Roster Trending 6/1: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

Fantasy owners are heavily influenced by the forces of recency bias. A hitter is in the midst of a hot streak, having hit .400 over the last week with a pair of long balls? Pick him up! Unfortunately, we know that such streaks have limited, if any, predictive value, resulting in this strategy usually being a losing one. But that’s not always the case, as a hot streak could lead to increased playing time and we’re always chasing at-bats (and innings pitched). So let’s take a gander at which players have been added the most in CBS leagues over the last week and determine whether picking them up is a good move. Obviously, context plays a huge role in decisions like these, but since we have no such information, we’ll do our best.

Eduardo Rodriguez | SP BOS | 9% Owned Last Week, 61% Owned This Week

Last week, Rodriguez made his MLB debut in what was initially considered a spot start. But after his strong performance, the Red Sox have decided to go with six starters for at least one more turn through the rotation. Joe Kelly was at serious risk of losing his spot, but he seemed to temporarily save himself yesterday, as he allowed just one earned run over five innings. So we first have to figure out if Rodriguez is even going to get more than that one additional start before even getting to his actual potential future performance. I don’t have that answer as it completed hinges on Kelly.

In terms of performance, he has shown strong, but not elite strikeout rates in the minors. His control has generally been pretty good, though Kiley McDaniel has rated his command at just a 50 in future value. And although he generated 10 ground ball outs and just five fly outs, he was basically ground ball neutral in the minors, sporting a 44% career rate. Reducing your chances of allowing a fly ball in the general vicinity of Hanley Ramirez would be a good thing for Red Sox pitchers! Obviously, one start is a tiny, tiny sample, but he generated a 25% SwStk% on his 12 sliders, which is impressive. If he remains in the rotation, he’ll be a nice addition in AL-Only and deeper mixed leagues, but I think he’s close to replacement level or just a streamer option in shallow mixed leagues.

Mike Bolsinger | SP LAD | 39%, 76%

Given the many injuries to the Dodgers rotation, Bolsinger was given an opportunity and has made five starts, posting a pristine 1.15 ERA. Naturally, that minuscule ERA is going to get a fantasy owner’s attention, even though the ERA itself is essentially meaningless. The skills though have been pretty good. He has induced grounders at a 55% clip, while both striking out and walking batters at a near league average clip. The entire package together results in an above average pitcher with a 3.58 SIERA.

It’s pretty amazing for a right-hander averaging just 86.4 mph on his fastball to have pitched so well and supported it with solid skills. But there’s real risk here. He’s a two-pitch pitcher with just a cutter and curve ball, with the former pitch getting well below average whiffs and the latter only getting a marginally higher rate of swings and misses. He’s also benefiting from an inflated looking strike rate and his low strike percentage suggests some control issues down the line. He should remain a fine NL-Only starter, but I wouldn’t be very confident in anything shallower. His ownership rate is too high, which isn’t a surprise given his surface results.

Ryan Vogelsong | SP SF | 11%, 43%

A string of five strong starts has ensured that Vogelsong has gotten noticed by fantasy owners. He has allowed just four runs over that span for a sparkling 1.14 ERA. Of course, Vogelsong has lady luck to thank, as his xFIP sat at a far less impressive 4.15. This is a 37-year-old who is what he is. He’s fine enough as a last man on an NL-Only staff, but that’s all. To pick him up just because he’s seemingly “hot” is just silly.

Shawn Tolleson | RP TEX | 26%, 55%

Two weeks ago, Rangers manager Jeff Bannister said that there were no longer any roles in the team’s bullpen. Essentially, that meant that struggling closer Neftali Feliz had lost his job and either a committee would take shape, or another arm would be given the chance to run away with the job as his replacement. The latter option is precisely what happened and that arm was attached to Tolleson.

Tolleson was solid for the Rangers last year, but before he officially replaced Feliz in the ninth inning, had taken his skills to an entirely new level. Suddenly, he was striking out everyone and walking few. He has double the usage of his fantastic changeup, which has continued to generate a SwStk% above 20% and the SwStk% on his slider has doubled. Since his fastball is also excellent at inducing swings and misses, he’s now coming at hitters with three plus pitches. Frankly, I’m baffled as to how Tolleson is only owned in 55% of leagues. Do 45% of leagues not use saves or saves+holds as a category?! How is Bolsinger owned in more leagues than Tolleson?! I don’t get it. I can’t see Tolleson pitching himself out of the job, so unless Feliz rebounds while pitching in non-closing situations and that plus his “established closer” tag gets him his job back, then I think Tolleson could easily keep the role all season long.

Tanner Roark | SP WAS | 31%, 54%

When Doug Fister was surprisingly placed on the disabled list, Roark moved back into the Nationals rotation, where he posted a 2.85 ERA last season. So naturally fantasy owners scurried to add him. But, did anyone notice that even in relief, he had struck out just 8.2% of batters?! His xFIP sat at 4.54 and it was a fortunate 87.3% LOB% that kept his ERA below 3.00. Typically when starters move to the bullpen, their velocity and strikeout rates rise! The problem here is that his two-seamer has generated a putrid 1.3% SwStk%, while his slider went from an 18.8% SwStk% last year to just an 11.1% mark this season. It’s hard to imagine his two-seamer continuing to induce so few swings and misses, but even if we figure it jumps, it’s very concerning.

The sample size remains small though, he possesses good control and generates grounders. So I think he should earn some value in deep mixed leagues, but I’d be wary of him in shallow ones. His ownership rate, though, seems reasonable.

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.

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K Man
7 years ago

Hey Mike,

Totally unrelated, but how would you rank the following 3 SPs ROS: Hammel, Liriano, Cashner?

K Man
7 years ago
Reply to  K Man

I should expand my question a bit so maybe I can get a more detailed answer. On first thought I’d say Cashner>Liriano>Hammel, but after looking into it I’m wondering if I should flip that completely. Cashner is performing well largely based on the increased K%, but it’s not really supported by any increased whiffs on pitch fx. Only his curveball, which he has only thrown 13 of all year, has induced significantly more whiffs than usual. If his K% regresses back to his career norm, he becomes mediocre again plus an injury risk (though the fact that he has good numbers despite an inflated HR/FB% and BABIP is encouraging, I guess).

Liriano’s K% should come back to normal, which is still elite, but his BB% is slightly better than normal for him, despite no real support from the by-pitch plate discipline numbers. He basically repeats last year, I think, maybe does a bit better, which is perfectly fine.

Hammel’s increased K% might be supported by improvement in his changeup, which is generating a lot of whiffs, though he doesn’t use it often. His ERA matches his SIERA, which is great, and his career low BB% is supported by a career high F-Strike%, but the question is does that hold up or not.