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:
Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pirates
I wasn’t sure we would see the day this year when Francisco Liriano would be relevant down the stretch for fantasy baseball owners. While he has not been able to generate wins, he certainly has been able to show value for owners in other areas. Liriano has increased his strikeout rate this season to 9.77 per nine innings, his best mark since 2006.
His HR/FB rate is actually higher than it has been in the past, showing a potential spot for improvement in his ERA. This is confirmed by a FIP mark slightly lower than his current ERA.
Liriano has been able to drive a swinging-strike mark exactly in line with the last two seasons while keeping his contact and swing rates largely in line as well. Thought batters have been able to lay off many of his pitches outside of the zone, batters are making contact less often when the pitch is around the plate. He has also worked more with his change-up this season and batters have hit just .230 against it.
The numbers are real and owners should add him.
Adam Eaton, CF, White Sox
Which Eaton is the real one? The one who was hitting .270 prior to the all-star break or the one hitting .309 today? Eaton has shown the ability to sustain a high BABIP in the minors, up to levels near .400, so the numbers here are not out of the ordinary. He has struggled to hit the curveball, posting only a .204 mark and seeing the pitch twice as often as last season. With his success against every other pitch, owners should believe the streak and add him down the stretch.
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
Belt is owned in nearly 75 percent of ESPN leagues now and there is good reason for it. Should he be able to get through his current headache issues, Belt is a potential steal down the stretch for owners who make the move now. His power numbers are still there and his batting totals keep him to the right of the mean, making him a positive add in the HVaC.
Dustin Ackley, OF, Mariners
Ackley checks in as the No. 60 outfielder in the HVaC, making him a starter in all formats. His numbers are very close to where they were at this point last season. What has improved is his ISO mark, and his HR/FB rate has come back to where it was in 2012.
He has found himself swinging more often and his category numbers all fall within half a deviation of the mean across all outfielders. Keep him on your radar as an add.
Rajai Davis, OF, Tigers
While there is concern over Davis’s ability to sustain his .300 average and the HVaC sees him a full deviation outside the mean, his speed and run totals are more than able to make up for it. Davis has been hitting the ball on the ground with greater frequency and this has helped him keep his numbers higher than in the past. Davis has swung more often and made more contact with pitches in the zone. Expect this trend to continue.