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Under the Radar Fantasy Value Changes

Kyle Soppe RotoExperts Staff August 6, 2014 2:27PM EDT
The MLB trade deadline brought about quite a bit of action, as a handful of teams are making a clear run at a title this season, while others prepare for the future. By now, you’ve been bombarded with analysis of what the traded players will do from this point forward on their new team and likely have a good feel as to whether the move helped or hurt their 2014 Fantasy value. But maybe you don’t own a player that was moved and feel as if you missed out on the excitement. Not so fast.

While the following list features players (with one exception) that are wearing the same jersey they were in July, their Fantasy value has changed as a result of the movement that took place around them. Think of it as your brother getting married. Sure, his life is the one most greatly impacted and the one that everyone is focused on, but you, your life changes as well. It goes unnoticed for the most part by others, but your quality of life could change dramatically given the quality of the marriage. So the question needs to be asked: does the new marriage of your brother work out or not?

Rajai Davis/Torii Hunter/ J.D. Martinez (DET, OF): The Tigers offense is a loaded one, thanks in no small part to the elite middle of the order. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez get most of the credit, and deservedly so, but let’s not overlook the impact of the three-team David Price trade on the “other” members of this lineup. By sending Austin Jackson to Seattle, consistent playing time has now opened up for Davis, Hunter, and Martinez in the top two-thirds of this lineup, increasing their Fantasy value in a big way. Davis now has no competition to fill the leadoff role, a Fantasy friendly lineup spot for a player with his elite ability to hit strikes. The speedster’s career Z-Contact% (contact within the strike zone) is greater than the 2014 rate of hitters like Troy Tulowitzki and Adrian Beltre, and considering the quality of players hitting behind him, it is impossible to think that Davis doesn’t see a ton of strikes moving forward. Hunter has been filling the five-spot in the Tigers lineup following the trade, a role that also plays to his strengths. Over the last six seasons, the veteran outfielder is hitting .302 with runners in scoring position, a talent that should lead to a spike in RBI from this point forward as the two hitters ahead of him both rank among the 10 best in baseball when it comes to OPS (minimum 350 at-bats) and often clutter the bases. The fact that his swing percentage has jumped quite a bit during his two years in Detroit is encouraging if you’re of the belief that he will be consistently batting in dangerous situations. Finally, Martinez has consistently hit sixth in this order since the trade and has the most to gain as a result of increased playing time. Now, Martinez’s .377 BABIP would suggest some regression, but I’ll contend that fortuitous spot in the lineup will help curb that downside a bit, as he figures to be in plenty of high leverage situations moving forward. Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mike Trout are the only three hitters in the big leagues (minimum 240 plate appearances) with a greater ISO while Troy Tulowitzki, Encarnacion, and Trout are the only three batters that rank in the Top 10 in ISO that have a greater contact rate than Martinez. That’s pretty impressive company for a player who has thrived over the last two months (.345 batting average and .655 slugging percentage) as he has seen consistent playing time. This Tigers offense is going to continue to produce and the clarity in the outfield should greatly solidify the Fantasy value moving forward of this underrated trio.

Oscar Taveras (STL, OF)/ Matt Adams (STL, 1B): With the Cardinals dealing for two starting pitchers, they are essentially committing to Taveras as their everyday right fielder and Adams as their first baseman, role stability that skyrockets their Fantasy value both this year and down the road. Taveras has “failed” to live up to expectations up to this point, but don’t fall victim to unrealistic short-term expectations when looking to make a late season run this year or prepping for your 2015 draft.

