MLB Barometer - Oaktown Power: Meet the New Bash Brothers
An old college friend once told me, "it works if you work it" - an adage that has stuck with me over the years. Some people get lucky, but most of us have to work for what we have and want. As many of you know, fantasy baseball isn't just fun, it also happens to be hard work. We research splits, break down pitching and hitting data, keep up with lineup changes and minor league call ups and of course, grind it out on the waiver wire every weekend ("just 10 more minutes honey, I'm almost done, I swear"). We're not going to just stroll into first place like Don from Accounting who won the company football league drafting this Josh Gordon guy in the tenth and adding Julius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno as free agents in Week 1.
It's even more the case for those of us who don't play in trading leagues. Or those of us that have the dignity to not accept the offer of David Price
for Chad Qualls
from your league's newbie hurting in saves. For the most part, we rely on most of the first 15 picks in our draft and stay the course of patience - after all, we studied hard, and we drafted them for a reason. Sure, you can pick up that difference-maker on FAAB a la Jose Fernandez
, Yasiel Puig
or Mike Trout
, but many other things have to go right, and you still have to bear down and work hard to win your competitive leagues.
The NFBC Main Event squad I drafted in Vegas and discussed last month is still in a major batting average hole - in fact, I'm about 25 batting points behind the next worst guy in the standings (.230 to .255). Some of it comes from guys you expect to correct a bit (Prince Fielder
.247, Billy Butler
.240) and some of it comes from chasing power categories from strikeout heavy hitters (Chris Carter
.196, Jedd Gyorko
.156 and Danny Espinosa
.221). Somehow, I'm right in the middle of the pack in my league (19 hitter points, 61 pitcher points - seventh place out of 15 team) on the arms of Yu Darvish
, Sonny Gray
, Gerrit Cole
, Tanner Roark
, Huston Street
and Glen Perkins
, and I'm certainly not giving up. There may come a point in the season where I forego chasing the overall prize by tanking BA and just concentrate on winning my league, but I'm sure as hell not going to do it with three-quarters of the season left and Gregory Polanco
getting anxious and fidgety on my bench.
We will soon hit that point in the season where football begins to take away some of our attention, as does hotter weather and the desire to spend more time outside. Coupled with struggling baseball squads, it's not easy to stay patient with our fantasy baseball teams and continue grinding on the FAAB. But we must press on. So, grab a cold one and hit the stats - no need to grab a snack, my old college buddy also told me that's there's a sandwich in every beer.
, 1B OAK, Josh Reddick
, OF OAK - The Oakland A's had a tremendous week, winning five of six, scoring 48 runs on the heels of Moss (.454) and Reddick (.348) - both of whom had three home runs and 11 runs batted in each. Moss is hitting .301 with 39 RBI on the year and has surprisingly hit well against his Achilles' heel (LHP), albeit a small sample size (.320 in 25 AB). Reddick still hits near the bottom of the lineup and is still striking out 22% of the time, but has been red hot since changing his walk-up music to Wham's "Careless Whisper". The A's have been a pitcher's worst nightmare lately and is a team to use mini-stacks for in daily games, especially when they head to the Rogers Centre this weekend to face the likes of J.A. Happ
and Liam "Not Noel" Hendricks.
, OF CHC - Lake was selected as an OF5 / reserve OF in March drafts but was dropped in many of leagues after a lukewarm start (.219 BA, .254 OBP and four RBI in April). Since May 1, Lake has been starting almost every day and hitting well (.310/.326/12 RBI). Lake is still very hit-or-miss (38% strikeout rate) but memories of his three homer game in Spring Training looms large in our minds. Lake is a candidate for a 20 HR / 20 SB this season and perhaps can reach those targets sooner if he played the Cardinals every week - three of his five home runs and 10 of 16 RBI have come against them - .393 in 28 at bats.
, OF LAD - Maybe it's just the Dodger fan in me, but it surely does feel like Puig is about to go deep every time he's up at the plate. There's not much room to "rise" for a guy drafted within the first 30 picks this year, but I'm guessing Bryce Harper
owners wish they had considered Puig in his stead. Puig hit .400 with 4 HR and 11 RBI last week and hits the road to introduce Mets rookies Rafael Montero
and Jacob deGrom to the Big Boys League and possibly send Randy Wolf
into a long overdue retirement. Puig may be growing up in front of our eyes - he has 9 HR, 4 SB, 35 RBI on the year, has reduced his K% (19.7% so far, 22.5% in 2013), improved his BB% (11% so far, 8.3% in 2013) and is on pace to return first round fantasy value if he can stay on the field.
, SP LAA - What can be said about said about Richards that hasn't been covered by every fantasy baseball site in America and beyond? Though many experts rightfully predicted a breakout this year, Richards was still discounted heavily and available towards the end of most leagues (ADP: NFBC 386, CBS 368). Richards ranks top 10 in the AL in ERA (2.42), WHIP (1.06), K/9 (9.3) and has given up only one home run on the season. While nothing goes exactly as we planned in this wacky world of fantasy baseball (queue the 6 ER, 2 HR outing), Richards looks like the heir apparent to Jered Weaver
on the Angels staff, but in a way less predictable manner than Max Scherzer
outpitching Justin Verlander
last season. The control issues (3.46 BB/9) will be a common theme here as Richards will likely see a rise in WHIP, but the breakout season is already well on the horizon as we should expect more stretches of dominance interspersed with occasional rough outings.
