Posted on June 20, 2016 by Nick Selbe
As mentioned before in this space, fantasy baseball and actual baseball differ in many ways. Skills that have great value in the real world — like defense or heads-up base running — have little to no use in fantasy baseball, and our perceptions of players can be affected by this disconnect.
Still, there is enough overlap that guys who struggle or excel for the teams that actually pay them real money often greatly impact your fantasy team. In Week 11 of Three Up, Three Down, the real-world standings take center stage as we focus on players whose teams have gone off script so far this season. Our three studs have each helped lead their clubs to surprising successes so far, while the three duds have endured subpar starts for teams who have disappointed.
As a pending free agent a season ago, Desmond hit a meager .233/.290/.384 and made 27 errors at shortstop, leaving a lot of money on the table. When he didn’t get a big offer this offseason, he signed a one-year deal with Texas in hopes of cashing in big next winter, and that move appears to have paid off.
Desmond has cut down on his strikeouts this year after being one of the worst offenders in 2015. He looks poised to record his fourth career 20-20 season with home runs and stolen bases, and his isolated power rating is the highest it’s been since 2012. Even more impressive is that the 30-year-old has done all this while playing center field for the first time in his career — a position change that’s gone better than most would have expected.
The Rangers are the defending AL West champs, so it’s hard to call them a surprise team, but it’s doubtful many thought they’d be this good — their .643 winning percentage is second only to the Chicago Cubs. Desmond lost out on a big payday last year but seems to have reclaimed his title as one of the best two-way players in the game. Both the Rangers and fantasy owners got Desmond at a bargain price this offseason and should enjoy his exploits while they can — his services will cost much more next time around.
Stats June 13 – 19: 6-for-19, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 3 KPercent owned: 87 percent
Ozuna returned to the Majors on Aug. 15 and performed much better, posting a .278/.320/.469 slash line with six home runs in his final 44 games. He’s built upon that success this season, looking every bit the budding star many thought he could be. He’s on pace for 31 home runs for a Marlins team that currently owns the top Wild Card spot in the National League.
Part of the reason for Ozuna’s success has been his ability to figure out right-handed pitching. Last year, he struck out 23 percent of the time against righties with a .358 slugging percentage. He’s hit seven home runs off righties this year after hitting just eight all of last season.
Ozuna’s making hard contact nearly as often as he did in 2014, but this time he’s hitting the ball in the air more, which has brought about his increased home run total. The Marlins were a trendy postseason pick a season ago before everything went wrong. With Ozuna, Christian Yelich and the ageless Ichiro Suzuki picking up the slack for a struggling Giancarlo Stanton, perhaps the Fish can crash the playoff party this time around.
Like many of his Orioles teammates, Schoop has never seen a pitch he didn’t like. Along with Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones and Joey Rickard, he’s one of four qualified O’s hitters with a walk rate of 7 percent or lower. None are more walk averse than Schoop, whose 3.4 percent BB% ranks among the lowest in the Majors.
While that lack of on-base skills limits his fantasy value, Schoop makes up for it with his power. His .214 ISO is the highest of his career, and he’s reached that mark while cutting down on his strikeout rate. His ISO ranks among the Major League leaders for second basemen, a position where power is scarce for fantasy owners.
It’ll take Schoop and the other big bats in the lineup maintaining their torrid pace, but the team just might be able to ride the long ball all the way to the postseason. Given the dearth of power at the position — Schoop ranks tied for fifth among all fantasy-eligible second basemen with 12 home runs — he’s definitely playable in mixed leagues, especially on rosters that can afford to take a hit in batting average and on-base percentage.
Stats June 13 – 19: 4-for-18, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 4 KPercent owned: 98 percent
Of course, there are other players on Houston’s roster with a larger share of the blame for the team’s struggles — Carlos Gomez and Dallas Keuchel easily come to mind — but Correa earns the nod here because of his average draft status as a late-first round pick.
Given the fact this is just Correa’s second year — he’s played in only 165 career regular-season games to date — we don’t have much of a career sample size to work off of. One stark difference that stands out between his first and second seasons is this: All of the sudden, Correa can’t hit lefties.
Last year’s lefty-righty splits were fairly even, but this year has been a disaster. Correa has lost all his power against left-handers, with just one extra-base hit in 69 plate appearances.
With nine home runs and eight stolen bases, Correa is obviously still a useful fantasy player, but he hasn’t been anywhere near worthy of a first-round pick yet. He’s still making great contact and is actually hitting line drives more often than he did last year, so if you’re in a league with a Correa owner who’s getting antsy, it might be a good idea to start sending some low-ball trade offers to see if you can acquire him on the cheap.
Stats June 13 – 19: 7-for-29, 1 XBH, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 11 KPercent owned: 93 percent
The Dodgers offense has been a massive disappointment thus far, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick have all been major letdowns, but the one that makes that lineup tick is Gonzalez, and the normally reliable slugger simply hasn’t been himself.
Gonzalez has long been a feared middle-of-the-lineup hitter, but this season he’s morphed into a slap hitter seemingly overnight. He’s hitting more ground balls than ever before and pulling the ball less often than he has since his rookie season. As a result, he’s hit just 16 extra-base hits in 280 plate appearances so far, sending his slugging percentage plummeting.
Nearly three months into the 2016 season, it doesn’t appear as if the Gonzalez of old is coming back anytime soon. Unfortunately for owners, he has little trade value now, so the best approach might actually be to hang on to him and hope for a second-half resurgence.
Stats June 13 – 19: 0-for-17, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 8 KPercent owned: 97 percent
Frazier’s strikeout rate is right in line with his career average and his walk rate has actually gone up, so from a plate discipline standpoint, everything appears normal. His slash line of .197/.299/.446 has been weighed down by his abysmal .180 batting average on balls in play, easily the lowest in the league among qualified batters.
Frazier’s BABIP woes can’t just be chalked up to bad luck, though. No hitter has had a higher rate of infield fly balls than Frazier, and he’s making hard contact less often than ever before. Though he can obviously still drive the ball out of the park on occasion, he’s posted a career-worst 14.1 percent line-drive rate thus far.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Frazier has been such a feast-or-famine hitter this year, but it’s worth noting that he suffered through a subpar second half of last season, and despite the respectable home run total, those struggles have persisted into this year. The home runs make him worthy of a roster spot in mixed leagues, but owners should only start him if they’re able to absorb the dent Frazier’s presence will put in their team’s batting average and OBP. He might end up with 35 dingers, but aside from that, Frazier hasn’t been a good Major League hitter in quite some time.