By Sam McPherson
Most baseball fans have either read the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis or seen the movie version starring Brad Pitt. The lesson the book and the movie convey is that you have to think differently to find value in the sport—to uncover talent where no one else is looking. The same is true in fantasy baseball, where league championships are often won or lost on the waiver wire through the middle months of the long season. Winning owners have to see the value where no other owner in their league does.
What does this mean? It often means picking up a player with a flaw or two, although the player has many strengths, too, which is what the smart owner is targeting with the acquisition. The trick is managing just how much of the flaws you can tolerate while reaping the rewards of the strengths. A player may be hitting .220 this year, but if he steals bases like there’s no tomorrow, he is worth putting in your lineup frequently enough to emerge with a positive result after the flaws and strengths are factored into the equation.
Players to Get Onto Your Roster Now
1. Matt Bush, RP, Texas Rangers: He was the first overall pick of the 2004 Major League Draft, but due to personal problems, Bush didn’t make his MLB debut until last season. He’s now the closer for the Rangers, the hottest team in baseball. He has five saves while posting an 11.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate right now. Bush cut his teeth nicely last year in the majors, and considering his mental fortitude at this point in reaching MLB after all he endured, we like his chances to keep the closer role for Texas.
2. Justin Bour, 1B, Miami Marlins: He is quietly one of the more consistent hitters at his position in MLB. Since the start of the 2015 season, Bour has hit .262, .264 and .262 in each year, respectively. His OPS has been on the rise, too: .800, .824 and now .862 this season. He has ten home runs in 2017, and Bour is on pace for the best power season of his career. Assuming he stays healthy, he is going to have a great year in the middle of the Miami lineup.
3. Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: He is a .226 career hitter, but he has power. All those HRs can help any team, and this year, Smoak has 10 of them already. He also currently has a seven-game streak with a run scored, and that can help any fantasy team, too. Smoak’s current .279 batting average probably will come down a bit, but the power will remain no matter what. He averaged one HR every 18.6 at-bats the last two years, and this season, Smoak is hitting one out every 14 at-bats.
4. José Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins: In 14 starts last season, Berrios got hammered, but he’s still only going to be 23 years old later this week when his birthday comes around. He’s showing he learned something from last year, with two wins this year and 15 strikeouts in just 15 1/3 innings so far. Grab him now before some other owner in your league does. Berrios may take his lumps here and there, but overall, you’re going to be happy with him for the next four-plus months.
Players to Sit/Drop This Week
1. Carlos Gómez, OF, Texas Rangers: He’s hurt with a serious hamstring injury, and even though he’s old, Gómez plays a game still based on speed. Hamstrings affect speed, but they also affect a player’s ability to play defense and hit (lower-body stability). Gómez peaked in 2013 and 2014, and he’s been going downhill since those two All-Star seasons. He was off to a decent start this season (four HRs, five SBs), but there’s no guarantee he will come back from the injury at the same level. He’s more likely to decline upon return at age 31.
2. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Philadelphia Phillies: Don’t fall for his five wins and 3.44 ERA. Hellickson is striking out half as many batters as he did last season, and that’s a bad sign for any pitcher that has just turned 30 years old. His 1.027 WHIP also looks good, but Hellickson has just 20 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings. His numbers just aren’t sustainable when he isn’t missing bats at all. Plus, he’s also surrendering HRs at a higher rate than at any other point in his career. Trade him if you can to a lesser-informed owner in your league.
3. Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants: He also has a hamstring problem, and according to reports, Pence hasn’t even started running yet in an attempt to rehabilitate the injury. That’s not good news at his age (34). Remember, Pence played in just 158 games combined in 2015 and 2016, and he’s not getting any younger. He has just a .627 OPS this year, as well, and with a bum hammy, don’t expect Pence to come back and play at full speed any time soon, let alone a high level that will help your team.
4. Trevor Cahill, SP, San Diego Padres: A one-time All-Star selection in 2010, Cahill is now on the disabled list with shoulder problems. That’s never a good sign, and Cahill has almost 1,200 innings on that shoulder. But after appearing almost solely as a reliever in 2015 and 2016, the Padres moved him back to the rotation this year with good results so far (3.27 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched). However, clearly Cahill’s shoulder hasn’t liked the transition, so be wary of any news on him when he comes back from the DL.