Busts


Stock Watch: In Case You Forgot—Plus Very, Very Deep Leagues

Editor’s Note: This author is traveling this week and is making an effort to produce content that might still be relevant after several days have passed. Hopefully it’s working.

Welcome to a Very Special Episode of Stock Watch, in which we depart somewhat from our usual format. Insofar as we actually follow it anyway. We’re focusing on two kinds of players today: the first are hitters who slumped so badly early in the season that you might have forgotten they can still play. We could have included pitchers, but we didn’t. The second is an oft-neglected group of players, those already owned in only the deepest of leagues. Instead of our usual waiver wire splits, we’ll jump right to players owned in fewer than 10% of leagues. In fact, we’ll limit that section to hitters too. Don’t worry, you know I can’t keep myself from talking about pitchers for very long, so I’m sure we’ll get back to them next time around.

Lest you shallow-leaguers out there get bored, remember that guys from both of these categories may have already broken out by the time you read this….

You forgot about us, didn’t you? 

Or at least you tried to. 

Let’s face it, unless he plays on your fantasy team, you don’t pay much attention when a player slumps in July or August and hits .180 for the month without any homers or steals. You might pause when you see his recent production if offered a trade, but you’ll look at his season numbers and conclude (usually rightly) that it was nothing but the sort of slump everyone goes through.

But when that horrific slump happens in April, it’s a lot easier to write those guys completely off. Especially if you didn’t think they were going to be any good this year anyway. Even in June, a terrible April can eclipse the next two months of perfectly normal production. 

Take the case of Curtis Granderson. I didn’t believe in him going into the year, so when he had a very, very bad April, (the lowest qualifying batting average in MLB at .136, with just one homer) I felt like my position had been proved. That was sloppy thinking, though, because a) I certainly didn’t predict Grandy to suddenly become the worst player in baseball, and b) small sample!

Sure enough, Granderson is still only rocking a .226 average. But if he was dropped and you snagged him off the wire, you were able to live through his .253 average in May (with five homers), and now you’re enjoying his .340 mark in June (and the three homers, not to mention the three steals or the fact that he has more walks than strikeouts this month). So, Grandy’s given us two fantasy-productive months and one awful one. But that bad month is dominating his stat line. Makes him a pretty nice trade candidate, if you ask me. Actually, he’s the one that inspired this article, so let’s take a look at a few more April busts who might be turning things around—or who already have.

Did you know Carlos Santana grounded into seven double plays in March/April? Okay, that’s not very fantasy relevant, since those don’t count double against his average, but still, it kind of typifies the kind of April he had. He batted under the Mendoza line (way under) in both of the season’s first two months, but in twelve June games, he’s smacking the ball with some serious authority. Between his history of success and the fact that he’s still walking nearly as much as he’s striking out, I like Santana’s chances of returning to your fantasy good graces. 

I recently tried to swing a trade for Jason Heyward, but I guess his owner didn’t need this article to realize his value. (But, hey, Hyun-jin Ryu seems fair, right?) Heyward hit just .206 with two homers and 26 strikeouts in April, but he’s hit .284 since then, with six homers and 30 strikeouts. (In 76 more at bats, remember.) His season-long OBP is already up to .340, but offer your trades before his slugging catches up (it’s at just .388 for the season, but .478 so far in June).

Asdrubal Cabrera was, like Granderson, another victory for my preconceived notions of his lousy-ness. He batted just .220 in March/April, depressing his season total to .255. Since then, however, his average has been .275 in May, and .281 in June. His power has ticked up just a bit, too. If you’re looking for alternatives at short (like, say, to a certain other Cabrera), Asdrubal is probably better than he looks.

Allen Craig lives by his batting average, so when he buried himself with a .220 mark for April, I (yet again) felt vindicated. He’s raised his average up to .260 by now, with steady hitting since the first month. He still doesn’t do much else, but it’s not like you were asking him to anyway. Interestingly, though his March/April BABIP was just .239, and his May BABIP rocketed up to .360, he’s now evened almost exactly out, to a neutral .301. Not that he’s ever had a neutral BABIP over a full season…so there's a decent chance that average is moving on up.

