Want to know what's going to happen before it happens? Then The Fantasy Oracle is for you.
Two weeks of this season are in the books, and with a number of players off to outstanding starts, the question becomes, “How much longer will they continue to perform at this level?” Are they headed for a slump, or just a correction?
The same can be said for the players who are off to poor starts. Is this slump going to be season-long, or will they break out? If they do break out—the $64,000 question is when exactly they will break out.
Once again, thanks to you readers who e-mailed me player suggestions, and if there’s a player you’d like me to profile in a future column, shoot me an e-mail at wirkiowski@RotoExperts.com.
Tip of the week
Most companies take a “fire fast, hire slow” approach to managing their personnel. Your fantasy team however, is not a company. You should fire slowly, especially your proven veterans. You should also hire fast. What does that mean? It means go out and find those veterans off to crappy starts, and buy low.
This week, we’ve got another group of eight players to profile, so grab a cold beverage and prepare to be dazzled by the Oracle. As always, we’ll start our tour behind the plate and work our way around the diamond.
All stats are through April 15, 2009.
JOHN BUCK (C, KAN)
Despite his power output against the Indians last week, Buck is not a fan of the Cleveland Indians' ballpark, where he is a career .232 hitter in 95 at-bats through April 17. So with three games in Cleveland, then three at home against the Detroit Tigers, is Buck going to see a precipitous drop in his batting average? Let’s ask our good friend the Oracle.
The Oracle says… Against projected starters Aaron Laffey (SP, CLE), Cliff Lee (SP, CLE), Anthony Reyes (SP, CLE), and Nate Robertson (SP, DET) Buck is a combined 10-for-24, including three home runs against Lee. However, Buck has never faced Rick Porcello (RP, DET) or Armando Galarraga (SP, DET).
Also, be aware that Miguel Olivo (C, KAN) has caught both games pitched by Zack Greinke (SP, KAN) and one of the two games pitched by Gil Meche (SP, KAN), so adjust your lineup accordingly.
MIKE JACOBS (1B, KAN)
Jacobs, who had spent his entire career before this season in the National League, has never played at Progressive Field in Cleveland. However, he does have three hits, including two home runs, against the Tribe in eight at-bats. He has also never faced the Tigers, so this may be tough to predict for this week.
Hey Oracle, are you able to give us any insight into what we should expect from Jacobs in Week Three?
The Oracle says… Jacobs is a career .236 batter against left-handed pitchers and a career .269 batter against right-handed pitchers. During Week Three, the six projected starters are split right down the middle, as he’ll face three right-handers and three left-handers. So, the smart money would be to bench him against Laffey, Lee, and Robertson, and start him for the games that Reyes, Porcello, and Galarraga start.
EMILIO BONIFACIO (2B/3B, FLA)
Bonifacio is off to a scintillating start, but will it continue? Coming into 2009, Bonifacio had just 192 career at-bats, so there’s not a lot of history to analyze. For Week Three, the Marlins play three games in Pittsburgh, then go home to host the Phillies for three games. Bonifacio has never batted at PNC Park; however, he is stroking the ball to the tune of a .429 batting average at Dolphins Stadium.
So Oracle, with so little to go on, can you still tell us what to expect from Bonifacio in Week Three?
The Oracle says… Bonifacio has only faced one of the six projected starters for Week Three. That pitcher is Joe Blanton (SP, PHI), against whom he has two hits in seven at-bats. So if we take a look at his splits against right and left-handed pitchers, Bonifacio is a career .246 against left-handers, while he is hitting .282 against right-handers.
For Week Three, besides Blanton, the other right-handers he’ll face are Ross Ohlendorf (SP, PIT), Jeff Karstens (SP, PIT), and Chan Ho Park (SP, PHI). The two left-handers are Paul Maholm (SP, PIT), and Jamie Moyer (SP, PHI). You should consider benching Bonifacio against Maholm and Moyer and start him against all of the right-handers.
HANLEY RAMIREZ (SS, FLA)
Ramirez was likely the first player off the board in your draft this season, so it’s not shocking to see him off to a good start. But even the best players have slumps. Will Week Three prove to be too tough for Ramirez? In 40 career at-bats at PNC Park, Ramirez is hitting a cool .475, and has hit .309 for his career at home, so it certainly looks promising for Ramirez to have another big week. What say you, oh Oracle?
