Knowledge Drop May 22, 2018 – Tommy John Edition (#25)
Thanks for reading Big Mac. Tom McFeeley and his team drop Fantasy Knowledge at least 3x a week, online and straight to your inbox. Please send us your comments and say hello, at email@example.com.
*Tommy John, who (wait for that part) won 288 games (231 losses), with a 3.34 ERA, was born 75 years ago today. John whiffed 2245 hitters in 4710 innings. That’s a 4.3 K/9 rate, kids. But of course he will forever be known for the operation he made famous, virtually a rite of passage for most young pitchers now. Happy Birthday TJ!!
TOP KNOWLEDGE — WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
Tim’s Tenz: McCullough IDs 10 Players to Sell Now
By Tim McCullough – Big Mac Contributor
I remember reading an article by Ron Shandler, when he was still with Baseball HQ, that dealt with the analysis of fantasy league standings at several different points of the season. One of the observations that came out of the study was that 80 percent of the teams that were at the top of the standings in May went on to win it all at the end of the season. If your team isn’t at the top of the standings now, your chances of winning are greatly reduced, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your team and pull off a win. However, working the waiver wire isn’t going to be enough to get your there.
You’re going to need to make some trades, which means you need to get rid of some players currently on your roster. Some call it selling high, while others call it reducing risk. I think it’s just smart fantasy baseball. There are plenty of players who are either playing better than their skill set says they can, or they are due for a dose of regression to the mean. There are also a number of players with injury histories that are ready and ripe to be traded before history repeats itself. Whatever the case, here are 10 players that you should consider dealing now (or very soon) to maximize your team’s potential and bounce back to the top of the standings (or remain on top if you’re already there).
Shohei Ohtani (SP/OF/DH, LA Angels) – Let’s talk Ohtani as a hitter first. Yes, his six HRs, 12 Runs and 17 RBIs with a .321/.367/.619 slash line is not bad at all. But he’s only gotten 90 PA to this point and we’re roughly one-third of the way through the schedule. It’s not unreasonable to just multiply those counting stats by three to come up with a projection for the season. If you do the math, it should be crystal clear that Ohtani just isn’t going to cut it as a fantasy asset unless you’re in a league with daily moves and you sub him in and out in harmony with another very good player. I’ll pass on that, thank you. For Ohtani the pitcher, the reasoning to trade him now is tied to his injury history and two of his four April starts.
Ohtani is pitching with a partially torn UCL nerve in his right (throwing) elbow. He’s been sidelined with the flareup of a pre-existing ankle injury and he’s had a blister on his pitching hand. Of course, he’s also been a force to be reckoned with on the mound with a record of 4-1, 3.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 52 K in 40.1 innings pitched. But it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses for Ohtani. He had a pair of back to back games in April in which he allowed seven runs on seven hits and his ERA ballooned to 4.43. Those bad games were against the Red Sox and Astros, two of the top lineups in baseball. The rest of his starts to date have come against the A’s, Mariners, Rays and Twins. Collectively, they have a winning record, but all four teams have had runs of tough luck already.
The bottom line here is that Ohtani is vulnerable to injury. He received a plasma rich injection in his elbow last fall. That elbow is at high risk for injury, and when a pitcher alters his motion to protect an elbow injury, he risks injury to other parts of his body. He also has an ankle injury that cost him most of his last season in Japan. Ankle injuries can also be at the root of further injury to other parts of the body when mechanics are altered to protect it. Ohtani could conceivably be injury-free for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Trade him now that he is coming off a trio of solid starts in which he compiled 26 strikeouts with just five walks and a 2.25 ERA. The longer you wait, the less valuable he will be.
Yoenis Cespedes (OF, NY Mets) – Cespedes is on the DL. It’s a very familiar phrase if you owned Cespedes last season, and now he’s there again this season. Once again, he attempted to play through an injury and suffered an additional injury as a result. He played exactly half of the schedule in 2017, and finished with just 17 HRs, 42 RBIs and 46 Runs. If that’s enough for you, go ahead and keep him. I suggest you deal him as soon as possible after he returns. Let him hit well for a couple of games then deal him to a believer. Every league has one Mets fan.
Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds) – In May, Gennett is batting .356/.377/.678 with five HRs. Here’s a little hint for you: Gennett isn’t that good. He’s a career .286/.326/.450 hitter and he’s playing for one of the worst offensive teams in MLB. Once the regression to the mean kicks in, Gennett’s numbers will tumble back to reality. Contact the Robinson Cano owner in your league and sell Gennett to him.
Ryan Braun (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – Yet another player with a deep injury history who tried to play through and ended up on the DL. Back injuries are notoriously fickle, difficult to rehab and more apt to return than any other injury. Baseball players violently twist their spines to hit the ball, which is more than enough to cause permanent damage to the soft tissues of the back. Braun will be a tough sell because he was stinkin’ up the joint with a .222/.268/.413 line – an all-time low for the Brewers’ slugger. As with Cespedes, wait for Braun to return and hit a bit, then deal him for whatever you can get.
