Another week, another list of free agents, prospects worth stashing, and losers worth dropping. A lot has happened in the baseball world since I’ve lasted posted a FBSE article, so let’s take these next few moments to acknowledge the best and the worst the season has brought forth thus far……..alright, I believe we’re all up to speed. As much as I’d love to admit that I’ve been in a bit of a time crunch over the last month, I’ve actually locked myself in my room studying Fangraphs peripherals for players like a mad scientist and applying their tendancies ever-so-vigorously through countless hours of playing MLB 14: The Show. But there I go again getting ahead of myself and thinking you guys really care about what I’ve been doing and why I’ve been so lackadaisical, and I understand the frustration. There have been millions of adds, drops and so on since my last post, and this week’s waiver wire activity is just as congested as most others. It always helps that the Super-Two deadline has passed, and teams here and there actually think that signing free agents in the middle of June is enough for them to contend in September. It’s a ridiculously busy time of the year for fantasy purposes because everyone and their mothers know what’s good and what’s bad about their teams. The trade market begins to flow more fluidly than it would a month ago, and anyone (and I mean ANYONE) who catches fire for a couple days usually gets scooped up immediately in Head-to-Head leagues. You literally cannot sleep without at least peeking into your league’s free agent pool and questioning the staying power of some of your struggling combatants. More importantly, some of us should consider taking risks with our lineups; whether it be by benching our “studs” in daily leagues if they’ve hit a wall or don’t have success against a particular pitcher, or dropping someone with a fruitful track record for another bat or arm with a wealth of potential. Basically, you put your foot down. Stop playing “He who led me to a championship in 2012” and understand that certain guys just aren’t fantasy relevant anymore. You’ll be surprised just how positive the results could be if you throw pedigree out the window and settle primarily on doing what you gotta do to win. That being said…
“Players on the rise”
!!! – Must Add
$ – Worth a Look
# – Position/Category need
? – Speculative/Stash
!!! All Minnesota Twins Hitters batting within the 1-5 range of the starting lineup !!!
More specifically: Kendrys Morales, Josh Willingham, and Danny Santana
-Starting with Morales, he finds his stock rising instantly, and that has nothing to do with him playing for the Twins; it’s because he’s finally been signed by a Major League ballclub! All those exciting rumors about him landing with the Yankees to provide some youthful exuberance (LOL) and the 30-year old switch-hitter found yet another graveyard for his power. But don’t let that rule him out of being a solid bat in deep leagues. If you for some reason are skeptical about his success going forward because of the team he plays for and the home ballpark he hits in: understand that over the course of his entire career, Morales has only played for teams in which their home ballpark’s dimensions have been in the top-10 for fewest home runs induced at least four times covering a span from 2009 to 2013. Here are some of his average numbers and peripherals in that period: (his injury-shortened 2010 season is not included, by the way)
Slash line (Runs/Homeruns/RBI:) 70/26/87
Slash line (BA/OBP/OPS:) .285/.337/.832
HR/FB rate: 17.8%
Contact rate: 78.6%
Isolated Power: .209
It’s also important to note that Morales returns to the Bigs with little rust, as he has spent the last couple of months training and taking live BP with former Major League pitchers. The chance for owners to watch him take off right from the jump is an enticing prospect, and the averages above tend to the notion that Morales is well worth owning in most leagues going forward. Big ballpark or not.
– Picking up Josh Willingham should not be viewed as the almighty waiver wide add of the year some owners are expecting, but this is a true power bat with a few nice-looking stats that actually show some improvement. Minnesota’s a very good offense in terms of plate discipline, and if Willingham’s 20-24 BB/K is any indication, this once semi-selective slugger could propel their overall production to new heights in 2014. Expect a lot of RBI from his bat from a wealth of RISP opportunities, and also consider that Josh is on pace to break his previous career high in that same category (0.79 BB/K in 2010) which should be more than enough reason for owners in all leagues to add him in leagues in which OBP and OPS are categories. I’m not a big fan of his extremely high .364 BABIP, but he’ll leave the yard plenty of times, and won’t hurt your batting average much in roto leagues, so long as he retains a keen eye of the plate.
