The dog days are truly here. August is the month that put fantasy owners to the ultimate test. Identifying meaningful trends can become challenging as the stats build up and it is easy to get dependent on a player’s full-season stat line. In today’s Three Up, Three Down, we do our best to point out some players whose value is shifting, and what exactly you should make of it.
Jason Heyward (ATL)
Jason Heyward recently moved to the top of the Braves lineup and all indications are that he feels more comfortable as a table setter than a big bopper. We know Heyward has he speed and athleticism to succeed on the basepaths and his plate discipline has long been a more advanced skill than his power stroke. Though his walk rate has slipped since early in his career, Heyward posted a .393 OBP as a 20-year-old and he’s also walked 11 times against just 9 strikeouts in 14 games since the All–Star break. Since being moved to the lead-off spot, Jason is batting .333 with two home runs and 9 RBI, he’s also scored 13 runs in those nine games. The Braves are riding a 10-game win streak and it appears that Manager Freddy Gonzalez’ lineup tinkering has this offense clicking once again. Heyward is showing better patience at the plate and his overall game is developing as a result. Look past his .235 average and find an emerging stud who remains primed to turn his 2013 season around, just a few days shy of his 24th birthday.
Jose Fernandez (MIA)
The Marlins’ rookie ace has been the best pitcher in the league over the past two months, but he bumped his game to yet another level over his pas two starts. Fernandez followed up his franchise-record-setting 13 strikeout performance from a week ago, with an even more impressive 14-K effort in his last turn. He’s got a sparkling 2.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP and following his fourth double-digit strikeout effort in his last nine turns, Jose has 138 punch-outs in 127.2 innings pitched. Despite his age, Fernandez has earned a spot among our top-10 starters heading into 2014 but, unfortunately, he’s only got a few more than 40 IP left this year before the Marlins pull the plug. Given that, head-to-head owners with an eye on the playoffs simply must shop Fernandez, even if it means selling at a discount.
Wil Myers (TB)
Myers has done nothing but mash since finally arriving at the big league level. He has become exactly what Tampa had hoped for when sending ace James Shields to Kansas City this winter. A true middle-of-the-order compliment to a solid young core of Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist. Fantasy owners are reaping the rewards with eight home runs and five steals over his first 39 major league games. Yes, the .382 BABIP is a bit fluky, but Myers early impact in the power categories and on the basepaths would make him an asset if he was batting .250. The rook is surging with a .371 average, three homers and 11 RBI over his past ten games. Perhaps an adjustment period is coming down the line, but as we saw with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado down the stretch last year, some top-prospects just click right out of the gates. ride this streak with confidence.
Gio Gonzalez (WSH)
Gio was absolutely waxed in his last start against a tough Tigers team. He yielded 10 earned runs on 11 hits, registering just three strikeouts over 3.1 innings pitched. Heading into the outing, Gonzalez had been on a masterful run, posting a 2.20 ERa and 1.10 WHIP over his last 15 starts with 100 strikeouts in 98.1 innings. He capped off that streak with back-to-back 11-strikeout games so the blowup outing certainly blindsided owenrs. It’s not time to worry, however; Gio is a stud and while his last start clearly got away from him, he remains a top-10 arm pver the balance of the season. Buy Gio confidently ahead of your trade deadline and if he comes at a slight discount thanks to his latest disaster, then all the better.
Brandon Phillips (CIN)
Phillips continues to drive in runs in bunches, thanks in large part to his fortunate position batting behind Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo, the top- two on-base threats in the National League. Phillips has driven in 20 RBI in the last 30 days alone, and has an impressive 83 RBI in 103 games so far, putting him on pace for 120+ ribbies on the year. He’s also got 13 home runs this season, but the rest of the veteran’s game has been slipping over the past couple of months. On June 1, Phillips entered play with eight home runs and a .291 batting average. Since, he’s hit just four long balls and posted a meager .232/.288/.330 slash line in 49 games played. Value remains in his RBI potential, but with just two steals so far, he is also slated to post his first season without double-digit steal since 2003. At 32, it’s fair to expect Phillips to slow down on the basepaths, but he’s also taken a step back in other areas after a solid start. It is a wise time to see what you can get on the trade market if you own the aging second basemen.
Clay Buchholz (BOS)
Amid a breakout season, Buchholz remains sidelined indefinitely with a neck/shoulder/back injury. We last saw him on June 8, sitting on a perfect 9-0 record with a 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 84.1 inning pitched. The Red Sox have managed to stay afloat in Clay’s absence, but many fantasy owners may not have been so lucky and at this point, it’s past time for those holding a DL spot to move on from the idea of Clay helping you this season. Of course, Buchholz was cleared of any structural damage by Br. James Andrews during a recent visit, but he has shown very little improvement with his condition. The latest reports have him playing catch at “80%,” but after missing over two months of time, the 28-year-old hurler will likely need three or four rehab starts to build up his workload once again. It’s highly unlikely Clay can help you before September and in all likelihood, you can find a more impactful use for that roster space. Trade him if you can, but it’s time to move on from Buchholz.