Aaaaaand just like that, the fantasy baseball playoffs are right around the corner for most of us. I don’t know about y’all, but 2020 has been the single longest decade of my entire life. Yet here we are, on the down slope of the baseball season, despite every week having COVID cases pop up here and there. Pretty ding dang surprised we still have baseball, to be fully honest with yinz. Buckle your seat belts, ladies n gents, cuz we gotta a whole lotta baseball coming up. Double-headers galore.
The latter part of a season is always a little cray cray. GMs get desperate, take some risks, snatch up some keepers for cheap, that sorta thing. With all these double-headers, there will be lots of bats and arms getting chances they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. We’ve already seen quite a bit of that throughout the year, and it’s only gonna keep on keepin’ on.
Format is a little different this week. I like tinkering. Doing away with my “39% or less owned” rule, too, cuz I feel like it.
Note: Stats accurate as of 9/5/2020, before games began.
Alex Dickerson: A-Dick, as I’ve seen him affectionately called on Twitter and Reddit, is *Mugatu voice* so hot right now. Five straight multi-hit games, with 4 HR, 4 2B, and 9 RBI in that span. That’s a whole lot of XBH in five games. Dude barely missed a 4-HR game, too – his 9th inning double would have cleared every other fence in the league. This run has improved his season slash line to .277/.351/.544. Dickerson is 30 years old and only has about one season’s worth of PAs to his name in the MLB, but he’s mashing in 2020 and actually wasn’t that bad last year either, especially after joining the Giants. Less than 30% owned in both Yahoo and ESPN right now.
- K-rate has dipped to 17.5% while BB rate has risen to 10.5%. Love to see Ks down and walks up. I mean I just freakin’ love it, especially when we’re talking a sub-20% strikeout rate paired with a double-digit walk rate.
- Expected stats are almost perfectly *NSYNC/’N Sync with actual stats. Cool.
- Hard-hit rate is a career-high 46.3%. Very cool.
- Strong against all pitch types and has multiple HR vs each. Coolio.
- Producing against lefties and righties, home and away. There is some significant variance in what kind production that is, but he’s still doing some good things either way.
- Barrel% a career-high 13.4%
Kevin Pillar: To the dismay of Sam Hilliard owners, the Rockies traded for Pillar, further crowding their outfield and further cementing themselves as the most frustrating team in the fantasy baseball realm. But to Pillar’s credit, he’s been very good since joining the Rox. Smacked a grand slam on Friday, stole a base in the game before. Okayyyy Kevin, I see you. Okay, he’s still not the sexiest dude out there, but he plays in a lineup that can score and gets to play at Coors Field. Pretty widely available if you need OF depth and some sexier names are taken.
- Going back to some Red Sox days, Pillar has 14 RBI in his last 20 games.
- Over that span, solid OBP despite a middling BA.
- 10 XBH and 17 runs as well in his last 20. Not bad!
- Again, plays at Coors now. Worth a look just for that.
Adam Duvall: The Braves have a lot of hitters who can do damage in a hurry, and right now Duvall is near the top of the list. The overall season line is the most impressive, but he’s heating up, and he can help a lot in the power department down the stretch. Or he could crash and burn. Just putting that disclaimer in there for legal purposes. Available almost everywhere.
- Launched 3 HR three games ago, and two games before that he also had a HR.
- Has a hit in six of his last seven with an OPS north of 1.000.
- Bad news is he’s only walked once and K-ed 10 times in that span.
- Good news is he seems to be locked into an everyday role moving forward.
Austin Riley: Finally, my guy! Another Braves slugger doing massive damage these days, Riley is finally proving my point I tried to make back in my Universal DH series. It sure took him a while, but he’s cranking out productive game after productive game despite hitting fairly low in the order most nights. Not owned in any more than 50% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues at the moment. Eligible at 3B/OF, so that’s nice.
- Just back on August 26, Riley was hitting below the Mendoza Line. Since then, he’s slashed .371/.389/.771.
- Only six Ks in that span (nine games).
- 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, and 9 RBI in those nine.
- Barrel rate well above league average (83rd percentile)
- K-rate down almost 10 full points from last year (36.4%?26.6%). Still pretty high but this is fantastic improvement for a sophomore.
- Walk rate about the same but at least it’s not worse, amirite?!
- He’s very good against fastballs and breaking balls, but horrid against off-speed. Needs to fix that.
Jeimer Candelario: The latest Tigers player to make a fantasy splash is almost hitting .300 on the season, has an OBP north of .350, and has some surprising shades of red on the Statcast profile. He’s not cleaning house in any category, but he’s above average in the power department and 80th percentile in xBA. Less than 20% owned in both Yahoo and ESPN.
- xBA of .290 supports his actual .294 BA.
- Has had almost machine-like consistency with Hard Hit% (33% or so) since the Statcast era began, but he’s shot up to 44.3% this year.
- Zone Swing% is up this year, as is Zone Contact%. More aggressive and making more contact. Noice.
