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 look at some prospects to target as we transition into the second half, a struggling first baseman who should be targeted as a buy-low candidate in all leagues, and a couple of solid performers to target in deeper leagues.
Max’s Prospects to Target
I figured that this week, instead of going over some hot waiver adds, I’ll give you some second-half prospects to stash for down the stretch.
Garrett Hampson, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Hampson has been a stud this year in the minors, triple-slashing .304/.378/.456 with eight dingers and 31 steals. He should get an opportunity to play for the Rockies before the end of the year but will likely not see every day starts because he is blocked at his main position (LeMahieu starts at second) and virtually every other position. Unless Hampson is going to play first, he won’t have an everyday role barring injury. That said, the bat-to-ball skills and speed will play, so if he gets the call he’s worth a speculative add.
Willie Calhoun, 2B/OF, Texas Rangers
Calhoun got off to a slow start this season but has worked his best to bounce back. He has his triple-slash all the way up to .305/.352/.445 after hitting .268/.318 /.390 in April and May. The power is not quite where it was last year but opportunity is opportunity and with the Rangers being sellers, Calhoun should be up sooner rather than later.
Christin Stewart, OF, Detroit Tigers
Stewart, much like Calhoun, will be the beneficiary of belonging to a rebuilding club. After the deadline there is no reason for the Tigers to hold Stewart down in the minors; they will need to sell tickets and the best way for a rebuilding team to do that is by marketing the future.
Stewart has 17 HR in 78 games across three levels this season. He has cut down his strikeout rate significantly, it now sits below 20%, so the power will play. Down the stretch, Stewart could be an intriguing source of power for an otherwise-bereft-of-talent Tigers team.
Brandon Lowe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays
Lowe was recently promoted to Triple-A and hasn’t missed a beat, triple-slashing .309/.393/.618 there in just over 30 games. The Rays are notoriously conservative with their prospects, but with the big league club expected to be sellers, there is an outside chance Lowe will get everyday reps after the trade deadline. And if he does, he will bring with him a good shot at a batting average over .300 and decent power to go with it.
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Normally, I like to recommend a mix of hitters and pitchers, but it looks as though the impact minor league arms are already in the big leagues. Shane Bieber and Nick Kingham are probably the two best minor leaguers that have been called up this season, and while Griffin Canning has a decent shot of a call-up, I would hardly call him a must-stash.
If you’re looking to improve your ratios, though, Colin Poche is a great speculative add. Poche is absolutely tearing up the minor leagues and could see high-leverage work in Tampa Bay as soon as he is called up. Stashing relievers is dicey, but Poche could pay off in extremely deep (I’m talking 18+ teams) leagues.
Sahil’s Struggling Stars
Carlos Santana, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
After signing him to a 3 year/$60 million deal in the offseason, the Phillies expected Carlos Santana to provide a strong veteran presence in the middle of a lineup of very young, talented bats. While his .211/.355/.401 batting line with 14 home runs and a 106 wRC+ certainly are not terrible numbers, I am sure most Phillie fans (and most fantasy owners) expected more out of him in the first half of the season, especially after he finished with a batting average almost 50 points higher in both 2016 and 2017. However, a look at Santana’s peripherals reveals that he is actually performing just as well (or perhaps even a bit better) than his previous seasons.
First, let’s look at his on-base percentage and walk rate. Much of Santana’s value historically in fantasy leagues comes from his great ability to get on base. Despite the low batting average, he is still getting on base at a .355 clip, which is very close to his career numbers. This is because he traditionally posts great walk rates, and this season, those numbers are off the charts. He is walking at a career-high 18.4% clip so far in 2018, which is 3rd in the major leagues. The players ahead of Santana? Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Not only are his walk numbers significantly better than his 2016 and 2017 seasons, when he posted a 14.4% and 13.2% walk rate respectively, but his strikeout rates have also fallen. After posting strikeout rates of 14.4% and 14.1% in 2016 and 2017, that number is down to a career-best 13.6% in 2018. For comparison, Trout and Harper have posted strikeout rates of 19.6% and 24.6% respectively on the season. So, to sum it all up, Santana has been walking at a career-high rate that is similar to two of the best baseball players on the planet and striking out a lot less than they are. Seems pretty good to me.
Let’s move on to his batting average. While the .211 average is low, that can be largely attributed to an unusually low BABIP of .208, which is well south of his .265 career BABIP. Assuming Santana’s numbers move towards the mean in the second half, we could see the batting average spike closer to the .259 number that he posted in both 2016 and 2017. Coupled with a career-high walk rate, just a little more luck would easily move his already great on-base percentage to career-high levels.
Last, let’s look at Santana’s power numbers. Although he probably won’t approach the 34 home runs he posted in 2016, Santana could easily match or exceed the 23 home runs he hit in 2017. His .189 ISO is right in line with the .196 ISO he posted last season (which is also coincidentally his career ISO). In addition, he is making more hard contact with the ball than at any point in his career, as his 37.0 hard contact percentage is 4% higher than his 2017 number, and well above his career average.
So put it all together and what do you get?
A player who is posting fantastic on-base numbers due to career-best walk and strikeout rates and is hitting the ball harder than ever and has kept his power numbers in line with previous seasons. And he’s doing all of this despite a major unlucky streak at the plate in the first half. If I am in an OBP league, I am doing everything I can to buy shares of Santana. He could make for a nice discount option at first base or a high-end option to have at your CI spot. In average leagues, I would be slightly less enthusiastic about acquiring him just because his elite on-base percentage is his best asset, but he would still nonetheless be a solid option as a low-end 1B or a CI in those formats.
Anthony’s Deep-League Adds
Trevor Cahill, SP, Oakland Athletics
Owned: 14% ESPN, 16% Yahoo!
After missing more than a month due to a strained Achilles tendon, Trevor Cahill returned earlier this week against the Astros. Although he struggled in his start, he has pitched surprisingly well this season. His K/9 of 8.60 is well above his career average of 6.70, and his BB/9 of 2.41 is well below his career average of 3.65. Not only would his 3.10 ERA be the second lowest of his career (as a starter), but his 3.14 FIP is by far the lowest of his career and suggests that he could continue his reemergence. While he hasn’t racked up the wins so far, the Athletics recent hot streak should help him out after the break. The only cause for concern is his hard-contact rate of 42%, which suggests he has been getting lucky on batted balls. Until that happens, however, Cahill is a steal that should be picked up on any fantasy team.
Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Owned: 7% ESPN, 11% Yahoo!
At first glance, Kole Calhoun is the type of player you should be avoiding. After a horrid first two months, he was hitting .144 with only one home run. However, a mediocre June was followed by a very strong July, where he has hit .326 with six home runs so far. A look into his stats shows that his performance in July should continue for the rest of the season. Even with a strong July, Calhoun’s BABIP sits at an extremely low .207, suggesting he has been getting very unlucky and should see an improvement in his batting average. Also, his hard-hit rate of 38.1% is a big increase over last season’s 31.7%, showing that he has been hitting the ball harder than ever, but it isn’t dropping in for hits. All of this suggests that Calhoun’s season is turning around and that he should be an asset in fantasy baseball for the rest of the season.