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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside of the strike zone than outside of the strike zone in terms of xwOBAcon between 2015 and 2019.

One implication of that split is that plate discipline and contact skills can have an impact on a hitter’s contact quality. But is that impact significant enough to make a difference for fantasy managers? And if changes in plate discipline and contact skills don’t drive contact quality changes, what does? 

This article is part one of a three-part series that will detail findings related to those questions. Part one will introduce the research and discuss the findings, part two will identify potential fantasy values for 2021 based on the findings, and part three will discuss the longer-term applications of the findings.

 

The Math

xwOBAcon can be broken down into four variables:

  1. zxwOBAcon: xwOBAcon against pitches inside of the strike zone.
  2. oxwOBAcon: xwOBAcon against pitches outside of the strike zone.
  3. zBBE%: Percent of batted balls against pitches inside of the strike zone.
  4. oBBE%: Percent of batted balls against pitches outside of the strike zone. Since oBBE% + zBBE% represents all of a hitter’s batted balls, oBBE% can be expressed as 1-zBBE%.

With those variables in mind, the following equation represents xwOBAcon:

xwOBAcon = (zxwOBAcon * zBBE%) + (oxwOBAcon * (1-zBBE%))

One way to determine how much influence each of those variables has on changes in xwOBAcon is to hold all other variables constant while applying a one standard deviation increase to the variable in question. The graph below shows both the scale of a one-standard-deviation change in each variable as well as the average effect of that change on xwOBAcon for the sampled hitters.

Although the standard deviation of season-to-season changes in zxwOBAcon is the smallest of the three variables, its effects on xwOBAcon are the most significant by far. Using 2020 weights for wOBA(2), a one-standard-deviation increase in zxwOBAcon would be the equivalent of a hitter adding more than six home runs to their home run total at the expense of outs(3), while a one-standard-deviation increase in oxwOBAcon is worth about two home runs, and a one-standard-deviation increase in zBBE% is worth about one home run.

That zBBE% is by far the least significant of the three variables in this regard does not mean that plate discipline and contact skills never drive changes in contact quality, but those skills are likely not worth focusing on when searching for potential xwOBAcon risers. Instead, fantasy managers should look for likely zxwOBAcon risers to spot contact quality based draft values.

 

Spotting zxwOBAcon Risers

Since season-to-season changes in zxwOBAcon (and each of the other variables) can be approximated by a normal distribution, around 16% of hitters will improve their zxwOBAcon by more than one standard deviation each season. Identifying the hitters likely to be a part of that top 16% will allow fantasy managers to find undervalued hitters in drafts.

One aspect of hitters who tend to find themselves in the top 16% of zxwOBAcon risers each season is that they are overwhelmingly rebound candidates(4). Rebound candidates account for 80% of hitters who increased their zxwOBAcon by at least one standard deviation in season x+2, despite making up just under half of the sampled hitters. And rebound candidates in general tend to see their zxwOBAcon increase season-to-season, especially compared to non-rebound candidates.

To some extent, that breakdown should be expected. That hitters don’t maintain all of their declines (or gains) in zxwOBAcon each season -- although valuable information -- is not particularly notable.

What is notable, though, is the extent to which rebound candidates bounce back season to season. The average rebound candidate posts a higher zxwOBAcon in season x+2 than they did in season x, and nearly two-thirds of rebound candidates post a zxwOBAcon in season x+2 that’s at least 95% of their zxwOBAcon in season x.

Still, not every rebound candidate is a lock to recoup most of their zxwOBAcon losses in season x+2. It’s not clear what separates hitters who bounce back from those who don’t -- the size of a hitter’s drop in zxOBAcon had no bearing on the size of their rebound -- but fantasy managers should probably expect less robust bouncebacks (or a continued decline) from hitters who saw their zxwOBAcon decline in two consecutive seasons(5).

Even so, with 60% of rebound candidates recovering all of their season x+1 zxwOBAcon losses (and then some) and three-quarters of rebound candidates posting a season x+2 zxwOBAcon that’s more than 90% of their zxwOBAcon in season x, rebound candidates available for steep discounts make for attractive draft picks.

 

What This Means For 2021

In part two, I’ll go into more detail on players who suffered most from drops in zxwOBAcon in 2020 and establish target draft pick ranges for those players. For now, here are the five hitters who saw their zxwOBAcon drop most between 2019 and 2020 (min. 100 batted ball events against pitches inside of the strike zone):

Player 2019 zxwOBAcon 2020 zxwOBAcon Difference
Joey Gallo 0.693 0.416 -0.277
Carlos Correa 0.549 0.368 -0.181
Yoan Moncada 0.505 0.359 -0.146
Josh Bell 0.513 0.369 -0.144
Cody Bellinger 0.532 0.398 -0.134

Joey Gallo jumps out as the biggest faller in zxwOBAcon by a wide margin. Based on the research outlined above, fantasy managers should not be concerned about the scale of Gallo’s decline in zxwOBAcon, and the relative likelihood of a bounceback season (in terms of contact quality) makes Gallo an attractive buy-low candidate if he falls in drafts.

Yoan Moncada is another player who is a good bet to rebound in 2021. Coronavirus-related drags on Moncada’s 2020 performance should (hopefully) be non-issues in 2021, and the data supports a zxwOBAcon rebound under normal circumstances. 

The last player I’ll touch on here is Cody Bellinger. Fantasy managers who may be worried about Bellinger’s steep performance drop off between 2019 and 2020 should prepare for him to rebound in a big way next season, and the 25-year-old represents a potential bargain in drafts because of his relatively poor 2020.

Notes:

  1. Players sampled were those who hit at least 200 batted balls against pitches inside of the strike zone and 50 batted balls against pitches outside of the strike zone. Each hitter/year combination counts as one hitter in the sample, so players may be counted multiple times if they qualify in multiple seasons.
  2. It’s worth noting that xwOBAcon is not the ideal metric for this exercise because the weights for each hit type change each season. xSLG is likely a more fitting metric for that reason, but xSLG was not available and xwOBAcon is still a serviceable metric.
  3. Or around 14 singles or several other combinations of improved batted ball production.
  4. For this article, rebound candidates are hitters who saw their zxwOBAcon decrease from season x to season x+1.
  5. Rebound candidates whose zxwOBAcon losses were mostly the result of launch angle struggles were no more or less likely to bounce back than those whose losses were mostly the result of exit velocity decreases. There were only 36 sampled instances of hitters posting zxwOBAcon losses in consecutive seasons with a third consecutive season of data, and that small sample size makes those impacts unclear.



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Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers from said situations. 

We will highlight players who could see a change in their given lineup position entering 2021 and the fantasy outlook. We will also discuss notable trends on batting orders that teams put out to finish the year and into the playoffs to try and gather an early idea of what to expect entering 2021. Lastly, there will be mention of players returning from injury and those that are entering free agency. 

Again, much will change. As players retire, sign, get traded, get injured or news breaks these notes will be updated. This is just a very early look to give drafters an advantage if things hold true. This is solely focusing on the lineups and offensive side of the ball. This is going to be a six-part series; we will start with the teams from the American League West. 

 

Oakland Athletics 

Key Free Agents: Tommy La Stella, Marcus Semien, Robbie Grossman, Jake Lamb

Returning from injury: Matt Chapman 

  • Both Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien are entering free agency leaving a hole to be filled atop the lineup. These two were often hitting first and second in the lineup. 16 of the final 21 games these two hit first and second in the order. The only players to sneak in during the five games were Laureano for three games at the leadoff spot, Grossman four times in the 2-holes
  • If they don’t re-sign either and look to utilize options within, the obvious options to move up are Matt Chapman and Ramon Laureano
  • Chapman was routinely hitting third or fourth but did get the occasional game batting second. Depending who gets brought in could determine where he lands in the batting order.
  • Worth noting is that Robbie Grossman did bat second in five of the final 11 games of 2020. This was with Chapman out of course. But he too could be on his way out as a free agent. 
  • Ramon Laureano fell out of favor and was batting towards the bottom of the lineup batting 6-8 in 14 of the final 16 games of the 2020 regular season. This trend continued into the playoffs. However, prior to the La Stella trade, he would consistently bat second for the most part. In the first 30 games, he hit second 25 times and in four of the games he didn't, he was out of the lineup. With La Stella and Semien out of the picture, he should find his way back up there. This is assuming they do not re-sign them or make other acquisitions. 

 

Texas Rangers

Key Free Agents: Shin-Soo Choo, Jeff Mathis

Returning from injury: Danny Santana, Elvis Andrus

  • Shin-Soo Choo is a free agent entering his age-38 season. He could call it quits. 
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit top-three (typically third) in each of the final 27 games of the season. I don’t see this changing. Solid contact skills that lead to a 14% strikeout rate and a .280 batting average. The fantasy value takes a hit as he loses catcher eligibility BUT he does offer a plus speed tool, stole eight bases in 2020 and is on a team that ranked 5th on stolen bases overall. He also offers 3B and SS eligibility so you pair that with potentially hitting top 3, it could lead to good value in deeper mixed leagues and AL-Only. 
  • Leody Taveras got the opportunity to get some run in 2020. Upon getting called up, he led off instantly. Even prior to Choo landing on the IL. He then went on to lead off in 26 of the remaining 33 games played in 2021. This included a stretch of leading off 23 straight. Of the 7 games he didn’t lead off, he hit ninth three times and then batted eighth, seventh and second one time each while only sitting once.
  • Taveras could start in the minors in 2021. Why the concern about that? Well, he only hit .227/.308/.395 and struck out 32.1% of the time in his short stint in 2020. Also, prior to 2020, he only played 65 games above High-A. Also, the return of Danny Santana and service time could also play a part. This is a situation to monitor.
  • Danny Santana returning will be in the mix for a spot at the top of the lineup. When he wasn’t injured he often found himself hitting second or third. You will likely see him get a chance to stick around there but at least in the top-five. Nick Solak and Willie Calhoun being the main competition for those spots in the order. All should remain in the top-five with Gallo likely slotting into the middle of it all. 
  • In the final 11 games of the season, Solak did hit second four times and third twice and fifth three times. He should be a sure thing for a top 5 lineup spot. 
  • Calhoun never really came around after getting hit in the face in spring training. He did, however, hit second in seven of the final 13 games of the season. Calhoun and Solak would seemingly swap lineup spots depending if they were facing LHP or a RHP. Calhoun would get the higher spot vs RHP. 
  • Andrus fell out of favor early on and never really got back to the top of the lineup after that. Not sure if he will get a shot or not. He fell to the seventh/eightth spot relatively quickly last year and could return there in 2021. A hot spring training could change that of course. 
  • Why is Jeff Mathis a “key free agent?" That’s because Sam Huff seems to be in line (as of now) to be the starting catcher entering 2021. That still is hard to buy for similar reasons as Taveras though. At just 22 years old, prior to 2020 he never played above High-A. It is hard to believe that he enters 2021 as the starting catcher but a mid-season call-up seems realistic at the very least. There is big time power potential here but could drag the batting average through the mud and the strikeouts are a concern. In terms of player comp on the offensive side, Gary Sanchez comes to mind. 

 

Los Angeles Angels

Key Free Agents: Andrelton Simmons

Returning from injury: Luis Rengifo and Franklin Barreto 

  • This is more interesting in terms of seeing how the lineup will shake out with the youth. You have Jo Adell coming into 2021 after a rough 2020. Do we see him start off in MiLB? Didn’t flash much in Triple-A in 2019 either so he might get a start down there. 
  • This lineup might be set in terms of David Fletcher leading off with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani hitting either in the 2-4 or 3-5 range.
  • This will depend on Jared Walsh who hit second in each of the final 15 games of 2020. This should be his spot to lose.
  • Upton went from a platoon bat to hitting every day. Not sure if he will return to hitting daily. But he would typically bat sixth and if they don’t sign anyone or find him a platoon partner, he could offer sneaky RBI upside late in drafts batting sixth in this lineup. 
  • It seems Franklin Barreto and Luis Rengifo will be fighting it out for the 2B spot. Although Jahmai Jones finished the season there. Having already logged 178 total games at Double-A, he could be in the mix as well. Whoever wins the spot likely bats at the bottom of the lineup. 

 

Seattle Mariners 

Key Free Agents: None

Returning from injury: Jake Fraley, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, Mitch Haniger, Shed Long Jr., Tom Murphy

  • J.P. Crawford should get the chance to hold onto the leadoff spot in 2021. He led off all but 12 games last year and there is no reason to think he cannot continue to lead off. Although he only posted a .336 OBP and .303 wOBA, he might need to continue to show some growth to sustain the top spot. Especially with Dylan Moore returning from injury.
  • Of the 12 games that Crawford did not lead off, Moore led off in five of them. However, he routinely hit in the 2-hole behind Crawford. 
  • Moore had himself a mini-breakout and assuming he is healthy, he should get an early run in the top of the order again. Let’s just hope the strikeouts continue to come down. After never striking out more than 20% at any minor league level, he has now struck out 33% and 27% in his first two MLB seasons and it could continue to improve. He only has 151 games under his belt at the MLB level after all. 
  • When healthy, Haniger would routinely hit second in the order. This could actually take place again. I would guess Crawford would get moved down between the two but it is worth monitoring as someone will be affected by this.
  • Shed Long Jr. had a down year. He started off the season leading off then quickly fell out of favor and into the bottom half of the order where he eventually settled down there. Injuries likely played a part in his struggles and a hot spring could give him a chance to earn his way back up. But until we see the Mariners willing to give him said chance, you cannot assume that is going to be the case. 
  • Kyle Lewis and Kyle Seager are solidified in the middle of the order. 
  • Ty France came to the Mariners via trade and over the final 20 games, he never hit below fifth. After being traded to Seattle, France put up a .302/.362/.453 triple slash with a .354 wOBA and a 129 wRC+. The Mariners will likely want to see if they can continue to get that out of France and he will be given a chance early on to prove he belongs in the middle of the order. 
  • My concern: With Tom Murphy and Mitch Haniger back from injury, France might find himself fighting for a spot in the middle of the order with these other two. I would assume Murphy falls of these three if I had to guess. I could also see Crawford being pushed down as well allowing France to stay put in the 5-hole.
  • Evan White did not perform as anticipated this year but I buy into the skillset and believe he will bounce back. Just know, he will need to earn his way up given the players who have had breakouts or outperformed him in 2020. He will play every day at first base due to defense alone but the bat will play. We haven’t seen the best of White, but be mindful that a spot batting in the bottom third of the lineup seems likely at this point.

 

Houston Astros 

Key Free Agents: Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, George Springer 

Returning from injury: Yordan Alvarez 

  • George Springer and Michael Brantley leaving really leave a couple of holes in the lineup. We saw Springer and Brantley consistently hit first and third in the lineup in 2020. Springer has led off as long as I can remember for this team in general. 
  • When Springer was out of the lineup this season, we saw a mix of Altuve, Tucker, and Straw get a chance to lead off. I would bet on Altuve getting the first shot as he usually hits second as it is. We saw Altuve finish the year batting second in each of the final 13 games and again in the playoffs. Altuve did struggle in the regular season but we saw him return to form in the postseason posting five home runs and a .375/.500/.729 triple slash and a .508 wOBA. Obviously, it was a small sample, but so was the 60-game season as a whole and to think Altuve is as bad as he was during it is a mistake. He should find himself at the top of the lineup in 2021. 
  • Yordan Alvarez is recovering from his knee surgery and should be back and slot into the middle of the order so that would help fill the gap Brantley leaves.

  • Carlos Correa often found himself in the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup but in the ALCS he was bumped up to the cleanup spot. That could speak to their confidence in him and he could find himself getting the chance to prove himself in the middle of the order in 2021.
  • Alex Bregman is another player who struggled for the Astros this season. Many of the Astros hitters struggled. We saw him fall from third in the lineup during the regular season to fifth in the lineup during the playoffs. He should remain in this range and if they do not re-sign Springer or Brantley, we could see Correa and Bregman being the players to move up a bit. 
  • Kyle Tucker hit fifth in 25 of the final 31 games in the regular season and we should finally get a full season of Kyle Tucker and he should hit fifth or sixth. He did hit sixth in the postseason and with Alvarez coming back and the other pieces to the puzzle we discussed, fifth or sixth in the batting order is likely. 
  • Dusty Baker seems to like Aledmys Diaz and gives him playing time when he is healthy. We saw him bat eighth and play LF or DH in the playoffs. But it was on the weak side of a platoon with Reddick on the strong side. With Reddick out of the picture, we could see Straw take over the strong side of the platoon. 
  • Myles Straw has a career .281 batting average and .366 OBP vs RHP while struggling mightily vs LHP in his small sample in the majors. Could lead to the platoon early on and more chances vs LHP as he earns them. Straw consistently posted double-digit walk rates with sub 20% strikeout rates and he did so in 2019 as well in his cup of coffee at the big league level.  His skill set lends itself well to leading off as a speed-first player with solid on-base skills. 
  • Yuli Gurriel is what he is at this point. He was batting seventh in the playoffs and was batting sixth in nine of the final 13 games of the regular season and then down to seventh in the playoffs. He struggled this year but not much changed in the profile to suggest he can’t hit for a solid average (as usual) in 2021. The only notable change was the pull rate. It was down 10.4% and he went more to an all-fields approach in the process so the fact that he had a career-worst BABIP of just .235 is surprising. But it is something one would expect to correct itself next year given the track record. However, Gurriel is entering his age-37 season with his best days are surely behind him and other players around him entering their prime or outperforming him, he seems likely to fall into the bottom third of the lineup and will need to hit his way up.



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2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend morning from 6-8 am ET as well. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Explain Yourself!

Pierre and Nick look at the biggest variations in ADP for the TGFBI 2EarlyMocks and identify the most notable reaches and value picks.



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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Early 2021 Mock Draft ADP Risers & Fallers: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend morning from 6-8 am ET as well. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Never Too Early!

Pierre and Nick review early ADP results based on the RotoBaller Way Too Early Expert Mock.

Players discussed:



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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2020 Expectations vs Reality (Hits and Misses): WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut share the players they were the most right and wrong about in 2020 by comparing their preseason rankings to actual performance.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend morning from 6-8 am ET as well. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Don't Forget the Asterisks*

Pierre and Nick humblebrag and eat crow on fantasy baseball finishes that didn't line up with expectations for 2020.

Players and topics discussed:

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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Week 10 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Chicago White Sox - Matt Foster and Jace Fry have each pitched in two of the past three. They have also alternated between pitching late in a game and facing big spots midgame. The rest of the Chicago pecking order is well enough rested.

Cleveland - Finally getting nipped for a run, Brad Hand has gone back-to-back days and three of four. Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak both pitched Monday but could go again. Wittgren, if he goes Tuesday, would then have pitched in three of the past four days. Cam Hill has already thrown in three of the past five.

Kansas City - Greg Holland has pitched in back-to-back games. Jesse Hahn could be called upon to close if Holland rests. He's been racking up holds and has looked good for a few weeks now. He's only been called upon to pitch the eighth once, though, in recent games. Josh Staumont is another option, as is Scott Barlow, though the latter was given the fifth inning on Monday.

Houston - Ryan Pressly grabbed two more saves over the weekend. He did get a day off after two straight outings but will likely need another day after another appearance. Brooks Raley is a likely fill-in if Pressly does rest.

Los Angeles Angels - It was multi-inning outings in two of the past three days for Mike Mayers as he cements his status as the current Angels closer. Los Angeles has found a little something in multi-inning relievers with Mayers and Matt Andriese. Both may need to rest, in which case LA may have to turn back to Ty Buttrey for a save opportunity. Felix Pena would also be an option.

Seattle - All of Yoshihisa Hirano, Kendall Graveman, and Casey Sadler pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Fortunately, Marco Gonzales went eight scoreless on Monday, and the team didn't need any of them. Look for better staggering of the three arms this week, with help from Yohan Ramirez, so all don't need to rest at the same time again.

 

Around the National League

Atlanta Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight. He is hardly alone in heavy recent usage. Will Smith has pitched in three straight; Chris Martin two straight; Shane Greene two of the past three. Greene also really got knocked around this past week. A.J. Minter would be a plausible fill-in if everyone needs a day. Darren O'Day is probably not, as he needed 24 pitches on Monday to get through his inning. Keep in mind that although Smith has gone in three straight, he needed just nine total pitches the last two outings.

Miami - Brandon Kintzler got a day off after two straight outings. James Hoyt is also worth keeping an eye on. He pitched in two of three, though needed just 15 total pitches to get through them.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz and Miguel Castro both pitched Monday. Jeurys Familia didn't but did pitch both weekend games. All three players would need a day off after another outing. Look for Luis Rojas to stagger their usage to avoid that this week.

Washington - Will Harris and Kyle Finnegan, holds guys but not in the mix for saves, both may need some rest. Harris has gone in three of four; Finnegan in two of three. Daniel Hudson pitched Monday but hadn't gotten into a game for four days before that.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick is on the IL and likely out for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel picked up a save back on September 12 and has pitched just once since then, striking out two in a clean eighth. Jeremy Jeffress has been busy in that same timeframe, but it isn't clear why Kimbrel has been packed away. Jeffress pitched on Monday, so another entrance would require a day off. Maybe then Chicago finally calls upon Kimbrel once again, who, by the way, has been great for the entire month of September.

Cincinnati - In a flip of protocol, Raisel Iglesias pitched the eighth, picking up a hold, only to be followed by Nate Jones. Nothing to worry about though. Iglesias came out after the Reds extended the lead past a save situation. That makes it two straight for Iglesias, though just 11 total pitches. Jones has now thrown in two of the past three.

Pittsburgh - Richard Rodriguez pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Neither outing was a save opportunity, but if one does come when Rodriguez needs to rest, Nik Turley is the next man up.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb, who snuck a save last week, is the only Cardinal who's gone in two straight. Giovanny Gallegos is also back off the IL, so the backend of the bullpen could be in flux the final week of the season.

Colorado - Par for the course, the Colorado bullpen has been busy. Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off, including throwing 35 pitches on Sunday. Mychal Givens has gotten into three consecutive ballgames. Tyler Kinley has pitched in three of the past four. It's been two straight for Yency Almonte. Carlos Estevez continues his struggles. He gave up another run Monday and probably won't be called upon in a close game, a la Jairo Diaz and Wade Davis.

 



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 9

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

Hard to believe, but the fantasy baseball season is already coming to a close. While it wasn't the long slog we normally love, we can at least appreciate it was here. This week we're looking at a few pitchers who could help you take home some hardware after posting solid starts last week. Youngsters Keegan Akin and Mitch Keller tossed some impressive outings, while Madison Bumgarner turned in his first good start of 2020 after what has been a disaster of a season for MadBum. In addition to their ROS outlook I'm going to look at the pitcher's potential value for 2021, as next year is already on the minds of many fantasy baseball addicts.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/21/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

&nsbp;

Keegan Akin, Baltimore Orioles

9% Owned

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 13.2 IP, 4.61 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 13.1% K-BB%

09/16 vs. ATL: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Keegan Akin carved up the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, putting up a career-high nine strikeouts over 5 innings. A mid-tier pitching prospect in the Baltimore organization, Akin has found early success in the majors, putting up a 3.38 ERA through his first six appearances. Now, the young lefty is staring down a two-start week during the final week of the regular season, and with availability in over 95% of leagues, he could wind up being a crucial difference-maker in championship matchups.

A second round pick back in 2016, Akin was viewed by scouts as a back-end starter or possibly a bullpen arm. He works with a three-pitch mix consisting of four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. The fastball averages about 92 MPH on the gun, but with an average spin rate of 2390 RPM, Akin’s fastball is firmly above average and can allow it to play better than its velocity. The really interesting piece of Akin’s repertoire is his slider, because it’s more a slider-curveball hybrid. Here is an few example from this start.

With that big, looping movement the pitch resembles a curveball to the naked eye, and it shows up in the data as Akin’s slider has 49.5 inches of vertical movement, a top ten mark among starting pitchers. This type of movement has allowed Akin to throw the pitch to opposite handed hitters with confidence, and is a big reason Akin has held righties to a .232 BA and .318 wOBA, very respectable numbers for a rookie left-hander. Overall, batters have mustered just a .167 BA, .172 xBA, .250 SLG, and .214 xSLG against his slider. While those numbers are impressive, the 25.9% whiff rate is quite poor for a breaking ball and should have us questioning how real the strikeout numbers are for Akin.

High strikeout numbers have been the biggest surprise with Akin’s game thus far, as his 31.6% rate would be top-15 among starters if he had enough innings to qualify. The slider hasn’t been the big source of strikeouts, as Akin had just three swinging strikes with it in his most recent start. Instead, it’s been his changeup and fastball doing the heavy lifting strikeout-wise, with 16 combined swinging strikes between the two pitches in his start against Atlanta. The changeup especially has been key for Akin, since he has a 38.2% whiff rate and 34.2% chase rate with the pitch thus far. He uses it almost exclusively against righties, which has helped contribute to his success against opposite handed batters. The pitch itself has solid movement, especially with its 15.9 inches of break, putting him solidly above average. The changeup’s metrics show that it could play as a strong breaking ball itself and pick up Akin’s slider in terms of strikeouts.

While there are plenty of positives with Akin, there are also some red flags with that should concern those looking at him hoping to squeeze out a few good starts. First, is the legitimacy of the strikeout numbers. The 26.8% whiff rate on Akin’s fastball is wholly unsustainable given his 92 MPH fastball velocity. His 83rd percentile spin rate on his fastball helps, but the whiff rate on his fastball could easily be 10% lower or more over a longer period of time.

The second thing scary about Akin is his flyball tendencies. His 36.4% groundball rate would be the seventh-lowest among qualified starters if Akin had enough innings to qualify. Akin has had a groundball rate under 40% in each of the last three seasons as a prospect. He survived because he was able to generate infield flyballs more than 20% of the time, but he’s had just a 10.5% IFFB rate in the majors. Akin has been lucky to have surrendered just one home run thus far, especially considering his home ballpark and his division.

The third thing that worries me about Akin is a historically bad walk rate. His walk rate has been north of 10% in each of the last three season as a minor leaguer, and is at a bloated 11.3% mark so far in the big leagues. That combined with potential home run regression and suspect strikeout numbers on his fastball make Akin’s numbers look shaky thus far. He could still be used in a league where volume is king, such as a points league, but I’d be nervous about what Akin could do to my ratios in Roto, especially my WHIP. If two so-so starts have more value to you than one good one, then roll the dice on Akin and hope for the best. Otherwise, there should be better options for a team competing for a title.

Verdict: Akin’s changeup looks like a solid strikeout pitch, but poor control and possible home run regression make hima dicey play during the final week. He’s a volume play only since he has two starts in shaky matchups, at the Red Sox and at the Blue Jays. Both teams have been above average against lefties this season, and both ballparks are tough pitching environments. Long term, he looks like he could stick around as a four or five starter in the majors, but fantasy-wise he’ll likely be a matchup-based streamer next season if he makes Baltimore’s rotation.

Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 8.99 FIP, -2.2% K-BB%

09/19 vs. STL: 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Injuries have kept Keller off the mound for the majority of 2020, and prior to Saturday things hadn’t been to pretty for Keller when he did pitch. But the highly regarded young righty twirled a gem last week, firing six scoreless innings for one of the best starts of his career to this point. Unfortunately, the bullpen coughed up the lead for Keller and spoiled his chances for a win, but we can’t expect too many wins out of any Pirates pitcher given the current state of the team. What we should look for is strikeout ability, ratio help, and quality start opportunities, and with starts like this one Keller could be the answer in those categories.

One of the most prized pitching prospects in baseball, Keller has struggled to find his footing at the major league level. He took a pounding in 2019, going 1-5 and posting a horrific 7.13 ERA in 48 innings. But Keller sort of had a Corbin Burnes-esque season in 2019. The surface stats were terrible, but the skills looked solid. If you look past the ERA and win-loss record, Keller’s 3.19 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, and a 12.0 K/9, which are ace-like numbers. Ironically, the situation has been reversed for Keller this year. His 3.24 ERA is solid, but he has a 6.73 FIP and 6.27 xFIP. He’s only pitched 16.2 innings, and ERA estimators like FIP and xFIP can become skewed in such a small sample size, but it’s still an interesting turn of events for Keller. His 19.7% strikeout rate is uncharacteristically low, and he’s allowed four home runs in his first four starts.

Despite the ugly strikeout and home run numbers, Keller is still one of the most intriguing waiver wire arms out there for the final week. The uber prospect boasts a strong four-pitch arsenal, with a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. The fastball has only averaged 93.8 MPH overall this season, but over his last two appearances Keller has averaged 95 on the gun with it. He was at 95.5 MPH with his fastball last season, so it seems likely that Keller was just getting ramped up during his first two outings and should hover around 95 MPH with his fastball regularly. Of his secondary pitches, Keller’s slider has always been the gem of the bunch. Aside from his changeup, all of Keller’s pitches are considered above average, but his slider is on another level.

Keller’s slider generated an unreal 26.8% swinging strike rate last season, and while that has come down to just 13.5% this year, Keller still got five swinging strikes on 18 pitches in this start against the Cardinals. Batters have also failed to get a hit off of Keller’s slider in 2020, and have just a .072 xBA and .082 xSLG against his slider thus far. With above average velocity and spin, and the good results he’s gotten through his first two seasons, Keller’s slider has all the makings of an elite breaking ball, and should allow him to put up strong strikeout numbers at the major league level.

While Keller’s slider looks good, there should be concern about the viability of his fastball. It has a .205 BA against this season, but has been smoked by opposing batters for a 93.5 MPH average exit velocity, and has a .263 xBA and a troubling .609 xSLG. Keller’s heater was a major reason for his struggles last year, as batters hit .461 against the pitch along with a .719 SLG and .499 wOBA. Those numbers were perhaps the worst possible outcome for Keller, but a .205 BA and .441 SLG against his fastball this season seems near the best possible outcomes. Keller’s fastball has an above average spin rate, but the movement is unexceptional. Keller has above average velocity, but major league hitters can catch up to a 95 MPH heater, especially when it has poor movement. It would be nice to see Keller lean a little more heavily on his offspeed stuff instead of his fastball. It doesn’t have to be a radical shift, but if he threw his slider and curveball 5% of the time each and his fastball 10% less often it could serve him well.

Keller is a pitcher that has the tools to become a high-end starter, and he could put it all together next season. I liked him as a late round sleeper coming into this year, but a month-long stint on the IL never allowed us to see if that could come to fruition. I would go back to the well in next year’s drafts assuming Keller will be another late round flier or $1-$2 player in auctions. His final start this season comes Friday at Cleveland, and the Indians have just a .689 OPS, .139 ISO, and .305 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season. That’s a pretty juicy matchup, and Keller has the stuff to take advantage of a weak lineup. If you need an extra start, Keller is a solid option with an excellent matchup.

Verdict: A plus slider headlines a solid all-around repertoire for Keller, and he’ll finish the season against a weak Cleveland lineup, making him a good streaming option as a high risk, high reward pitcher. He’s also an interesting late round draft pick for next season, and someone I'll definitely look to scoop up in my leagues if the price is right.

Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks

57% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 22.1 IP, 8.46 ERA, 8.42 FIP, 6.8% K-BB%

09/20 @ HOU: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

A year ago it would be shocking to see Bumgarner featured in a column like this, but 2020 has been a rough one for ol’ Mason Saunders. Bumgarner has posted an eye-popping 7.36 ERA and 7.84 FIP this season, which are both more than twice as high as his career 3.21 ERA and 3.41 FIP. While no one expected Bumgarner to be this bad, the writing was on the wall coming into the season. Bumgarner really hasn’t been the same since his highly publicized dirt bike accident back in 2017. Sure, he managed a respectable 3.57 ERA between 2017-2019, but a 2% dip in strikeout rate and 4.26 xFIP over that time period are signs of a pitcher on the decline. Bumgarner really benefitted from pitching in AT&T/Oracle Park during that stretch as well, posting a 2.99 ERA in San Francisco, but a 4.61 ERA on the road. That’s why many were left scratching their heads when Bumgarner inked a five-year, $85 million dollar deal with Arizona this offseason. Was Arizona that desperate for veteran arms? Does their front office know about sabermetrics? Did Dave Stewart sneak in after hours to make one final blunder? Whatever happened, Bumgarner is a Diamondback now, but can he ever come close the pitcher he was at the height of his powers? And more importantly, does he have one more epic playoff performance in him, this time for fantasy managers?

Bumgarner’s repertoire hasn’t changed much even in the later years of his career. He still throws out the same four-pitch mix, relying heavily on his four-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball, with the occasional changeup. Bumgarner’s fastball velocity had been trending downwards coming into this season, but has taken a precipitous drop in 2020, as Bumgarner is averaging a mere 88.4 MPH on the gun this season. Below is a graph of his fastball velocity by year, just to allow you to visualize how stark the drop has been.

Even at his best he was never an overpowering pitcher in terms of velocity, with his best years being between 92-93 MPH, but he’s among the slowest in the league. The drop is so steep one has to wonder if something is wrong with him beyond age. He’s 31, which is old for baseball but not ancient. Plenty of pitchers can be effective at this stage in their career, especially pitchers with the raw talent that Bumgarner possesses. He does have almost 2000 MLB innings on his arm if you include the postseason, and such a heavy workload may have accelerated his decline.

