- Fantasy baseball risers and fallers in the second week of May.
This week’s Stock Ticker takes on added importance because of where we are in the season. This is the beginning of the season’s seventh week, which means we’re approximately one-quarter of the way through the 2019 MLB campaign. Baseball is inherently a game of small samples, but, within the context of one season, you eventually reach a point where you have to take the season-long data at face value. We have reached that point.
This column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Mike Trout into an occasional slump or Derek Dietrich to look like an MVP candidate for a week or two. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be recalibrated.
This isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates across the fantasy baseball landscape will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Michael Chavis, 2B/3B, Red Sox
Chavis has had no trouble acclimating to the majors since his promotion last month, hitting .293/.423/.638 with six homers and 13 RBI in 71 plate appearances. The 23-year-old has secured an everyday spot in Boston’s lineup, with most of his starting coming with him in the six-hole. That gives him tremendous RBI upside, even if J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts knock in their fair share of runs before Chavis gets to the plate. He has done an excellent job rounding out the heart of one of the most dangerous lineups in the league.
Ketel Marte, 2B/SS/OF, Diamondbacks
Marte has been on a tear over the last two weeks, going 13-for-46 with five homers and 10 RBI in his last 12 games. He was hitting .239/.268/.435 before the hot streak, and is up to .254/.311/.522 after Tuesday’s loss to the Rays. He’s striking out more than ever, and that will lead to some dry spells at the plate, but he’s more than offsetting that with additional power and the run-scoring upside that comes with hitting second on a regular basis.
Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Cubs
Kris, will you ever forgive me? After building Bryant up as one of this season’s prime bounce-back candidates all winter, I had him on the Fallers side of the Stock Ticker two weeks ago heading down the stretch of a punchless April. In 12 games since then, he has gone 13-for-43 with five homers, including a walk-off on Tuesday, 15 RBI, and 10 walks against nine strikeouts, raising his season-long slash line to .250/.381/.508 in the process. Bryant’s power is seemingly back, and with it his status as one of the most dangerous hitters in the league.
Victor Robles, OF, Nationals
Robles has a 29.1% strikeout rate and 3.5% walk rate on the season. So long as that’s the case, he’s going to be a batting average and OBP risk. Yet, it won’t matter all that much if he can continue filling up the counting stats the way that he has thus far. Robles has six homers, eight steals, 23 runs and 13 RBI in 141 plate appearances, putting him on a 28-homer, 37-steal, 106-run and 60-RBI pace for the season. The last player to clear all those thresholds in the same season was Mike Trout in 2012.
Chris Paddack, SP, Padres
So, that Paddack hype back in spring training? Yeah, that wasn’t overdone. Paddack has tossed 40 2/3 innings over seven starts, pitching to a 1.55 ERA and MLB-leading 0.69 WHIP with 46 strikeouts against 10 walks. He’s absolutely dominating hitters with a four-seam/changeup/curve mix that they just can’t seem to figure out. He’s yet to give up more than three earned runs in a start all season, and has made four straight quality starts. He had his best outing of the year in his last trip to the mound, striking out 11 Mets while allowing four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
Martin Perez, SP/RP, Twins
Unlike Paddack, Perez was well known to the fantasy community coming into this season. Seemingly no more than a back-of-rotation innings-eater, he was completely off the fantasy radar during draft season. Six weeks into the season, he has turned himself into a player who has to be owned in all fantasy leagues. Riding a cutter that he introduced this season, Perez has a 2.83 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings. Since joining Minnesota’s rotation after making three relief outings to start the year, he has amassed a 1.64 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 33 innings.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
I promise the forthcoming victory lap won’t be too egregious. Back in the winter, we told everyone who would listen that Realmuto wasn’t worth anywhere near his draft-day price tag, and that it was inflated because of the wrongly perceived value applied to positional scarcity. Realmuto would be a fine player, but one who was coming off the board inside the top-60 picks solely because of being a catcher, not because of his actual production. Fast forward to the first week of May and what do we find? A player who should have been coming off the board four rounds later than his average draft position. Realmuto is hitting .280/.338/.432 with four homers and 22 RBI in 133 plate appearances, and is the 139th-ranked player in standard 5x5 leagues. Let this be a lesson for next year: positional scarcity only matters if the player’s production warrants making him a high pick.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, Cardinals
It was just one year ago that Carpenter scuffled through April and part of May only to play at an MVP-caliber level the rest of the season, so we’re a bit apprehensive about downgrading his rest-of-season outlook. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he has had a net-negative effect on his fantasy teams through the first six weeks of the season. The 33-year-old is hitting .212/.327/.364 with four homers and eight RBI in 156 plate appearances. His walk and strikeout rates have trended in the wrong direction, while his HR/FB ratio has plummeted to 9.1% from last year’s 19.1%. We’d be foolishly holding onto last season if we didn’t ding him at this point.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
I remain of the opinion that Flaherty would be fine, and he’s someone I’d be trying to trade for, not away, in all fantasy formats. It is concerning, though, that his worst starts of late have come against strong offenses. The Brewers tagged him for nine runs on 12 hits, including five homers, in 8 2/3 innings across consecutive starts in April, and then the Cubs got him for three runs on four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames his last time out. Flaherty isn’t the only pitcher in the league who’s going to have more trouble with the Brewers and Cubs than with the Reds and Marlins, but he’s not supposed to be just some middle-of-the-rotation arm. He’s supposed to be an ace who contends for Cy Young Awards, and to do that, you need to handle teams like the Brewers and Cubs. We know he can do it, but we haven’t seen it with any consistency this season.
J.A. Happ, SP, Yankees
Happ has been largely ineffective all season, totaling a 4.93 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across seven starts and 38 1/3 innings. The biggest problem, however, has been the disappearance of the strikeout. Happ had a 26.3% strikeout rate last season, and topped 20% in the category in all of the last four seasons. He has just 27 strikeouts in his 38 1/3 innings this year, and his strikeout rate is all the way down to 16.8%, a reduction best explained by a drop in velocity across the board. To succeed from a fantasy perspective with that sort of strikeout rate, a pitcher needs to be like Kyle Hendricks in inducing soft contact, and even Hendricks is typically good for at least a 19% strikeout rate over the full season. Happ, however, is no Hendricks from the perspective of pitching to contact. If the strikeouts don’t return, he could find himself on waiver wires across the fantasy landscape.