Over the weekend, a contender made their mark in the trade market for the first time this season when the Chicago White Sox made a deal to acquire James Shields.
The common reaction seems to be that U.S. Cellular Field will bury James Shields due to his home run problems, but I see it a bit differently and have an optimist take on Shields, which is discussed below.
While Julio Urias has taken the spotlight in LA right now, several young players have been impressive for the Dodgers this season.
Corey Seager went on a tear last week, Joc Pederson has shown some improvement, and Trayce Thompson has surpassed expectations.
Those are your hot topics for the week and will be discussed in more detail below.
2016 Fantasy Baseball Hot Topics
James Shields, SP, Chicago White Sox
James Shields was dealt from the Padres to the White Sox on June 4 and the trade has interesting consequences for both real baseball and Fantasy Baseball purposes. Of course, you’re reading this article for Fantasy advice, so we’ll stick to that.
His line isn’t special right now, especially considering his strikeouts have fallen in comparison to last year. While Petco Park is known as a pitchers park, Shields wasn’t helped by it being his home park last season. His HR/FB rate was 14.4-percent on the road, which included two starts at Coors Field and three at Chase Field, but 21.1-percent at home.
This year, those numbers have reversed themselves, and prior to the trade, Shields had a 19.2-percent HR/FB rate on the road with an 11.4-percent at home. That said, it’s difficult to determine just how much James Shields benefitted from Petco Park. I would caution against writing him off however, for three reasons.
The first is that he has been an impact Fantasy pitcher every year since 2011 and his ERA jumped from 3.06 to 4.28 in his last start where he was absolutely lit up. That said, his ERA is very inflated right now. Don’t expect a ton strikeouts, so he won’t be an ace, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful.
Second, U.S. Cellular Park, Shields new home, is more hitter friendly in terms of home runs than Shields’ past home of Petco Park. However, U.S. Cellular Park is actually more favorable to pitchers for overall runs scored. Thus, the go to analysis that Shields is going from a pitchers dream to nightmare in terms of home parks is not entirely accurate.
The final reason I’m not giving up on Shields is that he is going from a terrible team that has been bad for a long time to one of the better teams in the American League. He will not be the ace of the team, and he won’t have the pressure associated with that on him anymore. While this is admittedly not based on statistics, there has been documentation of Shields’ dissatisfaction with the situation in San Diego. If nothing else, he should be in line for more wins with his new team.
While none of this means that Shields is a sure thing, I am happy to take a chance on him where he is on the waiver wire, and he could be a cheap rotation fill-in via trade. Don’t dismiss him just yet.
The Cubs, Astros, and Red Sox have gotten a lot of attention for their youngsters this season, and rightfully so. However, the young core of the Dodgers has also put on a show and is coming into the national spotlight.
At this point, everyone knows about Corey Seager, and after a slow start to the season, he has certainly turned it on. In the past week, he had two separate multi-home run games. After hitting .250 in April, Seager hit .301 in May and has hit .333 in six games of June. It’s safe to say he is as good as advertised.
Joc Pederson has recently gone through a slump that has caused his average to dip from .276 to .226 in the past month, but he showed improvement in his strikeout rate from April to May this season and has also progressed in the rate from last season to this season.
He continues to show his power is legit as he has a very solid home run to fly ball rate and hits enough fly balls to make a significant contribution in home runs for many years moving forward.
Pederson still struggles with lefties and very rarely gets the chance to face them. To reach the superstar status his pedigree promised, he will need to improve against lefties enough to give the Dodgers enough confidence to play him every day. He also has not shown the same ability to steal at the major league level that he did in the minors, and if that ability ever shows up, his Fantasy value will skyrocket.
Thompson is the new kid on the block and arguably has had the most impressive performance of the three this season. Though he has an unsustainable 32.1-percent HR/FB rate and a troubling (for his power potential) 55.9-percent ground ball rate, he makes excellent contact. His soft contact rate is at just 17.2-percent and his infield fly ball rate is nearly non-existent at 3.9-percent.
However, to continue to be a Fantasy asset, Thompson will have to trade some of those groundballs for fly balls or line drives and begin to steal bases more consistently. Thompson does have four stolen bases, which when extrapolated over the entire season would get him to double digit steals, however he had three of his stolen bases in one game last week. That said, he hasn’t shown the ability to steal bases consistently yet.
Thompson has worked his way into an everyday role in the Dodgers outfield, so there is plenty of potential. However, he will have to make some adjustments to his game to be an asset in shallow Fantasy leagues. He has shown potential however, so he is a quality stash or player to put on your watch list.