2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week Four Roundup
- Welcome to the fourth edition of the weekly roundup article that will talk about some recent news related to fantasy relevant players in Major League Baseball. As each week passes, fantasy owners must evaluate their team as a whole to identify if there any weak spots that must be addressed either through trade or free agency. Even though the season is still young and in no way are the standings in your league right now an assurance of what they will look like in a couple months, it’s still a good idea to get ahead of the field by fielding and making trade offers.
For example, in one of the leagues I’m currently in my team is really struggling in the ERA/WHIP categories and Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale (who will be a topic of discussion later in the article) had just gone down a flexor muscle strain and was subsequently put on the disabled list. Along with Sale, I already have Mat Latos on the DL. Knowing that I couldn’t afford to wait any longer after Sale’s injury, I began my quest to improve my starting pitching.
After some back and forth with another owner, I was eventually offered Clayton Kershaw and Michael Wacha for Prince Fielder and Sale. Considering my first base depth with Jose Abreu, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler already on my squad, I accepted the trade. The reasoning behind accepting had a lot to do with my aforementioned first base depth and the fact that I would be getting the best pitcher in the game when healthy and a top 15 guy in Wacha. In making the trade, I improved my two worst scoring categories drastically, which was my goal of making a trade in the first place. Just wanted to give you all some insight into how I went about executing a trade.
With that being said, lets get the week four roundup started!
Sale Lands on DL
There has long been concern amongst scouts and others in the baseball world about Sale’s unorthodox delivery leading to injury one day and unfortunately for the White Sox and fantasy owners alike, that day has come. At first, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Sale would be scratched from Tuesday’s start against the Detroit Tigers with “general soreness”, only to later unveil that Sale would be heading to the 15-day disabled list with a flexor muscle strain. This is Sale’s first trip to the disabled list in his career, and it comes at an unfortunate time for his fantasy owners.
In four starts prior to his trip to the DL, Sale was 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .168 BAA, and 29 strikeouts over 27.1 innings pitched while only giving up one home run. Those are excellent numbers and fantasy owners can take solace in the fact that it looks like Sale won’t be missing a significant amount of time. An MRI revealed no ligament damage in his elbow, specifically the UCL that is commonly associated with forearm strains. There is currently no timetable for Sale to return but unless owners receive a great offer in return for him, owners should hang onto him. The southpaw is a top 10 pitcher when healthy and he has Cy Young potential. Stay tuned for updates on his return.
Mark Trumbo was diagnosed with a stress fracture of his left foot on Wednesday and the Arizona Diamondbacks promptly placed Trumbo on the 15-day disabled list. Trumbo missed almost six months of the 2011 with the same injury, albeit it was his right foot. This time around, Trumbo is expected to miss the next six weeks.
Trumbo got off to a decent start that illustrates his skill set perfectly. While he blasted 7 home runs with 19 RBI, he also hit .210. Owners who selected Trumbo certainly know that while Trumbo will supply a copious amount of Trumbombs and RBI, he is also a huge liability in the batting average department. A .264 OBP is not exactly an inspiring number either.
Trumbo’s problems at the plate seem to stem from hitting ground balls at a career-high rate (49.2%), a bad sign for a power hitter, and a lack of luck with his balls in play. His current line drive rate of 15.3% would be a career-low and his BABIP of .192 is actually lower than his batting average. He is also posting a career-high HR/FB ratio of 33.3%, but that is an unsustainable rate considering his previous career best was 20.9%. His batting average shouldn’t continue to be this bad either, his O-Swing% (29.4), which indicates the swing percentage of hitters at balls outside the strike zone, is nine percentage points lower than his previous best rate.
Trumbo owners certainly have to hang on since he will be out a month and a half. Power hitters like him aren’t too common anymore in MLB and he is worth hanging onto for that reason alone.
Machado Close to Return
Manny Machado‘s much anticipated return from offseason knee surgery is inching closer by the day and he will start a rehab assignment today with High-A Frederick. Machado has progressed steadily in his rehab and has had no setbacks after running the bases and participating in extended spring training games. Even better news is that the Baltimore Orioles expect Machado to join the club next weekend as evidenced by the following tweet.
— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) April 24, 2014
Fantasy owners who selected Machado have to be ecstatic about the encouraging news and it won’t be long before Machado is playing the hot corner for the Orioles and raking at the plate along the way. After hitting 51 doubles last season and 14 homers, it’s expected that his doubles will decrease and his home runs will increase. Assuming he returns next weekend, the Orioles will have 136 games left. My projections for Machado call for a .275 average, 15 homers, 64 RBI, and 71 runs. Plug him back in all lineups immediately upon his return.
UPDATE: Machado went 3-4 with two doubles and a triple in his first minor league rehab game on Friday night.
The Harangatan Show
After being released by the Cleveland Indians in Spring Training and then being desperately snatched up by the pitcher-needy Atlanta Braves, no one was expecting Aaron Harang to be much more than an innings eater who could help stabilize the Braves rotation. Fantasy owners probably weren’t thinking too much about Harang being a member of their squad either as he hasn’t been worth fantasy consideration in mixed leagues the last couple years.
