Joe Saunders | Arizona | SP | 11 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.62 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 4.77 K/9, 1.42 K/BB, 42.8 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.47 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.71 K/BB
Joe Saunders was recently acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a package sending Dan Haren to the Angels. Little changes with Saunders’ value, in my opinion, even moving from the American League to the National League. Saunders is essentially the worst type of fantasy starter, an innings eater who doesn’t strike out many batters and posts bad ratios, but, hey, he’s a winner baby, look at his 2008 and 2009 wins totals! Seriously though, any time a pitcher’s value is entirely tied to his win-loss record, one should look elsewhere, and in this case, the look elsewhere rules apply.
For the season Saunders isn’t missing many bats, as his swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) is just 6.2 and his K/9 sits at a paltry 4.77. Making matters worse for Saunders, as if they aren’t poor as they stand, his groundball rate sits at just 42.8 percent, which is 3.7 percent below his career 45.9 GB percentage. While Saunders makes the move from the American League to the National League, he also moves to a new home ballpark that inflates run scoring more than his previous home ballpark, thus expecting an improved ERA may be a foolish hope. At this point, Saunders is ownable only in the deepest of leagues, and his inclusion in this week’s article is merely to point out that he’s changed leagues.
Recommendation: Should only be owned in larger than 14-team mixed leagues with high innings pitched limits and large NL-only leagues.
Jason Hammel | Colorado | SP | 20 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.77 K/9, 3.06 K/BB, 44.3 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.61 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 2.56 K/BB
With yet another solid month under his belt, it is surprising to see Jason Hammel available still in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Hammel may not be the sexiest name brand pitcher, but his solid GB rate and good strikeout rate make him a mus- own in all medium to large leagues. Toss in the fact that he limits his walks, 2.54 BB/9, and that his 3.72 xFIP pegs him as a bit unlucky, there is no excuse not to buy in to what Hammel is selling. I will concede that Hammel’s improved K/9 is a bit surprising given his lower SwStr% and higher contact rate against this year, but as long as it stands at, or around, its current rate, he is a must-own.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues and all NL-only leagues.
J.A. Happ | Houston | SP | 35 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 1.76 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 5.28 K/9, 0.75 K/BB, 34.0 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.8 K/BB
As with Saunders, mention of J.A. Happ in this week’s article should be considered a notice of his trade, not necessarily an ownership endorsement. Happ was quite the lucky pitcher last year, and that has continued in a very small sample size this season. Regardless, his luck will run out if he continues to post low strikeout rates, doesn’t induce more ground balls, and continues to issue as many free passes as he has thus far this season. Happ moves from one hitter-friendly park to anothe, pitching his home games at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately for Happ, he also now has the equivalent of a Quad-A squad trying to offer run support for him.
Happ has given little reason for optimism the remainder of the season, as he’s struggled even in Triple-A and seen an increase in his walk rate from last year to this year, without a corresponding spike in strikeout rate. The seemingly lone bright spot for Happ switching senior circuit clubs is that he has no obstacles preventing him from sticking in the rotation the remainder of the season. A few weeks ago I speculated Happ may be a worthwhile add in deeper leagues, but I have re-adjusted my thinking and believe he is more along the lines of a watch in deeper leagues until he shows reason to expect useful fantasy performances start to start. Best case scenario would appear to be him turning into a spot starter in soft match-ups. Worst case, he’s awful in all appearances.
Recommendation: Should be watched in deeper leagues at this point and owned in large NL-only leagues.
Logan Morrison | Florida | 1B/OF | 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .333/.333/.556 (9 AB’s)
Oliver ROS: .285/.363/.447
An injury suffered by Chris Coghlan in a shaving cream pie accident has opened the door for a Logan Morrison promotion to the Marlins. The length of time Coghlan misses remains unclear; it has not been decided whether he needs surgery (which would shelve him six to eight weeks) or whether he’ll be able to play through the injury and return sometime at the end of August. Regardless, Morrison should see everyday at-bats. Morrison opened the season as the No. 2 prospect in the Marlins system, and top-20 prospect in all of baseball according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
All Morrison has done is rake in the minors, and his Triple-A slash line in 238 ABs this year was .307/.427/.487 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs and a juicy 48 to 35 walk-to-strikeout rate (BB:K). According to minorleaguesplits MLE calculator, Morrison’s slash would translate to .255/.349/.389. For a player who has a line drive stroke, awesome raw power, and a discerning eye, I’d tend to side with a slash closer to Oliver’s than his MLE line.
