The shine of the new baseball season is beginning to wear off and the grind off the marathon ahead is beginning to set in. Sample sizes are now beginning to have some teeth as well. Do you stay the course with struggling players or dump them in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle on your waiver wire? In this week’s edition, I deal with this. But before I do, some headlines from the past week in fantasy baseball.
- Boatloads of injured players are set to return to their teams this week. That long list of players include Coco Crisp, Neil Walker, Jason Heyward, Zack Greinke, Curtis Granderson, Brett Anderson and possibly Reds ace Johnny Cueto.
- Pirates newest project Fransisco Liriano returned to the mound Saturday, striking out 9 Mets in 5.1 innings en route to his first win of 2013. You could do worse than speculating on the former Twin for strikeouts. Who knows, maybe he pulls an AJ Burnett?
- Don’t look now but Tim Lincecum dominated the Braves over 7 frames on Sunday, allowing just 5 baserunners and fanning 7. He has 52 K’s in 48.2 innings pitched so far this year and if nothing else, he will continue to be useful in that regard.
- Fears regarding Heath Bell and Jose Valverde came to a head on Sunday, as they both blew saves. Valverde probably has a solid hold on the role in Detroit, but David Hernandez lurks in Arizona.
- Brian McCann has 2 homers and 7 RBI in 5 games since returning from the DL. He is still available in over 10% of ESPN leagues, making this your last call to scoop him up. He needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues.
- Finally, Dee Gordon has been called up to fill Hanley Ramirez’s roster spot and has stolen 4 bags in 8 games while hitting a respectable .267. He is well worth a look if you need speed, as he can definitely be a game changer.
What I’m buying:
Vernon Wells as a solid OF option in mixed leagues: Why is Vernon Wells being dropped in fantasy leagues? He is currently a top 20-mixed league outfielder as strange as that seems. However, after the Angels basically paid the limping Yankees to take him off their hands, Wells has done nothing but produce solid, middle of the order numbers for the Bronx Bombers. Wells is hitting a solid .295 with 9 dingers, 20 RBI and 4 steals. Super solid all around fantasy production if you ask me. It seems as though the change of scenery and guaranteed playing time has rejuvenated the veteran outfielder. After slowing a bit recently, many proclaimed the honeymoon to be over. However Wells has now homered in 3 of his last 5 games to quiet the doubters. If he’s been dropped in your league, go pick him up, as he needs to be owned in all eligible fantasy formats until further notice.
Alex Cobb’s breakout: Cobb was a trendy sleeper entering the year as many predicted further skills improvement from the young righty in 2013. In 23 2012 starts, Cobb posted 106 strikeouts in 136.1 innings to go along with a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. In his age 25 season, Cobb is improving on those numbers. In 7 starts so far this season, he has recorded 46 strikeouts in 46.2 innings as well as a 3.09 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Expect those numbers to continue, if not slightly improve from here on out as Cobb is pitching to a 3.02 SIERA and 2.89 xFIP. His K/9 has improved from 7.00 last season to 8.87 so far in 2013, a substantial improvement. Conversely, Cobb has limited the walks by decreasing his BB/9 from 2.64 in 2012 to 1.93 this year. Although I expect his 85.4% LOB rate to fall, I am buying Cobb as a potential top 30 option for the rest of the way.
Kyle Kendrick a solid mixed league option: Kyle Kendrick continues to build off of last year’s impressive season and it seems as though he may be making small improvements as well. Going vastly un-drafted in mixed leagues, Kendrick has been rewarding owners who scooped him up. Kendrick currently sports a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP to go along with a 39:10 K:BB in 54.2 innings. While he is getting a bit lucky in the BABIP department, he should continue to record solid numbers all around and be an asset as a back-end option in mixed leagues. He is on par to improve upon the 3.90 ERA and 1.27 WHIP he recorded in 2012. He has increased his GB% to about 50% while walking a batter less per nine innings. Together, those hint at more solid outings to come from the Phillies right-hander.
What I’m selling:
Shelby Miller as a top 5 SP: I took some flack on Twitter for claiming that I would still sell high on the young flamethrower after his incredible outing against the Rockies on Friday, but I would. After allowing a leadoff single, he retired every single batter he faced en route to a complete game 1 hit shutout. He fanned a career high 13 in the outing. Miller holds a 51:11 K:BB ratio through 45.2 innings so far with a ridiculous 1.58 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. While it’s obvious that this man is a future ace, he will go through an adjustment period this season. Conversely, his value will probably never be this high again in 2013. I agree with the sentiments of ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft in that Miller is probably well on his way to 150 strikeout season. Don’t get me wrong, I think Miller is great, but he is a rookie and will likely face an innings cap. In redraft leagues, I would attempt to sell high on Miller now in hopes of netting a top 20 starter in return. In keeper leagues though, Miller is a staunch ‘hold’.
BJ Upton’s bounce-back: It’s beginning to look like 2013 might be a lost season for the elder Upton. Through 34 games so far, BJ is hitting just .153 and has struck out in over 33% of his at bats. He has hit just 3 homers and swiped 3 bags as well. They say speed never slumps, right? Well, Upton has only a 50% conversion rate on the base paths as he has also been caught stealing 3 times. There has always been a stigma around Upton that in certain scenarios he wouldn’t give the game his all. For owners who drafted Upton for his services, those worries are beginning to come to fruition. After signing a 5 year-75 million-dollar contract with Atlanta in the offseason, one must begin to think about whether or not that has made him complacent. In any event, it is nothing new for a former Ray’s stud to struggle once earning a big pay day (see: Carl Crawford, Red Sox). The hope is that Upton can at least start putting some good at bats together because at the moment, he looks completely lost at the dish. I am not optimistic, however, as Upton has always been an extremely streaky player and this slump looks as if it could last a while. I am selling Upton for any solid return right now because if this persists, he is going to lose any value he has left. At the very least, he needs to be firmly entrenched on your bench.
Craig Kimbrel’s recent struggles: In Kimbrel’s last 5.2 innings, he has allowed 9 hits and 5 earned runs. These struggles can be attributed to a couple of things. First, his HR/FB has spiked to a whopping 25%, up from 9.7% last season. Moreover, Kimbrel is inducing fewer groundballs, with just a 38.7% marker in that category. He is pitching to a 1.58 SIERA and 1.91 xFIP thus far.Have nothing to fear Craig Kimbrel owners, there is nothing to see here besides a fluky case of small sample size. The best closer in baseball will be fine. If an owner is looking to sell low, pounce; and fast.
Timothy King is a contributor to RotoAnalysis. Follow his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com and on Twitter @TKing978!
Photo Credit: http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/baseball/uptons-first-braves-hit-epic-homer/nWZCk/