Welcome back! This is the place where I put the kiss of death on Hunter Dozier a week ago. But most of the other picks still look similar. I did put the reverse KOD on Joey Lucchesi, so you’re welcome if you’re a Lucchesi owner. I still really, really like A.J. Minter for the rest of the season. Go add him now. Anyway, let’s hop into this week.
2B/SS/OF Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks (60% owned)
I better hurry up and write this before Marte goes over my self-imposed 60% threshold. After a pair of home runs on Wednesday, expect the ownership levels to continue climbing through the proverbial roof. That positional eligibility is to die for, and Marte is doing some nice things this year. I dig the Statcast changes, as he has made a big jump up to an 11.7 degree launch angle—which is a hair above the MLB average of 11.0 and well above Marte’s career 6.1 degree mark. Marte has always had wheels (28.1 ft/sec sprint speed) but the knock on his game has always been too many ground balls. So far in 2019 he’s trimmed that to a 42.7% rate (career 50.2%) and his fly ball rate is a studly 40.0% (career 29.3%). That’s turned into six dingers already, a number that is backed by career-high marks in pull rate (47.4%) and hard contact (46.1%). Add this man and get his percentage above 70%, please.
SS Jorge Polanco, Twins (54% owned)
Apologies for all the middle infield love, but this ownership level is also too low. Polanco has a better walk rate, strikeout rate, and ISO than one Ketel Marte, who is a more owned commodity. He’s slashing a robust .366/.424/.695 with five dingers already. Polanco hardly ever puts the ball on the ground, with a measly 17.9% ground ball rate so far. He has an epic 28.4% line drive rate and an eye-popping 53.7% fly ball rate. With above-average contact rates and adequate speed, Polanco has the ability to be a 15/15 player this season. The steals will come. There aren’t 12 shortstops better than Polanco in fantasy baseball...add this man already.
3B Michael Chavis, Red Sox (11% owned)
Chavis has burst onto the fantasy baseball scene, and so far he’s hitting seventh for the sluggish Red Sox offense...but that might change if he keeps it up. He has a pair of homers and a steal over his last three appearances, as well as an encouraging four walks against six strikeouts. Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia shouldn’t worry you. Add Chavis if you need the corner infield help.
Other guys on the upswing: Mike Soroka, Luke Weaver, Matt Strahm, A.J. Minter, Yandy Diaz, Renato Nunez, Jorge Soler, Dwight Smith, Jr., Carter Kieboom, Rowdy Tellez
3B/OF Kris Bryant, Cubs (99% owned)
Bryant’s walk and strikeout rates are just fine, but the .138 ISO (one homer so far) is concerning. Is last year’s shoulder issue more of a hindrance than we thought? Bryant’s exit velocity (35th percentile) and hard hit rate (20th percentile) are well below average, as is his xBA (32nd percentile). He has a career-high 39.3% ground ball rate, and he’s making more “medium” contact than ever. In short, while his average exit velocity has rebounded a bit from last year, he’s still not barreling the ball like he was before. I’m not completely wigging out just yet, but this cold spell is a bit concerning. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can see Bryant bust out a bit more.
1B/2B/3B Travis Shaw, Brewers (74% owned)
This pains me. Shaw is the player I drafted the most in 2019. But he is torpedoing some of my squads. The 8.4% walk rate is tolerable, but the 33.7% strikeout rate is hamstringing most of my fake teams. I can’t tell you that Shaw is injured, but I can tell you that his swinging strike rate and contact rates are very unlike him so far in 2019. Shaw has a career 9.5% swinging strike rate, but this year he’s at 14.9%. 75.7% is the current average for contact in the MLB, and Shaw sits at 66.5% so far this year—while having a career contact rate of 79.2%. In short, not only is he not himself, he’s also far worse than average right now. There’s nothing amiss in his batted ball profile, as his fly ball and hard contact rates are steady. So he’ll still offer you some pop when he does make contact. But enduring another cold spell like this one is going to make me question retaining his services. Get better soon, Shaw.
SP Michael Pineda, Twins (20% owned)
The hope for upside has begun to subside for me. Pineda has been erratic and a tease to fantasy owners for most of his career, but he was a guy that many took a chance on as a back of the rotation arm this year. So far, the results are not encouraging—with perhaps the root being less slider usage (down to 30.2% in 2019). Perhaps this is by design, as Pineda continues to round into form following Tommy John surgery and missing all of the 2018 season. If his slider usage increases and is as effective as in years past, perhaps Pineda will find himself in the “Three Up” section at some point. Until that time, though, he’s not missing enough bats (10.6% swinging strike rate). He’s also giving up too much hard contact (43.2%) and not generating enough grounders (only a 35.1% ground ball rate). I’m off this train for now if I can find a similar arm with some potential upside.