Fantasy Baseball Today

It's not all doom and gloom for Fantasy baseball's stars

By Chris Towers | CBSSports.com

Brian McCann's big game Wednesday could be a sign of things to come. (USATSI)
Brian McCann's big game Wednesday could be a sign of things to come. (USATSI)

Earlier today, R.J. White evoked the spirit of Game of Thrones' malicious, malevolent creator, George R.R. Martin, in going after big-name Fantasy disappointments. It is hard to argue with his characterization of busts like Matt Cain and Justin Verlander as beyond help, and there is certainly value to be found in acknowledging when it is time to stop throwing good money after bad.

Unfortunately, I'm no Game of Thrones fan, myself. Though I'm not averse to the Fantasy genre, I tend to take mine with a more whimsical flavor -- Phantom Tollbooth, The Hobbit, et al. As such, I'm not here to cast aside your favorite players and wantonly slaughter their Fantasy value just yet.

Instead, I come to build up the downtrodden owners of some of those disappointing household names. Hopefully, I can be the soothing voice of reason that keeps you from dropping a $25 investment just because a few balls have died short of the wall.

(Does Game of Thrones have any positive, uplifting characters, or is it all blood and gloom, fire and brimstone? If so, I'm that guy.)

Brian McCann, C, Yankees

Maybe it's because I just saw him deposit one over the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, but I'm not ready to give up on Brian McCann. Yes, he has been a complete disaster in his first season in New York, hitting just .220/.278/.345 entering play Wednesday, with little run production to make up for a low average.

However, there is reason for hope, amid the despair. McCann's career-low average flies in opposition to a career-low 14.1 strikeout rate, meaning he is putting more balls in play ever. Unfortunately, his BABIP is just .231, putting him seventh from the bottom of the league in that dubious ranking. McCann's batted ball data is nearly identical to his career marks, yet he has had little luck getting line drives to fall or fly balls going over the wall.

If you just look at how McCann is swinging the bat, there's a lot to like here. Remember, this is a seven-time All Star with a career. 274 average and seven seasons with at least 20 home runs. McCann is still owned in 97 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, so you won't find him freely available on the waiver-wire. Still, a frustrated owner might be willing to ship him off for cheap if you pounce soon.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners

If you aren't looking at the power or run production numbers, this has been a pretty typical Robinson Cano season. He is once again near the top of the AL leaderboard in batting average, right where we expected him to be after the Mariners lavished him with a massive contract this offseason.

Unfortunately, his power has been almost nonexistent, as he enters play Wednesday on pace for just 9 home runs. That would be his lowest single-season total ever. Part of the blame for his power outage has been heaped on the move from Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field, a bad move for any hitter, but especially a lefty. However, if you look at his home run chart for 2013 with Safeco's outfield wall overlaid, Cano would have lost just one home run due to the more robust dimensions.

Cano's batted-ball profile has changed a bit, as he has put a career-low 22.1 percent of batted balls in the air. That might explain part of the dropoff, though that 22.1 rate isn't terribly far off his 25.8 percent mark in 2012 -- he clubbed a career-high 33 home runs that season. Cano has seen just 7.8 percent of his fly balls go over the fence, a mark he hasn't approached since 2008.

Cano is still hitting the ball with authority, so it isn't like pitchers are keeping him off balance and inducing weak contact. 30 home runs is almost certainly out of the question at this point, but if things normalize for Cano, he could provide 15 from this point on. It is hard to call Cano a buy-low candidate since all three of our experts still have him ranked as the top second baseman in Fantasy, but there is reason for optimism for any disappointed owners.

Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets

In a rational world, Wheeler would hardly be considered a big name, having logged just 100 major-league innings entering this season. Of course, when it comes to prospects and Fantasy baseball, "rational" is hardly the word anyone would choose to use, as Wheeler has been a household name for the better part of three seasons.

He has been a bit of a disappointment this season, after impressing as a rookie with a 3.42 ERA. Through 14 starts, he has an ugly 4.38 mark to his name, but a dig deeper into the numbers indicates he has been better than a year ago, and could be the ace-in-waiting everyone was expecting.

Wheeler has improved his K-rate this season, ranking 15th in the majors at 9.12 per nine innings. Almost without exception, the pitchers above Wheeler in the rankings are must-start Fantasy options, and he may be able to join their ranks in the second half of the season. Wheeler's subpar control may hold him back, but he ranks 9th among all starting pitchers with a 55.1 percent groundball rate, a good indication that he will continue keeping the ball in the yard.

Wheeler might just be untouchable in keeper leagues, but he is owned in just 77 percent of overall leagues right now. His 3.32 FIP and 3.46 xFIP indicate a pitcher on the verge of a turnaround, so Wheeler should be well worth an add in any league he is still available in.

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