The Oracle says… Ramirez has the potential for a huge Week Three, as he has 21 hits in 51 at-bats, including seven home runs, against the foursome of Maholm, Park, Moyer, and Blanton. Ramirez has never faced Ohlendorf or Karstens, but both are right-handed, and Ramirez is a career .305 hitter against right-handers. Go ahead and lock in Ramirez at shortstop for all six games in Week Three.
ADRIAN BELTRE (3B, SEA)
Beltre has been a starter at third base since 1999 and has had one outstanding season among an ocean of merely adequate seasons. Will a poor start in 2009 signal an end to his adequateness, or is he merely going through a slump?
Before the Oracle tells us, I should point out that it doesn’t look good for Beltre this week. During Week Three, he faces the Rays at home, against whom he has a career .221 batting average in 122 at-bats. He then travels to Anaheim to face the Angels. In 418 career at-bats against LA, Beltre has a .244 batting average. So Oracle, are you bearish on Beltre this week as well?
The Oracle says… The only projected starter that Beltre has had any success against is Andy Sonnanstine (SP, TB). Beltre has four hits in nine at-bats, including two home runs. He hasn’t faced Jeff Niemann (SP, TB) or Shane Loux (SP, LAA). However, he has been pathetic against James Shields (SP, TB), Darren Oliver (SP, LAA), and Jered Weaver (SP, LAA), batting a combined 9-of-63 with one home run against that trio.
Start him against Sonnanstine, but bench him against Shields, Oliver, and Weaver, and take your chances with the other two pitchers.
FRANKLIN GUTIERREZ (OF, SEA)
Gutierrez was acquired by the Mariners in an offseason three-team blockbuster of a deal that saw former closer J.J. Putz (RP, SEA) go to the Mets. Unfortunately, Gutierrez hasn’t quite found his niche in Seattle, batting just .200 with one home run and six RBIs.
In Week Three, Gutierrez gets the Rays at Safeco, where against them he has a .267 batting average in 45 career at-bats. In Angel Stadium, Gutierrez sports a respectable .282 batting average in 39 career at-bats. So it looks like he could break out of his slump during Week Three—do you concur, Oracle?
The Oracle says… Actually, there’s not much to go on this week. Gutierrez has never faced Sonnanstine, Niemann, or Loux. Also, against Shields, Oliver, and Weaver, he is a combined 4-for-12. His greatest success has come against Weaver, against whom he has three hits in five at-bats. Start Gutierrez against Weaver, and like with Beltre, take your chances when he faces anyone else.
ROY OSWALT (SP, HOU)
Oswalt has been one of the steadiest fantasy pitchers over the past decade, but he has struggled coming out of the gate in 2009. Is Week Three the week he finds his form? The Astros are tinkering with their rotation, so his next start isn’t scheduled yet, but the Astros face the Dodgers and the Brewers at home in Week Three, so maybe a little home cooking will help. Oracle, will Oswalt be start-worthy in Week Three?
The Oracle says… In his career, Oswalt is 5-3 against the Dodgers with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. However, Oswalt has been even better against the Brewers, with a 13-8 career record with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP with 150 strikeouts in 165 innings. The bottom line is you should start Oswalt this week with complete confidence.
BRIAN FUENTES (RP, LAA)
Fuentes was signed in the offseason to replace Francisco Rodriguez (RP, NYM), who cashed in on his free agency status with a big contract with the Mets. Fuentes has been just plain awful in three appearances this season. He has blown one save and given up at least one run in two games. He has notched two saves, but that 12.00 ERA is not going to get it done.
Let’s get with the Oracle one last time this week and see if Fuentes can turn things around in Week Three.
The Oracle says… The Angels get six games at home this week, three against the Tigers and three against the Mariners. Fuentes has pitched limited innings against the Tigers and Mariners, combining to pitch nine innings exactly with a 3.00 ERA and 13 strikeouts. He has had two save opportunities against the Tigers, converting one, and has never faced the Mariners in a save situation.
It looks good to start Fuentes this week, but hedge your bets. Pick up Scot Shields (RP, LAA) and stash him on your bench.
When Matt isn’t crunching numbers for The Fantasy Oracle, you can find him at the ballpark, and if you do—buy him a beer, because he probably could use one. Got a question, comment, or complaint? E-mail Matt at Wirkiowski@RotoExperts.com