MLB fantasy mailbag: Zimmermann keeps winning by keeping control
Jordan Zimmermann has crafted solid season by limiting number of his walks
Trevor Plouffe more valuable than Dexter Fowler with more power and versatility
Carlos Santana struggling to hit with power but still showing good batting eye
I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
What order would you have Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson in a 5x5 points keeper league?
Zimmermann posted a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, and he's picked right up where he left off with a 2.91 ERA and 1.09 WHIP through 12 starts this season. Extremely consistent, Zimmermann hasn't allowed more than four runs in an outing this season, has permitted one run in half his starts 12 starts and has lasted at least six innings every time he's taken the hill. Why the success? He doesn't beat himself. After walking a mere 1.73 batters per nine last year he's dropped that number to 1.51 this year. If he can keep up that rate, and somehow hold on to the increase he's working on in the ground ball rate from last season (his Gb-rate is up to 52 percent) not much will likely be able to slow him down.
Moore has disappointed many with his 4.59 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, but that's because, frankly, expectations were too high with the rookie. But things are looking up. In five of his last six starts he's allowed three or fewer earned runs as his ERA has come down more than a run. It's not all lollipops and candy corns; he's walking an unacceptable 4.33 batters per nine innings and he's giving up a whopping 1.44 homers per nine innings, but there is still a lot going on here to really like, including the 9.31 K/9 rate that neither Hellickson nor Zimmerman will ever be able to match.
Moore's teammate, Jeremy Hellickson, has better ratios than the power lefty (2.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), but I'm still searching as to how he has been so consistent since the start of last year. You hear a lot about the Rays' solid defense and how Hellickson has changed how he throws his curve ball, but his success falls outside the realm of traditional analysis. Over his last 41 starts he has gone 17-12 with a 2.87 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, impressive in the AL East. But he doesn't strike out enough batters, walks too many and is below league average in his ability to induce grounders. Still, he never gives up the amount of hits he should and he's able to strand runners at a rate that we've rarely seen over the last 25 years. We're going on two years of that middling work in some rather major categories and still he's posted impressive numbers, but at some point doesn't that run of inexplicable performance have to end?
All three hurlers deserve to be kept in most keeper leagues, barring some unforeseen bounty of Verlanders and Lees on your squad. Moore has the biggest strikeout arm of the mix, and therefore the highest upside in the fantasy game. Zimmermann throws more strikes than Hellickson and it's easier for me to explain why he has success, so he goes No. 2. Hellickson comes in third, but that's like finishing third for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover -- he's still hotter than the overwhelming majority of pitchers in the big leagues.
Drop Dexter Fowler to get Trevor Plouffe?
This world is all about what have you done for me lately? Think about it. When the Apple iPhone XXIV comes out you know you'll drop your old model even though it's working totally fine. When that new LED flat screen came out, did you give away your plasma television? When Kate Upton burst on the scene with her ample assets did you drop your previous love for ... wait, that one makes sense. Getting back on topic ...
Fowler hit .239 in April and people hated him.
Fowler hit .333 in May and people loved him.
Fowler has hit .235 in June and people no longer trust him.
Take the case of Plouffe.
He hit .121 in April and was dropped in AL-only leagues.
He hit .185 in May and was dropped by his mother in AL-only leagues.
He has hit .400 with six homers in 10 games in June and people think he's the next fantasy superstar.
So how would I play this? Plouffe has two main advantages over Fowler. (1) He qualifies at third base and shortstop in all leagues and in the outfield in most leagues. That versatility is tremendously valuable. (2) He has more power than Fowler. In 465 career at-bats the former first round draft pick has 21 homers. On the flip side, Fowler has a couple of significant advantages over Plouffe. (1) Fowler has way more speed than Plouffe has his steals total of six this season doubles Trevor's career mark. (2) Fowler will never win a batting title but his worst month this season, .239 in April, is still better than Plouffe's career mark (.228). (3) Fowler simply has the better all-around fantasy game. It's been an uneven ride to this point but Fowler still has the look of a guy who could go hit .270 with 20 homers, 70 RBI, 90 runs and 15 steals (his current pace).
I wouldn't begrudge anyone adding/riding Plouffe while he is this hot, but I wouldn't drop Fowler in order to make that happen.
Matt Wieters or Carlos Santana the rest of the season?
Wieters posted a blistering .937 OPS in April but saw that number tank faster than the rapping career of Vanilla Ice with a .605 mark in May. He's rebounded in June with a .830 mark, but, alas, his .760 mark overall is .018 points lower than last season. On a positive note, Wieters 0.50 BB/K rate is a match for his level the past two years, and his 1.11 GB/FB ratio is spot on his mark from last season (well, it's 0.01 off). Wieters also owns a line drive rate that is just 0.7 off last year's level, his BABIP is down a mere .007 points while his HR/F ratio is 0.2 points up. Given that it's hardly surprising that his current pace (23 homers, 70 RBI, 70 runs) is nearly identical to what he did last year (22 homers, 78 RBI, 72 runs).
Santana has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed upon his shoulders given that he was the first catcher selected in many a draft. After hitting 27 homers last year he has only five in 51 games this year. He's also on pace to fall well off said pace with 24 runs scored (he crossed the plate 84 times last year). Heck, his batting average is down .012 points to .227 and his SLG is actually down an even .100 points (his .357 mark is just barely ahead of his .351 OBP from last season). His BB/K rate remains strong at 0.76, and his line drive rate is up at 21.5 percent (it was a mere 15.4 percent last year). Oddly, even though he's hit liners at a substantially increased rate, his BABIP has only gone up .011 point to .277.
In a dynasty league, these might be the Top-2 options in the game behind the dish. As for the rest of the year, I'm going to toss my support behind Santana because he qualifies at two spots (catcher, first base) and because he has a better approach at the dish, but there really isn't a wrong answer here.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.