Hitting Report: It's past time to let go of these struggling players
Every fantasy owner has been guilty, at one point or another, of overvaluing their own players. It’s only natural: Ostensibly, you drafted or traded for each player on your roster for a specific reason. Sometimes, we’re the last ones to change our minds on someone who is struggling, even when all the evidence tells us it’s time to give up. We all occasionally need someone on the outside to let us know it’s okay to cut the cord.
That’s what I’m here for. The 2015 season is now 10-plus weeks old. For the most part, players are who they are, but given their performance this season, some of them are too widely owned. It might be hard to convince yourself to do so, but it truly is in your best interests to cut the following players, all of whom have ownership rates higher than 70%.
Jason Heyward, Cardinals: Heyward is still owned in approximately 90% of fantasy leagues, yet he doesn’t play every day, and when he does, he’s frequently hitting toward the bottom of the order. Heyward simply hasn’t been able to recreate the magic of his 2012 season. In fact, he's getting worse: He’s hitting .257/.301/.386 this year, and that’s with a solid .297 batting average on balls in play at his back. Ask yourself this: If Heyward’s name were “Martin Prado,” would you still own him?
Mark Trumbo, Mariners: Trumbo entered the fantasy consciousness—and has remained there—solely because of his pop. That was already down a bit this year before he was traded to Seattle, one of the worst stadiums for righthanded power in the game. This is not a Nelson Cruz situation: It’s entirely possible Trumbo doesn’t reach the 20-homer plateau this season. Meanwhile, he’s hitting .242 with a .276 on-base percentage and has a 23.5% strikeout rate. It’s not a challenge to find someone to match or exceed his power without the unsightly rates that Trumbo contributes to your roster.
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: The only saving grace for Zimmerman right now is that he’s on the disabled list, so he isn’t costing most of his owners a roster spot. Make sure you have a short leash with him when he returns, however. Plantar fasciitis is a debilitating injury that affects everything a player does on the field. We’ve seen the same foot injury ruin Corey Dickerson’s season, and he’s a much better fantasy player than Zimmerman at this stage of their respective careers. Zimmerman was able to fight the injury off for the better part of the first two months of the season, but even then he was carrying a batting average in the .220s. If he doesn’t show marked improvement quickly after coming off the DL, get rid of him.
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Shortstop may be a complete wasteland this season, but chances are you can still do better than Andrus. Even in his best fantasy years, he was no more than a three-category player, and he really wasn’t even that significant a contributor to batting average or OBP. This season, he hasn’t been a plus in runs, ranking 17th among shortstops. His eight steals are second-most at the position, but they have him tied for 30th among all players and haven’t really moved the needle in fantasy leagues, especially when you consider how he has dragged down his owners’ batting average and OBP. Jean Segura, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons and Addison Russell all have lower ownership rates, yet all four are better options than Andrus.
Hitters of the Week
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: .520 BA (13-for-25), 5 HR, 7 R, 12 RBIs, .586 OBP
Stanton kicked off the week in style, going 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in a loss to the Blue Jays. Miami lost to Toronto again the next day, but that was no fault of Stanton’s: He hit a pair of solo homers, accounting for two of the Marlins’ three runs. He’d go on to belt two more dingers and drive in eight runs in the weekend series with the Rockies, in which the Marlins won three of four.
All told, it was Stanton’s best week of the season. He started the week at .230/.318/.531, but after that seven-game tear, he’s now slashing .261/.347/.609 with 23 homers and 59 RBIs on the season. He’s on pace for 58 home runs and 150 RBIs for the year.
Russell Martin, Blue Jays: .429 BA (9-for-21), 2 HR, 9 R, 8 RBIs, .500 OBP
The Blue Jays just ripped off an 11-game winning streak, and Martin was right in the thick of victory No. 10, crushing a solo homer in the top of the 11th to break a 4–4 tie and give the Blue Jays the eventual margin of victory. That, along with a 3-for-4 day on Sunday, put an exclamation point on what was a strong week for Martin. He now carries a six-game hitting streak, during which he has five extra-base hits, 10 RBIs and 10 runs. In that time, he has improved his slash line to .285/.369/.523 from .262/.351/.464.
Martin is now the top-ranked catcher in standard 5x5 head-to-head leagues: He ranks first at the position in runs, steals and slugging percentage, second in batting average and OBP, third in homers, and sixth in RBIs.
Manny Machado, Orioles: .458 BA (11-for-24), 2 HR, 9 R, 5 RBIs, .519 OBP
Machado got better and better as the week progressed, helping the Orioles to a 5–1 showing against the Red Sox and Yankees. He opened the series with Boston going 1-for-4 in a 1–0 win, went 2-for-4 with a run the next day, then finished the series by picking up two hits and a homer. Machado started the series with the Yankees with another 2-for-4 day, scoring three times. He hit his second homer of the week in the middle game of the series, going 3-for-5 with two runs and four RBIs. He finally slowed on Sunday, going 1-for-3 with a run scored in Baltimore’s only loss of the week. Machado is having a strong season, slashing .286/.342/.483 with 11 homers, 39 runs, 30 RBIs and eight steals.
Hitters of the Weak
Ian Desmond, Nationals: .048 BA (1-for-21), 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .091 OBP
Desmond has taken a colossal step back this season, and it all came to a head last week. The shortstop collected all of one hit—a meaningless single in a game the Nationals lost to the Brewers—and struck out 13 times, including in 10 of his final 12 plate appearances of the week. The Nationals managed to salvage a split in Milwaukee, but that’s the sort of team they were expected to handle with ease when they were pegged as World Series favorites before the season.