It may seem overly simplistic to point to a lower fastball velocity as the reason for Bumgarner’s struggles, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Batters have pulverized Bumgarner’s fastball for a .309 BA and .618 SLG, and the expected stats are even worse, as Statcast projects a .329 xBA and .740 xSLG on MadBum’s four-seamer, and that’s not to mention the scorching 91.2 MPH average exit velocity against. That’s right, batters are sending it back about 3 MPH harder than Bumgarner is sending it in. I wish I could say the velocity was back up in this one, but it wasn’t even close. Bumgarner averaged 88.8 MPH with his fastball, which does tie a season high, but is still about 2-3 MPH below where he needs to be to find success.

What about the cutter? The famous MadBum cutter that has been the key to success for Madison Bumgarner throughout his career. Bumgarner has attempted to lean on his cutter more often this season, using it 36.2% of the time, his highest usage rate since 2013. Unfortunately, his cutter has suffered serious decline as well, as Bumgarner is throwing it just 83.4 MPH this season. That’s about 4 MPH less than last season, but it’s not just the velocity that’s troubling for Bumgarner. Below is a chart of average break on Bumgarner’s cutters by season.

So not only is it slow, it’s not moving much either, which makes it a cookie for major league hitters. Bumgarner’s cutter has been pounded for a .293 BA and .707 SLG this season as well, and it only generated three swinging strikes in this start.

Ultimately, we are a long way away from trusting Madison Bumgarner in fantasy again. If he can’t get his velocity back up we may never see a regularly effective Bumgarner again. He falls into a bucket of once great veterans who are now a shell of themselves, such as Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, and Johnny Cueto. The only fantasy value I see in these types of players is in their name. More casual players who don’t spend a large chunk of their free time pouring over advanced statistics may recognize the name and the player becomes a trade asset, but I hesitate to draft or use them. His next matchup is solid, home against Colorado, a club with an 89 wRC+ against lefties and a 75 wRC+ away from Coors Field this season, but Bumgarner has shown little signs of life despite solid results Sunday. As far as next season, I’d have to see it before I trust him. He’ll probably be a cheap flier in drafts or auctions, but I’d rather roll that dice on a young up-and-comer like Mitch Keller instead of hoping Bumgarner regains his form. A rebound isn’t impossible for him, but there is nothing in the stuff or metrics that suggest one is imminent, which is why he has to do it on the diamond before we buy back in.

Verdict: It was nice to see at least one good start from Bumgarner this season, but we probably won't see another. Fastball and cutter velocity was still down in this one, and his nine swinging strikes on 80 pitches are fine, but a little underwhelming in today’s strikeout-heavy game. He can’t be trusted in his last start, even in deep leagues. 2021 will be critical for Bumgarner, because if he can’t regain his velocity, either by getting healthy, getting a normal spring training, or a mechanical change, this arm might be completely fried.

 

 



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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Starting Pitchers Weekly Rankings

The final week of the 2020 fantasy baseball season means the Week 10 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks are here to help analyze where the top 101 SPs stand for the final sprint. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for pitcher and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide some notes on key movers. Time is short this weekend and most just need a quick eval for charting streamers, so we'll stick to the ranks table.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike (CSW) rates, xwOBA, and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 10 Top 101 SP Baller Ranks core sheet hereCLICK THAT. Next week I'll bring you a top 101 for 2021, but first we'll finish 2020 strong!

 

Top 101 Starting Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 10

Rank $ Tier Player EV $PV Trend Notes
1 43.0 1 Shane Bieber 23.5 43.0 0.0 ▬
2 42.0 1 Jacob deGrom 18.9 42.0 0.0 ▬
3 37.0 1 Gerrit Cole 10.2 33.0 4.0 ▲ Looking legendary, just needed Higashioka behind the dish.
4 35.0 2 Yu Darvish 20.0 37.0 -2.0 ▼
5 33.0 2 Clayton Kershaw 9.9 35.0 -2.0 ▼ Elite arm, but lower K% relative to aces keep him in Tier 2.
6 31.0 2 Trevor Bauer 16.7 31.0 0.0 ▬
7 29.0 2 Aaron Nola 13.2 29.0 0.0 ▬
8 29.0 2 Luis Castillo 16.7 27.0 2.0 ▲ If you bought low midseason...congrats!
9 27.0 2 Lucas Giolito 15.0 25.0 2.0 ▲
10 25.0 3 Corbin Burnes 17.4 15.5 9.5 ▲ He's hotter than heck, mercilessly dominating opponents.
11 25.0 3 Dinelson Lamet 15.6 25.0 0.0 ▬
12 23.0 3 Kenta Maeda 15.1 23.0 0.0 ▬
13 23.0 3 Dylan Bundy 16.0 23.0 0.0 ▬
14 22.0 3 Tyler Glasnow 9.3 22.0 0.0 ▬
15 22.0 3 Lance Lynn 13.0 22.0 0.0 ▬
16 22.0 3 Brandon Woodruff 13.0 14.0 8.0 ▲ Coming on strong in September.
17 20.0 3 Zach Plesac 11.2 14.0 6.0 ▲
18 20.0 3 Max Scherzer 13.0 29.0 -9.0 ▼ Whiffs still there, but too much healthy contact allowed.
19 18.5 4 Zac Gallen 10.3 20.0 -1.5 ▼
20 17.5 4 Kyle Hendricks 16.6 14.0 3.5 ▲
21 15.5 4 Carlos Carrasco 8.6 18.5 -3.0 ▼ Hits are falling against him, not terribly worried.
22 15.0 4 Blake Snell 5.0 17.5 -2.5 ▼
23 14.0 4 Jack Flaherty 2.4 22.0 -8.0 ▼ Still looks off, grooving one too many pitches.
24 14.0 4 Hyun-Jin Ryu 11.3 13.0 1.0 ▲
25 14.0 4 Zack Greinke 15.4 15.0 -1.0 ▼ 6 consecutive starts with 3 ER or more, it'll hurt you.
26 13.0 4 Jesus Luzardo 4.3 10.0 3.0 ▲
27 12.0 4 Jose Berrios 7.4 9.5 2.5 ▲
28 11.0 5 Lance McCullers Jr. 6.0 0.0 11.0 ▲ 7 scoreless, two-hit innings in return, gets SEA next.
29 11.0 5 Andrew Heaney 14.3 9.5 1.5 ▲
30 10.0 5 Zach Davies 10.8 9.5 0.5 ▲
31 9.5 5 Marco Gonzales 11.1 9.5 0.0 ▬ It turns out not walking hitters is a great strategy.
32 9.5 5 Sixto Sanchez 7.6 9.0 0.5 ▲
33 9.5 5 Kevin Gausman 8.0 9.0 0.5 ▲
34 9.5 5 Zack Wheeler 13.0 9.0 0.5 ▲ I still can't get over a putting-on-pants injury here.
35 9.0 5 Masahiro Tanaka 6.8 8.5 0.5 ▲
36 9.0 5 Ian Anderson 5.1 8.5 0.5 ▲
37 9.0 5 Chris Paddack 5.4 2.5 6.5 ▲ Velocity up in six scoreless innings against SEA, nice!
38 8.5 5 Aaron Civale 11.5 12.0 -3.5 ▼
39 8.5 5 Charlie Morton 3.8 11.0 -2.5 ▼
40 8.5 5 Tyler Mahle 7.9 8.5 0.0 ▬
41 8.5 5 Max Fried 15.2 4.0 4.5 ▲ Notched 7th win in 9 starts in return, but <6 Ks in 5 straight.
42 8.0 6 Tony Gonsolin 9.4 8.0 0.0 ▬
43 8.0 6 Cristian Javier 2.8 8.0 0.0 ▬
44 8.0 6 Chris Bassitt 8.1 8.0 0.0 ▬
45 8.0 6 Deivi Garcia 5.3 5.0 3.0 ▲ 3 QS in 4 MLB starts, he's as advertised.
46 8.0 6 Dustin May 2.9 6.5 1.5 ▲
47 6.5 7 German Marquez 14.5 8.0 -1.5 ▼ Finishes 2020 w/ 2 road starts, at SF and at ARZ.
48 5.5 7 Dallas Keuchel 11.9 5.5 0.0 ▬
49 5.0 7 Michael Pineda 7.2 4.0 1.0 ▲
50 4.5 7 Brady Singer 5.8 3.0 1.5 ▲ His strength of schedule fell off and he's taking advantage.
51 4.5 7 Mike Clevinger 5.5 11.0 -6.5 ▼ Scratched Saturday w/ biceps tightness.
52 4.0 7 Triston McKenzie 2.7 8.5 -4.5 ▼ Poor outing at DET, final start a scary one vs. CWS.
53 4.0 7 Adam Wainwright 7.3 4.0 0.0 ▬
54 4.0 7 Framber Valdez 13.2 4.5 -0.5 ▼ Dominated great matchup vs. TEX w/ 11 K's, SEA on deck.
55 4.0 7 Zach Eflin 10.0 4.0 0.0 ▬
56 4.0 7 Julio Urias 8.6 4.0 0.0 ▬
57 4.0 7 Mitch Keller -2.7 0.0 4.0 ▲ Crushed STL w/ 6 hitless innings, gets CHC at home next.
58 4.0 7 Brad Keller 9.3 2.0 2.0 ▲
59 3.5 8 Jose Urquidy 2.7 1.5 2.0 ▲
60 3.0 8 Walker Buehler 2.5 3.0 0.0 ▬ May start on Thursday for tune-up before playoffs.
61 3.0 8 Justus Sheffield 10.1 2.0 1.0 ▲
62 2.5 8 Pablo Lopez 10.2 4.5 -2.0 ▼ 2 wins in a row after 2 stinkers, but faces ATL next.
63 2.5 8 Mike Fiers 5.4 0.0 2.5 ▲
64 2.5 8 Dakota Hudson 3.3 1.5 1.0 ▲
65 2.0 8 Antonio Senzatela 8.4 1.5 0.5 ▲
66 2.0 8 Nathan Eovaldi 4.7 0.0 2.0 ▲ Two strong appearances since return, draws BAL at home.
67 2.0 8 J.A. Happ 2.2 1.0 1.0 ▲
68 2.0 8 Sean Manaea 9.5 2.5 -0.5 ▼ On road at Dodgers next, no thanks.
69 2.0 8 Dylan Cease -0.2 4.0 -2.0 ▼
70 1.5 9 Patrick Corbin 8.7 8.0 -6.5 ▼ His velocity is creeping back up, but results still poor.
71 1.5 9 Dane Dunning 6.5 1.5 0.0 ▬
72 1.5 9 Kwang-Hyun Kim 5.2 0.0 1.5 ▲ He'll miss KC series and should finish season vs. STL.
73 1.5 9 Rich Hill 4.8 1.5 0.0 ▬
74 1.5 9 Kris Bubic 3.8 1.0 0.5 ▲ Solid last 4 starts, gets DET in his 2020 finale.
75 1.5 9 Danny Duffy 2.8 2.0 -0.5 ▼
76 1.5 9 Tanner Houck 1.5 0.0 1.5 ▲ Outstainding debut, but control still concerns me as SP.
77 1.5 9 Dean Kremer 5.0 1.5 0.0 ▬
78 1.5 9 Sandy Alcantara 2.8 1.5 0.0 ▬
79 1.5 9 Keegan Akin 5.3 0.0 1.5 ▲
80 1.5 9 Matthew Boyd -0.1 2.5 -1.0 ▼ 4 good starts, 1 horrid in last 5 - most can take that risk.
81 1.5 9 Alec Mills 4.4 1.0 0.5 ▲ 4 ER vs. MIN following no-hitter, will face PIT before playoffs.
82 1.5 9 Joe Musgrove 2.0 1.0 0.5 ▲
83 1.0 10 David Peterson 1.6 1.0 0.0 ▬ 10 K's against ATL, a QS+W special. At WAS in finale.
84 1.0 10 Daniel Ponce de Leon -0.7 0.0 1.0 ▲
85 1.0 10 Frankie Montas 3.2 3.5 -2.5 ▼ Has been off since early Aug. injury; facing LAD next, ow.
86 1.0 10 Ryan Yarbrough 3.9 1.5 -0.5 ▼
87 1.0 10 Yusei Kikuchi 7.5 1.5 -0.5 ▼
88 1.0 10 John Means -1.3 1.0 0.0 ▬
89 1.0 10 Josh Lindblom 4.8 1.0 0.0 ▬ Was sharp prior to brief leave, let's see his Sunday start.
90 1.0 10 Kyle Freeland 9.1 1.5 -0.5 ▼
91 1.0 10 Josh Fleming 0.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
92 1.0 10 Mike Minor 5.4 1.0 0.0 ▬
93 1.0 10 Tarik Skubal 1.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
94 1.0 10 Jaime Barria 5.6 0.0 1.0 ▲
95 1.0 10 Griffin Canning 4.8 1.0 0.0 ▬
96 1.0 10 Luke Weaver 1.7 1.0 0.0 ▬
97 1.0 10 Seth Lugo 2.2 1.5 -0.5 ▼ I miss him as a reliever, this just isn't working out.
98 1.0 10 Jordan Montgomery 6.0 1.5 -0.5 ▼
99 1.0 10 Taijuan Walker 1.7 1.5 -0.5 ▼
100 1.0 10 Spencer Turnbull 6.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
101 1.0 10 Drew Smyly 4.9 0.0 1.0 ▲

Thank you for riding along with this column throughout the 2020 season. I will be putting together a Top 101 for 2021 that'll come next week. Best of luck to you all!



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Finish Strong in 2020 (Adds, Drops, Streamers): WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut discuss which hot hitters and two-start streamers to add for the final week of the season, as well as big-name players to drop.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend morning from 6-8 am ET as well. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

It's Not How You Start...

Pierre and Nick tell fantasy baseball managers how to finish strong in 2020 by making the right roster moves.

Players and topics discussed:



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win Big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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The Baller Ranks: Top 200 Hitters Weekly Rankings (Week 9)

Last week I wrote that the schedule had begun to have an outsized impact on value. At this point, it's not impacting projected value even more than recent performance. There are exceptions to that, but that's the overarching rule this week. Paul Goldschmidt's value has been buoyed by this aspect for much of the season. The first baseman has had an excellent campaign while hitting in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks, but his value has been inflated since St. Louis was shut down during its COVID outbreak back in August.

While I want this final column to be similar to the ones that proceeded it, these last eleven days are unique even within the context of a season that has been unique. In trying to adjust the column to fit the moment, this update is also less process-based than previous versions and more a reflection of the current state of baseball. For instance, the projections systems maintain optimism about seasonal underperformers like JD Martinez, but these final ranks for the season reflect some of the time limitations and schedule impact of the remaining games. Simply put, these final rankings are more focused on immediate performance than previous versions. Throughout the season, projections and peripheral stats have driven the process. I'm not about to abandon that altogether, but at this point, the median team has ten games left. That changes the situation.

As we look down the barrel of the season's final days, I want to be sure to thank the team here at Rotoballer and Nick Mariano, who has anchored the pitcher side of things. It's been a real pleasure reading his installments each week and getting to collaborate with him. Likewise, I've had a number of readers reach out with feedback about player valuation, formatting, or features for the sheet. A big thank-you to everyone. It's made this process more fun, and I think it has made the sheet much better.

 

Rest of Season Schedules: Strength vs. Volume

Rather than looking at individual players this week, here is an overview of the data that is helping to drive some of the changes in player value.

I took the time to compile opponents, the strength of opposing pitching staffs, normalized both, and then combined the data to provide the relative difference in value for the rest of the season. I believe I have accurately accounted for all the remaining seven-inning double-headers. Factoring all that in, here are the MLB teams ranked by ROS value based on opponents and remaining games. The right-hand column shows each team's strength-of-schedule multiplied by their remaining games.

Team Games Remaining Strength of Schedule ROS wROS
Marlins 12 103.4 120.8
Nationals 12 103.3 120.7
Cardinals 11 101.2 112.4
Phillies 11 100.2 111.3
Astros 10 110.3 110.9
Blue Jays 11 98.5 109.5
Yankees 10 108.2 108.7
Rockies 11 96.3 107.0
Rangers 10 105.6 106.2
Indians 10 104.5 105.0
Braves 9 109.8 104.6
Orioles 10 102.2 102.7
Mets 10 101.4 101.9
Rays 10 101.1 101.7
Pirates 11 90.9 101.0
D-backs 9 105.7 100.6
Royals 9 104.1 99.2
Athletics 9 102.7 97.8
Giants 10 97.1 97.6
Mariners 10 95.8 96.3
Dodgers 9 101.1 96.3
Red Sox 9 100.6 95.8
Brewers 9 98.2 93.5
Cubs 9 96.3 91.7
Angels 9 94.6 90.1
White Sox 10 85.6 86.1
Tigers 9 90.3 86.0
Padres 7 111.1 82.3
Twins 8 95.6 81.0
Reds 8 86.8 73.5

The table above is about the remaining schedule only, and not the quality of the individual players on those teams. Basically, a league-average player on the Marlins should be 20% more valuable than a league-average player on Diamondbacks. In case you had any doubt about Starling Marte's value down the stretch, it should be good. Likewise, if you haven't already been starting players for every single double-header, the table above should prompt you to correct that behavior.

 

Buying Bats with Bulk

The first thing that jumps out is that the top two teams have the most games remaining. Both Washington and Miami have above average schedules, and they'll get to play 12 more games against those weaker opponents. To be frank, I thought that the strength-of-schedule would have a larger impact, but the table above shows volume is king. Again, the wROS scores do reflect double-headers or the Nationals' and Marlins' schedules would be around 25% more valuable than the average team.

By contrast, the Padres' hitters have the easiest remaining schedule. They get to face the Mariners, Angels, and Giants, but the Friars are sitting at the bottom because they have only eight games remaining. The Yankees still have a strong schedule, but they have fewer games to maximize their value. Meanwhile, the Rockies will see two of MLB's worst pitching staffs when they play Arizona and San Francisco, but they'll be away for both of those games, so the benefit of the park factor is reversed.

Obviously, this all exists in a vacuum, but in the context of the final eleven days, managers need to be thinking about this when making roster moves and setting their lineups. For leagues with daily moves, managers can stream hitters against MLB's weaker pitching staffs, especially teams like the Red Sox, Tigers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. If you can catch one of those teams on the road, it's all the better. For leagues with transaction limits or weekly lineups, it makes sense to go see which Marlins, Nationals, Cardinals, and Phillies are available on the wire for the final week.

 

Where to Find Steals

While most of the fantasy stats aggregate around opposing team wOBA, steals are an entirely separate category. Yes, some teams have particularly noticeable weaknesses: the Diamondbacks and Red Sox give up a ton of home runs, for instance. However, bad pitching staffs generally give up runs, RBI, home runs, and hits in equally generous measures.

For managers in need of a couple of extra steals, the Angels (41), Braves (37), Nationals (36), Diamondbacks (35), and Mariners (35) have been the most susceptible to giving up bases. That makes a player like Leody Taveras, who will face the Angels and Diamondbacks, especially valuable. The same could be true for Jon Berti if he returns from the IL this weekend. The Marlins will see both the Nationals and Braves in this final stretch. If you are a believer in Jazz Chisholm, he should have the same opportunity as Berti. Andres Gimenez has been a pleasant surprise this season, but he's rostered in only 15% of leagues, and the Mets also face the Braves and the Nationals for a combined seven games. Any one of those four players could add two or three steals for a team.

The sprint season has left us with a final run that is closer to something like fantasy football than fantasy baseball. Middle-of-the-pack teams can dramatically change their position with these final games. Hopefully, this schedule breakdown gives you some opportunities to do that.

Here are the Baller Ranks Top-200 hitters and the Meta Report for Week 9/10:

Rank $ Player Pos Trend
1 45.0 Juan Soto OF 1 ▲
2 41.0 Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 2 ▲
3 41.0 Mike Trout OF -2 ▼
4 39.0 Trea Turner SS 5 ▲
5 39.0 Bryce Harper OF 1 ▲
6 38.0 Mookie Betts OF -1 ▼
7 38.0 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 0 ▬
8 37.0 Christian Yelich OF -5 ▼
9 35.0 Trevor Story SS -1 ▼
10 33.0 Freddie Freeman 1B 2 ▲
11 33.0 Francisco Lindor SS 0 ▬
12 31.0 Jose Ramirez 3B 1 ▲
13 30.0 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 9 ▲
14 29.0 Marcell Ozuna DH 4 ▲
15 29.0 Cody Bellinger OF -5 ▼
16 28.0 Nelson Cruz DH 0 ▬
17 27.0 Nolan Arenado 3B -2 ▼
18 26.0 Manny Machado 3B -1 ▼
19 25.0 J.T. Realmuto C -5 ▼
20 25.0 Eloy Jimenez OF 1 ▲
21 25.0 Rafael Devers 3B -2 ▼
22 24.0 Tim Anderson SS 6 ▲
23 24.0 Starling Marte OF 1 ▲
24 23.0 Corey Seager SS 2 ▲
25 23.0 Luis Robert OF -5 ▼
26 22.0 DJ LeMahieu 2B 11 ▲
27 21.0 Xander Bogaerts SS -4 ▼
28 21.0 Keston Hiura 2B 1 ▲
29 21.0 Nick Castellanos OF -4 ▼
30 20.0 Jose Abreu 1B 2 ▲
31 20.0 Ozzie Albies 2B 0 ▬
32 19.5 Whit Merrifield OF 1 ▲
33 19.0 Anthony Rendon 3B 10 ▲
34 19.0 Pete Alonso 1B -7 ▼
35 18.5 Kyle Tucker OF 5 ▲
36 18.0 Charlie Blackmon OF 0 ▬
37 18.0 George Springer OF -2 ▼
38 17.5 Anthony Rizzo 1B 0 ▬
39 17.5 Carlos Correa SS 5 ▲
40 17.0 Luke Voit 1B 15 ▲
41 17.0 Eugenio Suarez 3B 4 ▲
42 17.0 Marcus Semien SS -1 ▼
43 17.0 Gleyber Torres SS 11 ▲
44 16.5 Didi Gregorius SS 5 ▲
45 16.0 Eddie Rosario OF -3 ▼
46 16.0 Josh Donaldson 3B 11 ▲
47 15.5 Michael Conforto OF 5 ▲
48 15.5 Aaron Judge OF/DH 64 ▲
49 15.0 Joey Gallo OF -1 ▼
50 15.0 Alex Bregman 3B -20 ▼
51 15.0 Ramon Laureano OF -5 ▼
52 14.5 Franmil Reyes DH 1 ▲
53 14.5 Gio Urshela 3B 66 ▲
54 14.5 Yuli Gurriel 1B -3 ▼
55 14.5 Kyle Schwarber OF -5 ▼
56 14.0 Andrew McCutchen OF 6 ▲
57 14.0 Miguel Sano 1B 3 ▲
58 14.0 Giancarlo Stanton DH 98 ▲
59 13.5 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B/DH -1 ▼
60 13.5 J.D. Martinez DH -13 ▼
61 13.0 Matt Olson 1B 0 ▬
62 13.0 Yasmani Grandal C 1 ▲
63 12.5 Wil Myers OF 11 ▲
64 12.5 Brandon Lowe 2B 1 ▲
65 12.0 Mike Yastrzemski OF 13 ▲
66 12.0 Max Muncy 1B 1 ▲
67 12.0 Bo Bichette SS/DH 21 ▲
68 12.0 Yoan Moncada 3B -2 ▼
69 11.5 Lourdes Gurriel Jr. OF 14 ▲
70 11.0 Adalberto Mondesi SS 35 ▲
71 11.0 Willson Contreras C -2 ▼
72 11.0 Jonathan Villar SS -13 ▼
73 11.0 Javier Baez SS -34 ▼
74 10.5 Alex Verdugo OF -3 ▼
75 10.0 Jonathan Schoop 2B -7 ▼
76 10.0 Michael Brantley DH -1 ▼
77 10.0 Ryan Mountcastle OF 22 ▲
78 9.5 Randal Grichuk OF 13 ▲
79 9.5 Cavan Biggio 2B 6 ▲
80 9.5 Brian Anderson 3B 15 ▲
81 9.5 Josh Bell 1B 19 ▲
82 9.0 Teoscar Hernandez OF 75 ▲
83 9.0 Trent Grisham OF -1 ▼
84 9.0 Renato Nunez 1B -5 ▼
85 9.0 Jorge Polanco SS -5 ▼
86 8.5 Dansby Swanson SS -5 ▼
87 8.5 Dominic Smith 1B/OF/DH 3 ▲
88 8.5 Ian Happ OF -4 ▼
89 8.5 Jeff McNeil 2B/3B/OF/DH 26 ▲
90 8.5 Alec Bohm 3B 20 ▲
91 8.0 Dylan Moore OF 25 ▲
92 8.0 Will Smith C -3 ▼
93 8.0 Corey Dickerson OF 8 ▲
94 8.0 Austin Meadows OF -24 ▼
95 7.5 Kyle Lewis OF 1 ▲
96 7.5 Kyle Seager 3B 1 ▲
97 7.5 Austin Nola C 1 ▲
98 7.5 Kolten Wong 2B 11 ▲
99 7.5 Carlos Santana 1B -7 ▼
100 7.0 Yadier Molina C -6 ▼
101 7.0 Mike Moustakas 2B -28 ▼
102 6.5 Jesse Winker DH -16 ▼
103 6.5 Adam Eaton OF 4 ▲
104 6.0 Jake Cronenworth 2B -2 ▼
105 6.0 Hunter Dozier OF 31 ▲
106 6.0 Byron Buxton OF 5 ▲
107 5.5 Maikel Franco 3B 17 ▲
108 5.5 Travis d'Arnaud C 10 ▲
109 5.5 Paul DeJong SS 11 ▲
110 5.5 Edwin Encarnacion DH 13 ▲
111 5.0 A.J. Pollock OF 10 ▲
112 5.0 Mitch Moreland 1B -4 ▼
113 5.0 Pedro Severino C -10 ▼
114 5.0 Willy Adames SS -1 ▼
115 5.0 Aaron Hicks OF 13 ▲
116 5.0 Kris Bryant 3B -40 ▼
117 5.0 Eduardo Escobar 3B -40 ▼
118 4.5 Christian Walker 1B -1 ▼
119 4.5 Donovan Solano 2B 18 ▲
120 4.5 J.D. Davis 3B -16 ▼
121 4.5 Salvador Perez C 50 ▲
122 4.5 Victor Robles OF -16 ▼
123 4.5 Justin Upton OF 13 ▲
124 4.0 Kevin Pillar OF 7 ▲
125 4.0 Mark Canha OF -11 ▼
126 4.0 Jean Segura 2B -8 ▼
127 4.0 Nick Solak OF -2 ▼
128 4.0 Avisail Garcia OF -6 ▼
129 4.0 Gary Sanchez C -36 ▼
130 3.5 Jesus Aguilar 1B 32 ▲
131 3.5 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B 3 ▲
132 3.5 Alex Dickerson OF 10 ▲
133 3.5 Colin Moran 1B/3B/DH -7 ▼
134 3.0 Adam Duvall OF 26 ▲
135 3.0 Brad Miller DH 8 ▲
136 3.0 David Fletcher SS 67 ▲
137 3.0 Tommy Edman 3B 58 ▲
138 3.0 Tyler O'Neill OF 62 ▲
139 3.0 Sean Murphy C 55 ▲
140 3.0 Joc Pederson OF -10 ▼
141 2.5 Joey Votto 1B 6 ▲
142 2.5 Justin Turner 3B 3 ▲
143 2.5 Andres Gimenez 2B/3B/SS 16 ▲
144 2.5 Jose Altuve 2B 11 ▲
145 2.5 Wilson Ramos C -4 ▼
146 2.5 Max Kepler OF -7 ▼
147 2.5 Jo Adell OF -18 ▼
148 2.0 Hunter Renfroe OF 0 ▬
149 1.0 Bobby Dalbec 1B/3B/DH 51 ▲
150 2.0 J.P. Crawford SS -12 ▼
151 2.0 Christian Vazquez C 49 ▲
152 2.0 Leody Taveras OF 48 ▲
153 2.0 Hunter Renfroe OF -5 ▼
154 2.0 Gavin Lux 2B/DH 25 ▲
155 2.0 Howie Kendrick 1B/DH -6 ▼
156 1.5 Chris Taylor OF 34 ▲
157 1.5 Evan Longoria 3B -24 ▼
158 1.5 Clint Frazier OF 10 ▲
159 1.5 Miguel Cabrera DH 5 ▲
160 1.5 Nick Ahmed SS 40 ▲
161 1.5 Austin Riley 3B -10 ▼
162 1.5 Asdrubal Cabrera 1B -9 ▼
163 1.5 Joey Bart C -9 ▼
164 1.0 Eric Hosmer 1B -14 ▼
165 1.0 Brandon Belt 1B -4 ▼
166 1.0 Brandon Nimmo OF -3 ▼
167 1.0 David Peralta OF -2 ▼
168 1.0 Shohei Ohtani DH -81 ▼
169 1.0 Ryan Braun 1B/OF/DH 39 ▲
170 1.0 Matt Carpenter 3B 30 ▲
171 1.0 Niko Goodrum SS 9 ▲
172 1.0 Austin Slater OF/DH -5 ▼
173 1.0 Chance Cisco C 3 ▲
174 1.0 Tommy Pham OF/DH 0 ▬
175 1.0 Amed Rosario SS 7 ▲
176 1.0 Nick Senzel OF 5 ▲
177 1.0 Jared Walsh 1B/DH 23 ▲
178 1.0 Austin Romine C 0 ▬
179 1.0 Rougned Odor 2B 21 ▲
180 1.0 Jason Heyward OF 20 ▲
181 1.0 Shogo Akiyama OF 19 ▲
182 1.0 Jed Gyorko 1B/3B 18 ▲
183 0.8 Max Stassi C 0 ▬
184 1.0 Josh Rojas 2B/SS/OF/DH 16 ▲
185 1.0 Shogo Akiyama OF 15 ▲
186 1.0 Jon Berti 2B/3B/SS/OF -20 ▼
187 1.0 Jorge Soler DH -115 ▼
188 1.0 Luis Arraez 2B 12 ▲
189 1.0 Miguel Andujar 3B/OF/DH 11 ▲
190 1.0 Robbie Grossman OF 10 ▲
191 1.0 Anthony Santander OF 9 ▲
192 1.0 James McCann C 8 ▲
193 1.0 Daulton Varsho C/OF/DH 0 ▬
194 1.0 Andrelton Simmons SS 2 ▲
195 1.0 Ryan McMahon 2B -25 ▼
196 1.0 Miguel Rojas SS 4 ▲
197 1.0 Kole Calhoun OF 3 ▲
198 1.0 #N/A #N/A 2 ▲
199 1.0 Yoshitomo Tsutsugo 3B/OF/DH 2 ▲
200 1.0 Willie Calhoun OF/DH 1 ▲



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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Relief Pitchers Weekly Rankings

We're already on the back nine of September, barreling towards the end of fantasy baseball, which means the Week 9 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks are here for a weekly dive into how the top 101 RPs stand for the home stretch. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for SP, RP, and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike rates, xwOBA and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 9 Top 101 RP Baller Ranks core sheet here.

YOU WILL CLICK THAT^. Time is short this week so I just wrote more notes than usual in lieu of analyzing movers. This is a sprint to the finish, you just need to note the trend and digest the ranks.

