Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
      
Fantasy Football Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Gameday Inactives
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Red Zone Stats
Teams
Schedules
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Teams
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2012 Draft Prep: Buyer beware with these bats

  •  

Part of the fun of Fantasy is when you "discover" a sleeper or a breakout player who gives you a performance far beyond your expectations.

If you drafted Corey Hart two seasons ago when he was coming off yet another disappointing year, you were tickled to find that you had a top 20 outfielder on your hands. You may have had a similar feeling if you drafted Nick Swisher, who unexpectedly gained value, particularly in Rotisserie leagues. Then you may have been tempted to keep or target Hart or Swisher again in 2011, but only Hart managed to maintain his productivity, at least on a per-game basis.

Follow us, Like us, Join us
Want more? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and Google+ and follow us on Twitter for additional insight while interacting with a community geared toward Fantasy Baseball.

As gratifying as it is to nab players who outperform their draft position, it is equally agonizing to pin your hopes on someone who turns out to be a bust. In the case of Swisher, some deep digging through his stats would have revealed a sign that he was about to revert to his previous level. Swisher's 2010 surge had its roots in a .288 batting average that was 26 points above his previous career best. An unusually-high .276 average on grounders is what sent Swisher's overall batting average into uncharted territory, and there was little reason to think he could repeat it. By contrast, Hart improved by raising his home run per flyball ratio to a level just a bit higher than what he had established earlier in his career.

Swisher's example points to a way that we can identify busts and disappointments, as well as legitimate breakouts, more reliably, particularly for hitters. First, you have to ask if a player who unexpectedly surges in a particular skill area has ever approached that level before, even in the minor leagues. Then, you also have to see if the area in which the player improved is one that is often subject to random fluctuations. Swisher's heightened performance two years ago was based on an increase in his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is one of the components of a hitter's production that is most subject to random change. The variability of BABIP, along with Swisher's lack of precedent for a high average, makes it easier to dismiss his 2010 accomplishments. On the other hand, home run and strikeout rates are much more stable, so when a player improves in one of these areas, especially when the change is long-term and incremental, the result is much easier to trust. Also, if a player has steadily declining power and contact skills, those signs of doom should be taken seriously.

With draft and auction season upon us, now is as good a time as any to put this method to work. We will take a look at eight hitters who, because of their power, strikeout and BABIP trends, appear to be headed for a fall this season. We will also zero in on another four hitters who could cause distress for owners as a result of their stolen base production. (If you aren't in the mood for doom and gloom, don't worry. We'll focus on some surgers, too, but in an upcoming column.)

Hitters with suspect power trends

Adam Lind, 1B, Blue Jays: Just three seasons ago, Lind looked like a budding power source, clouting 35 homers along with 46 doubles. Over the last two years, Lind has become more strikeout prone, and when he does make contact, he's been making more flyball outs. Last season's rebound in home run per flyball rate (HR/FB) -- from 12 to 17 percent -- could be construed as a return towards his '09 power peak. However, ESPN's Hit Tracker categorizes half of Lind's 2011 homers as having just barely enough height and distance to make it out of the park, as compared to 23 percent of his 2009 dingers. Meanwhile, his uptick in flyouts and strikeouts has diminished his doubles totals to 32 and 16 over the last two seasons. Lind has developed a hacking, impatient approach that has not served him well. Until he changes it, don't bank on him reliving his Fantasy glory from '09.

Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Sure, it's obvious to tag Howard as a bust, if for no other reason than the uncertainty around the length of his recovery from Achilles' surgery. It's also no secret that he is no longer the home run threat that he once was, but for how much longer can we count on 30 taters a season? Perhaps his last 30-homer year is already behind him. Howard's HR/FB made a slight U-turn upwards last season, but that was merely a bump after a four-year free fall. The 32-year-old has fallen to the middle rounds in early mocks, and owners should consider passing him over in favor of other options, like Freddie Freeman and Michael Cuddyer, due to the risks implied by his power trends.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians: As mentioned above, increases in HR/FB rates are worth taking seriously, but Cabrera's was so outsized that it raises suspicion. His 12 percent rate was nearly double his previous best, and it was built on a tremendous power surge over the season's first two months. Cabrera did hit 11 of his 25 home runs after the All-Star break, but he had to jack up his flyball rate to maintain his earlier pace. An increased second-half K-rate also suggests that Cabrera got homer happy, and maybe he can maintain a 20-plus homer pace into 2012. However, if he does, he will sacrifice his batting average in the process, so one way or another, Cabrera's value should shrink this year.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles: After a couple of down seasons, including one in Minnesota's power-deprived Target Field, Hardy rediscovered his home run thump from earlier years in his first go-around as an Oriole. There was nothing fishy about the 14 percent home run per flyball rate that Hardy posted last year, as that was in line with rates from his time with the Brewers. It was the number of flyballs he lofted that looked out of place. After a consistent pattern of flyball rates in the mid-30s, Hardy hit flies on 44 percent of his hit balls in 2011. Had he been building up to that level, we could trust it, but it is too out of character for us to expect a repeat. Hardy looks like a serious regression candidate and since homers are his main contribution in Fantasy, a dropoff to a total in the low 20s will knock him off the top 12 list for shortstops.

