This week’s most added player in ESPN leagues, Oakland A’s third baseman Danny Valencia (63.8% owned; +36.4% over the past week), has undergone quite the transformation over the last calendar year. Prior to the 2015 season, he was just a part-time player who mashed left-handed pitching in the Ryan Raburn/Scott Van Slyke mold. From his MLB debut in 2010 through the end of the 2014 season, Valencia’s .870 OPS vs lefties far surpassed his .615 OPS against right-handed pitching. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, it’s been business as usual vs LHP (.907 OPS), but he’s improved considerably against RHP (.845 OPS). His ISO also jumped from .142 (pre-2015) to .225 (2015-present day) during that period. Hmm… a player displaying a huge power surge at 30 years old isn’t suspicious at all! Well, there may be a couple of reasonable explanations for Valencia morphing from Kelly Johnson into Ryan Braun at the plate virtually overnight. The first thing is the addition of a leg kick in his swing courtesy of former teammate and elite slugger Jose Bautista. The second thing is the opportunity to play every day. Valencia never received that opportunity until late last season in Toronto, and his performance during that time convinced the A’s to give him a shot as their starting third baseman. Through his first 14 games this season though, Valencia’s power disappeared, as he managed just a .353 slugging percentage with no homers and 2 RBI in 55 plate appearances. Maybe that power surge was just a fluke after all. After a DL stint at the end of April into the beginning of May, however, the power returned with a vengeance. Since returning on May 7th, Valencia has produced a .354/.360/.729 triple slash line, which includes smashing 6 homers across five games from May 13th-17th. He looks like a good bet for a .280 average and 15-17 homers moving forward, so add him if you can (or more likely, try to get him on the cheap via trade).
Here are a couple of other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:
Matt Andriese: 40.1% owned; +20.2%
ESPN’s ownership numbers are pretty funny sometimes. Players like Jonathan Villar and Marcell Ozuna took forever to reach the 40% owned threshold this season, but Andriese is already there after a mediocre run with the Rays last season and just three starts this year? Admittedly, his complete game shutout of the A’s earlier this month was quite impressive, but that should be considered more of an anomaly than anything else. He features a low 90s fastball to go along with a mid 80s cutter that he uses to induce groundballs and keep lefties honest. Andriese has solid control (2.11 BB/9), but he doesn’t miss many bats (8.3% SwStr%) and pitches in the treacherous AL East. His 2.11 ERA is likely to regress in the near future (4.79 xFIP) as well. Think of him as a the AL version of Mike Leake. Outside of very favorable matchups, leave him on the wire in shallow formats. TRASH.
Kevin Gausman: 42.1% owned; -7.5%
Much like Andriese, Gausman calls the tough AL East his home, but the similarities end there (well, they’re both 6’3″ righties, but semantics). Gausman is one of the hardest throwers among starting pitchers in MLB (94.6 mph average fastball velocity) and features a heavy splitter that’s a true out pitch (26.8% SwStr% against that pitch). He hasn’t walked more than 2 batters in any of his 6 starts this season, and he’s only allowed more than 3 earned runs once (4 ER vs Detroit on May 15th). Gausman is pretty effective at keeping the ball on the ground (45.9% GB%) and in the ballpark as well (0.74 HR/9). Maybe his poor luck (zero wins) is keeping owners away, but he’s the real deal. TREASURE.