-Of the three Twins worth picking up off the wire this week, Danny Santana is the least likely to produce long-term. Call me crazy or call me too respectful of the veterans he plays around, but Santana’s hot start comes off a bit more as smoke-and-mirrors than a legitimate breakout. One thing I preach about regarding rookies as invariantly than anything else is the disparity between K and BB rate, primarily because it gives fantasy purists a great idea of how consistent a hitter could and should be at the plate. Santana has only walked 5.6% of the time, while striking out at an alarming 21.5% clip. His minor league numbers do little to support the meagerness of these peripherals, and his .427 BABIP and 18.2% Infield Hit rate blare regression all over the place. However, in leagues that don’t consider “OBP and friends” (friends being SLG. and OPS,) Santana may benefit greatly from getting the everyday nod in the leadoff spot. Remember that the heart of the Twins lineup has gained a significant boost in production with the return of Willingham and Morales. All Santana really has to do in order to score a boat load of runs is get on base. His 30-40 stolen base potential should help him in that regard, even if the batting average falls down a precipitous hole never to be seen or heard from again. Dual-position eligibility is a major plus as well, and one that may become quite the advantage for most owners since he’s qualified at both SS and OF. Remember to temper your expectations with Santana, and if he goes through an extended slump with Ks galore, drop him and move on. But he’s red-hot right now, and I’d say get on and enjoy the ride.
!!! Andrew Heaney, SP, Miami Marlins !!!
Before we begin, let me take a minute to step away and do a quick, jubilant fist pump regarding the news today that the Marlins have bought the contract of top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney…okay, now I believe we’re ready. There is a never-ending list of superlatives I could throw around, but the one you need to hear the most is “radiantly composed.” What I mean by such a term is that Heaney has had a way of adjusting to adversity in the minors, and the high praise scouts have touted him with over his constantly improving control just might bring chills to the bones of sluggers across baseball once he makes his Major League debut. Need proof? When his Road to the Show began (yes, that’s an MLB: the Show reference,) Heaney got rocked at A-ball back in 2012, with a 4.95 ERA and 1.45 WHIP through 20 innings. But since 2013, a span that has covered 172.1 minor league innings across all three levels, Heaney has a 168/41 K/BB ratio with a cumulative 2.22 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. According to my calculations, his FIP over this period of dominance is a miniscule 2.58! To top it all off, Heaney has allowed a total of seven home runs throughout his entire minor league career, which could play beautifully for him with his home starts being in the spacious graveyard that is Marlins Park. A simple three-pitch arsenal – sinking fastball sitting at 90-95 MPH, plus slider with nasty movement, “supporting cast member” changeup – will be extremely exciting to watch, especially considering the high degree of confidence he was established with it over time. Unfortunately, he carries the fabled “innings limit” caveat that comes with every pitching prospect who’s logged at least 60-70 innings before callups, so his value won’t nearly be as great as it initially could. Heaney will be scratched from starts here and there on purpose as a way for the ballclub to save his arm for the playoffs (PLAYOFFS!?!? Yeah, look at their record.) Still, when the dust settles and his nerves are in check, Heaney has a chance to do damage at an elite level when he’s on. This is not to say that we’re staring at the next Jose Fernandez of last season, but he’s got upside for days. This young man is absolutely worth a flier in all leagues, a must-add in keepers, and if your pitching staff is too “stacked,” a must-stream at the very least this Thursday against the Mets.
