- Fantastic starts from Jon Lester and Michael Brantley see their values increasing, while a prolonged slump from Jose Ramirez has him tumbling yet again.
Welcome to the fantasy baseball Stock Ticker, SI.com’s weekly surveying of the fantasy baseball landscape. This column isn’t a weathervane. It won’t respond to the natural vagaries of baseball that force even the likes of Mike Trout into an occasional slump or Derek Dietrich to look like an MVP candidate for a week or two. If a player appears on the Ticker, it means that we believe his rest-of-season outlook must be recalibrated.
This also isn’t a waiver wire column. While some players with low ownership rates will appear in the Risers section from time to time, the Ticker will generally consist of players widely owned in fantasy leagues.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies
Blackmon has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball for more than three weeks now, putting an ugly start to the season comfortably in his rear-view mirror. Over his last 22 games, he’s hitting .365/.435/.792 with nine homers, eight doubles and 21 RBI in 108 plate appearances. He’s also on an 11-game hitting streak, going 17-for-47 with six homers and 12 RBI in that time. At the start of his three-week run, he was hitting .219/.266/.301. He’s now up to .302/.364/.580.
Michael Brantley, OF, Astros
The early returns on “Michael Brantley, Houston Astro” have been better than even his strongest supporters could have expected. He’s hitting .335/.379/.585 with 10 homers, 11 doubles and 31 RBI through 177 plate appearances, an absolute rock in the middle of Houston’s order. He’s been on fire of late, going 21-for-55 with five homers and 13 RBI in his last 14 games.
Jose Martinez, 1B/OF, Cardinals
It took longer than it should have, but it appears that Martinez has finally secured an everyday spot in the Cardinals’ lineup. He has started 25 of the team’s last 26 games, hitting .360/.431/.517 with three homers, five doubles, 15 RBI and 11 walks against 17 strikeouts in that time. Forget about his substandard defense, which isn’t a huge deal in a corner outfield spot. He should be as much a regular in this lineup as Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers
Ryu has been dominant all season, amassing a 1.72 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 54 strikeouts against three—three!—walks in 52 1/3 innings. Injuries limited him to 82 1/3 innings last year, but he was just as good then, and if you accrue his numbers going back to the start of 2018, you get a legitimate ace: 12-4, 1.87 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 143 strikeouts against 18 walks in 134 2/3 innings.
Jon Lester, SP, Cubs
I was on the frontlines of the Fade Jon Lester movement, which means I have to be one of the first to admit that we leaders look awfully foolish right now. Lester has been among the best pitchers over the season’s first two months, totaling a 1.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 39 strikeouts against eight walks in 38 2/3 innings. Lester hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start this season, and hasn’t surrendered an earned run in his last three trips to the mound, a stretch covering 19 2/3 innings. He has fallen short of a quality start in two outings this season—the one he left early because of injury and his subsequent return from the IL. Lester is making me—and everyone else in the Fade Lester movement—look pretty terrible.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
Seager has been one of the most disappointing hitters in the league thus far this season, slashing .234/.327/.372 with three homers and 17 RBI in 168 plate appearances. He has shown some signs of life recently, going 8-for-29 with a homer and seven RBI in his last eight games, but there is cause for concern here.
His strikeout rate has spiked to 21.4% this season, up from a career mark of 19.6% coming into this season. As a left-handed hitter, Seager’s right arm—the one that needed Tommy John Surgery last year—is his lead arm at the plate. It isn’t uncommon to see prolonged power outages from hitters who suffer elbow, shoulder and wrist injuries on their lead arm, and that seems to be the case with Seager.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B, Indians
This was a great nugget from Matt Martell in his Trade Winds column earlier this week:
Ramirez’s final numbers from 2018, however, don’t show how much he slumped in the second half of the year, when he hit 218/.366/.427 in 279 plate appearances. Combine those numbers with his production through his first 40 games of this season and Ramirez’s prospects look much more bleak: 103 games, 451 plate appearances, .208/.337/.373, 13 homers, 46 RBI, 56 runs and 24 steals.
Ramirez has been an average-at-best offensive player since last year’s All-Star break, and there’s no way to sugarcoat that fact. The steals have preserved his fantasy value, but he’s nowhere near the first-round pick he was expected to be this season.
Jake Arrieta, SP, Phillies
At this point of his career, Arrieta is nothing more than a solid mid-rotation starter who can squeak out a couple extra wins because of his ability to eat up innings. His walk rate is back above 9%, and his strikeout rate is a modest 20.2%. As far as the rate categories go, he won’t do anything more than keep a good fantasy team’s ERA and WHIP level, and even that might be a stretch. He’s a hard guy to trust in every start, yet you almost have to considering his likely standing on your team.
Joey Lucchesi, SP, Padres
After a couple of strong starts in his first two outings of the season, Lucchesi gave his backers plenty of reason to believe this was going to be a breakout season. He has struggled since then, allowing 21 earned runs on 36 hits and 10 walks with 27 strikeouts over his last 31 innings, a stretch covering six starts. He has completed six innings in just one outing this season, and surrendered five runs on seven hits, including two homers, in seven innings in that start. He did hold the Rockies to one run across 5 1/3 innings at Coors Field in his last start, but the fact that we’re holding that up as reason for encouragement just drives home how disappointing Lucchesi has been this year.