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June 13, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Straight Chasing

by Mauricio Rubio

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In fantasy baseball and in life, even the best-laid plans can go down the tubes in quick and spectacular fashion.

Sometimes you gamble on Jose Veras and Prince Fielder to help carry you into first in saves and home runs, respectively. Maybe you thought Jose Fernandez was invincible and he alone would anchor your pitching staff as a true ace, both in fantasy and in the real world. Or maybe you had this surprise planned out for someone that you really liked, but then they found, out and now the whole thing is ruined, and now you don’t know what to do because oh my god why couldn’t Jesse just keep his mouth shut?

I digress.

In any event, let’s look at some fliers in the different categories and see if we can help out your categories that are lacking some oomph.

Home Runs
Lacking punch hurts as it will manifest itself in a few different categories. The home run will account for a run scored, an RBI, points of average, and of course, a home run. Your offense is probably in trouble if you messed up this category unless you went for a speedy construction that’s only got middling power.

If you’re in the middle of the pack home run-wise, my first recommendation is to see where you have surplus and try to deal out of that to get some power. If you’re dead last and you need to just pick up some extra points, I strongly suggest looking at Then Stash List first, and then looking at Junior Lake.

Lake has long been an enigmatic player with a strong tool box but no real idea how to utilize said tool box. He’s having an odd season this year as his OBP is well under .300 at .273 but he’s got a good chance to post a 20/20 season and hit close to 25 HR. He’s owned in seven percent of Yahoo leagues and 5.8 percent of ESPN leagues. You’re going to eat it in average with Lake, but if you need the power, I think he can provide a good bump for your team down the line.

Also considered: Lucas Duda, who’s always had the power but is in the Junior Lake camp of being difficult to appreciate.

As a rate statistic, this one is a bit easier to fix than raw counting stats. It’s possible to make up ground if you can fix your end and hope for regression from your opponents. You know if your team is hit unlucky or just generally bad. If it’s the former, I’d wait it out a bit before hitting the panic button and trying to acquire talent. If you’ve built a team full of guys who post Adam Dunn-like averages, well, then you have some work to do.

Trade market is again the first option here, as it will be for most categories. Guys post good averages while providing in other categories tend to be owned. Shocking, I know. But if you’re hunting the waiver wire and are looking for a guy who can get you over the .240 hump I suggest targeting James Loney who is currently hitting .286 and is owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues and 34.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Loney’s lack of power is a given at this point in his career but he can still put bat to ball at a good clip and he’s displayed an ability to maintain a higher than average BABIP. It’s not sexy, but at this point, you might as well go for it.

Also considered Scooter Gennett, which I mean, you can do worse but this is the bottom of the bin.

Stolen Bases
Oh, you drafted Will Venable, too?

Compared to home runs and average, SBs are relatively easier to find on the open market. Worse comes to worse you can always roster Eric Young Jr., Denard Span, or even the aforementioned Junior Lake. There’s one guy that I want to focus on for these purposes, however.

Craig Gentry has a speed profile and hits well enough to not kill you in average. He’s got no pop and will not supply you with RBI, but if you’re in a pinch for steals, Gentry is a good name to pick up some steals on the cheap.

Man, if you messed this category up you are never, ever going to sniff first. At this juncture you know what your staff looks like and what their skillset is. If you don’t have the Ks, you’re going to have a tough climb to the top. In redraft leagues, you will have to rely on call-ups like Andrew Heaney to maybe float you enough Ks to be competitive but realistically you’re chasing windmills.

If you’re in a pinch and you need to move a few categories the prospect strategy is viable, but so is rostering Dellin Betances who will give you a no. 3 starter’s worth of strikeouts with vastly superior rates. He’s owned in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues and 38.4 percent of ESPN leagues so chances are just okay that he’s there for you.

Sometimes we get too caught up in FIP, believing that all players must regress either positively or negatively to the FIP number. I like FIP, I will use FIP to illustrate my case for picking up this next guy, but understand that FIP regression is not a guarantee. If you’re looking to lower your ratios, the most obvious place to start is by rostering relievers like the aforementioned Dellin Betances or guys like Neil Ramirez.

If you’re looking for a starter who is a good buy-low candidate that can maybe lower your ratios for the rest of the season, I would look at Jake Odorizzi, who is sporting a 4.85 ERA and a 3.24 FIP. Odorizzi’s strikeout rate has taken a jump from his 2013 MLB campaign, as he’s sitting at 26.6 percent. The walk rate has climbed with it so this is a riskier play than any of the other players I’ve listed here but I think given the player’s profile and his season to date I think Odorizzi is a good candidate to finish the year strongly.

Just all of the relievers, my friend. All of them.

I write a column that comes out on Mondays about good save candidates. Over the course of writing that column I’ve found that if you did not spend big on one of the sure bet relievers you’re basically stuck with a revolving door of bad reliever after bad reliever. Finding the next Koji Uehara is tough, and it requires listening close to beat reporters and understanding who has the stuff to pitch the ninth inning.

There are names, Joba Chamberlain, Zach Putnam, Neil Ramirez, Not Grant Balfour in the Rays ‘pen, Vic Black, Joel Hanrahan, the list goes on. But realistically if you’re dead last in saves and you’re looking to get to the middle of the standings it’s going to be a very, very tough haul upwards. Your best COA is a trade.

Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: In-... (06/13)
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