Welcome to Hit It Or Quit It, a weekly column where Ben Palmer takes a look at five of the most added players in fantasy baseball and tell you whether or not what they’re doing is likely to continue. In other words, should you buy (hit it) or sell (quit it)? Note: my rulings are generally for 10-team standard leagues.
Let’s dive in:
Tyler Naquin – .322/.383/.628, 12 HR, 32 R, 29 RBI, 3 SB
Holy crap has Tyler Naquin been destroying the ball. I mean really killing the ball, all you have to do is look at his ISO of .306 to see that, that’s some Barry Bonds-like power. And that’s exactly why I’m approaching Naquin with a lot of caution.
People have been picking up Naquin in droves, and it makes sense, considering he’s been hitting .329 with seven home runs over the last month (three of those home runs came in the last week). But there are a lot of red flags in his stats, most notably that .306 ISO and his .423 BABIP.
I don’t care who you are, the likelihood that you’re ending the year with an ISO above .300 is small at best. Last year, only two players did, and they were Bryce Harper (.319) and Chris Davis (.300), and Naquin is neither of those players. He’s also got a K-rate 29.6%, a HR/FB of 30.8%, and along with that incredibly elevated BABIP, it’s easy to see he’s been the benefit of some major luck.
Now, there are some positives about Naquin, I’m not saying the guy sucks, he’s made some actual, tangible changes to his game, and it’s enough to make me optimistic, albeit cautiously optimistic. Earlier this year, Naquin came up for 65 plate appearances and was sent down when it was obvious he was overmatched. Once he came back up, it was pretty obvious he changed.
First, his walk rate shot up about 7%, and his K-rate dropped about 2.5% (though it’s still pretty high), his ground ball rate dropped over 20% and his plate discipline got a lot better. That’s also when he started crushing the ball and his ISO shot up.
Ruling: There’s reason to be optimistic about Naquin, but you should be cautious with him. He’s made some changes to his game, but he’s not this good. He’s more like a .250-.260 hitter and he’ll probably hit like another five or six home runs. In a league that’s 14-teams or deeper, he might be worth a shot, and if you want to just ride the streak until he cools off, that’s cool, but in a 10-team league, he’s not worth it. – QUIT IT
Matt Shoemaker – 5-10 (11 QS), 3.99 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 115 K
Looking at his season stats, it might seem like Matt Shoemaker really isn’t worth owning, but in the past month, Shoemaker has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with three quality starts.
Honestly, Shoemaker has been the victim of just a couple bad starts. He’s had five starts (three in the beginning of the year) where he gave up five runs or more, other than that, he’s been pretty excellent, giving up three or less runs in eight of his last ten starts.
While his ERA is 3.99, his FIP is just 3.29 and his BABIP is .324, which suggests that his ERA should go down a bit. His strikeouts have been excellent, currently at a career-high 9.19 K/9, and his walks have dropped drastically, sitting at a career best 4.8% walk rate. Even better, since May 21st, Shoemaker has a strikeout-to-walk ratio behind only Mike Leake and Jose Fernandez.
His fastball has gotten one MPH faster, but he’s throwing it almost 10% less than last year, while increasing his slider usage and, most notably, his splitter. He’s changed his arsenal around and is now throwing his splitter more than any starter in baseball. He’s taking the Masahiro Tanaka approach, throwing less fastballs and more splitters, and it’s working wonderfully. Now, he doesn’t have the splitter that Tanaka does, but it’s still a pretty good one, and one that throws people off.
Ruling: This is a guy who’s made a change to his game and it’s working. He’s striking guys out a bunch and should be able to bring his ERA down the rest of the year. In my mind, this guy is a top-30 pitcher and should be owned in absolutely every single league. – HIT IT.
Blake Snell – 2-4 (3 QS), 3.11 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 36 K
Blake Snell is just a big ball of raw potential. He’s currently ranked as MLB’s 12th-best prospect, and he’s got the skills to back that up. A fastball that sits around 92-94 with incredible movement, a plus slider and a decent changeup, and in limited time this year, Snell has impressed enough that people are adding him, but I’ve got two big concerns with him.
