Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: April 23
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.
Tommy La Stella – La Stella is in his first season with the Angels and he is taking advantage of being a regular to a starting lineup for the first time in his career after being a backup/pinch-hitter over the last four years for the Cubs. He already has a career high six home runs (including two multi-homer games), eleven runs scored, and 12 RBI while hitting .237. That .237 batting average isn’t the best, but keep in mind that he currently has a .163 BABIP (yes, you read that right, and yes it is possible since such a large number of his hits have been home runs), a number that is .126 points lower than his career average. He has only struck out four times in 59 at bats this year, good for a 5.8-percent strikeout rate. Considering that he rarely strikes out, that batting average is bound to jump up once some of the balls he is hitting start to avoid gloves. His current home run pace will not be sustained, but he is hitting fly balls at a rate (41.8-percent) well above his career average (31.0-percent) rate and his hard contact percentage of 43.6-percent would be a new career high mark. He is an option in 15-team leagues and in deeper 12-teamers, despite being in a platoon (albeit on the strong side of it).
Mike Soroka – Soroka made his season debut this week and he looked great, firing five innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks. He struck out six, but took the loss. It was originally supposed to be a spot start for Soroka, but after Toussaint was rocked the Braves have now decided to keep Soroka in the rotation and have sent down Toussaint instead. The 21-year old Soroka is super talented and needs to be owned in just about all leagues. He was the 25th ranked prospect entering this year and has already shown he can pitch at the big league level with his 3.51 ERA and 2.85 FIP across five starts in 2018. His next start will be against the Reds in Cincinnati, a favorable match-up in an unfavorable ballpark.
Kevin Gausman – Gausman was great in 2018 after being traded to the Braves and he has continued that success thus far in 2019. Through three starts (19.1 innings pitched), he has a 2.75 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .141 batting average against, and has struck out 22. His .171 BABIP against is unsustainable and it shows in his FIP (3.10), but we don’t need Gausman to keep his 2.75 ERA to be a valuable fantasy asset. I’m buying into Gausman’s time with the Braves and believe he could be a mid-three ERA guy with double-digit wins and close to a strikeout per inning. If his owner is willing to move him with a reasonable asking price, do it. If you are the current owner of Gausman, I would hold unless someone is willing to buy-high on him.
José Leclerc – It’s been a rough start to the year for Leclerc, who now has a 7.88 ERA and 1.88 WHIP after his horrendous four walk outing Sunday. His control has been abysmal and he already has seven walks in just eight innings pitched. His .258 batting average against is also far off his .153 mark and he has already given up more home runs (2) than he did all of last year. The home runs are not something to overly worry about, but his control and walks issued are a big issue. However, it is important to keep in mind that he is just 25-years old and was just signed to an extension. He also has the stuff of a closer and has already had success in the role. That being said, if he has another bad outing or two, I would not be surprised if the Rangers do something similar to what the Mariners did with Edwin Díaz and send him down for a short-term clearing of the mind. It would be brief and he would return to the closer’s role upon his return. His stuff is too good for him to continue to struggle, I would be looking to buy-low here.
Matt Carpenter – Another year, another slow start for Marp, as he is hitting just .226 with three home runs, five RBI, and 13 runs scored. Unsurprisingly the questions have already started rolling in, “what do I do with Marp?” You hold him and wait for him to break out of the slump! We just saw this from him last year and April has been a thorn in his side his whole career. As you can see in his career splits below, April is his worst month across the board in home runs, batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. If you drafted him, you should have been prepared for this and there is no point in dropping/trading him now after you have already sat through the worst version of him. If the owner of Carpenter in your league is fed up with him and willing to sell low, go ahead and move the move and buy him at the discount.
Danny Jansen – Jansen was a hot target in fantasy drafts this year, but the results thus far have not been pretty. The rookie is hitting just .179 with zero home runs, three RBI, and three runs scored. He has also struck out 18 times in 56 at bats (28.6-percent). His .263 BABIP isn’t terrible, but his 2.33 GB/FB rate is abysmal, especially for a catcher. His 42.1-percent hard contact rate and 10.5-percent soft contact rate are both strong, but he has to get the ball off the ground (55.3-percent GB rate) to start finding success. He has been hitting eight or nine in the Jays lineup and there really isn’t too much to be excited about with him right now. If you haven’t already cut him, there is very little reason to continue to hold onto him unless you’re in a very deep league.
Stocks to watch
Byron Buxton – Buxton is off to a decent start this year, but his counting stats are leaving a lot to be desired as he has zero home runs, nine RBI, 10 runs scored, and four stolen bases. However, there are a lot of positives with Buxton right now, his .281 batting average, 37.5-percent hard contact rate, 23.2-percent strikeout rate, 54.2-percent fly ball rate, and 25.0-percent line drive rate would all be career bests. So, while he hasn’t had any balls leave the ballpark yet, the numbers paint a good picture that they are likely coming soon. He is leading the league in doubles with 12 and we have already seen him hit 16 home runs in a season, so there is very good reason to believe they are coming soon. His stock isn’t up or down currently, and his underlying numbers are saying that now is the time to buy, buy, buy before it is too late.
Sonny Gray – Gray has gotten off to a strong start as a member of the Reds with a 2.79 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts across his first 19.1 innings pitched. However, he has zero wins and has left two of his starts before the fifth inning. He is giving up fly balls at a career low/best rate of 25.5-percent and that has helped him limit the opposition to just one home so far. Opponents are hitting just .174 against Gray thus far and that has helped him to the tune of a 0.93 WHIP. His 2.58 FIP shows that his 2.79 ERA hasn’t been based on luck and that he has been as good as his ERA shows. The change of scenery from the Yankees to the Reds really appears to be paying dividends for Gray, who struggled mightily in his home ballpark while with the Yankees (a career 6.35 ERA in Yankee Stadium). His stock is already slightly up, but a strong start today against the Braves at home could have his stock soaring.