BY ROB SHAW
To put it mildly, Aramis Ramirez has not had Brewers fans forget about Prince Fielder. While Fielder has already offered the Tigers a .345 average with two home runs, Ramirez has chipped in with just a .129 average and no home runs for the Brew Crew. This is a far cry from the .306 average Ramirez offered last season, not to mention the expectations coming into this season with Milwaukee.
While Ramirez is off to a slow start, he has had a tad of bad luck. Alfonso Soriano robbed him at the left-field wall of an extra base hit on Tuesday, and he already has swiped two bases while nailing two doubles. Plus, Ramirez is a notorious slow starter as March and April are his worst batting months throughout his career.
At this point, fantasy managers should be in a holding pattern, as Ramirez is likely to bounce back. For the first time this season, Ramirez did not strike out in two consecutive games. It looks like he is starting to see the ball better, and that usually leads to a rise in batting average and the power metrics. Patience is a virtue in dealing with A-Ram’s early slump.
There has been a very scary trend in Cleveland for fantasy managers in recent years. We’ve seen players who reach superstardom with the Indians only to lose their luster seemingly overnight due to injuries.
First it was MVP contender Travis Hafner, who went from a .300-plus hitting machine with loads of power to a lackluster DH who struggles to stay healthy. More recently, it’s been all-around sensation Grady Sizemore, who has lost his speed and power in recent years and now is once again on the disabled list for an extended period.
The question that is plaguing fantasy managers right now is whether Shin-Soo Choo will follow that undesirable path. Following consecutive 20-20 seasons, Choo had a season to forget last year with off-the-field controversy followed by an injury-plagued season. Fresh off his worst season with 8 home runs and a .259 average, Choo is struggling once again. The two-time 20-20 fantasy star has five hits, all of them singles.
The good news is that Shoo is drawing walks and already has two stolen bases while his OBP is north of .400. For now fantasy managers should be in a holding power with Choo. The solid plate discipline suggests that he is seeing the ball well and could bust out of his power outage at any moment. In fact, if you have confidence in the 29-year-old outfielder go ahead and acquire him while his stock is low.
What’s the deal with Mets first baseman Ike Davis? Last season he got off to a excellent start before a bum ankle shut him down for the season with seven home runs, 25 RBI, and a .302 average through 36 games. This season has been the total opposite. Davis has two hits through 28 at bats, and both hits have been singles.
While the Mets are calling Davis healthy, there are some questions as to whether a fungal disease suffered during spring training is still limiting him physically, or if at this point, the toll is mental, as Davis has 10 strikeouts through the first eight games of the season.
To be specific, the ailment that Davis encountered this spring was Valley Fever, a lung disease that could lead to fatigue. It very much should be taken seriously, as the illness once knocked 130 games out of the season from Conor Jackson. So yes, fantasy managers should be on red alert, as the disease commonly found in desert environments such as Davis’ hometown in Phoenix could be an issue.
Some good news is that David Wright returned from his broken pinkie on Saturday and blasted a home run. With Wright’s return to the Mets lineup, there are more likely to be runners on base for Davis to drive home. Furthermore, Lucas Duda has looked very much like a slugger this season with three home runs already. With Duda batting behind Davis, there could be an uptick in the runs scored as well.
Of course, the main focus for Davis right not is to snap out of the slump, then he will no longer hear the whispers of mystery ailments and more concerns about the health of Mets players.
When last season concluded with Tim Lincecum brandishing a losing record, there was not much panic in San Francisco as his 13-14 record came with a superb 2.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. On that note, fantasy managers again picked Lincecum early in the drafts this season expecting him to contend with rival Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. Through two starts the Giants ace may have already pitched himself out of contention.
Tim Lincecum currently sits at 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA. Fantasy managers are wondering if it will it be sink or swim by the Bay this season for Lincecum. This is a major concern for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list is that Lincecum is usually strong out of the gates. April is usually the best month for him, at 12-3 entering this season with a sub-3 ERA.
Another key concern has been the diminishing velocity. Lincecum is so far throwing his fastball at 90 MPH this season, down from 91 MPH last year and 92 MPH the year before. He relies a great deal on his high velocity since his outpitch is no longer his slider, but his change-up. In fact, Lincecum has mentioned that he will try to avoid use of his slider this season since it puts pressure on his arm. It will be tough to get away with just a fastball and change-up if he can’t reach the mid-90s.
