Welcome to another edition of M-SABR’s fantasy baseball analysis! Each week, members of our staff will provide their take on notable players to help inform decisions in your own fantasy baseball leagues. In this week’s article, we will discuss a popular veteran fresh off of the disabled list that should be on your radar, the struggles of a key member of the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros, and some sleeper picks to round out your infield and pitching staff in deeper leagues.
Max’s Players to Pick Up/Trade Targets:
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
To be clear, if you’re adding Pedroia at this stage, you’re not going to be getting 2008 MVP, Dustin Pedroia. You will, however, be getting a solid veteran player who will likely walk as much as he strikes out, hit for a respectable average, and have a solid run and RBI production in the middle of the Red Sox lineup. In two games since returning from the disabled list, Pedroia is hitless. However, he has two walks and a run in nine plate appearances and just one strikeout. The hitting will come, and Pedroia probably won’t walk at a 22% clip, but hitting in the middle of one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball will pay dividends for Pedroia owners.
Jose Alvarado, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
After Alex Colome was dealt to the Seattle Mariners on Friday evening, many speculated that Sergio Romo, who has prior closing experience, would be the first to garner save opportunities for the Rays. No conventional save situations have presented themselves in Tampa, though Austin Pruitt got a 5.2 inning save on Sunday. Alvarado, even if he does not get the first crack at the ninth, is worth a speculative add because his ratios and strikeout total have all been good so far this season. Saves would just be the icing on top of the cake.
Joe Musgrove, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Musgrove was one of the centerpieces of the Gerrit Cole trade this past offseason. He has been far from dominant in the majors (career 4.52 ERA and 1.284 WHIP entering 2018) but the Pirates saw enough to take Musgrove as a piece for their ace. After making four minor league rehab starts in preparation for his debut, Musgrove dazzled with the big league club. The righty threw seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, five hits, and no walks. The most impressive part of the outing is that it took Musgrove just 67 pitches to complete the seven innings. His seven swinging strikes leave a little something to be desired, but percentage-wise, a 10.4% whiff rate is very respectable. Musgrove isn’t a must-add by any means right now, but the Pirates have a good track record for developing pitchers further and Musgrove has the pedigree, so this could be the beginning of a legitimate breakout.
Nick Tropeano, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Tropeano does not have the pedigree of Musgrove but results are results. In 32 career appearances (31 starts) since 2014, Tropeano has a 3.82 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9. None of these marks are stellar, but Tropeano is a serviceable starter that can sit in the back of your rotation and eat some innings. This season, Tropeano is not striking out as many batters as his career mark, but his WHIP is down and his ERA is right in line with what he has done. Plus, he has three quality starts in his past four outings, so if nothing else he’ll throw some solid innings with solid ratios and decent strikeout numbers. Is he exciting? No, but results are results.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
Nimmo, unlike Tropeano, is very exciting. Aside from having an 80-grade smile (he would have a higher grade if possible), Nimmo has a great eye at the plate and very elite plate discipline for such a young hitter. When he starts, Nimmo is leading off for the Mets, and he is doing a fantastic job of getting on base; among players with at least 100 PA this season, Nimmo is fifth in baseball with a .425 OBP. That’s right behind Aaron Judge and ahead of some guys named Arenado, Bryant, Freeman, and Votto. If you’re in an OBP league Nimmo should have been owned a long time ago, but if he’s still out there go get him now before the rest of the league realizes that he’s quietly raking for the Mets.
Zane’s Struggling Studs
Drew Pomeranz, SP, Boston Red Sox
While Boston has enjoyed brilliant performances from Chris Sale and Rick Porcello this season, along with receiving solid production from David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, struggling starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz has been the biggest problem for the team in terms of pitching. In his most recent outing, Pomeranz lasted only three-and-one-third innings against Atlanta, as he was roughed up for five earned runs and nine baserunners (nearly a 3 WHIP). In fact, Pomeranz has not posted a quality start since the beginning of May and only has two quality starts and one win all season long. His 6.75 ERA and 1.88 WHIP are absolutely horrible for a starting pitcher and yet the first-place Red Sox are still sending him out. Just because they are doesn’t mean you should, though. Pomeranz has a FIP of 5.39 and an xFIP of 5.12. He’s getting a little unlucky as he’s stranding 8% fewer baserunners than usual (he has a 67.8% left-on-base percentage this year compared to a career 75.8% rate), but he’s allowing 1.69 home runs per nine innings and is issuing a free pass in 12.5% of the time. Pomeranz is only owned in 20.4% of ESPN leagues at this point and that number should be lower. Unless you truly believe Pomeranz will regain his 2016 and 2017 form and that the two years were not an outlier, drop him.
