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10 Things to Know for Week 9 (Fantasy Baseball)

May 25, 2019

Is Lucas Giolito the real deal for the White Sox?

Week 8 is over with Miguel Sano swatting 5 homers in the five games since his return. Josh Bell and Shane Bieber were on a terror as well. If you are looking for the next big names, or just some hints to help you move closer to this year’s trophy, I’ve got 10 tips you may want to know for Week 9.

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#1 Derek Fisher is the streamer of the week
You may hate Fisher for being selected over Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and Myles Straw to take George Springer‘s place temporarily, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great pickup too. Sure, Alvarez is another Austin Riley, Tucker another Charlie Blackmon and Straw another Billy Hamilton, but there is a place for a .280 hitter with 20 homers and 15 steals on any fantasy team. That is what Tommy Pham did for fantasy owners last year. Granted, Fisher won’t stay up forever, but while he is in one of the best lineups in baseball, you’ve got to grab him and use him.

#2 Lucas Giolito is still better than you think
We’ve all come around to the idea that the worst pitcher in baseball last year (6.13 ERA!) is actually fantasy relevant, but I promise you, it is much more than that. Giolito is an ace, fam. Ignore the 6-1 record, that doesn’t tell us much and certainly won’t keep up. Here is what I’m interested in: last year his 16.1% K-rate was 56th out of 57 starting pitchers. His BB-rate was also 56th out of 57. This year, Giolito is substantially better in both areas and has a better K-BB% than Domingo German, Jose Berrios and Trevor Bauer. It happened when his velocity somehow jumped an absurd 1.5 MPH. He also ditched the crummy sinker and started pumping in more four-seamers and changeups. This isn’t the same old pitcher. It is an entirely different person who just happened to be the top pitching prospect in baseball five years ago.

#3 If you can’t get Giolito for two starts…
You’ll want to turn your attention to 12% owned, Jeff Samardzija. He isn’t going to strikeout 200 batters this year, as he has a different approach following his 2018 injury. With that said, he has been quite good this year with a 3.27 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. More importantly, he draws two starts this week against the hapless Marlins and the absolutely abysmal Orioles. It never gets easier than this.

#4 J.D. Davis is finally an everyday player
If you’ve read this article before, you know I’m doing cartwheels. Davis is my dude. And why not? He did bat .342/.406/.583 in the Astros’ farm system last year and does have one of the best xwOBAs in baseball. At .397, his quality of contact has been better than Paul DeJong, Michael Chavis, Carlos Correa and Jorge Polanco. IE: He is swinging the bat like a star. The on-paper numbers haven’t played up to that range yet but it shouldn’t follow too far behind and now that he is getting everyday plate appearances, you’ll want to own him.

#5 The pitcher to stash isn’t who you’d guess
Sure, Forrest Whitley is ranked the highest of any pitching prospect and Jesus Luzardo was going to be the A’s ace before his injury. Casey Mize has been devastating minor league hitters and Brendan McKay might be even better. None of those future aces are going to beat my guy to the majors, however, and none of them have stuff that rivals his either. I’m talking about Alex Reyes who is now recovered from his broken pinky and back in the minor league rotation. He touched 99 in his return and struck out 6 hitters in just 70 pitches while allowing 2 hits. The Cardinals’ rotation is a nightmare right now so you can bet they’ll rush him up to take Dakota Hudson‘s spot once Reyes finishes his rehab assignment.

#6 Justin Smoak is the best buy-low candidate
The thing is, you aren’t actually buying Smoak low. He has been hitting the ball as well as anyone in baseball not named Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich of Mike Trout. You wouldn’t guess it from his .217 batting average of .546 slugging percentage, but it is the absolute truth. His .414 xWOBA is extraordinarily high and shows just how unlucky he has been to start the season. You can get him for pennies right now and should before the positive regression kicks in.

#7 On the flip side, sell high on Mike Soroka
If you thought Chris Paddack has been good, just wait until you see what Soroka has been doing for the Braves. through just 7 fewer innings, the rookie carries a 1.01 ERA and has allowed 25 hits in 44 innings.  That is good for a .156 batting average against and 0.87 WHIP. Wow! Baseball Savant tells us, however, that he has been the single luckiest pitcher in baseball with a .272 xwOBA compared to his .217 actual wOBA allowed. To put it more clearly, that is the difference between 2018 Jacob deGrom and 2018 Michael Wacha. He is going to be good for a long time, but more like Kyle Hendricks good than Cy Young good.

#8 I’ll bet you’ve never considered my favorite streaming metric
If you are in a bind and need a streaming pitcher but have no idea who to go with, I beg you to use this as a tiebreaker. In fact, I use it for much more than that. It is my secret weapon for GPP contests (thank you for Trent Thornton‘s 10-K quality start performance!). I love to check out Swish Analytics’ Umpire Factors late in the afternoon. Click on the K Boost to sort it by which umpires pump up strikeout numbers the most. If you see someone like Bill Miller (1.19x) or Mark Ripperger (1.17x), using the mediocre pitcher in their game is usually a good idea. It is essentially HRs in Coors, but for pitchers strikeouts. But shhh, don’t tell anyone.

#9 Keep an eye on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Oh, believe me, I know Gurriel is batting .186 with 1 homer. I drafted him everywhere! He did bat .305 with 8 homers and 27 RBIs in 43 games after July, after all. That’s a 30 homer, 100 RBI pace, friends. I wasn’t expecting that this year, but he is much better than what we saw to begin the season. He carried an 1.100 OPS into mid-May in Triple-A and appears to be back in Toronto’s lineup now after a homer in his return to Toronto Friday night. You don’t have to pull the trigger quite yet, but certainly, do keep him on waiver wire speed dial.

#10 Need a cheap stud in DFS? Kevan Smith versus lefties.
Ok, so you can’t actually use this one in Week 9 since Smith just went on the 10-day IL with a concussion but when he returns, please do your wallet a favor and remember his name. Smith usually costs between $2,100 and $2,600 on FanDuel, and you wouldn’t dare use him versus a righty. In fact, he probably isn’t starting those games but when the Angels draw a lefty, he should be a lock every single time. You won’t be surprised to find out that Nolan Arenado has been the best hitter in baseball against lefties since the start of 2018. Kris Bryant, J.D. Martinez, Javier Baez, Giancarlo Stanton, Ronald Acuna, Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, Trevor Story and Antony Rendon, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Christian Yelich are up there too. Then there is Kevan Smith, ahead of all those superstars except Arenado. He has a 1.118 OPS in 87 plate appearances. Folks, that is insane.

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