Every once in a while I have to step back and remind myself of the differences between real baseball and fantasy baseball.
I always use Andrelton Simmons as the framework for this conversation, as Andrelton Simmons, Baseball Player, would be one of the top 20 or 25 players you'd select in an all-player draft. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons, Fantasy Player, is barely rosterable even in quasi-deep leagues.
There's often overlap in the two discussions, of course. Mike Trout is a great fantasy player, and he's a great real player. That's obvious. It's the grayer areas where I (you? Probably you, too. I don't think I'm unique here) have to really step back and consider.
That's part of the theme of this week's Ticker. A handful of the players here have some level of intrigue for fantasy that is somewhat disparate from the level of intrigue they have. It's not universal — primarily because I didn't really derive this theme until I had chosen a bunch of my players already (sorry for not being Mr. Super Planner Guy) — but there are several guys who would be a top pick in a "start your franchise" draft, only to not make much sense as a fantasy option.
The Ticker is maintaining its structural changes from a week ago. We're up to seven categories, with two players apiece, and there isn't the strict adherence to ownership levels there was in older editions. Ownership percentages are as of Thursday evening; stats are through Thursday as well. I'm still up for suggestions for improvement if anyone has any ideas, but I'm enjoying this setup:
(The values of players are at or near their low points, and you might be able to get them for cheap)
Hector Rondon, RP, CHC (78 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
The random use of Rondon the last few days is pretty vexing. He was pulled from a save chance Satuday after a walk, despite no blown saves or runs allowed in the two weeks before. The team rushed out and signed Rafael Soriano, gave Pedro Strop a save, gave Jason Motte a save. Then Thursday, the Cubs went right back to Rondon, and he got his three outs in four batters for his 11th save. His ERA is 2.84; his WHIP is 1.22. Joe Maddon has said he's going forward without any proscribed roles, and that's good, but ultimately, Rondon is the best reliever with Chicago, and that includes Soriano once he's ready to go. This is one of those situations where a guy has more fantasy value than real-life, as a closer's big stat is largely a fantasy creation. Still, it does count, and if I had to put money on who leads the Cubs in saves from June 12 to the end of the year, I'd take Rondon with confidence.
Miguel Montero, C, CHC (28 percent)
Montero has a 117 OPS+ despite no steals, a .241 batting average, and RBI and run totals that are about a third of the league leaders. What Montero does is walk, as his .241 average is accompanied by a .361 on-base percentage. It's a career-high walk rate for Montero, though it's paired with a career-low BABIP, so you can see some reason to believe in the OPS+. Which brings us to the question of real versus fantasy. In real baseball, obviously, Montero — an on-base-machine catcher with at least marginally positive defensive value — has been a big addition to this Chicago team. In fantasy, though, he lacks behind. Of course, there is that "C." One of the big themes of The Ticker this season has been the utter disaster area that has been the catcher position. Montero is walking enough that his eye isn't in question, and his BABIP could (should?) rise going forward. He's not a superstar contributor, but considering his position, Montero is in the conversation with several other "meh" catchers.
(Just because a guy is at or near peak value doesn't mean he has to regress; these are guys who are exceeding the expectations for them, but I can see it continuing)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL (99 percent)
I suppose this is a "high" in a 2015 only sense, but that still counts. After bottoming out at .266/.286/.403 a couple weeks ago, Tulowitzki hit .500/.550/.972 in the nine games May 29-June 9. Frustratingly, he still isn't walking as much as you'd like, but Tulowitzki has more than doubled his season walk total in his last 10 games. There was no real reason for the superstar shortstop struggling as much as he was a for much of May, and while he can't continue hitting as well as he has over this stretch, good Tulo is much more real than bad Tulo. If you can add him in a trade, do it.
Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, MIN (1 percent)
The Twins are figuring out what they want. Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia were sent down; Kennys Vargas was brought back. After a lot of lineup inconsistency early in the season, Minnesota is getting into some kind of groove as far as who plays and who doesn't. (Apropos of little, but I think they come back to earth as a team, though I don't expect individual players to suffer so much as sequencing working itself out.) What that means for Rosario is he's fairly locked in to one of the team's outfield spots once he's back from paternity leave. He doesn't even have 100 plate appearances on the season, but Rosario has three home runs and four steals to go with a .287 batting average. He's eligible at a light second base, and should be batting every day. He's worth a look in the deeper leagues.
(Sure, these guys have been great, but this is the time to cash in your chips)
Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, CLE (75 percent)
The first half of 2014, Moss hit .268/.349/.530, had 21 home runs and was a hot commodity across all sorts of fantasy leagues. After the All-Star break, he hit .173/.310/.274 with four homers, and got himself traded out of Oakland. As recently as May 26, Moss was hitting .219/.295/.425. It was a fair ISO and an almost-playable on-base percentage, but nothing you wanted in fantasy. The last two weeks, he's been on fire, hitting .340/.404./638. But considering Moss' streaky nature and the fact that, at his best, he's helping you in power and not much else, if anyone is willing to offer value in return or Moss after this hot streak, sell now.
Chi Chi Gonzalez, SP, TEX (34 percent)
As a Rangers fan, I'm perfectly fine riding Gonzalez and his current hot streak as long as it lasts. It could go all season long, in which case happiness and good times abound. But if it can last until the likely returns of the Rangers' injured starters (more on them in a bit), hey, he helped keep them afloat when by all rights the team should have been falling apart. But that's in real life; there, all you need is a guy who keeps you going one way or another, and if it means he isn't getting strikeouts, well, strikeouts don't carry any kind of bonus in real baseball. In fantasy, though, if you're running Gonzalez out there, you have a guy who is helping you in at most three categories (not saves or strikeouts), and for whom the other shoe seems likely to drop. Strikeouts aren't everything, but through three starts now, Gonzalez has eight strikeouts against 10 walks in 21.2 innings. He's been fun, but that is not exciting.
