Fantasy Baseball

Takeaways/Cutting Bait

As the calendar shifts into June, it becomes more likely that a slow start is going to turn into a bad season rather than just a prolonged slump.  At this time of year, it becomes important for the fantasy player to remove the rose-colored glasses and really evaluate their team.  Who is going to help you?  Who is going to hurt you?  Who can you get something for?  Who do you need to just cut bait with?

The answers to the latter two questions will always depend on your league – its size, quality, preference of the owners involved, willingness of owners to trade, etc.   There is very rarely a one size fits all designation in fantasy baseball.   However, there are tools of the trade, which can aid you in determining whether your struggling hitter or pitcher will turn it around.

For instance, in my 12 team mixed/home league, I cut bait with Julio Teheran this week to pick-up Andrew Triggs.  I gave Teheran two full months to show me something, anything to indicate that he was going to turn it around, but I saw nothing to hold onto at this point.  The K-rate is down, the walk rate is up, and the BABIP is not astronomical.  Yes, his homers are up, but Teheran is in a new, offense-friendly home park and has always been somewhat homer-prone – career 1.13 HR/9.  Additionally,  it just turned June, Atlanta is going to get warmer and the ball will fly further in warmer weather.  Teheran’s SwStr% and velocity on his pitches are both down year-over-year.

This is what I meant.  There was nothing there to find that says Teheran is going to be anything like I was expecting when I drafted him.  My expectations were reasonable enough – innings, control, 3.50ish ERA, league-average Ks, good WHIP as a flyball pitcher.  Aside from innings, I do not see anything in his profile that says any of those things are going to be true rest of season, never mind as a full season line combined with his disastrous start.  Could he get hot for a month?  Of course, but I am not willing to take more pain to own him during a hot month.

Julio Teheran is still owned in 88% of Yahoo! leagues.  He has a higher ownership percentage than sub 2.00 ERA Alex Wood (86%), sub 3.00 ERA Jose Berrios (82%).  It is not just higher end players – the streaking Brad Peacock (46%), Dinelson Lamet (38%) or Joe Biagini (14%).  I would rather have all those players than Julio Teheran at this point.  This is no longer being reactionary.  It is June.

As an example of a bat, Rougned Odor has been atrocious, triple-slashing .204/.249/.350 with 8 home runs, 5 steals, 25 runs and 24 RBI.  Odor’s primary problem has been his batting average/OBP – if he was hitting .250, no one would bat an eye given the power speed production, which is a 24 HR, 15 SB pace.  It is tempting to look at the .229 BABIP and say “bad luck,” but Odor has a 1.01 GB/FB rate – meaning a good amount of flyballs and a 25% IFFB% (up from 8.2% in 2016).  When you combine the numbers infield flies (approximately 9% of his PA) with his strike out rate (22%), Odor is making an automatic out 31% of the time.  What I mean by that is, Odor has (almost) no chance of reaching base on either a strikeout or pop-up, so he has to make his hay on the other 69% of his appearances.

Odor is experiencing some poor batted ball luck though – he’s below his career BABIP averages on line drives, flyballs and grounders.  Odor is also over 30% hard contact (33.9%) for the season despite that awful IFFB%.  He also has a history of being successful despite not being the best batted ball player – his career BABIP is .284 and he’s never been at or above .300 in the major leagues.

At the end of the day, it is extraordinarily unlikely that Odor will deliver on your preseason expectations, but there are things to be encouraged by here – unlike with Teheran.  First, Odor has given you some actual production in the power, speed and run-producing categories.  Second, he still is displaying some of the skills that made you believe in him originally – hard contact and pulled flyballs.  Third, unlike Teheran, his situation remains unchanged.  And fourth, historically, infield flies are part of his game that he has been able to overcome.

Thus, I would hold on Odor, which I obviously did not do with Teheran.  At my most extreme, I would probably bench Odor for a bit and wait for the balls in play to start falling.  Odor has given you something to believe in, you just need to squint to see it.  Teheran has given you nothing.  Now that the calendar has flipped to June, that’s what you have to do with your upper-end assets.  Have they given you something to believe in?

Other takeaways…

-While Justin Bour (71%) has gotten all the recent buzz, Lucas Duda (23%) has nearly been his equal over the last two weeks with 9 Rs, 6 HRs, 14 RBI, a .351 AVG and 1.215 OPS.  Duda has long been underrated as a fantasy commodity and if he remains healthy, might be poised to put together his best all around season this year.  Duda has matched his career BB% at 14.3% and is a slugger that does not have a severe K% issue – 22.1%.  Although Duda does hit a lot of flyballs, there is no reason a career .287 BABIP player could not sustain a .265 batting average  if he hits for good enough power, which Duda might with a career high 45.5% Hard%.

-After a slow start to the year, Kevin Kiermaier has raked over the last month with 16 Rs, 6 HRs, 13 RBI and 4 SB.  However, these results are not the product of some epiphany by Kiermaier – he has struck out 24% of the time and is still hitting popups at a 20.7% clip.  What has changed for Kiermaier is some batted ball luck (.361 BABIP despite 20.7% IFFB%) and a 20.7% HR/FB rate, which is nearly double his career high.  I love Kiermaier as a real-life player and have always been intrigued by the upside from a fantasy perspective, but I would try to sell if I could find a buyer because this does not look like a skill-supported breakthrough.

-The Diamondbacks have two extremely intriguing and readily available arms in Zack Godley (22%) and Randall Delgado (9%).  Over 37.2 innings, Godley has 2.39 ERA with a league averageish K-rate (7.65 K/9) and a 64.2% GB% – that is Keuchel territory.  Not only is Godley inducing grounders, but he’s also top 20 in weak contact (22.6% Soft%).  It is extremely intriguing skillset and worth owning in mixed leagues provided he has a role.  Randall Delgado might be a late bloomer.  He is presently sporting a 8.42 K./9 and 5.57 K/BB ratio.  Delgado has not only improved his control and carried that skill over as a starter (15/2 K/BB as a starter), but has added velocity to all three of his pitches.  Delgado has relied heavily on his four-seam fastball over his two-seam and is generating above average whiffs with his Slider and Change-up – each over 20%.  He’s pounding the zone early in counts (67.1% F-Strike%) and inducing 11.4% (up from 9.9% last year as a reliever).  Delgado’s role is less secure than Godley’s, but with the state of starting pitching, he merits watching.

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