Fantasy Baseball Category Targets: Week 3

by Chris Bragg | @loosemoose6 | Featured Writer
Apr 20, 2017

The window to buy low on Jose Peraza will soon close

Welcome to the third edition of this weekly series where I’ll provide a list of players that could help impact categories in standard 5×5 leagues.

Previous editions were focused on potential pickups likely to be available in most leagues. But with the season beginning to take shape, this lists mixes in some trade targets as potential buy-low candidates from a frustrated owner.

Be sure to check back every Thursday for a fresh list of potential contributors. Percentages represent each player’s ownership in Yahoo! Leagues.

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Batting Average

Gerardo Parra (1B/OF – COL): 18%

The 29-year-old is off to a hot start hitting .333 with a homer over 38 plate appearances. He’s currently the beneficiary of an unsustainable .407 BABIP, but owns a solid career mark of .321 thanks to his speed and batted ball profile.

Of course, calling Coors Field home doesn’t hurt, as the thin mountain air ultimately suppresses strikeout rates and inflates batting averages with a .333 park BABIP.

Parra is a good bet to hit .280 and offers .300 upside in what could be a bounce-back season. With David Dahl’s return on hold, Parra has a chance to cement himself into the Rockies lineup. He won’t make substantial power or speed impacts but should see plenty of Run or RBI opportunities depending on where the Rockies slot him into the order.

Home Runs

Domingo Santana (OF – MIL): 27%

A loss of playing time was the only threat to a 25-homer season from Santana who swung and missed with regularity last season. There was a viable concern that the whiffs could land him in a part-time role, but he’s made tremendous strides so far, raising his contact rate 10 percent over last season. Additionally, he’s cut his swinging strike rate from 12.1% to 8.3% in the early goings, a shift from the 37th to 64th percentile.

Thus far, his improved approach has led him to a 21% strikeout rate which will play well when his BABIP regresses toward his career rate of .335. Santana makes this list for the homers, but if the plate discipline gains hold, he will be a four-category contributor.

Runs

Dexter Fowler (OF – STL): 71%

The first-year Cardinal is off to a horrible start batting .183 with a .258 OBP. He’s clearly pressing as his chase rate has jumped 9% over last season, leading to the second worst contact rate of his career.

It’s ugly, for sure, and his career worst strikeout and walk rates mean we can’t just blame it on the .220 BABIP. However, it presents a fantastic opportunity to buy from a frustrated owner.

Since leaving Coors Field, Fowler posted OBPs of .375, .346, and .393. I trust that his skills didn’t deteriorate much between winning a World Series in October and now. He can sleep walk to a .350 OBP and should be a staple atop the Cardinals lineup all season.

Sometimes players press after getting paid and suiting up in a new city, but he’ll get it sorted out. When he does, he’ll cross the plate on more nights than not. I was a bit peeved to see him homer twice as I keyed out this article, but hopefully, the ugly bottom line still presents a buying opportunity from an impatient owner.

RBIs

Mitch Moreland (1B – BOS): 24%

The former Ranger has been crushing baseballs over the first couple of weeks of the season. In fact, he recently passed Yandy Diaz for baseball’s top hard hit rate with a 59% clip. Okay, perhaps that demonstrates why we need to remain grounded when talking about hot starts over small samples.

Still, Moreland has done an excellent job working into hitter’s counts where he earns better pitches to hit. Moreland is among the top 15 hitters in baseball at working himself into 1-0 and 2-0 counts. How important are those marks?

Consider, the league OPS after an 0-1 count is .608 compared to .801 after a 1-0 count. After a 2-0 count, it jumps to .960.

It’s a bit early in the season to cast Moreland on our all-star ballots, but it’s been a promising start for the known run producer. He averaged 76 RBI per 600 PAs with the Rangers and now finds himself in the middle of a dangerous lineup.

Moreland appears slated for regular playing time in the heart of the order where 75 RBIs is on the lower-end of my run production expectation.

Stolen Bases

Jose Peraza (2B/SS/OF – CIN): 86%

Jose Peraza isn’t sitting on many waiver wires, but he could be a solid buy-low candidate if you can catch a frustrated owner at the right time.

A .236 BABIP has Peraza’s batting average sitting at .228, and he’s yet to deliver much outside of his six steals. I mentioned this off-season Peraza would blow right past his 25-30 SB projections and into the 40-50 range. The steals are there and will continue as the Reds are set in their aggressive ways.

As his BABIP regresses toward the .300+ mark he’ll begin to contribute other categories, especially Runs from the two-spot in front of the currently struggling Joey Votto. Peraza doesn’t hit for power, but he’s more than an empty rabbit. The window to buy will close soon – get him

Wins

Trevor Bauer (SP – CLE): 35%

Trevor Bauer is not the bum his 8.44 ERA suggests, nor is he the ace his 2.55 xFIP portrays. It’s been a wild couple of starts for the 26-year-old. The good news is he has struck out 13 hitters in 10.2 IP while walking only two. The bad is that three of the 10 fly balls he’s allowed have left the park and batters have posted a .400 BABIP.

