Welcome to another edition of M-SABR’s fantasy baseball analysis! In this week’s article, we will debut a new feature highlighting a hitter and pitcher that had fantastic performances for their teams over the past week and exploring their outlook for the rest of the season. In addition, we will analyze two elite outfielders who have underperformed in recent weeks, look at a veteran starting pitcher that is on his 13th major league team(!) that could provide some quality innings on a deep league squad, and much more!
Anthony’s Stars of the Week
Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
This Week’s Stats: .464 AVG, 5 HR, 7 R, 10 RBI, 2 SB
After a slow start to the season, Alex Bregman kicked it up a notch this week. Starting off the week, Bregman homered in three straight games and added five runs and six RBIs. The highlight of this series was his 4-for-5 day, where he hit one home run and three doubles, adding on two runs and three RBI. While he cooled off a little during the four-game series in Tampa Bay, he was still added to his impressive stat line with two more home runs, two runs, and four RBI. Bregman’s increase in power this season bodes well for his fantasy relevance as long as he is able to keep it up. With series’ against the Rangers and White Sox next week, he should be able to continue his hot streak for the time being. Bregman’s power and speed combination play very well in fantasy, and he should continue to be a top third baseman for the rest of the season.
Kenta Maeda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
This Week’s Stats: 14 IP, 1 W, 1.29 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 18 K
Kenta Maeda has always been a solid-if-not-good fantasy option, but this week he continued his march towards being a top 30 starter. After struggling in his start against the Cubs last week, he came back and dominated them on Monday, going seven shutout innings, giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out nine. He followed that up with another solid start on Saturday, giving up two earned runs in seven innings while again striking out nine. For the season, Maeda is striking out more batters than he ever has (10.68 K9) and limiting home runs (8.8% HR/FB). His 3.07 FIP suggests that this is the version of Maeda that we will be seeing for the rest of the season. While Maeda only has one start next week, it is against the struggling Angels, so there is no reason to believe that he won’t be able to continue his hot streak.
Sahil’s Struggling Stars
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
After an extraordinary season in 2017 in which he batted .283/.367/.522 to go with 34 HRs and 85 RBIs and a wRC+ of 140, George Springer was a popular early-round pick in most fantasy formats this draft season. While it looked like Springer was going to reward owners who put their faith in him to begin the season, posting a .293/.367/.507 batting line nearly identical to his 2017 numbers through June 15th, he has slumped badly recently. Over his last 58 at-bats, Springer has only 4 hits, with a solo home run the extent of his run-producing numbers during that span. As a result, his batting line has dropped to an above average but not amazing .253/.332/.442 triple slash through 82 games.
So, is it time to panic?
Not really. Much of Springer’s batting profile is similar to his previous seasons. While he is walking less than last year (9.7% in 2018, compared to 10.2% in 2017) and posting a higher strikeout rate (18.5% in 2018, compared to 17.6% in 2017), those differences are relatively minor and not a cause for major concern. The strikeout rate, in particular, is still significantly down from the 23.9% rate from his very good 2016 season, suggesting that he is maintaining the improvements in plate discipline he exhibited last season.
In addition, Springer’s BABIP of .276 is down from the .297 number he posted in 2017. While that is not a huge difference, it at least suggests that there is some room for positive regression. Furthermore, Springer’s stolen base numbers are up this year. After posting only 5 stolen bases in 140 games last year, he has already matched that total in 82 games this year. It would not be unreasonable to think that Springer can reach 10 stolen bases by the end of the year, which would represent a nice boon to his fantasy value.
The news is not all perfect though. After posting a .239 ISO in 2017, that number is down to .189 in 2018. That’s still a very good number, but it probably means that we’re looking closer to a 27-28 home run season for Springer as opposed to the 34 home runs he hit in 2017. In addition, with 42 RBIs through 328 at-bats, he is on pace for fewer RBI’s than in 2017 when he posted 85 RBIs in 548 at-bats.
Ultimately, I believe that Springer will still be a valuable fantasy asset for the rest of the season. There is simply no way he will hit as poorly as he has over his last 58 at-bats. While his counting stats might not be in line with his 2017 numbers, if he can produce 27-28 HRs, 75-80 RBIs, 10 SBs, and a batting line around .280/.360/.500, he can still be a fixture in your fantasy lineup. If a frustrated owner in your league is looking to dump him, I would try and buy low now before he emerges from the slump he is currently in. Verdict: Keep if you own him, Buy Low if you do not
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
Like George Springer, Charlie Blackmon posted an extraordinary season in 2017. His .331/.399/.601 batting line and 141 wRC+ were good enough to make him a first-round pick in most fantasy formats. However, those numbers have plummeted this year, as .271/.348/.459 and 104 wRC+ seemingly indicate that he is only very slightly better than a league average hitter. He is nowhere close to the home run and RBI numbers he posted in 2017 (37 HRs and 104 RBIs in 725 plate appearances last year compared to only 14 HRs and 35 RBIs in 351 plate appearances this year). This begs the question of how Blackmon’s numbers have declined so quickly.
On the surface, the differences between Blackmon’s 2018 batting profile and his profile in previous seasons are very similar to Springer’s. Like Springer, his strikeout and walk rates have actually slightly improved this season (9.4% BB% and 18.5% K% this year, compared to 9.0% BB% and 18.6% K% in 2017). In addition, his .302 BABIP is a far cry from the .350 and .371 numbers he posted in 2016 and 2017, respectively, suggesting that there should be some correction to his unusually low batting average.
