Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FANTASY BASEBALL - Players watch (updated)

Each April brings a new fantasy baseball season where everyone walks away from their respective drafts pondering just how soon they'll be able to do the victory dance.  And each late April finds fantasy owners aghast in panic over players under or over performing.  Here are just a few guys I can tell will be causing owners ulcers (including yours truly) but need to be considered, as well as some waiver wire guys you might not have thought of yet.


ERIC HOSMER - Oy what an April.  Hosmer's sweet swing has not brought owners sweet success except in the HR category where despite hitting under .200 he's swatted you five.  However, I've been watching Hosmer most of this early season and I can tell you that this man has been riddled with bad luck.  His BABIP or hit rate is a pitiful .164 and yet he's hitting line drives over 18 percent of the time.  His BABIP last year was .314 and throughout his minor league career has hovered at around .300.  Consider also Miguel Cabrera is hitting liners 18.1 percent clip and his BABIP is .277 (which is low for him as well).  Also consider that Hosmer's contact rate is slightly higher than Cabrera's.  Now, Eric Hosmer isn't a Miguel Cabrera (at least not yet) but based on Hosmer's past hitting, his sweet swing and that low BABIP, now is actually the time to go get him.  He's due for a correction and it should be a nice one.

ADRIAN GONZALEZ - Last year is looking a lot like this year.  He hit just one home run in his inaugural year with the Red Sox while batting .314 in April.  This year his average is at .284 and he's only gone yard twice.  He's traded several points in his line drive percentage and added those to his fly ball percentage, certainly better than if he were placing those balls on the ground.  His BABIP is pretty much in line with his career, and his contact rate is even a bit higher than normal.  Half of Gonzalez's 81 ABs have gone to an 0-1 count, meaning pitchers are coming right at him so far this year.  And from what I've seen Gonzalez isn't waiting if he gets a good first pitch.  It's early in the season, and right now he's not quite hitting the fastball the way he can.  Adrian's power will heat up much like it has in the past and his timing will get better.  He's a streaky power hitter and you don't want him on your bench when the hot streak begins.


PEDRO ALVAREZ - If you can look past the ridiculous 38% strikeout rate, Alvarez's bat is coming around in scary ways.  His ISO is a hefty .291.  Of his twelve hits, five are home runs.  He's beginning to look like a Carlos Pena.  He doesn't make great decisions at the plate and often shows no patience when the situation calls for it, but he's got a quick bat which seems to effortlessly pound the baseball to great distances.  His average will probably barely scrape .250 when all is said and done, but he might also scrape 30 home runs, and considering he's only owned in 24% of CBS leagues, that kind of pop at a weak position (3B) is well worth the investment.  As I finish this he's hit his sixth home run.


EDWIN ENCARNACION - Encarnacion has a current ISO of .356.  Sixteen of his 29 hits have gone for extra base hits and eight have been home runs.  His greatest season to date occurred back in 2008 when he played for the Reds.  That year he managed 26 home runs and 68 RBIs while striking out less than 17% and walking just over 10% in 146 games and 582 plate appearances.  The 29 year-old third baseman might be in his prime, but he's gones 10-for-23 (.434) over his last seven games  Though his contact rate has increased for the last three seasons and his FB rate has gone up, his low line drive percentage of under 14% tells me he's not hitting the ball as well as often.  Combine this with a hefty 53% FB rate and his 20% HR/FB ratio, Encarnacion will definitely regress.  His numbers do portend he's an improved player but his injury history should be of the greatest concern, considering his 134 games last year was his highest number of MLB games played since 2008.  Depending on your team makeup, he's not a bad sell high candidate.


STEVE CLEVENGER -- Geovany Soto has Clevenger's oblique to thank for keeping his starting position.  Clevenger posted a .500 average in 22 pro at-bats so far this year.  Soto's struggles have continued since his promising rookie campaign.  His K rate has gone up exponentially and his average has suffered.  While Clevenger is a guy with a ton of pop, Sabremetricians should check out his wRC+ and wOBA numbers.  He's got a career wRC+ of 227 and posted a wRC+ of over 116 of above when he's played in 80 games or more.  His current weighted runs is 150 or 50% better than the league average.  His wOBA for his career is .511, clearly helped along by this year's .536.  Now, that number won't hold, but for his entire baseball career his wOBA has been less than .350 just twice.  We're talking about a catcher here and one that's going to get on base a lot and hit for a good average.  For his career in the minors, he's nailed 28% of the runners attempting bases on him compared to Soto's 26%.  His numbers remind me a bit of John Jaso's 2010 season with the Rays.  This guy could easily supersede Soto this year, and in two catcher leagues, adding a catcher who won't hurt your average is not bad pickings.  Keep an eye on his return.