8 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
What do jumbo shrimp, positive regression, and pretty ugly all have in common with some of 2019’s most talked about fantasy baseball players? They’re all a little oxymoronic. We are officially over a quarter of the way through the MLB season and quickly pushing toward the one-third mark. Some of the biggest names are completely missing in action, while some little-known players all sit near the top of the player ratings. Crazy as it may be, nearly 50 games in, we have one player on our hands who is hitting over .400, one who is on pace to hit 65 home runs, and a handful of stars who have been useless. Thus far, 2019 has sure seen its ups and downs. Will the highs stay that high for top players? And what about the lows? This week’s Burning Questions is set to give you those answers.
Will Matt Carpenter remain this bad?
Throughout his career, Matt Carpenter has had years with a high average, years with a lot of home runs, and one year with both. So far this year, he has neither. He’s walking at his lowest rate in four years, striking out at a three percent higher clip than his career average, and while his .246 BABIP isn’t good, it’s really not that bad considering how poorly he’s hit the ball. So what’s the good news? Carpenter is making virtually no soft contact. Almost everything he hits falls into the medium or hard contact range, with 51.2% of his contact classified as medium. The Cardinals third baseman is just a twinge off. That’s why his HR/FB rate is only 8.1%, and that’s also why he’s such a streaky hitter. When off his game, he looks lost at the plate. So far, he’s been lost. There’s obviously no guarantee that Carpenter heats up like he did last year, but owners have to hold out hope that he can right his swing and get hot. Stay patient; hopefully a breakout is coming.
Will Josh Bell remain this good?
Some of Josh Bell‘s numbers scream regression. His .366 BABIP, 29.8% HR/FB rate, and his career-high 21.8 strikeout percentage all serve as evidence of that. One number sticks out above all the rest of his stats, however: his 52.4% hard-hit rate. Bell is absolutely socking the ball, and that might be putting it lightly. Sure, I’ll give you that with those numbers listed above, the Pirates first baseman probably won’t finish the year with his current .333 AVG and the nearly 45 home runs he’s on pace to hit. But we’re witnessing a breakout by the 26-year-old, and owners shouldn’t even consider moving him for much less than he’s currently worth.
Will Jose Ramirez remain this bad?
An incredible number of Jose Ramirez’s statistics look so eerily similar to his stats from last year’s monster season that it’s mind-blowing he’s been this bad. A breakout is coming. His .213 BABIP isn’t going to last all season, nor is his paltry 5.9% HR/FB rate. Similar to Carpenter, Ramirez has just been a smidgen off at the plate. Ramirez and Carpenter are in unusually similar circumstances, as both are heavy fly-ball hitters. What happens to fly-ball hitters who are off? They hit a bunch of lazy fly balls and have a low HR/FB rate, low average, and few home runs. What happens when they get back on track? Exactly what Carpenter did last season. Seriously, Ramirez owners, hang in there. When that smidgen he is “off” turns to “on” instead, his hot stretch could put Carpenter’s surge from last season in the dust.
Will Tim Anderson remain this good?
This far into the year, it’s a major surprise that Tim Anderson sits as the fifth-best batter on the player rater. While his 13 steals and eight home runs might be somewhat real, his average definitely isn’t. To put it simply, Anderson isn’t hitting the ball that hard, and he still has a .377 BABIP. He’s quick, but he won’t outrun that BABIP for a full season. The problems will come when he isn’t even reaching base at his current clip of .360, which is putrid for a player batting .329. Anderson has walked a grand total of six times all year, and when his BABIP falls, so will his stolen base totals. His final line might look something like 25 home runs, 30 steals, and a .290 AVG, which is very solid. Keep in mind, however, that those totals mean just 17 home runs and 17 steals the rest of the season. That won’t be enough to keep Anderson ranked as the fifth-best batter in baseball with the low run and RBI totals he has hitting in the back half of the White Sox lineup.
Will Daniel Murphy remain this bad?
Daniel Murphy flat out stinks right now. Not only has he dealt with multiple injuries, but he hasn’t even been an everyday player for the Rockies. This was a guy who was a fantasy darling in the eyes of many with his move to Colorado. I’m going to be blunt with you; every single one of Murphy’s numbers are bad. Nothing good exists here. The two injuries Murphy has dealt with — hand and back — can also be tricky. Sometimes, players move past them and have successful seasons. Too often, those types of injuries linger and ruin a season. Here’s the good news: Only nine of Murphy’s 22 games played have come at Coors Field. Maybe he will find his groove with a little more home cooking. Currently, though, the prospects of Murphy fully turning it around seem bleak, at best.
Will Paul DeJong remain this good?
Paul DeJong’s career BABIP is .325 while his career average is .273, a 52 point difference. His BABIP and average this year? .358 and .320, respectively, a 38 point difference. In the grand scheme of things, that seems just about right, considering the shortstop has hit the ball harder this year than ever. The huge indicator DeJong has turned a corner has to be his increased walk rate and his massively decreased strikeout rate. His strikeout percentage is actually more than 11% lower than when he first entered the league in 2017. Yes, a major part of the reason DeJong is a top-10 hitter right now is the fact he has somewhat luckily amassed 38 runs scored already. But actually, he has gotten significantly unlucky in the RBI department. Let’s be honest, hitting behind Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t exactly provided him with a ton of RBI opportunities. If Carpenter and Goldschmidt heat up, DeJong might find a way to finish right up with the top 10-to-20 hitters in baseball.
Will Corey Seager remain this bad?
I’m not exactly sure what the poor drafters of Corey Seager thought they were getting exactly. Ever since draft day, he seemed vastly overvalued. His career high in home runs is 26, and he has never stolen more than four bases in a season. Top that off with the ever-present fact that he was coming off Tommy John surgery, and that created a bad mix for owners who were willing to take him over other big names. Not shockingly, the Dodgers shortstop has only hit four home runs and has no stolen bases. His underlying numbers suggest that he might not get much better, either. Unless Seager proves something soon, he shouldn’t even be a player owners roster.
Will Michael Brantley remain this good?
Brantley, who has been amazing thus far, has a BABIP just nine points higher than his average. His HR/FB rate, however, is 8.9 points higher than his career average. The moral of the story is he probably won’t hit 35 home runs, but he very well might hit .330. Of course, as always has been the case with Brantley, health is the key. If he can stay healthy, he very well might hit 25 home runs, clear 100 runs and RBIs, and hit .330. That makes him an incredibly valuable fantasy player for where he was drafted.