- Career-high 31.8% line drive rate.
- Not gonna carry your offense by himself, but Candelario can be a real stable contributor to keep those ratios in check. Playing some good baseball in 2020, no doubt.
Victor Reyes: Jk, the actual latest Tigers player to make a splash in 2020 is this dude. Also has a very surprising amount of red on Statcast, highlighted by his 93rd percentile xBA. As available as Candelario is, pretty much.
- Been a while since he’s swiped a bag, but he’s got 5 SB in this tiny season.
- Has 20 hits in his last 13 games. Only once has gone hitless in that period.
- 11 runs in those last 13. Eight XBH.
- 9.2% solid contact, good for 65th in all of baseball. That’s in Luke Voit, Max Muncy, and Trevor Story territory. Hey that rhymed. So maybe 65th in baseball doesn’t whet your whistle; I just bring it up to show you he’s quietly doing very good things.
- Paces out to be a .300 hitter with 102 runs and 23 steals in a full season. And that’s including games he didn’t start in. That’s GOOD if you ask me.
Matthew Boyd: Tons on tons of hype for this dude (another Tiger!) coming into the season. There were some who thought he could contend for a Cy Young in this short season. I wasn’t totally against the idea, either. But the second half of last season was bad, and the start to this season has been as bad as Michael Jackson’s “Bad” is good. Which is hella damn bad, cuz that jam will slap into eternity. He’s turned the corner, though, thanks to a changeup. He’s not the most available guy out there, but his ownership rate is less than 70% in both Yahoo and ESPN.
- Ignore the Statcast. So much blue you’ll think you’re in an Eiffel 65 video.
- Good news, no matter whether you believe in this resurgence or not, is the walks are still under control – only a 6% rate, which is actually a career high. Wouldn’t’a thunk after the year he’s had he’d still have a career-best BB%.
- Ks have still been pretty okay despite how bad he’s been everywhere else.
- Last two starts have been quality, and both against the Twins.
- 3 ER or less in each of his last four. 29 Ks in 21.1 IP. And that’s against the White Sox, the Indians, and the Twins twice in a row. Okayyyyyy, I see you, too, Matty Boy.
- Thrown his change about 20% of the time or more in each of his last three, when at time it’s only been in the single digits. It’s his best pitch in terms of xwOBA and has a 46.2% whiff rate. Matty Boy needs to stick with it.
- Zone Swing% is way down is his last three, and I’m willing to bet that’s because his changeup is freezing guys more often. CSW% north of 30% in those three, as well, topping out at 37% in the most recent. That’s good.
- First four starts had contact percents in the 70s and 80s – last four have all been in the 60s. Plus batters are swinging less overall, indicating he’s mixing pitches much better and not just tossing meatballs like he was earlier in the year. Okay that’s enough bullet points on Matthew Boyd. I’m liking what I’m seeing.
Zach Eflin: Available in 75% of Yahoo leagues and 80% of ESPN leagues. Eflin is on fire. More like Zach Eflinthezone, amirite? On the surface, the numbers don’t look all that great. 2-1 record with an ERA over 4 and a WHIP over 1.26. Those are pretty misleading, though. Statcast says so! So do the ERA predictors.
- 89th percentile in xERA, xBA, andK%. 82nd in xSLG. 90th in xwOBA.
- Kinda ugly ERA, but xERA is 2.70. “Yeah, yeah, how about that FIP?” you retort. 2.89. “What’s the xFIP, bro?” I hear you thinking. 3.15. “Okay, okay; what’s the SIERA, BRO?!” you respond. 3.27.
- Above average in the Hard Hit% department. Not great, but not bad either.
- K% has jumped hugely to a career-high 30.9%. Doesn’t walk many batters either – only 5.9%.
- Not really a ground ball pitcher, but he’s generating the most he ever has: 47.7%. Ground balls never turn into home runs, remember. In case you forgot.
Luke Weaver: Weaver has been more like Cold-Hand Luke this year, but lately things have turned around some. The thing is, dude hasn’t logged 6 IP in a start yet, so that kinda sucks, but at least the ratios and Ks have been pretty good in his last few starts. The overall numbers look super grody. Like, why-are-you-making-me-read-about-this-guy grody. But hear me out!
- In his last four, Weaver has given up 2 ER or less three times. The other time he gave up four, but his FIP for that start was almost perfect at 0.14. Something was wonky.
- Four straight starts with a SIERA under 4. It’s not elite by any means, but you gotta give dude credit for turning it around after his previous three starts were all above 4.50.
- Great for strikeouts: 10.7 K/9.
- Only three combined barrels allowed in his last four (two of those starts he allowed zero) when his previous four had eight total.
- Don’t forget what 2019 Weaver was able to do. 2.94 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Maybe it’s a ramp-up thing, I dunno, but he’s looking more like that version these days, and the K/9 is significantly improved. I’d keep an eye on the guy at the very least.
