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Jordan Zimmermann | SP DET | CBS 14% Owned
I’m cheating here as typically I stick with a 10% ownership limit for this column. However, I wanted to discuss Zimmermann without actually devoting an entire article on him that no one is going to care to read. I picked up Zimmermann in my two AL-Only leagues and was actually somewhat excited about it. Initially, the thought was he would simply be a streamer for two starts against weaker offenses in the Rays and Royals (though the Rays have posted the fifth best wOBA in baseball). Now I’m thinking he may stick on my active roster longer than I had assumed.
Zimmermann used to be good. You remember, right? From his first full season in 2011 through 2015 while he was in the National League with the Nationals, he posted ERA marks ranging between 2.66 and 3.66. That’s pretty good, right? But then things went downhill quickly when he joined the Tigers in 2016. His ERA shot toward 5.00 and it got worse last year, when his ERA rocketed even higher to 6.08. It wasn’t a matter of bad luck either, as his SIERA marks were around 5.00 both seasons thanks to a collapse in strikeout rate.
So naturally, everyone gave up on him this season, including me. But hey now, his strikeout rate has jumped back above 20%! For as solid his results had been with the Nationals, did you realize he only posted a strikeout rate above 20% once?! His current 23.7% is just marginally higher than the MLB average, and yet it represents a career high. It’s driven by a SwStk% that is sitting at the second highest mark of his career. He’s paired his always sterling control with an improved slider that he’s throwing at the second highest rate of his career and generating an 18.9% SwStk% with. The slider is being thrown at the expense of his fastball, which was a tradeoff worth making, given that his four-seamer has been destroyed since moving to the AL.
Obviously, he’s not without risk as a flyballer with terrible results these last two seasons. But he was a free agent in my two AL-Only leagues and sports a respectable 3.77 SIERA. He’s been good before. You don’t need top tier Zimmermann to make him a good add in deep leagues. Even a low 4.00 ERA and 180 innings of strikeouts and wins would provide positive value.
Daniel Palka | OF CHW | 2% Owned
Palka is a 26-year-old rookie who was last considered a prospect heading into the 2017 season, when he was ranked 11th in the Twins organization. But the Twins weren’t impressed and the White Sox picked him up off waivers during the offseason. An injury to Avisail Garcia led to Palka’s recall and he has started half of their games since.
As a left, he figures to platoon for now, though it’s notable he’s sitting in favor of Trayce Thompson, despite the team facing a right-hander. Palka’s calling card is power. He has posted double digit HR/FB rates at every minor league stop he has made. So that’s good. But that power comes at the expense of contact — he has posted a SwStk% mark of at least 13.4% at every stop too. That penchant for whiffing has led to several upper 20% strikeout rates and even one all the way up at 38.6%. He’s mixed in some walks some of the time though, so at least he wasn’t atrocious at getting on base.
He’s highly unlikely to be any sort of long-term solution for the Sox. It’s possible that the team sours on Nick Delmonico, and there’s certainly playing time available in center field if the team wants to shuffle guys around. But for now, buy him with the expectation he might hit you a couple of dingers in the next few weeks and then you’ll have to find another replacement.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.