Desmond is right at the center of the team’s disappointments this year, as he’s now hitting just .226/.270/.355 with five homers and one steal on the season. Remember: He was the only player in the majors who came into this year with three consecutive 20-20 seasons on the back of his card. He has to be one of the prime members of any All-Bust team for the first half of the season.
Torii Hunter, Twins: .071 BA (1-for-14), 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, .158 OBP
Hunter and the surprising Twins had a rough series against Kansas City last week, as they were swept by the defending AL champions, with Hunter going 0-for-10 with a pair of walks in the process. He also staged one of the most memorable meltdowns in recent memory, channeling his inner Ned Braden by ripping off numerous articles of clothing and throwing them on the field after he was tossed from the game on Wednesday by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger.
After going 1-for-4 in a series-opening loss to the Rangers, Hunter dropped his appeal of the two-game suspension his outburst earned him and served his time over the weekend. Theatrics and bad week aside, the veteran is having a nice season, hitting .268/.325/.427 with eight homers.
Jay Bruce, Reds: .125 BA (3-for-24), 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB, .250 OBP
It was yet another all-too-familiar week for Bruce, filled with strikeouts and not much else: He fanned 11 times and now has at least one strikeout in each of his last eight games. In 13 games in June, Bruce has struck out 15 times. No amount of mashing can counteract all those strikeouts, which you can see in Bruce’s .212/.324/.394 slash line. In the weekend series against the Cubs, in which the Reds lost three of four, Bruce went 2-for-15 with six strikeouts and three walks, and it's become routine for him to have more strikeouts than hits in a series. Bruce does have nine home runs and five steals on the season, but it’s getting awfully hard for fantasy owners in all but the deepest of leagues to trust him.
Buy, Sell or Hold
Buy: Cameron Maybin, Braves
Maybin is riding the post-post-post-hype train to the best season of his career. In 54 games with the Braves this season, the former top prospect is hitting .301/.371/.415 with five homers and 11 steals. The .360 BABIP looks unsustainable on the surface, but it’s supported by a 28.5% line-drive rate. We’re long past the point of the season when batted-ball rates normalize, so we can take Maybin’s achievements at face value. He probably won’t keep the line-drive rate that high all season, but if he can remain in the mid-20s, he’s going to keep putting up useful numbers for his fantasy owners.
Even with all that in his favor, however, Maybin is still widely available. He’s not going to hit for a ton of power, but he’s playing every day and has spent most of his time in the No. 2 spot for the Braves. He could hit another five to seven homers with 10-to-15 more steals this year. That would easily make him a top-25 outfielder.
Sell: Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Despite a low ownership rate, Ethier is sellable in deeper leagues. The outfielder is hitting .291/.372/.526 with nine homers, 28 runs and 27 RBIs this season and has a safe spot in a potent lineup, plus a 10.6% walk rate and 14.6% strikeout rate, both of which are better than league average. His .304 BABIP is totally sustainable, especially with a 20.4% line-drive rate and 33.3% hard-hit rate.
Having said that, Ethier is probably not going to keep up a 15.4% HR/FB ratio. That would match the best number of his career and would be his highest since posting a 14.1% ratio in 2012. In the two seasons since, he hasn’t been better than 8.4%. Unless you think he’s returning to the 25-homer level, you’ll want to see what he can fetch on the open market right now. His success is legitimate, and that makes it possible to sell him. At the same time, this could very well be the high point of his value.
Hold: Jorge Soler, Cubs
Soler is still on the mend from an ankle injury that has cost him the better part of two weeks. He resumed throwing on Sunday, the first step toward getting back on the field, and while he has yet to test the ankle, the Cubs don’t expect him to miss much more time before rejoining the team. However, it does seem almost certain at this point that he’ll miss more than the minimum 15 days: The team initially believed he’d be able to return immediately when eligible on June 17, but that’s starting to look like a long shot.
The Cubs head out on a short road trip that begins on Wednesday in Cleveland and takes them through Minnesota this weekend. If Soler travels with the team to Cleveland, you can bet that he’ll be activated at some point during the trip. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely get back on the field next week against either the Dodgers or Cardinals.
Byron Buxton, CF, Twins
Nothing should surprise us in the Year of the Prospect, so I won’t say it was a total shock to see the Twins promote Buxton to the majors straight from Double A. It was, however, largely unexpected. Buxton, the top prospect in baseball at the start of the season according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus and the No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, is now in the majors.
Buxton should be owned in all fantasy leagues by time this column is published. That means the first thing you should do is check your league’s waiver wire to make sure he’s not out there. If he is, go get him. Buxton has the look of a future superstar with both the bat and the glove and is immediately relevant in all fantasy formats. He hit .283/.351/.489 at Chattanooga this season with six homers and 20 steals. Youth does have something to do with prospect rankings, but there’s a reason that MLB and BP rated him higher than Kris Bryant, who has done nothing other than hit .289/.398/.477 with seven homers in his first two months in the majors.
Still, Buxton is just 21 years old and has played all of 59 games above Class A. It’s going to take some time for him to get going in the majors, so fantasy owners need to keep their expectations in check. While he has to be owned universally, anything better than a top-30 finish at the position for the rest of the season would be considered a victory.
GIF of the Week
Joc Pederson has made a name for himself with the bat this season, but he saved a game for the Dodgers over the weekend with his glove. After he made this great catch, crashing into the wall the rob Justin Upton of a would-be–walk-off hit, the Dodgers went on to win the game in 12 innings.