Photo credit: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Francisco Lindor) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Fantasy owners who want to ensure that their 2016 title hopes aren’t left in the hands of slumping hitters may be ready to pull the plug on Carlos Gonzalez and Francisco Lindor. Given that both players have been among the top producers at their respective positions this season, these are the sorts of moves that I would usually not even consider in any week, regardless of the stakes involved.
Now I am ready to make an exception. For the remaining two weeks of the season, I would lift the must-start tag from both Gonzalez and Lindor, but it has nothing to do with Gonzalez hitting .223 with two homers over his last 34 games or with Lindor entering the coming week on a 3 for 32 schneid. It’s about both players not hitting well on the road.
The Indians do have six games left on their current homestand, as they will have three-game series against the Royals and White Sox this week. They will miss Danny Duffy and Chris Sale, but Lindor will still have to face Edinson Volquez, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, against whom he is a combined for 9 for 46 (.196) in his career. Those small samples are an even worse reason to toss Lindor away than his recent slump. For Week 25, Lindor needs to start in any categories league where you need help with batting average, runs or stolen bases. The only scenario in which it makes sense to drop Lindor right now is if you are in a Head-to-Head points league, and you need to find room in your lineup for a red-hot Jung-Ho Kang or Jean Segura.
The reason why Lindor can be dropped in those formats is because he is likely to have an even worse week in the season’s final scoring period. If Lindor is not your best shortstop option in Week 25, he definitely won’t be in Week 26, as the Indians have seven games on the road — four at the Tigers and three at the Royals. Lindor has just not been good on the road this season, posting a .259/.303/.366 slash line. Players typically perform better at home, and Lindor has followed that pattern and then some, striking out and making soft contact more often away from Progressive Field.
So while it’s too hasty to dump Lindor in a weekly categories league right now, once your lineups lock for the coming week, you can turn him loose in any format.
The impact of the Rockies’ schedule on Carlos Gonzalez is a little more ambiguous, as they have one home series and one road series in each of the remaining weeks. Over his career, Gonzalez has been decidedly worse away from Coors Field, but the gap has been especially wide this year. While he has put up a .995 OPS and .416 wOBA at home, those numbers on the road are just .739 and .313, respectively (per FanGraphs). Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty Fantasy owner, you could look at Gonzalez’s final two weeks in one of two ways.
Particularly in three-outfielder leagues, I’m taking the pessimistic view. While Gonzalez gets to start off his week with a three-game home series against the Cardinals, he gets some potentially tough matchups in Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright and Luke Weaver. Then the week ends with a four-game set at Dodgers Stadium, where Gonzalez has slugged .370 over 173 career at-bats. Week 26 opens up at AT&T Park, and as you would expect, he has had an even tougher time there (.358 SLG).
There are no red flags flying for Gonzalez’s final series of the year, which comes at home against the Brewers, but can he produce enough in those three games to keep him around in a three-outfielder format? I’m doubting it. If I’m especially deep in a five-outfielder league, I would consider dropping Gonzalez there, but that’s certainly a much more difficult call.
Lindor and Gonzalez are just the highest-profile players to face a potential impact from their respective teams’ schedules, but they are not the only ones. Jose Ramirez has hit one-third of his 39 doubles and three of his 10 homers on the road, and his batting average away from Progressive Field is a merely good .281. Mike Napoli, with a .204/.276/.383 slash line, has been downright awful on the road. In mixed leagues, Week 25 should be the last week you own either player. If you haven’t already dropped Gerardo Parra due to his struggles since returning from a hamstring injury, you can let him go now. He has a .538 OPS away from Coors Field.