Addison Russell Slowly Adjusting To Big League Pitching
In baseball, talent does not always translate to success. Such has been the case for the Cubs' Addison Russell. The team's uber-talented former top prospect has scuffled this season to the tune of a .232/.317/.354 triple slash with four homers, 32 RBIs and pair of steals over his first 198 at-bats. Those numbers won't even place him among the Top-30 shortstops in the league right now.
He has now had 747 career plate appearances spanning over 197 games. With them he has posted a .238-83-17-86-6 line while walking 8.7 percent of the time and striking out in 27.9 percent of his appearances. In terms of sample size this is enough to start forming an opinion, but at the same time, that opinion has to come within the context that these numbers are being put up by a kid that turned 22 in January.
[caption id="attachment_108010" align="alignright" width="478"] Addison Russell will eventually be a top player but this may not be his year. Photo Credit: Bryan Lynn Icon Sportswire[/caption]
Russell played just 244 games in the minors prior to being called up for good by the Cubs last season. He posted a .301/.377/.520 triple slash on the farm. Inspiring numbers considering he was on average at least 3.4 years younger than any competition he faced after appearing in rookie ball back in 2012.
For the record I believe in this kid's talent. He will put everything together. The problem is with most kids it's making the required adjustments. He was brought up because the Cubs front office felt he could finish fine-tuning his game at the big league level. There are signs he is doing so, as his walk rate is increasing while his strikeouts are decreasing. The problem for Fantasy owners is owning him during this process.
Watching him get better is great from a perspective of a fan, but in Fantasy baseball holding onto this super talented kid while he is being outplayed by more than 30 of his peers just doesn't make sense. He is currently owned in 76.4 percent of leagues on ESPN, a number higher than guys like Eugenio Suarez, Zack Cozart and Marcus Semien. All of which have easily outperformed him. If you play in a mixed league with shallow benches and are in a roster crunch, don't feel bad about cutting him loose.
With his win on Sunday against the Mets, Milwaukee’s Zach Davies has won each of his last four decisions. Over that time span he has given up just four earned runs and 14 hits while striking out 25 over 26.2 innings. Davies has now started 17 games for the Brewers dating back to last season and he has posted a 3.82 ERA, 1.19 WHIP while posting eight wins for a bad ball club. His profile isn’t overwhelming; his average fastball velocity this season is just 89.3 mph. He has however done a better job of limiting walks while upping his strikeout totals. The big difference in Davies this year has come from his use of a cutter, which has become his fourth regular offering. It has helped keep opposing batters off balance and has produced a moderate uptick in strikeouts. The results have been solid, and while he will never offer elite numbers because of the lack of punch-outs that doesn’t mean he won’t be a useful Fantasy starter for teams looking for an innings eater with solid ERA and WHIP totals. Right now he should be owned in all mixed leagues with 14 or more teams. If he continues on his recent trend and pushes his K/9 into the 8.0 range he will need to be owned in all mixed leagues.
Back in 2012 Ike Davis slugged 32 homers and drove in 90 runs for the Mets. It's the last time he has been relevant. Since then he has bounced from the Mets to Pittsburgh to Oakland followed by a sting in Triple-A with the Rangers before signing with the Yankees on Sunday. He wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire either, hitting .268 with four homers and 25 RBIs over 163 plate appearances in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. For Davis though he probably couldn't have landed in a better situation. It also screams toward the fact that they aren't exactly confident Mark Teixeira is going to be able to rehab his knee and return this season. Because of this Davis looks ticketed for a good chunk of playing time. He should start against most right-handers and stands a good chance at a decent homerun total calling Yankee Stadium his home park. From a Fantasy perspective that will make him useful in AL-Only leagues. Temper expectations though. He is a career .239 hitter that is probably going to spend most of his time in the bottom third of their lineup. If you play in an OBP league he will be of more use though, his .332 career OBP is quite serviceable.
