For today’s edition of Takeaways, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the members of the Villar Village, who were highlighted in the offseason as potential deep sleepers that could be game-changing assets like Jonathan Villar was in 2016. My self-imposed criteria for the Villar Village was an ADP outside the top 300 on the NFBC website. Basically, the last pick in deeper mixed leagues or the first man off the wire was a minimum qualification. I often went well beyond that criteria.
1B/3B/OF. Danny Valencia – March 24, 2017 – Valencia was the final entrant after it was announced that Dan Vogelbach would be sent down to start the year and Valencia would have the role to himself. After a rough start – .185/.256/.333 triple-slash through 30 days – Valencia has turned his fortunes around – triple-slashing .336/.389/.504 from May 1 through the present day. Despite the impressive triple-slash, Valencia has just 5 HRs on the season, but could be a candidate to reach 20 (or the low 20s) as the weather begins to heat up, as long as he keeps everyday at-bats.
1B/2B/OF. Steve Pearce – March 18, 2017 – Despite providing adequate power – 4 HRs through 83 ABs, Pearce was caught in the Blue Jays early season malaise hitting for .205 AVG and .629 OPS through May 15. On May 15, the Blue Jays placed Pearce on the DL with a calf injury and like teammate Josh Donaldson, Pearce has struggled to rehab and return. I think he is still a name to watch in the second half especially with the recent injury to Devon Travis.
OF. Mitch Haniger – March 10, 2017 – Through the season’s first 21 games, Haniger looked like one of the true breakout stars of the young season. Haniger slugged 4 homers, stole 2 bases, scored 20 runs, and hit for a .342 AVG along with a 1.055 OPS. Of course, we have not seen Haniger since then, because he went down with an oblique injury and only recently began his rehab stint. Injuries are difficult to predict so I am claiming a strong victory on this call. Haniger plus a replacement player was probably a strong result.
SP. Shelby Miller – March 3, 2017 – With an obscene spring training velocity boost, Miller moved from being a fantasy afterthought to relevant deep sleeper. However, Miller’s star-crossed days in Arizona continued as he was shut down with elbow troubles after just 22 innings with 20 Ks and a 4.09 ERA. Eventually, Miller would go onto have Tommy John surgery and be shut down for the season.
1B. Justin Bour – February 24, 2017 – In my piece on Justin Bour, I comped his exit velocity data to Yoenis Cespedes and boldly predicted a 27 HR season 94 RBI season for the Marlins first baseman. After a middling start, Bour has been the best offensive player in baseball according to wRC+ over the last thirty days (238). Bour has triple-slashed .388/.453/.859 with 12 home runs and 23 RBI. Presently on the disabled list with an ankle injury, Bour is taking a much needed break from providing fantasy excellence as the #36 overall player in fantasy baseball.
SP/RP. Mike Montgomery – February 17, 2017 – I had the wrong first name! If I would have picked Jordan Montgomery on February 17, that would have been some call. Montgomery has not been bad with a 2.21 ERA and 2 saves, but has not been a ratio asset and lacked the opportunity to step into the Cubs rotation – a spot, which went to Eddie Butler when Brett Anderson got hurt. I still hold out hope that Montgomery will get his chance and believe he will succeed when the time comes, but for now, this is a bad call.
1B/3B. Travis Shaw – February 10, 2017 – Shaw has loved his time in Milwaukee and exceeded even my expectations for him so far. Shaw has hit 10 homers, stolen 5 bases, scored 27 runs and driven in 41 while hitting for a .293 AVG and .869 OPS. Shaw is presently the 62nd overall player according to Yahoo!’s player rater. This looks like a strong victory for the Villar Village.
SP/RP. David Phelps – February 3, 2017 – I should just copy and paste what I wrote about Montgomery here. Despite flirtations with a potential rotation spot, the Marlins have resisted the urge and Phelps has remained strong in the middle relief role. In 30 innings, Phelps has struck out 32 with good ratios. As with Montgomery, I remain optimistic that Phelps will find his way into a more lucrative role for fantasy baseball owners even if the time has not come yet.
SP. Brandon Finnegan – January 27, 2017 – In his first start of the year, Finnegan lit up the board with a dynamite outing against the Phillies. In his two subsequent turns, Finnegan could not find the strike zone and then we found out why… Severe lat strain. Finnegan has been out since April 15 and the Reds are targeting a late June return. Pitching injuries and lack of opportunities have ravaged the Villar Village pitching staff.
