The Roto Riteup hopes you enjoyed the break!
When baseball is finally back. pic.twitter.com/vPSznNfJpp
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 19, 2018
On the Agenda:
1. 1st Half Leaders
2. Various News and Notes
3. Streaming Pitchers
1st Half Leaders
With today being the first full slate of games “post” All-Star Break, I thought it’d be fun to go through a few of the leaders in different categories.
Home Runs: J.D. Martinez and Jose Ramirez (29)
These two are both ranked in the top-7 on the ESPN Player Rater (J-Ram second) and were both taken in the top-25 in drafts. J.D. will continue doing what he does, hit for power with a strong average in one of the best offenses in baseball. As for Ramirez, he’s on pace for career numbers across the board, and is putting himself into the “Trout, Mookie” area in fantasy. I wrote about him more extensively here, but it’s stating the obvious – he’s made drastic improvement to his power metrics, swing, and launch angle. He probably won’t lead the league in home runs by the end of the season, but my goodness a 40 HR, 30 SB campaign with a good BA is within reason here. There’s only two hitters I want more than J-Ram right now, and that’s Trout and Betts.
Stolen Bases: Starling Marte (25)
Marte stole 19 bases in 255 AB after his suspension last season – hitting .282/.343/.380 with 5 HR as well. Now, after going at a bit of a discount in drafts (48th overall in NFBC) he’s on pace to beat his career-high in home runs back in 2015 (19) and compile 40 SB for third time (30 or more stolen bases in five-of-six years coming into 2018, 2017 was over 20).
Runs Scored: Francisco Lindor (85)
No, that’s not a typo. The last time someone scored 85 runs in the first half was Todd Helton back in 2003 (87). Like many people thought, Lindor’s stolen base total has creeped back up from the 13 he posted in 2017. He’s striking out more (19%), but his contact skills and BA are back up to his 2015/16 levels as well. His power metrics – Like Ramirez – are career-highs (.271 ISO), especially in the Statcast metrics (Barrel%, xWOBA, XSLG, Launch Angle, Hard%). The Indians are third in runs scored, they finished seventh last year – things are going to work out well for Lindor the rest of the way.
Runs Batted In: J.D. Martinez (80)
Batting Average: Mookie Betts (.359)
Mookie is first overall on the ESPN Player Rater. Not shocking obviously. He’s increased his FB% for the second year in-a-row and has surpassed his career-best levels in power metrics back in 2016. Not a lot to see here, he’s a stud – second-best player in fantasy.
Strikeout%: Joey Gallo (36.2%)
Believe it or not, this total is slightly better than last year as a whole. His ISO against RHP has dropped slightly, but he’s still on pace to hit over 35 HR. Fantasy owners that play in OBP formats can feel better about him as well, as he boasts a 12.6% BB – good for 26th among qualified hitters. He’s essentially the new Adam Dunn or Chris Carter.
Walk%: Mike Trout (19.6%)
WAR: Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts (6.5)
wRC+: Mookie Betts (202)
SIERA: Chris Sale (2.39)
He’s getting more whiffs on all of his offerings with close to the same mix as last season. His FB velocity is up to over 95 mph and his overall SwStr% is at a career-best 16% mark. F-Strike% is at a career-best mark as well (68%) and were seeing him get more groundballs while allowing less line drives. I tend to lean towards SIERA or xERA (Baseball HQ) when looking at a predictive ERA stat, but to be fair Sale is leading in xFIP as well (2.43). His LOB% and BABIP could lean the opposite way a smidge as the season goes on, but this is the top-5 starter in fantasy no questions asked. You already knew that, I just needed to throw some stats out to back it up.
Saves: Edwin Diaz (36)
Diaz has been an absolute beast. Not only does he lead the league in saves, he’s also top-5 in K% (43.7), K/BB% (36), WHIP (0.79), SIERA (1.61, behind only Josh Hader), and SwStr% (18.4). The big difference from his first two seasons in the majors is his control. He’s upped his F-Strike% almost 10% (56% in ’17, 66% this year), which in turn has cut his BB/9 from 4.4 last season to 2.4 in ’18. He still has his random lapses with command, but this is a top-5 closer in fantasy right now, and arguably the top overall relief arm in keeper/dynasty leagues. The upside has always been there based on his lethal velocity and slider, I’m glad it’s finally come together.
ERA (Starters): Jacob deGrom (1.68)
19 GS, 15 QS, and only 5 W – that’s why he’s outside the top-10 on the ESPN Player Rater. Who knows if he stays with the Mets the rest of the way, but his surface numbers are bound to take at least a bit of a hit. His SIERA sits at 2.93, with his xERA sitting a shade under that. He’s been benefiting from his best HR/9 (0.5) and HR/FB (8%) since his rookie season, as well as career numbers in SwStr (15.4%, third among starters), K% (30.7), BABIP (.282, second-lowest of career), and LOB% (86). This is a top-10 starter the rest of the way, but expect some regression.
