I always find the end of June to be a bittersweet time for baseball because the season is basically half over, All-Star balloting is taking hold, and so many fantasy breakout stars have already made their mark.
On the other hand, it’s a long season, and as guys go down with injuries—or plain ineptitude—opportunity knocks for so many others. This week, we’ll take a look at two American League options who recently have received considerable notice in fantasy circles.
Esmil Rogers | Toronto Blue Jays | SP | 7.0 percent Yahoo ownership; 11.6 percent ESPN; 49 percent CBS
YTD: 54.2 IP / 3.46 ERA / 5.3 K/9 / 2.8 BB/9 with 3 wins
ZiPS updated: 102 IP / 3.98 ERA / 6.5 K/9 / 3 BB/9 with 5 wins
What a difference a week makes.
I say that because since I last wrote, the Blue Jays exploded and just completed an 11-game winning streak, a stretch that saw the team pull above .500 and, perhaps, re-enter the 2013 playoff picture. Unfortunately, Monday’s loss came at the expense of Rogers, who, up until then, had put together a nice four-start stretch for the team, going 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.919 WHIP and a nearly 7 K/9.
With the Blue Jays pushing their way back into the throes of respectable baseball society, and with Rogers perhaps sticking in the team’s rotation for good following the injuries to Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ, is he worth adding?
Rogers, 27, certainly has a live arm, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. Problem is, the strikeouts haven’t been there, as his career 8.4 percent swinging-strike rate actually has taken a bit of a tumble so far in 2013. Add in a declining first-strike rate, and you have a guy whose K/9 is, if anything, a detriment to fantasy owners adding him.
He’s also displayed something of a sharp home/away split, as Rogers has pitched significantly better at the Rogers Centre than on the road, as hitters’ OPS against him is nearly 300 points less north of the border.
I’m also concerned about his 78.6 percent strand rate, a mark that, by itself, is high but not crazy, except that it would represent a 12 percentage point jump over his career mark were he to maintain it throughout the season. Since I’m going to assume that’s unlikely, that means that ERA is going to head toward 4.00 once reality sets in.
It’s certainly possible that Rogers could pull a Hisashi Iwakuma and become more of a strikeout artist after moving to the starting rotation, but even a 7.0 K/9 is not going to offset a pedestrian ERA. The Blue Jays may have been built to win in 2013, but they’re still missing Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie, so wins aren’t a guaranteed commodity up in Canada, either.
Rogers is a solid addition in AL-only leagues, but for the time being, I’m content to leave it at that.
Recommendation: Pass in mixed leagues.
Leonys Martin | Texas Rangers | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership; 19 percent ESPN; 51 percent CBS
YTD: 188 PA / .282 / .335 / .418 with 3 HR and 12 SB
ZiPS update: 396 PA / .278 / .331 / .417 with 7 HR and 21 SB
I was a bit worried that I’d be writing this column too late to mention Martin, who took over the Rangers’ center field job a few days ago and, perhaps, was fast rising out of the waiver-wire realm and into the mainstream fantasy baseball community. His CBS ownership clearly has risen, but he’s still widely available in Yahoo and ESPN and, thus, still ripe for a look here.
That’s good for you and me, because Martin is a speed demon who also has shown flashes of power in his professional career. Let’s start with the speed: 12 stolen bases so far in just 65 games, and that’s a bit unfair when you consider he hasn’t been a full-time player for the bulk of 2013. With a steady diet of ballgames from here on out, it’s completely reasonable to believe that Martin, 25, could add 20 thefts to his season total.
Can he hit well enough to keep himself in the lineup? Martin loves hitting at Arlington (who doesn’t?) and flashes superior numbers against right-handed hurlers, which a) might make him a platoon option in fantasy in the immediate future and b) risks allowing Craig Gentry to go back to siphoning off at-bats if Martin struggles.
Otherwise, Martin—who bashed 12 home runs in Triple-A last year in just 260 plate appearances—has passable walk and strikeout rates and has yet to hit under .250 in any month thus far in 2013.
That doesn’t make him superstar material, but even a mediocre batting average should be enough to merit Martin’s use in far more mixed leagues that count steals as a category. If he can keep the average in the .270-.280 range and mix in some home runs, well, it’d be hard to not call him a must-start in mixed leagues.
Recommendation: With an everyday job, Martin can be used in 12-team mixed leagues.