Welcome to Hit It Or Quit It, a weekly column where I will take a look at five of the most added players in fantasy baseball and tell you whether or not what they’re doing is likely to continue. In other words, should you buy (hit it) or sell (quit it)? Let’s dive in:
Danny Espinosa – .236/.332/.457 18 HR, 41 R, 49 RBI, 4 SB
For the beginning of the year, Danny Espinosa was just known as the guy who needs to get out of the way for Trea Turner, and honestly most people thought he’d be mediocre for the first few months and the Nationals would pop Trea Turner in at second base.
But Espinosa started hitting, and he’s still hitting. Now, Turner is finally up, but it wasn’t at the expense of Espinosa like most people thought it would be, and in the last month, the guy has batted .304 with nine home runs, which has lead to him being one of the most added players in fantasy.
Now, credit where credit is due, Espinosa has decreased his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate, albeit only slightly, and now has the highest OBP of his career, though a .332 OBP is still pretty terrible.
Don’t be fooled by the past month, Espinosa will not hit for anything remotely close to a high average, he’s still striking out almost 25% of the time, and despite his fantastic month, he’s still at a .236 average on the year.
The power is going to slow down too, though it will still be his biggest asset. He’s been absolutely crushing the ball, his ISO is at a career-high (by a long shot) .221, and his hard hit rate is at 35.6%, but this isn’t Espinosa all of a sudden figuring something out, he’s not going be a 35-40 home run hitter out of nowhere, the power will back down. He’s got a HR/FB rate of 20.7%, which is just absurd and will definitely regress to the mean.
Ruling: I’d project Espinosa to hit around .230 with another eight or nine home runs and about 25-27 runs and RBIs each. That’s useful in certain leagues, obviously NL-only leagues he’s more than likely gone, but if you’re in a 14-team league or deeper, he’s worth a grab, or if you’re in desperate need of power and can suffer through his terrible average, go for it. However, in a 10-team standard league, there’s power with better average out there on the waiver wire, so Espinosa isn’t worth your time – Quit it.
Junior Guerra – 6-1 (8 QS), 2.93 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 67 K
The Brewers must know some black magic or something, because they’re doing the same thing with Junior Guerra that they did with Taylor Jungmann last year. So far, Guerra has come completely out of nowhere and started pitching really well, and everyone is adding him, but those who have him should be prepared for some major disappointment.
First off, I’m typically very skeptical of a 30-something minor league journeyman who all of a sudden figures things out and becomes a great player. It just doesn’t happen that often. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it makes me very wary of players like Guerra.
Guerra’s stat sheet is just littered with red flags. You’ve got his BABIP of .236, you’ve got his xFIP of 4.04, and you’ve got his hard hit rate of 35.2%. Put simply, Guerra has been lucky, very lucky. People are chasing his pitches, his chase rate is only 29.8%, and of the people who do chase after his pitches outside the zone, 57.2% make contact, while his contact rate inside the zone is at 86.3%, and the contact isn’t necessarily translating into groundballs at a high rate; his groundball rate is right at an average 44.4%.
People are hitting Guerra, and they’re even hitting him relatively hard, he’s just been very fortunate that those balls have turned into outs rather than hits, but the law of averages will catch up to him, it catches up to everyone. I’d project him to have about a 4.00 ERA from here on out with a K/9 right around 8.00.
Ruling: He might be worth streaming given the right matchup, but in just about every format, avoid this guy, it’s not going to end well – Quit it.
Kendrys Morales – .260/.323/.459, 15 HR, 34 R, 46 RBI
Kendrys Morales has been absolutely crushing the ball over the past month. He’s been hitting .385 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs over the past 30 days, and that’s good for top-ten in the league, and honestly, I don’t see any reason it can’t continue.
Now look, we have to temper our expectations with Morales, the guy isn’t all of a sudden one of the best players in the league, I probably wouldn’t even put him in the top-100, but he’s crushing the ball and he’s not going to stop. And why would we think he is? Morales has shown in the past that he can be a major power hitter, hitting at least 20 home runs in four out of his last five seasons, and this year, he’s improved.
