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 look at some former blue-chip prospects as well as a reliever who used to be among baseball’s top-tier closers.
Max’s Players to Pick Up/Trade Targets:
Max Muncy, 1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
It looks like the Dodgers have yet another successful reclamation project on their hands. After turning around the careers of Justin Turner and Chris Taylor, the Dodgers acquired Muncy via free agency (he was released by Oakland prior to the 2017 season). Muncy spent all of 2017 in the minors for the Dodgers and has done nothing but hit since getting called back up to the big leagues this year. In 44 games this season, Muncy is triple-slashing .272/.395/.616 with 12 HR, 28 RBI, and a respectable 37:25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The power breakout seems to be legitimate, too; Muncy has increased his fly ball rate to 47.7% to go along with a hard-hit rate of 43.2%. The 27-year-old is also close to gaining outfield eligibility in ESPN leagues (he already has in Y! leagues), so if you’re in need of some corner outfield help, Muncy is the hot hand to ride.
Leonys Martin, OF, Detroit Tigers
Leonys Martin is currently on pace for the best offensive season of his career. That’s not saying much considering that his career high for offensive rWAR is 2.6, but Martin is on pace to outperform that by a wide margin. Over 231 PA this season, Martin is triple-slashing .262/.329/.476 with 9 HR and 5 SB. There is a very real possibility that Martin goes 20-20 for the first time in his career this season, and he should have ample opportunities to rack up the counting stats at the top of the Tigers lineup.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
It seems that Joc Pederson has finally figured out how to not strike out in a third of his PA. Okay, perhaps one-third of his PA is an exaggeration, but through the first four years of his career, Pederson carried a 26.7% strikeout rate. This season, that rate is all the way down to 14.5%. Granted, Joc is also walking less, but the power is just as present as it has ever been and it seems we have the makings of a legitimate top-40 outfielder in daily leagues. In weekly leagues, it’s tougher to roster Pederson because he often sits against lefties, but that trend could change if he continues his hot hitting. Pederson is a must-add in nearly all daily leagues as well as a speculative add in weekly leagues.
Andrew Heaney, SP, Los Angeles Angels
The fact that Heaney is still owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues is blasphemous, so I have to highlight him here. Heaney came up with the Marlins as a blue-chip prospect and made his debut two weeks after his 23rd birthday. He struggled to a 4.48 ERA over the first four years of his career, but it seems that at age 27, the lefty has finally figured it all out. This is thanks in part to his curveball that doesn’t really curve. Fangraphs has the pitch labeled as a slider, whereas Brooks Baseball has the pitch labeled as a curveball, a testament to how difficult this pitch is to classify. Regardless of what it is, it has been working; hitters are slugging just .292 against the pitch and whiffing at it at an 18% clip. Heaney sports a 3.12 ERA and 3.19 FIP this season with a mark of 8.6 K/9, so it looks like his success will continue and that he is a must-add in every format.
Hector Rondon, RP, Houston Astros
Hector Rondon picked up three saves this past week. A.J. Hinch, the Astros manager, has been known to ride the hot hand with the bullpen, and it appears that he is doing just that of late. Ken Giles, the normal Houston closer, holds an uninspiring 4.98 ERA on the season and Rondon has been lights out with a 1.57 ERA and 10.2 K/9. I’m skeptical as to whether Hinch would be willing to commit to Rondon as the full-time closer, but there’s no hurt in picking him up while he is seeing save opportunities for one of the best teams in baseball. If nothing else, Rondon will be able to help with your team’s ratios.
Alex’s Deep League Adds
Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins
Ownership: 26% (Y!), 28% (ESPN)
Coming in at a smooth 30 years young, Kyle Gibson is having himself a good year. Gibson is striking out nine batters per nine, has an ERA of 3.45 and has a groundball rate of 46%. One aspect of his profile that is a little worrisome, though, is his walk rate of 4 BB/9, one more batter per game than last year. Gibson does have eight quality starts on the season, but those quality starts have not translated into wins. He only has one win on the season to go with four losses. Hopefully, the Twins offense can help him out going forward and begin to give Gibson the credit that he deserves. Gibson is a good option for a team that is looking for a consistent pitcher that can only improve going forward in the wins category.
Yairo Muñoz, SS/OF (OF only in ESPN), St. Louis Cardinals
Ownership: 6% (Y!) and 7% (ESPN)
With the injury of the Cardinals Paul DeJong being ruled out until early July, we have seen the emergence of Yairo Muñoz. Yairo Muñoz was acquired through the Stephen Piscotty trade that sent him to the Oakland Athletics. Muñoz should also still see a role on the Cardinals even when DeJong comes back mainly because of his defensive capabilities and he has some experience playing in the outfield. Muñoz has been hitting well for the season as he has anAVG of .263 to go along with three HRs and 13 RBIs all while hitting towards the bottom of the order. Muñoz has been getting lucky though as his BABIP sits at .340 and he is striking at 28%, which is very high. But he is still getting hard contact (35.8%) and with a steady line drive rate of 22.6%. At the thin shortstop position, Muñoz is a good fill for DeJong owners and should still see a spot on the Cardinals even when he returns.
Yolmer Sanchez, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox
Ownership: 16% (Y!), and 22% (ESPN)
Yoán Moncada is definitely more of a household name from the South Side of Chicago than Yolmer Sánchez, but Sánchez should be getting more love for the season he is having. Though somewhat overshadowed by his infield counterpart, Sánchez has a better AVG than Moncada (.276 vs. .233), more RBIs (27 vs. 22), and has only two fewer stolen bases (five vs. seven). Moncada was a heralded prospect during his tenure in the Red Sox farm system but he is currently being outplayed by a player only owned in 16% of Yahoo! leagues. Sánchez is also hitting at the top of the lineup, hitting in front of the always-dangerous José Abreu, so his run production is not at risk for a decline barring an injury to Abreu.
Are you still not convinced that Sánchez is for real? Last season, Sánchez’s hard-hit rate was 24% and this season it is up to 29%. Unfortunately, his fly ball rate has gone down to 26% compared to last season when it was 34%. If Sánchez can increase his fly ball rate to where it was last season last season, we could see a 15-20 HR, 10+ SB type of player when all is said and done. Sanchez is a great player to own as he can help in many different categories and is available in nearly all leagues.