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2014 Fantasy Baseball: A Third of the Way Home

lucas duda
Photo Credit: Lori Kinglsey

We are a third of the way home in our fantasy baseball season. For many of us, this season has been struck hard by injuries. From old veterans to young up and comers, no one is safe. Yet, Troy Tulowitzki has stayed healthy thus far and is showing just what he can do when he gets out there every day, leading the league in fWAR (4.2 – on pace for a 12 WAR season. Wow). A little luck with health can go a long way.

If your roster hasn’t been as fortunate and was bitten by the injury bug or things just haven’t gone as expected, your team may be in the middle of the standings pack, or perhaps worse. If that’s the case, now is the time to start the evaluation process. Let’s be honest, no one is trading us Mike Trout. Our moves have to be shrewd. We need to find underperformers or the underappreciated whom can help fill our team needs.

Power Need:

Power is the last tool to stabilize. It can even be quite difficult to predict. Edwin Encarnacion had two home runs through April and has since hit 14 in May. At this point in the season, I will look at hitters who have shown legitimate power in the past, but have yet to deliver that in the present. Assuming their batted ball profile isn’t too out of whack and they pass the eye and health test, some of these sluggers could be sold at bargain prices.

Anthony Rizzo – His pedigree and ceiling could make the cost too high, but there may be some owners out there who are tired of waiting. In OBP leagues, he has been quite valuable, but his recent lack of power and dropping batting average may have some owners ready to sell. But Rizzo has actually seen an improvement in his strikeout percentage and is hitting less popups than ever before. His problem against lefties has also been non-existent this season. He needs to hit a few more fly balls, but Rizzo has enough power to hit out 30.

Khris Davis & Alfonso Soriano – The swings and misses may be testing the patience of owners.

Davis strikes out a lot, but has so far shown an ability to avoid popping up. That can be a decent tradeoff for a fly ball hitter who has power. And Davis has power. He has been hot of late, but he may have just been on some waiver wires and perhaps could still be had for cheap in a trade.

We’ve been down this road before with Soriano. The question is, when will the age catch up? Is he a simple hot streak away from being back to the 30 home run guy he has shown as recent as last year? His strikeouts are up a touch, but everything else seems to be right about in line with career norms. At this point, Soriano was either cut or is available for next to nothing. Currently, he has six home runs. He had six homers last season through May. He had seven through May of 2012. Just saying.

Lucas Duda – A better bet in OBP leagues, the lefty swinging Duda can make for a fine platoon partner in your CI or utility spot. As long as the at-bats are there, Duda has the ability to hit 25 dingers. He managed to hit 15 our of the park in 384 plate appearances last season and has shown consistent power through his minor league career. There may not be much else to go along with the homers, but he may be available for free on your waiver wire. In OBP leagues, go for it.

Evan Longoria & Adrian Beltre – Two high draft picks, two third baseman. There are owners who ignore draft day cost once the regular season begins. There is some validity to that thought process, but I have seen itchy trigger fingers from impatient owners under this method, and that leads to bad decisions.

Much of Longoria’s profile looks the same as it ever has, with one key exception: fly balls. He has to hit the ball in the air more. His FB% currently sits at a career low 32% and was at 28% through April. May has shown a needed improvement (35%), but still not the usual Longoria. However, unless something is very wrong mechanically or injury related, the fly balls and power should start to increase.

Beltre may finally begin to show some signs of decline (age 35), but that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze another 20 or so home runs out of him. The K-rate is up and the power is trending downward for a third straight year. His zone contact percentage is the lowest it’s been since 2009 (86%). Admittedly, there are some red flags here. Still, worried owners tend to sell low and for Beltre, they may sell even lower. He still plays in a great ballpark with an OBP machine named Shin-Soo Choo.

The Top Five Homer Parks a Third of the Way through the Season:

  1. Yankee Stadium
  2. Great American Ballpark
  3. Rogers Centre
  4. Chase Field
  5. Coors Field

Shockingly enough, the Coliseum out in Oakland is number six. It happened to be sixth worst last season.

 

Speed Need:

At times, speed can be found on the waiver wire. But if it happens to be all scooped up in your league, perhaps you can acquire a few on these players.

Everth Cabrera – Right now, I imagine owners are wondering if the PEDs were the reason for his success last season. What they may be missing is that Cabrera is still really useful. He doesn’t have to be last year’s version to be worthy of a roster spot at shortstop or the middle infield position. Outside of the lack of walks, much of what he’s doing is repeating his 2012 season. You can live with that if acquiring him comes at a low cost.

Leonys Martin – Many have hoped that Martin would take another step forward, but at age 26, he is what he is. Expectations can be everything to some, which means Martin may be devalued.  He is swinging a bit too much and striking out more than in 2013, but it looks like Martin can still come close to replicating his 2013 numbers. All things considered, that wouldn’t be all too bad.

A.J. Pollock – I was a fan of Pollock entering the year and little has changed for me in that regard. As long as the at-bats remain steady, 20-plus stolen bases are in reach.

The Top Five Teams with the Most Stolen Bases a Third of the Way through the Season:

  1. Dodgers
  2. Royals
  3. Reds
  4. Tigers
  5. Astros

Billy Hamilton has 18 of the Reds 41 stolen bases and Dee Gordon has 30 of the Dodgers 59 steals.

 

Strikeouts Need:

It may be difficult to acquire helpful pitchers with strikeout potential without giving up a lot, but there are some pitchers out there who could be underappreciated by their owners.

Ian Kennedy – I wrote about Kennedy here. Even if the strikeouts do dip, he should still punch out about eight per nine. He could give your team a nice boost in the pitching categories at a fair price.

Lance Lynn – Lynn has seemingly been underappreciated for the past couple of seasons now. He continues to go out there and deliver strikeouts without totally killing your ratios. He should be seen as a solid starter that helps round out your staff.

Marco Estrada – Too many dingers will prevent his ERA from being anything less than in the mid-to-high threes, but everything else seems to be in place, including plenty of K’s and a low WHIP. His inability to reduce that ERA could make him affordable.

Top Five Teams Who have Struck Out the Most a Third of the Way through the Season:

  1. Braves
  2. Cubs
  3. White Sox
  4. Astros
  5. Marlins

The Twins are team number six. I’d say we have some streaming options.

To my fellow Corey Kluber fans out there, he is currently leading all pitchers in fWAR (2.6). Is he finally becoming an ace? He sure looks like it a third of the way through.

 

Take a few minutes to go over each team in your league and the standings. Check out the games played and innings pitched. Determine where you can realistically get the most points and see what is out there for you. Pepper teams with offers. Check out that waiver wire.

One-third down, two-thirds to go.

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