The Thursday schedules for the rest of the season are really sparse, so for the last six weeks of the 2018 slate, we’ll be using Thursdays to do some up/down stock watch pieces for those teams with off-days. We’ll be using 2018 average draft position data from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship’s 12-team leagues that were drafted between March 1 and March 30 this year (sample size of 131 leagues) to say whether we think a player is “way up,” “up,” “even,” “down,” or “way down.”
- Stock Watch: 1B Paul Goldschmidt (ADP: 11) – Down: This is less of a knock on Goldschmidt and more a case of market factors, as 1B Freddie Freeman has ascended to the top of the position after lagging behind Goldschmidt and Reds 1B Joey Votto in recent seasons. Still, though, Goldschmidt is likely a top 25 pick, hurt only by a dip in his stolen bases. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 24)
- SP Sean Newcomb pitched six shutout innings yesterday, a nice recovery after allowing 12 runs and 26 baserunners in 9 1/3 innings over his previous two starts. Command and efficiency remain issues for Newcomb, continued signs that he may be fatigued from this new level of workload in the majors; he walked three batters yesterday, the sixth time in nine starts where he has walked at least three, and he needed 111 pitches to get through only 18 batters. Newcomb will get the Rays next on Wednesday at home, followed by a two-start week against the Red Sox and at the Diamondbacks.
- Stock Watch: SP Dylan Bundy (ADP: 195) – Even: On the surface, the stats may say that Bundy is in for a drop from his 15th-16th round range that he was drafted in this season, but there have been enough glimmers of hope for us to think that he’ll have enough believers next year to provide helium during the spring. Those glimmers? An increase in swinging strike rate for the third straight season; a dip in walk rate for third straight season; and some bad luck with fly balls that has driven up his home run total. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 200)
Boston Red Sox
- 1B Mitch Moreland left yesterday’s game after one at-bat with a knee contusion, and C Blake Swihart took over and had a big day, going 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. If you’re wondering why 1B/OF Steve Pearce didn’t come in for Moreland, well, Pearce was dealing with a back issue and couldn’t play. If Moreland is anything beyond day-to-day, Pearce would be a nice short-term pickup, as the team expects him to be ready to play today against the Rays.
- SP Cole Hamels continues to pitch like an ace in the National League, throwing a complete game last night with eight hits, two walks, and an earned run allowed while striking out seven. This article by Craig Edwards at FanGraphs does a great job detailing some of the changes Hamels has made, but the bottom line is that his velocity is up since the trade, and if he can sustain that, he’s going to be a very interesting free agent piece to watch this winter.
Chicago White Sox
- C Welington Castillo finished serving his 80-game PED suspension, but he was placed on the 10-day disabled list yesterday due to right shoulder inflammation that developed on his rehab assignment at Triple-A. Shoulder injuries are bad enough for hitters (see Schebler, Scott for a recent example), but it is hard to see Castillo being of any value in the last 5+ weeks of the season if he’s not able to get behind the plate and throw.
- OF Billy Hamilton has benefitted and earned his move up to the leadoff spot, picking up two hits yesterday and his third multi-hit game since being inserted at the one hole last week, but it hasn’t helped him find his stolen base game, as he was caught stealing yesterday and still hasn’t stole a base since August 11.
- SP Adam Plutko isn’t doing much to fill-in for SP Trevor Bauer, as he was beat up yesterday by the Red Sox over 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on five hits and five walks, striking out four. The Indians aren’t going to be threatened at all for a playoff spot or their division crown, but it’ll still be interesting to see if they make a move for a short-term fill-in like SP Matt Harvey or SP Gio Gonzalez.
- OF Charlie Blackmon and SS Trevor Story both stole bases for the second consecutive game, their 8th and 19th bags of the season, respectively. If Blackmon can put together a finishing stretch with 6-8 more steals, he’s going to make a lot of fantasy owners think long and hard about whether he’s truly lost his first-round level talent when they look at him for their 2019 drafts. Story picked up two more hits and is now at .295 this year with a .902 OPS; at a very deep shortstop position, Story still stands out as a clear top-30 pick for next season.
