Week 11: Hitting Preview | Ranking two-start pitchers | Sleeper hitters
Talent matters, and situation is important, but Fantasy value all starts with opportunity.
If you aren't getting regular playing time it's difficult to prove yourself, and if you aren't playing almost every day it's really tough to have Fantasy value. That's why we took so long to come around on Ben Zobrist. But the way he's hitting could change all of that.
Zobrist has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past couple of weeks. Since May 19, he owns a .348/.446/.652 slash line, and the peripherals suggest it's at least somewhat real. For the year, the 37 year-old has more walks than strikeouts, and when he hits the ball, he's hitting it hard. Zobrist's 37 percent hard contact rate is good, but the 11 percent soft contact rate is just phenomenal.
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Zobrist is still just the No. 20 second baseman for the year, because he wasn't playing every day early in the year. But over this hot stretch, he's been the No. 4 second baseman in Fantasy even with fewer at-bats than anyone else in the top 12. Don't have room at second base? That's OK, you can slot Zobrist in in the outfield as well.
In a five-outfielder league with a middle infielder, there's no doubt that Zobrist should be owned and started, but I've reached the point where I'm trying to find a place for him in a standard points league as well. With his plate discipline, it's his best format. He still won't likely play more than five games per week most weeks, but he'll be productive enough to help your team in both formats.
Dustin Fowler has always been an interesting guy in Roto leagues because of his speed, but it was his bat that made an impact this weekend. Fowler had a pair of three hit games this past weekend, including a two-homer game on Friday night in Kansas City. He also stole his fourth base on Sunday, and hit leadoff for the second time this year.
Fowler is still hitting just .241 on the year, but that's largely a product of his .234 BABIP, which is extremely unlucky for a player with his speed and batted ball profile. For the year, the rookie has a 46 percent hard-contact rate and a 22 percent line drive rate. I wouldn't be surprised if his BABIP was a hundred points higher from this point forward, and if that's the case he's a must-own player in any format. He also might be the Athletics' leadoff hitter more often.
You're supposed to strike hitters out if you're a good pitcher. Or at least, you need to be great at everything else. Well, don't tell that to Jaime Barria. Despite just 7.4 K/9, Barria now sports a 2.48 ERA after seven major league starts. This weekend he held the Rangers scoreless over six innings and picked up his fifth win on the season. Barria's ownership will tell you that Fantasy owners are just as skeptical as I've been. So how is he doing it?
As you might have guessed, Barria has been very fortunate. He's allowed a .248 BABIP and has stranded 87.6 percent of the runners who have reached base. Neither of those numbers are sustainable. That's not to say I think he'll be bad, however. That control is very good (2.23 BB/9), and his strikeout numbers are a little misleading. Barria's K percentage is 20.4, which is only slightly below average. He has 24 Ks in his past four starts, better than a batter per inning.
Barria was sent back to the minors after his start, as the Angels continue to prioritize flexibility with his roster spot. That makes him less of a priority add, however he has only missed one turn in the rotation since early May, so it's safe to say he'll be back soon. And will be worth waiting on.
Don't look now, but here comes the Yuli Gurriel we all expected. After a miserable April that included an injury, a suspension and a .224 batting average, Gurriel caught fire at the start of May and hasn't stopped hitting. For the year he's up to a .291 average, and over the last week he's been back in the middle of the lineup, hitting fourth or fifth.
Last year, Gurriel hit .299 with an .817 OPS, and that's pretty close to what I expect to him over the rest of the year. He should be owned and started in most leagues 12 teams or deeper.
A couple of other notable performances from the weekend came from Giants' starts. First Andrew Suarez shut the Phillies out over seven innings, and then Dereck Rodriguez (Yes, Pudge's son) went six innings in hist first major league start, striking out six and giving up just one run. With Madison Bumgarner coming back this week, I'd expect one of these guys is headed back to the minor leagues, but in very deep leagues they may be worth a look. Suarez is the much better prospect.