 

Top 101 Relief Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 9

Rank $ Tier Player EV $ Trend Notes
1 $15.0 1 Liam Hendriks $8.4 $14.0 1.0 ▲ Continuing his No. 1 RP campaign.
2 $13.5 1 Kenley Jansen $2.8 $14.0 -0.5 ▼
Rebounded from 2 awful outings on Sunday in non-SV opp.
3 $13.5 1 Josh Hader $1.3 $14.0 -0.5 ▼
4 $13.0 2 Brad Hand $5.3 $13.0 0.0 ▬ CLE on a skid, Hand still had a perfect inning this week.
5 $12.0 2 Alex Colome $4.0 $11.0 1.0 ▲
6 $11.5 2 Raisel Iglesias $6.1 $10.5 1.0 ▲ Coming off an amazing week, glad CIN kept him in 9th.
7 $10.0 2 Taylor Rogers $3.5 $11.0 -1.0 ▼ Solid 22.4% K-BB%, but .412 BABIP crushing his ratios.
8 $9.5 3 Rafael Montero $3.4 $9.5 0.0 ▬ Limited chances, strong execution.
9 $8.0 3 Daniel Hudson -$2.2 $8.5 -0.5 ▼
10 $7.5 3 Mark Melancon $1.6 $7.5 0.0 ▬ You know the deal, healthy ratios with fewer K's. Clockwork.
11 $7.0 3 Ryan Pressly $4.4 $6.5 0.5 ▲
12 $6.5 3 Aroldis Chapman $0.2 $5.5 1.0 ▲ Looks sharp w/ 3 perfect IP in last wk, suspension looms.
13 $6.0 3 Trevor Rosenthal $3.0 $4.5 1.5 ▲
14 $6.0 3 Edwin Diaz $4.9 $4.0 2.0 ▲ Not many save opps lately, converted what came his way.
15 $5.5 3 Greg Holland $5.2 $1.5 4.0 ▲ Been lights out, rewarding Matheny's trust.
16 $5.0 3 Daniel Bard $4.8 $3.5 1.5 ▲
17 $4.5 4 Devin Williams $8.1 $4.0 0.5 ▲ The best non-closing RP, must-start.
18 $4.0 4 Drew Pomeranz $7.2 $6.0 -2.0 ▼
19 $3.5 4 Richard Rodriguez $2.9 $2.5 1.0 ▲ PIT SV opps few and far between, but RichRod's been solid.
20 $3.0 4 Jeremy Jeffress $3.2 $2.0 1.0 ▲
21 $2.5 4 Matt Barnes -$0.4 $2.0 0.5 ▲ Had a clunker thrown in, but K's have returned.
22 $2.5 4 Nick Anderson $6.4 $3.5 -1.0 ▼ Only two appearances since returning on Sept. 4.
28 $2.5 4 Yoshihisa Hirano $0.0 $1.5 1.0 ▲ Pitched in 3 straight games, all scoreless outings (w/ 1 SV).
23 $2.5 4 Rafael Dolis $3.4 $1.5 1.0 ▲
24 $2.0 5 James Karinchak $6.9 $1.5 0.5 ▲ CLE ramping back his usage, big K's still coming.
25 $2.0 5 Brandon Kintzler -$1.7 $2.0 0.0 ▬
26 $2.0 5 Hector Neris $3.3 $1.0 1.0 ▲ Neris is the favorite for saves in PHI now.
27 $2.0 5 Craig Kimbrel -$0.1 $1.0 1.0 ▲ Dare I say, Kimbrel almost looks like his old self lately?
29 $2.0 5 Tony Watson $2.1 $1.0 1.0 ▲
30 $2.0 5 Zack Britton $3.1 $1.0 1.0 ▲ May see a save or two w/ Chapman's suspension.
31 $2.0 5 Sergio Romo $2.4 $1.5 0.5 ▲
32 $1.5 6 Diego Castillo -$0.5 $1.5 0.0 ▬
33 $1.5 6 Bryan Garcia $2.7 $1.0 0.5 ▲ Zero strikeouts in September, but two saves, no runs.
34 $1.5 6 Cesar Valdez $2.7 $1.0 0.5 ▲
35 $1.5 6 Stefan Crichton $2.9 $0.0 1.5 ▲ Lead committee man for ARZ.
36 $1.0 6 Tyler Duffey $3.2 $1.5 -0.5 ▼
37 $1.0 6 Ty Buttrey $1.3 $1.5 -0.5 ▼ Incredible that he's still in convo for the 9th, really.
38 $1.0 6 Brandon Workman -$0.4 $3.0 -2.0 ▼ Currently unreliable, Neris the better PHI RP right now.
39 $1.0 6 Archie Bradley $5.5 $1.0 0.0 ▬
40 $1.0 6 Chris Martin $3.3 $0.0 1.0 ▲ 10 IP, 14 K, 0 ER, 0 BB, just 2 hits since Aug. 21 return from IL.
41 $1.0 6 Tanner Rainey $2.2 $1.0 0.0 ▬
42 $1.0 6 Andrew Miller $1.0 $1.0 0.0 ▬ Should receive southpaw shares of save opps.
43 $1.0 6 Hunter Harvey -$0.5 $1.0 0.0 ▬
44 $1.0 6 Yimi Garcia $3.4 $0.5 0.5 ▲ Looks better than Kintzler, could see a few saves.
45 $1.0 6 Yohan Ramirez -$1.1 $1.0 0.0 ▬ Capable of handling 9th inning if Hirano's worked.
46 $1.0 6 Amir Garrett $1.2 $1.0 0.0 ▬
47 $1.0 6 Trevor May $1.2 $1.0 0.0 ▬
48 $1.0 7 Evan Marshall $6.8 $1.0 0.0 ▬
49 $1.0 7 Jonathan Hernandez $6.0 $1.5 -0.5 ▼
50 $1.0 7 Joakim Soria $4.0 $1.0 0.0 ▬
51 $1.0 7 Tyler Rogers $2.5 $1.0 0.0 ▬
52 $1.0 7 Tyler Webb $0.5 $0.0 1.0 ▲ Stepped in for the save with other 'pen arms taxed.
53 $1.0 7 Mike Mayers $6.2 $0.0 1.0 ▲ Earning more high-leverage spots, 11/0 K/BB ratio in Sept.
54 $1.0 7 Gregory Soto $2.5 $1.0 0.0 ▬
55 $1.0 7 Scott Barlow $2.6 $1.5 -0.5 ▼
56 $1.0 7 Rowan Wick $3.7 $0.5 0.5 ▲
57 $1.0 7 Blake Treinen $3.9 $0.5 0.5 ▲
58 $1.0 7 Chad Green $2.0 $1.0 0.0 ▬
59 $1.0 7 Nick Wittgren -$1.0 $0.5 0.5 ▲
60 $1.0 7 Alex Reyes $2.5 $0.5 0.5 ▲ Looks sharp, could see late-inning situations.
61 $0.5 8 Jorge Alcala $2.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
62 $0.5 8 Yusmeiro Petit $0.2 $0.5 0.0 ▬
63 $0.5 8 Nick Vincent $1.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
64 $0.5 8 John Gant $3.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬ Nursing minor injury, but every game is precious now.
65 $0.5 8 Jake McGee $4.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬
66 $0.5 8 Felix Pena $3.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬
67 $0.5 8 Ken Giles -$1.0 $1.0 -0.5 ▼ He gave up a run in both outings since return, no rush.
68 $0.5 8 Matt Andriese $2.5 $0.0 0.5 ▲ Snuck in two saves, but not a steady late-inning fixture.
69 $0.5 8 Matt Wisler $3.4 $0.0 0.5 ▲
70 $0.5 8 Anthony Bass $3.7 $1.0 -0.5 ▼
71 $0.5 8 Josh Staumont $1.7 $1.5 -1.0 ▼ He's cooled off and lack of K's & SV's means no dice.
72 $0.5 8 Lucas Sims $1.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
73 $0.5 8 John Curtiss $2.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
74 $0.5 8 Sean Doolittle -$1.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
75 $0.5 9 Andre Scrubb $0.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
76 $0.5 9 Victor Gonzalez $3.7 $0.0 0.5 ▲ Working early in games, but strong results.
77 $0.5 9 Peter Fairbanks $3.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
78 $0.5 9 Matt Foster $5.4 $1.0 -0.5 ▼
79 $0.5 9 Tyler Clippard $5.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
80 $0.5 9 Yency Almonte $5.2 $0.5 0.0 ▬
81 $0.5 9 Tanner Scott $2.3 $0.5 0.0 ▬
82 $0.5 9 James Hoyt $2.0 $0.0 0.5 ▲
83 $0.5 9 Nick Nelson $0.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
84 $0.5 9 Wander Suero $3.4 $0.0 0.5 ▲
85 $0.5 9 Codi Heuer $2.8 $0.0 0.5 ▲
86 $0.5 9 J.B. Wendelken $4.1 $0.5 0.0 ▬
87 $0.5 9 Kyle McGowin $2.0 $0.0 0.5 ▲
88 $0.5 10 Will Smith -$4.3 $0.5 0.0 ▬
89 $0.5 10 Mychal Givens $1.6 $1.0 -0.5 ▼
90 $0.5 10 Freddy Peralta $6.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
91 $0.5 10 Joely Rodriguez $3.3 $0.5 0.0 ▬
92 $0.5 10 Brad Boxberger -$0.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
93 $0.5 10 Tim Hill $0.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
94 $0.5 10 Alex Claudio $1.2 $0.5 0.0 ▬
95 $0.5 10 Emilio Pagan -$0.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
96 $0.5 10 Jason Adam $1.4 $0.0 0.5 ▲
97 $0.5 10 Ryan Borucki $2.1 $0.5 0.0 ▬
98 $0.5 10 Brad Peacock $0.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
99 $0.5 10 Ross Detwiler $2.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬
100 $0.5 10 Thomas Hatch $2.2 $0.5 0.0 ▬
101 $0.5 10 Caleb Ferguson $1.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬

 



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Week 9 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

New York Yankees - The Yankees received a much needed day off. Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Chad Green, and Jonathan Holder had all pitched in back-to-back games. Fortunately, none of them had thrown all that many pitches. The highest total was Green's at 35 pitches between the two outings.

Toronto - Rafael Dolis pitched in two straight before an off day. If he goes again, another day of rest will follow. That may be the opening for the Blue Jays to transition back to Ken Giles to close, though Dolis and Anthony Bass have been so solid.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome has pitched in two straight and three of four. He will need at least one day, and maybe multiple days off early this week. Codi Heuer and Evan Marshall both pitched early in Monday's game. Steve Cishek could be an option to vulture a save while Colome rests.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers will need some rest after pitching three of the past four days. If Tyler Duffey and Matt Wisler get called upon again, they will each need days off as well, as that would make it three in four for them.

Los Angeles Angels - Matt Andriese picked up two saves over the weekend. As the team looks for a new plan to combat the Ty Buttrey struggles, it still seems unlikely Andriese factors into that. On Saturday, he pitched the 11th inning after all the main arms had already thrown. On Sunday, he grabbed a two-inning save with Buttrey, Felix Pena, and Mike Mayers having all gone in back-to-back.

Oakland - After a week of losses and blowout wins, the A's bullpen is pretty well rested. Joakim Soria is likely to be the only arm unavailable. He needed 29 pitches to get through Monday's outing.

Seattle - For a while there, Yoshihisa Hirano was not pitching on back-to-back days. Then he was and actually went three straight. So much for easing his arm load. You'd have to imagine Yohan Ramirez gets the next save chance, though, if it comes anytime soon.

Texas - Both Rafael Montero and Jonathan Hernandez went in two straight before the team's off day. If either one pitches on Tuesday, they would need another day of rest.

 

Around the National League

Cincinnati - All of Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, and Nate Jones have pitched in back-to-back games. Amir Garrett could be the next man up if all three get a day off. He's only pitched once since September 6 though, indicating the coaches may have lost trust in him. Not sure why that would be, as Garrett has pitched well this season and was pitching well recently before his last outing.

Milwaukee - Josh Hader's entrance into Monday's game meant he pitched in three of the past four days. Devin Williams got into action on the same three days as Hader. Both will need days off. Alex Claudio can pick up the slack in the immediate future, though he has pitched in two of three. Oh by the way, the Brewers have another double header scheduled for Wednesday.

St. Louis - Tyler Webb grabbed an extra-inning save, pitching for the third time in four days. Alex Reyes has now gone in back-to-back. Genesis Cabrera has pitched in three straight. Andrew Miller was unavailable for Monday's double header, so at least he should be ready to roll.

Colorado - A group of arms in front of Daniel Bard had all pitched in two straight before a day off. That includes Yency Almonte, Jairo Diaz, and Carlos Estevez. Bard himself is rested, as are Mychal Givens and Tyler Kinley.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Kenley Jansen got the day off after going in two straight. If he enters another game here right away, he will likely need another day of rest. Blake Treinen will be in the same boat. He's gone in two of three currently.

San Diego - The Padres got back into action, and only Drew Pomeranz is ready for some rest. He's gone in two straight games.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 8

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

The lefties were on display this week, as we saw two strong outings from AL southpaws Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield. And of course we're going to break down the most surprising start of the season to this point, Alec Mills's no-hitter over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/14/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

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Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees

16% Owned

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 28.1 IP, 5.72 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 13.4% K-BB%

09/12 vs. BAL: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Montgomery was something of a popular sleeper candidate coming into the season, as the 27-year-old was set to pitch his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2018. Montgomery was effective for the Yankees in 2017, putting up a 3.88 ERA and 14.3% K-BB% in 29 starts before succumbing to injury.  Domingo German’s suspension solidified Montgomery’s role in the rotation, and the stars were aligned for another successful season in the Bronx. Things didn’t work out that way for Montgomery, who got pounded to the tune of a 5.72 ERA and 1.6 HR/9 through his first seven starts. However, Montgomery welcomed the struggling O’s in to town, and sliced up Baltimore’s lineup for a career-best nine strikeouts. With a powerful (on paper, at least) New York offense to support him, Montgomery may be the answer for those trying to eek out a few extra wins and strikeouts down the stretch, but just how useful can the big lefty be?

Montgomery has a deep five-pitch repertoire consisting of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, and the occasional cutter. Montgomery’s 92.7 MPH fastball is a career-best, but still puts him around the league average. Even though Montgomery is throwing his fastball harder, opposing hitters don’t seem to mind, as batters are crushing his four-seamer for a .346 AVG and .538 SLG. The two-seamer hasn’t been much better, with opponents hitting .324 with a .486 SLG off the pitch thus far. This isn’t a new development for Montgomery, as both of his fastballs have always been clobbered, but it is cause for concern and caps his upside. Plenty of pitchers can get by with weak fastballs, but it makes them risky on a start-by-start basis. Montgomery’s own teammate Masahiro Tanaka is a perfect example of this. Tanaka’s fastball gets clobbered, but his command and secondary pitches are good enough for Tanaka to survive and thrive at times, but make him tough to trust. Montgomery must show he has capable enough secondary pitches if he wants to stick around with such a bad fastball.

Fortunately for Montgomery, he’s got two solid secondary pitches in his changeup and curveball. Both pitches have been effective in generating whiffs and soft contact. Batters are hitting .238 off Montgomery’s changeup and .161 off his curveball, and have an average exit velocity under 80 MPH on both pitches. These two pitches have allowed Montgomery to have overall 83.8 MPH average exit velocity against, the third best mark in the league (min. 100 batted ball events). Montgomery had a decent 87 MPH average exit velocity during his full season in 2017, but his current rate puts him in elite territory. Montgomery has been racking up the whiffs with both secondary pitches, with eight swinging strikes between the pair on Saturday. Montgomery’s curveball did the heavy-lifting for him against Baltimore, with Montgomery throwing it 31% of the time and getting six whiffs. Here’s an example from this start.

His curveball is not traditional, and is really more of a slurve than a true curveball. It’s always gotten better than average whiffs for Montgomery and he should be able to use this pitch to get decent strikeout numbers. Based on his track record, we shouldn’t expect Montgomery to maintain a strikeout rate above 9.0 K/9 and it’s unlikely that Montgomery will match or top the nine strikeout mark again this year. Over a four-game series with the Yankees, Baltimore scored three runs total and struck out 38 times, so Montgomery may have taken advantage of a weak lineup that had been overperfoming their true skill levels earlier in the year.

Verdict: Montgomery has all the tools of a four starter in the majors with a ceiling as a three, which makes him a streamable option in the right matchup. His next outing is against Boston, and while the Red Sox have a bad record, they do have with a .796 OPS and 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season. That’s not a great spot for a bad fastball pitcher like Montgomery. Sure, he had a good start this time, but it was just two starts earlier that Montgomery failed to make it out of the first inning against Tampa Bay.

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Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 37.1 IP, 4.34 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 13.8% K-BB%

09/12 @ ARI: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Once considered among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Sheffield’s star has faded since coming to Seattle as the centerpiece of the package that brought James Paxton to New York. Sheffield took his lumps in 2019, posting a 5.50 ERA and 4.71 FIP in 36 MLB innings. As if that wasn't bad enough, in 55 innings at Triple-A Sheffield was pounded for a 6.87 ERA, 7.18 FIP, 1.96 HR/9, and 1.17 K:BB ratio. Yeah, there were some crazy offensive numbers in the PCL last year, but these numbers are hideous any way you spin it. Two years ago a strong start from Sheffield would have ignited a massive hype train, but now it barely registers among fantasy baseball managers. Sheffield is still just 24 and has fewer than 100 MLB innings under his belt, so he has plenty of room to grow as a pitcher.

Sheffield uses a three pitch mix, relying on a fastball, slider, and changeup. The slider was his most touted pitch as a prospect, but scouts also raved about his sinking fastball, projecting that Sheffield could use it to regularly induce groundballs. His changeup is the weakest of the three pitches, and Sheffield uses it almost exclusively against right-handed batters when the slider would be less effective. Sheffield did make a change with his heater this season, ditching the four-seamer for a true two-seamer. That change hasn’t been revolutionary to Sheffield’s game from a results perspective, but it has helped him limit power. Batters had a .507 SLG against Sheffield’s fastball last season, but have a .378 SLG against his sinker this year. It’s worth noting that the xSLG (.460 in 2019, .451 in 2020) are nearly identical, so it remains to be seen if this improvement will stick. He’s been rather fortunate with just a 5.3% HR/FB ratio, but Sheffield also excelled at limiting longballs as a minor leaguer prior to 2019, so it’s certainly possible that he can maintain a solid home run rate in the majors, especially pitching half his games in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park.

The most impressive piece to Sheffield’s arsenal is his slider, which batters have flailed at for a .180 AVG and .197 SLG this season, along with a 14.2% SwStr rate, by far his best on his three primary pitches. A 14.2% SwStr rate falls short of elite territory for a  slider, but with sharp, sweeping break and an above average spin rate this pitch can make any left-handed batter look foolish. Here’s one of his best from this start.

You might look at that pitch and wonder how Sheffield only has a 22.2% strikeout rate on the year. Well, remember how I said Sheffield’s slider can make any left-handed batter look foolish? Unfortunately for Sheffield, sometimes major league teams use right-handed batters too. With Sheffield relying so much on his slider to get whiffs, he has suffered from quite large platoon splits. As a big leaguer Sheffield has held righties to a .173 AVG and .270 wOBA, but righties have crushed him for a .303 AVG and .348 wOBA. It’s a relatively small sample size as Sheffield has just 82 career innings in the majors, but with his pitching style it’s easy to predict wide platoon splits.

Sheffield can fix his platoon splits one of three ways: Better fastball command, better slider command, or developing the changeup into a true strong third pitch instead of a weak alternative for his slider. Ideally, he’d do all three, but that’s a tall order even over an entire offseason. If he could do one and cut back on the walks it would work wonders for his consistency and long-term viability as a starter. It was just two years ago where Sheffield was among the most prized pitching prospects in baseball, and he makes for a sneaky post-hype sleeper heading into 2021. For this year, Sheffield should be viewed similarly to Jordan Montgomery. The two have different pitching styles, but your willingness to use them depends on matchup and personal situation, because both are far from must-start right now.

Verdict: For the first time in his big league career, Sheffield is showing some promise that he can live up to the immense hype he had as a prospect. Still, he’s tough to trust in playoff time, and only usable against weak opponents. As it would line up now Sheffield’s next start comes home against San Diego, a team with a 109 wRC+ and .777 OPS against lefties this season. I’d avoid that one, but his final start against Oakland is intriguing. The A’s are playoff-bound, but only have a .714 OPS against left-handed pitchers, along with a 26.8% K rate versus southpaws, second-highest in the league. Oakland will also be without Matt Chapman and possibly without lefty-masher Chad Pinder, making that start even more enticing. He’s a sneaky championship streamer in that one.

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Alec Mills, Chicago Cubs

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior tot this start): 43.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 9.9% K-BB%

09/13/20 @ MIL: 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Sure, Alex Mills threw a no-hitter, but did you know he has a .000 BABIP over his last nine innings? Yeesh, talk about good luck. In all seriousness, Mills etched his name into the record book on Sunday tossing the 16th no-hitter in Chicago Cubs history and becoming Chicago’s second favorite Sunday arm behind comeback artist Mitch Trubisky. Mills has sort-of filled the Mike Montgomery role for Chicago over the past few years, bouncing between long relief and the rotation as needed, but with a no-no to his name and a 3.85 ERA over his MLB career, the Cubs may have stumbled onto something special with the unheralded righty.

As a 22nd round pick by Kansas City in 2012, it’s safe to say that Mills had little prospect pedigree. He did make it on to some Chicago Cubs prospect lists a few years ago after coming over from KC, but Chicago’s farm system had been severely depleted by win-now trades at that point and says more about the Cubs’ prospects at the time than Mills. In short, Mills had no where near the hype of a Justus Sheffield or Jordan Montgomery, and many scouts thought he’d be lucky to hang around in a big league bullpen for a few years.

Mills works with a five-pitch repertoire with a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. He fires in his fastball at a modest 90 MPH, and opposing hitters have sent it back even harder, as Mills’s four-seamer has a 90.6 MPH average exit velocity against this season. His four-seamer may have a .250 AVG and .450 SLG against, but a .313 xBA and .621 xSLG foretell heartache in his future with this heater. His best pitch has been the changeup, which has held batters to a .147 AVG and .324 SLG this season, along with an 18.6% SwStr rate. An argument could be made for his slider being his best pitch, as batters have mustered just a .111 AVG, .111 SLG and have a 13.2% SwStr rate against the pitch this year, but Mills has only used it 9.4% of the time this season and only 5% of the time in his no-hitter, so Mills clearly views the pitch as a tertiary option. It’s the changeup that appears to be the key to Mills’s success.

What makes Mills’s changeup so special? Well, there are two things. First,  Mills has had about nine MPH of velocity separation between his fastball and changeup this season. Among the 260 pitchers who have thrown at least 250 total pitches and thrown both a fastball and changeup, the average velocity separation between fastball and changeup this year is 7.67. Some of the largest positive outliers are pitchers like Dylan Cease and Devin Williams, who average better than 97 and 96 MPH on their fastballs respectively. Mills simply can’t compete with that, but settles into a positive zone with guys like Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Keuchel, and Zach Davies. Those are Mills’s people, the guys he should one day hope to become. They all average around nine MPH of separation between their fastball and changeup despite poor fastball velocity. Like any metric, velocity separation isn’t an absolute indicator of success, but it helps with deception, which is Mills’s only hope of generating whiffs.

The second thing that makes Mills’s changeup special is above average movement, both horizontal and vertical. Here’s an early example from this start.

It doesn’t take much to get Keston Hiura to whiff, but Mills embarrasses the young second baseman with a changeup at his shins. This movement allows Mills to use the pitch as his primary offspeed offering against both lefties and righties. Mills has obviously been better against right-handed batters with a .159 AVG and .238 wOBA for his career, but he’s held his own against lefties with a .259 AVG and .344 wOBA all time. Those aren’t great numbers, but he can survive with those platoon splits.

What makes me hesitant about Mills isn’t just the poor fastball velocity, but it’s that his changeup isn’t good enough to overcome that fastball. Plenty of pitchers, such as Masahiro Tanaka and Dylan Bundy, have gotten by with a bad fastball, but those pitchers have an elite breaking ball. Kyle Hendricks has been the wizard of weak contact, while Dallas Keuchel the king of grounders. All of those pitchers do one thing exceptionally well to overcome their fastball. Mills doesn’t have that. He has a good changeup, a decent groundball rate, and limits hard contact pretty well, but all of those skills are far from elite. It would be interesting to see Mills use his slider more often, as it’s performed well and has above average break, but he only throws it about 10% of the time. Batters have a .061 AVG and a 14.8% SwStr rate against his slider all time, but it’s his least thrown pitch. A left-handed batter has never gotten a hit off his slider in the major leagues. Seriously, not once. 50 pitches thrown, zero base hits. Surely the Cubs’ coaching staff and analytics team knows about these statistics, so there must be a good reason why he’s not throwing much, but from where I’m sitting I can’t figure it out.

Going into this breakdown I was ready to dismiss Mills as lucky, and in many ways he was extremely lucky in this start. The Brewers put ten balls in play with an xBA of .300 or higher, the highest being a lineout by Jedd Gyorko in the second that screamed off his bat at 102.1 MPH and travelled 388 feet, good for an .810 xBA, but landed safely in the glove of Ian Happ standing on the centerfield warning track. But hey, if no one got lucky then we’d never have no hitters. Mills has been pretty lucky this season quite frankly, with a .211 BABIP helping him to a 3.93 ERA, but his 5.00 SIERA and 2.18 K/BB ratio are concerning. It’s almost silly to say I want to see more a pitcher throws a no hitter, but I do want to see more from Mills. I want to see him increase his slider and changeup usage so he’s less reliant on his fastball. That probably won’t happen this season, which make him another situational streamer. I wouldn’t be too keen on starting him after a 114-pitch outing either, especially against his next opponent, the powerful Minnesota Twins. After that one he’s lined up to face the Pirates in Pittsburgh, a matchup I’d consider.

Verdict: While the unheralded ex-swingman may not look like much on the radar gun, he’s got a pair of strong secondary pitches in his changeup and slider. It would be nice to see him use the changeup and slider more often, but we’ll likely have to wait until 2021 to see a change like that. For now, he’s a matchup dependent streamer. The no-hitter may have other owners overrating him, so don’t forget he had a 4.74 ERA prior to this start, and has allowed four or more runs in four of nine starts this season. He also has a pitiful 17.5% strikeout rate on the season, which makes the ceiling pretty low on days where he allows hits.



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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Starting Pitchers Weekly Rankings

The penultimate week of the 2020 fantasy baseball season is here, meaning you need the Week 9 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks to help analyze where the top 101 SPs stand moving forward. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for pitcher and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike (CSW) rates, xwOBA, and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 9 Top 101 SP Baller Ranks core sheet here. I encourage you to click that.

 

Top 101 Starting Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 9

Rank $ Tier Player EV $PV Trend Notes
1 43.0 1 Shane Bieber 21.7 43.0 0.0 ▬
2 42.0 1 Jacob deGrom 18.7 40.0 2.0 ▲ Oh my, is deGrom finally getting run support??
3 37.0 1 Yu Darvish 17.6 37.0 0.0 ▬
4 35.0 2 Clayton Kershaw 8.1 35.0 0.0 ▬
5 33.0 2 Gerrit Cole 8.0 33.0 0.0 ▬ HRs have been an issue, but 19 K & 1 ER vs. BAL x2 is great.
6 31.0 2 Trevor Bauer 15.0 31.0 0.0 ▬
7 29.0 2 Aaron Nola 13.5 29.0 0.0 ▬
8 29.0 2 Max Scherzer 13.1 27.0 2.0 ▲
9 27.0 2 Luis Castillo 13.7 25.0 2.0 ▲ That CG against the Cards felt great, good skills win out.
10 25.0 3 Lucas Giolito 16.6 29.0 -4.0 ▼ Still an ace in 7-of-10 outings this year, you'll take it.
11 25.0 3 Dinelson Lamet 12.7 23.0 2.0 ▲
12 23.0 3 Kenta Maeda 15.1 22.0 1.0 ▲ Blowing away my highest hopes for him, love to see it.
13 23.0 3 Dylan Bundy 15.8 17.5 5.5 ▲
14 22.0 3 Tyler Glasnow 8.2 22.0 0.0 ▬
15 22.0 3 Lance Lynn 10.1 18.5 3.5 ▲
16 22.0 3 Jack Flaherty 3.7 25.0 -3.0 ▼ Hasn't gone past 5 IP in any start since Opening Day.
17 20.0 3 Sonny Gray 11.9 22.0 -2.0 ▼ Back-to-back implosions, but draws PIT at home next.
18 20.0 3 Zac Gallen 10.9 23.0 -3.0 ▼ Looked mortal last 2 starts, but RoS schedule still a beaut.
19 18.5 4 Carlos Carrasco 8.2 16.0 2.5 ▲
20 17.5 4 Blake Snell 3.6 14.0 3.5 ▲
21 15.5 4 Corbin Burnes 15.5 10.0 5.5 ▲ Stock ascending faster than his batted balls allowed in 2019.
22 15.0 4 Zack Greinke 15.0 20.0 -5.0 ▼
23 14.0 4 Zach Plesac 9.4 14.0 0.0 ▬
24 14.0 4 Brandon Woodruff 13.2 12.0 2.0 ▲ Had been sliding, but 7 IP, 1 H, 12 K is a statement.
25 14.0 4 Kyle Hendricks 11.5 11.0 3.0 ▲
26 13.0 4 Hyun-Jin Ryu 8.8 9.5 3.5 ▲
27 12.0 4 Aaron Civale 11.1 14.0 -2.0 ▼
28 11.0 5 Charlie Morton 3.4 13.0 -2.0 ▼ Good form in 2 starts since IL, but he won't be pushed.
29 11.0 5 Mike Clevinger 2.8 11.0 0.0 ▬ Has only walked one batter in each of last 3 starts.
30 10.0 5 Jesus Luzardo 5.7 9.5 0.5 ▲
31 9.5 5 Jose Berrios 6.4 9.5 0.0 ▬
32 9.5 5 Andrew Heaney 12.2 9.0 0.5 ▲
33 9.5 5 Zach Davies 10.3 9.0 0.5 ▲ Faces LAD next, but had 7 IP, 2 ER against them in August.
34 9.5 5 Marco Gonzales 11.7 8.5 1.0 ▲
35 9.0 5 Sixto Sanchez 6.1 8.0 1.0 ▲ The fish that was promised? Just wrecking MLB batters.
36 9.0 5 Zack Wheeler 12.3 14.0 -5.0 ▼ Learn how to put on pants, c'mon.
37 9.0 5 Kevin Gausman 8.2 4.5 4.5 ▲ Kevin is throwing gas, man.
38 8.5 5 Masahiro Tanaka 6.4 6.5 2.0 ▲
39 8.5 5 Ian Anderson 2.9 4.0 4.5 ▲ Getting lucky, but creating lots of good fortune as well.
40 8.5 5 Triston McKenzie 4.5 5.0 3.5 ▲ Matchup against MIN will be a good test.
41 8.5 5 Tyler Mahle 5.8 5.5 3.0 ▲
42 8.0 6 Tony Gonsolin 7.4 8.0 0.0 ▬
43 8.0 6 Cristian Javier 2.1 8.5 -0.5 ▼
44 8.0 6 Patrick Corbin 5.8 9.5 -1.5 ▼ Encouraging bounceback with 7 IP, 2 ER, 8 K vs. ATL.
45 8.0 6 Chris Bassitt 5.5 8.0 0.0 ▬
46 8.0 6 German Marquez 13.1 8.5 -0.5 ▼
47 6.5 7 Dustin May 3.8 8.0 -1.5 ▼
48 5.5 7 Dallas Keuchel 12.0 8.0 -2.5 ▼ Hopefully returning from IL this week, re-injury risk.
49 5.0 7 Deivi Garcia 5.2 3.5 1.5 ▲
50 4.5 7 Pablo Lopez 8.8 9.0 -4.5 ▼ Two bad starts in a row, we have little time for patience.
51 4.5 7 Framber Valdez 10.6 4.5 0.0 ▬
52 4.0 7 Zach Eflin 6.3 4.0 0.0 ▬
53 4.0 7 Michael Pineda 4.5 4.0 0.0 ▬
54 4.0 7 Garrett Richards 5.0 4.0 0.0 ▬
55 4.0 7 Julio Urias 6.0 4.0 0.0 ▬
56 4.0 7 Adam Wainwright 6.0 3.0 1.0 ▲
57 4.0 7 Max Fried 14.4 4.0 0.0 ▬ On IL for left-side muscle spasm, hopes to return Sept. 16.
58 4.0 7 Dylan Cease -0.5 3.0 1.0 ▲
59 3.5 8 Frankie Montas 3.5 2.5 1.0 ▲
60 3.0 8 Brady Singer 3.5 1.0 2.0 ▲ Will he face Detroit next? Or Milwaukee?
61 3.0 8 Walker Buehler 2.6 20.0 -17.0 ▼ That blister's back and LAD has no reason to push Buehler.
62 2.5 8 Chris Paddack 4.2 9.0 -6.5 ▼ His good-bad start pattern was interrupted by ankle sprain.
63 2.5 8 Sean Manaea 8.3 1.5 1.0 ▲ Four consecutive wins, looking good - but Coors awaits.
64 2.5 8 Matthew Boyd -1.1 4.0 -1.5 ▼
65 2.0 8 Danny Duffy 4.0 2.0 0.0 ▬
66 2.0 8 Brad Keller 7.5 2.0 0.0 ▬
67 2.0 8 Justin Dunn -1.1 2.0 0.0 ▬
68 2.0 8 Justus Sheffield 8.5 1.5 0.5 ▲ 5 QS in his last six outings, K's ramping up again.
69 2.0 8 Randy Dobnak 5.9 2.0 0.0 ▬
70 1.5 9 Dakota Hudson 2.7 1.0 0.5 ▲
71 1.5 9 Antonio Senzatela 6.1 2.5 -1.0 ▼
72 1.5 9 Dane Dunning 5.5 1.5 0.0 ▬
73 1.5 9 Jordan Montgomery 2.5 1.0 0.5 ▲ Looks amazing at times, but consistency remains an issue.
74 1.5 9 Jose Urquidy -0.2 1.0 0.5 ▲
75 1.5 9 Sandy Alcantara 1.4 1.0 0.5 ▲
76 1.5 9 Ryan Yarbrough 2.4 1.5 0.0 ▬ Ugly return from IL, eye Sept. 15 start vs. WSH.
77 1.5 9 Taijuan Walker 3.2 1.5 0.0 ▬
78 1.5 9 Yusei Kikuchi 9.2 1.5 0.0 ▬
79 1.5 9 Rich Hill 2.1 1.5 0.0 ▬
80 1.5 9 Seth Lugo 4.5 2.0 -0.5 ▼
81 1.5 9 Dean Kremer 2.0 1.0 0.5 ▲ Did well against Yanks in rematch, faces Rays next.
82 1.5 9 Kyle Freeland 7.1 2.5 -1.0 ▼
83 1.0 10 Joe Musgrove 1.3 1.0 0.0 ▬ Looks good upon return, but only 7 IP in two starts.
84 1.0 10 Alec Mills 2.0 1.5 -0.5 ▼
85 1.0 10 Josh Fleming 0.1 1.5 -0.5 ▼
86 1.0 10 Mike Minor 2.9 1.5 -0.5 ▼
87 1.0 10 Griffin Canning 3.0 1.5 -0.5 ▼
88 1.0 10 Luke Weaver 1.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
89 1.0 10 Spencer Turnbull 6.4 1.0 0.0 ▬
90 1.0 10 Tarik Skubal -0.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
91 1.0 10 J.A. Happ 1.5 0.0 1.0 ▲
92 1.0 10 John Means -2.3 0.0 1.0 ▲ Showed life against NYM last time, monitor next start.
93 1.0 10 Johnny Cueto 4.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
94 1.0 10 Josh Lindblom 2.9 1.5 -0.5 ▼
95 1.0 10 Adrian Houser 3.8 1.5 -0.5 ▼
96 1.0 10 David Peterson 2.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
97 1.0 10 Chad Kuhl -0.8 1.0 0.0 ▬
98 1.0 10 Kris Bubic 3.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
99 1.0 10 Carlos Martinez -0.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
100 1.0 10 Brandon Bielak -3.3 1.0 0.0 ▬
101 1.0 10 Jakob Junis -1.6 1.0 0.0 ▬

Starting Pitcher Movers of Note

Corbin Burnes (SP, Brewers): After a dreadful 2019 campaign where every other pitch of his seemed to leave the yard, Burnes has evolved in ‘20. He hasn’t given up more than three earned in a start this year, but some control issues and pitch limits capped his ceiling. He’d only pitched more than four innings once in his first four outings, but he’s put the pedal to the metal recently.

