Fantasy Baseball: A nice word about the Cincinnati Reds
Although the Reds were somewhat better in May, this is still a depressing season in The Queen City. Cincinnati is 18-32 — essentially out of the playoff hunt already — and has the worst ERA (5.37) in the majors. No one is going to call this Reds team The Machine.
But let’s try to be positive here. Let’s talk about three offensive players who have carried Cincinnati, and significantly outkicked their preseason expectations.
For roto utility, you’d probably start with Tyler Stephenson. He’s at .286 with four homers and 24 RBIs, and in a depressed offensive environment, that actually makes him the No. 3 catcher in banked 5x5 value. Stephenson didn’t play in Thursday’s 8-1 laugher over Washington, but he did start 24-of-28 games before that. He’s doing yeoman’s work behind the pate, and he picks up the occasional start at DH.
Stephenson’s value forward feels established. The other two names to discuss are harder to trust, but present a possible fantasy opportunity, too.
Brandon Drury is the surprise package of this year’s club. The Jonathan India injury presented an opportunity, and Drury has come through: eight homers, 26 runs, 26 RBIs. A .247 average isn’t a drain in today’s game shape, and Drury qualifies at second, third, and the outfield. He’s also taken over the No. 2 slot in this lineup; he was there Thursday, with two more hits, two more runs scored.
Drury’s work has been more at third base of late, so India’s pending return shouldn’t take away Drury’s playing time. And Drury’s under-the-hood stats make his case — the 48.7 hard-hit rate is in the 90th percentile, and his expected average and slugging are both above his back-of-card numbers (Statcast says he’s owed 22 batting points, and 32 slugging points). I expect Drury to keep his relevance deep into the summer.
Maybe you can’t add Drury in your league — he currently trends at 58 percent in Yahoo. But maybe you can kick some tires on Kyle Farmer, Cincinnati’s shortstop.
Farmer has provided a little bit of everything, with a .263 average, 19 runs, five homers, 28 RBIs, and three steals. He had a homer and a bag on Thursday. If you rank him against the other shortstops, he grades as SS17 thus far. And that rank rises to 3B13 if you judge Farmer against what’s become a sketchy third-base pool.
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The Reds aren’t sure what to expect from Farmer's offense — he’s slotted everywhere in the lineup except fourth and ninth. He’s lately been found in the No. 5 position, after Nick Senzel, Drury, Tommy Pham, and Joey Votto. Farmer isn’t walking much, and his OPS+ is merely 100, league average. But so long as he keeps a run-producing lineup slot and shows interest in running, he should have fantasy juice.
Farmer is rostered in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues as we go to press.
And before we leave Cincinnati, I’ll add this PS: Pham is still worth fantasy consideration. He has five homers, three steals, and he’s been comically unlucky with his batted-ball luck. His expected batting average is .281; his actual is .232. His expected slugging is .501, his actual is .371. This guy can’t catch a break.
The Reds obviously haven’t given up on Pham, they still consider him the No. 3 cog in the lineup. He’s available in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. Keep an open mind.