Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch: July 2
Justin Vreeland surveys the fantasy baseball world and examines whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
Though not intended, this week we are taking a look at a few veteran pitchers who have had mixed results this season and some left-handed middle infielders. Like any Stock Watch Report, it’s important to take note that while a player can have a rising or falling stock, it doesn’t always mean that it is a rise or fall that we should believe in. A player with a rising stock can be someone we believe in, while someone else with a rising stock is someone that has been lucky and you should try to sell high on. A falling stock can work just the same, but in an opposite way. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
J.P. Crawford , SS SEA – Crawford is a former first round pick and he was ranked as a top-20 prospect every year from 2015-2018. He made his debut in 2017 at age 22 and he struggled to a .214 batting average across 70 at-bats. He then struggled again in 2018 posting the same batting average, but across 117 at-bats. His struggles at the pro level led to him being shipped to Seattle (from the Phillies) via trade this past offseason. He made his debut with the Mariners on May 10 and he has hit .310 with three home runs and 22 RBI in 33 games for them. Keep in mind, this kid is still just 24-years old and we may have given up on him too soon. While is .396 BABIP is far from sustainable and he does have regression coming, there are some things in his profile that show a player on the rise. Both his hard contact and soft contact rates have improved each year and they are currently 35.1-percent and 17.0-percent, respectively. Nothing to write home about, but they are solid and it’s a positive sign that they are improving. His best mark is his 30.9-percent line drive rate, which would be the fourth best in all of baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. It’s important to keep expectations in check for Crawford, but he is a player on the rise and one we should be aware of.
Jeff McNeil , 2B, OF NYM – McNeil has hit for a fantastic batting average his entire pro career and this year is no different as he is currently hitting .348 (best in all of baseball). While that high of an average gives you fantasy relevance on its own, his counting stats have left a bit to be desired as he had just two home runs, zero steals, 17 RBI, and 21 runs scored through 51 games while hitting .335. However, over his last 20 games he has been doing it all, hitting .378 with four home runs, three steals, 17 RBI, and 16 runs scored. His strong play landed him a spot on the NL all-star roster, not bad for a kid that was drafted in the 12th round and didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 26. If we take a deeper dive into his profile there are a lot of positives that stand out. His 12.2-percent strikeout rate is 13th best in baseball and his .412 OBP is fourth in baseball. His 12.6-percent soft contact rate is in the top-30 and he has a solid 39.8-percent hard contact rate (up over nine percent from last season). He is a bit of a throwback player with grit and grind, compared to today’s era of homerun-or-bust baseball.
Zack Wheeler , SP NYM – Wheeler has a 4.51 ERA this season, but anyone who has followed him or watched him pitch, knows he has been much better than the ERA shows. His 9.61 K/9 is the highest mark of his career, but his 67.2-percent LOB is by far the worst mark of his career. A higher strikeout rate should lead to an improved LOB rate, not a worse one. His line drive, ground ball, and fly ball rates against all look exactly the same as they did last season when he posted a 3.31 ERA. Add it all up and it leads to him having a FIP and xFIP in the threes and showing us how he has been unlucky. Well, it finally looks like things are starting to go his way a bit. In his last two starts he has totaled 13 innings and given up just two earned runs while facing two tough offenses in the Cubs and Phillies. Wheeler has ace-caliber stuff with his 97 mph fastball (second highest among starting pitchers) and 92 mph slider. There is no reason to believe that he won’t have a strong second half.
Brandon Lowe , 2B TB – Lowe was having a fantastic season, hitting .293 with 15 home runs and 44 RBI through 63 games, but there a lot of things in his profile that were concerning, like his strikeout rate that was above 35-percent at the time and his BABIP which was above .390 at the time. It now appears that the regression that his profile was pointing to is finally hitting him, over his last 12 games he is hitting .136 (6-44) with zero home runs, three RBI, and 19 strikeouts. His BABIP has dropped to its current .373 mark, which is still far higher than where it will most likely finish. His 41.6-percent hard contact rate and 11.6-percent soft contact rate are both strong, but when you’re striking out in more than a 1/3 of your plate appearances it’s going to be very difficult to hit for a decent batting average, barring an extremely lucky BABIP. There’s a reason his xBA to this point is a lousy .234. This is someone I would sell high on before his average drops even further down.
Jake Arrieta , SP PHI – Arrieta is a shell of his former self and this is not really a player you want to own outside of deep leagues. He should help out in wins, but that’s about it. He currently has a 4.43 ERA and that number is actually lower than his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. His strikeout rate continues to plummet and his current 7.03 K/9 is his lowest mark since 2011. He is giving up hard contact (37.9-percent) at the highest rate of his career while inducing soft contact (16.8-percent) at the lowest rate of his career. Over his last six starts he has a 6.15 ERA, with 42 hits against, nine home runs, 14 walks, and only 22 strikeouts across 33.2 innings pitched. He has given up 18 home runs this season, which is more than anyone in the National League. Again, this is not someone worth owing in 10-teamers and there may even be better options in 12-teamers.
Scooter Gennett , 2B CIN – Gennett is off to a rough start since returning from IL, going 2-for-12 with zero extra base hits and three strikeouts. Of course, that is a very small sample and it shouldn’t have his stock any lower, but we all know how impatient fantasy owners can be and if he can struggle for another game or two it may create a buy-low window that you should be ready to jump on. Keep in mind that his last two seasons have been fantastic as he has compiled a .303 batting average, 50 home runs, and 189 RBI across 295 games (1045 at-bats). This is someone I would be targeting to acquire before he heats up and it’s also important to keep in mind that this Reds lineup is probably the best that he has been a part of (which could mean more RBI and more runs scored).
Stocks to watch
Drew Pomeranz , SP SF – Pomeranz has been awful this season with a 6.25 ERA and 1.72 WHIP across 15 starts, but he is someone that was a pretty good pitcher from 2014-2017 and he is still only 30-years old. Outside of one start against the Dodgers on June 19th when he got hammered for seven earned runs, he had a fantastic month of June. Across his other four starts in the month, he compiled 20.0 innings while giving up just two earned runs and striking out 30! He has a 10.94 K/9 for the season and that is an impressively high number and one to take note of. He has a .370 BABIP against this season which is very unlucky and a big reason why his xFIP is only 4.42, compared to that awful ERA he has. I am not saying to run out and grab this guy in 10-teamers, but he is someone that could have deep league relevance (or use as a streamer) the rest of the way and people do not realize it. Keep in mind that he gets to pitch half of his games in Oracle Park, which ranks as a top-five pitchers park.
Michael Wacha , SP STL – Wacha, much like Pomeranz, has been awful this year, pitching to a 5.30 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. His struggles led to a demotion out of the Cardinals starting rotation, but since returning to the rotation on June 10th, he has pitched pretty well; in that span he has made four starts and compiled a 3.13 ERA while striking out 14. Keep in mind that Wacha went 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA last season and had four seasons (out of six) with a sub-3.50 ERA prior to this season. The peripherals on Wacha this season are far less pretty than they are for Pomeranz though, as he really hasn’t been unlucky, but just bad. However, as mentioned, he does have a solid track record and he is pitching well of late. I wouldn’t really recommend adding him anywhere yet, but keep an eye on him and see if the success continues.