With a whopping zero earned surrendered in his last three outings alongside a 28/3 K/BB ratio, Burnes is demanding the spotlight. We must keep both feet on the ground and recognize that two of those starts came against PIT and DET, but the man still has to execute. He lines up to face the Cards next and is locked into fantasy lineups.

Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants): I realize rostering the Giants is tough right now given the Covid-19 delay, but Gausman now has 62 strikeouts in 46 ⅔ IP with a clean 3.06 xFIP and 3.24 SIERA behind the 4.05 ERA. He walked into Coors and earned the win by allowing just two solo homers over five innings on Sept. 1 before crushing the D-backs with six innings of one-run ball, once again allowing just two hits. It helps that his splitter is absolutely devastating:

Add on that he’s averaging just 1.5 walks per start and you’ve got a healthy foundation to work off. Out of 63 SPs with at least 40 IP (as of Sept. 12), Gausman’s 27.8% K-BB% is sixth. The five ahead of him are Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Trevor Bauer, and Yu Darvish. He’s just ahead of Gerrit Cole. Is that promising company? I think so.

Ian Anderson (SP, Braves): Anderson was bounced by Miami after three frames on Sept. 7, but the rookie rebounded with a career-high seven innings and nine strikeouts against the Nationals on Saturday. The shutout frames dropped his ERA to 1.64 alongside a 0.91 WHIP with a zesty 11.05 K/9 to boot.

I don’t love the 10 walks (4.09 BB/9) and seeing the .184 BABIP over 22 IP, but his 59.2% groundball rate leaves little room for big damage and that clip usually doesn’t accompany heavy K’s. His groundball rate in the minors usually hugged 45% so we must be mindful of the sample size, but ignoring hot streaks with rookies that MLB hitters haven’t figured out yet is a losing recipe.

Pablo Lopez (SP, Marlins): It can’t all be feel-good stories, as López has snuffed out his hot start with two absolute clunkers. Yielding five runs over four frames against Tampa Bay was understandable -- a blip, perhaps. But then he gave up a disastrous seven runs on four hits and four walks in just 1 ⅔ IP at Atlanta on Sept. 9, showing little semblance of command.

Those are two talented lineups, but he gets another one in the Phillies next (on Monday). I’m not saying he’s an instant drop or lost cause, but the risk profile has increased just like his ERA has skyrocketed from 2.10 to 4.50 in a blink. Ditto Matthew Boyd, who gave up seven earned with four walks on Sept. 9 as well.

Brady Singer (SP, Royals): Singer celebrated his first start in a month that wasn’t against the Twins or White Sox by taking a no-hitter against Cleveland into the eighth inning on Sept. 10. He would lose it with four outs to go, but eight shutout frames for the win is nothing to scoff at. 

And seriously, he had faced the Twins or White Sox in five consecutive starts going back to early August. That’s difficult for anyone to navigate, let alone a rookie. It’s unclear whether he’ll face the Tigers on Sept. 16 or wait until Sept. 18 to take on the Brewers. Either one is okay, but obviously Detroit is the preferable draw.



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2020 wRC+ Splits: Risers and Fallers

Baseball in 2020 is unlike any season that I can remember. The designated hitter is now present in the National League. You will not find any more LOOGYs with the institution of the three-batter minimum rule. Doubleheaders are now a combined 14 innings of baseball. Extra innings now start with a runner on second base. There will not be an All-Star game played in 2020, but MLB has called for an expanded postseason. We have cardboard cutouts, and only the Philly Phanatic to cheer them on.

There are of course many other quirks and nuances for this short season. One item that will not be taken away is player consistency and inconsistency. What I mean by that – is the ability for some players to ride hot streaks for weeks at a time, only to cool off thereafter. At times, players begin the season with a slow start, but manage to turn their season around. There are, of course, those players whose skills appear to be the same throughout the year.

Today, I will take a quick look at the current year’s ‘half-season’ consistencies and inconsistencies.

 

Definitions & Methodology

To set the stage, let us first define what we mean by the ‘half-season’ to date. We will break the season into two sections.

  • First Half (1H) – July 23, 2020 to August 16, 2020
  • Second Half (2H) – August 16, 2020 to September 7, 2020

These 3+ week spans are certainly not the official baseball half seasons. They merely are the splits of the current year to date. In actuality, they more closely represent the first two thirds of the short season – but for now, we will refer to them as the ‘half-seasons.’

Next, we will define consistency. For this analysis, we will focus on wRC+.

With regards to their metric wRC, FanGraphs notes the following:

Weighted Runs Created (wRC) is an improved version of Bill James’ Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.  In Runs Created, instead of looking at a player’s line and listing out all the details (e.g. 23 2B, 15 HR, 55 BB, 110 K, 19 SB, 5 CS), the information is synthesized into one metric in order to say, “Player X was worth 24 runs to his team last year.”  While the idea was sound, James’ formula has since been superseded by Tom Tango’s wRC , which is based off Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).

wRC+ uses wOBA, park factors, and league run environment to produce an all-in-one encompassing leaderboard metric. The ‘+’ refers to the normalizing of the statistic, i.e. it is scaled so that 100 is league average. A wRC+ of 142 means that the player was 42% better than league average. A wRC+ of 94 means that the player was 6% worse than league average, etc.

In today’s article, we will look at the difference between a player’s first-half wRC+ and second half wRC+. To rule out some noise, we will only consider players who accumulated at least 35 plate appearances in each half.

Finally, we will classify each player as either a gainer or fader. A gainer is a player with an increase in wRC+ from first half to second. A fader is a player who exhibited a decrease during the stated time. A player with a low absolute difference in half-season wRC+ will be referred to as a stable player.

 

2020 Gainers

Here are the largest 2020 half-season gainers:

Player Team 1H wRC+ 2H wRC+ wRC+ Diff
Brandon Belt Giants 71 277 206
Kyle Tucker Astros 56 226 170
Justin Upton Angels 11 160 149
Jose Abreu White Sox 100 231 131
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Blue Jays 54 183 129
Evan White Mariners 23 149 126
Ben Gamel Brewers 35 157 122
Miguel Sano Twins 63 184 121
Eugenio Suarez Reds 49 169 120
Will Smith Dodgers 107 224 117
Edwin Encarnacion White Sox 20 137 117
Ronald Acuna Jr. Braves 136 250 114
Austin Riley Braves 31 143 112
Rafael Devers Red Sox 47 157 110
Jonathan Schoop Tigers 77 181 104
Cody Bellinger Dodgers 53 154 101
Austin Hedges Indians 2 103 101
Trea Turner Nationals 121 219 98
Manny Machado Padres 96 189 93
Tucker Barnhart Reds 16 109 93
Pat Valaika Orioles 59 149 90
Marcell Ozuna Braves 127 215 88
Jacob Stallings Pirates 72 159 87
Brandon Crawford Giants 63 150 87
Rowdy Tellez Blue Jays 95 180 85
Rhys Hoskins Phillies 107 190 83
Amed Rosario Mets 28 111 83
Freddie Freeman Braves 130 211 81
Jason Heyward Cubs 112 191 79
Yasmani Grandal White Sox 93 172 79
Jackie Bradley Jr. Red Sox 58 135 77
Alex Gordon Royals 46 122 76
Francisco Lindor Indians 81 154 73
Sam Hilliard Rockies 46 117 71
Omar Narvaez Brewers 31 101 70
Kevin Kiermaier Rays 84 152 68
Joc Pederson Dodgers 61 129 68
Luis Rengifo Angels 23 89 66
Evan Longoria Giants 74 139 65
Andrew McCutchen Phillies 43 108 65
Jeimer Candelario Tigers 103 167 64
Kurt Suzuki Nationals 69 132 63
Mauricio Dubon Giants 61 123 62
Adam Duvall Braves 93 152 59
Eric Thames Nationals 30 89 59
Michael Conforto Mets 150 205 55

Brandon Belt jumps out as the largest gainer from the first half. Over the past 3+ weeks, Belt is batting .444 with 5 HRs, 14 runs and 14 RBI. His walk rate has grown to an immense 18%, up from what was already a very decent 10% to start the first half of the season. Some of his success seems to be luck aided; he has compiled a .500 BABIP in the second half, which is clearly not sustainable. Belt, who is has a career 123 wRC+, is likely more overplaying in the 2H than underplaying in the 1H.

The same is not true for Red Sox star Rafael Devers, whose second half is closer to reality than his abysmal first. After an incredible 2019, Devers was primed to be a major offensive force in the American League, as one analyst predicted an MVP season.

In the first half of 2020, Devers hit for a .182 average. I stepped on the scale this morning, and I saw a larger figure than that. Since then, Rafael has turned around his season. He is sneakily hitting .321 with 5 HRs and 20 RBI. I would still bet on the upside with Devers going forward.

There are a few other players who catch my eye – who were fantastic early on in the season, and then got even better! The players who had at least a 125 wRC+ in the first half, who had at least a 175 wRC+ in the second half are:

  • Ronald Acuna Jr.
  • Marcell Ozuna
  • Freddie Freeman
  • Michael Conforto

Wow. Almost every player above is a member of the Atlanta Braves.  These figures do not even include the Altanta 29-run rout on Wednesday night. The Braves have catapulted themselves into first place in the NL East over the past three weeks.

As for Conforto, he is currently 2nd in the National League in batting average for the season overall at .348, trailing only Trea Turner. Turner barely missed being mentioned with the other Braves, as he only had a 121 first half wRC+.

 

2020 Faders

Here are the largest 2020 half-season faders:

Player Team 1H wRC+ 2H wRC+ wRC+ Diff
Charlie Blackmon Rockies 191 26 -165
Brandon Lowe Rays 205 58 -147
JaCoby Jones Tigers 190 44 -146
Mike Tauchman Yankees 147 16 -131
Brian Goodwin Reds 157 33 -124
Ryan McBroom Royals 164 43 -121
Daniel Murphy Rockies 106 -12 -118
Bryce Harper Phillies 206 90 -116
Freddy Galvis Reds 132 19 -113
Todd Frazier Mets 142 32 -110
Chance Sisco Orioles 197 90 -107
Juan Soto Nationals 270 167 -103
Jason Kipnis Cubs 201 99 -102
Whit Merrifield Royals 138 42 -96
Austin Romine Tigers 113 20 -93
Hunter Renfroe Rays 97 7 -90
Jesse Winker Reds 213 126 -87
Renato Nunez Orioles 161 76 -85
Yuli Gurriel Astros 149 65 -84
Michael Chavis Red Sox 111 27 -84
Asdrubal Cabrera Nationals 123 41 -82
J.T. Realmuto Phillies 176 98 -78
Carson Kelly Diamondbacks 75 -1 -76
Starling Marte Marlins 154 79 -75
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 147 72 -75
James McCann White Sox 177 102 -75
Robbie Grossman Athletics 184 110 -74
Nicky Lopez Royals 99 27 -72
Rio Ruiz Orioles 125 55 -70
Nicholas Castellanos Reds 163 96 -67
Mitch Moreland Padres 193 128 -65
Austin Meadows Rays 124 59 -65
Pedro Severino Orioles 174 110 -64
Ramon Laureano Athletics 141 78 -63
Tony Kemp Athletics 134 71 -63
DJ LeMahieu Yankees 175 113 -62
Roman Quinn Phillies 107 45 -62
Donovan Solano Giants 171 110 -61
Mike Ford Yankees 66 8 -58
Brian Anderson Marlins 136 80 -56
A.J. Pollock Dodgers 153 97 -56
Erik Gonzalez Pirates 141 89 -52
Hanser Alberto Orioles 129 78 -51
David Peralta Diamondbacks 117 66 -51

Charlie Blackmon is the largest fader in 2020. After three weeks of flirting with a .500 batting average (yes, a .500 batting average) – we knew that he would most certainly descend towards earth. What we did not know was that he would crash, with a 26 wRC+. In other words, Blackmon has been 74% worse than the league average over the past few weeks. Yikes! Regression is a powerful force.

Daniel Murphy and Carson Kelly are the two members of this leaderboard who faded to a negative second-half wRC+. Kelly is batting just a mere .154 in the 2H, with just 1 HR and no walks. Murphy has a .170 average, and no homers. There is upside though for Murphy, who struck out less than 10% of the time during that span, and hit for just a .186 BABIP. Expect some bounce-back.

Now for the players who were super-awesome, and who are now ... just awesome. Below are all those who had at least a 175 wRC+ in the first half, and hit for at least a 125 wRC+ in the second half:

  • Juan Soto
  • Jesse Winker
  • Mitch Moreland

The Padres made a number of mid-season trades this year, and with one of them acquired the ageless Mitch Moreland. Mitch has been outstanding in 2020, but he does exhibit a large righty/lefty split. His wRC+ against righties this year is 173, while vs. lefties is only 66. With Eric Hosmer now on the shelf, Moreland will likely get lots of playing time going forward.

Juan Soto was my pre-season prediction for this year’s NL MVP. Soto missed some time in the beginning of the season, as he tested positive for COVID. As soon as he started playing, he hit the ground running. He has accumulated 1.4 WAR on the season – a top 20 figure in the NL despite the missed time. In his declined 2H, Soto is still batting a lofty .305. No need to worry.

Jesse Winker is quietly having a heck of a season for the Reds. He is batting .293 with 10 HRs, 20 runs and 18 RBI. I do not worry about his second half fade, as he is walking at a 15% clip. Winker is simply an undervalued professional baseball player.

 

2020 Most Stable Players

Just for fun, here are the most stable players in all of baseball across both season halves:

Player Team 1H wRC+ 2H wRC+ wRC+ Diff
Jean Segura Phillies 108 108 0
Eddie Rosario Twins 103 103 0
Kevin Newman Pirates 60 60 0
Sean Murphy Athletics 113 114 1
Jake Cronenworth Padres 151 150 -1
Avisail Garcia Brewers 81 80 -1
Giovanny Urshela Yankees 133 135 2
Trent Grisham Padres 125 123 -2
Tommy La Stella Athletics 125 123 -2
Howie Kendrick Nationals 79 82 3
Alex Verdugo Red Sox 129 133 4
Luis Arraez Twins 79 83 4
Javier Baez Cubs 57 61 4
Willy Adames Rays 147 143 -4
Travis d'Arnaud Braves 143 139 -4
Travis Shaw Blue Jays 99 95 -4
Nelson Cruz Twins 177 182 5
Nomar Mazara White Sox 81 76 -5
Bryan Reynolds Pirates 72 67 -5
Tony Wolters Rockies 18 13 -5
Franmil Reyes Indians 144 150 6
Cesar Hernandez Indians 95 101 6
Willson Contreras Cubs 101 107 6
Isiah Kiner-Falefa Rangers 95 101 6
Mookie Betts Dodgers 174 168 -6
Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 178 185 7
Justin Turner Dodgers 126 119 -7
J.D. Davis Mets 133 126 -7
Kyle Schwarber Cubs 113 106 -7
Adam Eaton Nationals 69 62 -7
Anthony Rendon Angels 160 168 8
Chris Taylor Dodgers 114 122 8
Ryan McMahon Rockies 75 83 8
Jose Peraza Red Sox 63 71 8
David Fletcher Angels 129 121 -8
Christian Walker Diamondbacks 112 121 9
Carlos Correa Astros 127 118 -9
Eloy Jimenez White Sox 135 126 -9

All of the above players exhibited less than a 10-point difference in their wRC+ between the halves of the season. Of course, consistent hitting is wonderful if the consistency is at a high level such as for Travis d'Arnaud, Nelson Cruz, Franmil Reyes and Anthony Rendon. Sometimes the consistency shown is rather poor – as exhibited with Jose Peraza, Javier Baez, Ryan McMahon and Kevin Newman.

Particularly impressive are the players who can stay at a high offensive level for a prolonged period of time. Jake Cronenworth is a lesser-known player to many, but he is an underrated one. He hit for an almost identical 150 wRC+ in both halves. Cronenworth is batting .325 with four HR, 21 runs and 19 RBI. With a strikeout rate of only 17% in 2020, he should continue to have a high floor for his batting average as the season moves along. He also has swiped 3 bases and carries positional eligibility flexibility, which makes him quite valuable in fantasy baseball - especially in rotisserie formats.

Will these consistent players keep it up for the remainder of the season? Check back here later on in the season.



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The Baller Ranks: Top 200 Hitters Weekly Rankings (Week 8)

Welcome to the homestretch. The past week seems to have reversed some of the trends and shifts that we were seeing earlier in the season. Edwin Encarnacion appears resurgent. Brandon Lowe looks like he is scuffling. And Tommy Pham might be coming back. The first two are more complex than they seem, but if Pham returns, it would be one of the most enigmatic parts of an already unpredictable season.

If it happens, the early return could not be more on-brand for Tommy Pham. I don't know of any other player with a more pronounced reputation as a driven athlete who so consistently exceeds expectations. I've thrown him into the ranks, but only at a $1 until we know more. If you have bench space, you could stash him, but keep in mind that we're talking about 11 or 12 games at the maximum. If the news solidifies, consider him a $10 player from now until the rest of the season.

Please remember that the schedule is now having an outsized impact on projected player values. The discrepancy is altering player ranks and causing some disconcerting changes in projected values. If you see a player who has had a bad stretch but an increase in projected value, it's probably tied to their number of remaining games relative to the rest of the league. With that out of the way,  here are the Baller Ranks Top-200 hitters and the Week 8 Meta Report. If you're unfamiliar with the Meta Report, here's a quick guide on what it is and how to read it. And if you missed Nick Mariano's pitcher rankings yesterday, here are his top 101 relievers and his top 101 starters.

Week 8 Hitter Rankings

Rank $ Player Pos Trend
1 45.0 Mike Trout OF 0 ▬
2 45.0 Juan Soto OF 0 ▬
3 39.0 Christian Yelich OF 1 ▲
4 38.0 Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 2 ▲
5 38.0 Mookie Betts OF 0 ▬
6 38.0 Bryce Harper OF -3 ▼
7 38.0 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF 8 ▲
8 35.0 Trevor Story SS -1 ▼
9 34.0 Trea Turner SS 1 ▲
10 34.0 Cody Bellinger OF -2 ▼
11 33.0 Francisco Lindor SS 1 ▲
12 32.0 Freddie Freeman 1B 2 ▲
13 31.0 Jose Ramirez 3B -2 ▼
14 30.0 J.T. Realmuto C -1 ▼
15 30.0 Nolan Arenado 3B -6 ▼
16 29.0 Nelson Cruz DH 0 ▬
17 26.0 Manny Machado 3B 1 ▲
18 26.0 Marcell Ozuna DH 1 ▲
19 25.0 Rafael Devers 3B -2 ▼
20 24.0 Luis Robert OF 3 ▲
21 24.0 Eloy Jimenez OF 1 ▲
22 24.0 Paul Goldschmidt 1B -2 ▼
23 23.0 Xander Bogaerts SS -2 ▼
24 23.0 Starling Marte OF 0 ▬
25 22.0 Nick Castellanos OF 0 ▬
26 21.0 Corey Seager SS 11 ▲
27 21.0 Pete Alonso 1B -1 ▼
28 20.0 Tim Anderson SS 7 ▲
29 20.0 Keston Hiura 2B 1 ▲
30 20.0 Alex Bregman 3B 42 ▲
31 19.5 Ozzie Albies 2B 27 ▲
32 19.0 Jose Abreu 1B 10 ▲
33 18.5 Whit Merrifield OF -2 ▼
34 18.5 Matt Chapman 3B -5 ▼
35 18.5 George Springer OF -1 ▼
36 18.0 Charlie Blackmon OF -4 ▼
37 18.0 DJ LeMahieu 2B -1 ▼
38 18.0 Anthony Rizzo 1B 1 ▲
39 18.0 Javier Baez SS -12 ▼
40 17.5 Kyle Tucker OF 26 ▲
41 17.5 Marcus Semien SS 5 ▲
42 17.0 Eddie Rosario OF -4 ▼
43 17.0 Anthony Rendon 3B -10 ▼
44 17.0 Carlos Correa SS -4 ▼
45 16.5 Eugenio Suarez 3B 12 ▲
46 16.5 Ramon Laureano OF 3 ▲
47 16.5 J.D. Martinez DH -19 ▼
48 16.0 Joey Gallo OF -7 ▼
49 15.5 Didi Gregorius SS 5 ▲
50 15.5 Kyle Schwarber OF -6 ▼
51 15.5 Yuli Gurriel 1B -6 ▼
52 15.0 Michael Conforto OF -2 ▼
53 15.0 Franmil Reyes DH 8 ▲
54 15.0 Gleyber Torres SS 32 ▲
55 14.5 Luke Voit 1B 5 ▲
56 14.0 Rhys Hoskins 1B 11 ▲
57 14.0 Josh Donaldson 3B 28 ▲
58 13.5 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B -10 ▼
59 13.5 Jonathan Villar SS -7 ▼
60 13.0 Miguel Sano 1B 8 ▲
61 13.0 Matt Olson 1B -5 ▼
62 13.0 Andrew McCutchen OF 8 ▲
63 13.0 Yasmani Grandal C 2 ▲
64 13.0 Ketel Marte 2B -21 ▼
65 12.0 Brandon Lowe 2B -2 ▼
66 12.0 Yoan Moncada 3B -13 ▼
67 11.5 Max Muncy 1B 4 ▲
68 11.0 Jonathan Schoop 2B 13 ▲
69 11.0 Willson Contreras C 0 ▬
70 11.0 Austin Meadows OF -11 ▼
71 10.5 Alex Verdugo OF 11 ▲
72 10.5 Jorge Soler DH -17 ▼
73 10.5 Mike Moustakas 2B 1 ▲
74 10.0 Wil Myers OF 2 ▲
75 10.0 Michael Brantley OF/DH 9 ▲
76 10.0 Kris Bryant 3B/OF/DH 3 ▲
77 10.0 Eduardo Escobar 3B 3 ▲
78 9.0 Mike Yastrzemski OF 18 ▲
79 9.0 Renato Nunez 1B 12 ▲
80 9.0 Jorge Polanco SS 18 ▲
81 8.5 Dansby Swanson SS 6 ▲
82 8.5 Trent Grisham OF 1 ▲
83 8.5 Lourdes Gurriel Jr. OF 24 ▲
84 8.0 Ian Happ OF 31 ▲
85 8.0 Cavan Biggio 2B 16 ▲
86 8.0 Jesse Winker OF 4 ▲
87 8.0 Shohei Ohtani DH -10 ▼
88 8.0 Bo Bichette SS 4 ▲
89 8.0 Will Smith C 20 ▲
90 7.5 Dominic Smith 1B/OF/DH 16 ▲
91 7.5 Randal Grichuk OF 14 ▲
92 7.5 Carlos Santana 1B 10 ▲
93 7.5 Gary Sanchez C -46 ▼
94 7.0 Yadier Molina C 9 ▲
95 7.0 Brian Anderson 3B 4 ▲
96 6.5 Kyle Lewis OF 4 ▲
97 6.5 Kyle Seager 3B 22 ▲
98 6.5 Austin Nola C 19 ▲
99 6.5 Ryan Mountcastle OF/DH 39 ▲
100 6.5 Josh Bell 1B -6 ▼
101 6.5 Corey Dickerson OF 27 ▲
102 6.0 Jake Cronenworth 2B 8 ▲
103 6.0 Pedro Severino C 9 ▲
104 6.0 J.D. Davis 3B 4 ▲
105 6.0 Adalberto Mondesi SS 9 ▲
106 6.0 Victor Robles OF -13 ▼
107 6.0 Adam Eaton OF -18 ▼
108 5.5 Mitch Moreland 1B 3 ▲
109 5.5 Kolten Wong 2B 9 ▲
110 5.5 Alec Bohm 3B 3 ▲
111 5.5 Byron Buxton OF -7 ▼
112 5.0 Aaron Judge OF/DH 9 ▲
113 5.0 Willy Adames SS 7 ▲
114 5.0 Mark Canha OF 2 ▲
115 5.0 Jeff McNeil 2B/3B/OF/DH 15 ▲
116 4.5 Dylan Moore 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 29 ▲
117 4.5 Christian Walker 1B 5 ▲
118 4.5 Travis d'Arnaud C 5 ▲
119 4.5 Gio Urshela 3B -55 ▼
120 4.5 Paul DeJong SS 5 ▲
121 4.0 A.J. Pollock OF 8 ▲
122 4.0 Avisail Garcia OF 2 ▲
123 4.0 Edwin Encarnacion DH 47 ▲
124 3.5 Maikel Franco 3B 10 ▲
125 3.5 Nick Solak OF 6 ▲
126 3.5 Colin Moran 1B/3B/DH -8 ▼
127 3.5 Christian Vazquez C 0 ▬
128 3.5 Aaron Hicks OF 25 ▲
129 3.5 Jo Adell OF 15 ▲
130 3.5 Joc Pederson OF 2 ▲
131 3.0 Kevin Pillar OF 9 ▲
132 3.0 David Fletcher SS 1 ▲
133 3.0 Evan Longoria 3B 18 ▲
134 3.0 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B 1 ▲
135 3.0 Jean Segura 2B/3B/SS 33 ▲
136 3.0 Justin Upton OF 67 ▲
137 2.5 Donovan Solano 2B 49 ▲
138 2.5 J.P. Crawford SS 1 ▲
139 2.5 Max Kepler OF -88 ▼
140 2.5 Shin-Soo Choo OF/DH -4 ▼
141 2.5 Wilson Ramos C 2 ▲
142 2.0 Alex Dickerson OF 18 ▲
143 2.0 Brad Miller 3B/SS/DH 16 ▲
144 2.0 Tommy La Stella 2B 23 ▲
145 2.0 Justin Turner 3B 1 ▲
146 2.0 Tommy Edman 2B/3B/SS/OF 9 ▲
147 2.0 Joey Votto 1B -10 ▼
148 2.0 Hunter Renfroe OF 2 ▲
149 2.0 Howie Kendrick 1B/DH -23 ▼
150 1.5 Eric Hosmer 1B -53 ▼
151 1.5 Austin Riley 3B 37 ▲
152 1.5 Nick Ahmed SS 10 ▲
153 1.5 Asdrubal Cabrera 1B/3B/DH -11 ▼
154 1.5 Joey Bart C/DH 3 ▲
155 1.5 Jose Altuve 2B -93 ▼
156 1.5 Giancarlo Stanton DH -83 ▼
157 1.0 Teoscar Hernandez OF -82 ▼
158 1.0 Anthony Santander OF -63 ▼
159 1.0 Rowdy Tellez 1B/DH -12 ▼
160 1.0 Adam Duvall OF 40 ▲
161 1.0 Brandon Belt 1B 0 ▬
162 1.0 Jesus Aguilar 1B/3B/DH 4 ▲
163 1.0 Brandon Nimmo OF 1 ▲
164 1.0 Miguel Cabrera DH 25 ▲
165 1.0 David Peralta OF -87 ▼
166 1.0 Jon Berti 2B/3B/SS/OF -7 ▼
167 1.0 Austin Slater OF/DH -4 ▼
168 1.0 Clint Frazier OF/DH 12 ▲
169 1.0 Ryan Braun 1B/OF/DH -13 ▼
170 1.0 Ryan McMahon 2B -29 ▼
171 1.0 Salvador Perez C/1B/DH -2 ▼
172 1.0 Luis Urias 2B/3B/SS -23 ▼
173 1.0 Daniel Murphy 1B -19 ▼
174 1.0 Tommy Pham OF 26 ▲
175 1.0 Luis Arraez 2B 25 ▲
176 1.0 Chance Sisco C/DH -3 ▼
177 1.0 Victor Caratini C/1B/DH -1 ▼
178 1.0 Austin Romine C -6 ▼
179 1.0 Gavin Lux 2B -21 ▼
180 1.0 Niko Goodrum SS -15 ▼
181 1.0 Nick Senzel OF -2 ▼
182 1.0 Amed Rosario SS -34 ▼
183 1.0 Max Stassi C -1 ▼
184 1.0 Elvis Andrus SS -13 ▼
185 0.5 Miguel Andujar 3B/OF/DH 15 ▲
186 1.0 Sam Haggerty 3B/OF/DH -1 ▼
187 1.0 Anthony Santander OF -92 ▼
188 0.8 Rio Ruiz 3B -36 ▼
189 0.8 Garrett Hampson OF -2 ▼
190 0.8 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF/DH 10 ▲
191 0.8 Andres Gimenez 2B/3B/SS 9 ▲
192 0.8 James McCann C 8 ▲
193 0.8 Daulton Varsho C/OF/DH -3 ▼
194 0.8 Sean Murphy C -2 ▼
195 0.8 Bryan Reynolds OF -21 ▼
196 0.8 Andrelton Simmons SS -5 ▼
197 0.8 Carter Kieboom 3B/DH 3 ▲
198 0.8 Omar Narvaez C -3 ▼
199 0.8 Danny Jansen C -6 ▼
200 0.8 Brett Gardner OF -25 ▼

Key Rankings Movers

Rhys Hoskins (1B, Phillies)

There were some brutal stretches for Hoskins earlier in the season and some hard talk from fantasy managers about whether he was overdrafted based on erratic success.

Through his first 19 games, Hoskins hit .214 with 1 HR, 13 runs, 6 RBI, and a .760 OPS. For those 19 games, Hoskins ranked 421st in value. Since then, the Phillies have played another 19 games, and Hoskins has hit .289 with 8 HR, 18 R, 16 RBI, and a 1.071 OPS. During that stretch, he has been the 11th most valuable player in fantasy baseball.

Which one is the true Rhys Hoskins? Yes.

Here's where it gets worse. Hoskins' numbers looked fundamentally similar to last season. His Hard-Hit rate was down, as was his max exit velocity, but most of the batted ball data made him look like the same player.

We should have been able to see the truth in Hoskins' xwOBA. During those first 19 games, Hoskins' xwOBA was .406. In the second set, it has been .409, so why has Hoskins' performance been so erratic? Some of it is the small and over-weighted nature of this season's sampling. Some of it is also because of Hoskins' approach at the plate. While the Phillies' first baseman has always been a patient hitter, he owns a 23.4° launch angle. Hoskins' swing plane is steep enough that it leaves him subject to truly horrific luck with pop-ups and ground outs. During that initial stretch of futility, Hoskins owned a 40.5% fly-ball rate, which should be a positive, but it was compounded by a 23.5% infield-flyball rate and a 30.9% ground ball rate. Simply put, while Hoskins' aggressive launch angle allows him to generate ample home runs, it also leaves him subject to the type of batted-ball luck that prompts fantasy managers wondering if he's even ownable.

With Hoskins, managers are left with a player who has earned his spot and who looks like a good bet to finish the season as a top-10 first baseman. However, as those two stretches show us, the floor and ceiling are about as far apart as they can possibly be.

