The Boys of Summer

When a player has a poor start to the season, it can be very difficult to properly rate him in fantasy. Even when he starts to play to his previously established career standards, that one bad month can drag down his season totals for the rest of the year. While it is important to not overrate the most recent month’s production in lieu of the bad month in April, when that recent month matches a player’s track record, it is pretty clear which is the anomaly. Here are a handful of players who suffered from poor starts this season and have heated up with the weather.

 

Jason Heyward

Last 30 days: .312 AVG, 4 HR, 16 R, 12 RBI, 3 SB

For the season, Jason Heyward’s numbers are eerily similar to last season’s. As of Wednesday, he owned an identical .254 batting average to what he had in 2013. He is stealing bases again, but his power, strikeout, and walk rates are very similar to those from a year ago. That makes it easy to overlook how well Heyward has had to play in the last month to simply return to last year’s levels.

In April, Heyward hit .206/.296/.314 with two home runs. He was terrible offensively. Since, he has performed up to expectations. That includes a .288 average, five home runs and five steals. Over the last 30 days, Heyward has been the No. 15 outfield on ESPN’s Player Rater. Expect that top 20 performance to continue.

 

Khris Davis

Last 30 days: .329 AVG, 6 HR, 20 R, 17 RBI, 1 SB

His seven home runs since the start of May stand out more, but Davis’ improved plate discipline will be the key to sustained fantasy relevance. In April, Davis walked one time in 105 plate appearances. That doesn’t even seem possible. Since, he has walked 10 times in 129 plate appearances. That 7.8 percent walk rate is only 0.4 percent short of the league average in 2014. It is a remarkable turnaround, and one that could allow Davis to realize his preseason sleeper potential. He won’t continue to be a top 10 outfield like he has been over the last month, but top 40 is possible.

 

John Lackey

Last 30 days: 2-2, 2.60 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9

John Lackey won four of his six starts in April, but he allowed six runs in each of his other two starts. Fortunately for Lackey owners, neither of those starts were characteristic performances. In the first, he allowed four home runs at Yankee Stadium. He has allowed only two home runs in 10 starts since. In the second, he walked four batters. He has walked only 10 batters in nine starts since. Lackey accumulates strikeouts because of the volume of innings he pitches, and he has become one of the best command pitchers in baseball. His 1.85 walks per nine are 13th in baseball among qualified starters since the start of 2013. He should continue to be a top 40 starter.

 

Jake Odorizzi

Last 30 days: 1-4, 3.90 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9

Jake Odorizzi has had little help from his slumping Rays this season. In fact, Odorizzi has allowed between one and four runs in eight starts this season and has yet to record a win in one of them. His only two wins this season were six-inning shutouts.

Whether or not his team puts it together, Odorizzi certainly has. After his April with a 6.85 ERA, Odorizzi has had a 3.70 ERA in the month and a half since. In addition, Odorizzi has increased his strikeout rate from 8.4 per nine in April to 11.8 per nine since. Over the last 30 days, only Clayton Kershaw, Edwin Jackson, and Yu Darvish have a higher strikeout per nine among qualified starters. Meanwhile, Odorizzi is only owned in six percent of Yahoo leagues. Pick him up if he’s available in your league.

 

Ernesto Frieri

Last 30 days: 0-0, 2.13 ERA, 12.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 7 SV

Ernesto Frieri allowed nine runs in 10.2 innings in April. For a reliever, there is no way to recover from that. He could allow nine more runs the rest of the season and his ERA would fall to only 2.70 assuming 60 total innings pitched. That poor start has hidden the fact that Frieri is enjoying the best year of his career by xFIP (2.91). Frieri has always been wild, but his 2.25 walk rate would be a walk and two thirds per nine better than his previous career best. Frieri has also overcome his brief demotion about a month ago to save seven games in the last 30 days, tied for eighth best in baseball. He is back to being a trustworthy top 15 closer.

 

Chad Qualls

Last 30 days: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 0.0 BB/9, 6 SV

Qualls had a rocky start in his audition as the Astros closer thanks to three runs and a walk-off loss courtesy of Oakland in his second save opportunity of the season. That was on April 19. Since, he has pitched to 59 batters over 18 appearances and hasn’t allowed a run. Obviously that scoreless streak won’t persist, but the saves should. He has seven over that stretch, and the Astros have won 18 of the last 29 games. Only the Blue Jays and Giants have had a better record since May 11.