$ Brock Holt, 3B, Boston Red Sox $
With Shane Victorino on the shelf (again,) Daniel Nava struggling to rekindle the spark he provided last season and Grady Sizemore proving to be a pointless experiment in the Red Sox outfield (as evidenced by his recent DFA,) the leadoff spot has dissolved into a glory hole where any brief or sustained success would be a complete and utter shock in the eyes of manager John Farrell. Enter Brock Holt, who has stepped up in an attempt to provide some consistency atop the Boston batting order. For the most part, the results have been real nice: a .340/.378/.465 slash line with 19 runs scored a 4 steals across 157 plate appearances. He’s worth a look for a little while, especially since you’ve got to assume there will be a storm coming and Pedroia, Ortiz and Napoli start raking everywhere over an extended period. Can Holt be a starting third baseman in all leagues this year? Well, that’s a different story. While the 15-stolen base potential is nice, Holt won’t be hitting balls out of the park, and his 52.1% groundball rate means that he better be running circles around Billy Hamilton in order to keep his batting average up. With a relatively suck-y .120 ISO, Holt has relied on a .410 BABIP to pad his stats recently, so we are once again staring a red-hot hitter dead in our faces. I believe I’m going to have to classify such a player at some point, particularly because we all add them at some point in the season and they always show up on a weekly basis. You know what? For now let’s consider them “streakers.” Go ahead and pick up Holt, ride him for as long as you have to, and let him go once the smoke clears. Oh, and one more thing: with Sizemore out of the picture, the Red Sox outfield now has some wiggle room for Holt, who’s also been getting starts at center field lately. If he eventually becomes OF-eligible, he should be quite the find in 12-team mixed leagues and practically all AL-only’s.
$ Tanner Roark, SP, Washington Nationals $
These Nationals have quite the deep starting staff. Consider this: having already slotted Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Zimmerman into their 2014 starting rotation before last season’s World Series was over, Washington went out and spent what was a long-term deal to sign Doug Fister (now a $7 milling one-year deal.) Because of this, manager Matt Williams had to put both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan into a competition to see who was more deserving of the fifth and final rotation spot. Do you have any idea how great of a problem that must’ve been for him back in March?? Take a look at what both of these two young arms pulled off back in 2013:
Taylor Jordan: 9 GS, 1-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 1.92 BB/9
Tanner Roark: 14 G, 5 GS, 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 3.84 K/BB ratio, 0.17 HR/9, 1.97 GB/FB ratio
Thanks to Fister’s lat strain shelving him throughout April and some of May, both pitchers got a chance to take their fight for “rotation spot supremacy” into the regular season (although, in retrospect, a healthy Fister would’ve left Roark to be the #5 starter regardless.) Anyway, the bottom line is that Fister’s back, Jordan has fallen off the table (and back into the minors,) and Roark has roark-ed onto the scene as a fantasy relevant starting pitcher in deep leagues. The best thing about his continued success from last year is that he has not strayed away from pitching like someone who perfectly realizes what he has. His K/9 is not appealing (7.02,) but everything else is gold, from his BB rate (5.4%) to his ability to limit the long ball (0.66 HR/9.) Being a moderate groundballer who doesn’t allow the big inning to occur very often pays dividends in that respect, so his current 75.3% strand rate should be a great indicator as to why his FIP only floats — not soars — above his actual ERA. Be mindful of the fact that most of Roark’s success so far creates some skepticism due to his otherworldy home/road splits:
Home: 40.2 innings pitched, 27/11 K/BB, 2 HR allowed, 1.55 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Road: 42.2 innings pitched, 38/7 K/BB, 5 HR allowed, 4.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
This is certainly subject to change, but maybe not in his favor on both halves. Roark should be a much better pitcher on the road, but is getting extremely lucky at home. We’ll see what happens down the stretch, but in the meantime his overall peripherals look as cool as the other side of the pillow. Pick him up if you need a consistent back-ender and be amazed over how few times you cringe over the box scores every fifth day.
# Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta Braves #
With the up-and-coming Tommy Las Stella (finally!) taking everyday at-bats away from disappearing act Dan Uggla, manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon start feeling the tremors on his hands that will be the baseball gods forcing it to propel the youngster up the batting order. Those in shallow 8 or 10-team leagues may want to steer clear from La Stella entirely because of his complete lack of power and speed (21 HRs, 26 SB in over 1,000 minor league plate appearances,) but there’s a lot to like about his prospects in deeper leagues if the pieces fall in his favor. Now I know I’m going to sound like I’m beating a dead horse when I begin to impose on the importance of his on-base peripherals, but believe me when I state that you’re going to wanna hear this: Tommy La Stella is a walk maven. His BB/K ratio in the minors was over 1! In 198 plate appearances this season in the Majors, he’s been holding onto a 1.40 BB/K ratio and 7.8% K rate, both among the best in baseball among all qualifiers!! That may be all well and good if he can’t hit…but he sure can. Despite an ugly 52.9% groundball rate, he’s still hitting a ridiculous 31.4% of balls in play for line drives with a contact rate over 90 percent!!! His .411 batting average may be stemmed greatly by his egregious .451 BABIP, but keep in mind that he batted at least .300 or better in every minor league level besides AAA, where he was sitting at a .293 clip this year before his callup. I think I’m going to really enjoy watching him spray the field for average as he begins to rack up his MLB resume, and hopefully Fredi and friends eventually come to their senses and slot him in the Braves lineup as their leadoff hitter. Imagine a scenario where La Stella is allowed to strut his stuff and get on base nearly 40 percent of the time in front of Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, AND Jayson Heyward! He may not hold much fantasy value in some leagues right now, but we may be looking at a pot of gold if this lineup begins to properly cater to his skill set.
$ Chad Qualls, RP, Houston Astros $
Forget about the logo, or the record-setting number of strikeouts from their batters a year ago, or even the 51-111 mark that began a new, “darker” era for the organization in a whole new league: The Houston Astros are a decent Major League Baseball team in 2014. Calling up highly-touted prospects George Springer and Jon Singleton will help this depleted offense a whole lot more than it could possibly ever hurt them. Dexter Fowler has actually become a pretty solid free agent signing (.284/.389/.412 with 5 homers and 41 runs scored.) And believe it or not, Dallas Keuchel has become a legitimate ace while the rest of the starting pitching staff has improved vastly over their horrific performance last year. There WILL be wins in Minute Maid Park for the foreseeable future, if all else plays out as it has been. The one guy whose value will indirectly skyrocket from all of this is Chad Qualls, who I believe could provide a nice batch of saves down the stretch as Houston’s official closer, sans manager Bo Porter. One thing you may not know about Qualls is that he has a rather neat track record, spanning 11 seasons and 10 different ballclubs. he was also the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2009, where he nabbed 24 saves with an awesome 6.43 strikeout-to-walk rate and 56.9 groundball percentage. Whoever said that being a groundball pitcher was overrated?? You’d be barking up the wrong tree if you made such an assumption, because Qualls was a perfect 33-for-33 in save opportunities from 2008-2009, while only striking out about 21% of opposing hitters. I bring all of these old statistics up before you today only because his 2014 numbers look nearly identical. In fact, his K rate and BB rate so far exceed those of his career highs by an insane amount. His 8.75 K/9 and 7.67 K/BB ratio can easily place him in top-15 closer status if he can keep it up, and if he gets a lot of innings in a given week he can be a great boost to your ratios in head-to-head category leagues with his elite 3.2% BB rate. With a SIERA of 2.29 and an xFIP- of 70, Qualls is currently pitching like one of THE best closers in the game since getting the chance to wrap things up in the ninth inning. If you’ve been searching for a reliable reliever to solidify your pitching staff, or if you’ve been clinging to Grant Balfour like a dead fish on a hook, grab Chad Qualls right now and thank me later.
