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3 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)

by Max Freeze | @FreezeStats | Featured Writer
Jul 25, 2018

Last week I wrote about several Minor League players that can help your fantasy team in the second half. I also talked about some players I have high hopes for in the second half and value more than the expert consensus. These types of players can help when acquiring in trades if their perceived value is less than where I believe they will end up. This week, I’ll continue to try and help you manage the players on the waiver wire. Whether you’re in a shallow or deep league, there’s someone out there can help your team. I also touch on a couple players on hot streaks and determine if these are legit or if their performance will come back down to earth.

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What players should fantasy owners add in shallow leagues?

Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/3B/OF – MIA) 44% Owned
Dietrich has a season slash line of .293/.57/.471 with 13 homers and a couple of steals. Those numbers alone show that Dietrich is not owned in enough leagues. The Marlins are terrible, but Dietrich usually hits in one of the top three spots and has led off in a few games recently. His BABIP is high and his K%-BB% is not great, but since June 1st, he managed a 37% hard contact and a decent 79.4% contact rate. The average will regress, but Dietrich gives solid power and will continue to get playing time and allow you to play him almost anywhere on your roster. He’s an add in all leagues.

Jason Kipnis (2B – CLE) 25% Owned
Kipnis has really fallen off quickly due to injuries and now at 31, how much upside does he have? After looking like he might be toast in the first half, he turned the corner in Mid-June. Since June 15th, he’s been a different player, and I think he’s healthy for the first time in a while. He’s hitting nearly .300 with six home runs and two steals with a .415 wOBA. He’s really seeing the ball well, evidenced by a 95% zone contact rate. The Indians lineup is great, so he should see plenty of RBI opportunities. He’s a great MI option going forward. Add Kipnis in 12-team and deeper leagues.

Nathan Eovaldi (SP – TB) 35% Owned
As long as Eovaldi is healthy, he should be owned. He throws 98 mph and is inducing whiffs outside the zone over 36% of the time. His zone rate is 50% which is why his walk rate is under 4%, so the high home run rate doesn’t sting as bad. That being said, I think he can improve on his 24% K rate and reduce his home run rate if he doesn’t give in as often. A nine+K/9 with a low two BB/9 is where I see Eovaldi if he makes that adjustment. Grab him and hold him because he may only have 50 innings left before he is either shut down or fatigues. Add Eovaldi in all leagues.

Anibal Sanchez (SP – ATL) 48% Owned
The 34-year-old former Tiger continues to pitch very well. Based on his ownership, I don’t think many people think it’s for real. I get it. The .243 BABIP and nearly 83% left-on-base rate just won’t stick. However, he’s rocking slightly above average strikeout and walk rates and is inducing a ton of weak contact. He’s been able to yield great results from his cutter and changeup, both of which he’s bumped up the usage quite a bit. I’m buying into some of the gains due to the change in repertoire. He’s not a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, but he should settle in around 3.50-3.75 which is still solid for a back-end starter. Add Anibal in 12-team and deeper leagues.

What players should fantasy owners add in deep leagues?

Mark Canha (1B/OF – OAK) 4% Owned
Canha is not very well know, but he’s been getting quite a bit of playing time this year. He’s got two 20+ homer seasons in the minors and a 16-homer season in the Majors on only 485 plate appearances in 2015. In 2018, Canha has been more patient and is swinging outside the zone less. As a result, his strikeout rate is down and he’s making more quality contact. Being eligible at both 1B and OF helps out as well. I think Canha is a good add in deep 12-team leagues with five OF slots or any 15-team league.

Jose Iglesias (SS – DET) 7% Owned
You aren’t grabbing Iglesias for his power, but that’s ok. He has other qualities. Iglesias is hitting .270 with three homers and 12 steals for the Tigers on the season. That’s not all that exciting, but he’s reduced his strikeout rate to a career-low 10.2% and has a 95% zone contact rate. Since June 1st, Iglesias has hit one HR and stole five bases while hitting .290. Iglesias is the everyday shortstop for the Tigers, so he’s guaranteed playing time. With the shortage of steals on the wire, there’s value in a guy who has some speed and makes as much contact as Iglesias does. Add Iglesias in all 15-team and deeper leagues

Derek Holland (SP – SF) 4% Owned
This one is hard to believe but the numbers are there. Holland has a 9.15 K/9 in over 100 IP in 2018. His SwStr% is up three points and his contact against is down five percent. Holland is also inducing a lot of popups so his high fly ball rate isn’t a huge concern. You could do a lot worse in 12-15 team leagues, especially when Holland is pitching at home in cavernous AT&T Park. Add Holland in 15-team and deeper leagues and stream in 12-team leagues.

Trevor Cahill (SP – OAK) 18% Owned
Cahill is coming off his second DL stint this year but spun a nice game against the Giants going 5.2 IP allowing one earned run and striking out five. That’s solid, but more importantly, he came out of the start healthy. So ask yourself this question, can a pitcher with a 2.95 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and a 58.5% ground ball rate help your team? The answer is yes. Cahill’s changeup has been fantastic this year and he’s throwing it 26% of the time. Fantastic doesn’t do it justice, he’s getting swings outside the zone 50% of the time with a swinging strike rate of 26%! That’s insane. He’s also got a decent curveball and has improved results on his sinker. Cahill is known for his lack of control at times, so I’m not expecting his current numbers to continue but as long as he’s healthy, he should help your ratios and provide solid strikeout numbers.

Stud or Streak?

Jonathan Schoop (2B – BAL)
I was not buying into Schoop’s huge breakout in 2017. His skills have very little room for error which is why I did not believe his 2017 was repeatable. He’s a free swinger who offers at too many pitches outside the zone and hits far too many popups. I compared him to Rougned Odor without the speed component. As poor of a first half as Schoop had, he’s been on fire in July. Since the start of July, he’s hitting .360 with six home runs which nearly doubled his home run total the first three months combined. Should we be buying this or is it just a streak?

The plate discipline shows that there’s no change. Schoop is still offering at too many pitches outside the zone and swinging and missing as much as ever. His batted ball profile shows a slight improvement on hard contact but it’s still below league average since July 1. He’s also yet to draw a walk in the month of July, something that pitchers should be taking note of. I’m not buying into this hot stretch for Schoop. xStats.org shows Schoop’s poor hit%, or popups plus dribble balls (the two least valuable batted balls) are up near 44% which is about 18% above league average over the last month. You can bet he will come back down to earth. This is just a hot streak.

Tyler Anderson (SP – COL)
Prior to last night’s game, Anderson’s last five starts look like this, 1.85 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.65 BB/9, and 0.53 HR/9 in 34 IP.  For reference, four of his last five starts have been at home in Colorado, making his numbers that much more impressive. The peripherals back up much of what Anderson has done in those starts. The main change for Anderson has been the increased use of his cutter up to 34% in his last five compared to 27% for the season. The cutter has been his best pitch by far. Not only has it induced a ton of swings and misses outside the zone, it also has a near 50% groundball rate against it.

Anderson’s increased groundball rate in recent starts is, of course, more important as a Rockies pitcher, not only because of the home runs at Coors but also because Coors has the highest BABIP against fly balls (and line drives) than any other park by far. Plus it helps to get ground balls when you have Arenado and Story on the left side of the infield. I think Anderson is for real. He’s always had good stuff and could induce swings and misses, but it never translated into high strikeout totals. The increased cutter usage could be the key to his success. I never fully trust a Rockies pitcher at home (especially against teams like the Astros), but he’s a must-start on the road and against weak offensive teams at home.

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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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