Start/Sit Hitting Decisions for Week 14: Can You Bench Bryce?
Fantasy owners are headed into Week 14 and I thought it was time to change things up with the Start/Sit hitting decisions for Week 14. Rather than focus the article around the schedule’s winners and losers I decided to use the same criteria to profile two players per position, “Flex Plays” and “Stars on The Hot Seat.” The first player profile will be something that resembles a weekly sleeper, which is what I have done all season. It will focus on borderline hitters who are viable “Start” alternatives to more accepted starting options. They have been my “difficult Start/Sit hitting decisions” in this weekly column. In Fantasy football, they would be considered “Flex” plays, hence the title.
The second player profile will be a version of my weekly segment, “Stars on The Hot Seat.” It will break down a player whose name and reputation screams “Must Start” while their performance squeals “Caution Caution” or outright “Sit Sit.” The “Flex” profile will be a player that owners should lean “Start” while the “Star on The Hot Seat” will be an established player that is a justifiable “Sit” consideration. Two players per position, a Star and a pre-season Scrub. Symmetry. I like symmetry.
I will use the same criteria that I have been using all season. The week’s schedule, the pitching matchups and recent performance balanced against a player’s career norms to make Start/Sit hitting decisions.
<DISCLAIMER> Readers of this column need to always realize that Start/Sit hitting decisions need to be made responsibly and that my analysis and recommendations can’t be applied in a vacuum. The size of your league and starting lineups need to be considered as well as a team’s alternatives. A “Star” is almost never a “Must Sit.” It doesn’t matter how bad Jose Ramirez has been if your alternative is Ian Kinsler.
WEEK 14 HITTING DECISIONS
“The Flex Play”
Carlos Santana, 1B Cleveland Indians
30/99 – .303 Batting Average – 8 HRs – 2 SBs – 24 Runs Scored – 18 RBIs
Santana is probably a regular starter in larger leagues because first base isn’t the deepest position in Fantasy baseball anymore, but it’s a close call. Starting him this week, not so close.
The schedule and the matchups are strongly in Santana’s favor in Week 14. Three games in Baltimore against a homer-prone Orioles pitching staff and six games against five, possibly all right-handed pitchers. He has hit 14 home runs against right-handed pitching in 2019. He is an easy Start/Sit hitting decision: Must-Start.
“Star on The Hot Seat”
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B St. Louis Cardinals
24/91 – .264 BA – 4 HR – 0 SB – 7 RBIs – 10 Runs Scored
13/66 – .197 – 3 HRs – 0 SB – 5 RBIs – 8 Runs Scored
Goldy hasn’t been keeping it golden in 2019 after showing signs of decline in 2018 when he started miserably. He hasn’t been playing well recently; he has been a disappointment for the season; and in Week 14 he has a five-game schedule with three at San Diego and Chris Paddack on the bump for one of them.
Goldschmidt is a top 10 name with 30-35 ranked first base output. He is close to a “Must-Sit” based on performance while there are a multiple of viable alternatives to justify sitting him as well. Goldy is a difficult Start/Sit hitting decision this week, but I lean Sit. It’s looking like it’s time to sell before it’s too late in Dynasty leagues too, where his name should demand some value while some owners might think he is a buy-low rather than a buy bad. And they might be right, but I am leaning towards cutting ties before it’s too late.
“The Flex Play”
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 2B/3B/SS Toronto Blue Jays
30/97 – .309 – 9 HR – 1 SB – 18 RBIs – 20 Runs Scored
I wrote him up last week, but it bears repeating. He is hitting for power and average while racking up the rib-eyes and scoring runs. He has six games on his slate with beneficial splits against three left-handed pitchers on his plate. Gourriel Jr. leads the Blue Jays with five home runs and he has a .948 OPS against left-handed pitching. Not a difficult Start/Sit hitting decision for me. Start.
“Star on The Hot Seat”
Dee Gordon, 2B/OF Seattle Mariners
7/36 – .194 BA – 0 HR – 1 SB – 3 RBIs – 3 Runs Scored
There are a lot of “Scrubs” that are viable options at second base because there are a lot of “Stars” that have been fairly pedestrian up the middle in 2019. Then toss in Alberto Mondesi landing on the IL and Jose Altuve just returning from it and things get even thinner. Daniel Murphy has been a 2019 bust who could have qualified as the “Flex Play” with his recent play oddly enough and then there’s Dee Gordon. Calling him a “Star” is certainly a reach, but Jose Ramirez is too easy (Sit him) while Javier Baez has been a disappointment that remains a “Must-Start.” That leaves me with Gordon.
