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:
Younger players leave fantasy owners plenty of opportunity to be wrong in their assessments. After a strong 2013 campaign that saw the Athletics’ Josh Donaldson hit 24 home runs while driving in 93 runs, 2014 could easily have gone one of two ways. Fortunately, the infielder has continued his ascent and checks in as the No. 3 third baseman the rest of the way. There is plenty of reason for this.
His improvement starts with plate discipline. Donaldson has been swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone and capitalizing on the increase in first-pitch strikes he is seeing. In fact, on the first pitch, he is 15 for 38 this year with two home runs. While his strikeout rate is up four points year over year, the low BABIP suggests room for improvement even if not to the level of the .300 hitter he was last season.
Power-wise, his numbers appear to be sustainable, though there is an inflated HR/FB rate that will likely course-correct and keep him closer to 30 home runs than 35.
With projections that beat the positional average in every statistical category, Donaldson is proving to have the value many anticipated at the beginning of the season. He remains a strong hold and is a player owners should be looking to trade for where possible.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox
Viciedo is currently inside the top 60 outfielders in the HVaC and trending upward. He is showing remarkable consistency in terms of his HR/FB rate, line-drive percent and ISO overall that has him looking to be a strong add, and owners are recognizing it given his 16-point jump in ESPN leagues the last seven days.
Viciedo has dropped his swing rate on pitches outside the zone by nearly 10 points while maintaining his overall contact rate. Good signs for a player that could pay dividends in the second half.
Ervin Santana, RHP, Braves
Sitting at No. 39 in the pitcher ranks, Santana represents an opportunity for owners to grab a starter who has shown he can deliver so far in 2014. In fact, there is potential upside here. Santana’s strand rate is five points lower than his career mark and his 3.28 FIP suggests that his 4.01 ERA will course-correct as well. Batters are hitting just .222 against his change-up this year, a 70-point drop from their mark last season.
Jason Hammel, RHP, A’s
The change in parks should help keep Hammel on radars. The numbers he is producing have been done before in both 2010 and 2012. The American League could be more challenging, but his strand rate and BABIP coupled with a dip in the contact rates he was pummeled with last season make Hammel a strong add. He keeps himself as a top 75 pitcher and top 60 starter.
Kole Calhoun, RF, Angels
Calhoun just keeps going strong. While there should be questions as to if he can keep up the power tear he is on given the .227 ISO, his BABIP is in line with what he did in the minors and his run totals make him a positive outlier the rest of the way. Calhoun checks in as the No. 55 outfielder, making him a starter in most 12-team formats. With his upside in runs and average, owners need to give him the chance before it is too late.