Miles Mikolas (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) – Mikolas is one of the nice stories of 2018. He’s a reclamation project the Cards obtained from the Rangers, who got him as a reclamation project from the Padres. At age 29, he’s suddenly able to throw a fastball at more than 94 mph, generate groundballs at a 51.3% clip, and maintain an ERA of 2.63. Unfortunately, there are alarm bells going off everywhere. He has a Strand rate (LOB) of 83.7% and he strikes out batters at a rate of just 6.49 K/IP. His FIP of 3.57 is nearly a run higher than his ERA and he’s generating swings out of the zone at a career-high rate of 34%. There’s more but I don’t want to keep you from calling someone – anyone in your league who might take him in a trade.
Carlos Martinez (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) – Martinez is sidelined with a shoulder muscle injury. He is progressing according to recent imaging studies and has begun a throwing program to rehab the injured muscle. After a dreadful Opening Day outing in which he was tagged for four earned runs on four hits and six walks, Martinez has looked a bit like namesake Pedro Martinez. In the seven starts since then, Martinez has gone 3-1 with a 0.99 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .177 BAA, and 42 strikeouts in 45.2 IP. Now, Martinez has been really good the last couple of seasons but not this good. His current BABIP of .237 is too low for a pitcher with a career .298 BABIP. Other problems include a walk rate of 3.96 BB/9IP, a HR/FB rate of just 2.6%, a Strand rate of 82.8% and a FIP of 3.38. As soon as he returns, take advantage of his pristine numbers and get a highly valued player back in trade.
Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants) – Crawford has been smokin’ hot since May 1, with 32 hits in 19 games for a .444/.462/.639 triple slash. In fact, there have been only two games this month in which Crawford didn’t have a hit and he’s had nine multi-hit games; this after batting .189/.237/.300 for the month of April. Look, all you need to know is that he’s 31 years old and has a career average of .254/.318/.398. Ayup, it’s time to sell high.
Jed Lowrie (2B/SS/3B, Oakland A’s) – Lowrie is the poster boy for all players who never achieve their vast potential due to injuries. Look over his career stats and you’ll see that he’s spent roughly half of his 11-year career on the DL. The rest of the time, he’s a .264/.355/.415 hitter with middling power. Except for this season, that is. Right now, he’s slashing .320/.389/.547, which tops anything he’s ever done at the plate – even in the minors when he was thought to have limitless potential. You should think of him as a potential gold chip to bargain with for some pitching or someone who steals bases once in a while.
Nick Markakis (OF, Atlanta Braves) – Markakis is another player who’s been killing it of late. He’s always been a good hitter for average, so his current .341/.409/.514 line isn’t a complete shock. Well, the .514 is. He has a career .425 slugging percentage and has a career-high season of 23 HRs – back in 2008! Since then, he’s never hit more than 20 HRs in a season, and over the last five seasons he’s averaged just nine homers per season. Well, don’t look now (really, don’t look) but Markakis has seven homers already this season and he’s one shy of last year’s total. Trade him now before he remembers that he can’t do this.
Edwin Encarnacion (3B/DH, Cleveland Indians) – How do you make apologies for a guy batting .212/.289/.429? On a fantasy baseball discussion board, I read an entire thread in which the poster defended E5 with the explanation that he is “a victim of his .237 BABIP.” I’m sorry to burst his bubble but Encarnacion has never been a high BABIP hitter. In fact, his season-high BABIP is just .292, achieved in 2011. He’s averaged .264 over the six seasons since. Sure, he’s a notoriously slow starter, but he’s also 35 years old and his Pull% has declined the last couple of seasons, a sure sign that his bat speed is waning. Every older player falls off a cliff eventually. Encarnacion is poised at the precipice of his cliff with one foot hanging over the edge and the other on a banana peel. Convince someone in your league that his 10 HRs is just the beginning of a good thing.
A THOUSAND WORDS
Today @BatFlipCrazy is looking up at Yasiel Puig.
Follow @BatFlipCrazy on Twitter and read more in-depth data analysis at batflipcrazy.com
RIDDLE ME THIS
The day before yesterday, Will was 17. Next year, he will be 20. How can this be?
Email your guess to BigMacFantasySports@gmail.com
Sunday’s riddle: There are 2 ducks in front of 2 other ducks. There are 2 ducks behind 2 other ducks. There are 2 ducks beside 2 other ducks. How many ducks are there?
Nobody correctly guessed that there were four ducks — they were in the formation of a square.
DAD JOKE OF THE DAY
Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom?
Because the P is silent.
WHAT WE ARE WATCHING: