Reds Fantasy Roundup: Week Nine


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Upcoming Games:

May 27th: CLE @ CIN — Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Mike Leake

May 28th: CLE @ CIN — Zack McAllister vs. Mat Latos

May 29th: CLE @ CIN — Justin Masterson vs. Bronson Arroyo

May 30th: CLE @ CIN — Scott Kazmir vs. Homer Bailey

May 31st: CIN @ PIT — Johnny Cueto vs. Wandy Rodriguez

June 1st: CIN @ PIT — Mike Leake vs. Francisco Liriano

June 2nd: CIN @ PIT — Mat Latos vs. Jeanmar Gomez

Position Player Recommendations

1. Shin Soo Choo

Choo started the year absolutely on fire, as he hit a ridiculous .337/.477/.554 in April, with 4 homers and 11 RBI. May hasn’t been so kind for Choo, as he’s hit just .233/.391/.479 this month, including a .143/.280/.190 mark last week. Choo has plummeted from near the top of the WAR leaderboard, all the way down to 22nd. The reason can definitely be attributed to BABIP regression, as his .385 BABIP in April is much more inflated than his .279 BABIP so far in May. Despite the scuffling, which has left his batting average below .300 for the first time in what feels like forever, he is still getting on base at an insane .441 clip, behind only Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera.

Choo’s struggles can also be attributed to an absolute inability to hit against left handed pitchers. His line against LHP is a paltry .146/.317/.188 for the season, and his career numbers follow suit. Unfortunately for the Reds, and for Choo, they will square up against 3 lefties this week.

Francisco Liriano is the biggest threat, as he has been absolutely ridiculous since returning from the DL, going 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his first 3 starts. Clearly, the move to the NL (and PNC Park) has done him some good. Wandy Rodriguez, while he isn’t the same pitcher that he once was, still has the stuff to throw a gem at any time (just ask Jay Bruce.) Kazmir’s numbers on the season are ugly, but they are mostly skewed by his last 2 starts. Without those, he has a respectable 3.91 ERA on the season.

The right handers that the Reds face this week are no pushovers either. McAllister is having a stellar season, going 4-3 with a 2.89 ERA.  Justin Masterson is having a fantastic year, and has already amassed 7 wins. Jeanmar Gomez has had a solid, if unspectacular, 2013 campaign.

With Choo being as cold as he is, as well as facing an unfavorable matchup this week, it might be a good idea to sit him on your bench for the week. With Choo, there’s always a possibility he can pick it up and start playing like he did in April, but next week probably won’t be the start of that. Some nice replacements for Choo this week off of the waiver wire include Matt Joyce, Dominic Brown, Andy Dirks, Nate Schierholtz, or even Seth Smith.

Week Nine Line Prediction: .230 average, 0 homers, 3 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

2. Jay Bruce

Bruce always seems to end up in this column, which makes sense because he is such a streaky player. After an incredibly slow start to the 2013 season (.252/.312/.339 with 1 home run slow) he has begun to pick it up so far in May. He’s hit .304/.333/.633 with 5 homers so far in May. His WAR has also jumped from -0.4 to 1.1 in the past few weeks.

Bruce started off the season by clobbering lefties and floundering against righties. As I pointed out, this was likely due to an inflated BABIP versus LHP, which was likely unsustainable. His season numbers have finally corrected, as his OPS against RHP (.781) is finally higher than his OPS versus LHP (.775), although he’s still hitting for a bit better average against LHP.

There’s been a lot of negative discussion about Bruce lately, due to his contact rate being down nearly 5% as well as him sporting a lucky .373 BABIP. I gave a possible explanation for this last time, but I’m not willing to say that his line drive rate is entirely sustainable. Perhaps he really is getting lucky, and we might see Bruce finish the season hitting under .240 with around 20 homers. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s definitely possible. I don’t necessarily agree with the sabermetrics folks here, because of the unique nature of Bruce, and the way he can go from hot to cold so dramatically.

As for his matchups this week, he has only faced one of Cleveland’s starters (Ubaldo Jimenez) and went 1-4 with 2 Ks against him. As for Pittsburgh, I think we all know how Bruce has done against Wandy Rodriguez. In case you forgot, Bruce is 2-32 (.063) against Wandy in his career, no home runs, no RBIs, no walks, and 16 strikeouts. Ouch. Dusty Baker typically designates Wandy Rodriguez facing the Reds as a Bruce off day, and with good reason. He’s only had 3 at bats against Jeanmar Gomez, going 0-3 there.

Bruce was on an incredible hot streak to start the week. However, he is just 1-11 his past 3 games with 5 strikeouts. While this is a minuscule sample size, we know how Bruce can change on a dime. With the tough matchups this week, as well as the likely off day versus Wandy, Bruce may be a smart sit for the week. Monitor what he does on Saturday and Sunday and judge based on that.

Week Nine Line Prediction: .250 average, 1 HR, 5 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Sit (conditionally.)