Pablo Sandoval is actually having a pretty decent year. I wouldn’t have guessed it, since his April batting average of .177 is dragging his season number down to .265, but yeah. Since the end of April (still very cold in San Francisco, I note, suggesting a simplistic, yet tangible explanation without offering concrete evidence for its role as a cause), Sandoval has batted about .317. If you need a third baseman, I’d make an offer relatively soon.

Very Deep Waiver Wire Pickups

Conor Gillaspie (8% owned) still has no power. And he’s still hitting for average. If you’re hurting at 3B or CI, give him serious thought.

Tommy La Stella (8%) is off to a pretty good start as Dan Uggla’s replacement. He’s probably more of an emergency fill-in than anything else, but in leagues as deep as yours must be, any hot streak is worth checking into. 

Lucas Duda and Oswaldo Arcia (both 7%) are showing some modest power in the last month, with five and four homers respectively.

Rougned Odor (6%), aside from having an awesome name (I pronounce it “Roughened” in my head, but that probably isn’t right), is hitting the ball well for Texas. He could stick on a team decimated by injuries and ultimately help out fantasy squads.

J.D. Martinez (5%) who, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know was on the Tigers now, is absolutely killing the ball (1.026 OPS, five homers) in 60 at bats in the last month. It’s a niche market, but if you have room for a part-timer and want to take advantage of a “streaky” player on a hot run, go for it. At the least, it could end up giving him more playing time.

Luis Valbuena (5%) kind of inspired this section of the article, when I read about him last week and gave him a quick mention. In Yahoo!, he’s eligible at second and third, and he’s been batting .330 in the last month. Yes, he’s BABIP-fueled, but he’s also changed his approach to generate more line drives. 

Jon Jay (4%), who I almost skipped by because he’s, well, Jon Jay, is hitting .360 on the month. If I’m gonna mention Martinez, I’d better mention Jay too. I guess.

Josh Rutledge (4%) has sweet 2B/SS dual eligibility and he’s smacking the ball hard (.925 OPS) since returning to the Majors in place of Nolan Arenado. (No, he isn’t playing third, the Rockies just shifted DJ LeMahieu.) It’s totally worth speculating on the chance that he capitalizes on his early-career promise, even though it’s not incredibly likely.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Humility, Speed, and Everth Cabrera

I’ve plugged a lot of bust players this year. I know that. Who was a bigger fan before the season of the mediocre Aaron Hill, the injured Carlos Beltran, or…you know what, if you want to see which players I’ve busted on, you should go back and check out my preseason articles. (Yes…that’s a clever ploy to get people digging into the RotoAuthority archives…that’ll definitely work….)

But anyway, here’s a little about one of my (so far) worst bets of the year: Everth Cabrera. I've got him on several teams, and considered him a top-five shortstop before the season began. In an exercise of humility, I’m prepared to admit that things aren’t going well before my pre-season favorite speedster and myself at the moment. If you own him, I’d imagine your relationship with the Padres’ shortstop is probably going through a rough patch too. Should you stick it out? Or is it time to let E-Cab steal a spot on the waiver wire? (Or get caught trying?)

Going into the season, I profiled Cabrera as a guy with fewer question marks than most of his shortstop peers. Kudos to you if you ignored my warnings and drafted Troy Tulowitzki, but other than that, the top shortstops haven’t been awesome—though most have certainly outhit Cabrera. 

Some other questionable things I said were that Cabrera “can hit” (italics original), that the Padres could “drive in a run” with the help of Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, and Carlos Quentin, and (indirectly) that I didn’t think being (presumably) off PED’s would matter much. 

Well…first of all, nothing has gone right for the Padres’ offense so far (except Seth Smith, who appears to be stealing everyone else’s hits), but Cabrera has managed a not-horrible-I-guess 21 runs scored so far, so that actually wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Unfortunately, a guy with just six RBI really needs to be a positive contributor in runs if he’s going to hang in a fantasy lineup. And I just don’t think Cabrera’s going to get many chances to improve those RBI. (Though he does have two longballs already. Can you imagine that—giving up a homer to Everth Cabrera? Now, that would be embarrassing. That’s how pitchers felt in little league when they gave up a hit to me.)