Tyler Clippard, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
With Roberto Osuna under investigation for domestic abuse, the Blue Jays opted for Tyler Clippard in save situations. The experiment did not exactly go as planned, as in his last four outings, Clippard has combined for one save, two blown saves, a hold, and a total of seven earned runs over 3 IP. Despite the rough stretch, Clippard is only at a 3.46 ERA and 1.27 WHIP on the season, which could be worse, but those numbers are more acceptable for a starter in fantasy than a reliever. There is no real reason to hold onto Clip at this point. His 3.46 ERA has benefitted from a lot of luck, as he has a 4.61 FIP and a 5.03 xFIP due to opponents having a .230 BABIP against him. He also is walking 5.19 batters per nine innings which is a recipe for disaster in relief appearances. Seung Hwan Oh has been the superior set-up man out of the Blue Jays bullpen and will likely receive the remaining save opportunities until Roberto Osuna returns. Drop Clip and pick up Oh if you’re desperate for saves.
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/2B/SS/OF, Houston Astros
In 2017, Marwin Gonzalez turned heads all across MLB as he provided massive value to the World Champion Houston Astros. In 134 games last year, Gonzalez had an incredible .377 OBP with 23 HR, 67 R, and 90 RBI as a utility player en route to a 4 fWAR season (not that the fWAR matters for fantasy). This year has been a huge difference. Gonzalez has been a replacement-level player, with a miserable .291 OBP (he’s batting .214), 4 HR, 16 R, and 25 RBI. His power has dramatically fallen off, as his ISO has dropped from .226 to .101, and while he has had some poor luck at the plate with his BABIP falling from .343 to .274, his 2018 BABIP is actually more in line with his career BABIP of .309. Gonzalez has been a liability for fantasy owners in 2018 despite his flexibility and there is no real reason to keep him on your roster. Prior to 2017, he never exceeded 1.5 fWAR, and he will be lucky to match that number this year. He might get eight or nine more home runs this year, but Gonzalez is not worth the roster spot unless you’re in a deep league.
Alex’s Deep League Adds
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Ownership: 20% (Yahoo!), 20% (ESPN)
Jeimer Candelario was hitting great up until his recent DL stint because of wrist tendinitis. Only 24 years old, Candelario has an OBP of .364, has seven HRs and 20 RBIs. on the year. Since coming back from the DL, he has two HRs and four RBIs in three games. Candelario is hitting from the three spot in front of the red-hot Nick Castellanos and with Miguel Cabrera coming back soon, he could get an uptick in runs. If you need a third baseman who gets on base a high amount, Candelario is your guy.
Brian Anderson, 3B/OF, Miami Marlins
Ownership: 11% (Yahoo!), 23% (ESPN)
For a player hitting regularly from the four and five spot, Brian Anderson has a rather low ownership percentage. Of course, the Marlins are having a rough year so far, but he should be garnering more attention. This is Anderson’s first season starting at the MLB level, but he has posted respectable numbers so far. He is hitting .282 to go with two HRs and 23 RBIs and he has an OBP of .366. His HR total is low, but his AVG and OBP are very nice for a corner infielder. Anderson is not your prototypical corner infielder who hits for power, but if you’re looking for a player that gets on base consistently, he is a great option and most likely available in your fantasy league.
Ryan Yarbrough, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays
Ownership: 7% (Yahoo!), 8% (ESPN)
The main highlight of the Rays pitching this season has been the rise of the “opener” by using relievers to start games, but another good pitching storyline has been Ryan Yarbrough. On the year, Yarbrough has an ERA of 3.21, a WHIP of 1.09 and an 8 K/9 rate. In his previous three starts, he has logged in 17 innings, while allowing only three runs to go with 16 Ks. Not too shabby. There are some warning signs though, which include a BABIP of .254 and his groundball rate isn’t stellar at 37%. However, I wouldn’t be too worried though as most of his numbers so far this season are in line with what he has done throughout his career while developing in the minors. It’s also great to see that he is pitching deeper and deeper into games including a career-high of seven innings last time out. Yarbrough is definitely worth an addition to any deeper league team that is looking for a starter who can help with ERA and WHIP.