Fantasy baseball: Desmond Jennings and two Nats hitters highlight this week’s ‘must starts’

May 31

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Each week, Collin Hager uses his HVaC Scoring System to let you know whom to start and drop this week in head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues. This week’s must-starts:

Even though it’s slight, Desmond Jennings has seen his ownership fall two points in the last seven days and it likely has to do with the fact he is still hitting just .239. Peeling back the tea leaves, Jennings should certainly be ranked as a top-30 outfielder. He has kept several key metrics in line with his 2013 numbers. With walk and strikeout rates that show consistency in his approach, Jennings is demonstrating what made him a top prospect at one point. Adding another 20 steals the rest of the way to go with 10 more home runs and 60 runs scored make him a threat in three key categories.

Jennings has seen fewer fastballs and needs to adjust his approach on sliders.


After hitting just .136 against the pitch in 2013, he is only 5-for-30 in 2014. Seeing them more often has caused him to put more pitches on the ground than he has in the past. That is not necessarily bad news given his speed. Though he represents a negative outlier in terms of RBI and the average issues keep him just outside the positional mean, he offsets that with his speed and run scoring ability – two categories that are more relevant in the outfield for success.

Ian Desmond

There have been questions as to why Desmond would continue to rank as the top shortstop in the HVaC the rest of the season, but the position requires a balance across all five categories in standard leagues. It has the highest expectations in steals and runs as well as being second in RBI and H/PA. Desmond outperforms in all those categories and distances himself from a player like Troy Tulowitzki due to the importance of steals.

Cole Hamels

The hardest thing to draft for is wins. The pitcher is coming off of an 8-14 season and has stumbled to 1-3 this year. The good news is that his FIP has been remarkably consistent from 2012 to 2014 and his strikeout rate is well in line with his career marks. ZiPS believes he will see a lower ERA the rest of the season and his 3.32 FIP makes that case as well.

Year W L ERA FIP K/9
2006 9 8 4.08 3.98 9.9
2007 15 5 3.39 3.83 8.7
2008 14 10 3.09 3.72 7.8
2009 10 11 4.32 3.72 7.8
2010 12 11 3.06 3.67 9.1
2011 14 9 2.79 3.05 8.1
2012 17 6 3.05 3.30 9.0
2013 8 14 3.60 3.26 8.3
2014 1 3 4.43 3.32 8.9

He has seen no slippage in velocity across his pitches (almost identical since 2011) and his performance across four of the five categories, excluding wins, should be above the mean.


The HVaC likes him as a top-20 starter and owners should not be afraid of what they are seeing.

Josmil Pinto

While his RBI total holds him back slightly, the Minnesota backstop is projected to produce at the positional average in home runs and above it in RBI. With an improvement in his BABIP from its current .260 level, Pinto should provide needed offense across three categories. It is what makes him a top-10 catcher from here through the end of the season in the HVaC.

Ryan Zimmerman

This is pre-emptive, but when you notice that a player like Zimmerman is even remotely available and about to head out on a rehab assignment he becomes worth mentioning. Zimmerman may not be playing third base full time when he returns, but will still qualify. With a forecast of 14 home runs and 0.250 H/PA, he will still be a top-10 player at the position upon his return.

Collin Hager is a fantasy baseball writer for FantasyPros911. You can follow him on Twitter: @CWHager 

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