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Scott Spratt contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. He also writes for Pro Football Focus, and he is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt


17 Responses to “The Boys of Summer”

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  1. Chris says:

    Someone who I think will be a July “boy of summer” is Pablo Sandoval. Currently have him on my team but was offered Doug Fister for him. I can fill in third with Brock Holt or pick up Casey Mcgehee. Do the trade? Thanks!

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    • Adam says:

      In a vacuum, Panda for Fister is a great deal. But in this case, it leaves you down a 3B. Not sure Holt or McGehee is adequate… someone else want to weigh in on them?

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      • Brian says:

        I agree with your take, Adam. The upgrade at pitcher from whomever to Fister is probably not worth the downgrade from Panda to Holt/McGehee. Way easier to find good pitching options on the wire this time of year.

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      • GFuzz says:

        I get it, “weigh in”.

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      • SKob says:

        It depends on your scoring rules. Anyone under the impression Panda is far supperior to Holt or McGehee hasn’t been paying attention. Holt has playing time issues though going forward. Not McGehee, which is good. If you need a solid pitcher, then do it. I don’t think as highly of Panda as these people do apparently. I’m assuming it’s a redraft league, but if you can stash Kris Bryant and make the deal.

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  2. Chad Farneth says:

    How can you write this article and exclude Andrew McCutchen? The guy is slugging over 1.000 in the month of June. 10 Runs 6 HR 12 RBI 1 SB and .421/1.079/1.579 triple slash in June. virtuoso performance by the MVP. Is it possible he wasn’t bad enough over the first 2 months of the season? I don’t know, but i wanted to get him some pub. Thanks for the good work.

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    • Lenard says:

      I think it’s because Cutch didn’t really have a poor start like most of these guys. Sure, the HR numbers weren’t there, but he still had a 156 WRC+ in Mar/Apr and 140 in May.

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      • Chad Farneth says:

        Fair Point Lenard. He was missing some of the flashier counting stats but still doing it all early in the year.

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      • SKob says:

        Shouldn’t Miggy make the list too by that rationale? He didn’t start hot, but nobody stressed because he’s friggin Miggy!

        Nobody is going to worry if McCutchen slumps. All the guys listed here bring about constant stress with their lack of results after lofty expectations, having never really been constant stars.

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  3. stretchfest says:

    A few of the guys on this list are no surprise but not Odorizzi. I had no idea he was on this sort of run.

    Do you see him as a 10 team viable starter?

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    • ashtray says:

      His strikeout potential is huge but he has some flaws holding him back. He typically runs in to trouble on his second time through the lineup and is only averaging about 5 innings per start. Low GB% as well.

      Following Collette on twitter has provided alot of commentary whenever Odorizzi starts.

      Those K’s tho…

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      • stretchfest says:

        Thnks for the reply.

        He was ranked ~100 is the recent consensus rankings but I would lump him with the players closer to 60-70.

        And for a fun fact, he’s not qualified yet, but among pitchers with more than 40 IP, Odorizzi is like 24th in K%-BB%, which sounds pretty sexy.

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  4. Jon L. says:

    I would add Curtis Granderson to this list. His season statistics are just brutal, but he’s been very effective since the beginning of May.

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  5. baltic fox says:

    Marco Estrada is a guy who has generally been awful the first half of each of the last two seasons.

    Come July, he’s a guy I’m hoping somebody in my 12 team league will drop. He’s been good in the second half both 2012 and 2013.

    Of course, there’s the small problem of whether or not he gets to keep his job. Another poor start and either Nelson or Fiers will probably take his place in the rotation.

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  6. Emcee Peepants says:

    While not on fire to the same degree as Davis or Heyward, Allen Craig has turned it around as well after a miserable start:

    Start: 221/276/357, 282 wOBA, 78 wRC+, 4 HR, 15 R, 15 RBI
    Last 30: 288/344/398, 332 wOBA, 112 wRC+, 2 HR, 15 R, 19 RBI

    The power has yet to return, but at least he is contributing now.

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  7. AL says:

    Would it be best to hold Frieri through this storm in most leagues?

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    • Scott Spratt says:

      Frieri still has the best K/BB ratio on the staff, but I don’t think most teams make decisions that way. In deeper leagues, try to pick up Joe Smith to protect yourself. However, Smith has big splits, so he isn’t an ideal closer candidate. In shallow formats, I have no problem in cutting bait with the entire bullpen if you need the roster spots. I’d still favor Frieri to lead the bullpen in saves for the rest of the season.

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