Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball Week 7 Waiver Wire: 3 to Cut, 3 to Catch, 3 to Keep

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc
photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Welcome in again to 3×3, where this week, we’re giving Adam LaRoche more time, embracing the new Roberto Hernandez, and raising Matt Holliday’s threat level to orange.

If you’re wrestling with an issue about any of these players, or any players, for that matter, let’s chat it up in the comments.

3 TO CUT

Matt Holliday | St. Louis Cardinals | OF

There’s a very disturbing trend emerging in Matt Holliday’s stat line. His plate discipline numbers look fine, and although his HR/FB rate is solid, he’s making less powerful contact than ever before in his career.

Holliday has been much more aggressive on pitches in the zone this season, swinging at at 83% clip that’s a full six percentage points higher than his career average. He’s still making a lot of contact, as evidenced by his career-low swinging strike rate, but more often than not, that contact ends up with the ball on the ground.

Holliday’s groundball rate has climbed above 50% for the first time in his career and his current fly ball and line drive rates are both career lows. Unsurprisingly, his slugging percentage has sunk to its lowest level since his rookie season, nearly 100 points below his career average.

Grounders back up the middle are useful, but they’re not the sort of thing you’d expect in droves from a Top-20 fantasy outfielder.

Holliday is only 150 plate appearances into his 2013 campaign, but I don’t expect him to turn things around enough to be the Matt Holliday you drafted. His numbers in the scoring categories are actually pretty good; now is the time to flip him for a player with higher upside.

I’d trade/drop him for: Shin-Soo Choo, Jose Bautista, Chris Davis

Michael Young | Philadelphia Phillies | 3B

Michael Young has never been a favorite player of mine, probably because I don’t play in any fantasy leagues that score “grit” or “sticktoitiveness”, but he’s always been a useful player.

“Useful” would be an extremely generous description of this year’s Young, once his BABIP luck wears off.

Young has absolutely no power left. He hasn’t hit more than 11 home runs since 2008 and his HR/FB rate has declined every year since 2009. He snapped his streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles last season, and he’s on pace for a career low this year. His 0.86 ISO is among the worst in baseball, bested by such noted sluggers as Brian Dozier and Maicer Izturis.

Young has always hit more grounders than fly balls, but he’s taken it to a new level this year, with a 3/1 GB/FB ratio that nearly doubles his career average.

At first, that rate might make it seem like his current .369 BABIP isn’t completely unsustainable, but I don’t expect a 37-year-old who’s never stolen more than 13 bases in a single season to beat out many infield hits.

Young’s elevated walk rate will keep his OBP up as his BABIP regresses, but even then, don’t expect much R/RBI production. Young hits near the top of the order, but does so in one of the worst orders in baseball. Heading into Sunday’s action, the Phillies ranked 25th in the league in scoring and 28th in wOBA.

I’d trade/drop him for: Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, Will Middlebrooks

Mike Moustakas | Kansas City Royals | 3B

Mike Moustakas leads MLB with a 576.% fly ball rate. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Mike Moustakas ranks 124th among qualified hitters in HR/FB rate. Only 7.5% of his fly balls have cleared the fence and nearly triple that number haven’t even left the infield. His BABIP on fly balls checks in at a robust .082.

I’m sure that number will experience a bit of positive regression, but I’m not buying into Moustakas’ all-or-nothing approach. He’s turned himself into a more disciplined hitter so far this season, but if he continues to hit more than half of his batted balls in the air, his batting average won’t crack .240, let alone the near-.300 levels he reached in the minor leagues. An elevated walk rate will help his OBP, but he won’t reach base enough to score many runs, nor will he collect enough hits to support a strong RBI total. He reached 20 homers last year, and while he’ll likely do it again this year through the sheer quantity of fly balls he hits, Moustakas hasn’t shown the elite power it takes to reach 35 or 40 dingers at the major league lever.

As much as it’s possible to be predictable as a 24-year-old, Moustakas is. With this approach, his ceiling is clear, and frankly, it’s not that helpful to your fantasy team.

I’d trade/drop him for: Nolan Arenado, Trevor Plouffe, Jedd Gyorko

3 TO CATCH

Edwin Jackson | Chicago Cubs | SP

Edwin Jackson has been criminally unlucky this season. On top of his .333 BABIP, he has the lowest strand rate among qualified starters; just under half of the runners who’ve reached base against him have crossed home plate as well.

And it’s not all his fault.

Jackson strikes out just as many hitters with men on as he does with the bases empty, and he gets a ton of ground balls in those situations. Jackson is one of just 16 MLB starters to post a groundball rate above 55% with men on base.

Yet somehow, Jackson’s ERA with men on base is 11.39. In those same situations, his FIP is a much more respectable 3.62.

The Cubs aren’t a great defensive team, but they’re not a bad one either. The aggregate UZRs posted by Cubs infielders rank among the Top 20 at each position. An average defensive team should convert a much higher percentage of those ground balls into outs.

Jackson’s current 3.45 FIP is probably a bit generous, but he’ll continue to strikeout a batter per inning, and I do think he’ll keep his ERA well below 4.00 and his WHIP under 1.30 the rest of the way. To me, that sounds like a starter who deserves to be owned in a bit more than just 31% of Yahoo! leagues.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Travis Wood, Jhoulys Chacin, Wandy Rodriguez

Trevor Plouffe | Minnesota Twins | 3B

Since the beginning of last season, only seven full-time third basemen have had a higher HR/FB rate than Trevor Plouffe. His 15.9% rate ranks ahead of expected power sources like David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, and Todd Frazier.

