Nick Kappel's Fantasy Focus: Buy or Sell? (Part Two)

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Nick Kappel's Fantasy Focus: Buy or Sell? (Part Two)
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In last week’s fantasy focus, I outlined several players whose hot starts you should buy and sell. This week, I’ll profile a few players whose slow starts you should buy, and others who you should sell.

 

SELL

Scott Kazmir

Kazmir has struggled through his first six starts of the 2009 season, posting a 6.00 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. While the southpaw does have a history of slow starts, I’m convinced his early troubles are a sign of what’s yet to come.

A close look at three of Kazmir’s first six starts reveals a combined 18 ER in 14.1 innings against the Orioles, Twins, and White Sox—the sixth, 11th, and 12th highest scoring teams in the AL, respectively. This tells me something isn’t right.
The 25-year-old Tampa pitcher has logged four full seasons in the big leagues. In two of those years, he failed to reach 160 innings. His career walk rate (4.1 per 9 IP) has led to an extremely high 1.38 career WHIP. Further, Kazmir pitches in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

His 6.00 ERA will certainly go down, and his K/9 rate (currently 7.6 vs. 9.6 career) is sure to rise. However, there is a plethora of fantasy baseball managers who view Kazmir as an ace, when clearly he is not.

If you own the 2002 first rounder, find someone in your league who is willing to look past the high walk rates and inconsistencies due to injury, and turn a profit on the young hurler.

PACE represents the player’s 162-game (32 starts for SP) pace based on their currents stats. PROJ represents what I project the player’s stat line will be at the end of the season. These numbers are based on games played before Wednesday, May 6.

  IP W K ERA WHIP
PACE 176 16 149 6.00 1.58
PROJ 172 14 185 3.60 1.35

 

Chris Young

Through his first 27 games, Young has struck out 31 times and sports a batting average (.177) that Mario Mendoza would be ashamed of. His slugging percentage is a paltry .333, less than Cristian Guzman’s current batting average.

Chris Young flashed 30/30 potential in the minor leagues and came three steals shy of the feat in 2007, his first full season with Arizona. In 2008, however, he hit just 22 HR and stole 14 bases, to go along with a .248 BA—a stat line very similar to captain of the waiver wire, Mike Cameron (25 HR, 17 SB, .243 BA).

The former 16th round pick of the White Sox in 2001, Young simply doesn’t possess the strike-zone discipline (349 K in 365 career games) to be counted on as a consistent fantasy contributor.

Still not convinced?

How about a career .301 OBP? Is that something you expect out of your team’s No. 2 or 3 OF? Apparently some do, but I don’t, and you shouldn’t either.

If you foolishly drafted Young in hopes of adding a 30/30 threat to your lineup, trade him now before everyone else realizes his early season slump is sure to carry into September.

  R HR RBI SB AVG
PACE 66 12 42 18 .177
PROJ 75 25 80 18 .235

 

Mike Aviles

Several fantasy managers drafted Aviles this spring with hopes of the 28-year-old SS improving on his impressive 2008 rookie campaign.

Based on his '08 stat line, over 162 games, Aviles projected to score 108 runs, smash 16 HR, drive in 81 runs, swipe 13 bases, and hit .325. That’s Michael Young territory, so there was certainly reason to be excited about this guy.

However, a look at his 2008 BABIP (.359) as opposed to his previous totals in the minors (.343, .307, 281) reveals that a certain amount of his production was likely due to luck.

The former seventh round pick in 2003 doesn’t walk or strike out much, and his career .335 OBP in the minors suggests he doesn’t get on base much, either.

Combine that with his slow start in ‘09, and the fact that Baseball America ranked Aviles as the Royals’ 29th-best prospect before the 2008 season, and it becomes clear that he is no more than a utility player.

Try cashing Aviles in for something of value before he becomes borderline waiver material.

