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The Cut List (Week 22) - Time to Let Go?


Welcome to the last Cut List of August. Wait, the last Cut List of August already? Yup, next Sunday is September 1.

Most trade deadlines are past, so that option is out the window for big names. At this point, if you want to offload them, it's a cut. The 10-team list has three of said big names.

Stats are through Friday, August 23, unless otherwise noted. Weekly reminders: Recommendations are for mixed leagues -- redraft, unless otherwise noted, as keeper leagues have their own rules. Recommendations in one league size obviously apply to smaller leagues. You can also feel free to drop a shallower suggestion in a deeper league, but the dividing line is generally there for a reason. And, as usual, you can find ideas on how to replace your cut candidates at the Waiver Wire Pickup List.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

10-Team Cut Candidates

Josh Bell (1B, PIT)

This one is somewhat less theoretical than Aaron Judge last week. Was Josh Bell's first half really that much of a mirage? Well, after hitting .302 in the first half on 162-game paces of 127 runs, 155 RBI, and 50 home runs, he is hitting .203 in the second half and extrapolated to 162 games played would have 68 runs, 68 RBI, and 18 homers. And Bell doesn't have the track record of a Judge to soften this cut suggestion.

The good news is Bell's second half BABIP of .236 is well below his .292 career mark, and he hasn't lost his sense of the strike zone, with 20 walks vs. 30 strikeouts in 188 second half PA. The bad news is his contact in the second half has pretty much deserved his results. His xwOBA of .319 since the All-Star Break ranks 118th out of 213 players with 100+ PA, and is So

So, are we really cutting one of the first half's best power hitters, who is still slugging .570 for the season as a whole? As usual that depends on your team situation. But Bell doesn't steal bases, is a .264 career hitter, and plays for Pittsburgh -- whose whole offense since the All-Star Break, not just Bell's, has dissipated faster than the steel industry. So you are left hoping that his power comes back in the final month, if you do keep him. It's a risk either way at this point of the season, and if the rest of your team is doing well (more likely the smaller the league) but someone interesting is on the wire you have to think carefully.

 

Josh Hader (RP, MIL)

Another category dependent suggestion, this time with strikeouts and saves--if you need them, hold; if not, consider moving on. This is more true of strikeouts, where Hader is always great, and less true of saves, where the trust of his team matters too.

And to that point, Hader hasn't pitched since August 17. He has allowed a run in all five August appearances, blowing four saves and converting only one, on his way to a 11.57 ERA in 4 2/3 innings. To be fair, to give up both a .500 BABIP and 5.8 HR/9 allowed is a tough trick in any sample size. Which reminds me: 4 2/3 innings isn't a lot. The strikeout stuff hasn't gone away, with 10 of those. And Hader has a lot of history behind him of being much better than this.

But sometimes you can't afford to wait and see. The lack of recent usage is concerning, and while the hiatus could do him some good once he does pitch again, it could also portend loss of his closing job. Unless you are in a heated strikeout battle, it's possible there's better use of Hader's roster spot out there.

 

Whit Merrifield (IF/OF, KC)

And this is food for thought for people who need a ton of some things and none of some other things. Merrifield stole 45 bases last season and followed that up by turning 30 this January. He is no longer a star thief: He has 16 steals this season, tied with four others for 20th in MLB, but has been caught eight times, one of six players to lead the Majors with that mark. He's made up for it with 15 home runs, but his calling card is now all-around value rather than great steals with competency elsewhere.

Since the break, that has meant a .285/.343/.437 line with four home runs and three steals in 38 games. It's solid production, sort of like Adam Eaton in a worse lineup before Eaton started going crazy with homers lately. The odds are just very stacked against a burst of steals. When you lose half a step, you lose half a step, and Merrifield crossed a magic age line in January. And so you're left with a decent player who may not shift any categories on their own depending on the standings, in which case the best bet could be to find someone who can swing a category by themselves.

Man, that 10-team list was aggressive. But sometimes you have to think outside the box, even if you don't end up acting outside the box, in order to test the limits of what you are willing to do in pursuit of success. You may not want to cut Bell or Hader or Merrifield (or, say, Manny Machado) just yet -- although Bell's Statcast and Hader's situation are at least somewhat troubling -- but there could come a time. Keep your eyes open.

 

12-Team Cut Candidates

Matt Carpenter (3B, STL)

Matt Carpenter is also a big name, but he's been rough all year. And now he's sat for three straight games. Nursing an injury? It's tempting to ask who cares. He's even a borderline 14-team cut candidate at this point.

