Jonesing for More (and other notes from 7/12/15)

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Consistency from year to year can often be overlooked in fantasy baseball because often times we want the flair for the dramatic, the opportunity to own a player for his big breakout season.  So sometimes we will forego the opportunity of making the “safe” pick of drafting a player that is easier to predict and we “know” what to expect from him because we want the upside for more instead.  Over the last four seasons, one of the most consistent and reliable fantasy outfielders has been Adam Jones of the Orioles.  There’s been some fluctuation in his RBI and runs scored due to his spot changing in the batting order, but for the most part he has been much the same player from year to year from 2011-14.  Take a look:

  • 2011 – .280/.319/.466 with 25 HR, 83 RBI, 68 R, 12 SB, 4.7 BB%, 18.3 K%
  • 2012 – .287/.334/.505 with 32 HR, 82 RBI, 103 R, 16 SB, 4.9 BB%, 18.1 K%
  • 2013 – .285/.318/.493 with 33 HR, 108 RBI, 100 R, 14 SB, 3.6 BB%, 19.7 K%
  • 2014 – .281/.311/.469 with 29 HR, 96 RBI, 88 R, 7 SB, 2.8 BB%, 19.5 K%

Jones has missed 11 games this season due to various minor injuries to his ankle, shoulder, and toe, but with 2 HR off Max Scherzer on the day right before the All-Star break, Jones is now hitting .281/.326/.490 with 14 HR, 43 RBI, 43 R, and 3 SB, which puts him near pace to have another season that is pretty consistent with the past four seasons.  However, there is one big difference in his performance so far that in the end could allow him to break the some of this consistent production in a positive way.  That difference is that this season he is striking out at a career low rate of 14.5%.

Jones has always been a free swinger who doesn’t really enjoy taking walks, and this season he is sporting a career high swing rate by offering at a whopping 60.2% of pitches, which is much higher than his 55.9% career rate.  However, he has been able to make contact on more of those swings with a career best 11.4% swinging strike rate.  His career swinging strike rate is 13.5%, which isn’t too much higher than his current 2015 rate, but it’s still a noticeable enough difference and appears to be the primary factor to the decline in his strikeout rate.

The drop in his strikeouts is significant because in theory he should see an uptick in his batting average if all other things in his batted ball profile are mostly constant.  Jones’ BABIP over the last several seasons is something that has also been consistent with marks of .304, .313, .314, and .311, but this season it is down to a very uncharacteristic .292.  His hard hit rate is the only thing that would really suggest a decline in his BABIP as it is at 30.4%, which is the lowest it’s been since 2011, but that’s not too far off from his career mark of 31.9%.

So if Jones can get his BABIP back up to a level that he is used to giving, paired with the decrease in strikeouts, that could lead to his first .300 AVG season of his career.  If he is unable to achieve so, then at the very least he should end the season once again in very familiar territory that is consistent with what he’s been known to do.  That wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but definitely not overly exciting and it would leave the fantasy baseball community jonesing for more.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Sunday’s action as we enter the All-Star break.

Paul Goldschmidt – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Goldschmidt capped off his incredible pre-All-Star break run by clubbing a home run, and he is now hitting .340 with 21 HR, 70 RBI, 60 R, and 16 SB.  I’ve mentioned before how I could see making a case for selecting Goldschmidt 1st in fantasy drafts next season despite Mike Trout seemingly being the de facto number one these days, and I think that I would do so if I had the chance.  Goldschmidt does more running at a position where stolen bases are much harder to come by, and of course his hitting skills are matched by a select few.

Rubby De La Rosa – 3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the L.  I’ve said some hopeful things about De La Rosa this season, but after the pounding that he took by a lousy Mets offense on Sunday, I think it is time to take a step back from the Diamondbacks hurler.  He certainly is capable of more than his current 5.06 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, as evidenced by a 3.53 SIERA and 3.44 xFIP.  But he’s now allowed 21 HR this season, which is tied for 3rd most in the Majors.  One would think that because he plays his home games in the hitters park of Chase Field that is why he’s serving up so many long balls, but he has allowed 8 HR at home compared to 13 HR on the road.  He’s got the strikeout upside and is showing good control this season, but he just can’t be trusted right now since he couldn’t even take advantage of this great matchup in a good pitchers park.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – 3 for 4, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1 K.  Nieuwenhuis has been a career 4th/5th outfielder, but somehow he managed to achieve the rare triple dong status on Sunday.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing of fantasy use here as this was just a career day.

