Tagged: Alexei Ramirez

Should you hold onto Nate McLouth, Jason Kubel and Alexei Ramirez?

By Eriq Gardner
One of the tougher tasks in fantasy baseball is deciding the appropriate time to let go of an underperforming player.
Cutting bait on high draft investments isn’t easy. Some players have experienced great past success. Some hold the potential for tremendous upside. If you drop one of these players, you’re admitting you were wrong in the draft. You may be giving your competitor an opportunity to capitalize on the mistake of a player dropped too early. Imagining a player finally performing up to expectation on another competitor’s team may be too much to handle. 
I call these players “toxic assets,” too much potential value to drop and too little return to do much good. At some point, though, fantasy teams can’t afford to burn valuable roster spots waiting for a player’s fortunes to turn around.
Let’s look at some toxic assets at the moment.
Nate McLouth went in the 10th round on average in 12-team mixed leagues. Despite hitting .160 with just a single home run, four runs scored, and three RBIs he’s still owned in more than two-thirds of all leagues. That’s understandable considering he was a stolen base shy last year of his second consecutive 20/20 season. This time last year, many saw him as a potential 30/30 candidate.
But McLouth is really struggling in Atlanta. His strikeout rate has jumped from a career mark of about 19% before this season to 34% in 2010. He’s taking a few more walks than before, but he hardly seems to be doing anything once he’s on base: no steals so far, not even an attempt. 
His lineup opportunity is also slipping. He’s been benched against left-handed hitters. And he’s now played more games this season hitting 8th in the lineup than batting leadoff. Dwindling opportunity makes him a reasonable candidate to ditch in shallower leagues.
Jason Kubel went in the 12th round of average 12-team mixed league drafts. He’s coming off a season where he hit 28 home runs, drove in 103 runs, and nearly hit .300. He’s only put up two homers so far this year and his average his hovering slightly above the Mendoza Line. He’s still owned in nearly every league.
Kubel is suffering from a slightly unlucky hit rate, but nothing too drastic for a plodding batter with no speed. His ISO% is way off from .239 a year ago to .121 at the moment. He’s actually hitting more fly balls now than he was a year ago, but fewer of them are clearing the outfield fence. This could be partially the result of bad luck and cold weather, but the question is whether he’ll have a lot of rope to turn things around. 
Kubel is known as a horrible fielder, which limits his playing time in the outfield no matter how much Delmon Young struggles. Kubel has been getting plenty of at-bats at DH, but Jim Thome is nipping at his heels. Thome already has four home runs on the season and shares Kubel’s affinity for killing right-handed pitching. For now, we’d hold onto Kubel, but if he starts getting held out of the lineup on a regular basis, he might also be ditched.
Alexei Ramirez went, on average, in the 10th round of 12-team mixed leagues. He’s coming off a season where he hit 15 HR and had 14 SB at a very thin position. He’s also a guy who has a 20+ HR season on his career ledger. As of now, though, he’s done pretty much nothing yet is still owned in about 80% of leagues.
In 69 at-bats this season, Ramirez has only taken a walk once. That’s extremely worrisome, as his biggest improvement a year ago came from increasing his walk rate from a paltry 3.5% in his rookie year to a more respectable 8.1% in 2009. These days, there’s hardly any good reason why pitchers should feed him a pitch in the strike zone he can hit. He’ll swing at anything.
Alexei is hitting 7th or 8th in the lineup and seems to be a long ways away from making the case he should be batting higher. If he’s really just good for his glove, that hardly makes him much better than the White Sox backup at SS — Omar Vizquel. Of course, Ramirez got off to a terrible start last year too before turning things on. Also, it’s nearly impossible to find a quality SS on the waiver wire. Those are the main factors that would prevent him from being dumped off fantasy rosters en masse. 
But Ramirez’s owners may want to watch Chicago’s north side closely. If the Cubs promote super-prospect Starlin Castro anytime soon, and he’s available in your league, it may be time to waive adios to Alexei.
For more on Nate McLouth, Jason Kubel, Alexei Ramirez and other toxic assets, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Slow-Starting Targets: Adam LaRoche, Alexei Ramirez, Hunter Pence

By Tommy Rancel

The regular season has started, and now it’s time to work your magic as a fantasy general manager. One of the angles to exploit in the early part of the season is slow starts. There is always someone in your league that is on edge beginning Opening Day, ready to ditch a player at the first signs of struggles. With that in mind, here is a look at some notorious slow starters you might be able to steal in a buy-low trade.

