.

September has seen the best of Grischuk except he's walking even less, literally zero times this month. And despite a 153-point gap between his xSLG and SLG this month he's still producing a near-.300 xISO.

Overall, however, there's too much risk in this profile going forward. Grichuk doesn't really hit the ball that hard, although he can hit it high. But he doesn't have the SLG or ISO expectations or the barrel rate you'd hope for.

That said, if Grichuk is all that's out there and you need a power bump, giving him a shot can be reasonable. Certainly more so than Gardner if you ended up trying to decide between the two of them.

 

 

Power Fallers

Tommy Pham (OF, TB)

September: 0 HR, .326/.404/.413, .359 xSLG, .275 xBA (.084 xISO), 89.6 mph at 10.1 degrees, 0 barrels, 52 PA.

Season Total: 20 HR, .277/.375/.456, .455 xSLG, .276 xBA (.179 xISO), 90.8 mph at 4.9 degrees (95.3 mph EVAB), 33 barrels, 608 PA.

Pham has been a solid hitter all year and his contact matches up with his production. But he has not been a game-changer, especially in the power department, and so two and a half weeks with a sub-.100 xISO is not surprising.

The good news in September has been a doubled launch angle, but that has not helped the expected power output. He's been reasonably productive anyway, but if it's home runs you need, they will either have to come from elsewhere on your roster or you will have to look elsewhere.

Pham is generally still seeing the ball fairly well, but it will not be an upset if he is still sitting on 20 home runs when the season ends.

 

DJ LeMahieu (IF, NYY)

September: 0 HR, .281/.317/.316, .476 xSLG, .330 xBA (.146 xISO), 90.7 mph at -0.8 degrees, 3 barrels, 60 PA.

Season Total: 24 HR, .328/.375/.516, .505 xSLG, .319 xBA (.186 xISO), 91.7 mph at 6.5 degrees (95.1 mph EVAB), 36 barrels, 614 PA.

Of this week's fallers, LeMahieu has been by far the unluckiest from a home run perspective. He's the only one with a barrel, with an xISO above .100, and with an exit velocity above 90 mph. Of course, with that negative launch angle he's not totally out of the woods.

Fortunately, that is relatively easy to fix, and probably easier in the Yankees organization than others. LeMahieu hasn't blown anyone away with his power production, but it's been very useful in combination with his batting average and lineup spot, and he figures to return to the column at some point in the final dozen or so games.

No one is dropping DJM and no one should because of how solid his contact is even during a bad stretch of results.

 

Max Kepler (OF, MIN)

September: 0 HR, .171/.293/.200, .284 xSLG, .222 xBA (.062 xISO), 88.0 mph at 15.8 degrees, 0 barrels, 41 PA.

Season Total: 36 HR, .252/.336/.519, .439 xSLG, .257 xBA (.182 xISO), 89.7 mph at 18.2 degrees (92.9 mph EVAB), 38 barrels, 596 PA.

Kepler's shoulder is clearly bothering him even when he does play. He continues to get lift but not much else.

That said, his 36-home run season has been built on a shaky foundation. There was some concern when he was a riser six weeks ago, and his season EVAB has fallen a few ticks while he's added just five home runs on an even less impressive five barrels.

With only a few days left in the season, it may be time to look to get away in redraft leagues if the shoulder issue lingers. It's already cost him three straight starts and six out of seven.

 

Kevin Newman (IF, PIT)

September: 0 HR, .357/.426/.500, .336 xSLG, .269 xBA (.067 xISO), 86.3 mph at 5.6 degrees, 0 barrels, 47 PA.

Season Total: 10 HR, .318/.364/.453, .384 xSLG, .292 xBA (.092 xISO), 84.8 mph at 7.3 degrees (87.9 mph EVAB), 8 barrels, 480 PA.

Newman's ownership shot up when Pittsburgh visited Coors, and there Newman improved his season home run total from seven to 10. He's continued to provide batting average and a couple steals, but not power--which isn't really surprising.

It begins with a very weak exit velocity -- on all contact as well as just on flies and liners -- combined with a single-digit launch angle. It has worked to get hits; a .292 xBA is in the 92nd percentile this season. It has not done anything for power, as his .384 xSLG ranks in just the 22nd percentile. He's outperforming both metrics, but at least the expected batting average is also great.

Newman may well be done hitting home runs for the season. If you are still expecting some rather than simply BA and steals, temper those expectations significantly.

 

Amed Rosario (SS, NYM)

September: 0 HR, .278/.316/.315, .390 xSLG, .322 xBA (.068 xISO), 87.9 mph at 6.0 degrees, 0 barrels, 57 PA.

Season Total: 12 HR, .287/.325/.424, .400 xSLG, .286 xBA (.114 xISO), 89.4 mph at 8.4 degrees (91.4 mph EVAB), 17 barrels, 609 PA.

Rosario hit his 13th home run of the year, at Coors, Tuesday, despite getting just 96.4 mph of exit velocity on the contact. That tells the story of his power ability.

What has improved immensely for Rosario is his ability to get hits, both for the entire season and even during the formerly homer-less September. He's been unlucky this month, just not in the power department.

If you need power more than anything, then once the Mets leave Coors, there isn't much reason to have Rosario around.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (9/10-16)
Eugenio Suarez 26 PA, 3 HR, .273/.467/.818 -- What can you say?
Yasmani Grandal 29 PA, 1 HR, .238/.448/.476 -- And eight walks to just five K's
Nicholas Castellanos 32 PA, 1 HR, .300/.344/.600 -- Keeps tooling along
Austin Meadows 27 PA, 3 HR, .292/.370/.708 -- Also keeps tooling along in an amazing breakout season
Peter Alonso 26 PA, 0 HR, .087/.192/.130 -- A rare misstep but he should ultimately be fine

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (9/10-9/16)
Yoan Moncada 31 PA, 1 HR, .500/.516/.767 -- A nice if largely BABIP-driven recovery
Kole Calhoun 19 PA, 3 HR, .250/.368/.875 -- Back in business as streaks are what he does
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 23 PA, 0 HR, .136/.130/.136 -- He'll get 'em next year
Paul Goldschmidt 26 PA, 2 HR, .238/.385/.619 -- As anticipated, another good streak was in there somewhere
Jonathan Villar 31 PA, 1 HR, .241/.290/.448 -- A modest return to the HR column (plus another Tuesday)

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 25

The baseball season is winding down, and with that, this is the final edition of this article for the year. It has been a fun ride with several hits (and a few misses that I would not prefer to mention), but hopefully, readers were capable of accruing enough talent from a few of these recommendations to lead them to some form of success this season. If anyone was negatively impacted by these pieces, I am truly sorry and will work to improve my process for including names next season if this is still mine to write.

The players mentioned in this final piece are holds through the rest of the season as long as they stay healthy. At the first sign of a cold streak for the buys, feel free to drop them and go for anyone you see on a heater or with an upcoming stretch of games in a friendly environment with good matchups. This late into the year, good players get unexpectedly dropped by competing teams out of season-long frustration and could end up as contributors on your roster for a certain category at worst. Keep an eye out for them and take advantage of the opportunity. Also, drop your injured guys and optimize your roster to maximize the number of hitters/pitchers you can use (unless you're in a keeper/dynasty league and the player is valuable enough).

Anyway, these buys and sells are worth noting for the last two weeks of the year. Thanks for reading and best of luck!

 

Undervalued Players - Week 25

 

Sean Murphy - C, OAK

11% owned

Catchers are fickle and frustrating. One week they're on, the next month they're off. You have to roster one and deal with it, unfortunately. Murphy is one of the top catching prospects in baseball and is now placed in one of the hottest hitting lineups in the league. He has hit extraordinarily well since his call up and deserves consideration on teams that just lost Gary Sanchez along with other catcher-needy rosters. Murphy has four home runs, 10 runs, and seven RBI since his call-up and is batting over .400. The lack of walks might hurt in OBP leagues if he goes cold, but that's the risk taken with most catchers in general.

 

Ivan Nova - SP, CWS

22% owned

This feels dirty to write because Nova is such a junk pitcher nowadays, but his schedule is too good to ignore and in these final weeks, matchups are all that matter. Nova's scheduled to pitch @SEA, @DET, and finish at home against Detroit again. He might struggle in one of these starts, but that's just the risk you have to take when taking advantage of streamers this late into the year. Nova is still available in a ton of leagues and could pick up a win/quality start or two while not absolutely demolishing your ratios.

 

Nico Hoerner - SS, CHC

11% owned

The Cubs lost Javier Baez for the rest of the regular season last week and called up their top prospect Nico Hoerner. With Addison Russell out for a few games, Hoerner figured to get a stretch of starts then rotate in occasionally. However, his performance this past week has been impressive. Hoerner is not much of a power hitter but can make very good contact and get on base. He has a hit in four of five games thus far, two-multi hit performances, a home run, eight RBI, and just two strikeouts. He has played every game since his call-up and figures to be pushing Ben Zobrist for the second base job down the stretch and into the playoffs. Hoerner is a talented bat with some counting stat upside in a very good Cubs' lineup. He's worth a grab in 12-plus team leagues whee you are desperate for a middle infielder.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 25

 

Andrew Heaney - SP, LAA

56% owned

After a brutal outing against the Rays, Heaney can be dropped. The Angels have such a brutal end-of-season schedule that even if a start gets pushed for him, it will end up in another terrible spot. He is currently slated to end the season @NYY and then home vs OAK. If either start gets moved, he will have to face the Astros. It just is not pretty and despite his second-half improvement this season, it is hard to justify starting him down the line unless you're desperate for innings.

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 24 - Buy or Sell?

A lot of this week's risers aren't actually too surprising. (We were going to talk about Jurickson Profar but the May 19 game resumption appears to have irreparably damaged the reliability of his two-week splits, which show him hitting .262 in some places and .298 in others. In short, though, you can ride his streak, but don't trust him too much.) None of them will be on waivers in almost any league, but knowing the chances that their power production continues can still help you make decisions on the edges of your roster elsewhere. Also, at this point it can't hurt to start thinking about where player values might be in the 2020 draft season.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through September 2 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Eugenio Suarez (3B, CIN)

Last 14 days: 8 HR, .409/.447/1.000, .779 xSLG, .335 xBA (.444 xISO), 94.9 mph at 17.4 degrees, 8 barrels, 47 PA.

Season Total: 44 HR, .269/.346/.568, .477 xSLG, .244 xBA (.233 xISO), 89.6 mph at 17.5 degrees (93.3 mph EVAB), 47 barrels, 586 PA.

Suarez returns to the column with an impossible-to-ignore eight home runs the last two weeks. Somehow they've come despite 16 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances. Even more amazing is the .779 xSLG despite all those strikeouts. Basically, Suarez these past two weeks has mastered the art of hitting the ball high and hard, with little regard for how often he makes contact.

As impressive as Suarez's recent contact has been, it hasn't brought his full-season power expectation up to what he's produced. In other words, for example, he's exceeded his xSLG by 91 points. But this is a hot streak to ride as he looks to become Cincinnati's second-ever 50-home run hitter (George Foster hit 52 in 1977). To manage a .779 xSLG despite wasting one-third of his plate appearances is pretty impressive.

It's a proper dilemma here: Suarez is undeniably hot right now, but his season contact is wanting. But with so little time left in the season, it becomes likelier that the hot streak can sustain through the rest of the season.

 

Yasmani Grandal (C, MIL)

Last 14 days: 6 HR, .244/.370/.667, .599 xSLG, .250 xBA (.349 xISO), 91.4 mph at 7.7 degrees, 8 barrels, 54 PA.

Season Total: 26 HR, .252/.379/.480, .461 xSLG, .238 xBA (.223 xISO), 90.4 mph at 13.0 degrees (94.9 mph EVAB), 39 barrels, 557 PA.

The main difference between Grandal's two-week run and his full season is a launch angle that has nearly been cut in half. Despite this, his barrel rate has increased. It hasn't made a difference in his batting average, actual or expected, but it has caused a nice power bump.

Grandal has produced a lot of value by walking rather than big hacks, but he's still been the catching position's third-best home run hitter after Gary Sanchez (34) and Mitch Garver (30). There's little reason to think he won't hit at least a couple more before the season is out.

 

Nicholas Castellanos (OF, CHC)

Note: Castellanos also played on May 19 but since he didn't play in the resumption, his stats avoided the fate of Profar's.

Last 14 days: 6 HR, .296/.316/.704, .633 xSLG, .245 xBA (.388 xISO), 89.1 mph at 9.8 degrees, 9 barrels, 57 PA.

Season Total: 25 HR, .293/.340/.528, .504 xSLG, .270 xBA (.234 xISO), 88.7 mph at 13.8 degrees (93.6 mph EVAB), 45 barrels, 597 PA.

Maybe there was something to Castellanos's complaints about Comerica Park. Or maybe Wrigley is just that much better. Either way, Castellanos has turned his season around with the Cubs.

Despite not producing much exit velocity on average, or hitting the ball at a particularly high angle, or hitting his flies and liners very hard, the x-stats indicate that Castellanos has pretty much deserved what he's got this season. In fact, the power output could have been even higher, as his ratio of home runs to barrels is low.

The same is true the past two weeks, which have featured an xISO of nearly .400. You're pretty safe going with the season numbers as your baseline expectation, with anything on top of that a bonus--but a rather unsurprising one if you were to get it.

 

Austin Meadows (OF, TB)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .360/.418/.760, .582 xSLG, .327 xBA (.255 xISO), 88.8 mph at 14.9 degrees, 6 barrels, 55 PA.

Season Total: 28 HR, .288/.356/.556, .507 xSLG, .273 xBA (.234 xISO), 90.7 mph at 16.6 degrees (95.1 mph EVAB), 42 barrels, 517 PA.

Meadows ran into injury and then slump trouble in the middle of the season, but lately he's been back to his surprising production from earlier in the year, which bodes very well for 2020. While his contact quality the past two weeks doesn't match with his production, it's still bringing his expected stats for the full season up.

Meadows consistently hits the ball high, and that 95 EVAB is what you want to see for a power hitter. The minimum cutoff for a barrel is 95, so averaging that much exit velocity on flies and liners means you are getting plenty of barrels.

Other than hitting .175/.238/.247 from June 7 to July 3, it's been a great year for Meadows, and as with Grandal, the production the rest of the season should be in line with what he's shown in the season as a whole.

 

Peter Alonso (1B, NYM)

Last 14 days: 6 HR, .309/.377/.655, .664 xSLG, .309 xBA (.355 xISO), 88.9 mph at 22.5 degrees, 7 barrels, 61 PA.

Season Total: 47 HR, .270/.369/.599, .538 xSLG, .264 xBA (.274 xISO), 90.8 mph at 14.7 degrees (96.4 mph EVAB), 61 barrels, 613 PA.

Alonso has had the rare hot streak where the production has almost exactly matched the contact. Despite being under 90 mph in exit velocity, his xSLG is actually a notch higher than his SLG.

He has the highest xSLG for the season among this week's risers, which makes sense for the league's home run leader. Compared to all hitters, however, he only ranks 21st in expected slugging. His 61 barrels are tied for second, however, showing the benefits of consistently playing.

So as long as Alonso has his health, you should be able to bank on top-notch power production the last few weeks.

 

Power Fallers

Yoan Moncada (3B, CHW)

Note: Tuesday's home run hitter was Moncada. There continues to seem to always be at least one faller per week who homers on contribution day.

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .275/.345/.353, .367 xSLG, .281 xBA (.086 xISO), 89.1 mph at 8.8 degrees, 1 barrels, 58 PA.

Season Total: 22 HR, .297/.355/.523, .505 xSLG, .283 xBA (.222 xISO), 92.5 mph at 12.6 degrees (95.0 mph EVAB), 38 barrels, 483 PA.

Season as a whole, Moncada is a rising player and power hitter, but the last couple weeks have been rough. His power slump has been fully deserved by xBA, xSLG, and xISO, the last of which is under .100. His exit velocity and launch angle are below season norms as well.

