Hawpe in St. Pete

By R.J. Anderson //

In a purely subjective sense, Brad Hawpe is the tailor-made contrast between fantasy and real world baseball values. Hawpe’s talent cavities have always included rambunctious defensive play – even on the quietest of balls – and an inability to hit as well on the road as he did at home. This leaves a general manager – particularly one in the National League – in the awkward position. Choosing to either hang onto Hawpe with the hope that he’ll steal Rickey Henderson’s legs or explaining to the ownership and media why he couldn’t recoup the standard fare for hitters with Hawpe’s numbers through a trade.

Dan O’Dowd held onto Hawpe for seasons but recently decided to release him. On Friday, Hawpe found a new home. The Tampa Bay Rays signed the southpaw to a minor league deal with the idea that he will eventually come up within the week and take over as the left-handed designated hitter. Is Hawpe worth the fee to acquire him in American League only leagues? Maybe.

Most starting pitchers are right-handed, meaning Hawpe may receive 60-65% of the Rays’ designated hitter plate appearances in September. Throughout Hawpe’s career, his line versus righties is a robust .290/.387/.507 with 94 home runs in 2,452 plate appearances. The concern is not over whether Hawpe has hit, though, but rather will he continue to hit now that he is out of Coors Field and into the American League East. Since both franchises are relatively new, the amount of players with significant playing time with both is limited.

Nevertheless, here is a table detailing how those players performed after trading their Coors for a glass of Tropicana’s finest:

hawpetb1.png

The only player to improve both his batting average and AB/HR is Greg Norton. One has to suspect starting, even if only as a designated hitter, had to be an easier role for Norton to stay fresh and focused than coming off the bench in a pinch hitter role. Suffice to say that history is not on Hawpe’s side and those odds are only worsened when expanding the scope beyond the Rays and onto the entire American League East. Garret Atkins is the most recent case of failure and the last success story might be Mark Bellhorn way back in 2004 – and make note that Bellhorn’s abbreviated Colorado performance was Coors-worthy for an entirely different reason.

The Rays will stick with him despite going 0-4 with four strikeouts in his debut.  A streak of such ineptitude just means that someone is likely to break it. The odds are just too great. Just please, please do not make a “Hawpe and pray” joke if you decide to add him.

For more on Brad Hawpe and other late season additions, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits. 

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