Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: April 16
Justin Vreeland surveys the fantasy baseball world and examines whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
We are still early into the season and while we don’t want to overreact to just a few weeks of action, it is still important to take notice of who is doing well (or not) and why. We can use these small samples in determining what adds/drops or trades that we should target. Player’s fantasy values never stop changing and making the right moves in-season is crucial to winning a championship.
Michael Pineda – It feels like it’s been a lifetime since Pineda last pitched in the MLB (prior to this year, of course), but in reality he last pitched in July of 2017. However, he is back and pitching very well to start 2019 as he has a 3.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts across 15.0 innings pitched. The strikeouts are right in line with his career average and his 3.27 FIP indicates that his ERA is right about where it should be thus far. He has already picked up two wins and the Twins are a good enough team to let him continue to rack up wins throughout the season. He also gets the benefit of pitching in the AL central, a division that features the least amount of offensive fire punch of any division in baseball. His division opponents currently rank 14th (KC), 18th (CWS), 24th (CLE), and dead last (DET) in runs scored. Pineda should be owned in all formats until he shows otherwise.
Caleb Smith – Smith is off to a great start this year, despite his first three matchups all coming against some of the top offenses in baseball (which is a great sign towards continued success). He has given up just nine hits and five earned runs (2.65 ERA) across his first 17.0 innings pitched while striking out 21. His strikeout abilities are for real, as evidenced by his 10.2 K/9 across 77.1 innings in 2018, and if he can keep his ERA under four he is going to have a lot of value in fantasy, despite pitching for the Marlins. He is currently giving up hard contact at a career low rate of 31.6% while forcing soft contact at a career best rate of 21.1%. Similar to Pineda, Smith should be owned in all formats until he shows otherwise. There is too much upside here.
Touki Toussaint – Toussaint was recently called up and in his first appearance he fired six shutout innings in relief with seven strikeouts while picking up the win. Needless to say, the Braves and Manager Brian Snitker were impressed and Toussaint’s next appearance will be as a starter on April 18, in a matchup with Arizona. He is the 53rd ranked prospect in baseball and has posted a 9.5 K/9 in his professional career across 576.2 innings. It is unknown how long Toussaint will stick in the rotation, but there is enough upside in him to pick him up in nearly all formats. If he continues to pitch well the Braves will keep him in the rotation and he will provide strong fantasy value.
Rafael Devers – Devers is still searching for his first home run of 2019 and has just two RBI in his first 59 at bats. He hasn’t hit terrible, sitting on a .254 batting average currently, but the counting stats are leaving a lot to be desired. Devers makes for a strong buy-low target in fantasy currently. The Red Sox offense is off to a slow start as a whole and that will change sooner-or-later as there is just too much talent in their lineup. Home runs come in bunches and once Devers finds his first one you can expect more to follow shortly after. He is still just a 22-year old kid and he already had 31 home runs across 672 at bats prior to this year. Take advantage of a disgruntled fantasy owner and make a move for Devers.
Garrett Hampson – The hype train got out of control for Hampson during draft season and people who invested in him have not been rewarded. At the beginning of the season, Hampson was having trouble finding playing time, but a couple of injuries have opened the door, and he is now playing every day; however, he isn’t doing a whole lot with the playing time as he is hitting .176 with zero home runs, zero steals, two RBI, and four runs scored across 51 at bats. He does have a strong track record in the stolen base department though and it’s only a matter of time until he starts swiping some bags, but the rest of his game is up for debate. He can be left on the wire (outside of deep leagues) until he gets hot.
Miles Mikolas – Mikolas is off to a horrendous start this year with a 6.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts across 21.0 innings pitched. Mikolas has never been a strikeout pitcher, but his current K/9 mark of 4.7 is far worse than the 6.5 mark he had in 2018. His current ERA is over double the 2.83 number he had last season and his current FIP of 6.33 shows that it hasn’t been bad luck. He has walked five, hit three, given up five home runs, and surrendered 24 hits already. Personally, I have never liked pitchers with low strikeout rates and I viewed Mikolas as a strong target for regression this year. I wouldn’t buy low on him. If you own him, hope for a good start and then try and move him for some kind of decent return.
Stocks to watch
Jordan Lyles – Lyles has flirted with fantasy relevance in the past, but has never actually broken through. Thus far through two starts Lyles has been lights out; he has given up just six hits and one earned run through 11.0 innings while striking out 12. Those numbers lead to a H/9 against of 4.9 and K/9 of 9.8, both of which would be new career highs. While it is just a small sample and likely unsustainable, it is worth noting that Lyles did in fact post career highs in both of those categories last season with marks of 8.5 and 8.6, respectively. His SwStr% (swinging strike %) is also currently at a career high mark of 11.7%, an area that he also set a career high in last season with a 10.3% mark. Lyles was once a first round pick and is still just 28-years old, so there is at least a little bit of reason to believe he could potentially have a breakout year. He will have a solid chance to keep the good times rolling in his next start against the Giants 29th ranked offense.
Vince Velasquez – Velasquez has pitched well in his first couple starts this season, but one of them came against the Marlins in Miami. He has limited opposing offenses to just six hits and three earned runs through his first 12.0 innings, but has only struck out eight. However, I wouldn’t worry too much about the low strikeout rate as Velasquez is a career 9.6 K/9 guy and he had 15 punch outs across 6.1 innings in Spring Training, so his strikeouts are bound to tick up. The biggest key for Velasquez is if he can keep his ERA under four this season, something he has failed to do in any of his first four seasons in the bigs. He is still just 26-years old despite this being his fifth season in MLB, and his stock is one to watch. He will have a tough test in his next outing, a matchup with the Rockies at Coors Field.