  R HR RBI SB AVG
PACE 50 6 50 6 .211
PROJ 55 11 60 10 .280

 

BUY

Matt Holliday

As expected, Holliday is off to a slow start (.228/.278/.376) in his first season away from Coors Field. Here’s something you probably didn’t expect: I’m selling Holliday’s slow start, and here’s why...

It’s fairly well known that over his career, Holliday has a slugging percentage nearly 200 points higher at home than he does on the road. In addition, his career BA at home is a whopping .352, compared to just .279 away. The difference, of course is attributed to the rarefied air in Colorado.

This got me thinking; I wondered what Holliday’s season averages would look like if you totaled up his numbers from all of his career away games and projected them out. Essentially, these would be Holliday’s season averages playing in every park other than Coors Field. Here’s what the calculator spit out...

  R HR RBI SB AVG
  91 21 85 18 .279

While these numbers are a far cry from Holliday’s 2007 season that saw him hit .340 with 36 HR and 137 RBI, they definitely should not go unnoticed.

The projected stat line above closely resembles the season totals for Torii Hunter (one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball) in 2008, when he scored 85 runs, belted 21 HR, totaled 78 RBI, swiped 19 bases, and hit .278. It’s not sexy, but it’s solid production, and it’s likely to come cheap.

Check with Holliday’s owner in your league, and if he’s frustrated with the slugger’s lack of production, attempt to swing a deal at a discounted price.

  R HR RBI SB AVG
PACE 68 20 115 0 .228
PROJ 80 22 100 15 .280

 

Geovany Soto

Soto’s slow start has many fantasy managers (myself included) scratching their heads.

The 11th round pick in 2001 surprised everyone in 2008 when he won NL Rookie of the Year honors. Some forecasted a sophomore slump for Geo in 2009, but after a closer look, I’m convinced the Cubs catcher is not a one-year wonder.

The light bulb came on for Soto in 2007, when he blasted 26 HR and tallied 109 RBI with a .353 batting clip for Triple-A Iowa. He followed that up with 23 bombs and 86 RBI with a .285 BA in the aforementioned 2008 season with the Cubs, proving ‘07 was no fluke.

Soto’s slow start to 2009 can be linked to two things. First, a shoulder injury forced him out of the lineup for several games in April. Second, backing up Pudge Rodriguez in the World Baseball Classic prevented Soto from getting regular playing time in spring training.

Now that Soto has had some time to catch up, he’s batting .294 in five May games. Another encouraging sign is his 12:15 K:BB ratio, supporting an OBP (.303) that is 144 points higher than his current average, which is .159.

If you own Soto, stick with him. If you’re looking to buy low on a catcher, Soto is your man. Try stealing him from an impatient manager, who may be starting to believe Soto’s 2008 campaign was a fluke.

R HR RBI SB AVG
PACE 38 0 31 0 .159
PROJ 60 25 90 0 .290

 

Roy Oswalt

Over the last eight-and-a-half seasons, Oswalt has dominated the NL, exceeding 200 innings in a season six times and posting a career 3.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

Yet somehow, it has all seemed to go unnoticed.

Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know: Oswalt was the last pitcher to win 20 games in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2004 and 2005.

Here’s another one: Oswalt’s career BB/9 is a minuscule 2.0, better than Johan Santana’s career mark of 2.5 BB/9.

Despite these remarkable accomplishments, the 23rd round pick in 1996 continues to be undervalued as a fantasy contributor. His 4.26 ERA and 1.34 WHIP through his first seven starts in 2009 haven’t helped his cause, not to mention the fact that he has yet to win a game.

The point here is, not many pitchers can consistently produce on a level that Oswalt has since 2001. Even fewer pitchers can do so seemingly unnoticed. Oswalt is a legitimate ace, though he will likely come much cheaper than other top starters.

Based on his slow start, now is the perfect time to lure him away from an uneducated fantasy manager.

IP W K ERA WHIP
PACE 173 0 109 4.26 1.34
PROJ 200 15 160 3.30 1.19

 

Do you agree with my picks?

Which slow starters are on your buy/sell list?

Discuss...

Original Article: Baseball Reflections

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