CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Rebuildin... (05/20)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly P... (05/20)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Power Tr... (05/23)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Collateral Damage: Wri... (05/20)

May 20, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Buy, Buy, Buy!

by Jason Collette

Anyone can tell you to buy low on the struggling Carl Crawford right now. Rather than point out the obvious buy-low candidates, here are three pitchers and three hitters that I am on board with for the rest of the season.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs (RHP)
I was rather critical of Garza’s fantasy potential in 2011, as he was moving from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park. Yes, the designated hitter would no longer be a problem (nor would the brutal lineups in the American League East), but his rising flyball rate would be problematic, and he would most certainly miss the excellent outfield defense the Rays provided him the last three seasons.

Oops. He has just two wins, but his ERA is at 3.72 and he has turned around that flyball rate in a big way: his G/L/F splits right now are 48/23/28, and he has given up just one home run in 55 2/3 innings pitched. In addition to the new groundball approach, his strikeout rate has taken a large jump from 6.6 to 11.0 already, and with only a slight uptick in his walk rate. His WHIP is 1.37 thanks to a career-high BABIP of .362 that is being fueled by that 23 percent line drive rate (19 percent career). That will normalize, though, and once that and his 62 percent strand rate improve, you are going to want Garza. Talk up his two wins and his 1.37 WHIP, and see if you cannot sucker one of your league mates into giving up what should be a very good pitcher moving forward.

Travis Wood, Cincinnati Reds (LHP)
Wood got off to a very rough start this season, with a 6.82 ERA and 49 baserunners allowed in 32 innings of work in April. His two biggest black marks were three different starts in which he gave up six or more earned runs, but May has been a different story—he has won his last two starts after going winless in his previous six starts. Wood has three wins, but owns a 5.01 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP that are masking his recent gains.

Overall, his 7.7 strikeout rate, 2.7 walk rate, and 0.9 home rate are all goo d to solid rates in those areas, making Wood another case of good skills being hidden by some early season implosions. I would not hesitate to trade a guy like Charlie Morton to acquire Wood in an NL-Only league, as I see those pitchers heading in opposite direction for the remainder of the season. Home runs may be a problem since he is a flyball pitcher in a cozy park, but Morton’s low K/9 is going to be tough for 5x5 leagues to carry throughout the season and run support in Pittsburgh is tough to rely upon.

John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers (RHP)
For most of this week on Twitter and what not, I have been fielding trade questions from people related to trading away Axford and it puzzles me. Forget about the 4.42 ERA and 1.47 WHIP for a second and look at the peripherals: 11.3 strikeout rate, 3.3 strikeout to walk ratio, 0.5 home run rate, and a .267 opponents’ batting average. I will take those skills from a closer all day long while his .373 BABIP and 66 percent strand rate regress to better levels.

Axford had that giant meltdown to start April and another one to start off this month, but has given up a total of four runs in his other 17 outings. His 4.42 ERA looks a lot worse than his 2.26 FIP, and, if I have him, I am keeping him or trying to acquire him from a frustrated owner focused on the bad WHIP and ERA.

Juan Pierre, Chicago White Sox (OF)
Pierre had 138 steals from 2008 to 2010 while playing for both Los Angeles and Chicago, but has just six through his first 189 plate appearances heading into play Thursday night. In fact, Pierre has been thrown out more times than he has been successful in stealing bases. His on base percentage is down to a career low .311, and his line drive rate as well as his BABIP are also at low points.

Last season, Pierre had a 2.6 groundball to flyball ratio, as he hit 59 percent of his balls into the ground. This season, that ratio is at 1.9, as his flyball rate has risen to 29 percent—that is inexcusable for a guy that needs a strong gust of wind to hit one out of the park. Pierre needs to get back to scorching infields up with hard grounders and bunts, and stop hitting flyballs. As he does that, he will be back on base more often and running once again under Guillen’s aggressive style.

Pierre is a big risk in leagues right now, as he is not doing much of anything in any offensive category, but that should also have his value rather suppressed.

Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (2B)
Johnson is easily one of the bigger disappointments this season, since he is coming off a 26 home run, 13 steal campaign. To date, he has a horrid slash line of .186/.244/.308 in 156 at-bats with four home runs, 17 runs, and six stolen bases. He is on pace to easily surpass his stolen base total from last season, but everything else is hurting—most of that is Johnson’s own fault.

Last season, he had a 12 percent walk rate and a 25 percent strikeout rate, but those have fallen to seven and 33 percent respectively this season. Additionally, his line drive rate has lived in the 19-26 percent range throughout his career, but currently sits at 14 percent. I am going to bank on a return of his hitting and his power somewhat coming back to form—look for Johnson to go double/double with home runs and steals the rest of the way in 2011.

Nick Swisher, New York Yankees (OF)
Swisher has hit 58 home runs over the past two seasons as a member of the Yankees, and had a very impressive .288/.354/.511 slash line last season that included 91 runs scored and 89 runs batted in. This season, though, he is suffering through a .215/.333/.304 line, and has just eight extra hits in 164 plate appearances, completely out of character for him.

The running joke in the Yankees fan base is announcers being overly critical of the Yankees “relying too much on the homerun,” but Swisher certainly has not been a part of that conversation. He has a career home run to fly ball ratio of 15 percent, but is currently at just five percent this season. This all while he walks even more than he did last year and maintains his historical contact rates.

Swisher has not admitted to any type of injury, so this is another example of an old-fashioned slump. Swisher will break out of it, and has the cozy park to help him to that end. He is not going to hit .280 again, as that was an outlier based on BABIP issues, but he could hit .260 and hit 17-20 home runs the rest of the way. 

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

21 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Herbieq12

what are the chances garza keeps up his high k rate?

May 20, 2011 03:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I'm sure the second trip through the league will change that somewhat, but he should still be K'ing guys at a high level.

May 20, 2011 06:39 AM
 
Behemoth

Is Pedro Alvarez another buy low option just now? How about as a long term option in a dynasty league?

May 20, 2011 05:30 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

He has to stop pounding so much into the ground. Sluggers with 50% GB rates are not a good match. His walk and K rate are identical to last year but the scorched earth policy on his batted balls has to change.

May 20, 2011 06:42 AM
 
BurrRutledge

2 of the 6 guys on this list are ridin' pine on my team. Yea!

May 20, 2011 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Sky Kalkman

Any possible Buy candidates that you'd warn against?

May 20, 2011 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Liriano seems to be the pick du jour for bounceback based on current ERA and what not, but his control still stinks and his FIP is still over 5.00. I'm not buying there.

Bill Hall was another hot flavor in March thanks to the big numbers in Fenway and the move to Minute Maid but he's a mess this year. He's making the worst contact of his career and is showing no plate discipline at all. I don't care if he hits another 10-12 home runs this season, he's not going to match what he did last year even with more playing time.

May 20, 2011 08:24 AM
 
xavier

I know he has a bum shoulder, but any chance Adam Laroche gets a clue again? He's notoriously streaky, and most of that happens in the 2nd half, but this is pretty bad, even by his standards.

May 20, 2011 08:12 AM
rating: 1
 
comish4lif

I think LaRoche still has a clue - but it's the labrum tear. And it's affecting his swing. He's long to the ball now, the tear is (likely) preventing him from exploding at the ball with a short, compact swing. As it is now, it's big and looping and looks to be compensating for the pain in his shoulder.

I had my labrum repaired on March 2nd...

May 20, 2011 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I've had 2 of the repairs myself. Scott is fighting the same problem. BJ Upton had that in 2008 and was awful until a switch flipped in the post-season.

May 20, 2011 12:33 PM
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I honestly never want LaRoche on my team until June 1st. His OPS by month, for his career:

.688
.753
.789
.870
.952
.858

It is an annual right of passage in my league for me to send out a trade offer for LaRoche right about now and enjoy the ride for the final 4 months. He's making more contact this May than he did last year when he had a "good" May and is walking even more but a .216 BABIP this month and just 2 XBH is terrible to roster at 1B.

