Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: July 30
Justin Vreeland surveys the fantasy baseball world and examines whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
Happy Stock Watch day FANation! We have a pretty interesting group of names this week, with three 30-year-old players and the other five being rookies. It just goes to show, whether a veteran or a rookie, a player's fantasy value will continue to fluctuate consistently. You always want to keep up with the trends and be ready to buy low/sell high when the timing is right. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Travis d’Arnaud, C TB – Being a Mets fan and watching d’Arnaud be a lousy player for them for a long time, I was a bit skeptical of his hot June in which he hit .274 with five home runs and 15 RBI. However, he has followed that up with an even better July in which he is hitting .328 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. The two months combine to total a .302 batting average, 12 home runs, and 38 RBI over his past 35 games. That’s impressive, to say the least. Maybe all the 30-year-old catcher needed was a change of scenery? His BABIP since joining the Rays is .291, so he hasn’t just been getting lucky either. Over the last six games, he has hit leadoff three times and clean-up the other three, so he is slotting in great spots in the Rays' lineup to continue to find success. He has taken on a full-time role in which he plays 1B on days he gets off from catching, making him one of the most valuable catching assets in fantasy if that trend continues. Ride the heatwave.
Bo Bichette , SS TOR – Bichette was officially called up yesterday and he made his MLB debut, finishing 1-4 with a single. He hit sixth in the Jays' lineup. He is a top-10 prospect and is worth an add in any league where he may be available. Prior to being called up, he was hitting .275 with eight home runs and 15 steals across 56 games at Triple-A Buffalo. Last year, at Double-A New Hampshire, he hit .286 with 11 dingers and 32 stolen bases across 131 games. He is still just 21 years old, and far from reaching his full power potential, but he is talented enough to provide solid fantasy production right now. Not only does he have the ability to hit to all fields, but he has the ability to hit to all fields with power:
Nick Anderson , RP MIA – Anderson is in the closing mix for Miami after they dealt Romo to Minnesota. He has been pitching very well lately, giving up just two earned runs over his last 12.1 innings (12 appearances), good for a 1.46 ERA. He has been great with strikeouts this year with a 14.2 K/9 (fourth-best in baseball among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched) and a 37.1-percent strikeout rate. His .368 BABIP against points to a bit of unluckiness and is likely a factor in why his ERA is higher than his FIP (2.73), xFIP (3.04), and SIERA (2.80). The Marlins haven’t had a save situation arise yet since trading Romo, but if Anderson does in fact take over the role he will be a very strong fantasy asset the rest of the way with his elite strikeout ability. He is worth picking up if he is out there on the wire.
Josh VanMeter , OF CIN – VanMeter is extremely hot right now, hitting .464 with four home runs and 10 runs scored over his last 10 games. His profile is a bit of a mixed bag, which isn’t all that surprising for a player with only 74 at-bats. His .373 BABIP is not sustainable and will likely lead to a drop in batting average over time, but his 50.9-percent hard contact rate is a fantastic mark. He also has a very impressive 34.5-percent line-drive rate and 90.4 mph exit velocity. He is a rookie and pitchers will likely make adjustments against him as time goes, so he will need to make adjustments as well if wants to keep up what he has done to this point. He is worth adding in most fantasy formats right now while he is swinging a hot bat.
Nicky Lopez , SS KC – Lopez garnered some fantasy appeal from many (not myself) when he was called up to the big leagues on May 14th, after hitting .353 with three home runs and nine steals across 31 games at Triple-A Omaha this year. His ability to steal bases was looked at as a valuable asset to any fantasy roster. Well, that was then, and this is now; Lopez is hitting .222 with one home run and one stolen base through 63 games with the Royals. Things are even worse in the month of July, as he is hitting .177 with zero home runs and zero steals this month across 23 games. For the year, he has an atrocious hard contact rate of 27.5-percent and is hitting ground balls at an unsightly rate of 62.8-percent. His 83.8 mph exit velocity ranks in the 3rd percentile, his hard contact rate ranks in the 2nd percentile, and his .274 xSLG somehow ranks in the 0th percentile. Yes, you read that correctly. Considering that xSLG is dead last in all of baseball (among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances), I guess it makes sense. This is not a player that should be owned in any fantasy format.
Griffin Canning , SP LAA – It appeared that Canning had found his groove at the big league level, pitching to a 3.61 ERA across 10 starts in May and June, but he has been a disaster in July. In four outings this month, he has a 12.34 ERA across 11.2 innings pitched. In that span, he has given up 18 hits and walked 11 batters. His ERA for the year is now up to an unsightly 5.15 mark. He has been a bit unlucky, with his SIERA, FIP, and xFIP all lower than his ERA, but they range between 4.32-and-4.83, so even if he wasn’t getting unlucky he would not be doing too well. His 9.70 K/9 is good, but his BB/9 of 3.07 is atrocious and he gives up way to many fly balls with his 46.5-percent fly-ball rate (would be the second-highest in the league if he had enough innings to qualify). He will make a start against the Tigers tonight and if that doesn’t go well, it will be time to cut bait in fantasy.
Masahiro Tanaka , SP NYY – Over his last five starts Tanaka has given up six, four, two, five, and 12 runs, for a total of 29 over 22.1 innings pitched (11.69 ERA). Calling it a rough stretch would be an understatement. His ERA for the year is up to 4.79, which is pretty close to his 4.57 FIP. He has a .286 BABIP against too, which is right in line with his career norm. So what’s the deal? For starters, he is giving up hard contact at the highest rate of his career at 41.2-percent. His strikeouts are way down with a 7.63 K/9 (9.17 K/9 in 2018), and more contact results in more hits. His fastball velocity has dropped for the fourth consecutive year. One of his biggest issues has been his ineffectiveness against lefty bats though. Last season, lefties had a .236/.286/.367 triple-slash line against him with eight home runs. This season, lefties have produced a .285/.333/.516 line against him and already have 11 home runs. He is droppable in shallow leagues, while deeper leagues should be very worried about his ROS outlook.
Stocks to watch
Asher Wojciechowski , SP BAL – Wojciechowski had an outstanding outing against the Red Sox in which he first 7.1 innings of one-hit, no-run baseball. He followed that up by holding the Angels to two runs over seven innings in his next start. I have seen a lot of other people in the fantasy industry falling in love with him and recommending him as a fantasy viable option to their followers, but I am going to do the opposite and pump the breaks here. Yes, he has had two great starts, and that’s great and all, but he’s still a 30-year-old pitcher with a career ERA north of five. Prior to facing the Red Sox, he had given up 10 earned runs across 15 innings pitched (6.00 ERA) in his first three starts this year. He has given up hard contact at a high rate of 40.3-percent this year and has only induced soft contact 15.3-percent of the time but, despite that, his BABIP against is only .224. That doesn’t add up at all. He is giving up fly balls at an extremely high rate of 54.2-percent (would be the highest in all of baseball), and when you factor in that he is giving up a lot of hard contact, his HR/FB rate of 12.8-percent is not sustainable, especially considering he pitches his home games in a hitter's ballpark. His Barrel % against of 12.5-percent would be the worst of his career as would his exit velocity against of 89.4 mph. His last two starts are enough of a reason for me to pay attention to him, but I would not be running to the waivers to pick him up.