Now we’re 3 weeks into the season, and owners are finally starting to buy into hot starts and panic at cold starts. And for some players, we have enough information to make significant changes to their preseason values. Still, “It’s only April” should be a meditation mantra to prevent nervous fantasy owners from going overboard. With that in mind, here are the players putting that mantra to the test.
Mitch Haniger (OF, Mariners) – Mariners fans who bought into offseason hype must be feeling pretty good. Haniger’s been a jack-of-all-trades, hitting .293 with 4 Home Runs and 2 SB to boot, with 12 R and 11 RBI to boot. Despite his sleeper status, perhaps too much was made of his batting average risk, as he has solid patience (19.6% O-Swing) and Z-contact rates (90.4%) to maintain a .260-.270 average. He could also go up to 25-10 with plenty of runs produced, so buy into him as a viable mixed league outfielder, even in 10-team formats.
Eric Thames (OF/1B, Brewers) – He’s leaving everyone asking… “Is it ‘Thaems’, or is it ‘Tims’, like the river?” It doesn’t even matter with the video game numbers he’s been posting, as he’s hitting an absurd .436 with 7 Home Runs with a 1.000 SLG% and 1.491 OPS. While he won’t end the season with rates like this, Thames clearly thinks he’s still in Korea where he did this all the time. His 55.6% Hard Contact shows the power is real, and his plate discipline and contact skills (91.2% Z contact) are excellent and way better than they were when he last played in the US in 2012. Aggressively try to acquire him, as he may even beat his lofty Davenport projections.
Taylor Motter (SS/OF, Mariners) – Well, pretty much nobody saw this coming. Called up to fill in for Segura’s absence, the same guy who posted a .188 Average in his 2016 Debut is hitting .390 with 3 Home Runs in just 31 AB. His homers were legit and he has a 99+ mph exit velocity to backup his smoked longballs. While Segura is due back soon, he can play every position on the diamond but catcher and is probably already better than Martin and/or Valencia and will steal their playing time, so I’d buy now before that fact becomes more obvious. While he won’t continue hitting a homer every 10 AB, he could be a super-utility man with .250 15-15 upside.
Eugenio Suarez – (3B/SS, Reds) – I eu-dreamio of Eugenio. He’s put on quite the magic show so far, with a .364 AVG to go with 3 homers, 1 SB, and a studly .341 ISO. But unlike his teammate Cozart, it’s not all just smoke and mirrors. While he’s traded off fly balls for hitting a sky-high 33% line drive rate, he’s made strides with his plate discipline by reducing his O-swing% and increasing his Z-swing%. With a 36% Hard Hit%, he’s a definite buy, as he looks poised to match or improve on last year’s numbers, especially in the few leagues in which he retains Shortstop eligibility.
Travis D’Arnaud (C, Mets) – Why must you always play with my heart like this, Travis? You know as soon as I get excited about you, you’ll fall off the map or injure yourself for the season, probably by tripping on a map or something. That being said, your walk rate looks nice and high and your strikeout rate low, but I can see behind the facade, Travis. While you have a good hard hit rate, it’s no different from usual, and same goes for your plate discipline. But I’m desperate so I’ll settle for you, as you continue on your .250 15 HR pace until you trip on another map and hit the 60-Day. But for those less desperate than me, sell while you can, as I’d rather have either McCann.
Chase Headley (3B, Yankees) – I’ll admit, I couldn’t help laughing when I saw his name on the list. Chase Headley? What is this, 2012? Because I’m pretty sure that’s the last time he was mixed-league relevant. But here he is, with a .409 AVG, 2 Homers, and 3 SB, with a 18.5 BB% above his 16.7 K%. Now, pressed to say buy, or sell, I’m inclined to say… depends. See, his power is probably fluky, since his Hard Hit rate is actually the lowest since 2011, and his BABIP is propped up by an untenable and impossible 38.2% Line Drive Rate. That being said, his plate discipline improvement seems legit, as his O-Swing dropped from a 27.7% mark in 2016 to just 13.6% this year, with no drop in his Z-swing. Maybe he bought new eyes on the black market. I’d buy in OBP leagues, or any league in which his owner is skeptical he’s the same old Headley, because he’s not, entirely.