But as Tuesday's home run shows, two bad weeks isn't enough to indicate a coming prolonged slump. That's why the season numbers matter too. And Moncada's remained good despite the two rough weeks.

And so a few more home runs for Moncada before the season expires seems a reasonable enough bet.

 

Kole Calhoun (OF, LAA)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .154/.283/.231, .296 xSLG, .187 xBA (.109 xISO), 90.7 mph at 16.5 degrees, 1 barrels, 46 PA.

Season Total: 28 HR, .230/.324/.460, .444 xSLG, .236 xBA (.208 xISO), 89.2 mph at 14.6 degrees (94.8 mph EVAB), 38 barrels, 563 PA.

When walks (15.2%) and strikeouts (37.0%) make up over half your plate appearances, there isn't much room left for the third true outcome. That's the situation Calhoun's been in the past two weeks. The lack of power derives more from the lack of contact than the power itself, but both are still at play, with the sub-.300 xSLG and only one barrel.

Then again, the exit velocity and launch angle are up. It just hasn't translated into anything.

Calhoun is what he is: he will hit the ball hard when he hits it, but not necessarily in a way conducive to batting average. That's okay if you just need the home runs, and he should return to the column a few times this season, but it's hard to buy in too much the rest of the way given his shortcomings.

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, TOR)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .257/.350/.343, .341 xSLG, .278 xBA (.063 xISO), 86.4 mph at 8.6 degrees, 0 barrels, 40 PA.

Season Total: 15 HR, .276/.351/.458, .443 xSLG, .268 xBA (.175 xISO), 89.6 mph at 7.1 degrees (93.7 mph EVAB), 27 barrels, 450 PA.

Time to check in on Vladdy again, who has been perfectly good at the plate (115 wRC+) for the season as a whole. But just as in his debut in this column back in Week 7, elevating the ball continues to be a roadblock to something more for the 20-year-old.

Given his age and batted ball profile, there is still much to be excited about in Guerrero's future. But it's safe to say he's unlikely to dominate in the last couple weeks of the season.

That said, his barrel rate on the season would justify a few more home runs than he has. But the sub-.200 xISO and sub-95 mph EVAB also show a hitter who isn't a dominant force. Yet.

 

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, ARI)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .238/.385/.357, .434 xSLG, .271 xBA (.163 xISO), 89.8 mph at 16.4 degrees, 3 barrels, 52 PA.

Season Total: 29 HR, .259/.341/.463, .505 xSLG, .266 xBA (.239 xISO), 90.0 mph at 15.0 degrees (94.7 mph EVAB), 43 barrels, 600 PA.

Worried about Goldschmidt's recent power outage? Don't be too worried. He's got a 106 wRC+ in that time because he's walked a lot, and his xSLG indicates a lack of luck -- that .163 xISO may be the largest we've seen this season in this column in a faller's sample.

Despite all his ups and downs in 2018 and '19 -- and 2019 has been somewhat more down -- this is also still a guy who will run into plenty of bombs. And he's been somewhat unlucky this season, not just the past two weeks, with an expected slugging rate 42 points above his actual.

That, of course, doesn't mean he won't continue to under-perform his contact the last couple weeks, but he certainly has the Statcast data to recover as the season winds down.

 

Jonathan Villar (2B, BAL)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .283/.314/.326, .354 xSLG, .251 xBA (.103 xISO), 87.3 mph at 6.3 degrees, 1 barrels, 51 PA.

Season Total: 20 HR, .277/.344/.453, .390 xSLG, .248 xBA (.142 xISO), 87.7 mph at 6.4 degrees (92.5 mph EVAB), 26 barrels, 624 PA.

A riser only two weeks ago, it did not look at all like Villar's power run was sustainable. And it wasn't.

That said, his contact the past two weeks by most measures -- including exit velocity, launch angle, and xBA -- isn't too far off from his season marks. But it's noticeable in places, like his xISO. And the low exit velocity and low launch angle is not a good combination.

Just getting to 20 home runs is an accomplishment for Villar, although it does very much seem like a 20-homer season borne of the bouncy baseballs this season. Don't expect much more power from Villar this season or next.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/27-9/2)
Starlin Castro 34 PA, 2 HR, .321/.441/.679 - So maybe there was something to his spike
Anthony Santander 26 PA, 2 HR, .192/.192/.423 - All or nothing week but power sticks around
Jake Cave 14 PA, 0 HR, .154/.214/.308 - Playing time not quite there, nor the power
Ronny Rodriguez 16 PA, 0 HR, .143/.250/.143 - No surprise there
Aaron Judge 27 PA, 2 HR, .240/.296/.520 - No surprise there, at least in the home runs; OBP a touch low

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/27-9/2)
Eloy Jimenez 27 PA, 2 HR, .280/.333/.680 - A fine recovery
Trea Turner 26 PA, 0 HR, .385/.385/.500 - BABIP helps with the power still missing
Eddie Rosario 21 PA, 1 HR, .143/.143/.286 - I guess with a slash line like that you'll take it coming with a homer
Yasiel Puig 28 PA, 0 HR, .320 .357 .400 - As for Turner, BABIP keeps afloat during the power outage
Wilson Ramos 23 PA, 1 HR, .350/.435/.650 - A pretty standard and useful week despite the Thor drama

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 24

Today's piece covers a set of players who either should not be available on waivers or will return back there soon. Most of the earlier editions of this recurring buy or sell article have included several universally owned players whose values have been manipulated enough by early-season performances. Unfortunately, as we get deeper into the year, the regression fairies come to ruin every savvy owner's fun.

If you need a win in H2H or a particular category filled in rotisserie, buy or sell what you must to get to where you need.  The home stretch is dark and full of terrors. Injured and underperforming players can be let go if they are taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone much more productive. Players mentioned in this piece, and coming editions as we wind the season down, are more "add/drop" candidates rather than "buy/sell" given that trade deadlines are either passed or passing. Evaluate wisely.

Anyway, these buys and sells are worth noting for this upcoming week. Best of luck.

 

Undervalued Players - Week 24

 

Dexter Fowler - OF, STL

10% owned

Dexter Fowler's been weirdly awesome over the past month. He's racked up 18 runs, four homers, 22 RBI, with 17!! walks. Fowler is basically a must-grab for the final few weeks in OBP leagues and could be a boost in others as well. The Cardinals start next week off with three games in Coors which is a huge bump for any, and every hitter. With Fowler typically batting leadoff nowadays, he at worst should be a decent run-provider with the potential to fill other categories decently.

 

Jordan Lyles - SP, MIL

37% owned

Jordan Lyles does not have a pretty set of peripherals, but he's consistently gotten the job done since his trade to the Brewers. Lyles has amassed a 2.56 ERA with wins in seven starts (three QS). The surface stats are awesome and his next few matchups are @Miami, @St. Louis, and then back home against the Padres. Very palatable stretch for any streamer. Regression is inevitable with his .212 BABIP, low-ish K-rate (22.2%) and 9.2% walk rate. It just may have to wait until next season to rear its ugly head.

 

Dylan Cease - SP, CWS

11% owned

For the most part in 2019, you could call this guy Dylan Sheesh. It has been tough sledding for anyone who's consistently started him. There have been some highlights no doubt, but the walks are egregious at times and he will get tagged for several runs often. The strikeouts are what keep people coming back, and with Mariners and Tigers coming up in the next few matchups after his Sunday start, Cease becomes an appealing streaming option for two-week playoff matchups.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 24

 

Joey Lucchesi - SP, SD

56% owned

After Lucchesi's coming start at home against Colorado this weekend, he has to go to Coors and face the Rockies who are significantly better against lefties than righties. Then, his next start comes six games later (due to the Padres extended rotation) in Milwaukee. The Brewers are pretty weak against LHP, especially at home, but this start is towards the end of a matchup two weeks from now, and afterward, he has to face the Dodgers. Lucchesi is basically just taking up a roster spot and can be dumped early next week for a streaming hitter or pitcher.

 

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 23 - Buy or Sell?

Crunch time it is as September has arrived. Once again, that means unpredictable playing time, and the need for quick roster turnover where required. Fortunately, one can use the standings and the degree to which a player is already a known quantity to try and predict the playing time. As for roster turnover, one thing to look at is what parks teams are playing at as the season winds down.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through September 2 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Starlin Castro (2B, MIA)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .333/.347/.688, .611 xSLG, .353 xBA (.258 xISO), 90.8 mph at 12.7 degrees, 5 barrels, 49 PA.

Season Total: 16 HR, .267/.290/.407, .410 xSLG, .269 xBA (.141 xISO), 88.8 mph at 10.0 degrees (91.6 mph EVAB), 25 barrels, 563 PA.

This has been an interesting bit of production for Castro, but when you look at the full season output, it's definitely just a hot streak. That said, his contact quality has justified the run.

Unfortunately, there isn't much to stream here, because the Marlins are about to play a seven-game homestand followed by three games in San Francisco. Those are not the places to stream a hitter. Castro is also the type of known, mediocre quantity of player who should see his starts wind down as the season concludes, but who knows with Miami.

Overall, look elsewhere for rest-of-season power.

 

Anthony Santander (OF, BAL)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .354/.380/.750, .572 xSLG, .303 xBA (.269 xISO), 90.8 mph at 19.1 degrees, 6 barrels, 50 PA.

Season Total: 16 HR, .293/.329/.520, .461 xSLG , .275 xBA (.186 xISO), 89.7 mph at 14.4 degrees (92.3 mph EVAB), 19 barrels, 326 PA.

Santander has made decent contact this season, albeit not really enough to fully justify his breakout. The same can be said for his last two weeks. That said, he's become an interesting 2020 player for the Orioles. Is he an interesting rest-of-2019 fantasy option for you?

Baltimore has a somewhat favorable schedule; they don't play at a single obvious pitcher's park the rest of the year except perhaps a four-game set at Detroit from September 13-16. He should be an everyday player the rest of the way, as he has been of late. And the current run, while not .750-SLG good, has been plenty good enough. Consider that he has more barrels than home runs in this stretch. Most risers lately haven't been able to say that.

So yeah, if he's still available, give this a shot and see what happens.

 

Jake Cave (OF, MIN)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .263/.333/.711, .556 xSLG, .231 xBA (.325 xISO), 89.0 mph at 13.1 degrees, 4 barrels, 42 PA.

Season Total: 7 HR, .261/.352/.458, .431 xSLG , .257 xBA (.174 xISO), 90.6 mph at 6.8 degrees (96.7 mph EVAB), 10 barrels, 176 PA.

Cave's EVAB in his shortened season is interesting, but the launch angle makes it less so. He's gotten the ball more up in the air of late, which has led to a large expected ISO -- Cave isn't a batting average source, but having that .325 xISO means that his power has been pretty solid lately.

For Cave, unlike most others, the past two weeks represent about one-quarter of his season to date. His first three-quarters of 2019 didn't go great. Going back to his 2018 season, however, he looked much more like these past two weeks, with a .225 xISO (.257 xBA, .482 xSLG) to back up a .261/.352/.458 line.

Put Cave in the "interesting" camp, but more for 2020. Minnesota doesn't have a super favorable remaining schedule for hitting environments, although they do play the rest of the mostly-mediocre AL Central at least once. He may be worth a shot in leagues in the 14-16 range in size, at least while he keeps playing.

 

Ronny Rodriguez (IF, DET)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .229/.250/.563, .400 xSLG, .212 xBA (.188 xISO), 88.6 mph at 19.1 degrees, 3 barrels, 52 PA.

Season Total: 13 HR, .225/.249/.472, .421 xSLG , .216 xBA (.205 xISO), 87.2 mph at 14.2 degrees (94.2 mph EVAB), 14 barrels, 245 PA.

Mirage. Rodriguez's five home runs in the last two weeks are a mirage. It's all he's done, given the .250 OBP, and the .400 xSLG tells you it's been completely run-of-the-mill contact.

If you remember, Rodriguez began the year on a nice little run (.294/.337/.671 through May 16), but by July had been demoted to the minors. A look at his recent home runs and the launch angle may look like something has possibly clicked, but it when a hot streak features a 98 wRC+ it's best not to chase that player.

The ballparks Detroit plays at as the season winds down don't inspire confidence either. This is a pass.

 

Aaron Judge (OF, NYY)

Last 14 days: 7 HR, .321/.357/.774, .674 xSLG, .308 xBA (.366 xISO), 92.6 mph at 12.8 degrees, 8 barrels, 56 PA.

Season Total: 19 HR, .275/.382/.510, .559 xSLG, .285 xBA (.274 xISO), 96.1 mph at 10.8 degrees (99.2 mph EVAB), 39 barrels, 362 PA.

Welcome back, Aaron Judge, if you ever really left. When he was falling back in Week 20, he still had the power profile of a dominant power hitter. And he still hasn't caught up, with more than twice as many barrels as home runs. Of course, it would be a fallacy to think that means he'll start getting a bunch of lucky home runs to make up for it.

Judge just hits the ball so hard that even a low double-digit launch angle produces excellent average contact. A near 100-mph exit velocity on flies and liners is going to send a lot of baseballs into orbit.

Unlike our other risers, Judge is clearly on a roster in your league. Hopefully, you did not sell low.

 

Power Fallers

Eloy Jimenez (OF, CHW)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .273/.304/.273, .334 xSLG, .274 xBA (.060 xISO), 89.3 mph at 4.8 degrees, 0 barrels, 46 PA.

Season Total: 22 HR, .247/.296/.454, .450 xSLG, .248 xBA (.202 xISO), 90.1 mph at 8.7 degrees (95.9 mph EVAB), 27 barrels, 406 PA.

Where da launch angle at? Jimenez's the past two weeks has been almost cut in half, and the result is no barrels and no extra-base hits, let alone home runs.

That probably won't last for the whole final month, but even if it does, Jimenez has had a pretty successful rookie year as a basically league-average hitter. It's easy to get spoiled by the types who immediately succeed, but Jimenez will still be only 23 next year.

It's rare to see someone's BA and SLG as consistent with their xBA and xSLG has Jimenez's have been in 2019 as a whole. They seem to indicate that his production in September will be as uneven as the production before this month. Fortunately, he's a guaranteed everyday player, so even in standard redraft leagues you probably want to see what the upside is the last four weeks.

 

Trea Turner (SS, WSH)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .302/.345/.396, .442 xSLG, .296 xBA (.146 xISO), 90.3 mph at 8.6 degrees, 1 barrel, 58 PA.

Season Total: 13 HR, .295/.356/.479, .435 xSLG , .276 xBA (.169 xISO), 90.1 mph at 9.6 degrees (93.1 mph EVAB), 22 barrels, 455 PA.

Turner's contact has barely changed in the past two weeks, but the results aren't there. He's still gotten on base enough to steal four bags, but that's not what this column is concerned with.

Note the actually higher xSLG during the past two weeks than the season as a whole. Of course, the expected average has come up, and thus the expected ISO is down. It's not down a lot, however.

Turner homered 19 times in 740 PA last season; this season he'd be on pace to hit 21 home runs in that many appearances at the plate. Given the change in the ball, that makes him essentially the same hitter in both seasons. So if you're looking for bombs this September, there are better places to look. (The steals are going nowhere, however.)

 

Eddie Rosario (OF, MIN)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .268/.268/.293, .274 xSLG, .218 xBA (.056 xISO), 86.5 mph at 12.4 degrees, 0 barrels, 41 PA.

Season Total: 27 HR, .281/.304/.499, .468 xSLG, .265 xBA (.203 xISO), 88.8 mph at 16.3 degrees (93.4 mph EVAB), 33 barrels, 497 PA.

Rosario's last two weeks include a few days off with a hamstring issue, but nonetheless it's been some unfortunate contact of late, with every Statcast indicator in falling mode.