(Yeah, their current values might not be at peak, but frankly, I think lower is more likely than higher; don't get cute)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, LAD (65 percent)
I warned everyone in preseason to avoid Rollins; his mini-resurgence of 2014 looked more fluky than anything. Now, I can understand why some fantasy owners might have ignored that advice, as it's not like there are hordes of fantasy-viable shortstops roaming the highlands. But since dropping to .200 April 22, Rollins' batting average hasn't gone back over .215. Now, 237 plate appearances into his Dodger career, Rollins is hitting .204/.267/.347, and he's looking like a Hall of Fame candidate whose time has come. Find a different shortstop.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL (39 percent)
Speaking of great careers that are winding down, the idea that the Mets are eying Ramirez as a trade option to help save their offense is kind of comical. Ramirez is on a four-year downward trend in OPS and OPS+, bottoming out at .648 and 73 so far this year, with a .216/.258/.389 slash line. And unlike shortstop, there are plenty of viable third basemen out there in fantasy, from guys who aren't even playing the position this year (Chris Davis, Carlos Santana) to guys who have gained eligibility there since the season began (Yunel Escobar, Yasmany Tomas). There's no reason for Ramirez to be on rosters right now.
(The values here are at the extremes, either really high or really low, but it's to the point where any sale wouldn't be a fair one)
Chris Archer, SP, TAM (96 percent)
Tell me exactly what a trade for Chris Archer right now, in the second week of June, might look like. He has a 1.84 ERA and a 2.09 FIP, with 108 strikeouts against 20 walks. In his last five games, Archer has thrown 34.1 innings with a 0.79 ERA and 50 strikeouts. Basically, he's spent a month making vintage Clayton Kershaw look pedestrian. I've always thought Archer would be great, but this is insane. So yeah, what would an Archer trade look like? If you're buying him, the seller is going to want to ask for a return that would make Ruben Amaro blush. If you're selling him, buyers are going to build some regression into their offers. He's untradeable right now.
Nick Markakis, OF, ATL (33 percent)
There was a time, early in his career, when people would draft Markakis as an important fantasy roster filler. And for whatever his faults have been over his career, Markakis has more or less been consistent in power and average. Now, in real baseball, Markakis has some value. He's a reasonable hitter and has a cannon for an arm, even if his overall defensive value has been sub-replacement every year of his career but one. But he hits for a decent average, he gets on base and he rarely misses games. In fantasy, his value is different. Markakis shouldn't be your starter. But if he's on your bench, well, you know he's going to be playing when your starter is out. You can count on a batting average. There won't be many steals (exactly one three of the last four years) and he's still waiting on his first home run as a Brave, but as a roster-filler, you could do way worse.
(low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them or another reason to hold off, but there are things that could change)
Martin Perez, SP, TEX (1 percent)
You never really know when the injury that forces a guy to undergo Tommy John surgery occurs. It could have been the last pitch he threw, or he could have been dealing with it for weeks as it gradually worsened. But when you look at the 2014 season for Perez, it's easy to see the point where it might have happened. Over three starts April 13-23, Perez threw 26 innings and gave up no runs, including back-to-back shutouts. At that point, he was 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA. He made three more starts before getting surgery; in those, he went 13.1 innings, allowed 19 earned runs, and saw his ERA more than triple. Like I said, no idea if the good-to-bad transition was when he got hurt, but damned if it doesn't look that way. He's out on rehab now, but could be back by the All-Star break.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, CIN (0 percent)
The season-ending injury to Zack Cozart sucked. I never for a second believed his 2015 production — .258/.310/.459, nine home runs, all career highs or career-best paces — was permanent, but that's irrelevant, as it was real for Cozart, and a career year is a career year. That's done now, and the Reds are turning to Eugenio Suarez as their shortstop the rest of the way. Suarez is a defense-first option, who wasn't anything special as a rookie with the Tigers last year, but in leagues where any warm body can help, he's now got a line on a full-time job.
(handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Evan Scribner, RP, OAK (3 percent)
Sean Doolittle will be back from the disabled list at some point, though that was true a month ago and he only made it back one inning before leaving again with injury. He's good, but you can't exactly count on him. Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard has been very ... whatever in Doolittle's stead. He has a 3.20 ERA, which is no great shakes for a reliever. In his nine-year career, Clippard's FIP has been sub-3.00 exactly once. Scribner hasn't been elite by any means, but he's been the best reliever in a subpar Oakland bullpen, and if Clippard's struggles continue, a change could be in order.
Jarrod Dyson, OF, KAN (2 percent)
Despite what the All-Star voting results might be saying, the Royals are not, in fact, the best team ever. Alex Gordon is in no danger of losing his job, obviously, and while Lorenzo Cain has fallen off a lot from his first-month MVP pace, he's not going anywhere, either. Alex Rios, though, hasn't actually been a special player since 2012, and he's bottomed out in his 16 games this year, sitting at .220/.258/.305. Dyson doesn't offer a whole lot of promise over Rios in real baseball — even if you gave him total-base credit for all his steals, he would only get up near Rios in likely slugging. But in fantasy, Dyson, if he gets enough playing time, will get you steals, in a sort of Billy Hamilton/Dee Gordon-lite way. Heck, he already has six, second on the team behind Cain. The Royals aren't making a change yet, but if Rios doesn't turn things around, there isn't much reason not to.