Fantasy Baseball Trends For Week 17
I'd like to begin this week's report by doing somewhat of a follow up to my article from two weeks ago. I really still like Hughes's K/BB ratios, but it's hard to ignore his current results. I've dropped him until he shows signs of improvement, and recommend you do the same, but keep an eye on him. I've also dropped Mike Minor. Probably the hardest drop I've made all year, but he's just not the same pitcher he has been in past years. I don't blame some of you for holding on, but I can't justify it in ten-team re-draft league anymore.
Now that I've owned up to my mistakes, let's get started shall we?
Fantasy Baseball Players Trending Up
Neil Walker (2B, PIT) - Neil Walker has missed some time this season after an emergency appendectomy, but when he has played he's been great, slashing .286/.357/.474 with 46 runs scored, 48 RBI, 15 HR and 2 SB to boot. All of those numbers are good enough to make Neil Walker the ninth-best 2B and put him on pace to surpass his career-high of 16 HR.
So what has he done lately that looks even better than his career numbers? Since the start of July, Walker is hitting a sizzling .344/.419/.641 with 16 runs scored, 11 RBI, 4 HR and 1 SB. The only way Walker could be more on fire this month was if he was in fact a supernova.
Rest of the season: I really like Neil to maintain-- maybe not at his crazy July pace, but his season pace seems reasonable. His walk rate is down a bit, but so is his strikeout rate and his BABIP is actually below career norms. His ISO for the season is above his career mark, but I had him pegged as a preseason breakout in power numbers and he has reached 16 HR before, so he has some pop in his bat. If I needed a 2B and didn't want to pay for guys like Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano or Anthony Rendon, then Neil Walker would be my next choice.
Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, NYY) - A lot of owners found themselves a tad frustrated with Jacoby Ellsbury at the end of June because of the disappointing performance and substantial draft-day investment. Considering the contract the Yankees gave him, I'm sure they were upset, too. Sure, he had the 22 stolen bases, but besides that he only had 4 HR, 39 R and 34 RBI to go along with a sub-.300 average.
Fortunately for Ells's owners, July has seen him produce more in line with his draft position. Since July 1st, he has stolen five bases, hit four HR, scored eight runs and notched 13 RBI all while hitting for a .311 average. Ellsbury's turnaround may just be in time to salvage what can be salvaged of the Yankees' season, and your fantasy team's as well.
Rest of the season: My main concern with Ellsbury is that he is striking out about 2% more than he has his for his career. It's not a huge thing, but it could impact his average a bit. Otherwise, almost all of his numbers are in line with past seasons. Expect Ellsbury to produce exactly what you thought you were getting when you drafted him and reap the benefits.
Sonny Gray (SP, Oak) - Is it just me or is there some kind of magic potion in Oakland? Year after year they seem to produce high-end quality young starters. Sonny Gray is no exception, pitching to a 2.72 ERA, 7.89 K/9 and 1.16 WHIP while allowing just 0.48 HR/9. Those are obviously very solid numbers for the year, and he has been even better lately.
Five starts ago, Sonny had his worst start of the season against the Miami Marlins, in which he gave up five runs. In the four starts since, he has been a man on a mission, posting a 0.95 ERA, 8.26 K/9,0.92 WHIP, and 0.32 HR/9. Those games weren't against easy opponents, either. His opponents in his past four starts were the hot-hitting Blue Jays, Giants, Orioles and the up-and-coming Mariners.
Rest of the season: I doubt Gray can keep up the pace he has had for his past four starts, if only because that would be pretty much unheard of. That said, his season line is very similar to what he did for the Athletics in a smaller sample last year, with a small downtick in the K/9. The next time Gray has a bad game (if he does), try to convince his owner to part with an "inconsistent youngster" or something like that. Then reap the rewards of having a top 30 SP the rest of the way.
Fantasy Baseball Players Trending Down
Yoenis Cespedes (OF, OAK) - Speaking of the Athletics, let's talk about Sonny Gray's teammate Yoenis Cespedes. On the season, he is hitting .251 with 14 HR, 57 R, 56 RBI and 1 steal. The average and the OBP are acceptable because he is providing a lot of power in a year where power is down across the league. However, despite winning the Home Run Derby, his power seems to have all but disappeared lately.
Don't believe me? Cespedes has hit just two homers since June 19th, both last night. That is 99 at-bats without a round-tripper, and it's a long stretch to go for someone whose value is derived almost completely from power. Just to give you an idea what this stretch has done to Cespedes's value: guys like Khris Davis, Torii Hunter and Marcell Ozuna are currently ranked ahead of him in Yahoo. And oh yeah, he left last night's game with an apparent thumb injury.
Rest of the season: Now for some good news. The strikeout rate is down from past years. His BABIP and ISO are both below career norms, suggesting that both the average and the power numbers could improve. He is also hitting in an Athletics lineup that really seems to be gelling this year. There is a certain intangible for team charisma, and it should also provide him plenty of RBI opportunities.However, I wouldn't look for Cespedes to return to his 2012 form this year. Numbers that split the middle between 2012 and 2013 seem more likely, but that still would make him a top outfielder.
Nelson Cruz (OF, BAL) - I bet you didn't expect to see one of the American League home run leaders on the "trending down" side, did you? True, to this point Nelson Cruz has hit .279/.344/.551 with 28 HR, 58 R, 74 RBI and three steals, so you'd think he wouldn't belong in this category at all. However, Cruz has not gone yard since July 7th. That's 36 homerless at-bats for Cruz. Since his last homer, Cruz is only hitting .139 with 3 runs scored and 1 RBI. For the past two weeks and change, it has hurt your team to start Cruz.
Rest of the season: We all knew some regression must be coming for Cruz, but I don't think anyone expects him to keep producing at the terrible rate he has for the past two weeks. On the season, Cruz is actually walking more and striking out less, so I think we can reasonably expect his average to rise a bit. I would caution against expecting the homers to come at the same rate as they have been, though. The 22.6 HR/FB rate was unsustainable especially, when compared to his career rate of 17 %. All that said, Cruz should still easily finish the year as a top 20 OF, and that's low-balling it.
Mark Buehrle (SP, TOR) - Mark Buehrle has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, pitching to a 2.86 ERA, 5.30 K/9, 1.30 WHIP and just 0.61 HR/9. He even has 10 wins, courtesy of the Jays' potent lineup. The fantasy community has been widely predicting Buehrle's regression since before he even took the mound this season, and he continued to surprise us all. Or at least he did until his past five starts, during which span he pitched to a 4.55 ERA, 5.40 K/9, 1.52 WHIP and 1.14 HR/9. Those numbers are much uglier than his season line.
Rest of the season: So which one is the real Mark Buehrle this season? Considering his fairly high WHIP, his walk rate of 2.38 per game, his diminished stuff and an xFIP suggesting that he's more of a 4.20 pitcher, I believe he is more the pitcher we have seen in the past five starts than the pitcher he had been earlier this season. Most of the sabermetrics are not in favor of Buehrle, and neither am I. It was a good Cinderella story while it lasted, but it's time for Buehrle to turn back into a pumpkin.
That's it for this week! Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear from you! Tweet @RekedFantasy with your thoughts.