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4 Burning Questions (2018 Fantasy Baseball)

by Max Freeze | @FreezeStats | Featured Writer
Aug 22, 2018

The Washington Nationals, with a roster stacked with Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and young phenom Juan Soto, have officially thrown in the towel on 2018. The Braves and the Phillies are the Kings of the NL East. Speaking of the Braves, I’ll discuss the debut of another young arm in the Braves system as well as cover Michael Kopech’s short debut. I’ll also look at some hitters to target, and how to handle players on the disabled list. Next week, I will cover starters to grab for the playoff stretch run.

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What do we make of Michael Kopech following his debut?
Michael Kopech has got to be the lead. The kid has been clocked as high as 105 miles per hour as a 20-year-old! Kopech came into his big-league debut on a roll without allowing a walk in his last three outings. Keep in mind, he did have a stretch this year where he walked 21 batters in 16 innings across four starts. He doesn’t typically ramp his fastball over 100 mph, so limiting walks is going to be key for Kopech going forward. His fastball averages around 96-98 mph with a wipe-out slider that sits in the low-80s. His changeup is still a work in progress. He’ll need that pitch to be effective to be a proven ace in the future.

Over the course of Kopech’s Minor League career, he’s been able to suppress home runs at every level despite an elevated fly ball rate. While fly balls are by perception, bad for pitchers, a high-velocity pitcher has to pitch up in the zone to be successful. Those high fastballs result in strikeouts, fly balls, and pop-ups. The fly ball rate doesn’t concern me if he can locate his fastball.

My quick thoughts on his first start are largely positive. His fastball location was up in the zone, so that’s great. His slider was as good as advertised. He piled up several swings and misses on that pitch and it was typically down. I saw two changeups, one was great and one, not so great. A few good pitches were poked out for hits and only a few balls were hit squarely. Kopech did have some control issues and the fastball appeared to sail on him on a number of occasions. He was able to recover just fine, but it was only two innings. There just isn’t enough in the debut for me to definitely say how I feel about Kopech going forward. However, if you own him, you need to hold him. His stuff is impressive but don’t expect long outings as the White Sox protect their young arm. 

What low-ownership hitters are worth grabbing? (20% to 40% owned)

Harrison Bader (STL – OF) 35% owned
Bader is a high-intensity athletic outfielder for the Cardinals. His speed has impressed me, but the power has shown up right away and he’s been given a 50-grade raw power score per FanGraphs Eric Longenhagen. His strikeout rate is high but his swinging strike rate is only slightly above average, so I’d actually expect his strikeout rate to dip to around 25%. I think you can expect solid power/speed numbers with around a .260 average as the .380 BABIP drops. Add in all leagues.

Brandon Nimmo (NYM – OF) 29% owned and dropping thanks to a DL stint. It’s with a bruised finger due to a hit-by-pitch and is retroactive to August 17th. If you have available DL spots, he’s worth a stash. The bruised finger should only require the minimum 10 days, which means he should be back by the start of next week. Just a reminder, he was hitting everything in sight with 15 hits in his last 31 at-bats, 10 of which were for extra bases and 12 runs scored prior to the DL stint. Go get him.

Willy Adames (TB – 2B/SS) 26% owned
Adames is another power/speed player who has been producing as he hit his seventh home run last night. Since the All-Star break, Adames is hitting .268 with four homers and four steals. While Adames has shown good speed recently, I don’t think he has more than 10-12 steal speed over the course of a full season. His power, though, is real and I could see him as a 20-home run hitter as soon as next year. It also helps that he qualifies at both second base and shortstop for flexibility. He needs to be owned in all 12-team leagues and deeper.

Amed Rosario (NYM – SS) 21% owned
Prospect growth is not linear. Rosario was a popular sleeper coming into the year and his first half was disappointing. His poor plate discipline is trending in the right direction and he’s shown some power (32 extra-base hits) to go along with speed. Prospectors have rated his future power to be above average and last year the comparisons to Francisco Lindor were thrown around. I’m certainly not going to go that far, but he’s a nice add in 14-team and deeper leagues.

C.J. Cron (TB – 1B) 33% owned
Here’s a streaky power option owned in one-third of Yahoo/ESPN leagues. I’ll be straight with you, I don’t love his approach at the plate and he hits too many popups, but this is win-now time. You need to grab streaky hitters and hope they help carry you. Cron is on pace for 30 homers with a .250 average, so he’s capable of hitting a few home runs in any given week. Grab him as your corner infielder in 12-team and deeper leagues.

