The 2017 season continues to chug along and the finish line is juuuust about visible on the horizon. We’re two weeks removed from the All-Star Break, the MLB trade deadline was yesterday (some exceptions apply), and every team in baseball is over the 100-games-played mark.
So how’s your fantasy season going? Doing well? Not-so-great? Whether you’re gearing up for a playoff push or just desperately trying to remain relevant, Baseball and Brews has you covered as we dive into each position and recommend who to add and drop. I’ll review three players at each position: a stud to hang on to, a stud to consider dumping, and a waiver-wire add to consider.
Oh yeah, I also review a craft beer, this week’s being from Ballast Point brewing. Let’s go.
First Base: Trending up (the add), Carlos Santana
So I hate to toot my own horn here, but but I’m going to pat myself on the back for predicting Santana’s return to form while I can, because I’m wrong a lot too, so it’s nice to be right every so often. I wrote on June 30th that Santana owners should be patient and expect a nice second-half regression, but Christmas came a bit early: in July, Santana mashed at a .325/.413/.613 clip after failing to record a monthly Batting Average above .231 before then. He also hit 5 of his 14 Home Runs in July despite having the fewest at bats (80) of any month in the 2017 season.
Verdict: He’s back! It’s probably too late to pry him away from a patient owner after he balled out in July, but if you need elite 1B help before your league Trade Deadline, Santana should be a target for you. His ugly .247 BA and paltry 14 HR might look bad to owners, but those stats were dragged down by his slow start, and you should expect top-10 1B production from him ROS.
First Base: Trending down (the drop), Chris Davis
You didn’t draft Chris Davis to bolster your Batting Average, but you were probably hoping for about 40 HR on the year, and with nearly 2/3 of the season in the books his 17 dingers aren’t moving the fantasy needle very much. Granted, he missed nearly a month with an oblique injury, but this man is lost at the plate. Davis is striking out at an absolutely appalling 37.5% K-rate and has the lowest Z-swing percentage of his career at 53.3%. Remember that Z-swing measures the swings a batter takes at “good” pitches, or pitches that are inside the strike zone. Davis has a career-average Z-swing % of 66.5%, and his only season lower than 63% was last year, which was still hovering close at 59.3%. In short: Davis is not seeing the ball well. At. All.
The Verdict: We know the dude won’t hit for average, but if he’s not hitting at all, what’s the point? His BABIP is at a healthy .312 (right in line with career-average of .314) so we know he’s not getting unlucky. His atrocious K-rate combined with his inability to hit for power (or at all, it would seem) make Davis a big liability on your roster. Dump him for anyone better on your wire.
And who might that waiver-wire add be….?
First Base: Waiver-Wire Add, Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt is in a funk, and between his recent injury and his middling stats on a poor offense he’s seen his ownership plummet, and is probably on your waiver-wire right now. The good news? Belt’s BABIP currently sits at a career-low of .287 after posting back-to-back seasons of .340+ BABIP and a career-average of .334. Simply put? He’s going to start seeing a lot more balls drop and find gaps in the second half. This is also supported by his career splits, where he bats 10 points better in the 2nd half while striking out less and walking more. Combine that with a lethargic Giants offense that’s been waking up a bit recently and you’ve got yourself a solid 1B add with top-15 positional potential.
The Verdict: Buy him if you need 1B help, and hang on if he’s on your roster. Belt is trending up and is looking much better since returning from his minor injury. He’s already clobbered 16 HR and will easily surpass his career-high of 18 bombs. He’s especially worth an add in OBP leagues, as his elite plate discipline has led to a 15%+ BB-rate this year. He’ll get on base, score you runs, and provide power from the first base slot.
Second Base: Trending up, Whit Merrifield
Alright, I guess I enjoy patting myself on the back more than I thought (probably all that batter’s-box yoga I’ve been doing) because I recommended grabbing him on May 26th and again on on June 1st when he continued to crush, and even again on June 9th when I finally shut up about him. Until now.
Merrifield has been a great all-around keystone player this season, and now that he’s batting leadoff for KC the counting stats are starting to follow his patient plate approach and excellent .295/.335/.482 slashline. He’s on pace for a 25 HR, 90 R, 85 RBI season with 30+ steals. That’s pretty much Keon Broxton’s (former) ceiling right there, and Whit is just getting started. The extra value is added by his speed, with 17 swipes and just 2 CS.