Plouffe’s nagging issue has been a bottom-feeding batting average, but a shift in his batted ball profile through the first month and change of 2013 might just change that.

Plouffe’s .256 BABIP is actually right on his career average, but I expect that number to rise closer to .280. His .545 BABIP on line drives is 13th-worst among qualified hitters, and his 25.9% line drive rate is by far a career high. If that trend continues, Plouffe could easily add 20 points to his batting average, making him a considerably more attractive fantasy option.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Pedro Alvarez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Michael Young

Roberto Hernandez | Tampa Bay Rays | SP

The former Fausto Carmona has always been able to generate ground balls, but so far this season, he’s flashed swing-and-miss stuff not seen since his early days at the back end of the Cleveland Indians bullpen. Hernandez’ current 23% strikeout rate is by far the highest of his career, surpassing his career average by nearly ten percentage points.

Hernandez relies heavily on his plow horse of a fastball, especially against righties, but as we learned with our buddy Justin Masterson last week, right-handed sinkerballers are a favorite evening snack for left-handed power hitters.

Unlike Masterson, Hernandez has a counter; he’s significantly increased the usage of his suddenly devastating changeup.

Hernandez will throw his offspeed offering to just about any hitter in just about any count, and the results are almost always positive for the Rays. Hitters swing at (and miss) Hernandez’ changeup more than any of his offerings. When they do make contact, hitters are slugging only .292, with five strikeouts for every extra base hit.

The changeup doesn’t discriminate; it’s only slightly less effective against lefties than righties. While that’s not an uncommon result for a changeup, it’s an absolutely essential one given the platoon splits of Hernandez’ fastball.

With the always excellent Tampa Bay defense behind him, I don’t see any reason that Hernandez should slow down. Steamer projects him for a 3.52 ERA and 1.25 WHIP the rest of the way; that sounds just about right to me.

To pick him up, I’d drop: Justin Grimm, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAlister

3 TO KEEP

Derek Holland | Texas Rangers | SP

Derek Holland has turned a corner this season by making smart choices.

He’s got a great fastball and he leaned on it hard last season, chucking heat nearly 70% of the time. When he did go to his offspeed stuff, Holland couldn’t seem to decide which pitch to feature. He threw three different offspeed pitches last season, but didn’t use any individual pitch more than 15% of the time against either righties or lefties.

So far this season, Holland has found the recipe for hitters from both sides of the plate. He’s recognized that his fastball isn’t as overpowering against righties, so he’s turned to his slider and changeup on 40 % of his offerings. Against lefties, he’s continued to focus on his hard stuff, throwing a fastball or slider 90% of the time.

This change has driven his swinging strike rate to a career-best 10.6% and dropped his BB/9 below 2.00 for the first time in his career. Most importantly, it’s made Holland devastating against right-handed hitters.

For his career, Holland has allowed a .338 wOBA to right-handed batters. So far this season, he’s cut that number by nearly 100 points. Holland has faced 165 righties this season. Only 39 of them have reached base.

As we noted last week, a pitcher in Texas is always a risky proposition, but I believe in Holland’s transformation. His sterling 0.36 HR/9 is going to get uglier, but his sinking WHIP will help to mitigate the damage of those longballs. Unless the offer is overwhelming, resist the temptation to sell high.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Tim Lincecum, Brandon Morrow, C.J. Wilson

Jonathan Lucroy | Milwaukee Brewers | C

Everything in his numbers supports the case that he’s becoming a more disciplined hitter. He’s swinging less and making more contact when he does. He’s chasing fewer pitches outside the zone, and his BB/K has marginally improved.

Yet here he is, with all of the labor logged, sitting on a .224 batting average on May 13 because his BABIP has dropped a whopping 110 points below last year’s figure.

There’s nothing in his batted ball rates to suggest that Lucroy isn’t making solid contact; it’s only a matter of time before a few ducksnorts start dropping and he turns it around.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: J.P. Arencibia, John Buck

Adam LaRoche | Washington Nationals | 1B

As Exhibit A, I present Adam LaRoche’s career first half slash line:

.246/.324/.436

As Exhibit B, I present Adam LaRoche’s career second half slash line:

.293/.353.533

I have no idea why Adam LaRoche always seems to hit better in the second half than the first, but just because I can’t explain something doesn’t mean I should ignore it. There aren’t any glaring red flags in LaRoche’s stat line; I expect him to heat up right alongside the weather.

He belongs on your bench for now, but he doesn’t belong on the waiver wire.

I wouldn’t trade/drop him for: Eric Hosmer, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko

I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast, but I’m hot like butter on a breakfast toast: @gerardowrites

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2013 Fantasy Baseball, Total Run Series: Catchers

2 Comments

  1. Justin
    May 13, 2013 at 6:57 am — Reply

    this makes me rethink a trade I turned down yesterday and look at the stats.

    holliday, corbin for his hamels, butler.

    was I wrong to turn it down???

    • May 13, 2013 at 9:53 am — Reply

      Yeah, I’d probably lean toward the Hamels/Butler side, although I’m not a huge fan of Butler’s. I wouldn’t say you missed out on anything big.

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