We’ve only had about a month’s worth of baseball so far, yet somehow we’re already practically at the halfway mark. Just like the big league teams, fantasy owners are going to be scrambling for the pieces necessary for a late season push. Below, I have identified three kinds of players: (1) players owned in under 50% of leagues who are worth adding, (2) players who are owned in more than 50% of leagues, but haven’t been good and should be dropped, and (3) players who are underperforming, especially players coming off good years – those who should be trade targets. Hopefully this will serve as a guide to everyone trying to win their leagues.
*All owned percentages mentioned will be from Yahoo, and stats are prior to games on 8/25*
Three Players to Add
Jonathan Schoop: One of the quieter acquisitions of the offseason was Schoop by the Tigers. Also very quietly, the Tigers currently lead the majors in hard hit rate, and Schoop has contributed to that. Schoop is coming off four straight seasons with more than 20 homers, and he is already at six this season (meaning he would be on pace to do it again in a 162 game season). This has led to an early isolated slugging (ISO) of .208. Additionally, he is hitting a strong .287, which, even if it goes down slightly, would still be strong for a power hitter. He has also been primarily hitting cleanup for the Tigers, and while the lineup isn’t the greatest, should still provide plenty of RBI opportunities, and he currently has twelve this year. Schoop has also been hot as of late, going 15/42 with three homers since August 12th. Everything points to this continuing, as he has a .324 BABIP, .340 wOBA, and 115 WRC+ so far this year. Best yet for fantasy owners, he is only owned in 17% of leagues.
Matt Barnes: Barnes currently has a 5.73 ERA and 6.14 FIP. In addition, he is walking a ridiculously high 7.36 batters per nine innings. However, closers have value in fantasy baseball. The Red Sox just traded away Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree, which opened the door for Barnes. So far, he’s converted one out of two save opportunities since taking over, picking up a save in his first chance and blowing the game in the tenth in his second. It is extremely hard to justify adding Barnes based on his numbers, but I truly believe he will pick up some saves. He may not necessarily turn it around, but I think he could be just good enough to hold on to the closer role in a weak Boston bullpen. As long as he does, he is worth stashing. If you want a positive, Barnes is striking out 10.64 batters per nine innings, and is only owned in 29% of leagues.
Pablo Lopez: Honestly, I have no clue how Lopez is only owned in 46% of leagues, as he has been one of the better pitchers in the big leagues. Just by comparison, Corey Kluber, who has missed most of the season and is still out, is owned in 49% of leagues. All Lopez has done so far this year is go 3-1 in five starts, to go with a 1.93 ERA. Meanwhile, his FIP is currently 2.40, as he doesn’t walk many batters. Lopez has been striking out plenty of batters too, with 27 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. His barrels rate is just 4.9%, and he has allowed just one home run so far this year. Pablo Lopez has broken out and is having an All-Star caliber season (and would most likely be one this year, if there was an All-Star game). There is no reason he shouldn’t be owned in more leagues.
Three Players to Drop
Adam Eaton: Eaton got off to an extremely fast start, hitting a home run off Gerrit Cole in his first at-bat of the year. Since then, he has gone deep just once. In fact, since then he has done almost nothing. He has been hitting just .239 so far on the year, with a WRC+ of 79. Additionally, in the past he was a player who could also provide some stolen bases, and he has only swiped one bag this year. A big reason for his slump this season is in his plate discipline. He is currently striking out in a career high 20.8% of at-bats, up 4.6% from last year and 1.8% above his career high. Additionally, Eaton is walking at a 7.9% rate, which would be his lowest walk rate since his rookie season. I don’t expect this to get much better, as his walk rate has gone down in each of the previous two seasons as well. Eaton is currently owned in 62% of leagues, but that number should go down.