 

Kyle Tucker (OF, Astros)

The young Astros outfielder has done something that has thwarted so many rookies before him: he has played his way through the Dusty-Baker-Wall-of-Veteran-Experience.

Despite concerns about playing time, Tucker has been showcasing the type of 20-20 skills that have made him a blue-chip prospect. With his recent surge, Tucker has provided 8 home runs, 30 runs, 37 RBI, and 5 stolen bases with a .272 average. In fact, if we combine Tucker's 2019 and 2020 numbers, he is on a 162-game pace for 30 home runs and 25 stolen bases.

What's more, the underlying stats support Tucker's performance so far. His barrel rate (11.8%), exit velocity (91 MPH), hard-hit rate (45.4%), and xSLG (.540) are all in the top 25% of the league.

Tucker's hit tool and power are complemented by his five steals and effective speed. Add Tucker's 2019 audition to this year, and he has 10 steals in 64 games without having been caught once. That efficiency will ensure that the Astros keep letting him run.

The combination pushes his value up to the top-40 hitters, and we're getting to see his ceiling right now. Certainly, the talent is there to become a top-10 offensive threat, and Tucker's track record gives us a real reason to believe.

 

Brandon Lowe (2B, Rays)

Lowe offers us an example of the anti-Hoskins. Lowe's prospect pedigree and hot start made him a darling for managers, and he looked like the type of breakout player that helps win leagues. Over the last two weeks, however, he's struggled to produce. The dry stretch and Lowe's relative age have been forcing managers to re-evaluate his first-month success.

Fortunately, while the projections and production have faded a bit, there is good reason to be optimistic that he'll continue to be a top-ten second baseman from here forward. Even during this slump, Lowe has continued to barrel the ball at a 12.9% rate. His launch angle is still a healthy 15.1°, and on Monday night, he smacked a ball at 109.6 MPH, his highest exit velocity this season.

Lowe may need to make critical adjustments to rebound, but the situation doesn't look dire. His strikeout rate is up to 32.1% over his last 50 at-bats, but his chase rate, swinging-strike rate, and contact rates are relatively stable.

Over 165 MLB games, Brandon Lowe has given us a 126 wRC+, and there's nothing in the recent sample to make us doubt that level of performance.

 

Dylan Moore (OF, Mariners)

In his five games since returning from the IL, Moore has hit one home run and two doubles, scored four times, driven in four runs, and stolen three bases.

It's hard to believe in a breakout like this from a 28-year-old who was relatively unheralded as a prospect, but Moore has shown useful power and become the type of cheap speedster that many fantasy owners bank on. Moore's six home runs and nine steals have allowed him to score 20 times despite missing that two-week stretch.

In games, Moore shows the type of tools that made him an above-average offensive player at nearly every stop in the minors. In 2016, he averaged a 134 wRC+ in A ball. In 2017, he struggled at AA, but in 2018, he posted a 131 at AA and AAA. Looking at his numbers more carefully, it seems the only reason to dismiss Moore's MiLB track record was his age and lack of pedigree. While player age does have a clear relationship to overall outcomes, Moore seems a good bet to continue outperforming his current projections.

Moreover, Moore looks like a different, better player than he did last year. We have improvements in his max exit velocity (a key indicator in adjusting our projections for small samples), his barrel rate (up from 6.5% to 13.6%), and his hard-hit rate (36.1% to 43.9%).

Moore is right on the verge of getting caught stealing a bit too much (9 for 12), but the Mariners seem content to let him run for now. The $4.5 value is under Kolten Wong, Jeff McNeil, and Jake Cronenworth, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Moore outproduce all of them.

 

Speed Round

Justin Upton (OF, Angels) The reports of Justin Upton's demise have been greatly exaggerated. I'm guilty of having dropped Upton outside my top-150. Without full playing time, it was impossible to project him for meaningful value the rest of the way. He hasn't returned to everyday player status, but Joe Maddon is getting him onto the field often enough that he should be useful for players in need of outfield help.

Edwin Encarnacion (DH, White Sox) A part of me wants to write that Encarnacion does this to us every year, but there are still real signs of trouble for EE. While he's continued to slug homers, he's struggled to do much else. I know, I know, Joey Gallo, but Encarnacion is in a different territory. Even with his elite 16.9% barrel rate, Encarnacion's xBA is only .179. Compare that number to his .248 from 2019 or .246 from 2018. Moreover, his hard-hit rate has fallen to 29.6%. Those numbers haven't gotten dramatically better over his recent power surge. Like Upton, Encarnacion should offer some value, but based on his current batted-ball data, it's a limited ceiling with absolutely no floor.

Gary Sanchez (C, Yankees) Sanchez's strikeout rate has spiked so much that I had to go and check that the data was right. It's uncommon to see this level of collapse from a batter, even one like Sanchez, whose plate approach can be problematic. In this case, we're talking about a hitter with a batting average at .125 and a 41.5% strikeout rate. Granted, Sanchez's BABIP is also .125, his barrel rate is 18.2%, and his hard-hit rate is 49.1%. The whole Yankees' organization is in some type of funk right now, and you have to figure they will come out of it, but this is…not good. The projections put Sanchez as closer to a $9-10 value, but that seems optimistic based on the indicators from our most stable data so far this season.

 




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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Relief Pitchers Weekly Rankings

We're into the meat of September and that means the Week 8 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks are here for a weekly dive into how the top 101 RPs stand moving forward. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for SP, RP, and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike rates, xwOBA and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 8 Top 101 RP Baller Ranks core sheet here.

 

Top 101 Relief Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 8

Rank $ Tier Player EV $ Trend Notes
1 14.0 1 Liam Hendriks 6.6 14.0 0.0 ▬ Stretch of postponed games stings, still a top arm.
2 14.0 1 Kenley Jansen 3.5 14.0 0.0 ▬
3 14.0 1 Josh Hader 3.5 14.0 0.0 ▬
4 13.0 2 Brad Hand 4.8 12.0 1.0 ▲ Early scuffles are in the past, looks elite lately.
5 11.0 2 Taylor Rogers 5.4 11.0 0.0 ▬ Lighter usage of late, but peripherals remain strong.
6 11.0 2 Alex Colome 3.1 11.0 0.0 ▬
7 10.5 2 Raisel Iglesias 4.2 10.5 0.0 ▬
8 9.5 3 Rafael Montero 2.5 9.5 0.0 ▬ He can only go as far as TEX offense lets him.
9 8.5 3 Daniel Hudson -2.7 7.5 1.0 ▲ High ERA burns, WHIP still under 1 and saves coming in.
10 7.5 3 Mark Melancon 1.1 6.0 1.5 ▲ Lower K's, but perfect in last four appearances.
11 7.0 3 Giovanny Gallegos 4.7 7.0 0.0 ▬
12 6.5 3 Ryan Pressly 4.1 5.5 1.0 ▲ HOU may be skidding, but Pressly's been solid.
13 6.0 3 Drew Pomeranz 6.4 3.5 2.5 ▲
14 5.5 3 Aroldis Chapman -2.2 8.5 -3.0 ▼ Yanks are ice-cold, Chapman's suspension looms.
15 4.5 4 Trevor Rosenthal 2.1 5.5 -1.0 ▼
16 4.0 4 Edwin Diaz 4.4 3.0 1.0 ▲ With over two strikeouts per inning, he's steadying.
17 4.0 4 Devin Williams 6.9 4.0 0.0 ▬
18 3.5 4 Nick Anderson 5.9 1.0 2.5 ▲ Only one appearance since return, a clean save on 9/4.
19 3.5 4 Daniel Bard 5.5 1.5 2.0 ▲
20 3.0 4 Brandon Workman 1.6 3.5 -0.5 ▼ Not perfect, but looks much better in PHI than earlier.
21 2.5 5 Richard Rodriguez 2.1 2.0 0.5 ▲ Looking quite strong, healthy K's, barely any walks.
22 2.0 5 Matt Barnes -1.5 1.5 0.5 ▲
28 2.0 5 Jeremy Jeffress 2.6 1.0 1.0 ▲
23 2.0 5 Brandon Kintzler -2.3 4.5 -2.5 ▼ Two shaky appearances in a row, but that'll come w/ B.K.
24 1.5 5 James Karinchak 6.1 4.0 -2.5 ▼ He's looked mortal lately, but still a top non-closer.
25 1.5 5 Greg Holland 2.8 1.5 0.0 ▬
26 1.5 5 Ty Buttrey 2.8 2.0 -0.5 ▼
27 1.5 5 Scott Barlow 2.9 1.0 0.5 ▲ Barlow notched KC's first save opp of September.
29 1.5 5 Sergio Romo 1.1 1.5 0.0 ▬
30 1.5 5 Yoshihisa Hirano -0.4 1.5 0.0 ▬
31 1.5 5 Josh Staumont 1.1 1.5 0.0 ▬
32 1.5 5 Tyler Duffey 2.9 1.5 0.0 ▬
33 1.5 5 Jonathan Hernandez 5.8 1.5 0.0 ▬
34 1.5 5 Rafael Dolis 2.8 0.5 1.0 ▲ Trending up w/ Bass shaking, though Giles may be back.
35 1.5 5 Diego Castillo -1.1 1.5 0.0 ▬
36 1.0 6 Zack Britton 2.1 1.0 0.0 ▬
37 1.0 6 Craig Kimbrel -1.3 0.0 1.0 ▲ Two perfect innings since Aug. 29 meltdown, ups & downs.
38 1.0 6 Cesar Valdez 2.0 0.0 1.0 ▲
39 1.0 6 Gregory Soto 1.5 0.0 1.0 ▲
40 1.0 6 Hector Neris 3.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
41 1.0 6 Joakim Soria 4.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
42 1.0 6 Tony Watson 1.9 1.0 0.0 ▬ Finally, two saves in SFG's last four games.
43 1.0 6 Bryan Garcia 2.7 0.0 1.0 ▲
44 1.0 6 Kevin Ginkel -1.1 0.0 1.0 ▲ Rough start, but has trust for 9th post-Bradley trade.
45 1.0 6 Archie Bradley 4.5 1.0 0.0 ▬
46 1.0 6 Tanner Rainey 2.4 1.0 0.0 ▬
47 1.0 6 Ken Giles -0.4 0.5 0.5 ▲ Threw live BP on Sep. 8, he may return this weekend.
48 1.0 7 Mychal Givens 2.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
49 1.0 7 Trevor May 0.8 1.0 0.0 ▬
50 1.0 7 Yohan Ramirez -1.2 0.0 1.0 ▲ Has seen saves w/ SEA not overworking Hirano.
51 1.0 7 Amir Garrett 3.4 1.0 0.0 ▬
52 1.0 7 Evan Marshall 5.2 0.5 0.5 ▲
53 1.0 7 Andrew Miller 1.3 0.0 1.0 ▲
54 1.0 7 Hunter Harvey 1.1 1.0 0.0 ▬
55 1.0 7 Anthony Bass 3.0 2.0 -1.0 ▼ Given up runs in 3 of last 5, Giles may return soon.
56 1.0 7 Tyler Rogers 2.1 0.5 0.5 ▲
57 1.0 7 Chad Green 1.1 1.5 -0.5 ▼
58 1.0 7 Matt Foster 4.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
59 0.5 8 Rowan Wick 3.1 1.5 -1.0 ▼
60 0.5 8 Yusmeiro Petit 0.2 0.5 0.0 ▬
61 0.5 8 Nick Wittgren 1.3 0.5 0.0 ▬
62 0.5 8 Joely Rodriguez 3.3 0.5 0.0 ▬
63 0.5 8 Ross Detwiler 2.4 0.5 0.0 ▬
64 0.5 8 Jorge Alcala 2.7 0.0 0.5 ▲
65 0.5 8 Felix Pena 3.4 0.5 0.0 ▬ His first save was followed by his two worst games, ugh.
66 0.5 8 Peter Fairbanks 3.8 0.5 0.0 ▬
67 0.5 8 Lucas Sims 2.8 0.0 0.5 ▲
68 0.5 8 John Gant 3.1 0.5 0.0 ▬
69 0.5 8 Andre Scrubb 0.8 0.0 0.5 ▲
70 0.5 8 Nick Vincent 0.1 0.0 0.5 ▲ Snuck in a save after Kintzler blew his own.
71 0.5 9 David Phelps 1.3 1.0 -0.5 ▼
72 0.5 9 Will Smith -3.0 1.0 -0.5 ▼
73 0.5 9 Freddy Peralta 5.9 0.0 0.5 ▲
74 0.5 9 Jake McGee 3.8 0.0 0.5 ▲
75 0.5 9 Tyler Clippard 5.3 0.5 0.0 ▬
76 0.5 9 Adam Ottavino 0.0 0.0 0.5 ▲
77 0.5 9 Blake Treinen 3.2 0.5 0.0 ▬
78 0.5 9 Tanner Scott 2.2 0.0 0.5 ▲
79 0.5 9 Yency Almonte 5.1 0.5 0.0 ▬
80 0.5 9 Jose Cisnero 5.6 0.0 0.5 ▲
81 0.5 9 John Curtiss 2.1 0.5 0.0 ▬
82 0.5 9 Thomas Hatch 2.1 0.5 0.0 ▬
83 0.5 9 Tim Hill 0.3 0.5 0.0 ▬
84 0.5 9 Brad Boxberger 0.3 0.5 0.0 ▬
85 0.5 10 Carlos Estevez 0.4 0.5 0.0 ▬
86 0.5 10 Nick Nelson 0.7 0.0 0.5 ▲ Gaining confidence w/ recent action, far from saves.
87 0.5 10 Trevor Gott -9.2 0.0 0.5 ▲
88 0.5 10 Yimi Garcia 2.0 0.0 0.5 ▲
89 0.5 10 Sean Doolittle -2.6 0.5 0.0 ▬ It's possible he earns some southpaw saves late.
90 0.5 10 Caleb Ferguson 0.9 0.5 0.0 ▬
91 0.5 10 Miguel Castro 0.7 1.0 -0.5 ▼
92 0.5 10 J.B. Wendelken 3.0 0.5 0.0 ▬
93 0.5 10 Brad Peacock 0.5 0.0 0.5 ▲ First appearance off IL wasn't good, but HOU 'pen is thin.
94 0.5 10 Alex Reyes 1.0 0.5 0.0 ▬
95 0.5 10 Alex Claudio 0.8 0.5 0.0 ▬
96 0.5 10 Emilio Pagan -1.5 0.0 0.5 ▲ Facing live hitters Sep. 8, may be activated Sep. 10.
97 0.5 10 Sam Coonrod -0.3 0.0 0.5 ▲ Only for the truly desperate, aka Gabe Kapler.
98 0.5 10 Ryan Borucki 2.1 0.5 0.0 ▬
99 0.5 10 Steve Cishek -1.7 0.0 0.5 ▲
100 0.5 10 Nik Turley 1.7 0.5 0.0 ▬
101 0.5 10 Jordan Romano 3.2 0.5 0.0 ▬ TOR hopes Romano can return in mid-to-late Sep.

Relief Pitcher Movers of Note

Brad Hand (RP, Indians): Through his first three appearances, Hand had given up five runs (four earned) and frightened many of us. He started to stabilize in the coming weeks, but his appearances were infrequent and command was an issue. By August 15 -- over three weeks of action -- Hand had five saves in seven games and an uncanny four walks to his name.

Since then, Hand has a glorious line to his name: 9 IP, 1 W, 7 SV, 12 K, 0 BB, 4 H. Yup, four scattered hits are the only “damage” to be found. Hopefully, you didn’t panic in the early going and you’re enjoying the ratio relief alongside the saves.

Nick Anderson (RP, Rays): Anderson’s only made one appearance since returning from the injured list on Sept. 4, but it landed him a scoreless save. The Rays haven’t had a save opp outside of that so it’s possible they’re limiting Anderson for September after the forearm injury. It’s hard to blame them with their season likely extending well into October, but ours won’t be. This could be very short-term for his first week back, but fantasy teams had seen heavier usage pre-injury when Anderson appeared in 11 of Tampa’s first 25 games.

Rafael Dolis (RP, Blue Jays): Dolis has stepped up with Anthony Bass scuffling and both Ken Giles and Jordan Romano injured. While Giles could return by this weekend, Dolis is here now with a clean 1.86 ERA/1.24 WHIP and 22 K’s in 19 ⅓ IP. He hasn’t surrendered an earned run since Aug. 12 (11 appearances) and notched a win on Sept. 3, as well as the save on Sept. 6. It may not last the week, but Dolis looks like Toronto’s 1A option and there’s little guarantee Giles’ return goes smoothly.

Cesar Valdez (RP, Orioles): Valdez looks to be running with Hunter Harvey for Baltimore’s late frames right now. The 35-year-old started with Arizona and has bounced around the minors as well as Mexico before shining with 7 ⅓ IP of scoreless ball for the O’s here in 2020. He’s rarely carried a strikeout rate north of 25% for any period of time, but here he is at 32.1% in today’s swing-happy MLB. There’s some luck, namely the .235 BABIP and no homers allowed, but he’s never been prone to longballs and Baltimore simply can’t be picky. For fantasy teams that can’t either, here you are.

Kevin Ginkel (RP, Diamondbacks): Ginkel is one of the lowest-ranked “closers” within the ranks, but I recognize the role that saves and the ninth inning plays to many of you. If he resembled the pitcher he was during last season’s rookie campaign (1.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 29.2% K rate, 9.4% BB rate) then we’d feel warmer, but strikeouts are down, walks are up, homers are up, AND he’s unlucky on top of that. 

His .415 BABIP is nearly double last year’s .228 mark, though his first nine appearances were far worse than his most recent eight. He had a 7/7 K/BB ratio with nine runs allowed over just 6 ⅔ IP, but eight games since Aug. 21 have seen an improved 9/3 K/BB rate with two runs yielded across 7 ⅔ IP. There’s still a 5.37 FIP and 4.79 xFIP underneath that recent 2.35 ERA, but it’s enough to make him a worthy option in Arizona.



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Week 8 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four. Rafael Dolis grabbed the save on the day Bass rested. Bass has allowed runs in his last two appearances, so Dolis might get the next save chance regardless of rest.

Chicago White Sox - Jimmy Cordero pitched in back-to-back games (grabbing holds in both) before an off day. He may be ready to throw again though, as he only needed three pitches to complete that first outing.

Cleveland Brad Hand pitched three straight days, picking up two saves and a win. His early season troubles are behind him, though he will need rest for sure. Nick Wittgren pitched in two straight but had Monday off. Phil Maton is the only other taxed arm in the pen. He pitched in two straight and three of four. He now has four holds in the last eight days.

Detroit - After one slip-up, Gregory Soto was brought on in the seventh inning of his next appearance. Jose Cisnero was given the save opportunity...and promptly blew it. One would figure Detroit goes back to Soto. Everyone is pretty well rested other than Joe Jimenez. Jimenez has pitched in three of four as Ron Gardenhire tries to get him back on track. (It isn't working.)

Houston - Blake Taylor and Chris Devenski were both placed on the IL. This could open up more hold opportunities for the likes of Brooks Raley and Andre Scrubb.

Los Angeles Angels - Before a day off, Ty Buttrey had pitched in three straight games. He grabbed one save, one hold, one loss, and got blasted twice. He is leaking runs fast, and the Angels may turn to a new face like Cam Bedrosian or Mike Mayers. The latter also pitched three straight days before a day off. Felix Pena would have been the next man up, but he is also struggling and pitched back-to-back before the day off.

Oakland - Liam Hendriks' setup men are getting a lot of work lately. Jake Diekman pitched in two of the past three days; T.J. McFarland pitched in two of four; Yusmeiro Petit pitched in two straight before a day off. All three can still be used early this week but will need to rotate through rest.

Seattle - Yoshihisa Hirano isn't pitching in back-to-backs. He's been rotating days with Yohan Ramirez, and the surging Mariners have supplied them with three save chances in the past four outings. They each should continue getting chances moving forward.

 

Around the National League

Miami - Brandon Kintzler has pitched three straight days. Brad Boxberger would be the logical fill-in to close, but he will also need some rest. He's pitched back-to-back days. Nick Vincent or James Hoyt could be options, though both pitched Monday as well.

New York Mets - All of Edwin Diaz, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia have pitched on two of the past three days. Diaz is the most likely to go again right away, as he only needed 12 pitches last outing. Justin Wilson is also well rested.

Chicago Cubs - Rowan Wick now seems to be ahead of Craig Kimbrel yet behind Jeremy Jeffress in the pecking order. Wick has pitched in two straight and three of four and will need a day or two as the other arms pick up the slack.

Cincinnati - Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen both pitched in two straight before an off day. They may need another day if they pitch early in the week, though both Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias are on normal rest. Just keep an eye out if Iglesias has another long outing. He needed 29 pitches to complete Sunday's game.

Arizona - As the Diamondbacks hunt for a committee order to settle on, Junior Guerra has pitched back-to-back and three of four sixth innings, grabbing one hold. Joe Mantiply and Keury Mella have each pitched in two of three, though they don't appear to be in the late inning plans for close games. Kevin Ginkel, the only Diamondback to pick up a save over the holiday weekend, is well rested since that outing.

Colorado - Everyone in Colorado is tired. Yency Almonte has pitched in three straight games; Daniel Bard pitched in two straight before a day off; Carlos Estevez pitched in two straight and three of four, though he couldn't even record an out in his last outing. Mychal Givens has also pitched in two straight and three of four. After Givens gets some rest, he may move ahead of Estevez on the hierarchy. Estevez may soon join Jairo Diaz in the doghouse. Diaz, by the way, hasn't pitched since September 1, which was the third straight appearance he gave up multiple runs.

San Diego - Trevor Rosenthal pitched in two straight before needing a day. Drew Pomeranz has now pitched two straight. Interestingly, Taylor Williams and Dan Altavilla have made only one combined appearance since being acquired by the Padres. Williams didn't even make the active roster when he first joined the team.

San Francisco - We expected it all year, but Gabe Kapler's bullpen is finally a mess, both in terms of results and usage. Sam Coonrod has pitched in three of the past four games and four of the past six, allowing runs in three of four outings. Tyler Rogers pitched back-to-back, allowing another run after blowing the game last week. Tony Watson was clean in his two consecutive outings but then promptly ceded the next save chance to Rogers anyway.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 7

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

It was another exciting week of surprising starts, and with playoff time already upon us now is when September heroes emerge and become legends, at least in the storied history of our personal fantasy leagues. This week we're looking at three guys who could become that fantasy legend in the truncated 2020 season. Seth Lugo has continued to thrive after an unexpected move to the rotation with his best outing yet, Tony Gonsolin celebrated the Ross Stripling trade with another dominant performance, and Tarik Skubal notched his first career career quality start.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/07/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers

11% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 9.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 6.58 FIP, 14.3% K-BB%

09/05 @ MIN: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Skubal has been one of many top pitching prospects to make his debut in 2020, but unlike many other hyped names, Skubal had struggled to make an impact prior to this start. Detroit gave him an incredibly short leash to begin with, as Skubal pitched four total innings over his first two starts. He made it a little deeper the third time out, going five innings against the Twins, but the young lefty finally went deep enough to earn his first career quality start against those same Twins on Saturday. With the hype having died down on Skubal he is available in over 80% of leagues, and the big name probably has fantasy managers wondering if Skubal is poised to be the next rookie pitcher to put up big numbers.

Skubal is perhaps best known for the monster strikeout rates he put up in the minors. Skubal always maintained a strikeout rate of 30% or better as a minor leaguer, but posted an absurd 48.2% strikeout rate in 42.1 IP at Double-A last year. That was good for a 17.43 K/9, which is a number you only expect to see from an elite reliever. Skubal was able to rack up those strikeouts with a four-pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. It’s a rather complete repertoire for a young pitcher, and if he’s able to command all four pitches effectively Skubal should find success at the big league level.

The fastball and slider were Skubal’s most highly regarded pitches as a prospect, and it’s easy to see why after this start. He averaged 94.6 MPH with the heater in this start, and generated eight of his 14 swinging strikes with his fastball. Skubal throws hard for a lefty, and his 95 MPH average fastball velocity is the fourth highest among southpaw starters this season, behind just Jesus Luzardo, Blake Snell, and Yusei Kikuchi (min. 10 IP). His 2441 RPM on the fastball also puts him in the 86th percentile of fastball spin rate, and with 4.2 inches of break Skubal’s fastball is able to play above its velocity, and it’s a big reason why he’s had a 10.9% SwStr rate on his fastball this year. Here's one of his better four-seamers from this outing.

 

It's very tough for hitters to catch up to a 95 MPH fastball like that high in the zone. A good fastball can take a pitcher a long way, but he needs at least one worthwhile secondary pitch to sustain success in the bigs. Luckily for Skubal, he has more than one.

The slider has long been the standout among Skubal’s secondary offerings, and that hasn’t change through his first four starts. Opponents are hitting just .214 with a .286 SLG and .273 wOBA against the pitch thus far, and have a 15.7% SwStr rate on Skubal’s slider. His slider doesn’t blow hitters away like some of the game’s best, but it’s an above average offering that coupled with his fastball should allow Skubal to generate strikeouts, although it’s unlikely he’d do so at a 30% or better clip like he did in the minors.

Skubal’s other two pitches, the curveball and changeup, are clearly a notch or two below his fastball and slider. Skubal has only thrown 22 curveballs this season, and batters are 1-for-1 with a single against the pitch. Poor command has been a knock on Skubal all throughout his minor league career, and with just a 13.6% zone rate on his curve it’s clear that he doesn’t have much command with this one yet. A pitcher doesn’t necessarily want to pound the zone with his curveball, but 13.6% is absurdly low. The curveball is not a pitch we should expect much from for Skubal at this point.

His changeup is a bit more critical to his success, as Skubal uses his changeup exclusively against right-handed batters. Righties have eaten him alive this season for a .302 BA, .379 wOBA, and all three of his home runs. They have only hit .250 on his changeup, but the pitch has a .479 xBA and 1.113 xSLG. Yes, Statcast projects batters to slug over 1.000 off Skubal’s changeup. Obviously, this is a small sample size as Skubal has only thrown 40 changeups all year, but these ugly numbers reveal what could be a larger problem for Skubal, which is an inability to put away opposite handed batters.

Skubal hasn’t been afraid to use his slider against righties when ahead in the count, going to it 26% of the time when ahead and 29% of the time with two strikes, but Skubal is in big trouble if he falls behind against righties. His fastball is a plus offering, but right-handed major league hitters can still feast on fastballs from a lefty. Righties have crushed Skubal’s fastball for a .333 AVG and .593 SLG thus far, and as mentioned above results against the changeup haven’t been much better. Until he better develops his changeup, improves his command, and/or gains more confidence in his slider against righties, Skubal will continue to struggle against opposite handed hitters. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to fix all that over the last three weeks of the season, os beware of Skubal against a team with a penchant for mashing lefties.

Skubal has plenty of upside and has shown several positives traits during his short time in the majors this season, but there’s enough here to scare me away in tough matchups. In a longer season it would be interesting to watch whether Skubal could make the necessary adjustments midseason, but with just three weeks remaining and championship glory on the line it’s hard to trust such a raw arm. On the plus side, the downside could be mitigated by Skubal’s short leash. Detroit has been so cautious with their prized prospect they would likely yank him before he completely destroys your ratios. Especially since Detroit is a surprise wild card contender and can’t afford to let Skubal ride out rough patches while they jockey for playoff positioning. In soft matchups Skubal isn’t the worst streaming option, but he’s hard to trust in tough matchups or in critical fantasy weeks.

Verdict: A plus fastball-slider combo should give Skubal good strikeout upside, but command issues, a quick hook, and struggles against righties limit Skubal’s overall ceiling. It wouldn’t surprise me if Skubal’s last start was his only quality start all year. His next start is at St. Louis against a Cardinals lineup that had a 109 wRC+ against lefties this season, along with the second-lowest strikeout rate against southpaws at 18.7%. The risk does not outweigh the reward in that matchup.

 

Seth Lugo, New York Mets

76% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start, SP/RP): 17 IP, 2.12 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 29.2% K-BB%

09/05 vs. PHI: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

Seth Lugo’s 2020 numbers and high roster percentage make him seem like an unlikely candidate for a column like this, but the reason he’s on so many teams and has outstanding stats is because of his work as a reliever. Lugo’s 2.61 ERA and 5.5 K/BB ratio out of the pen earned him the closer role for the Mets, but his tenure as closer was short-lived, as the starter-desperate Mets threw Lugo in the rotation, looking for some semblance of stability behind Jacob deGrom. Lugo had been great in his first two starts this year, allowing one earned run total, but never made it through four innings. Lugo finally completed five innings on Saturday, and was absolutely brilliant in the process, striking out eight Phillies while allowing just one run. The Mets say Lugo is ready to go even deeper, and if that’s true he could be an excellent contributor down the stretch. Those who added Lugo were expecting to get a dominant reliever, but could they have lucked into a dominant starter instead?

For an ex-reliever Lugo has a pretty deep arsenal, using a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveeball, slider, and changeup. He also mixes things up well, using everything but the changeup at least 18% of the time. Lugo may be best known for his curveball, which averages 3203 RPM, giving him the third-best curveball spin rate in the majors (min. 250 pitches). This spinning hook has frustrated opposing hitters this season for a .118 AVG and .294 SLG, along with a 15.3% SwStr rate. Even when batters make contact they can’t do much with the pitch, as it has an 86.1 MPH average exit velocity and a 57.1% groundball rate this year. The pitch also gorgeous to watch, so here are a few examples from this start.

That pitch is so dirty I need to take a shower after watching it. And while Lugo’s physics-defying bender is the gem of his arsenal and should continue to make hitters look foolish, this Metropolitan has more to offer than his curve.

From a results perspective, Seth Lugo’s slider has been horrible this season. Batters are hitting .462 with a .238 wOBA against the pitch, but the underlying numbers tell a more favorable story. Lugo has a 22.2% SwStr rate with his slider, and batters have a .583 BABIP despite just an 83.6 MPH average exit velocity and a 58.3% groundball rate against. The .294 xBA and .294 xwOBA suggest better days ahead for Lugo’s slider. The pitch doesn’t light up a Statcast chart quite like the curveball does, but it should serve as an effective third pitch to complement the curveball and fastballs.

Speaking of Lugo’s fastballs, they have both been pretty good offerings in their own right this season. He uses both a four-seamer about equally, and batters have not been able to muster much against either offering, as opponents are hitting under .180 against both pitches. Lugo’s four-seamer has always given hitters fits, as they are hitting .177 with a 10.9% SwStr rate against the pitch all time, and it has been effective both as a starter and reliever. The sinker is a different story, as the pitch got creamed during Lugo’s 2017 campaign as a starter for a .311 average and .387 wOBA. The important thing to watch here is Lugo’s velocity, as he averaged just 91 MPH with his sinker in 2017, a career low during the only year where Lugo worked primarily as a starter. If Lugo’s velocity dips as he stretches out to go deeper and deeper into games, his fastball could become very hittable. Below average velocity was one of the main reasons Lugo couldn't hack it as a starter the first time around, and if he can’t keep it around 93-94 he could struggle again.

Even though Lugo was viewed as a failed starter prior to this year, his 2017 campaign really wasn’t that bad. Sure, he had a 4.71 ERA, but a 3.95 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, and 3.4 K/BB ratio are solid numbers in today’s game. With how poorly some of the Mets’ starters have been this year, they would gladly take that performance as a worst-case scenario. And his stint as a reliever has allowed Lugo’s dazzling curveball to flourish, giving him a hammer strikeout pitch in a repertoire of solid stuff. Chances are Lugo isn’t available in most leagues, but if you added him in hopes of getting a closer, you may have wound up with a high-upside starter instead. Lugo is worth adding in 12-team mixed leagues or deeper.

Verdict: Lugo’s curveball is as pretty as ever, and his well-rounded pitch arsenal should allow him to routinely pitch five innings or deeper now that Lugo is stretched out. His next start against the Blue Jays in Buffalo is a little scary, but he’s been good enough to earn our trust for that one.

 

Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers

56% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 17.2 IP, 0.51 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 18.5% K-BB%

09/05 vs. COL: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 8 K

Every year the Dodgers seem to have at least one exciting emergent arm that looks ready dominate every fifth turn, only to be jerked around between the rotation, bullpen, injured list and minor leagues. Whether it be Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, or countless other names, every fantasy player has been frustrated by the Dodgers pitching management at some point in the past. It’s as if they only care about winning big league games, and not the thousands of fantasy managers that rely on these pitchers. Well, this year that man in Tony Gonsolin, a consensus top-10 Dodgers’ prospect in a loaded farm system. The Dodgers did us a favor at the trade deadline, dealing Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays and solidifying Gonsolin’s role as a starter. It was an easy move for them, as the young righty has been spectacular in five starts, sporting an immaculate 0.76 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Obviously, Gonsolin can’t keep those numbers up over an extended period, but just how good can he be?

Scouts raved over Gonsolin’s raw stuff, highlighted by a filthy split-change that helped him maintain at least a 26.2% strikeout rate at every level of the minors in his last three seasons. Gonsolin has some cheese to go along with that splitter as well, as he’s averaged 95.2 MPH with his fastball this season, and has a max velocity of 97.9 MPH. This combination alone can be devastating, but unlike many young pitchers Gonsolin has two complementary pitches in his slider and curveball to round out his arsenal.

