One of the troubles I've had with The Ticker ever since I debuted it on the football side a couple years ago is that my structure almost by default meant there were some players I couldn't discuss.
I mean, in and of itself, who cares, you know? It's a specifically drawn column that allows for specific parameters; if I wanted to write about the others guys, well, I have more than one piece I write each week. But there is one set of rules everyone talks about when they talk about the stock market: Buy low, sell high.
Well, my typical structure didn't really allow for such things. I was talking about widely owned guys who were struggling and whether I was bailing. That's selling low. And I was talking about investing in surprise performers. That's buying high.
And y'all wonder why I am always broke.
Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I'm playing around with the structure of The Ticker a little bit. This week is my first attempt. There will be seven categories instead of the usual six, and they'll leave me free to discuss a few more players than old structures did.
Sound off in the comments about the structure, and if it's better. I like to play around with it; maybe I'll stumble into something I like even more. As always, stats are through Wednesday, and ownership numbers are as of Thursday afternoon:
(The values of these players are at or near their low points, and you might be able to get them for cheap)
Aroldis Chapman, RP, CIN (98 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Over the last month, Chapman has lost three games and blown a save in another game. His ERA is 4.26, and he's allowed 27 baserunners in 12.2 innings. If it hasn't been the worst month of his career, it's on the list. And yet all his PITCHf/x data look more or less like those data always look. His velocity is within an acceptable margin of the same as always, as are his pitch selection and swing numbers. The most notable number that is different about Chapman this year? Well, for a guy allowing a career .280 BABIP, who hasn't had one about .290 since his 13.1-inning rookie season, Chapman's BABIP this year is .373. When a reliever is unlucky a few times, it can color overall numbers. Don't stress about Chapman. He'll be fine.
Yan Gomes, C, CLE (69 percent)
Since joining the Indians, Gomes has been rather fantastic. Over 2013 and 2014, in 840 plate appearances, he hit .284/.325/.476 with 32 home runs. For a catcher, those are elite numbers, and they went a long way to explaining why he was my No. 3 catcher entering the season. Well this year, he's sitting at .149/.180/.170, with only one extra-base hit (a double) and one RBI. Of course, that's in only 12 games, as Gomes has spent a big chunk of the young season on the DL. And even with that, it was a knee injury hindering him, which for a catcher worries you. Still, he's back, and you assume that knee is getting healthier the more he plays. Gomes didn't forget how to hit; I'm comfortable calling his struggles a 12-game sample that he'll overcome.
(Just because a guy is at or near peak value doesn't mean he has to regress; these are guys who are exceeding their expectations, but I can see it continuing)
Billy Burns, OF, OAK (41 percent)
Okay, so he might not have multi-hit games every game of his career (he had a string of five straight such games snap Wednesday), and Burns probably won't hit like this all season. He's a quality ballplayer; he isn't an MVP candidate, which is what an .820 OPS with strong outfield defense and elite base-stealing ability is. Still, read that again; Burns could lose 100 OPS points and still be more than adequate (and he likely will). With Coco Crisp gone for who-knows-how-long and Sam Fuld being, you know, Sam Fuld, Burns doesn't really have any competition for the center-field job. He'll provide steals all year long.
Cameron Maybin, OF, ATL (12 percent)
Getting free from Petco Park is a big thing for Maybin. Knowing the job is his with little competition can't hurt, either. But the biggest thing for Maybin, and this will always be true until it isn't, is his health. Maybin's no-longer-being-updated transactions log on Baseball Prospectus reads like a horror story. So there's certainly a chance that his strong-for-him start (.268/.353/.413, five homers and seven steals) could cap off in yet another injury, and that would suck. But because of those earlier factors, I'm fine recommending Maybin as a strong as-long-as-he's-healthy fantasy add.
(Sure, these guys have been great, but this is the time to cash in your chips)
Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA (97 percent)
Pujols struggled in April, ending the month at .208/.291/.364 with three home runs. Since then, he's improved, to .289/.315/.595, hitting 11 homers in May and the first few days of June. Six of those home runs came in his last six games. The truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere in the middle of all that. Pujols isn't as bad as he looked in the first month, and he certainly isn't as good as he's looked over the last week. If you had to take the most likely outcome, you'd have to conclude he's more like April Pujols than End Of May/Start Of June Pujols. But as hot as he's been of late, there will be some willing to invest in him as a first baseman who is once again elite. If someone will pay ou that price, sell with a quickness.
Joc Pederson, OF, LAD (92 percent)
We were all excited about Pederson entering the season. Every last one of us. Heck, we wanted to see him last year, when the Dodgers were running out a Wall-E robot with a glove as their best-fielding center fielder. Pederson's glove would keep him in the lineup if his OPS+ were, like, half of its current 175. But the fact that he's doing what he's doing on offense surpasses anything anyone dreamed of. And he's doing it all with a not-insane .310 BABIP. But let's take a little trip over to FanGraphs HR/FB rate glossary:
Oh, and what is Pederson's rate?
