By: Jack Moore
Each week we’ll be providing you with insight into the best (and worst) baseball players to play in your fantasy baseball league.
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX: Profar got a spot start for Ian Kinsler and opened his career with a bang, homering and doubling in his first two at-bats, respectively. The home run was no cheapie – 391 to Cleveland’s right field, a blast that would be out in 29 of the 30 major league parks according to ESPN Hit Tracker. Profar hit .281/.386/.452 as a 19-year-old in Double-A and looks primed to be one of the best offensive shortstops in the game going forward. If a spot for him is cleared in Texas next year, his draft position will be very interesting.
2. Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL: Gomez hit his 15th home run of the season in just 346 plate appearances Sunday against the Pirates. The power that made Gomez the centerpiece of the Twins’ trade for Johan Santana finally showed up this year as Gomez has eschewed a ground-ball heavy approach (attempting to leverage his speed) and has hit more balls in the air (37.7% ground ball rate is a career low by nearly six points). Contact has improved slightly too, helping Gomez to post a respectable .257 average, making him a huge asset in power and speed with little downside down the stretch.
3. A.J. Griffin, SP, OAK: Don’t let Griffin’s return from a shoulder injury go unnoticed. The rookie right-hander returned Saturday and posted seven innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox. He owns a fantastic even 4.0 K/BB on the season and has shown the control necessary for a soft-to-medium-tosser like him (89.8 MPH average fastball) to remain productive, walking just 10 batters in nine starts. Throw in the solid team behind him and it looks like a solid September is in store.
4. Mark Reynolds, 3B, BAL: Reynolds mashed two home runs in Sunday’s victory against the Yankees, carrying through a solid September in which he hit six homers in just 80 at-bats. Reynolds can still hit for power, even though his stroke deserted him earlier in the season. There’s just too much raw energy in his bat to expect just a 15.1% HR/FB all season – his average is 20.4% and Camden Yards is an excellent park to hit home runs.
5. John Lannan, SP, WAS: For deeper league players looking to get some extra innings, Lannan’s worth snapping up now. He’s the choice to replace Stephen Strasburg in the rotation after his season ends Sept. 12. Like anybody available at this point, he has flaws – a career 4.7 K/9 to be specific – but he has a career 3.99 ERA and a starting spot on a winning team. In some leagues, that could make a huge difference where innings on the waiver wire are sparse.
1. Ricky Romero, SP, TOR: Romero hasn’t been himself this season and there’s little reason to believe he’ll be that ace in the last month – he has looked finished on the mound for months and there are many wondering why the Jays haven’t just shut him down. More to the point, can he find the magic that earned him a 2.92 ERA again next season? Signs point to no – his control was never pristine and it has become awful this season, at 5.0 BB/9 compared to a mediocre 3.8 career mark. It’s awfully tough to get away with that in a hitters’ park like Rogers Centre.
2. Michael Young, INF, TEX: Profar’s arrival is just another sign that Young’s time in Texas is likely done. He still hits for average, kind of, but his .267 mark is his worst since his second full season back in 2002. Young ranks 361st in the Yahoo! game and at 36 next year, there’s little reason to expect he’ll get better. The power is gone – Young owns a .077 ISO, more typical of an aging fielding whiz (think Omar Vizquel) than an aging hitter. Except Young doesn’t have the glove either. The clock is ticking.
3. Derek Holland, SP, TEX: Holland’s struggles this year are mostly linked to the home run ball – 25 in 22 starts, a 1.60 HR/9. His 14.7% HR/FB rate is one of the highest in the league, and there might be a little luck involved there, but not enough for any real excitement to build up. He’s been this high before – 14.9% in his 2009 debut season (138.1 IP) – and his career mark of 12.8% isn’t good. Holland’s a talented pitcher, but he looks like the kind of pitcher who needs to escape Texas before talent manifests itself in fantasy value.
4. Justin Masterson, SP, CLE: Justin Masterson has a weird arm slot, for a starting pitcher. That’s the key point – we see plenty of relievers survive with low arm slots like Masterson’s, but that’s mostly because such arm slots allow them to dominate same-handed hitters, which managers can control out of the pen. In the rotation, these guys see platoon lefties and get pounded. That’s the story for Masterson, who is allowing a .284/.373/.458 line to lefties and just a .236/.312/.309 line to righties. Unfortunately, despite the usual pitcher facing 67% righties, Masterson has seen just 315 out of the 756 batters he’s faced. That platoon split is a real issue and will keep him off my teams next season.
5. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, CLE: Jimenez has made a few appearances in these ranks this season, but he remains owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues. He has a 5.61 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP, is ranked the 1,141st pitcher in the game – worse than those who haven’t thrown an inning – and has zero positive indicators in his statistical profile. Ground ball rate down to a career low 39.1%. Strikeout rate of 7.7 per nine innings lowest since 2007. Walk rate of 4.9 per nine innings highest in his career. The list goes on. Name value is all he’s living on, and it’s not enough.
Jack Moore is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Mathematics and Economics. His work can also be found at FanGraphs.com, DisciplesOfUecker.com, RotoWire.com, AdvancedNFLStats.com and ESPN. Follow him on twitter at @jh_moore.