Justin Bour: Must Add in Deeper Formats

Justin Bour was originally in the Cubs system, but the Marlins picked him up in the Rule 5 draft in 2013. He was never a heralded prospect; Baseball America ranked him as the 15th best prospect at the start of 2015 season. His body makes it seem like his best position would be at DH, but his hands are good enough to stick at first base.

Today he smacked his third home run (in only 57 ABs) of the year against Gerrit Cole today (Wednesday May 27, 2015). Why does that matter? Bour ranks 17th among hitters with at least 50 PAs in hard-hit average. He’s in the same company as Freddie Freeman, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper so fantasy owners have to take notice of what he’s doing. Most importantly, Bour has the power to hit home runs to all fields so there is a chance the hard-hit rate will continue.

Bour is hitting fourth and fifth in the lineup so a high percentage of his at-bats will be with runners on-base and with Michael Morse on the DL, Bour will still likely be platooned against lefties, which is a positive for his fantasy value. There are no other first base replacements on the team so the job is his for at least the next two weeks. If Bour continues to hit first base, against righties, is his the rest of the year.

If Bour keeps making this much hard contact he’s going to hit and for a lot of power. We’re still dealing with a relatively small sample size, but if you play in a deeper league or have a large bench (like NFBC) he is someone you should pick up now before it’s too late. For me he is in the Adam Lind class of first baseman.

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Fantasy Baseball Notes: Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman has struggled this year. Entering Tuesday he had a 6.10 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. His biggest problem has been command; he has 22 walks in 41.1 innings or another way to put it is he’s walked 12 percent of the batters he’s faced. Among pitchers with at least six starts he has the fourth highest walk rate.

Odds are if you drafted Tillman (53rd on average in ESPN) you may be encouraged to believe he may be turning a corner when you look at his box score against the Astros. The major positive was he threw more strikes. This year he’s only throwing strikes 60.2 percent of the time. Last night the strike percentage was62.8 percent, which is on par to the strike percentage he’s had from 2012-14 (63.3 percent).

Even though the strike percentage was up a lot of the strikes he threw were not quality strikes. He left a lot of fastballs in the middle of the zone and he couldn’t throw his curveball for strikes. In fact I don’t think any of the curveballs would have been strikes if the batters never swung.

The Astros have the second highest strikeout rate and third lowest batting in the majors. As I was watching I couldn’t help but think how a better offense would have performed against him (by better, I mean a team that makes more contact) because he threw a lot of bad strikes but got away with it.

The question for fantasy owners is what to do with Tillman moving forward. What’s interesting about Tillman is from 2012-14 his ERAs were all below his FIP and xFIP. Tillman wasn’t the only pitcher who outperformed his FIP and xFIP. Three other starting pitchers had similar results with the outlier being Ubaldo Jimenz. Usually when a pitcher outperforms his FIP and xFIP odds are he’s been a little lucky, but the fact he’s done it for three straight seasons and the Orioles pitching staff have seen similar results make it seem like its not luck.

Other than 15-team mixed or AL-only leagues I would not have him in my starting lineup for the simple reason he’s not throwing strikes consistently and the quality of strikes he is throwing are not good, which is part of the reason why his BABIP (.312) is the highest its been since 2011. If I were in a 12 or 10-team mixed league I would drop him for either good streaming options (Roenis Elias and Brett Anderson) or pitchers with higher ceilings (Drew Hutchison and Jesse Hahn).

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DFS Pitcher Analysis for Monday May 25, 2015

Choosing pitchers in DFS can be a very tricky proposition because more times than not you’re going to win or lose based on how they perform. I play at DraftKings, which requires two starting pitchers; FanDuel only requires one starting pitcher. Since I play at DraftKings I’m going to focus the rest of the article on that format.

There are a lot of strategies on how to select pitchers. Some recommend choosing the hitters first, then the pitchers. That’s a bad idea. Predicting future baseball results can be a very futile, but predicting the performance of a starting pitcher is more accurate than hitters. Therefore, I choose the two pitchers I want to use for that day.

The pitchers I choose vary depending on the type of format I’m playing. Specifically, 50/50 (double ups) and GPP (guaranteed prize pools). In general when I’m recommending a pitcher for GPP it’s because they have upside to have a big day at a very low cost. What makes a pitcher a GPP recommendation and not a 50/50 recommendation is the GPP pitcher has a greater chance of not performing well. In 50/50 contests if one of your pitcher blows up (i.e. has an in-game ERA of over 4.50 and a WHIP over 1.3) you’re not likely going to win. When I’m choosing pitchers for 50/50 I want pitchers who have a great chance of providing a quality start with a strikeout per inning.

