2014 Fantasy Baseball- Week 18 Free Agent Fixes
A pair of veteran players, one pitcher, and one hitter, see their stock go up with a change of scenery. A power hitter remains available in many leagues, and warrants a spike in ownership. Also, a middle infielder has been scalding hot since filling in for an injured star, and a one time blue chip prospect has turned around a dismal start to the season since a demotion to Triple-A and is a stellar grab in AL-only formats.
Jake Peavy, SP, San Francisco Giants,
Ownership: ESPN: 48.7%, Yahoo!: 43%, CBS: 49%
Peavy’s value gets a boost as a result of being dealt from the Red Sox to the Giants. According to Baseball-Reference, American League hitters are posting a .255/.320/.395 line with a 19.63 percent strikeout rate against right-handed starting pitchers while their National League counterparts have hit .248/.311/.381 with a 20.97 percent strikeout rate. Those numbers aren’t shocking given the absence of the designated hitter in National League ballparks. The former ace also gets a jolt to his value swapping Fenway Park for AT&T Park.
With an ERA north of 4.70, he’ll need more than modest gains to justify his current ownership rates and additions in even more leagues. Of course I wouldn’t be touting him if I didn’t believe those changes were coming. The long ball has hurt Peavy this year as he’s allowed a 12.2 percent HR/FB rate, well above his 9.7 percent HR/FB rate in his career and the highest he’s posted since his second year in the majors. Regression was likely going to happen anyways, but AT&T Park could help expedite that process. I’m also anticipating a strikeout rate increase after looking at his pitch-by-pitch PITCHf/x data.
His secondary pitches are as good as ever at missing bats in the time frame Brooks Baseball tracks PITCHf/x data (they track back to 2007). Peavy’s changeup has never resulted in a higher whiff percentage than the 19.28 percent mark he’s posting this year, and his 19.57 percent whiff rate on his slider is his best mark since 2007. His whiff rates on his curveball and cutter also compare favorably to past seasons, but his fourseam fastball and sinker simply aren’t missing lumber like they once did.
It would behoove Peavy to cut back a bit on his fourseam fastball and sinker and sprinkle in his secondaries, perhaps his cutter, more often. The analytics department are almost certainly well aware of his PITCHf/x data, and it’s possible his coaching staff and organization will encourage these changes. In mixed leagues of 14 teams or larger and NL-only leagues, it’s worth investing in Peavy and seeing how he fares with his new club.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, Houston Astros
Ownership: ESPN: 61.2%, Yahoo!: 36%, CBS: 57%
Carter is a flawed hitter, but power cures many ills and he has ample thump. The Astros slugger is tied for 12th in homers this season with a handful of players that are much more highly owned. The 27-year old belted a career best 29 homers in 585 plate appearances last year, and with 20 homers through 342 plate appearances this year year, reaching the big “three-zero” appears to be in the offing.
It’s likely his power down the stretch will come with a better batting average than the .212 one he’s saddled with presently. His .253 BABIP this year is 29 points below his career mark of .282, and he’s cut his strikeout rate down from 36.2 percent in 2013 to 32.2 percent this year thanks in large part to making more contact on pitches in the strike zone according to the data at FanGraphs. An average in the .220’s with double-digit taters down the stretch feels about right, and that plays fine from the outfield or a corner infield spot in 14-team mixed leagues or AL-only formats, and it’s even usable in 12-team mixers by power starved owners.
Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies
Ownership: ESPN: 27.7%, Yahoo!: 29%, CBS: 42%
Rutledge has been excellent filling in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. However, his spot in the starting lineup may extend beyond Tulo’s disabled list stint with trade rumors (namely to the Mets) swirling around the Rockies best player. Even if Tulowizki isn’t dealt, a visit to Dr. William Meyers for a consult about his current injury could foreshadow a disabled list stint that extends beyond August 5, the day he’s eligible for activation. Also, as well as Rutledge has hit (.307/.358/.486), he could earn extra playing time at the keystone position if and when the entire Rockies middle infield is healthy.
The 25-year old second base and shortstop eligible Rockies infielder gets all the perks of hitting at Coors Field, and he can fill the stat sheet at positions lacking in offensive talent. He’s needed a .408 BABIP to post a batting average north of .300, so don’t expect his average to remain that high, an average in the .270-.280 range is well within reach and supplements his power and stolen base ability well. With regular playing time, five of each are an attainable projection. Rutledge should be owned in all 12-team mixed leagues using a middle infield position and any larger leagues as well.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Ownership: ESPN: 8.7%, Yahoo!: 18%, CBS: 36%
The ownership level for Moustakas is a bit higher in CBS leagues than guys I tend to like to feature as only league plays, but Moustakas deserves a highlight and is widely available enough that it’s safe to assume he’s on the AL-only league waiver wires. The former blue chip prospect hit rock bottom in May when he was demoted to Triple-A, but he’s been a better player since his return.
The third baseman has hit nine of his 13 homers this year in 162 plate appearances since his recall, and he’s hit .231 and slugged .449 (.218 ISO). That’s not superstar production, but it’s a solid low batting average, above average power line from the hot corner. Given his pedigree, there might just be a bit more upside to his current level of play, too. Also worth noting, Moustakas has moved up to fifth in the Royals order, and his run production numbers should feel the effects of moving up in the offensive pecking order. Grab Moustakas in all 14-team mixed leagues and AL-only leagues.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Ownership: ESPN: 6.7%, Yahoo!: 5%, CBS: 10%
I personally left Sizemore for dead when the Red Sox designated him for assignment, but that might have been a tad bit premature. A dozen games is hardly a sample worth putting too much stock in (read, basically any stock in), but it’s encouraging to see him hitting with his new club. So encouraging, in fact, that Ryne Sandberg has hit him leadoff in eight of his 11 starts for the Phillies.
Any expectations of Sizemore of old are delusional, but his plate discipline stats are strong and could keep him in the leadoff spot. He’s walking in 8.6 percent of his plate appearances, and that rate helps pick up an OBP that’s dragged down by a low batting average. His batted ball profile (which isn’t large enough to have stabilized yet), does portend well for an increase in batting average too, especially when coupled with a strikeout rate below 20 percent.
After a two year layoff, projecting Sizemore going forward is tricky. One thing is clear, his knees haven’t deterred him from stealing bases at an efficient rate (six stolen bases in six attempts). His power looks less promising, but whatever pop is left in his bat will get a boost from the left-handed batter park factor of 123 for homers at Citizens Bank Park. Sizemore has cut into the playing time of Ben Revere, but the Phillies outfield should be less crowded after the July 31 trade deadline since Marlon Byrd is on the block and the team is in full sell mode. The ceiling isn’t exceptionally high, but his lineup spot, potential for steady playing time, and ballpark factors make Sizemore worth owning in NL-only leagues and some large mixed leagues using five outfielders.