2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week Five Roundup
On draft day, one of the main principles I live by is to not end up with too many injury-prone players on my squads. The thinking behind this is you want to try to minimize risk on draft day as navigating your way through a grueling 162 game schedule is hard enough without dealing with an abundance of injuries. The downside to this strategy is you’re missing out the potential upside the injury-prone player may possess should he happen to stay healthy all year, but it all depends on the viewpoint of the owner.
Sometimes this works out great if the player(s) you avoided wind up getting hurt, while other times the player finally manages to set a new career-high in games played and puts up some major counting stats to make you feel sick to your stomach. That’s the feeling that is starting to set in for me as I look at the statistical profile for Troy Tulowitzki this season. As you can probably imagine, Tulo isn’t on any of my teams. Anyone who took the risk of selecting Tulowitzki as a first or second-round pick is being handsomely rewarded right now. The real question fantasy owners should be asking themselves if they own Tulo is if now is the time to sell high on the oft-injured player.
With that being said, lets get the week five roundup started by making the Colorado Rockies stud shortstop our first topic of conversation.
Tulo Windows Tulo Wall
The Rockies superstar has got off to an electrifying start at the plate, as evidenced by .376/.486./.753 slash line over his first 26 games (not counting the Rockies game on Wednesday). Tulowitzki also has seven home runs, 22 RBI, and 24 runs. While his zero steals is a disappointment, fantasy owners would rather see him on the field healthy rather than making a head-first slide on a steal and possibly injuring a hand as Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper have already showed us.
Tulo has been especially hot over his last 11 games. Over that timeframe, Tulo is hitting .447 with six home runs, 16 RBI, and 13 runs. For the season, he is hitting .419 against LHP and .352 against RHP. Want to be even more impressed? You got it. His 28.4% line drive rate is almost eight percentage points better than his previous career-high (20.8%) and his 18.7% walk rate obliterates his previous best rate (11.6%). Additionally, Tulowitzki’s strikeout rate of 12.1% would be a career-low. Last but not least, it’s tough to leave out his remarkable .376 ISO. Check out his zone profile below.
Tulowitzki has a long track record of success so you don’t need me to tell you he’s an elite player in MLB. The 29-year-old is reaching the peak of his powers and may be in store for a career year, IF he can stay healthy. Over his last seven seasons, Tulowitzki has only managed to play 150+ games twice, and 140+ once. Owners who are feeling frisky may believe this is his time to shine and he’ll surpass the 150 game threshold and deliver unbelievable value.
Not everyone will be that rosy on his outlook though, which is why if you have major questions about his ability to stay healthy for the duration of the season, now may be the time to cash in on your valuable asset. With his value currently peaking, now is the perfect time to sell high on Tulo. Someone will be willing to pony up some quality players to acquire his services and if you think it’s the right deal, do it. Better yet, if you have any trade offers you have questions about, go to the top right link on our website that says Fantasy Sports Advice and you can send us a personalized question that will be answered promptly.
Bryce Harper: Everyday I’m Hustling
Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams called out Harper for not hustling on a routine ground ball he hit to the pitcher, when Harper happened to be dealing with a sore quad and an illness. Harper apparently took the word to heart, but unfortunately was a victim of his own hard work. Last Friday, Harper legged out a triple but in the process he jammed his left thumb diving head-first to third base. As it turns out, an MRI revealed Harper tore his ulnar collateral ligament and he’s already had surgery on it. The injury will sideline him until early July. This is a devastating blow to owners who spent an early draft pick on the 21-year-old and were banking on a huge year.
Before the unfortunate injury to the rising young star, Harper was batting .289 with one homer, nine RBI, eight runs, and one steal. His .133 ISO is way too low for someone with his skill set and his strikeout rate of 23.1% would be a career-worst rate. Obviously the sample size is small, but Harper was not delivering the gaudy stats so many envisioned from him before the year. Owners must know decide what to do with Harper and since each owner is in a different situation, there really is no right answer. The only wrong answer would be dropping Harper.
If your squad is currently at the top of the standings and look to be positioned well for the future, stashing Harper may be the way to go for you. On the flip side, if your team is floundering and you need to make up for the production lost from Harper for the next couple months, exploring trade opportunities would be a wise route. In one highly competitive league I’m in, the first place team shipped off Harper for Jonathan Papelbon since he is desperate for saves. In my opinion, this was not a good trade to make for the Harper owner. You would think that the owner may have traded for some offensive firepower or at least a closer better than Papelbon. Definitely didn’t get enough in this instance, don’t make a panicky trade like this friends!
Kershaw Return on the Horizon
Clayton Kershaw has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 29 with upper back inflammation and many fantasy owners were nervous over how long it would take the best pitcher in MLB to return to the bump. While there were a few scares early on in the rehab when there wasn’t a clear timetable, Kershaw didn’t have any setbacks and slated to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 5 against the Nationals. This is obviously excellent news for those who waited out the lengthy absence for the uber-talented southpaw during his trip to the disabled list.
Kershaw looked good in his final rehab start on Wednesday night with Double-A Chattanooga. Over his five innings pitched, Kershaw threw 86 pitches while giving up one earned run, allowing six hits, and striking out nine batters. The Dodgers may be cautious with their $215 million pitcher at first by limiting his pitch count, but don’t expect that to last long. The Dodgers are built to win now and Kershaw is a huge piece of the puzzle for that team.