His hard hit rate is currently at a career high 38.1%, and his ground ball rate is at the lowest its been since 2009. Now, you may look at his HR/FB rate of 18.1% and think he’s due for a major regression in power, and you’d be partially right. I don’t think he’s going to maintain a HR/FB rate that high, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. He’s finished a season with a higher than 20% HR/FB rate twice, and has a career HR/FB rate of 15.1%. He’s a power hitter, and power hitters always have high HR/FB rates (just ask Chris Davis with his career 23.6% HR/FB rate).
Morales should still hit very well the rest of the season, and while his current monthly pace isn’t going to keep up, he’s still going to be extremely useful. I’d bet on him to hit another 10-12 home runs while batting about .270 the rest of the way, and another 30-35 runs with around 38-40 RBIs.
Ruling: Morales will absolutely be useful in every league. His positional restrictions are difficult to deal with, but having a DH-player is good when that player is worth it, and Morales is one of those players – Hit it.
Yangervis Solarte – .302/.382/.527, 8 HR, 25 R, 35 RBI
I remember a stretch in 2014, when Solarte was with the Yankees, where he was the hot pickup. Everyone wanted to know more about Yangervis Solarte, he was turning things on as the Yankees third baseman. And then he just kinda stopped. And now, here we are again, as Solarte is once more a hot pickup in fantasy baseball, but it’s all the same as before.
Over the past two weeks, Solarte has hit .380 with four home runs and 13 RBIs, which is just an incredible stretch, and that’s why he’s being snatched up in so many fantasy baseball leagues, but this is a guy you’re not going to want to have on your team all season, too many of his stats are way out of line with his career averages for this to continue.
First of all, let’s examine his power. That slugging percentage, .527, is better than players like Corey Seager, Brandon Belt, and Ian Desmond, and all of them are killing the ball this year. So what’s the difference? Well Solarte’s hard-hit rate is absurdly high, at 38.2%, and when you compare that to his career average of 29.9%, there has to be some regression coming. I’m not saying he’ll regress all the way back to his career average, but it certainly won’t stay all the way up at 38% this year, and with a lower hard-hit rate comes less power. He also has a HR/FB rate of 14% which is high in and of itself, but is especially high compared to his career 8.5% HR/FB.
His average should come down too, he’s striking out at a career-high rate of 13.1% right now, and while that’s not an obscene strikeout rate, it should lead to a lower batting average. Plus, he has the highest BABIP of his career, .316, which is not insanely high in general, but Solarte is a career .282 BABIP hitter, so that should regress a bit.
Ruling: Solarte’s multi-position eligibility makes him a tempting pickup, and he’s worth using while he’s hot, but just be aware, he will cool down. I’d project him to hit about .265-.270 with another five or six home runs and about 25 runs and RBIs each for the rest of the year. Not bad stats, but absolutely replacement level, nothing you can’t already find on the waiver wire – Quit it.
Anthony DeSclafani – 3-0 (5 QS), 2.23 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 29 SO
After spending almost the entire first half of the season on the DL, Anthony DeSclafani has come back and he’s been great, pitching to a 2.23 ERA through six starts. A lot of people are wondering if this is his breakout year, he’s only 26, maybe he’s finally put everything together after coming back from injury and is poised to be a top-level starter.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way. While his ERA is a sparkling 2.23, his xFIP is a miserable 4.52, and the main reason for that is the lack of home runs he’s given up. His HR/FB rate sits at a meager 7.1%, something that is certain to climb up in starts to come. He also has a very elevated strand rate, sitting at 83%, which would make sense if he were striking people out at a Jose Fernandez-like rate, but he’s not. His K/9 sits around seven, which is about average.
There’s just nothing especially remarkable about this guy’s stats. His walk rate is slightly above average, down to 6% from last year’s 7%, and his strikeout rate is right at average, sitting around 19.3%. None of these stats scream breakout candidate, the say “average pitcher”.
Ruling: I’d project DeSclafani to pitch to about a 3.90-4.00 ERA the rest of the year and maintain his K/9 of around seven. In the right matchups, I think DeSclafani would be useful, but in general, for a 10-team standard league – Quit it.
Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) is a writer for Pitcher List who’s obsessed with sabermetrics, virtually all Baltimore sports, music, and playing guitar. He currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland and spends his summers watching way too much baseball.