Kevin Pillar and the Giants, stuck in no-man's land

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9490/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Pillar">Kevin Pillar</a> is coming through nicely in San Francisco (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Kevin Pillar is coming through nicely in San Francisco (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Through almost two-thirds of the baseball season, Kevin Pillar is who we thought he was. With that in mind, I’m surprised he isn’t rostered on a few more fantasy clubs.

Maybe it’s Pillar’s 1-for-16 from Toronto that’s gumming up the works. Since Pillar joined the Giants in early April, he’s been a .257/.285/.426 man — almost identical to the line he posted his final two years in Toronto. No, a .285 OBP isn’t a good thing in real baseball. But Pillar’s defense keeps him on the field, and most roto leagues care about average, not OBP. We’d like him on base more, sure, but there’s still value here.

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Let’s talk about what Pillar can do for us — offer category juice. He collected 31 home runs and 29 steals over the last two years, and right now he’s on pace for 20 homers and 13 steals in 2019. It won’t make you forget Jose Canseco or Alfonso Soriano, but it’s useful in today’s game. And the expected Pillar average — his career mark is .259 — certainly isn’t a kill shot in today’s fantasy environment. Heck, in some formats, it might actually improve your bottom line.

The Giants are in a strange place right now, on a 9-1 bender (Thursday’s win took 16 innings) and on the periphery of playoff contention. They’re still a game below .500 and with a minus-37 run differential, we shouldn’t have delusions as to how good this team is. If the Giants have offers to sell pieces for reasonable returns, they should take them. They’re only 2.5 games back in the NL wild card race, but there are five teams ahead of them and a handful very close behind them. I doubt the Giants will be involved in any 2019 playoff games.

With that in mind, I’m still holding a bunch of relievers who set up for Will Smith — the Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta crew. Maybe some of those guys will be shopped too. Maybe Smith won’t be traded — perhaps the right offer won’t show, or the Giants will be seduced by the sirens of this recent run. Heck, Pillar could be one of the trade pieces, too.

In the meantime, let’s say yes to category juice. And let’s be open minded to Pillar ownership in those deeper leagues, especially if they’re not tied to OBP. He currently trades at 18 percent.

Which way on Wade Miley?

I’m always chasing the Astros special sauce, and I want to be pro-Wade Miley, too. He found a way to be successful with Milwaukee last year, despite a pitch-to-contact approach, and he is better with the strikeouts and walks this year. Nonetheless, he’s still carrying around a 3.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t stop and consider how real those things are.

The ERA estimators aren’t on board, that’s for sure. FIP suggests a 4.53 ERA is more realistic, and SIERA is about the same. Maybe Houston’s defense is some of the special sauce, but Miley’s also enjoying a favorable strand rate.

Miley’s control isn’t elite, but it’s strong (2.85 walks per nine innings). He’s improved the strikeout rate, but 7.44/9 is still behind the eight ball in today’s game. His average fastball is a mere 90.4 mph. He’s holding a .241 BABIP, well behind his career mark of .303. His batted-ball profile is similar to last year.

I don’t know that it would be easy to sell high on Miley — given his journeyman career, you might not find an optimistic buyer. But I’d at least try. Throw your entire staff on the theoretical market and see if they land on Miley. You never know until you ask. I’m not projecting a major crash, but an ERA in the low 4s could be on the way.

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Jason Kipnis, still kicking

Has everyone given up on Jason Kipnis? Is that the right play? He’s in an age-32 season, was an All-Star twice this decade. His seasonal numbers don’t look like much, but he’s been swinging much better lately.

Consider the last month of play, where Kipnis is a .303/.366/.528 man, with five homers and a steal. He’s scored 16 runs, knocked in 20. The Tribe has also kicked things into gear, going 17-7 in the last 24 Kipnis games. All of a sudden, the AL Central is a horserace again.

Sometimes Kipnis bats as low as sixth, but cleanup has been his most common slot over this recent binge. And with Jose Ramirez coming around, the Cleveland offense is no longer on the restricted list. Kipnis might not appeal to the shallow-league crowd, but he’s underowned at a mere nine percent.

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