Because this cold streak has been because of rather than in spite of his contact, the fact that he has slightly over-performed his contact to this point in the season cannot be blamed on the recent spell. His EVAB, overall exit velocity, and home run to barrel ratio are all slightly underwhelming. On the flip side, his isolated power is about where it should be, which would imply his home run total is about right.

However, because of the potential for a nagging injury, it's harder than it should be to trust Rosario in September. With Minnesota 5 1/2 games up on Cleveland, he will continue to play when healthy, but how effectively?

 

Yasiel Puig (OF, CLE)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .143/.236/.204, .355 xSLG, .215 xBA (.140 xISO), 89.5 mph at 7.1 degrees, 3 barrels, 55 PA.

Season Total: 24 HR, .255/.336/.406, .451 xSLG, .259 xBA (.192 xISO), 89.6 mph at 14.6 degrees (94.0 mph EVAB), 36 barrels, 523 PA.

Puig was also a faller recently. It hasn't gotten better for either of them, results-wise. When we last checked on Puig about a month ago, there were not many positive signs in his profile, and there still are not.

However, it's not been quite as hopeless as it's looked. Most notably, there are some barrels that haven't turned into anything. The same can also be said of his full-season performance to date, with an isolated power mark about 40 points shy of what you might expect.

And so despite what is a pretty cold six weeks at this point, it's not quite time to give up on Puig's power production. As long as Cleveland is locked in a tight wild-card battle, the Indians will let their big deadline acquisition play. (Plus while his steals don't figure into power they are still fantasy-useful.) If another couple bad weeks follow, no matter what kind of Statcast numbers they derive from, it will be time to move on for the final couple weeks.

 

Wilson Ramos (C, NYM)

Last 14 days: 0 HR, .455/.467/.545, .430 xSLG, .357 xBA (.073 xISO), 91.6 mph at -2.6 degrees, 1 barrels, PA.

Season Total: 13 HR, .298/.359/.428, .413 xSLG, .272 xBA (.141 xISO), 90.6 mph at 1.4 degrees (93.7 mph EVAB), 18 barrels, 451 PA.

Ramos has had a weird go of it lately. No power to speak of has been little issue thanks to a .500 BABIP.

There's nothing really inconsistent with Ramos' history here, however. The negative launch angle isn't that far off from what he always does, or what he's done in the season as a whole. It doesn't usually stop him from running into 15-20 bombs in a season, and look at that: another such season is right on schedule.

Ramos separates himself from the fallers not just in the flat launch angle, but the success he's had while falling. That's again the BABIP, but you look at a .357 xBA and see that he's still hitting balls that should be hits. They're just not home runs. And if you are rostering Ramos, that is what you expect.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/27-9/2)
Ryan McMahon 28 PA, 2 HR, .222/.250/.519 -- Also a ton of strikeouts (14)
Adam Eaton 7 PA, 0 HR, .000/.286/.000 -- HBP on knee interrupts spree
Jonathan Villar 27 PA, 0 HR, .348/.370/.391 -- Loss of power not surprising, 5/5 steals are more what we're used to
Willie Calhoun 26 PA, 1 HR, .208/.231/.375 -- Another bomb despite struggles
Paul DeJong 25 PA, 0 HR, .095/.200/.143 -- Sense of streakiness continues

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/27-9/2)
Hunter Renfroe 15 PA, 0 HR, .083/.200/.083 -- Add fading playing time to list of concerns
Giovanny Urshela 7 PA, 0 HR, .286/.286/.429 -- Injury may have been bugging him sooner, too
Mike Tauchman 18 PA, 0 HR, .125/.222/.125 -- Struggles continue
Hunter Dozier 26 PA, 2 HR, .280/.308/.600 -- That's more like it
Trey Mancini 26 PA, 0 HR, .318/.423/.364 -- 3 BB, 3 K is an encouraging ratio

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 23

Today's piece covers a set of players who either should not be available on waivers or will return back there soon. Most of the earlier editions of this recurring buy or sell article have included several universally owned players whose values have been manipulated enough by early-season performances. Unfortunately, as we get deeper into the year, the regression fairies come to ruin every savvy owner's fun.

If you need a win in H2H or a particular category filled in rotisserie, buy or sell what you must to get to where you need.  The home stretch is dark and full of terrors. Injured and underperforming players can be let go if they are taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone much more productive. Players mentioned in this piece, and coming editions as we wind the season down, are more "add/drop" candidates rather than "buy/sells" given that trade deadlines are either passed or passing. Evaluate wisely.

Anyway, these buys and sells are worth noting for this upcoming week. Best of luck.

 

Undervalued Players - Week 23

 

Sandy Alcantara - SP, MIA

13% owned

Alcantara is not someone that I would typically recommend, particularly due to his poor peripherals and team context. However, his matchups this next week are too good to avoid. On Tuesday, he faces the Pirates in Pittsburgh and then Sunday he is at home against the Royals. Two-starts like this do not come along often. Alcantara has the potential to go pretty deep in both games and rack up some strikeouts with a potential quality start or win.

After this two-step, he gets a date with the Giants in San Francisco. There is a good chance that he might disappoint in one of these matchups due to the law of averages, but take that on the chin and move forward with the factors in his favor. Alcantara's recent string of success is fairly flukey, and the ceiling will crumble eventually. It just might have to wait until later in the season.

 

Jon Berti - IF/OF, MIA

32% owned

Who? Yeah, I am not too sure either. During this past offseason, I delved pretty deep into the prospect world and had never heard of Jon Berti until recently. He is apparently a 29-year-old rookie who got his first taste of major league action over the course of a few games last season but has mostly been a career Triple-A hitter generally. Berti was re-promoted to the bigs just a month ago and has been on a tear. He is slashing .291/.365/.495 over this span with four home runs and seven steals.

He's consistently scored runs and provided great fantasy value so far. The only issues are the track record and the fact that he is on a terrible team. It is typically harder to sustain success when the batters around you are not very good, and it also does not help that his home park is not conducive to hitting. Nevertheless, pick up Berti if you need a good utility bat who can fill-in multiple positions. Think of him as a Jeff McNeil-lite.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 23

 

Kyle Gibson - SP, MIN

56% owned

Not only is Kyle Gibson frustrating to own, his schedule finally includes some real offenses. His next three starts are @BOS, WAS, and @CLE. Not exactly the cake-walks he's used to, and if he is struggling to get through starts against the Tigers and White Sox, it's hard to imagine him succeeding in this upcoming stretch.

Although Gibson's peripherals are solid, he may just be at his limit with this season given that he had a strong first-half. Appreciate what he has provided thus far with his wins, strikeouts, and decent ratios, and move on. Find some waiver wire pitchers with plus matchups and try to win your playoffs with an optimal lineup.

 

Injured Players

This is a special category for any injured players taking up roster spots as we enter the playoffs. Sometimes, it is best to cut loose the dead weight and maximize what you can do with the roster spots available these last few weeks. If you don't have an IL or if it is full and as a result, a roster spot is taken up by an IL player, then consider letting go.

Players like Luke Weaver, Tyler Glasnow, and Brandon Woodruff are still fairly owned throughout leagues and even if they were to return this season, it would likely be as relievers. Middle-inning relievers are hardly useful in fantasy and those first few starts may be rough with the rust formed from being out so long. Just let go and move on if you're in a redraft league.

 

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Tips for Head-to-Head Playoff Success

Anyone who has read my work, followed my Twitter feed, or in some other fashion engaged with me on the subject of fantasy baseball knows my strong preference for rotisserie formats over head-to-head. While the appeal of the latter is obvious, the idea of successfully navigating the grind of a six-month season only be to undone by a bad week or run of injuries in September really rankles.

As a result, despite my best efforts, I often write more from the perspective of a roto owner than one who plays H2H. Today, however, that won't be the case. With the playoffs looming in most head-to-head leagues, it's the perfect time to dive into a management strategy for the final month.

While there remains a large element of luck inherent to the proceedings, there are definitely things you can do to better position yourself for the championship tournament.

 

September Sprint

We'll begin with a piece of advice that applies to any format, which is to know your strengths and weaknesses. By now, you should have a firm understanding of which categories you tend to win or lose more often than not. Use that knowledge to your advantage and undertake a thorough accounting of your league's waiver wire. Is there anything you can do to shore up those areas of weakness? If not, it may be best to fortify your existing strengths. If you own Mallex Smith but have no other sources of speed on your roster, it's unlikely that he's helping you much. Benching or cutting him for a hitter who can provide pop or a higher average could be a better play.

That's especially true if you anticipate running into an opponent who leads your league in stolen bases, which is the second suggestion - scout your opponents and tailor your approach accordingly. A rival who goes heavy on relievers will almost always win the saves category, but leaves himself vulnerable to losing the counting stats (wins and strikeouts), and could even find himself in ratio trouble if his RP string together a few blow-up outings. In this situation, you could opt to go high-volume by streaming starters or loading up on two-start SP to ensure that you come away with at least two of the five pitching cats.

That leads into the third recommendation - plan, plan, plan. Now that you've scouted both your own roster and those of your likely opponents, you need to decide how best to use that information. You should know which categories you're going to target and how to optimize your roster to do so. Schedules obviously can (and will) change, but now is a good time to map out the final month and figure out which pitchers will have two-start weeks, analyze matchups, and make sure you're minimizing the number of off days for hitters. You also need to have a deep understanding of your league rules; whether it's through weekly transaction limits or FAAB, you don't want to find yourself unable to maneuver in crunch time.

Head-to-head playoffs will always be something of a crapshoot, and even following the advice above doesn't guarantee victory. In some cases, in fact, you may wind up over-managing and trying to get too cute. Some owners opt to dance with ones who brung 'em, and that's a perfectly valid approach as well. Regardless of how much or how little you tinker, the outcome is as much a product of the whims of the universe as it is anything that we do to try and control it. If nothing else, though, that provides plenty of excitement. Best of luck to those of you braving the chaos.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 22 - Buy or Sell?

Today's magic numbers: 5/14. Each riser has exactly five home runs in the past two weeks (August 13-26). The names are a little more interesting on the whole than the ones with six or seven (and have been less explored around here). As for falling power outputs, four of today's five have been risers in just the last two or three weeks. Things can change a lot and quickly -- should your beliefs change as quickly, or are those hitters still reliable for power in the last month? Finally, playing time concerns are going to become a big deal in September, this being the final season anyone on the 40-man roster can be placed on the active roster. Next year, September roster expansion will mean going from 26 players to 28.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through August 26 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Ryan McMahon (OF, COL)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .267/.365/.622, .584 xSLG, .285 xBA (.299 xISO), 95.6 mph at 9.4 degrees, 4 barrels, 52 PA.

Season Total: 18 HR, .264/.346/.461, .431 xSLG, .250 xBA (.181 xISO), 91.6 mph at 9.8 degrees (95.8 mph EVAB), 24 barrels, 431 PA.

McMahon hits the ball hard. Harder than any other of this week's risers. Why are his power numbers in 2019 so modest? He has hit 14 home runs at Coors compared to four on the road, but that's not unusual for a Rockies hitter. The launch angle isn't terrific, but it's almost in double figures. His ratio of home runs to barrels is within league norms, which is arguably a bit of bad luck when you play at in Colorado.

The answer for McMahon is probably more launch angle, even though his hot streak has been more reliant on a change in exit velocity. But the overall exit velocity is fine and larger gains over time should come hitting it higher. When you play at Coors Field, you probably want to be hitting the ball high and trying to get it out.

The Rockies are an interesting team when rosters expand. In a sense, they have churned the roster all year as if it's September, with players like McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, and Garrett Hampson bouncing in and out of the locker room and batting order. So expect McMahon to play as often as he has already.

 

Adam Eaton (OF, WSH)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .372/.481/.860, .553 xSLG, .295 xBA (.258 xISO), 86.0 mph at 15.6 degrees, 4 barrels, 53 PA.

Season Total: 12 HR, .291/.377/.439, .404 xSLG, .276 xBA (.128 xISO), 86.4 mph at 13.3 degrees (90.9 mph EVAB), 15 barrels, 556 PA.

Based on how many home runs each had two weeks ago, Eaton's five-bomb outburst is the most surprising among this week's risers. He also has the highest two-week slugging percentage in the group--but not the highest xSLG.

As you can see, Statcast likes Eaton's last two weeks, but not nearly as much as the raw numbers would indicate. It's also less than impressed with Eaton's season as a whole. Eaton's contact by EV and LA during the streak is nearly indistinguishable from his EV/LA the whole season.

Eaton has never been a big power hitter, so these last couple weeks should be considered little more than a hot streak that will not sustain over time. Thirty is a bit late to reinvent one's baseball approach, and it's not as if the data show any significant improvement to believe Eaton is the exception. But at least the Nationals in the playoff race will mean continued AB's for Eaton.

 

Jonathan Villar (2B, BAL)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .356/.442/.733, .585 xSLG, .269 xBA (.316 xISO), 91.7 mph at 7.8 degrees, 6 barrels, 52 PA.

Season Total: 20 HR, .277/.347/.466, .393 xSLG, .248 xBA (.155 xISO), 87.8 mph at 6.4 degrees (92.7 mph EVAB), 25 barrels, 569 PA.

Wait, Jonathan Villar has hit 20 home runs this season, setting a career-high with a month to spare? Yes, it's true. By xISO, this run that has gotten him there is doubly more productive than his full season. He's hitting the ball harder than usual and at a moderately higher angle during the streak as well.

Of course, the season numbers tell a different story. Villar doesn't hit the ball hard or high, and he should be expected to have a sub-.400 slugging percentage at this point in the season. It's difficult to see a repeat next year, but in the very short term, the 14-day sample tells a decent narrative of a hot player. (Similar can be said of Eaton, but to a lesser extent, since his homers and barrels have been much rarer even before the past two weeks.)

Villar is the type of player somewhat at risk of losing AB's in September. The Orioles are terrible, but they know what Villar is. (Or they, being the Orioles, may look only at the home run bottom line instead of inspecting the underlying contact.) Don't anticipate too many more homers for Villar, both because of the mediocrity of his contact and, less so, because of the roster expansion.

 

Willie Calhoun (OF, TEX)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .321/.357/.604, .470 xSLG, .283 xBA (.187 xISO), 88.2 mph at 19.8 degrees, 4 barrels, 56 PA.

Season Total: 15 HR, .286/.327/.568, .436 xSLG, .267 xBA (.169 xISO), 89.6 mph at 17.9 degrees (92.6 mph EVAB), 11 barrels, 211 PA.

Statcast is more pessimistic about Calhoun, relative to the production he's given, than any other of this week's risers. In addition, the park effects at the new Rangers stadium next season can't yet be known. Calhoun's fortune this season can't entirely be attributed to the park, as he has hit nine of his 15 homers on the road, but the home park will still be an important concern in 2020.

As for the rest of 2019, Calhoun is clearly a disciple of the launch angle revolution, approaching 20 degrees on average. Little else in his profile is encouraging, however. Particularly alarming is the 11 barrels to support the 15 home runs, one of biggest disparities we've seen here this season.

Presumably, Texas will want to give Calhoun as full a look as possible even once rosters expand. That can't necessarily be said of any player with a mid-.400's xSLG, and it will help. But you want to see better contact from him going forward.

 

Paul DeJong (SS, STL)

Last 14 days: 5 HR, .233/.364/.581, .538 xSLG, .233 xBA (.305 xISO), 87.4 mph at 12.4 degrees, 6 barrels, 55 PA.

Season Total: 24 HR, .248/.331/.462, .437 xSLG, .247 xBA (.190 xISO), 86.9 mph at 18.6 degrees (92.4 mph EVAB), 31 barrels, 538 PA.

DeJong has more 2019 homers than any of the other risers. And while a hot April accounts for most of DeJong's success this season, that's less true of raw home runs. He hit .342/.403/.607 with five home runs in March and April. He's kept up with three to six home runs every month since, even though he's hitting just .217/.308/.414 since May 1.

