Notes From Around the League for Your Fantasy Squad
It’s May 1 and the first month of the season is behind us. While it’s still too early to really draw conclusions from statistics until at least Memorial Day, here’s some notes from around the league for all 30 teams that should benefit your fantasy squad. Some are fairly obvious, but some could be the tid bits you need to get a leg up on your competition in the second month of the 2013 MLB campaign. Hang on, because this is real doozy (no, seriously, it’s long as hell). As per usual, all stats come from FanGraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com, and ESPN.com. Without further delay, here we go.
Atlanta Braves – I’m not buying Chris Johnson’s hot start. Sure, early season numbers tell us he’s cut from 24.0% in 2011 and 25.0% in 2012 to this season’s figure of 21.8%, but that’s already risen a good deal from the 16.1% level it was only a week ago. He also has a lower walk rate than last year (2.3% this season compared to 5.9% in 2012) and a ridiculously high .460 batting average on balls in play. I’d wait and see if more of those numbers hold up over more time and if somebody else picks him up before you, so be it.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Gerardo Parra is doing big things early. A solid outfielder and consistent contributor for the DBacks in his own right since 2009, Parra is now making contributions worthy of a fantasy roster as well. With an early season career high in OPS (.825), batting average (.305), and on pace to set a career high of 18 stolen bases, Parra doesn’t take much off the table but contributes to nearly every category. In an era of declining batting averages, Parra looks to be developing into a very able contributor in his age-25 season. Even more so if he can hold onto his spot in the lineup once other DBacks outfielders return from injury.
Baltimore Orioles – Not to sound like a broken record, but Chris Davis just keeps mashing. Is there a chance he cools off? Yes. But Davis has reduced his K rate (30.1% in 2012, 23.0% in 2013) while more than doubling his walk rate (6.6% in 2012, 14.2% in 2013) early on. Sure, the .383 BABIP probably won’t last, but don’t be surprised if he ends the season a top 10 fantasy first baseman.
Boston Red Sox – I think most of the Red Sox are for real, there were simply too many things that went wrong last year. But one person I would be selling high on: Clay Buchholz. The 90.2% left on base percentage can’t last, and both his 3.7% HR/Fly Ball Ratio and 9.32 K/9IP will creep back to career averages (10.6% and 6.75 respectively) as the season continues.
Chicago Cubs – If for some reason you’re still rostering Alfonso Soriano, it’s time to let go. While he can still turn this season around, there’s no reason to keep him on your roster while waiting it out. He’s not walking (2.9 BB%), he’s not hitting for power (.081 ISO), and he’s not hitting for average (.263 BA) despite a high BABIP (.316). Outfield is too deep to hope his 2012 resurgence resurfaces.
Chicago White Sox – Be patient with Paul Konerko. Sure, he’s 37, but he’s also suffering from a .250 BABIP, 38 points below his career average of .287 and hasn’t been walking quite as much as he normally does. Give him more at bats, and wait for the weather to warm up a bit, and he’ll hit his stride. He’s too consistent.
Cincinnati Reds – Oh, Todd Frazier. The power is for real, but unfortunately so are the low batting average and strike outs. Plus, his streaky nature can leave you suffering through some rough stretches while you wait for more long balls. He’s definitely in the midst of a rough patch right now, but with his multiple position eligibility and propensity to crush balls out of the stadium, now is as good a time as ever to see if you can take him off the hands of a frustrated and impatient owner.
Cleveland Indians – Under the radar pitcher worth monitoring: Zach McAllister. Three of his five starts have been of the quality variety, and he has yet to give up more than three runs in any of them. No, he’s not a high strike out guy or top of the rotation force, but if you can grab him on a two start week he looks like someone who can give you quality innings and a few W’s here and there.
Colorado Rockies – 22 year old Nolan Arenado has arrived in Denver and there’s little chance he’ll be leaving. Arenado is only two games into his major league career, but if he hits close to what he did in the minors (.299/.345/.473 slash lines through five minor league seasons) he can be an immediate impact on a first place Rockies team that already has a potent lineup. Arenado is also only owned in about 35% of ESPN leagues, 61% of CBS Sports leagues, and 41% of Yahoo leagues, so jump on him now while you still can.
