MLB Stock Watch: Chris Paddack, Tim Anderson among fantasy's biggest steals

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/san-diego/" data-ylk="slk:San Diego Padres">San Diego Padres</a> pitcher <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10575/" data-ylk="slk:Chris Paddack">Chris Paddack</a> is likely to see some regression, but he's been among baseball's best starters so far this season. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Paddack is likely to see some regression, but he's been among baseball's best starters so far this season. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

STOCK UP

Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres

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Increasingly hyped leading up to the season, Paddack has exceeded expectations through the first seven starts of his career, recording a 1.55 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP with 46 strikeouts over 40.2 innings. He’s had a home-heavy schedule (0.55 WHIP at home this season!), but the righty will continue to benefit from Petco Park (and the Padres’ strong defense) moving forward. It’s obvious to call for regression, as few pitchers can finish with these video game numbers, let alone rookies, but this is still remarkable stuff.

Paddack’s 2.30 FIP ranks fourth-best among starters, and his 13.0 SwStr% is top-20, while his wOBA allowed (.179) is in the top 1% of the league. Already sporting one of the best fastball/changeup combos in baseball, Paddack will be treated carefully and have his innings limited, but he’s pitched like arguably the league’s best when out there and has returned top-15 overall fantasy value. In a year with offense up, Paddack has been a revelation, and it’s nice to see San Diego rewarded for not worrying about his service time.

Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox

He was caught stealing for the first time all season Sunday, but Anderson added another three hits and a homer, giving him a .331-25-8-24-12 line that’s made him a top-five fantasy player in 2019. His defense has taken a step back this season, and his BB% (4.0) is in the bottom 5% of the league, but fantasy owners certainly aren’t complaining. Anderson has decreased his K% every year he’s been in the league, and his exit velocity (88.5 mph) is a career-best and above the league average (87.4 mph), and the White Sox are running wild (third-most steals in MLB). Few if any players have been bigger draft day profits so far.

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Michael Brantley, Houston Astros

Teammate George Springer is coming off a 5-for-5 with two homers game and is off to a terrific start to the season, but Brantley was cheaper during drafts and has been nearly as good to open 2019. He’ll always carry injury concerns (he’s played in 150 games just twice in his career), but it’s impressive Brantley is having a career-best season (161 wRC+) after moving from a hitter’s park to a pitcher’s venue. And the counting stats should certainly be there while hitting cleanup in baseball’s best lineup (and Minute Maid Park has played more hitter-friendly so far in 2019, for what it’s worth). The 31-year-old has even hit lefties well (.889 OPS), and his ADP was outside 120 in Yahoo leagues.

James McCann, Chicago White Sox

After another six hits over the weekend, McCann is one of the hottest players in baseball, and he’s suddenly up to a 1.028 OPS on the year. He had a .581 OPS last season and currently owns a .476 BABIP, so it’s safe to bet on him returning to earth soon, but he’s been starting over the struggling Welington Castillo regularly. The catcher position is so weak, McCann has been the No. 6 ranked fantasy backstop despite a modest 89 at bats this year (two other undrafted players - Omar Narvaez and Mitch Garver - appear ahead of him on the top catchers’ list). McCann is still available in nearly 60% of leagues, and he’s been moved to the fifth spot in Chicago’s lineup lately.

Gio Urshela, New York Yankees

While the Yankees keep dealing with injuries, Urshela keeps finding himself in the team’s lineup (he was even batting third Sunday). Urshela isn’t a big prospect, but the 27-year-old is playing extremely well, sporting a .328 expected batting average that’s in the top 3% of the league. Urshela is both SS and 3B eligible, gets to benefit from a huge hitter’s park and is still available in more than 85% of leagues. The Yankees’ health problems might never go away this season.

Luke Jackson, Atlanta Braves

It appears he’s emerged as the favorite for saves in Atlanta, especially after A.J. Minter was optioned to Triple-A. Jackson is throwing nearly 1.5 mph harder this season (95.7 mph) compared to last, and he’s sporting a career-high 13.3 SwStr%. He recorded two saves over Friday and Sunday (with lefty Jonny Venters recording a one-out save in between) and is up to 24 strikeouts over 20.0 innings on the season. Jackson is still out there in more than 50% of leagues.

STOCK DOWN

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

He struck out four times Sunday and is now hitting .206/.325/.338 on the year. Votto has gotten off to poor starts only to turn it around before in his career, but then again, he also had never popped out to first base until this season. A move to the leadoff spot hasn’t jumpstarted Votto, who owns a career-worst 24.4 K% and a -0.3 WAR. He’s increased his launch angle unlike ever before (up to 16.7 degrees from his career mark of 12.7), which might not be working for the 35-year-old. Once one of the best hitters in the game, Votto has looked utterly lost against southpaws, posting a .133/.257/.200 line. His decline phase might be fast and steep.

Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers

He’s already spent time on the IL and is batting an ugly .137 on the year. Odor’s strikeouts are way up (career-high 38.1 K%), and it’s no surprise his xwOBA (.238) is in the bottom 2% of the league. Odor plays in a terrific hitter’s park and has an enticing power/speed combo, but he’s also one season removed from batting .204, is now 15-for-30 on SB attempts since the start of last season and remains injury prone. Odor is going to bounce back, but he’s been truly brutal so far.

Collin McHugh, Houston Astros

He had a 1.96 ERA with a 0.83 WHIP after four starts, but then proceeded to allow 24 earned runs over his next four starts (18.0 innings), leading to a move to the bullpen. McHugh has 44 strikeouts over 42.2 innings, but he’s served up nine homers over that span as well. With his velocity down some after moving back into the rotation, his return to the pen may not be temporary, especially with the organization having so many capable replacements (like Corbin Martin). Another downgrade in the Astros’ pitching system belongs to Forrest Whitley, as arguably baseball’s best pitching prospect hasn’t exactly forced his way to the majors, as he currently owns a 10.80 ERA (and 4.91 BB/9) in Triple-A.

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