Like most of this week's risers, DeJong's five home runs have come with modest contact. In fact, his launch angle is, surprisingly, way down. Frankly, it is also a modest hot streak period, with a .233 average and .581 slugging. But hitting the ball closer to the ground is working out in this short period.

St. Louis, like Washington, is in a playoff battle, and DeJong's a player who'd go out there in September anyway. He's been a steady but modest source of power and that should continue, but April was a mirage.

 

Power Fallers

Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD)

Last 14 Days: 0 HR, .118/.231/.176, .187 xSLG, .128 xBA (.049 xISO), 87.4 mph at 25.1 degrees, 1 barrel, 39 PA.

Season Total: HR, .230/.294/.520, .455 xSLG, .227 xBA (.228 xISO), 90.2 mph at 18.7 degrees (94.8 mph EVAB), 33 barrels, 435 PA.

48.7 is a number. It represents Renfroe's strikeout percentage in the past two weeks. Is that even possible? Apparently. It's 19 strikeouts in 39 PA, with five walks (at least he doesn't have Detroit's Brandon Dixon's 21-0 K-BB ratio). With only 15 points of contact, the lack of homers isn't a shock.

But will they come back? Renfroe's slump has had the effect of turning his 2019 season into a near-repeat of his 2018 season. He's lost a few hits in exchange for a couple of extra homers, but the overall result is nearly the same in xSLG (.464 last year and .455 this year) or OPS (from .805 to .815 this season). Since Renfroe is also 27, that would seem to suggest that the "real" version is the whole 2018-19 rather than the hot part of '19.

Which makes him a 35-ish HR type over 600 PA. Will he become a 600 PA player, a threshold he's never reached? This is the clearest that the combination of his value as a starter and lack of competition to be a starter has been in some time. But first, he needs to control those K's, which are worrisome as the season winds down. Still, he's a type whom the Padres should expose to MLB pitching often in September.

 

Giovanny Urshela (3B, NYY)

Last 14 Days: 0 HR, .327/.339/.382, .319 xSLG, .254 xBA (.065 xISO), 88.9 mph at 10.8 degrees, 1 barrel, 56 PA.

Season Total: HR, .332/.371/.557, .510 xSLG, .307 xBA (.203 xISO), 90.8 mph at 13.9 degrees (94.1 mph EVAB), 23 barrels, 407 PA.

Almost as soon as we buy into Urshela's power, he goes on a cold run like this. At least he's hitting .327. Unfortunately, his xBA the past two weeks is only .254, and with a .319 xSLG that makes for an xISO of .065 that is imperceptibly higher than his .055 during the rut.

Of course, taking the season view, two bad weeks is still not enough to derail Urshela's season, which still features a .510 xSLG. Nonetheless, it's very possible that pitchers have adjusted to Urshela recently. Statcast can't anticipate future developments in hitter vs. pitcher battles. Urshela has managed 88.9 mph at 12.4 degrees, slight ticks down from his season numbers in both, but the xSLG tells the clearer story.

As someone who doesn't walk very often, Urshela has to hit to get on base. He's still an everyday player for now and of course if he manages to readjust he should be able to put the ability for strong contact that he showed in the previous couple months. That's not a very decisive conclusion, so: for now, he's a hold but possible bench depending on the rest of your roster.

 

Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY)

Last 14 Days: 0 HR, .270/.349/.324, .332 xSLG, .231 xBA (.101 xISO), 90.6 mph at 11.3 degrees, 0 barrels, 43 PA.

Season Total: 12 HR, .290/.370/.528, .403 xSLG, .241 xBA (.162 xISO), 89.0 mph at 12.0 degrees (92.4 mph EVAB), 12 barrels, 262 PA.

Tauchman was a different story than Urshela back then, with a contact profile that did not justify his success, including a .416 xSLG and as many barrels as home runs. His two-week split of a .560 xSLG then is a .332 the past two weeks. It's brought his season xSLG down to .403.

That's 125 points lower than his .528 slugging rate this season. The past production is in the bag, but the current slump is not unpredictable either. If forced to guess between a productive September or a bothersome one, the latter is the way to go.

If the Yankees ever return to full strength and get Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks back, that could spell trouble for Tauchman. Stanton and Hicks will need their September time to get ready for the playoffs and while Tauchman will likely remain on the roster, he is unlikely to get many PA once those two return.

 

Hunter Dozier (3B, KC)

Last 14 Days: 0 HR, .244/.300/.356, .329 xSLG, .203 xBA (.126 xISO), 89.1 mph at 14.7 degrees, 2 barrels, 50 PA.

Season Total: 22 HR, .280/.359/.538, .491 xSLG, .273 xBA (.218 xISO), 92.1 mph at 16.5 degrees (94.6 mph EVAB), 33 barrels, 463 PA.

And Dozier was the same story as Urshela earlier, someone whose power seemed pretty legit in mid-August. His xSLG, however, is now below .500 (at .491) for the season, a bit short still of his .538 SLG. Dozier is also like Urshela in that 2019 is the breakout campaign for both, which means the point about adjustments applies here as well.

There seems to have been more give-and-take between pitchers and Dozier than Urshela, however. Which means each ebb and flow is less concerning/rejuvenating than it would be for a more consistent player. That means Dozier seems like a better September bet. But is he?

At least in the fact that he has less playing time pressure in Kansas City than Urshela does in New York, yeah. Because Dozier is so new as a good hitter, the Royals ought to let him play despite September roster sizes. Also helping: Dozier's exit velocity remains in the 94th percentile this season, at 92.1 mph. In addition, through good and bad times, he has retained a 16.5-degree launch angle.

 

Trey Mancini (1B, BAL)

Last 14 Days: 0 HR, .205/.367/.282, .305 xSLG, .216 xBA (.089 xISO), 88.5 mph at 6.7 degrees, 1 barrel, 49 PA.

Season Total: 29 HR, .273/.345/.521, xSLG, xBA (xISO), 89.9 mph at 7.8 degrees (96.1 mph EVAB), 38 barrels, 542 PA.

Mancini isn't like Urshela, Tauchman, or Dozier -- he was a riser three weeks ago, instead of two. Not the difference you were hoping to hear?

Some good news for Mancini in the past two weeks is he continues to see the ball pretty well: in 49 PA, he has walked nine times while striking out just 10. Why is he hitting .205 and slugging .282? Well, we know by now he's not a launch angle guy, so the 6.7 degrees isn't a very big deal. Nor is the exit velocity concerning. It seems just like one of those bad runs, which Mancini has already had this season.

So, like Dozier, the lean should still be to trust the regular season. As with Villar, are the Orioles really going bench one of their few good players to look at one of their not-great prospects? Unlikely.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/20-26)
Aristides Aquino 22 PA, .350/.409/.600, 1 HR: The ride continues
Mike Yastrzemski 19 PA, .176/.263/.412, 1 HR: Stays interesting but not great
Jorge Soler 23 PA, .143/.217/.286, 0 HR: Not a concern for him
Kyle Seager 21 PA, .313/.476/.563, 0 HR: Less BABIP driven (.333) than most such weeks
Juan Soto 26 PA, .286/.423/.476, 1 HR: He's still Juan Soto

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/20-26)
Tim Anderson 22 PA, .273/.273/.273, 0 HR: *still grimacing*
Manny Machado 14 PA, .182/.357/.455, 1 HR: He's alive!(?)
Daniel Murphy 18 PA, .250/.333/.375, 0 HR: Unfortunately not a surprise. And talk of someone who should lose PT in September
Travis D'Arnaud 13 PA, .333/.308/.333, 0 HR: Still falling
Pedro Severino 15 PA, .133/.133/.400, 1 HR: Not a big surprise and nothing to get excited over

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Overlooked Veterans On the Waiver Wire

It is the time of year that we need every roster spot filled at all times. We need nothing more than counting stats, lots of them.

In searching for guys to fill the roster, some fantasy owners look just at a player's name to determine whether they should be on their roster. This can be misleading due to preconceived notions of a player’s ability.

Others look at season stats which isn’t necessarily the right path to take when searching for free agency acquisitions to help your roster down the stretch. You would be better served sticking with a hot bat than trying to roster a player based on stats accrued earlier in the season.

 

Oldies But Goodies

Some teams will need to shoot for the stars with upside players to make drastic moves in the standings. A majority of teams just need a steady producer with the potential to have really good games. This is where the boring old veterans come into play. They can provide stable production that will offer more consistency than drastic rises and falls. Veterans also provide peace of mind with steady at-bats rather than pulling your hair out checking daily to see if a guy is in the starting lineup.

When streaming, there’s a variety of knowledge that is beneficial. Past performances could portend a similar outcome. However, it isn't guaranteed. As they say, a force in motion tends to stay in motion. As such, it is valuable to see how a player is performing recently to see if you can enjoy the hot streak. Once you find a few of these players, don’t discard them simply because of their age. Find production wherever you can. Veterans are an optimal group to consider at this point.  Below are a few guys that will help fit your needs as you venture towards a championship run.

Kyle Seager (3B, SEA)

Seager hasn’t played this good in a couple of years. Of course, it hasn’t been a completely successful season. The first three months were utterly terrible with .220 being the best average of the three. His performance could be attributed to offseason hand surgery. August has been a complete transformation back to a younger version of himself. Seager has hit eight homers with 17RBI, and a .345 batting average this month. He boosted his hard-hit rate nearly seven percent to 42.2%.

Seager is on such a streak that can do nothing but help if you take a chance on him. The Mariners are resigned to let their veterans play the season out.

 

Randal Grichuk (OF, TOR)

Grichuk never gets any respect until he is on a run smacking balls out of the yard. Well, he’s at it again. Grichuk has hit seven homers to go with 15RBI and a .273AVG over the last 30 days. He’s slowed down over the last week, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be beneficial to your squad.

Grichuk has demonstrated he enjoys the second half of the season. In 2018, he hit .280 with 14 long balls in the second half. If you need to be more specific with your needs, start him against left-handers for average (.255) and versus righties for power (16).

 

Evan Longoria (3B, SF)

A little long in the tooth at 33 years old, Longoria still has been put out to pasture by many in the fantasy community. This is likely in part to a 2018 season that saw most of his statistical efforts plummet to career-low levels of 16 HR, 54 RBI, and a .244 batting average. Longoria also had the worst walk rate of his career (4.3%).

In 2019, he’s rectified the walk rate to a level not seen since 2013 (8.3%) and has already matched or improved nearly all of 2018 numbers. The second half has been good to Longoria thus far with a beautiful .319 AVG to go with four taters and 14 BI. This comes following a strained plantar fascia in his left foot. The Giants aren’t a powerhouse squad but somehow they’ve been putting up some surprising numbers. Longoria has been a part of that and there’s no reason he can’t be a valuable addition.

 

Jason Kipnis (2B/OF, CLE)

More opportunity generally leads to more statistical output. The Indians drastically improved their offensive roster at the trade deadline and Kipnis has already benefitted from it. In the last month, he's hit six long balls with 21RBI and a .284 batting average. Even at 32 years of age, Kipnis has managed to increase his hard-hit rate to a career-high 38% and his batting average even stands at .254.

Despite an 8.3% walk rate, Kipnis is no longer an on-base guy so he gets a downgrade in those leagues. Otherwise, take advantage of his 2B/OF eligibility and enjoy having a piece of the Indians lineup.

 

Justin Smoak (1B, TOR)

Since Rowdy Tellez was called back up, 32-year-old Justin Smoak has lost a little playing time. He still starts against left-handed pitchers and will get the occasional start versus a righty. Smoak is only an option when you need power (19HR), and you’re willing to sacrifice batting average (.213) to get it. If this description fits you, then Smoak is definitely an option. It will just take a little more work as you'll have to make sure he's in the starting lineup.

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 22

Today's piece covers a set of players who either should not be available on waivers or will return back there soon. Most of the earlier editions of this recurring buy or sell article have included several universally owned players whose values have been manipulated enough by early-season performances. Unfortunately, as we get deeper into the year, the regression fairies come to ruin every savvy owner's fun.

If you need a win in H2H or a particular category filled in rotisserie, buy or sell what you must to get to where you need.  The home stretch is dark and full of terrors. Injured and underperforming players can be let go if they are taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone much more productive. Players mentioned in this piece, and coming editions as we wind the season down, are more "add/drop" candidates rather than "buy/sells" given that trade deadlines are either passed or passing. Evaluate wisely.

Anyway, these buys and sells are worth noting for this upcoming week. Best of luck.

 

Undervalued Players - Week 22

 

Kyle Seager - 3B, SEA

52% owned

Kyle Seager is on fire. Over the past month, he has been a top-15 player on Yahoo's rater. His average is above .350 over this span and he is whacking home runs consistently. The Mariners' lineup is not exactly potent, but they have had the benefit of facing some poor teams of late resulting in a bump in overall offense. Seager probably won't keep this streak up, but he's well worth a pick-up give that he looks like the Kyle Seager of old.

Once he hits a slump though, you know the drill. Drop him and move onto the next hot bat. At the end of the day, with the playoffs on the line, you take what you can get and move forward with what's best for your team in the moment.

 

Brock Burke - SP, TEX

18% owned

Burke has been nails through his first two career starts in the MLB. With the Mariners coming up in his next matchup, it's not a bad idea to ride the wave and see if this mini-streak holds up. He was electric in Double-A this year and while he did struggle in Triple-A, he got a pass due to the extreme hitting environment there at the moment. His xFIP and SIERA are not too appealing but the FIP is good and he can go fairly deep into games, as he has pitched six full innings in both pro outings thus far.

Burke should be up for the rest of the year to build on starting a strong 2020 campaign. He's certainly worth grabbing in 12-team leagues and deeper. After the Mariners game, his projected schedule is @BAL, TB, then OAK, @OAK. Not a brutal stretch to start, but he should probably be dropped prior to those Oakland starts.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 22

 

Eduardo Rodriguez - SP, BOS

81% owned

This breaks my heart to write, but E-Rod might be a drop for now. His next three projected starts are @COL, vs MIN, and vs NYY. That is a brutal three-game stretch and he has not been reliable enough all year to justify starting here, especially with the playoffs on the line. The ideal scenario is that you drop him, an opponent picks him up/starts him and you benefit from him blowing up their ratios.

The schedule eases up a ton afterward, however, if your playoffs are in action, these coming starts are not worth the risk. Appreciate the job he's done for your team thus far, particularly dropping his season ERA below four, and move on. Plenty of starting pitchers are droppable in the playoffs if they can't help you that particular week.

 

Nick Senzel - 3B/OF, CIN

51% owned

Nick Senzel has been frustrating for the most part throughout the season, but his recent cold streak is enough justification to let go. Despite providing decent counting stats, Senzel's inconsistency is not worth rostering most of the time. If there's a more productive hitter on the waiver wire (like Kyle Seager) target them as a replacement and keep an eye on Senzel in case he gets hot again.

With his recent thumb injury, and the Reds out of contention, it would not shock me if they shut him down early. Senzel is still one of the prized assets in the organization and they are going to need him contributing more in the near future than right now.

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Aristides Aquino - Man or Myth?

You may not know how to pronounce his name but it would be near-impossible to have not heard of him by now:

ARR -i-STY-Deez. A-KEE-noh. SMASH-er of BAYS-bawlz.

Saying that Cincinnati rookie Aristides Aquino has kind of been on fire, is like saying that Jon Hamm is kind of handsome... A statement that is technically true but falls well short in describing the overall magnitude. Since being called up on August 1, Aquino has seemingly transcended his human form, becoming fire itself. A human torch who now uses a fully open stance to better see the poor pitcher who is about to serve him up another fat meatball. But is this for real? Not as in continuing this impossible pace but rather does his start justify leveling Aquino up in terms of what is now considered possible for this year and beyond?