$ Jaime Garcia, SP, St. Louis Cardinals $
Keeping up with my ever-growing fandom of the St. Louis Cardinals and their fascinating baseball legacy, Jaime Garcia is going to be my lovestruck free agent of the week. A control freak with an impressive host of peripherals throughout his young career, Garcia seems to have taken his game to the next level, even if that next level isn’t that much higher up the ladder. This soft-tossing lefty has never walked fewer than 2.22 batters per nine innings in a season. But this year? In 38.2 innings, Garcia holds a 32/5 K/BB ratio, good for a 7.45 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9 clip. I’m a little concerned that he’s allowed as many homers as he has free passes, but at the same time that’s an amazing comparative statistic. If Garcia manages to pitch at this pace while his HR/FB rate falls back down to Earth, he will have finished the season walking fewer than 25 batters in over 25 starts! His FIP would look re-DONKulous, and his overall numbers would make a serious claim about him perhaps being this team’s number 2-3 starting pitcher by season’s end (Considering how Wacha’s innings are handled in September, of course.) I still need to be convinced that he could uphold this consistency for at least another month or so, and health seems to always be a serious concern with him as he’s missed well over 60 starts since his MLB debut. Yet, wouldn’t you like to at least own him while he’s fine? Garcia has always sported great control, and if that K rate could maintain the slight boost it’s received, he’ll be huge down the stretch for many, especially in deep leagues.
“Players on the decline”
Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
In 5 GS this year during the month of April, Justin Verlander was a fantasy ace with a 2.38 ERA and a 3-1 record. Ever since the calendar has turned to May, all hell has broken loose, and the former Cy Young/MVP has officially allowed the big question surrounding his true fantasy value coming in to the season to become a country-wide discussion. Keep in mind that his WHIP in that one good month about a good 45-something days ago was an average 1.32, so maybe his 4.36 xFIP at the time was a sign for regression. But this??…
May satistics (6 GS): 5.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.69 BB/9, .309 BABIP, 4.06 FIP, 4.87 xFIP
June statistics (Currently 3 GS): 9.16 ERA, 2.04 WHIP, 5.79 K/9, 4.82 BB/9, .381 BABIP, 6.52 FIP, 5.48 xFIP
What should scare Verlander owners right now are two things right off the bat: the GLARING increase in walk rate, and the underlying decline in fastball velocity which is aiding to the destruction.
So with that in mind, let’s be truly honest with ourselves here: how unlucky has Justin Verlander truly been in 2014?
The one pitch that hitters were afraid of years ago has withered to an average speed of 92.6 MPH, which is still great, but is now being hit around at a slash line of .293/.400/.456/.856, the highest peripherals against his fastball in any season of his career. Look deeper into his arsenal and you’ll find that the rest of his entire arsenal has paid for his loss in FB velo, and paid for it dearly. Hitters are batting over 100 batting average and nearly 200 OPS points higher off of his changeup since 2013, and while his curveball and slider are doing enough to remain effective secondary pitches, the strikeout rates for both have tapered off by around 9 percent since last season! If that’s not concerning enough for stat buffs, consider that his walk rates for every one of his pitches (besides the slider) have gone up this year by at least 1.8%. This last statistic may sound irrelevant because, honestly, how can a pitch have it’s own walk rate?? I doubt having an overall eroding strikeout rate with an even further declining fastball K/BB rate at the same time is an unfortunate coincidence, and that’s only a sneak peek into the list of reasons why Verlander hasn’t found consistent success…
His control has never been this bad since 2008, and that becomes another scary realization because his career-worst numbers practically run across the board in that one year alone. With his stuff beginning to lose some of his luster, an adjustment is slowly starting to become a requirement for Verlander to at least retain moderate success on the mound going forward. First of all, he can no longer rely on giving anyone free passes. His 3.78 BB/9 alludes to a plethora of baserunners reaching first without swinging a bat, and a 1.68 K/BB ratio looks a lot uglier when you see that his K/9 rate has dropped to below 7. You wanna nitpick and tell me a story about how Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander, so this is just going to correct itself in dear time? Go ahead. But before you get carried away by name recognition and past credentials, remember that he doesn’t attack the strikezone (46.8% zone rate,) has become very hittable (80.8 opposing contact rate on all pitches,) and has not a single underlying peripheral that’s screaming “bad luck.”: his FIP, SIERA, and xFIP for the year are 4.09, 4.69, and 4.79 respectively.