Gonsolin’s splitter is what catapulted his stock as a prospect, and the pitch has been as advertised thus far. Batters are hitting just .208 with a .275 wOBA against the pitch, and with a -3-degree average launch angle and 81 MPH average exit velocity, batters haven’t been able to make solid contact on Gonsolin’s splitter. With 3.1 inches of break, Gonsolin’s splitter has the highest horizontal movement in the majors (min. 100 pitches). Take a look at this beauty from his most recent start.

It’s easy to see why Gonsolin was so hyped with this weapon at his disposal. Looking at his splitter I can’t help but draw comparisons to Kevin Gausman. Many may cringe at that comp, but Gausman was once a top prospect known for his above average velocity and filthy split-change. Gonsolin possesses those same attributes, but unlike Gausman, Gonsolin appears to have an effective third pitch.

No one can touch Gonsolin’s slider, at least not so far, as Gonsolin has not surrendered a hit with his slider this season. He has been a little lucky, but even if he regresses to his .088 xBA he’ll probably be okay. His slider has a monster 32.6% swinging strike rate as well, and he generated eight whiffs on 14 pitches with the slider in this start against Colorado. Gonsolin’s slider was always an afterthought, living in the shadow of his splitter and fastball, but it’s been a quality offering for him thus far, and has above average break for a slider. Here was a pretty good one from this start.

If that’s considered your third best pitch, you are in pretty good shape on a big league mound. It’s been a small sample size, but there’s a lot to like about what Gonsolin has done thus far. He won’t sustain a 0.76 ERA all year, but he should be able to deliver solid production as a waiver wire add. The biggest concern with him is control, as Gonsolin had an 11% walk rate at Triple-A last season. He has a 53.3% zone rate this season, so it would be difficult to have a double digit walk rate with how much Gonsolin has pounded the zone, but command and control have always been the knock on Gonsolin as a prospect. It would be hard to imagine him maintaining his current 5.8% walk rate based on his history, but unless the walks really start to pile up he should still be effective.

Verdict: Three above average pitches have allowed Gonsolin to dominate at the major league level, and while no one should expect him to maintain a 0.76 ERA, Gonsolin should be owned in all leagues and started in most matchups. My biggest concern is a short leash, as he hasn't thrown more than 84 pitches in an outing this year. He’ll be a popular 2021 breakout candidate if he finishes strong, and if not I’ll gladly scoop him up at a discount in drafts next year.

 



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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Starting Pitchers Weekly Rankings

The final month of the 2020 fantasy baseball season is here and that means we're supplying those Week 8 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks to help analyze where the top 101 SPs stand moving forward. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for pitcher and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike (CSW) rates, xwOBA, and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 8 Top 101 SP Baller Ranks core sheet here.

 

Top 101 Starting Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 8

Rank $ Tier Player EV $PV Trend Notes
1 43.0 1 Shane Bieber 18.8 43.0 0.0 ▬ Still the champ.
2 37.0 1 Jacob deGrom 13.9 38.0 -1.0 ▼
3 37.0 1 Yu Darvish 16.9 29.0 8.0 ▲ Darvish is amazing and getting wins, unlike deGrom.
4 33.0 2 Clayton Kershaw 7.1 30.0 3.0 ▲
5 33.0 2 Gerrit Cole 3.6 38.0 -5.0 ▼ The K's are there but damage is coming with them.
6 31.0 2 Trevor Bauer 11.0 34.0 -3.0 ▼
7 29.0 2 Max Scherzer 9.5 29.0 0.0 ▬ Still immense talent and K's, but less consistent than past.
8 29.0 2 Aaron Nola 10.3 26.0 3.0 ▲
9 26.0 2 Lucas Giolito 13.2 22.0 4.0 ▲
10 25.0 3 Luis Castillo 11.5 25.0 0.0 ▬ Inflated BABIP, but righting the ship.
11 25.0 3 Jack Flaherty 3.3 25.0 0.0 ▬
12 23.0 3 Zac Gallen 9.4 20.0 3.0 ▲ Now sitting on seven consecutive quality starts.
13 23.0 3 Walker Buehler 4.0 11.0 12.0 ▲ Came off the IL with five shutout innings, that's a relief.
14 22.0 3 Max Fried 13.9 19.0 3.0 ▲
15 22.0 3 Sonny Gray 11.3 30.0 -8.0 ▼
16 22.0 3 Kenta Maeda 11.1 22.0 0.0 ▬
17 20.0 3 Tyler Glasnow 7.3 14.0 6.0 ▲ K's for days, command is finally showing up.
18 20.0 3 Zack Greinke 14.1 23.0 -3.0 ▼
19 18.5 4 Dinelson Lamet 9.1 22.0 -3.5 ▼
20 17.5 4 Lance Lynn 9.8 23.0 -5.5 ▼
21 16.0 4 Dylan Bundy 12.0 14.0 2.0 ▲
22 14.0 4 Carlos Carrasco 5.4 15.5 -1.5 ▼
23 14.0 4 Blake Snell 1.8 14.0 0.0 ▬
24 14.0 4 Zack Wheeler 10.0 13.0 1.0 ▲
25 14.0 4 Charlie Morton 2.0 9.0 5.0 ▲ He's back and looked sharp, I'm encouraged.
26 13.0 4 Aaron Civale 10.0 14.0 -1.0 ▼
27 12.0 4 Zach Plesac 8.5 1.0 11.0 ▲ Great pitcher, no longer in timeout for being a fool.
28 11.0 5 Brandon Woodruff 9.7 15.5 -4.5 ▼ Started 2020 hot, but only one W/QS in last six starts.
29 11.0 5 Patrick Corbin 5.9 15.5 -4.5 ▼ His peripherals are rather frightful, velo way down.
30 10.0 5 Mike Clevinger 1.4 12.0 -2.0 ▼
31 9.5 5 Kyle Hendricks 9.1 11.0 -1.5 ▼
32 9.5 5 Jesus Luzardo 5.6 9.5 0.0 ▬
33 9.5 5 Corbin Burnes 11.6 8.5 1.0 ▲ Hitting his stride with huge strikeouts, buy in.
34 9.5 5 Hyun-Jin Ryu 10.8 9.5 0.0 ▬ I was wrong, he's handling the AL just fine.
35 9.0 5 Jose Berrios 5.5 9.5 -0.5 ▼ Last six starts: Three very good, three very bad.
36 9.0 5 Andrew Heaney 11.9 9.5 -0.5 ▼
37 9.0 5 Lance McCullers Jr. 2.9 10.5 -1.5 ▼
38 9.0 5 German Marquez 8.8 9.5 -0.5 ▼
39 8.5 5 Chris Paddack 2.8 9.5 -1.0 ▼ One step forward is followed by two steps back. No good.
40 8.5 5 Pablo Lopez 10.7 9.0 -0.5 ▼
41 8.5 5 Zach Davies 10.7 2.0 6.5 ▲ What a surge from Davies! Expect BABIP to rise, but dang.
42 8.0 6 Dustin May 3.6 8.5 -0.5 ▼
43 8.0 6 Chris Bassitt 3.0 8.5 -0.5 ▼
44 8.0 6 Cristian Javier 2.6 8.5 -0.5 ▼
45 8.0 6 Marco Gonzales 8.9 4.5 3.5 ▲ Barely walking anyone, ripping off QS after QS.
46 8.0 6 Framber Valdez 10.9 8.0 0.0 ▬
47 6.5 7 Dallas Keuchel 10.5 5.0 1.5 ▲
48 5.5 7 Masahiro Tanaka 4.7 4.5 1.0 ▲
49 5.0 7 Sixto Sanchez 4.1 4.0 1.0 ▲ Strong start to MLB career, rarely issuing free passes.
50 4.5 7 Julio Urias 5.7 8.0 -3.5 ▼
51 4.5 7 Tyler Mahle 2.9 4.0 0.5 ▲
52 4.0 7 Garrett Richards 3.3 5.0 -1.0 ▼
53 4.0 7 Frankie Montas 2.8 6.0 -2.0 ▼ Three terrible starts in a row, hard to stomach this.
54 4.0 7 Zach Eflin 7.9 2.0 2.0 ▲
55 4.0 7 Tony Gonsolin 6.0 3.0 1.0 ▲
56 4.0 7 Matthew Boyd 0.8 1.5 2.5 ▲
57 4.0 7 Triston McKenzie 3.4 3.0 1.0 ▲
58 4.0 7 Ian Anderson 2.7 1.5 2.5 ▲
59 3.5 8 Adam Wainwright 6.4 1.5 2.0 ▲
60 3.0 8 Dylan Cease -2.0 5.0 -2.0 ▼ When the K% and BB% are nearly identical, we worry.
61 3.0 8 Antonio Senzatela 7.0 4.0 -1.0 ▼
62 2.5 8 Kyle Freeland 5.5 3.5 -1.0 ▼ Coors will bite everyone sooner or later.
63 2.5 8 Danny Duffy 2.8 3.5 -1.0 ▼
64 2.5 8 Brad Keller 6.2 2.0 0.5 ▲
65 2.0 8 Kevin Gausman 6.2 2.0 0.0 ▬
66 2.0 8 Randy Dobnak 5.7 2.5 -0.5 ▼ Nibbles and notches wins, but that arsenal = low floor.
67 2.0 8 Josh Lindblom 2.5 3.5 -1.5 ▼
68 2.0 8 Adrian Houser 2.6 4.5 -2.5 ▼
69 2.0 8 Casey Mize -0.6 3.0 -1.0 ▼
70 1.5 9 Taijuan Walker 3.4 1.5 0.0 ▬
71 1.5 9 Alec Mills 0.6 2.5 -1.0 ▼
72 1.5 9 Jordan Montgomery 2.1 2.0 -0.5 ▼
73 1.5 9 Ross Stripling -2.6 1.5 0.0 ▬
74 1.5 9 Sean Manaea 4.4 1.5 0.0 ▬
75 1.5 9 Spencer Turnbull 5.4 2.5 -1.0 ▼
76 1.5 9 Kyle Gibson -0.7 1.5 0.0 ▬
77 1.5 9 Michael Pineda 1.9 1.0 0.5 ▲ Looked sharp in his return, but mediocre K's limit ceiling.
78 1.5 9 Justin Dunn -0.4 1.0 0.5 ▲
79 1.5 9 Josh Fleming 1.1 0.0 1.5 ▲
80 1.5 9 Mike Minor 2.2 1.5 0.0 ▬
81 1.5 9 Luke Weaver 2.0 1.5 0.0 ▬
82 1.5 9 Rich Hill 1.4 1.5 0.0 ▬
83 1.0 10 Griffin Canning 1.1 1.5 -0.5 ▼
84 1.0 10 Tarik Skubal -0.8 0.0 1.0 ▲
85 1.0 10 David Peterson 3.6 0.0 1.0 ▲
86 1.0 10 Justus Sheffield 7.3 1.0 0.0 ▬
87 1.0 10 Tyler Chatwood 3.6 1.0 0.0 ▬
88 1.0 10 John Means -3.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
89 1.0 10 Anthony DeSclafani -0.3 1.0 0.0 ▬
90 1.0 10 Dakota Hudson 3.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
91 1.0 10 Johnny Cueto 3.6 1.0 0.0 ▬
92 1.0 10 Jon Lester 1.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
93 1.0 10 Mike Fiers 1.6 1.0 0.0 ▬
94 1.0 10 Ryan Yarbrough 2.4 1.0 0.0 ▬
95 1.0 10 Dane Dunning 4.0 0.0 1.0 ▲ Exciting stuff, but still walks too many.
96 1.0 10 Chad Kuhl -0.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
97 1.0 10 Brett Anderson 2.1 1.0 0.0 ▬
98 1.0 10 Yusei Kikuchi 0.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
99 1.0 10 J.A. Happ 0.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
100 1.0 10 Matt Shoemaker -0.6 1.0 0.0 ▬
101 1.0 10 Elieser Hernandez 3.9 4.0 -3.0 ▼

Starting Pitcher Movers of Note

Tyler Glasnow (SP, Rays): Glasnow had shown signs of greatness in abbreviated starts to open 2020, but he didn’t go five innings in his first four outings with a poor 12 earned over 15 ⅓ IP. Even with a wild 27 K’s in that span, the damage was too much to stomach -- especially with no chance at a win given the short stints.

But his last two starts, coming against the O’s and Yanks, have seen him tear through offenses with a zesty 22/2 K/BB ratio over 13 innings of two-run ball. Back-to-back lengthy starts with just one walk in each is a welcome sight after issuing multiple walks in all five of his previous appearances. With a feel for his arsenal apparent, we may see a September reminiscent of his beautiful 2019 campaign. Click through for a highlight reel of Glasnow at work:

Patrick Corbin (SP, Nationals): While Corbin’s 3.79 ERA isn’t a red flag, the 1.34 WHIP and middling 20.9% strikeout rate surely are. The southpaw’s Savant profile shows a frightful .302 xBA and .477 xSLG while his Fangraphs page has last year’s 14.2% swinging-strike rate falling to 10.5% so far. What could the problem be?

Whether it’s the main culprit or not, his velocity is concerning. The four-seamer is averaging 89.8 mph, a significant fall from 91.8 mph in ‘19. His other pitches have fallen off at the same rate and hitters just aren’t missing nearly as much. The spin rate on his pitches is down at least 100 rpm across the board.

The result is his contact rate allowed is up nearly 10 percentage points while his O-Contact rate is up a whopping 14 percentage points! I wish I had a bright side to offer, but I can’t see a turnaround coming without more life on his pitches.

Corbin Burnes (SP/RP, Brewers): Burnes has shifted into another gear lately, finally pushing into the sixth inning in each of his last three starts. Now, two of those did come against Pittsburgh, but a 24/5 K/BB ratio in 17 ⅓ IP is heartwarming. He’s faced at least 15 hitters in all eight of his appearances and has only allowed more than three hits once, but struggled with walks early on.

Not only have the walks gone down and his starts lasted longer, but he’s continued to keep the ball in the yard with just one homer allowed across 38 ⅓ IP. Compare that 0.23 HR/9 with his wild 3.12 HR/9 from last season and it’s like night and day. As always, neither extreme makes for a reliable projection moving forward but his current form warrants a boost.

Zach Davies (SP, Padres): Davies may be cruising on a lowly .220 BABIP but the Padres have done all they can to support their starting pitchers. When the bullpen was struggling and injured, they made many deadline moves to call in reinforcements. The offense is offering up insane run support. And Davies himself has made changes too.

After throwing his fastball over 52% of the time in each of his first five seasons, Davies has cut that back to 37% in 2020. He’s increased his changeup to a whopping 40% next to a cutter at 20%, with a lightly-used curveball (3%) sprinkled in. All four pitches have a positive pitch value per Fangraphs. Mix that with his going at least five innings in each of his eight appearances this year and you’ve got a recipe for wins twirled into the picture. I can dig it, even as the hits start falling.

Marco Gonzales (SP, Mariners): Gonzales turned in a complete-game win over the Angels on Aug. 31, which included three strikeouts of Mike Trout, giving Marco his fourth win over his last six outings. You can watch him work for a minute here:

Sporting a 3.09 ERA/0.92 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning, Gonzales is succeeding with well-placed fastballs that lead his four-pitch mix. He throws all four over 13% of the time, showing a strong command that’s issued just four free passes over 43 ⅔ IP. Limit those and your floor rises like the sea.

Triston McKenzie (SP, CLE): The young Cleveland right-hander has only allowed three earned runs on eight hits across his first 16 MLB innings, racking up a clean 19/4 K/BB ratio in the process. Some thought his late-August debut was a deadline audition as a potential trade chip, but his 10-strikeout undressing of Detroit wowed us all. The .188 BABIP will rise, but his minor-league track record points to plus whiffs and sturdy control. His spot in the AL Central means he also draws favorable matchups often, such as his next slated start against the Royals on Sept. 8.

Matthew Boyd (SP, DET): Boyd’s turned in two quality starts in a row, tallying 14 strikeouts with zero walks in two starts against Minnesota. He’s given up three solo homers in that span, so the longball issue is persisting (11 HRs in 40 ⅔ IP). But if he’s curtailed the walks then I can feel better about buying into the redemption arc here. And Minnesota does have an affinity for clearing the fence. He lines up to face the Brewers next on Sept. 9.



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Trade Deadline Recap, Winners and Losers: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut recap the 2020 MLB trade deadline to discuss the biggest risers and fallers for fantasy baseball.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend morning from 6-8 am ET as well. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Trade Deadline Recap

Pierre and Nick react to the numerous moves made prior to the 2020 MLB trade deadline.

Players and topics discussed:



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

Win Big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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Too Hot to Hold: Sell-High Candidates

Now that we've flipped the calendar into September, we have only one month left of baseball. It was a perilous journey, but we somehow managed to get here, so it's time to stop wondering if the season will continue as planned and give yourself over fully to managing your teams. For those of you who are thinking that you're already out of it, remember that the remainder of the season isn't too much shorter than what we've already played, so there is always a chance to make up ground. Today we're going to look at some overachieving players that could be traded for max value at the right time before they slump.

When thinking about making trades for the back half of your season, it's important to remember not just to "get good players," but to get players that fit your team's needs. Look at the categories where you are under-performing but also where you can make up ground. If you're already last in Runs and 30+ behind the team above you, that may not be the best target to make up ground. Aim to add talent in categories where there is an easier climb for you up the standings.

Remember that the idea for these players below is that they're playing at a level where you can get MAX value for them. This is not a list of players you NEED to move on from. If you have any of these guys and are near the top of the standings in categories where they have been an asset, maybe try to see if you can trade one of them to get reinforcements in places where you are weakest, but, again, don't force it.

 

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants

(Current Yahoo rank: 25th)

Yaz the Younger has already started to cool down from his hot start, but his ranking in many redraft leagues has yet to be impacted. So far, he's compiled a .280/.399/.568 triple slash with seven HR, 30 Runs, 24 RBI, and two SB. He's second in the league in runs, hitting atop a surprisingly spry San Francisco lineup. However, with Austin Slater hurt and Donovan Solano also beginning to cool off, the runs have dried up a bit with only two in the last week of games.

His weak contact (38th-percentile Exit Velocity) and .243 xBA finally caught up to him as he's only 12-for-50 over the last two weeks, his GB% is a 40.4% (almost 7% higher than last year), and he's seen his K% rise pretty drastically.

If you want a cherry on top, the San Fransisco Giants play their last two games in Coors Field on September 1 and 2, and then their only other road games will be in San Diego, Seattle, and Oakland, which are not parks that favor left-handed power. He may still be a decent source of runs in games where the Giants' streaky bats wake up, but if you can still sell him off of his early-season dominance, now might be the time.

 

Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners

(Current Yahoo rank: 13th)

Yes, I know that Kyle Lewis simply hasn't stopped hitting, posting a .339 average with a.973 OPS, 8 HR, 29 Runs, 21 RBI, and two SB. But I also know that he leads the league, among qualified hitters, with a .422 BABIP and has a 20th-percentile Whiff%, 39th-percentile K%, and 29th-percentile Exit Velocity. He's overperforming all of his x-stats with a .339 average despite a .274 xBA and .542 SLG despite a .493 xSLG.

He's done a good job in reducing his K%, although it has started to trickle back up of late, has significantly cut down on his O-Swing%, and has improved his BB% by leaps and bounds, but his overall profile does not match up with the current results. He's pulling the ball less than he has in the past, hitting the ball in the air less than last year, and not making a lot of hard contact.

He's a young player who has clearly improved, but I think you're going to see the K% keep moving back upwards, the average steadily decline, and those counting stats are going to be impacted by losing Austin Nola in the lineup around him. I'm not suggesting that Lewis is bad or a pretender, but in redraft leagues, I would be looking to see if somebody is all the way in on his August performance and willing to give up something akin to a top-20 or 30 asset.

 

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

(Current Yahoo rank: 20th)

There were many people pushing their way onto the Dansby Swanson Hype Train in the offseason and that has proven to be a very comfortable ride as of now; however, I'm expecting travel to become a little more turbulent in the coming weeks. Let's start with the good: Swanson is hitting .303 with five HR, 29 Runs, 20 RBI, and four SB. He's playing great defense for Atlanta and is locked into the top of their lineup, which keeps his run totals safe. However, there is a glaring concern:

Those numbers are not moving in the direction you want them to be in. Overall, Swanson is swinging 4% more than he did last year, but that also leads to a 2.2% increase in O-Swing%, and a 3% increase in SwStr%, which is fueled by a near 6% drop in Z-Contact%. Despite becoming more aggressive, Swanson has dropped his Pull% by 7% and increased his GB% by 4.4%. Hitting the ball on the ground isn't bad for a guy with 90th-percentile sprint speed, but being less patient could be coming back to bite the shortstop a bit now. His .389 BABIP indicates that he's getting lucky on a fair amount of his in-play contact and his xBA has started to decline over the last few weeks as that BABIP has regressed a little closer to the mean.

As with Kyle Lewis, I don't think Swanson is a bad player to have on your team, but I think the new, more aggressive all-fields approach will lead to less power and more inconsistency with his average. If you can find somebody who truly believes Swanson is a top-40 player, it might not be a bad idea to swing a deal.

 

Anthony Santander, OF, Baltimore Orioles

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 31st)

You'll have to move quickly on this one because Santander is already starting to cool off, like the Orioles themselves. The left-handed hitter came out of the gates swinging, racking up 10 HRs, 28 RBI, and a .585 SLG so far, despite just a .257 BABIP. He's hitting the ball hard, and his Statcast page is filled with red. Everything at first glance seems to support a similarly strong second-half, but some of the approach changes have already been to rear their heads.

For starters, Santander has decreased his Pull% from 46% to 36.9%. That's a drastic drop for a power-hitter. He has raised is FB% to 48.2%, which you like to see, but his Infield Fly Ball% has also jumped to 17%, and that has a lot to do with this:

Santander currently has a 24.7-degree launch angle, and it's been climbing steadily. Over that same period of time, you can see an inverse impact on his xSLG:

His K% has also risen from the lowest point of 8% on August 22nd to 24% on the 30th, which has bumped his season-long number to 16.6%. So you have a power hitter whose no longer pulling the ball as much, has a launch angle that has overcorrected too far, and an increased strikeout rate and SwStr% driven by a slightly more aggressive approach and less overall contact (maybe due to the extreme bat path through the zone). Santander still plays in a hitter's park, so he'll notch a few more HRs under his belt, but if you can find somebody to buy into him as a consistent power threat, it's the time to move him for a player who can help you more consistently in other categories.

 

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

(Current Yahoo ranking: 15th)

That rage you feel building up inside of you as you read the name above, that's why you should put out feelers for a trade. Remember, we're talking about selling "high," so none of these players are playing poorly. Robert is an elite dynasty league asset, but in redraft leagues, there are signs that he may hit some regression in September.

The rookie has been great in his first season with the White Sox, hitting .298 with 10 HR, 22 Runs, 24 RBI, and 4 SB. He has 96th-percentile Barrel%, 92nd-percentile xSLG, and 86th-percentile Exit Velocity. However, there are a few red flags. Robert has a 32 K% and only a 7 BB%, and he's currently rocking a .366 BABIP. His FB% (40.3%) and GB% (37.7%) are near identical, with the FB% being much lower than his AAA numbers, and the GB% being almost 10% higher. While his contact metrics are leveling out, his lack of plate discipline continues to plateau.

This is typical of a young player who could get taken advantage of by Major League pitchers as he begins to see the same pitchers time and time again in this short season. It's already been mentioned that hitters have less access to film this year than in years past, so as pitchers face Robert more, they'll get a better understanding of how to throw to him, and he may struggle to catch up. What it comes down to for me is that Robert is an extremely high profile name who has produced up until this point. He also has an inflated BABIP and concerning plate discipline metrics. You should by no means force a trade, but I think he's a great name to float and see if you can get a player who could help you in categories where you're struggling.

 

Kevin Pillar, OF, Colorado Rockies

(Current Yahoo ranking: 160th)

This one is relatively short. Pillar has been hitting well this year, with a .274 average, four HR, and 20 Runs. However, he was playing every day in Boston and will now likely be a platoon bat against left-handed pitching in Colorado. Also, the narrative that he "crushes lefties" is overblown. For his career, Pillar hits .281/.315/.459 against left-handers with a .178 ISO and .254/.290/.388 against right-handers with a .134 ISO.

He's not going to be a lock to produce every time the team faces a lefty and with him likely sitting on the bench most of the time against right-handed pitching, he loses a lot of value. See if another team in your league sees the move to Coors Field as a boost in value and try to get Pillar off your hands.

 

Lance Lynn, SP Texas Rangers

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 19th)

Fantasy owners with Lance Lynn were likely cursing at their screens on Monday when he wasn't dealt to a contender. The right-hander has been a huge success this season, compiling a 1.93 ERA and 27.7 K% in 51.1 innings and a 4-1 record across eight starts. While the surface numbers are elite, and the four wins are solid, Lynn has benefited from a .197 BABIP and has currently left 88.4% of runners on base after registering a 74.4% mark last year.

When you dig further in, you see that Lynn is allowing 6% more fly balls, inducing 2% fewer swings outside of the zone, and his fastball pVAL has dropped from 20.4 to 8.2. The last number is what concerns me a little bit. Lynn throws his fastball 57.6% of the time, and so far it's performed close enough to last year, despite minor dips in Whiff% and PutAway%, and a drop in velocity from 94.6 mph to 94 mph. However, the high fly ball rate, slight dip in fastball effectiveness, and inflated LOB% and BABIP have led to a 3.97 SIERA and 4.15 xFIP.

With six road games coming up in Houston and three in Anaheim, Lynn is going to be pitching outside of the friendly confines of Texas' dome, and it's possible that the regression could lead to some rough starts. I'd be inclined to offer Lynn and a bat to a disgruntled Mike Clevinger, Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty owner, or see if you can flip him alone for an elite bat.

 

Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

(Current Yahoo Ranking: 83rd)

Most people weren't buying into Adam Wainwright at the start of the year, even though the 39-year-old was coming off of his best season since 2014. Wainwright has found success going more curve-heavy and is currently sporting a 3-0 record with a 2.65 ERA and minuscule 0.88 WHIP. He has an unimpressive 19.1 K% but during his best season in 2014, he had a 19.9 K%, so perhaps he's at his best when he's not pitching for strikeouts.

The issue I see this season is that Wainwright has upped his cutter usage to 27%, and it's perhaps not as good of a pitch as it's been so far. Batters are hitting .194 against it with a .287 SLG as opposed to the .282 xBA and .416 xSLG. Now, x-stats aren't always an indication of where a player will end up, but when the difference is so jarring, you need to take notice.

So, we know that Wainwright is overperforming with his cutter, and he's also gone to his sinker more often, so it's clear that the veteran is trying to get batters to hit the ball on the ground and use his elite infield defense behind him. Yet, he actually has a lower GB% than last year and his FB% has increased by 9% to 37.9%. What's happening is that his HR/FB% has shrunk to 8.3% from 15% last year and his BABIP is a crazy .202. His career BABIP is .298 so that is absolutely going to regress, even with his elite defense, and some of the increased fly balls he's allowing and going to start leaving the yard.

The Central is one of the weaker hitting divisions, but I see some blow-up outings in the future for Wainwright. Considering he threw a complete game against the Indians with nine strikeouts in his last outing, I think now is the time to try and trade him. It's possible the Cubs do a number on him in Wrigley this weekend.



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The Baller Ranks: Top 200 Hitters Weekly Rankings (Week 7)

The past week brought us one of the coolest trade deadlines in recent memory. It's always a good time when the GM of an MLB franchise starts making trades like a fantasy manager. The changes for Austin Nola, Mitch Moreland, Jonathan Villar, Starling Marte, and Jon Berti are meaningful, but not with clear fantasy implications. At least not yet...

Nick Mariano did capture ranking changes for both starting pitchers and relievers with his top-101 articles. If you missed those, be sure to check them out. If you need help with saves, his reliever article has a quick, useful update on bullpens around the league.

The hitter ranks saw plenty of action and some fascinating developments, but most of those have been performance-related. For instance, Fernando Tatis Jr's collective projections outstretched Story's collective projections for the first time, and you can see that reflected in these rankings. Trea Turner's best base-stealing days may be behind him, but he's been more valuable than ever. And Juan Soto's projections are starting to exceed some of Mike Trout's, even on a per-game basis.

In more frustrating news, the top end of 2B is a mess. Keston Hiura sits at the top of the heap, and he's featured in the write-up below. Whit Merrifield is close behind, and it's entirely possible that the only managers happy with the value of their second basemen are those who drafted Merrifield and Lowe. This type of chaos has been pretty standard for this season, but some of the issues are starting to crystallize.

Likewise, it's worth remembering that many teams have far more games left, as I reported last week. That discrepancy is impacting player value and causing some disconcerting changes in projected values. If you see a player who has had a bad stretch but an increase in projected value, it's probably tied to their number of remaining games. Here are the Meta Report for week 7 and the Baller Ranks Top-200 hitters. If you're unfamiliar with the Meta Report, here's a quick guide on what it is and how to read it.