The Verdict: He’s somehow still unowned in nearly 25% of leagues despite being a top-10 2B. If you need help at the keystone grab Whit right now. This is the last time I talk about him, I swear (probably).
Second Base: Trending down, Jonathan Villar
Sorry Jeff, I guess I won that trade after all despite my own hopeful prediction that Villar would show some improvement. Far from it, he’s had his worst month of the year, posting an absolutely pathetic .217/.258/.265 slashline to go with an unbelievably abysmal .048 ISO in the month of July. I mean, how do you even begin to explain that?
His career-high K-rate (31.3%) and career-low BB-rate (7.8%) show us he’s not seeing the ball, and everything else shows that he’s not hitting it, either. I mentioned in the linked post above that a glimmer of hope existed due to Villar’s sub-.300 BABIP, but he’s now risen to .300 on the season, and he’s somehow gotten worse. He still has minor value for steals, but for the love of god don’t expect anything out of him other than the occasional swipe.
The Verdict: I can’t imagine how Villar is rosterable in all but the shallowest formats, and even then only on rosters that desperately need steals. I’ll just go ahead and repost his July slashline here and leave it at that: .217/.258/.265. Yeah. Sorry.
Second Base: Waiver-Wire Add(s), Dustin Pedrioa/Cesar Hernandez
Ok, so that’s two guys, not one, and Dusty is almost certainly on no-ones waiver-wire despite a rocky season, but hear me out.
Dustin Pedroia has been battling nagging injuries all year, but despite that seems to have turned a corner recently. Dusty has seen his AVG, OBP, and SLG rise every month before peaking in July, and he’s also hit 4 of his 6 HR and stolen 2 of his 4 bases this month. The power is back, the speed is back (kinda), and his AVG continues to climb. He’s especially valuable in OBP leagues. Keep an eye on the injury news, but now is a great time to low-ball a Pedroia owner before your league Trade Deadline: they’ve been frustrated with him all year, and he’s about to go off in the second half. He’s a great value ROS assuming he can stay healthy.
Cesar Hernandez is a mediocre second baseman on a mediocre team, but that hasn’t stopped him from posting top-20 2B stats for the season with a .288 AVG and a career-high slugging percentage. His stats are deceptively low after missing a month due to injury, but the speedster has been playing great baseball from the leadoff spot since his return, including a very encouraging 4 SB in the past two weeks. He’s a nice value at the keystone and has already scored more than 50 R despite missing 30+ games on the DL.
Shortstop: Trending up, Sir Didi Gregorius
Sir Didi is having a career year, posting a .301/.328/.497 slashline with 16 HR, 44 R, and 50 RBI. All of those stats are approaching or above career-highs, and we’ve still got 60 games to go. AND he missed the first month of the year due to injury. Jeez!
Didi has been hot all season (and before, during the WBC) and while everyone has waited for him to fade or slow down he’s just turned it up higher. His 7 HR in July were phenomenal, and his average has climbed each month. He’s on a potent offense with plenty of protection around him and oodles of opportunities for RBI and R scoring. Keep him or grab him if you can.
The Verdict: He won’t steal, but he’ll mash. Didi found his power stroke last season and hasn’t let up since, and he’s poised to smash his career-highs in nearly every category, with just 4 HR to go to match his career-high of 20 set last season. He’s batting in the heart of a strong Yankee offense, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Shortstop: Trending down, Jedd Gyorko
.208/.226/.325….that’s Gyorko’s slashline in the month of July. And the bad news is that all of those numbers have dropped consistently since April, with each new month bringing worse stats than the last. Jedd has watched his K-rate climb, his BB-rate plummet, and his slashing stats take a tumble as his ISO drops along with his value.
Is there any reason to hope? Well, in addition to the rest of his stats sucking, his BABIP has also dropped in each month, going from .410 in April, .338 in May, .319 in June, and .241 in July. It’s not a coincidence that his Hard Hit Percentage has also dropped drastically each month: 37.2% in April, 32% in May, 31.6% in June, and now a pathetic 26.7% in July, showing that his BABIP is well-deserved.
The Verdict: Unfortunately this is the Gyorko we’re likely to see ROS. His amazing start to 2017 was buoyed by his outstanding BABIP, which still sits at a season-average of .321 despite the above-noted monthly drops. His career-average BABIP is just .278, so this regression is expected: he just isn’t the caliber of hitter that he pretended to be in April and May.
