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The Cut List (Week 7) - Time to Let Go?

The 2019 season is now one-fifth over for every team in MLB, and one-quarter over for some. By the end of the month in just under three weeks time, it'll be one-third finished. If you've hung on to a certain player in a certain roto league, depending on how often you played or benched them, they could have cost you quite a bit in the standings, even by season's end.

Stats are through Friday, May 10. As we say every week: Remember that these recommendations are for standard leagues up to 12 teams, which of course means the players can be dropped in shallower leagues than 12. However, formats like dynasty or AL/NL-only are a completely different ballgame (so to speak).

You can find a replacement for all of these cut candidates at the Waiver Wire Pickup List.

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Week 7 Cut Candidates

Tim Beckham (SS, SEA)

Last season, Beckham hit .230/.287/.374 with 12 home runs in 402 plate appearances. Since March 29 of this season, he's hitting .227/.283/.398 with four home runs in 138 plate appearances, which is almost identical to that valueless 2018. If not for a 7-for-12 performance with three home runs in Beckham's first three games, his ownership rates this season would already be in the dumpster.

You can't ignore those first three games, of course. Even with them, however, something like Statcast views Beckham as a mediocre hitter: 48th percentile in xSLG, 33rd percentile in xBA, and 38th in xWOBA. Striking out 30.3% of the time hasn't helped, leaving the .257 batting average to be bolstered by a .333 BABIP. With Beckham in the 43rd percentile in sprint speed and just a 13-for-25 career base stealer, that BABIP is unlikely to be sustainable.

Perhaps someone in your league still likes the overall .257/.316/.486 line and you can swing a trade instead, but with his struggles lasting multiple seasons, minus three games, at this point: for what return? Cutting Beckham for better on the wire is fine, if you can find it.


Harrison Bader (OF, STL)

It's not clear what's happened to Bader, who was an everyday player before a hamstring injury, and is now working on five straight games without a start. Perhaps he re-aggravated the hamstring (doubtful; he has pinch hit and played defense off the bench in several games), perhaps Jose Martinez and Dexter Fowler are just doing too well, or perhaps St. Louis just tired of his .203 batting average. Whatever is going on, it's not good, as it appears something drastic must change for Bader to regain playing time.

Bader's .203 is being driven by a 31.4% strikeout rate. However, he is also walking 14.0% of the time, for a .353 on-base percentage. And he's hitting far below his .260 expected batting average on Statcast. Nonetheless, when your rivals for playing time (Martinez and Fowler) both have .300 averages and .400 OBP's, .203/.353 is going to look bad in comparison.

Bader has yet to steal a base in three tries (although his sprint speed is in the 86th percentile), and those missing steals to go along with the .203 average would be two reasons to chase better even if he were getting full playing time. With almost the opposite of full time, none for long stretches, there is little to do but drop, even for those of us who like the underlying talent.


Travis Shaw (3B, MIL)

31 home runs, 101 RBI, 10 steals. That's what Shaw did in 2017. He followed it up with 32 HR, 86 RBI, five steals, and a 108-78 K-BB ratio in 2018, although the average fell from .273 to .241.

The power, the speed, the plate discipline -- it's all gone in 2019. He has an 18th-percentile xSLG, a 22nd-percentile sprint speed, and a whopping 31.3-9.7 K-BB%. At some point, enough is enough. And Shaw is sitting out the entire May 10-12 series against the Cubs, who are throwing three lefties.

When someone hits 63 home runs in two seasons, the inclination is to hold through a slump, even one that lasts a few weeks. But Shaw is now 4-for-his-last-39 with five walks and 12 strikeouts. You want to bank on the very productive 2017-18 version of Shaw to return, but it becomes harder with each passing day. It's hard to say whether he belongs among the Cut Candidates and Watch-Out lists because of that history, but with patience running thin, see what's out there on the wire.


Kyle Freeland (SP, COL)

Freeland is sort of this year's Shaw from the pitching side. You can look at the track record -- a 4.10 ERA as a rookie at Coors Field, followed by a 2.85 ERA (and 17 wins) last season -- and argue for watching out, but holding.