Jon Niese – 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the W.  Niese turned in his 7th straight quality start ever since there were rumblings that Steven Matz would be up to join the rotation.  Matz did indeed get promoted to join the Mets rotation, but NIese’s job was safe as they moved to a 6-man rotation, and now it’s even more secure (barring a trade) after Matz landed on the DL for what appears to be several weeks.  With a below average strikeout rate, Niese isn’t a highly recommended fantasy option, but he can give some solid starts and eat up some innings.

Jeurys Familia – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K with the SV.  Familia was omitted from the All-Star team despite a wonderful first half run where he saved 27 of 29 games with a 1.25 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.  His strikeout rate has tumbled below 9.00 K/9 after being pretty high for most of the season so far, so there may be a point of concern there.  It’ll be something to keep an eye on upon returning from the All-Star break.

Casey McGehee – 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R.  McGehee rejoined the Marlins after being released by the Giants and he’s come up with a couple of big hits since then.  However, with Martin Prado set to return soon, McGehee’s not likely to be in a starting role unless injuries further deplete the Marlins squad.

Dee Gordon – Gordon dislocated his thumb on Saturday and was expected to require a DL stint, but with no ligament damage, it’s looking possible that he could return right after the All-Star break or only miss a few more games.  It would be a great fortune for the Marlins if that is the case since they are already dealing with Giancarlo Stanton‘s lengthy absence.

Dan Haren – 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K with the W.  Haren pondered retirement after being traded to the Marlins in the off-season, but so far he’s actually been quite productive for the team, especially since the Dodgers are picking up his whole 2015 salary.  With a nice outing on Sunday, Haren is now 7-5 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  However, things aren’t all golden for Haren.  The average velocity on his fastball is down 1.5 MPH from last year to a rather slow 86.1 MPH, which has resulted in just 6.41 K/9 — he hasn’t seen a number that low since his first couple seasons in the Majors.  Also, he’s somehow transformed into a heavy fly ball pitcher for the first time in his career, yet he has his lowest HR/9 rate since 2011. Things should begin to unravel for Haren in the second half of the season, and I would expect his ERA to approach 4.00, if not blow right by it.

Johnny Cueto – 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K with the L.  Cueto landed in a dream matchup against a Marlins team that is without Giancarlo StantonDee Gordon, and Martin Prado, yet he was unable to make anything out of it.  Funny how things work in baseball sometimes.  Cueto still has great numbers though and could find himself pitching for a contender soon, which in theory should only help his fantasy value.

Jose Altuve – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Altuve hit his 8th HR of the season on Sunday to establish a new career high. The small second baseman has always had some unexpected pop in that bat and is on his way to another productive season.

Lance McCullers – 6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 K with the L.  McCullers started out his Major League rookie season very nicely, and he is still doing well by striking out 10 Rays on Sunday.  But he has gradually been having more issues with his control, which was bound to happen for a 21-year old pitcher who had some control issues in the Minors.  He’s got the big strikeout upside, but his overall stat line should worsen after the All-Star break.  Right now he has a 2.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 71 K/24 BB in 64.1 IP, but I see him finishing the season with an ERA closer to 3.50 and a WHIP near 1.25.

Matt Moore – 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K with the W.  Moore got credited with the victory on Sunday, but he didn’t exactly pitch well in his 3rd start back from Tommy John surgery.  He will continue to struggle with his control and command and I would not recommend him for the rest of the season.

Stephen Vogt – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  Vogt was robbed of a home run on Sunday, but he managed to hit one where it couldn’t be robbed to finish out a strong pre-All-Star break run.  He will head to the All-Star Game with a .287 AVG, 14 HR, 56 RBI, and 43 R.  I’ve been recommending him since his early season hotness, and I believe that he will continue being a productive fantasy catcher.  His batting average may continue to fall some more, but the run production and power are things that can still remain.

Sonny Gray – 9 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W.  Gray dominated the Indians on Sunday by firing a 2-hit shutout and he is now 10-3 with a 2.04 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 108 K/30 BB in 123.2 IP.  It is true that he appears to be getting somewhat lucky since his SIERA sits at 3.26 and his xFIP at 3.28, but he does have the 2nd lowest hard hit rate in the league.  So while his .249 BABIP is very low, if he’s not allowing a lot of hard impact and getting a good amount of soft hit balls (18th in the Majors), then there’s not too much issue to be had with his low BABIP.  His strand rate is above average at 79.0%, but it’s not crazy high, plus he’s very skilled at not allowing home runs so that a lot of his runners do get left stranded.  Gray should undergo some regression after the All-Star break, but he should be capable of maintaining an ERA below 3.00 and continue to be one of the more reliable pitchers in the league.