Below you will find analysis on what type of format I would use a particular pitcher (if at all) for Monday, May 25, 2015. Also, I omitted some pitchers on purpose because there is no chance I would be using them in any format. Lastly, I’m not ranking the players because I want you, the reader to make him his/her own mind ;0)

Nate Eovaldi: Pass

The Royals have a fairly left-handed lineup and Eovaldi still has not figured out lefties. This year lefties have a .988 OPS and for his career before 2015 .770 (compared to only .678 against righties).

Bartolo Colon: GPP

Colon has been brutal his last three starts, allowing 17 earned runs 15.1 innings. However, he’s facing the Phillies at home. The Phillies do not have a good lineup or a good team. They currently have the lowest wOBA against right-handed pitching for the season. The velocity of the fastball has been relatively stable, which is why I think he could have a bounce back start.

Dallas Keuchel: 50/50, GPP

Keuchel is a good pitcher. He fields his position well, holds runners well and produces a lot of ground balls. In fact he had the highest ground ball rate last season and leads all qualified starters this season. The Astros are among the leaders in baseball in the number of times they utilize the defensive shift, which is great for him. He’s going to be a massive regression candidate as the season progresses, but I expect him to have continued success against the Orioles who are 24th in the majors in wOBA in the past month.

Wei-Yin Chen: GPP

Since Chen pitches a hitter friendly ballpark you would think he has a substantial difference in his home-road splits, but his career numbers are almost identical at home and on the road. The Astros strikeout the most of any team in baseball so you may be able to get 6-7 innings with 8-plust strikeouts.

Kyle Lohse: GPP

If you remove the first start of the year he has a 4.47 ERA and 1.113 WHIP so he’s pitched much better than his ERA and WHIP would indicate. For the year, the Giants surprisingly have the fourth best wOBA against right handed pitching.

Tim Lincecum: GPP

In Lincecum’s last four starts he has a 1.05 ERA and a 0.974 WHIP, but I’m still not buying. The simple reason why is during that stretch he’s walking 10.9 percent of batters. I avoid high walk pitchers for yearlong fantasy as well as DFS, but he’s facing an average Brewers team and may be worth a chance.

Joe Kelly: GPP

The Twins mash lefties, but they cannot hit righties; they’re 27th in the majors in wOBA against righties for the season. Despite Kelly’s poor ERA and WHIP he has made an improvement in the strikeout rate; going from 15.9 percent last year to 21.2 percent this year.

Tanner Roark: GPP

The reason why he’s only a GPP is because the most pitches he’s thrown this season is 50 pitches so I doubt the Nationals will allow him to come close to 100 pitches. If I knew for a fact he could throw 100 or more I would say he’s a 50/50 play too.

Jesse Hahn: GPP

Hahn has not looked like the pitcher he was last year, but he hasn’t pitched as poorly as his ERA would indicate. He’s facing the Tigers who have the third highest wOBA against righties so he is definitely a high risk, high reward player.

Carlos Martinez: GPP

Martinez could be a 50/50 play, but I want to see what the Diamondbacks lineup looks like first. The reason why I say that is because for some reason they are platooning A.J. Pollock, their second best hitter, with two other outfielders. Also, he still has major problems getting lefties out so if the lineup is fairly left handed I wouldn’t use him in a 50/50.

Chase Anderson: GPP

I love fastball-changeup pitchers. Anderson has pitched extremely well for the season, but he’s going to regress to a 3.30ish ERA when the season concludes. The reason why is he doesn’t have overpowering stuff and he pitches in one of the worst ballpark for pitchers. In the past month the Cardinals have the fifth highest wOBA against righties.

Drew Hutchison: GPP

I wrote a “scouting” report on Hutchison here.

Jake Odorizzi: 50/50, GPP

Odorizzi has totally revamped his approach to pitching. He’s walking far less batters, generating more ground balls and is pitching deeper into games. All of that is great, but this is coming at the expense of the strikeout rate, which is not good for fantasy. Despite that, he’s going to be on my 50/50 lineup.

Roenis Elias: GPP

Elias pitched great in his last start against the Orioles, but the Rays are sixth in the majors in wOBA against lefties. Last year walks plagued Elias, but this year the walk rate is down two and a half percentage points (from 9.2 percent to 6.8 percent).

Brett Anderson: GPP

The Braves are 26th in the majors in wOBA against lefties for the year and Anderson has struck out 15 batters in the past two starts (11.2 innings). Eventually the Dodgers are going to hit so the odds of him winning are higher than normal.

Tyson Ross: GPP

Most fantasy players will have Ross as a 50/50 player, but he’s walking batters at an enormous rate (13.5 percent), which is too high for me. Since he’s one of the better pitchers on Monday he’s going to be priced too high.

Jered Weaver: GPP

In his last three starts Weaver has a 1.54 ERA and 0.729 WHIP. Maybe he has found something and made the appropriate changes? Or maybe he’s benefitted from a .179 BABIP?

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