For the first time this season, the baseball Gods have given us hope to go along with the despair.
On Sunday afternoon, another starting pitcher went down to injury, as Justin Verlander was removed after two innings with a groin injury. He is not expected to miss his next start, but groin injuries are always tricky.
Hope was restored an hour later, as the Mets announced that Steven Matz will return this week. Matz will take one of the weekend games and is worth a pickup for any owner who needs pitching help. As fragile as he is, his talent and potential production are too much to ignore.
Speaking of returning young pitchers, Jameson Taillon was excellent in his Triple-A rehab start. He allowed just three hits and struck out six in five excellent innings.
Finally, Angels closer Cam Bedrosian will also be activated from the DL soon. He’s been excellent when healthy and will be given a chance to regain the ninth inning from Bud Norris.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Week 10 Stock Report
Justin Bour, 1B, Miami Marlins
Bour was awful throughout April, slashing .222/.297/.407 in the first month of the season. Bour turned things around in a big way last month, as he hit .344 with 11 home runs. The most noticeable change in Bour’s profile was his BABIP. An April mark of .246 quickly turned into a .367 mark in May. His strikeout and walk rates remained more or less the same but big changes were made elsewhere in his approach.
Bour made a more conscious effort to pull the ball in May, upping his pull rate to 50.7%. Clearly, that’s where he draws his power, as his hard-hit rate also spiked to an absurd 54.9%. He is one of the league leaders in HR and RBI and seems to be taking full advantage of the struggling rotations in the NL East.
He’s stayed red hot to start June and shows no signs of slowing down moving into the summer. He won’t continue hitting wit such a high average, but his power contributions should remain among the top 10 among first basemen. At the moment, Bour is owned in just 65% of ESPN leagues, which seems ridiculous for someone who just had a month long hot streak.
EDIT: Bour was placed on the DL Tuesday afternoon with an ankle contusion, but it presents a good buy low opportunity. He should return and continue hitting very well.
Ty Blach, SP, San Francisco Giants
Blach has been a pleasant surprise in the Giants’ rotation this season. Outside of an awful start in Cincinnati, Blach has held his opponents in check. He has won his last four starts and posted quality starts in six of his last seven. For the season, Blach holds a 3.24 ERA. However, if you remove that start in Cincinnati, where he surrendered eight runs in three innings, his ERA in his other seven starts in 1.83.
Blach seems under-owned (26.2% in ESPN) for someone who just pitched a complete game shutout but it’s understandable considering his poor 3.55 K/9. To make up for his poor strikeout numbers, Blach is able to limit his walks (2.01 BB/9) and home runs (0.62 HR/9). Blach employs a heavy fastball/changeup combo to induce a lot of groundballs.
He won’t continue to pitch this well forever, as he doesn’t generate enough soft contact to maintain his .250 BABIP. Even if he regresses close to his FIP of 3.86, Blach will still contribute quality starts and a good WHIP for owners who need help with their ratios.
Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Kansas City Royals
Despite his 19 game hit streak coming to an end, Merrifield has seen his stock rise dramatically over the last few weeks. For the season, he’s hitting .295 with six home runs and six stolen bases. Merrifield went through a similar hot streak last season but trailed off towards the end of the season. This season, he’s become a more integral part of the Royals lineup, being moved to lead-off prior to Monday’s game.
Merrifield has made significant improvements in key areas. First, he’s improved his strikeout rate from 21% to 12.8%. A change in his diet seems to have helped Merrifield generate more power, raising his ISO from .109 to .182. He’s raised his FB% by seven percent and is hitting the ball in the air more.
His BABIP is actually below his career average and should normalize sooner or later. His hard contact rate gives Merrifield the opportunity to continue hitting well and contributing solid stats at the top of the Royals lineup.
Tony Watson, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Watson was a solid set-up man in Pittsburgh for years. Since becoming closer, Watson hasn’t been his normal dominant self. This season, he’s carrying a 3.91 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. The ERA doesn’t look terrible but his 5.42 FIP and 4.78 xFIP paint a much worse picture. His K/9 his dipped to a career low of 6.66 and his walk rate sits at a 2.96, the highest mark since 2012.
Watson blew another save on Tuesday night, his third straight blown save. At this point, owners should be taking a very long look at Felipe Rivero, who holds a 0.63 ERA and 0.80 WHIP this season. Watson’s biggest problem has been his habit of giving up home runs. His HR/FB rate sits at an awful 1.48 and is doesn’t show signs of coming down.
There haven’t been any rumblings about him losing his job yet, but there’s only so long he can keep blowing leads for a Pirates team struggling for wins. Save vultures should be adding Rivero while waiting for news of Watson’s demotion.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
I held off writing about Carpenter for a couple weeks because I believed he could turn it around. So far, he’s only rewarded my faith with a .133/.188/.133 slash line and lots of frustration. Carpenter’s .213 average is by far a career low. He has not recorded hit a home run or recorded a RBI since May 21.
Carpenter’s strikeout rate has risen by 3% this season, likely affecting his average. A .230 BABIP is one of the reasons for his lack of success this season, but a whole season of struggling can’t be blamed on luck. Carpenter’s soft contact rate is up 4% which is likely contributing to the poor BABIP. He is also making far less contact with pitches in the zone (92.1% vs 86.7% this season).
Carpenter’s prolonged slump has significantly lowered his season value. Until he shows signs of breaking out of his funk, he’s bench worthy in most formats.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox
E-Rod was enjoying his best season to date in 2017, carrying a 4-2 record with a 3.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He seems to have gotten over his pitch-tipping tendencies and was looking like a solid mid-rotation option for the Red Sox. Unfortunately, Rodriguez was placed on the DL Friday with a knee injury. Rodriguez slipped and fell during a bullpen session, causing the discomfort and the eventual trip to the disabled list.
A knee injury is the last thing E-Rod needed, as he has a history of serious knee injuries that have kept him out for months. The Red Sox have said that the injury is not as serious as the one that kept him out for two months at the start of last season. However, any athlete that needs to visit Dr. James Andrews is in trouble. Rodriguez was told to rest the knee for 3-4 weeks before beginning any type of activity on the injury.
With a lengthy rehab ahead of him, E-Rod will miss at least a couple more months before he’s back to full health. With so many players hitting the DL this season, owners would be wise to drop E-Rod if they don’t have a spot on their DL for the next 6-8 weeks.
Check out the rest of our 2017 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.