His contact hasn't been much better than his results, either, with a .320 xwOBA only 16 points higher than his .304 actual wOBA. The narrative around Carpenter -- that he had a brutal start to last season but was just as brilliant later -- may have caused a few too many holds, and more rosters still have him than don't. Certainly, it's quite late in the season for the turnaround to become a good bet.

Not only that, but if there is a turnaround, it's not as if you are rewarded with multiple months of results. That's not the case early on. The later in the season it gets, the less intense your FOMO needs to be.

 

Justin Upton (OF, LAA)

Time is running out for Upton to get it going this season, having started it only on June 17. It's now been more than two months of .218 hitting with nine home runs and 34 RBI. He is striking out 30.7% of the time. Since his injury this season was a toe, it's no surprise he's not run. 

The contact quality has been rough as well, with a .206 expecting batting average and .305 expected wOBA -- the latter of those matching the actual wOBA of a Ronny Rodriguez or Tucker Barnhart.

Even though Upton's been decent in August, hitting .217/.342/.467, that is much more valuable in OBP or OPS leagues. In BA leagues, that August isn't very confidence-inspiring. Upton is a better bet than Carpenter -- and a much easier hold in deeper leagues than 12 -- but both pose the same question: just how much good would recoveries, should they happen, do?

 

Caleb Smith (SP, MIA)

Smith doesn't have the friendliest remaining schedule after he faces the Reds in Miami Monday. And as great as he was early in the season, it's been a struggle of late. The overall numbers now reflect that: not only a 3.82 ERA, but also a 4.43 xFIP (almost identical to his 4.42 last season) and 4.13 SIERA.

To a lesser extent, categories matter here as well. Miami is one of those special teams where you can be fairly sure that wins won't reveal themselves with any regularity. So if you need those, it should be easier to say bye to Smith. The ERA estimators bode poorly as well.

Since returning from injury on July 6, Smith only has a 4.35 ERA despite a .234 BABIP. Just another warning sign. Hold for the Reds if you like, but it's dangerous to go much beyond that.

 

14-Team Cut Candidates

Nick Senzel (3B/OF, CIN)

Senzel is a poor man's Merrifield (.261/.316/.431, 10 HR, 12 SB), who will help in some places but not in any specific place. (Those darned late-season categories again.) In addition to the lack of a track record, Senzel has some other issues Merrifield clearly does not.

First, although Senzel managed to avoid the injured list since April, he's only played in 90 games total this season. That's in part due to an outfield crunch preceding the Yasiel Puig trade but also in part due to nagging injuries, for instance an elbow issue that kept him out August 19.

It's been a rough August as well, at .179/.210/.282. A rather concerning component: two walks against 22 strikeouts in just 84 plate appearances. That could be the sign of pitchers starting to take fuller advantage of a rookie hitter.

 

Yusei Kikuchi and Marco Gonzales (SP, SEA)

Let's take a look at schedules, shall we? Who still plays Houston and/or the Yankees this season? Well, the Angels have an extremely rough go of it, with 10 of their final 12 games coming against those teams. So watch out for their guys as the season winds down -- Andrew Heaney won't strike out 14 batters every time. But it's a little to early to react to the very last games of the year.

Seattle's immediately upcoming schedule is fairly brutal: at the Yankees August 26-28, then four at Texas' bandbox, followed by two at the Cubs and four in Houston. Gonzales and Kikuchi are their only SP's owned in more than a couple places, but both were 14-team cuts earlier in the year.

They've had varying degrees of success since, with Kikuchi recently throwing a complete game shutout. But both are extremely borderline at best, and the difficult schedule in the near term is enough to let them go for now, especially Kikuchi who is also having his innings managed. Gonzales at least gets Toronto first, but Kikuchi's start against them notwithstanding, they've hit pretty well of late.

 

Last Week's Updates

Player Last Week (links to piece) This Week Reasoning
Aaron Judge 10-Team Stretch Hold Was always really a hold, but if his name were A. A. Ron Juh-Gee, the power coming back this week would help too
Tommy Pham 10-Team Hold I guess the hand was fine after all
Matt Boyd 10-Team Hold I guess he's a hold now, but one more bout with homer-itis and it would be really tempting to send him back again
Khris Davis 12-Team 12-Team He finally hit one more bomb but there's been no real change in profile
Shohei Ohtani 12-Team 10-Team Issues identified last week will remain, but last week did remind of power-speed combo (1 HR, 1 SB)
Dallas Keuchel 12-Team 12-Team No real change in profile, it was Miami
Hunter Pence 14-Team 14-Team Playing time, possible injury
Dustin May 14-Team 14-Team The usual Dodgers jerking guys around
Shane Greene 14-Team 14-Team No change in profile

 

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