July 2011

What a Catch! Talking McCann, Avila, Mauer, and Ramos

 

What a Catch!

 

The Best: Brian McCann, Braves

One of the most consistent catchers over the last five seasons has been Braves backstop Brian McCann.  Though McCann has never had 25 home runs or 100 RBI in a season, the Georgia native has been an iron man, avoiding serious injury while blasting 20-plus home runs in each of the last five seasons.  Best yet, at just 27 years old, McCann is still young and in his prime.

 

The Surprise: Alex Avila, Tigers

When Victor Martinez was originally brought into Detroit, it was assumed that he was responsible for most of the Tigers catching duties.  It turns out that Martinez is truly the team’s designated hitter, while Alex Avila is the team’s top catcher.  Just 24 years old, Avila has evolved into a slugger with 10 home runs and 45 RBI this season.

 

The Bust: Joe Mauer, Twins

Injuries have certainly played a large role in the Twins disappointing season.  The problem is that even though Mauer has returned to the field, he is still seeking the potent bat that won him an MVP award just a few years back.  Mauer’s last home run came on September 15, 2010.  He has now gone 72 at bats without a dinger this season and he boasts just seven RBI.

 

Mauer is hurt by several factors including a lack of protection in the batting order and he calls home to a pitcher-friendly ballpark.  Though he should improve this season, he likely will struggle to live up to his expectations entering the season.

 

The 2nd Half Sleeper: Wilson Ramos, Nationals

While most catchers break down late into the season, Wilson Ramos should be able to avoid a great deal of the wear and tear.  That’s because at 23 years old, Ramos work behind the plate has yet to take its toll, plus the Nationals originally split playing time between Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez.  In other words, as the team looks to provide Ramos with the majority of the playing time going forward, he should be fresher because of the limited action to start the season.  A power bat with impressive plate discipline, Ramos is a rising talent.

Who’s on First?: A Look at First Basemen from the Best to the Bust

Who’s on First?

 

The Best: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

The likely AL MVP has made a smooth transition from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Fenway Park.  Thanks in large part to the fine start by Jacoby Ellsbury, Gonzalez has been driving runs in at a career-high pace.  While his power is evident in the 25 doubles and 16 home runs, it’s his consistency that makes his .356 average sustainable.

 

The Surprise: Mark Trumbo, Angels

The loss of Kendry Morales for another season would have been even more devastating had rookie Mark Trumbo not filled in admirably.  The 25-year old first baseman has belted 13 home runs with a solid seven steals.  Though he can improve on his plate discipline and raise his .258 average, Trumbo’s 28 extra bases have gone a long way for the Angels.

 

The Bust: Adam Dunn, White Sox

Playing in the homer-friendly US Cellular Ballpark with an improved lineup around him seemed like a slam dunk for Adam Dunn.  Instead, the White Sox slugger who has had no less than 38 home runs over the last seven seasons has been downright awful.  His .173 average is nearly 100 points lower than last season’s batting clip, and his power has been zapped to a .316 slugging percentage.

 

The 31-year old veteran has a few possible reasons for his lack of production.  He is new to the American League and he has never before been a designated hitter on a regular basis.  It may be time for the White Sox to call in Harold Baines to help mentor the fallen slugger.

 

The 2nd Half Sleeper: Mitch Moreland, Rangers

Texas may be a launching pad for sluggers, but during the dog days of summer, the heat takes its toll.  That’s why fantasy managers should not be too concerned about the fact hat Mitch Moreland remains a platoon player despite the .287 average and 11 home runs.  Come August, Moreland is bound to be fresh.  On that note, Moreland has yet to get into a big hot streak that is bound to lift his season totals past 20 home runs.  Expect a big second half from the rising first baseman who blasted nine home runs in 47 games after the All-Star break last season.

 

Why Mark Ellis — Yes, Mark Ellis — Could Be A Second Half Sleeper

By Eriq Gardner //

When Mark Ellis was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Colorado Rockies this past week, most people shrugged.

Ellis is 34 years old and only was only batting .217 at the time of the trade. His ownership in mixed fantasy leagues is less than 5% and didn’t move an inch after being dealt. Nothing to see here, right?

Well, not so fast.

Call us crazy, but there’s definitely something intriguing about Ellis going forward this year.

For one thing, Ellis is going from a terrible home hitter’s environment at the Oakland Coliseum to one of the friendliest home hitter’s environments at Coors’ Field. You say, “So what? We’re still talking about Mark Ellis!”

But check out just how badly playing in Oakland has hurt Ellis’ production these past few seasons. Here’s a look at the five players who have had the biggest OPS home-road split differences from the beginning of the 2007 season until today:

Adrian Gonzalez tops this list and is one of the greatest reasons we were quite high on him in the preseason. (How’s that working out?) Park effects get a good amount of press, but is it possible we still underrate the influence?

A few more things why Ellis could be a second half sleeper.

First, Ellis’ road OPS over the past few years is 0.762, which isn’t spectacular, but check out his road stats compared to a player at a much deeper position who is owned in virtually every league. Mark Ellis on the road vs. Billy Butler on the road (since 2007):

  • Mark Ellis: 1054 AB, 25 HRs, 135 RBIs, 136 Runs, 27 SBs, .282 AVG
  • Billy Butler: 1092 AB, 22 HRs, 135 RBIs, 120 Runs, 1 SB, .282 AVG

Nearly identical, except that Ellis has more speed and plays a position where good production is tougher to come by.

Second, he’s not just headed away from Oakland to play in a neutral environment. He’s going to Colorado, which based on historical evidence, could inflate Ellis’ statistics even beyond the decent production he’s put up on the road in past seasons.

Plus, he’s not merely going to a hitter’s environment, but also playing with better teammates, including Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Seth Smith. That’s also an improvement on what he had in Oakland.

Finally, and it’s only been a couple of games so far, but Ellis is looking at a pretty nice lineup opportunity in Colorado. On Friday and Saturday, Ellis hit in the #2 slot. It’s too early to establish where Ellis will hit in the Rockies lineup going forward, but this is certainly a good sign. The fact that Ellis puts the ball into play rather than striking out (85% contact rate this season) and has a decent, if-not-spectacular amount of speed means he could indeed stick there. He plays pretty good defense and the team just optioned Eric Young Jr. and Chris Nelson to the minors, so he’s got pretty firm job security as well.

Don’t be surprised to see Mark Ellis’ ownership numbers climbing in future weeks.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

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