It’s not always easy to hold onto players who are off to slow starts if they’re near the back end of your roster. It seems like it’s even more difficult this year with DL usage up. As a result, the following trio of players have been dumped in many leagues. All three have compelling cases for being rostered in various league types, though.
Jason Castro (MIN – C): CBS – 17%, ESPN – 6.9%, Yahoo! – 5%
Castro’s highest batting average in the three years prior to this season was .222 in 2014. Gamers who drafted him likely weren’t expecting a positive contribution in average, but he’s even worse than expected with a .202 AVG. The left-handed hitting catcher has swatted three homers, but the AVG is a major drag. He’s due for improvement, though.
Castro has cut his strikeout rate down substantially from 32.7% last year to 25.5% this year. It’s his lowest strikeout rate since 2012. His strikeout rate reduction coincides with a drop in SwStr% from 12.6% to 11.3%, and he’s chasing at fewer pitches out of the strike zone than ever before with a 22.3% O-Swing%. Making more contact bodes well for his average improving, but his BABIP is undermining the increase in contact despite a solid batted ball profile.
Castro’s .250 BABIP in 2017 is 52 points below his pre-2017 career BABIP of .302. Nothing stands out as a major red flag within his batted ball profile to explain the cratering of his BABIP. Furthermore, the xStats provided by Andrew Perpetua at xStats.org indicate Castro has been unlucky with an xAVG/xOBP/xSLG triple slash of .245/.342/.414. That serves as a good baseline for projecting forward, but even the less optimistic rest-of-season projections from ZiPS (.218/.300/.372) and Steamer (.224/.308/.374) would represent and improvement from his current line. Castro should be rostered in basically all two-catcher leagues.
Devon Travis (TOR – 2B): CBS – 39%, ESPN – 12.5%, Yahoo! – 30%
April was a disastrous month for Travis. He hit just .130/.193/.195 with a .065 ISO and one homer. He hasn’t homered this month, but he’s smoked a dozen doubles and ripped off a line of .327/.345/.558 with a .231 ISO. As an added bonus, Travis is running fairly frequently this year with four stolen bases (two in April and two this month) in five attempts.
Travis is distancing himself from an awful start to the year, and his batted ball profile tells the story. The second baseman’s LD%/GB%/FB% for April was 20.0%/48.3%/31.7%, and in May he’s bumped both his LD% and FB% up at the expense of grounders with marks of 27.9% and 34.9% for each, respectively. Another obvious sign that Travis has gotten into a groove is the direction of his batted balls. Prior to this year, Travis sprayed his batted balls all over the place with a 33.7% Pull%, 32.9% Cent% and 33.3% Oppo%. In addition to hitting too many grounders in April, he was pulling the ball more with a 40.0% Pull% and just a 21.7% Oppo%. He’s back to an incredibly balanced batted ball distribution around the diamond with a 34.1% Pull%, 31.8% Cent% and 34.1% Oppo%.
He rode his all-fields approach to a .354 BABIP, .301/.342/.469 line before this year in his first 670 plate appearances in the majors. I’m not a total believer in the BABIP, and neither are ZiPS (.311 rest of season) and Steamer (.314 rest of season). Having said that, May’s Travis looks like what we’ve gotten to know over the last two years with the added bonus of running more. The third-year player’s four stolen bases already tie his season-high set last year in 432 plate appearances. If Travis was cut loose in your league, grab him up. He’s a viable middle infield option in leagues as shallow as 10-teamers.
Cameron Maybin (LAA – OF): CBS – 17%, ESPN – 3.2%, Yahoo! – 5%
The BABIP gods frowned upon Maybin until recently, but he’s gone about correcting his low BABIP with eight hits in his last two games. Still, his .287 BABIP this year is well below his .322 BABIP for his career entering 2017. Even after his two-game binge on hits, Maybin is hitting only .231/.345/.314. His xStats slash is .267/.373/.356.
An interesting development in Maybin’s stats this year is his surge in walk rate. He’s walked in a whopping 14.1% of his plate appearances, and his patience fits nicely in his new spot atop the order for the Angels. Maybin’s walk rate ballooning this season is supported by an unwillingness to chase out of the zone (23.0% O-Swing compared to a league average of 28.9%). In addition to not chasing out of the zone, Maybin simply isn’t swinging often with a 55.8% Z-Swing% (66.5% league average) and 36.5% Swing% (45.9% league average). The approach could be viewed as downright passive, but with an 18.3% K%, taking pitches hasn’t resulted in an ugly strikeout rate. If he’s able to retain even some of his walk rate gains while correcting his BABIP, Maybin can be an asset in OBP leagues. As it stands, his ability to get on base at a high clip will help him tap into his most appealing fantasy skill in all league types.
The speedy outfielder has stolen nine bases without being caught stealing this year. He’s tied for eighth in stolen bases this year entering play Thursday. As long as he keeps getting on base, he should continue to run since the Angels have been busy on the bases this year. They have attempted 35 stolen bases — a total that ranks ninth entering play Thursday. If you’re in need of speed, Maybin’s a widely available source who could also move the needle in runs serving as the leadoff hitter for the Halos.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.