Byron Buxton (OF, Twins) – Repeat after me: Byron Buxton is not Mike Trout. Byron Buxton is B.J. Upton… at best. I hate to be the dreamcrusher, reality stinks sometimes, I know. But you gotta face the facts that he’s had over 500 Plate Appearances with a 35.6% strikeout rate, and while he can improve that, those issues aren’t simply going away. This year he’s flailing at everything with a hideous .085 AVG and 46% K rate. He may someday right the ship, but in redraft leagues, this isn’t the year.
Avisail Garcia (OF, White Sox) – Look who’s laughing now! One of the favorite young players for experts to trash is making them all eat their words, with 3 HR and a crazy .440 AVG. What could be behind such a drastic change? April, mostly. See most of this is riding on a bonkers .543 BABIP, and his strikeout and walk rates, as well as hard hit rates, are similar to his 2016 marks. He is hitting more flyballs and swinging on fewer bad pitches, so he certainly has made some incremental improvements. But I would recommend selling and selling now if any leaguemates are buying into a breakout as the bottom can drop out before you know it.
Hyun Soo Kim (OF, Orioles) – Kim was a popular sleeper heading into this year, as he’s a Statcast darling (if only he could stop hitting so many grounders) and displayed great plate discipline. But not only is he hitting MORE grounders, the hard hit rate has evaporated, along with his playing opportunities. In his defense, his swing rates show his walk rate should improve, but with Kim playing bad defense and Mancini being the shiny new toy, Kim’s only value is in Fantasy Benchrider Leagues.
Cesar Hernandez (2B, Phillies) – Cesar owners drafted him for the speed, but instead they got power. So far he has a .345 AVG with 3 HR and a .241 ISO. And 2 SB. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t. While he has increased his FB% nearly 10%, a jump from a career 5.5% HR/FB% to 23.1% is not sustainable, especially when his 25% Hard Hit% is actually lower than his 2016 mark. It does appear he’s been trying to sell out for power as he’s swinging and missing more, but I’d expect single digit homers from here to the season’s end, so if you have him I’d sell to someone who thinks the power is real.
Curtis Granderson (OF, Mets) – He’s a great person, but you’re probably still hating him if you drafted him this year. There’s badness all over, with a big tradeoff of hard contact for soft contact and 26.7% infield flies, and no power or speed left with walks down and stikeouts up. He also is getting beaten by the fastball, as pitchers have thrown it 44.2% of the time, and that’s a sign that an aging player just can’t hit ’em like they used to. I’d cut in 10-team, 12-team, 15-team, and only hold in NL-only… for now.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Braves) – Don’t worry Dansby… unlike Granderson, this isn’t your Dansby SwanSong. The hype was overdone on the 23-year-old rookie, as his strong 2016 debut had .383 BABIP written all over it. His plate discipline and contact rates are below average and his batted ball rates are just average, so while he certainly won’t continue to be this punchless, he’s also not a star or even average-level player yet. I’d hold him in a keeper or dynasty league, but you should drop him in redrafts for boring more more reliable names like Asdrubal Cabrera.
Zack Cozart (SS, Reds) – Another one jumping on the middle infielders with unsustainable batting averages bandwagon. It needs a catchier name. While he only has 1 home run and 1 stolen base, he’s hitting .425 with a walk rate exactly double his 2016 mark at 14.6%. Add one to the “sell” pile. While he has made incremental plate discipline changes by swinging less at everything, his batted ball rates and strikeout rates are all in line with his career norms, and this hot Red will cool down like bleu cheese in a few weeks.
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