I've often heard anti-fantasy baseball thought phrased as "I just don't want to devote the time to it." To a point, I get it. For fantasy football, you set your lineup once a week, you maybe visit the waiver wire twice. For guys who play in passing, you can finish your weekly fantasy football prep in, what, half an hour a week?
Baseball, obviously, is different. (First off, leagues with weekly lineups are anachronisms in 2015, a call back to a time when fantasy lineups were set by over-the-ground mail and stats were compiled by newspaper. Just be in a daily lineup league, people.) You're setting a lineup every day, and while sure, Josh Donaldson will be in your lineup against every pitcher in every game, there are often a lot more variables to consider.
I've always argued against those fantasy-baseball-takes-too-long people by telling them my daily routine. In the morning, I wake up. After the necessaries (bathroom stuff, you know how it is), I give myself five minutes on the computer to set lineups. I have four leagues that are daily, and five minutes isn't long, so I literally just click through each team and make sure I have active position players on offense and all my starting pitchers are active. It's quick, but largely effective — I'm in first in two of my four leagues, second in a third, and was doing far better in the fourth before my team apparently contracted scurvy and all went on the DL.
From there, most morning transition into a run, then a shower and a trip to work. Now, I'm a nerd, so I will usually carve out some time later in the day to dive in deeper on my lineups, checking matchups, day-to-day injuries, reliever trends, all that. So yeah, my initial description means barely over half an hour a week, but ultimately, I spend way more than that, at least on most day.
Like I said, though, I'm a nerd. If you have someone who eschews fantasy baseball because it takes too long, tell them the first part of my story. Five minutes a day for four rosters. If you have one, two teams, you can spend 10 minutes a week and still be fine. Maybe not perfect, but perfectly competitive.
Then, the question becomes how to make the most of your few minutes a day. I've long been on record as seriously advocating guys with multi-position eligibility. I'm not drafting Ben Zobrist over Nolan Arenado early because Zobrist can play a lot of places, but on the back end of a roster, guys like Danny Espinosa and Odubel Herrera are interesting. Chris Davis was likely going to have a power comeback this year, and I liked that, but I drafted him even higher because he was eligible at third base, and since he's added outfield as well.
That one team I mentioned earlier, the one where half my team apparently died a while back? I'm sitting on Billy Hamilton, Dustin Pedroia, Hunter Pence, George Springer, Denard Span, Michael Pineda and Clay Buchholz in that league. I've dropped Jorge Soler and Jake McGee in recent weeks. Still, though, six teams make the playoffs, and even with my slide, I'm only a couple games out of sixth. I'm definitely in the running. And all the multi-position guys I listed above? Espinosa, Herrera, Davis, Zobrist? They're all on my roster.
You want to get away with spending only a few minutes a day on your fantasy team? Load up on those guys, because all you have to do is move them to where they fit in, and it can save loads of minutes each day.
And as I wrote this, I realized I'm kind of dumb. The last few weeks, The Ticker has featured all sorts of multi-position guys. Davis, Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Vogt, Todd Frazier and Scott Van Slyke have all been included in the last two weeks, and writing about multi-position guys in a week where I discuss a lot of multi-position guys would have made all the sense.
Well, this week there is exactly one position player with multiple eligibility. This is because I don't plan well. Regardless, the point holds. Which brings us to The Ticker proper. As always, stats are through Monday; ownership percentages are as of Tuesday afternoon.
(The players' values are at or near their low points, and you might be able to get them for cheap)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, TOR (99 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Lost in the "OMG the Blue Jays are the best team ever" talk since Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, LaTroy Hawkins and probably Drake joined the team is that Tulowitzki ... hasn't actually done much of anything. Price has been good, and lord knows the 2-3-4 of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have been insane, but in 22 games with the Blue Jays, Tulowitzki has hit .218/.327/.368. Of course, we need look only a couple months back, when he was hitting .266 with a .286 on-base percentage near the end of May, to know that Tulowitzki is going to be fine. It's a slow start for Toronto, but there's little long-term concern.
Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA (99 percent)
In his last five starts, Hernandez is 2-3, which, you know, whatever, it's passable. He also has an 8.48 ERA, has allowed 55 baserunners in 28.2 innings, and has allowed a 1.009 OPS. That's less good. Before this stretch, he had a 2.69 ERA on the season. In the stretch, his BABIP has been a ridiculous .459. Check out his FanGraphs game log and see that his left-on-base percentage has plummeted. And then check his monthly splitss and see that the balls are being hit with more or less the same authority as his successful months, and he's throwing strikes at the same rate, and ... well, everything looks fine. Felix is still Felix.
