Owners who want to make aggressive moves on the pitching market will find a handful of options this week. Additionally, this is a great time for owners to make bold moves with some of the recently promoted prospects.
Kenta Maeda, SP/RP, Dodgers
Maeda was trending in the right direction before landing on the disabled list with a thigh injury. And in short, I don’t believe there is much wrong with him. The Dodgers are famous for using the 10-day IL as a way of building in rest for their delicate hurlers, and this trip by Maeda could be for the slightest of ailments. Wise owners will try to pick him up cheap from a competitor who has little room to stash another injured player.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Red Sox
Both situationally and overall, Rodriguez has been one of the unluckiest starters in baseball this season. The southpaw has controlled the strike zone (3.5 K:BB ratio) but a .364 BABIP and a 65.3 percent strand rate have resulted in a 4.89 ERA that varies greatly from his 2.97 FIP and 3.54 xFIP. He can likely be added for a minimal cost in all mixed leagues right now.
Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets
Like Rodriguez, Wheeler has been burned by bad luck in multiple ways. His .355 BABIP is among the highest in baseball, and his 67.2 percent strand rate is also an artificially bad mark. While the right-hander could stand to improve his 8.6 percent walk rate, his 26.2 percent whiff rate is a stellar mark and he is among baseball’s best at limiting hard contact (28.9 percent). Wheeler’s 2.86 FIP paints a rosy picture of someone who should soon improve.
Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees
Hicks has been quiet (.188/.278/.375 slash line) since returning from a season-opening IL stint on May 15. His slow start keeps the buy-low window open for someone who has massive potential (27 homers, 11 steals in 581 plate appearances in 2018) once he gets on track. Owners with room to acquire and stash Hicks right now could have an impact player once he gets rolling and is joined by superstar sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
Travis Shaw, 1B/2B/3B, Brewers
This is more of a deep-league tip, as Shaw can be dropped in the shallowest formats. The 29 year old has virtually zero fantasy buzz right now, batting just .163 with four homers before landing on the IL with a wrist injury. The subsequent promotion of prospect Keston Hiura has caused the fantasy world to write off Shaw, but there is a chance that Hiura could flop in his Major League debut. Having produced 63 homers across 2017-18, Shaw has the potential to turn his season around.
Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
The top fantasy starter this season, Verlander is a little over his skis right now. His year-over-year BABIP has dropped more than 100 points to .171, and his 96.0 percent strand rate is far from a sustainable mark. The veteran remains a mixed-league ace, but his 3.86 FIP is a strong indicator that we will soon see significant movement on his 2.38 ERA. This could be a good time for owners to sell him for a king’s ransom.
Christian Vazquez, C, Red Sox
Vazquez owners can certainly sell him on the trade market as an up-and-coming player who hits in a talented lineup and occupies the most coveted fantasy position. But the truth is that his batted-ball data is mostly unchanged from previous seasons and major jumps in luck (.337 BABIP, 17.6 percent HR/FB rate) have spurred on his recent success.
Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers
Hiura is mostly here as a placeholder for all the recently promoted prospects. Fantasy owners have a strong tendency to go bananas for hyped rookies, and the buzz is out of control after the likes of Hiura, Austin Riley and Brenden Rodgers were all added to Major League rosters in the span of a few days. Those who were fortunate enough to pluck one of these potential gems off the waiver wire may want to cash out now, as some of these future studs are going to have rocky beginnings.
Joey Gallo, 1B/OF, Rangers
Some fantasy owners will see Gallo’s .277 average and believe that he has gone from power source to all-around stud. But he has made no improvements on his strikeout rate, and even though his batted-ball data has improved, he likely can’t sustain a .388 BABIP. Additionally, his 41.9 percent HR/FB rate will likely normalize in the coming weeks. Gallo is good, but he is perhaps not as good as his potential trade return.
Michael Brantley, OF, Astros
As a hitter, I love Brantley. But as a fantasy asset, he is likely due for some regression in the power department. The veteran owns a 17.9 percent HR/FB rate, which is much higher than his career mark and doesn’t reflect someone with little change in batted-ball data who relocated in the offseason to a tough park for power hitters. Additionally, there are lingering injury concerns for a 32 year old who has logged more than his fair share of career DL stints.