It may come as a surprise to some, but we’re rapidly approaching the halfway point of the fantasy baseball season. In fact, for my league on CBS, Week 11 is the exact midpoint of the regular season.
Next week I’m planning on a recap of some of our first half hits and misses, but you don’t need to wait until then to join the conversation. Which players were your best waiver wire finds this year? Which disappointed you? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter (@jackweiland, @karl_de_vries).
Before we dive into today’s players, let’s look at some news regarding other players we’ve recently highlighted here.
Brandon McCarthy suffered a seizure this week, which he said was related to his head injury last year, but it does not appear this will set back his recovery from shoulder inflammation. He’s scheduled to resume throwing this week, and I’m not buying the massive sell-off here. If he’s sidelined only in the short term, he could make a useful pickup.
Roy Oswalt was strong again in another Double-A rehab start, and the deadline for him to join the Rockies is fast approaching. He’s still available in 94 percent of CBS leagues. That will likely change when he returns to the major leagues, so the time to strike is now. Add him.
Brewers reliever Jim Henderson has also returned from the disabled list, and is currently unowned in a third of CBS leagues. His ownership should spike as he reclaims his ninth-inning duties, so the time to buy is right now.
Todd Helton | Colorado Rockies | 1B | ESPN: 1.8 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 2 percent; CBS: 8 percent
YTD: .254/.319/.429 in 141 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .258/.336/.427 in 343 plate appearances
It’s hard not to appreciate Todd Helton’s career.
The Colorado first baseman will turn 40 in August, and although he’s not nearly the player he once was, he’s actually still somewhat useful in deeper fantasy formats.
First, a brief recap of his incredible run terrorizing National League pitchers:
1. In 1998, his first full season, Helton posted an OPS+ of 119. From 2000 to 2005 he posted OPS+ of 163, 160, 148, 165, 165, and 144. He led the league in WAR in 2000, and was a National League All-Star during each of those seasons.
2. He’s currently second among active players on the career OBP leader board, with a .417 mark, and 22nd overall, just a hair above Stan Musial.
3. The Rockies made a magical run to the World Series in 2007, a period which is surely central in Rockies’ lore, and Helton was a key part of that.
4. Over his career, Helton has walked more than he’s struck out, a feat that is exceedingly rare.
Helton is not that player anymore, and it would be unrealistic to expect him to be that guy again. That said, even with heavily eroded skills, he’s still a pretty darn good baseball player.
His walk rate is down significantly from his peak, but his 9.2 percent is still not bad at all. Likewise, his ISO is down about 200 percentage points from his peak levels, but at .175 it’s still not too shabby. Not sparkling, as it once was, but not too shabby.
There’s also reason to expect that Helton’s stats are depressed a tad by bad luck right now. His BABIP of .257 would be a career low if it lasted all season, and even though his line drive rate is down to just 20.6 percent, it’s still likely that his average on balls in play rebounds closer to .300.
Recommendation: He’s not the player he once was, but few are. This version of Todd Helton is still entirely capable of providing injury help for NL-only teams, or perhaps bench help for deeper mixed leagues. A triple slash of .275/.340/.450 is not out of the question.
Ryan Raburn | Cleveland Indians | OF | ESPN: 10.4 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 6 percent; CBS: 12 percent
YTD: .290./.361/.561 in 119 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .259/.321/.471 in 332 plate appearances
It’s rare for a player to be owned as much on ESPN as CBS, so this is a case worth looking into.
Raburn has played 601 career games at the major league level, split across eight seasons. The closest he came to being a full-time player during that span was the 2010 campaign, when he put up a line of .280/.340/.474 in 410 plate appearances. He doesn’t have drastic platoon splits (career .349 wOBA vs. left-handed pitching, .311 vs. righties) so that’s not the reason he hasn’t landed a full-time gig yet. More likely, that is a result of his bat being too middling for a corner outfielder, and the fact that he’s had negative defensive value every season until this one. Playing time issues aside, can the bat help fantasy teams, though?
Expecting a continuation of his current triple slash line is unrealistic, as it is benefiting from unrealistically high rates for BABIP (.343) and home runs (24.1 percent). When those fall, his overall line will return somewhere close to normalcy (career .258/.314/.438).
The Indians’ offense has been better than many expected, and so it’s somewhat interesting that the biggest problem facing Ryan Raburn right now is that it’s just too hard for him to crack the lineup, as well as he’s played. He’s battling Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi for time at either corner outfield, first base, or designated hitter. As surprising as it may sound, that’s been very challenging, and doesn’t show much sign of changing anytime soon.
Would a line of .250/.310/.460 help owners in AL-only leagues? It’s within the realm of possibility. If you’re in such a sorry state that a .770 OPS is attractive to you, though, you probably need more help than Raburn can provide, and you’re probably better off speculating on the debut of Wil Myers.
Recommendation: Don’t get sucked in by a pretty OPS. Raburn is what he is, and that probably will not provide much value to fantasy owners even in AL-only leagues.
Logan Morrison | Miami Marlins | OF | ESPN: 2.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 6 percent; CBS: 25 percent
YTD: .333/.500/.333 in eight plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .262/.351/.442 in 243 plate appearances
Prior to last season, it appeared LoMo was here to stay. Set to turn 25 last August, the Marlins first baseman/outfielder was fresh off two solid stints in the major leagues. During his 72-game debut in 2010, he triple slashed .283/.390/.447 while displaying good plate discipline and solid power. In 2011, in basically a full season, he again showed good plate skills (although his walks went down and his strikeouts went up) and he put up another solid triple slash of .247/.330/.468.
His BABIP was low in 2011, at .265, and dropped even further last season. A dip there, and regression closer to his career ISO rate lowered his triple slash to a less impressive .230/.308/.399 before a nagging knee injury effectively ended his season. He’s spent most of this season rehabbing that knee, and has just recently returned to the big club.
So what to expect? It’s impossible to foretell how much his bum knee has sapped his strength and true skill level, or if it’s even healthy now, but when Morrison is healthy there’s a lot to like in his profile. He’s displayed very good walk rates at every level he’s played including a major league rate of 11 percent across his 1,151 career plate appearances. He doesn’t strike out much, either, with a career rate of just 18.1 percent. Repeating his ISO spike in 2010 seems unlikely, since that .221 rate was well above anything he’s put up in the upper minors, but his BABIP leveling off could easily produce a line of .270/.360/.420 and that isn’t bad in the least.
Recommendation: Well worth picking up in NL only leagues, and probably worth a shot as a fill-in for mixed league owners.