WHIP: Justin Verlander (0.84)
Let’s be honest, he’s a three-pitch guy essentially, but the Astros famous use of the curve with their starters has transformed some careers – ala Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and now Verlander. Not that Verlander was a complete transformation, but his 34% Whiff rate on his curve this season versus 24% last season is certainly a strong argument favoring the Astros coaching staff. He’s taken his results after being traded to Houston and piggy-backed them into fine results this year – resulting in a #2 finish among starters on the ESPN Player Rater in the first half. K/9, F-Strike, SwStr, BB/9, BABIP, and LOB% are all sitting as the best marks of his storied career. Most pitchers regress back to a .300 BABIP against and a 70-ish percent LOB%, which means like deGrom, Verlander will drop off a bit in the second-half (2.89 SIERA, .241 BABIP, 84% LOB). I don’t like to rely on “BABIP-regression” arguments, but sometimes things just can’t go your way to that extreme for six months. Either way, Verlander will be awesome.
Various News and Notes
Gary Sanchez has been activated from the disabled list and will return today against the Mets. He’s been out since late-June with a groin injury. He hit a couple of dingers in his three-game rehab stint – he’s ready to go.
— Max Wildstein (@MaxWildstein) July 15, 2018
#Cubs Pedro Strop retired the only batter he faced (2 pitches) to close out a 9-6 win over the Cardinals and pick up his 3rd save.
— CloserNews Team (@closernews) July 20, 2018
The Bullpen Report will likely cover this situation more at length, but with Brandon Morrow out this will likely be a mix-and-match situation.
We’ve acquired All-Star LHP Brad Hand and RHP Adam Cimber from the Padres for C/OF Francisco Mejia.
Hand is a 2x All-Star with 46 saves and a 2.66 ERA with San Diego in 3 seasons.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 19, 2018
Andrew Miller is expected back in the, “next few weeks” according to the Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. With that said, Hand could still fall into some save situations in the meantime. Hold on to him in deeper formats for now. 10-team league owners can cut bait. Kirby Yates takes over the Padres closer role. He’s been stellar this season, posting a 1.43 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and a 48/11 K:BB ratio over 38 IP. As far as Mejia, the Padres are expected to keep him at catcher according to Dennis Lin – Padres reporter for the Athletic. He’ll head to Triple-A El Paso for now, but Austin Hedges – despite his defensive skills – should feel uncomfortable about this. Cimber has been a strong LIMA play this season in his own right, but is not fantasy relevant.
According to the Kansas City Star, Jake Junis is expected to take the mound on Saturday against the Twins. The RHP hasn’t made a start since July 2nd due to lower-back inflammation. He posted a 3.34 ERA in April and 3.86 mark in May before compiling a 7.14 ERA in June and getting lit up to start July. He’s certainly not a safe option right now, but there’s upside based on his skills, home park, and division. He’s got a nice slider too.
Jake Junis, Nasty 83mph Slider (release/spin). ? pic.twitter.com/lmq7Pcs5zV
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 19, 2018
Yoenis Cespedes is expected to return from the disabled list today against the Yankees.
Yoenis Cespedes will return from the disabled list tomorrow in time for the Subway Series:https://t.co/Lf5IaGIr9i
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) July 19, 2018
He’s been on the shelf since May 13th due to a hip injury, but has gone 4-for-12 with three extra-base hits (one home run) during his rehab stint. He should be activated in all leagues.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Evan Longoria is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment today with Triple-A Sacramento. It’ll likely take a few games for him to get up to speed. He’s been out since June 14th with a broken bone in his hand. His line to date sits at .246/.278/.434 with 10 HR and 34 RBI over 256 AB.
Some good news came around from Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register in regards to Shohei Ohtani’s status.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) July 19, 2018
The Angels will definitely play things cautiously here, but fantasy owners have at least a glimmer of hope if he can get right by September. He only has 24 AB since returning from the disabled list, so keep that in mind in shallow formats where he’s taking up a roster spot.
An MRI on Shelby Miller’s arm showed no further damage to his elbow.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) July 20, 2018
He’ll be shut down for at least another week.
Rangers are getting more interest in their relievers than anything else. Closer Keone Kela and left-hander Jake Diekman are intriguing to clubs
— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) July 20, 2018
The Rangers aren’t going anywhere this season so they have every reason to take calls on these guys. Kela will likely not be closing in most situations, but you never know. The Rangers traded Jesse Chavez to the Cubs in exchange for LHP Tyler Thomas – a 2017 seventh round pick – yesterday, so they’re willing to deal some veterans to improve their future.
A Pitcher for Today: Kyle Gibson at KC (shallow formats), German Marquez at ARI
Marquez has faced Arizona three times, averaging a strikeout per inning and only having one dud. This is in Chase Field where the Diamondbacks rank 22nd in wRC+ as well (92).
Hail Mary Option: Clayton Richard at PHI
The Phillies are 26th in wRC+ this month (79) and have struggled against LHP this season. No strikeout upside, but Richard can eat innings if he gets going.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Felix Hernandez vs CWS (if available), Vince Velasquez vs SD (if available)
Ton of risk here with Felix, but the White Sox matchup is too good. Hernandez can’t mess that up right? Right! He allowed 3 ER in 6 IP with 6 K against them earlier this year.
Fantasy Baseball and Tampa Bay Rays enthusiast. Restaurant manager by day, fantasy analyst by night. Contributor to Rotographs, Baseball HQ, Fantasy Pros, and co-owner of Friends with Fantasy Benefits. Follow me @MikeWernerFWFB.