MLB Streaks & Trends: May 17
Joe Gallina goes around the league, tracking the notable streaks and current trends affecting most fantasy baseball leagues.
The upcoming waiver wire period (Week 9 for most of you) will be one for the ages. Lots of FAAB dollars will be invested on a who’s who of some of baseball’s top recently promoted hitting prospects.
We’ve covered waiver wire bids in previous columns but this is a good time for a quick refresher course on some things to consider when trying to decide how much of your FAAB dollars you should be spending this weekend.
Get ready to be involved in a bidding war. To win the war you’re going to have to do your homework. Check your league’s previous transaction history. Familiarize yourself with the bidding habits of your league mates and what type of FAAB dollar amounts have typically won previous bidding wars in your league. Check your league mates’ FAAB budgets and their rosters. Does one particular team in your league have a specific need which will cause them to target a specific player? Based on their remaining budget what kind of a realistic bid can they make?
Keep your expectations in check. We’ve been spoiled by the recent successes of guys like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Pete Alonso . Almost all of the current crop of recently promoted prospects we’ll be bidding on this weekend look like they have can’t miss potential, but some of them will fall flat on their face. Remember, even Mike Trout batted just .214 for the first 46 games of his career.
When the smoke clears after this weekend you may find that some of your league mates may have dropped some valuable players from their fantasy rosters. Take advantage of that. On the other hand, make sure that you aren’t the guy or gal who drops someone with top fantasy value from your squad.
Here’s a few quick hits on some of more prominent new major leaguers you’ll likely be bidding on this weekend:
Willie Calhoun has been a top performer in the minor leagues (.289/.354/.501 career triple-slash) however he has previously struggled against big league pitching. It seems like he’s got it all figured out this time around (six hits in his first 12 ABs, two home runs). The Rangers have stated Calhoun will see significant playing time for the near future.
Brendan Rodgers has a power bat and can hit for average. The Rockies have been a bit consistent in their use of their young players this season but if he hits, Rodgers could take over as their everyday second baseman. Be aware that he’s been a bit injury prone throughout his career.
Austin Riley is another power hitter who has gotten off to a quick start (four hits in his first seven at-bats including a home run). Although he’s a natural third baseman, he has started in left field in his first two big league games. With Ender Inciarte slumping and now on the IL, Riley could see regular ABs if he continues to produce.
So far the trend has been for teams to call up their top hitting prospects. If you are shut out on the waiver wire this weekend don’t worry. There are still some top positional players yet to be called up (keep an eye out for Astros 1B/OF prospect Yordan Alvarez ). At the same time, you might want to hold onto some of your FAAB dollars. Sooner or later teams are going to start to promote their top pitching prospects and you’re going to want to be able to bid for their services.
Be on the lookout for White Sox top pitching prospect Dylan Cease. The Marlins will eventually promote Zac Gallen, who has a 1.16 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. The Pirates will probably want to see how Mitch Keller performs against big league pitching before the season is over. Perhaps you might want to be proactive and invest a couple of FAAB dollars on one of those top pitching prospects this weekend while most other fantasy players are busy trying to fortify their offense.
Speaking of offense, there have been lots of runs scored at Angel Stadium of Anaheim this season. As per ESPN, through May 16th Angel Stadium has been the second friendliest home run hitting ballpark in baseball. In case you’re wondering, Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field is first and Coors Field is eighth.
The fact that more home runs are being hit at Angel Stadium shouldn’t be all too surprising. After all, we’re in the middle of a new live ball era. However, prior to last season the Angels lowered the height of the home run boundary in right field by 10-feet.
What is surprising, is Angels third baseman Tommy La Stella ’s breakout season. La Stella put up some good numbers in the minor leagues (.310/.392/.450 career triple slash) but he had a hard time getting regular at bats while with the Cubs. He has settled into an everyday role with the Angels and as of Friday morning La Stella was batting .301 and had hit 11 home runs. He’s batting .404 with five home runs and 13 RBI in his last 14 games.
La Stella’s production level over the past two weeks is obviously not sustainable, but his advanced metrics suggest he will continue to be fantasy viable for the rest of the season. He’s become a much more disciplined hitter, cutting his strikeout rate by more than half in comparison to last season. He’s also raised his hard hit rate by almost 14 points and his fly ball rate has increased by just over 14 points during that time frame.
Fantasy Swiss Army knife, Marwin Gonzalez struggled to get his batting average over the “Mendoza Line” during the early part of the season. However he’s posted a .362/.455/.532 triple slash for the Twins over his past 13 games. DFS players should note that his home stats have been much better than his road stats. He’s eligible at multiple positions and his expected slugging percentage suggests that his power bat will awaken from its season long slumber before long.
Rays outfielder Avisaíl García is batting .421 with a 1.211 OPS over his past 10 games. Garcia, who batted .330 in 2017, is rosterable in deeper leagues (12 teams or more). Statcast advanced metrics don’t suggest we’ll see much regression from his current .296/.358/.519 triple slash. He has a good chance of ending up with upwards of 20 home runs by seasons end.
Nomar Mazara is batting .309 with four home runs over his past 19 games. While we’d like to see him hit for more power his above average hard hit rate (45.6) and expected slugging percentage suggest that we should see an uptick in home run production. With Willie Calhoun ’s recent call up Mazara will have to continue hitting in order to ensure he’ll get regular playing time. The good news is that Statcast projects his expected batting average as .040 points higher than his season long .255 average.
As for pitchers you should take note of, A’s starter Frankie Montas hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his eight starts this season. His 2.78 overall ERA is tied for 13th best among all starters. ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA suggest we’ll probably see a bit of an increase in his season long ERA, but current estimates indicate it will still be in an acceptable range (3.26 to 3.84).
Fellow A’s starter Chris Bassitt is also worth adding via the waiver wire or trade. He has a sparkling 1.93 ERA in five starts. Expect some regression. After all we can’t expect him to maintain a 100 percent strand rate all season. He’s been mowing batters down with a 10.5 K/9 rate and his 2.5 BB/9 rate is significantly better than his 3.4 career rate.
Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas seems to have figured things out of late. He’s posted a 1.35 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just two walks in his last three starts (20 IP). He had been pitching to a 5.29 ERA prior to those starts.
Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff is 6-1 with a 3.72 ERA, but he’s been dominant in his last four starts. He’s struck out 27 batters in 22 IP, walked eight and pitched to a 1.23 ERA. He’s also won all of his last four starts during that time frame.
Lastly, one other Brewers pitcher to take note of is Gio González . It wasn’t too long ago that he was pitching in the minor leagues hoping for a spot on a big league roster. So far Gonzalez hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his first five starts for the Brewers. He’s 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 1.078 WHIP.
Somewhere out there Dallas Keuchel , who’s expected to sign somewhere in June, may be feeling hopeful after watching Gonzalez’s recent success.