MLB: One Man's Trash... (Week 7)

MLB: One Man's Trash... (Week 7)

During the season, I'm going to look at some of the players being dropped by fantasy managers to see if their decisions were a little brash. Especially this early in the season with player evaluations up in the air, some of the players dropped will provide fantasy value going forward. Someone who will remain nameless decided it was a good idea to drop Robbie Ray and Tyler O'Neill last year in the first couple of weeks.

The players I'm looking at this week are a mix of immediate adds and those who are just a tweak or two away from taking a step forward.

For the information, I'm going to focus on players dropped at the NFBC and CBS. Both Yahoo and Fantrax's add and drop numbers are based on the past day or so and can be dominated by streaming starters. CBS and NFBC are based on the past week. 

As a general rule, I will stay away from injured players and just focus on players expected to play.

Hitters

Travis Demeritte (107 NFBC drops, -6% at CBS)

A couple of weeks ago, everything was going right for Demeritte. He was starting every game and even hit leadoff for four straight games. On May 14, he was batting .327/.387/.527 with three homers. Since then, he has done nothing. No walks or hits in seven games (28 PA). To no one's surprise, he's back to hitting ninth.

The reason for the struggles is a ballooning strikeout rate. During the

During the season, I'm going to look at some of the players being dropped by fantasy managers to see if their decisions were a little brash. Especially this early in the season with player evaluations up in the air, some of the players dropped will provide fantasy value going forward. Someone who will remain nameless decided it was a good idea to drop Robbie Ray and Tyler O'Neill last year in the first couple of weeks.

The players I'm looking at this week are a mix of immediate adds and those who are just a tweak or two away from taking a step forward.

For the information, I'm going to focus on players dropped at the NFBC and CBS. Both Yahoo and Fantrax's add and drop numbers are based on the past day or so and can be dominated by streaming starters. CBS and NFBC are based on the past week. 

As a general rule, I will stay away from injured players and just focus on players expected to play.

Hitters

Travis Demeritte (107 NFBC drops, -6% at CBS)

A couple of weeks ago, everything was going right for Demeritte. He was starting every game and even hit leadoff for four straight games. On May 14, he was batting .327/.387/.527 with three homers. Since then, he has done nothing. No walks or hits in seven games (28 PA). To no one's surprise, he's back to hitting ninth.

The reason for the struggles is a ballooning strikeout rate. During the first time period, he had a 29% strikeout rate. Not great, but it was not a complete drag on his production. Since then, it's up to 43%. Pitchers moving away from throwing him fastballs (51% to 45% seen) might be driving the struggles. 

He seems to be selling out in every at-bat, but he doesn't have the raw power (Statcast power metrics point to him being league average) to get by with just home runs. Additionally, he's not squaring up the ball to put in the air as seen by his 48% groundball rate.  He might come and go from rosters depending if he's on a hot streak, but he won't be a roster fixture. 

Steven Kwan (105 NFBC drops, -14% at CBS)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. He started the season out on fire. He was hitting .341/.456/.500 on April 24 when he went on the IL with a strained hamstring. Since then, he has hit just .215/.301/.277 with one home run and one stolen base. If anyone is looking for a narrative behind his struggles, the injury is definitely believable because he's not able to get to his line-drive swing lately. 

Before the injury, he had an 18% line-drive rate and 38% groundball rate. After the injury, his Launch Angle dropped from 19 degrees to nine degrees and he's posted a 12% LD% and 53% GB%. He needs that little bit of lift to get it over the infield since he doesn't hit the ball hard enough to go through it. His Statcast percentile ranks are 3% for avgEV, 13% for maxEV and 4% for HardHit%. Weakly hit groundballs are easy outs. 

Since he not hitting for average, he's unrosterable since he has no power and only attempted two stolen bases a quarter way through the season. Being the league's best contact hitters means nothing if that contact doesn't create hits. 

Sheldon Neuse (90 NFBC drops, -12% at CBS)

On the season, Neuse is hitting .252/.310/.343 with two homers and four steals. Since mid-April, he's hit in the top third of the lineup and played nearly every game. The reason for the drops is that he's struggled in May with a .479 OPS compared to an .863 OPS in April.

The struggles might be related to some groin tightness – he missed time because of that issue last week. Looking through the reports, it's unknown when the injury occurred and how long he was dealing with it. It still might be bothering him given he's hitting .091/.091/.091 since returning from the injury. 

