June 2, 2011
Too Early to Count Out
Greetings, BP readers. As I said in my introduction on Monday, I’ll be writing here at BP twice per week. Sometimes (probably once every week or two), I’ll write a piece like I did Monday where I talk about a trend, run a study, present a new strategy or a new way to use a stat, or talk about some other form of fantasy theory. The rest of the time, I’ll muse about players and what to expect of them going forward. Today, I’ll be looking at four undervalued players who could end up returning quite a bit of value to their owners before year’s end.
Before I start, I also wanted to remind you that I’ll be hosting my first-ever BP chat this afternoon at 1 p.m. EST. Be sure to stop by and ask any fantasy questions you have.
Chone Figgins | SEA | 3B/2B: Figgins is having a rough season, batting .190 with a full-season pace of just 56 runs and 23 steals. Drafted primarily for his steals and run scoring ability, he has been a huge disappointment to owners thus far, and some wonder if he has run out of gas at 33 years old. I’m not one of these people; I see a lot of reason for optimism and traded for him in the CardRunners AL-only Experts League a few days ago.
First, Figgins is striking out just 12.8 percent of the time compared to his usual 17-18 percent. While his BABIP is a very low .212, his xBABIP is actually .318. If his actual BABIP sat there, he’d be hitting a healthy .281.
Additionally, while his overall steals total is low, he’s attempting steals at a 32 percent rate, which is actually higher than his 27 percent four-year average. The reason he only has seven steals so far is that his low average (and low walk rate) is keeping him off base, and he has been caught in 42 percent of his attempts. However, stolen-base success rate is an incredibly unstable stat, we’re looking at a tiny sample, and his success rate is 74 percent over the past four seasons, so I expect him to be fine here.
The big thing I’d be concerned with is the fact that Figgins is making contact with 86 percent of balls out of the zone—well above the league average of 68 percent and his 73 percent rate over the past few seasons. At first we might think this is a good thing, but I have a suspicion that he’s making poor contact with a lot of these balls, leading to the low BABIP–especially since he’s swinging at more pitches out of the zone than usual. If he can be more selective with the out-of-zone pitches he swings at, everything should fall into place for him. He’ll strike out a little more (but no more than usual), walk more, and his BABIP will rise, which will increase his stolen-base and run totals.
Mark Reynolds | BAL | 3B: Reynolds is a guy I loved coming into the season, buying him for $19 in CardRunners (12-team AL) and drafting him in the fifth round in the Yahoo! Friends & Family expert league (14-team mixed). He hasn’t exactly delivered thus far, batting just .193, but I’m still very optimistic for the rest of the season.
I don’t need to tell you that Reynolds’s big asset is his power, and the move to Camden Yards looked very favorable coming into 2011. Boosting righty homers by 24 percent over Chase Field, I thought Reynolds could challenge for 40 home runs. His seven homers thus far isn’t exactly a paltry sum, but the 11 percent HR/FB it equates to isn’t nearly what I expected, either. Still, Reynolds has gone on a mini-tear of late, batting .315 with four homers since the middle of May.
He’ll never be a guy to hit .300 on a regular basis, but Reynolds’s xBABIP of .300 portends a .235 average, which would jump to .252 if his HR/FB returns. He’s not hitting his homers quite as far as he did last season, which is a little worrisome, but in a year where third base is such a shallow position and many fantasy owners are scrambling to find production, Reynolds is a guy that I’d be all over. The upside here is too great to ignore.
Danny Duffy | KCR | SP: Duffy is an intriguing pitcher with a lot of upside for this season. His 4.11 ERA has been serviceable thus far, but his 4.65 SIERA paints him as an AL-only option at best. Still, there’s reason to consider him in mixed leagues. The first is that his K/9 is 8.2, and the likelihood of Duffy continuing to post above-average K numbers seems pretty good. His stuff isn’t top-notch, but it is certainly very good. His fastball averages 93 mph and has touched 97 this year with a full foot of rising action. His changeup has good tailing action with a terrific 10 mph separation from his fastball, and his curve has pretty good 1-to-7 bite.
Right now, the big problem for Duffy is control. His high SIERA is a result of a 5.9 BB/9 that may or may not significantly improve by the end of the season. He never had severe control issues in the minors, but he has never been a command artist, either. When ESPN’s Jason Grey asked Duffy’s Triple-A manager earlier in the year what he needed to improve, he said “consistency with command of his offspeed pitches.” As his BB/9 can attest, he hasn’t quite done that yet. Still, he has put the ball in the zone 49.3 percent of the time (league average: 46.4 percent) but is falling behind in the count far too often (47.8 percent first-pitch strike rate compared to 59 percent league average).
Duffy is definitely a work in progress, but he’s one to keep an eye on. If he starts showing some control, he’d pretty easily become mixed-league relevant. He walked just one against Texas in his last time out, so that’s a start.
Chris Capuano | NYM | SP: Capuano’s 4.94 ERA this season is ugly (27 percent worse than NL average), but his 3.89 SIERA is actually quite good (four percent better than NL average). Capuano has merely been a victim of bad luck (case in point: allowing four earned runs on five infield hits last night).
Capuano is pretty vanilla as far as pitchers come, but he’s effective. He has a generic fastball-slider-change repertoire and cranks his fastball up to just 87 mph on average. He strikes out an above-average number of batters and walks a below-average number but doesn’t excel in either area. He’s league-average in terms of ground balls and home runs and, as a result of all this, is severely underrated.
Sure, there are some health concerns since he hasn’t thrown a full season since 2006, but his numbers and his stuff are basically the same as they were back when he was an effective and viable fantasy option for the Brewers. As long as he stays healthy, he deserves a spot on a roster in most fantasy formats. I’m a Capuano owner in Tout Wars Mixed and frequently stream him in Yahoo! F&F (such as for his supposed-to-be-terrific matchup against Pittsburgh last night). He’s available in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so if yours is one and you need pitching, he’s absolutely a guy to consider.