Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: May 14
Justin Vreeland surveys the fantasy baseball world and examines whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
In my opinion, this is about the time of year where we can really start to get a better idea of how players are going to produce this year. Our sample size is big enough and we can use trends and the information at hand to decide what to do with players. Adds and drops become more on point and less just about a hot/cold start. Player’s fantasy values never stop changing and making the right moves in-season is crucial to winning a championship. After each breakdown, we will include a player or two who may be worth targeting if looking to sell the player who we did the breakdown on. That information can be used to help you kind of get a gauge of where you should be valuing him at this point in time.
Dwight Smith Jr. – Smith Jr. got off to a hot start and still hasn’t slowed down. I get it, he plays for the Orioles, but good players on bad teams can still be useful fantasy assets and Smith Jr. is one of them. Through 37 games and 147 at bats, he is hitting .286 with eight home runs, 27 RBI, 25 runs, and four steals. Pace that out to 550 at bats and you have a guy with 30 home runs, 101 RBI, 94 runs, and 15 steals. That’s an elite fantasy player, and while he may not reach those marks, he should continue to be a very solid fantasy asset. This is a former first round pick and talent was never the issue, the issue was always playing time, and even in his brief stints he played pretty well with a .293 average and two home runs through 92 career at bats prior to this year. His .304 BABIP is sustainable and actually 24 points lower than his career average. His 30.8-percent hard contact rate is the highest of his career (a slightly above league average mark) and his 23.5-percent line drive rate is strong. I buy him being for real. Possible trade targets: Mike Moustakas or Shane Bieber .
John Means – Back-to-back Orioles in the stock up section?! I know right, but Means has also been great. Through 38.2 innings pitched, Means has a 2.33 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and five wins. He also has 33 strikeouts, which while not fantastic, not a bad number considering the rest of the surrounding numbers for him. He is giving up hard contact at a pretty solid mark of 24.3-percent, but there are other indicators that show regression coming. His .234 BABIP against is a low number that will likely rise, and his 4.17 FIP, 4.26 SIERA, and 4.70 xFIP all say that he’s had a good bit of luck on his side. That being said, in his last two starts he held the potent Red Sox lineup to just one run over seven innings of work and followed that up by holding the Angels to one run over six innings. Deeper leagues should be in on this guy and it doesn’t hurt that his next start comes against the Indians, who are 26th in overall runs scored and 26th in batting average against lefties. Possible trade targets: Amed Rosario or Jake Arrieta .
Oscar Mercado – Mercado is being called up and is expected to make his MLB debut today, making his fantasy stock up. The Indians outfielder doesn’t have the biggest of bats (eight home runs and 47 RBI last year across 485 minor league at bats) but he does possess elite speed and had already stolen 14 bags this season in AAA. Over the four seasons in the minors he has stolen 37, 44, 33, and 50 bases. If in need of speed (who isn’t these days?), Mercado is your guy. He should move right into the Indians everyday starting lineup, but don’t be surprised if he starts out near the bottom of the lineup. That being said, the Indians really needed a boost from their outfield and the former second round pick is lightning in a bottle.
Keston Hiura – News broke on Hiura being called up in the middle of me writing this, so we're tossing in an extra name this week. Hiura is the Brewers top prospect and is worth an immediate add in all formats. While Mercado is more of a one-tool asset, Hiura can provide help across the board of categories. Through 129 at bats in AAA this season, Hiura had 11 home runs, 26 RBI, 23 runs, four steals, and a .333 batting average. Last season, across 485 minor league at bats, the second baseman had 13 home runs, 15 steals, and a .293 average. He is a consensus top-20 prospect and his power appears to really be developing. He should slot into an everyday starting role at second base for the Brewers, with Moustakas sliding over to third base (Shaw is expected to be placed on IL or sent down). Being a part of a deep and talented Brewers lineup also doesn’t hurt, and it should make runs and RBI easier to come by for the rookie.
