2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 17 Roundup

Photo credit: Julie
Photo credit: Julie

The 2014 Major League Baseball season is roughly two-thirds of the way finished with each team having completed at least 104 games and fantasy baseball is entering the stretch run. Pressure is mounting and with each win, or in our case amassing specific statistics, they become all the more crucial leading up to the playoffs and seasons end. With the non-waiver trade deadline expiring at 3 p.m. CT, it’s important to remember that trade deadlines in fantasy leagues are fast approaching. The trade deadline in ESPN leagues is set for August 8 and and on Yahoo leagues it’s August 17.

With the window to execute trades closing in, this makes waiver wire pickups a top priority at this point of the season. Once the aforementioned trade deadlines pass, this will obviously be the only way to improve your squad. Pitchers are quickly running out of starts due to team imposed innings limits while hitters that started off hot are predictably cooling off and it’s vital to stay ahead of the competition by making the proper pickups when necessary. Here are a few players owned in less than 60% of Y! leagues that I would consider adding or stashing. In no particular order….Michael Cuddyer, A.J. Pollock, Jason Castro, Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Seth Smith, Kevin Quackenbush, Jake Peavy, Brad Boxberger, Chris Young, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, and James Paxton.

It’s time to get the Week 17 Roundup started by examining some players who were left on the waivers at some point this year but have come on strong to make great contributions to fantasy squads. The first headline is paying homage to an all-time classic, the Big Lebowski. Click the link below to enjoy the noteworthy scene.

The Duda Abides

Lucas Duda may boast a modest six-game hitting streak, but he has also collected an RBI in each game and has four homers and 10 RBI over that stretch. Duda has collected a hit in 12 of his last 13 games and is the seventh ranked player over the last two weeks and ranks 11th over the past month. This makes his 55 percent ownership level in Y! leagues all the more perplexing. Pick him up people! For the year, the left-handed slugger owns a .262/.358/.506 slash line to go along with 19 homers, 60 RBI, 47 runs, and three steals. Although he’s only hitting .262 for the campaign, Duda hit .283 in June and is hitting .293 in July, so that part of his game is definitely trending upwards.

The biggest areas of improvement for Duda have come when hitting with RISP and against right-handed pitchers. After hitting a paltry .145 with RISP in 2013, Duda has been a downright force in those situations this year as he’s hitting .298. The Mets do a good job of limiting his at-bats against southpaws, as he’s hitting a measly .167 against them over 60 at-bats, but he’s more than held his own against righties. The 28-year-old is hitting .284 against righties with 18 of his homers, after only hitting .240 last year. Take a look at the table below to see Duda’s improvement over the last year.

Year/Stat

BB%

K%

ISO

wRC

WAR

Contact%

2013

14.3

26.6

.192

120

0.2

71.5

2014

11.8

21.4

.244

144

2.3

74.6

While his walk rate has dropped a few percentage points, he’s made up for it by supplying more power and improving his contact rate. All one must do to notice his marked improvement is to take a gander at BrooksBaseball Heat Maps for his last two years played.

2013 Lucas  Duda Heat Map

2014 Duda Heat Map

As you can see in the 2013 heat map on the left, Duda only has a single red zone and had trouble squaring up pitches in the zone. Fast forward to 2014 and Duda’s heat map is filled with hot spots. While he has shown the ability to handle pitches down in the zone the last two years, it’s a great sign to see Duda is now making pitchers pay for throwing him balls up in the strike zone as he’s hitting .385 on those pitches. His recent hot streak is no fluke and owners need to start taking the “Dude” seriously, he’s available for the taking in a lot of leagues out there. Make the wise move here fellas.

It’s Getting Hahn in Here

Jesse Hahn. Does that name sound familiar to you? If not, you better make sure you find out about him real quick. The Padres rookie left-hander celebrated his 25th birthday in grand fashion last night by throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Cardinals to earn his third straight win. In case you haven’t noticed, Hahn has now won seven of his last eight starts for a moribund Padres squad, a mightily impressive feat considering the Padres are the lowest scoring team in baseball. For the year, Hahn owns a 7-2 record, 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 54:21 K/BB ratio in 53.2 IP. These fine numbers should result in Hahn being owned in 54 percent of Y! leagues, but he’s still ripe for the taking in a lot of leagues out there.