(Just because a guy is at or near peak value doesn't mean he has to regress. These are guys who are exceeding expectations, but I can see it continuing)
Jean Segura, SS, MIL (40 percent)
I feel like my fate as a fantasy writer is forever intertwined with Segura, who I have been both against and for and have defended both stances adamantly (and simultaneously, as it turns out). The thing is, Segura as an entity has never really changed. His strong first half of 2013 colored our impressions of him, which is why he went into 2014 as a popular pick and entered this year as a roadside piece of garbage (you know, perception-wise). Interestingly, his OPS over the second half of 2013 was .609, it was .614 in 2014, and it sits at .610 this year. He is this guy at this point. So why am I recommending him? Because he already has 20 steals this year, and will end the year with, what, 30? A .260-something average isn't great, but it's serviceable in this offensive era. So no, his current decent stretch of an average above .300 over the last couple weeks isn't who he is, but the hate has gone too far on Segura. As a middle-infield option, he's fine. Not great, but worth an investment for those who need steals.
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, MIA (28 percent)
You know how, when you're taking a multiple-choice math test, and you don't know the answer, you solve the problem as best you can, and if the answer you come up with aligns with one of the choices, even if you aren't sure you did it right, you choose that one? So, when I first came up with Equivalent Fantasy Average, I liked it, but I wasn't really sure about it. The stars finished well, but I expected that. So I scrolled to the bottom. And in my first attempt at the metric, Hechavarria finished last. "Aha!" I said. "Surely I have made a perfect thing!" Because back then, Hechavarria was (mean word coming) terrrrrrrrrible. He's not exactly great now, but dude has become a .280-something hitter, has almost doubled his career home run total entering the season, and will blow past his career highs in runs and RBI. He's not special. But he's no longer the answer to my multiple-choice test, and if you're scrounging, he's helpful.
(Sure, these guys have been great, but this is the time to cash in your chips)
Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE (28 percent)
Lindor is on a crazy hot streak. His slash line sat at .251/.284/.369 August 4, but he started eating Wheaties that day or something, because in 18 games since, he's hit .420/.456/.565. That's, you know, really good. But dude is 21, and is currently hitting better than he did at pretty much any stop in the minors. He's supposed to be a big star, but not, like, a fantasy star. He's a decent bat with an outstanding glove, not a new Alex Rodriguez. In this year of superstar rookie prospects, someone will see what Lindor is doing and say "Ooooh, Carlos Correa." Make that person a trade offer.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET (19 percent)
Castellanos has raised his OPS almost 40 points in the last week, the first time since late April it had sneaked above .700. That was almost entirely on the backs of a 4-for-5 game against the White Sox in which Castellanos homered twice, doubled twice and drove in five runs. Outside of that game, he has one home run and one double since July 26, five RBI since August 1, and really no reason to get excited. Castellanos is still only 23, and he might reach the potential many saw for him down the road, but at this point, he's more than a thousand games into a career with a 95 OPS+. He's a below-average hitter at a position where you have to have someone above.
(Yeah, their current values might not be at peak, but frankly, I think lower is more likely than higher; get out if you can)
Scott Kazmir, SP, HOU (91 percent)
A year ago, Kazmir, then 30, made his first All-Star team since 2008. He had a 2.38 ERA in the first, with an 11-3 record and a WHIP of 0.98. Then in the second half, he ... well, he struggled. He was 4-6 with a 5.42 ERA and a 1.45 ERA over the second half of 2014. This year, he didn't make the All-Star team, but he did finish July with a 2.10 ERA, a 6-5 record and a WHIP of 1.04. His August numbers have suffered, though, with an ERA of close to 4 and a WHIP of 1.59. And now, he doesn't have Oakland's home ballpark to fall back on. A wearing-down Kazmir pitching his home games in Houston isn't anything I want to partake of.
