Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers: Week 20
Welcome back to the weekly edition of fantasy baseball risers and fallers! You know the deal: I cover some of baseball’s hottest and coldest hitters over the last week. I’ll provide some reasoning behind the success or struggles and what fantasy managers should do with them going forward. I wish I could include Mike Tauchman in the risers section, but I highlighted him last week. He’s continued raking while Kris Bryant continues to struggle.
Depending on your league settings, the trade deadline is rapidly approaching or has already passed. Some of the players I’ll cover are available in the majority of leagues, so be proactive and grab them while they are producing.
Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
Albies was on fire last week, hitting .500 (16-for-32) with two home runs, a steal, and 10 runs. Since July 24, he’s hit in the two-spot behind Ronald Acuña Jr., arguably the hottest player in baseball. This is a massive boost to Albies’ fantasy value, especially when you consider Freddie Freeman is the big bat behind him. Furthermore, Albies has improved essentially every aspect of his game.
Getting lost in the Ronald Acuna dominance (which is justified), Ozzie Albies is taking a major step forward & still just 22.
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats) August 10, 2019
Despite similar power and stolen base numbers, his improvements are more related to the quality of contact and plate approach. He’s hitting fewer pop-ups and more balls at ideal launch angles, which have aided his batting average. I’m not sure you will be able to acquire him at a discount, but he’s going to contribute in all five categories going forward. That type of all-around production can be extremely valuable down the stretch.
Giovanny Urshela (3B/SS – NYY)
Urshela is carrying the wounded Yankees to victory, hitting .450 (9-for-20) with five home runs, 10 RBIs, and a .539 xwOBA over the last week. No one is hotter than Urshela (well, except maybe the guy I discuss next), but he’s in the top five for sure. The improvements he’s made this year are among the highest in the game. Take a look at his visual profile on Baseball Savant.
This season, his average exit velocity ranks 31st among qualified hitters at 91.0 mph. Prior to this season, his average exit velocity was a meager 86.9 mph. Unsurprisingly, his hard-hit rate is up about 10% compared to his career rate. He does have an aggressive approach at the plate that can lead to slumps, but his contact rates are all strong. Striking out just 16.1% of the time, he reminds me of Miguel Andujar, the player he replaced at third base. Urshela also displays an aggressive approach with power to all fields and the ability to make contact at a high clip. The floor on these types of players is much higher due to their contact skills.
Normally, I’d look at in-season projections to see how he might perform going forward. However, in this instance, many systems project Urshela modestly with a batting average around .270 and four home runs the rest of the way. Give me the over … way over.
Aristides Aquino (OF – CIN)
Aquino and Yordan Alvarez are the first pair of rookies to go deep three times on the same day. I’ve already covered Alvarez, and now it’s Aquino’s turn. Since the call to the bigs, he’s hit an incredible seven home runs with 14 RBIs in 10 games! He showed power throughout the minors but has really busted out this year with 35 home runs in just 88 games across two levels. I don’t care if the ball is juiced; that’s crazy good.
Now, Aquino has taken forever to develop. He’s already 25 years old and didn’t reach High-A ball until he was 22. His approach at the plate is extremely aggressive but without high contact rates like Urshela, which can breed inconsistency. He’s swinging at 57.5% of all pitches and 43% of pitches outside the zone. If he qualified, both swing rates would be among the top five in MLB. Not to discourage his incredible feats to date, but owners need to keep expectations in check. Think Austin Riley. Eventually, big-league pitching will adjust. On the plus side, his exit velocity is elite, and Great American Ball Park is favorable for hitters. Grab him everywhere while he’s hot, but beware of a very low floor. You don’t want to be left holding the bag.
Dinelson Lamet (SP – SD)
Lamet is now over 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has looked strong upon his return. Over his last four starts, he’s managed a 3.00 ERA with 30 strikeouts in just 21 innings. That includes last Tuesday’s 12-K performance against the Mariners. His 2.55 FIP over that stretch backs up his success.
The first thing I want to see from a pitcher coming off a lengthy absence is velocity. Lamet is averaging 96.0 mph on his fastball, which has increased one mph from 2017. He’s also throwing a slider 40% of the time and has added a sinker. His contact rate against is just 69.0% with a swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) of 13.9%. Both are among the elite starting pitchers. Control is the last thing to return after Tommy John surgery, and Lamet has struggled with walks in the past. His zone rate looks OK, but his 57.6% first-pitch strike rate isn’t great. Owning Lamet could require some maintenance, but he could provide a strikeout boost for teams down the stretch. He’s available in 90% of ESPN leagues and nearly 70% of Yahoo Leagues, so go get him.