OF. Matt Joyce – January 20, 2017 – Ooooof. This is painful. Joyce has triple-slashed .197/.303/.376 in his return to the AL West. On the plus side, Joyce does have 7 homers (pace for about 21) and has a 13% walk rate, which is down from last year’s outrageous 20%. Joyce has underperformed his xBABIP (.260) by 49 points so there is some hope that the average will come up and he’ll meet a .250 25 homer expectation, but this looks like a bad call at this point.
SP. Tyler Skaggs – December 30, 2016 – Before going down with an oblique injury, Skaggs looked solid through 29.1 innings with a 3.99 ERA, 29 Ks and 3.22 K/BB. However, the oblique injury put Skaggs out for an extended period. He is expected back for the end of June.
OF. Charlie Tilson (foot), OF. Alex Dickerson (back), 1B/2B/SS/OF. Sean Rodriguez (shoulder), 1B. Dan Vogelbach (AAA) and 1B/2B/SS/OF. Nick Franklin (DFAed).
There were a few players that never got off the ground that I wrote about back in November and December. Invariably, when you write about sleepers that far back, you are going to have some absolute misses, who were often harmless misses since the news of their injuries and/or opportunity loss came well in advance of drafts.
Overall, the list is an odd reflection of this year’s fantasy season – breakout hitters and injured pitchers. As I explained above, I still hold out hope that many of the names – Pearce, Phelps, Montgomery, Finnegan and Skaggs – could prove to be second half assets worth owned. Vogelbach, Tilson and Dickerson also may find their way into their respective lineups at some point in the second half and could produce.
-In a league where I own Jonathan Villar (the Villar Village’s namesake, of course), I just scooped Andrelton Simmons as insurance. Simmons has always been interesting because he makes fantastic contact, shown athleticism in the field, and has a 17 home run season to his credit. However, Simmons has pretty much always been a glove-first, glove-only asset. In the last few weeks though, Simmons has gotten extremely hot with some very intriguing developments – his hard percentage is well over 30% for the first time in his career (32.7%, career average 25.5%, previous high 26.8%). He has also combined that hard contact rate with a 8.7% walk rate, up nearly 3% from last year. In addition to more hard contact and better patience, Simmons has seized control of the Angels’ leadoff spot and is running at a good clip with 7 steals in 9 attempts. Of course, this could just be a small sample hot streak, but at shortstop, those streaks are worth riding and there is a non-zero chance this turns into something more than nothing as there is some skill change and Simmons is still only 27 years old.
-For those with struggling hitters, remember, a ridiculous hot streak can cure a lot of ills. Eric Thames is still the 29th ranked player overall despite scuffling over the last 30 days with a rank of 562 – 13 Rs, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB and a .192 AVG. Another example is Wil Myers, who looks okay ranked 130 with 30 Rs, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 6 SB and a .255 AVG. Over the last 30 though, Myers is ranked 591 with 12 Rs, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB and a .189 AVG. Do not get fooled, a sudden hot streak can still cure a lot of ills for a player this early in the season.
-Pitching is really the opposite of hitting in that regard. A pitching hot streak often can only bring a pitcher back to respectability, it cannot erase or obscure damage that has already been done. One example is Matt Shoemaker, who has a respectable full season line of 67.2 IP, 63 Ks, 4.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a 2.42 K/BB – good for the 418th ranked player and 115th ranked SP eligible player. However, over the last 30 days, Shoemaker is 29th ranked SP and 96th overall player, putting together 29.2 IP, 29 Ks, 2.73 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.63 K/BB and 4 QS. Despite a month’s run as a borderline, elite starting pitcher, Shoemaker’s numbers remain affected by a dreadful month of April.
-Of course, you can combine these two examples by utilizing your hot-starting, but struggling hitters in a deal for a similarly talented, but underperforming hitter and a slow-starting, turnaround pitcher. If you can spare, the ten steals or so Myers will give you, you could trade Wil Myers for Chris Davis (Pre-Rank 58, Current Rank: 242, 32 R, 13 HR, 25, RBI .233 AVG .796 OPS) and Matt Shoemaker and no one would blink an eye.
-Also, a note on the podcast. We are working through some scheduling quirks – both personal and professional. A move, a new job, life. We will back in short order once those things work themselves out. Not to worry.