Value is in constant flux throughout the fantasy baseball season and the key to success is capitalizing on recent trends to turn a profit. Today, we are going to take a look at a couple of players who’s recent performance or circumstance has shifted their value in one way or another, and just what you should do about it. Let’s dive right in!
Shane Victorino (BOS): Since activation from DL – 4-for-15, 1 BB, 3 runs, 0 RBI 1 SB
The fact that Victorino is actually on the field is probably the biggest boost to his value, but he is perhaps not out of the woods in that regard. He’s had some nagging back stiffness that he’ll apparently try to fly through for Boston. Shane could see a couple of off days per week as the team tries to keep him feeling strong, so he’ll be a bit of a high maintenance own, but the fact is, when on the field, he’s a top-30 outfielder. The speed is Victorino’s sharpest tool, but he give you a decent average, a taste of pop and solid run production, which is only boosted by the Red Sox red-hot offense. Shane has hit in each of his first three games back, scoring three runs and swiping his fifth base of the season on Tuesday. As his value continues to rise, it’s a great time to buy on Victorino, while he looks to continue the production he has shown since getting back to the Sox’ lineup.
Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA): Last four starts – 30.2 IP, 2 wins, 0.58 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 26 K, 3 BB
It doesn’t matter much how you slice it, Hisashi Iwakuma has been dominant all season long. On the season, he’s allowed more than two earned runs in a start just twice–an 8.0-inning three-run performance against the White Sox on April 7 and a rocky five-run outing against Cleveland in late May–leaving him with a smothering 1.790 ERA and MLB-best 0.82 WHIP. Iwakuma was solid when given a chance last year, posting a strong 2.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 16 starts. He’s shown even better control in 2013, nudging his walk rate from 8.3% in 2012 to a minuscule 3.9% this season. He’s also bumped up that strikeout rate over 8.0 K/9 for the season while ascending to the top of ESPN’s player rater among starting pitchers. Earlier in the season, my Box Score Baseball co-host, Michael Pichan, mentioned to me that Iwakuma was this year’s Medlen, and I think that comp is fitting. He’s certainly getting a touch lucky with a 87.7 LOB%, but with just 14 walks in 95.1 innings so far and a solid strikeout rate, Iwakuma has been even better than Medlen was down the stretch last season. There’s little to suggest that Hishashi can’t keep this up so owners will merely want to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Kyle Blanks (SD): Last 9 games – .352 BA (12-for-34), 9 runs, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K
Earlier in the week, it looks as though Blanks was headed back to the minors, but a Yonder Alonso injury changed the big boy’s fortunes and has placed him smack in the middle of the Padres lineup. Blanks has responded with red-hot start to just and his season-long slash line (.299/.382/.513) is nothing to sneeze at. For years, Blanks’ strong power stroke has tantalized fantasy owners and it looks as though he may finally be ready to come around in 2013. He’s shaved his strikeout rate significantly from where it has been in any of his previous major league stints, lending some credence to the though that some actual progress has been made here. It’s not yet time to acquire Blanks at all costs, but if you play in one of the 75% of standard Yahoo! leagues in which he’s sitting right on your waiver wire, why to invest in the lumbering slugger.
R.A. Dickey (TOR): Last start (vs. Chicago) – 8.0 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Dickey’s Monday disaster comes on the heels of his finest start of the season, leaving owners frustrated and broken. Still, after stringing together three straight quality starts from May 9 to May 20, Dickey has allowed six earned runs or more in three of his last four turn. Rumors surfaced yesterday that Dickey continues to suffer from a neck/back issue, that would keep many “normal” pitcher down for a month, Dickey is unable to effectively throw the hard knuckler and despite his best efforts to battle thorough, he just doesn’t have it anymore. The 5.11 ERA is bad, but even worse is an uncharacteristic 64:35 K-to-BB rate in 88.0 IP from Dickey. There is little sign of a turnaround from the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but unfortunately, it remains unlikely that dangling your Dickey out there on the trade market will net many positive results. Feel free to set R.A. loose, but keep an close watch on him if he is sitting on waivers in your league. Once the velocity comes back and Dickey can once again utilize all of his pitches, the results are sure to improve.
Kelly Johnson (TB): Last 10 games – .100 BA (4-for-40), 3 runs, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB
After a sizzling start to the season that saw Kelly Johnson bat .299/.360/.571 over his first 44 games with 10 homers and five steals, the Rays resurgent infielder/outfielder has seen his bat turn ice cold. He’s struck out 12 times over those last 10 contests a slight regression from the K/BB rate he has shown over the early part of the season. Johnson remains on pace for a juicy 25 homer, 15 steal season, numbers that would be a welcome sign for fantasy owners who scooped up the widely overlooked Johnson early in the year. It’s not as though we haven’t seen this before either. Johnson was a top-5 second baseman as recently 2010 when he put up a .284-93-26-71-13 5×5 line and even in the couple of seasons since then, he’s average 21 homers and 17 steals per 162 games, albeit with a terrible .223 batting average. Look, you don’t bat .255 while sticking in the majors for almost 4,000 plate appearances without going into some extended slumps and Kelly is certainly slumping now. Still, he’s shown ability to produce the juice for fantasy owners even when hitting near the Mendoza line so there’s really little reason to worry about his early-June slide. Use KJ’s recent run of futility as a buying opportunity, because he’s going to get those power/speed numbers at a position that is getting weaker day by day.
Starlin Castro (CHC): 2013 season – .240 BA, 29 runs, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 3 SB
Starlin’s value continues to plummet as his second half slump from 2012 bleeds over into this season. In fact, he’s not even the most valuable Castro in fantasy these days! Starlin’s walk rate is down, his K-rate is up, his ISO slugging has dipped below .100 for the year and he’s not running nearly enough to sniff 20 steals. Castro was drafted as a top-5 shortstop based on his ability to give you a little bit of something in each and every 5×5 category. Well, 62 games into the 2013 season and owners are waiting for a any sort of signs of life from the 23-year-old shortstop. Perhaps the most positive thing we can note about Castro is that he’s 3-for-4 in stolen base attempts an improvement over his 25 steals in 38 attempts last season. Improved efficiency on the base paths, however, isn’t going to excuse a 2-for-31 performance so far in the month of June. Starlin has the talent to succeed at the major league level and there is certainly something amiss at the moment. Interestingly, his batted ball profile remains nearly identical to where it’s been throughout his time in the majors and there really is not much more than a three-year downward trend in BABIP to explain his regression at the plate. Starlin’s contact rate has been down slighty, but not nearly enough to justify a 50-point drop-off from his career batting average. All told, we are looking at a player who has average 81 runs, 10 HR and 20 steals per 162 games over his major league career and aside from the speed and the average, that is really not all that much of a stretch from the .240-72-8-55-8 pace he is currently on. As the hits start falling in, and Starlin finds himself on base a bit more frequently, expect the speed and runs pace to pick up quite a bit. This is the risk for a player whose value is so tied up in batting average and unfortunately, it’s not likely that owners can find an easy replacement at this time of the year. Still, Castro’s skill set remains intact and he’s really doing what you expected in three of the five standard fantasy categories. It may be tough, but we’d recommend holding on Castro rather than selling at a reduced cost, the production will pick up.