Can one of the league's hottest pitchers keep it up?
I’m flipping the script a bit this week. Y’all brought interesting names to the table in the comments section last week, and while I normally choose an individual player on whom to focus based upon your suggestions, I felt the need to go off the board. Quite simply, it’s because right-hander Jake Arrieta laid waste to Major League Baseball last month. He wasn’t talked about enough in fantasy circles, but after flirting with no-hitters in back-to-back outings, he’s on the tip of every fantasy owner’s tongue.
Through 39 2/3 innings in the month of June, Arrieta compiled a 0.92 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only six walks. He’s gone four consecutive starts in which he’s thrown at least seven innings and struck out nine. Fantasy owners have taken notice, too, as the 28-year-old hurler is now owned in 83.5 percent of ESPN leagues (as of Monday evening). It’s a number that has increased dramatically in the past couple weeks, and owners have begun to ask whether Arrieta is someone to simply plug-and-play while he’s scorching hot, or if this breakout is something more permanent.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The top 25 players you might want to put on your fantasy bench for help down the road.
The Graduates: Taijuan Walker (2), Mookie Betts (6), Marco Gonzales (21)
After firing a complete-game shutout in his last turn in Tacoma, Walker got the win on Monday night in his 2014 debut with the Mariners in Houston. If the shoulder problems are really behind him, Walker could be a solid third starter the rest of the way with that park at his back. There have been very few prospects to get people on both sides of the aisle (fans and writers) in a tizzy like Mookie Betts. There are some who think he’s going to perform like a top-10 second baseman (or shortstop, depending on eligibility) right out of the gate, and while I don’t see that happening, there should be room for him on almost any roster. The counting stats may not be plentiful hitting towards the bottom of the lineup for now and he’ll likely struggle to even show below-average power in game, but the average and steals will be helpful. With Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Joe Kelly all sidelined, Gonzales will get a few runs in the Cardinals’ rotation to prove he belongs. It’s very possible with a strong pre-break showing, he could stick in the rotation rather than Carlos Martinez—who Mike Matheny may opt to keep in a setup role anyway. The upside isn’t high, and he’s just a fringy mixed league play, but his control will make some friends in the WHIP category.
Examining a handful of players who might pique your interest in deep leagues.
Now is the intro of our discontent.
Nick Ahmed, INF, Diamondbacks
Ahmed is so gritty and such A Baseball Player (TM), Kevin Towers is probably mad he can’t trade for him again. After battling a “utility infielder” stigma for most of his professional career, Ahmed blew up in Triple-A this season, hitting .324/.390/.431 in 336 games. Sure, that line is bolstered by a .371 BABIP, but Ahmed doesn’t strike out much, will take a walk and can steal some bases, too. In other words, the average is a mirage, but he’s not a player without any offensive skills.
A look at the upcoming AL-vs.-NL and NL-vs.-AL matchups, and how they might affect teams' lineups.
Please note that in the “DH” column, the player listed is the player that has been added or removed from the lineup, not necessarily the player in the DH slot. For example, if the Phillies move Dominic Brown to DH and put Tony Gwynn Jr. in the OF, then I will list Gwynn Jr. in the “DH” column because he is the player that is gaining at bats.
Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli get changes of scenery, Sergio Romo cedes the Giants gig, plus more closer notes from around the league.
Two Closer Candidates Change Leagues Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli switched teams, as the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates swapped relievers whose seasons had been subpar. We know the story with both of these guys at this point: Frieri has severe issues with the long ball when he’s missing with his fastball, and Grilli has been inconsistent with his command, as he’s been the unfortunate combination of walk-happy and hittable. In terms of proximity to saves, Grilli is the better bet, as there aren’t many good options in Anaheim, and Frieri will have Mark Melancon in front of him. I might be out on both at this point.
The White Sox Mess
Ahhh, White Sox bullpen. I’ve forgotten your scent. The Ronald Belisario show has come to its final and unfortunate end, as the big-faced righty gave up two runs (one earned) and recorded one out against the Blue Jays en route to recording that all-important hold. There was a time where Belisario’s ERA was under 4.00, but a chart of his game-by-game ERA would look like a deep V, as his ERA and peripherals have boomeranged from respectable to just bad. This is the part where I give you a few names to consider at the back end of this bullpen but, well, there aren’t any names I feel good about here.
