July 4th weekend is here and that means we are just about halfway through the MLB season. Some of you may be sitting atop the standings and looking to build on your roster for the playoffs. Others may be fighting for your life and can’t afford to continue to wait on struggling players. A lot of owners are questioning the same players, so I decided to address them all in this week’s article.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
There is no denying that Stanton is having down year. He is currently batting .220/.318/.444 with 14 homers and 31 RBIs. His strikeout rate is 34 percent, which is more than five percentage points higher than his career norm. We all know the awful stretch he had, specifically from May 7 through June 7, when he hit a measly .103 while striking out 42.7 percent of the time. He had one multi-hit game in that span. Not only that, but he had only two home runs and his ISO was .103 in that stretch. That is purely unsustainable for one of the best power hitters in the game. He has caught fire as of late, as he is batting .371/.421/.600 with two homers, a .229 ISO and a .500 BABIP. That BABIP may not be sustainable the rest of the season, but it is a sign of some positive regression. However, there is room to grow with the ISO. That .229 mark during this stretch is not only below the rate he posted last year (.341), it is below his career mark (.273). His hard hit rate during that stretch is 37.5 percent, which is still below his career average. The time to buy him at his lowest point has passed, but owners could still pick him up for cheaper than he is worth. Definitely try to buy low on him. This guy is capable of hitting homers in bunches, and a power streak is on the horizon.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
It is good to see McCutchen playing better, but he is still far from the Top-5 outfielder we have all come to know and love. On the year, he has batted .243/.318/.421 with 12 homers and two stolen bases. He is currently on pace for just four steals, which would not only be a career low, it would be the fourth straight year his total has decreased. He also has a career low wOBA (.316), walk rate (9.3 percent), hard hit rate (34.1 percent) and a career high strikeout rate (25 percent). He has played well since June 16th, batting .300 with three homers, a .275 ISO and .346 BABIP. I know many owners see this and think this is market regression and he will play at his normal high level the rest of the season. However, even in this stretch he is striking out 25.6 percent of the time and only walking seven percent. His hard hit rate is only 31 percent, which is not only well below his career norm, it is lower than his mark this season. Many Fantasy experts would advise to buy low on McCutchen, and I am not going to say not to, but I will say it depends how much you have to pay. This may be me going out on a limb, but I am not sure he is an OF1 down the stretch. And I definitely do not feel confident saying he will play like a Top-5 OF in the second half. One caveat; he has more value in points leagues as he bats at the top of the order and will have a ton of plate appearances.
Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals
Giolito, the best prospect in the Nats system and probably the league, has finally been called up to pitch on Tuesday against the Mets. He has pitched well in Triple-A, sporting a 3.17 ERA and a 3.22 FIP, while averaging a strikeout per inning. However, he is not without blemish, as he allowed 4.31 BB/9. Still, scouts rave about his fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, a devastating curveball and a plus change up. He is expected to be in the majors as long as Stephen Strasburg is on the DL, however, there is a good chance he can force his way on the roster. The Nats are in a tight divisional race and would likely elect to go with their best arms, which Giolito is surely one of. The only real concern is that Dusty Baker does not trust rookies. Owners should add him in all formats and even start him this week in deeper leagues.
Jose Reyes, New York Mets
Reyes is now officially with the Mets and is leading off and playing third base while he does some fine tuning in the minors. It was a very small sample size, but in nine Triple-A games with the Rockies he hit .303 with two homers and three stolen bases. The expectation is that he will play some third, some outfield and backup both shortstop and second base for the Mets. When he plays he is expected to lead off and will provide some much needed speed on the Mets. Those expecting the Reyes from 10 years ago will be disappointed. However, Fantasy owners hoping for 15-plus steals, with a solid source of runs and average and the occasional home run will be pleased. Currently, only seven players have over 15 stolen bases in the entire league. In that case, Reyes should definitely be added in all Roto formats. He could be left on waivers for the time being in all but the deepest points leagues.
Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
Things have quickly gone from bad to worse. On the year he has a 5.33 ERA and a 4.02 FIP. However, in his last eight starts he has a 7.54 ERA, a 4.72 FIP and is averaging 5.96 K/9. For a pitcher that pitches to contact, he has allowed way too many hard hits. During this stretch, his hard hit rate is 40.7 percent, which has led to a .391 BABIP and a 61.4 percent strand rate. Now, there are two ways you can look at this. The first is to recognize that the BABIP and strand rate are unsustainably high, while the FIP shows that he has not been as bad as the ERA would indicate. The other way is recognizing that while he has been unlucky, he has still been pretty bad. Even if he pitches to his FIP, he will not live up to expectations owners set before the season started. There are talks that he may even get sent down to the minors. Owners should definitely be benching him, and he is droppable in shallower formats. In deeper leagues, owners have to either have to stash, or sell at a low point. Those interested in buying low should only do so if the price is low enough. If you do, do not think about starting him until he strings a few good starts together.
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
I advised owners to add Seung Hwan Oh. Well, Rosenthal has finally been removed from the closer role. He has struggled all year, pitching to a 5.40 ERA and a 4.51 FIP. Yes, he has averaged 13.32 K/9, but he is also allowing 7.56 BB/9. He has struggled with the long ball and is allowing, by far, the highest hard hit rate of his career at 40.6 percent. There is a lot he has to fix here. While the Cardinals have not officially committed to Oh as the closer, he has by far the lowest ERA in their bullpen at 1.66, as well as the lowest FIP at 1.44. He also has the second highest K/9 (12.08) behind only Rosenthal. There is a shot that Rosenthal one day regains the closer job, but I think that Oh runs away with the job. Rosenthal could be dropped in all but the deepest Roto leagues, where saves are a premium. In those formats, he should definitely be benched for the time being.
A.J. Reed, Houston Astros
Many Fantasy owners have been asking about Reed all year and he is finally been called up. He has started every game since he’s been up, which is a good sign. Being hitless with two walks in 13 plate appearances is not something for owners to worry about. His six strikeouts? Yeah, that is a little worrisome. He is a bat certainly worth owning, but owners should not consider starting him yet. Give him time to not only adjust to major league pitching, but let him prove himself on your bench before throwing him in the starting lineup.
Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets
The Mets optioned Michael Conforto on Saturday to call up Nimmo. He has played well in Triple-A, batting .328/.409/.508 with five homers and five stolen bases. However, it is worth noting that he plays in Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), which is notoriously hitter-friendly. Throughout the minors he displayed the ability to get on base, and will limit the strikeouts. Besides that he can provide a handful of homers and stolen bases, and not much else. Add in the fact that the Mets seem to be saying Conforto will be back sooner rather than later, and there is no reason to rush to the waiver wire to add Nimmo. Owners in NL-only or anything deeper than 12 teams should take a flier. Besides that, add him to your scout team and leave him on the waiver wire.
All stats entering Tuesday, June 28th.
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