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:
The Reds’ Jay Bruce is the perfect buy-low candidate and he still comes in as a potential top 10 outfielder through season’s end based on projections. There are certainly enough potential reasons for his issues. Bruce has seen more change-ups this year and is hitting just 4 for 26 against them. The pitch has accounted for 12 of his 63 strikeouts.
In addition, he is swinging at fewer pitches in the strike zone than he has in any other season, despite making contact just as often. This 10-point drop in swing rate will come has led to the increase in strikeout rate that Bruce has seen so far this year.
The good news is that history shows he can turn this around. ZiPS projects he will out-perform the position in terms of home runs, runs and RBI the rest of the way. In fact, his RBI production is a positive outlier, over two deviations above the mean and more than outweighing any potential average downside. Bruce’s BABIP of .292 has been higher in the last two years and through controlling his strikeouts we should still see a hitter who can provide a .260 mark until season’s end.
One other key point here. Bruce has a far lower HR/FB ratio than he has had in his career, despite hitting even fewer fly balls than he normally does. Bruce is a strong hitter who should be able to adjust both his fly ball and HR/FB ratio. It adds up to a player who has underperformed and will deliver as we move toward the second half.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies
I have held off writing about Dickerson to ensure the system had vetted the options appropriately. Now Dickerson comes in as the No. 52 outfielder, making him a startable player. While his ISO number of .290 is likely to regress along with his HR/FB rate of over 20 percent, he projects to be within the positional averages in runs, RBI and H/PA when normalized for expected appearances of 340 against his 285 projection in Fangraphs. A strong add for the second half push.
Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Orioles
Chen’s numbers may not be outstanding, but they are consistent. He checks in as the No. 64 starting pitcher the rest of the way for good reason. With a strand rate consistent to his performance last season and an FIP in line with his 3.78 ERA, he provides the type of line needed in deeper leagues. He works the zone well, throwing a first-pitch strike nearly 60 percent of the time, and he is forcing more swings and misses out of the zone through greater reliance on his curveball and change-up.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates
My attention is piqued when I see an injured star getting dropped in fantasy leagues. Walker has gone from universally owned in ESPN leagues to 80 percent owned. He is already taking batting practice and stands a good chance at being back before the end of the month. The infielder comes in as the 8th-ranked second basemen from here on out and will produce better power and RBI numbers than owners will get from others. If you can afford to lose steals here, this is a guy to grab and stash now before he comes back.
Martin Prado, 3B, Diamondbacks
Prado has been a pleasant surprise for owners this year. While his ISO of .100 is lower than it has been, he has shown the ability to bring that up with historical numbers of .135, .136 and .125 over the last three years with a career mark of .136. While you will not see the same power that you will from Walker, he is expected to produce run and RBI totals in line with the positional marks while overachieving in H/PA, which will help drive up his average and sustain his BABIP north of .300.