Before the struggles, he was at least a decent bench bat since he was qualified at three different positions (1B, 2B, 3B). Now he's just a drain. The turnaround could happen at any time, so track one- or two-week stats and look for some uptick. 

Daniel Vogelbach (80 NFBC drops, -4% at CBS)

The big beefy boy looks to be this season's replacement level first baseman. Other first basemen have the potential for 25-to-35 home runs with a decent batting average. Vogelbach is more an 18-to-25 home runs and bad batting average (career .213 AVG).

Besides an uptick in power during the happy fun ball seasons, the 29-year-old has been the same hitter. This season, he's been getting a chance to start regularly for the Pirates, though he's now on the injured list, so the number of drops will only increase. He should just be in a platoon once he returns, since he is better against righties (career .806 OPS, .863 OPS in 2022) than lefties (career .504 OPS .452 OPS in 2022). When healthy, he's a one-week replacement for an injured player.

Starters

Kyle Bradish (121 NFBC drops, -9% at CBS)

The simple rule to ignore ERA applies to Bradish. He's been hit around (.328 BABIP, 2.0 HR/9) so he has a 5.74 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. At the same time, has a 3.60 xFIP and 3.52 SIERA. 

At his best, the 25-year-old righty has struck out 11 batters while not walking any over seven innings. During those good starts, he trusts his stuff and his Zone% is over 55%. On the other end of the spectrum, he has allowed at least one home run in each of his starts. 

He still has some stuff to work on. He's basically a two-pitch guy with a cutter (7% SwStr%) and slider (20% SwStr%) and struggles the second time through the order (4.27 FIP the 1st TTO, 7.21 FIP the 2nd TTO). Also, he has a major reverse platoon split so far with a 1.40 FIP against lefty batters and an 8.13 FIP against righties. 

He has the slider to build off, but not much else is going on right now. It would be nice to see him put together three nice starts in a row to know if any changes have helped and stuck.

Bruce Zimmermann (94 NFBC drops, -5% at CBS)

I want to understand this drop, but I don't. Zimmermann has allowed three or fewer runs in every start this season except the two Yankees starts. And he's facing the Yankees and Red Sox in a two-step this week. There is a difference in not starting him and dropping him. He should remain rostered.

So far this season, he has a 3.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 7.4 K/9. His 14.1 K%-BB% would rank 33rd overall just ahead of Julio Urias, Walker Buehler and Yu Darvish. Even with the rough starts, he's been one of the league's best starters. 

Even with some declining fastball velocity, he's striking out more batters. First, he's moved away from the slower fastball (5% SwStr%) and focused on his change (12% SwStr%), slider (20% SwStr%) and curve (70% GB%). At least some team in every league should have the need and/or space to roster him.

Chris Flexen (93 NFBC drops, -13% at CBS)

Flexen was a positive fantasy contributor last season with a 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP even though his ERA estimators were closer to 4.50. The estimators are nearly identical to last season (4.70 SIERA vs 4.73 SIERA), but now he has an appropriate 4.98 ERA. 

Nothing, besides his actual ERA, pointed to him being a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher last season. A sub-6.5 K/9 is way below average. His 40% GB% is not extreme enough to generate an elite number of groundballs or popups (i.e. weak contact). Regression was obviously coming

Additionally, a couple of his traits are headed in the wrong direction. His average fastball velocity is down from 92.8 mph to 91.5 mph. Also, his walk rate is up 50% from 2.0 BB/9 to 3.1 BB/9. He needs to stay on the wire until he shows some improvement.

Reliever

Spencer Strider (83 NFBC drops, -1% at CBS)

The hope was that Strider would eventually move to the rotation, but that time may have passed him by. He's averaged just over two innings in his 10 appearances so far this season.

Probably the biggest hindrance for him being a starter is the lack of a third pitch. He throws his 99-mph fastball (16% SwStr%, 23% GB%) about three-quarters of the time. Besides the great fastball, he has a decent slider (16% SwStr%, 50% GB%). In a limited sample of facing batters a second time, his xFIP increases from 2.54 to 3.17. Also as a starter, it's not known how much of his fastball velocity will take a hit.

As a non-closing reliever, he has very little value in most leagues. The only way he should be rostered: in 15-team or deeper leagues and only if he has the chance of making 2-to-3 appearances.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Zimmerman
Zimmerman writes analytics-focused baseball and football articles for RotoWire. He is a three-time FSWA award winner, including the Football Writer of the Year and Best Football Print Article awards in 2016. The 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champ, Zimmerman also contributes to FanGraphs.com, BaseballHQ and Baseball America.
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