Chris Archer (SP, TB): Archer turned in a quality start against the Orioles, throwing six and one-third innings and allowing three runs on seven hits and one walk. He tallied four strikeouts, a bit of a low number for him, and didn't factor into the decision. Archer was a true horror to own over the first few months of the season. He was giving up homers by the bushel, and his walk rate had increased dramatically from the 2015 version of Archer that drew Cy Young consideration. A quick look into his pitch deployment for the season unveils that around the time he turned his season around in July, he cut the usage of his changeup by more than half, from about 13% to 7%, and he instead began using his slider EVEN MORE than before, rising from about 35% to 44% of his pitches. It's worked, and not only has he trimmed about a run and a half from his first half ERA of 4.66, he's greatly increased his K-BB% from 17% to 26% and has ceased to give up homer after homer. While he can now be fully trusted in season long leagues once again, his owners in dynasty and keeper leagues have to be mortified by the insane slider usage. While there haven't been any studies that have proven beyond a doubt that simply throwing a ton of sliders will destroy your arm, it is widely agreed upon that it can't be good. They say the biggest predictor of future injury is prior injury, so for those who point to his complete lack of injury history and continue to roll with him confidently, I really can't argue too loudly with you. However, if I owned Archer in a dynasty league, I'd be shopping him this offseason. For 2017 redraft leagues though, I'm not going to shy away from him and hope that he keeps it together for another year.
Justin Upton (OF, Det): The Tigers were drubbed by the Indians, but Justin Upton wasn't the reason, as he homered twice and drove in four runs. As awful as his season has been for the most part, he has at least improved in the second half, posting a .791 OPS compared to his atrocious .670 mark over the first half of the year. This kind of feels like using sandpaper to make a diamond out of coal, but he has managed at least five home runs in every month from June on, even though his .238/.299/.431 slash line leaves more than a little to be desired. He is up to 24 home runs now, if you can believe it, and is 9 for 11 in stolen base attempts. He would probably be closer to the 19 steals from a season ago if he could manage to get to first base with a little more frequency. Looking at his slide in plate discipline is concerning on the surface, with his 7.4% walk rate and 29.4% strikeout rate both being the worst of his career. However, his swing rates in and out of the zone, as well as his contact and swinging strike rates are all essentially right in line with what he's done throughout his entire career, which makes the horrible slide in K:BB rate rather perplexing. He has even managed to tie his career high in hard contact percentage at 38.2%. He's still just 29, so there is some reason to believe that we will see a return to form next season with an improved, albeit still mediocre, batting average and OBP.
Ryon Healy (3B, Oak): Healy doubled twice and scored a run in his 2-4 effort. He's been a surprise to fantasy owners late in the season, as the third baseman has hit .313/.347/.534 with 10 home runs and 16 doubles in just 57 games. He credits the recently unlocked power to a refined swing that has resulted in an more strikeouts but much more power. His average is currently elevated by an unsustainable .350 BABIP, a number which over the course of a season would be expected to drop dramatically given his fly ball tendencies, lack of speed, and mediocre hard contact rate of 30%. Even if he's closer to a .250 hitter than .300, the power that we're seeing is intriguing. With Danny Valencia on the outs in Oakland, Healy is looking like the man at the hot corner when the calendar flips to 2017.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. (OF, Bos): JBJ has cooled off immensely over the course of the second half after a first half that had everyone drooling over his potential. He hit his 25th home run off of Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve on Friday, and number 25 is an impressive benchmark despite the poor second half. His impressive .926 OPS from the first half has been evened out by a .732 second half OPS, and he's also 0-1 in stolen base attempts since the All Star break. He has also seen his strikeout rate jump by nearly 6% to 26%, which isn't a comforting trend as we look towards his 2017 value. He's found himself consistently hitting in the lower half of the order all season, something which won't change in the final weeks of the season. Depending on how the Red Sox lineup shakes out next season though, his on-base abilities give him a shot to hit at the top of the lineup, or at least move up to the top half. It's a testament to the power of that lineup that he has been hitting 5th to 9th consistently and still has 89 runs scored and 85 RBI, but extreme offense like that is hard to duplicate year in and year out, so you can't just say that those numbers will climb with a boost up the batting order next year. He is a great defender, which will keep his bat in the lineup consistently, and he's shown legitimate power and solid batting average, which puts him in the conversation to be a top 20 outfielder next season.
Jonathan Lucroy (C, Tex): Lucroy delivered the game winning hit against the A's, lining a two run walk off hit down the third base line off of Athletics closer Ryan Madson. Lucroy has been worth the price the Rangers paid for him at the trade deadline, and well worth the draft day cost his fantasy owners invested in him this spring. His 23 home runs are well above his previous high of 18 set back in 2013, and by the end of the season he will have eclipsed his high water mark of 82 RBI as well. All this while hitting .298/.360/.509 and performing as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, not that we care too much about that here as we stick to fantasy value. He's a must start down the stretch obviously, and will deservedly be one of the first catchers off the board next draft season. You can't expect the home run total to repeat though, as his 16% HR/FB is his highest rate ever, well above the 7% area he's been in for the last two seasons. It's never wise to pay for a players career year in the ensuing draft season, and it's looking like that's going to be the case moving forward. He plays a lot and the Rangers have a strong lineup, so that will provide him with a buffer for his value, but those who expect another mid-20's home run season will most likely be disappointed.
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