Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Preview:|
So much of talking about Fantasy baseball is about perception. Yours and everyone else's.
A fine example is Marcus Stroman. I've spent the better part of the past three years being down on Stroman, arguing he didn't have ace upside. But I think sometimes it came off as me thinking Stroman was a bad pitcher. He's not. He's valuable in Fantasy, and when he's healthy he should be be universally owned. It looks like he's healthy again.
Stroman returned to the Blue Jays on Saturday with five shutout innings against the Angels. He was vintage Stroman. The control was back — one walk — and so were the ground balls. When he's at his very best, he's doing it with one of the highest ground ball rates in the league and a better than average walk rate. His low strikeouts and his low win probability will keep him from being a top-20 pitcher, but the ground balls and elite control will get him as close to an ace as you can be with a K/9 below eight.
Stroman is still available in 36 percent of leagues, largely due to his injury. You need to check all of your leagues as soon as possible, because when he's at his best he's not just a must-own pitcher; he's must-start in virtually all formats.
On the heels of Stroman's return we're also getting Shelby Miller back. Miller is returning from Tommy John surgery and has only thrown 22 innings since 2016. What's more, he hasn't actually been good since 2015. The odd circumstance surrounding Miller is that he'll actually return as a two-start pitcher with matchups against the Marlins and Giants in Week 14. With those two matchups in a two-start week, Miller's ownership has spiked to 40 percent before he's thrown a pitch. 25 percent of you even have him in your starting lineup.
It's been so long since Miller has been good, I am more than a little skeptical of these percentages. I'm not saying you shouldn't add Miller and watch this start closely. But unlike Stroman, I don't have confidence that Miller will be good, even if he is 100 percent. Be very cautious and know the risk you're taking if you start him this week. Even in a points league, there's no guarantee he's going to be a positive.
Yuli Gurriel hasn't been hurt for a while, but he does look like he's finally getting his power back. Gurriel homered and doubled twice over the weekend, raising his slash line in June to .358/.388/.556. This continues a trend that, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. Gurriel had a hand injury to start the season. He was awful in April, with a .224 average and a .652 OPS. In May, he started to turn things around, raising his average all the way up to .281 by May 30. But his slugging percentage was still just .368.
It seems in June he's put everything together and now looks very much like the hitter he was in 2017, if not better. Moving forward you should expect an average around .300 with decent run production in the middle of the Astros order. He's useful in both formats because of the scarcity of high-average hitters and his ability to put the bat on the ball and avoid strikeouts.
It's a bit of a head-scratcher to me why Jake Bauers doesn't get more hype than he does. He's a 22 year-old with dual eligibility and a .914 OPS in his first 17 major league games. He plays almost every day and when he plays he hits in the top three in the order more often than not. This is the type of guy Fantasy owners are normally clamoring for and he's still available in more than two-thirds of leagues.
With all of his walks and doubles, Bauers may be more valuable in points leagues than Roto but I wouldn't expect his run production numbers will be as bad as they've been so far this year. Even with the bad luck in those categories he's been the No. 16 first baseman and No. 30 outfielder since he was called up. He should be owned in any league with at least 12 teams, and started in most.
Dereck Rodriguez is another player whose ownership doesn't reflect his performance. Rodriguez threw seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday against the Padres and now owns a 3.82 ERA on the year. He doesn't have elite strikeout numbers (8.22 K/9) but his control has been outstanding, and he pitches half of his games in one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball. I don't expect he'll ever pitch well enough to be a must-start option in a standard league, but he deserves to be owned in any NL-only league or league deeper than 12 teams. He's also a fine streamer is smaller leagues with the right matchup.