Posted on: June 4, 2012 5:32 pm
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Time for a Fantasy Gold(schmidt) Rush

First base is one of the deepest positions in Fantasy, but we are always on the lookout for the next great option at the position. Two of the best Fantasy options lately at first base have been the Mariners' Justin Smoak and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

Smoak (owned 62 percent of leagues) is batting .325 with seven homers, 19 RBI, .378 OBP, .602 slugging percentage and .980 OPS in his last 21 games, while Goldschmidt (owned 61 percent) is batting .353 with five homers, seven doubles, eight RBI, .429 OBP, .676 slugging percentage and 1.105 OPS in his last 19 games. 

Now the question beckons: Which player is worth the flier in Fantasy? After further evaluation, if I had to use one roster spot on either player, then I'm going with Goldschmidt.

My reservations about Smoak is that this hot streak could be just a market correction for him after his numbers were so bad earlier in the season. It's true, he is on track for a career-high in homers. However, his other numbers are pretty much on par with his career averages. His line after this hot streak is .238/.293/.409/.703. His career averages are .229/.312/.389/.701. 

Also, Smoak only seems comfortable batting fifth for Seattle. He is hitting .392 with six homers and 17 RBI batting fifth. He is hitting .250 or worse batting fourth, sixth and seventh, and has a combined four homers and 12 RBI in those spots. Not to forget that Smoak still can't hit lefties. He is batting .214 with one homer and five RBI against lefties this year.

There seems to be more upside with Goldschmidt, who has just 94 MLB games under his belt. It's true that the right-handed hitter Goldschmidt is much better against lefties (.340 AVG), but his splits aren't as drastic as Smoak's. Goldschmidt is batting .245 with three homers, six doubles and 13 RBI against righties. Also, Goldschmidt seems more comfortable moving around the lineup. It's true that he also has his best numbers batting fifth (.328 AVG) as well, but Goldschmidt is also hitting .263 batting seventh and .280 batting sixth. 

I would think Fantasy owners have better luck striking Gold(schmidt) with Arizona's burgeoning first baseman.
Posted on: May 21, 2012 3:34 pm
 

Escobar season has returned

Sorry if you don't like me borrowing a cheesy rap line from Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Sean Combs or whatever he calls himself these days for my headline, but it's a perfect transition into talking about Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.

While I remain hesitant on backing Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez in Fantasy, I'm a fan of Escobar as a low-end starter in mixed leagues.

Since last season, Royals manager Ned Yost has preached patience with Escobar, who hit just .235 in his first full season in the majors in 2010 with Milwaukee and was inconsistent on his way to hitting .254 in his first full year with the Royals in 2011. Yost kept pointing to Escobar's youth and the fact he was still growing into his 6-1 frame. But we all wanted immediate results after Escobar blossomed as a prospect in the minors. 

Well, at least the Royals' patience is finally paying off. Escobar is off to a productive start in 2012 and finally might be looking at a breakout season in the majors.

Some of Escobar's most encouraging numbers are his 24.3 percent line-drive rate, 54.8 percent ground-ball rate, .296 average and .345 BABIP. Escobar's BABIP hasn't been that high in the majors since he hit .304 with a .346 BABIP in 38 games for the Brewers in 2009.

Escobar's OBP (.338), slugging percentage (.415) and OPS (.753) are weak, but he is not a power hitter and he wasn't an OBP guy in the minors either. That's not his game.

Escobar is a contact hitter that can find the gaps and score runs. And if we are lucky with his continued development as a hitter, then he might flash some of that speed we saw from him in the minors. Escobar had at least 20 stolen bases in each of his six seasons in the minors, totaling 76 in his final two years.

Escobar is currently the 14th highest scoring Fantasy shortstop. That's pretty much on par with what to expect. He likely will never reach elite status unless he turns into the base stealer he was in the minors, but he's worth using as a low-end starter in deep mixed leagues.
Posted on: May 21, 2012 12:37 pm
 

S-Rod becoming A-Rod type hitter?

I applaud Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez for his recent play. Not only has he become a defensive gem at third base in the wake of Evan Longoria's injury, but S-Rod is contributing offensively as well. 

He has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games, producing a .322 average, .542 slugging percentage, .897 OPS, three homers, four doubles, eight RBI and nine runs in that span. 

He's finally looking like the hitter he was in the minors. Rodriguez had a career .501 slugging percentage in the minors, producing a .620 slugging percentage and 1.016 OPS in 175 Triple-A games. 

But is it time to buy into S-Rod? Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that this isn't just a market correction to get Rodriguez's numbers back to where they have been.

Before his recent hot streak, Rodriguez was batting .182 with a .263 OBP, .227 slugging percentage and .490 OPS in his first 22 games. After his latest outburst, Rodriguez's numbers are .248/.304/.376/.680. His career numbers are .231/.307/.368/.675. You see my hesitation? 

It's true that S-Rod is entering the prime of his career. It might be that he has finally figured it out now this is the third straight season he has received regular at-bats at the MLB level. But I'm not ready to wholeheartedly back S-Rod for Fantasy owners without a few more weeks of evaluation.

If you can afford a bench spot in a deep league, then absolutely stash and probably start S-Rod while he's on a roll. But if you have a short bench and are in a shallow league, then I would still take a wait-and-see approach. 
Posted on: May 16, 2012 11:44 am
 

Swing, batter, batter, batter, swing

After a nice long vacation, I've returned to continue my blog and the first entry back will be about Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero.

