FANTASY PLAYS: 2 NL East studs and plenty of duds
There are several interesting names in the NL East requiring our attention. There’s also a disappointing vet in Colorado that needs to turn things around for his fantasy baseball owners. We cover all of this and streaming pitchers in this week’s Cheers, Tears and Fears.
Ryan Zimmerman, WSH — Hopefully, you don’t need to be told that Zimmerman isn’t going to keep hitting at this rate. Zimmerman has Barry Bonds-esque numbers right now, on pace for 66 home runs, 137 runs and 179 RBIs over 155 games while hitting .427 with an .875 slugging percentage. As crazy as that sounds, the overlooked part is expecting Zimmerman to play 155 games. He hasn’t hit that mark since 2009, and while he has three seasons of 140-plus, Zimmerman also has four seasons of 115 or less in the last six years (93 average). Even at Zimmerman’s best (2009), he hit 33 homers with a .292 AVG (career high of .307). Zimmerman is obviously healthy and seeing the ball well, as his Hard percentage is 45.3, but he’s on an amazing hot streak and will cool off. If Zimmerman finished with a career-best .310 AVG, that would mean he hit just .285 the rest of the way. Even if he contends for the batting title with a .350 AVG, that’s .334 rest of season, which is terrific, but a stark contrast to his current .427 mark. When you factor in Zimmerman’s injury history, he makes for the perfect sell-high candidate.
Michael Conforto, NYM — Mets fans and Fantasy owners were clamoring to see Conforto starting every day for the Mets this season. Initially, Conforto was heading to Triple-A until Juan Lagares went to the DL with an oblique injury. Conforto played a few games each week, but then Lucas Duda hit the DL and Jay Bruce started playing first base. Yoenis Cespedes is on the DL now too with a strained hamstring, giving Conforto everyday at-bats. Some might be concerned that Conforto will lose playing time once everyone is healthy. Don’t worry yourself. First, it’s unlikely this Mets team will ever be 100 percent healthy, and second, Conforto’s bat has forced the Mets’ hand — so much that Curtis Granderson sat while Conforto and Lagares were in the outfield with Bruce. Conforto is hitting over .350 with seven home runs in just 24 games (70 at-bats) with a great 39.3 Hard percentage. Conforto needs to be a part of the Mets and your fantasy team’s everyday lineup.
Carlos Gonzalez, COL — Gonzalez is off to a tough start, but this isn’t the first time he has been quieter in April. In fact, April is Gonzalez’s worst hitting month of his career with a .778 OPS, which is his only month under .839. To be fair, a .588 OPS is significantly worse, but there is hope for better. Gonzalez has played well in Colorado with a .843 OPS versus his .414 mark on the road. The Rockies have played more road games to date, and Gonzalez’s two home runs were also at home. Granted, we want to see Gonzalez perform capably on the road, but again, this isn’t his first poor April. In 2015, he hit .200 with two homers and a .594 OPS. Gonzalez is a lock for mid-20s home runs with 80-plus runs and near 100 RBIs in this lineup, especially with Ian Desmond back. Buy low and buy fast before CarGo turns the corner.
Matt Harvey, NYM — Harvey is not a player that I’m looking to buy low, even if you want to give him a pass for his last outing (Mets had him start on short notice). Harvey’s 5.14 ERA is inflated from his last two starts, but the metrics behind Harvey’s full season are the real concern. Harvey had a fortunate .203 BABIP through his first four games, which normalized to .297 over the last two, and for the season the K percentage is a career-worst 13.5. Only eight qualified starters have a lower mark. It’s understandable given his offseason surgery, but Harvey’s speed, F-Strike percentage and many other telling stats are at career worst marks. Don’t look to buy low, and if you own Harvey, pick your matchups and even bench him until we see a rebound start.
Phillies Closers — Joaquin Benoit blew his second save, pitching the eighth inning and allowing a home run to Miguel Montero on May 4. Jeanmar Gomez came in for two scoreless innings, and Hector Neris didn’t pitch. Gomez just gave up three runs in two innings his last time out, and Neris has a 9.95 ERA since taking over the closer role. It appears manager Pete Mackanin has no more idea what’s happening in his bullpen that we do. Avoid this situation wherever you can.
STREAMING WITH SOBBs
The Padres lead the league in team SOBB (K percentage-BB percentage) and carry one of the lowest wRC+ marks. The Rangers’ A.J. Griffin is a nice spot start, and Jose Quintana of the White Sox is a must-start, especially with how well he’s pitched the last two starts. The Brewers continue to strike out more than any other team, but remember they can also put up runs in bunches. Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez of the Red Sox are solid options. Gonzalez isn’t the only Rockies hitter struggling, as the team has a 15.8 SOBB and 78 wRC+. That makes the Twins’ Ervin Santana and John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs strong plays.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by Jake Ciely of the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com