Ottoneu Cold Right Now: July 1, 2024

Cold Right Now (CRN) is a weekly Ottoneu feature focused on players being dropped or who should be dropped in Ottoneu leagues. In this feature we will break down players into three sections:

  1. Roster Cuts: Analysis of players who have been cut in a high percentage of leagues.
  2. Recent Injuries: A look at the implications of recent injuries (not all, just some high-profile ones).
  3. Cold Performers: Players with a low P/G or P/IP in recent weeks.

This article will typically run once per week and will help fantasy managers keep track of players that need to be given extra attention to improve rosters.

Roster Cuts

Mark Leiter Jr., Add% Change (7 days): -19.8%

Leiter was getting cut pretty quickly when placed on the IL because he was dealing with the infamous forearm tightness that so often leads to Tommy John Surgery. But Leiter is already starting a throwing program and is hoping for a minimum stay on the IL (15 days) which would have him back right around the All-Star Break (which is suddenly quite soon). So instead of just reminding you that stashing injured relievers is rarely worth an extended wait, I can talk to you about Leiter.

Leiter is putting up a solid 6.74 P/IP in FanGraphs Points leagues, which is a pretty sizable improvement vs. the 5.34 ERA you would be getting in 4×4, 5×5 or most non-Ottoneu leagues. He has increased his K% quite a bit, on the back of an increase in his swinging strike rate. All good signs and backed up by a change in repertoire.

Leiter is using his splitter more this year, but more importantly, he ditched his four-seamer and effectively replaced it with a sweeper. That is a pretty significant change the sweeper is pretty effective – kind of. It has a 40% whiff rate, which is certainly useful, but it also has a .525 wOBA against. He’s only had 9 PA end on a sweeper, so this is a pretty small sample size (not that 40% whiffs on 58 pitches is a huge sample). I am not rushing out to add Leiter, but if those changes to his repertoire are the cause of the increased K%, he could continue to be a nearly-7 P/IP reliever, and that is not bad.

Nelson Velázquez, Add% Change (7 days): -18.8%

Velázquez was a popular late-draft add but has not delivered at all and now finds himself in Triple-A Omaha. Velázquez is doing a lot of what he did in his successful 2023 season. In fact, he is striking out less and walking more. He is hitting more fly balls. His BABIP is up. But his game is built on HR/FB rate and that is way, way down.

When I say his game is built on HR/FB rate, I mean that his performance, at least based on what he has shown us so far in his career, will rise and fall with that stat. Over 615 career PA, he has shown he can draw a walk and will strike out at a high, but not deadly-high, clip. He has shown a consistently low BABIP, which isn’t a surprise for a guy who hits a ton of fly balls and very few line drives. So in 2022 with the Cubs, he had a 12.2% HR/FB rate and a .291 wOBA. Then last year he had a 32.1% HR/FB rate and a .369 wOBA. This year, his HR/FB rate is 11.3% and his wOBA is .282.

HR/FB rate is a volatile stat, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the very powerful, hard-hitting Velázquez saw it jump last year, and it will be tempting to assume the drop off this year is just as noisy. But it isn’t. His barrel rate is down. His EV is down. His Hard-hit rate is down. He is pulling the ball less and hitting more infield flies than ever before.

I sort of assumed this was about pitchers adjusting, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He is seeing more four-seamers this year after he annihilated them last year to a .551 wOBA and a .560 xwOBA. It doesn’t seem likely that pitchers saw that and decided to throw that pitch more, but that’s what they have done. And it is because suddenly Velázquez can’t hit four-seamers. This year he has a .243 wOBA and .288 xwOBA off them.

That makes me wonder about an injury or a mechanical issue in his swing (or a mechanical issue caused by an injury). Hopefully going back to Triple-A will give him a chance to get right. I’ll be ready to pick him up if he starts to hit for power in Omaha. I don’t see any reason to believe pitchers have figured him out, so I have to believe he will get the power back.

Roster Cuts

Patrick Sandoval, Add% Change (7 days): -29.8%

Sandoval is, on the one hand, an easy one to cover because he underwent an internal brace procedure and his season is over. But it’s somewhat fascinating that he was even rostered highly enough to make this list. A 5.08 ERA doesn’t scream fantasy starter, but Sandoval had an FIP and xFIP under 4 and a SIERA not far over 4. That both plays up in Ottoneu points leagues and gives you some hope that he will get that ERA back in line.

Which leads to the question: is Sandoval a guy you should be targeting for the future? I find Sandoval to be a bit confusing. He has just one pitch with Stuff+ over 100 (his slider) and just one pitch meaningfully over league average whiff rate (his change) and they aren’t the same pitch. And he was using his change more this year than last, which seems good, but his overall swinging strike rate was down.

I am basically looking for a reason to believe Sandoval can turn a corner and get back what he was in 2022, but what I am finding is that, this kind of is who he is. That isn’t a bad thing. In fact, that great 2022, his underlying numbers weren’t a ton better than his underlying numbers this year. But that makes him a pretty middling SP, and that’s not a guy I want to stash while he is hurt.

Cold Performers

Cold performers are marked by measuring low P/G or P/IP in the last 14 days.

Julio Rodriguez, -0.5 P/G

It’s not just the two weak mega-slump, it’s the combination of his 2023 and his 2024 that has to have you wondering about how real his 2022 was. We tend to assume that a player putting up a huge rookie year will only get better from there. But that isn’t a good assumption. As good as he was as a rookie, we now have almost twice as many PA from Rodriguez in 2023 + 2024 as we did in 2022 and he hasn’t been nearly as good. That is showing up in projections, which mostly show wOBAs in the .330s and .340s, aligning with his .339 career wOBA and no where near the .368 he put up as a rookie.

Justyn-Henry Malloy, 0.1 P/G

Ten games into his career, he looked great. The next 12 were really bad. I mostly want to bring him up because I am writing Sunday night and he homered Sunday, so this is a chance to remind you – don’t bail immediately on a guy you believed in because of a slump.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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18 days ago

These are great.