I once again apologize to the two, maybe three people that read the recurring fantasy notes segment here at FunGraphs. I had a busy weekend at Boston Calling and wasn’t able to produce on Saturday, so for back-to-back weeks the fantasy notes were moved to Monday.
Time to buy!!!
Cameron Maybin / CF / Los Angeles Angels (Ownership: 9% ESPN / 21% Yahoo)
Maybin, the former Tigers top prospect and the key cog (along with Andrew Miller) in the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, has bounced around a bit to say the least. Two separate tours of duty with Detroit, with single stops in San Diego, Atlanta and now Anaheim along the way. Maybin’s inability to stick with one team, along with his injury issues and “post-hype” prospect status have all combined to make him an undervalued fantasy asset.
Maybin’s fantasy line with Detroit in 2016 read 65 R / 4 HR / 43 RBI / 15 SB. That doesn’t look so impressive on the surface, but he did it in 394 plate appearances. Extrapolated over a full season, that line comes out to 104 R / 6 HR / 69 RBI / 24 SB. Maybin also put up a .315 batting average and .383 on-base percentage, which, combined with his extrapolated stats, would make him a top fantasy outfielder.
Although Maybin moved to an inferior lineup in Anaheim, he has solidified his spot atop the batting order and should be in a position to drive in plenty of runs hitting ahead of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Maybin has also shown a great hitter’s eye so far this season, with a fantastic 15.8% walk rate and a .370 on-base percentage in spite of poor luck on batted balls. Maybin is piling up the runs with 29 through 184 plate appearances and also has 12 steals to boot.
If you want a multiple category contributor who is going to give plus-plus performance in runs, stolen bases and on-base percentage, grab Maybin while you still can. Injuries will always be a concern, but the cost to acquire him is likely only a waiver pickup.
Josh Tomlin / SP / Cleveland Indians (Ownership: 7% ESPN / 12% Yahoo)
Outside of some inspired pitching in the 2016 postseason, Indians starter Josh Tomlin gets little recognition for his efforts at the back-end of Cleveland’s rotation. Tomlin’s calling card is his control, evidenced by the best walk rate in the majors since 2014 at a minuscule 1.04 per nine innings. His stinginess with the free pass and slightly above average hit suppression ability combines for a very good WHIP. Tomlin’s Kryptonite has always been the home run, with the second worst HR/9 rate in the same span. He also doesn’t strike out too many batters.
I just described a pretty unexciting fantasy pitcher. However, the 2017 version of Tomlin, despite his 5.79 ERA, has exhibited reasons for optimism. Although he’ll never be a groundball pitcher, Tomlin has upped his groundball rate to north of 43%, which is approaching serviceable. He’s also cut his home run to fly ball ratio down to 13.3%, which is still high, but much better than the 15-17% range of previous years. The cumulative result of these changes is a HR/9 rate of 1.29, which is still bad, but not at the crippling levels of previous years.
Tomlin’s 5.79 ERA contrasts heavily with his 3.75 FIP and 3.73 xFIP. His BABIP of .335 is well above his career average of .280, and his strand rate of 58.9% is well below his career average of 67.6%. Sunnier skies are ahead for Tomlin’s run preventing ability.
In summation, more reasonable home run rates will allow Tomlin’s elite control to play well in fantasy leagues. Because of his efficient pitching style, he’s a good bet to go six innings and and thus more likely to pick up wins and quality starts. He won’t garner many Ks, but you’re looking at a strong, three-category (Q, W, WHIP) and possibly four-category (ERA) contributor going forward.
Time to send packing!!!
Zack Cozart / SS / Cincinnati Reds (Ownership: 78% ESPN / 70% Yahoo)
Zack Cozart is a player with more real life than fantasy value. He is baseball’s fourth best defensive shortstop since 2012 and 10th in overall wins above replacement. His bat has improved from terrible to average, which makes for a great real-life player given his position and defensive acumen. However, not so in fantasy.
Cozart is off to a red-hot start in 2017 with .350 batting average and .580 slugging percentage. He’s also upped his walk rate to a near-elite 12.6%. However, much of Cozart’s improvement rests on an unsustainable BABIP of .403, significantly higher than his career rate of of .282. There’s nothing in Cozart’s batted ball profile that would suggest an improved BABIP going forward. His infield fly ball rate is an extremely high 17.1%. His soft-contact rate is at its highest rate since 2011.
The improved plate discipline does look legitimate, but unless you’re in an OBP league, who really cares? Shortstop has turned from a shallow fantasy position to one of the deepest, so it’s not as if you can’t find better alternatives elsewhere. If you have Cozart, thank him for his performance to date and put him on the trading block.
Seung Hwan Oh / RP / St. Louis Cardinals (Ownership: 92% ESPN / 96% Yahoo)
The South Korean-born Seung Hwan Oh made his MLB debut at the ripe age of 34 last season and was a revelation to the say the least. A 1.92 ERA, 2.13 FIP and 11.6 K/9 rate left NL hitters reeling in late inning situations against St. Louis. However, 2017 has been a different story.
Oh’s 3.00 ERA doesn’t seem too scary, but the underlying peripherals are concerning. His strikeout rate has plummeted to 8.3 per nine, while his walk rate has increased. Oh’s groundball rate has also gone down from 40.0% to 29.2%. The cocktail of less strikeouts, more walks and less groundballs is a dangerous one, and had led to a 4.31 FIP and 5.18 xFIP. There’s no obvious reason for Oh’s worsened performance, as his pitch velocities and spin rates are similar to last season. It could be that MLB hitters have adapted to Oh’s approach after having one year to feel him out.
With all that said, Oh is in an enviable position as St. Louis’ closer, as he will rack up saves. Yet a blow-up and potential bullpen demotion is around the corner. St. Louis also has a very viable alternative in Trevor Rosenthal. Owners in saves-only leagues should put Oh on the block immediately, while owners in saves/holds leagues should consider dropping him for Rosenthal right now.
Previous Long Picks:
1B, Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 5/6
1B, Yonder Alonso (OAK) – 5/13
C, Alex Avila (DET) – 5/22
SP, Trevor Cahill (SD) – 5/6
SP, Nate Karns (KC) – 5/13
SP, Luis Perdomo (SD) – 5/22
Previous Sell Picks:
1B, Ryan Zimmerman (WSH) – 5/6
1B, Mark Reynolds (COL) – 5/13
LF, Corey Dickerson (TB) – 5/22
SP, Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – 5/6
SP, Robbie Ray (ARI) – 5/13
SP, Gio Gonzalez (WSH) – 5/22