I'd target him at a 70% discount if you can get him and hope he does what he always does.

May 20, 2011 08:27 AM
 
xavier

I'll just hope he does what he always does cuz I already have him rostered!

May 20, 2011 08:58 AM
rating: 0
 
brems321

You had me until Juan P.. As a white sox fan who watches this zero tool player still leadoff and play.. its killing me. The man is old, can barely field adequetly, gets caught stealing as much as he can steal, and just looks old old old.. Also he can't bunt anymore, seriously watch him try. He gets lucky here and there but I can't wait till he loses his job or at least is in the 9th spot which finally seems like it may happen. Hopefully we put Rios in leadoff and bring up Viciedo, its our only chance.

May 20, 2011 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Don't get me wrong, I hate watching Pierre play and him hitting leadoff is as bad as Joe Maddon letting Sam Fuld continue to hit leadoff as he has. Throw Pierre down in the lineup, take the pressure off him, and let him run wild again. I enjoy Pierre in the stat sheet but he's a painful player to watch this season at the plate and in the field.

May 20, 2011 11:28 AM
 
brems321

I appreciate those remarks jason. well said, but i still wouldn't want him on my fantasy, ever. I wish I hated gordon b. as much as pierre since I wouldn't be saddled with him right now... I feel like i can't drop him, I just have him as my only bench guy in a 5x5 format... I can't help but love the kid, and he just keeps striking out. ugh.

May 20, 2011 13:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I had Jeter in a 15 team mixed league and put him up on the block immediately after the 2 HR game in Texas. The only 2 offers I got were Nick Markakis or Beckham and I went with Markakis. I had such high hopes for the White Sox this season but after watching them face off with the Rays 8 times already this season, I still don't know why they're this bad.

May 20, 2011 13:49 PM
 
mzawistowski

Sadly I drafted nearly every player on this list.

May 20, 2011 15:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Garza and Johnson are on 2 of my NL Only teams so I feel your pain.

May 20, 2011 16:44 PM
 
Robotey

I was bid up to $24 for Kelly Johnson in 2 NL only keeper leagues- in 2nd in both - he haunts me in every boxscore - I hate doubling down but couldn't resist - please be right about him

May 22, 2011 15:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

3 XBH & 6 RBI this weekend against the Twins. It's a turning point!

May 22, 2011 16:14 PM
 
Robotey

thanks - thinking positively and hoping it's not a dead cat bounce - doubled down on Pedro Alvarez (cheap keeper) and Matt Holliday (best OF avail) as well - tryin' to stay healthy!

May 23, 2011 07:52 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Rebuildin... (05/20)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly P... (05/20)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Power Tr... (05/23)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Collateral Damage: Wri... (05/20)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
The BP Wayback Machine: Can Spring Training ...
Fantasy Article The Adjuster: Relief Pitchers
Fantasy Article Fantasy Three-Year Projections: Relief Pitch...
Fantasy Article The -Only League Landscape: American League ...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Don't Call It A Committee!
The Lineup Card: Nine Ways to Improve Your F...
Fantasy Article Player Profile: David Robertson

MORE FROM MAY 20, 2011
Premium Article Collateral Damage: Wristy Business
Premium Article On the Beat: Rebuilding the Astros
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #8
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Rotation

MORE BY JASON COLLETTE
2011-05-31 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Who Am I?
2011-05-27 - Premium Article Fantasy Beat: The DH Conundrum
2011-05-23 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Power Trippin'
2011-05-20 - Fantasy Beat: Buy, Buy, Buy!
2011-05-18 - Premium Article Fantasy Beat: The Quad-A Label
2011-05-17 - Fantasy Beat: I Stay Away
2011-05-10 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Tout Wars FAAB Update, 5/10
More...

MORE FANTASY BEAT
2011-05-24 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at Catcher, Second...
2011-05-23 - Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at First, Third an...
2011-05-23 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Power Trippin'
2011-05-20 - Fantasy Beat: Buy, Buy, Buy!
2011-05-20 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #8
2011-05-20 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Rotation
2011-05-19 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Bullpen
More...