If he isn’t hitting for average he isn’t a viable starter and over the last month, even though it was only 36 at-bats, he hasn’t. His return from a wrist injury may have been premature and could be why he has struggled upon his return. Whatever the reason, his batting average is killing owners and he isn’t stealing bases either. An easy Start/Sit hitting decision here. Must-Sit.
“The Flex Play”
Scott Kingery, SS/3B/OF Philadelphia Phillies
31/94 – .330 BA – 7 HRs – 1 SB – 16 RBIs- 15 Runs Scored
Kingery has seven games on his Week 14 slate and his recent success makes it difficult to “Sit” him regardless of the alternatives. He ranks third in home runs for shortstops in the last month along with a robust .330 batting average. He’ll avoid Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard when he faces the Mets at home and he will face four right-handed Marlins, a split that has him slugging with an OPS of 1.006 and six home runs this season.
“Star on The Hot Seat”
Jean Segura, SS Philadelphia Phillies
19/103 – .184 BA – 3 HRs – 2 SBs – 8 RBIs – 12 Runs Scored
Like Dee Gordon, Segura doesn’t really qualify as a “Star,” but the true “Stars” at shortstop are playing well enough that I can’t argue for owners to sit them just to fit into the parameters of my format. So, I am forced to profile players that I believe should be starting Fantasy shortstops who are viable “Sits” and Segura along with Dee Gordon fit that description. Javier Baez and Trea Turner haven’t been tearing it up over the last month while Corey Seager (currently on the IL) has only four home runs, but he is hitting .397 over the last month. That leaves Segura.
A .184 batting average without the pop or steals to mitigate the pain makes him a “Sit” even though he has seven games and a respectably friendly group of pitching matchups. Owners can start Segura, but a lack of impressive numbers recently justifies sitting him depending on the alternatives. It pains me because I am a Segura guy, but when making Start/Sit hitting decisions owners need to be cold and calculated and take no prisoners. Segura has been too pedestrian to be an automatic start this deep into the 2019 season
“The Flex Play”
Colin Moran, 3B Pittsburgh Pirates
30/94 – .319 BA – 6 HRs – 0 SB – 21 RBIs – 18 Runs Scored
There are a lot of third basemen hitting well in 2019, making Moran a player many owners may not have a starting spot for, but his recent overall performance warrants consideration.
Moran has six road games in extremely hitter-friendly ballparks in Houston and Milwaukee, where left-handed bats hit a lot of home runs. Moran has hit 10 home runs against right-handed pitching and he will face five this week. His lack of respect and the depth of viable third base bats makes him a difficult Start/Sit hitting decision, but he is doing everything to earn a spot and needs to be seriously considered.
“Star on The Hot Seat”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B Toronto Blue Jays
23/95 – .242 BA – 2 HRs – 0 SB – 8 RBIs – 9 Runs Scored
I don’t consider Vlad Jr. a “Star” yet and it pains me that he qualifies at third base because he absolutely cannot play the position, but he was drafted in the top 50, meaning he IS one or is on the cusp of being one in the deluded minds of many Fantasy owners. I considered his 46.99 Average Draft Position in Fantrax.com leagues to be the most insane of what is always a looney draft season and his recent performance is a perfect example why. Rookies are inconsistent, they struggle more often than veteran players in their first experience at the highest level and overall they don’t have stand-out Fantasy seasons very often.
I almost profiled Justin Turner here, but he doesn’t have Vlad’s swagger, he would be considerably cheaper to acquire in trade because he isn’t really a “Star” and he has four games in Coors field this week, making him more startable than Vlad Jr. with less hype attached.
I believe dynasty owners should be selling Vlad Jr. and should have been before he ever swung a major league bat in 2019 because he doesn’t run and he will only qualify at first base or DH as soon as 2021. He qualifies at third base now, but he still doesn’t run and he is struggling. He hasn’t hit a home run since June 5 and he has a total of two going all the way back to May 23. Third base is as deep as any position in the game right now and Vlad Jr. is not even in the conversation to start in my view. He hasn’t even been the best rookie third baseman, never mind a “Must-Start” one. This is an easy Start/Sit hitting decision for me. Sit. I only profiled him because he carries a “Star” reputation. See what you can get if you wanted to trade him in Dynasty leagues. Ask for the moon and be willing to take slightly less. You’ll be better for it when 2022 comes around.