- SP Michael Fulmer will be activated from the disabled list today to start against the White Sox after missing more than a month with a strained oblique.
- Stock Watch: 2B Jose Altuve (ADP: 2) – Down: This is going to happen simply because Altuve’s power and speed numbers have dropped this year, and while his batting average is still an incredibly valuable skill in a fantasy environment where owners are starved for one .300 hitter, let alone a .320-.325 guy, that recency bias will drop him behind a few other first rounders. As of right now, we think Altuve will be going somewhere between 6 and 8 in next year’s drafts, which could be a great buying opportunity. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 7)
Kansas City Royals
- 2B/OF Whit Merrifield picked up three more hits yesterday and his 28th stolen base of the season. His hit streak is up to 12 games, the second best active streak in the majors behind Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and he’s got 30 hits in August with 11 runs scored and 12 RBI, no small feat considering the total lack of support around him.
Los Angeles Angels
- Stock Watch: OF Justin Upton (ADP: 52) – Way Down: Upton is 17th among outfielders and 62nd among all players this year, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. So why do we think he’ll be way down? Boredom. Upton is putting together the same decent average, high-end power numbers he has every year, but he’s going to be 31 and there are a lot of young outfielders emerging this season. On the DL now with a finger laceration, that drop in playing time could do even more damage to his perceived value; if that’s the case, we’ll be owning a ton of J-Up next year. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 80)
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Stock Watch: SS Corey Seager (ADP: 46) – Way Down: Coming off Tommy John and hip surgeries is bad enough, but the shortstop position has gained a new level of depth this year, which should push Seager to the high teens at the position in early rankings. Seager still has elite talent and the key parts of his game shouldn’t be impacted by his injuries, as long as he recovers cleanly. If he drops to as low as we think, he’s another buying opportunity. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 92)
- C J.T. Realmuto went 0-for-4 yesterday, continuing his month-long slump in which he’s hit just .171 (12-for-70) with eight walks.
- Stock Watch: OF Christian Yelich (ADP: 37) – Up: Yelich is starting to look a lot like the Jose Altuve that was good enough to rise to the consensus number two overall pick in drafts last year. But with more exciting guys like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto moving in to similar rankings territory for 2019, Yelich may not get the love he truly deserves. If we were drafting today, I’d have to think very hard about putting Yelich fourth in my outfield rankings behind Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, and Mookie Betts. He’s right in that next tier with Aaron Judge, Andrew Benintendi, and Giancarlo Stanton, and above Acuña, Soto, Bryce Harper, and Charlie Blackmon.
- SP Kohl Stewart’s third major league start was his best yet, though there wasn’t a very high bar to clear after he threw just seven innings and allowed six runs and 16 baserunners in his first two starts. He struck out six yesterday in 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks.
New York Mets
- 1B/3B Todd Frazier homered for the second consecutive game yesterday, and he has hits in six of his last eight starts, including six for extra bases, eight runs scored, and nine RBI.
New York Yankees
- Stock Watch: OF Aaron Judge (ADP: 21) – Up: Judge looks ready to join 3B Nolan Arenado as the “incredibly safe source of elite power” options at the very top of the draft, pending any unforeseen fallout from his current wrist injury. He’s somehow boosted his hard-hit rate this year from the absurd 45.3 percent it was last year, as he was at 47.9 before the injury. Despite a drop in fly ball rate, he’s still on 43 home run pace for the season. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 12)
- Of all the predictions we made before and during the season, our belief in mid-July that OF Khris Davis was going to go on a torrid power stretch is probably the one we’re most proud of – he homered again last night, his 39th of the season and 18th in just 122 at-bats since the All-Star Break (he also has 39 RBI in that run). Davis is essentially doing what OF Giancarlo Stanton did for fantasy teams last year, single-handedly delivering titles via a power production that less than a dozen guys in the majors are actually capable of producing. Davis turns 31 in December but there’s no reason to doubt that he can do this for at least two more seasons.