Mike Trout’s first 109 MLB at-bats: 23 hits, 3.33 strikeouts per walk, 82.1 Contact%, 7.1 SwStr%

Taveras’ first 109 MLB at-bats: 24 hits, 2.5 strikeouts per walk, 89.4 Contact%, 4.7 SwStr%

Oscar Taveras has not been good this season … all part of his plan to copy the Mike Trout guide to Fantasy greatness. Photo Credit: Alex Lewis

Oscar Taveras has not been good this season … all part of his plan to copy the Mike Trout guide to Fantasy greatness. Photo Credit: Alex Lewis

Now being assured of a starting spot on a big league roster, Taveras could begin to display the comfort level that allowed Trout to explode in 2012, upside that is worth trading for now or drafting with an early pick in 2015. Patience is the word of the day, as it is something Adams owners need have. Few power hitters ever display the ability to also carry your batting average, but the massive 25-year-old has shown all the signs of being the “next big thing”. Based on public perception, you’d think that Adams is having a “down” year, as most of his owners were expecting a 30-plus homer season after he hit 17 bombs in just 296 at-bats last season and have been disappointed with his 12 round-trippers in 356 AB’s. Not so fast. Sure, the home run total is low, but look further into the metrics and you’ll realize that there is absolutely nothing to fear. His God given power is no secret, making his increasing line drive and fly ball rates strong indicators of elite power sooner rather than later. His contact numbers are also moving in the right direction and he shown the ability to kill right-handed pitching, two trends that play into his favor moving forward. In fact, due to his growth as a hitter, Adams actually has a higher slugging percentage this season than last. With the trade of Allen Craig, Adams is the cleanup hitter of the future and has already shown the tools to be an elite Fantasy first baseman sooner rather than later.

Mookie Betts (BOS, OF): How versatile is this kid? He’s playing all over the field and with the BoSox waving the white flag on this season, he figures to get plenty of experience as we play out the string on the 2014 season. Betts is still part of a crowded roster, limiting his Fantasy upside this season, but the recent flurry of movement in Boston should allow Betts to learn on the fly and be prepared to start realizing some of his potential as early as 2015. He profiles as a potential 20/20 player with a .180 ISO, plateaus that only 4-5 players have an opportunity to do this season.

Brandon Moss (OAK, 1B/OF): If you want to talk about team regression, the Athletics are your squad. They lead the league in runs scored despite a batter average that ranks below your standard American League team and playing in a ballpark that is heavily skewed toward the pitcher. Ooo yea, and they dealt their cleanup hitter driving the ball all over the field and was more productive in high-leverage situations. Don’t get me wrong, they are still a powerful offense, but they are now relying on an older (and banged up) Coco Crisp leadoff hitter who has evolved into a fly ball hitter with limited speed, a three-hole hitter in Josh Donaldson who has a lower line drive rate than any batter with 20-plus homers (by 25 percent!), and a pair of catchers in John Jaso and Derek Norris that are hitting a combined 57 points over their career average. The up-and-down nature of this lineup has worked this far in part because at least one of these hitters has been hot at all times, but without their most consistent power bat, that is no longer a safe assumption. Moss has been destroying fast balls this season and thanks to Yoenis Cespedes batting behind him, every other pitch has been a heater. While I don’t think he loses this skill, I do find it reasonable to assume that he sees a heavy dose of other pitches, which could be a major problem, as he grades out as an average hitter against non-fastballs. In addition to losing Cespedes to Bean Town, the August slate isn’t exactly a favorable one for Moss. His grown-man power is legitimate, but his approach lacks consistency and he could well be exposed if his Athletic teammates can’t gain consistency.

Kendrys Morales (SEA, 1B): OK, so this is kind of breaking the rules, as he was technically acquired at the deadline, but the move was under the radar and his situation improved drastically after he arrived. He’s a veteran power hitter that has been used in the very favorable cleanup spot where he hits behind two Mariners that weren’t around last season (Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano) and ahead of the underrated Chris Denorfia as well as breakout stars in Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino. It may not exactly be the ’27 Yankees, but the middle spot in this lineup comes with considerable Fantasy upside. Let’s assume that Morales is what he is, a .275/.326/.466 career hitter with a knack for driving in runs (97 per 162 games since his monster season in 2009). This lineup suits him perfectly as the Jackson/Cano combination is contact based while Seager/Zunino are young hitters that already have big-time power. Is this lineup perfect? Is Morales a hitter without holes? No and no, but Seattle has very quietly built a stable offense and Morales should return to his run-producing self as he rounds into midseason form. The best part? You don’t have to wait long to see if Morales is going to produce. He leads the M’s on a 16-day stretch (August 11 – August 27) in which they play nothing but pitching staffs that rank in the bottom third of the league in ERA. If you need immediate power, he’s worth a flier for that stretch and may prove to be a nice piece moving forward if he can develop a rhythm.