“The Flex Plays”
Max Kepler, OF Minnesota Twins
31/997 – .320 BA – 10 HRs – 1 SB – 28 RBIs – 24 Runs Scored
The Twins have pounded pitchers to the tune of a league-leading 146 home runs and .841 OPS and Max Kepler has been arguably their best player, with Eddie Rosario owners raising their hands in protest. He was active in 91% of Fantrax.com leagues, so calling him a “Flex Play” may not be fair. But, he is rostered in only 82% of Yahoo! leagues, so not everybody everywhere is aware of how good Kepler has been.
The schedule is in Kepler’s favor in Week 14. He has six games with at least four right-handed starters, who he has hit 15 home runs against this season. He is profiled as a “Flex Play” less because he isn’t a “Must-Start” player and more because of how incredibly good he has been and because his name doesn’t carry the swagger that his performance deserves. He’s been almost as good as Mike Trout and better than Christian Yelich over the last month, to provide some perspective. He should be a trade target for that very reason. 82% ownership in Yahoo! leagues is a joke unless 18% of those leagues are filled with ghost teams. Buy into Kepler’s 2019, it’s an easy Start/Sit hitting decision for Week 14 at the very least.
Hunter Renfroe, OF San Diego Padres
24/83 – .289 BA – 12 HRs – 1 SB – 20 RBIs – 18 Runs Scored
Entering the 2019 season there were a lot of young hitters fighting for limited at-bats in San Diego with Wil Myers back after an injury-plagued 2018 season and the additions of Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado through free agency in back-to-back offseasons. The flock has filtered itself and Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe have emerged as their best bats. That includes Machado, Myers and Hosmer and even a hot-hitting rookie named Fernando Tatis Jr. who just recently returned from the IL.
Renfroe has been one of the hottest outfield bats over the last month while only being active in 80% of Fantrax.com leagues. Batting average isn’t his strength, but it has been more than good over the last 30 days while he leads major league outfielders in home runs over that span. Like Kepler, if Renfroe’s name garnered more respect he wouldn’t be profiled as a “Flex Play,” but reality is reality and so I felt he needed to be highlighted.
Renfroe has only five games but all of them could be against right-handed pitching and two of them are against the homer-prone Baltimore Orioles. Adding to his beneficial schedule, he has crushed 17 home runs against right-handed pitching this season. He’s a Must-Start, five games or 25 games. Put this kid in the Home Run Derby please. The Padres deserve some love.
Mallex Smith, OF Seattle Mariners
Smith has stolen 13 bases while batting .295 over the last 30 days. He lacks pop but he more than makes up for it in steals and batting average and is a “Start” as long as he is an above average contributor in at least two categories. He has six games in Milwaukee and Houston, so a home run or two is even possible this week. Must-Start in Week 14 and a trade target going forward.
Ramon Laureano, OF Oakland A’s
Seven home runs, five stolen bases and a .311 batting average over the last 30 days. That kind of contribution in three Fantasy categories needs to be in starting lineups. He was active in only 67% of Fantrax.com leagues this week. That’s why I felt a responsibility to add honorable mentions for outfielders.
“Stars on The Hot Seat”
Bryce Harper, OF Philadelphia Phillies
25/98 – .255 BA – 3 HRs – 3 SBs – 19 RBIs – 11 Runs Scored
Sabermetric warriors would likely argue that Harper’s OBP, raw power, baserunning prowess and defensive contributions have made him a quality major league player rather than the disappointment that Fantasy owners know his career has been prior and now almost halfway through 2019.
Harper has a seven-game slate in Week 14 and he will avoid Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard when the Phillies face the Mets for four in the Philly bandbox. Harper has a lot of name recognition without the dominant performance that his enormous contract suggests he should provide. There are a lot of viable outfielders, especially ones that weren’t highly touted during draft season and could be found on the waiver wire earlier in the season. Outfielders like Hunter Renfroe, Max Kepler, Mallex Smith, Ketel Marte in leagues he qualifies out there, David Dahl, and Ramon Laureano to name a few. With so many viable alternatives it is certainly possible that Harper is a Sit and he certainly is not a Must-Start. It’s difficult to bench a big bat like Bryce but when making Start/Sit hitting decisions, the numbers and not the potential have to dictate.