Harang has been truly magnificent in his five starts this year though as he’s 3-1 with a 0.85 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched. Obviously he can’t keep it up to this extent, but he must be picked up in all leagues in which he is available for the time being. Harang hasn’t surrendered a homer or given up more than one earned run in a game. Additionally, his K/9 rate (9.38) would be a career-high. On the other side an ugly BB/9 rate (3.69), extremely low BABIP (.200), and unusually high LOB% (89.3) are all signs pointing to Harang going on the decline in the near future.
As previously mentioned, Harang has to be rostered in all formats for the time being, but I don’t expect him to be fantasy relevant for the whole season. In the long run he will more useful as a pitcher to stream in certain matchups, but with the way he is pitching now, you can’t sit him. Enjoy the ride while it lasts fellas, it’s going to be a hell of a roller coaster ride.
Perez Throws Shutout….Again
The Texas Rangers have been decimated by injuries this season and their starting pitching was thought to be a huge question mark entering the season, but Martin Perez has alleviated all doubts on how he will perform. Over his first five starts, Perez is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched. Perhaps the most impressive factoids are Perez has thrown two consecutive shutouts and has his scoreless innings streak up to 26. Perez certainly had breakout potential entering the season, but he has exceeded even the wildest expectations so far.
A large part of his success comes from his ability to generate ground balls at a superb rate (60.8%) and Perez has also induced 11 double plays, the most in MLB. Perez has yet to allow a homer either. That’s a recipe for success right there. Another encouraging statistic is Perez has lowered his BB/9 in 2014 (2.13) compared to 2013 (2.68). Since Perez has a lousy K/9 (5.45) he has to make sure not to give away free passes.
Perez shouldn’t be left on any waiver wires at the moment as he is absolutely dealing on the mound right now and it looks like he’ll be able to maintain mixed league relevance for the duration of the season. An ERA in the 3.4-3.6 range should be attainable and he should be able to best his 1.34 WHIP he posted last season. Pitching for a solid Texas Rangers team should assure him an abundance of chances at wins as well. Perez can post reliable SP4 value the rest of the way.
Devin “I Get Hits” Mesoraco
Devin Mesoraco didn’t start off the 2014 season with the rest of his Cincinnati Reds teammates on time due to a strained oblique that put him on the 15-day DL, but rust certainly doesn’t seem to be a factor right now. Mesoraco is the hottest hitter in MLB at the moment and he didn’t miss a beat upon his return to the lineup on April 8. In his 13 games since returning, the Reds backstop is hitting a remarkable .468 with 3 home runs, 13 RBI, 10 runs, and a .509 OBP. Seven multi-hit games out of 13 is quite the hot streak. His OPS is 1.297, simply incredible.
The 25-year-old had breakout potential written all over him entering the season and he is certainly living up to the hype so far as the everyday catcher. Mesoraco should be picked up in all formats and he can be counted on as a starter in one-catcher leagues at this point. His .543 BABIP and .319 ISO are sights to behold at the moment. Not impressed? How about a 36.8% line drive rate and a 28.0 O-Swing%.
Obviously his current level of production will not last for an extended period of time but he has a great chance of producing solid numbers the rest of the way. Unfortunately for the Reds and his fantasy owners, he strained his left hamstring on the bases last night and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Owners shouldn’t drop him though, as he expects to return once his 15 days are up. This is obviously a tough blow to anyone who has been lucky enough to start Mesoraco lately, but hopefully this injury doesn’t affect his great rhythm at the plate.
Tidbits: Chase Headley has been placed on the 15-day DL with a right calf strain, plan accordingly. Josh Donaldson is off to a hot start, hitting .287 with 7 homers, 20 RBI, and 19 runs. The breakout in 2013 appears to be real. Adrian Beltre has been activated from the 15-day DL and he went 1-5 with an RBI double in his first game back yesterday. Adam Eaton is returning to the White Sox lineup after sitting out with hamstring tightness. Will Middlebrooks is being activated from the disabled list. Albert Pujols hit his 500th homer and is tied for the MLB lead with Jose Abreu with 9 home runs after another one on Friday night. The 34-year-old slugger looks to be back with a vengeance as he is batting .293 with a .356 OBP and has 21 RBI. Abreu hit a walk-off grand slam for the White Sox and finished the night 3-5 with two runs, two homers, and six RBI. This is already his third multi-homer game and the White Sox are only 24 games into the season. The rookie is tied for the MLB lead in RBI with 27. Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is off to a scorching start at the plate, as he is hitting .410 with 5 home runs, 16 RBI, 19 runs, and 6 steals. Blackmon is currently the top ranked player in the game as hard as it is to believe and owners should ride him until the wheels fall off, which may be very soon by the way. Chris Davis left Friday’s game with an oblique strain, an injury that often forces the afflicted player to the disabled list. Check for updates on Davis in the coming days.
Thanks for reading and thanks to FanGraphs and Yahoo for the statistical information. Be sure to comment below if you have any questions or comments and feel free to follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy. I’m more than willing to answer any questions you may have.