In Freeland's case, however, the success was always a bit of a house of cards. He had a 4.70 xFIP/4.93 SIERA that rookie year in 2017, followed by a 4.22 xFIP and 4.35 SIERA in 2018. This year: 4.92 and 4.85. His strikeouts are down a couple percentage points to 18.7% of batters faced, with an increase to 9.1% in the walks department.

Freeland has made half of his starts at home and half on the road this year, so his 5.84 ERA and 5.43 FIP can't be blamed on a heavy diet of Coors. (Rather, that's where beer guts come from.) He's definitely been worse at home: 14.0 K%, 10.0 BB%, 6.30 FIP, 5.62 xFIP compared to 23.5%, 8.2%, 4.58 FIP and 4.25 xFIP on the road. But that's the thing with Rockies starters: they are going to have to pitch at Coors. Freeland may well be a road streamer at this point. His next start is indeed on the road, but at Boston, which is hardly better than a home start.


A.J. Minter (RP, ATL/Gwinnett Stripers)

Unlike a certain Rangers reliever discussed below, Minter never locked down the closing job last season, ending up with 15 saves in 17 attempts. He did it with 10.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. This year, the K's were up to 13.1 per nine innings, but the walks to 7.4 per nine.

Using K/9 in the last paragraph was a bit of sleight-of-hand, too: Minter had a 26.5 K% last season that only went up to 27.1% this year, but the BB% has nearly doubled from 8.5% to 15.3%. Sure, the .469 BABIP wouldn't continue, but his SIERA is still 4.46 when it was just 3.40 last season.

With a 9.82 ERA, the Braves didn't just take Minter out of save situations, they took him out of Atlanta. Now you take him out of your fantasy team.



Watch-Out List

Jose Leclerc (RP, TEX)

Usually when a closer loses his job, it's an easy call to chase something else, but few general principles are hard and fast rules. Several folks who responded to last week's Cut List felt that Leclerc was a reasonable exception, arguing that he ought to gain the job back sooner rather than later, especially because of his contract. A fair enough argument.

If you want to split the difference, hold Leclerc in your head-to-head leagues and drop him in roto. In head-to-head leagues, you're mostly blowing a roster spot and losing tangible categories every week by holding a struggling middle reliever. In roto, however, if you truly believe Leclerc's middle relief role will be relatively short term, the second half of the season or so could pay off even if you get nothing in May.

Nevertheless, the risk remains that Leclerc doesn't get his job back -- he walked three batters and gave up a run on May 9, his most recent appearance -- so be careful.

Sonny Gray (SP, CIN)

It's too early to cut Gray, but it's not too early to prepare yourself for the possibility. Despite a 5.26 ERA in his last five starts and a 4.15 ERA overall, his underlying peripherals are good: a 2.99 FIP, 3.56 xFIP, and 3.95 SIERA. The SIERA gets a bit iffy, but overall, with a strikeout rate of 25.2% that is right back at his 2013 level (25.7%), there is some good with Gray.

That said, struggling with the Giants, followed by an even worse performance against the Athletics, all while averaging under five innings per start (39 IP in 8 starts) is a downward trend that can't be ignored for too much longer. Gray is probably a bench-and-see for his next start against the Cubs.



Last Week's Updates

Player Last Week This Week Reasoning
Jose Leclerc Cut Watch Out See above
Mallex Smith Cut Cut Though he's dominating the PCL, he won't have value until called back up
Yuli Gurriel Cut Hold No need to rush back to the wire, but if you retained through his 35-point BA rise this week, may as well keep riding it out
Renato Nunez Cut Cut All the way down to .227/.268/.390 now
Dereck Rodriguez Cut Cut 8 BB, 3 K in two-start week clarifies issues
Brad Peacock Watch Out Hold Not just that he dominated K.C., but it's possible Twins just have his number
Adam Jones Watch Out Cut Decline continues, now 100 OPS+ on season and likely to fall further

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