2014 Fantasy Baseball: Power Outage
You’re a risk-adverse fantasy team owner. You refuse to draft Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez early because they’re always hurt. You say, “I want guys with high floors, guys that are safe.” That’s adorable. I don’t understand it, but I think it’s cute. The elephant in the room is that you have no idea who the safe guys are from year to year. No one does, and when ‘that guy’ in your league tells you he does, just smile at him. Owners of Prince Fielder felt he was a safe pick. He’s a high floor kind of guy, and that was true, until this week of course. You have to take chances if you’re going to win your league, and that’s why we’re here isn’t it? Perhaps it’s not the only reason you play, but it’s a part of the pie.
We’re coming off a 2013 season where we saw just 14 players hit 30 home runs. That’s half of what was hit just five seasons ago. Power is down, there’s no way around it. Chances are, if you drafted Prince, Cano, or even Wil Myers, your power numbers are hurting a bit. These were top 50 draft picks that you selected expecting some pop, and you aren’t getting it. I want to give you a few players today that I think have some home runs on the way. Here’s the rub: there’s risk here. These players have some scars too and have, for the most part, under-performed year to date. They’re on the come, though. Think ‘Dominic Brown-last April’. You wanted him when he went off in May-June. If you traded for him in July, you missed the party. Sorry bro, beer’s gone. Here are a few players that might be throwing a party in June.
The Orioles shortstop has gotten off to a slow start this season. That’s a fair way to say he has zero home runs. Zero. After missing time early in the season with injuries, he’s been back and hitting in a run producing spot in a decent Orioles lineup. Since arriving in Baltimore in 2011, Hardy has three consecutive seasons of 22+ home runs. With home runs being down, you’re at a huge advantage if you’re getting 20 from a middle infielder, and Hardy was drafted with that in mind. While he seems to be taking a slight step back in both his plate discipline and contact rates, he’s been a 12.7% HR/FB guy since joining the Orioles, so don’t give up on him.
If we’re giving credit above to Hardy for his three consecutive seasons with 22 or more home runs, well…Matt Holliday has eight. He’s never been a 30 homer guy, but his year over year consistency is incredible. I could certainly see this being the season where that streak comes to an end, but I wouldn’t bet against him. With just two so far in 2014, he has a way to go, but there’s nothing under the hood here that screams massive decline. He’s hitting a few more ground balls than in years past, but the fly balls aren’t leaving the yard. His career HR/FB% is 15.8%, and we’re seeing a 4.3% so far this season. Holliday is universally owned, but I’m looking to buy him in a trade.
Notice a trend? Here’s a guy with nine consecutive seasons with 21 or more home runs. Trends are fun; they make us feel all warm and fuzzy. They’re like a guarantee. As said once by the ever articulate Tommy Boy, “I can take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed if it makes you feel better. I have the time.” There is no guarantee that Swisher keeps this streak alive, and in fact I find it highly unlikely that he will. For fantasy owners though, what’s the risk in finding out? Swisher’s ownership is way down, as is his production. His current BABIP is 30 points off his career mark, and his HR/FB number is down 9.5% compared to his lifetime mark. This is a low risk investment that could net some positive gains for your team.
*On Monday, Swisher was placed on the 15-day DL with a knee issue, but he’s someone to think about down the road.
Lowrie is definitely missing the consistent year after year production of the players above, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some juice left in this orange. When he’s been on the field, Lowrie has been an above average power play from the middle of the infield over the past two seasons. While Oakland is a hitting environment that typically represses home runs, Lowrie is still worth your attention. He hits third regularly in a strong Oakland lineup, and he’s made some improvements at the plate this season, despite the lack of results.
Plate discipline stabilizes from year to year fairly quickly, so I have to note what we’re seeing with the A’s shortstop. He has the 8th best BB/K ratio in the league at 1.09. He’s also making better contact, both in and out of the zone, and he’s not swinging at and missing too many strikes, just 4.4%. His BABIP is just .263, with a career mark of .292 and while he’s not the 20+ home run guy that the others in this article are, his HR/FB% of just 3.9 is half of lifetime number.
There’s always risk, but the degree obviously varies from player to player. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a player before we see the results, especially when we’ve seen the results in the past.