Mike Montgomery (SP/RP – KC)
Montgomery is back with the team that originally drafted him as the 36th overall pick in 2008. Over his last two starts with the Royals, he has a 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts across 12 innings. Taking a step back, moving from the Cubs to the Royals is a positive one overall. While going to the American League is a negative change for any pitcher, his new home park is more favorable, and the division isn’t quite as difficult. I don’t believe he’s a must-own in all leagues, but you could do worse in deeper formats.
Looking ahead at the Royals’ upcoming schedule, Montgomery is currently in line to face the Mets, Red Sox, Athletics, Orioles, Marlins, and White Sox. Outside of the Red Sox, his potential opponents are average to below-average offensive clubs. He’s owned in just two percent of combined Yahoo/ESPN leagues, so he should be available on the waiver wire. Be sure to play the matchups, but Montgomery could be a valuable back-end pitcher in 14-team leagues and deeper.
Domingo Santana (SEA – OF)
Santana appeared on my very first Risers/Fallers article of the 2019 season as a guy to acquire. His stock was on the rise thanks to an improved plate approach. However, over the last seven games, he struck out 12 times in 22 plate appearances and has managed just two singles. Santana was either drafted around pick 200 or picked up as a free agent in shallower leagues, so the numbers he’s banked have been extremely valuable. Let’s look at his first and second-half splits.
|2019||AVG||Hard Contact%||GB%||K%||Breaking Ball%|
The strikeout rate is a significant concern, but the ground-ball rate sticks out like a sore thumb. Santana’s career ground-ball rate is 45.3%. If he continues beating balls into the ground at over a 60% clip, his value goes away. When looking at his strikeout rate, it’s no surprise that pitchers are throwing him more breaking balls. He’s been awful versus the curveball with a 40% strikeout rate and .192 wOBA this season. He’s a streaky hitter to hold in deeper formats, but I don’t see pitchers attacking him differently now that Edwin Encarnacion is gone from a diminished Seattle lineup. Although his bottom line for the season will be decent, Santana will continue to struggle in the second half.
Franmil Reyes (OF – CLE)
Since moving from San Diego to Cleveland, Reyes is hitting .111 with zero home runs, three RBIs, and 14 strikeouts in 39 plate appearances. We should give him more time to adjust to his new situation and new league, but the Indians are in win-now mode. While Reyes is typically a Statcast darling, his xwOBA over the last 50 plate appearances is just .255 (league average is about .310). Since inserted into the Indians’ lineup, he hasn’t hit higher than sixth and has recently been placed in the bottom third. In all but one game, he’s been the designated hitter, which shows that the Indians don’t trust his defense in the outfield.
Aside from the elite quality of contact Reyes provides, he’s regressed since last season. He’s chasing more pitches outside the zone and making a lot less contact. His 65.6% contact rate ranks as MLB’s second-lowest just ahead of Michael Chavis. That’s a drop of nearly four percent from his rookie year. Fortunately, Reyes is streaky and can provide power to all fields. He could certainly get hot down the stretch, but can you afford to wait with only seven weeks remaining in the regular season?
Dan Vogelbach (1B – SEA)
Vogelbach hit right at the Mendoza Line with zero home runs, one RBI, and a 50% strikeout rate last week. He’s struggled in July and August after finally showing his power potential early in 2019. Even though his strikeout rate is 25.3%, his approach at the plate is solid. He’s offering at pitches outside the zone just 22% of the time with a well below-average SwStr rate. He’s struggling with strikeouts because of his patience and a decrease in contact against pitches inside the zone.
Vogelbach seems to be selling out for power. He’s elevating the ball more frequently, as his ground-ball rate has dropped a whopping 17%. That’s great for his power production, but he’s also suppressed his batting average by tripling his pop-up rate. His expected statistics are right in line with his production to date. Expect Vogelbach to maintain his power, but Seattle’s lineup is much weaker than it was in April and May. In terms of batting average, I don’t see a rebound despite the low BABAIP. He’s a left-handed batter without speed who will see his BABIP suppressed in part due to the shift. Unfortunately, given the home run environment, his value just isn’t what it could be.
Caleb Smith (SP – MIA)
Will Caleb Smith be a part of the Marlins’ future, or will they trade him for prospects? He’s already 28 years old and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Smith missed a month in the middle of the season, and he’s sporting a 5.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 9.5% walk rate since May 26. What’s even more concerning is the home run rate. He’s given up more than two homers per nine innings during that span.
Smith has not induced the high volume of swings and misses as he did through the first two months of the season. His 10.6% SwStr rate over the last two-and-a-half months is just about league-average. Marlins Park is favorable for pitchers, but the Marlins’ offense will struggle to back Smith up with run support. Whether or not the Marlins flip Smith this offseason, they need to keep him healthy going into next year. He’s likely to be shut down early, especially if his struggles continue.