 

Origin Story

In terms of awesomeness, the numbers speak for themselves; in his first 63 plate-appearances, Aquino has gone into full videogame-mode, hitting 11 home runs in his first 17 games, eclipsing Rhys Hoskin's 2017 record for the fewest amount of games to reach that mark. Aquino also needed the second-fewest plate appearances ever (58) to reach 11 HR, with only Mike Schmidt's 56 PA being faster. Since arriving in Cincinnati his 1.327 OPS is third-best in baseball and his .930 SLG is first. En. Fuego.

For those that follow prospects, Aristides isn't an unknown. The six-foot-four outfielder has been considered one of Cincinnati's top-10 prospects for a few years, even winning the player of the year award in the Florida State League in 2016. Aristides could always hit the ball a so-called country-mile but as it often is with sluggers in the low levels of the minors, that big power came with big holes in his swing that more advanced pitchers took advantage of after the Reds sent Aquino to Double-A in 2017. In 504 plate-appearances that year, Aquino only hit 17 home runs with a .219 AVG and while 2018 was better, he still only posted a .240 AVG with a 25.2% K-rate as a 24-year old repeating the level. So after two uninspiring seasons at Double-A, our hero was subsequentially dropped to his lowest depths when the Reds non-tendered him in November in a roster reshuffling before quickly re-signing him to a minor-league contract the next day.

Cincinnati may have still been interested in Aquino but he nevertheless entered this spring a career crossroads, because at 25-years old it was time for Aquino to either put up or shut up and melt away into the fog of minor league mediocrity. But sometimes all a superhero-to-be needs is a muse to help him find his way.  Enter, Donnie Ecker. An assistant hitting coach for the Reds, Ecker had first seen Aquino in 2016 when he was working in the St. Louis organization, including a game where he smashed two home runs against Ecker's Palm Beach Cardinals. And so when he started working with him in spring, Ecker told Aquino what he had first thought about him in 2016; that Aquino was special, with game-changing potential in his bat...They just needed to figure out how to unlock it. To find the key to transforming him into a hitter worthy of the nickname first bestowed on him by his older brother when Aquino was just a 12-year old kid in the Dominican Republic.

 

The Punisher

Aquino and Ecker got to work all through spring, completely reworking the beginning of the slugger's stance. In year's past, Aquino had a traditional closed stance, only utilizing a toe-tap at the beginning. But with an eye on getting him able to see the pitcher as best as he could, Aquino and Ecker eventually cracked his stance wide open, with his back foot slanted at a 45-degree angle towards the plate, while his front foot starts all the way in the back-left corner of the batter's box. Once the pitch is thrown, Aquino does a high leg-kick as he transitions into a more traditional stance. Aquino now felt more comfortable with how he saw the pitcher, and good results swiftly followed.

The dramatic change took complete hold during spring, so Aquino wisely took it with him to his Triple-A assignment, continuing to work on its mechanics with many members of the Red's minor-league staff over the course of the season. But the real proof of his work was in the pudding, as Aquino lit his new level on fire with prodigious power, hitting 28 home runs in 323 plate appearances, with a .636 SLG and .337 ISO. With Aquino absolutely crushing lasers, it was an obvious move to see what he could do on the big stage once the Reds traded away Yasiel Puig at the deadline.

That question was quickly answered: punish.

 

But Will the Sequel Disappoint?

Putting his aforementioned rookie-records aside, Aquino's first 67 plate-appearances have been remarkable, with 11 of his 19 hits leaving the yard. After back-to-back 0-4 games, he's dropped to a .319 AVG with a 23.9% K-rate but is also running a little low on luck, running a .242 BABIP. And don't let his mundane 86.5 MPH average exit-velocity fool you, because what really stands out is how Aquino seems to treat baseballs like they owe him money, over and over punching them square in the mouth.

44 batted-ball events on the season don't qualify him for any Statcast Leaderboards, but his 14.9% barrel/PA would lead the league over known smashers of baseballs, Nelson Cruz and Gary Sanchez, while his 22.7% Brl/BBE rate would be second only to Joey Gallo. So while his .567 ISO and .496 wOBA are both ridiculous numbers, they're at least understandable considering Aquino's ability to square the ball up so far in this small sample. And this isn't just a case of a rookie feasting on fastballs either, as Aquino has seen fewer and fewer of those, thus far composing only 40% of the total pitches he's seen.

There are few decisions to be made for owners in redraft leagues where the trade deadline has passed. If he stays hot, then many of his owners may ride him to titles. If he dramatically cools off, then it will be easy to bench a guy who likely wasn't on your team three weeks ago. But dynasty owners will have more interesting decisions to make because - barring a complete fall of the cliff - Aquino will likely be a hot commodity in the offseason. But should you sell high before the bubble bursts, or watch him grow into a bull who runs through the market?

It won't be like it's been, he will slow down quite a bit. But regardless of the next six weeks, it cannot be denied that a dramatic swing change has coincided with a dramatic change in his results, first in 323 plate-appearances in Triple-A and now for 67 PA in the big leagues. So a large, athletic player has seemingly used a mechanical change to transmute his loud tools into actionable skills? If so, that is an asset that should hold premium value when comes time to assess your dynasty portfolio.

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 21 - Buy or Sell?

As with last week, the focus will be on the full season numbers. Not much else to say, so let's jump in.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through August 19 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Aristides Aquino (OF, CIN)

There was a beer commercial several years back where a tailgating cook threw a quinoa burger on the grill for good luck. Asked what it was, and having only seen the name of the grain on the package, he thought to himself: "it's a queen-o." I think of this commercial every time I see the name Aristides Aquino. (It's Aquino!)

Aquino has been no dirty old tree branch (how our ad's hero described the taste of a quinoa burger), with 19 hits in 18 games and a whopping 11 of them being homers, producing a .317/.388/.883 slash line. With 16 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances, his 23.9% K rate suggests more sustainability than was enjoyed by fellow rookie Austin Riley earlier this season. He has managed a .668 xSLG despite an average exit velocity of just 86.5 mph.

What has helped is an average elevation of 19.0 degrees and 10 barreled baseballs. So while Aquino's contact hasn't quite been as good as the numbers would suggest, it's been plenty fine. The relatively low strikeout rate is a reason for optimism as well. No one hits a home run in 60% of their games, and the sample size is still very small, but the early returns on Aquino are good.

 

Mike Yastrzemski (OF, SF)

The three home runs that Son of Son of Carl hit on August 16 gave him six in nine days, 11 since the All-Star Break, and brought his season home run total to 16. Not bad for a lefty who calls AT&T Oracle Park home; since Barry Bonds retired after the 2007 season, no left-handed Giant has hit more than 26 home runs in a season (Aubrey Huff in 2010). Yastrzemski will need to stay really hot to break that mark, but only four more homers would make him just the third Giants' lefty to hit 20 homers in that period (Brandon Crawford, with 21 in 2015, is the only other one so far). Of Yastrzemski's 16 homers, 10 have come on the road.

Yastrzemski makes okay power contact: 88.6 mph at 17.8 degrees for 20 barrels and a .478 xSLG. That is still well short of his .548 SLG. In the second half alone, he has slugged .662 on a .574 xSLG. It has not been the result of a significantly changed launch angle -- 18.5 degrees -- and so whether the newfound success continues will be interesting to see.

San Francisco has a fairly balanced remaining home/road schedule, so the conclusion to Yastrzemski's season will be largely up to him. He looks to have the makings of a surprisingly solid power hitter, but not a revolutionary one unless this second half run continues. It's up to the pitchers to figure him out because what he's doing right now is working.

 

Jorge Soler (OF, KC)

Soler has become a truly dangerous hitter, with a double-digit walk rate and now 35 home runs in 522 plate appearances this season. With six of them from August 6-11, he had Yastrzemski's homer spate beat by three days.

The contact has been no fluke. Soler has cracked a 90 mph exit velocity for the first time since 2019, doing so with a 92.7 average on a 14.5 degree launch angle. He has 52 barrels with a 96.9 mph EVAB. His .557 xSLG is actually a few points above his .545 SLG. All of these except the launch angle make for easy career highs.

Not only is Soler outperforming his past self, but he's also outperforming most MLB hitters, tied with Cody Bellinger for the fifth-most barrels in the Majors. Soler hasn't homered since August 11, but these things always come in bunches and lulls. He's one of the premier power hitters today.

 

Kyle Seager (3B, SEA)

Seager followed up his three-homer game on August 13 with another home run on the 17th and 18th. A .327/.393/.745 August has seen his season slash line rise.

Unfortunately, it's been a relatively weak hot month thanks to a .508 xSLG and just four barrels to support the seven home runs. He's also hit the ball less hard (85.7 mph) and less high (14.6 degrees) in August than on the season as a whole (89.7 mph at 19.7 degrees).

So it appears that despite the strong three weeks to begin August, Seager is mostly the same hitter he always has been, the type who ends up with 20-some home runs every year rather than the one on a 162-game pace of 39 this season.

 

Juan Soto (OF, WSH)

Juan Soto was having a solid sophomore campaign, which at age 20 was already impressive enough. But he's gone nuts lately, with 11 home runs in his last 19 games, bringing his season total to 28.

The effect this has had on his overall season is dramatic. He is now producing a .543 xSLG on average contact of 90.6 mph at 12.1 degrees. All three of those numbers are improvements on his rookie campaign, as are 38 barrels.

Like other former Washington teenage phenom Bryce Harper, Soto has only improved in his second season. Unlike Harper (even when he was 20), Soto has shown an ability to stay healthy. Even if he just plateaus from here, he will be a reliable 30 home run hitter for years to come.

 

Power Fallers

Tim Anderson (SS, CHW)

Tim Anderson returned from a sprained right ankle on July 29. Despite hitting .369 since, he has only homered once (until Tuesday), coming on August 4. He has also cut down on his strikeout rate, at 17.0% in 88 PA since his return, although he still doesn't walk.

From July 29-August 19, Anderson averaged 89.3 mph at 6.2 degrees. The launch angle helps to explain the lack of home runs, although on the season Anderson's mark is 8.5 degrees. It's part of the reason he only had 14 barrels to support the 13 home runs through Monday. And when Anderson does elevate, his 91.3 mph EVAB is nothing to write home about.

It's still a breakout year for Anderson, with a career-high .444 xSLG. But that pales in comparison to his .504 SLG. Although Anderson has set a 162-game pace of 22 home runs, he should not be expected to keep that up in 2020.

 

Manny Machado (3B, SD)

Machado has had one of the streakier seasons this year, making several appearances in both sections of this column. He is currently on a downswing, going all of August so far without a home run while hitting a putrid .186/.240/.214.

Strikeouts continue to be a problem with a 21.3% rate in the month that is pretty good for a lot of players in 2019, but not the fellow with a 16.8% career rate. As a result, Machado's xSLG continues to lag. It currently sits at .444, his lowest ever after three straight seasons above .500. It doesn't help that when he does make contact, the 90.8 mph at 13.2 degrees are both slight declines from last season.

If this weren't Manny Machado, you'd take the 26 home runs and be happy. Since it is Manny Machado, the inconsistency is maddening. But there is no choice but to keep using him and hope the next positive streak is coming soon.

 

Daniel Murphy (1B, COL)

Murphy's no-homer streak dates back to July 27, and he's hitting .250/.297/.309 in that time. It's been somewhat of a lost season for the 34-year-old, whose .282/.331/.457 line is good only for an 87 wRC+ thanks to Coors Field. Only two of his home runs have come at Coors, although his batting average is 107 points higher at home.

Statcast-wise, everything is going badly. Murphy, whose 2015 postseason performance was in a way the start of the launch angle revolution, still hits the ball at a good angle, 15.3 degrees. But his exit velocity is just 86.3 mph, his xSLG is a rough .348, and perhaps most concerning, he has only barreled up eight baseballs this season.

Given the barrel rate and xSLG, Murphy's 11 home runs and .457 SLG are a fluke -- they should probably be lower based on his contact quality. It's difficult to foresee a turnaround at Murphy's age and considering just how hard a time he's had making good contact as it is.

 

Travis D'Arnaud (C, TB)

Remember Travis d'Arnaud's three-home run game against the Yankees? It occurred on July 15. They weren't the flukiest home runs, but none were no-doubters, with hit probabilities of 70, 70, and 16 percent. D'Arnaud hit three more home runs to round out his July, but has been ice cold in August: .191/.291/.234 and no bombs.

Despite the fluke-ish three-homer day and the struggles in August, it's been relatively solid contact backing the 13-home run campaign for d'Arnaud, a .451 xSLG behind the .476 SLG, 89.7 mph average exit velocity at 13.5 degrees. You will take this from a catcher.

Given the currency of his slump, he's not completely out of the woods, but there are worse backstops out there. Like the next one.

 

Pedro Severino (C, BAL)

Severino was a nice surprise for most of the season, hitting .279/.345/.477 as recently as July 27. Since then, he's hitting just .140/.260/.163. He is hitting the ball extremely high during this period, 23.8 degrees on average, and that combined with 16 strikeouts in 50 PA is not helping his cause.

One would guess that pitchers have simply adjusted, but Severino's six walks in 50 PA in this rut are somewhat interesting. They are counterbalanced by the 16 strikeouts, but it's not as if Severino is just swinging at everything pitchers offer and coming up empty.

Nonetheless, Severino entered this season a career .187/.273/.287 hitter, so it shouldn't be shocking to see his carriage turn into an Oriole-colored pumpkin. It will be difficult to rely on him even in two-catcher leagues at this point in the season.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Giovanny Urshela .333/.333/.333 is no cause for concern yet
Mike Tauchman Unsurprising slowdown in form of .143/.200/.143
Ronald Acuna .222/.300/.389 with another HR
Hunter Dozier Still hot .412/.450/.529 but no HR
Carlos Correa 2-for-17 but they were both HR; unfortunately, another injury may put him back on shelf

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Buster Posey .308/.400/.385, 0 HR, 1 K, 2 BB is the kind of hitting Posey will give you now
Christian Walker .100/.182/.250 with another HR
Corey Seager Bat has woken up, .250/.318/.650 with 2 HR
Aaron Judge .235/.278/.353 with 50% strikeouts is hopefully not pressing
Mark Canha .412/.444/.588 and another HR (then another Tuesday)

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Time To Replace Your Battery Mate?

It's crunch time in the 2019 fantasy baseball season and as we head down the stretch everything can feel like it is magnified. Every win, point, or stat accrued feels more important than it did back in May. If your team is still competitive you've likely settled on the primary guys that have gotten you to this point and feel a sense of loyalty. If that's the case it's likely been a while since you've evaluated your catcher situation, and for good reason.

Picking a catcher is the dregs of fantasy baseball. With all the real-life defensive responsibilities and the physical toll nine innings behind the dish takes on the body, it's hard for most catchers to contribute with the bat. That being said, upgrading the catcher position in fantasy can become a huge advantage down the stretch and into the fantasy playoffs.

Big catching names from earlier in the season have cooled off. Mitch Garver is batting .186 in the past month. Travis D'Arnaud hasn't homered since July 30. Heck, even Yasmani Grandal has struggled lately with just a .240 batting average and one home run since the All-Star break. Despite that, Grandal is still the number-two ranked catcher according to Yahoo's player ranking which illustrates just how low the bar is for a catcher to vault his way to must-start status in fantasy. If your backstop is struggling and you need to win now consider replacing your battery mate with one of the names below who could be a massive upgrade when it matters most.

 

Francisco Mejia, San Diego Padres

It's been a tale of two halves for the Friars' starting backstop. Mejia battled injuries and shared playing time with Austin Hedges for the majority of the season and as a result, played only 33 games in the first half. He wasn't effective in those games either posting a measly .211 batting average and only two home runs. His .599 OPS was had owners who drafted him as a sleeper sprinting to the waiver wire to find a replacement and anyone who dropped him surely wishes they had him back.

