The Fantasy Fix (www.thefantasyfix.com) asked five of the top up-and-coming Fantasy Experts out there the following question:
As we approach the 2010 All-Star Break, who will you be targeting to trade for as a buy-low candidate or sleeper? Name one batter and one pitcher that will make a big 180 for the 2nd half.
Let's hear some realistic and unique options.
Batter: Carlos Pena, 1B, TB
My, what a disaster Pena's season has been, at least up until his barrage of home runs last week. Trend or slight uptick? I say it should be more trend than mirage.
If you've been paying attention, you already know he is streaky (see last week for example). But what you might not see is that he can't possibly continue to be as horrible as he was in the early going. Let's look at some numbers to date (valid through Wednesday June 9, 2010):
BABIP = .200 (.250 in 2009, .283 in career)
Walk Rate = 13.4% (15.3% in 2009, 13.3% in career)
GB% = 44.1% (29.0% in 2009, 36.2% in career)
FB% = 44.9% (54.1% in 2009, 45.7% in career)
LD% = 11.0% (16.8% in 2009, 18.0% in career)
What does this all mean?
Well, since his strikeout rate is right on par with previous performances, it explains a lot. First, his BABIP indicates that he has been very unlucky on batted balls into play. As compared to career numbers, he could be batting up to 50 points above his current .184 on luck alone.
A deeper look at his GB/FB/LD split shows that he is hitting the ball weakly into the infield a ton this year (GB percent is a career high and LD percent is a career low for him in seasons of 100+ AB). Even a speed demon, like Juan Pierre, would have trouble getting on base with those splits.
The root cause of those symptoms is his Chase Percentage (O-Swing percent), or how many pitches outside of the strike zone he is hacking at, which sits at 31.2 percent (also a career high for seasons of 100+AB). That may be a result of pitchers trying to keep him off balance by throwing more changeups and cutters, rather than fastballs, which he can lace into the stands.
Since his walk rate is holding steady as compared to career averages, I say it is only a matter of time before Pena settles down and adjusts to the pitching mix. Buy now and get the good part of his season stats on your roster.
Pitcher: Jason Hammel, SP, COL
The Rockies have really improved their rotation over the past few years, and the most under-appreciated member of the starting cast is Jason Hammel. Ignore the ERA he has posted to date, because much of that damage was done back when he was battling a nagging groin injury, the same one that sent him to the DL for a couple of weeks in early May.
Now that he is back and healthy, I see nothing but sunny skies ahead.
Hammel actually pitched very well in 2009, despite finishing with a 4.33 ERA. If you look deeper at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), or what he would have done with even luck and quality fielding across the board, he should have finished with an ERA of 3.71.
Curiously enough, his FIP to date is 3.73, almost identical to what he posted last season. Since the start of the 2009 season, he has also fixed problems with gopheritis (0.87 HR/9 over that span, 1.07 in career) and free passes (BB/9 in the 2.55 range, 3.14 in career).
For the third stright year, Hammel is forcing groundballs at least 46 percent of the time a batter makes contact, and he has kept his FB percentage right around 30 percent. You can attribute some of this to experience and the rest to his move away from changeups (11.2%, 9.5%, and 5.6% in 2008/2009/2010 to date) to more of a focus on curveballs (10.0%, 15.6%, 16.9%).
Whatever the reason, Jason Hammel has been pitching like a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher for 39 starts now, so it's time to give the kid his due. The best part is that he can be had for a waiver claim in the majority of leagues, so the price is most certainly right!
Tommy Landry, co-founder of RotoExperts.com, has a long track record of success in entrepreneurship, marketing, and the fantasy sports business. You can also join in the conversation with him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/Tommy_Landry
Batter: Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR
Hill was a guy I earned a lot of money on last year. The problem is that I got him for $1 in keeper leagues, so there was no way I could let him go. Knowing this, I knew he was a classic stay-away guy in 2010 because of the over-achievement.
What killed Hill was the hamstring injury right off the bat. Some of Hill’s fantasy numbers are very ugly and scream stay away.