(Yeah, their current values might not be at peak, but frankly, I think lower is more likely than higher; don't get cute)
A.J. Burnett, SP, PIT (86 percent)
Burnett had allowed nine earned runs total through his first nine starts (59 innings) this season before eight runs in 10.2 innings over his last two outings brought his ERA from 1.37 to 2.20. Even at 2.20, it's been a strong start to the season for the 38-year-old in what has been announced as his last season. And he's doing it despite allowing almost a career-worst BABIP. Still, I'm saying the recent struggles portend more struggles to come. Burnett's HR/FB rate is at a career-best; so is his left-on-base percentage. This is, as I said, a 38-year-old, and his career-best ERA is 3.30. We really thinking there's a new paradigm at work, rather than a hot month? Burnett will be decent going forward, but we've easily seen his best work of the season.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, SDP (6 percent)
I haven't been kind to ol' Middlin'brooks over his career (that's my favorite nickname ever). Still, I saw him listed as one of the most-added third basemen on ESPN fantasy, and I wondered if I was being unfair. But ... no, guys. No. Middlebrooks is now four-ish seasons into a career with an 89 OPS+, with a .282 on-base percentage. Even a recent mini-hot streak has Middlebrooks only at .241/.271/.412 this season. You can't have Middlebrooks in your top 20 at the position, probably not even the top 25.
(The good guys might be struggling, or the lesser guys might be hot, but you can't really let that change your valuation)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, DET (97 percent)
If you wait on a position (in this case, second base) and draft, I don't know, Daniel Murphy, any struggles he might have are easy to get over. You cut him, pick up someone else off the wire, and you still have whatever player you got with the high draft pick you didn't use on a second baseman. But if you take one of those guys early and he struggles, you can't really do a lot. No one is giving you full trade value for those guys, you can't cut them, and anyone you might bench them for is, if we're being objective, a lesser option. Kinsler started the season strong enough, but over the last two and a half weeks he's hitting .094/.186/.189. Even with his respectable early start, he's still at only one home run. You're stuck with him. If he gets better, he gets better for you. If he continues to struggle ... well, nuts.
Ryan Raburn, OF, CLE (0 percent)
This is either the first or second year in Raburn's career (depending on league setup) where he doesn't qualify at second base, which is frustrating. If he still had eligibility there, you could sneak him into your lineup as a stealthy play and there's some value there. As it is, though, Raburn is an outfield-only play who more or less can't hit right-handers. He hits lefties really well (career .260/.331/.480, .338/.400/.606 this year), which hasplenty of baseball value but is tough to capitalize on in fantasy, as, you know, lefties aren't as common. In the deepest of leagues, with daily lineup changes, sure, Raburn has some value when you can use him situationally. But there just aren't that many leagues where he makes sense.
(low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them or another reason to hold off, but there are things that could change)
Matt Cain, SP, SFG (42 percent)
I remember 2009-2012 Matt Cain really fondly. That was a dude with a 2.93 ERA over 131 games, despite everyone looking at every single one of his peripherals and saying "Pfffft" with scorn. Some guys exceed expectations for a long time, and Matt Cain was one of those. So there was some feel of inevitability to Cain's massive regression in 2013 and 2014. Of course, if he hadn't struggled in those seasons, he'd be owned already in all fantasy leagues, and I wouldn't be able to recommend him here. But Cain has been throwing bullpens and simulated games as he works his way back from a flexor tendon strain; it looks like he could easily be back by the All-Star game, if not earlier. He's no longer near the stud he once was, but he could be a sneaky under-the-radar pickup for those in need.
Peter O'Brien, C, ARI (1 percent)
Even with the Mark Trumbo trade, I probably wouldn't recommend O'Brien were it not for one little thing. I think the Diamondbacks moved Trumbo to clear room for an outfield of a rotating combination of David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas, with Jake Lamb playing third base, leaving nothing for the prospect wunderkind O'Brien if and when he gets called up. It seems like the most likely outcome. But there is that one thing, and it's the letter after O'Brien's name in the lead-in to this paragraph. For fantasy purposes (at least in Yahoo!), O'Brien is still a catcher. As an outfielder, even if he gets called up, shrug, whatever, he might not get the playing time to be that helpful. As a quote-unquote "catcher," though? If he gets called up and only plays a few days a week and isn't getting the wear-and-tear of typical catchers? O'Brien could offer sneaky value down the road.
(handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Bobby Parnell, RP, NYM (11 percent)
It's not that I'm down on Jeurys Familia. That would be a tough row to hoe, considering he's sitting on a 1.44 ERA with 30 strikeouts and only 20 baserunners in 25 innings. He's been fantastic since taking over for Jenrry Mejia from basically Day One. But Familia is also a dude who entered 2015 with a career WHIP of 1.306, with a career FIP of 3.51. He's raised his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate this year, and either he's figured things out and is now an elite closer, or dude's due for some regression and sad times. Meanwhile, Parnell is out on rehab as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, and was supposed to be this team's closer, once upon a time. If Familia does falter, Parnell could be the beneficiary.
Brandon Finnegan, RP, KAN (1 percent)
It's a testament to the Kansas City defense, bullpen and hot offense to start the season that the Royals still have among the best records in baseball despite that starting rotation. Edinson Volquez and Chris Young have been very successful (somehow), Yordano Ventura has been fun if inconsistent, and Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy have been better-off-absent. If the Royals really want to make this post-World Series run last, something has to change in the starting rotation. The first domino to fall, then, is Finnegan, who is back in Triple-A working again as a starter. It'll be a while before he gets to the point where he can start even occasionally in the big leagues, but unless the Royals can make a trade, there will be a job waiting for Finnegan if and when he's ready for it.