Hitters with suspect BABIP trends

Hunter Pence, OF, Phillies: This won't be the first time that I've tried to steer Fantasy owners away from overpaying for Pence, but it's a message that bears repeating at least through opening day, if not beyond. Pence has probably been a little more popular than his numbers would merit over the last few years, as he has been a consistent, reliable source of mid-range power, run and steals production. That's understandable, but last season's .314 batting average and 97 RBI have brought even more admirers. Those marks were buoyed by an increased line drive rate, which contributed to a .365 BABIP. Both line drive and BABIP rates are highly variable and could easily regress. Pence's strikeout rate, which is a much better indicator of future changes in batting average, actually rose slightly last season. Pence could decline this season, much like Swisher did last year, and it's a big risk to trust him as a No. 1 outfielder. Draft him for your No. 2 slot instead.

Alex Gordon, OF, Royals: Each of the starters from last season's Royals outfield is due for a dropoff this year, but none is likely to have a greater impact in Fantasy than Gordon's. Perhaps because he has the pedigree of a second-overall pick in the amateur draft, owners in early mock drafts have much higher expectations for Gordon than either Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur. Gordon's potential for a 20-20 season is legitimate, but last season's .303 average was both uncharacteristic and apparently unsupported. Gordon did reduce his strikeout rate by three percentage points, but the improvement in batting average rested on his .361 BABIP. A rate that high is usually backed up by highly favorable line drive and popup rates, but Gordon had neither going for him. With his batting average and run production stats likely headed for deflation, Gordon could be a huge letdown for those owners reaching for him in the first five rounds. He is actually one of the less enticing options for the No. 2 outfield slot in mixed leagues.

Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals: Through his first two seasons, Jay looks like a steady .300 hitter with some decent on-base and run-scoring potential. However, his minor league batting average history is a little spottier, and a scan of his BABIP rates illustrates why. Jay has enough speed to post a high ground ball batting average, but he's not enough of a line drive hitter to post a BABIP over .340 on a regular basis, yet that is what he has done so far as a Cardinal. In his one full season in Triple-A, Jay's BABIP was just .297 and his highest rate in Double-A was .317. He could remain a .300 hitter with more frequent contact, but until he makes that leap, Jay's production in what could be his first season as a regular is likely to sag. Taking him in most mixed league formats is likely a reach.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: At the age of 26, Phillips had it all going. He had a 30-30 season with 90-plus RBI and runs, and he was an elite among second basemen. His prime years in terms of age have been marked by decline, as first his power receded, and then he ceased to be a stolen base threat. Last season, though, Phillips enjoyed a minor rebound due to his first-ever .300 batting average. He has always had good contact skills, so it may be surprising that he had never hit .300 or higher before, but a lack of line drive power has typically kept his averages mired in the .270s. Phillips finally got his line drive rate above league average last year with a 21 percent mark. Like most hitters, Phillips' rate has fluctuated, but he normally hovers in the 16 to 18 percent range. Even though his high average was supported by his batted ball profile, the longer-term track record suggests that Phillips will be back to hitting below .280 again. Given his other declining trends, it would be a mistake to treat Phillips like the top five option at second base that he was in 2011.

Hitters at risk of losing steals

Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: As a rookie in 2009, Fowler made good on his potential to steal bases by nabbing 27 bags in 135 games. Fantasy owners were probably expecting Fowler to take a step or two forward from there, but despite the other improvements he has made, he has gone backwards as a source of steals. Not only has Fowler managed to steal only 25 bases over the last two years combined, but he has been thrown out 17 times. That is a horrible success rate, and it shouldn't be surprising if manager Jim Tracy pulls the plug on Fowler's 20-plus attempts this season. Because of his burgeoning doubles and triples power, Fowler is a solid late-round option in Head-to-Head formats, but without the potential for 20-plus steals, he is barely viable in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues.

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants: Pagan is a strong candidate for a BABIP bounce-back, and for that reason, I had been touting him as a sleeper this year. However, a realization has made me temper my enthusiasm. Pagan had the luxury of playing for Jerry Manuel and Terry Collins with the Mets, and both managers like to run. Now with the Giants, he may not get 40-plus steal opportunities under Bruce Bochy. Granted, Bochy's reticence to go for the stolen base may have something to do with his personnel, but when he has had threats like Andres Torres and Eugenio Velez, he allowed them a relatively modest number of opportunties. With better health and a higher batting average, you might think that Pagan is due for a bonanza of stolen base chances, but with a new manager making the calls, a 30-steal season might be his ceiling.

