MLB Stock Watch: Aaron Hicks and Justin Bour on the rise

STOCK UP

Aaron Hicks: Here’s arguably the biggest breakout player through two months of the season. Hicks went undrafted and was an afterthought in virtually all leagues entering the year, but he’s on pace to finish with a .323-90-25-94-22 line (and a 1.023 OPS). The switch-hitter is 27 years old and a former top-15 overall pick, so we shouldn’t write this off as some fluke. Hicks’ 173 wRC+ ranks No. 6 in baseball, just barely behind Bryce Harper (179). And Hicks plays good defense and is a solid base runner. He’s hitting in a lineup that’s scored the fourth-most runs in baseball and in a home park that’s increased homers by 35 percent over the past three seasons, which is easily the most over that span. Hicks is absurdly still available in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues right now.

Justin Bour: He’s hitting .292/.368/.589 with more homers (16) this season than he hit all of last year in 95 fewer at-bats. Bour has increased his OPS every season in which he’s been in the league, and he was readily available late in most drafts in March, yet he’s on pace to finish with 49 home runs and 116 RBIs. His 147 wRC+ is tied for 20th best in baseball with Kris Bryant, and his average exit velocity ranks in the top 10. He’s a legit slugger who’s somehow still available in more than 30 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Domingo Santana: He’s posted some impressive minor league numbers in the past, but Santana disappointed last season, and he’s an injury risk moving forward. But this is a 24-year-old who has nine homers, four steals and an .842 OPS who’s available in 58 percent of leagues. He’s been the No. 91 overall player so far in 2017, and this is after he hit .197 in April (he hit .322 in May). Miller Park has increased home runs for right-handed batters by 11 percent over the past three seasons, with just five parks coming in higher over that span. Santana should be owned in all leagues.

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Elvis Andrus: Since May started, he’s batting .316/.367/.496 with four homers and seven steals over 117 at-bats. Andrus set a career high with eight homers over 506 at-bats last season. He currently has seven big flies over 215 at bats. He’s the No. 27-ranked player right now, and that’s not even taking into account the position in which he’s eligible.

Dinelson Lamet: He’s the Padres’ best pitching prospect, and while Petco Park isn’t exactly the paradise it used to be for hurlers, it’s still an advantageous place to pitch, as is the NL West. Lamet may struggle with getting lefties out, but he sports a 16:3 K:BB ratio over two starts (10.0 innings), making him plenty noteworthy. He’s averaged 95.4 mph with his fastball and has induced a 15.1 SwStr% that would rank No. 5 among all starters if he qualified. It’s a small sample, but Lamet is worth adding given his stuff and situation and how many starting pitchers have disappointed so far in 2017.

STOCK DOWN

Andrew McCutchen: The former MVP winner is coming off a disappointing season and has arguably been even worse in 2017. Here are his slugging percentages over the past four seasons, respectively: .542, .488, .430, .403. That’s not a good trend, especially for someone in the prime of his career. McCutchen isn’t this bad, as he’s clearly dealt with some bad luck – his current .243 BABIP is well below his career mark (.328), but he’s recently been moved to No. 6 in a lineup that’s scored more runs than only a handful of teams in baseball this year. McCutchen’s “slump” has extended so long now, it’s safe to question whether he’ll ever be the hitter he once was again.

Albert Pujols: He’s somehow on pace to finish with 23 homers and 108 RBIs despite a .698 OPS. Yes, that’s 108 RBIs with a sub-.700 OPS, which is unprecedented. Pujols is a Hall of Famer who just surpassed Babe Ruth on the all-time hit list and is one homer away from No. 600, but it’s clear his recent fantasy value has very much been tied to hitting directly behind Mike Trout (and his .461 OBP), something that will no longer happen for about the next eight weeks. Pujols is batting .229/.264/.381 with the bases empty this season.

Carlos Gonzalez: What’s up with CarGo? I worried about him getting traded and/or getting hurt entering the year. But he’s stayed healthy and with the Rockies (with the Coors Field benefit) and is hitting .240/.312/.365. All three of those (BA, OBP, SLG) are career lows, and after stealing at least 20 bags over four seasons from 2010-13, he’s attempted just one steal in 2017. Gonzalez will be better (and might be an interesting buy-low candidate right now), but it’s crazy he sports a .674 OPS while at home at Coors Field entering June.

Yasiel Puig: I keep waiting for him to improve but instead it’s been the opposite: here are his OPS marks since entering the league, respectively: .925, .863, .758, .740, .720. That trend makes McCutchen’s look bland. Puig has a cannon for an arm, and it’s tough to write off someone his age based on what he’s done in the past, but Puig is going to be a bench player once the Dodgers get healthy (Cody Bellinger is so legit).

Todd Frazier: It’s fine to hit .247 (Frazier’s career BA) when you add 35+ homers. But Frazier is hitting .184 after he finished with a .225 BA last season. Frazier entered the year as a top-70 fantasy pick, but he’s currently the No. 422 player. And this is with him hitting in U.S. Cellular Field, which has increased home runs for right-handers more than any other AL park other than Yankee Stadium over the past three seasons.

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