As it’s the end of July, we might as well take a look at two players who have had big months and recently drawn the eye of deep-league fantasy owners. As usual, these recommendations are best reserved for owners in mono leagues.
Brad Hand / SP / Miami Marlins
1 percent Yahoo / .5 percent ESPN / 9 percent CBS ownership
It’s been quite a July for the left-, um, handed Hand, 24, who ends his first month as a starter with a solid 2.43 ERA and a 2-1 record. Despite a lack of strikeouts — that’s a 12.9 K% over those five starts — he’s been effective at limiting walks and hasn’t allowed any home runs since joining the rotation, keeping his FIP at a solid 2.87. Add in a perfectly reasonable .300 BABIP and 76.3 percent strand rate over that time, and Hand sure looks like a solid deep-leaguer — perhaps one who could contribute in mixed leagues as well.
There must be a catch, right? Well, five starts (29.2 innings) isn’t a trustworthy sample size, but a slightly above average line drive rate has nudged his SIERA to 4.36. That makes sense, because Hand pitches to contact and doesn’t generate swings-and-misses, instead relying on an ability to frequently generate ground balls. Although he calls Marlins Park home, he’ll eventually cough up a home run or two, which will, in turn, boost his ERA.
Other points: Hitters are smacking the ball at a better than .400 clip against Hand’s four-seamer, as per Brooks, though on the other, er, hand, he’s surrendered just five extra-base hits in his starts, so at least the contact he’s allowed hasn’t been too damaging. Finally, at the risk of pouring too much cold water here, the five teams he’s started against — the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Mets, Giants and Astros — have had mediocre months at the plate.
So no, Hand isn’t the waiver wire gold that, say, Jesse Hahn has been, but then again, we’re not expecting miracles from guys with Hand’s ownership levels, either. With the Marlins continuing to play decently — they’re still hovering around the .500 mark — some wins aren’t impossible, and if the strikeouts don’t bother you too much, the ERA and WHIP might be decent enough to make him a potential deep mixed-leaguer as well.
Daniel Nava / OF / Boston Red Sox
4 percent Yahoo / 1.2 percent ESPN / 10 percent CBS ownership
Yes, we know that Nava isn’t quite as good as his solid 2013 campaign at times suggested, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have fantasy value, especially after he finishes a month during which he was slashing .377/.433/.434 entering Monday’s action. Regrettably, Nava has produced no homers in that span, but hey, he was a .300 hitter and on-base machine last year, and perhaps this hot streak, part of what’s been a much more productive two months for Nava following a demotion to Triple-A in late April, is merely part of a market correction back toward 2013 levels.
Eh, not really. Nava’s always been a high BABIP guy, but a .444 mark in July is just insane, especially when it’s not supported by a spike in line drives; in fact, his line drive rate has been a very meh 20 percent over the past few weeks. Instead, more than half of the balls Nava has put into play have been on the ground, and while he’s found enough holes to keep his average up, that’s not going to do his power any favors. About that power: Fantasy owners by now have probably given up hope that he’d duplicate the 12-dinger, .142-ISO pop from last year, but it’s still disconcerting that his fly ball rate, which had already dropped somewhat significantly from 2013 entering July, has fallen even further over the past few weeks.
To be sure, Nava’s .270 average and .365 OBP in the five weeks that followed his late May recall were still perfectly respectable, and no fantasy owner would send back the kind of hot streak Nava has enjoyed over the past four weeks. His platoon with Jonny Gomes might restrict his value to AL-only leagues, but then again, that also shields him from lefties, against whom he has a woeful .282 OPS this year (down more than 360 points from last season). But owners who interpret Nava’s July tear as a return to 2013 production for the stretch run will likely be disappointed.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.