Detroit Tigers – What if I told you there’s a pitcher available on your waiver wire currently sporting a 10.00 K/9 with a 1.50 era through 18 2013 innings pitched? I added Drew Smyly to my teams wherever I could. While he’s only in relief right now, he’ll get enough innings out of the pen to help out your K, ERA, and WHIP categories, while possibly lucking himself into a few W’s and Saves along the way. Plus, if any Detroit starters go down, the 23-year old lefty is next in line to step into the rotation.
Houston Astros – With so little quality big league talent after Jose Altuve and possibly Chris Carter, it’s hard not to wonder if Jonathan Singleton would be on this club already if not for his off the field issues. Houston fans – and fantasy owners – should be counting down the days until those 50 games are over and Houston can start debating whether or not he’s ready for the majors after he gets back into baseball shape.
Kansas City Royals – Mike Moustakas will bounce back. Granted, he has yet to live up to quite the level of hype he carried with him through the minor leagues as a prospect, but we’re still talking about a guy coming off a 20 home run season in his first full time shot as a big leaguer. Through the first 22 games of this season Moustakas is walking more and striking out less than he did last season (BB%: 10.3% in 2013, 6.4% in 2012; K%: 12.6% in 2013, 20.2% in 2012), but is suffering from a drastically low .212 BABIP (He had a .274 BABIP in 2012). Moustakas’ current .195/.276/.299 slash lines will all head north, and soon (I hope).
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – I was enamored with Peter Bourjos and wrote about it here, then he hit the DL. However, worth mentioning from that same article is the return of Erick Aybar. If you’re in need of shortstop help, you could do a lot worse than the career .279 hitter that’s as close to a guaranteed 20 stolen bases as you can find.
Los Angeles Dodgers – I’ve never been a big Andre Ethier guy, and this season’s slow start feels more permanent than most to me. At age 31 he shouldn’t be declining, but his .244 average is much lower than his .284 BABIP. If you can trade him, do so, but he’s nearing drop-worthy territory for your roster.
Miami Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton needs to be traded, and yesterday. And Jose Fernandez still needs a few seasons to stretch out and develop. Other than that, there’s really nothing worth talking about in Miami until help from the promising farm system starts to get called up. And maybe Logan Morrison’s Twitter account can come back from the DL soon too. At least that will make this club somewhat entertaining.
Milwaukee Brewers – Forget three true outcomes. Norichika Aoki doesn’t strike out. After totaling only 55 strikeouts in 520 at bats last year, he’s amassed only 8 K’s through 97 at bats this season. He may not hit for a ton of power, but the average will be there, he’ll steal bases, and so long as he keeps hitting ahead of Ryan Braun he’ll score runs as well.
Minnesota Twins – Another team without much going for it for the time being. At least Joe Mauer is still a stud, but he’s definitely on a roster in your league and with his current performance level that owner isn’t trading him. However, if you own him in a keeper league and you can spare him, it might be nice to put out some feelers on what kind of package you can get back. At age 30, Mauer isn’t getting any younger, and the offense around him won’t provide the RBI or runs scored opportunities you’d hope for from such an elite player.
New York Mets – It looks like Lucas Duda has finally realized his power potential. Sure, John Buck is tearing the cover off the ball (goddamnit) right now, but while that hot start should fade at some point, Duda is the Met who has long been predicted to have enough power to be a valuable commodity. His .937 OPS won’t hold up, but he should be a valid source of home runs (and strikeouts – lots and lots of strikeouts) the rest of the way. Now the Mets just need to get some runners on base for when he comes to the plate so he can tally some RBI’s as well.
New York Yankees – Two more “Broken Record” guys, both Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner continue to hit for the Yankees, making Brian Cashman’s dice roll on the aging veterans look like yet another brilliant pull from the scrap heap. If you can handle Hafner’s occasional days off against lefties, he could especially warrant a roster spot. Jonah Keri was on Baseball Tonight a couple weeks ago discussing just that, and mentioned the great point that Hafner is basically only being put in positions to succeed, playing in the lefty heaven that is Yankee Stadium, and only hitting against righties to boot.