Wilson Ramos: I know that catcher is a super thin position, so I understand why Ramos is still owned in 67% of leagues. However, he still is worth dropping, as he just isn’t performing. To make matters worse, he has basically been splitting time with Tomas Nido recently, who is a better defender and has been hitting the ball surprisingly well. Ramos is currently just 15/71, with just four extra-base hits to date. Only one of those has been a home run, and he has only driven in five all year. According to Yahoo’s rankings, he is the 45th ranked catcher currently. Not all of the catchers ahead of him are getting regular playing time, but there are better options, even if Ramos is you’re back up catcher. There is not much reason for him to be owned in 67% of leagues.
Robbie Ray: I’ll admit it. Coming into this year, I was kind of expecting the full breakout from Robbie Ray. He has consistently put up a solid ERA, and has always struck out a ton of batters. The latter has stayed true for the most part this year, as he has struck out 35 batters in 27 innings, good for a 11.67 K/9 rate, which would actually be slightly down from the past couple of years – that just shows how ridiculous he has been in that category. However, there are two big reasons for why he has been struggling so much this year. The first is that he is walking 8.33 batters per nine innings. For context, that would be considered a good strikeout rate, but absolutely terrible as a walk rate. The second is that his ground ball rate is nearly half of last year. in 2019, 37% of balls in play were ground balls, but this year its just 19.4%. All of this has led to a 8.33 ERA and a WHIP of 2.00. Ray is currently owned in 64% of leagues, but that number should be much lower.
Four Players to Target in Trades
Tyler Glasnow: Glasnow has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, posting a 6.00 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in his first five starts. However, there are a lot of reasons to believe that Glasnow should be able to right the ship in the second half of the season. First off, he has still struck out 35 batters in just 21 innings. His swinging strike rate is about the same as last year. The second reason I believe he will bounce back in the second half is his advanced stats. Glasnow currently has a 4.14 FIP and a 3.54 xFIP. Maybe an even better indicator is that his skill-interactive ERA is just 3.71. This all points to his ERA coming down. Glasnow may have started this turn around in his last start, where he gave up just two runs in 5.2 innings versus the Yankees, striking out eight.
Eugenio Suarez: Suarez has really struggled this year, but due to this he can be a good buy-low candidate, which helps minimize the risk of trading for him. Another thing that helps minimize the risk of trading for Suarez is his career BABIP, as BABIP is usually a stat that regresses closely to a career average. So, despite the fact that his BABIP is currently .155, it should finish closer to his career average of .312. Suarez also is walking a career-high 14.0% of the time, which gives him extra value in OBP leagues. Suarez is also still getting the barrel to the ball, with a 12.7% barrel rate. This has resulted in four home runs, three of which have come in his past six games. Suarez should be a fairly cheap trade target, and there is reason to believe he can turn it around.
Rhys Hoskins: Hoskins is another guy that has been underperforming, but also has (his first) two home runs in the past week. He is starting to pick it up, raising his average from .190 to .224 since August 14th. That said, it also means his trade value is going back up, so he may not be as cheap as Suarez or even Glasnow. Hoskins should be able to keep this up, if not improve. He is walking in 20.8% of plate appearances. He has a .300 BABIP. He has a 127 WRC+. A lot of this may be due to these past ten days, but even still, he has been good despite putting up some underwhelming numbers. There is a lot of reason to believe that Hoskins should continue to raise his batting average and start hitting more homers. He is currently ranked 300th overall, but I believe he can finish near where he was drafted (around 100th, on average).
Craig Kimbrel: This would be a super speculative trade to make, but when that can pay off huge in the long run. Like I mentioned earlier with Barnes, closers have value. Kimbrel lost the closing role earlier in the season, but it is starting to look like he may be able to take it back. With his high ERA and current position in the bullpen, he may be a cheap player to target. Kimbrel has shown he still has swing-and-miss potential, with 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, but he has also walked 8 batters. The really good news for Kimbrel is what he has done since being demoted. He has not allowed a run in his last four outings, giving up just three walks and no hits. He also struck out nine over those 3.2 innings. In one of those outings, Kimbrel struck out all three batters he faced to record his first save of the season. Kimbrel can easily sneak back into a closer role, or at least a committee, which would make him a good speculative trade candidate that should come fairly cheap.