Oak's Corner: Cargo Struggles in Colorado

Oak's Corner: Cargo Struggles in Colorado

This article is part of our Oak's Corner series.

The Week That Was


  • You think your fantasy team has it rough with injuries, how about the Seattle Mariners? Incredibly, the Mariners have lost four of their five projected starting pitchers to the DL with only Yovani Gallardo still making starts for the M's. It's a shame, as the Mariners offense is currently third in all of baseball in runs scored, but due to the injuries, their team ERA sits at 4.60, resting in the bottom third of baseball. If the Mariners could get their starters back healthy and pitching well, they could be a team to watch for a sneaky second half run to a Wild Card spot.

  • Rajai Davis isn't necessarily a name exciting to fantasy owners, but right now is the time to grab him if he was dropped in your league or trade for him at a significantly discounted price. Davis is currently sporting a putrid .207 batting average but that comes with a .239 Babip, a number way off his career Babip of .313. Even at 36, Davis still has a lot of speed, and with his reduced strikeout rate (16.8 percent so far after 21.4 percent in 2016) and a correction in his Babip, his batting average should rise. Most importantly for fantasy owners, Davis finally has confidence in his legs again after hamstring issues caused him problems in April. After only one stolen base in his first 21 games, he has swiped three bags in his last two games. While I don't expect

The Week That Was


  • You think your fantasy team has it rough with injuries, how about the Seattle Mariners? Incredibly, the Mariners have lost four of their five projected starting pitchers to the DL with only Yovani Gallardo still making starts for the M's. It's a shame, as the Mariners offense is currently third in all of baseball in runs scored, but due to the injuries, their team ERA sits at 4.60, resting in the bottom third of baseball. If the Mariners could get their starters back healthy and pitching well, they could be a team to watch for a sneaky second half run to a Wild Card spot.

  • Rajai Davis isn't necessarily a name exciting to fantasy owners, but right now is the time to grab him if he was dropped in your league or trade for him at a significantly discounted price. Davis is currently sporting a putrid .207 batting average but that comes with a .239 Babip, a number way off his career Babip of .313. Even at 36, Davis still has a lot of speed, and with his reduced strikeout rate (16.8 percent so far after 21.4 percent in 2016) and a correction in his Babip, his batting average should rise. Most importantly for fantasy owners, Davis finally has confidence in his legs again after hamstring issues caused him problems in April. After only one stolen base in his first 21 games, he has swiped three bags in his last two games. While I don't expect Davis to hit 12 homers like he did in 2016, this is a guy who has stolen more than 35 bases in three of the last four seasons, including 43 last year. It's time to grab Rajai in any league where steals is a category.

  • Carlos Gonzalez has had a brutal start to his 2017 campaign, hitting .198 with only two homers through 116 at-bats. The biggest issue in Cargo's profile so far seems to be that he's hitting a ton of ground balls, currently checking in with a 52.9 percent ground ball rate. He's at career lows in line drive rate (14.9 percent) and fly ball rate (32.2 percent), which clearly is limiting his power. His hard hit rate is down a bit at 33.1 percent but still in the serviceable range. His .224 Babip is going to move up to help the average, but without a shift in his batted ball profile, it's hard not to worry about his power going forward. The dearth of power actually started last season as after a 19-homer first half, Gonzalez only banged six homers in the second half in 248 at-bats. He's well known for being streaky (as an example, he hit 30 homers in the final three months of 2015) and he does have Coors as a nice fallback, but he's now in a four month run of below average power. A sneaky concern for Gonzalez could be the depth of the Colorado outfield, especially with the impending return of David Dahl. Due to the hot start of Mark Reynolds, Ian Desmond, signed to play first base, has played a lot of left field to keep Reynolds' bat in the lineup. While it is possible that Dahl could be sent to AAA to work off some rust after his long layoff, one has to wonder if Gonzalez will lose some at-bats if his struggles continue.

  • Trea Turner had a dominant four game series at Coors Field in late April (11-21, two homers, 10 runs and 11 RBI), but that series has hidden how much he has struggled the rest of the season. Outside of Coors, Turner is hitting .189 with no homers and a total of two RBI over 79 at-bats. Granted, a big series counts toward a final line and many players have huge series or weeks, but it's interesting just how empty Turner has been outside that four-game stretch. The one concerning stat that sticks out a bit for Turner in 2017 is the increase is his strikeout rate, which has risen to 26.4 percent. That rate is too high for a leadoff man with speed who doesn't profile as a big-time power hitter, despite the 13 homers in half a season last year. Turner still doesn't walk and his K:BB ratio stands at 28:5, which has definitely influenced his meager .302 OBP. Turner's hard hit rate has dropped three percent to 31.9 percent, and his line drive rate has dropped six percent to 19.4 percent off his 2016 numbers. Turner did have a stint on the DL, which could have affected his offense so far (he does have six steals), and while Turner still has extreme upside, there's enough here for me to worry about him returning close to first round value.

  • Kevin Kiermaier was one of my favorite draft targets this year and that has been a terrible call so far. Kiermaier has struggled badly at the plate, only hitting .207 and was recently demoted to the bottom third of the Rays batting order. Weirdly, Kiermaier has also struggled defensively in the outfield turning two ground ball singles into Little League homers in the same series this week against the Royals. Most concerning, Kiermaier is striking out significantly more than he had in the past three seasons, checking in at a 25.8 percent strikeout rate through 135 at-bats. He has tossed in six steals to help fantasy owners, but he has also been caught three times. One of the bigger factors I liked about Kiermaier entering this season was his increased power last season with 12 homers and a career-high 31.4 percent hard hit rate. His hard hit rate is down to 25.3 percent in 2017 and he's also hitting a ton of ground balls. His ground ball rate sites at a career-high 54.7 percent and his fly ball rate is at a career low 25.8 percent. His batted ball profile makes it hard to see a silver lining as it concerns the power returning or even increasing as I had hoped. I'm still hoping Kiermaier will turn it around on the steals, but I'm definitely much less optimistic than I was to start the season about a potential breakout.

  • I really like Andrew McCutchen so it's hard to watch him struggle so much. Through 33 games, he's only hitting .215 with an ugly .294 OBP. McCutchen has had some bad luck with a .226 Babip that is far below his usual level, and he has dropped his strikeout rate off his career-high 21.2 percent in 2016, but my concern with McCutchen mostly stems from his batted ball profile. After a three-year stretch from 2013 to 2015 in which he averaged about a 40 percent hard hit rate, McCutchen slipped to 35.8 percent in 2016 and has continued to tumble as he sits at only a 30.6 percent so far in 2017. That two-year drop from a consistently elite hard hit rate is a big red flag for me on Cutch going forward. Now 30, the speed has been eroding from his profile already, and now I have a legit concern that the rest of the game has eroded also.

  • Okay, Cody Bellinger, we get it, you are a beast. The 21-year-old has been the free agent find of the fantasy season so far with an incredible six big flies in his first 15 games, hitting .322 with a 1.080 OPS. Not bad for 21 and wow, that swing is pretty.


    FAAB Feelings

  • Luis Perdomo: I discussed Perdomo at length among the two-start pitchers last week, but a rainout pushed Perdomo back a day and he ended up throwing Wednesday and thus becomes a two-start pitcher next week. Perdomo wasn't good Wednesday, allowing 11 base runners over six innings, but he did manage seven strikeouts. If he wasn't added last week in your league, I like a bid on him again this week in 12- or 15-teamers. He gets both his starts at home in Petco Park, although Milwaukee and Arizona will not be easy matchups.

  • German Marquez: I generally don't touch Rockies pitchers, but with one road start this week against the Twins, I have some interest in Marquez as a streamer. After a horrible first start against the Nationals in Coors (just about the worst possible matchup ever), Marquez has thrown two gems in his next three starts with a 2.25 and 19 strikeouts over his last 20 innings. His most impressive outing was on Wednesday when he spun an eight-inning shutout with eight punch-outs against the defending champion Cubs. The 22-year-old righty spent most of 2016 in Double-A where he threw 153 innings with a 2.85 ERA and an 8.42 K/9 rate. He also has a history of good control in the minors with a career 2.5 BB/9 rate. His swinging strikeout rate of 9.1 percent doesn't support any boost of strikeouts coming, but with his control and a hard hit rate under 30 percent so far, I like his chances in a road start in a week where the pickings are slim among free agent pitchers. The Rockies haven't formally announced their rotation yet for next week, and while Marquez likely will go Wednesday, there is an outside chance they could shuffle the deck and he could fall into a two-start road week. If Marquez only goes once this week, he would get two starts next week, and while the first would be at Philadelphia, the second would be back at Coors to face the Cardinals. I'd have to be very impressed with him this week to consider using those starts but I don't need to tackle that decision quite yet.

  • Jesse Chavez: There are a lot of two-start pitchers I want to avoid this week (Hi, Tom Koehler, Mike Pelfrey and Bronson Arroyo) and, while I don't love what Chavez has done so far this season with a 4.29 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, I'm willing to take a shot on him in deeper leagues. Chavez posted a solid strikeout rate (8.46 K/9) and walk rate (2.42 BB/9) in 2016 while pitching 67 innings out of the bullpen, splitting time with the Blue Jays and the Dodgers. As a starter, his ratios have both gone in the wrong direction a bit this year, but a closer look reveals that Chavez has mostly had trouble with the Texas Rangers. Chavez has made seven starts so far this season and has only allowed more than three runs on two occasions, allowing nine runs total in two starts against the Rangers. In his non-Texas starts, Chavez has thrown 31.2 innings with an ERA of 3.12. This week, Chavez faces the White Sox who have the fourth-worst OPS in MLB, and the Mets who are about league average in OPS but are still likely to be without their top slugger Yoenis Cespedes. I like Chavez as someone who will give you solid innings with a good chance to snag one win and not kill your ratios, which has a lot of value in the current MLB landscape, especially with many fantasy teams needing arms with so many pitchers going on the DL.

A Closer Look

The big closer news this week was the announcement on Wednesday that Mets closer Jeurys Familia has an arterial clot in his right shoulder and could be facing season-ending surgery. Familia is undergoing further tests on Friday so we should know his diagnosis by the time FAAB comes around on Sunday. Obviously, Addison Reed becomes a must-bid if he was dropped in your league after Familia returned, but everyone knows that, so the question becomes how aggressively to go after him. Reed has been ridiculously good so far in 2017 with an absurd 22:0 K:BB ratio, a number I looked at three times to make sure it was correct. Further, Reed was exceptional in 2016, posting a 1.72 ERA over 77.2 innings with sparkling 10.6 K/9 and 1.51 BB/9 ratios. His swinging strike rate was in 2016 at 11.7 percent and he has boosted that even higher this year to 13.9 percent. His only blemish so far is an issue with homers, as he has already allowed four of them in his 18 innings. Overall, Reed profiles as a shutdown closer for the last two seasons, and if Familia is ruled out for the season and you need saves, this is 100 percent the time to go all out to get them. If you can get a pitcher of Reed's skills as a closer for four and a half months, you need to act now with supreme aggression.

Mark Melancon hit the DL for the first time in his eight major league season with inflammation in his right pronator, a muscle on the inside of his forearm. The injury is not thought to be a long-term issue, and Melancon is expected to be activated soon after he is eligible on May 16th. If he suffers a setback or you think the Giants, buried in the cellar, will be cautious with Melancon, I like Derek Law as the guy to bid on. Law got the first save chance after Melancon's injury and, while he allowed two runs to the Mets, he did end up with the save. Law was quietly really good for the Giants in 2016 with a 2.13 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00 in 55 innings. His strikeout rate was solid at 9.18 K/9 and he limited walks as well with a 1.47 BB/9 rate. The strikeouts have been about the same so far this year for Law, but he has struggled a bit with walks with six of them in 16 innings. Law is a good pitcher and could thrive in the role if Melancon does take longer to come back, and he's worth a bid this week just in case that does occur.

We spoke about Justin Wilson last week as a guy to grab, but the Tigers made it official on Tuesday, sliding Wilson into the role for the struggling Francisco Rodriguez. If Wilson somehow slipped through free agency in your league (doubtful), he's worth a strong bid for all the reasons we detailed last week, although you will need to significantly up the bid now that he officially in the closer's role.

Series of the Weekend

Astros at Yankees. This four-game set kicked off on Thursday night and features two of the best teams in the American League with an incredible combined record of 45-22. The Astros have already opened up a seven-game lead and look to be the clear class of the AL West while the Yankees are currently in a tight battle with the Orioles in the AL East with the Red Sox lurking four games back. The early-season records obviously make this a fun series, but the young offensive talent on display is the real reason this is the series I'll be watching as both teams come into this weekend in the Top 5 in OPS in MLB.

Everyone knows about the season Aaron Judge is having, but Starlin Castro is flying under the radar with a .351 batting average and a .923 OPS. Castro still is only 27 (that happens when you get to the Majors at 20) and while he did have 21 homers last season, he looks to reaching his peak (finally!) with a current OPS so far that is nearly 200 points higher than his career-high OPS of .777 in 2014. Gary Sanchez is back off the DL for the Yankees, and it should be fun to see them face young potential stud Lance McCullers on Friday and the seemingly reborn Charlie Morton (now averaging 95 mph on his fastball) on Sunday.

The Astros come into the weekend having won nine of the last 11 games, averaging nearly six runs a game in that stretch. The middle of the Astros order is finally firing on all cylinders as Carlos Correa has caught fire in May. Correa entered May hitting only .233, but after a hot streak to start the month including three homers, he's now suddenly hitting .282 on the season. I'm particularly intrigued to see how the Yankees' young hurlers Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino handle the Astros lineup on Friday and Saturday. The series then ends with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound on Sunday Night Baseball when the Yankees will be retiring the No. 2 jersey of Derek Jeter (my all-time favorite player). It's still early, but this could very well be a preview of the ALCS in October.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Jenstad
Scott Jenstad is a veteran of both NFBC and CDM fantasy games. He has won five NFBC Main Event league titles and finished twice in the Top 10 Overall. Scott is a hardcore fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland A's and Golden State Warriors. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenstad.
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