Brian Dozier entered Monday with three home runs in his last three games.
What’s three more, right?
As if six in four games isn’t impressive enough, he now has 21 in his last 35, 33 since the start of June and 38 overall. Yes, this player who was on the verge of being dropped in standard mixed leagues back in May is now the seventh-best hitter in Fantasy and on pace to hit the most home runs for any second baseman since … well, ever.
And it might not even be the most exciting development for the Minnesota Twins this week.
Byron Buxton , their anxiety-inducing puzzle of a prospect who once looked like a perennial All-Star in the making, is finally producing at the big-league level. Granted, it’s only four games, which makes it subject to the meaninglessness of any small sample size, but for a player with his pedigree and his history of disappointment, returning with the best four-game stretch of his career isn’t just a footnote. It’s reason to act in Fantasy.
And again, maybe it’s nothing. The timing, I’ll admit, is curious since his latest stint in the minors was plagued by the same swing-and-misses tendencies that have thus far ruined him in the majors. But then, how much do minor-league numbers really tell us?
As for Dozier, he can only impact his stock for next year, being a must-start option in Fantasy already, but he’s doing a good job of that. Thought at the start of the year to be a first-half player whose power may be on the decline, he has put both of those ideas to rest, lending credence to the belief that his downturn late last year was a direct consequence of the torn labrum in his hip that has since healed. After all, he was on a 35-homer pace through his first 99 games that year.
Of course, he is selling out for power, having elevated a fly-ball rate that was already less than ideal, so anything he loses power-wise will likely impact him across the board. Still, even with second base being as deep as it is, you’re probably looking at a second-round player next year, which isn’t far from where we were drafting Dozier just two years ago.
1. A September to remember
Of course, Buxton isn’t the only September call-up (or returnee) to make his presence known. A handful have already leapt to the forefront in Fantasy.
The most obvious is Yoan Moncada , who has now started three straight games and has at least swung the bat well, going 4 for 13 with a double. Granted, the Boston Red Sox haven’t faced a lefty during that time, and given Moncada’s struggles from the right side of the plate, not to mention his defensive shortcomings at an unfamiliar position, you have to assume they still plan to platoon him. Still, I’ve seen enough to start playing the matchups with him in Rotisserie leagues, if only for what he could provide in stolen bases. Obviously, with his skill set, he could factor in more ways than that.
Yasiel Puig is no stranger to Fantasy owners, who’ll need to see more than a couple good games to buy back into a player who has burned them two years in a row. But those games were good enough (he went 3 for 6 with a home run and no strikeouts) to get manager Dave Roberts talking about making him more than just a platoon partner for Josh Reddick . It doesn’t need to be between just him and Reddick either, what with Howie Kendrick playing regularly in left field.
Puig seems to have a different attitude, saying the experience has humbled him. We know the talent is immense — the guy was getting drafted in the second round as a 23-year-old just two years ago — so even if you’re not rushing out to add him just yet, his situation bears watching.
Jose De Leon is the most questionable of the three because, as of now, he doesn’t have a fixed role. His long-awaited debut, though, was as good as anyone could have reasonably hoped for. Yeah, he allowed four runs (three earned) against the San Diego Padres , but he struck out nine while allowing no walks over six innings, showing plenty of swing-and-miss potential with his changeup especially. The performance would seem to line up with what he was doing at Triple-A. His final three starts there: all double-digit strikeouts, all zero walks.
The problem is that with Clayton Kershaw rejoining the starting rotation Friday and Scott Kazmir soon to follow, De Leon could get the squeeze. There’s a reason the Los Angeles Dodgers waited so long to bring him up in the first place: They have options.
Still, I’m not buying it. He’s clearly a better option than Ross Stripling and Bud Norris , and he shouldn’t have any innings concerns after missing much of April and May with ankle and shoulder injuries. He’s still 22 away from last year’s total, which you’d think the Dodgers would want him to exceed for developmental reasons.
Now that they’ve started the clock on him, why hold back? I’ll keep him stashed for what seems to be the inevitable.
2. Broken trust
Just when you think it’ll be smooth sailing the rest of the way, your best pitcher — or at least one of your top three — spontaneously combusts, leaving you to second-guess what seemed like the most obvious of lineup decisions. That’s the way Zack Greinke , Felix Hernandez , Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ owners are feeling right now.
The Greinke and Hernandez owners have already had to navigate a year of frustration. Between injuries, those two have put up some of the worst numbers of their careers, but of course, given their track records, every decent two- or three-start stretch has you thinking they’re back to form.
Maybe that needs to stop.
Greinke allowed a career-high five home runs to the Dodgers Monday, becoming just the second Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher to accomplish the feat, and has struggled to keep the ball in the yard all year. Hernandez’s concerns are even more pronounced. He allowed six earned runs for the second straight start Monday against the Rangers — which wouldn’t be a great concern in and of itself, especially coming off a solid five-start stretch — but he issued four walks both times and has done so in five of his last eight starts. For the season, his walk rate, strikeout rate and home run rate are all career worsts, resulting in a FIP nearly a run higher than his ERA. And seeing as it all accompanies another drop in velocity … well, you see where I’m going with this. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.