Brian McCann – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  McCann has 7 straight seasons with 20 or more HR, but his career high is just 24 HR.  He hit his 14th HR of the season on Sunday to put himself in a decent position to set a new career high.  Most of his damage comes at home as he is hitting .313 with 10 HR at Yankee Stadium, so there’s little doubting that he enjoys aiming for the short right field porch in the Bronx.

Wei-Yin Chen – 8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the L.  Chen will enter the break with a 4-5 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 90 K/25 BB in 110 IP.  It’s been a very solid showing for Chen so far as one of the more underrated pitchers in the league.  His .255 BABIP should rise a bit over the second half, and his 83.7% strand rate will fall, especially since he’s not immune to allowing home runs at 1.39 HR/9.  But overall, he’s still a quality pitcher capable of finishing with a 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a decent enough strikeout rate to be an asset.

Max Scherzer – 8.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  Scherzer’s only mistakes on Sunday were the two home runs hit by Adam Jones.  It was an unexpected start for Scherzer who is now ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game — perhaps it was a move by the Nationals for that exact intent.

Shane Greene – 4.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K with the L.  Green made his return from AAA on Sunday, but he gave the same ugly results that he had given the Tigers before his demotion.  He was a pre-season deep sleeper by some (not me) and he got out of the gates red hot, but all the pieces are crumbling for Greene and it doesn’t appear that he will be a fantasy option unless he makes some big alterations.

Miguel Sano – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  With a HR on Sunday, Sano now has a .378 AVG, 2 HR, and 8 RBI in his first 11 Major League games, but that also comes with a 33.3% strikeout rate.  Like I’ve been saying, the power is great from him and it should continue, but strikeouts will prevent him from being much more than a .250 hitter.  But if he is eligible at shortstop in your fantasy league, then the strikeouts and eventual low AVG become less of an issue.

Kyle Gibson – 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Gibson is still going very well with another strong start on Sunday.  He is 8-6 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 78 K/36 BB in 113.2 IP.  He’s probably not as good as his ERA indicates, but he is an improved pitcher and has been generating a lot more strikeouts after the first month of the season and way more than in the last couple of seasons.  Over his last 10 starts, Gibson has struck out 59 in 65.1 IP, which translates to 8.13 K/9. Compare that to 3.54 K/9 over his first 8 starts of the season and his 5.37 K/9 last year, and it’s apparent that something began to click for Gibson.  Even though his ERA and WHIP should rise over the second half, his rise in strikeouts could make him a sneaky trade target.

Devon Travis – 2 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 2 K.  Travis, who was one of the biggest surprises of April before flaming out in May and then hitting the DL, returned from the DL a couple weeks ago and appears to once again be swinging a hot stick. Though he has no home runs since coming back, he’s hitting .379 in the last 16 games to push his season AVG back over .300.  While Travis is showing that he can be a fantasy force at a shallow second base position, he still should continue to find himself hitting toward the bottom of the powerful Blue Jays lineup unless there’s an injury to one of the bigger Blue Jays bats.  So this will keep his ceiling kind of low for now, but he should still make for a fine fantasy play.

Kendrys Morales – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  With a 3-run shot on Sunday, Morales will enter the All-Star break with 61 RBI to put him in a good position to notch his second 100 RBI season of his career.  He’s been much more than the Royals could have asked for and he is making the “loss” of Billy Butler look like a total victory instead.

Jake Arrieta – 9 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the W.  What happens when you get an ace pitcher up against a Jose Abreu-less White Sox lineup?  A 2-hit complete game.  Arrieta is a fantasy ace.

Jose Quintana – 7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the L.  If Quintana had a better defense supporting him, he would probably be around a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP right now.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case and he has to deal with it, but he is doing what he can to improve his numbers and is now 4-9 with a 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 101 K/26 BB in 114.2 IP. Things may not get much better than this for Quintana.

Tyson Ross – 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Another pitcher who has had his fair share of bad defensive help is Ross, but he has been getting some better luck over his past 5 starts to lower his ERA from 3.90 to 3.34.  However, his WHIP is still high at 1.40 because he is still having issues with free passes.  I haven’t liked him for 2015 since the start of the season, and I’m not going to start now.