 

Rank $ Player Pos Trend
1 45.0 Mike Trout OF 0 ▬
2 45.0 Juan Soto OF 0 ▬
3 39.0 Bryce Harper OF 3 ▲
4 39.0 Christian Yelich OF -1 ▼
5 38.0 Mookie Betts OF 0 ▬
6 35.0 Fernando Tatis Jr. SS 4 ▲
7 34.0 Trevor Story SS 1 ▲
8 34.0 Cody Bellinger OF 1 ▲
9 34.0 Nolan Arenado 3B -2 ▼
10 33.0 Trea Turner SS 3 ▲
11 31.0 Jose Ramirez 3B 1 ▲
12 31.0 Francisco Lindor SS -1 ▼
13 30.0 J.T. Realmuto C 3 ▲
14 30.0 Freddie Freeman 1B 0 ▬
15 30.0 Ronald Acuna Jr. OF -11 ▼
16 27.0 Nelson Cruz DH -1 ▼
17 25.0 Rafael Devers 3B 1 ▲
18 24.0 Manny Machado 3B 2 ▲
19 24.0 Marcell Ozuna DH 4 ▲
20 24.0 Paul Goldschmidt 1B -1 ▼
21 23.0 Xander Bogaerts SS 3 ▲
22 23.0 Eloy Jimenez OF -1 ▼
23 22.0 Luis Robert OF 4 ▲
24 22.0 Starling Marte OF 6 ▲
25 21.0 Nick Castellanos OF 3 ▲
26 21.0 Pete Alonso 1B 0 ▬
27 21.0 Javier Baez SS -5 ▼
28 21.0 J.D. Martinez DH -11 ▼
29 19.5 Matt Chapman 3B 9 ▲
30 19.5 Keston Hiura 2B 1 ▲
31 19.0 Whit Merrifield OF 5 ▲
32 19.0 Charlie Blackmon OF -3 ▼
33 19.0 Anthony Rendon 3B -8 ▼
34 19.0 George Springer OF 0 ▬
35 18.0 Tim Anderson SS 7 ▲
36 18.0 DJ LeMahieu 2B 89 ▲
37 17.0 Corey Seager SS 17 ▲
38 17.0 Eddie Rosario OF -1 ▼
39 17.0 Anthony Rizzo 1B -4 ▼
40 17.0 Carlos Correa SS 0 ▬
41 17.0 Joey Gallo OF -9 ▼
42 16.5 Jose Abreu 1B 3 ▲
43 16.0 Ketel Marte 2B -4 ▼
44 15.5 Kyle Schwarber OF 14 ▲
45 15.5 Yuli Gurriel 1B -2 ▼
46 15.5 Marcus Semien SS 1 ▲
47 15.5 Gary Sanchez C 2 ▲
48 15.0 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B/DH 11 ▲
49 15.0 Ramon Laureano OF -1 ▼
50 14.5 Michael Conforto OF 1 ▲
51 14.5 Max Kepler OF 2 ▲
52 14.5 Jonathan Villar 2B/SS/OF/DH -6 ▼
53 14.5 Yoan Moncada 3B -12 ▼
54 14.0 Didi Gregorius SS 16 ▲
55 14.0 Jorge Soler DH 1 ▲
56 14.0 Matt Olson 1B -1 ▼
57 14.0 Eugenio Suarez 3B -13 ▼
58 14.0 Ozzie Albies 2B -6 ▼
59 14.0 Austin Meadows OF/DH -9 ▼
60 13.5 Luke Voit 1B 12 ▲
61 13.5 Franmil Reyes DH 8 ▲
62 13.5 Jose Altuve 2B -29 ▼
63 12.5 Brandon Lowe 2B -2 ▼
64 12.5 Gio Urshela 3B -2 ▼
65 12.5 Yasmani Grandal C/1B/DH 2 ▲
66 12.0 Kyle Tucker OF 12 ▲
67 12.0 Rhys Hoskins 1B 17 ▲
68 12.0 Miguel Sano 1B -3 ▼
69 12.0 Willson Contreras C -6 ▼
70 11.5 Andrew McCutchen OF 12 ▲
71 11.5 Max Muncy 1B -3 ▼
72 11.0 Alex Bregman 3B -1 ▼
73 11.0 Giancarlo Stanton DH -13 ▼
74 10.5 Mike Moustakas 1B/2B/DH -8 ▼
75 10.0 Teoscar Hernandez OF 17 ▲
76 10.0 Wil Myers OF -3 ▼
77 10.0 Shohei Ohtani DH -20 ▼
78 10.0 David Peralta OF -3 ▼
79 10.0 Kris Bryant 3B/OF/DH 71 ▲
80 10.0 Eduardo Escobar 3B -4 ▼
81 9.5 Jonathan Schoop 2B 15 ▲
82 9.5 Alex Verdugo OF 5 ▲
83 9.0 Trent Grisham OF -2 ▼
84 9.0 Michael Brantley OF/DH 59 ▲
85 9.0 Josh Donaldson 3B 1 ▲
86 9.0 Gleyber Torres SS -1 ▼
87 8.5 Dansby Swanson SS 15 ▲
88 8.5 Dylan Carlson OF 34 ▲
89 8.5 Adam Eaton OF -1 ▼
90 8.0 Jesse Winker OF 28 ▲
91 8.0 Renato Nunez 1B 4 ▲
92 8.0 Bo Bichette SS -18 ▼
93 8.0 Victor Robles OF -16 ▼
94 8.0 Josh Bell 1B -4 ▼
95 7.5 Anthony Santander OF -1 ▼
96 7.5 Mike Yastrzemski OF -5 ▼
97 7.5 Eric Hosmer 1B 11 ▲
98 7.5 Jorge Polanco SS -15 ▼
99 7.5 Brian Anderson 3B -1 ▼
100 7.0 Kyle Lewis OF 23 ▲
101 7.0 Cavan Biggio 2B 2 ▲
102 7.0 Carlos Santana 1B 17 ▲
103 7.0 Yadier Molina C/1B 7 ▲
104 7.0 Byron Buxton OF -15 ▼
105 6.5 Randal Grichuk OF 2 ▲
106 6.5 Dominic Smith 1B/OF/DH -6 ▼
107 6.5 Lourdes Gurriel Jr. OF 7 ▲
108 6.5 J.D. Davis 3B -29 ▼
109 6.5 Will Smith C 7 ▲
110 6.0 Jake Cronenworth 1B/2B/3B/SS 42 ▲
111 6.0 Mitch Moreland 1B -6 ▼
112 6.0 Pedro Severino C 5 ▲
113 6.0 Alec Bohm 3B/DH 29 ▲
114 6.0 Adalberto Mondesi SS -34 ▼
115 5.5 Ian Happ OF -6 ▼
116 5.5 Mark Canha OF 8 ▲
117 5.5 Austin Nola C 83 ▲
118 5.5 Kolten Wong 2B 3 ▲
119 5.0 Kyle Seager 3B -15 ▼
120 5.0 Willy Adames SS 13 ▲
121 5.0 Aaron Judge OF/DH -57 ▼
122 5.0 Christian Walker 1B 12 ▲
123 5.0 Travis d'Arnaud C/DH 3 ▲
124 5.0 Avisail Garcia OF -31 ▼
125 4.5 Paul DeJong SS -5 ▼
126 4.5 Howie Kendrick 1B/DH -15 ▼
127 4.5 Christian Vazquez C -28 ▼
128 4.5 Corey Dickerson OF -22 ▼
129 4.0 A.J. Pollock OF -16 ▼
130 4.0 Jeff McNeil 2B/3B/OF/DH -29 ▼
131 3.5 Nick Solak OF 17 ▲
132 3.5 Joc Pederson OF -1 ▼
133 3.0 David Fletcher SS -5 ▼
134 3.0 Maikel Franco 3B 1 ▲
135 3.0 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B -6 ▼
136 3.0 Shin-Soo Choo OF/DH -9 ▼
137 3.0 Joey Votto 1B -22 ▼
138 3.0 Ryan Mountcastle OF/DH 18 ▲
139 2.5 J.P. Crawford SS 1 ▲
140 2.5 Kevin Pillar OF 14 ▲
141 2.5 Ryan McMahon 2B -2 ▼
142 2.5 Asdrubal Cabrera 1B/3B/DH 5 ▲
143 2.5 Wilson Ramos C -7 ▼
144 2.5 Jo Adell OF -12 ▼
145 2.0 Dylan Moore 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 1 ▲
146 2.0 Justin Turner 3B -49 ▼
147 2.0 Rowdy Tellez 1B/DH 50 ▲
148 2.0 Amed Rosario SS -18 ▼
149 2.0 Luis Urias 2B/3B/SS -12 ▼
150 2.0 Hunter Renfroe OF 1 ▲
151 1.5 Evan Longoria 3B 34 ▲
152 1.5 Rio Ruiz 3B -3 ▼
153 1.5 Aaron Hicks OF 2 ▲
154 1.5 Daniel Murphy 1B 17 ▲
155 1.5 Tommy Edman 2B/3B/SS/OF 32 ▲
156 1.5 Ryan Braun OF/DH -15 ▼
157 1.5 Joey Bart C/DH 0 ▬
158 1.5 Gavin Lux 2B 42 ▲
159 1.0 Jon Berti 2B/3B/SS/OF 41 ▲
160 1.0 Alex Dickerson OF 40 ▲
161 1.0 Brandon Belt 1B 39 ▲
162 1.0 Nick Ahmed SS -2 ▼
163 1.0 Austin Slater OF/DH -5 ▼
164 1.0 Brandon Nimmo OF -2 ▼
165 1.0 Niko Goodrum SS -1 ▼
166 1.0 Jesus Aguilar 1B/DH -5 ▼
167 1.0 Tommy La Stella 1B/2B/DH -14 ▼
168 1.0 Jean Segura 2B/3B/SS -1 ▼
169 1.0 Salvador Perez C/1B/DH -6 ▼
170 1.0 Edwin Encarnacion DH 3 ▲
171 1.0 Elvis Andrus SS 9 ▲
172 1.0 Austin Romine C 19 ▲
173 1.0 Chance Sisco C/DH 2 ▲
174 1.0 Bryan Reynolds OF -6 ▼
175 1.0 Brett Gardner OF -37 ▼
176 1.0 Victor Caratini C/1B/DH -7 ▼
177 1.0 Chance Sisco C/DH -2 ▼
178 1.0 Khris Davis DH -34 ▼
179 1.0 Nick Senzel OF -9 ▼
180 1.0 Clint Frazier OF/DH 20 ▲
181 1.0 Yoshitomo Tsutsugo 3B/OF/DH -3 ▼
182 1.0 Max Stassi C 0 ▬
183 1.0 Willie Calhoun OF/DH -2 ▼
184 1.0 David Dahl OF/DH -72 ▼
185 1.0 Sam Haggerty 3B/OF/DH 15 ▲
186 1.0 Donovan Solano 2B -2 ▼
187 1.0 Garrett Hampson OF 12 ▲
188 1.0 Austin Riley 3B 7 ▲
189 1.0 Miguel Cabrera DH 0 ▬
190 1.0 Daulton Varsho C/OF/DH 0 ▬
191 1.0 Andrelton Simmons SS 1 ▲
192 1.0 Sean Murphy C -4 ▼
193 1.0 Danny Jansen C 0 ▬
194 1.0 Justin Smoak 1B -8 ▼
195 1.0 Omar Narvaez C -1 ▼
196 1.0 Carson Kelly C 2 ▲
197 1.0 Evan White 1B -14 ▼
198 1.0 Ji-Man Choi 1B 2 ▲
199 1.0 Shogo Akiyama OF -3 ▼
200 1.0 Scott Kingery 2B/SS/OF 1 ▲

Austin Nola (C, Padres)

Nola has been on my list of players to examine more closely for the last two weeks, but I didn't prioritize him because his projections were still so abysmal. Both weeks, I ran out of space and time to do a full evaluation either week. As a result, I'm behind with this adjustment. Fortunately or unfortunately, the extra time allows me to unpack the playing time implications in San Diego now that we know Nola will be there alongside Jason Castro.

Nola's projections are still underwater at -$1.0, but at this point, we have a clear reason to discard those projections. In particular, the Statcast data has improved enough, and the Padres saw enough evidence to ship out Taylor Trammell in exchange for Nola. That commitment alone doesn't give us a calculable change to Nola's projections, but it does give us some confidence that professional scouts observed similar skills to what the numbers are showing us.

From the performance side, Nola's exit velocity is up from 87.4 MPH in 2019 to 89.7 MPH this year. That has helped boost his Hard-Hit rate to 41.2%, good enough to put him in the 65th percentile.

Nola's better than average exit velocity combines with his 38.8% Sweet-Spot rate to drive his .307 average and .313 xBA, as well as his .525 slugging and .515 xSLG. The HR production is probably exaggerated: he has only five doubles to go with his five home runs and only five barrels on the season. However, as those xStats indicate, the new Padre's performance is still close to his expected outcomes based on batted-ball data.

Take away a bit of the HR output, and Nola's's value falls off the $10 pace that he's's maintained so far this season. However, if he can keep squaring the ball up the way that he has been, it's's easy to see him finishing the year as an $8 player.  Given Nola's success this season, I'd like to move him that far up the list, but I have him projected as a $5.5 player for now. Part of that is tied to the Padres' acquisition of Jason Castro, who is a respectable catcher in his own right. It's not likely that Nola will maintain the same 83.8% plate share that he did in Seattle. The cost to acquire Nola should ensure he sees enough at-bats to be valuable, just not as valuable as he was in Seattle. Look for Nola to continue being a top-10 option at catcher, just not the second most valuable from here forward.

 

Jake Cronenworth (2B, Padres)

Among hitters with at least 100 PA, Cronenworth has the 9th highest wRC+ this season, and his 20 R, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, and .356 average have made him a top-50 hitter to date. Those stats make it seem like Cronenworth's earned value should be higher than his $9.9 so far this season. However, he has about 30% fewer at-bats than most of the players around him. That lack of volume reduces the value of his batting average, which is currently his best category.

Cronenworth's ascent has been driven by a torrid streak in the second half of August when his barrel rate rose to 14.6%, and his hard-hit rate surged to 52.1%. The limited duration of Cronenworth's work makes it easy to discount it entirely as a small sample, and most of Cronenworth's numbers are still a ways off from stabilizing because he didn't become an everyday starter until August 10th. Despite the small sample and lack of pedigree, Cronenworth's offensive prowess is not unprecedented for him. Last year, the San Diego second baseman slugged a 147 wRC+ in 88 games at AAA Durham in the International League.

At the moment, Cronenworth's .483 xwOBA is the third-best in baseball, behind Juan Soto and Corey Seager. The sample size is the only major concern here. The batted-ball numbers have sagged a bit over the last week, but Cronenworth still owns an excellent 47.6% hard-hit rate over that window, and of course, that week is an even smaller sample than the one we're trying to evaluate. Like Brandon Lowe earlier this season, we have the signs that Cronenworth is emerging as a full-blown all-star at a position that is sorely lacking star power at the moment. If the performance holds up, you can expect to see his projected value move accordingly.

 

Franmil Reyes (OF, Indians)

Sticking with our AJ Preller theme for today, we turn our attention to last year's big trade between the Indians and Padres. At the time, Reyes was a swing-first, walk-maybe-never slugger whose power was so obscene that it didn't matter that he was swinging and striking out at rates that would be unsustainable for most major leaguers.

As the season progressed and Reyes was traded to Cleveland, his plate approach showed notable progress. He still finished the year with a .249 average and a 28.5% strikeout rate, but he also crushed 37 home runs in 150 games and managed to push his walk rate up to a very respectable 8.6%.

This year, we've seen the same scorching-hot Reyes that lit up the league in May last year but with one clear-cut difference: he's chasing fewer pitches outside the zone. Reyes' Swing% has edged down from 51.6% to 49.0%, and his O-swing% has dropped from 31.1% to 28.2%. Those aren't monumental changes, but Reyes didn't need to be dramatically better to improve his outcomes, just marginally better so that he was getting a few more chances to maximize his talents.

For now at least, the improved plate discipline has allowed Reyes to average higher exit velocity than he did last year (94.4 MPH vs. 93.3 MPH). Additionally, Reyes' launch angle has crept up from 9.5° to 10.3°, so he's been lofting more hits as well.

Currently, the Indians' outfielder owns a .405 BABIP, so we're due for some unpleasant regression from that .323 batting average. Fantasy managers probably weren't banking on a high average though, so it shouldn't be a major concern, and Reyes' current $13.5 projection puts him in the same tier as sluggers like Jorge Soler, Michael Conforto, and Kyle Schwarber.

 

Keston Hiura (2B, Brewers)

Despite owning a .229 batting average, Hiura finds himself at the top of the second-base wasteland. As I wrote, there is surprising depth later on, but Hiura's ascent here is really more about survivorship rather than a flourishing sophomore season.

Hiura's increase in value is a unique situation: He owns a 95 wRC+ but has earned the fourth-highest value at second. He's hit nine HR, but only two doubles. His team is supposed to be an offensive powerhouse, but they're currently the third-worst offense in the league. Established, professional hitters like Yelich, Smoak, and Garcia have been missing in action, but Hiura has still accumulated 41 R+RBI.

Hiura's strikeout rate has remained too high for his approach, and there is good reason to believe that his batting average may not rebound this season. Consider that his .217 xBA is lower than his actual .229 BA. He has surprised with three stolen bases, but the simple reality is that even his managers are probably a bit disappointed by his overall performance.

At the core then is either a player whose idiosyncrasies defy our expectations and the norms of the game, or he's is due for some type of regression. Moreover, that regression might cripple his value or leave it basically the same. Consider the following possibilities:

Scenario 1) Hiura emerges as a new version of Dan Uggla: a defensively adequate, low-average, high-power player at a position that usually favors players with solid defense, speed, and better than average OBPs.

Scenario 2) Hiura's power regresses, his mediocre OBP and K-rate catch up with him, and his counting stats fall of the same cliff as his batting average.

Scenario 3) Hiura's's power regresses to something closer to his MiLB numbers, but so does the rest of his batted-ball profile. He becomes a .260 hitter who contributes 25-27 HR.

At the moment, the exit velocity and hard-hit rate don't suggest that Hiura will be able to maintain his power output, but his current 16.4° launch angle is identical to last year. That's a healthy number that will generate plenty of high drives capable of escaping the Miller Park fences, so the data is about as muddled as it could be. While there's evidence to suggest that Hiura's numbers will balance out and his value will hold steady, there's also real risk here. That Dan Uggla comp brought two other players to mind: Brian Dozier, which would be an excellent outcome, and Rougned Odor, which would be a lot worse.

Speed Round

Trea Turner (SS, Nationals): Turner has been crushing the ball lately, and he has somehow homered more than twice as often (7) as he has stolen bases (3). I do think there has been a philosophy change in Washington: the Nationals are 28th out of 30 in steals after being 3rd last year. However, Turner has also been caught four times this season. Earlier in the season, I was confident that the steals would come, but the last two weeks of data suggest a definite change for Washington's speedster. It's hard to know exactly what is going on, and we don't have the same type of clubhouse information as last year, but it certainly looks like Turner's days of carrying the SB category could be over. Despite that unhappy news, Turner has actually been the most valuable hitter since August 15th, so his managers are probably doing OK.

Evan Longoria (3B, Giants): Let's not understate the significance of the changes to San Francisco's stadium. When was the last time that the team had seven hitters with a wOBA over .350? However, Longoria also looks like a different hitter at the plate and on the stat line. At the plate, the third baseman has shown the type of collected poise that marked his time in Tampa Bay. Similarly, Longoria has boosted his batting average to .304 over his recent hot streak, and he is hitting the ball with far more authority than he did the last three seasons. In fact, his current 91.3 MPH EV is his best of the Statcast era. His 11.3% Barrel rate is just off his 11.5% from 2016 when he hit 36 HR.

Alec Bohm (3B, Phillies): Philly's prodigious youngster arrived with the reputation as a consistent hitter with useful power, and he has lived up to that billing. Fantasy managers may want a bit more power from the hot corner, but a .291 batting average and 18 R+RBI in 16 games is nothing to scoff at. Since he joined the big-league club on August 13th, Bohm has been about a $6 player. There's little reason to believe he can't maintain that pace: his xBA (.308) and xSLG (.587) both outstrip his actual performance so far. Moreover, Bohm's ceiling and Philadelphia's extra games mean that he could well be a top-80 hitter for the rest of the season.

 




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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Relief Pitchers Weekly Rankings

It's now September and in this shortened 2020 season, that means it's time for the Week 7 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks and our weekly dive into where the top 101 RPs stand moving forward. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks as well. I've updated this piece through Sept. 1st.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for SP, RP, and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike rates, xwOBA and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 7 Top 101 RP Baller Ranks core sheet here.

 

Top 101 Relief Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 7

Rank $ Tier Player EV $ Trend Notes
1 $14.0 1 Liam Hendriks $6.0 $14.0 0.0 ▬
2 $14.0 1 Kenley Jansen $3.7 $14.0 0.0 ▬
3 $14.0 1 Josh Hader $3.0 $14.0 0.0 ▬ That walk rate induces heartburn, but elite stuff is there.
4 $12.0 2 Brad Hand $2.9 $11.0 1.0 ▲
5 $10.5 2 Taylor Rogers $4.2 $12.0 -1.5 ▼
6 $10.5 2 Alex Colome $3.0 $10.5 0.0 ▬
7 $10.5 2 Raisel Iglesias $3.0 $9.5 1.0 ▲ Look at those fantastic K & BB rates, trust in him.
8 $9.5 3 Rafael Montero $2.0 $8.0 1.5 ▲
9 $8.5 3 Aroldis Chapman -$1.5 $12.0 -3.5 ▼ Light usage and iffy results in those appearances.
10 $7.5 3 Daniel Hudson -$2.4 $8.0 -0.5 ▼
11 $7.0 3 Giovanny Gallegos $4.5 $3.5 3.5 ▲ Even if he isnt' the sole closer, he looks amazing.
12 $6.0 3 Mark Melancon $0.1 $6.0 0.0 ▬
13 $5.5 3 Ryan Pressly $4.1 $4.5 1.0 ▲
14 $5.5 4 Trevor Rosenthal $1.4 $6.0 -0.5 ▼ He and Pomeranz form quite the closer committee.
15 $4.5 4 Brandon Kintzler -$0.3 $4.0 0.5 ▲
16 $4.0 4 James Karinchak $7.5 $5.5 -1.5 ▼
17 $4.0 4 Devin Williams $5.1 $2.5 1.5 ▲
18 $3.5 4 Brandon Workman $1.2 $2.0 1.5 ▲ Looks to be the man in PHI.
19 $3.5 4 Drew Pomeranz $5.3 $1.0 2.5 ▲ Back in action, but re-injury risk lowers current slot.
20 $3.0 4 Edwin Diaz $3.2 $3.0 0.0 ▬
21 $2.5 5 Gregory Soto $1.7 $1.0 1.5 ▲ Chair of the DET closer committee; well-deserved.
22 $2.0 5 Anthony Bass $3.6 $1.0 1.0 ▲ With Ken Giles and Jordan Romano out, Bass is their guy.
28 $2.0 5 Ty Buttrey $1.2 $1.5 0.5 ▲
23 $2.0 5 Richard Rodriguez $0.4 $1.5 0.5 ▲
24 $1.5 5 Sergio Romo $1.6 $1.5 0.0 ▬
25 $1.5 5 Greg Holland $2.2 $0.5 1.0 ▲ Got first save post-Rosenthal trade, he's a Matheny guy.
26 $1.5 5 Rowan Wick $2.2 $1.5 0.0 ▬
27 $1.5 5 Josh Staumont $2.2 $1.5 0.0 ▬
29 $1.5 5 Yoshihisa Hirano $0.2 $0.5 1.0 ▲ Suddenly Hirano is Seattle's closer.
30 $1.5 5 Diego Castillo -$0.3 $1.0 0.5 ▲
31 $1.5 5 Matt Barnes -$3.1 $1.5 0.0 ▬ He may get you saves, but it's very risky.
32 $1.5 5 Tyler Duffey $1.3 $1.5 0.0 ▬
33 $1.5 5 Chad Green $1.0 $1.5 0.0 ▬
34 $1.5 5 Daniel Bard $4.5 $2.0 -0.5 ▼
35 $1.5 5 Jonathan Hernandez $5.7 $1.0 0.5 ▲
36 $1.0 5 Jeremy Jeffress $2.1 $1.0 0.0 ▬
37 $1.0 5 Scott Barlow $3.7 $0.5 0.5 ▲
38 $1.0 5 Nick Anderson $5.5 $1.0 0.0 ▬ Set for a simulated game on Sept. 2nd.
39 $1.0 6 Junior Guerra $0.1 $0.0 1.0 ▲
40 $1.0 6 Craig Kimbrel -$2.3 $1.0 0.0 ▬
41 $1.0 6 Zack Britton $2.2 $1.0 0.0 ▬
42 $1.0 6 Emilio Pagan -$1.5 $3.0 -2.0 ▼ Quite the brief stint as closer, slides behind Rosey/Pom.
43 $1.0 6 Hector Neris $2.0 $1.5 -0.5 ▼ Workman's got the ninth for now, little time left in 2020.
44 $1.0 6 Joakim Soria $4.8 $1.0 0.0 ▬
45 $1.0 6 Tony Watson $1.2 $1.0 0.0 ▬
46 $1.0 6 Mychal Givens $2.9 $1.0 0.0 ▬
47 $1.0 6 Archie Bradley $4.0 $6.5 -5.5 ▼ Bradley is now behind Iglesias in CIN.
48 $1.0 6 Tanner Rainey $3.6 $1.0 0.0 ▬
49 $1.0 6 Freddy Peralta $6.1 $1.0 0.0 ▬
50 $1.0 6 Matt Foster $3.8 $1.0 0.0 ▬
51 $1.0 6 Adam Ottavino $0.8 $1.0 0.0 ▬
52 $1.0 7 Miguel Castro $1.7 $0.5 0.5 ▲
53 $1.0 7 Hunter Harvey -$0.3 $0.0 1.0 ▲ Just made his 2020 debut, but BAL bullpen is wide open.
54 $1.0 7 David Phelps $2.9 $1.0 0.0 ▬
55 $1.0 7 Andrew Miller $1.3 $1.0 0.0 ▬
56 $1.0 7 Trevor May $0.9 $1.0 0.0 ▬
57 $1.0 7 Will Smith -$2.3 $1.0 0.0 ▬
58 $1.0 7 Amir Garrett $1.7 $0.5 0.5 ▲
59 $0.5 8 Carlos Estevez $2.7 $1.0 -0.5 ▼
60 $0.5 8 Ken Giles -$0.5 $1.0 -0.5 ▼ Working through live batting practice right now.
61 $0.5 8 Yusmeiro Petit $0.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
62 $0.5 8 Evan Marshall $3.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
63 $0.5 8 Nick Wittgren $1.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
64 $0.5 8 Joely Rodriguez $3.2 $0.5 0.0 ▬
65 $0.5 8 Ross Detwiler $2.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
66 $0.5 8 Jordan Romano $3.1 $4.0 -3.5 ▼
67 $0.5 8 Peter Fairbanks $3.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬ Just another excellent Tampa reliever to help w/ ratios, K's.
68 $0.5 9 Craig Stammen -$0.1 $0.5 0.0 ▬
69 $0.5 9 Lucas Sims $2.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬ Not much in SV+HLD, but still a strong arm.
70 $0.5 9 John Gant $2.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
71 $0.5 9 Jake McGee $2.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
72 $0.5 9 Tyler Clippard $4.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
73 $0.5 9 Blake Treinen $2.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬
74 $0.5 9 Blake Taylor $1.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
75 $0.5 9 Yohan Ramirez -$0.5 $0.0 0.5 ▲ Walk rate is way too high, but has K's for late innings.
76 $0.5 9 Tanner Scott $2.0 $0.0 0.5 ▲
77 $0.5 9 Felix Pena $3.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
78 $0.5 9 Sean Doolittle -$2.0 $0.0 0.5 ▲ Two scoreless appearances since return, is he back?
79 $0.5 9 Ryan Helsley $1.0 $0.5 0.0 ▬ Returned to action on Sept. 1.
80 $0.5 9 Taylor Williams $1.3 $1.5 -1.0 ▼
81 $0.5 9 Yency Almonte $4.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
82 $0.5 9 Cole Sulser -$1.5 $1.5 -1.0 ▼ Removed from closer seat, not a team to target committee.
83 $0.5 9 Tyler Rogers $2.8 $0.5 0.0 ▬
84 $0.5 9 Tim Hill $0.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
85 $0.5 10 Brad Boxberger -$0.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
86 $0.5 10 Trevor Gott -$8.3 $0.5 0.0 ▬
87 $0.5 10 Hector Rondon -$2.3 $0.0 0.5 ▲ Outside shot his closing experience yields crack at 9th.
88 $0.5 10 Thomas Hatch $1.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬
89 $0.5 10 Caleb Ferguson $4.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
90 $0.5 10 Rafael Dolis $1.5 $0.5 0.0 ▬
91 $0.5 10 John Curtiss $0.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
92 $0.5 10 Ryan Brasier $1.7 $0.5 0.0 ▬
93 $0.5 10 Luke Jackson $1.4 $0.5 0.0 ▬
94 $0.5 10 J.B. Wendelken $2.1 $0.5 0.0 ▬
95 $0.5 10 Alex Reyes $0.1 $0.5 0.0 ▬
96 $0.5 10 Alex Claudio $0.6 $0.0 0.5 ▲
97 $0.5 10 Nik Turley $1.2 $0.0 0.5 ▲
98 $0.5 10 Ryan Borucki $1.9 $0.5 0.0 ▬
99 $0.5 10 Joe Jimenez -$4.1 $1.5 -1.0 ▼ No longer the closer, unlikely to regain status in 2020.
100 $0.5 10 Hansel Robles -$0.9 $1.0 -0.5 ▼
101 $0.5 10 Matt Magill -$1.6 $0.5 0.0 ▬

Relief Pitcher Movers of Note

Aroldis Chapman (RP, Yankees): Chapman’s fourth appearance of 2020 made headlines thanks to an errant heater that went right for Michael Brosseau’s head. Benches cleared after the game but when the dust settled, we had Chapman’s first save in the books. His first two appearances were tough, with three earned coming in 1 IP and a 10-day gap between those two games.

That said, he notched the win with a scoreless frame against the Mets on Aug. 29 and Tuesday’s save gives him three appearances in five days. That’s good, but three strikeouts in three innings is un-Chapmanlike. He may be shaking off the rust but he can’t live that high up the chart without delivering.

Giovanny Gallegos (RP, Cardinals): Gallegos has allowed a mere two baserunners over eight scoreless innings so far, logging a win and two saves on the way. He’s been used in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings over the past week, with that flexible usage representing his only barrier from the top tiers.

The 29-year-old enjoyed a breakout 2019 with a 2.31 ERA/0.81 WHIP and 93 K’s in 74 IP, providing STL with a true fireman. With a CSW rate near 40% and a 41.7% strikeout rate against zero walks, it’s safe to say he’s in the groove.

Devin Williams (RP, Brewers): With James Karinchak proving mortal over the past few days, Williams continues to push for “best non-closing RP” honors. He scored his third victory of the year on Monday, striking out four over 1 ⅔ IP to further boost his 52.7% strikeout rate. Now with 29 K’s in 14 IP, Williams and his 0.64 ERA/0.71 WHIP sometimes make me question if Josh Hader didn’t split himself in two and bestow a mystical changeup upon his other half.

Greg Holland (RP, Royals): It was Holland, and not Josh Staumont or Scott Barlow, who got the first save for Kansas City following the Trevor Rosenthal trade. Holland has pitched in the eighth and ninth innings for KC over the past few days, with Staumont and Barlow working the seventh and eighth.

Holland’s found his grip on the mound after posting walk rates north of 11% in his past four seasons, settling at 7.6% through 19 innings through Sept. 1. That’s helped him keep a tidy 1.16 WHIP, and the career-best 51% groundball rate helps limit damage on long balls. He doesn’t have to be the full-fledged closer for us to benefit.

Yoshihisa Hirano (RP, Mariners): With the Mariners going cuckoo for cocoa puffs at the trade deadline, Hirano has little competition for the ninth in Seattle. The M’s dealt Taylor Williams, Dan Altavilla, and even the injured Austin Adams to San Diego. While Hirano’s only notched four career saves, his career 3.36 ERA/1.22 WHIP underscores his reliability.

Keep expectations modest, as his usual 91-mph fastball is averaging just below 90 mph so far and three walks against three strikeouts isn’t heartwarming. Don’t go in expecting a top-20 closer, but if you’re unhappy chasing committee situations and panhandling for fringe saves then Hirano should an earnest crack at being the primary closer.

 

Other, more obvious, fallers include: 

-Emilio Pagan, who falls behind Trevor Rosenthal and Drew Pomeranz.
-Daniel Bard, who now deals with added competition in Mychal Givens.
-Archie Bradley, who is firmly planted behind Raisel Iglesias in Cincy.
-Jordan Romano, who sadly is on the injured list.
-Cole Sulser, who was removed from the closer’s role for lower-leverage spots.
-Joe Jimenez, ditto Sulser’s note - don’t target displaced committee members on teams that aren’t vacuuming up wins. The season is too short for that anyhow.



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Week 7 MLB Closers & Bullpen Usage Report

Monitoring bullpens in 2020 will be a vital task each and every day. Because of this, we'll be publishing a weekly article at RotoBaller that tracks which bullpens are being taxed and which pitchers within that bullpen are being heavily used.

The idea of this column is to help you gain an inside track into which relief pitchers, closers, and setup men should be avoided or targeted in a given week of fantasy baseball.

As always, we'll be closely tracking bullpen updates every day in our Closer Depth Charts. That is definitely a resource you want to bookmark and visit each day to stay up-to-date with the latest bullpen changes and movements.

 

Around the American League

Baltimore - What's left? Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens were shipped out. Cole Sulser was demoted. Hunter Harvey returned from the IL and got banged around just a bit. Tanner Scott has pitched in back-to-back games, though needed only 12 total pitches. Looks like Evan Phillips is the last man standing. Harvey is obviously the arm to own for the long-term, but who knows how long it will take him to settle into the season.

Toronto - Anthony Bass has pitched in three of four, allowing runs in back-to-back contests. With both Ken Giles and now Jordan Romano on the IL, this feels like Bass' job for a while. He'll need rest anyway though. Rafael Dolis and A.J. Cole are somewhat more rested, though they pitched Monday in front of Bass. Cole needed just five pitches for his outing; he's the best bet for a save if it comes.

Chicago White Sox - Alex Colome will need some rest after pitching in two straight and three of four. Steve Cishek pitched in back-to-back before a day off. Matt Foster somehow managed to receive back-to-back calls two days after throwing 37 pitches. Granted, that first return outing was just three pitches long, but he should need some rest for sure. Meanwhile, Jace Fry has actually thrown in three straight, and Jimmy Cordero did the same before a day of rest. It may take some piecing together to get through the early portion of this week.

Cleveland - Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak have each pitched in two of three. So has Phil Maton, who grabbed a hold on Monday. Fortunately, Brad Hand is very well rested. He's thrown only three total pitches since last Wednesday.

Detroit - A cursory watch of Gregory Soto's usage is needed. He pitched in two straight before an off day. He can go again early in the week but then may rest in favor of Buck Farmer.

Kansas City - Welcome back to high leverage, Greg Holland. Since the team traded Trevor Rosenthal, Holland pitched on three consecutive days and will now need at least a day of rest. It seemed like Ian Kennedy would be next in line, but he's had a tough time of things. Jesse Hahn is an option, but before picking up a surprise save, he hadn't even entered a game where KC was leading in weeks. He has also pitched in three of four days. Josh Staumont is another name to watch for holds and fill-in saves and is the most rested of the group.

Minnesota - Taylor Rogers needed 33 pitches to get through Monday's outing. In fact, everyone outside of Sergio Romo who pitched Monday got some good work in. Look for Romo to cover the slack until Rogers is rested.

Los Angeles Angels - Ty Buttrey has thrown on three of the past four days. Felix Pena has pitched in back-to-back. Keynan Middleton would have been next. Instead, he pitched only twice in the past 12 days, giving up runs in both outings, and was subsequently demoted to the LAA training site. Hansel Robles hasn't allowed a base runner since August 24...mostly because he hasn't gotten into a game since then. The Angels did activate Cam Bedrosian from the IL. He may be that late-inning option the team now needs.

Seattle - The Seattle bullpen is just Yoshihisa Hirano doing the Vincent Vega meme.

 

Around the National League

Atlanta - Mark Melancon has pitched in two straight games, rebounding nicely from his slip-up last week. Will Smith and Chris Martin have pitched in two straight as well; the former throwing 41 pitches. If all three need to hit the bench, Shane Greene is next in line for important usage. He pitched Sunday but only needed 12 pitches.

