4 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
While it’s true the dog days of the MLB season can drag, blink and it will be the most important time of the fantasy baseball season. We’re quickly approaching the final days to improve a squad before crunch time. The days might be long, but the time remaining is dwindling. That means the Burning Questions are heating up just like the MLB hot stove. Enjoy!
Can A.J. Pollock be useful the rest of the season?
Notice I phrased this question with a “can” and not a “will.” I’m not in the business of predicting whether or not injury-prone players will stay healthy. What I can tell you, however, is that Pollock has done enough to prove that when he is healthy, he’s useful.
If you can think all the way back to the first week or two of this season, Pollock was on fire. His first 10 games resulted in a nice 12-for-37 (.324 AVG) run. After that, it’s a safe assumption that his elbow infection kicked in and was a huge contributing factor in getting only 11 hits in his next 66 at-bats before being placed on the IL on April 30. Pollock has now seemed healthy in his first few games back for the Dodgers.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking Pollock is almost 40 years old and nearing the end of his career. After all, injuries have plagued him, and his glory season for the Diamondbacks happened four years ago. But seriously, Pollock is only 31. His BABIP, which is about 25 points below his career average, coupled with his quality hard-hit rates suggest he’s gotten a bit unlucky thus far. Keep in mind, Pollock had 21 home runs and 13 stolen bases in just 113 games last season with the Diamondbacks. We’ve seen him go on stretches where he reminds us he could have easily been one of the most dynamic players in the entire game. Whether he stays healthy or not remains to be seen. As long as he avoids another injury and keeps playing for the Dodgers, you could do a lot worse than rolling A.J. Pollock out there in your starting lineup.
What’s up with Danny Santana’s success?
Want to see an interesting player profile? Check out Danny Santana. Between his advanced metrics and past track record, there’s a lot to digest. Does anyone remember his 2014 season? Unless you’re a die-hard Twins fan, probably not. In his first taste of the bigs, he finished the year with a .319 AVG, seven home runs, and 20 steals in just 101 games. In 2015 through 2018, Santana stunk up the joint. Heck, he only hit over .215 in 2015. Ouch.
Now, in 2019, it’s like Santana’s a new man. He’s been quoted as saying he’s mentally in a better place and attributes that to some of his success. Aside from that, the short answer for his success is that he’s gotten incredibly lucky. His .389 BABIP is the only indicator needed to show that. If you dig a little deeper, though, Santana has really mashed the ball this season, at least for his standards. He has taken nearly 14 percentage points off his soft-contact rate and applied 8.5 of them directly to his hard-hit percentage. That’s a massive jump for a player in one season.
This is the second time this year that owners have rushed to pick up Santana in the midst of a hot streak. After the first time, he quickly cooled off. While that should probably be expected somewhat this time around, Santana isn’t just going to fall off of a cliff for the entire rest of the season. Feel free to ride the hot streak while it lasts, and know that Santana is hitting the ball hard enough to remain a relevant factor in mixed leagues the remainder of the year.
Where is Will Smith going to land?
The inevitable Will Smith trade no doubt looms large over all of his fantasy owners right now. Smith has been phenomenal this year. So good that he ranks fourth in MLB with 24 saves and fourth among relief pitchers on the player rater. This is all while playing for the lowly Giants. A trade to a contender without a solid closer would be huge, while a trade to a team with an established closer would be devastating.
Where’s his most likely destination? The NL Central, to either the Brewers or the Cardinals. And frankly, either one of those two teams would be great landing spots considering the circumstances. Milwaukee’s bullpen hasn’t been half as good as last season, when they used Josh Hader in a multi-inning, multi-purpose role. Unfortunately, the rest of their bullpen has all but forced Craig Counsell to keep Hader in the ninth. Acquiring Smith could free Hader up and thrust Smith right into the closer’s role. On the other side, the Cardinals’ loss of Jordan Hicks might compel them into acquiring an arm like Smith. Carlos Martinez has succeeded thus far as the closer, but it seems likely they’d also push him back into a multi-use role, especially since they already have Andrew Miller to use in lefty-lefty situations earlier in games.
If the Brewers or Cardinals want Smith, they’re both poised to acquire him over the Dodgers. While he wouldn’t be a lock to close on either team, the likelihood of him getting traded somewhere in the NL Central has to please managers.
What about the Red Sox pitchers?
Andrew Cashner, who has been on fire lately, was just traded to the Boston Red Sox. While it’s true he doesn’t generate many strikeouts, he could be an incredibly valuable piece for a fantasy team down the stretch. He’s pitched to a 1.38 ERA and 0.69 WHIP over the last month and now finds himself playing for a significantly better team. Somehow, Cashner is still only owned in 40% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. Pick him up while you still can.
In other Red Sox pitcher news, Nathan Eovaldi just began a rehab assignment in Triple-A. That means he shouldn’t be far away at all from a chance at snagging the Red Sox closer’s role for good. Still, he remains only 55% owned. If he’s somehow available in your league, you could walk right into a premier closer over the last two months. Snatch Eovaldi up before he snatches the closing gig in Boston.