But if you dig deeper and look at why Hill has been so bad this year, here is what you will find:
• Contact Rate is 83 percent (only a matter of time before they become base hits)
• Walk rate is up from 5.7 percent to 11.7 percent (very good indicator of improved patience)
• BABIP is .178 vs. .288 last year (terrible luck)
• BA is .188 vs. .286 last year (BABIP and BA correlation)
• FB percentage up to 49 percent vs. 41 percent last year
2B is very deep in the American League and in the majors overall. Hill could be a guy you use at UTIL/MI and get great insurance.
I think right now is the perfect time to get Hill and you can still get him very cheap. Buy now and speculate that his second half numbers will turn around.
Pitcher: Brandon Morrow, SP, TOR
It feels like Morrow has been around for 10 years and every year, we wait for the breakout.
He never got a true shot to settle into a rotation spot with Seattle and then was dealt to Toronto in the Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay deal. Going with pitchers in the AL East is always a tough choice, but again, like Hill, there are some underliers that show me Morrow could be on his way to truly developing into that fantasy relevant pitcher.
• K/9 10.41 – always love guys who get the k’s
• .341 BABIP – this number is bound to settle in at .290.-.300
• June has a .254 BABIP
• 5.48 ERA but XERA 3.53
• 4.52 BB/9—this number has to come down for Morrow to start being a good pitcher
• June has a 1.29 BB/9
I recently added Morrow in two leagues that have deep pitching requirements and I love the upside. In the past, guys, like Jonathan Sanchez and Jorge De La Rosa, have had similar profiles and finally broke through.
Michael Rathburn: Fantasy Baseball writer for MidWestSportsFans.com and www.aroundthecooler.com
Follow Michael at http://twitter.com/cooler_guy
Batter: Adam Lind, OF, TOR
Highly-touted coming into this year (average draft position, third or fourth round) and coming off a monster season that finally saw him put his potential to good use, Lind has so far had a horrendous start to 2010. .209 average, eight home runs, a paltry 26 runs, and 31 RBI — all this for the team leading the majors in home runs — and just 49 hits.
Yet, if you look deeper, some of his stats echo how atrocious he has been. Yes, he is chasing more pitches outside the strike zone than last year. Yes, he is striking out a slightly higher rate than last year. Yes, he has shown an alarming drop in power to center field.
BUT, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .247, or nearly 60 points below his career BABIP of .305. That's right — SIXTY points. Aside from his stint with the Jays in 2007, when he proved he was not yet ready for the big time, he has never had a BABIP lower than .317.
In the minors, his BABIP routinely reached the .360s and higher.
I don't expect Lind to hit 25 home runs the rest of the season, but from this point forward, I expect that as his luck changes, so do his stats, and for the better.
Pitcher: Jake Peavy, SP, CHW
People forget that he's still not so far removed from major arm surgery and had to deal with switching leagues, going from a great pitcher's park to one that's horrible, and learn a whole new set of hitters.
I think he'll improve because we've seen flashes—his K/9, BB/9 and GB (ground ball) percentage have improved month-by-month this season, and he is still averaging 7.5 K's per 9 innings this year.
Plus, his LOB percent is the lowest of his career and his BABIP is close to the highest — not a good combination to have.
I expect, though, that as his luck starts changing and he leaves more runners on, his K rate will continue to rise, his ERA will fall, and he will pitch deeper into games and help himself to more wins.
Jesse Mendelson is Partner and Senior Writer for www.fantasybaseball101.com
For more up-to-the-minute analysis, trade mediation, roster evaluation, weekly tip, chats, and more, make sure to check out www.fantasybaseball101.com and follow us on Twitter on @fb101.
Batter: Gordon Beckham, 2B, CHW
Gordon Beckham has basically played like garbage and polluted the fantasy landscape thus far.
His .206 Batting Average and one home run have left a single tear welling in the eye of his owners. Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this highly touted prospect; and some people don’t.
Gordo is currently owned in only 38 percent of Yahoo! leagues. If he isn’t a free agent in your league, his recent 102 At Bat streak without an Extra Base Hit should make him a cheap buy.