Yovani Gallardo – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K with the L.  Gallardo had issues with his control for the second straight game on Sunday and appears to be slowly coming apart.  That 2.62 ERA and 1.23 WHIP of his should turn into a 3.75 ERA and 1.35 WHIP as the weather continues to warm up.

Buster Posey – 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 K.  A couple weeks ago when Posey was hitting just .287, I said that he should be hitting above .300 soon enough.  With his 3rd multi-hit game in a row, Posey is now at a .314 AVG.  There simply is no better hitting catcher than Posey.

Chris Heston – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W.  Heston finished out a pre-All-Star break performance strongly with a good performance against the Phillies.  The 27-year old rookie is now 9-5 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 89 K/30 BB in 111.2 IP and appears to be on his way to being “This Year’s Matt Shoemaker.”  Check out “C. Heston From the NRA to NHA?” for more detailed information about Heston and his ascension.

Alex Wood – 5.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the L.  A start like this from Wood was to be expected at Coors Field, and it closes out a first half that has mostly been a disappointment.  Wood is 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 80 K/30 BB in 105.1 IP.  Wood just hasn’t been racking up the strikeouts and has been allowing a lot of hits.  He should have a better second half, but he’s definitely not the same guy that he was a year ago.

Jason Grilli – Grilli suffered a season-ending injury with a ruptured Achilles on Saturday to obviously erase any trade value that he had for the Braves.  The Braves will no turn to Jim Johnson to close out games, but Johnson himself is also a trade candidate.  So if Johnson gets traded, then the Braves could look to Arodys Vizcaino for saves.  So be sure to take a look at either of these two pitchers if you are in the market for saves in your fantasy league.

Charlie Blackmon – 3 for 5, 4 RBI, 1 R.  Blackmon will head to the All-Star break with clear cut All-Star numbers, but it was too little too late for the Rockies center fielder who now is on pace to smash most of his numbers from last season.

Troy Tulowitzki – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Tulo, who hit his 10th HR of the season on Sunday, was a late addition to the All-Star team, which kind of makes the final man vote useless since so many of the final man candidates eventually get added to the team due to injuries and ineligibility to play in the game.

Drew Stubbs – 2 for 2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Stubbs has now homered in 3 of the last 4 games after a miserable start to the season, and he is going to be someone worth monitoring as a cheap DFS option and as an outfielder to use in season long leagues with daily lineup changes.  In his first season with the Rockies last season, he hit .356 with 12 HR in 208 AB at home.  He also hit .328 with 7 HR in 131 AB versus lefties.  And at home versus lefties, he hit .452 with 6 HR in 73 AB.  So if he gets hot and is getting playing time, then this should outline pretty clearly how to use him.

Taijuan Walker – 5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the L.  Walker’s hot streak came to a halt last week against a hot Tigers offense and then on Sunday he got to face an Angels offense that has been ripping pitchers to shreds.  So it’s hard to fault Walker for the less than stellar outings.  But what’s still a great sign is that despite the beatings he took, he only walked 1 Tiger and didn’t walk any Angels.  Walks were a big issue for him in the earlier part of the season before he went on the tremendous run of his.  Look for him to start a new hot streak when returning from the break.

Andrew Heaney – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W.  Heaney pitched yet another very nice game for the Halos and is now 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 23 K/4 BB in 27.1 IP over his first 4 starts of the season.  He’ll hit some bumps, but he’s looking strong and I will once again compare him to Eduardo Rodriguez of the Red Sox.

Ryan Braun – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Braun was a late addition to the All-Star squad and he hit his 16th HR of the season on Sunday.  He’s still not the type of player that he was with the PED’s, but he’s quality nonetheless.

Trevor Rosenthal – 0.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K with the BS and L.  Rosenthal had a meltdown on Sunday for his 2nd blown save of what has otherwise been a marvelous season.  At 9.57 K/9, he’s not striking out as many guys that he’s accustomed to, but his velocity is better than the last couple of seasons, so it shouldn’t be too much of a worry.  As the closer on the best team in baseball, Rosenthal should continue to rack up saves over the second half.


2 thoughts on “Jonesing for More (and other notes from 7/12/15)

  1. Pingback: Soft Hit Rate Leaders (and other notes from 7/19/15) | The Backwards K

  2. Pingback: The Progression of Brandon Belt (and other notes from 8/11/15) | The Backwards K

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