Fantasy baseball mailbag: Looking at second-half expectations for Corbin Carroll, Dylan Cease and more

The fantasy baseball season is more than halfway done. There’s still time to cut a deficit if playing from behind, and those in head-to-head formats can make a push for the playoffs with the right moves. Here are some of the questions that stood out in the mailbag.

Is Zach Eflin droppable in a 10-team categories league? He’s just been so mid. I know the answer is probably that I should shop him around. — Ben W.

Frustration tends to lead to a brash reaction. Eflin had high expectations based on where he was drafted and the breakout last season. He hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been awful either. If you drafted Eflin expecting last season’s stats, then it’s been a letdown. Last year, the Rays right-hander had a 3.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26.5% strikeout rate and 1.9% walk rate. The strikeout rate last season was a career high and, based on this season, it looks like an outlier. He hasn’t been able to generate as many swings and misses on his four-seamer and sweeper. Eflin has an xERA of 3.30 and a good WHIP. If you didn’t draft Eflin in the first few rounds, the frustration wouldn’t be as high. Eflin has struck out 19 batters over his past 18.2 innings. The curve has looked better in that span. Stay patient with Eflin with the realization he was overdrafted, yet can be solid in the second half.

Which Dylan Cease can we expect during the second half? — Christopher O.

Cease saw his draft value shift dramatically when he was traded from the White Sox to San Diego. It was better team context and a more pitcher-friendly home park. The first month was excellent. May and June weren’t as good, mainly due to an increase in home runs allowed. The strikeouts have always been there for Cease and will continue to be high. Cease has a 31.3% strikeout rate and ranks in the 92nd percentile in strikeout percentage, and 94th percentile in whiff rate. Walks have always been an issue for Cease and he has cut the walk rate down from more than 10 percent the past two seasons to 7.5% this year. When hitters make contact off Cease, they are hitting it well. He ranks in the ninth percentile in barrel rate. The underlying numbers overall aren’t too bad, but he’s only had one great season. There will be inconsistency. He will have dominant starts that will be nullified by games where he will get hit hard. I would explore trading him since most consider him a top-tier pitcher.

What to do about Oneil Cruz? Is there anything that points to a breakout in the future or is this just who he is? The roller coaster is annoying as hell. — Jeremy B.

The tools, talent and highlights make Cruz appear better than he is. He is 6-foot-7 and can hit the ball far. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often. The issue for Cruz is lack of contact and not hitting enough fly balls. He has a 32.7% strikeout rate, 36.3% fly ball rate and 45.1% ground ball rate. Cruz is in the 98th percentile in barrel rate, 96th percentile in hard hit rate and 99th percentile in average exit velocity. While that’s great, Cruz is in the fourth percentile in strikeout rate, sixth percentile in whiff rate and 17th percentile in chase rate. Until Cruz makes some changes, it will be peaks and valleys. 

AL-only: How would you rank my starting pitchers for the rest of the season? Looking to trade one (lesser value) for saves or steals. Cole Ragans or Logan Gilbert? Taj Bradley or Bailey Ober? Kutter Crawford or Spencer Arrighetti? — Barry F.

For the first pair, I prefer Gilbert. The important thing to remember when making a trade is to get what is needed to improve. We all want to keep the best player, but the other team needs to get what they need. If the market prefers Gilbert and he gets you the piece you need, don’t hesitate. Gilbert and Ragans are close. The difference is the WHIP of Gilbert at 0.88. He has a 4.9% walk rate and had a 4.7% walk rate last season. He’s one of the few pitchers who is almost a lock for six innings, and he’s pitched at least seven innings seven times. Ragans will get more strikeouts, but has a 1.17 WHIP. Ragans pitched 40 innings in 2022, 96 last season and is at 102.2 innings this season. 

Ober and Bradley are close and both are susceptible to home runs. Ober gets the slight edge the rest of the way. Bradley might bring you back more after his recent stretch. He has at least eight strikeouts in three of his past four starts, including 11 in two of those starts. Bradley has also allowed two earned runs or fewer in five straight starts — I like him a lot. Ober allowed eight hits and nine runs in 1.2 innings in his first start of the season, but has done a good job to get the ERA down to 4.30 with a 1.09 WHIP. If the trade partner prefers Ober, don’t let it stand in the way of the trade. 

While Crawford has struggled lately, he’s my preferred option over Arrighetti. Crawford has good numbers for the season, but the home run has hurt him in his past four starts — eight allowed. Arrighetti is coming off a 10-strikeout game against the Rockies over seven scoreless innings, but he’s very inconsistent and an 11.8% walk rate is going to be a problem against the better teams. Give me Crawford.

In a 12-team, 5-outfield, mixed 5×5 roto league, is it time to move on from Daulton Varsho? — Greg R.

I feel your pain on Varsho. I drafted him in two of my higher dollar leagues since he was cheaper than last season since he no longer has catcher eligibility, but still offered 20-20 potential. The one issue that hasn’t changed is the batting average, and it’s worse than the previous two seasons. After batting .235 and .220 in 2022 and 2023, respectively, Varsho is hitting .197 through 77 games. Varsho has a .234 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) and his career mark is .262. He has a career-high 57.4% fly ball percentage and that leads to a low BABIP. The xBA is .165, so he’s not been unlucky. The hard-hit rate is a career-low 30.6% and he’s in the third percentile of exit velocity. The counting stats haven’t been bad considering the struggles of the Toronto offense — 41 runs, 11 home runs, 35 RBIs and eight stolen bases. As bad as the average is, Varsho could still finish with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He is a Top 50 outfielder the rest of the way, which also shows the lack of good players at the position. It’s easier to have Varsho if you’re in a head-to-head league and punting batting average. It’s simple to say move on from Varsho but, as always, it depends on the replacement. 

Thoughts on David Hamilton the rest of the way? The projections are not encouraging, but if he can put up even a half-decent slash line, the runs, stolen bases and 2B/SS eligibility should make him worth rostering even in shallow leagues, right? Would Brice Turang be a fair comp for Hamilton? — Rich K.

The biggest concern for me is playing time. Hamilton played three of the five games last week and he wasn’t in the starting lineup Tuesday night. If the playing time remains this way, he can’t be rostered in a shallow format. In a daily format with several bench spots, he can be held on a roster for a little longer to see if the playing time changes. If there’s not enough room, he can be cut. An injury can open up more playing time, but if he’s sitting against right-handers, it’s not a good sign. Turang plays every day, so he’s more valuable.

Thoughts on Corbin Carroll and Grayson Rodriquez? — Ryan R.

Carroll has been a major bust. I passed on him in drafts for Kyle Tucker, but I didn’t see it being this bad. He was better in June with a .250 average, 21 runs and five stolen bases, but no home runs. There’s nothing that looks promising for Carroll. The power isn’t there, he isn’t hitting the ball hard and he’s in the 15th percentile of barrel rate. He’s not someone to buy low.

Rodriguez has been solid, but I expected better. I thought he had a chance to make a big leap, but it hasn’t happened. The numbers are similar to last season with an improved WHIP. I would expect similar numbers the rest of the way from Rodriguez. Four of his past five starts have been really good outside of the game against Houston in which he allowed seven runs and nine hits over five innings.

Follow me on X @adamronis

(Top photo of Corbin Carroll: Denis Poroy — USA TODAY Sports)


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