Thanks J, you're the only one who still believes in me. Photo Credit: David Shank
Well,well,well, time sure does go by fast. The MLB season is already over a month old. I know, this comes as a shock to most of you, heck I remember it like it was yesterday when I was going over my cheat sheets and drafting my teams. The season is well underway though, and as such, the stats and situations of certain players need to now be taken more seriously. Some hot starts and early slumps are now starting to dissolve, while others remain. The goal today is to highlight some of the continuing struggles and surprises of the young season. Let’s dig in shall we:
Editor's Note: Justin originally spelled "Kanadian" with it's proper C, but his unrelenting love for Pedro Alvarez earned him the K.
Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners 54 % ownership in Yahoo Leagues
At the start of the season, savvy members of the fantasy baseball community had Smoak pegged as a deep sleeper. Nevertheless, the youngster went undrafted in many leagues. Pundits argued that although filled with potential, his lack of power and poor batting averages from his past did not warrant a draft pick in 2011. Judging from his stellar start, however, these individuals are likely weeping in regret. Thus far, Smoak has out produced expectations, delivering an impressive line of .284/10/5/22/0 in 109 at bats. He’s quietly becoming a respectable 1st base option in even the shallowest of leagues. The question that remains, however, is whether this hot start is going to continue. Looking at his supporting stats sheds light on the situation. Last year, Smoak’s ghastly .218 batting average was the direct result of his low .258 BABIP. This year, his BABIP has risen to a very high mark of .333. Although it is unwise for one to assume this will continue, it is safe to say that he will keep this mark above the .300 level. As such, we can count on Smoak’s Batting Average to remain fixed in the .275-290 range. Smoak’s plate discipline has also improved, as his BB % has increased from the 11.6% mark in 2010 to 16 % in 2011 while his k% has decreased from 26.1 % in 2010 to 24.8 % in 2011. He’s steadily improved in all hitting categories and as a result, his fantasy performance has naturally followed suit. Being still young, we may be in line for some times of trouble, however, considering his improvements in both strikeout rate and walk rate, we surely can expect much better numbers than his previous year’s stats suggested. He’s currently only owned in an astonishingly low 54 % of yahoo leagues, suggesting that almost half of the fantasy community is uninformed of his prowess. If he’s lingering around in your league’s waiver wire, pick him up immediately and laugh at your fellow league member’s ignorance. Being as he isn't a well known commodity also yields an opportunity to buy low on this slugger. With Kendrys Morales’ season over before it even started, many owners are looking for a permanent replacement. The Smoak Monster is your best bet. He’s going to finish the year as a top 12 first basemen, and considering he isn't slowing down, his ownership level is bound to skyrocket. Hurry up gamers, and pounce on him before it’s too late.
Finishing 2011 Line: .287 AVG/88 Runs/24 HR/102 RBI/3 SB
Alex Rios, OF Chicago White Sox 86 % ownership in Y! Leagues
Unlike Smoak, Rios is a well known commodity in our game. In fact, last year, Rios delivered his most impressive season to date in which he posted a line of .284/89/21/88/34. Heading into the season, most expected Rios to continue on last season’s success. On the contrary, Rios has been abysmal. In 138 2011 At Bats, Rios has stunk up the joint with a line of .203/19/3/9/4. His early season woes have caused many to reconsider their stance on the once talented commodity. In fact, just last week, I was able to grab Rios off the waiver wire of one of my home leagues after an owner apparently had pulled out too many of his hairs hoping for a Rios surge. Unfortunately for my fellow league mate, this move is likely going to haunt him for the remainder of his days. Lately Rios has begun to tear it up, posting all three of his home runs in the past 14 days while delivering a stellar .302 batting average. His supporting stats also suggest a turnaround. Currently, Rios' BABIP sits at an uncharacteristically low mark of .212 (past BABIP’s numbers: .306 in 2010, .273 in 2009, .331 in 2008). Unless Rios is destined to be this year’s Aaron Hill, that mark is sure to rise to career norms, increasing his batting average in the process. Even more bizarre, is that despite the poor numbers, Alex has improved his plate discipline, slightly increasing his BB% from 6.2% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2011 and improving on his K% of 16.4 % in 2010 to an impressive 13 % in 2011. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Rios’ troubled days are likely over; many owners are probably still bitter and concerned about him. As such, now is the perfect time to field some low-ball offers to Rios owners in your league. As with the case of Smoak, however, this window of opportunity is closing at an ever increasing rate. It’s now or never gamers, so go take a swim in the Rios Grande.
