Fantasy Baseball

Takeaways/Gary Sanchez Sends Us A Reminder

Two weeks ago, when it seemed like every other New York Yankee hitter had been extremely productive, Gary Sanchez was scuffling along after his return from injury.  Sanchez had posted an uninspiring line of 12 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI with a .256/.358/.415 triple-slash.  The terms fantasy bust began to be thrown around when he was dropped to sixth in the Yankees lineup.  However, since May 28, over a two week stretch, Sanchez has homered 6 times, driven in 17, scored 14 runs and triple-slashed .308/.357/.712.  Suddenly, Sanchez is back on a 25 HR clip (more like 30 if you factor in normal playing time without injury from this point forward) with an .888 OPS and all is right with the world.

Although we are far enough into the season, closing in the 2/5ths point, where fantasy owners should really readjust their evaluations and expectations for disappointing or surprising fantasy assets, Sanchez’s surge reminds us that a hot stretch can really readjust a hitter’s outlook in a hurry.  Last week, I also touched on the concept that a hitter’s hot streak can salvage a lengthy run of mediocre or worse production.  Therein, I referenced two players (Eric Thames and Wil Myers), who have struggled recently but still have very attractive season-long lines.

A few other players that had preseason expectations and a hot couple of weeks has them looking more and more like the player that they were supposed to be:

Odubel Herrera – 9 R, 2 HR, 12 RBI 0 SB .439/1.296 – Herrera is a player that I moved on from in a deal for some FAAB dollars in a 12 team mixed league.  He started hitting almost immediately after I got rid of him – so for those of you that own Herrera, you’re welcome.  However, I still remain down on Herrera despite the hot streak.  The walk rate has actually gotten worse the last two weeks (2.1%, 4.9% on the season).  He’s swinging at everything.  Despite being on-base at a 40% clip – almost entirely due to BABIP induced batting average, Herrera has attempted only one steal and been caught.  He is just 4 for 8 on the season.  If you can find a buyer of the hot streak, I would move on.

Andrew McCutchen – 12 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB .409/1.150 – I was actively trying to buy McCutchen before this hot steak started.  At the time, his .230 BABIP was approximately 50 points below his xBABIP and was the primary reason why a player with a power/speed profile (7 HR/5 SB at the time) was performing so poorly.   Additionally, McCutchen was being undervalued by the market because he was likely overdrafted and there was skepticism about whether he was still a capable fantasy asset during the pre-draft process.  Over the last two weeks, the discernible change is the BABIP – .486 over the two weeks – which has brought the seasonal BABIP to a more reasonable .286.  I think if you look at McCutchen as 25 HR/15 SB .260/.780 asset – that’s what you’re likely to get, 16 HR/9 SB rest of the way.  It is not fantastic, but it’s usable.

Kole Calhoun – 9 R, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB .362/.1.063 – Calhoun was suffering from the same issues as McCutchen – despite appropriate power/speed 5 HR/2 SB numbers, Calhoun was triple-slashing .212/.289/.328 primarily due to a .254 BABIP.  However, unlike McCutchen, Calhoun’s surge has not just been the result of a BABIP turnaround  alone even though Calhoun’s BABIP has been .351 over the last two weeks to bring his season-long number to .274.  Calhoun has also been walking at a 16.7% clip, compared to a 15% K%, which is a noticeable departure from the 8.5% BB% and 22.3% K% preceding sample.  Calhoun’s batted ball improvements point towards a hot streak, but approach improvements might hint at something more for Calhoun going forward.

Eduardo Nunez – 12 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB .358/.959 – Like the others, Nunez has experienced a BABIP surge – .373 up from .294 in the preceding sample to bring his season-long BABIP to .313 nearly in line with his two previous seasons, which were both .314.  Although Nunez was a prime regression candidate for pre-draft prognosticators, most missed that Nunez had paced to a 10 HR/25 SB .280 AVG full-season player over the course of his career.  Nunez is a viable middle-infield asset because he is going to run – San Francisco needs to manufacture runs – and hit for a good average.

Other takeaways…

-Jacob DeGrom has been hit hard over his last two starts by Texas on the road (4 IP, 8 ER, 2 HR, 10 H) and Milwaukee at home  (4 IP, 8 ER, 2 HR, 8 H).  I am not terribly concerned by DeGrom getting roughed up by two good offenses.  There were no velocity issues for DeGrom and prior to that two-start stretch he was among the best pitchers in baseball with the skills to support those better results.  It appears that DeGrom has been throwing his change-up less and that might be an issue with the length of the outing or feel for the pitch in a game-to-game issue.  Either way, I am a DeGrom owner and am very confident that he will bounce back before long.  That said, the matchups this week versus the Cubs and Nationals are not the best.

-On the other hand, I am very concerned about Justin Verlander, who has seen his K-rate dip (8.28 down from 10.04 in 2016) and walk rate rise (4.44 from 2.25 in 2016).  Verlander has owned his 4.68 ERA according to the peripherals – 4.55 FIP and 5.20 xFIP.  Verlander’s SwStr% is way down 8.9% compared 12% last season.  The fastball is still a plus pitch, but down from last year despite no loss of velocity and I believe that’s making the breaking and offspeed stuff play down.  He looks like a pitcher that’s having command/mechnical issues.  If I could find an aggressive buyer, I would sell for cents on the dollar.  I would gladly take Rick Porcello off an unimpressed owner or Sean Manaea off a non-believer for Justin Verlander at this point.

-I think the Royals are not going to shape a lot of key races in baseball with their eventual firesale, but it’s going to have a major effect on fantasy.  Could you imagine Mike Moustakas in the midst of a career year as the power-hitter in the center of the Boston Red Sox lineup?  Or Eric Hosmer heading to the Bronx and playing first base for the Yankees?  How about the combination of Lorenzo Cain and Kelvin Herrera heading to the Washington Nationals?  This is without mentioning the inevitable risers in Kansas City that may or may not be with the team at this team, but will invariably affect fantasy races down the stretch and as the playoffs heat up.  The situation is going to have a fascinating ripple effect on fantasy baseball.

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