Shortstop: Waiver-Wire Add, Wilmer Difo
No relation to Willam Dafoe, but the Washington Nationals have found themselves a nice Trea Turner substitute for the time being. Difo has flourished in July since being given regular playing time: he’s posted a .373 BA with 3 of his 4 HR and 2 SB in 2 tries. He’s scored 17 R this month, and figures to score plenty more on one of the league’s top offenses. He doesn’t figure to remain a lineup fixture once Trea returns, but if he keeps playing like this he will force a conversation.
The Verdict: I see Wilmer as being the next Andrelton Simmons: 6 weeks of solid production ahead of him before he crashes back down to earth. I don’t think we have enough data yet to make a ruling, but he’s really played well since being granted consistent playing time. He has the best OBP at SS in the MLB in the past 30 days for qualified players, and that translates in to R scored when you’re a National.
Third Base: Trending up, Alex Bregman
Bregman is making me regret dropping him a couple of weeks ago. The fact that he’s a Houston Astro alone provides value, but now that he’s heating up at the dish he’s a great add for any team.
Bregman has been mashing in July: slugging a ridiculous .608 to go with a sterling 1.021 OPS. The power and average is there, and his 24 R scored make him elite in that category for July. Add in a few stolen bases (4 in July, 10 on the year) and you’ve got yourself a top 3B for cheap.
The Verdict: Bregman has been hitting the ball consistently hard: a 32%-ish Hard Hit rate all year, but a BABIP that went up and down. Now the BABIP is stabilizing and the balls are finding holes as he gets on base more and more. Expect him to continue to build on his solid season and emerge in the second half as a top-15 3B.
Third Base: Trending down, Josh Harrison
The Pittsburgh Pirates seemingly found a gem at the hot corner this year when Harrison busted out to become a top-10 fantasy 3B with a strong April and May showing. Since then he’s slowed down considerably, and his peripherals unfortunately back that up.
The 30-year-old’s BABIP, K-rate, and BB-rate are all in line with career averages, and he’s falling back down to earth after a hot start. He’s fluctuated wildly with his Hard Hit Percentages, but even with his July Hard Hit rate reaching 33.3%, above his season total and his April/May totals, he’s still been unable to hit effectively. It appears the Harrison experiment is coming to an end for many fantasy owners.
The Verdict: Harrison is still rosterable in most formats, but it’s time to take a hard look at your waiver wire to see if there’s a better option. He’s never been a power hitter or speedster, and at 30 years old there’s no reason to believe that his early-season success was anything but a fluke.
Third Base: Waiver-Wire Add, Chase Headley
Yes, Chase Headley. The guy that makes my girlfriend look up from painting while I watch the Yankees and say “oh Chase Utley is still playing?” and forces me to say “that’s Chase Headley. Utley is on the Dodgers.” And she only knows who Chase Utley is because Mac has a secret gay crush on Utley in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But I digress.
Chase Headley came to the Yanks to help replace A-Rod and promptly disappointed, as did A-Rod (in my opinion). The veteran switch-hitter started off the year hot but quickly cooled off in May, but has quietly been clawing his way back into fantasy relevance since June.
Headley batted .301 with 3 HR in April before seeing that plummet to a terrible .193 in May, but in June his average was .296, and with July now in the books he batted .333 with 16 R scored. More than that, he’s been clutch, batting .381 in High Leverage situations and .281 with men on base and with RISP, per FanGraphs.
The Verdict: Headley’s getting hits when it counts, and making the most of his opportunities. Since being moved from 3rd to 1st with the arrival of Todd Frazier, Headley has hit a new stride, and the veteran could be well on his way back to being the 30 HR player the Yankees acquired in hopes of building a great infield.
Outfield: Trending up, Aaron Judge
Ok, ok, hear me out. You know I’m a Yankee fan, and you know from my past articles that I’m a big Judge believer, and that I predicted he’d win the HR Derby this year, but I feel I have to address what has been a lot of nervous looking around the room as Judge has opened the 2nd half with a (seemingly) uninspired performance.
First and foremost, he’s still a mammoth. My girlfriend calls him Prometheus and thinks he’s adorable (and so do I) but unlike his smile, his swing does not have new holes in it. Judge’s K-rate in July ballooned to a scary 36.4%, which is bad news bears. The good news is that his July BB-rate of 16.8% is the best he’s posted outside of June (22.6%), meaning he’s still seeing the ball and taking walks at an elite level.