Aaron Nola – Nola got off to a terrible start this year, but it seemed like he had finally turned the corner after allowing just one earned in three straight starts prior to last night. However, last night he was bombarded for five hits and three runs across just three innings of work and his ERA now stands at 4.86 on the season with a 1.55 (!) WHIP. Opposing batters are swinging it at a .287 clip against him this year. All three of those numbers are a far cry from what he produced last season when he had a 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a .197 batting average against. So what is going on? Unfortunately for Nola owners, when we take a look under the hood it doesn’t get prettier. He is giving up hard contact at the highest rate of his career (33.3-percent) and inducing soft contact at the lowest rate of his career (16.3-percent). He is giving up line drives about five-percent more often than his career average, while inducing ground balls about five-percent less often. His 5.05 FIP, 4.32 SIERA, and 4.13 xFIP are none to promising either. Nola is too talented to not improve on all of this, but it doesn’t look like fantasy owners are going to get anywhere near what they hoped for out of him when they drafted him. Possible trade targets: Anthony Rendon or Noah Syndergaard .
Kenley Jansen – Jansen has been a mess this year with a 4.42 ERA and two blown saves. This comes after a 2018 season in which he produced the worst numbers of his career across the board. Is he a player in decline? Simply put, yes, but not quite as big of a decline as he has shown thus far. His .238 BABIP against is actually lower than his career average (not a good sign), despite the fact that he is giving up hard contact at a higher rate than ever at 39.1-percent (also not a good sign). He is also getting ground balls about four-percent less often than his career average. The velocity on his fastball and slider are both down about 0.5 mph from last season, which was already down a bit from the 2017 season. If none of that sounds good to you, you would be correct, because it’s all alarming. However, his 2.65 SIERA and 3.37 xFIP, both show he should be doing better, but personally there are too many negative signs here for me. Possible trade targets: Edwin Encarnación or Masahiro Tanaka .
Miguel Andújar – Andujar is a mess, there is no way around it. It’s tough, the shoulder injury has completely derailed his 2019 season and it’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone who drafted him. Since his return from his first stint on the IL, Andujar hit a measly .088 (3-34) with zero XBH, zero RBI, zero runs scored, and nine strikeouts. That “production” made it very clear that he was still not right and he has been placed on the IL once again. A torn labrum is tough to play through and at this point, it is really hard to expect much of anything out of him this season. His soft contact rate this season is an absurd 37.8-percent (19.4-percent in his fantastic rookie season) and he has hit an infield fly ball at a ridiculous 25.0-percent clip. If someone is willing to buy-low on Andujar, just take what you can get and move on.
Stocks to watch
Mallex Smith – Smith’s stock was down due to an awful start to the season that got him sent down to AAA, but he has tore it up in AAA (.333 and 7-7 on steals in 45 at bats) and now his stock is one to watch. If Smith is sitting on your wire and you’re in need of speed, he is worth an immediate add, as he is expected to re-join the Mariners very soon. Sure, his .165 batting average through 97 at bats was terrible and way off his .296 average from last season, but most of the numbers point to it being unlucky more than anything to worry about. His soft contact and hard contact rates were right in line with his career averages, but his BABIP was terrible; he had a .234 BABIP at the time of his demotion, a terrible mark for anyone, but even more so for a speed guy who has a career .339 BABIP. He should hit just fine upon his return and could add in another 30 or so steals this year.
Danny Duffy – Duffy has pitched well through three starts (17.1 innings) with a 3.06 ERA. You would think his stock would be up, but that’s a small sample and the surrounding numbers point to a big regression coming, so for now he lands in the stocks to watch. The positives: his ground ball rate (48.1-percent), soft contact rate (19.2-percent), and hard contact rate (28.8-percent) are all better than his career averages. The negatives: his 6.11 K/9, 85.6 LOB-percent, 1.36 WHIP, 4.58 FIP, 4.90 xFIP, and 5.08 SIERA are all worse than his career averages and point to regression coming. A small sample with mixed results makes it more difficult to form any kind of real opinion, but it doesn’t appear that we are looking at a return to 2013-2016 Duffy (3.29 ERA across that timeframe) here, it looks like we will be getting more the 2018 version of Duffy (4.88 ERA).