Stephen Piscotty (+31.8%) was the most added player in fantasy baseball over the past week. Another homegrown talent looks to be panning out for the NL-leading St. Louis Cardinals, joining other key MLB players such as Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Trevor Rosenthal, and Jaime Garcia who were drafted and developed by that organization. As far as Piscotty goes, his name is like a glorious reminder of the incredible homemade biscotti and pizzelles that my Italian aunts used to make for me as a kid. Piscotty’s production this season since being called up roughly six weeks ago has been just as delicious for fantasy owners (well, almost). Entering yesterday’s play, his August numbers – 15 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB, .340/.374/.600 in 107 PA – have been stunning, with top-20 results in several key categories (BA, SLG, OPS) among qualified players over that span. However, his mediocre 0.22 BB/K ratio (MLB average: 0.37) over the past month as well as an unsustainably high .405 BABIP (MLB average: .299) indicate that he’ll probably be more like a Stella D’oro Breakfast Treat moving forward. Pretty good in it’s own right, but can’t hold a candle to Aunt Theresa’s homemade goodies.
Here are a couple of other significant adds and drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:
Kris Medlen – 31.1% owned (+19.3%)
Remember Medlen’s unbelievable 2nd half performance in 2012, in which he went 9-0 with a .94 ERA, .82 WHIP, and 95 Ks in 95 1/3 IP? The bad news is that he’ll probably never go on an extended run like that again. The good news is that he doesn’t have to be nearly that good in order to be a fantasy asset down the stretch. After missing the 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Medlen finally returned to action as a reliever on July 20th, and was stretched out enough to rejoin the starting rotation just over a week ago.
The early results have been promising. He’s won each of his 2 starts with the Royals while allowing 6 ER across 11 1/3 IP. More importantly, Medlen’s impeccable control seems to have returned as he’s allowed just 2 walks over both of those starts, and 3 walks combined during the month of August (19 1/3 IP). It doesn’t hurt that he’s striking out roughly a batter-per-inning (25 in 25 2/3 IP total, 11 in 11 1/3 as a starter) as well. Also, since the last time he pitched in 2013, Medlen’s velocity is up almost 2 mph on his fastball (89.4 to 91.2) and over 2 mph on both his curveball and change-up this season. Want more? Kansas City has graded out as the best defensive team in MLB this season, leading MLB in both Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and Kauffman Stadium currently has the 5th lowest HR park factor in MLB this season. Looking for some SP help down the stretch? Look no further. TREASURE.
Taijuan Walker – 53.5% owned (-6.7%)
Walker hasn’t exactly been the most reliable pitcher this season, as his 4.53 ERA might indicate. One of his biggest issues has been his tendency to give up the long ball. He’s already allowed 22 homers this season, and his 1.29 HR/9 is among the worst marks in MLB, and much higher than the MLB average of 1.05 HR/9 for starting pitchers. That’s led to a few crooked numbers in his game log this season. But take a look at his last six starts to get an idea of how he’s pitched recently:
• 40 1/3 IP, 31 H, 14 ER, 7 BB, 35 K, 3.12 ERA, .94 WHIP, 3 HR allowed
Walker has kept the ball in the park at a significantly better rate recently, allowing just 3 homers over his last 6 starts (0.67 HR/9). Four of those six starts just happened to be on the road as well, including outings in Colorado, Texas, and the Cell in Chicago, parks that aren’t known for their pitcher-friendly environments. Factor in his 3.92 K/BB ratio this season (23rd among qualified MLB SPs) and raw stuff (94.3 FBv – 14th in MLB), and it’s easy to see a pitcher who’s upside is through the roof. Walker’s not an option for the faint of heart, but he should be a nice source of strikeouts and might not be the ratio killer that he’s perceived to be over the next few weeks if he can continue to keep the ball in the park. TREASURE.