Since the All-Star break, Mejia has been on a tear, he's slashing .353/.396/.553 and shows no sign of slowing down. He's upped his fly ball rate from 38.6 percent on the first half to 49.3 in the second and is making hard contact at a 37.7 percent rate while batting fifth or sixth in a good Padres lineup. Most importantly, Mejia has cut his strikeout rate from 25.2 percent in the first half to 17.6 in the second which has helped his spike in batting average.

He won't be a .353 hitter going forward as that is supported by a .400 BABIP but he should continue to provide plenty of RBI's and above average home run power from the catcher position. He is only 23 years old and was the top catching prospect in the Cleveland system before the Padres gave up a top-notch closer in Brad Hand to acquire Mejia at last year's trade deadline. He has the pedigree and batted ball profile to be an elite catcher. The results have taken a while but they should be here to stay now that he's getting regular playing time.

 

Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Here we have another former top catching prospect that is thriving in his chance with a new team. Kelly was the "catcher of the future" for the Cardinals for a long time but was always blocked by sure-fire Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. Now with Arizona, Kelly is taking his chance to start and running with it.

Where Kelly really stands out is points leagues or any league that uses on-base percentage. His .352 OBP is fifth among all catchers with at least 100 plate appearances, but he's no slouch in the power department either. Kelly has 17 homers on the season and is slugging an elite .537, third among all catchers.

The best part about Kelly is everything he's done to this point seems sustainable. He sports elite plate discipline with a sub-20 percent strikeout rate and a stellar 12.1 percent walk rate. When he does swing the bat he makes hard contact a whopping 51.9 percent of the time and sports a 90.1 percent average exit velocity per Statcast. He's still available in roughly 75 percent of Yahoo leagues and that number needs to be significantly higher.

 

Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds

The name "Tucker Barnhart" doesn't generate much buzz in fantasy circles as he's played over 100 games each of the past three years and only has a .251 career batting average. Unlike the other names mentioned here, Barnhart doesn't have top-prospect pedigree and is a little older at 28 years of age. What he does have is a career-high 87 percent average exit velocity and a 1.020 OPS since the All-Star break which is second among all catchers in that time.

Like Mejia, Barnhart has been tearing it up in the second half. Unlike Mejia, the only real difference in Barnhart's game is he stopped striking out as much. Barnhart struck out 26.7 percent of the time in the first half and it resulted in a .191/.290/.315 slash line. Since the break, Barnhart cut his strikeout rate in half and is walking at an elite rate as well. His .441 OBP in the second half leads all catchers and he's hitting for power as well with a .246 ISO. If you're looking for a hot-hand play, Barnhart is as hot as any catcher not named Will Smith.

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 21

Today's piece covers a set of players who either should not be available on waivers or will return back there soon. Most of the earlier editions of this recurring buy or sell article have included several universally owned players whose values have been manipulated enough by early-season performances. Unfortunately, as we get deeper into the year, the regression fairies come to ruin every savvy owner's fun.

If you need a win in H2H or a particular category filled in rotisserie, buy or sell what you must to get to where you need.  The home stretch is dark and full of terrors. Injured and underperforming players can be let go if they are taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone much more productive. Players mentioned in this piece, and coming editions as we wind the season down, are more "add/drop" candidates rather than "buy/sells" given that trade deadlines are either passed or passing. Evaluate wisely.

Anyway, these buys and sells are worth noting for this upcoming week. Best of luck.

 

Undervalued Players - Week 21

 

Freddy Galvis - SS, CIN

32% owned

Galvis has had an underrated season thus far. His accomplishments in Toronto went mostly unnoticed because of how poor their offense was all season along with the fact that Galvis is an unreliable producer historically. He's presented *some* fantasy value throughout the years but never much to write home about.

Now, in Cincinnati, Galvis is surrounded by a more potent lineup (albeit just average) and plays in an even more favorable hitting park. The lack of DH is a bit of a hit to any player's value moving from the AL to NL, however, that is offset by the other factors. Galvis could be a reliable shortstop for anyone in need of a replacement going forward, and could even be an upgrade for some.

 

Matt Beaty - UTIL, LAD

2% owned

Matt Beaty came into the year as an unknown commodity and has made a name for himself with consistent hitting. Beaty is an intriguing talent who is viable in most deeper formats. He walks almost as much as he strikes out and he's shown a bit of pop throughout the year with his 24 extra-base hits in fewer than 200 plate appearances. Beaty's minor league numbers coincide with what he's done thus far and as long as he's hitting, he should remain in the lineup, mostly against lefties.

Given the potential issues with Kike Hernandez's return, Beaty is not viable in shallower leagues but should be owned in roto and points formats. His multi-positional eligibility is a bonus for any owners in need of filling corner IF or OF spots.

 

Adrian Houser - SP, MIL

12% owned

Adrian Houser has come out of nowhere and presented himself as a legitimate option to add. He's viable as a streamer for his next two matchups, both of which are against St. Louis (one home, one away). Afterward, the schedule is rough with the Astros and Cubs, unless a start gets pushed, then he'll face the Marlins. Houser's ERA and xFIP are very close and his SIERA is below four as well. He's striking out more than a batter per inning and not getting any BABIP luck to boost him.

Houser is worth grabbing and holding for a bit, with hopes that he can get pushed one day back over the next two weeks then it's smooth sailing until the last week of the season. Things look legit, but if it gets choppy, jump ship.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 21

 

Jeff Samardzija - SP, SF

62% owned

Samardzija's had a fantastic season thus far. The juiced ball has not seemed to affect his surface numbers, but the decline in his peripherals should not go unnoticed. Shark is outperforming his xFIP and SIERA by more than a run, and his schedule to end the year is pretty rough. Over the next few weeks, he has to face the Cubs in Chicago, Dodgers in LA and Red Sox in Boston, a brutal stretch that could wreck what's been a magnificent season thus far.

Luckily, he has the safety net of ATT Park to rely on to suppress runs for a handful of his other starts. Shark is a big regression candidate for the last month of the year and can potentially be dropped in shallower H2H leagues.

 

Daniel Vogelbach - 1B/DH, SEA

44% owned

Vogelbach's hot start to the year has been significantly slowed down with the unraveling of the Mariners. Voggy looked like the second coming of Frank Thomas before regression hit, and now he's looking like a poor man's Kyle Schwarber. He's still decent in OBP leagues due to his 16 percent walk rate, but he is still home run or bust when it comes to hitting the ball.

With the extremely poor team context and unfavorable home park, it is probably best to cut Vogelbach loose to create a streaming spot or for for a hot bat.

 

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Managing For The Stretch Run

If you've gotten this far into the season and remain firmly in contention, congratulations! The fantasy baseball season is a grind, and maintaining a competitive squad for four and a half months presents a challenge to which many owners can't measure up.

Still, as we approach the playoffs for those of you in head-to-head leagues or the mad dash of the final weeks in rotisserie formats, it's important to note that the endgame often requires a different approach. What makes sense in April doesn't always work in August or September, and failure to adjust could lead to the death of your championship dreams.

How can you avoid such a fate? Let us discuss.

 

Crunch Time

As an active owner, you likely feel quite aware of your team's strengths and weaknesses - but even the most involved fantasy players can miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes you're simply too close to the situation to notice certain details. That's what makes team logs and splits one of the most useful tools in the discerning owner's arsenal. It's easy to look at the season-long stats for players on your roster - most platforms default either to this view, or the current day's performances - but what that simple glance won't tell you is how much your squad has actually benefited from those numbers, or when they were accumulated. Say you own one of the dozen players who has already hit 30 or more home runs. You'd feel pretty good about that, right? But if that player has only gone deep twice in the last month - coincidentally, right around when you traded for him - those warm and fuzzies quickly dissipate. His season-long production doesn't reflect the value, or lack thereof, provided to your squad. In this scenario, looking at either your team log or the "last 30 days" split gives you the real story. It may or may not be time to make a move in this hypothetical scenario, but at least the scales have fallen from your eyes.

Another common mistake fantasy owners make is making decisions - whether they be trades or waiver transactions - without considering their team's specific situation. Say you receive a trade offer from a rival who wants to send you Mallex Smith for Patrick Corbin. Sounds ridiculous in a vacuum, right? The kind of deal you'd immediately reject and then snark about to fellow players. But no trade exists in a vacuum, especially not this late in the year. There are plenty of scenarios in which this deal would make sense for you to accept, the most obvious being that you could gain several points in the standings by adding the handful of stolen bases Smith will contribute. Perhaps you're also on pace to exceed your league's inning limit by early September, making Corbin significantly less valuable to you moving forward. The other owner has done what you haven't - he's checked the standings and put together a proposal that reflects them.

By the same token, you shouldn't be afraid to make a move that appears like an obvious loss on the surface if it helps you. The closer we get to the finish line, the more it makes sense to prioritize immediate returns on investment. In a head-to-head league where you're fighting to make the playoffs, your best play could well be to trade or cut an injured player you'd normally hold onto for someone who can help now. Sure, they'll be back in a few weeks if their rehab goes well. But there's no guarantee that the player you're waiting on returns at full strength - and if you don't make the playoffs, it doesn't matter anyway.

Lastly, this is the time of the season for loving to embrace churning the bottom of your roster. Early on, it makes sense to use your bench as more of a stashing ground as we wait to see how things develop. At this point, though, it's all hands on deck. Any player not actively helping your cause is hurting you, and unless you're in a keeper or dynasty league, there's a much lower risk of regret if you toss someone back onto the waiver wire because you're only missing out on a few weeks' worth of production instead of a few months. Whereas I spend much of the year preaching patience and encouraging the long view, the last six weeks or so demands a certain degree of impetuousness. The bottom line is that time is running out, and every day that passes is one fewer day you have to recover from the mistakes that inevitably pile up over a period of several months. And as we draw closer to the season's end, the more drastic these kind of decisions may need to be.

Keep trusting your instincts - just be ready to take decisive action when the moment requires it.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 20 - Buy or Sell?

Since the past few weeks, through players like Trey Mancini, have demonstrated that a player's track record is more important than their Statcast numbers during a hot or cold spell, it's time to reorient a little towards season numbers. Each player's entry starts with a line of their key numbers over the course of the full season.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through August 12 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Giovanny Urshela (3B, NYY)

Rising via: 7 HR in last 14 days (T-2nd, MLB). Full season marks: SLG: .587 vs .542x. BA: .332 vs .316x. HR/BAR: 18/22. BB-K%: 5.7-15.7. Average contact: 91.1 mph at 14.4 deg (94.5 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Another reason to focus on season numbers is the unsustainability of hot streaks. No one would even presuppose that Urshela is a true-talent 81-home run hitter. And so taking his .980 SLG since July 30 and using the lesser .808 xSLG to say he's over-performed isn't a terribly surprising development.

But wait, .808? That's one of the highest streak-only xSLG's that this column has seen. And what it's done for Urshela's full season is amazing. He may still be over-performing a bit full-season, but he hasn't gotten this far on light contact. If only he'd gotten everyday playing time a bit sooner, some of us may have more shares than we do since perhaps we wouldn't have picked him up in June only to drop him after a period of two starts in five days. No, I'm not bitter.

 

Mike Tauchman (OF, NYY)

Rising via: 6 HR in last 14 days (T-4th, MLB). Full season marks: .294 BA vs .242x; .567 SLG vs .416x. HR/BAR: 12/12. BB-K%: 11.4-25.6. Average contact: 88.7 mph at 12.1 deg (91.6 mph EVAB). Verdict: Sell.

Nothing in Tauchman's season profile is promising for long-term home run potential, especially his xSLG and EVAB. Is there something in the streak? Well, a .560 xSLG is fine, but you want to see better contact than that in a hot streak. It's certainly not enough contact sustained for long enough to suspect this is the new Tauchman.

The good news for Tauchman is he's already a relatively selective hitter looking at the walk rate. That can help him find better pitches to hit over time. But Tauchman needs to show a lot more when he does swing before much legitimacy can be given to his performance this season.

 

Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, ATL)

Rising via: 8 HR in last 14 days (1st, MLB). Full season marks: .298 BA vs .286x; .538 SLG vs .560x. HR/BAR: 33/53. BB-K%: 9.9-24.6. Average contact: 90.7 mph at 14.3 deg (95.3 mph EVAB). Verdict: Buy.

Strikeouts are the only weakness in Acuna's game at the plate, which, when that means a K% of just about a quarter of plate appearances, is hardly a weakness at all in 2019. In the latest Acuna hot streak he is striking out over 30% of the time, but with the kind of contact Acuna makes, such a small sample K% means little.

In fact, Acuna's power output in 2019 has been somewhat on the low side given his Statcast numbers: his xISO of .274 beats his actual .240 mark, and his ratio of home runs to barrels is a little on the low side. Even if he didn't steal bases -- which, of course, he does -- Acuna would be a top fantasy player. And he doesn't turn 22 until December.

 

Hunter Dozier (3B, KC)

Rising via: 6 HR in last 14 days (T-4th, MLB). Full season marks: .285 BA vs .282x; .561 SLG vs .511x. HR/BAR: 22/31. BB-K%: 10.9-22.3. Average contact: 92.4 mph at 16.7 deg (95.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Dozier hit a bit of a possibly injury-related rut around the All-Star Break, going 15 games without a home run from June 26 to July 15. He managed three in the rest of July and now has three two-homer games in August alone. So much for the cold streak. Once again, season numbers become a better sample.

And Dozier's are good. His expected slugging rate drags 50 points below his actual mark, but that's about it for the warning signs. His HR-barrel ratio is within league norms, he has a good launch angle, EVAB, and plate discipline. The Royals don't offer a ton of RBI chances and there are better sources of power out there, but Dozier is a legitimate second-tier power producer.

 

Carlos Correa (SS, HOU)

Rising via: 5 HR in 19 games off IL, all in past 14 days. Full season marks: .297 BA vs .295x; .577 SLG vs .536x. HR/BAR: 17/24. BB-K%: 9.7-24.2. Average contact: 89.6 mph at 10.7 deg (96.9 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Correa didn't need much of a post-IL readjustment period. He started hitting again after only a week or so back from his rib injury. In the past 14 days he's hit .349/.440/.767 in 11 games. Statcast only sees a .614 xSLG during this run, however.

Nevertheless, with someone like Correa, that's not a major issue. Yes, 2018 was a down year, but he appears much closer to the 2017 version this season. So a .614 xSLG for Correa is more believable than, for example, Tauchman's .560 over the same period. Correa's produced a couple extra home runs than his contact would indicate, but nothing that should make his shareholders uncomfortable for the stretch run.

 

Power Fallers

Buster Posey (C, SF)

Falling via: 0 HR in August, 1 since July 16. Full season marks: .254 BA vs .253x; .386 SLG vs .417x. HR/BAR: 6/13. BB-K%: 7.8-15.6. Average contact: 89.0 mph at 11.1 deg (92.9 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Sell.

Posey hasn't hit the ball hard enough or high enough to make much noise in 2019. The number of barrels might suggest more than six home runs but little else does. The good part about being a relatively low-walk and low-K player is extra chances to go long. As someone who ends 76.6% of his plate appearances with contact, Posey should have more chances to go long but it hasn't been there.

So perhaps Posey is one homer shy of where he "should" be based on his contact, but it's not much more than that. He's been in a fairly soft decline since 2016, and while this is the worst of it so far by far, power hasn't been Posey's thing even when he was doing well in 2017. With all sorts of catchers cruising past double-figures, Posey remaining stuck in the singles is an unavoidable concern.

 

Christian Walker (1B, ARI)

Falling via: 3 HR in 107 AB since ASB, none since July 30 (until Tuesday). Full season marks: .263 BA vs .262x; .477 SLG vs .504x. HR/BAR: 20/38. BB-K%: 11.1-27.1. Average contact: 91.3 mph at 15.3 deg (96.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Buy.