It is very realistic that within the next three years, Snell is one of the best pitchers in baseball, he has that kind of potential, but right now, he’s an unfinished product. His biggest issue is control, he’s always struggled with that, and this year hasn’t been any different. His walk rate sits at 12.1%, which would be second-worst in the league if the season ended today.
That’s one major concern. The other is the fact that he’s gotten incredibly lucky this year in regards to giving up home runs. As in, he’s literally given up one home run this entire year, giving him an absurd HR/FB of 2.9%. This also explains his xFIP (which adjusts for home runs) of 4.37, which is very concerning.
Ruling: As it stands right now, Snell is full of potential, but he’s got a lot of kinks he still needs to work out. Whether that will be in the majors the rest of this year, or in the minors remains to be seen, but when a guy is walking 4-5 batters a game, your WHIP is going to be sky high. The strikeouts are nice, but unless you’re in a dynasty league, I only see this guy as a streamer until he figures his control problems out. – QUIT IT.
Jedd Gyorko – .262/.322/.486, 12 HR, 28 R, 29 RBIs
It seems like at some point every year since he broke out with the Padres in 2013, everyone has to ask themselves “Sooooo should I add Jedd Gyorko?” Unfortunately, the answer has been pretty consistently “No” ever since 2013, but it’s time to address that question once more, because Gyorko has really been hitting well (.322 over the last month). Sooooo should you add Jedd Gyorko?
Well Gyorko is a tough one. I’ll tell you this right off the bat, that .322 average he’s had over the past month? That’s not keeping up at all. That’s not what Gyorko does, it never has been. He batted .247 last year and .210 the year before that, he’s still striking out almost 20% of the time, he’s just not an average hitter, he’s a power hitter.
So far this year, he’s been doing pretty well in the power department, hitting 12 home runs already with an ISO of .224. That, however, should go down. Even when he hit 23 home runs with the Padres back in 2013, his ISO was still .195, which is good, but not .224 good. Plus, considering his hard hit rate is lower than it was last year when he hit 16 home runs, and his HR/FB is ridiculously high at 22.6%, the power should come down. He might get to 20 home runs, but I’m not even totally convinced of that.
To his credit, his walk rate has shot up 2.1% from last year, and his strikeout rate is down almost 4% from last year, so he’s made some improvements, which makes me want to believe in him, but I’ve just got to see more to believe that he’s changed as a hitter.
What’s really contributed to his success this year is that he’s making more contact with pitches outside the zone, and he’s swinging at those pitches more than ever. That’s just not a recipe for success, very few hitters can succeed on getting hits on balls outside the strike zone.
Ruling: It’s very tempting to grab Gyorko, especially considering his position eligibility, but I just don’t think he’s changed that much as a hitter. He is who he’s always been, he’ll probably hit another 5-6 home runs and bat like .255 the rest of the way, which is ok, but pretty replaceable. Unless you’re in a 14-team league or deeper (or NL-only league obviously), I would be looking elswhere. – QUIT IT.
Billy Hamilton – .251/.299/.351, 3 HR, 46 R, 12 RBIs, 31 SB
Until recently, Billy Hamilton was owned in just barely over 50% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, and I have no idea why. Over the past week or so, people have been picking him back up, and they should, honestly he should be owned in every single league.
Now look, over the past two weeks, Hamilton has hit .310, and that’s not gonna keep happening. He’s striking out at a career-high rate right now, almost 20%, however his chase rate is at a career low, which is good.
Hamilton can win you steals by himself. The guy already has 31 stolen bases, and he’ll probably steal another 20-25. His average won’t kill you, it’ll probably be around .250, and he’ll get you a decent amount of runs, though he’s on the Reds so don’t expect the world, and that’s about it. But that’s enough to warrant him being owned in every single league, and why his ownership isn’t 100% is beyond me.
Ruling: Billy Hamilton is a stolen base machine, he’s the typical one category guy. Steals in this kind of volume are so rare and so valuable that Hamilton needs to be owned in every single league, if someone dumped him for whatever reason, go get him. I’d consider him a top-50 outfielder the rest of the way. – HIT IT.
Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) is a writer for Pitcher List who’s obsessed with sabremetrics, virtually all Baltimore sports, music, an playing guitar. He currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland and spends his summers watching way too much baseball.