Tagged: Home Runs

MLB Sluggers on the Rise: Eric Hosmer, Jay Bruce, and Paul Goldschmidt



Twitter: @RobShawSports


When it comes to sleepers fantasy managers are often looking for late round picks that could contribute throughout the season.  A more valuable sleeper is the talent who is already drafted in the middle rounds, but has the ability to reach superstar potential.  Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer happens to fit that mold of sleeper.


The 22-year-old talent was the third overall pick of the 2008 draft.  Last year he earned his first taste of Big League action and he found immediate success.  The Miami native did it all.  He blasted 19 home runs, swiped 11 bases, and offered a .293 average.


While Hosmer may be the Royals top young talent, he is not alone.  After several years of struggles, the Royals finally have the making of a top-notch lineup with veterans such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon joined by Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, amongst others.


This season Hosmer should take another step forward and fantasy managers considering drafting Mark Texeira in the first or second rounds are better off scooping Hosmer in the fourth or fifth rounds.  He is more well-rounded than Texeira and could end up offering similar power production as well.  Hosmer is one of the top sleepers in baseball even if you have to draft him in the middle rounds.


The Reds already have one megastar in the form of Joey Votto, but there may be another in the lineup.  Jay Bruce actually had more buzz around him when he made his debut than Votto.  The 12th pick of the 2005 draft, Bruce has been in the Big Leagues since he was 21-years old.  While there have been some growing pains over the last few seasons, he has improved, and at 25-years old he should be closer to his prime this season.


Bruce has always possessed power.  He already has 100 career home runs before he even turned 25.  Last season was his first reaching the 30-home run plateau, as he slammed 32 round-trippers.  More impressive for his sabermetric fans, Bruce offered great patience at the plate with 71 walks, which made up for his .256 batting clip.


One of the streakiest hitters in the game, Bruce blasted 12 home runs with a .342 average in May, but then hit less than .240 in three of the next four months.  Fantasy managers are hoping that another year under his belt will lead to some maturity and consistency at the plate.  Bruce is one of the rare talents who can slam 40 home runs with a .280-plus average.  However, that’s just talk of potential, and when drafting you need to take more into account.


He’s already in his mid-20s, but Paul Goldschmidt could end up being a fantasy star as soon as this season.  An eighth round pick out of Texas State, Goldschmidt has been a pleasant surprise in the Diamondbacks farm system.


Goldschmidt’s power is legit, as he has slammed 73 round-trippers over the last two seasons.  He also has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks the last few seasons.  In his Big League debut, Goldschmidt slammed eight home runs in 48 games.  He also swiped four bases, which is a pleasant surprise for a slugger.


While sluggers often take some time to develop in the Big Leagues, Goldschmidt is expected to produce as soon as this season.  BloombergSports.com Front Office projects 30 home runs this season, which could land the Diamondbacks right back in the thick of the hunt for the Division Title.

Figuring Out Booms And Busts In 2011

By Eriq Gardner //

There’s tremendous profit to be made in betting on players who have just come off of miserable years and staying away from those who have just enjoyed fantastic seasons. 
Let’s show by example.
Heading into last season, some players had momentum from the 2009 season while others were being dismissed as showing warts. Let’s call the first class of players “Group A” and the second class of players “Group B.”
To assemble a team of Group A All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players at each position had the largest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ’09 year of this three-year sample. This team consisted of Joe Mauer, Billy Butler, Aaron Hill, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria, Michael Cuddyer, Andre Ethier, Marlon Byrd, and Mark Reynolds.
And to assemble a team of Group B All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players had the smallest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ”09 year of the three year sample. This team consisted of Russell Martin, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta, David Wright, Shane Victorino, Alfonso Soriano, BJ Upton, and Alex Rodriguez.
Heading into the 2010 season, almost everyone would have bet on Group A to dominate Group B in HRs that year. Together, Group A slugged 261 HRs in 2009 whereas Group B only slugged 134. 
Guess what? By the end of 2010, Group B had more home runs than Group A. Take a look…
Certainly not every player experienced what’s known in the trade as “regression to the mean.” But as a whole, Group A’s power numbers dropped 40 percent while Group B’s power numbers rose by 37 percent.
Most people know that players coming off of great seasons tend to be overvalued into the next season, but does everyone really give this phenomenon its proper due? Young players who do great are said to be on the rise. Older players who do poorly are said to be on the decline. But often, the production shifts we see from one year to the next are largely statistical noise. It might be more important to take a larger three year sample when considering who to roster in fantasy leagues.
With that said, let’s take a look at potential Group A All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is most heavily weighted to last season. Something to be aware about before investing to heavily in players like Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Vernon Wells, and Corey Hart.
And here’s a look at potential Group B All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is least heavily weighted to last season. Some players whose HR production could regress towards the positive side include Yunel Escobar, Johnny Damon, Jose Lopez, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Nick Markakis, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, and Derrek Lee. All of these players are going for less in drafts heading into this season than a year ago.

What’s The Value of HRs When Fewer Are Hitting Them?