In his first two games Morrison has been slotted second in the Marlins lineup, behind Hanley Ramirez, and in front of Dan Uggla, which should result in a healthy number of RBI and runs scored if he’s able to translate his high batting average and awesome OBP skills to the major league level. Expecting big home run returns would be foolish: In spite of his awesome raw power, his swing doesn’t currently lend itself to lofting the ball for home runs.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues and all NL-only leagues.
Domonic Brown | Philadelphia | OF | 23 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .667/.500/1.000 (3 AB’s)
Oliver ROS: No projection
Morrison was not the only top-20 prospect to be promoted to his parent club this week. In fact, he wasn’t even the most heralded top-20 prospect. That honor was bestowed upon Domonic Brown. Brown was promoted to replace an injured Shane Victorino in the Phillies outfield. Brown did nothing but mash the ball in Double-A and Triple-A this season.
In 236 at bats at Double-A Reading Brown slashed .318/.391/.602 with 16 doubles, three triples and 15 home runs while posting a 29 to 51 BB:K and stealing 12 bases, all good for an MLE of .259/.317/.466. After ripping the ball in Double-A, he was promoted to Triple-A where in 107 at bats he posted a slash of .346/.390/.561 with six doubles, one triple, five home runs with an eight to 23 BB:K and stealing five bases which was good for an MLE of .300/.339/.471.
My guess is that Brown’s actual slash with the Phillies will fall somewhere between his Double-A MLE and his Triple-A MLE, which coupled with his tantalizing power and speed combo makes him a game-changer down the stretch run. Because Brown hadn’t played a game at the major league level, I’d guess his low Yahoo! ownership has to do with him still being on waivers in leagues that require a player to play a game at the major league level before being available, rather than owners sleeping on him.
If you are fortunate enough to be in a league where he’s still available, and has cleared waivers, add him immediately, even shallow leaguers, as his five-tool skill set has a chance to get hot and play well down the stretch run. I wouldn’t expect his transition to the majors to come without some hiccups along the way, but he’s well worth speculating on even in shallow re-draft leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Josh Thole | New York (NL) | C | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .272/.338/.359
Josh Thole, part of a trio of catchers on the Mets’ roster that includes Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco, should see an uptick in playing time as Barajas hit the DL retroactive to Sunday for a mild strained right oblique. Thole has yet to display much home run power even going back to his time in the high minors, but that shouldn’t dissuade owners in deeper two catcher leagues from owning Thole as a second backstop.
Thole has done a tremendous job of squaring pitches up, with a 21.9 percent line drive rate, and taking walks—15.9 percent walk rate—which have lead to a juicy .351 average and a .455 OBP. He has also been great at putting the ball in play with a 90 percent contact rate, and not chasing pitches out of the zone, offering at only 18.3 percent of those pitches. . While I’m not suggesting Thole will maintain his current slash, I can easily see him posting an average over .300, and with an increase in at-bats that makes him quite useful as a second catcher in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues using two catchers while Barajas is out (and longer if he gets the bulk of the at-bats down the stretch), and all NL-only leagues.
Miguel Tejada | San Diego | SS/3B | 61 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .286/.320/.403
Barring league approval, Miguel Tejada will be switching leagues as the Orioles have agreed to trade him to the San Diego Padres. Because he still holds shortstop eligibility, Tejada will be of use to NL-only owners looking to fill either a SS or MI spot. The years of Tejada being a universally owned difference maker in leagues of all league sizes are long gone, and this season further proves that.
In shallow to medium sized mixed leagues, there is little to be excited about with Tejada, given his allergy to ball four, his 3.5 walk percentage, and his feeble noodle bat producing a 0.92 ISO. Those in deeper leagues may have use for a guy who will see everyday at bats, and has a shot at posting a solid, albeit hollow, batting average thanks to a line drive rate of 19.2 percent. Oliver’s slash line seems reasonable for the rest of the season, so use that as a baseline, and understand he may quite literally hit zero home runs the rest of the year, as he’s now playing in homer hell (PETCO) for half his games, and slugged only seven home runs in 428 plate appearances to date anyway.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI position and in all NL-only leagues.