Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Week 11
Injuries are the worst. And to cheer them is in fact just classless. We saw that in Game 5 of the NBA Finals when Kevin Durant went down with his Achilles injury. Kudos to players on both sides for shutting down the few who were visibly cheering in Toronto. For the Warriors to rally and come back to win the series, they’ll have to do it sans Durant, who shouldn’t have ever had his heart or willingness to win come into question at all. The guy risked it all for his team, especially when he’s slated to get a max deal this summer.
Injuries suck, and no one wants them to happen. Yet we deal with them every year, and we are forced to navigate them on our fantasy teams, too. When a guy goes down, it’s the next-man-up approach that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin preaches about every year. For this week’s category analysis, we are going to look at some hitters who have a new opportunity ahead of them due to injury, suspension, or change of scenery. Here are some guys who can help you in the traditional roto categories who are owned in 50 percent of leagues or fewer on Yahoo.
Home Runs: David Bote (2B/3B – CHC): 12%
I don’t know how much long-standing power Bote has, but the Cubs should ride the hot hand and let the 26-year-old be an everyday player until he shows that he can’t. With it appearing more and more likely that Ben Zobrist won’t return to the Cubs this year, and with Daniel Descalso and Addison Russell both struggling, Bote has filled in admirably. He’s slashing .283/.358/.500 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 187 plate appearances on the year. His 20.5 home run to fly ball ratio is right there with the likes of Alex Bregman, Yoan Moncada, and Daniel Vogelbach. We need all the help we can get at second base, so I’m OK picking him up in 12-team leagues and larger.
Average: Elias Diaz (C – PIT): 10%
Francisco Cervelli has struggled when he’s played this year, but for a guy who has had a history of head injuries, landing on the seven-day concussion list is worrisome. Enter Diaz, who put together good numbers last season when filling in for Cervelli. While he has quite matched the production, he still offers a good average for the position. Outside of the top five at the position, you’ll look for any edge that you can get.
Runs: Scott Kingery (3B/SS/OF – PHI): 41%
When Andrew McCutchen went down with a torn ACL, it was a shot to the Phillies and fantasy players. Using the Tomlinism from above, Kingery was the next man up for the Phillies. Since coming off the IL, all he’s done is rake. With the multi-position eligibility, he’s even more valuable for fantasy players. He should get regular time in the outfield, and even if the Phillies bring someone else in, he’s surpassed Maikel Franco on the depth chart. Grab him now, especially in category leagues.
RBIs: Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF – TEX): 11%
Another player making the most of his opportunity is Santana. Joey Gallo went down with an oblique injury two weeks ago, and while he’s starting some light hitting off a tee, it’s still unknown how long he’ll be out for. While no one can replace the production that the early-season MVP candidate Gallo had, Santana is giving it his best shot. In June, Santana is slashing .333/.333/.567 with a 118 wRC+. The Rangers lineup is sneaky good, and Santana will continue aiding in the run production as long as his bat is in the lineup.
Stolen Bases: Keon Broxton (OF – BAL): 1%
In fantasy basketball, I like targeting players on bad teams. They typically get a lot of run, and put up good numbers in garbage time. There’s value for players on bad teams in baseball, too, and Broxton has shown his value lately with the lowly Orioles. In 15 games with the Birds, Broxton has three steals and three homers. He’s a deep league guy, sure, and he’ll hurt your average (he’s hitting .165 on the season with two different teams), but steals are steals.
Wins: Adrian Sampson (SP/RP – TEX): 23%
It’s hard to buy into Sampson fully. He’s ramped up his SwStr% lately, but still doesn’t miss a ton of bats. Even more worrisome is that he’s a flyball-prone pitcher pitching in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. So far, so good for Sampson, though. It’s hard to predict wins, but the Rangers have been on a roll lately, which increases his win probability. He gets the Red Sox today, which will be a true test for him. If he passes that with flying colors, his ownership should probably be around 50 percent.
WHIP: Trevor Richards (SP – MIA): 35%
Caleb Smith getting injured was a tough break for fantasy owners, but the other three exciting Marlins pitchers are doing their part to make up for it. Richards, Pablo Lopez, and Sand Alcantara have all been ace-like over their past five starts. Richards himself is sporting a 1.75 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 innings. He and Lopez need to be owned in at least 60 percent of leagues.
ERA: Jalen Beeks (RP – TB): 6%
The Rays know how to get the most out of their pitchers. While Beeks isn’t used like a traditional starter, he’s good for about four innings at a time, twice per week. His ERA on the season is 2.55, and that pretty much aligns with his 2.86 FIP. It’s better to have a pitcher like Beeks on your team to stabilize your ERA than it is to run a less-than-average starter out there.
Strikeouts: Sonny Gray (SP – CIN): 47%
I was surprised to see that Gray not only had the 33rd-best ERA among qualified starting pitchers, but that he is 22nd in baseball with his 25.7 K%. I was even more surprised to find out that he was only owned in 47 percent of leagues. That needs to change.
Saves: Ian Kennedy (SP/RP – KC): 15%
The Royals haven’t had a ton of save opportunities, but when they do get them, they are going to Kennedy, who has had two in the past week. His FIP (2.02) is actually a lot better than his ERA (3.71), and he looks like a strikeout machine out of the bullpen with his 30.1 K%. There’s something here.