Daily Dose: Buy low for the second half

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players who fantasy owners should be looking to acquire with
their value low …

Scott Baker – Baker got off to a homerific start as he battled
shoulder soreness and inconsistent mechanics, going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA
and eight long balls after four outings. He’s been his usual self since
then, going 7-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 66/16 K/BB ratio in 81 innings. As
an extreme fly-ball pitcher homers will always hurt Baker, but he
hasn’t served up more than two in a start since April 22.

Cole Hamels – On the surface it looks like Hamels has declined
significantly this season, going 5-5 with a 4.87 ERA after last year’s
3.07 mark. However, the bulk of his struggles stem from an
unsustainably terrible .348 batting average on balls in play that’s 53
points worse than his career rate. Once that number gets back to normal
his strikeout and walk rates are as strong as usual and he’ll be fine.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick has plenty of flaws in his game, but
there’s no doubt that he can post big batting averages and when the
Angels demoted him to the minors last month it just made him
undervalued. He came back two weeks ago, has hit above .300 since
returning, and the 25-year-old career .294 hitter should post his usual
high-average, low-power, solid-speed numbers down the stretch.

Cliff Lee – He hasn’t pitched as well as he did while winning the Cy
Young award last season, but the difference isn’t nearly as huge as his
lowly 4-9 record would indicate. Lee has suffered from a severe lack of
bullpen and run support, but his luck can’t help but improve and his
record could reverse itself in the second half if he keeps pitching
like the guy with a 3.43 ERA and 93/33 K/BB ratio.

Ricky Nolasco – Much like Baker, Nolasco’s brutal start to the
season masks an otherwise solid performance. His secondary numbers were
strong even when the Marlins demoted him to the minors, and since
returning he’s gone 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 53/8 K/BB ratio in 47
innings spread over seven starts. Since the start of last year he has
the eighth-best strikeout rate for pitchers with 300 innings.

David Ortiz – By this point everyone surely realizes that Ortiz has
snapped out of his early slump, but with his OPS still at a modest .733
not everyone is aware of just how good he’s been while slugging .617
with 11 homers, six doubles, and 29 RBIs in 35 games since the calendar
flipped to June. It should surprise no one if Ortiz posts a 1.000 OPS
in the second half.

Alexei Ramirez – Batting under .200 through 30 games has left
Ramirez’s overall stats looking sickly, but he’s at .318/.378/.484 with
10 homers in 55 games since. Ramirez has already drawn nearly twice as
many non-intentional walks as he did last year and is on pace for twice
as many steals. Despite the early hiccups, by season’s end he’ll likely
be a top-three fantasy shortstop.

Alex Rios – Rios is on pace for 20 homers, 40 doubles, 85 RBIs, and
25 steals, which is better all-around production than he managed last
season, but his .262 batting average is a career-low after he hit .302,
.297, and .291 in the previous three seasons. All of which adds up to
an ideal buy-low candidate, as Rios was a top-30 outfielder in the
first half and has room to move into the top 20.

Jimmy Rollins – Arguably the largest disappointment of the first
half, Rollins had a .227 batting average and .642 OPS after batting at
least .277 with a .770 OPS in each of the past five seasons. Throughout
the struggles he still showed plenty of power and speed with 29
extra-base hits and 16 steals, but an NL-worst .207 mark on balls in
play doomed him. That should be closer to .307 after the break.

Max Scherzer – Scherzer was one of my preseason breakout picks and
has lived up to expectations with a 3.64 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 96.1
innings, but his 5-6 record leaves him undervalued. He’s starting to
pitch deeper into games and has walked more than three batters just
once in his last 15 outings, so the wins figure to come easier for
Scherzer in the second half.

B.J. Upton – Upton missed the first week and got off to a brutal
start as he came back from offseason shoulder surgery, but has batted
.276/.352/.453 with seven homers, 24 total extra-base hits, and 24
steals in 55 games since mid-May. He’s a good bet to show even more
power in the second half, and only Willy Taveras and Jacoby Ellsbury
have swiped more bases since the beginning of last year.

Matt Wieters – Don’t let predictably failing to live up to the crazy
immediate hype convince you of anything other than the fact that
Wieters is human. Owners who expected him to arrive in the majors as a
fully formed MVP candidate have been disappointed, but he’s quietly hit
.300 with three homers and four doubles in the past two dozen games and
is capable of being a top-10 catcher going forward.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.