The Bigger They Are, Samardzija They Fall (and other notes from 5/11/15)

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Jeff Samardzija became a full-time starting pitcher with the Cubs in 2012 and spent that season and the next season in fantasy baseball purgatory as he posted pretty good peripheral statistics that did not match up with the “glamour stats” of fantasy baseball, such as ERA, WHIP, and W-L record.  Still with an awful Cubs team at the beginning of the 2014 season, destined for another sub-.500 W-L record, Samardzija’s other stats were at least looking very pretty and finally matching up with what his skill set was.  Then came the trade that sent him from the NL to the AL (Cubs to the A’s), which is rarely good for a pitcher and his stats.  It was as if the fantasy gods were truly against him and his long flowing locks.  He went on to finish the season with a nice looking stat line (excluding W-L record), but it was clear that the league switch did have some negative effect on him.

Prior to the 2015 season, Samardzija was traded once more and was staying the AL heading to the White Sox.  The negative trending stats in his move to the AL in 2014 along with the move to hitter friendly U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago are the main reasons why I was not going to even come close to sniffing Samardzija this year.

With Monday’s outing that saw Samardzija post a line of 6 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, the big righty now is 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 35 K/8 BB in 45 IP.  In 4 of his 7 starts, he has allowed 4 ER or more and he is just being knocked around a lot.  The home run rate is up from 0.82 to 1.20 HR/9, and the strikeout rate is down from 8.28 to 7.00 K/9.  These are the two things that I expected to happen with him this year, and those current rates are some pretty realistic numbers that can last for the season.  While his overall numbers are going to improve, I do not think that he is a super great buy low candidate, and I still am a firm believer that Samardzija is not going to be the type of pitcher that the White Sox envisioned him to be when they traded for him.  Samardzija has fallen from fantasy baseball purgatory to fantasy baseball hell in one fell swoop for the time being.

Let’s check out what else happened in Monday’s action…

Starling Marte – Marte hit a 3-run homer for his only hit in 4 AB on Monday, and it is interesting to note because it is already his 8th HR on the year.  Marte is 26 years old and just entering his prime so while most projections had him somewhere between 15-20 HR, he certainly could fall in the range of 20-25 HR instead.  A word of caution though is that he is only hitting fly balls about 20% of the time that he puts the ball in play, and on those fly balls he is seeing a HR on over 45% of them.  That HR/fly ball rate is definitely not sustainable, but he also should see a rise in his fly ball rate to help counteract some of the regression in his HR/fly ball rate.  I would not be shocked if he reaches 20 HR, but I also am going to say that he falls a tad short.  Nonetheless, he is a solid contributor in all categories, but he does seem to be missing out on stolen base opportunities now that he is batting in the middle of the order as he is 5 for 6 in SB attempts, which puts him on pace for about 25 SB.

Mark Melancon – 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the SV.  Melancon converted the save opportunity after giving up Odubel Herrera’s first career HR, but he is walking a fine line.  The 4.11 ERA and 1.30 WHIP are not too terrible, and he has actually converted 8 of 9 save opportunities.  But the strikeout rate is a lousy 5.28 K/9 as he continues to work with diminished velocity.  We aren’t just talking about a small decrease in velocity, rather this is a very concerning situation as his average cutter velocity (I am using the cutter as an example because according to pitch data he has all but abandoned a “fastball”) is down 3 MPH this year in comparison to what it was last year.  Should Melancon suffer a meltdown of any sort, look for the lefty Tony Watson so step in for the Pirates.  But don’t count out Jared Hughes or the flamethrowing rookie averaging 98.5 MPH on his fastball, Arquimedes Caminero.

Maikel Franco – The Phillies demoted Cody Asche and announced that they will call up top prospect Maikel Franco this weekend.  Franco had a cup of tea with the Phillies last September and did nothing of significance, but so far this year he is hitting AAA pretty well with a .336 AVG and 3 HR through 29 games.  Franco is a bit of a free swinger though, so that might not translate over too well in his first extended stint in the Majors, which could harm his AVG.  Also, while he can eventually grow into a 20-25 HR threat, his power stroke does not appear to be there right now.  If he sticks in the Majors the rest of the season, I would put him at a around a .260 AVG and 10 HR for the rest of the season.  While he is the organization’s top position prospect, he is not a player that I see making a big fantasy impact in 2015.

Steve Pearce – Pearce did nothing of worth on Monday, but I do want to point out how he started the game in left field but was moved to second base after Ryan Flaherty suffered an injury.  The Orioles have been using Pearce at second base with both Jonathan Schoop and Everth Cabrera injured, despite the fact that Pearce had never before played the position in the Majors or Minors in his 9-year career.  Pearce is now eligible at 2B in Yahoo leagues but still has a little bit of a ways to go to qualify for the new position on other sites.  Obviously, 2B is a much more shallow position than 1B and OF (the two positions that he already was eligible for), so adding 2B to his resume will only help his value.  However, that extra position eligibility won’t mean a whole lot if he does not start hitting the ball.  Through 22 games played, Pearce is hitting just .182 with 2 HR — a far cry from the breakout year he had last year.

Ubaldo Jimenez – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K with the W.  Ubaldo was on point in this start as he was hitting all the corners with a lot of pitches, inducing ground balls, and getting Blue Jays to swing over that splitfinger pitch.  Ubaldo is now 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 32 K/12 BB in 33.2 IP.  Although Ubaldo is inducing a lot of soft contact, he is still pretty fortunate to have numbers that look as good as they do.  I am not going to say that he is not going to go on to be a quality option the rest of the year, but I need to see more of him before I come to a conclusion.  But meanwhile, there’s no use in leaving him on the waiver wire if he’s there.

Shelby Miller – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.  Miller now is 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 39 K/15 BB in 45 IP.  In 2013, Miller’s rookie season, he performed just like this in April and May before tailing off a bit, but he still ended up with quality numbers.  There is no denying that Miller is getting very lucky with a .203 BABIP and 87.9% strand rate, but he also profiles as a different pitcher this year, which is something that I will highlight in its own post.

Mark Teixeira – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R.  Tex continued his revival on Monday by launching another one over the fences.  He is now hitting .239 with 11 HR, 27 RBI, and 18 R while showing an excellent plate approach with 18 K/20 BB through 31 games played.  As I have mentioned before, Teixeira is going to post ugly looking BABIP’s due to the fact that he hits into the shift a lot, but his BABIP has been super low this season and he was due for some positive regression.  Health will continue to be a worry with the 35-year old first baseman, but he is living large so far in 2015.  I am buying into it as long as he is healthy.

Adam Eaton – 4 for 5, 1 R, 2 RBI.  I’ve mentioned Eaton lately to display the extreme lack of production that he has given so far this season, but he actually did something on Monday and logged his first 2 RBI of the season.  Let’s not get too excited now though as he still is a no power outfielder with not as much speed as you would expect.  But if he can build on Monday’s effort then that whole White Sox offense will get an extra boost.

Prince Fielder – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  After last season was such a pain in the neck for Prince (Get it?  Because he had a season-ending neck injury), he is quietly having himself a nice little season so far as he now owns a .336 AVG with 3 HR, 15 RBI, and 12 R in 32 games.  Yeah, the RBI and runs totals are not great, but the supporting cast around him is to blame for that.  The batting average will come down, but if he is able to keep his strikeout rate low like he has (and I don’t see a reason why he can’t), then he will have a chance to hit .300 for the second time in his career.  Unfortunately, I do not think that the power is coming back and he will top out at 25 HR maximum, but I am going to say his final total will be lower than that.

Adrian Beltre – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Beltre went yard for the second time in two days.  Heating up?

Delino DeShields – On Monday, scuffling Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was sent to AAA, which is likely to create more playing time for the speedy DeShields who can play either second base or the outfield.  As a rookie with poor contact skills, I would expect DeShields to struggle to hit, but like his father, DeShields is a burner on the base paths and if he has a starting role then his speed will definitely play.  He already has 7 SB in just 18 games played, despite a .206 AVG.  He is definitely worth a look if you need the SB.

Colby Lewis – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K and the W.  I am not sure how Lewis is mystifying hitters, but he is not this good.  The regression monster will soon pay him a visit.  I am going to chalk this one up to the Royals being a tired team having played an extra inning game that included a rain delay the previous night, and then having to hop on a plain to Texas.

Lucas Duda – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Duda homered off of Jon Lester for his 3rd HR of the season.  I mentioned before how Duda has been hitting lefties well this season, which was a pleasant surprise since he hit just .180 off of them last year with only 1 HR.  This year versus lefties, Duda is hitting .406 (13 for 32) with 2 HR.  It is a small sample, but clearly Duda has made some adjustments, which could make him an attractive trade target for any of his owners who think he is just a .250 hitter.

Jacob deGrom – 5 IP, 5 HR, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K with the L.  deGrom got into some nasty trouble early on in the first inning at Wrigley Field versus the Cubs on Monday when he walked Dexter Fowler and then gave up home runs on back to back pitches to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.  He did settle down somewhat after that, but overall it was a struggle for the sophomore pitcher.  On the season, deGrom is now 3-4 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 37 K/12 BB in 41.2 IP.  But what I want to highlight is the difference in deGrom’s performance from home games at Citi Field to away games.  With Monday’s start, deGrom now has a career road ERA of 4.21 to go with a 1.36 WHIP.  At home in his brief time as a Major Leaguer, he has a 1.62 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.  When splits are so pronounced like this, it is definitely something to utilize when playing fantasy baseball.  Obviously there are going to be other factors to consider when starting/sitting a pitcher such as the strength of the opposing lineup, but home/road and lefty/righty splits surely can be your friend.  deGrom gets a home start this weekend versus Milwaukee.

Kris Bryant – 1 for 2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Bryant deposited a deGrom offering into the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field for his first home field home run of his career.  He now has 2 HR in the last 3 games and like I said last week, as soon as he finally got the monkey off his back to hit his first HR then he would start piling them on in bunches.

Josh Collmenter – 1.1 IP, 8 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 K with the L.  Not that Collmenter was ever a great fantasy option, but maybe someone out there played him for his 2-start week this week, but I just wanted to point out this ridiculous looking stat line that has to be one of the worst I have ever seen.  Watching the game was pretty painful as I kind of felt sorry for the guy.  But you know what, then I realized I stacked some of the Nationals hitters in DFS (daily fantasy sports), so hooray!

Yunel Escobar – 5 for 5, 1 RBI, 2 R.  Well that’s a nifty little stat line.  Escobar, who left Sunday’s game not feeling well, appeared to be just fine on Monday.  All 5 of his hits were singles, but any type of hit will make a player’s batting average shinier.  On the season, Escobar is hitting .342 with 2 HR, 11 RBI, and 16 R while seeing a lot of time in the 2-hole for the Nationals, which happens to be a pretty great spot to be in.  At best, Escobar is a .290/10 HR/5 SB type of player, but a career year could be in store for him now that he is in a prime spot in this dangerous Nationals lineup.  I’d give him a whirl for the decent AVG upside and run scoring potential for a shortstop.

Christian Yelich – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  In his 4 games since returning from the DL, Yelich has now hit 1 HR while also contributing 2 SB.  Given that the injury he was returning from was a herniated disc in his back, these are quality signs that he is flashing some power (to the opposite field) and running well.  I still think I probably overshot his projections coming into the year, but this is still encouraging news and he should only get better.

Steve Cishek – 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K with the BS and L.  Wow.  Just on Sunday, I showed how Cishek was on the verge of losing his closing job here, and then he goes and puts up an even bigger clunker than the day before.  I don’t feel that I need to discuss him any further than I already have, so what are you waiting for?  Go and pick up A.J. Ramos already (unless you’re in a league with me, then you have my apologies).


3 thoughts on “The Bigger They Are, Samardzija They Fall (and other notes from 5/11/15)

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