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3 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)

by Max Freeze | @FreezeStats | Featured Writer
Jul 18, 2018

I understand that the Home Run Derby has nothing to do with fantasy baseball, but I have to say that I love the new format. The four-minute clock limits all the pitches taken by batters from the previous format. I enjoyed ESPN not going to break after every single hitter, the 30-second gaps were very nice. Does this have anything to do with fantasy baseball? Well, how will each of these eight hitters perform in the second half? I want to track that. Not how many home runs they hit, because let’s face it, we are almost 60% of the way through the season. I want to track each player’s HR/plate appearance and HR/fly ball. I think Hoskins is a lock to perform better in the second half with Harper and Schwarber having a shot to improve on their first-half numbers. I’ll take the under on the rest of the participants. Now, to the questions.

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What Players do I like more than the consensus?

In looking at FantasyPros expert consensus rankings, I’ll compare players that I believe will outperform the industries expectations for the second half.

Ross Stripling (LAD): ECR 176 FreezeStats 85
What has Stripling done to make you believe he isn’t a top 30 starter the rest of the season? Let’s see, a 28.1% strikeout rate combined with a 3.7% walk rate, 15.5% IFFB, and nearly 33% O-Swing. OK, so actually Stripling’s 2.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and the statistics I listed above are Ace-caliber. Ranking him where I did actually bakes in some regression. I see the strikeout rate dipping a bit and the left on base percentage falling. That being said, I think he’s a low-3 ERA pitcher with a sub-1.20 WHIP with about a strikeout per inning the rest of the season.

Jack Flaherty (STL): ECR 188 FreezeStats 98
Last year it was Weaver, this year it’s Flaherty. The thing is, Flaherty is the better prospect and I believe will have the better career of the two. Flaherty saw a little MLB action late last season but he’s proving this year he belongs. As I comb through his numbers, nothing looks out of place like the LOB% with Stripling. I don’t see any regression anywhere in Flaherty’s profile. He’s got a solid arsenal with several plus pitches, induces a ton of weak contact and can get swings and misses in and out of the zone. I see Flaherty posting similar value to Stripling in the second half.

Nick Kingham (PIT): ECR Unranked FreezeStats 198
There seems to be a theme where I am an either overvaluing young pitching or the consensus is devaluing young arms. I get it. There is a ton of variance and risk with young pitchers. I’ll talk about how volatile prospect pitchers are with my next burning question. The difference with the pitchers in this list is either age (Kingham is 26, Stripling is 28) or MLB experience. Kingham has always had great control but his strikeout rate has jumped which makes him much more fantasy relevant. The one concern is the inconsistency with the Pittsburgh organization moving him between the Minors and Majors. Take a flier on Kingham in 12-team and deeper leagues and reap the benefits.

Alex Bregman (HOU): ECR 31  FreezeStats 18
If you didn’t listen to the hype on Bregman coming into this season, you’ve missed out on his breakout. There was chatter of his price inflating to a point where there was no value due to his limited power upside. Well, after hitting only 19 home runs in 2017, thanks to a homer-less drought through Mid-May, he’s set a new career high with 20 at the All-Star break. Bregman also displays elite plate discipline walking more than he’s striking out, 56 to 53, respectively. He’s improved his hard contact, decreased infield fly balls, decreased his swings outside the zone, and increased his contact. I could go on because he’s improved basically every aspect of his offensive game. I ranked him aggressively at 29 in the preseason and have bumped him up to 18 overall. If he improves on the bases, we are looking at a possible 32-homer, 20-steal season from Bregman. Bregman reminds me of Jose Ramirez with a little less speed. Conservatively, he should hit close to .300 with 30 homers and 15 steals hitting second in the best offense in baseball.

Eugenio Suarez (CIN): ECR 91; Freezestats 44
Every year Suarez improves and every year he gets underrated. Even now, after hitting .312 with 19 home runs, and 71 RBI in the first half, he’s STILL ranked too low by the experts. Oh and by the way, he missed nearly four weeks with a fractured thumb! Clearly, the fracture hasn’t sapped any of his power evidenced by his 52% hard contact rate. I think people forget that Suarez is only 26 and turns 27 next month. He’s just reached his prime. Suarez is striking out under 20% for the first time in his career and should have no issues reaching 30 homers and 110 RBI this year.

Aaron Hicks (NYY): ECR 195; FreezeStats 123
Hicks is an interesting name. I understand the low ranking because Hicks has injury issues. Hicks has played just over 162 games over the last season and a half. Over that time, Hicks has hit 31 homers and stole 18 bases. Hitting near the middle of the Yankees’ lineup will provide category juice as well. The bottom line with Hicks is that when he’s healthy, he produces. I’ll take my chances with Hicks at this point in the season because he’s healthy and there isn’t as much upside near 200 overall.

What prospects are worth stashing for the second half?

Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
Calhoun saw some Major League action late in 2017 but has not had an at-bat in the bigs yet in 2018. The problem may be the fact that he doesn’t have a set position in the field. He’s more of a DH but has spent all season in left field at Triple-A. Calhoun is unique because he doesn’t strike out much, just 10.3% this year but he also hits for power. He only has eight this season, but averaged nearly 30 each of the last two seasons. Calhoun consistently hits over 40% fly balls and also rarely takes walks. That means a lot balls in play and a great park in Arlington to hit in. Calhoun could hit for a high average with power to help boost your team in the second half.
His ETA should be late-July.