Walker's Statcast numbers for 2019 as a whole still look pretty good. Even if pitchers have adjusted somewhat since the All-Star Break, a .430 xSLG in that time makes for a decent comparison to his .381 actual SLG. Overall, his barrel rate leaves room for a few more homers -- as one example, he flew out on a 395-foot fly on July 13 -- and his 96.2 mph remains excellent. Speaking less than scientifically, because contact must be 95 mph minimum to qualify as a barrel, averaging more than that in the air feels like the cutoff between good and not-so-good exit velocity in the air. Walker clears that line comfortably.

Walker strikes out a bit more than you like but his surname is appropriate for the number of bases he takes on balls, and even during relatively lean times he's still finding the seats occasionally. Walker's power output in 2019 continues to justify a starting spot on the Diamondbacks and a roster spot for most fantasy teams.

 

Corey Seager (SS, LAD)

Falling via: 2 HR since June 1, just 1 since return from injury at ASB. Full season marks: .265 BA vs .239x; .441 SLG vs .409x. HR/BAR: 10/16. BB-K%: 9.7-18.9. Average contact: 88.4 mph at 13.4 deg (93.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Sell (in 2019).

Seager has never really been able to get things going in 2019 after missing the last five months of 2018. He had a very nice calendar month from May 12 to June 11 (6 HR in 110 PA, .354/.409/.646), but has struggled before and after.

Since the All-Star Break, when Seager returned from a hamstring injury, his .354 SLG is pretty much backed by a .388 xSLG. His good month in late May/early June has not been enough to sustain optimism-inducing Statcast numbers for the season as a whole. The 2019 is looking like a lost cause in the power department as well as overall. His 2020 price ought could end up sufficiently depressed as to make for a good investment in March, but the better bet right now is to expect little for the remainder of 2019.

 

Aaron Judge (OF, NYY)

Falling via: Last homered August 4, July 19 before that. Full season marks: .268 BA vs .280x; .463 SLG vs .541x. HR/BAR: 12/29. BB-K%: 17.0-29.3. Average contact: 96.7 mph at 10.4 deg (99.2 mph EVAB). Verdict: Buy.

Despite his results so far in 2019, Aaron Judge is still Aaron Judge. It's hard to barrel up a baseball 29 times while only homering 12, but Judge has pulled off the feat. Judge's x-Stats would make almost any other player jealous. The cold streak is a rarity: since July 20 he has a .512 xSLG but just a .326 SLG; usually cold streaks feature weak contact, but not this one. A whopping 10 barrels have produced just one 389-foot home run, while 413 and 406 have produced only doubles with 378, 372, and 370 producing outs.

If there's one flag in Judge's profile, it's that he's wasting a lot of hard contact on the ground; his 94.5 exit velocity on grounders is 1.4 mph higher than the next guy with 50 batted balls (teammate Mike Ford). The guy who hit 52 home runs in 2017 has yet to return, but this version of Judge is plenty good enough to believe in as the season winds down.

 

Mark Canha (OF, OAK)

Falling via: no HR since July 27. Full season marks: .255 BA vs .235x; .506 SLG vs .433x. HR/BAR: 17/17. BB-K%: 13.8-21.3. Average contact: 88.3 mph at 16.7 deg (93.6 mph EVAB). Verdict: Mostly Sell.

The Week 17 riser has fallen on hard times. He's continued to walk but the strikeouts have ticked up and the contact continues to be underwhelming. His xSLG just since July 28 is .391.

Canha does get the launch angle right, but with the 93.6 mph EVAB, he's not making enough use of it. Even in week 17 Canha's power looked like a bit of a sell, and it still does now.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Max Kepler Another HR despite .167/.211/.333 19-PA line
Trey Mancini 26-PA .286/.423/.714 with 3 HR, 5 BB continues the rise
Paul Goldschmidt BABIP-driven .438/.471/.625 includes HR #26
Jeff McNeil .267 .389 .600 and another HR; hamstring MRI coming Wed.
Adam Duvall 0 BB, 0 HR, 4 K in 20 PA as pitchers may now have the book

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update (8/6-12)
Yasiel Puig Back in HR column and .375/.423/.667 line despite 1 BB/8 K
Franmil Reyes Same 1 BB/8 K ratio but also back in HR column (Monday 8/12 and Tuesday 8/13)
Garrett Cooper .286/.348/.333 helped by .400 BABIP as home run ride still appears over
Nick Senzel Finally homered again breaking big drought but .158/.200/.316 line did not inspire
Shohei Ohtani Drought continues as .318/.318/.409 fed by BABIP (o BB, 8 K in 22 more PA)

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Buy or Sell: Undervalued and Overvalued Players for Week 20

Today's piece covers a set of players who either should not be available on waivers or will return back there soon. Most of the earlier editions of this recurring buy or sell article have included several universally owned players whose values have been manipulated enough by early-season performances. Unfortunately, as we get deeper into the year, the regression fairies come to ruin every savvy owner's fun.

Nevertheless, there is nothing worse than seeing one of your guys continually underperform. However, if that is the case, eight times out-of-ten it is most prudent to hold on until they at least get hot to then sell. Contrarily, do not buy high, unless it is in your best interest to win now and that player fills a particular need. These rules can be broken as we get down the stretch of the season and every win matters. If you need a win in H2H or a particular category filled in rotisserie, buy or sell what you must to get to where you need.  The home stretch is dark and full of terrors. Injured and underperforming players can be let go if they are taking up a roster spot that could be filled by someone much more productive. Evaluate wisely.

Anyway, these buys and sells are where your focus should be for this upcoming week. Best of luck dealing.

 

Undervalued Players - Week 20

These players could be worth trying to add or acquire as long as you're not paying for preseason value. Ideally, they are just lying around on your wire and you can add them straight up or for a few extra FAAB dollars.

 

Anthony DeSclafani - SP, CIN

25% owned

For those of you unaware, Anthony DeSclafani is also known as Tony Disco, possibly the best nickname in all of baseball. He is a folk hero who deserves some attention going forward, partly because of how he's been pitching recently, and also because of his upcoming schedule. Very plainly, his next few matchups are (in order) against the Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Mariners. None of these teams are in the top half of the league (Nationals on the fringe) against RHP.

Since his last blow-up outing on June 23rd, Disco's ERA is 3.23 and his xFIP is a solid 3.99. He's striking out more than a batter per inning and has had to face some pretty rough offenses in this stretch. With this coming schedule, it's possible that he takes an even bigger step forward this season and lowers his ERA further while providing strikeouts and even some wins. This coming outing against the Nationals could get rough given the talent at the top of the lineup, but it's smooth sailing afterward. The only thing that might get in his way is the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. Take a chance on Tony Disco, he could be a valuable back-end bench SP for your playoff run.

 

Nick Anderson - RP, TB

17% owned

Nick Anderson won't get you many saves right now, but what he is doing is still incredible. It feels as if every game Anderson has pitched over the past month has just repeated the same line. One inning, two strikeouts, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP. It's Groundhog's Day every time he touches the ball. The Rays loved him (and Trevor Richards) enough to trade one of their top hitting prospects and it seems as if they are getting some immediate return for that value.

Anderson is Hader-ing from 2018 since getting traded. The underlying numbers are legitimately absurd even since last month (albeit small sample size). The Rays are savants when it comes to pitching and might have tweaked Anderson to become even better. His ERA on the year is about a full run higher than his xFIP/SIERA. He's a pickup in almost every league but could be best in roto. 10-teamers should even grab him for the ratio/strikeout boost.

 

Seth Lugo - RP, NYM

35% owned

With Edwin Diaz struggling this season, there is an opportunity for Seth Lugo to steal some saves the rest of the way. Lugo has by far been the Mets' best reliever and arguably one of the best in all of baseball in 2019. On Saturday night, manager Mickey Callaway allowed Lugo to pitch the ninth even after giving up a game-tying run in the eighth.

Lugo is likely not going to close too many games (mainly due to the fact that he goes more than one inning occasionally), but even then, he provides enough value with his ratios and strikeouts to boost your roster.

 

Overvalued Players - Week 20

Overvalued does not always mean SELL. Players here are just showing enough red flags that warrant the overvalued tag and could even be dropped if they have not produced enough.

 

Aristides Aquino - OF, CIN

54% owned

The power in Aquino is legit. His Statcast numbers are bananas as he is crushing balls at speeds above 118 MPH. However, he is unfortunately not going to be hitting a home run every game going forward. The regression fairies will come to bite as they do with all. If your trade deadline has not yet passed, do everything you can to move AA.

Aside from the ridiculous ISO and BABIP he currently holds (both above .500), regression will come by the way of strikeouts as well. There are holes in Aquino's swing that opposing pitchers will take advantage of as more major league film comes out on him. This heater could last another week or two, but with the playoffs coming up, you do not want to feel the need to hold onto someone slumping just because of what they provided for a stretch of games.

 

Danny Santana - UTIL, TEX

77% owned

Danny Santana has been a useful fantasy asset in 2019. His all-category production from the waiver wire is a welcome addition to any roster. Unfortunately, his .385~ BABIP and .260~ ISO are much higher than they should be for the rest of the season. He doesn't have much name value but could be sold off as a secondary piece in a deal for a better player.

Santana should provide decent value in leagues for the rest of the year, but with Joey Gallo out of the lineup, there has been a significant drop-off in the Rangers' offense as a whole which could hurt Santana's run/RBI numbers.

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On The Value of Rankings

If you read my work last season, you may remember that 2018 was an uncommonly lean year in terms of personal fantasy success. Actually kinda hope you don't remember, because if you do that probably means I complained about it too often. Alas.

Anyway, in reflecting on the root causes of these struggles, one of the theories I developed was that compiling rankings had ceased to be a productive exercise for me; they were a hindrance, rather than a help. Simply put, they were anchoring my values too much.

So when it came time to put together RotoBaller's preseason rankings for 2019, I opted out of participating for the first time in the five years I've been with this here website. While there remains much to be determined, my results thus far this season have been notably improved. Case closed: Rankings are bad. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

 

Rank Hypocrisy

Obviously, it's not that simple. And a good thing too, since I've got to squeeze another 500 words out of this premise. We've discussed it in the this space before, but knowing your own tendencies is one of the most critical components of sustained success in fantasy baseball. It's probably important for sustained success in other things, too. If I ever have sustained success in something besides this game, I'll let y'all know.

Self-deprecation aside, understanding the way you play the game is crucial. In my case, I gravitate toward a somewhat risk-averse approach. It became apparent that last season, I clung too tightly to my preseason valuations as a result of that natural tendency. It made me too slow to react to what was happening, and as a result the Juan Sotos of the world landed on rosters that belonged to others, while I waited in vain for guys like Domingo Santana to get it together.

A question you may be asking yourself, besides whether or not you should keep reading this because we're getting particularly navel-gazey this week, is : If I've been doing rankings for years, why didn't they have the same negative effect in other seasons? That seems like it might be part of the problem. I had generally been successful, and the longer I occupied a position of relative authority as a paid analyst, the more difficult it became to pivot when my priors turned out to be garbage. When you spend a lot of time honing something, it's tough to let go.

Accordingly, in addition to not publishing rankings, I mostly avoided those published by others. It's also why you saw significantly fewer offseason columns with my byline. The goal was to recharge for the season ahead, and put off diving into the data for long enough that I would only have time to get the lay of the land and not wind up missing the forest for the trees.

Is this approach viable for everyone? Probably not. Like so much else about this game, it's subjective. The exercise of ranking 400 players just stopped being valuable enough to me to invest the time and effort required. That doesn't mean I didn't prepare as usual for my drafts, up to and including the construction of customized spreadsheets for most of them because I am a giant nerd. I just didn't start thinking about them in December or spend hours slaving over which NL Central utility guy might be better than the other.

Instead, I relied more on intuition backed by the strong research foundation I'd already developed. That may not sound terribly different, but even that subtle change yielded positive results.

Is it possible that I was simply luckier this year than last? Absolutely. We could be back here in August 2020 and I'll be whining about how taking a hands off approach to preseason prep brought nothing but ruin. But it feels like this year was the discovery a sweet spot between winging it and overthinking it.

Or maybe I'm just jealous of Mariano. Either way.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.

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Power Hitting Risers & Fallers for Week 19 - Buy or Sell?

The last edition of Power Hitting Risers & Fallers came out on the trade deadline. News had broken about a big trade involving Cleveland. So far, in this very young post-deadline campaign, both sluggers Cleveland acquired have had a rough couple of weeks. Before we get there, there's the happier news of several risers to get to. That part will be happier for some more than others, however.

Weekly reminders: EVAB (pronounced ee-vab or ev-ab) is simply exit velocity on "air balls" - meaning fly balls and line drives, as shown on Statcast. Isolated power -- ISO -- is slugging percentage minus batting average, and so xISO is xSLG minus xBA. The Statcast Search feature is used to obtain partial season Statcast numbers. The league-wide ratio of barrels to home runs is historically around 67-70%.

Now, for this week's risers and fallers. Stats are through August 5 unless otherwise noted.

 

Power Risers

Max Kepler (OF, MIN)

Kepler is on another power run, with 10 home runs since the All-Star Break that ranks behind only insane teammate Nelson Cruz (14). He's been a bit lucky to get there, with just a .488 xSLG since the break. His launch angle has actually fallen over this stretch but is still a solid 15.2 degrees (17.8 on the season).

That said, Kepler has 31 home runs on the season with 33 barrels and a 93.5 mph EVAB. The barrel rate, overall exit velocity, and launch angle are all improvements on 2018, so the 2019 breakout is real in that sense. But Kepler's contact quality this season hasn't quite justified his lofty stats. His xSLG on the year is nearly 100 points below his slugging percentage (.463 vs .556).

This isn't necessarily the time to sell high on Kepler, certainly not in any kind of challenge trade. He's a more trustworthy power hitter for the last two months than, say, Khris Davis. But unless Kepler starts hitting the ball harder, he won't be a truly fear-worthy home run hitter.

 

Trey Mancini (1B, BAL)

What a difference three weeks makes. Back then, Mancini had gone 14 games without a home run due to trouble finding the right launch angle. Now, he has nine home runs in his last 19 games, and already his 26 home runs this year are a career-high.

Thing is, Mancini still hasn't quite begun hitting the ball in the "sweet spot" lately either. While his launch angle in the past three weeks has averaged 9.5 degrees, an improvement over 6.4 degrees, his sweet spot percentage has not improved so much: 17 out of 59 batted balls, 28.8% of the time.

So the sweet spot isn't the answer really either. His average exit velocity in that sample is 93.3 mph, although Mancini's power numbers going back to Week 16 haven't shown much correlation with that stat either. Nonetheless, the barrels have returned, with eight in the 19 games. With someone like Mancini, it's time to just trust him, and with full-season numbers like a 96.2 mph EVAB and 35 barrels, his 26 homers are perfectly legitimate.

 

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL)

At this point, Goldschmidt appears to be one of the streakier hitters in baseball. Last year, there was the terrible May followed by three great months. This year, Goldschmidt hit a fairly long rut from April 23 through July 4 (covered in Week 9) but has 11 homers in 26 games since including six in a row from July 22-27.

As with Mancini, let's not try to interpret each hot and cold streak for Goldschmidt. We do know that Goldschmidt's contact has mostly justified his current hot run given a .631 xSLG for a .674 SLG, and this despite 89.0 mph average exit velocity. And his 17.7-degree launch angle is a somewhat substantial change, bringing his season angle up to 14.5 degrees.

But over the full season, Goldschmidt's contact has declined since last season. He isn't hitting the ball as high or as hard as last season, and it's visible also in a falling xSLG and barrel rate. From a full season view, then, Goldschmidt simply is not as good as he has been before. The current hot streak may maintain, but the possibility he hits another cold spell appears slightly stronger based on how his full season has gone. That said, while he's worse now, he's not at all bad.

 

Jeff McNeil (OF/IF, NYM)

Entering the All-Star Break, Jeff McNeil was a powerful source of batting average, but not power, hitting .349/.409/.509. Since the break, however, he has exploded for a .294/.381/.612 slash line including seven home runs in 97 plate appearances.