Who can ever forget the astonishing road that Justin Verlander has traveled in his big league career? Not me. We’re still looking at one of the best active right-handed arms in the game in retrospect (and especially in the postseason,) and at age 31 still has plenty of time to rewrite wrongs and craft swan songs. But frankly, he’s not a good pitcher to own at all in most fantasy leagues right now. At this point, there’s nothing mechanically wrong with him, yet neither is there a reason for owners to classify him giving up 6-7 runs as “just one of those nights.” He’s going to have to discover a brand-new approach to opposing hitters, and learn how to consistently control lineups without giving away at-bats. This is a tune you do not want to dance to come September, so if for some reason you believe in an instant turnaround hope and pray that he figures things really quickly out for his sake and yours.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies
Come on, dude. This isn’t even funny anymore. Seriously, though, how big of a tease has Michael Cuddyer been this year? When he’s on the field, he’s an excellent third outfielder in roto and H2H leagues who can provide solid production in nearly every catergory. However, when he’s not playing…you wind up having to add every 4th or 5th outfielder in Colorado’s depth chart to replace him. If my math is correct, Cuddyer has already missed 40 games this season due to a variety of maladies, and expect that to stretch out to at least another 6 weeks of matchups according to his current DL timetable. At age 35, this pill is awfully hard to swallow, especially since we won’t have any idea how much longer it will take for him to get back to speed once he’s healthy. I like him as a free agent add in August, but this is not someone you hoard a DL spot for. Deep leaguers (and I mean 12-16 teamers) may have no other choice, but the rest of us should all join hands and sing the “Back to the waiver wire, you go” chant in unison. I hear it’s becoming quite the ritual these days.
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres
How ironic that one of my favorite fantasy shortstops coming into the 2014 season (and one of my initial “stock risers” in my first ever FBSE post) has seen his value nosedive into obscurity? The 2013 NL All-Star has returned to the same old deep league reserve infielder with 40-stolen base potential and little else, and a lot of it has to do with him more so than the putrid offense he bats in. I’m sorry, but you can’t be a solid leadoff hitter and score runs if your strikeout rate is 20% higher than your walk rate (24.7% K rate to 4.7% BB rate.) That’s disgusting. You also can’t just rely on speed to bail you out of a lack of power when you’ve only logged 13 swipes in 300 plate appearances. That’s insulting. And one more thing: you have some nerve if you honestly think you can live solely off infield singles (65% groundball rate) to help boost your feeble .223 batting average. Now that’s just hilarious.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Francisco Liriano has done absolutely nothing to justify his draft value or his supposed turnaround with Pittsburgh. While the 77 Ks are quite a few over his range of starts, his 4.60 ERA and 1.45 WHIP makes Jeff Locke’s second half last year look like David Price’s 2012 Cy Young campaign. The extensive injury history he has carried with him for what seems like ages now has also found its way back to haunt him again, as he’s been recently shelved with an oblique strain. Oh, the horror! At this point, his career has become the equivalent of binge-watching the entire Paranormal Activity series: nothing but the same unimaginative crap over, and over, and over. If you exclude last year, Liriano has had 3 consecutively catastrophic seasons with an average ERA and WHIP of 5.26 and 1.47. You couldn’t even do that in as a starter for the Colorado Rockies in the Steroid Era! He’ll be back sometime after the All-Star break I presume, but who really gives a shit? His BB rate looks like he’s trying to break some sort of really bad pitching record, and even though his 9.98 K/9 is very much elite, I highly doubt he’ll just stop walking everyone to make it seem relevant in standard leagues, even as a daily streamer. For now, let’s play a game called, “How long will his injury woes go?” and take turns calculating the over/under on his return. I did say All-Star break, but part of me has always been nicer than it ever should be.