Baseball is a game of hot and cold spells. When one of your players enters the zone, watching him carry your team up the standings is a thing of beauty. When he goes cold, it can sometimes test the patience of even the savviest Fantasy owner. Adam Jones is a very good baseball player. It took him until May 10th to push his average above the Mendoza line and keep it there. That lack of production left many owners sour, resulting in trades for less than full value and in some cases his even being cut. Since May 10th things have turned around, as he has posted a .265-24-10-26-1 line over his last 132 at-bats. He is now on pace to hit 29 homers and drive in 91 runs. Both totals are right in line with his career numbers. The only real sore spot right now is his batting average, which currently sits at .238. This has been fueled by a rather unlucky BABIP of .247, which is 61 points lower than his career average. Things have started getting good for Jones owners, but they are going to get better. His batting average is going to creep back up towards his .276 career average meaning he should hit near .300 for the remainder of the season. Jones has never hit below .269 in any full season as a pro. Enjoy owning him for the rest of the season as he rewards those patient enough to wait him out or smart enough to trade for him.
There are certain stats I like to peruse regularly to try and identify players that are undervalued. For pitchers swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) is one that can definitely help you unearth a gem-or-two. When taking a look at the year-to-date rankings one name really sticks out and he is currently ranked sixth in the league; Matt Shoemaker boasts a mark of 14.2 percent. For the season, he owns a 4.76 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 3-7 record. A closer look at his numbers reveals a guy that gave up 21 earned runs and had a 9.15 ERA as the calendar turned to May. He has pitched much better as the season progressed. His career best 9.26 K/9 is what really makes him appealing, and it is a result of a change in his repertoire. He has all but scrapped his curveball and has focused on using his slider and splitter more. The result has seen that SwSTR% jump from 9.1 percent last year to its current 14.2 percent this season. There has also been a 1.3 mph increase in his average fastball velocity to boot. As things stand right now he is available in 69.1 percent of leagues on ESPN. If you need a cheap source of strikeouts to fill out the back end of your mixed league rotation you should look no further.
Yordano Ventura got some bad press for beaning Manny Machado with a 99-mph fastball to the ribs. By some, I mean tons of it. News was leaked about Kansas City being tired of his act (if you weren’t aware this guy has a history of beaning people) and has tried trading him but where not comparable value based on his talent. Ventura surely has heard all of this, and in his first start since the incident he tossed his best game of the season giving up one earned run, five hits and a walk while striking out 10 batters over seven innings against the Whitesox. It’s the first encouraging sign we have had from him all season. It’s definitively fair to wonder if this incident helped him focus in on what really matters; his performance. Ventura has a ton of talent, and if he ever puts everything together there are the makings of a Top-20 starter in there. His problem seems to have always been his noodle. Can the fear of being blackballed from the league for his tired act be enough to get him on track? Only time will tell. His next start against Detroit will provide a little more insight if that is indeed the case. He is widely available in Fantasy leagues and will be worth a pickup if he does iron out his issues over the coming weeks.
Michael Saunders has logged more than 500 at-bats as a pro just once in his career. He posted his best season as a pro, logging a .247-71-19-57-21 line with Seattle back in 2012. Unfortunately, Saunders has played in more than 100 games just three times in his career and has never appeared in more than 139 games. Injuries have always been a problem for him. When healthy an on the field though he posts numbers as evidenced by the .311/.386/.569 triple slash he has posted over his first 209 at-bats this season. The crazy thing is his numbers should be better. Eight of his 11 homers have come with no one on base and he is hitting only .256 with runners in scoring position. He has been hitting higher in the Jays orders of late which should help increase his RBI opportunities as he has had just 39 at-bats with runners in scoring position for this powerful Jays offense. Saunders is still available in over 60-percent of leagues on ESPN. That number is just absurdly high based on the production he has provided. His batting average will decline because it is inflated by his very high .397 BABIP, but his other stats should remain pretty steady with a good chance at an uptick in RBIs. Even if he hits .260 from here on out he is still posting mixed league numbers. Saunders looks primed to stay healthy this year, and if he does he finishes the season as a Top-30 outfield option.
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