4 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
On the surface, the fantasy baseball season may seem to get easier after the trade deadline. There are no trades to investigate, deals to shoot out, and offers to shoot down. But that means there’s only one way to improve a team: the waiver wire. And depending on the competitiveness of your league, that can be incredibly tough. So for all of you out there who play in extremely competitive leagues — and all others who don’t, but just need a leg up on the competition — this edition of Burning Questions is for you. Enjoy.
Which players with save opportunities are best left on the waiver wire?
I get that this is an odd Burning Question, but it’s a really important one right now. With closers so valuable, it can be enticing to snag someone who will only detract from your team in the long run. Leave these “closers” on the waiver wire.
Wade Davis (RP – COL)
Davis seemed to have the perfect chance to slide back into the closer’s role in Colorado after Scott Oberg was ruled done for the season with a blood clot in his arm. What did Davis do in his first save chance? Implode. After pitching relatively well in the recent past, Davis gave up three runs without recording an out. It simply isn’t going to work for Davis in the closer’s role, and he shouldn’t be on your roster.
Shane Greene and Luke Jackson (RPs – ATL)
After recording two consecutive saves on Saturday and Sunday, it’s clear Mark Melancon is the preferred closing option right now in Atlanta. Greene and Jackson both had their moments in the sun earlier this year, but they should be nowhere near a standard league roster now.
Daniel Hudson, Hunter Strickland, and Fernando Rodney (RPs – WAS)
All three of these Washington relievers have been hot pick-ups since Sean Doolittle went on the IL. First and foremost, Doolittle isn’t expected to miss much time. The presumption is that with a bit of rest, he should be able to come back and pitch effectively down the stretch for the Nationals.
While that’s obviously no guarantee given how he pitched recently, good luck trying to peg which of these three relievers will even get saves while Doolittle’s out. All three very well might get a chance, if there’s even that many to go around. Doolittle himself would be better to scoop up if someone in your league became frustrated and dropped him. A little rest should do him some good.
Sergio Romo (RP – MIN)
Bold call here, but I don’t think Romo will get more than another save chance or two for the Twins the rest of the season. While I’m perfectly OK with someone rostering him right now, Taylor Rogers is still the reliever to own in this bullpen. In fact, the only reason Romo received his last save chance was because Rogers pitched against the heart of the order in the eighth inning and Miguel Sano committed an error, upping Rogers’ pitch count high enough to keep him from working the ninth as well. Romo is the only player on this list who could potentially be rostered, but know that Rogers is still the preferred option.
What’s wrong with Khris Davis and should he even be rostered?
What a fall from joy for Davis, who hit .247 with seemingly a million home runs almost every year before this season. What’s wild about his epic collapse this season? Most of his key advanced metrics look nearly identical to the years prior, except two. From 2015-2019, Davis’ BABIP has remained within a 24-point window. His K% is actually his lowest in the five-year span. His hard-hit rate is the highest it has been his entire career, and his soft-hit rate is the third-lowest of his career.
So what the heck is up? In the era where everyone from utility players to mashers is focused on launch angle, Davis — the best home run hitter the previous three seasons — can’t seem to hit the ball in the air. And when he does, it’s just not going as far. His FB% this year is a full five points lower than his career average. Making matters worse, his HR/FB% is almost six points lower than his career average. All of that amounts to a pace of hitting around 20 fewer home runs than he has each of the past three seasons.
No one knows exactly why Davis can’t elevate anymore, especially not with any power. And, unfortunately, the Athletics have started to give up, too. Davis can’t even play every day with how much he’s single-handedly sinking the metaphorical ship. Unless he finds a way to massively turn around, there’s no reason to roster the designated hitter. It might hurt, but it’s time to cut the cord and let Davis hit the waiver wire.
Is Jack Flaherty a top-five starting pitcher the rest of the season?
Quite simply, no starting pitcher in baseball has been better than Flaherty, who has posted a 1.47 ERA since the beginning of July. If you took him toward the beginning of your draft, this is more in line with what you expected. What’s changed? Flaherty apparently has fully comprehended just how good his slider is and has begun throwing it more often. Couple that with the fact that he is now throwing an absolutely filthy two-seam fastball, and his repertoire has become deadly.
Flaherty was visibly unlucky throughout the first half of the season, and I called him a great buy-low candidate to start June. I’ll go one further now; Justin Verlander, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke are the only four starting pitchers I’d take ahead of Flaherty for the last six weeks of the regular season. Flaherty has moved all the way into top-five starting pitcher territory, and that’s saying something for where he was two months ago.
Who are a few good stashes for the stretch run?
Brandon Lowe (1B/2B/OF – TB)
Lowe has been on the IL for seven weeks with a shin contusion. Finally making progress, he’s rehabbing in Triple-A and could return to Tampa Bay by the end of the week. Having hit .276/.339/.523 with 16 homers and five steals in 307 plate appearances before going down, he should return to plenty of playing time. Those are numbers that could help your fantasy team.
Rich Hill (SP – LAD)
The news on Hill has been all over the place. First, it almost seemed like Hill, considering his injury history, might not even make it back this season after suffering a strained flexor tendon. Then, it was announced that he would pitch out of the bullpen upon returning. Now, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Hill still has enough time to build up to 90-100 pitches. This obviously leaves the door open for the Dodgers to bring him back as a starter, but likely not until the MLB postseason. Again, knowing Hill’s injury history, that might not happen. But Hill has also shown, many times, that he can return from injury and be immediately effective. If you have the roster space, Hill has the potential to be an above-average starting pitcher for the fantasy playoffs.
Alex Wood (SP – CIN)
Wood’s 5.92 ERA has been the definition of “meh” since returning from the IL last month. He’s shaking off rust that no doubt accumulated over the four months he missed. Wood still looks close to being very good. Right now, he’s a touch off. If he can correct his astronomically high HR/FB rate, he could soon be an effective starting pitcher who makes a great stash for the fantasy playoffs. Be patient and give him some time.
Pedro Strop (RP – CHC)
My gut call, based on sound evidence, says Craig Kimbrel doesn’t stay healthy the rest of the year. This is much less about how Strop has pitched recently — yeah, not great — and much more about Kimbrel. Guys who come in so late in a season have such a hard time staying healthy, and they oftentimes suffer recurring injuries. If you are looking to stash someone for potential saves during the fantasy playoffs, you could do much worse than Strop.