MLB Stock Watch: Rafael Devers rising, Eric Hosmer falling
Rafael Devers: He hasn’t been particularly good this year, as his 92 wRC+ ranks No. 120, just one spot ahead of Albert Pujols. But Devers has been a top-65 fantasy hitter anyway, thanks to hitting in Boston’s lineup and home park. Put differently, he’s on pace to finish with 27 homers and 90 RBI despite a .732 OPS while batting low in the order. There’s certainly no shame in a 21-year-old merely holding their own at the major league level, and Devers’ bat is coming to life of late, including a 5-for-5 performance (with a first inning opposite field grand slam) over the weekend in Yankee Stadium. Devers has noticeably increased his launch angle this season (it’s gone from 7.7 degrees as a rookie to 11.9. League average = 10.8), and his exit velocity (92.0 mph) ranks top-15 in MLB, so his fantasy value should only continue to increase. The third baseman is also quietly 8-for-10 on SB attempts over the first 140 games of his career.
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Aaron Hicks: He blasted three homers Sunday night in primetime against the Red Sox, and yet Hicks is still available in more than 45 percent of leagues. Since last season, he’s now up to 29 homers, 93 runs scored, 90 RBI and 16 steals over 530 at bats. The switch-hitter has been batting leadoff in New York’s lineup that sports an MLB-high 115 wRC+ and in a home park that’s boosted home runs an MLB-high 31 percent over the last three seasons. Hicks is good defensively and as a base runner, making him one of the more underrated players both in MLB and fantasy.
Max Fried: He struck out 11 Cardinals over 6.2 scoreless innings in St. Louis during his last start, putting him back on the fantasy radar. Fried still needs to improve his control, but he was once thought of as a top prospect and may finally be healthy again (he had Tommy John in 2015 and missed the first half of last season with recurring blisters), as the lefty flashes an intriguing fastball/curve combo that made him a top-10 pick in the 2012 draft. Fried sports a 12.3 SwStr% this season with Atlanta, should have an audition for a rotation spot with Brandon McCarthy on the DL and is widely available (96%) in Yahoo leagues.
Alex Bregman: He’s been on a tear of late, hitting .464 with five homers, 10 RBI and two steals over the past week. In fact, over the last month, Bregman has 11 long balls and 30 RBI while ranking as the No. 2 fantasy player (Paul Goldschmidt is first over the last 30 days), and that’s not factoring in the advantage of being 3B/SS eligible. Bregman is 24 years old and owns a top-15 xwOBA (.414), sandwiched directly between Jose Ramirez and Aaron Judge. Despite a slow start, Bregman certainly hasn’t disappointed fantasy owners this season.
Joe Jimenez: The Tigers wanted Shane Greene to rack up as many saves as possible before trading him at the deadline and may have overworked their closer (he hasn’t been the same since working four straight days a couple of weeks back) as a result, as he landed on the DL with a right shoulder strain. Enter Jimenez, who hasn’t been sharp lately but owns a 2.93 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 45 strikeouts over 40.0 innings and looks like the favorite to now close in Detroit. Jimenez blew an opportunity Monday (walking three batters dealing with a tight strike zone) but ended up recording a victory when the Tigers won in the 10th. Jimenez throws hard (95.5 mph) and is still available in more than 75 percent of leagues.
Eric Hosmer: His first season in San Diego hasn’t exactly gone well, and he’s been especially cold of late, batting just .213 and ranking as the No. 634 fantasy player over the past 15 days. Hosmer’s season OPS is actually right in line with his career mark, but a poor supporting cast has really hurt his counting stats, and that’s with Petco playing as a hitter’s park over the first half of this season (remarkably, it ranks top-five both in runs and HR in Park Factor), something that we should safely expect to regress. Hosmer’s never projected to be a big home run hitter, but he did hit 25 each of the past two seasons in a tough park for lefty power (Kauffman Stadium has decreased HR for LHB by 15 percent over the last three seasons, the same exact amount as Petco) and is still in the middle of his prime. But any hope for further growth in that department has to be heavily curbed by a 60.0 GB% (third-highest in MLB) thanks to a negative launch angle (-0.1 degrees) that’s been low even for him. It appears Hosmer’s new environment is going to hurt his fantasy value as feared.
Jake Arrieta: He had a 6.16 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP over six June starts, posting an ugly 21:10 K:BB ratio over 30.2 innings. Arrieta has struck out more than five batters in just two of 16 starts this season (this despite Citizens Bank Park increasing strikeouts an MLB-high nine percent over the last three seasons), and his SwStr% (7.2) ranks No. 85 among starters, so Arrieta is trending in the wrong direction.
Daniel Murphy: While it’s no surprise Murphy is off to a slow start coming off major surgery and without a proper spring training, the extent in which he has slumped (.182/.224/.218) while noticeably still looking physically compromised has been alarming. Murphy is coming off serious microfracture surgery, and the knee issues continue to persist, so fantasy owners have to be highly discouraged. Don’t count on the old Murphy returning at the plate until 2019.
Luke Weaver: He now sits with a 5.16 ERA after getting pounded for eight runs during a disastrous recent home start against the Braves. I’ve preached patience with Weaver before, but he’s served up five homers over his last three starts (15.1 innings), and while his velocity has been up this season, his K-BB% has dwindled from 21.8 last season to 12.2 this one. An upcoming start in San Francisco is enticing, but it’s hard to fault fantasy owners for dropping Weaver at this point. It’s safe to say he, Zack Godley (5.07 ERA) and Luis Castillo (5.85) haven’t exactly developed as many expected this season (myself at the head of that line).
Jose Quintana: He has a 13:9 K:BB ratio over his last four starts, hasn’t pitched more than six innings in a game since May 19 and hasn’t gone more than seven innings in a start all season. While Quintana’s schedule hasn’t done him any favors, he’s also very fortunate to have the league’s best defense playing behind him, or his ERA would be even higher. Quintana moved to the NL and has somehow produced career-worsts in BB% (10.7) and FIP (4.50), as he and teammate Yu Darvish (gulp) have been busts.
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