Second of all, he’s crushed 4 HR since the All-Star Break, which gives him 7 on the month and is right in line with the rest of his season (10 each in April and June, also 7 in May). Despite the woes, his BA still sits above .300, and if you’re in an OBP league you probably haven’t even noticed, as his OBP was still an absurdly great .364 during July.
The only stat I want to focus on is Hard Hit Percentage. We know he’s strong. He’s easily the strongest player in the MLB, sorry Giancarlo. Whatever you might think of his plate discipline, luck, batter’s eye, etc…we can all agree that Prometheus is strong as hell. His Hard Hit Percentage in July? A paltry 36.7%. That’s 10% lower than his noted abysmal 2016 debut, and by far the lowest of this season. And that’s still an elite number, by the way. I bring that up for one reason: his Hard Hit will rise like the tides, inevitable and ceaseless. And when it regresses back to the norm, the hits will come along with the HR (and he’s already hitting HR, even in this “slump”).
The Verdict: Don’t even think about selling him. Unless you’re getting Scherzer or Trout. Judge will continue to be a top-5 fantasy asset for the remainder of 2017, and you can take that to the bank. The Hard Hit Percentage will increase and regress to career norms sooner rather than later, and once it does, we’ll see the same .300+ hitter. In the meantime, he’ll still hit HR (like last night). Because of course he will.
Outfield: Trending down, Jose Bautista
The baseball gods giveth, and they taketh away. Joey Bats rode the struggle-bus hard to start the season before giving owners reason to relax in May when he cranked 9 HR and seemed to be coming around.
Since May, Bautista hit .200 with 4 HR in June and .168 with just 2 HR in July. Ouch. His strikeouts have gone up, his Hard Hit Percentage has gone down, and he’s simply not getting hits of any kind, much less the longball variety. His .252 BABIP is right at his career-average of .265, taking bad luck out of the equation. All that’s left is to accept that he’s 36 and no longer a top fantasy asset.
The Verdict: Bautista has officially lost a step. At 36 years old and 13 years of MLB service he’s no spring chicken, and while he’s certainly rosterable in virtually all formats, his ceiling is likely that of a 3rd or 4th OF rather than as a top-producer. His one saving grace this season has been that he’s still scoring runs, but that’s not worth the high price tag owners paid for him.
Outfield: Waiver-Wire Add, Derek Fisher
You probably know who Derek Fisher is, but the most important thing to know is he’s a Houston Astro, which pretty much guarantees that he’ll score R and get RBI opportunities. Beyond that, the rookie lefty has posted a juicy .317 AVG with 3 HR in an admittedly small sample size, but with good peripherals to back it up.
Fisher has a whopping 50% Hard Hit Percentage, putting him right up there with the likes of Miguel Sano and Aaron Judge. Not that he has their power, but Fisher is undoubtedly crushing the ball when he makes contact, which is pretty damn frequently since his call-up. Fisher also boasts a cool 21.3% K-rate, impressive by any standards for a rookie, and an even better 12.8% BB-rate, showing us that he has an eye as well as a bat.
The Verdict: There’s no reason not to take a flier on this kid. He’s mashing the ball and bats in the league’s best offense, and with Aoki out he’s all but guaranteed to finish the season in the MLB. Playing time was my only real concern with him, and now that that’s no longer a factor, he’s a must-add in all formats.
Today I’m reviewing something that’s not-so-summery but still super delicious (sorry if that’s a spoiler for you): Ballast Point’s Peppermint Victory at Sea Imperial Porter.
Ballast Point is always solid, and when I saw this guy at my local bottle shop I had to grab it and see how it holds up.
It pours thick and rich, a dark black with a small brown head of foam that disappears quickly. On the nose I get peppermint, coffee, chocolate.
The taste follows the nose: it’s rich but surprisingly medium/heavy-bodied (I was expecting it to be really viscous from how it poured). The coffee and chocolate provide a nice bitter counterpoint to the strong peppermint flavoring. It’s not overwhelmingly pepperminty, which is nice, but the peppermint is definitely noticeable. It’s got a nice sweetness with solid malty-strength on the back-end, but again, not too heavy.
All in all another great beer! Enjoy with dessert (or as dessert) and don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting more.
Until next time, cheers!