Spinoffs are a risky business with some great hits (The Colbert Report, Better Call Saul, The Jeffersons) and others that never made it (After Mash, The Conners, Joey). I’m taking the risk of writing a spin off article from the 2019 Players To Target Now In Dynasty? The article highlighted players whose value could change in 2019 that you can obtain on the cheap now. This piece has a similar target, but for players who haven’t performed up to expectations in 2018 that I expect to bounce back in 2019.
I know it won’t be cheap in any dynasty or keeper format to make a trade for Bryce, but I do believe that this is likely the lowest his value has ever been as he is about to enter free agency in 2019. The overall contact percentage has declined and his swinging strike rate has risen. He’s the most top end player on this list, but as I’ve seen some trades that would’ve been deemed absurd to start the season, I believe now is the buying window.
Harper still ranks 40th in barrels per plate appearance (7.8), 54th in average exit velocity (90.6), and 42nd in hard hit rate (45.1% per Statcast). The hard hit rate falls a little over at Fangraphs where it sits at 40.8%, but is also the 2nd best of his career behind only his monster 2015 season.
Note: Generaly speaking, the difference between the two hard hit rates being that Fangraphs factors in the type of batted ball (flyball, grounder, line drive) whereas Statcast measures strictly by exit velocity.
I admit that I have been a Jon Gray fan boy since he was drafted just behind my boy, Kris Bryant, in the 2013 draft. It could have easily gone the other way and Gray could’ve been navigating the winds of Wrigley while KB would’ve been mashing at Coors. For fantasy purposes, this would’ve been a much more ideal scenario, but as a Cubs fan, I’m ecstatic that Bryant ended up with us instead of Jon Gray, or….gulp, Mark Appel. And the Astros are still the deepest team in the game.
Jon Gray in 2018 may be a case study for how much luck can influence the standard 5×5 end of year numbers. His velocity has hung steady around 95-96 mph all season. Nothing was drastically different in his pitch mix from previous seasons.
He is working with the best strikeout rate of his career (27.7%) and has the second best walk rate behind only last season (6.9%). Gray has a .345 BABIP on the season.The pitches are still getting swings and misses. The fastball has the second best whiff percentage of his career (7.79%), the change is getting the most whiffs of his career (19.23%), and the slider is in line with his career numbers (21.70%). Among qualified starters, he has the largest negative discrepancy between his ERA and his FIP (1.89 difference) and his ERA and xFIP (2.02). Go get him and thank me next season.
Parts of Lamb’s game may not be so enticing, but it also seems like the shoulder injury has plagued him all season as evidenced by Lamb electing for surgery. Lamb’s numbers pretty much across the board were similar in 2016 and 2017, whereas they all regressed a bit in 2018 leading me to believe that he was never fully recovered. I have a hard time believing that Jake has lost it at only 27 years old or that it took two years for the league to adjust. The surgery adds more risk that he will become the player that he once was, but also drops his already low value.
Lamb still can’t hit lefties, which has cost him some playing time, but I still believe he is a 25-30 home run threat with good R and RBI numbers to go along with the bombs. The strikeout rate could be lower and you’re not going to get a .300 hitter out of Lamb, but should be owned in most dynasty formats and can probably be obtained pretty cheaply. I grabbed Lamb off of waivers in a 15 team dynasty league, and I’m happy to sit him on my DL to see how it turns out.
What a difference an off season can make. Domingo was coming off what appeared to be his breakout season, hitting .278/.371/.505 with 30 HRs and 15 SBs. Rather than the Brewers allowing him to continue his growth, they went out and signed Lorenzo Cain and traded for Christian Yelich to completely prevent a full time role for anyone else in the outfield.
The strikeouts have always been a concern, but he balanced some of that risk out with the ability to take a walk. Even if he regressed to a more expected .250-.260 batting average, we were still looking at a guy who hits the ball hard with the ability to hit for power and steal a few bases. Unfortunately, along with the inconsistent playing time came a much less enticing version of Domingo with only 3 HRs and 1 SB in 211 PAs.
For 2019 though, I believe we could see a couple of the Brewers outfielders on the move including Domingo, which would open up more playing time and the opportunity for a bounceback campaign. Domingo is still hitting the ball hard with a 40.7% hard hit rate at Fangraphs (39.8% at Statcast) along with an 89.2 mph average exit velocity, which puts him just behind guys like Freddie Freeman, Paul Dejong, and Gleyber Torres.
Coming into the season, Luke Weaver was being drafted just outside the top 100 players overall and was being taken around the 30th starting pitcher off the board. Fast forward a few months and Weaver has faced the dreaded sophomore slump posting a lower strikeout rate, higher walk rate, and disappointing surface stats.
Maybe Weaver was more of a one hit wonder than a future stud, but I’m banking on the skills here. He has put together a couple really nice months, but have followed those up with stinkers. 5.17, 3.33, 6,75, and 3.00 are his ERAs per month starting with Mar/Apr through July. Weaver is another one that the FIP and xFIP point to him being a better pitcher as he has the 7th biggest ERA-FIP discrepancy and the 14th biggest ERA-xFIP. I still like the change and the curve as pitches, and the velocity has actually ticked up a little this season giving me some optimism that there is a bounceback in there for 2019.
Ray started the season a little slow before heading to the DL with a strained abdominal and has just never gotten on track this season. The strikeouts have still been there with a 30.5% K rate, but has also seen the walks increase to 11.6%. While I know that even before the injury, people were calling for Ray to regress from his 2017 season where he had a 2.89 ERA compared to his 3.72 FIP. I also don’t believe that he’s fallen to a 5+ ERA guy.
At 26 years old, he’s still a high K, high upside arm that could help build your rotation for years to come, and I think you can probably obtain him from a team making a playoff run for some nice pop up options you’ve found this season.
I would’ve told you the same thing at this time last year and it’s possible he’s jumped the Shark, but he had an unlucky season in 2017 and it was more injury related than performance in 2018. I’m still buying there is a mid to upper threes ERA, 24% k rate, 200 IP guy there. None of the numbers line up with anything close to what he’s posted in his career. I think an offseason to fully recover is exactly what he needs.
He has the favorable home ballpark and a couple more in his division, and is signed with the Giants for two more seasons. There will be enough people out on him after this season, and I hope to scoop him up for nothing in my dynasty leagues, or take a late flyer on him in redraft for 2019.
We can probably put Carlos Rodon in this group as well, but for the injury concerns more than any struggles he’s shown this season. These are both guys that I just will not be able to quit. The velocity is down a little this season as he was sitting 97.7 mph last year compared to 95.7 mph this year, and I am left to wonder if the (out of the race) Reds didn’t push him a little too much in 2017 having him throw almost 170 IP compared to his previous career high of 131 IP. It’s not an unheard of increase in workload, but could be enough to have affected Castillo in 2018.
It looks like Castillo was utilizing his 2 seamer more in the early part of the season. He has since moved that share of pitches back to the 4 seamer and slider, which are better pitches that get better whiff rates. The 2 seamer has the worst slugging percentage and batting average compared to the rest of his arsenal. With the adjustment away from the 2 seamer and a slight bump in his velocity over the course of the season, Castillo has already begun his bounceback posting a 2.25 ERA over 28 IP with 25 Ks to 4 BBs in July. I’d be sending out some trade offers or maybe he’s available on free agency before anyone notices; HE’S BACK BABY!
B_Don co-hosts the Ditka, Sausage, and Fantasy Sports podcast here at Razzball