Adam LaRoche

LaRoche entered 2010 with a new team, yet got off to the same old slow start. He started his Arizona Diamondbacks career 0-for-13. He’s racked up a few hits since then, but is still hitting an ugly .231/.310/.308 (AVG/OBP/SLG), with no homers, no steals and just 3 RBI in 7 games. Long-time LaRoche owners (if there are any) are not surprised by this start, since the 30-year-old first baseman is your quintessential second-half hitter.

For his career, his slash line in the first half is .250/.324/.444. In the second half of the season, LaRoche blossoms into a .300/.363/.546 hitter. The .768 OPS in the first half represents a .141 point difference from his second-half total of .909.


The bulk of LaRoche’s early-season struggles come in March and April. Over his career, he has combined for a slash line of .192/.283/.360 in the opening months of the season. However, from May going forward, there is a steady increase in OPS:

.781 (May)

.798 (June)

.908 (July)

He peaks in August with a .933 OPS, and then goes slightly back down to .908 in September.

When targeting LaRoche, in trades be sure to exploit his early struggles. If you’re lucky enough to land LaRoche, just be patient as he is likely to once again heat up with the weather. Also remember he should enjoy playing his home games in doubles-friendly Chase Field.

Alexei Ramirez

Since joining the major leagues in 2008, the Cuban Missile has struggled with his early-season stroke. 2010 has been no different for the White Sox shortstop: He’s hitting .138 with no walks and one extra-base hit through his first eight games. While he is not a second half player per se, Ramirez is definitely a slow starter.


In the opening months of the season (March and April), Ramirez has hit just .175/.221/.237 in his career. The monthly OPS of .458 is 409 points less than his best month, June, in which his OPS jumps up to .867.

Overall, Ramirez is rated as the eighth-best shortstop according to B-Rank. On the other hand, he is ranked only behind Derek Jeter, Jason Bartlett and Elvis Andrus in the American League. If you do not have one of those three shortstops in an AL-only league, you should be contacting the Alexei Ramirez owner in your league immediately.

If the price is too high right now, you might be able to wait a little bit longer if Ramirez holds to form, as his career May OPS of .719 isn’t impressive either. However, don’t wait much longer than that. In the summer months of June, July and August, his OPS jumps to an average of .834 per month, with the usual double-digit home run and stolen base pace.

Hunter Pence

The 27-year-old Astros outfielder is also off to a rough start in 2010 (3-for-25 with no walks). He was even benched for Sunday’s game against the Phillies. The slow start isn’t that big of a surprise, though, given his early-career track record.

A career .286 hitter, Pence’s batting average in the first month of the season is just .254. In addition to the batting average struggles, Pence’s power is slow to develop. His .391 slugging percentage in March and April represents the only monthly slugging mark below .462.

While he struggles in the first month of the season, history tells us that Pence will blow up in the month of May. His slash line in the second month of the season is .358/.415/.561. His 49 RBI in the month of May are also the highest of any monthly total.

Even with the slow start, Pence is likely to cost you a fair amount, given his combined 50 homers and 25 steals in the past two seasons. However, his B-Rank of 87 shows he’s among the game’s top 100 talents, and his owner might not have him valued that high if his early struggles continue. If you can get Pence at a slight discount, do it.

For more on notorious slow starters like Hunter Pence, Adam LaRoche and Alexei Ramirez, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Kits