Dane Dunning: The White Sox have themselves a really, really, really potentially insane team. They’re good and all right now, but the future, man! They’re young, they’re fun, but they’re also not without flaws. Luis Robert has matched every ounce of hype, but he’s not perfect. Dylan Cease is very up and down, but the potential remains. Same goes for Michael Kopech, if he ever gets healthy. But just imagine if all these guys pan out. I mean, statistically speaking, someone’s gonna flop, probably. Can’t help but be excited if you’re a Chi Sox fan, though. Add Dane Dunning to the list.
- Three starts now, and no more the 3 ER in each. Granted, he hasn’t thrown more than five innings in any of them.
- Sexy K/9, but he walked four in just four innings last time. On the flip side, he walked just one in each of his first two. Demonstrated very good control throughout the minors, so I’m not concerned.
- O-Swing% is north of 30% and SwStr% is almost 18%. Me likey.
- Plays for a potent offense, so if he can at least give you five innings, he’s got a good shot to give you a dub.
- ERA is supported by xERA and FIP/SIERA. In other words, it’s not just beginner’s luck.
- Small sample of course, but all five of his pitch offerings have a 20% whiff rate or better. Three are 30% or better. Two are 40% or better. One is at 56%. In other words, he’s got some stuff.
Tyler Mahle: Wrote about Mahle a while back, then he went and got stuck in the bullpen for like no reason. It’s like his little sister ratted him out for something he didn’t do. He’s back to starting games these days, and has been very good the past two times he’s been on the mound.
- Quality starts in each of his last two. 14.2 IP and 14 K.
- Only 6 H allowed in those two starts combined, but four were dingers.
- Good amount of red on the Savant profile. Borderline elite in xBA (88th percentile).
- Career-high 28.5% K rate.
- Fastball and slider working in tandem very effectively. Sometimes works in a splitter that’s also been good.
- H/9 is elite right now (6.0). Couple that with a double-digit K/9 and you’ve got a recipe for success more often than not. Especially if he can stop giving up the long ball.
Triston McKenzie: Well the Indians lost Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac for a while, called up McKenzie, found out he was really good, and decided they should just trade Clevinger. Looks like a very smart move. Plesac is back and looks fine, and now they’ve got McKenzie looking better then Clevinger right now. McKenzie is owned in less than 70% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, so he may be lurking around waiting for you.
- Three starts and only 3 ER combined so far. Only eight hits combined.
- Whiffed 10 in his debut, then just whiffed three (in 4 IP), then whiffed six in six. Works out to a 10.7 K/9.
- O-Swing% is at 35.4. Nice. SwStr% is at 14.3. Nice.
- Gets hit pretty hard, but a 4.5 H/9 has nullified that damage thus far. Sure, that’ll come back to bit him at some point, but the kid’s been real good.
- For what it’s worth to you, McKenzie has maintained superb peripherals at all levels of the minors. Very good ERA. Great WHIP. Great H/9, BB/9, and K/9. Impressive SwStr%. Given Cleveland’s track record for pitcher devlopment……..sign me up.
Other Quick Notes
This is where I like to add in extra little tidbits but don’t dive in nearly as deep as what’s above. Just some trends I noticed throughout the past week or so, good or bad.
Corbin Burnes might still be out there for you, and you should just go ahead and grab him if he is, especially if you can take advantage of his RP eligibility. Has yet to allow more than 3 ER in a start, and has been scoreless in his last two, adding 17 Ks in those as well. I skipped writing about him above just because he’s on the cusp of being too-owned for me.
Ke’Bryan Hayes still doing some thangs after a juicy debut. Had added three more hits, including a triple, and has only struck out once total in his last two games after striking out five times total in his first two. Positive sign, at the very least.
ESPN peeps are way more on this one, but Robinson Cano is out there still in 57% of Yahoo leagues. So. Much. Dark. Lovely. Red. On. Statcast. I wouldn’t be buying it in a full season necessarily, but I’ll take time-traveling Cano in a two-month season at this rate.
Ian Anderson posted another gem in his second career start, going six, allowing 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 8 K. Still decently available, more so in Yahoo.
Remember Dylan Moore? Got super hot, tore up everything, then got hurt. He came back Friday and went 2-for-5 and stole his 7th bag of the year. Right where he left off. 58% owned in Yahoo, but only 40% in ESPN.
Nick Solak is still around, too, doing good things for a young hitter. Making solid contact and not striking out much at all lately. Not bashing HR like he did last year still, but my gut’s telling me just give it time. Dynasty folks probably already have this guy scooped up, but if not, make it happen.
JKJ is just an Arkansas guy who loves to play, watch, and sometimes write about sports. Loves his Hogs, St. Louis teams, US National teams, and Liverpool FC (since way before it was cool). He also teaches high school English. He greatly enjoys bourbon, bourbon cocktails, craft beer, and coffee at all times of the day. Married to a foxy nurse. Is a #girldad. Plays too many video games. Doesn’t care about sentence fragments despite his profession.
Follow him on Twitter (@jkj0787), where his DMs are always open for average to above-average advice. Complaints are welcome, too.