What very low-ownership hitters are worth grabbing? (Owned under 20%)

David Dahl (COL – OF) 10% owned
Yes, we all have prospect fatigue with David Dahl. It all comes down to health and playing time. If Dahl gets the opportunity, the Rockies play 22 of their last 37 games in Coors Field and Dahl can provide huge upside with power and a little speed. With the help of his home park, Dahl is one of very few players owned in less than 20% of leagues who can produce a bunch of home runs while chipping in with speed. Grab Dahl in 14-team and deeper leagues.

Greg Allen (CLE – OF) 2% owned
Allen appears to be a speed-only option, but he’s hit a couple of homers in the last few games. Allen patrols a well above-average centerfield, so he should see plenty of playing time. This is a guy who makes just enough contact to maintain a respectable batting average and could steal double-digit bases given the opportunity the rest of the way. Add him in all leagues where you need speed.

Jeff McNeil (NYM – 1B/2B) 6% owned
I feel like I could write an entire waiver wire article about New York Mets players as this is number three in this article. The Mets don’t start McNeil every night but he’s coming off a four-hit night against the Giants. I get that he doesn’t hit lefties all that well, but this is a guy who has 21 home runs across three levels of professional baseball this year. McNeil is hitting .311 since the All-Star break with a low 10% strikeout rate. Add McNeil is 14-team leagues and deeper and reap the benefit.

Niko Goodrum (DET – 1B/2B/OF) 9%
Goodrum is a guy who has impressed with both power and speed (our favorite). He’s on pace to set new career highs in home runs (Majors and Minors) thanks to a 39% hard contact rate and a limited infield fly rate. Goodrum is eligible at three positions and can be useful to fill-in for short schedule days and injuries. I’d grab Goodrun in 15-team and deeper leagues.

How should fantasy owners deal with injuries?
Obviously, dealing with injuries is very different depending on what type of league you’re in. I’ll cover keeper/dynasty leagues but will focus on redrafts, since the majority of fantasy leagues are one and done. Many times, owners fall in love with their players as the season moves along. This is especially true with breakout players where the owner feels a sense of pride in the value they were able to obtain. It’s tough to let go. I get it, but you have to ask yourself, do you have an opportunity to win your league?

If the answer is yes, you need to act and act quickly. Take Trevor Bauer for instance. Yes, he’s been an ace this year at the cost of a number three or four SP. While Trevor’s reports differ from team reports, a fracture in a pitcher’s leg at this point in the season is not good. He needs to be dropped in redrafts, don’t think twice. As valuable as he’s been for your team, he no longer can provide help for your team, same goes for Yu Darvish. It appears we are getting to that point with Kris Bryant and Aaron Judge as well. I’m not telling you to drop them yet, but those situations need to be monitored closely, especially if you have maxed out your DL spots.

Inversely, if your team has additional DL spots that are currently unused, go ahead and fill them with players like the aforementioned Brandon Nimmo. Read through the injury analysis to find out if a short stint is expected and take a chance on talented upside. Here are a few other players who are currently on the disabled list, expected back, and are not universally owned Brandon Morrow, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rafael Devers, Michael Fulmer, Michael Wacha, Mark Trumbo, Scott Schebler, Kyle Barraclough, Ross Stripling, and Dereck Rodriguez. Grabbing and holding a player on your DL slot can’t hurt your team if you have room. If they come back hot, then you hit the jackpot for the final month of the season.

Now, if your league is a keeper and dynasty format, forget everything I just told you, haha. DO NOT DROP KRIS BRYANT OR TREVOR BAUER! Sorry for yelling. Those are sure-fire keepers, you have to eat a DL or roster spot to keep them. I will encourage you to fill your DL slots with as many players as possible to maximize your potential keeper options. The difference in keeper/dynasty league compared to redraft is what you’re looking for. I would be looking at players who have been out for the entire season and are sitting on waivers because of that. Players like Jimmy Nelson, Alex Reyes, Taijuan Walker, or Garrett Richards should be on rosters either eating up a DL slot or on rebuilding teams. However, if you’re competing this year and have an excess of players on the DL, you might have to deal with letting those players go. Take a look at the waiver wire today, see what’s there. I hope these tips help going forward because it’s just about playoff time!

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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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