By Eriq Gardner //

When most competitors figure out who to draft in fantasy baseball leagues this year, they typically attempt to judge a player’s prospective stats. Will player X hit 35 HR this year or merely 25? How will player Y adapt to his new playing environment now that he is moving from a ballpark that favors pitchers to one that favors hitters?
But those questions aren’t the only ones that determine a player’s prospective value. A player can produce a carbon copy of last season and still hold remarkably different value from one year to the next. That’s because the value of accumulated stats is ever-shifting.
Let’s give an example by considering the shifting fantasy value of “Mr. Consistency” Adam Dunn. One will hardly find a better player in baseball like Dunn who reproduces his stat line from one year to the next. Check out his HR totals over the last six seasons: 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38.
In 2010, Dunn hit 38 HR, tabbed 103 RBI, scored 85 runs, didn’t steal any bases, and had a .260 average.
It was a nearly identical season compared to his 2009, when he hit 38 HR, tabbed 105 RBI, scored 81 runs, didn’t steal any bases, and had a .267 average. 
And yet, according to Baseball Monster, which tabulates the comparative fantasy value of players in baseball, Dunn went from being the 115th most valuable player in 2009 to the 57th most valuable player in 2010 in a standard 12-team 5×5 league. Quite a difference!
To understand why Dunn made a huge leap in fantasy value, without really doing much different, it takes an appreciation of larger macro-trends around baseball.
Last season, there was 4,613 HR hit throughout MLB. That represented a 8.5% drop in HR production from the 2009 season when players hit 5,042 HR. In fact, HR activity was at its lowest point since 1993. Maybe it’s a tougher performance-enhancing drug testing regime, or maybe MLB switched the type of balls they use, or maybe there’s a whole series of other, more subtle reasons. Whatever the reason, homers became a much rarer commodity.
This influences fantasy baseball.
For example, in 2008, the blog Rotoauthority.com did a study of the stats needed to be ahead in each category. According to Tim Dierkes, he concluded that 313 HR were needed to finish 2nd or 3rd in the HR category. If Dierkes did another study based on last year’s results, we’d bet good money that the threshold would be much lower. In one league we competed in last year, in a similar format to the one Dierkes studied, the team that finished first in HR slugged just 258 of them; the team that finished second in slugged only 218.
A season where it takes 300 HR to win is a lot different than a season where it takes 200 HR to win. In the former, Adam Dunn’s 40 HR bring his owner 13% to the needed total. In the latter, Adam Dunn’s 40 HR bring his owner 20% to the needed total.
If you can bank 40 HR from a slugger, that certainly takes on added value, especially considering that each HR also produces at least one RBI, a run, and a hit. 
But keep in mind that the threshold for players being merely average in the power category has also changed. Five seasons ago, players with at least 500 plate appearances averaged 20 HR. Sixty-eight percent of them fell somewhere between 8 and 32 HR. Last season, players with at least 500 plate appearances averaged 18 HR. Sixty-eight percent of them fell between between 8 and 29 HR. The difference between the haves and have-nots has shrunk. Hitting 22 HR now is akin to hitting 25 HR a few years ago.
Let’s assume these macro-trends in baseball continue, and consider the significance. 
For players who far out-slug the competition, these individuals have great value in fantasy leagues. But be careful about penalizing players whose production appears to have slipped a bit. Relatively speaking, they might be just as good as ever.

The Prince’s Pop

By R.J. Anderson //

Over the last three seasons Prince Fielder has hit 130 home runs; or a home run for every 16.1 plate appearances. This season, though, Fielder has hit 15 homers in 340 trips to the plate; a jack per 22.7 plate appearances. Not only that, but Fielder’s .206 ISO would represent the lowest figure of his career since becoming a full-time player. ISO generally stabilizes after 350 plate appearances; with the season nearly halfway over, is it time to start getting concerned about Fielder’s lacking power?

The first thing most analysts will look for when examining a power loss is the percentage of home runs per fly balls hit. Fielder’s HR/FB% is currently a tick more than 17%. This is lower than expected when compared to his career figure of 20.1%. Even when one breaks Fielder’s rates down on a seasonal basis, it shows that this is a low rate of homers per balls in the air:

2006: 15.8%

2007: 23.9%

2008: 18.2%

2009: 23.1%

Fielder is hitting the same number of flyballs as his career rate and also the same number of groundballs. His batting average on balls in play is relatively steady too, meaning he’s not being robbed on screaming liners in the gap, or at least it doesn’t seem like it. Fielder’s just not having as many balls clear the wall as usual.

Given his big build and specific skill set, some would point to this as the beginning of the end for Fielder’s elite status. That seems overly pessimistic. Fielder is only 26 years old and while his belt is roughly the size of an asteroid belt, that doesn’t mean he’d suddenly lose power.

The popular comparison here would be Mo Vaughn. A barrel-chested, lefty-swinging first baseman with a belly and power who reached the majors at a later point in his career than Fielder, Vaughn enjoyed similar success. He hit at least 25 home runs in every season he recorded 450 or more plate appearances. It was in 2003 that injuries swamped Vaughn’s usefulness and he eventually retired, inconveniently early into his free agent contract with the Mets. But at the age of 26, Vaughn actually posted the best season of his career (to that point) with a slash line of .310/.408/.576. The big man could still hit, and did so into his early 30s.

Cecil Fielder is another popular comparison because, well, come on. Other than bloodlines, the pair don’t share too much in common. Besides, the elder Fielder also recorded the best season of his career as a 26-year-old, blasting 51 bombs for the Detroit Tigers. That suggests an early decline isn’t hereditary, nor is it a given based on his size. As this chart provided from FanGraphs shows, Prince is just having an unusual drop that the other two didn’t experience:

In the end, you should probably just keep Fielder on your roster, barring some unexpectedly massive trade offer. Expect some bounceback, because frankly there’s no reason not to.

For more on Prince Fielder and other power-hitting first basemen, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.