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Champ or Chump: Jeimer Candelario and Fernando Romero

While it's still much too early to give up on your team, your league's standings page is starting to mean something. If you're deficient in HR or well short of the IP pace of your rivals, you should take action before it is too late. One way to do so is a trade, but it's possible that you can't find a partner. In that scenario, the waiver wire is your only option.

Thankfully, quality players are still available in plenty of leagues. Jeimer Candelario, an absolute nobody on a team full of them, should be owned in every format for his blend of power and OBP. Fernando Romero's 0.00 ERA in two starts has placed him on the fantasy radar, but he's probably not that good. Think of him as more of a streamer than a fantasy mainstay.

Let's take a closer look at these interesting talents.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET) 36% Owned

Nobody's paying attention to the Tigers, so fantasy owners may not have noticed Candelario's .286/.367/.521 line with five homers over 158 PAs this season. The sample is small, but he did nearly the same thing in 142 PAs split between the Cubs and Tigers last season (.283/.359/.425 with three homers). Combined, that's roughly half a season.

The sample size grows larger still if you credit Candelario for his minor league work. He first reached Double-A in 2015 as Cubs property, slashing .291/.379/.462 with five homers in 182 PAs for Tennessee. He impressively walked (12.1% BB%) more often than he struck out (11.5% K%), establishing plate discipline with just enough pop to matter as his calling card.

Repeating the level in 2016 did not go as well. His triple slash line plummeted to .219/.324/.367 with four bombs in 244 PAs, largely due to a low BABIP (.261). Importantly, his plate discipline held despite his struggles otherwise (13.1% BB%, 18.9% K%). Tennessee is a fair ballpark, inflating homers (1.124 park factor) while playing perfectly neutrally for hits (1.000) from 2014-2016.

It's not clear why the Cubs thought that performance warranted a ticket to Triple-A, but they promoted him anyway. Triple-A Iowa is in the Pacific Coast League, but the park is decidedly pitcher-friendly (0.829 HR factor, 0.909 hits factor). Candelario didn't care, slashing .333/.417/.542 with nine homers in 309 PAs. His .383 BABIP was high, but he again demonstrated an advanced knowledge of the strike zone (12.3% BB%, 17.2% K%).

His BABIP came back to Earth in 2017 (.315), but he still slashed a solid .266/.361/.507 with 12 HR in 370 PAs for Iowa. He walked a bunch (12.4% BB%) without striking out too often (21.8% K%), continuing a long-established trend. The Cubs traded him to the Tigers in the Alex Avila swap, who ultimately gave Candelario 128 PAs for Triple-A Toledo. Toledo is even worse for hitters than Iowa (0.758 HR, 0.990 hits), and the pressure of getting dealt eroded Candelario's plate discipline (3.9% BB%, 25% K%). He still slashed a respectable .264/.297/.430 with three dingers, so it was probably a blip.

Candelario's plate discipline translated immediately to the MLB level last year. The then 23-year old walked 9.2% of the time against a 21.1% K%, lending some credibility to his .283 average. His contact quality metrics weren't great though (91.6 mph average airborne exit velocity, 83.8 mph on grounders, 4.1% rate of Brls/BBE), producing a HR/FB of only 8.6%.

Candelario's numbers this season are nearly identical to last year except with more power. His BB% (10.1%) and K% (21.5%) are virtually unchanged relative to last season, but his HR/FB has risen to 13.9%. His average airborne exit velocity (95.3 mph), rate of Brls/BBE (8.5%), and Pull% on fly balls (33.3% vs. 17.1% in 2017) are all up, making the power increase look sustainable.

Statcast aficionados may note Candelario's .246 xBA (Expected Batting Average) and conclude that his .347 BABIP isn't sustainable moving forward. It's not that simple, though. Candelario has above average foot speed (27.5 ft./sec Statcast Sprint Speed) and no particular pull tendency on ground balls (60% this season), two variables that xBA doesn't account for. He might be more of a .270 hitter than a .280 one, but he does not project as a batting average drag.

Candelario could stand to add more line drives (18.9% LD%) and fly balls (34%) to his batted ball distribution, but both rates are playable as is. He also hits second in Detroit's batting order, giving him all of the counting stat opportunities that lineup can provide. The resulting package can help somebody in nearly every format.

Verdict: Champ

Fernando Romero (SP, MIN) 58% Owned

This 23-year old's MLB career is off to a strong start, with a perfect 0.00 ERA and respectable 3.37 xFIP in his first 11 2/3 IP. His minor league history and peripheral stats support major league viability, but not the ace that his debut might suggest.

Romero only has one minor league season with a large enough sample to matter: 125 IP at Double-A Chattanooga last season. Chattanooga is not an easy place to pitch (1.223 factor for overall run scoring, 1.110 factor for HR and hits), giving Romero a hostile environment to contend with. His ERA was solid though (3.53), and his xFIP was even better (3.23 xFIP). His K% was also decent (22% K%), though it came attached to a few too many walks (8.3% BB%). His luck was neutral overall, as an inflated BABIP (.328) canceled out a 4.3% HR/FB.

Romero also tossed 21 IP at Triple-A before his call-up this season. His 2.57 ERA looked strong on the surface, but his 23% K% wasn't high enough to offset an ugly 11.5% BB%. The result was a 3.70 xFIP that probably makes for a good projection moving forward.

Romero is striking out the world so far (29.8% K%), but his minor league history doesn't support that many Ks. His repertoire doesn't, either. His fastball lights up the radar gun (96.8 mph), but its spin rate is low (1,968 RPM). Low-spin fastballs rarely generate whiffs over a large sample, making its 11.8% SwStr% unlikely to hold. It's not all bad though, as low-spin heaters are associated with weak contact on the ground. Romero was a ground ball guy at Double-A (52% GB%), Triple-A (54.5% GB%), and the major leagues (58.3% GB%), so he knows how to use this to his advantage.

Romero's sinker induces plenty of grounders (75% GB%), but its 7.9% SwStr%, 44.7% Zone%, and 28.6% chase rate suggest a future as a contact pitcher who allows more than his fair share of walks (12.8% BB% currently). Its spin rate is similar to his 4-seamer's (1,943 RPM).

His slider generates a ton of whiffs (20.4% SwStr%), but is rarely a strike (36.7% Zone%) and typically taken for a ball (25.8% chase). Romero also has a solid change (16.7% SwStr%, 44.4% Zone%, 30% chase rate), but he has only thrown it 9.3% of the time this year.

Thus, Romero's fastball is due for negative regression while his slider is often a wasted pitch. His sinker can and will generate ground balls for days, but will also produce more walks than fantasy owners expect. Romero is a fine streamer and acceptable SP6, but you should probably sell him while his price is inflated.

Verdict: Chump

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks




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