Roster Trending 9/8/14: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

It has been a while since my last Roster Trending post, so with less than a month to go in the season, it’s time to take another look at who you’re all rushing out to pick up in CBS leagues. Are you making the right decision?

Miguel Gonzalez | SP BAL | 16% owned last week, 42% owned this week

Not surprisingly, Gonzalez’s ownership rate has remained at or below 20% for the majority of the season. But a 2.11 second half ERA that has taken his full season mark all the way down to 3.38 has caused his ownership rate to spike in recent weeks. But is he actually pitching better now than he was during the first half when his ERA was a less useful 4.04? Of course not. His xFIP is similarly poor, and his already mediocre strikeout rate has declined even further. His saving grace has been a ridiculous .213 BABIP and crazy 93.4% LOB%.

Gonzalez has posted low BABIP marks throughout his short MLB career and with a heavy fly ball and pop-up inducing profile, it doesn’t appear to be a complete fluke. But it will be nearly impossible for him to continue stranding runners at such a high clip. He’ll then cease earning mixed league value when that happens. As such, there’s no reason to pick him up now after he’s enjoyed the benefit of all those magic baserunner stranding powers.

Luis Valbuena | 2B/3B CHC | 24%, 46%

Valbuena’s ownership rate has climbed steadily throughout the season, probably as a result of him performing okay enough that he’s been one of the top options when an owner is scrambling to replace an injured guy. He has proven that last year’s power spike was no fluke and has upped his ISO even further. He has added about six feet of batted ball distance to a level that matches with his near league average HR/FB rate. But what has really boosted his power is a career high fly ball rate. It actually ranks third in baseball. But all those fly balls aren’t too kind to his BABIP and with more whiffing, he’s not going to be a batting average contributor. That said, with multiple position eligibility, respectable on-base ability and some pop, he’s the perfect injury fill-in.

Mookie Betts | 2B/OF BOS | 34%, 54%

After flopping during his two short earlier stints with the Red Sox, Betts is getting another chance this season to play every day in center field. Since his latest recall, he has posted an impressive .395 wOBA, showing excellent plate patience with an above average walk rate and even showing some pop, having socked three homers that has led to a .214 ISO. He has even chipped in three steals. He has also been making exceptional contact, as his SwStk% sits at just 4.1%. That would rank as the eighth lowest in baseball if he qualified for the leaderboard.

With an every day spot in the lineup and a blend of some power and good speed, Betts has the potential to be an all-around contributor. Multiple position eligibility is just the icing on the cake. Given his recent performance and prospect status, I’m rather surprised his ownership rate isn’t higher.

Edward Mujica | RP BOS | 3%, 20%

After games through August 15, Koji Uehara’s ERA sat at a microscopic 1.27. Over his last six appearances since, he has allowed 10 runs in 4.2 innings for a 19.29 ERA, including four homers. Obviously, this is uncharacteristic of Uehara, who has been one of the best relievers in baseball for years. Such is the life of a reliever though that a 4.2 inning skid sounds the panic alarms. But given that he’s already 39 years old, any sort of slip up will get people asking whether age has finally caught up.

Since I cannot automatically dismiss that possibility, then the backup plan is Mujica. He hasn’t pitched quite as well as last year of course, but no one should have expected his control and resulting walk rate to remain elite. Mujica is actually fairly similar to Uehara in that both are fastball-splitter guys. Uehara is just better. Mujica isn’t your prototypical closer, with a below average strikeout rate and without any sort of ground ball tilt to offset all the balls in play. But he’s okay enough to get the job done if the Sox do decide to shut Uehara down or his performance gets him a longer breather from the role. So if you have an obvious drop and need saves, he’s worth speculating on.

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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would you drop yelich, alex gordon or kennys vargas for betts in a standard redraft league?