Keep an eye on Lincecum’s next start as this may be a concerning trend. For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Carlos Santana
Despite having his rookie season cut short with a gruesome knee injury, Carlos Santana looked as good as advertised in his 46 major league games. After hitting .316/.447/.597 in 57 minor league games, the young catcher compiled an .868 OPS in 192 plate appearances for Cleveland. Although his batting average was just .260, Santana had an on-base percentage over .400 (.401). This is because he walked an amazing 37 times in 192 appearances (19.3%).
Biggest Bust: Grady Sizemore
It is somewhat unfair to label a player a bust when his season ends after just 33 games due to a major knee surgery. But even before the injury, Grady Sizemore was not producing like a top-level outfielder – the spot where most people drafted him this year. As mentioned, Sizemore played in just 33 games. In those games, he hit just .211/.271/.289. This comes on the heels of 2009 in which he hit just .248/.343/.445 in 106 games, itself a huge step-down from his prior superstar performance. He’s a high-upside pick next year, but given the risk, don’t overbid.
2011 Keeper Alert: Carlos Santana
Not only is Santana a really good hitter with ridiculous on-base skills, he does it from one of the least productive positions in baseball. The average OPS for a major league catcher this season is .702, the second-worst mark for any position on the field (shortstop .696). In his brief time, Santana posted an OPS of .868. There are three catchers in the entire league (minimum 190 PA) who posted a higher OPS: Geovany Soto, Buster Posey, and Joe Mauer.
2011 Regression Alert: Matt LaPorta
As the crown jewel in the CC Sabathia trade of 2008, Indians fans are still waiting for Matt LaPorta to replicate his minor league success at the next level. LaPorta has hit just .221/.306/.362 in 425 plate appearances. His batting average on balls in play was also pretty low at .250. A large reason for this is his weak percentage of line drives hit. Just 12.5% of the balls in play off LaPorta’s bat were line drives – the third-worst mark in baseball (minimum 400 PA). It is no secret that line drives are the type of batted ball that tends to fall for a hit the most often. Still, LaPorta’s minor league track record suggests power potential, and he should start right from Opening Day next season. He’s worth a shot in deeper leagues.
For more on Carlos Santana and the Cleveland Indians lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tyler McKee
Many of the seats at The Jake – ahem, excuse me – “Progressive
Field'” are likely to sit empty this summer, as the Cleveland Indians
figure to muddle through another losing season.
The Tribe’s roster similarly contains some underexposed players. Shin-Soo Choo
continued to quietly emerge as one of the American League’s most
productive outfielders last season, easily outdistancing more heralded (and more desired)
players, such as teammate Grady Sizemore – despite Sizemore missing 56
games and putting up much weaker numbers than Choo in 2009.
Choo put himself in an elite class last season, becoming one of just
14 players to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Choo is an elite outfield option with
an elite reputation, with few offensive holes in his game and
across-the-board contributions in 5X5 fantasy leagues – as shown in
this Bloomberg Sports Spider Chart.
chart shows Choo rating above league average in all five offensive
categories: 20 homers, 21 steals, 86 RBI, 87 runs scored, and a .300
batting average. Advanced metrics, which account for walks and other
non-fantasy contributions, show Choo with 116 Runs Created in 2009.
That total places him behind only one other MLB outfielder: Brewers hitting Ryan Braun.
Choo’s a safe
bet to play against any pitcher, given his reasonable splits. In 2009, he hit a stellar .312/.406/.504 (AVG/OBP/SLG) against right-handed pitching, and a still solid .275/.369/.456 vs. lefties.
does have one glaring weakness: he strikes out a lot – he whiffed 151 times last season. Few players can rack up strikeout totals that high and
still maintain a .300 average. A sky-high
.370 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) helped Choo pull off the feat last year; expect some BABIP
regression in 2010, and with it some downside batting average risk.
with a potential batting average pullback, Choo’s all-around skills make him a great selection. It’s Choo’s potential value play that makes him most attractive, though. The 27-year-old right fielder is getting picked in the middle
rounds of drafts, with an Average Draft Position of 76. Compare
that number to Choo’s B-Rank: Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary overall
ranking slots him as #27 overall, eighth among OF. That 49-slot gap is
one of the largest for any player in our database.
