April 16, 2010
Don't Believe The Hype
Not every "Don't Believe The Hype" has to be negative—I mean, I'm generally a cheery person, and all that negativity probably isn't healthy. Of course, hype works both ways—sometimes you have players that are underperforming and people are ready to give up on them, and you also have players who may actually have turned a corner. Due to their history, however, no one is willing to give them a look. We'll take a look at a few of those types of hitters today.
Yes, I know I said I would switch off between hitters and pitchers, but until pitchers start to accumulate 30 innings, I don't think there's much value in checking them out. Right around then, I'll bust out SIERA and we'll have a field day taking down hot starts and disappointing beginnings from the mound.
Casey McGehee came out of nowhere in 2009 to help owners in NL-only leagues—he was great in his shortened season with the Brewers, but without a real history of success and at a somewhat deep position, his value in mixed leagues just wasn't there. He's aiming to change that in 2010 though, as the right-hander is hitting .333/.410/.697 over his first 39 plate appearances (and with a normal looking .286 BABIP). I'm not going to get too excited over fewer than 40 plate appearances, but McGehee hit .301/.360/.499 in 2009 and was projected by PECOTA to hit .277/.336/.450. His 90th percentile is about what he reached last year, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that we see a repeat.
McGehee hasn't been whiffing much early, and he's capable of drawing a walk while also hitting for solid power for his position. If you need help at third or for a corner infield slot and can take a flyer on McGehee without dropping anyone of significance, you may end up a happy owner.
Jeff Francoeur is one of the most polarizing players in baseball—he still has excellent tools, and everyone has been waiting for the 26-year old to break out ever since his debut with Atlanta back in 2005. The problem was that Frenchy just didn't understand what he needed to do in order to succeed. He understood he needed to take more pitches and stop swinging at everything, but he looked more like a Little Leaguer listening to his coach say "Take a pitch before you swing" then he did someone who understood how the strike zone works. We've all heard him deride on-base percentage to the point where it felt like we were being IRL trolled by him, but things may have changed in 2010.
Francoeur has six unintentional walks in 39 plate appearances. Six. That doesn't sound huge, but we're talking about a guy with a career high walk rate of six percent. His career high in walks is 42—if he kept up his current pace, he would stroll down to first base courtesy of the pitcher 100 times over 650 plate appearances. Can you even imagine a world where Jeff Francoeur secures triple-digits in walks? That has to be in the Book of Revelation somewhere as an omen that the Four Horsemen are coming, but here we are.
It's a little early to assume that this is where he will end up, but even if his walk rate drops about 5-6 percent, it's still a marked improvement over past rates and may indicate that he has a better idea of what pitches he can do something with and which ones he should lay off of. He's still golfing balls out of the strike zone but seems to be doing so with pitches he can do something with—there's nothing wrong with swinging at bad pitches if you can hit them.
My one concern here is that he's still looking at the same number of pitches per plate appearance, so we're going to have to watch to see which pitches he's sitting on and which ones he's swinging at rather than just one raw figure in order to see what's happening. Pitchers are tossing him fewer first-pitch strikes to start the year, though, and he's making a little more contact (and swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone). It's possible things are looking up. He's certainly worth the gamble if he's available in your league, so what are you waiting for?
Scott Podsednik is hitting .457/.525/.486 with six steals for the Royals. As a team, they are hitting well right now, but he isn't picking up very many runs despite this (just four on the season). The most important thing to remember with Podsednik may be his Isolated Power. His entire game right now is singles, and something tells me the major sports networks aren't preparing "What if Scott Podsednik hits .400?" segments right now. Remember, stolen bases are becoming easier to pick up from well-rounded players that will contribute in more than one category, so there's no reason to use up a roster space on someone like Podsednik if you have other options on the waiver wire.
Now is an excellent time to trade Pods, who is sometimes an overrated commodity due to this steals. You'll reap more from the right return (and the proper replacement via FAAB or free agency) than you will from keeping his one-category show in town.