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Fantasy baseball owners tend to roster two types of players. The first type is the flavor of the moment, whoever is hot lately or has scouts drooling over their potential. The second type is the boring veteran whose track record is so consistent he has to be valued highly. This approach frequently leaves the players with extensive MLB experience but little recent success on the waiver wire to start the season.

Sometimes these players become fantasy-relevant by starting out so hot that they turn into the flavor of the moment. Two such examples this year are Jay Bruce and Ryan Zimmerman. Are these forgotten faces back on our radar, or are they destined to return to waiver ignominy?

As always, ownership rates provided are from FleaFlicker formats.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Jay Bruce (OF/1B, NYM) 91% Owned

Bruce remaining in New York may have been the offseason move most panned by fantasy owners last year, as he was viewed as nothing more than a Michael Conforto roadblock to start the year. The roadblock is hitting pretty well, slashing .286/.375/.600 with nine homers to start the campaign. Conforto is playing right now too, so fantasy owners can take a closer look at Bruce with a clear conscience.

When they do, they will find a legitimate slugger. Bruce is hitting a ton of fly balls (52.9 percent FB%), giving his batted balls plenty of opportunities to leave the yard. He has always been great at elevating the ball (42.2 percent FB% career), so this fly ball tendency should continue going forward. His HR/FB of 20 percent will probably regress, as his raw power is lackluster by both Barrels per Batted Ball Event (8.1 percent) and exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (92.8 mph). Still, he'll get his homers as long as he keeps hitting flies.

His batting average figures to be more problematic. First, his strong 15.8 percent K-rate is completely unsupported by his SwStr% (11.7 percent). A SwStr% of 12 percent produced a K% of 21.4 percent last year, which seems like a reasonable projection for the rest of this year. Bruce is also extremely shiftable, tallying just nine PAs this year without the shift in place. This fact, combined with his fly ball-heavy approach, means that he should not be expected to improve much on his .273 BABIP.

The net result is likely a .250 hitter with 25-30 home runs. Bruce will outperform that baseline somewhat by virtue of his favorable batting order slot (generally third or fourth), which will give him real utility in deeper formats. He also has six games at first base, adding positional versatility to his profile. His current ownership level still seems way too high though. He lacks elite power, and could still lose playing time if other Mets get healthy. Owners in shallow formats can safely look elsewhere.

Verdict: Chump


Ryan Zimmerman (1B, WAS) 84% Owned

Why is Bruce owned in more leagues than Zimmerman? Zimmerman is currently hitting .433/.474/.885 with 12 HR in 114 PAs. That's insane! You would expect some outrageous peripheral stats to accompany a line like that, and you would be right. Neither his .478 BABIP nor his 40 percent HR/FB are sustainable for an entire season. The question is whether he will remain a strong option after the inevitable regression.

Much has been made of Zimmerman elevating the ball more often, but the numbers do not suggest that he has actually done so (FB% of 37 percent against a career average of 36.4 percent). He is hitting more line drives (23.5 percent LD% vs. 16.7 percent a year ago), but LD% bounces around too often to use it as conclusive evidence of a change in approach. His career LD% is 19 percent, suggesting that both 2016 and 2017 are flukes anyway.

While his approach has not changed appreciably, his quality of contact has. His airborne baseballs (flies and liners) have an average exit velocity of 99.6 mph this season, significantly north of the 95.8 mph they averaged last year or the 95.1 mph he averaged in 2015. He also ranks second in MLB in Barrels (16), compiling an excellent Brls/BBE of 19.8 percent against figures of 7 percent and 10.5 percent the previous two years. Zimmerman was hobbled by injuries in both earlier seasons, but Statcast data does not go back any further. Therefore, it is difficult to conclude whether a healthy Zimmerman always hit the ball this hard or if he is just on a long hot streak.

Regardless, he is due for significant regression. Zimmerman is also far from a lock to stay healthy all year, making him a risky bet to continue his torrid pace even if all he needs to do so is health. You should probably look to sell high if possible.

Verdict: Chump


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