Christin Stewart (OF – DET)
Stewart may have been up by the end of July if he didn’t miss a couple weeks to injury. Stewart is a classic power hitter with a high walk rate and typically an elevated strikeout rate. This year Stewart has cut his strikeout rate down to 19% from his career 25% which is a great sign moving up to Triple-A. He’s got 16 homers to date in 2018, which may not seem impressive, except he leads the International League and has only played in 76 games. The IL is notorious for suppressing power. The Tigers are out of it this year, so it’s only a matter of time before he gets the call. He may not hit over .260 but the power numbers should play immediately.
ETA Early August

Vladimir Guerrero (3B – TOR)
There’s not much to say here. Baby Vlad is the best prospect in baseball and the best pure hitter we’ve seen in the Minor Leagues in years. Prior to his injury, he was hitting .407 with 11 homers in just over 50 games in Double-A. The Blue Jays have already said he’ll start at Triple-A when he comes off the DL. I suspect he’ll handle Triple-A pitching and be up in about a month. Grab him now and hope the call comes quickly.
ETA Mid-August

Eloy Jimenez (OF – CHW)
Jimenez is another prospect who doesn’t need an introduction. He has more power than any of the other prospects I just went over. Even if he only sees a month at the big leagues, he could go on a power binge to help fantasy rosters and is therefore worth a stash. Jimenez recently lost some time to the disabled list, so the White Sox are going to make sure he is 100 percent healthy before the call-up. Similar to the Blue Jays situation, the White Sox aren’t going anywhere this season. With the long-term health and success of Jimenez being the White Sox number one priority, I don’t expect to see him until late-August. Hence, the reason he’s not atop the list just like Guerrero.

Keston Hiura (2B – MIL)
We’ve been talking about several power prospects, but Hiura has a nice blend of power and speed. Yes, I know he’s only in Double-A, but several prospectors believe he’s just about Major League ready. Hiura may be better than the Brewers current second baseman, Jonathan Villar, right now. Hiura’s value may be more beneficial for the Brewers than your fantasy team, but I think he could be an impact bat and earn three to five homers and steals over the course of the final month of the season.
ETA Late August, early September

I don’t love pitching prospects on their first taste of the Major Leagues. With such a limited amount of games remaining, they are prone to inconsistent starts and can kill your ratios at times. Pitching prospects will be handled with care, limiting their innings per star, and therefore lowering the probability of earning a quality start or a win. In any case, here are my top three Forrest Whitley (HOU), Michael Kopech (CHW), and Corbin Burnes (MIL)

As a fantasy baseball manager, how can I help my team win?

In a rotisserie league, you probably have a very good idea whether you have a shot at the title or not. If you’re currently 10th in a 12 team rotisserie league, it’s probably time to start thinking about next season. Hopefully, your particular league is a dynasty or keeper league. These leagues help keep teams fresh all season. If this is the unfortunate position you are in, I’d be looking to improve your team for next year. Some players I think you should be adding (making moves for) at this point would be Rafael Devers or David Dahl. I think these guys will be fantasy studs in the future. I’m less likely to believe in Dahl with his injury history, but Coors Field can do wonders. For pitchers, I like Shohei Ohtani and Walker Buehler. Pitcher Ohtani won’t be throwing the rest of the year, so he could be acquired at a discount. Buehler should be back up within the next couple of weeks, but if you can get a slight discount on him, I’d do it. He’s going to be a stud.

Now, onto the teams still in the hunt. You’re probably not going to win without making some smart moves to improve your team. Sometimes you have to make trades that seem lopsided and favor the receiving team, but as long as it improves your team, it’s worth it. For instance, if you’re stacked at third base with Arenado, Suarez, and Castellanos but need help with your starting pitching, I’d move Arenado because he carries by far the most value and you can flip him for a top two or three SP and a couple of top 20 starters. Your fantasy team will gain more value for the pitchers you acquired than the drop off from Arenado and Suarez.

You also want to take a look at where your statistical weaknesses are. Compare them to your opponents and use projections to figure out where you need help to compete. If you’ve got a surplus of stats somewhere, use that to your advantage in a trade to fill a weakness. Often times, fantasy owners are looking for saves and steals. Find the owner who is struggling with either of those statistics and make them an offer.

Finally in head-to-head, just win your matchup. It sounds simple, but try to have at least one (sometimes two) players who you can move on any given day for either a pitching or hitting streamer. Check matchups and look at your opponent’s matchups. Can you compete with their pitching? If not, stream pitchers and try and lock down wins and strikeouts. Offensively, look to see if the Rockies are playing at home, stream those hitters. The same goes with hitters playing in Milwaukee, Texas, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Keep in mind, those team also have very poor starting pitching in addition to playing in a great home park. The bottom line is, “Just win Baby!”

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Max Freeze is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Max, check out his archive and follow him @FreezeStats.

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