By The Numbers: Trevor Story, Eric Hosmer, Craig Kimbrel
A busy week is already stirring before Friday’s MLB trade deadline.
The party decided early when the Marlins sent Starling Marte to the A’s for Jesús Luzardo on Wednesday. Later that evening, the Yankees acquired another big bopper in Joey Gallo. With a plethora of sensible trade candidates, those won’t be the last marquee players to change uniforms.
Of course, these moves will force fantasy managers to re-access a player’s updated value. How will additions affect a contender’s depth chart? Who could gain or lose value by swapping places for the final two months?
Let’s examine three players swirling around the rumor mill to get a sense of how fantasy players should proceed.
*Note: All stats are updated as of Wednesday.
Trevor Story (SS – COL): .633 Road OPS
A Rockies hitter faltering on the road is hardly groundbreaking news. Often dubbed the Coors Field Hangover, players struggle when constantly transitioning from their hitter-friendly park to normal altitudes outside of Colorado.
DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado have recently shown that steep home-road splits are not as simple as Coors Field artificially inflating their abilities. MLB teams apparently aren’t falling for this trap when it comes to Story, who’s hitting .183 outside of his cozy home park. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the shortstop’s trade market is nevertheless percolating:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 28, 2021
Yet the depths of Story’s road struggles have contributed to a career-wost .315 wOBA. Fantasy managers didn’t invest a first-round pick expecting a .240 batting average, and while he’s appeased them with 17 steals, the power has evaporated everywhere. Story has six of his 13 home runs at home, yielding a career-low .182 ISO.
He’s also in the midst of a mighty funk, hitting .176 (13-for-74) with 24 strikeouts in 19 games this month. MLB teams might not be worried — or they’re trying to buy low and swindle Colorado after seeing the light return for Arenado. But should fantasy managers fret regardless of where he’s playing in August?
A trade could actually help his home-run total. Per Statcast, Story has 20.6 expected home runs. However, the batting average is far more likely to rise back to past norms if he stays put. Unless he moves to a team that gives a red light on the bases, Story should wind up batting closer to .250-.260 in a 20-30 season.
Don’t panic and try to pawn him for anything before the Rockies can. If anything, fears of Story’s slump and a possible trade could create a buying opportunity.
Eric Hosmer (1B – SD): 56.7 GB%
The Padres added to their already crowded lineup by acquiring All-Star starter Adam Frazier from the Pirates. This prompted fantasy managers to ask a question they wondered all offseason: Who’s out of luck in San Diego?
Frazier made his team debut Tuesday in the leadoff role, playing left field while Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar rode the pine against right-hander James Kaprielian. While Profar will likely be a utility presence off the bench, Myers was unavailable due to a hamstring ailment. Myers returned Wednesday against lefty Sean Manaea at Hosmer’s expense.
So it’s a platoon between Hosmer and Myers, right? Not so fast. Myers has actually obtained most of his power (.470 SLG) against fellow righties this season. Hosmer, meanwhile, has a .095 ISO against righties.
That’s why so many onlookers were ready to throw Hosmer overboard.
For fantasy purposes, the first baseman is a boring but durable compiler who provides occasional bursts of brilliance. His .265 average with eight homers and five steals does the trick for a corner infielder, particularly in 15-team mixed leagues. However, he’s a below-average hitter (96) and subpar defender on pace to post a negative WAR for the third time in four seasons.
The only outlier was the truncated 2020, during which a rejuvenated Hosmer batted .287/.333/.517 with nine home runs, a 127 WRC+, and 0.9 fWAR in 39 games. He finally seemed to get the memo about launch angle, dipping his ground-ball rate down to a career-low 46.2% after spending his past four seasons over 55.5%. Heading into 2021, maintaining that change over a full sample size was key to transforming Hosmer from a durable steady hand to a high-impact hitter.
It didn’t stick. Hosmer is once again near the top of MLB’s leaderboard in ground-ball rate among speedsters trying to use their legs. Making matters worse, Hosmer also has the most pop-ups (14.1%) of his 11-year career and his lowest barrel rate (5.6%) since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
The Padres could clear this logjam by trading Hosmer before the deadline. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin, they’re exploring offers, which would likely require San Diego to move a top prospect and/or pay a share of his bloated contract. If not, it’ll be interesting to see if the title contenders accept the sunk cost and sit the $18 million Hosmer in favor of putting its best lineup forward.
Hosmer is a pure volume play in fantasy leagues, so even some lost time would severely deflate his value over the final two months.
Craig Kimbrel (RP – CHC): 59.0% Contact Rate
Kimbrel allowed 15 runs in 20.2 innings in 2019 and nine runs in 15.1 innings last year. This season, he’s given up two earned runs (six total) in 36.2 bounce-back innings.
Closers. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
Kimbrel has the lowest FIP (1.08) and xERA (1.72) of all qualified relievers. He leads them all in strikeout rate (46.7%) with the second-best K-BB% (37.2%) behind Liam Hendriks. A 59.0% contact rate is not only MLB’s lowest rate, but the lowest mark of his 12-year career.
His WHIP was 1.43 last year. Now his ERA is 0.49.
This is all to say Kimbrel is a stud again. Since he’s unlikely to reach the requirements to unlock a 2022 vesting option, the fourth-place Cubs have to capitalize and trade the 33-year-old reliever this week.
Most contenders already have a marquee closer, but it’s hard to see Kimbrel taking a back seat to anyone. (A trade to the White Sox is the scenario that’d make fantasy managers sweat the most.) That includes the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, who has more walks (27) than Kimbrel has walks and hits combined (26).
There are also no caution signs indicating this comeback is a mirage, so sit back and enjoy Kimbrel’s resurgence. While he might make the biggest impact of any deadline acquisition in October, his fantasy value shouldn’t waver.
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