July 7, 2010
Which LaPorta Is For Real?
It's very easy to get caught up in a short-term performance by a player, especially if you thought they were capable of playing well. Matt LaPorta began his season with struggles, hitting .214/.285/.277 in his first 112 at-bats for the Indians—the Indians sent him packing to the minors for a bit, and recently recalled him. Since then, he's hit .324/.405/.676, but in just 37 at-bats, as a follow-up to hitting .362/.457/.638 at Triple-A Columbus.
LaPorta was sent down in part because of the presence of Russell Branyan—I ranked him as a two-star first baseman heading into the season, not so much because of his forecast (.272/.343/.490 isn't bad by any means, but it's not enough from a first baseman if he's also splitting time)—but now that Branyan has been dealt back west, LaPorta has the gig that was supposedly his in the spring back. The question posed to me multiple times, via e-mail and Twitter, was whether or not LaPorta's recent performance was for real.
While I did say that he, "has the best chance of this group to move into the three-star category", there are a few reasons to be cautious. First off, it's just 37 at-bats. Second, his 90th percentile forecast had him down for .292/.385/.557, which is a fantastic line, but it's also meant to be the height of his production (players, of course, exceed these limits, but throwing away a well-put-together guideline like this because of 37 at-bats is extreme, even as an example of fantasy desperation).
LaPorta's swing was busted because of his surgically repaired hip and big toe—he had modified his swing in the past to compensate for them, in order to favor them, which led to swinging with his arms rather than generating power from the lower half of his body. LaPorta worked on recovering his original swing, the one that made him an attractive hitter, while in the minors, and as you can see from the results at two levels, this was a successful transition. LaPorta was Will Carroll's Big Risk in his Team Health Report for the Indians, so this shouldn't come completely as a shocker, but it's good to see that it's been cleared up.
If LaPorta is available in your league, snatch him up. Even if he doesn't continue at his recent torrid pace, having a guy who can hit somewhere between his weighted mean and his 90th percentile would be a great addition to the teams that aren't lucky enough to have Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, etc. If he's already on someone's roster, there may still be time to snatch him up, as someone may think they are selling high based on his recent performance, given his horrible start and still ugly season line.