What many people don’t realize is that Beckham has been plagued a .250 BABIP. His 15.5 percet Line Drive and 51 percent Ground Ball Percentages suggest this number should be higher. The league average for BABIP is .298.
Beckham has also been unlucky with a 1.9 Home Run to Fly Ball Percentage. The league average for HR/FB percentage is around 10-11 percent. The eighth-overall pick in the 2008 draft is much too talented to continue hitting this poorly.
The White Sox GM, Kenny Williams, sat down with Gordon and told him to go back to his aggressive approach at the plate and he has responded well. Since the two had a pow-wow, Beckham has strung together a four-game hit streak, going 4-for-13 with three doubles in the process.
Last season, Beckham hit 14 HR and stole seven bases in 103 games, his price won’t be any lower than it is now. If you need some cheap, productive help at the 2B position, look no further.
Pitcher: Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD
Chad Billingsley is a well-known gunslinger. Tickets to Buffalo Billingsley’s Wild NL West Show could be expensive, unless you can find an owner who is fed up with his 1.40 WHIP.
Billingsley currently ranks 84th among all SP eligible pitchers on Yahoo! and his overall rank of 289 may help you acquire his services at a reasonable price. Chad’s ugly WHIP is not the result of him walking too many batters; he has actually reduced his walk rate from 3.94 BB/9 down to 3.17 BB/9.
The issue is his .332 BABIP. He has a career BABIP of .308 and he is actually giving up less line drives this year than he has in the past (17.4 LD percentage). His 1.40 WHIP should be considered bad luck, not bad pitching.
He is still striking out eight batters per nine and inducing a good number of ground balls (47.8 percent, 1.38 GB/FB), so I would also consider his 69.2 percent Strand Rate to be unlucky.
His career average for LOB percentage is 75.4 percent. His owners may believe that Billingsley is pitching his worst ball in the past four years, but all this adds up for me to believe that he should be posting the best numbers of his career when it comes to ERA and WHIP.
Look for a big turnaround in the second half of the season.
Andrew Holm (aka MDS) is the brainchild behind http://milliondollarsleeper.com. Follow Andrew on twitter at http://twitter.com/andrewakamds
Batter: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC
Aramis Ramirez's season has been a disaster of epic proportions. The once-mighty run producer has seen his numbers washed away by a tsunami of strikeouts and lazy fly balls. By some measures, he's been the worst regular position player in all of baseball.
Now on the 15-day DL due to a strained thumb, he also hasn't done much to shed the “injury-prone” label that he's earned over the past few years.
Since A-Ram has never had a stretch this bad, I'm willing to assume that the thumb problem has exacerbated his usual slow start. Sure, he's on the downside of his career, but he's about to turn 32, not 37.
Just last year, he put up a .317 BA with 15 HR and 65 RBI, despite playing in just 82 games. A-Ram has always been a second-half hitter (second half OPS of .870 vs. .807 in the first half), and has always thrived at Wrigley Field (career .918 OPS).
If he comes back healthy for the hot summer months at Wrigley, he should put up a .285+ BA and approach 15 HR and 50 RBI in the second half. That should be enough to outperform popular third-sackers, like Jose Bautista, Scott Rolen, Casey McGeehee, Chase Headley, Placido Polanco, Alberto Callaspo, Juan Uribe, Ty Wigginton, and David Freese.
See if you can lowball his frustrated owner and reap the benefits.
Pitcher: Ricky Nolasco, SP, FLA
After Saturday night's shelling in Tampa Bay, Ricky Nolasco's ERA stands at 5.05 and his strikeout rate is down to 6.6 per nine innings. That's a bitter pill to swallow for fantasy owners who looked past his bloated 2009 ERA and drafted him 20th among starting pitchers in ESPN leagues.
Maybe this is déjà vu all over again as Ricky was awful in the first part of 2009, when he was rocked over his first nine starts to the tune of a 9.07 ERA. He turned his season around after a two-week stint in the minors and was a true ace over his last 22 starts, with a 3.82 ERA and an elite 10.5 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Unless there's a secret injury, we might just be seeing a mini-repeat of 2009. He's still in his prime and has shown the ability to lose his mechanics for a stretch and then bounce back.
