Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Player Musings and Pickups For Week Five

It's week five in Fantasy Baseball, and April is finally over.  With a full month in the books, it's time to reevaluate some of the things we thought were true at the beginning of the year.  First, I'm going to go back to draft day for a minute and go over the first few rounds for players who have been underperforming so far and let you know whether or not it's time to panic.  Then I'm going to go through some mid level players, and let you know who to cut.

Slumping Stud Or Developing Bust?
I could tell you all about how good guys like Matt Kemp are playing, but that's just going to make you jealous that you don't own them.  Instead, I'm going to take a look at the top picks who you have no reason to be jealous of and decide whether or not these players are going to turn it around.

Hanley Ramirez - Average Draft Position (ADP) 2.5 - Positional Ranking (PRK) 24 - A glance at the stats is obviously going to worry you.  Hanley's just three of seven on steal attempts and has yet to hit a home run.  He's on pace to be less than half the player the projections said he would be at the beginning of the year, on pace to only deliver half the RBIs, runs and steals and not hit a home run.  However, Hanley was the consensus number two pick in drafts because he's averaged 24.8 home runs a year and 39.2 steals a year over his five full years in the majors.  He's fixed his swing some in batting practice during last week, working on getting his front foot down and eliminating a hitch from his swing, and looked to be turning it around some at the plate.  If the stats still look like this in June you can start to worry, but knock off a few homers from his projection and you'll be at about where Hanley will be at the end of the year.  He'll still end the year as the second best short stop after Troy Tulowitzki.  He's not slumping hard enough for you to be able to trade for him cheaply and he's still Hanley and not to be traded...Hold him here.

Carl Crawford - ADP 4.2 - PRK 99 - I talked about Crawford in my column last week, but will reiterate here.  There is nothing wrong with Crawford physically that suggests any reason for his struggles right now at the plate.  It seems to be all a mental thing with Crawford.  He is a player who puts a lot of pressure on himself, and between his new contract and the Boston media, that pressure has increased dramatically since last year with the Rays.  He looked to be coming out of the slump last week before a pair of 0 for 4's against the Orioles brought him back to earth.  He'll bust out of the slump soon, and when he does he'll start swiping more bases and bringing his average back up.  If the Crawford owner is your league is sick of him hurting his average and is willing to sell him low, buy him up now and enjoy the steals later in the year.

Carlos Gonzalez - ADP 10.6 - PRK 53 - CarGo seems to be the slow starter that everyone wants to pin the bust tag on, but he's one of the guys who has started slow that I actually have the most confidence in.  First off, he has an excuse because he had the flu, which he said was bothering him for most of April.  Besides that though, He has been getting on base and striking out both right around his regular rates and his BABIP is low for him, but good enough that his average should be higher.  His biggest problem is he is currently just 1 for 21 against left handed pitching for a 0.48 average, down from his career .269 mark.  He is a decent lefty vs lefty hitter, so I expect that number to come back up and bring his average back up with it. Unlike the rest of these guys on the list, he has still been producing solid numbers of runs and RBIs for your team and he gets to play at the hitter's paradise that is Coors Field.  I wasn't drafting him in the first round so I don't own him, but with the bust tag being thrown around by "mainstream" fantasy, I'm currently trying to trade for him in all of my leagues because he is going to turn it around.

Dan Uggla - ADP 34.4 - PRK 24 - Uggla was drafted as the third overall second baseman taken, but he hasn't played like it so far.  The homers have been there, but his horrible average his dragging down the rest of his numbers.  However, like I said last week, there is no reason to be worrying about Uggla here.  He's a career .238 hitter in March/April, so .192 isn't that far off of his regular Aprils.  It's now officially May where he's a career .294 hitter, which is his best month and he hit safely in five of the last six games in April.  If you own him hang on to him, and if you want him now is the time to go and get him before he even that batting average out.

Derek Jeter - ADP 56 - PRK 28 - Jeter has been bad to start off the year, and this has been a continuation of how bad he was last year.  His ground ball numbers have continued to trend up from last year, and his power seems to be gone completely.  Instead of the projected .285 average and 11 home runs it's looking like he would be lucky to make a .270 average on the year and get to even five home runs the way he's been hitting the ball.  Because of how shallow short stop is and how many runs he's set to score as long as he's near the top of the Yankee lineup, he's still a guy who must be owned, but I would be trying to move him for anything close to value because of his name.  If he gets moved down in the order though and ends up batting eighth for some extended period of time, then he's not going to be scoring any runs and will actually be cuttable from your roster in ten-team mixed leagues.

Alex Rios - ADP 54.3 - PRK 108 - Carl Crawford has been outright awful so far this year...And Rios has been worse than him in every category save runs.  However, Rios has had some outright awful luck to start the year.  His BABIP is .188, down .126 from his career .314 number.  Meanwhile, his plate discipline has improved from last year.  His walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down.  He's a guy who is actually available in some leagues, even though he has no business being available.  With Rios' walks up and strikeouts down, his numbers should be trending even better than last year right now, but his horribly unlucky BABIP is dragging him down.  Make the Rios owner an offer he can't refuse, which right now would be pretty much anyone for him.  Get Rios on your team.

