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Early in his career, Ryan Braun did things loudly. He posted back-to-back 30 HR/30 SB seasons in 2011 and 2012, and was on top of the world. He was worshiped in the Fantasy community and one of the faces of the game of baseball. That changed in July of 2013, when he admitted to PED use after his name came up in the Biogenesis scandal.
Needless to say, this soured many Fantasy owners and fans alike to Braun. How do you gauge the overall effect performance enhancers have on a ballplayer? He fell in drafts heading into 2013 as a result, and wound up posting a .266-68-19-81-11 line over 135 games. A very solid overall line, but not what owners had come to expect from him.
Heading into drafts this year, the overall view on him from most owners was that we would get a good version of Braun, but not the great one. The once perennial first rounder was now sliding into the late third/early fourth round range in most drafts. Based on the numbers he has posted this year, it sure is looking like a very nice deal.
Many Fantasy owners and experts alike discounted the fact that Braun played a good portion of his previous two seasons with a recurring hand injury; a nerve injury that allowed him to grip a bat but wreaked havoc on his swing. He was given a clean bill of health early in Spring Training and Fantasy owners that don’t mind taking a bit of a risk dove in and nabbed Braun.
His return on investment has been fantastic, as he has posted a .272-54-16-57-14 line on the season and is on pace to easily post a 20/20 season and definitely flirt with a 30/30 campaign. Use this case as a barometer for the future when it comes to PEDs. They affect a player’s numbers, but not as much as the public first expected. Players that were All-Stars are going to continue playing good ball after a suspension. The fringe players are the ones that need to be avoided.
Sunday afternoon afforded me the opportunity to take in CC Sabathia’s start against the Mariners. A few things stuck out immediately after seeing him pitch a few times already this season. His velocity was up; he averaged below 90 MPH earlier this season, but his fastball hung in the 92-93 MPH range for the entire outing. The extra oomph definitely helped with his seven strikeouts, as he was able rack up a few with fastballs up in the zone. While he didn’t register a win, he did post a quality start, just his seventh in 18 starts. While I am not going to tell you to hit your waiver wires to pick him up, I will suggest adding him to your watch list. His xFIP (3.49) and BABIP (.334) leave some room for optimism here. Only time will tell if the summer heat helps him catch fire. If his last two starts are any indication, he very well may be onto something.
With Cincinnati likely to be one of the biggest sellers heading into the trade deadline, many of their players are likely to be shipped out to help rebuild their lackluster farm system. While Johnny Cueto is the most popular name, Jay Bruce has also been made available by the club despite his very reasonable contract. Because of this, I am looking to move him ASAP. A move to the AL is going to severely impact his batting average. As a career NL player, he will have to deal with a bunch of very unfamiliar pitchers. For a career .251 hitter that isn’t a good thing. The other big problem here is that he will no longer be able to call The Great American Ballpark home anymore. Moving out of one of the most hitter-friendly parks will affect his numbers as well. After a slow start, Bruce has regained all his value and can likely nab you a nice return on the trade market. Get out now, while the getting is good.
With a little more than half the season in the books, I am going on the record as stating that I don’t see a bounce back coming from Ian Desmond. Playing for a lucrative contract has taken a toll on him, as every part of his game has crumbled. He is currently batting .204 with seven homers, 24 RBIs and five stolen bases through 87 games. Over the last three seasons, he has posted at least 20 HRs and 20 SBs while not hitting lower than .255. At this stage of the game those numbers look like a pipe dream. He is walking less, striking out more and has seen a sharp drop in hard contact. He has only attempted seven stolen bases this year, after averaging 29.5 over his last four seasons. To make matters worse, he already has 21 errors this season. The skills are obviously there, so it’s safe to assume the pressure has really gotten to Desmond. I am not recommending cutting ties with him, but if you can get a reasonable trade offer it wouldn’t be a bad thing to move on from him.
After posting a second consecutive solid outing on Saturday, it’s time to start paying attention to Hisashi Iwakuma again. He has made three starts since missing over two months with a strained lat muscle. In his first, he gave up five earned runs on eight hits to the Tigers. In his other two starts, against the Angels and Yankees, he gave up just two earned runs in 13.2 innings while striking out 11. As things currently stand, he is available in 45 percent of leagues on ESPN, 21 percent of Yahoo leagues and 15 percent of leagues on CBS Sports. We are talking about a player with a career 3.19 ERA over 559 innings pitched. His overall numbers are a bit bloated after some early season struggles, but he appears ready to string together a bunch of quality starts. Take a peek out on your waiver wire now for him; if he’s available, you could add a quality option to your Fantasy staff.
A recent addition to the trade deadline talks has been Jeff Samadzija. He has had an up-and-down first season with the White Sox. His first full season in the AL has proven difficult. His numbers are down across the board with a pretty significant drop in strikeouts. With an expiring contract, he now becomes a tradeable asset, one that may be very attractive to an NL team looking to bolster their rotation. The Dodgers and Cubs can both use rotation help and have the farm systems to easily get something done. He can be had much cheaper than Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels. A move to either locale would definitely mean an uptick in value. If you can use an extra arm down the stretch, you could do worse. Throw out a mid-level bat or low end closer, and see if you can land him. A dozen or so NL starts would definitely be a boon to your rotation if he is indeed moved.
Getting your hands on a player that can offer strong batting average while offering some power and speed should be your top priority. The fact that this guy can potentially be on your waiver wire should make your ears perk up a bit. Christian Yelich was a hot name heading into drafts, but he got off to a not-so-hot start to the season. On June 8 he was batting .216 with two homers, seven RBIs and three stolen bases through his first 103 at-bats. Not inspiring for a kid that many viewed as a possible dark horse for NL batting champ. Since that point, he has turned things around, though, raising his average to .263 while hitting three homers and stealing another four bags over his last 163 at-bats. In a climate where batting average is at a premium, guys like Yelich should be owned. He is surprisingly available in at least 15 percent of leagues on all major platforms. He has a realistic chance at setting career best marks in homers and RBIs despite an early season DL stint. Yelich won’t win your Fantasy league, but he sure as hell won’t lose it for you.