, SP KC - Duffy is back on our radars after a flirting with a perfect game in his win against the Orioles last week. Duffy, a 25 years old lefty who tops his fastball out at 98 mph, already has had his Tommy John surgery out of the way (hopefully, his only) and pitches in the friendly confines of Kaufmann Stadium. After losing out on the last rotation spot to Yordano Ventura
, it was only a matter of time until Duffy moved his way out of middle relief and back into the rotation. Despite the bumpy road on his way back from TJS, Duffy looks like a mainstay in the Royals rotation and possibly a contender for the AL strikeout crown next season.
Hitters: Juan Francisco
, 3B TOR, Yangervis Solarte
, 3B NYY, Dexter Fowler
, OF HOU, Seth Smith
, OF SD
Pitchers: Mike Leake
, SP CIN, Drew Hutchison
, SP TOR, Phil Hughes
, SP MIN, Casey Janssen
, RP TOR
Not Falling For It: Rickie Weeks
, NOT 1B or OF, MLW, Bronson Arroyo
, SP ARI
, 1B KC - Hosmer deserves to be revisited after ending up as one of our "fallers" last month. He hasn't been atrocious as many of his base stats are on par with last season:
Hosmer is still looking for his power stroke, entering Week 8 with only one home run on the year. But again, we're not far off from last season as Hosmer had only one home run through the end of May last year, then proceeded to hit six in the month of June. Those drafting Hosmer expecting a step up beyond the 25 HR range are the ones who will be disappointed. Hosmer is what he is - a patient contact hitter who should provide most of his value in batting average and few extra steals that most first basemen don't attempt. Between Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, the Royals have a nice core of young studs that just happen to be off to a cold start. Stick with Hosmer as long as you don't have to rely on him for power, and he shall end up coming through - he's only 24 years old and getting better.
Cameron Maybin, OF SD - There's nothing wrong with a .288 batting average in 55 plate appearances. Unless you hit near the bottom of a putrid Padres offense and haven't hit a single home run nor driven in a single run. It feels like eons ago when Maybin teased us with his 40 SB, 9 HR season in 2011. Kudos to those of us who stay patient with Maybin if he manages to put up a fine season, but some people prefer to receive actual fantasy value from players in their lineup. Unfortunately, even that .288 has a better chance falling in line with his career .249 number than it does sticking around its current mark. I'm definitely known for always being able to see the best in everyone, but sorry, there's nothing to even sugarcoat here. Drop away.
Domonic Brown, OF PHI - Do you hear A-Ha's classic 'Take On Me' playing in your head when you look at Dom Brown's box scores? Alright, stop. Collaborate and Listen. Okay, okay, I'll stop. The jury's still out on Brown, though he may in fact be a one-hit wonder. Brown hit 27 HR in 540 plate appearances last year and through 39 games is on pace for only eight homers, though a hot streak can come at any time - he did hit eight homers in eight games starting the end of May last year. Brown hasn't been completely worthless - he's stolen four bases and driven in 20, but his batting average heads into Week 8 at a paltry .215. Guess there's nowhere to go but up for Brown. He can likely be traded for pennies on the dollar, so when his power binge takes flight and you ask yourself, what can Brown do for you?, you can sing 'Who let the dogs out?' all the way to your first place finish.
Zack Wheeler, SP NYM - Wheeler has been rather inconsistent through nine starts, though six of them have been on the road in tough parks like Yankee Stadium and Coors Field. His NFBC ADP of 208 had folks drafting him well ahead of early-season studs like Yordano Ventura, Tyson Ross and Corey Kluber. Wheeler has been solid in the strikeout department (8.34 K/9) but has not been able to harness his control (4.71 BB/9), a red flag stemming from his days in the minors. At this point, it wouldn't be an outright shock to see Wheeler get sent down for a bit if Montero and deGrom dazzle, though the Mets will probably continue to throw him out there. Wheeler's 4.89 ERA should settle under the 4.00 mark by season's end and we'll likely see more dominant stretches from him this summer. Believe in the skill, just be careful with bad matchups on paper when your gut tells you he's going to get WHIP'd.
Justin Verlander, SP DET - Verlander hasn't been particularly awful (5-2 record, 3.15 ERA), he just hasn't been the dominant ace we've come to know and love over the years. The most prominent issues are the decline in fastball velocity (93 mph this year, 94 in 2013, 95 in 2012 and 2011) and a lower K rate than we're used to (7.05). Verlander had a similarly uncharacteristic first half in 2013 (3.77 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) but settled down in the second half (3.18, 1.24), though his end result was a far cry from the 2.64 and 2.40 ERA days of 2012 and 2011. Verlander was among the top 10 SPs drafted this season, so we expect dominance in every start, but with the number of new quality arms in the league and dozen or so new risers who are here to stay, Verlander owners will be lucky if he returns positive value for his draft position this year.
Hitters: Ryan Ludwick, OF CIN, Ben Revere, OF PHI, Jason Kubel, OF MIN, Chris Colabello, OF MIN
Pitchers: Jordan Lyles, SP COL, Homer Bailey, SP CIN, Justin Masterson, SP CLE, Jordan Zimmermann, SP WAS
Not Falling For It: Leonys Martin, OF TEX, David Price, SP TB