Perhaps he's turning out to be a second-half pitcher (he also pitched better in the second half of 2008). See if you can pry him loose from a frustrated owner and hope that history repeats itself.
Follow Alex Shear on Twitter (@rotosleeperz) and check out his rarely updated blog at http://rotosleeperz.blogspot.com
Batter: Chone Figgins, 2B, SEA
2009 was Chone’s BIG contract year, and boy, did he not disappoint. Figgins finished the year with 114 Runs, 101 Walks, 42 SBs, and .298 BA from the leadoff spot. Getting himself a four-year, $36 million contract, and a new city (Seattle) to boot.
Now, you’d expect an All-Star caliber player like Figgins to handle a move to a new team like a pro, but after a forgeable first half, we are left with some questions. Let’s take a look at where we are and where it has gone wrong:
In his first 6 full seasons (2004-2009) Chone averaged: 44 SBs, 92.7 Runs, 52.2 RBIs, 162 Hits, .291 AVG
Now, for a prototypical leadoff hitter, these numbers are some of the tops in the sport. One of the things I preach the most is that baseball is a game of averages.
If you look back over five years, certain trends will appear for the better players. Now I understand that Chone is facing some different circumstances than before; Figgins is now batting in the two-hole (behind Ichiro), and becoming an everyday second baseman. But you can expect a monster second half as he becomes more comfortable with his roles, teammates, and city.
Bottom Line 2nd Half Expectations
Current 2010 1st Half: ABs- 220, BA -.227, Hits – 50, RBIs -16 Runs – 26, SB – 13
Projected 2nd Half: ABs – 400, BA - .300, Hits – 120, RBIs – 30, Runs – 75, SB - 25
Pitcher: Gavin Floyd, SP, CHW
It's been a rough and, altogether, puzzling first half for White Sox starter Gavin Floyd. His staggering 6.18 ERA is the second highest in MLB among pitchers with at least 50 IP. In 206 1/3 innings in 2008, he allowed 190 hits. In 193 innings in 2009, he allowed 178 hits.
Through 67 innings of work in 2010, he's allowed 84 hits. The usually tough to square up Floyd is finding too many barrels.
What's gone wrong: Right-handed hitters are batting .306 against Floyd. The same RHH he held to a .256 clip in '09 and .226 in '08. When he gets himself into a jam, he's not escaping free of harm. He's allowed 26 ER in RISP w/2-out situations through 12 starts, compared to 35 ER all of last season.
His LOB percentage is a dismal 62.6 percent. His BAA on balls put in play (BABIP) is .369, an obscenely high frequency of success for opposing hitters. Compare that figure to .268 in '08 and .292 in '09. Floyd is throwing more changeups and less curveballs, a recipe that doesn't seem to be paying dividends.
Why things just don't add up: He's averaging 7.66 K/9 innings, the highest figure of his career. He's only allowed 7 HR, or 0.94 HR/9, his lowest gopher ball rate at the major league level. His ground ball rate of 46.6% is also the highest he's ever produced. His average fastball velocity has been 92.1 MPH, over a mile per hour higher (90.9) than he threw in his 17-win campaign in 2008.
Despite his abysmal numbers, there is reason for optimism. Floyd has delivered only four quality starts all season, and three of those starts came in his last four outings. In those three quality starts, he K'd 20 against only five BB in 19 1/3 innings. He did throw in a 2 2/3 inning, 6 ER disaster in between those starts, but we're trying to accentuate the positive.
His line-drive percentage is down, so eventually, those groundballs with eyes will find some gloves. With a bit of good fortune and improved run prevention in RISP situations, Floyd's numbers should slowly creep back towards his traditional pitching line. He makes for a great buy low option (if he's not on the waiver wire) and should be solid piece for fantasy rotations in the second half.
Pitcher written by Adam Ganeles for The Fantasy Fix (www.thefantasyfix.com). Follow Adam here weekly or on twitter http://twitter.com/adamganeles. Batter written by DP (aka Fantasy Mechanic) for The Fantasy Fix, there's a reason why he wins championships every year. Follow all our tweets @thefantasyfix