Assuming Kershaw is able to stay healthy for the rest of the season, my forecast for him is 200 IP with a 2.40 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 198 strikeouts. Enjoy the constant excellence that Kershaw exhibits while on the mound, he’s a special pitcher.
The Rejuvenation of Morneau
After rising to stardom as a player of the Minnesota Twins, Justin Morneau had been unable to produce at rates comparable to his monstrous seasons earlier on in his career for the last couple seasons. Coming back from a severe concussion played a huge factor to be sure, but maybe a change of scenery was all Morneau really needed. The Twins shipped him off to the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and he failed to homer in 25 games for the Buccos and he only collected three RBI. His late season struggles caused many owners to quickly glance at his name without giving a second thought to drafting him even though he is now on the Colorado Rockies.
Sure enough, Morneau has come out looking like a MVP caliber player over his first 26 games. Prior to tonight’s game, Morneau is slashing a robust .357/.381/.643 with six home runs, 22 RBI, and 14 runs. He is also on a 13-game hitting streak and over that time he is hitting .396. Playing half your games in the hitters haven known as Coors Field can do that for you as Morneau is certainly reaping the benefits of playing in the best hitters park in the league. The real question many are wondering is can he keep it up?
Time to take a look at some advanced statistics to evaluate his chances of being a relevant player for the remainder of the season. Some positives are a career-high ISO (.256), second-lowest strikeout rate (12.4%), and second-highest BABIP (.358). Both his ISO and BABIP are sure to fall though. Now for the negatives. His walk rate of 3.8% would be a career-low, as would a 31.0% flyball rate. Additionally, a 48.4% ground ball rate and a 14.8% infield fly ball rate aren’t exactly inspiring numbers for a power hitter. His 41.5% O-Swing rate (which indicates a swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone), would also be a career-worst rate.
Overall, his current level of success seems to be unsustainable and I would consider Morneau a sell-high player. Sure he may hit over 20 homers and drive in closer to 90 RBI than 70, but he’s not going to hit over .300 again and his run totals will be mediocre. Can he be a worthwhile fantasy asset for the rest of the season? Sure. He obviously needs to be owned in all fantasy formats until he cools off but I believe the best course of action would be to see what kind of player you can get in return for him. It’s always good to be one step ahead of the competition.
Gray Domination Continues
24-year-old Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray has gotten off to a helluva start to the 2014 season. Through his first 41 innings, Gray is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 37/14 K/BB ratio. With an ERA that low you would expect his WHIP to be lower, but a BB/9 of 3.07 is hurting the cause. Gray hasn’t made it through a start this year without issuing a walk.
In his last start against the Texas Rangers though, Gray threw the first complete game of his career. Gray seems to keep getting better and the A’s tend to have a habit of getting the most out of their pitchers. The youngster is being relied upon as the ace of the staff, along with Scott Kazmir, and both the A’s and fantasy owners have to be thrilled with their investment.
Gray’s repertoire consists of a fastball, curveball, and changeup. Compared to last season, Gray is throwing his fastball 5.7% less. At the same time, Gray is also throwing his curveball 2.0% more and his changeup 5.7% more. Whatever the reason behind the slight change in his pitching philosophy, it seems to be working. Although his strikeout rate is down from last year (9.42) his current 8.12 rate isn’t too bad and he’s only surrendered one homer. Take a look at the three gifs below to see Gray’s fastball, curveball, and changeup in action in a recent start against the Houston Astros.
Gray certainly has all the makings of an ace starting pitcher and he should hold reliable SP2 value all year long and SP1 value isn’t out of the question. Gray could certainly command a pretty penny, but I would be an owner looking to hold onto Gray for the time being.
Tidbits: Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher prospect Archie Bradley has been placed on the 7-day disabled list with Triple-A Reno with a mild flexor strain in his right elbow. Don’t expect to see Bradley in the majors anytime soon. Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn is off to a good start in 2014, batting a rather remarkable .280 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI. He should be owned in many formats while his average isn’t killing you as you know his power will always be there. Carlos Santana has homered in two of his last three games as he tries to shake off a dreadful start. Buy low on the talented hitter, his 22/22 K/BB rate suggests he is seeing the ball well and his luck will shift soon. Francisco Rodriguez earned his 13th save (most in MLB) for the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday and his ERA remains spotless at 0.00. Jason Kipnis left Tuesday’s game with an abdominal strain and he could be headed to the disabled list. Michael Pineda will be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a Grade 1 strain of his teres major muscle in his back. Mike Minor will return to the Atlanta Braves rotation on Friday vs. the San Francisco Giants. Lock him into your lineups as a SP2/SP3 type. Ryan Braun‘s intercostal strain was reclassified as an oblique strain and if it doesn’t improve in the next couple days, he will likely land on the disabled list. Shin-Soo Choo returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday from a sprained ankle. Choo went 1-1 with two walks and a run and looks ready to be activated for all fantasy owners. The Cleveland Indians have demoted Carlos Carrasco to the bullpen and it looks like Trevor Bauer could get called up to take his spot in the rotation. Owners looking for pitching help should make the speculative add.
Thanks to FanGraphs, BrooksBaseball, and Yahoo for the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any remarks or questions you may have. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions you may have.