One of the primary reasons could be because he only has a limited amount of starts left. In the days leading up to his start yesterday, Bud Black proclaimed Hahn has between 5-10 starts left, a rather vague estimation. It would be easier if they just imposed a hard innings limit but we’ll just have to assume he has four to nine starts left for now. With that being said, lets take a look behind the scenes to see if Hahn’s fast start is sustainable.

Although he’s right-handed, Hahn actually has more success against lefties (.168 AVG) compared to when he faces right-handed batters (.198 AVG). Without looking at the statistics, Hahn apologists would suggest he’s enjoying much of his success when he pitches in the best pitchers park in MLB, Petco Park. While he does own a 2.43 ERA at home, Hahn has been virtually unhittable on the road as evidenced by his 1.50 ERA. One of the reasons Hahn has been so dominant is that he possesses one of the filthiest curveballs in the game. Check out the helpless Ruben Tejada against Hahn’s curveball in this start back on June 14.

Gif credit: FanGraphs
Gif credit: FanGraphs

After seeing the above gif, it’s easier to fathom how hitters are only hitting .134 when Hahn unleashes his curveball. His curve rates as 5.7 runs above average and would rank as the eighth best clip in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. With a full season’s workload, it’s not crazy to think Hahn would join Corey Kluber, Sonny Gray, and Adam Wainwright as the most prodigious curveball hurlers out there. Take a look below at Hahn’s whiff percentages when he throws the hook.

Hahn Whiffs

Hahn obviously likes to fire his curveball down in the zone and generates a ton of whiffs when he does so. He owns a 25.4% strikeout rate so his swing and miss stuff is for real. If he can manage to lower his 9.9% walk rate, batters are going to be in for a tough battle whenever they face the underrated rookie. Enjoy the Hahn sensation for as long as it lasts as he has a limited window to contribute down the stretch. He’ll be a dandy to own in the meantime though.

The Big Stroman on Campus

Marcus Stroman is a 23-year-old rookie who pitches in the AL East, not exactly a harbinger of immediate success. The talented righty hasn’t let preconceived notions of how he was expected to perform faze him while on the field though. Over his first 11 starts this year, Stroman has compiled seven wins to go along with a 3.03 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 67:17 K/BB ratio in 74 1/3 innings. These numbers should mean that Stroman is owned in more than 54 percent of Y! leagues, but as of this writing, that’s what his ownership level is. His last three starts have been especially impressive (21 IP-20 K-1 ER-0.43 ERA).

The Duke alum is going to be sad to see month of July pass by as it’s been his best statistical month during his time with the Blue Jays. Over five starts this month, ‘Stro owns a 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. He’s the 48th ranked player over the last month and comes in at sixth overall if we narrow the focus to the last two weeks. Special stuff. Although he’s a righty, Stroman actually enjoys far more success when facing lefties at the plate. Left-handed hitters are only hitting .205 while righties are hitting .269.

Stroman punches out hitters at a 22.3% clip, while also limiting hitters to a 16.6 percent line drive rate and inducing grounders half of the time. His strikeout rate is great and his line drive rate is lower than the league average at 20 percent while he also forces more grounders compared to the 44 percent MLB average. It’s safe to say that Stroman is showing all the signs of a future ace, not surprising considering he was a top prospect coming up through the Blue Jays system.

If the aforementioned date doesn’t convince you to snatch Stroman off the free agent/waiver wire list, then nothing will. He deserves to be owned in all leagues right now and is providing the value to justify that claim.

Monday Tidbits: Craig Kimbrel notched his 32nd save and is tied for most in MLB with Trevor Rosenthal. Ervin Santana struck out 11 over eight scoreless innings to earn his 10th win. The Mets have imposed a 185 innings pitched limit on Jacob deGrom, meaning he has roughly 10 starts left. deGrom has been money in July as he owns a 1.39 ERA and has won his last four starts. Brandon Belt passed a concussion test and should resume baseball activities soon. Rafael Soriano imploded by allowing four runs in the ninth to the Marlins, blowing his fourth save of the year. R.A. Dickey stymied the Red Sox, punching out 10 over seven one-run innings. Melky Cabrera homered from both sides of the plate, boosting his homer total to 14. He’s four bombs short of matching his career-high set back in 2011. Brett Gardner also hit two homers and they both came off Yu Darvish, making it all the more impressive. His 12 home runs are a career-high and looks to be well on his way to a 15 HR/20 SB season. Devin Mesoraco belted his 17th homer. Vance Worley hurled his first career shutout against the Giants and now owns a surprising 2.54 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Ride him for as long as possible. All-Star Josh Harrison is the 52nd ranked player over the last month and ninth over the last two weeks and his versatility (2B/3B/OF) will help to buoy his value.