Finishing 2011 Line: .282 AVG/92 Runs/21 HR/84 RBI/24 SB
Lance Berkman, 1B St. Louis Cardinals 94 % ownership in Y! Leagues
Berkman may in fact be one of the biggest surprises in 2011. Before the season, a plethora of fantasy experts, including yours truly, didn't put any faith in a productive season from Berkman. Reports of him being overweight during the off-season further disinterested the masses. Berkman, however, has done nothing but prove skeptics wrong. In 112 2011 At Bats, Berkman has been more than impressive, delivering a ridonkulous line of .357/27/10/32/0, good enough for the number 2 spot in the yahoo fantasy player rankings. For many, his performance has allowed them to reminisce about Lance’s glory days, the days in which he was an elite fantasy commodity. For others, suspicion has been raised on whether he can continue with his success. In this expert’s opinion, the latter group of people are likely to do well come seasons end. Looking at some of Berkman’s supporting stats; it appears as if a downfall is imminent. His BABIP currently sits at .349, his highest mark since 2001 (.367). Although impressive, we cannot assume that he can continue hitting at such a consistent pace. Expect this number to drop substantially, likely to the .300 range we have become accustomed to. What’s even more shocking about Berkman in 2011 is his Isolated Power(ISO) sits at an astounding .348. This is unheard of in baseball, and as such, it is nearly impossible for him to sustain this. His power numbers and high average will decrease when these numbers come back down to earth. Furthermore, Berkman hasn't played a full season since 2008, and since the Big Puma isn't getting any younger and coming off knee surgery, I wouldn't be shocked if he misses some time this year due to injury. Keep in mind, however, that he is in a good position in St. Louis, hitting after studs Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, so RBI opportunities will always be there. However, judging by his overly high supporting stats, now may be the time to try and part ways with Fat Elvis. His recent 1-16 slump further suggests his likely demise. After his next productive game, try and sell high on him. It’s what all the cool kids are doing.
End of Season line: .271/74 Runs/21 HR/82 RBI/2 SB
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates 64% owned in Y! Leagues
My unhealthy love affair with Pedro Alvarez continues. Despite his disastrous spring, I was still convinced that 2011 would be a successful year for the former first round pick. So far, however, Alvarez has broken the hearts of all his owners. His 2011 line of .204/9/1/7/1 burns the eyes of all who gaze upon it. Furthermore, Pedro has missed some time this year due to a nagging Quadricep injury. This is not what you want to hear from your supposed ultimate sleeper pick. All of these problems have resulted in his ownership levels dropping to 64%. Rather than abruptly end my disgruntled relationship with the youngster, I've decided to give him a second chance. Why you may ask? For one, Alvarez is a notoriously slow starter. In his impressive debut last year, Pedro only hit his first home run after his 16th game and only really started to show signs of his impressive potential after his 28th game. For the record, Alvarez has only played in 31 games in 2011. His supporting stats are also in need of some analysis. Currently, his .296 BABIP sits below his career norm (2010 BABIP’s of .341 in MLB, .331 in minors), suggesting some bad luck has been had. Furthermore, despite being the weakest part of his game, Alvarez’s K% has actually dropped from last year from 34.3% in 2010 to 33.3 % in 2011. Although a minor improvement, the signs are still encouraging. His ISO is also at an uncharacteristically low mark of .074, and considering his power potential, it’s hard to imagine him not improving on this number. His injury troubles also seem to be behind him. In his return to the lineup on Wednesday, Pedro went 1-4, hitting a double, and barely missing a home run on a foul ball. The power surge is approaching. Although not a good source of Batting Average, I fully expect a turn around in the runs scoring and power categories for Alvarez. Many owners, likely those not as forgiving as me, are likely fed up of his inability to produce. As such, there is no greater time than now to try and acquire his services. Do it quickly gamers, as a monstrous game is on the near horizon.
2011 Finishing Line. .259 AVG/88 Runs/26 HR/95 RBI/4 SB
That’s the Canadian perspective for this week. Now I have to go return to my igloo and prepare my supper of Caribou and Kraft Dinner. I’m just kidding of course, we’re out of KD. Keep it real gamers, and may the fantasy baseball gods be kind to you all.
*All stats taken from Fangraphs and Yahoo Sports.