The Hottest Pickups This Week: Yay or Nay?

Last year, I would regularly look at the Roster Trends page on my CBS sports league site and discuss the players who were most added and dropped over the last week, ultimately concluding whether the moves were justified. I have yet to publish such an exercise this year, so figured we were overdue. Today I’ll check in on the top pickups, defined as the players whose ownership percentage in CBS leagues have increased by the highest rates.

The Hottest CBS Pickups
PLAYER PREVIOUS WEEK CURRENT WEEK CHANGE
Willson Contreras 20% 64% 44%
Shawn Kelley 4% 47% 43%
Whit Merrifield 18% 47% 29%
Cody Reed 12% 36% 24%
Doug Fister 60% 83% 23%
Tim Lincecum 20% 42% 22%
James Paxton 66% 86% 20%

Well, Willson Contreras is no surprise to land the top spot. He was recalled last Friday after following up strongly from his Double-A breakout in 2015. In 240 Triple-A appearances this season, he posted a ridiculous .450 wOBA, driven by a power spike that saw his ISO jump to .240. Before the season, former lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth ranked him 9th in the Cubs system, but after his strong Triple-A performance this year, Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system was a big fan. The only question now is that of playing time, as David Ross will continue to catch Jon Lester, and veteran Miguel Montero is still around. The latter has been pathetic with the stick this year, registering a lowly .276 wOBA, but it’s doubtful he outright loses his job and becomes the second string catcher right away. That said, Contreras is worth the speculation in a 15-team mixed and deeper league if you need the catching help. I think his ownership rate now is a bit high though.

With incumbent Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon hitting the DL a week ago, the task of closing out games has fallen to Shawn Kelley. Kelley has run strikeout rates above 30% every year since 2013 and only a high BABIP has at times hidden his skills behind an inflated ERA. But he clearly what it takes to get the job done, and do it very well. He’s a fastball/slider guy, which typically results in drastic platoon splits and problems with lefties, but Kelley has actually been slightly better against left-handed batters throughout his career. There’s no telling when Papelbon will return and Kelley should be an excellent closer while he has the job. I don’t understand why his ownership rate isn’t higher.

Whit Merrifield certainly makes a strong case for the best name in baseball. Does that make him a good fantasy pickup though? Well, yes, yes it does. Injuries in the outfield and a lack of production at second base has given the happily named Merrifield a full-time job. So far, he’s made the most of his opportunity, contributing a bit in all categories, while hitting .333. Of course, that batting average isn’t going to last, as it’s being propped up by a ridiculous .400 BABIP. But here’s the thing — he’s sporting a 26.6% line drive rate, a higher than average GB%, a relatively even split between Pull/Center/Oppo hits and ZERO pop-ups. That’s basically the very steps to a high BABIP. But here’s the other thing — he has posted a BABIP above .318 just once during his 10 different minor league stints. That .394 BABIP he posted in 2014 at Triple-A stands out as the outlier, so he has essentially never shown any sort of BABIP ability. As such, this smells more like a BABIP hot streak built on unsustainable batted ball metrics. The most attractive thing here is his speed, as he swiped 32 bases a season ago. He makes for a solid addition in deep mixed and AL-Only leagues, but that’s it. The ownership rate seems fair, if not slightly too high.

So Cody Reed, the Reds’ third best prospect as ranked before this season, debuted on Saturday and made a nice splash, striking out nine Astros in seven innings. The southpaw features a highly rated fastball and promising slider, with a changeup that lags behind. His minor league record was solid, albeit unspectacular, and that’s not the type of pitcher I like gambling on in a shallow league. He’s another for the deeper mixed and NL-Only league crowd. The ownership rate looks reasonable.

Doug Fister, really? How to pinpoint the guy in your league who only looks at ERA is by seeing who picks up Fister. Somehow, he’s managed an impressive 3.26 ERA, despite his typically low strikeout rate and the highest walk rate of his career. It’s easy to see how he’s doing it — look no further than the .254 BABIP, a career low, and the 81.8% LOB%, a mark well above his career average and the league average. This is not a Fister returning to his solid pre-2015 ways. This is a Fister that remains in steep decline whose smoke and mirrors act will fade away quickly. An 83% ownership rate is laughably high. I wouldn’t even touch him in an AL-Only league. Yup, I’m serious.

Tim Lincecum is back! While he landed back in another pitcher’s park, he did so in the American League, which is not a good place for a guy whose strikeout rate has literally declined for six straight seasons. He has still been able to generate swings and misses though, and his velocity in his first start was already over a mile per hour higher than what he averaged last year (88.4 versus 87.2 last season). But that’s still pretty sad for a guy who debuted averaging 94 mph and maxing out at 99. I took a shot on him in AL Tout Wars several weeks back when he first signed with the Angels, and that type of format is really the only one I’d consider taking the gamble. His ownership rate is too high, I’d prefer Reed.

There isn’t much left to say about James Paxton, other than how shallow are some leagues that 14% still don’t have him rostered?! His velocity is up a crazy three miles per hour and he has peaked at 100! Please, pick him up.





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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CJ03
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CJ03

How does JA Happ’s value compare to Eickhoff, in a league that counts wins, era, WHIP, K’s, IP, and SV+H? Happ plays on the better team, but he’s got some ugly numbers that say he’s due for regression. Eickhoff won’t get any wins with the Phillies, but his other numbers look way better (xFIP, SIERA) and his strikeout rate is substantially better