MLB Stock Watch: Lance McCullers rising, David Price falling

Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers highlights this week’s look at risers and fallers in fantasy baseball. (AP Photo).
Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers highlights this week’s look at risers and fallers in fantasy baseball. (AP Photo).


Lance McCullers: One of the more hyped pitchers entering 2018, McCullers managed to stay healthy yet owned a disappointing 3.82 ERA over his first 16 starts this season. He’s lowered that nearly a full half run over his last two outings, when he’s flashed a 19:2 K:BB ratio while embarrassing hitters. He’s benefited from an extremely favorable schedule of late (@KC, KC, @TB, CWS), and durability remains in question with McCullers, but he’s lived up to the hype while flashing a ridiculous curveball that’s produced a 17.5 SwStr% this season. Barring health, McCullers is here to stay as one of the game’s top hurlers.

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Starlin Castro: A mediocre first season in Miami suddenly looks better after Castro’s hot last two weeks, when he’s hit .464/.516/.661 with three homers and a steal over 56 at bats. Castro has multiple hits in six of his past seven games and has essentially matched last year’s production at the plate with the Yankees (110 wRC+) this season (107 wRC+) while playing far better defense. Castro is increasing his trade value, and while a move would likely result in a less prime spot in the order, it would likely still improve his fantasy value getting out of Miami’s weak lineup and extreme pitcher’s park.

Nathan Eovaldi: He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning Sunday (he was later pulled after just 79 pitches in a lopsided game) and sports a 0.95 ERA with a 23:3 K:BB ratio over his last three starts (19.0 innings). Through eight outings after returning from Tommy John surgery, Eovaldi owns a stellar 0.81 WHIP, and his 21.0 K-BB% would rank top-15 among starters if he qualified. He’s throwing as hard as ever (97.0 mph), has a career-high 10.4 SwStr% and yet remains owned in just 38 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Shin-soo Choo: He broke the Rangers record Sunday by reaching base safely in his 47th straight game and is hitting .355/.470/.655 over his past 110 at bats. Choo is about to turn 36 years old yet is up to 17 homers this season after recording 22 in 200+ more at bats in 2017. He ranks top-20 in wRC+ (146), Barrel% (13.1) and xwOBA (.405), so Choo has been one of draft day’s biggest bargains so far. Only Coors Field has boosted batting average more than the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington over the last three years.

Billy Hamilton: He racked up seven hits over the weekend in Chicago while swiping five bases over the last two games. Hamilton has been a bust this year (.231/.313/.315), but he’s starting to run wild (attempting seven stolen bases over the last five games), and his strong defense has kept his bat in the lineup. Hamilton remains one of the fastest players in baseball, and while his Ks are up, his BB% (10.4) is easily a career best, so he’s at least making incremental improvements. Hamilton averaged 57.5 steals over the previous four seasons (while averaging fewer than 500 bats and with a lesser OBP than he sports right now) and has hit .375 over the past 20 games, so any window to buy low is closing.


David Price: He didn’t last five innings during his last start in Kansas City against a team with the worst wRC+ (80) in baseball and has now served up a whopping six home runs over his last two starts. Price’s 101:34 K:BB ratio this season is fine, but his 4.33 FIP that nearly matches his ERA suggests he hasn’t been unlucky, and his velocity (92.8 mph) has been a career low. His nine wins have helped fantasy owners, but those expecting a big bounce back from Price are left with a pitcher who’s unlikely to ever again resemble his past self.

Cole Hamels: Like Price, Hamels has solid peripherals (106:39 K:BB ratio) to go with poor cosmetic stats (4.28 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) thanks to allowing too many homers (21). Hamels has also struggled mightily of late, giving up 14 runs (10 earned) over his last two starts, failing to get out of the first inning during his last outing in Detroit against a weak Tigers offense. Poor defense let him down that game, and Hamels’ fantasy value could improve if he’s traded as rumored, but he’s currently in the wrong park to pitch with diminished stuff. Only seven starters have a worse FIP than Hamels’ 5.14.

George Springer: He certainly hasn’t been a disaster for fantasy owners, thanks in part to his situation, but Springer’s .758 OPS is no doubt a disappointment. He’s already recorded more steals (six) this year than last (five), but his Hard Hit% (37.7) is a career low, so Springer’s .276 BABIP isn’t necessarily a product of just bad luck. He should bounce back and qualifies as something of a buy-low candidate, but his first half hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

Trey Mancini: Mancini has followed up a pleasantly surprising rookie campaign by hitting .224/.297/.369. He’s walking more this season but is hitting more ground balls with a noticeably lower launch angle, and the Orioles have recently moved him down to eighth in their lineup. Mancini owns an ugly .690 OPS this season at home, where Camden Yards ranks No. 3 among parks increasing homers for righties over the last three seasons.

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