Overlooked and overvalued fantasy assets based off recent trends

Cincinnati RedsJesse Winker has been providing stellar fantasy value but remains an overlooked option in many leagues. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As the fantasy clock turns from baseball to football, there’s opportunity to seize upon some hot players who never could have slipped through the radar with a similar stretch in April. We’ll also use our friends at Inside Edge, stat provider to MLB, to highlight some players who are unexpectedly slumping.

Of course, bigger samples are better. But there is the weight of the sample, too. So if an unheralded batter has an OBP over .500 and average over .400 over the past month, he’s probably a lot better than we think. Pitchers stabilize so much earlier than hitters so a month’s worth of stats in strikeouts and, to a lesser extent, walks, should be viewed as even more actionable.

Stats are as of Monday.

Jesse Winker, long a personal favorite and a Yahoo favorite, has an on-base percentage of .529 in his last 85 at bats. He’s basically Baby (Joey) Votto. On his Inside Edge report card for the full season, all the categories in Fastball Performance, Off-speed Performance, Plate Discipline, Clutch Tendency and 2 Strike Tendency are A-minus or better. And his well-hit average is stellar, too, at .181. Winker has demonstrated elite power, hitting the Toyota sign in Cincy. He’s not a finished product but is likely to end up being a great hitter. Maybe he’s already arriving.

At the other end of the spectrum in OBP the last month is Eric Hosmer (.178). Evan Gattis, Jose Abreu and Marcell Ozuna are also struggling.

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But that’s not a category. Neither is Slugging Percentage, though it is a leading indicator of fantasy dominance. For example, Matt Carpenter the past month is slugging an absurd .929. And Jose Ramirez and Alex Bregman are also .700. Lesser-owned players now white hot include Gregory Polanco (.691), Justin Smoak (.680) and Stephen Piscotty (.632).

Some guys we really bought into now are struggling. Brandon Nimmo has to make some re-adjustments it seems, at just .289 slugging the past month. Brandon Belt (.348 slugging) and Mike Trout (.373) have also struggled. Seeing Trout on a list like this is a reminder that one-month samples can mean absolutely nothing. You have to use some sense here. Never fade the superstars in their prime but maybe take a flyer on a very hot player who wasn’t expected to be nearly this good. The reason is simply that we are running out of games so even if the hot stretch lasts only a few more weeks, that can be enough of the remaining season to be very meaningful. And since all players are extremely skilled, a hot streak could mean that an adjustment has been made that could prove to be more lasting.

Anthony Rizzo has one homer the past month, which is one more than Ozuna. Andrew Benintendi also has one jack. Polanco has more bombs (eight) than Aaron Judge (seven).

RBI is viewed as a team stat. But there are some oddities that have been especially frustrating for owners. Judge the past month has come up to the plate with runners in scoring position a fifth-worst 16.7% of the time. Compare that with Adam Duvall, who, largely due to Winker, has a league-leading rate of 38.8%. So even with his poor hitting (.201 for the year), Duvall should be a reliable source of RBI. If Eugenio Suarez (just 34th at 28.6%) were moved up to fourth in the order, following Winker and Votto, he could average an RBI a game.

Note Bryce Harper’s teammates are doing him no favors of late in his walk year, at just 18.8% of at bats with RISP.

On the pitching side, Tyler Anderson is top 10 in strikeout percentage the past 30 days but is owned in just 56% of leagues. While the ratios are ugly, the hottest of the readily available strikeout pitchers is another Rockie, German Marquez (27.9% Ks the last month, 15th, and just 14% owned).

Sean Manaea can’t miss bats, at 98th the last month at just 11.2% K,s and is regressing as we expected back in May. His ERA is 3.38 and WHIP is under 1.00 still though. That can’t possibly continue. The even more highly owned Dallas Keuchel has little swing-and-miss game of late (82nd of 99 qualifying starters with a 15.7% K%).

Chris Sale’s fastball the past 30 days is 2.3 mph faster than overall, at 97 mph. Something may be wrong though with Carlos Martinez. Last year, he averaged 95.6 mph and the last month it’s just 93.1. Yikes.

Jon Lester’s on-base plus slugging percentage allowed the last month is .934. Egads. That’s 96th out of 99. David Price is at .882. Michael Fulmer .824. Mike Clevinger .775.

But at the other end of the spectrum, some small names have small OPSes allowed of late. The aforementioned Anderson is fourth-best at .472 (behind Sale, Aaron Nola and Zack Greinke) over the past 30 days. Dan Straily is just 5% owned but is 10th in OPS allowed the past month. Mike Fiers is 16% owned a respectable 14th (.587 OPS allowed). Even for the full season, Fiers is playable at 3.49 and 1.24 in 111 innings. But he’s only 68th in Ks the last month at 17.8%.

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