Tuesday Tidbits: A.J. Pollock (hand) took live batting practice and has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment. Pollock is aiming to return in mid-August so now would be a great time to stash him for the stretch run. Matt Kemp hit two homers amid the constant trade rumors. Jayson Werth (ankle) came in as a pinch-hitter and is expected to return to the Nationals starting lineup on Wednesday. Alex Cobb dominated the Brewers as he punched out 12 hapless batters over eight one-run innings. Justin Morneau (neck) was activated from the 15-day DL. Jose Abreu continued his stellar rookie campaign by blasting a two-run bomb and a two-run double. 40+ HR/115+ RBI are not out of the realm of possibility. Cole Hamels further increased his trade value by hurling eight scoreless innings against the Mets. He now owns a glorious 2.55 ERA.

Wednesday Tidbits: Although Jon Lester was scratched from his start, he remains a Red Sox as of this writing. Justin Masterson was traded to the Cardinals for prospect James Ramsey and will make his debut on Saturday to face the Brewers. He’s coming off a knee injury and owns a horrific 5.51 ERA/1.65 WHIP but can only get better from here on out assuming he’s healthy. Michael Wacha is set to undergo an MRI on his shoulder next Monday and if the results are positive, he will begin a throwing program. Corey Kluber pitched one of the games of the season as he outdueled King Felix by spinning a complete game shutout with eight punchouts and he did it in only 85 pitches! His 2.61 ERA ranks 12th in MLB. James Paxton made his final rehab start on Monday and after a bullpen session on Wednesday, the southpaw will rejoin the Mariners rotation on Saturday to face the Orioles. All-Star Josh Harrison homered in his fourth game in a row, a season-best for any Pirates player. Harrison is the 52nd ranked player over the last month and ninth over the last two weeks and his versatility (2B/3B/OF) will help to buoy his value. Dallas Keuchel threw a gem as he notched a complete game while allowing only one run. The talented lefty owns a shimmering 2.97 ERA. Jason Hammel continued his streak of bad starts with the Athletics as he got obliterated to the tune of eight runs over 4 1/3 innings. He needs to be dropped or sat for the foreseeable future until he gets his act together.

Wed. Tidbits Part 2: Tanner Roark pitched his fourth straight game of one-run ball over seven frames to earn his fourth consecutive win. The vastly underrated pitcher owns a 2.74 ERA. David Price allowed four runs for the first time since June 4. With the trade deadline at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Price looks to be staying with the Rays. Max Scherzer earned his 13th win by limiting the Pale Hose to one run over seven innings. Paul Goldschmidt also blasted his 19th homer and is quietly hitting .301. Giancarlo Stanton awoke from a long slumber at the plate by hitting his 24th bomb, his first since July 19th. July hasn’t been kind to him, but he’s the eighth ranked player for a reason. Neftali Feliz collected his third save, although he only has one strikeout since being reinserted back to the closers role. Jacoby Ellsbury broke out of a 1-23 skid by hitting his ninth homer of the season. His average has dropped from .293 to .279 during that time but owners shouldn’t be too worried. Alex Gordon smoked an RBI double but he has only accumulated a measly eight RBI over his last 30 games. Greg Holland converted his 28th save and owns a sensational 1.82 ERA. Brett Anderson hurled his third straight quality start (7 IP-11 H-2 ER-9 K) and has a 3.12 ERA overall. If you’re feeling frisky, snatch him up in deeper formats. Charlie Blackmon went 3-5 and drove in a run. His 52 RBI are most in MLB out of the leadoff spot.

Thanks to FanGraphs, BrooksBaseball, Yahoo, and ESPN for the statistical information. You can comment below with any questions or remarks. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy.

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