Kris Bryant, OF/3B Chicago Cubs
30-Day Sample Size:
26/89 – .292 BA – 4 HRs – 0 SB – 7 RBIs – 17 Runs Scored
I probably should have profiled Bryant as a disappointing third baseman rather than an outfielder but there aren’t a lot of outfield “Stars” playing poorly or miserably and some high-profile injuries have given a few the excuses they need to avoid my wrath. Bryant’s batting average has been good enough for owners to be pleased, but he has been woefully deficient in the other categories over the last 30 days while being fairly good overall for the 2019 season.
Bryant has 15 home runs while batting a very respectable .285 for the year. If you give him a pass for the lack of stolen bases, which is the Managers/General Managers fault because the Cubs rank 29th of 30 teams in stolen bases this season, then Bryant is having a season that makes his 31.7 ADP in Fantrax.com leagues look like a good deal if not a bargain – which is how I felt at the time.
All that aside; four home runs, seven RBI, and zero stolen bases over the last 30 days makes Bryant a viable, though not a Must, “Sit” depending on an owner’s alternatives. I am starting him, but the last 30 days do justify a thought or two before hitting enter and that’s what a “Star on The Hot Seat” is. A “Sit” consideration.
Rhys Hoskins, OF Philadelphia Phillies
I don’t consider Hoskins a “Star,” but owners in Fantrax.com leagues that drafted him in the top 40 expected more than five home runs and a stolen base over any 30-day period even if it has been with a batting average of .308. For owners with a deeper roster there are potential alternatives worth consideration as a “Start” over Hoskins.
Khris Davis, OF Oakland A’s
Anyone that drafted Khris Davis knows that he is a one trick pony, that he is due for some struggles during a long season and that in the end he is going to bat .247. That’s why he is a better rotisserie format player than head-to-head where his low batting average eventually levels off and his home runs make him an impact outfielder. However, four home runs in his last 85 at-bats has to be considered a lull in performance. I lean towards sticking with Davis because this is what you signed up for, but owners with viable alternatives are justified in considering a weekly break from the slugger and his yearly .247 batting average. By the way, over the last 30 days, he’s batted… you guessed it, .247. He is baseball’s version of Pi. Everywhere you look, .247 is there with Khris Davis.
Let me be clear. There is no such thing as a “Star” catcher. We tolerate them. Their inconsistency, their stretches of poor play, their injuries, their bad batting average and their Sundays off. However, there are better and worse catchers, so when grading on a curve, there are “Stars” and there are “Scrubs.” The “Stars” aren’t quite as shiny and the “Scrubs” can be really greasy, but the disparity between the best of the best and the worst of the worsts exists like every other position, so I profile them like they belong with the rest of the league…these wretched buggers.
“The Flex Play”
Tom Murphy, CA Seattle Mariners
14/38 – .292 BA – 6 HRs – 14 RBIs – 9 Runs Scored
In only 38 at-bats over the last 30 days Murphy ranks third in home runs amongst catchers while batting .292 in the process. He had an ADP of 567.88 in Fantrax.com leagues and was active in only six percent of leagues this week. The Mariners have six games in friendly Houston and MIlwaukee, making him an intriguing catching option. The one concern with Murphy, as is the case with many catchers, is opportunities. He is the backup to Omar Narvaez, who hasn’t played poorly himself. Committing to a backup when the starter is playing well is a risky move, but catcher is such a poor position that the alternative may not be good enough to sit Murphy. He’s playing well enough in limited at-bats to be a serious “Flex” consideration and in two-catcher leagues he is close to a “Must-Start.”
“Star on The Hot Seat”
Yadier Molina, CA St. Louis Cardinals
14/58 – .241 BA – 0 HRs – 0 SBs – 3 RBIs – 4 Runs Scored
It’s only been 58 at-bats over the last 30 days, so the sample is smaller than other players at other positions, but catchers have fewer at-bats than other positions anyway. His output has been bad in batting average and non-existent in all of the other Fantasy categories and this isn’t the first stretch of games where he has struggled like this. I have recommended benching the catching legacy a few times this season and now is a time that justifies it again. He is dead weight at the moment.
Also check out Mick Ciallela’s Rest of Season Rankings!
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