All of pomp and circumstance around Mike Trout, who is hitting .259 in September and .274 over his last 51 games by the way, has obscured the great season that Bryce Harper has had. Harper hit his 20th homer to become just the second teenager in the history of the game to reach that mark (Tony Conigliaro pulled off the trick with 24 bombs in 1964). Add in his 17 steals, and the guy has damn near gone 20/20… as a teenager. Harper has also scored 93 times on the year, and he’s performed very well in September with a .297/.366/.482 slash line while scoring 22 times in 24 games. All told it’s been a pretty remarkable season.
Chris Nelson of the Rockies has been killing it. In September he is hitting .359 with 16 RBIs and 17 run scored, and going a bit further back he’s hit .346 over his last 50 games. Given that he qualifies at second and third base, he’s been a hell of a stop gap option in virtually every league for two months now.
Max Scherzer has been scratched from his start Friday because of a deltoid strain in his shoulder. Two starts ago he lasted just two innings against the A’s, and the last time he took the hill he wasn’t very impressive either as he allowed three runs in five innings. With his velocity down the team is trying to balance his long-term health with his importance to the club as they try to hold off the White Sox for the AL Central crown (they have a one game lead). By the way, Scherzer had been dynamite in the second half going 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 107 Ks in just 86.1 innings. He’s got an elite arm, and the Tigers don’t want to take the chance on him doing something long-term to his wing.
And now, on to a question…
With Michael Bourn’s terrible finish and unknown FA destination, can you see keeping Chris Sale or R.A. Dickey ahead of him? I can keep five players and currently plan on keeping Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto and Curtis Granderson.
Bourn has hit an anemic .222 over his last 66 games played after hitting the All-Star break with a mark of .311 (he’s also been out of the lineup of late with a thumb injury). Any owner of Bourn knows that, and I’m sure it has caused frustration. However, let’s keep things on the macro and not micro level. On the year Bourn has hit .274. Last season in 53 games with the Braves he hit .278. For his career he’s batted .272. It’s been uneven, but the truth is Bourn’s average is the same as always. His current .346 OBP is slightly better than his .338 career mark. His .391 SLG is slightly better than his career .365 mark. He’s also scored 93 times, just one less than last season an a mere four off his career best. He’s also hit nine homers, he hit a total of seven homers the last three years, and that has somewhat helped to ease the pain that his owners have felt for his drop in steals. After stealing at least 52 bags the past three years he has just 39 this season. Still, with one more theft he will reach the 40 total for the fifth straight season.
Bourn, and all speedsters, face an issue in the fantasy game. People don’t understand their value properly. People see inadequate homer and RBIs marks, and a middling batting average, and they fail to appreciate the value of the runs and steals in the fantasy game. I’ve written about steals and their value over an over, but let’s address it one more time. Here are the player rater rankings for Bourn according to three of the major sites in fantasy baseball.
CBS: 37th overall
ESPN: 39th overall
YAHOO: 52nd overall
Average that together and the three main sites say that Bourn’s effort this season makes him the 43rd most valuable player in fantasy baseball, an I completely agree with that assessment.
It’s fair to wonder if he will return to the 50+ steal club, I’ll give you that, but if he merely replicates the effort that he has put forth this season he will once again be an elite starting option in the outfield. I also have to say that a starting outfield of Braun, Granderson and Bourn… that would be as good a trio as anyone in any league ever has.
Dickey has had an amazing season, one that might earn him the Cy Young Award. He leads the NL in ERA (2.66), is one victory behind Gio Gonzalez for the NL lead in wins with 19, and two strikeouts behind Clayton Kershaw for the lead in strikeouts with 209. Since the start of the 2010 season he’s been a rather remarkable performer given his almost complete reliance on the knuckleball with a 2.93 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 92 outings. However, it’s pretty impossible to think that he will be able to repeat his effort of this season in 2013. Look no further than the three batter per nine inning increase he’s offered in 2012 in the strikeout department (8.55) over his mark in 2010-11. In his own way, Dickey has been as amazing this year as Trout has at the plate, and just like with Trout, it strains credulity a wee bit to think either will repeat their efforts.
Sale continues to power through the innings. After a spectacular start to the year – he was 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 0.95 WHIP – Sale has predictably slowed in the second half, but it’s not like he’s been bad at all (7-5, 3.66 ERA, 1.28 WHIP with 87 Ks in 86 IP). On the year he has a 8.83 K/9 mark, a 1.10 WHIP an a 1.41 GB/FB ratio. He’s been special in his first year as a full-time starter.
If I was going to keep a hurler, it would have to be Sale. He’s younger, has a bigger arm, an a brighter future. I can understand how most would feel more comfortable keeping one or two arms amongst the five keepers, but if it was me I’d likely limit that mark to one pitcher, keeping four hitters. That doesn’t mean I would have to keep a hurler though (there is so much uncertainty with arms – look no further than Tim Lincecum’s terrible year, Jake Peavy’s out of nowhere effort, or the injuries to Garza, Beachy, Luebke, Storen, Rivera, Wilson, Soria etc.). I would hold on to Bourn and take my chances at the draft table to build my pitching staff. However, if you want to play it safe and keep Sale, I don’t have a problem with that.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 at 7 PM EDT, Monday through Thursday, and Friday’s from 9-12 PM EDT.