Welcome back to Deep League Risers and Fallers. This season has flown by faster than a Ben Joyce heater. Anyone reading this is likely in the midst of their biggest week of the year so far or looking to make their last few tweaks before elimination matches start. Hopefully, I can help.
Two weeks ago in this space, I recommended Luis Rengifo, Braxton Garret, and Freddy Fermin. Rengifo has hit .333 with a .948 average in that span and qualifies almost everywhere on the diamond. Garret started twice, and although he recorded just nine strikeouts, he picked up quality starts in both outings. And Freddy Fermin….well two out of three ain’t bad. The Royals’ backstop has hit just .107 since my advocacy. But enough recap, we have disappointments to discuss and new players to be optimistic about.
Ruiz currently paces the American League with 51 stolen bases. He had 43 steals as of July 5th when he was placed on the IL with a shoulder injury. He returned exactly one month later and things have slowed down significantly for the speedy outfielder. Ruiz has managed to swipe eight more bases over the past 3+ weeks but he’s managed just a .143 batting average and .222 on-base percentage since his return. Still, only two players: Julio Rodriguez and CJ Abrams have posted more steals than Ruiz since August 5th.
I cannot fathom why the A’s would give up on Ruiz, a major part of the Sean Murphy deal, so quickly, but nonetheless, Ruiz has found himself on the bench for four of Oakland’s past 8 games. We cannot control the Athletics lineup, but we can control our own. Those potential swipes are tantalizing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to roster a player who has a red x next to their name half the time.
Severino has recorded two very nice starts in a row versus the Nationals and Tigers, and some managers are surely tempted to ride with him for another game or two. Do not be that manager. Including those past two useful turns, Severino has allowed fewer than four runs in an outing just seven times over seventeen attempts. Two of those were his first two starts back from the IL.
The Nats and Tigers have been hitting well lately, but Washington is still a bottom-half offense and the Tigers are still the second-worst hitting team in the majors in terms of runs scored and OPS. His next start comes at Houston and then he follows that up against the NL Central-leading Brewers. Do not get suckered in here. If you streamed Severino against Detroit on Monday, Congratulations. Move on before you erase those gains. I did this, this section is my personal mantra for the next few days.
Merrifield has enjoyed a resurgent season in Toronto. He’s already matched or surpassed all of his counting stats from last season, and his .736 OPS is a solid 60 points better than his 2022 mark. He’s been the eleventh-best second basemen in standard leagues and his positional versatility has been a nice bonus. Sadly, the 34-year-old looks to have hit a wall in August. He’s slashed just .231/.250/.327 while homering twice and stealing twice since the end of July. Take a look at his decision value graph below.
Right there you can see Merrifeild’s decision value plummet from elite almost all the way up through the first thousand pitches he saw this year to the bottom half of the league over his next 600 pitches he saw. This a worrying trend for a veteran whose primary fantasy contributions have been batting average and stolen bases.
If that last section of the graph was slanting northward, I’d suggest holding, but that isn’t the case. Now would be great time to check on Luis Rengifo’s availability.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, Third Base, Pittsburgh Pirates. 51% Rostered
Hayes burst onto the scene slashing .376/.442/.642 with five homers over just 95 plate appearances as a rookie at the end of the 2020 season. Then he injured his wrist at the onset of the 2021 campaign and posted a .689 OPS in for that year and an even worse .659 mark in 2022. He dealt with back issues for part of this season and missed almost all of July. This could explain why Hayes is still wildly under-rostered despite his breakout, or re-emergence beginning in June.
That’s right, Hayes slashed .337/.337/.518 and smacked three long balls, with a couple of swipes back in June. Back issues limited him to just one game in July and then he picked right back up and slashed an even better .323/.366/.570 in August while launching five more round-trippers.
Hayes has always hit the ball hard. He’s in the top 10% for both exit velocity and hard-hit rate. His issue has always been his low launch angle and high ground ball rate. Hayes looks like he may have fixed those issues though, and has posted 13.7 degree launch angle this season, which is a huge improvement over the 5.2 he notched last year and his 7.2 career mark. He’s also dropped his ground ball rate to below the league average, and increased his fly rate to just above the league average.
Hayes’ breakout/resurgence is strongly supported by his underlying rates and fantasy managers should get on board if they can. Also, Pirate fans should be ecstatic to see what Hayes has been doing with his bat. His defense has never been in question and if his offensive turnaround sticks, the Buccos could have something really special at the hot corner.
Tanner Scott, Relief Pitcher, Florida Marlins. 39% Rostered
Tanner Scott ranks in the five percent of MLB pitchers in the following categories (deep breath): average exit velocity allowed, hard hit percentage, barrel rate, whiff rate, strikeout rate, chase rate, and even fastball spin. His expected batting average against is just outside the league’s top 10% percent though. What a bum.
While all that is pretty awesome, what really earns him a spot in this column is the poor performance of David Robertson. Robertson was acquired from the Mets at the trade deadline, but posted a 7.20 ERA and blew three saves in seven opportunities. Scott appears to be first in line for saves and earned one in Miami’s 2-1 win over Washington this past Sunday. Definitely grab Scott if it’s not too late.
Belt got off to an excruciatingly slow start this year. He slashed just .170/.246/.288 with a single homer through the end of April. He posted excellent batting average and on-base rates in May, but still hit just one homer. Then he trended downward in June and July, batting .260 and .191 respectively over those months, but reversed that slide and found his power stroke in August.
Over the past month, Belt has slashed .284/.411/.622 while slugging seven home runs. He’s still carrying below-average exit velocities and hard-hit rates for the year, but he somewhat makes for up it with elite chase and walk rates. And more importantly, he’s making better decisions. Take a look at how well his swing decision chart below lines up with his month-to-month performance over the course of the season.
While Belt has maintained a decision value within the top quartile of the league all season, it’s immediately evident that his spikes correlate to his better-performing months. Thankfully for fantasy managers, Belt is making the most of his plate appearances just when we need him the most. He’s been batting second or third in most games and could be a big factor in helping you finish in first place.
Good luck everyone and I hope you have reason to keep reading DLR&F for my next installment in September!