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Someone somewhere is going to hate my guts for saying this, but Devin Mesoraco being owned in over 80% of all ESPN leagues right now is downright absurd. Sure, he’s got the 20+ homer power in that small ballpark in Cincinnati, and the RBI opportunities with Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce all batting ahead of him, and the upside from his impressive stint in the minors. But this is the real world! And that was me trying to impersonate Vin Diesel from that standoff scene in Brazil from Fast Five with my arms out and my hands facing the ceiling. Speaking of ceiling, we’ve already seen it from Mesoraco apparently. His .305/.348/.573 slash line is impressive, but it’s still a relatively small sample size (131 at-bats) and a LOT of his damage came in April. I’m sure that someone somwhere is going, “Oh, you’re such a hater, dude. You’re only calling him out ’cause someone beat you to him in the waiver wire so now you’re out here pulling a Scott White.”
Okay, let’s assume that: a) I never owned Mesoraco at any point in any one of my fantasy leagues. And: b) the season ended in April. If that were the case, I’d be kicking myself, Jonathan Lucroy and Miguel Montero would be the two most overlooked players in baseball real-life and fantasy-wise, and “regression” would be a term that would never exist to sabermetricians. And that’s why I refer to the world we live in as the real world, where none of these things are possible! You know what’s also impossible? Mesoraco being a better catcher than Lucroy, Molina, or Posey this year. Here’s why:
April Stats: .468/.509/.787/1.297 slash line, .543 BABIP, 7.5% BB rate, 18.9% K rate
May Stats: .239/.286/.609/.894 slash line, .207 BABIP, 6.1% BB rate, 24.5% K rate
June Stats: .184/.205/.263/.468 slash line, .250 BABIP, 2.6 BB rate, 33.3% K rate
Notice ANYTHING unusual about his performance lately? And no, I didn’t flip-flop the numbers to make him look bad, sheesh. Mesoraco has changed his approach at the plate…for the worse! Why would he do that? He displayed unreal plate discipline at the catcher position for the first 30-something games, but now he’s reverted back to the same level of performance he put up as a backup to Ryan Hannigan. His BABIP was never going to be anywhere near that .543 clip for much longer, but it’s hard to argue against his lack of success at the plate as of late. His current contact rate is sitting at 73%, which I find mind-blowing because his career average is around 80% yet his .356 BABIP is higher than it has ever been for him. He’s also bolstered his swinging strike rate to 13.3% (it’s never been higher than 9.8 before in his career,) so now all I can do is state that his overall numbers are simply a product of having one of the luckiest batted ball stretches for a position player this year. I honestly don’t know exactly why he’s chasing so much now and wasn’t before, so I guess it’s possible to consider this a cold spell give him the benefit of the doubt in deep leagues until late-June or mid-July, especially since he was sooooo good early on. Still, he’s a “player on the decline” for a reason, and this one is pretty huge. The spike in Ks and dip in walks will cater to Mesoraco literally pacing his 2013 season, where he finished batting .238/.287/.362 in 323 at-bats. That’s not fantasy relevant, guys. Well, perhaps the power is, but then again he has an unsustainable 23.7 HR/FB rate so I seriously haven’t a clue what kind of hitter he is right now. It’s safe to drop him in all shallow 8-teamers until he remembers what plate discipline is, I guess. For those who don’t believe in Fangraphs and wanna squeeze every ounce of fantasy value out of him until he kills your offense; I tried to warn you. If you’re smart, you’ll sell high and sell high immediately. For everyone else who’s wondering whether to pick him up because someone dropped him; ehhh, don’t do that.