These are intriguing (and important) times for fantasy league owners. We’re well into call-up season and on the cusp of trading season. With that comes opportunity—both good and bad.
Proactive owners can be quick on the draw for big call-ups (or lesser known call-ups who find themselves playing often, and playing well). It’s also a potential pitfall, as well, though. This is a complex time, and a range of factors needs to be considered by owners making trades or scouring the wire.
Who else is in the mix? Who might be in the mix? Which teams are likely to be sellers? Do they have top prospects to fill the spots they vacate? Which teams will be buyers? Which players will be relegated to the bench as a result of those deadline deals?
It’s more complicated than a strict talent analysis at this point, and owners that consider these factors will be better equipped to take advantage of the moves that happen in the coming days. Staying tuned to our content here at The Hardball Times would be a very wise decision, indeed. Let’s look at a few players we’ve featured here recently before getting to today’s batch.
Roy Oswalt‘s ERA is pretty ugly right now (7.36), but his strikeout and walk rates are incredibly strong (30.8 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively). Still buying.
Zoilo Almonte‘s triple slash is predictably crashing back to Earth. Shocker.
Brandon McCarthy‘s comeback isn’t coming along quite as quickly as I had hoped, but I still see value there.
Tyler Chatwood is still starting for the Rockies and still has a sub-3.00 ERA. I don’t anticipate that will continue all season, but he’s a solid add.
Today let’s look at two National League infielders hoping to hang on to their playing time and one American League starting pitcher tossing up a silently strong season.
Juan Francisco | Milwaukee Brewers | 3B/1B | ESPN: 3.2 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 5 percent; CBS: 9 percent
YTD: .232/.292/.423 in 185 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .240/.290/.447
I can’t stay mad at you, Juan Francisco.
You’ll notice when I write that now, I no longer include the exclamation point, which is mostly the result of THWTFN being designated for assignment by the Braves. It’s bad when the guys you suggest people pick up get DFA’d. Really bad. The thing is … I still see value here, especially since he landed in a situation that has him seeing more regular playing time. He’s been playing third and first for the Brewers since arriving in Milwaukee, and will continue to do so until Corey Hart returns from his knee injury.
Francisco is back in my good graces this week, for two reasons.
Most importantly, news broke that Hart will not return this season. With the Brewers out of the playoff picture and in sell mode as we approach trading season, Francisco likely will continue seeing regular playing time at first base. It is unlikely the Brewers will acquire anyone better before the end of the season.
It’s no secret that Francisco’s calling card is his raw power, and while his ISO with Atlanta was a disappointing .157, it’s .250 since joining the Brewers. He cranked three home runs last week alone (albeit against the Cubs, and two of them were Just Enough according to Hit Tracker).
At this stage of the season, it’s rare to find a player so available, with such a firm grasp on his playing time, who excels so much in an area that is generally hard to find. His triple-slash line in Atlanta was putrid, and it’s still not very shiny, but there is clear value here, and Francisco is available in 91 percent of leagues on CBS. He’s worth owning. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Recommendation: I never learn, and I’m recommending Francisco for the second time this year, despite the fact that the last time I did so, he got DFA’d.
Logan Forsythe | San Diego Padres | 2B | ESPN: 4.7 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 3 percent; CBS: 11 percent
YTD: .303/.356 /485 in 73 plate appearances
ZiPS projection: .258/.335/.395 in 271 plate appearances
Forsythe entered the season with a shot to be the club’s everyday second baseman, but a foot injury threw that plan off course, and the play of rookie Jedd Gyorko made it a moot point, anyway. An injured groin shelved Gyorko June 10, however, and although he rejoined the team to be reevaluated recently, there is still no timetable on his return.
To his credit, Forsythe has taken the opportunity to get into the second base mix and run with it. His triple-slash is impressive, but even moreso when you consider the fact that he’s crushing right-handed pitching since rejoining the Padres. His wOBA against righties in 2013 is .396, versus a career mark of .279. Interestingly, he’s struggling against left-handed pitching, with a wOBA .293 against his career mark of .367.
It’s worth noting that his 2013 splits are very small sample sizes from both sides of the plate (30 plate appearances against lefties, 43 against righties), but it’s certainly plausible that Forsythe has smoothed out some of his struggles against right-handed pitching, and that his numbers against southpaws will buoy back to his career marks. That is obviously the best-case scenario here.
There is significant reason to believe Forsythe has been somewhat lucky in 2013, though. His BABIP of .362 is much higher than his career mark of .308. Additionally, his home run rate of 20 percent is much higher than his career mark of six percent. Even with an improved power stroke, he’s unlikely to sustain that kind of production (even though all three of his home runs this year have been listed as Plenty by Hit Tracker).
Recommendation: Worth rolling out in the short term while Gyorko is sidelined.
Aaron Harang | Seattle Mariners | SP | ESPN: 1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 4 percent; CBS: 11 percent
YTD: 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 4.00 xFIP in 64.2 innings pitched
ZiPS projection: 7-12, 4.71 ERA, 4.15 FIP in 135 IP
Harang was a durable rotation fixture for the Reds in the mid-2000s, pitching more than 200 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In 2010, his strikeouts were depressed and walks were rising, his ERA was north of 5.00, and he fell out of favor with Cincinnati.
He latched on with San Diego in 2011 and Los Angeles last year, posting ERAs below 3.00 again despite peripherals that still appeared unsightly. So there wasn’t much enthusiasm for Harang entering this season, especially since he seemed to be on the outside looking in for what was expected to be a stacked Dodgers rotation.
Harang was traded to Colorado on April 6 for Ramon Hernandez, and then dealt to Seattle for Steven Hensley five days later. His ERA in Seattle has been as ugly as many might have expected based on the peripherals shown in prior years, but there’s one major problem with that.
His peripherals now are very, very good. Harang has fanned 20.9 percent of the batters he’s faced while walking just 3.9 percent. That miniscule walk rate will be a career low if it’s able to stick. He has a healthy swinging-strikeout rate (8.8 percent) and is generating the second-most swings outside of the strike zone of his career (32.5 percent, second only to 2011′s 33.6)
He’s also been fairly unlucky this season. His strand rate is well below his career average (63.4 percent vs. 73.1 percent), and his BABIP is a tad high at .317. His low groundball rate (35.2 percent) is a concern, but one that is mostly mitigated by the fact that Safeco has been a graveyard for fly balls again this year.
Recommendation: His ERA will catch up with his impressive peripherals. And when it does, it’s safe to say more than 11 percent of CBS owners will take note. Get in now.