Chris Carpenter - ADP 47.4 - PRK 78 - Carpenter makes this list simply to make sure no one attempts to sell low on him.  Yes, hes just the 78th best starting pitcher through the first month of the year, but that is simply because he hasn't lucked into picking up a win yet.  His ERA is a solid 3.89 and his WHIP is just 1.22 and he has 29 strikeouts.  The only stat of Carpenter's that doesn't look good is his 0-2 record, and that is holding down his value right now.  He's a great buy low candidate for those of you out there who need starting pitching help, because the wins are going to show up for him as long as he's pitching for the Cardinals.

Space Wasters
This is a group of players who simply don't deserve to be on your team in ten-team mixed leagues.  Cut them, and then head down to the next section to find their replacements.

Geovany Soto - PRK 28 - 78% Ownership - This is less of a knock on Soto than it is a proclamation that catcher is extremely deep this year.  Soto has started off the year slow, and in ten team leagues there are just too many catchers available to keep holding on to Soto here.  Cut him knowing that whoever you pick up probably won't be a permanent solution, but Soto isn't a permanent solution either and is a poor short term solution.

Carlos Pena - PRK 42 - 45.8% Ownership - I have no idea what the 45.8% of people who own Pena are thinking.  I didn't draft him in any leagues after he batted under .200 last year.  There is no reason to believe the average is going to bounce back.  It's been trending downwards every year since his career year in 2007 and his BABIP is actually higher than it was last year.  He's not worth the roster spot, and I'm not starting him in even the deepest of leagues with that average weighing him down.

Pedro Alvarez - PRK 27 - 79.5% Ownership - Unless you are in a keeper league, there is no reason to be owning Pedro Alvarez right now.  He's obviously not playing well enough to deserve starting, and there are plenty of other options for your corner infield spot at third base alone before you even acknowledge the first basemen you could be starting there.  Cut Alvarez and get someone off the waiver wire who will give you more production right now.

Francisco Liriano - PRK 179 - 80.1% Ownership - Liriano has yet to have a good fantasy start so far this year.  Even in his one win against the Orioles, he only managed to pick up a pair of strikeouts.  His ERA is over 9.00 and his WHIP is almost 2.00.  Those numbers are huge stay aways.  Add that to the fact that the Twins have been talking about stretching Kevin Slowey out to take his spot in the rotation, and Liriano's ownership should be down in the 20's... Only spiking on start days.

The Pickup List
These are the players that you should be picking up in your league.  I'm not saying go out and drop anyone you need to to get these guys, but if you own anyone from the Space Waster section or have a roster spot, these are the best guys for you to grab.  As it is every week, this list will be light on starting pitching, as i rank the available spot starters every day.

Ian Kennedy - 77.8% Owned - PRK 36 - The one pitcher to make this list this week is also going to be leading it off.  Ian Kennedy is a player who was owned in basically every league after the draft, but had one bad game his third time out against the Cardinals and was dropped in a bunch of leagues.  His ownership percentage has shot back up since because of a complete game shut out against the Phillies, but he's still available in almost a quarter of leagues.  Grab him up if you can.

Alex Avila - 61.0% Owned - PRK 2 - It's real people.  Avila started off hot and has stayed hot here this year.  HIS BABIP is a little fluky lucky, so the average isn't going to stay above .300 like this, but the power is very real.    He hit five homers in a 29 game cup of coffee in the majors in 2009 before having an adjustment year last year as pitchers learned how to pitch him.  The power seems to have caught back up with the twnety-four year old this year though, and even if the BABIP drops, theres no reason to believe his power numbers aren't here to stay.

Johnny Damon - 84.0% Owned - PRK 17 - Johnny Damon is the best offensive player the Tampa Bay Rays have going right now, and Longoria is going to come back this week to help boost this offense.  Damon has been great when he has been playing so far this year.  Damon is a great clubhouse guy, so theres no reason he's going to be put out to pasture even when the young guys start coming up.  He's free to grab in 16% of leagues, so get him for your bench while you can.  I don't like relying on him as a starter, but he's a top bench player to have for when your outfielders have days off.

Brandon Beachy - 34.1% Owned - PRK 52 - Beachy's ownership is currently eligible for my spot starter column, but that is not going to last through his next start.  He turned another good start in on Saturday, this time out against the Cardinals and struck out five over seven innings with just three hits and a walk that translated to two runs after he was left in to face the first two batters in the eighth.  He has four solid pitches and great control.  3.47 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 36 Ks is going to get someone in your league to pick him up even if they've never heard of him.

Mike Aviles - 35.4% Owned - PRK 9 (2B) - I've been talking about Aviles since the preseason as a sleeper, and after a streak of bad BABIP luck put him on the bench, he has hit his way back into playing time.  It's just Wilson Betemit infront of him right now at third and he plays multiple infield spots as needed.  Aviles is eligible at second and third base which automatically makes him a valuable infield bench guy.  He has decent enough power potential for a second baseman, and since being unleashed late last year on the basepaths he has shown twenty plus steal potential and has five already on the year.  Scoop him up for the bench if you have a spot, and watch to start him when guys have the day off.

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