Felipe Paulino| Kansas City| SP/RP| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.31 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 8.47 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 47.5 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.50 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Featured here before, Paulino has been able to sustain the promising changes to his controllable skills since being dealt to the Kansas City Royals. His surface stats have been strong—3.38 ERA and his 1.27 WHIP is better than league average—but it’s a number of his other stats that have me excited. His K/BB rate has jumped to 3.75 thanks to paring down his walks and still striking out a high number of batters. He has also maintained a batted ball profile that tilts in favor ground balls.
His strikeout rate and power stuff have always made him slightly intriguing, but it’s positive changes to his first pitch strike rate, and walk rate and his different pitch type usage that are finally allowing him accentuate his positives. The change to his usage is less reliance on his fastball, and a preference to turn to his slider, curveball and change-up more frequently. More off-speed and breaking pitches have helped bump up his outside strike zone swing rate (o-swing) and his swinging strike rate in general, all things that will help him continue to rack up strikeouts. Paulino is nearly universally unowned, something that savvy owners in need of strikeouts should take advantage of.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, most large mixed-leagues and all AL-only formats.
Kyle Gibson| Minnesota| SP| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.17 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.97 K/9, 2.29 BB/9 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: 4.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Kyle Gibson has pitched quite well in Triple-A this season, even if his ERA and WHIP would indicate otherwise. Gibson has struck out almost exactly one batter per inning, walked few hitters and induced roughly two times as many groundouts as flyouts. While they are different types of pitchers, and they pitched in different leagues, Michael Pineda‘s high ERA in Triple-A last season should serve as a caution against placing too much weight on that stat.
Regardless of whether the Twins make a second surge and climb back into the AL-Central race, or fall out of it and become sellers at the deadline, there are plausible scenarios where a rotation spot could open up for the youngster prior to roster expansions in September. Pitching in a favorable home ballpark, Gibson has a chance to be helpful down the stretch in spite of his lack of experience and the growing pains typically associated with being green behind the ears.
Recommendation: Should be monitored, but not necessarily stashed at this moment.
Chris Sale| Chicago (American League)| RP| 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.47 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 9.41 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 46.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.25 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
The well-covered White Sox bullpen woes of April did not spare Chris Sale. Quietly though, he’s turned his season around. Sergio Santos has cemented the closer gig, so from a saves perspective, barring injury, the best case for Sale is a few vulture saves to spell him. Nonetheless, striking out a high volume of hitters, not walking the world, and inducing more ground balls than fly balls is a good way to make yourself a valuable reliever in deep leagues. His strong performance in June and July has allowed him to regain the trust of manager Ozzie Guillen, so those in holds leagues where he’s not rostered should scoop up the lanky lefty. As long as Sale is able to control his pitches and pound the strike zone, feel free to roster him in deep leagues as an option to prop up low strikeout yet useful starters.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most leagues that use holds, some large mixed-leagues, and some AL-only leagues.
Travis Snider| Toronto| OF| 26 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .256/.317/.427
It’s likely no player has had more words written about him in this column than Travis Snider. I hope this endorsement leads his to sticking on rosters a bit longer. The Blue Jays coaching staff and front office are pleased with the adjustments he made after being demoted to the minors. The results have been promising since his recall as well. He’s hitting .367/.387/.667 this go-round with six doubles and one home run in 30 at bats. It’s a bit discouraging to see that he’s struck out in nearly one third of his at bats (nine strikeouts), but all things considered, the production has been there, and he looks to be a stable member of the lineup going forward.
The owner of a .208 ISO last season, Snider has some power potential he’s yet to fully display this year. Toss in his suddenly fleet feet (five stolen bases in the majors and another seven in the minors) and manager John Farrell‘s propensity to let his players run, and you now have a player who can chip in to stolen base totals in addition to flexing his muscles at the plate with the long ball. Owned in just over a quarter of Yahoo! leagues, expect to see that number sky rocket thanks to Snider’s former blue chip prospect status.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Michael Trout| Los Angeles (American League)| OF| 27 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .273/.336/.413
Last week’s notable exclusion as a result of a promotion immediately following my article submission, Mike Trout makes a second debut, one to Waiver Wire a week after his first major league appearance. The Angels were aggressive with a player a number of scouts and prospect gurus, including Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein, consider the best prospect in baseball. They had him skip Triple-A after just 341 Double-A plate appearances, all coming this season. His MLE of .276/.346/.455 points to a player who is ready. A little anxious, possibly pressing, he’s chasing 40 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone. However, he’s struck out only once in his first 10 plate appearances, so he’s making contact at a high clip. Unfortunately, when you’re chasing so many pitches, that contact isn’t necessarily good contact.
Trout’s most valuable fantasy tool is his speed. He stole 28 bases in Double-A this season and was caught stealing eight times. Should his on-base skills come around quickly at the big league level, expect to see him make an instant impact in the stolen base category. He also flashed some power, sporting a .210 ISO and hitting nine home runs. Pay for the speed now; if the power shows itself this season, consider that gravy.
It’s quite likely that if he struggles, the Angels send him back done to the minors for further seasoning and re-insert Peter Bourjos. For now, take a chance on this special 19-year-old and hope he sticks and shows why so many people are salivating at the thought of watching this explosive player blossom.
Recommendation: Should be universally owned given his immediate stolen base upside.
Jason Kipnis| Cleveland| 2B| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .311/.385/.502 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: .262/.325/.433
It looks like the Cord Phelps experiment at second base has run its course, so expect to see Jason Kipnis in short order. Phelps may prove to be a useful utility player over his career, but it’s no secret Kipnis is the man the Indians expect to see on the lineup card at second base for years to come.
A converted outfielder, he has to prove before being promoted that he’s capable of handling the position defensively, as the stick is ready. Reports are fairly good on his adjustment to the position, and with the Indians in the thick of things and getting negative WAR production from Orlando Cabrera, second base would be an obvious upgrade internally. The MLE on his 2011 production is .263/.336/.443, making for a reasonable expectation upon promotion. What that slash doesn’t show is that he is also a moderate home run and stolen base threat, having hit 11 home runs and stolen 11 bases in his 355 Triple-A plate appearances.
A great player to own in deep keeper and dynasty leagues, Kipnis is capable of making a splash at middle infield down the stretch in re-draft leagues as well. Those with the roster flexibility, and a need at second base or middle infield, would be wise to beat the masses to the wire and stash him now. Once he’s promoted and hyped on the various platforms that cover fantasy baseball, it will be a mad dash to the wire to add him, so save yourself the headache and stress.
Recommendation: Should be monitored in all leagues that use a middle infield position. Should be stashed in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.