Oakland A’s – I realize BABIP has been a very common recurring theme for this post, but here’s another one to ponder. Jed Lowrie’s 2013 BABIP: .388. His career BABIP? .290. Expect him to come back to Earth with totals that resemble his more than acceptable 2012 totals.
Philadelphia Phillies – Kyle Kendrick is third among those loaded Philly starters in innings pitched and leads the pack in ERA. He’s no stud by any means, but in his age 28 season he’s given up 2 runs or less in his last four starts, and his peripherals all line up with career norms (except his BABIP against, which is higher than usual). Kendrick bears watching if he can keep this up and the Phillies offense continues to hit well behind him, earning him extra W’s.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Somehow, despite him being the #4 fantasy catcher this season, Russ Martin is owned in only 24.8% of ESPN leagues, 54% of CBS leagues, and 30% of Yahoo leagues. With slash lines of .274/.344/.560 and 6 home runs out of the gate, he should be on more rosters than he currently is.
San Diego Padres – Andrew Cashner finally has his spot in the rotation, and now he deserves one on your fantasy roster. The main haul from the Anthony Rizzo trade, Cashner has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career as a starter. But his fastball hums and if he can give you a few starts before landing on the DL again, make them count. And if he doesn’t land back on the DL, he could easily be the most valuable fantasy commodity on the entire Padres roster. Through parts of four seasons in the majors between the Cubs and Padres, he’s striking hitters out a t a rate of 8.9 K/9, and could be a dangerous pitcher if he can both stay healthy and continue to develop his craft.
San Francisco Giants – Brandon Belt looks like someone finally coming around after a slow start to his career. After a rough start to this season, and struggling when the Giants tried to break him in in seasons past, Belt has hit .360 over his last eight games with three multi-hit games in that span. If he can lift his walk rate above 6.4% and lower his K rate from 22.3%, getting on base and not surrendering so many at bats, then he can start being a much needed lift in the middle of the order for the defending champs.
Seattle Mariners – Jesus Montero had maturity/attitude issues in the Yankees farm system when he felt he was ready for The Show. Could the same be happening as the malcontent is forced to play his games for the 3rd place Mariners? Who’s to say, but if his poor performance continues Mike Zunino may be headed to Seattle as soon as that arbitration clock gets pushed back a year in early June.
St. Louis Cardinals – Shelby Miller looks to be the stud we all expected as he rose through the minors. With a 9.68 K/9, 2.05 ERA, and 1.01WHIP, he’s blowing people away early. However if you’re in a seasonal format you may want to think about selling high on Miller. I think the performance will maintain, but having never thrown more than 150 innings in a season before, the Cardinals may look to shut him down early a la Jeff Samardzija and Stephen Strasburg last season as the year goes on. Maybe being in the playoff hunt will change that, but with how careful teams are with young arms these days it’s important to keep that in mind in regards to how it will affect your team.
Tampa Bay Rays – Where has Ben Zobrist’s power gone? With all his other 2013 peripherals matching career norms, his .122 ISO this season compared to his career mark of .181 leaves some cause for alarm. At only age 31 he shouldn’t be deteriorating yet, leaving me think he’ll turn it around as the season continues. Buy low if his owner is getting impatient.
Texas Rangers – A.J. Pierzynski picked up right where he left off last year, and hitting 5th/6th in that loaded Rangers line up should continue to provide him with ample RBI opportunities. If you have him and there’s a team in need of catching help, this could be a prime sell high opportunity as that level of performance will be tough to maintain for a 36 year old catcher.
Toronto Blue Jays – R.A. Dickey’s start to this season hasn’t quite been what was expected of last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, but he does lead the last place Jays in wins and innings pitched. He had a rough start last season too, and will be given every opportunity to pitch out of trouble when healthy. While his numbers will go up based on the move from the NL to AL East alone, I wouldn’t even come close to panicking yet.
Washington Nationals – Wilson Ramos, fresh off the DL, is a career .270/.335/.438 hitter in only 166 career games. The 25 year old catcher could be primed to break out as he gets re-integrated into Nationals’ lineup. On a team with such high expectations, this still-young former top prospect is a very interesting player to keep an eye on.