Fantasy baseball April overreaction
MAY 01, 2014 4:00p ET
This is it fantasy baseballers: We’re officially in that dark zone between, don’t-panic time and do-panic time. Even the most experienced owner can succumb to premature reactions. So what better time than now for some ridiculously early reactions?
Jose Abreu is fantasy baseball’s best hitter
There’s nothing glaringly obvious signaling Abreu’s monster start is a mirage. He swings at a lot of pitches out of the zone (37.3 percent), but not an alarming amount. His 35.7 HR/FB is high, but not completely absurd. Chris Davis mashed 29.6 percent of his fly balls over the fence last season for some reference.
Pitchers will change their plan of attack, so there is some sort of an adjustment period coming. However, he looks like a fairly safe bet on mid-30’s power with the upside for more.
Yu Darvish has been great, as usual
Despite that 2.59 ERA, Darvish doesn’t seem quite right this season. His swinging strike rate and contact rates are the worst of his career by large margins. The sparkling ERA is mostly a product of an unsustainable 0.29 HR/9 rate. He’s currently sporting a K/9 of 9.48, which would make April only the second month of his career he’s posted a rate of 10.0 or worse (that also shows just how awesome he’s been).
The good news is that his velocity is right where it should be. It’s possible he’s playing through an injury, or just going through a low-K phase. This is just a faint red flag and suggestion to consider selling if you have someone who wants to buy high thanks to the fantastic ERA.
Dee Gordon is prime Ichiro Suzuki
Scouts/Laptop scouts love to rake Gordon’s offensive ability over the coals. Despite the negative buzz, this is the fourth straight year that he’s made a sizeable decrease in swinging at pitches outside the zone. He is also sporting a career-high contact rate. He’s not likely to keep batting well over .300, but he is likely to be a huge asset in steals. This hot start isn’t a complete mirage.
Scott Kazmir has pinpoint control
Even in his heyday, Kazmir was never really a master of control. However, after taking essentially two seasons off of major-league baseball (he pitched 1.2 innings in 2011 and 2012 combined), he’s a completely different pitcher. Kazmir’s 2.68 BB/9 last season was a career best to that point, and his 1.64 mark this year is downright superb. It’s tough to tell if the improvement is real or not. Kazmir is pitching in the zone much more than ever before (55.4 percent of his pitches), yet he’s getting a first strike at a slightly below-career average rate.
Even if his control regresses, Kazmir has the skills and friendly home park to be a big-time fantasy asset as long as he’s healthy and pitching.
Melky Cabrera is on his way to a 20-20 season
Other than a career-high strikeout rate and a career-low walk rate, everything seems rosy thanks to a .382 BABIP that’s 70 points higher than his career mark. Cabrera remains what he has always been: Pedestrian. He’s helpful in average and might not hurt you anywhere else thanks to his rounded production, but this isn’t a guy who’s likely to suddenly pop out a 20-20 season.
Will Venable was a waste of a draft pick
It’s worth noting that outside of an eight-homer August, Venable was essentially the same low-power guy in 2013 he’s always been. The problem is that right now, he’s bring absolutely nothing else to the table to provide value while his power is lacking. And it’s not about bad luck. Venable is putting up career-worst rates in first-strike percentage, swinging strike, and contact rate. His .306 BABIP is right about on his career mark.
Venable is a mess right now. If you have the luxury of cutting ties in shallower leagues I’d recommend doing so until he starts hitting again.
George Springer is not the Next Big Thing
He may very well not be great, but please don’t make that assumption based on a couple weeks of performance. Springer has predictably struck out a ton (31.6 percent of his plate appearances). One good sign is that he’s only hacking away at 23.7 percent of the pitches he’s seen out of the zone. The problem is that when he’s swinging, he’s missing, as evidenced by his 16.5 percent swinging strike rate.
Average will be a problem until he’s able to make more contact. That said, Springer could be in line for 20-20 production this season thanks to his early call up.
Jedd Gyorko is broken
Gyorko’s .197 BABIP will improve and it’s also helpful to remember that he was sitting on zero home runs and eight RBI at the end of April last year before going on a six-HR, 20-RBI binge in May, so don’t give up hope.
A few quick buy lows:
CC Sabathia: His 5.13 K/BB is the best he’s posted since 2007. He’s lost even more velocity this season but since he’s still getting a lot of swinging strikes, he still should be better than this.
Pedro Alvarez: His plate discipline numbers are all improved from last season. It looks like his .161 BABIP (.291 career) is the main thing holding him back.
Homer Bailey: He’s giving up home runs on a much higher rate of fly balls than he has through his career. Outside of that and a .416 BABIP, his other numbers look normal.
A few quick sell highs:
Shelby Miller: Miller’s struggles from last season have carried over. His 5.72 BB/9 is terrible.
Justin Upton: This one’s tricky since he’s still young and immensely talented, but we’ve seen a scorching April before. His strikeout rate has gone from 19.3 in 2012, to 25 in 2013 to 31.7 this season. His swinging strike rate has followed suit.
Johnny Cueto: He has skills, but he does not have the ability to maintain a .165 BABIP or 98.7 strand rate.
Aaron Harang: Another obvious one, but it doesn’t hurt to say it: Harang will not go through the season allowing home runs on zero percent of fly balls as he currently is.