Before the break, McNeil was averaging 89.1 mph at 13.3 degrees on his contact. Since the All-Star break, it is 88.5 mph at 16.7 degrees. That alone does not explain such a substantial leap in power output. Nor has McNeil's approach at the plate appeared to have changed, with a 7-17 BB-K ratio after the break vs. 18-38 before. So this simply seems to be a case of good luck. Confirming this: he somehow only has two barrels since the break despite the seven bombs.

It's probably good news for McNeil's fantasy owners that his approach doesn't seem to have changed. It would be not great (Bob) if the average declined and the homers dried up. As long as McNeil remains true to himself, he should keep delivering in batting average over time. But don't expect the power ride to continue.

 

Adam Duvall (OF, ATL)

Duvall fell hard from back-to-back 30-home run seasons in 2016 and '17, hitting .195 in 2018 and spending months in 2019 in the minors. Since getting called up on July 27 (while leading the International League with 29 home runs), Duvall has homered five times in just 10 games and 42 plate appearances.

With a 99.6 mph EVAB, plenty of balls in the air thanks to a 22.8-degree launch angle, and six barrels, Duvall's hot start to his 2019 MLB campaign is more real than not. But he has also remained strikeout prone, fanning in one-third of his PA so far.

Duvall's success this season is somewhat reminiscent of Austin Riley's earlier in the year. The power is legitimate but the approach is wanting. Ride the hot streak but don't buy in too hard and become unwilling to move on if/when the cold spell hits.

 

Power Fallers

Yasiel Puig (OF, CLE)

Puig was in a bit of a power decline even before his trade from Cincinnati to Cleveland, so don't blame it on the park. Puig's last bomb came back on July 15 at Wrigley Field. Two days later, he struck out three times, and overall since July 16 he's hitting .225/.304/.310. In that span, his average contact has been 86.8 mph at 11.1 degrees, both marks substantially lower than his full 2019 numbers.

The launch angle is almost in line with Puig's career 12.5 angle, but far below the 16.0 degrees he's reached in 2019 as a whole. What's really changed for Puig is his walk and strikeout figures. He's in line for a career-low 5.9 BB% while his 21.5% strikeout rate would be his worst since his rookie campaign. That said, the higher launch angle has probably helped Puig sustain in home runs (22 in 105 games this year, 23 in 125 last) even as his OPS has fallen from his Dodgers years.

The Indians have Puig hitting 6-for-18 with two walks and two K's, which are promising but extremely early and likely close to meaningless returns. That said, if his plate discipline does improve, Puig could well be rewarded with more hittable pitches, which could, in turn, return him to that extremely hot June 15-July 15 period (11 HR, .372/.421/.826). For now, however, treat that as a streak and temper expectations going forward (although Puig will, of course, go deep again at some point).

 

Franmil Reyes (DH, CLE)

Like his new teammate Puig, Reyes was in a bit of a trough prior to being sent to Cleveland, the city whose river used to regularly catch fire. Unlike Puig, Reyes has not shown positive signs since the trade, which is the more concerning since Reyes moved from an easier park to hit in. Franmil is hitting just .105/.100/.158 in his first 20 PA with Cleveland and put up four strikeouts on August 4. And since the All-Star Break to include the end of his run in San Diego, Reyes has only two homers while hitting .222/.306/.365.

It's not as if Reyes has stopped hitting the ball hard. He's averaged 92.9 mph on all contact since the break, doing it with a 9.9-degree launch angle. And of his four barrels, two are the home runs while the other two went over 380 feet. But overall, he's only posted a .387 xSLG, thanks in part to 21 strikeouts in 72 PA (29.2%).

Reyes on the season still is one of baseball's hardest hitters, with a 97.4 mph EVAB that ranks fifth among players with 200 total batted ball events. But given the six K's in just his last two games, it seems pitchers are playing on his free-swinging ways. Perhaps Reyes is pressing with his new team. Either way, something has to change if he's going to get back to his 25-HR first half. Given how hard he's hit the ball when he does make contact, his strikeouts seem to be the main problem. He's succeeded in the past with moderately high rates already and should ultimately do so again.

 

Garrett Cooper (1B/OF, MIA)

After hitting a two-run homer as part of a 2-for-3, two-walk day on July 16, Cooper was hitting .315/.389/.520 with 11 home runs and looked like one of the big breakouts of the summer. But he hasn't gone long since, with three walks against 24 strikeouts in just 66 plate appearances.

The good version of Cooper had an xSLG of .506, but there were also warning signs such as a 1.7-degree launch angle. The struggling version of Cooper has only gotten it up to 4.3 degrees. It was always going to be difficult to sustain his home run power without hitting the ball higher. He's also averaging just 86.4 mph during his slump.

Pitchers have clearly found a way to exploit Cooper based on the 36.4% strikeout rate that 24 out of 66 represents. Too many strikeouts and too low a launch angle is a recipe for dead power, and until at least one of those changes, Cooper will continue to struggle.

 

Nick Senzel (OF, CIN)

Sometimes fallers stay fallers for a while. Senzel has not gone deep since June 21, a span of 122 plate appearances during which he's hit .286/.339/.393. Senzel's averages of 88.7 mph at 7.9 degrees don't seem to scream homer-less, but that is where he's at.

Senzel's calling card has never been mammoth power anyway. He hit 14 home runs across High- and Double-A in 2017, his one full professional season to date. Given how his season started, it may be a little disappointing that the juiced ball hasn't helped him at all for well over a month now. But it's not terribly surprising.

Despite the long rut, Senzel is still benefiting from his early home run success, with his .458 SLG held up by just a .419 xSLG. His track record in both the Majors and minors certainly indicates something roughly in between those two numbers.

 

Shohei Ohtani (DH, LAA)

In his final series before the All-Star Break, Ohtani homered twice. That's twice as many as he's had since. He appears to still be seeing the ball well, having walked 11 times (10 unintentionally) in that span. And he's been fairly unlucky, with a .441 xSLG despite only a .338 SLG since the break.

Everything appears to be fine here. He's hitting the ball 91.3 mph at 12.5 degrees on average. That's a decline in EV, but more than a doubling in launch angle in 2019 (5.6) while also being a return to the level he established in 2018 (12.8 degrees).

Of all this week's fallers, Ohtani is the least concerning. It's no guarantee, but it would not be surprising if he left the yard a couple of times in the coming week.

 

Last Week's Risers

Player Last Week Update
Teoscar Hernandez 5-for-16 despite eight K's, no additional HR. Only one BB as well and streak may be over
Danny Santana 7-for-22 and another HR despite 0-7 BB-K, which is consistent with season-long form
Starling Marte .273/.304/.636 with 2 HR/3 SB
Nelson Cruz 21 total bases in 16 PA thanks to four more bombs, just unstoppable right now
Jose Altuve Left yard twice more, seems to be more himself at the plate each week

 

Last Week's Fallers

Player Last Week Update
Yasmani Grandal 2-for-22 without a HR, also 4 BB, week a microcosm of where he's been since fall began
Josh Bell 3-for-17 (3 BB, 4 K) with still no HR of late and it's getting more confusing by the week
Mike Moustakas .417/.462/.583, homered again, only struck out once; seems back on track
Ozzie Albies .269/.296/.385, 0 HR, still waiting on consistency
Charlie Blackmon .444/.474/.722 and a homer in just 4 games, 19 PA...at home, naturally

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Identifying Burnout for Starting Pitchers (Before It's Too Late!)

We live in the era of data. There are numbers everywhere, and more than in any other place (in the context of sports), in baseball. Statistics have been a fundamental part of the batted-ball rounds for decades now. And as couldn't be otherwise, more and more franchises are at the cutting edge, putting analysis to practice and employing the very best methods they can come up with to get the best results on the field.

One of the most sought after and talked about trends in baseball nowadays is that of pitchers' usage. Each passing year it seems we recognize how pitchers (or any player, for that matter) are humans at the end of the day and continuous and prolonged performance at a maximum level of effort can be quite taxing.

This is why starting pitchers, more than any other players in baseball, are seeing their work rates cut.

 

Where Do We Come From?

We just have to take a quick look at the data to see how this is indeed a fact. I have pulled every starting pitcher-season from 2010 to 2019 from Fangraphs. There are 762 player-seasons in the dataset. Then, I've plotted every player-season in the next chart (excluding those of 2019 to not introduce noise while calculating the trendline):

The circles in red represent players with 30 or more starts and the circles in green those with fewer than 30. The size, although not very appreciable, is also related to the number of games started.

I don't think there are any doubts left of what's going on. Each passing season there have been fewer starting pitchers throwing great amounts of innings.

 

Where Are We Headed?

If we add the 2019 player-seasons to the chart, we can see how the leaders of the pack are about to catch the trailers from past years:

That dot leading the way for the 2019 pitchers is Trevor Bauer. He's started 24 games by the date I obtained the data (August 2) with a combined 156.2 IP. Although he's still way behind Max Scherzer's 220.2 IP in 33 G last year, he's only less than five innings from getting on par with 2018 season's trailer Ivan Nova. The problem is that Bauer is going to catch him having pitched in five few games!

But we need to dig deeper and thread finer if we really need to know the truth. And the truth, in this case, is not hidden under games or innings pitched, but rather in pitches thrown.

Suppose Bauer were removing hitters on a one-pitch per PA basis (every throw becomes a groundout). He'd have thrown 156.2 IP * 3 batters per inning, which is a total of 468 plus two extra hitters, that is, a square 470 pitches. Ivan Nova threw a total of 2529 pitches last year. That is nothing abnormal. In fact, the abnormal would be to only throw 470 pitches to remove 470 batters. But you get the idea.

What the real data says is that while Ivan Nova took 2529 pitches to remove 683 batters (200 more than if he had only faced three per inning). That is an average of 3.7 pitches per batter. On the other hand, Trevor Bauer has thrown 2685 pitches and faced 664 batters for an average of 4.04 pitches per batter. As you can see, the load Bauer is carrying is already considerable and only looks like it gets even worse during the next few weeks.

 

Identifying Potential Burnouts - An Introductory Example

To try and find some potential pitchers with a high risk of burning out during the final stretch of the season I'm only going to use data from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. I am going to calculate differences from one year to another (from 2017 to 2018, and from 2018 to 2019), calculate some average metrics related to pitching, and find some burnout candidates.

My dataset includes 337 pitcher-seasons. Given that some starters have suffered injuries in that timeframe, others may have changed teams and roles, joined different rotations with different levels of talent, etc, I'm going to only look at pitchers which in 2018 played between seven more/seven fewer games from those they played in 2017, with a minimum of 23 G. That would get rid of some outliers. 62 of them did so.

Of those 62 starters, only four (Jameson Taillon, Blake Snell, Jose Berrios, and Zack Godley) played 7 G over what they did in 2017. Of those, though, only Zack Godley averaged more pitches per 9 IP (nine more, to be exact). The Diamondbacks burned Godley a little down the stretch, and what was a 3.37 ERA in 2017 became a 4.74 ERA in 2018. He allowed more walks and amassed fewer strikeouts (his K/BB ratio dropped from 3.11 to 2.28).

On the other hand, Jameson Taillon averaged 17 fewer pitches per 9 IP. That allowed him to lower his load over the long run. He threw a total of 2960 pitches, slotting behind 27 other pitchers during the 2018 season. As you may have guessed, his 2017 ERA of 4.44 improved to 3.20 in 2018, he maintained his K/9 ratio exactly the same and walked almost one fewer batter per nine IP. Load management seems to matter.

 

Identifying Potential Burnouts - Time To Find Our Candidates

Enough theory, and enough examples from the good old times. It's time to cut to the important thing, the current season.

To account for the season being still uncompleted and midway down the road, I'll use pro-rated stats to 30 G, which align with what we could expect in terms of games started by an ace nowadays. I will use those values also for the 2018 translation, so both seasons can be compared on the same terms.

Here are the pitchers that, at the current pace, would finish the season with 15 or more IP/30G than last season had they played exactly 30 games in both years:

Name 2018 IP/30G 2019 IP/30G Difference Increase Pct.
Lance Lynn 154 192 38 24.9%
Wade Miley 147 172 25 17.1%
Mike Minor 168 191 23 13.7%
Joey Lucchesi 150 167 17 11.1%
Sonny Gray 147 163 16 11.0%
Tyler Mahle 146 161 15 10.4%
Marcus Stroman 161 177 16 10.2%
Lucas Giolito 162 177 15 9.5%
Matthew Boyd 165 180 15 9.2%

Our old friend Shane Bieber barely missed the cut with a difference of 14 IP/30G between 2018 and 2019, as he was clearly surpassed by others, namely Lance Lynn (38), and not only in the pure count but also in the Increase Percentage.

As we already know, that is not half the truth, though, as we must account for thrown balls instead of innings. So here, instead of IP/30G deltas (the difference between one year and the next one), I have listed the pitchers with the highest deltas in terms of pitches thrown per 30G (min. Difference of 100):

Pitcher 2018 Pitches/30G 2019 Pitches/30G Difference Increase Pct.
Mike Minor 2734 3100 365 13.4%
Lance Lynn 2918 3217 299 10.2%
Luis Castillo 2688 2925 237 8.8%
Shane Bieber 2721 2954 233 8.6%
Sonny Gray 2523 2734 212 8.4%
Trevor Bauer 3113 3356 243 7.8%
Hyun-Jin Ryu 2596 2794 198 7.6%
Matthew Boyd 2768 2967 200 7.2%
Marcus Stroman 2695 2886 190 7.1%
Joey Lucchesi 2490 2648 158 6.3%
Chris Sale 2806 2977 171 6.1%
Jake Arrieta 2671 2821 150 5.6%
Charlie Morton 2688 2824 136 5.1%
Brad Keller 2828 2969 141 5.0%
Patrick Corbin 2856 2996 140 4.9%
Marco Gonzales 2652 2781 128 4.8%
Mike Leake 2708 2832 125 4.6%
Clayton Kershaw 2728 2852 124 4.5%
Noah Syndergaard 2894 3026 131 4.5%
Ivan Nova 2616 2734 118 4.5%
Julio Teheran 2712 2829 118 4.3%
Jon Gray 2710 2827 117 4.3%
Stephen Strasburg 2947 3063 116 3.9%
Jacob deGrom 3011 3120 109 3.6%
Eduardo Rodriguez 2889 2993 104 3.6%

Completely different story. These truly are the pitchers in danger of burning out down the road. These are the ones who are throwing more pitches per game than they did in 2018, by far. While it doesn't mean they are the ones throwing the most pitches overall (just look at the difference in projected pitches for Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray, for example), it shows who is throwing way over his standards and what he did last season.

Probably nobody would argue Lynn, Minor, and Bieber are aces well worth allowing an increase of their load given the potential return. But they could be slowly entering dangerous territory if they keep their current pace. And the same goes for quite some more starters.

You can take the data as you please, but to me, there is the main takeaway to extract from it and two solutions to at least try to solve it. If indeed performance decays with a higher number of pitches thrown (by one's standards and average, again, not compared to the rest of the league), then every single one of those pitches is to a certain extent risking their production level during the final weeks of the season. To solve this issue, either they "improve" their pitching (by removing batters earlier with fewer throws) or have their teams pull them off the games earlier.

Of course, both things are easier said than done. One can't just flip the switch and become a batter-killer overnight. No one will ever remove hitters on a single-pitch basis. It's nonsensical. And second, we all know most aces want the spotlight and to be on the mound for as long as possible, which could make difficult the game-time side of the equation. Not many pitchers will auto impose a pitch limit on themselves, nor will their teams be willing to dramatically reduce the number if they feel like they're getting the most out of them when they're out there in the field.

As for you owners out there, it'd be crazy to drop say, Luis Castillo, because he's on his way to throw more pitches than he did last season. Yes, there is the chance he burns out and ends with a steep decline in production, or that his team starts cutting playing time to maintain his performance at a high level.

At the end of the day, aces gonna ace, but keep an eye on those names just in case.

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