Target Choo around the late-fifth or early-sixth round
in a 12-team mixed league. If you land him near that spot, you’ll have a big,
For more information on Shin-Soo Choo and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg
Sports’ fantasy kits.
A year after making the biggest splash(es) on the free agent market, the New York Yankees went a different route this off-season. One of the biggest moves of the off-season was a three-team, seven-player trade that landed Curtis Granderson in the New York Yankees’ outfield.
Granderson, 29 next month, is now tentatively penciled in as the number-two hitter in a talented Yankees line-up. After hitting 19 home runs in 2006, his first full season, Granderson posted back to back 20-plus home run seasons in 2007 and 2008, then reached the 30-HR plateau for the first time in 2009. For comparison, the major league average for outfielders was 19 in 2009. Take a look at Bloomberg Sports’ time-line based trend chart (bottom right).
There are some concerns about Granderson’s declining batting average (career-high .302 in 2007, .280 in 2008, full-season career-low .249 in 2009). But Granderson has maintained a selective approach, pushing his walk rates over 10% in each of the past two seasons. In addition to the walks, he is due for some positive regression on balls in play. Granderson’s career batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .323. That’s a little above the league average, but not extraordinarily high for a player with good speed. In 2009, though, his BABIP fell to just .276. Expect that number to rebound this season which would in turn improve his batting average.
Another area of concern is Granderson’s platoon splits. For his career, Granderson has hit an impressive .292/.367/.528 (AVG/OBP/SLG) against right-handed pitching, but just .210/.270/.344 vs. lefties. Last season showed an even more extreme split: .275/.358/.539 vs. RH, .183(!)/.245/.239 vs. LH. Still, several baseball analysts have argued that when a player’s platoon splits are as extreme as Granderson’s, there’s plenty of room for regression on both sides.
A true left-handed pull-hitter, Granderson’s slashing, line-drive power is a perfect match for his new home. Yankee Stadium fueled huge numbers for power hitters last year, especially left-handed pull hitters. In 2009, Comerica Park had a home run park factor of .974, the 18th-best figure for hitters in the majors (1.000 is neutral, meaning home runs were suppressed by 2.6%). The launching pad in the Bronx sported a home run factor of 1.261 (i.e. 26% above average), tops in all of baseball.
Looking at Granderson’s power numbers to each field further supports this theory. For his career, Granderson sports a slugging percentage of .510 on line drives and flyballs hit to left field, .556 to center field and a huge .744 to right field. Granderson’s home run-to-flyball ratios tell a similar story. Again moving from left to right field, here are his career HR/FB%: 4.4%, 5.9%, 29.1%(!!!) Nearly one in every three fly balls hit by Granderson to right field have gone for home runs in his career – and that’s without the benefit of Yankee Stadium’s friendly confines.
Of course you can’t mention Granderson without the player he is replacing in the Yankee lineup, Johnny Damon. Like Granderson, Damon’s slashing, left-handed swing was a perfect match for new Yankee Stadium. In his first and only season at the ballpark, Damon tied a career-high with 24 home runs and set a career high in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average).
Playing at old Yankee Stadium in 2008, Damon posted a .684 slugging percentage to right field, with a strong 23.5% HR/FB rate. In 2009, those numbers rocketed to .859 SLG and 31.5% HR/FB to right field. Once we factor in age, defense, contract and the likelihood that Granderson might have more natural power than Damon, you can see why the Yankees made the switch.
Currently, Granderson’s average draft position (ADP) is 56. His B-Rank of 40th overall suggests this is quite a bargain. Looking at the Demand vs. Scarcity chart, you’ll notice that Granderson is in the fourth tier of center fielders. Just to the right of Granderson’s yellow dot is another dot also located on the fourth-tier; this belongs to Grady Sizemore. Currently, Sizemore is being drafted around 13th overall, 43 spots before Granderson. However, Sizmore’s B-Rank of 32 pegs his value just eight spots ahead of Granderson. This means you can pass on Sizemore early, wait until the fourth or fifth round for Granderson, and still receive similar production.
With the expected increase in home-park influenced power, potential BABIP regression, and being in the middle of his perceived physical prime, Granderson’s 2010 season projects to be his best yet. Throw in Granderson’s average of nearly 20 stolen bases a year since ’07 and his impressive blogging skills and you have a must-get player. Draft the man.
For more information on Curtis Granderson and hundreds of other players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.