I had some hope Hernandez would combat the loss of ability with a brilliant changeup and veteran guile — and to some extent, he has. But enough that you should feel obligated to play him in a one-start week? For both he and Greinke, the answer is a resounding no. I’d equate them to Adam Wainwright or Trevor Bauer in terms of startability.
As for Hamels and Happ, their sample of struggles is too small for me to draw any real conclusions, so I’m comfortable giving them a pass. Judging from some of the comments out of the Texas Rangers clubhouse after Monday’s start, sounds like the Seattle Mariners just had a good game plan against Hamels, who threw too many pitches down the middle against them in back-to-back starts. I do worry Happ may be running out of steam a bit since he has only twice thrown more innings than this year’s 164 1/3, and that could be dangerous in the AL East. But at the same time, it may just be a four-start rough patch for a pitcher still very much in the Cy Young conversation.
3. Gausman throwing gas, man
Kevin Gausman , heretofore known for being the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft and throwing really, really hard, is putting together his best stretch during what’s shaping up to be a breakout season. It has gone mostly unnoticed because, for the first four months, he had only two wins to show for it, but his 5-2 record over his last seven starts isn’t even his most impressive number during that stretch.
|ERA: 2.11||WHIP: 1.20||IP: 42 2/3||BB: 14||K: 49|
He’s an example of a pitcher who really needed a third pitch to get the most out of his raw stuff, and it seems to be happening now with his curveball. He may throw it only one every 10 pitches, but its mere existence gives hitters an extra something to think about when they’re dealt a 87-mph split-finger fastball, statistically one of the best swing-and-miss pitches in the majors.
Gausman has leaned even more on his splitter over his last six starts, and you see the result. What’s interesting, though, is that over his last two, it seems to have made his curveball more effective as well. That third pitch was responsible for four swings-and-misses Saturday at the Baltimore Orioles even though he threw it just 12 times.
His command can be a little spotty at times, leading to more hits than you’d expect for a pitcher with his raw stuff, but he’s really beginning to figure out how to sequence his pitches with a more fleshed-out arsenal, which should help that stuff play up over time.
As things stand now, he’s more trustworthy than he’s perceived to be over the final three-plus weeks.
4. Odor up!
It hasn’t gotten as much attention as Dozier’s because, well, nothing would, but Rougned Odor has enjoyed a power surge of his own lately, homering six times in his last six games. He’s now on pace for 35 home runs (which would tie for the 15th-most ever for a second baseman, by the way), emerging as the big power hitter he seemed destined to become after hitting 16 home runs as a mere 21-year-old last season — which was more significant, historically speaking, than it sounds.
Here’s the problem: He’s on pace for not even half as many walks.
No player should have more home runs than walks. When one does, it’s a red flag. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, you see. As a general rule, players who hit more home runs see fewer pitches to hit, so walks should come easily to them. When they don’t, it’s may be a sign that they’re swinging at pitches they shouldn’t, which is a weakness pitchers at this level typically learn to exploit.
Maybe it’s not all his fault. Maybe pitchers haven’t learned to fear him yet and still give him way too many pitches to hit, sort of like (and his was a much milder case) Nolan Arenado last year. Yes, it’s possible Odor’s walk rate itself is the number most due for a correction.
But seeing as walks have value in and of themselves, he’s not especially high-end as he is now. Even with this power binge, he’s only the ninth-best second baseman in Head-to-Head points leagues this season.
5. Gone but not forgotten
With the entire 40-man roster available to the major-league club, the 15-day DL is effectively dead in September, so you won’t get as definitive of a timetable for most injuries. And seeing as every injury is potentially a season-ender this late in the season, you may be toting around a last cause.
These players suffered injuries over the weekend that put the rest of their season in jeopardy:
|W-L: 13-6||ERA: 3.33||WHIP: 1.25||BB/9: 3.3||K/9: 7.3|
The knuckleballer had offered no shortage of excuses for his second-half struggles, but this new diagnosis of shoulder inflammation is the most plausible one. These days, teams don’t mess around with shoulder injuries for their starting pitchers, so two weeks would seem like the minimum recovery time.
|W-L: 9-12||ERA: 4.55||WHIP: 1.29||BB/9: 2.6||K/9: 7.7|
Again, shoulder inflammation. As important as Dallas Keuchel is to the Houston Astros ‘ long-term plans, they can’t afford to bring him back for a failed playoff run. Even if they do, it might be too late for your team to benefit.
|W-L: 9-13||ERA: 3.88||WHIP: 1.23||BB/9: 1.7||K/9: 8.0|
I mean, the guy had skull surgery Sunday, and the Los Angeles Angels are out of the running. Bringing him back would just be inhumane.
|BA: .260||HR: 3||SB: 58||BB: 36||K: 93|
The Cincinnati Reds say they’ll reevaluate their oblique injury in 5-7 days, and they have that kind of luxury with rosters expanded. But oblique injuries — not day-to-day soreness, but actual injuries — normally require a DL stay and often at least a month’s rest. I’m not saying you should drop Hamilton if you need him for steals in a Rotisserie league, but you might want to invest in his replacement, Jose Peraza .
Source: CBS Sports / Fantasy Baseball Observations: Brian Dozier stealing spotlight from Byron Buxton