Two to Add and two to Dump: First Base Edition
Two to add and two to drop is about a lot more than just who’s hot and who’s not. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. The fantasy season is kind of like a time line. Everything that has happened up to this point is already in the bank. If you make a change now you only get their numbers from this point forward. That can obviously cut ways. If you make the mistake of getting someone after two hot months, then you could live to regret it.
What we are doing is taking the 29 qualifying first basemen (according to Fangraphs) and looking solely at their batted ball data. We are ignoring the standard fantasy categories for now. We are looking at contact rates, chase rates, hard hit ball percentage, and home runs per fly ball percentage. None of these mean anything without a frame of reference, so we are including the median scores for each statistic amongst first basemen. The general idea is that players with good rates in each statistic, but with a lower than average batting average on balls in play should rebound. Those with higher BABIPs and lower scores will likely regress.
Hard contact: 42.3%
Two to Add
Justin Smoak– Toronto Blue Jays
Hard Contact: 51.5%
When half of the leagues own a player you always have to have a second option. Heck, even the second option may be taken. That doesn’t mean you give up on either player. Sometimes you find a player on your roster that is overperforming and make a classic “buy low, sell high” deal. You might have to throw in a sweetener, but you can do a lot worse. The key with Smoak will come in July when he will almost certainly be dealt along with a starting pitcher or two. Where does he go? Will it raise his profile some?
This is where playing the long game comes into play. He hits the ball hard and yet his BABIP is 50 points lower than the positional median. No, that doesn’t mean his average will go up 50 points between now and the end of the season, but he should produce close to that clip from here on out. If you haven’t owned him up until now then you really don’t care what happens to his overall numbers. You only care about what he does from here on out. He might produce at around a .260 clip with 20 more home runs. That’s not elite, but it’s pretty darn good.
Brandon Belt– San Francisco Giants
Hard Contact: 43.0%
Belt’s issue is his home ballpark. With the Giants bringing up the rear in the NL West he might end up getting a ticket out of town at the trade deadline. He would be an underrated add for a real team. He is worth at least one win defensively alone and that is rare for a first baseman. For you, it means he could turn into a very underrated fantasy first baseman anywhere but San Francisco. You surround him with more good hitters and his high OBP could translate into more runs as well. He is fairly close to positional norms in terms of his batted ball statistics except for the home run rate. So, I wouldn’t expect a huge bump in batting average, but better power numbers could come.
Two to Drop
C.J. Cron– Minnesota Twins
Hard Contact: 37.4%
Drop is usually used as a euphemism in these types of articles. Nobody is dropping a .270 hitter with 13 home runs before the calendar flips to June. What you do is use him as bait to get someone on the rise at another position. Don’t shoot for the moon. Most fantasy players didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, so you shouldn’t sell him as a 40 home run guy. He might be a 30 home run guy and that could secure you a good player at another spot.
The problem with Cron is that he isn’t bad in any particular area. His contact is a little below average. His chase rate is a little above average. His hard contact percentage is a little below average and his home run per fly ball percentage is a little elevated. None of these by themselves would be alarming. When you add them all up you get a below average player. That’s okay if you want to hold down a spot, but why not cash in when you can?
Jose Abreu– Chicago White Sox
Hard Contact: 38.2%
I don’t dislike Abreu. In fact, I’ve been rooting for my hometown Astros to acquire him. In the right lineup he can be very effective. The problem with guys like Abreu is that you are paying for RBI. That’s all well and good as long as you get RBI opportunities. The numbers above indicate that he chases a little too much, but otherwise is perfectly mediocre as a first baseman. Yet, he has produced 100 or more RBI in four of his first five seasons. He might have done it last season too if he hadn’t gotten hurt in September.
He will likely do it again this season, so dumping him is not an option. What is an option is trading him out for another model. You could get a lesser first baseman like Smoak and likely get the same results as Abreu over the last four months. If that allows you to upgrade at another position then you do it. Remember, it is what happens from here on out that matters.