May has arrived, and with it brings a tidy calendar-driven opportunity to look back on the first month of the season. Cody Bellinger is off to one of the best starts in MLB history. Christian Yelich has picked up right where he left off in 2018. Tim Anderson is breaking out, giving the city of Chicago two of the most exciting shortstops in the game. Justin Verlander continues to defy age. Luis Castillo is becoming an ace.
OK, are we on the same post-April page? Great. Let’s get to this week’s edition of the Stock Ticker.
This column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Mike Trout into an occasional slump or Eric Sogard to look like an MVP candidate for a week or two. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be recalibrated.
This isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates across the fantasy baseball landscape will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Luke Voit, 1B, Yankees
Voit is on an absolute tear, going 13-for-33 with four homers and 10 RBI in his last 40 plate appearances. That hot streak has his season-long slash line up to .275/.392/.523 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 130 trips to the plate. Voit has locked himself into an everyday role that won’t be threatened when the Yankees are back at full strength, though he could move down in the batting order. No matter what, though, he has turned himself into a player who should be owned in all competitive fantasy leagues.
Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
Albies, too, is on a hot streak, going 9-for-26 with four homers in his last 29 plate appearances. His walk rate is up from 5.3% last year to 7.6% in 2019, while he has cut his strikeout rate more than a full percentage point to 15.9%. Albies fell off a cliff last season when his on-base skills abandoned him, resulting in a .305 OBP after a hot start. This year, he’s showing the signs of growth that suggest he can be the player he was last April and May for a full season.
Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins
Power may be available in bunches this season, but players with 40-homer potential are still special breeds. Rosario has 11 jacks in 112 plate appearances, and is on a 162-game pace for 68 homers. He could slow down considerably and still finish the season among the league leaders in bombs. After hitting 51 homers over the last two seasons, Rosario is turning into one of the league’s premier power hitters before our eyes.
Christian Walker, 1B, Diamondbacks
Walker has taken the first base job in Arizona and run with hit, hitting .307/.381/.614 with seven homers, 10 doubles and 15 RBI in 113 plate appearances. Jake Lamb is on schedule to return from his calf strain—he should be going out on a rehab assignment soon—and could rejoin the Diamondbacks in the second or third week of May. When he does return, it’s hard to see Walker’s position being threatened. Arizona has plenty of defensive versatility, so Torey Lovullo will have options, making it even safer to say that Walker will see his name on the lineup card more often than not.
Hunter Dozier, 1B/3B, Royals
Dozier has taken full advantage of his the opportunity created by being part of a rebuilding Kansas City team this season, slashing .349/.447/.686 with seven homers and 17 RBI in 103 plate appearances. He’s been hot recently, going 13-for-25 with a pair of homers during an eight-game hitting streak. Dozier’s getting all his time at third base and DH, and is locked in as the Royals’ everyday cleanup man.
— FOX Sports Kansas City (@FSKansasCity) April 28, 2019
Mike Soroka, SP, Braves
Soroka has been excellent in three starts for the Braves this season, pitching to a 1.62 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 21 strikeouts against six walks in 16 2/3 innings. We’re seeing him lean more on the slider this year than he did in his brief time in the majors last season, and it’s paying dividends with a 14.3% whiff rate. The Braves will keep a close watch on his workload all season, but he’ll have plenty of fantasy value so long as he’s in the rotation.
Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets
Don’t get this twisted. We’re not calling for a massive recalibration in Syndergaard’s rest-of-season value. He’s still someone you should be expecting to be, at worst, a top-25 starter the rest of the season. Given that he entered the year with top-15 expectations, though, we have to acknowledge that he has fallen well short on his end of the bargain. Syndergaard has a 6.35 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 39 strikeouts against 10 walks in 34 innings. The strikeouts have salvaged some value for him over his first six starts, but he’s supposed to be a dominator across the board. The good news is that his velocity is still among the league-leaders, with his four-seamer sitting at an average of 98.1 mph, and his two-seamer at 97.6 mph. The bet here is that Syndergaard will figure things out sooner rather than later, but he’s still deserving of a rest-of-season downgrade.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees
Over the last two seasons, Tanaka’s tendency to fall victim to the long ball made him one of the most frustrating pitchers in the fantasy game. He’d regularly cruise along for four or five innings, before allowing, say, two singles and a homer in the sixth inning. The result was an always good, but rarely great, starting pitcher. His saving grace was his ability to miss bats, with a strikeout rate of 25.8% in 2017 and 25% last year. This season, his strikeout rate has plummeted to 21.1%, but the familiar homer issue remains, with the 30-year-old surrendering five longballs in 35 innings. What’s more, his walk rate is up to a would-be career-high 7.8%. Without some course correction, Tanaka will be no more than a mediocre fantasy starter.
Jurickson Profar, 1B/2B/3B/SS, A’s
Profar’s ownership rate across the fantasy community remains stubbornly high, likely because of his positional flexibility. While that’s undoubtedly an asset, it doesn’t much matter when he’s hitting .165/.223/.272 with two homers and 13 RBI in 112 plate appearances. With Matt Olson on the mend, Chad Pinder emerging, and Marcus Semien bouncing back, Profar could soon find his playing time squeezed. Not only should Profar be downgraded for the rest of the season, he’s likely expendable in many leagues, as well.
Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres
This one pains me. If you’ve followed along with us at all this fantasy baseball season, you’ll know that I’ve been one of Reyes’ biggest fans going back to the dead of winter. Unfortunately for me and my fellow Franatics, it’s time to acknowledge that he has fallen far shy of expectations. Even after his two-homer game on Tuesday, he’s hitting .232/.286/.561 with eight homers and 14 RBI in 91 plate appearances, all while fighting for time in a crowded San Diego outfield. Additionally, his greatest asset, power, is easier to find than we expected it to be this season. He could still hit 30 homers this season, but if they come with an OBP south of .300, they won’t be worth nearly as much as they appear at face value.