- C Wilson Ramos sat out again yesterday with a wrist injury, and C Andrew Knapp was called up, but it sounds like Ramos is not expected to hit the disabled list. C Jorge Alfaro will see most of the starts for any Ramos absence, and he went 1-for-3 yesterday.
- OF Odubel Herrera hit his first home run of the month yesterday, and it meant a lot, as the two-run shot were the only runs scored in a 2-0 Phillies win. The homer was Herrera’s 20th, the first time in his career he’s reached that mark.
- Stock Watch: RP Felipe Vazquez (ADP: 78) – Even: Despite a stretch in early June where it looked like an elbow injury may end his season, Vazquez has put up elite numbers on an average team, and the combination of track record and youth make him a likely favorite in the regular 5th-6th-7th round closer run that always seems to materialize. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 81)
San Diego Padres
- RP Kirby Yates blew his first save of the season yesterday, allowing a two-run home run with two outs to Colorado 1B/OF Ian Desmond to turn a 3-2 lead in to a 4-3 loss. Both the outs Yates recorded were strikeouts, and he’s now struck out multiple batters in seven of his eight August outings, for a total of 17 Ks in 7 2/3 innings. If Yates is given this job from the start next year, he could be the next RP Sean Doolittle in terms of the long-time setup man that becomes an elite closer overnight.
San Francisco Giants
- OF Andrew McCutchen hasn’t been traded yet – he was back in the lineup leading off yesterday and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
- SP Madison Bumgarner put together arguably his best outing of 2018, throwing eight innings and striking out eight, and allowing only a solo home run and four singles.
- Stock Watch: DH Nelson Cruz (ADP: 61) – Down: This may seem like a surprise, as Cruz enters an uneven free agent market and his age-39 season, but all of Cruz’s power markers have held steady and his strikeout rate has dropped again for the fourth consecutive season. His batting average dip looks luck-driven more than anything else, and there is basically no other safe, elite power option like this available after pick 50, as we expect OF Khris Davis to graduate to a higher tier after putting another ridiculous power season in 2018. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 66)
St. Louis Cardinals
- Stock Watch: 1B/2B/3B Matt Carpenter (ADP: 196) – Way Up: With eligibility at every infield position except shortstop and a second half power surge that seems moderately sustainable, Carpenter is likely to go in the low 100s next season. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 112)
Tampa Bay Rays
- OF Mallex Smith went 3-for-5 with two doubles and his 27th stolen base of the year. He’s got hits in seven of his last eight games, and all seven of those games have been multi-hit efforts.
- Stock Watch: 2B Rougned Odor (ADP: 111) – Up: Incredibly, Odor’s current player rank on ESPN’s Player Rater is 110, but he’s likely to finish well inside the top 100 after recovering from a two-month stretch to start the season where demotion to Triple-A looked more likely than remaining in the majors. Odor’s strikeout rate is down considerably and his walk rate is a career-high 8.6 percent, and he doesn’t even turn 25 until next February. We think Odor will get a lot of hype entering next season, and we’re not sure how comfortable we’ll be paying that price with the improved depth at second base. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 68)
Toronto Blue Jays
- Stock Watch: RP Ken Giles (ADP: 82) – Down: This is probably another one where, going in, my first thought was “this guy will be a ‘way down’ type,” but upon closer inspection of the closer market (get it?), I’m not sure how many guys I’d feel more comfortable with as my low-end top closer or high-end second closer in a 12-team league. Almost all of the damage done to Giles this year has been in non-save situations, and he’s going to get a full eight weeks as the closer in Toronto to get himself settled and right before next spring. He’s going in to his age-28 season and has a ton of gas left in the tank, and unless he has an awful spring training, we expect him to still be an 8th-9th round guy. (Early 2019 ADP Prediction: 97)
- SP Max Scherzer was outdueled by fellow NL Cy Young contender SP Aaron Nola yesterday, and in a nice bit of symmetry both guys exited their starts with 2.13 ERAs on the season. Scherzer fell to 16-6 after allowing two runs on two hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out 10.