His batted ball profile resembles one that should be able to keep the ball in the yard at a league average rate. On the other hand, his Zone%, F-Strike%, and O-Swing% don’t paint the picture of a guy that walks 4.2% of hitters.

The strikeouts are exciting, but won’t persist in the 11-per-9 range, as that number is currently inflated by the amount of batted balls that aren’t finding gloves. The fewer batted balls that result in outs equates to more opportunities to strike batters out. Case in point, Noah Syndergaard has a nearly identical K%, but 1.5 fewer strikeouts-per-nine thanks to a more reasonable .302 BABIP.

Still, Bauer has posted a career-best K% of 27.1%, and I could see him retaining most of those gains and at least repeating his 23% K-rate from 2015. Even with the BB% regression, Bauer may be poised for a career year. That may only be a 4 ERA season, but he could win at least a dozen games as he’s supported by one of the best teams in the American League.

Strikeouts

Sean Manaea (SP – OAK): 76%

The second-year lefty in Oakland has struck out 28.2% of hitters faced this year – a top 15 mark in baseball among qualified starters. His talent was on display on Saturday as he carried a no-hitter into the 6th before control issues got the best of him.

He features two lethal secondary pitches including a slider and changeup that generate whiffs 31% and 23% of the time. Both rates are elite, and his four-seam fastball velocity is above average coming from the left side.

The strikeouts, groundball-heavy profile, and cozy home park make him a viable fantasy starter even if he battles some control issues throughout the season. However, if he finds a way to replicate his 2016 walk rate (2.30 per 9) while missing bats anywhere near his 15.6% current swinging strike rate, he’s an all-star.
A disastrously low 45% strand rate has plagued his ERA, inflating it to 5.51 over his first three starts, but the window to buy will close soon.

ERA

Michael Wacha (SP – STL): 68%

The Cardinals right-hander allowed one run over 6.2 innings yesterday afternoon lowering his ERA to 2.41 in the process. I wasn’t very high on Wacha this draft season as I had my doubts he would ever fully rebound from the arm injuries he sustained after his breakout rookie season back in 2013.

So far, I stand corrected. Some inconsistencies surrounding pitching tracking and velocity readings exist, so it’s difficult to know exactly how much his velocity is up (if at all). However, the 25-year-old is passing all the eyeball tests.

Wacha touched 97 MPH in the 7th inning yesterday and has generated whiffs on 12% of his four-seem offerings – up from 6% last year. Additionally, he’s racked up over 26% whiffs with his changeup, well ahead of his career high 22% mark.

His ownership rate has been surging, and he’s unlikely available on the wire in mid-size leagues, but his skills, when healthy, deem him relevant in 10-team leagues. Wacha’s current ownership rate implies guys like Gio Gonzalez, Jason Vargas, and Drew Pomeranz are more desirable commodities. If that’s how he’s valued in your league, perhaps a “buy-high” is in order.

WHIP

Wei-Yin Chen (SP – MIA): 10%

No, this isn’t an overreaction to Chen’s innings of no-hit ball Tuesday night. Like last week’s WHIP target, Mike Leake, Chen is a control artist surrendering fewer than two free passes per nine each of the last four seasons. His recent home run issues indicate he might throw too many pitches in the strike zone, but he certainly makes hitters earn their way on base.

The southpaw’s current 1.03 WHIP is aided by a .245 BABIP but he is realistically capable of a sub-1.20 WHIP, and that’s not widely available at his ownership rate. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats nor induce enough ground balls to be more than a solid back end piece of your rotation. But don’t underestimate the value in a guy like that, especially as the season progresses and injuries pile up.

Saves

Nate Jones (RP – CHW): 52%

The ninth inning is terribly volatile in the nation’s capital as Shawn Kelley entered to extinguish Blake Treinen’s fire Tuesday evening. That was the final straw for Treinen, whose failures prompted Dusty Baker to assign Kelley and Koda Glover to the ninth in a tag-team role.

The thing is, none of the Treinen, Kelley, Glover trio have pitched particularly well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this mess spurs the Nationals into finally trading for an “established closer” in David Robertson.

Jones was a popular closer-in-waiting this draft season but the seemingly inevitable trade that would propel him into the White Sox ninth inning just never came to fruition. He’s currently available in about half of Yahoo leagues and might get his opportunity soon.

Keep in mind, at 31 years old he may not fit into the White Sox long-term rebuilding plans. In other words, he could be a deadline trade candidate himself, but he’s not doing his trade value any favors with as many walks as strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Still, he should get it sorted out soon and remains an intriguing option for those speculating on save opportunities.


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Chris Bragg is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Chris, check out his archive or follow him @loosemoose6.


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