After a banner year in 2011, Montero is off to a slow start in 2012, batting .267 with two homers in 33 games. The worst part is Montero's 36 strikeouts. He's never been that bad of a strikeout hitter, but it's at the root of why Montero is struggling to begin the year. His contact rate is poor.

Montero is swinging and missing at a career-worst 13.9 percent and making contact at 69.6 percent, which is also a career-low. That's significant because Montero has a .366 BABIP, so when he is making contact, then it's been good news for the 28-year-old catcher.

Everyone is expecting a big year from Montero as he's in the final season of his contract. Usually players in walk years have big seasons.

I advised Fantasy owners to search for an unhappy Montero owner and consider trading for Montero. It seems his numbers should rise once he starts making more contact and his average is already on the upswing in May. He's batting .280 this month after hitting .257 in April.
Posted on: May 2, 2012 11:21 am
 

Un-Aliva-ble

After a breakout season in 2011, Alex Avila was one of the most drafted catchers in Fantasy Baseball. Unfortunately, Avila didn't produce up to standards in April. However, despite his struggles, Avila still is a top 10 Fantasy catcher and owners shouldn't cut bait with him. In fact, he's probably going tp pay major dividends for you as the season progresses.

A closer look at Avila's numbers and you will see he's been a bit unlucky through the first month of the season. Entering play Wednesday, Avila owns a .194 BABIP through 18 games. He had a .366 BABIP last season, which is above the norm, but Avila is a very good line-drive hitter. His line-drive percent through 18 games is 27.3 and his flyball rate is just 27.3 percent. Avila's career average for flyball rate is 37.9 percent. If Avila keeps hitting line-drives at his current pace, then his luck should change.  

Also, Avila hasn't been very aggressive at the plate through the first month of the season. He's swinging at just 36.2 percent of the pitches he sees, and making contact with just 79.5 percent of the pitches in the strike zone and 71.3 percent of the pitches he offers at. 

Avila's numbers are below the norm right now in many critical categories, which is why I feel he's headed for an eventual market correction for the better. I advise Fantasy owners to stick with Avila and he's an excellent buy-low candidate if you can find a frustrated Avila owner. 
Posted on: April 30, 2012 11:53 am
 

Market is open for correction

Two of the biggest surprises of the first month of the season have been Diamondbacks pitcher Joe Saunders and Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse. Undrafted in many Fantasy formats, Saunders and Lohse are both top 20 Fantasy pitchers in both Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats. Lohse is even second behind Jake Peavy in both formats heading into Week 5 (April 30-May 6).

But the question every Fantasy owner is asking: Will it last?

And while it certainly doesn't seem like I'm going out on a limb here by saying no because both pitchers have spotty track records. The numbers show both pitchers have been very lucky early on.

Saunders has a .214 BABIP and Lohse is even better at .208. That is well below the norm, which is .290-.300. If they were closer to that median, then it would be worth getting excited over. Unfortunately, it looks as though both players will be headed for market corrections, so you can either ride the hot streaks until they cool off or sell high and grab a buy-low candidate that hasn't hit their stride yet.

It's also worth pointing out tha Saunders' opponents this year have been the Padres, Pirates, Braves and Marlins. San Diego, Pittsburgh and Miami have the three worst team batting averages in the NL.

Lohse has faced the the Marlins, Reds (twice), Pirates and Brewers. All of those teams are hitting .240 or worse, which ranks in the bottom seven in the NL.

Don't get me wrong. I feel Lohse and Saunders are both viable Fantasy arms, but as back-of-the-rotation options. Not the front-leading arms they have been through April.  
Posted on: April 23, 2012 1:40 pm
 

Alejandro, Alejandro, not Fernando

Finally, Fantasy owners are starting to understand the value White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza brings to the table. He's been one of the most added players in Fantasy this season and with good reason. But he's still unowned in 23 percent of Fantasy leagues, so if you still have a chance to add him, then don't miss out.

De Aza had trouble breaking into the majors with the Marlins, primarily because of injuries, but he's proven to be a nice find for the Chicago. Since 2010, he's batting .311 with a .375 OBP, .508 slugging percentage and .883 OPS in 87 games for Chicago. He also has 16 stolen bases.

De Aza has three homers in 15 games to start the 2012 season. While his home run surge will likely slow down that doesn't mean De Aza still can't help Fantasy owners. He had a .309 average, .372 OBP, .479 slugging percentage and .851 OPS in 265 games at the Triple-A level. That right there shows De Aza can hit higher level pitching.  
Posted on: April 23, 2012 11:26 am
 

The Chronicles of Reddick

I've warmed up to the idea of recommending A's outfielder Josh Reddick to Fantasy owners. The only caveat is that you are going to have to be committed to rotating him in and out of your lineup because he's a streaky hitter. But I still feel he has enough upside to warrant a roster spot.

Reddick heads into Week 4 (April 23-29) batting .333 (10 for 30) with a .355 OBP, .567 slugging percentage and .922 OPS in his last seven games. He also has one homer, two RBI and four doubles in that span. Before his hot streak, Reddick was batting just .206 with one homer and one RBI in his first nine games.

People might not realize, but Reddick was considered a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2010. He had a .500 slugging percentage and .832 OPS in 466 minor-league games, so you can see the potential is there. He did slug 23 homers in 2008.

The biggest concern with Reddick is Oakland's home ballpark, which favors pitchers. Reddick is batting .214 at home, as opposed to .310 on the road in the early going.

However, I feel those home numbers have the chance to really improve. Reddick is a line-drive hitter (21.6 percent since 2009) and Oakland's home park is an above average stadium for line-drive hitters. It might just be Reddick needs to find his comfort zone in Oakland before he really starts to heat up.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com