However, a look at his home/road splits reveals an area of concern. His home numbers have and will continue to be inflated by playing in Coors Field. While his .299/.373/.445 home batting line in 2018 is still very good, it is nowhere close to the astronomical .391/.466/.773 batting line he posted at Coors Field in 2017. I expect his home batting numbers to go up a decent amount, it will still probably end up quite a bit lower than his 2017 line, deflating his overall batting line for the season. This would be alright if his road numbers haven’t been declining in recent years. After posting a .926 OPS on the road in 2016, those numbers have declined to .784 in 2017 and .797 in 2018. While this downward trend was effectively masked by the ridiculous OPS at Coors Field last year, his numbers this year suggest that Blackmon’s skills may actually be declining a bit at the age of 32.
Lastly, Blackmon’s power numbers this year have declined sharply. After posting a career-high .270 ISO in 2017, that number is down to .188 in 2018. While his power statistics are a bit fluky this year (there is no way he continues to slug only .445 with only 20% of his overall home runs at Coors Field), it is pretty evident that there is at least some drop in his power.
Here’s what I think all of these statistics mean. Blackmon has probably gotten a bit unlucky on the season with his batting average due to his low BABIP, and we should probably expect an increase in his current power numbers because of Coors Field. Yet, I think his numbers are going to take a decent hit from last year because he will not hit close to his 2017 pace at home that has made up for some of his road shortcomings in recent years. Despite being one of the top 3-5 outfielders off the board on draft day, I think he will probably end up being closer to a top 15 outfielder (similar to my expectations for Springer). His high ranking on draft day is the reason I’d recommend exploring deals for Blackmon (as opposed to my recommendation to hold onto Springer). If someone is willing to pay first-round value to acquire Blackmon or is willing to trade you another elite struggling player with a bit more upside (i.e. someone like Bryce Harper — a player I previously covered who I am much higher on the rest of the season), I would go for it. If not, I would keep Blackmon and hope he can recapture some of the magic that made him so good in 2017.
Verdict: Trade if the value is there, Keep otherwise
Erik and Alex’s Deep-League Adds
Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
Owned: 11% ESPN, 13% Yahoo!
Wheeler won’t help you much with the wins category because he plays for the Mets, but if you’re in a QS-league and in need of starting pitching, you should scoop him up. 5 of his last 8 starts have been quality starts, and in that stretch, he has compiled an ERA of 3.38 while striking out 48 batters in 50.2 innings. If you’re looking at his stats on the season and see his 4.47 ERA, don’t worry because he has a FIP of 3.66 (which has certainly lower over his past 8 starts). All this, coupled with the fact that he could be on the move to a contender, makes him a worthwhile pickup.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Oakland Athletics
Owned: 3% ESPN, 3% Yahoo!
If you’re in a deep league and looking to take a chance on a starting pitcher, Jackson is your guy. After being called up a week ago, he has pitched 2 gems, striking out 13 batters in 12.2 innings pitched, only giving up 3 earned runs, 8 hits, and, most impressively, 0 walks. His most recent start was against the red-hot Indians offense. He hasn’t been an effective pitcher the past two seasons, but he is definitely worth a speculative add in deep leagues with the hope that he can keep up his success from this season.
Jason Heyward, OF, Chicago Cubs
Owned: 20% ESPN, 15% Yahoo!
Heyward looks like he has turned a corner. Since May 29th (28 games), he has a slash line of .359/.395/.530 to go along with 11 doubles, 20 runs, and 18 RBI. He has had 12 multi-hit games in that stretch, including three 3-hit games and three 4-hit games. He won’t help you much with home runs or stolen bases, but considering he has been so good at everything else for over a month, he needs to be owned in more leagues.
Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Owned: 7% ESPN, 10% Yahoo!
Jesse Winkler is a great addition for any team that has OBP as a category. He currently has a higher BB% (15%) than K% (14.6) and there really isn’t any signs of that slowing down. Also, his AVG sits at .266, but his OBP is at an impressive .381. This is no outlier season for Winker, as he has consistently been a reliable on-base player who has had an OBP of +.350 throughout his minor league career. Winker will not do much damage in any other category besides AVG., but he is very similar to Brian Anderson of the Miami Marlins who gets on base and does it well. Unfortunately, he is not hitting at the top of the lineup, nor in front of Joey Votto, but maybe Jim Riggleman will see Winker’s value of getting on base and move him up. Winker is a must own in deep leagues where OBP is a scored category and is worth a flier even if it not recorded.
Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Ownership: 18% ESPN, 8% Yahoo!
Rated as the fifth-best prospect in the Rays farm system, Jake Bauers is getting his first crack at the show. In 93 at-bats on the year, he is hitting a cool .267 AVG, with an OBP of .409 to go with two home runs and seven RBIs. Bauers might not sustain this OBP for the rest of the season, but it is reasonable to expect it to hover around .350-.370. He is also hitting in the three hole with no seemingly real challengers. While the Rays do not have a perennial offense, you have to love any player that is hitting at the top of the order especially with the potential of Bauers. He is a player that is a great addition for any team that is looking for someone to contribute to OBP and can be a cornerstone in dynasty leagues if everything goes in his favor.
Thank you for reading and join us next week for more help with your fantasy lineups!