Cabrera’s steals are down too; he’s slacking with just 10 on the season, while burners like Eric Young, Jose Altuve, and Billy Hamilton are rocking 17 or 18. And out-of-nowhere-longshot Dee Gordon is embarrassing everyone in the world with 30 already. Come on! Part of Cabrera’s low steal total is thanks to his success rate: he’s been caught four times already, which leaves him with an acceptable 71% rate. But that isn’t what we paid for, considering that he was only caught four times in all of 2012! Get it together, man.

Lousy teammates and a few more outs on the basepaths aren’t the root of Everth’s problems. If they were, this article would be a lot more optimistic. No, the worst problems are the ones at the core of his .240 batting average and his cringe-worthy .273 on-base. The good news is that if Cabrera fixes these issues, the runs and the steals ought to bounce right back accordingly, because their problem is just that he isn’t getting to first base often enough to steal second or cross home. 

So what is killing Cabrera’s ability to hit for average and get on base? He was supposed (in my head, at least) to be a better-hitting Elvis Andrus, but he’s looking more like Alcides Escobar. (Actually, Escobar has been kinda good this year. That’s nice for him, but I’ve still got a grudge from last year. 

Well, Cabrera’s BABIP is sitting at .301, giving him almost squarely neutral “luck.” A speedy guy like Cabrera should be able to squeeze a higher BABIP out of his plate appearances, seeing as he’s got the wheels to beat out infield hits; sure enough he BABIP’d (everything is a verb these days) over .330 in both of the two seasons. That’s actually a positive indicator: there’s a pretty decent chance that his BABIP regresses closer to his previously-established mean and drags his average and on-base up a little with it. An increased BABIP might be all it takes to put his average into the .260 territory, which isn’t exactly glowing praise, but it would lift him into the “doesn’t-hurt-you” level for the category. 

Unfortunately, we can’t blame everything on BABIP and hope that his numbers rise across the board if his luck turns. Hopefully you stayed with me this far, because I’ve saved the most troubling issue for last: walks and strikeouts. Cabrera’s walk rate has diminished by more than half since last year, dropping from 9.4% to just 4.2%. So, no wonder his OBP is so ugly—he just isn’t taking those free passes that were so important to his game in 2013 and 2012. Cabrera’s also given up most of the gains he made in his strikeout rate, which sits at 22%, after dropping from 24.5% in ’12 to 15.9% in ’13. 

So Cabrera’s walks are down by a lot and his strikeouts are up by a lot. That’s bad. But let’s remember that we’re still dealing with a pretty small sample of just under two months. His monthly splits are actually a little weird: he struck out more in March/April, but his batting average is about .100 points worse in May. He had eight doubles in March/April, but just one in May. He had only four steals (three caught) in March/April, but has six (one caught) in May. He only walked four times in 116 March/April at bats, but has five walks through 88 May at bats. What’s the purpose of going over his month-by-month stats? Mostly to show just how odd small-sample play can be. 

I’m not ready to give up on Cabrera. If he can get a little better luck to combine with recovering his batting eye, he still has a chance to return to something approaching his previous skill levels. One thing I’m not worried about is his skills dying without PED’s—unless he’s been injecting stuff into his eyeballs, I think it’s safe to say he didn’t get his batting eye from external sources.*

*But if you know of evidence to suggest that PED’s improve batting eye directly (as in, not by bulking up a hitter’s power and making pitchers afraid to throw anywhere near the strike zone) I’d be very interested to hear about it in the comments. And I'd be more worried about Cabrera.

Cabrera’s problems are deep enough that I wouldn’t advocate going out and trading for him the way I would if BABIP were the only real issue, but if he’s on your waiver wire, that level of risk is still a good investment. I definitely wouldn’t try trading low on him in most circumstances. I suspect that more than Cabrera’s season is at a crossroads—whether or not he’s able to get his walks and strikeouts under his control is likely to determine what kind of career he has and how long it is. 




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