MLB: Fantasy Friday's...Actually on a Friday?

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MLB: Fantasy Friday's...Actually on a Friday?
I'm heading to Cleveland this weekend for the Yanks-Indians game on Saturday afternoon. Apparently fans will be provided with 'rally towels' to help motivate the Indians as they try to remain hot after sweeping the Royals. I have tickets to Saturday's game where soft tossers Ian Kennedy and Jeremy Sowers will face off in front of a Nationally televised audience.

After seeing Sowers at the Bisons Home Opener, I have a tough time believing he is going to have much success against the Hall of Fame lineup the Yankees are running out there. With Rodriguez out of the lineup, he is definitely in better shape, but this is not going to be an easy start for the young lefty.

That said, with the Indians bats blazing hot right now, Ian Kennedy (whom is the focus of this weeks General's Speculator) is in for a tough task as well.


Revisiting free agent pick ups is often enjoyable and other times, regretful. Last week, I discussed Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Guillen and JJ Hardy. While each player had the best weeks of the season to date, neither really broke out. Hardy had the best fantasy line hitting his first home run of the season as well as coming in with a .333 batting average. Guillen also place his first hit over the outfield fences and Gutierrez finally started hitting the ball with some authority. Overall, none of the players visited took the league by storm, but all are moving in the right direction, which is good enough for me. So definitely keep an eye on them.

This week I am going to follow the same rules as I outlined in last weeks Fantasy Friday. That is,
The players will have be required to qualify for the batting title, and own a BABIP under .250 and a HR/FB of under 6%. The figures will also have to not proportionally line up with their career marks. These figures have been chosen as they represent numbers that are well below league average which sits around .300 for BABIP and around 10% for HR/FB. Keep in mind however, that different hitters do produce varying successes in these areas which is why I will examine their career trends.

The free agent players must be owned in fewer then 50% of ESPN leagues and the trade targets will have an ADP outside the top 60 (this figure will vary as the season goes on). While this is far from an exact science, we will see over the course of the season that players with those trends will eventually reverse their fortunes.
Free Agents
Player One
2008 BABIP - .205 HR/FB - 5.9% Owned - 21.5%

The Pirates acquired Adam LaRoche after he mashed the ball for half a season for Atlanta in 2006. At the time, a lot of people had him tabbed as the guy to own for the 2007 despite an impossible to maintain HR/FB rate of 21.2%. In Pittsburgh, LaRoche was moving to a more friendly hitters park and was going to be slotted into the heart of the order, giving Jason Bay some much needed protection. Things did not work out as Pittsburgh fans and fantasy owners alike imagined, but both players were terribly unlucky.

Maybe it was playing for Pittsburgh, maybe every time the Pirates took the field gusts of wind were blowing in the hitters faces knocking potential home runs down. Whatever it was, LaRoche played better then his final line displayed. Keep in mind, that final line was not terrible in its own right. In fact, Yahoo! rated LaRoche as the 19th best first basemen in their 5 category scoring, sitting in at 169th overall.

Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA forecasting system is guilty of taking LaRoche's unlucky outcomes from 2007 and downgraded his power from an ISO of .243 to .210. Sitting at an ISO of .210 is no insult for LaRoche, in fact, that would come as a 20+ point increase from 2007's final line, but I am more optimistic. I see no reason why LaRoche cannot make it to the .243 figure that PECOTA forecasted entering last season.

Off to another slow start, LaRoche, who was drafted on average with the 175th pick in ESPN leagues is now owned in only 21.5% of leagues. His BABIP is bound to return to .300 level as it has for his career and he is certain to start clearing some fences. It is time to pick up LaRoche before he has a hot weekend and it is too late.

Player Two
2008 BABIP - .193 HR/FB - 0.0% Owned - 0.0%

The move to the American League has been difficult on Mike Lamb, although he has managed to hold onto his full time job. He will need to turn things around shortly though, as the Twins are starting to get healthy and have a jammed outfield. I also need to preface this by suggesting that I do not expect Lamb to carry a fantasy team, nor am I suggesting he is a long term option at third base. But at a corner infield slot, this potential 25 HR hitter is a nice player to consider.

Consider as a part time player in Houston, Lamb put up double digit home run totals. Prorate those statistics into a full time role, and there is little doubt that Lamb could easily launch 20 home runs, and with a little luck, 25+.

As a hitter who went undrafted in ESPN leagues, the consensus was that Lamb would not do enough to merit a spot on ones roster. While staying away has proven a valuable move to this point, Lamb, like LaRoche, is a hot weekend away from being a nice short term pick up.

Player Three
BABIP - .242 HR/FB - 0.0% Owned - 0.1%

A couple other factors I consider when looking at a player is their history as well as their role within an organization. While I was shocked that the Mariners brought in Brad Wilkerson with Wladimir Balentien ready for the show, it is obvious that the club intends to stick it out with Wilkerson, the one time centerpiece of the Alfonso Soriano trade.

I am currently focusing on players who are off to a slow start whom people have most likely ignored but should not for much longer, given their ability to break out. Some may read what I am writing and assert that the players suck and thus should not be owned and point to the small 50-60 at bat sample size. I will remind people of what was written as Brock for Broglio in regards to sample size.

That said, the projection systems have Wilkerson sitting with an ISO (isolated power, slugging percentage minus batting average) of between .173 and .191. Any of those figures would represent the second lowest average for Brad's career, with the lowest occurring in homer nightmare RFK stadium. That said, I'm not buying that the best Wilkerson can do is 8 points below his career average.

Nevertheless, at .191 CHONE projection system expects Wilkerson to hit 17 home runs in 404 at bats. If Wilkerson can stay healthy and accumulate 600 at bats for Seattle, that would prorate his home run total to 25. To me, that is on the low end. Given Wilkerson's fly ball tendencies, combined with his career HR/FB rate, expecting 25 home runs out of your 5th outfielder is not a far fetch.

Trade For
2008 BABIP - .171 HR/FB - 4.3% ADP - 50.0 Owned - 100%

I am somewhat going against my own rule here, as I am targeting a player inside the top 50. However, this is an emergency situation as I do not think the chance to buy low on Robinson Cano will remain. Cano is currently having a terribly unlucky start to his 2008 season, and there really isn't any explanation for it. His rate stats (LD%, GB%, FB%) are all essentially on par with his career average. There is a discrepancy in IFFB% (infield fly ball percentage), however it is doubtful this has anything to do with Cano's batting average, as fly balls rarely turn into hits to begin with. It could be a sign that Cano is struggling to hit with authority, but again, we're talking a small sample size, something a hot weekend can erase.

That said, I am also going to come out and state, I am not a fan of Robinson Cano. I would not be trying to acquire him if not for his terribly slow start and my thinking that he is going to be incredibly undervalued.

If you are an Ian Kinsler owner, I suggest trying to flip Kinsler for Cano as well as trying to make an upgrade in another area (say adding on Brian Wilson for JJ Putz-although the ship may have sailed on that one). That is, while I am not a huge fan of Cano, I am an even less fan of Kinsler and believe this is the perfect time to sell high on Kinsler with his stolen base total and high batting average.

If there is anyone you would like me to take a look at in a future article, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section or send me an email to bheikoop@baseballdigestdaily.com.

BallHype: hype it up!
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