By Eriq Gardner //
Biggest Suprise: Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s superb season didn’t come completely out of the blue, as many pundits figured he’d be a good sleeper heading into the 2010 season. But the most valuable fantasy asset in all of baseball? Not even the Oracle of Apollo saw that one coming. This year, Gonzalez lived up to his power/speed potential and racked up a huge line of 34 HR, 117 RBIs, 111 runs, 26 steals, and a .336 average. How much is he worth going forward? The question was the subject of debate here recently: Yes, he’s a stud. No, questions remain.
Biggest Bust: Brad Hawpe
Hawpe was the model of consistency before the 2010 season. In four consecutive years, he hit no less than 22 HR and no more than 29 HR. In that time, thanks to his prowess versus right-handed pitching, he hovered right around a .287 average. This season, everything collapsed. Hawpe didn’t even get to double digits in home runs, hit a lowly .245, and experienced injuries and withering playing time that led to his release. Hawpe ended the season with Tampa Bay and will look to bounce back in 2011 – with very modest expectations.
2011 Keeper Alert: Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki had quite a season in September alone, hitting 15 homers that month. Only five other shortstops in all of baseball hit 15 HR for the entire year. The strong finish more than made up for a broken wrist that cost him six weeks of action. Making just 529 plate appearances, Tulo finished with 27 HR, 95 RBI, 89 runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .315 average. His strong year plus the lack of talent at the shortstop position throughout the league makes him a first-round pick next season.
Regression Alert: Seth Smith
Smith had about the same playing time in 2010 as 2009: 398 plate appearances to 387. Smith increased his home runs from 15 to 17. But if there’s any reason why Smith might slip under the radar, it’s a disappointing batting average. In 2009, Smith flirted with .300. This season, Smith’s average fell to .246. However, give him a dozen more hits and double his playing time, and Smith is still a candidate to hit 25 HR and bat .300. There’s reason to believe: Hawpe is no longer sharing playing time, and Smith’s batting average on balls in play was an unlucky .256 in his disappointing season.
For more on Rockies hitters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By Eriq Gardner //
In the fantasy baseball lexicon, “platoon” is a dirty word. Few fantasy team owners want to hear that one of their players is being benched against either left-handed or right-handed pitching.
But in leagues that allow daily lineup adjustments and enough roster room to accommodate extra batters, platoons represent a tremendous buying opportunity.
Take Seth Smith.
Smith is a smooth-hitting left-handed batter in a crowded Colorado Rockies outfield. Because he competes for playing time with Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Dexter Fowler, and Ryan Spilborghs, Smith doesn’t play every day. That doesn’t make his playing time unpredictable, though. Throughout this season, Smith has consistently gotten starts against right-handed pitching.
On those days, he’s been fantastic. In 56 games he’s started this season, Smith has posted an .840 OPS. To put that in context, it’s top 50 in the MLB this season, ahead of Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, and Justin Upton, to name a few players who dwarf Smith in ownership percentage.
The fact that Smith has been so valuable in games he’s started shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the years, Smith has feasted on right-handed pitching. Since 2008, Smith has an OPS of .911 against right-handed pitching. Only 28 batters with at least 400 AB in that time frame can claim a better record versus right-handed pitchers. He’s bested players like Ryan Braun, Chase Utley, and Evan Longoria in that category.
The reason that Smith doesn’t play every day? Well, a crowded Colorado Rockies outfield is one factor. Another is that Smith doesn’t fare as well against left-handed pitching. His career OPS versus lefties is .622, albeit in a relatively small sample size.
Still, given the opportunity to play Smith on days he’s starting, what fantasy owner couldn’t have used these stats to date: a .281 AVG, 11 HR, 31 RBI, and 36 Runs.
The stats are even more impressive when paired with a player who might have been activated in place of Smith when the Rockies outfielder had the day off.
Let’s assume a team owner has gotten 56 games from Smith and another 45 games from a replacement-caliber player. What kind of stats would be required from Smith’s fantasy platoon partner to match Jayson Werth’s 2010 production of a .292 AVG, 15 HR, 64 Runs, and 56 RBIs? Answer: Not much.
Werth is owned in nearly every league, whereas Smith is owned in less than 10% of leagues. Pairing Smith with another discounted player like J.D. Drew or Jason Kubel offers aggregated production that can potentially surpass the offerings of a player like Werth.
Consider this a market inefficiency if you’re in a league with daily transactions. For years, real-life MLB managers have been exploiting platoons. For owners in roster-flexible leagues willing to do some daily research on match-ups, having a fantasy platoon can be just as rewarding.
For more on platoon splits, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office