Examining how arms have performed relative to their fantasy price tags to this point in the season.
This is Part II of my series examining midseason, Rotisserie-style valuation for AL- and NL-only league owners. Last week, I examined how the hitters were doing thus far. This week, I’ll take a look at the pitchers.
Entering the season, there was a significant amount of discussion surrounding the idea that pitchers were more valuable because pitching numbers across the board were improving. This perception led to higher ADP slotting for pitchers in NFBC draft leagues, but didn’t lead to any significant changes in auction leagues.
Helping you set your fantasy rotation for next week with a look at the two-start pitchers.
Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner! Every Friday this season, I’ll be taking you through all of the two-start options for the coming week to help you decide who to start and who to sit. Outside of the elites, two-start pitchers are often as much or more trouble than they’re worth, as rare is the week in which the stars align to offer your starters not just one but two consecutive tasty matchups. As a result, you’ll notice that sometimes the better starters will find themselves in the “Consider” category, because they might have one good matchup, but a second tough one. And similarly, less-talented hurlers might just meander their way into “Start” territory on account of a plum schedule. The pitchers will be split by league, and then by categories:
Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for these guys, either with an early draft pick or high dollar auction bid. These are the top 20 or so starters in baseball, so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many—if any—notes associated with these groupings each week, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.
Your league-mates might undervalue these players because of their age, but they can still provide a jolt to your fantasy offense.
It’s only natural to have a bias toward younger players and prospects in dynasty formats. After all, they are the gift that keeps on giving, especially in leagues that don’t have limits on how long one can be kept. We know going into the season that older players are undervalued, and yet we still can’t help ourselves from reaching when it comes to the promising young ones.
So, we know there’s value to be had all over the place in the over-30 range, as guys are still exiting their primes, but what about the 35-plus crowd. The names below won’t surprise you, as you have to be pretty good to hold value into your mid-30s, but they are a subset of players that I think can hold their value for the next 2-3 seasons, which is reason enough to hold onto/target them in dynasty leagues.
The Scoresheet veteran offers tips on running a league successfully and talks about the preseason mock draft, the tournament of champions, and more.
This week, we were fortunate enough to get a chance to talk with Brian Dewberry-Jones. If you’ve played Scoresheet for any significant amount of time, you’ve most likely run across Brian, either as a leaguemate, a commissioner, or as the guy who runs the preseason mock draft and end-of-season tournament. And he’s also the person who decides how the orphan teams draft their teams. Brian obviously has years of Scoresheet experience in a whole host of capacities, so we learned a ton. He was also kind enough to write up a few good rules of thumb for running a league, which we are happy to share:
If these players are sitting on your league's waiver wire, they might be worth a look, depending on the format in which you play.
Welcome back to our weekly walk through some of the players who may want to keep an extra eye on in your leagues. Mike and I will be tackling this topic on Thursdays again and focusing on a singular hitter and pitcher in four of the more popular formats: shallow mixed, deep mixed, NL-only and AL-only. These are certainly not the only players who are worth pickups, but it gives us a nice opportunity to write about players we have close tabs on in our leagues.
When looking for ways to improve your fantasy team, it's important not to mistake weaknesses for opportunities.
Narrow or incorrect decision framing will lead to bad decisions. This is nothing new. I even did a primer, an overview one could say, on decision framing (here). In short, by taking too narrow a view of a particular decision, we may miss out on less obvious, more optimal options. Today, we will be bringing this conversation on decision framing down to a more specific level; that level being how we go about trading to improve our team. For this article, I will keep the conversation to redraft leagues; however, the concepts can certainly be applied to any league.
When looking to improve our team, the first thing we tend to do is look to improve our biggest weaknesses. Brief example: if our pitchers are terrible and our hitters are good, then we look to trade hitting for pitching. The “fix your weaknesses” strategy is not exclusive to fantasy baseball either. In business we use resources to grow in markets where we are underrepresented, we perform the most analysis on how to improve our weakest brands, and we take the most time to make decision about our least profitable products. In baseball, we ask if a prolific minor leaguer would be able to handle a position switch in order to replace our least prolific major leaguer, we ask if we are better off finding a platoon partner for a hitter who is really struggling against lefties, etc. Our obsession with weaknesses seems innate.