Jedd Gyorko (SD, 2B): This one is a leap of faith for owners who desperately need to be ultra aggressive down the stretch. Is Gyorko a very flawed hitter that plays in San Diego? You bet, but the power he displayed last season from his middle infield spot is worth chasing if you have nothing lose. Since returning from the DL, Gyorko has shown flashes of the talent that I liked coming into the season and the Padres have quietly improved offensively since the addition of Yangervis Solarte. Everth Cabrera has also done some nice things in the last couple of weeks and Tommy Medica is showing promise as a middle of the order hitter. I made it well known that I believe Seth Smith is a bit underrated and don’t rule out growth from Gyorko. Despite what has been a dismal Fantasy season, the second baseman has actually improved his batting eye (swinging at fewer bad pitches and making more contact on strikes) and is a prime candidate for BABIP improvement (.207 this season). He’s swinging and missing less and has maintained the odd trend of actually hitting for more power at home than on the road over his stint in the major leagues. That’s appositive note, as the Padres close the season 11 of their final 12 series either at home or at a neutral-hitter friendly ballpark. He’s not going to dominate the league, but the fact that he has the potential to hit as many homers in the final two months as he did in the first four makes him nice value for the power starving owner.


Quick Hitters:

Madison Bumgarner is so close to greatness he can taste it. If you combine the 13 road starts he has made this season with his 13 home starts in 2013, you’re looking at a pitcher who has given up just 128 hits in 180 innings with a 1.95 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 4.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But you shouldn’t be surprised that his phenomenal start to begin the month of August helped those numbers. The August-born Bumgarner is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and an 11.10 K/9 in his first start in the eighth month over the last four seasons.

Need the equivalent of a “swing for the fences” pitcher down the stretch? Since the beginning of May, Chris Tillman owns a 0.48 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in his five victories. The O’s righty has a favorable projected August slate and is ranked inside my Top 40 overall starters for the month.

Brandon McCarthy has been among the best pitchers in baseball since his name first started being discussed in trade rumors. Over his last six starts (two with Arizona and four with New York), he owns a 5-0 record with a 2.09 ERA and is striking out 5.13 batters per walk. For reference, Johnny Cueto is 4-1 over his last six starts with a 2.58 ERA and a3.14 K-BB ratio. Even more impressive is the fact that over that stretch, the average offense faced by McCarthy has ranked 14th in the league in runs scored while Cueto’s six games have come against, on average, the 17th highest scoring lineup.

The Royals rank as a bottom 10 offense in terms of runs scored while the Athletics are second to no one in the category. But when the two teams squared off on Sunday, every member of the Kansas City starting lineup had a season batting average over .260 while six Oakland starters were hitting under .260.

Ian Desmond has 18 games (through Sunday) this season with multiple strikeouts and no hits.

Through 1,167 career at-bats, Chris Carter is averaging 0.707 RBIs per hit. For reference, the limited, but always Fantasy relevant, Adam Dunn averaged 0.613 RBI per hit through his first three seasons (1,160 at-bats).

The most over-rated player in Fantasy Baseball might be … Hanley Ramirez. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, one he entered as the top preseason player on most sites, the shortstop is hitting .267 against right-handed pitching. Sure, he’s hitting .295 against lefties, but nearly three-quarters during that span have come against righties. His .332 career BABIP with declining speed and an increasing ground ball rate also hints that Ramirez, who will turn 31 this winter, may be done being the elite option that we consider him. Pitchers have been throwing him fewer and fewer strikes as the seasons have passed, thus limiting his potential to contribute counting numbers and increasing the percentage of career plate appearances that end in a punch out or a walk (neither of which really help Fantasy owners) to voer 26 percent. It also doesn’t help his case that he is a good bet to miss 20-plus games for the fourth time in five seasons. My 2015 rankings will come out later this month, and HanRam will still rank among the better middle infielders in the game, but he is no lock to make my Top 35 overall players.

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