Torii Hunter, OF, MIN (61 percent)
Okay, I'm going to set aside the fact that Hunter is, guys convicted of certain things aside, far and away my least favorite current ballplayer, and look at the numbers. Dude is 40 as of mid-July. He is on pace for career lows in every slash number but slugging percentage, and even that is within range. His wheels are gone, the offense around him peaked earlier this season (Miguel Sano notwithstanding) and since the start of July, he's hit .164/.222/.307. There is no reason Hunter should be owned in anything but super-deep AL-only leagues. If you can get anything for him, get it and laugh at the poor sap who paid up. He's 61 percent owned? Who are you crazy people?
(No matter what trade you might come up with for these guys, it won't be fair)
Pedro Alvarez, 1B/3B, PIT (63 percent)
I'm not even sure how to confirm this statistically, but I will posit that there is no streakier hitter in baseball than Alvarez, who will follow up a .100/.200/.300 stretch with one where he somehow hits seven home runs in four plate appearances. Here's the thing, though: No matter who the hot or cold hitter is, no matter how much we want to say a hot streak is indicative of a future hot streak, the truth is that we have no idea when a hot streak will end or when it will continue (Chris Davis has struck out 16 times in 31 at bats since the peak of his recent hot streak). If you trade away Alvarez, you might see him hit lights out through the rest of the season. If you trade for him, he might immediately go 0-for-his-next-20. Leave him where he is and let the streak be the streak.
Shelby Miller, SP, ATL (89 percent)
Somewhat famously, Miller hasn't won since May 17, a stretch of 17 starts that has seen his record go from 5-1 to 5-10. The obvious blame goes to the Atlanta offense, which has provided Miller about a run and a half over the last three months. While his numbers have slipped as well — his ERA was 1.33 at the start of the stretch and is 2.50 now — that's hardly enough to make Miller undesirable. Here's the thing, though: The gambler's fallacy means that there's no reason Miller is due for a win, and that Atlanta offense still isn't any great shakes. So it's likely as anything Miller keeps pitching well the rest of the way, but keeps struggling to win. What does that mean for fantasy? Well, ultimately it means his helpfulness has a cap, as the win potential is lagging. I don't know how you conceive of a reasonable trade offer for a guy like that.
(Low-owned guys who have low value now, but might burst onto the scene from wherever they are in the next little while)
Marcus Stroman, SP/RP, TOR (11 percent)
I have resisted using Stroman in this space for a few weeks now, because dude tore his ACL five months ago. Like, legitimately, there are women who had already celebrated their pregnancy when he tore his ACL who are still only sorta showing now. He's supposed to still be on crutches, watching his favorite sport and being sad. Instead, he threw a simulated game Monday, and could be going on a rehab assignment in the next week. This doesn't make any sense at all. But if Stroman can make it all the way back this year — especially if it's as a starter — I'm adding him just for sheer gumption.
Adam Warren, SP/RP, NYY (5 percent)
With CC Sabathia hitting the DL, there is one fewer obstacle standing between Warren and a spot back in the Yankees' rotation. He has been by some measures the Yankees' best starter this year, but contracts and experience relegated Warren to the bullpen in late June. The impending return of Michael Pineda means Warren isn't moving back to the rotation yet, if at all, but that's hardly a known-for-its-health New York rotation; Warren will be a starter again before all is said and done.
(Handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, SEA (10 percent)
I was surprised when the Mariners designated Fernando Rodney for assignment the other day, not because Rodney has been good — he hasn't — but because Carson Smith's hot start to the season is really only a memory at this point; his ERA has climbed steadily over the last two months, going from 1.45 at the end of June to 3.08 now. His August WHIP is over 1.50, he's blown three of his last seven save chances, and he took losses in three straight outings in late July/early August. Wilhelmsen, who served as the Seattle closer during big chunks of 2012 and 2013, got the chance Sunday, and while the team hasn't actually made a move yet, further struggles from Smith could make it happen.
Steve Geltz, RP, TAM (2 percent)
As I noted Monday, since being named an All-Star, Brad Boxberger has a 4.96 ERA, with peripherals to match. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, though, Jake McGee is done for the year on the DL, and Kevin Jepsen has moved on to Minnesota. That means the next-most saves on the Rays' roster is two, shared by Geltz, Ernesto Frieri and Matt Andriese. Well, Frieri is in the minor leagues, and Andriese is a starter/long reliever whose two saves come in three-plus-inning outings. Basically, if the Rays move on from Boxberger, or if they discover he's been pitching hurt, Geltz is the only real candidate to fill in.