3. Joey Votto

What can you say about Joey Votto, really? He’s been on absolute fire in May, and has raised his season numbers to an absolutely insane .361/.484/.561 and has even thrown 8 home runs into that. Votto also has the highest WAR in baseball at 3.1 (according to ESPN) as well as the second highest at 2.9 according to FanGraphs. He has taken his rightful place among the top of the MLB’s first basemen. Start him.

Week Nine Line Prediction: .350 average, 2 HRs, 8 RBI.

Final Recommendation: Start.

Pitching Recommendations:

1. Johnny Cueto

As I predicted he would be, Cueto was so-so in his first start off of the DL against the Mets. He really struggled to find the strikezone early, walking 4 on the game. However, he also struck out 8, and looked more and more like the Johnny Cueto we know and love as the game went on. Aside from a mistake pitch to Marlon Byrd, he pitched relatively well aside from the walks, as he only gave up 3 hits.

Cueto faces off against the Pirates in Pittsburgh this week. Cueto has absolutely dominated the Bucs over the past 3 seasons, going 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA in a whopping 74.2 IP. He’s even better in PNC Park, as he’s gone 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA there. Current Pirates players are hitting a paltry .210/.282/.344 with 1 homer and 4 RBI against him, and his biggest threat is arguably Garret Jones, who has gone 11-36 (.306) against Cueto in his career.

Cueto is an easy start for this week, and should get a W if the Reds can score some runs off of Wandy Rodriguez.

Week Nine Line Prediction: 1 win, 0 losses, 7 IP, 6 Ks, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Start.

2. Mat Latos

Latos was uncharacteristically good in April, going 2-0 with a 1.81 ERA. He has struggled a bit so far in May with a 5.19 ERA. However, he still hasn’t lost in the regular season since last August. This week, he faces off against the hot hitting Indians at GABP and the cold hitting Pirates at PNC Park.

Latos has faced the Indians twice over the last 3 years. The results were mixed, as he went 1-0 but with a 7.36 ERA and .311 BAA. Current Indians are hitting a solid .296/.321/.519 off of him for their careers, with 2 homers. Latos has a tendency to give up the longball, especially at GABP, and the Indians have been the best team in baseball this season in terms of home run power. This could be a rough game for Latos.

However, Pittsburgh should be a cakewalk for Latos. Current Pirates are hitting just .209/.316/.339 off of him, and the Pirates as a whole have been cold offensively lately. Latos has gone 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA against the Bucs over the past 3 years, and has dominated them at PNC Park, going 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA.

If you can bear Latos’ game against Cleveland, he should pitch a dominant performance in Pittsburgh.

Week Nine Line Prediction: 1 win, 0 losses, 12 IP, 10 Ks, 6 ER, 4.50 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Start.

3. Bronson Arroyo

Still not a fan fantasy wise. Too many home runs, too likely to blow up, too unpredictable, and not enough Ks to compensate for it. This is the same pitcher that went from having a no hitter to nearly losing in one inning last season. Pass.

Week Nine Line Prediction: 0 wins, 1 loss, 6 IP, 2 Ks, 3 ER, 4.50 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

4. Homer Bailey

Homer Bailey has been really good this year. Sure, his surface stats are good, with a 2-3 record and a 3.09 ERA. However, he’s been even better than that. His 2.88 FIP is among the tops in the NL, and his 3.19 xFIP is equally solid. Bailey is on the verge of a breakout season if he can keep this up. His problem is that the Reds don’t seem to score when he pitches, but that is no fault of his own.

Bailey will also face off against the tough Indians. He’s pitched solidly against them over the past 3 seasons, with a 3.86 ERA, but an 0-2 record to show for it. Current Indians are hitting a decent .245/.310/.491 against him. Bailey has the same problem as Latos- he gives up gopher balls at GABP like it’s his job. I would expect him to pitch a decent game, but to eventually be damaged by the longball. For your 4th or 5th fantasy starter, though, that’s not awful.

Week Nine Line Prediction: 1 win, 0 losses, 7 IP, 8 Ks, 3 ER, 3.86 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Start.

5. Mike Leake

Mike Leake against the Indians will be scary. Very scary.

Week Nine Line Prediction: 0 wins, 1 loss, 11 IP, 4 Ks, 5 ER, 4.09 ERA.

Final Recommendation: Sit.

Week 9 Score Predictions:

May 27th (CLE @ CIN): L, 8-6

May 28th (CLE @ CIN): W, 7-5

May 29th (CLE @ CIN): L, 6-3

May 30th (CLE @ CIN): W, 6-4

May 31st (CIN @ PIT): W, 2-0

June 1st (CIN @ PIT): L, 3-1

June 2nd (CIN @ PIT): W, 4-0

Predicted W/L for Week 9: 4-3

NOTE- I will be unable to post this column next week, as I will be on vacation. Apologies.

Thank you for reading. Comments are appreciated!