Endy Chavez, OF, Orioles: Chavez hasn't had a 30-steal season since 2004 with the Expos, but then again, he hasn't had a chance for regular playing time since then. That could change in 2012, as he is in the running to be the Orioles' everyday left fielder. Even as a part-timer, though, Chavez has a chance to help AL-only owners with steals, but only if he has a manager who likes to run. Buck Showalter, unfortunately, is not that manager. With regular playing time, Chavez could still be a decent low-end pick-up in AL-only leagues, but he may not provide enough steals to compensate for his lack of thump.

Jason Bartlett, SS, Padres: After back-to-back seasons with poor power production and low batting averages, owners in standard mixed leagues have learned to lay off Bartlett. However, he did rank fifth among NL shortstops last year with 23 stolen bases, and that could make Bartlett look appealing in NL-only leagues, at least as a mid-round option. Bear in mind, though, that Bartlett has succeeded on only 68 percent of his steal attempts over the last two years, so his opportunities could start to dry up. Better to save him as a last-ditch option in the late rounds of your NL-only drafts.

Glossary
xFIP: Also known as Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. It is an estimate of what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based on factors that a pitcher can control, such as strikeouts, walks and flyballs. xFIP is a derivative of FIP, which was developed by Tom Tango.
Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
GO/AO -- Ground out-fly out ratio
GB/FB -- Ground ball-fly ball ratio
Batting Average per Balls in Play (BABIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Want an edge in your draft? Download the Fantasy Draft Kit App.

  •  
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Cole Hamels struggles through five-and-fly victory
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels didn't stick around long enough Wednesday to earn his ninth consecutive quality start, but he did last long enough to raise his record to 8-6.

Hamels took advantage of a three-run fourth inning that provided a 4-3 lead and rode a five-and-fly to victory. He allowed three runs on nine hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Among his mistakes was slammed over the fence in the second inning by Kendrys Morales.

The veteran is set to start again Tuesday against Washington.


Yadier Molina takes some hacks
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was able to take some light swings Wednesday, according to CBSSports Radio.

Molina is working his way back from a thumb injury. He remains ahead of schedule and could return sooner than expected. Molina hit .287/.341/.409 over 303 at-bats. 


James Paxton fields, pitches way to loss to Phillies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:19 pm ET) Mariners rookie James Paxton was victimized by his own goof in the field and took his first loss in 10 career starts Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Paxton surrendered four runs - but just one earned - in four innings. He gave up seven runs, walked one, fanned five and threw 88 pitches. He blew a 3-1 lead in the fourth by giving up three unearned runs, courtesy of his own throwing error, a passed ball and two soft singles.

The left-hander will seek to rebound Monday against Texas.


Jarrod Saltalamacchia blasts off in lone at-bat Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia maximized his production Wednesday against the Rangers. He slugged a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning.

Saltalamacchia, who has six hits in his last 13 at-bats, owns a .397 slugging percentage on the season, which is significantly worse than what he achieved in each of the last three seasons with Boston.


Jake McGee unavailable Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) Rays reliever Jake McGee is unavailable Wednesday after throwing 35 pitches Tuesday.

Manager Joe Maddon said the rest of the bullpen is good to go, but did not say who would receive a save chance with McGee out. 


Cardinals will flip Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:08 pm ET) The Cardinals will flip Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright following Thursday's off day, according to MLB.com.

Miller was set to start Friday, but will be moved to Saturday. Wainwright will now pitch Friday instead of Saturday. 


Marcell Ozuna continues heating up with three-hit game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna has gone from cold to hot. He slammed three hits against visiting Texas on Wednesday to make him 9 for 23 in the last five games after a 0-for-15 slide.

Ozuna homered for the second straight game, a 398-foot shot to left in the ninth inning. He had already doubled and scored in the fourth and singled. He has a stat line .261/.316/.440 stat line on the year with 17 home runs and 63 RBI.


Shae Simmons shut down for a few days
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:01 pm ET) Braves reliever Shae Simmons has been shut down for a few days, according to MLB.com.

Simmons is dealing with shoulder soreness, and will need some time before he throws again. Simmons has a 2.91 ERA over 21 2/3 innings.


Alex Rios ends slumber at the plate with single, double
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Alex Rios is still waiting for his first home run since July 6, but the Rangers outfielder did emerge from a long slump Wednesday in Miami.

Rios managed his first multi-hit game since July 29 with a single and run in the first inning and two-run double in the second. He had been on a 6-for-50 slide.


Neftali Feliz survives two blasts to nail down Wednesday win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:51 pm ET) Rangers closer Neftali Feliz performed about as poorly as possible and still snag a save Wednesday in Miami.

Feliz entered with a three-run lead. Two home runs by Marcell Ozuna and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and one walk later, he was on the verge of blowing it. But he struck out Donovan Solano to secure his fifth save.


 
 
 
Rankings