New York Mets - Edwin Diaz has pitched in three of four. Jeurys Familia pitched in three straight before a day off. Justin Wilson pitched in back-to-back before a day off. The addition of Miguel Castro couldn't come soon enough.

Philadelphia - Like their New York peer, a valuable bullpen addition was well timed here. Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree both pitched on three of the past four days. Hopefully David Phelps can supply some stability.

Washington - Sean Doolittle pitched in two straight; his first two outings since returning from the IL.

Cincinnati - The acquisition of Archie Bradley throws the back end of the Cincy bullpen into flux. Raisel Iglesias probably holds onto the closer job, but Amir Garrett certainly will lose some high-leverage spots in favor of Bradley. That bumps Nate Jones and Lucas Sims down another peg, perhaps out of serious holds consideration on most nights.

Milwaukee - With the Brewers trading David Phelps, it opens up more opportunities for Devin Williams and Alex Claudio. However, all of Williams, Claudio, and Josh Hader have pitched in two of the past three days. Do they dare recall Corey Knebel from the training site? Probably not, instead attempting to balance rest between the three arms.

Arizona - After trading away Archie Bradley, Arizona likely turns to a combination of Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra to get the late outs in games. Both men had pitched twice in a row heading into Monday. Another visit to the mound would then mean another day of rest needed. The Diamondbacks may be inclined to give newly acquired Humberto Mejia an early chance in that scenario.

Colorado - Everyone is rested; it's anyone's guess what the pecking order will be in this pen after the trade deadline. Daniel Bard still leads the committee, but with Jairo Diaz dropping out of favor, where does Mychal Givens slide in? Givens currently has a career-best 37.3 percent K-rate, but it goes along with a career-worst 11.8 percent walk rate. I'd guess Givens settles second in line after Bard, but they may not start him out that high as he learns opponent and ballpark tendencies these first couple weeks.

San Diego - No bullpen beefed up more at the deadline than San Diego. The Padres added Dan Altavilla, Taylor Williams, and Trevor Rosenthal, while activating Drew Pomeranz from the IL. The pecking order seems to be anyone and everyone, followed by Pomeranz to set up, and Rosenthal to close. Poor Emilio Pagan righted his season only to see his stock plummet right after getting a real chance to close.

San Francisco - Before an off day, all of Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers, and Sam Coonrod had pitched in back-to-back games. Coonrod seems the most likely to need a full day rest; the other two threw a low enough pitch count where they should be ready to roll next game.



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Marlins Make Moves: Starling Marte In, Jonathan Villar Out

The Marlins are contenders! Well, at least they have a shot at one of the 16 playoff spots now available in 2020.

What was expected to be a relatively quiet trade deadline based on the short season and a host of unknown factors throughout the year resulted in a last-minute flurry of activity. Typical buyers like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros stood pat while it was the Padres and Blue Jays going all in. Meanwhile Miami, the franchise that has been a seller for approximately 25 of its 28 years of existence, actually acquired a veteran bat of consequence and got gasp! older.

In a separate move, the Fish also dealt away Jonathan Villar for a player to be named later. As a solid veteran who can move between multiple infield positions and the outfield that also brings speed to the table, it might seem that these moves offset each other. Digging deeper, the Marlins had a plan that involved improving their defense and leadership on the field. That's all good and well, but what does this do for the fantasy value of each player in 2020 and beyond?

 

Bienvenido a Miami, Mr. Marte

Starling Marte is well-known to fantasy GMs. He finished 45th in overall offensive scoring in 2019 (OF16), 32nd overall (OF15) in 2018, has stolen at least 20 bases for seven straight seasons, and owns a career .288 batting average.

Marte is now 31 years old, but neither his foot speed or bat speed are in question.

He may not project to be among the top-five of base thieves but this trade could change that outlook. The Diamondbacks were one the least aggressive teams on the basepaths, ranking 24th in SB attempts at 0.46 per game. Mattingly's Marlins are at the top of that category, giving not only recently-departed Jonathan Villar the green light at any time, but also players like Jon Berti who has eight steals. Even Magneuris Sierra, who has all of 36 at-bats, has swiped four bags.

In his first season with Arizona, Marte was slashing a healthy .311/.384/.443 with five steals in 33 games. His average would be a career-high and the BABIP is 10 points higher than his career average but he's finished above his current .353 BABIP three different times, so don't necessarily expect a decline.

The only thing worth noting about this year compared to his past track record is that he's changed his approach. Marte seems to be inexplicably struggling with breaking pitches when he never did before. Meanwhile, he is tearing up offspeed pitches. Ultimately, it has been a wash and his averages are better than ever, so it's nothing but a curiosity at this point.

Marte has resided in the third spot in the lineup all year for Arizona but is slotted for the second spot in his Marlins debut. This is a minor adjustment and doesn't move the needle too much except for reinforcing that he could see more opportunities to run. Expect a slight trade-off of RBI in favor of SB, which most fantasy managers would gladly take.

Normally, a move to Miami would be a death knell for an offensive player, but this is a different season for sure. The D-Backs became sellers for a reason, mainly because their rotation and offense are both terrible. This is a purely lateral move, as both teams have identical team batting averages of .237 and an OPS difference of .003 with the D-Backs scoring 20 more runs on the season. If anything, Marte may benefit mentally from moving to a cough cough playoff contender.

If you are rostering Marte, don't fret or sell based on concerns with him leaving the desert. The humidor has suppressed Chase Field's air for a while and Marte's game is speed not power anyway. If a rival manager is worried about Marte or willing to sell at a discount, consider buying now if the trade deadline hasn't passed.

 

Does Villar Have Value Up North?

With nine steals in 30 games, Villar is currently the MLB leader in the all-important roto category. He could have more if not for a low .315 OBP and five times caught stealing. His .259/.315/.345 slash line is right in line with his career average of .261/.328/.405 and he's never been one for a high walk rate. While this might lead one to believe that Villar could be as valuable as Marte when taking his infield eligibility into account, that's just not the case.

Villar is seen as a multi-category contributor because he went for 24 HR and 73 RBI last year along with 40 SB and a .273 average. The truth is those were all by far career highs and came in a full 162 games played. Villar isn't lighting up the Statcast charts this year and is about to lose ABs as well.

We've already established that Miami has given him more chances to steal than any other team, we don't know if he'll even have an everyday role in Toronto. He can take over at SS while Bo Bichette is out but will bounce back to a utility role once the young phenom returns. Surprisingly, Villar has posted a better UZR at shortstop than Bichette this year, so it's possible Bichette gets moved to third base and Travis Shaw gets moved to DH and Rowdy Tellez gets bounced from the lineup... but most likely the team will use Villar in a utility role since he can play across the diamond.

Hitting in a dynamic Jays lineup is a plus but he will be stuck at the bottom of the order, usually eighth, unlike in Miami where he was the leadoff man for the first month of the season. This means a dip in run-scoring potential as well as the aforementioned stolen base opportunities. Villar does have value in deeper leagues simply because steals are such a rare commodity and he can fill many spots on a fantasy roster, but he won't return the same value the rest of this season and can't be blindly slotted into weekly lineups. Attempting to sell him to a speed-desperate team might be wise if you can fetch a solid SP in return.

 

Other Pieces of Note

The part about these deals that might make Fish fans smile the most is seeing Griffin Conine, son of "Mr. Marlin" Jeff Conine join the team. Conine isn't just a legacy, he was a second-round pick by Toronto and their #15 prospect. On a team overflowing with young offensive talent, they could afford to deal him away in order to bolster their depth. A power bat with 55-grade power who slugged 22 HR in 80 games at full-season Single-A, Conine is worth a stash in deep dynasty leagues.

Humberto Mejia was a lower-level prospect who has been tagged for eight runs and 13 hits (three HR) in three Major League starts this year. At age 23, there's plenty of room for growth but he projects to be a non-descript end-of-rotation arm or long reliever.

Caleb Smith has had streaming appeal since last season for one reason - strikeouts. He parlays tremendous spin and movement on his fastball along with an effective slider to induce whiffs but also walks his share of batters. What's worse is that he is prone to allowing barrels, ranking in the bottom 6% of the league the past two years. Although Zac Gallen has done pretty good in his move from Miami to Arizona, Smith is a different type of pitcher. Maybe if he'd been moved to Toronto, he might be the left-hander in line for a rebound like Robbie Ray.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 6

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

We're looking at a trio of low-owned right-handers this week, as Dane Dunning, Zach Eflin, and Tyler Mahle all impressed over the weekend. Each is available in more than 80% of Yahoo leagues, so they are likely out there in most standard 12-team leagues.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/24/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies

16% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 19.1 IP, 5.12 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 24.1% K-BB%

08/29 vs. ATL: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Eflin has cranked up his strikeout game this year, raising his strikeout rate 15% from a mediocre 18.3% in 2019 to an elite 33.3% in 2020. Going into play Sunday Eflin is among the top-10 best strikeout starters in baseball (min. 20 IP), matching names like Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, and Blake Snell. His 39.9% chase rate is the second-best in baseball behind only Shane Bieber. All of the pitchers covered in this column pitch surprisingly well, heck, it’s in the title, but it’s especially surprising coming from Zach Eflin. Eflin had made 74 career starts coming into the season, and we knew exactly who he was. A fringy, occasionally streamable right-handed with so-so stuff and low upside. The type of pitcher who is more valuable in real baseball than fantasy. A budding Mike Leake, if you will. But this type of strikeout rate can be ignored no longer, so let’s dive into the Phillies righty and see how Eff-lin good he actually is.

In the first few years of his career Eflin typified so-so stuff. He throws low-to-mid 90s heat (though he used to be able to touch 97), has a weak slider that typically generates a poor whiff rate, a changeup to try and get lefties out (emphasis on the try, as lefties have a .373 wOBA against Eflin all time), and a show-me curveball. Good enough to keep a big league job, but nothing for us fantasy nerds to get excited about. However, Eflin has made two big changes in 2020 that could have us eying him up on the waiver wire. First, he’s transitioned from primarily a four-seam fastball pitcher to a sinkerballer. And second, he’s revamped his curveball and upped the usage, giving him a second breaking ball to compliment the slider.

First, we’ll start with the change I’m less enthused about, which is the transition to be a sinkerball pitcher. Sinkerballer is almost a derogatory term in 2020, as that style of pitching has lost much of its viability in the Statcast era, but for Eflin the pitch has been a godsend in terms of limiting power. Eflin served up 28 long balls last season and has a career 1.52 HR/9, but he’s only allowed three home runs for a 1.03 HR/9 this year. With an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH and an average launch angle of three degrees, batters haven’t been able to clobber home runs like in seasons past. It’s worth noting that Eflin’s sinker did have similar Statcast metrics last season and batters managed a .471 SLG and ten homers off the pitch last season. Eflin has also surrendered nine doubles but zero home runs with the pitch thus far, so he may be on the fortunate side to have kept the ball in the yard. Batters have a .492 SLG against Eflin’s sinker all time versus a .490 SLG against his four-seamer. The change has undeniably worked to prevent home runs thus far, but whether it continues to work is questionable. The sinker isn’t the source of strikeouts for Eflin anyway, that would be his new and improved curveball.

Eflin’s curveball has always been an afterthought pitch for him. He threw it just 5.4% of the time in both 2018 and 2019, and last year batters feasted on Eflin’s curveball for a .308 AVG and .654 SLG. Eflin has more than  doubled the usage Things have been much better this season, as batters are hitting .133 with a .333 SLG against the pitch. The expected stats are even better for Eflin’s curveball, with a microscopic .079 xBA and a .094 xSLG. The swinging strike rate has risen to 17.8% this season, and the chase rate has skyrocketed from 30% last year to 47.8% this year. Batters seem to have a hard time recognizing the pitch this season. Below is a heatmap comparison of the swing rate on Eflin’s curveball this year (top) and prior to 2020 (bottom).

Eflin has stayed inside the zone more with his curveball this year, and batters aren’t swinging at it inside the zone. Instead, they are flailing away at the unhittable curveballs. While this is nice to see, this graph also puts in perspective just how small of a sample size we’re looking at here. All season long we have to add the sample size qualifier when talking about players, but this allows us to visualize it. Eflin has thrown just 45 curveballs all year, and just a few more swings or a few more pitches down long significantly changes things like chase rate, zone rate, and whiff rate, which are all crucial metrics to evaluate pitchers. So, while there’s a lot to like about Eflin’s curve, we are still far away from drawing definitive conclusions.

So when it’s all said and done, what exactly do we have here? Eflin is trending in the right direction, but this writer isn’t buying it yet. He used his curveball a ton in this start against the Braves, with his 22.9% curveball usage the highest of his career. If Eflin can continue to do that he’ll be worth rostering in mixed leagues, but I have to see more before I trust him. In a deeper league I would add him and keep him on my bench for the start against Washington. If that goes well and the curveball trend continues Elfin should have a two-start week against Boston and at Miami, which could be a great spot down the fantasy stretch.

Verdict: Eflin’s changed his pitch mix this year to feature his sinker and curveball more prominently. The curveball has been the primary source of his strikeouts, and it’s at least made Eflin worth monitoring in mixed leagues. He isn’t a must add in standard mixed, but not a bad dart to throw if you can hold him on the bench.

 

Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds

9% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 18.1% K-BB%

08/28 vs. CHC: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K

Mahle is something of a regular when it comes to surprising starts. The 25-year-old right-hander is known for putting up big starts and even extended hot stretches only for things to blow up in his face. This is my third year writing this column for RotoBaller, and this will be the third time I’ve covered a Tyler Mahle start. Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of Mahle. He has been overly reliant on his fastball in the past, and lacks the put-away breaking ball to consistently generate strikeouts and prevent runs in the big leagues. That being said, I’m open-minded and more importantly I want for myself and every RotoBaller out there to win their league, so let’s dive into Tyler Mahle: 2020 Edition and see if he’s turned the corner or if it’s another flash in the pan.

As previously mentioned, Mahle has been overly reliant on his fastball throughout his major league career, but Mahle has been trying to change that. His fastball usage has gone down each of the last two seasons, and is at an all-time low this year with just a 52.1% usage rate for Mahle. In fact, Mahle used his fastball and slider almost equally in his start against the Cubs, throwing 46 fastballs and 44 sliders. The slider was the big strikeout pitch for him too, with 12 of his 19 whiffs coming on sliders. This effort brought Mahle’s swinging strike rate with the pitch up to a career-high 20%, along with a monster 45.5% chase rate for his slider. It’s worth noting that Mahle’s slider is sometimes called a cutter by certain pitch tracking systems, but it has the drop and movement of a slider. Here is an example from this most recent start.

That is clearly a slider, and pretty good one at that. Increased slider usage and movement could be exactly what Mahle needs to take the next step.

It’s excellent to see Mahle incorporate an effective slider into his pitch mix like this, but it should be said that Mahle is no slouch with the heater. Mahle’s fastball has above average velocity and spin, and batters have managed just a .161 BA and .170 xBA against the pitch this season. What’s better is the 35-degree average launch angle and 9.3% SwStr rate against the fastball. Batters are struggling to make contact, and when they do it’s typically a lazy flyball, as Mahle’s fastball has a 73.9% flyball rate. The launch angle revolution has taught us to love flyballs, but flyballs are still the least likely type of batted ball to become a hit. There can be some positives to being a flyball pitcher, such as a lower-than-average BABIP,  but we should still expect Mahle’s chronic home run issues to remain. Even so, Mahle is becoming a more complete pitcher and for the first time has this writer interested.

Verdict: Mahle has increased his slider usage, and combining that pitch with his effective fastball should give him a one-two punch for strikeouts. Home runs will be a problem, as will walks, but Mahle’s doing some interesting things. He’s worth an add in deeper leagues, and he is startable in his next matchup against St. Louis, a club with just a .715 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season.

 

Dane Dunning, Chicago White Sox

17% Rostered

2018 Stats (Double-A): 62 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 17.6% K-BB%

08/30 vs. KC: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Every week it feels like a new and exciting pitching prospect gets promoted to the big leagues and becomes the hot waiver wire commodity, but Dane Dunning has flown somewhat under the radar in his first two big leagues starts. He went toe-to-toe with Casey Mize in his debut and arguably out-pitched Mize, and thanks to a Gio Gonzalez injury Dunning got another chance on Sunday against the Royals and did not disappoint. The Royals couldn’t even muster a hit off Dunning over five innings, and went down on strikes seven times. Dunning may be best known as the “other” pitcher who went to Chicago from Washington in the Adam Eaton trade, and was always considered a notch below Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. He’s obviously no Lucas Giolito yet, and hopefully he’s no Reynaldo Lopez, but where in between does Dunning fall?

Part of the reason Dunning was never considered a super high-end pitching prospect was his poor fastball velocity. Dunning sat low-to-mid 90s prior to Tommy John surgery in 2019, but averaged just 91.1 MPH in his most recent start and topped out at 92.4 MPH. Batters have also smoked his fastball with an average exit velocity of 100.4 MPH against Dunning’s four-seamer. The pitch has a .226 xBA thanks to a 50% groundball rate, but it’s hard to trust a pitch that’s surrendering so much hard contact. This is still a very small sample size, especially for batted ball data, but something to keep an eye on regardless.

On the plus side, Dunning’s slider absolutely carved up the Royals lineup. He generated seven of his 14 whiffs with the pitch, which gives him a 30.9% whiff rate with his slider in two starts. The slider was absolutely dominant for Dunning in the minor leagues as well, which has helped him maintain a 10.2 K/9 over his minor league career. Here are a few examples from this start.

 

It’s especially nice to see Dunning unafraid of throwing his slider to a left-handed batter. Dunning has thrown his slider to lefties 23% of the time when ahead in the count and 18% of the time with two strikes. Most young pitchers do not have the confidence to throw a breaking ball to opposite handed batters and instead rely on a changeup, so it’s encouraging to see Dunning go after both righties and lefties with his best pitch.

Based on his first two starts and his minor league numbers, it seems like Dunning has big strikeout potential. He should also be an above average groundball pitcher, as he’s had a groundball rate of 49% or higher in every minor league season and has a 52.6% groundball rate through his first two starts thanks to his slider and a plus two-seamer. The four-seam fastball velocity is a bit concerning, and it would be nice to see Dunning do it against a lineup besides the Royals or Tigers, but there’s a lot to like here. And lucky for Dunning if things stay the same his next two outings would come against the Royals and Tigers. He’s worth adding in 12 teamers or deeper, and usable in the next matchup at Kansas City. Dunning’s rotation spot isn’t guaranteed, but if he continues to pitch well he could easily supplant one of Reynaldo Lopez, Gio Gonzalez, or Carlos Rodon, all of whom have been horrible thus far this year.

Verdict: A great slider and good groundball rate should help Dunning overcome poor fastball velocity. A soft AL Central schedule helps, as Dunning's next two starts would come against Detroit and Kansas City. He deserves to be on someone's team in 12-teamers or deeper.



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The Baller Ranks: Top 101 Starting Pitchers Weekly Rankings

With September around the corner, the Week 7 Starting Pitcher Baller Ranks are here to help analyze where the top 101 SPs stand moving forward in this chaotic season. You can check out my weekly Top 101 Relief Pitcher Baller Ranks as well.

David Emerick rolled out an introduction to our Baller Ranks here -- I suggest you read for a full explanation of our purpose, but the TL;DR is here we're providing a one-stop-shop for pitcher and hitter valuation. We'll explore value produced to-date, their current standing, and provide context with analysis.

And for those who want stats like the usual 5x5 categories, strikeout rates, Called + Swinging Strike (CSW) rates, xwOBA, and more on a decked-out spreadsheet, we've got you covered - you can view the full Week 7 Top 101 SP Baller Ranks core sheet here.

 

Top 101 Starting Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 7

Rank $ Tier Player EV $PV Trend Notes
1 43.0 1 Shane Bieber 16.7 40.0 3.0 ▲
2 38.0 1 Gerrit Cole 4.9 38.0 0.0 ▬
3 38.0 1 Jacob deGrom 12.8 35.0 3.0 ▲ Mets' inability to supply wins are only limitation here.
4 34.0 2 Trevor Bauer 9.3 34.0 0.0 ▬
5 30.0 2 Sonny Gray 11.9 30.0 0.0 ▬
6 30.0 2 Clayton Kershaw 5.2 28.0 2.0 ▲
7 29.0 2 Yu Darvish 12.2 25.0 4.0 ▲
8 29.0 2 Max Scherzer 9.1 27.5 1.5 ▲ Top-end strikeouts, but perhaps attacking too aggressively.
9 26.0 3 Aaron Nola 7.4 27.0 -1.0 ▼
10 25.0 3 Luis Castillo 11.0 26.0 -1.0 ▼ Steady buy-low if possible, that .400 BABIP is unwieldy.
11 25.0 3 Jack Flaherty 3.0 25.0 0.0 ▬ Still a stud, but only 64 pitches this last time out.
12 23.0 3 Lance Lynn 10.4 23.0 0.0 ▬
13 23.0 3 Zack Greinke 11.6 23.0 0.0 ▬
14 22.0 3 Kenta Maeda 10.8 21.0 1.0 ▲
15 22.0 3 Dinelson Lamet 8.0 18.0 4.0 ▲
16 22.0 3 Lucas Giolito 12.2 13.0 9.0 ▲ Two straight 13-K gems, can he repeat vs. good teams?
17 20.0 3 Zac Gallen 7.0 14.5 5.5 ▲
18 19.0 3 Max Fried 12.3 14.0 5.0 ▲
19 15.5 4 Patrick Corbin 6.1 19.0 -3.5 ▼ 4 K's or fewer in 3 of his last 4 starts, stock will fall from that.
20 15.5 4 Carlos Carrasco 2.1 16.5 -1.0 ▼ 3 QS to start '20, then 3 non-QS. Saturday rebound w/ QS.
21 15.5 4 Brandon Woodruff 10.4 14.5 1.0 ▲
22 14.0 4 Dylan Bundy 8.8 14.5 -0.5 ▼
23 14.0 4 Blake Snell 2.8 13.0 1.0 ▲
24 14.0 4 Aaron Civale 8.7 12.0 2.0 ▲
25 14.0 4 Tyler Glasnow 4.6 10.0 4.0 ▲ 7 IP, 13 K against BAL. Yes, it's BAL, still a dreamy sight.
26 13.0 4 Zack Wheeler 8.2 14.0 -1.0 ▼ Limiting hard contact well but the whiffs are way down.
27 12.0 4 Mike Clevinger 0.1 11.0 1.0 ▲ Got BABIP'd some in return, but 6 K's and 1 BB works.
28 11.0 5 Kyle Hendricks 8.3 13.0 -2.0 ▼
29 11.0 5 Walker Buehler 2.1 22.0 -11.0 ▼ Hopefully just missing the minimum, risk can't be ignored.
30 10.5 5 Lance McCullers Jr. 2.7 9.5 1.0 ▲
31 9.5 5 German Marquez 7.8 10.0 -0.5 ▼
32 9.5 5 Chris Paddack 0.5 11.0 -1.5 ▼ Can he rebound at Coors? His heater is getting smashed.
33 9.5 5 Jesus Luzardo 4.3 9.5 0.0 ▬
34 9.5 5 Jose Berrios 3.7 9.5 0.0 ▬
35 9.5 5 Andrew Heaney 9.7 9.0 0.5 ▲
36 9.5 5 Hyun-Jin Ryu 8.6 9.0 0.5 ▲
37 9.0 5 Pablo Lopez 8.2 7.0 2.0 ▲
38 9.0 5 Charlie Morton 1.4 9.5 -0.5 ▼ Throwing another bullpen session this weekend.
39 8.5 6 Dustin May 4.0 9.0 -0.5 ▼
40 8.5 6 Chris Bassitt 5.3 8.5 0.0 ▬
41 8.5 6 Corbin Burnes 9.3 8.0 0.5 ▲ Crushed the Pirates with 10 K's in 6 scoreless IP, love it.
42 8.5 6 Cristian Javier 1.8 8.0 0.5 ▲
43 8.0 6 Julio Urias 4.5 8.5 -0.5 ▼
44 8.0 6 Framber Valdez 9.1 3.5 4.5 ▲ That curveball is working, improved command paying off.
45 6.0 7 Frankie Montas 3.0 11.0 -5.0 ▼ Turned in third straight brutal outing on Aug. 29.
46 5.0 7 Garrett Richards 1.8 8.5 -3.5 ▼
47 5.0 7 Dallas Keuchel 9.1 4.5 0.5 ▲
48 5.0 7 Dylan Cease -0.6 5.0 0.0 ▬
49 4.5 7 Masahiro Tanaka 3.7 4.5 0.0 ▬
50 4.5 7 Adrian Houser 1.4 4.5 0.0 ▬
51 4.5 7 Marco Gonzales 6.5 3.0 1.5 ▲ Doesn't wow, but offers steady hand as back-end option.
52 4.0 7 Tyler Mahle 3.3 1.5 2.5 ▲
53 4.0 7 Elieser Hernandez 3.4 1.5 2.5 ▲
54 4.0 7 Sixto Sanchez 2.7 1.0 3.0 ▲ Amazing in second start, MIA will cap upside.
55 4.0 7 Antonio Senzatela 4.3 1.5 2.5 ▲
56 3.5 8 Josh Lindblom 2.7 4.0 -0.5 ▼
57 3.5 8 Kyle Freeland 6.0 1.5 2.0 ▲
58 3.5 8 Danny Duffy 4.7 4.0 -0.5 ▼
59 3.0 8 Tony Gonsolin 4.9 1.0 2.0 ▲ Draws the Sunday start, deserves every opportunity.
60 3.0 8 Triston McKenzie 1.1 1.5 1.5 ▲
61 3.0 8 Casey Mize 0.3 4.0 -1.0 ▼
62 2.5 8 Spencer Turnbull 5.9 3.5 -1.0 ▼
63 2.5 8 Alec Mills 2.9 2.0 0.5 ▲
64 2.5 8 Randy Dobnak 3.8 1.5 1.0 ▲ Streak of five straight wins smashed by Tigers, go figure.
65 2.0 8 Kevin Gausman 7.1 3.5 -1.5 ▼
66 2.0 8 Zach Eflin 5.0 0.0 2.0 ▲
67 2.0 8 Brad Keller 4.5 3.0 -1.0 ▼
68 2.0 8 Zach Davies 9.4 2.5 -0.5 ▼
69 2.0 8 Jordan Montgomery 4.1 2.5 -0.5 ▼
70 1.5 9 Matthew Boyd -0.2 1.5 0.0 ▬ Boyd's first win of the year, a clean QS. September surge?
71 1.5 9 Ian Anderson 0.5 0.0 1.5 ▲
72 1.5 9 Ross Stripling -2.6 6.0 -4.5 ▼ Another poor start on Saturday, barely playable right now.
73 1.5 9 Taijuan Walker 1.3 1.0 0.5 ▲
74 1.5 9 Sean Manaea 4.5 2.0 -0.5 ▼
75 1.5 9 Kyle Gibson 1.1 2.0 -0.5 ▼
76 1.5 9 Kwang-Hyun Kim 2.4 0.0 1.5 ▲ Two straight starts w/ six innings, zero earned. Huzzah.
77 1.5 9 Mike Minor 3.3 2.0 -0.5 ▼
78 1.5 9 Luke Weaver -1.4 1.0 0.5 ▲
79 1.5 9 Adam Wainwright 3.9 1.0 0.5 ▲
80 1.5 9 Rich Hill 1.2 0.0 1.5 ▲
81 1.5 9 Griffin Canning -0.4 2.5 -1.0 ▼
82 1.0 10 Zach Plesac 7.5 1.5 -0.5 ▼ No room in rotation for his shenanigans. I'm not stashing.
83 1.0 10 Tyler Chatwood 3.1 1.5 -0.5 ▼
84 1.0 10 Alex Cobb 2.2 1.0 0.0 ▬
85 1.0 10 Justus Sheffield 7.5 1.0 0.0 ▬
86 1.0 10 John Means -2.3 1.5 -0.5 ▼
87 1.0 10 Anthony DeSclafani 0.5 1.5 -0.5 ▼
88 1.0 10 Johnny Cueto 3.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
89 1.0 10 Jon Lester 1.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
90 1.0 10 Mike Fiers 1.7 0.0 1.0 ▲
91 1.0 10 Ryan Yarbrough 2.4 1.0 0.0 ▬ Slated to miss only one start with minimum IL stint.
92 1.0 10 Jon Gray 5.1 1.0 0.0 ▬ Could flourish if traded away from Coors.
93 1.0 10 Chad Kuhl 0.0 1.0 0.0 ▬
94 1.0 10 Ryan Castellani -0.3 0.0 1.0 ▲
95 1.0 10 Brett Anderson 1.3 0.0 1.0 ▲
96 1.0 10 Yusei Kikuchi 5.9 1.0 0.0 ▬
97 1.0 10 J.A. Happ -2.3 0.0 1.0 ▲ Back-to-back decent outings (spread over 2 weeks).
98 1.0 10 Michael Pineda 0.0 0.0 1.0 ▲
99 1.0 10 Justin Dunn -1.6 0.0 1.0 ▲
100 1.0 10 Matt Shoemaker -0.6 1.0 0.0 ▬
101 1.0 10 Dakota Hudson 1.2 1.0 0.0 ▬

Starting Pitcher Movers of Note

Yu Darvish (SP, Cubs): Darvish has earned a promotion through firing off six consecutive starts with one run or fewer, each of them resulting in a win. Now 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA and immaculate 52/8 K/BB ratio, Darvish isn’t dancing on luck either, with a slightly-elevated .314 BABIP and sturdy .274 xwOBA behind the .238 wOBA. He’s been a top-tier SP since last season’s All-Star break.

Lucas Giolito (SP, White Sox): Giolito’s no-hitter stole last week’s show, but it wasn’t even that much better than his previous start on Aug. 20 where he also struck out 13 over seven shutout frames. Now, these two gems came against Detroit and Pittsburgh. Keep your head on straight for Monday’s tilt against Minnesota, who touched him up for seven earned in his 2020 debut. 

But after schlepping through some command woes to open the year (13 BB’s in 23 ⅔ IP across first four starts), Giolito’s only issued four free passes in his last 21 IP. Let’s see that trend continue of attacking the zone. His 72.7% zone-contact rate is the lowest among all pitchers with at least 20 IP through Aug. 28, giving hitters the least opportunity to capitalize on hittable pitches.

Chris Paddack (SP, Padres): Paddack’s changeup and curve are still as effective as 2019, but his fastball is getting destroyed. After hitters only mustered a .204 average/.212 xBA and .391 SLG/.393 xSLG against it in ‘19, they’re tagging it for a .333 average (.344 xBA) and .797 SLG/.762 xSLG. The average exit velocity on it has risen by three ticks to 92.1 mph, surrendering eight homers already. For context, he’d given up 14 homers on four times the amount of heaters last year. This is cause for legitimate concern, especially with his next start coming today (Sunday) at Coors.

Framber Valdez (SP, Astros): Valdez continues to throw an elite curveball just as he did last season, but his walk rate has more than halved compared to 2019. His first-strike rate climbed from 58.7% to 61%, but the overall walk rate is down to 5.8% from 13.4%. You can find further evidence of this in his 53% Zone%, up from 49.9% last year (per Savant).

His curve has gone up a tick, from 79 to 80 mph, in exchange for a few inches of drop compared to ‘19 per Brooks Baseball. One cannot expect the current level of production to simply become his norm, but it feels great to see the 2.61 FIP/2.85 xFIP underneath the hood.

Tyler Mahle (SP, Reds): Mahle ripped the Cubs for a season-high 11 strikeouts on Friday, giving him a clean 33% strikeout rate over 23 innings. While the 10.3% walk rate is shaky, his season hasn’t allowed him to settle into the starting role. He tossed six innings of one-hit ball against Cleveland on Aug. 4 only to be pushed out of the rotation, and perhaps now we’re seeing him get his groove back. 

Sixto Sanchez (SP, MIA): Sánchez defended his status as Miami’s top prospect on Friday, twirling seven scoreless innings with 10 K’s and one walk against the Rays. This came after giving up three earned over five innings versus Washington in his debut, with the Tampa performance closer to his true talent.

One can’t expect 10-strikeout days on the regular, but a 14/1 K/BB ratio in his first 12 MLB innings is tied to a history of strong control in the minors. He had a walk rate below 5% between High- and Double-A last year, and the bump in K’s may point to Major Leaguers being more aggressive. With a heavy 98-mph fastball that can touch triple digits, an 89-mph change and slidepiece to toss in with an infrequent curve, Sánchez has the tools to be a must-start arm. If the 22-year-old continues with healthy command and a higher floor then he’ll keep on rising.



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WPC+ Videocast: Week 6 MLB Risers & Fallers

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut recap MLB action heading into Week 6 of the 2020 season for fantasy baseball. They identify key risers and fallers, dissect rookie debuts, and discuss major injuries and statistical quirks.

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Prospects Making Noise

Pierre and Nick react to the latest MLB news, rookie debuts, and interesting statistical trends in order to help fantasy baseball managers with in-season management.

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