Fantasy Baseball 2012: 6 Productive Hitters Who May Fall Back to Earth Soon
The following slideshow details six prominent hitters who may experience sluggish second halves to the season.
To clarify, this listing isn't guaranteeing that any of the batters will completely fall off the map in August or September. Nor is it dismissing their chances of helping teams contend or claim fantasy pennants in 12-, 14- and 16-team leagues.
It's merely a subjective assertion that each player has already reached his respective fantasy ceiling in the majority of offensive categories (runs, steals, homers, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage and OPS).
It goes without saying: I hope to be dead wrong in all cases.
We'll feature the unsung and overvalued pitchers in future countdowns—perhaps next week.
Enjoy the show!
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
2012 Stats: 14 HR, 51 RBI, 44 Runs, 3 Steals, .350 BA
Skinny: This is a prime example of how readers shouldn't take things too literally here.
Without a doubt, Ruiz has earned all the monthly, midterm and All-Star kudos this season, doing his absolute best to keep the Phillies offense from falling off the rails entirely. And if the award was given out today, he'd easily claim fantasy MVP honors among backstops.
Look at the numbers, though: From 2006-11, Ruiz had only one season above .300 batting (.302 in 2010) and only one campaign of a .400 on-base percentage (again in 2010).
As great as he's been from April to July, it's hard to believe Ruiz will maintain a batting average above .340; it's also tough to assume he'll rank in the top five in homers, among catchers, at season's end.
Of course, this is the same Ruiz who's batting .341 with six homers since June 20; so there's a better-than-average chance that I'll look foolish here on Sept. 30.
Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
2012 Stats: 5 HR, 27 RBI, 50 Runs, 16 Steals, .290 BA
Skinny: This countdown pick is a tad obvious. Jose Altuve's descent from the elite players at his position began on June 19, when the Houston spark plug was hitting a robust .320 and coming off nine multiple-hit efforts in a 14-game span.
But Altuve still has four steals since July 4, making him a strong candidate for 30 thefts by season's end. He also has a decent shot at matching his minor league tally of 93 runs from two years ago.
To accomplish these feats, though, Altuve (.225 OBP since June 20) must first get on base. He must then endure the many holes in the Astros lineup.
As a capper, he'll have to reconcile the track record-based speculation of another last-place finish in the National League Central.
Put it all together, and regrettably, it spells more fantasy heartache for Altuve and his owners from this point forward.
Third Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 Stats: 25 HR, 62 RBI, 57 Runs, 9 Steals, .296 BA
Skinny: This selection isn't a referendum on Encarnacion's diverse talents. It's more of a consequence of the Blue Jays' tumble in the American League East standings (last place), due to a rash of pitching injuries that have now spilled over to third baseman Brett Lawrie. (His Wednesday fall at Yankee Stadium could have been a real disaster.)
With this drop in the standings and loss of offensive personnel, Encarnacion (1B/3B eligibility) and teammate Jose Bautista are bound to see fewer quality pitches sooner rather than later.
That speaks to the difficulty of this countdown.
Encarnacion (seven homers, .349 batting since June 20) is one of the great feel-good stories in fantasyland, and I would love to be wrong about this pick in late September. Especially since E-5 is just one long ball away from matching his seasonal record in homers (26 in 2008) and only four points removed from his first-ever campaign of .300 batting.
Outfield: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
2012 Stats: 8 HR, 26 RBI, 45 Runs, 11 Steals, .278 BA
Skinny: By design, I never penned any blog entries praising or decrying Bryce Harper's late addition to the National League All-Star team two weeks ago.
Simply put, life is too short to worry about meaningless "snubs" or the players who claimed spots ahead of (arguably) more deserving talents.
I will say this, though: Outside of Harper and Mike Trout (13 HR, 44 RBI, 65 runs, 30 steals, .353 BA) sharing rookie status and the inability to legally order a beer in an American sports bar, I don't really see how the two are inexorably connected.
Yes, Harper has been impressive on the whole; but statistically speaking, it's a night-and-day scenario when pitting his progress up against that of Trout, a viable candidate for American League MVP.
With that in mind, I cannot envision Harper boosting his seasonal batting average up to .290 again. Nor can I see him matching his 69-game totals in any of the other four categories for the next 73 games.
As teenagers go, Harper is obviously an intriguing long-term talent. But he still must encounter the ups and downs that 99.99 percent of MLB rookies are not immune to.
Outfield: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
2012 Stats: 22 HR, 50 RBI, 61 Runs, 11 Steals, .294 BA
Skinny: Since June 20, no Orioles hitter (with 10 or more games played in that period) posted a batting average above .300.
In that 30-day window, Adam Jones, the undisputed kingpin on a club that's seemingly in perpetual transition, couldn't even produce an on-base percentage north of .300.
Neither stat is a good indicator of Jones' short-term future. The same holds true for his deplorable monthly (2/16) and seasonal marks (18/65) with strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Bottom line: Jones will always have the talent to crush homers on consecutive nights (June 17/18), and he's a shoo-in to break personal highs in steals (12), homers (25), runs (83) and RBI (83). But his August-September standing as a high-end fantasy asset is still incumbent on the other Baltimore hitters not spiraling downward from this point forward.
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
2012 Stats: 28 HR, 78 RBI, 56 Runs, 6 Steals, .300 BA
Skinny: As stated many times in this blog, no major leaguer can match Josh Hamilton's capacity for carrying real-world and fantasy teams for seven, 15 or even 30 days.
When everything's working, Hamilton is easily the No. 1 asset in all of baseball.
But the numbers since his nine-homer, 18-RBI explosion from May 7-13 are a little disconcerting:
– A 102-point drop in batting average from May 13-July 18.
– Only 10 homers in his last 56 games—or 190 at-bats.
– An on-base percentage that has plunged from .455 to .370.
– And, for the first time all season, Hamilton is no longer a lock to finish with an OPS mark north of 1.000.
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