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April 22, 2011

Don't Believe the Hype

Leaving on a Jed Plane

by Marc Normandin

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If you have been paying any attention at all, the most added player of the week should be obvious. In fact, you may be missing your opportunity to add him just by taking the time to read this. Once again, the adds outweigh the drops, though Joe Nathan and Ryan Franklin, without save opportunities, deserve to be cut loose, at least in the short term.

Jed Lowrie, Boston Red Sox (81 percent owned, +52 percent)

That 52 percent figure is far and away the largest we have seen in Don’t Believe the Hype thus far, and it’s owed to the fact Lowrie not only is hitting .432/.447/.682, but is now going to get consistent playing time. The Red Sox front office has big plans for Lowrie, so now that he is playing at short against right-handers and third against lefties (David Ortiz sits against lefties, opening up the DH slot for regular third baseman Kevin Youkilis), you can expect him to keep on sticking in the lineup.

Just how good has Lowrie been? As I mentioned over at Red Sox Beacon earlier in the week, Lowrie’s True Average (.354) since July 21, when he returned from mono, is higher than Troy Tulowitzki’s (.349) during the same stretch. He isn’t as good a hitter as Tulowitzki, but, with consistent playing time, he could be the second- or third-best offensive shortstop in the bigs. No, really—who else is going to top Lowrie? Try naming more than two shortstops who can outhit him.

Jonny Gomes, Cincinnati Reds (81 percent owned, +38 percent)

Gomes is another player who started the week bordering Value Picks territory, but has shot far beyond that thanks to a .583 slugging over the last seven days. Of course, Gomes has also hit .167 during that stretch—that's just four hits in his last 24 at-bats, but with three of them going yard and another gaining him two bases.

Remember that Gomes had one big month in 2010 as well, and was basically useless in mixed formats otherwise. He hit .277/.330/.471 in the first half of 2010 thanks to a massive May (.364/.420/.636) but just .253/.324/.382 in the second half. The response to that criticism thus far has been along the lines of “But he is walking now!” Still, if you expect Gomes to walk in more than 20 percent of his plate appearances once he actually has a sizeable number of them, then it’s time for you to retake Small Samples 101.

Gomes has walked in his career fairly often (9.5 percent), but with 2,430 plate appearances under his belt, expecting him to have suddenly discovered this new zen-like patience is a little much, especially when it is being credited to him over 75 plate appearances. Sometimes walks just happen: he had 12 in August of 2010, and 10 in May, but had just 17 in the rest of the season combined. Expect for this all to even out, and for you to end up asking yourself why you thought this time would be different in the first place.

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals (63 percent owned, +37 percent)

Francoeur is hitting .329/.363/.534 in 2011, so teams looking for an extra outfielder have scooped him up in the hope that he has finally developed (or, at least, that he holds off reverting into pumpkin form until their regular lineup is healthy and whole again). History tells us that we should hold off, though: Francoeur hit .284/.355/.531 in April of 2010, and then just .241/.288/.351 the rest of the way.

No, I’m not saying that because Francoeur hit well in a past April and then played poorly that you should ignore his current stretch. I’m using the other 3,000-plus plate appearances in his career to tell you that. Francoeur is a career .269/.311/.427 hitter. If you want to use the “He hit well in Texas after the trade!” argument, then I’ll remind you he hit well in New York following his trade from the Braves as well.

It’s not that I find it impossible for Francoeur to finally hit like it was expected he would all the way back in 2005, but I’m not willing to bet on it again, after just a few weeks of season, and in yet another new setting—that seems to be his favorite place to thrive, after all. His first season with the Braves, first months with the Mets, first months with Texas, now Kansas City—there may or may not be a pattern for his most productive stretches there, but I’m leaning close enough to the “may” side of things that I’ll be looking for other outfield depth options and letting someone else get burned (or lucky).

Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals (40 percent owned, +37 percent)

As Mike Petriello discussed, Boggs is the most likely candidate to replace the deposed Ryan Franklin in St. Louis, even though Tony La Russa has been reluctant to name an official heir. Boggs is nothing special, but neither was Franklin—as far as lateral moves go, this is a pretty nifty one.

Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins (71 percent owned, +36 percent)

With Joe Nathan not looking anything like the Joe Nathan of old, Capps, who has his own history as a closer, gets the nod in Minnesota.

Capps and Boggs are just two more examples why spending big on a closer at draft time is a bit foolish. These guys lose their jobs all of the time, either due to injury or ineffectiveness, and as you can tell by the massive add rates for the last week, their replacements are available.

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You asked for some deeper looks in this space, so here are one AL and one NL player who are starting to see some love.

Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels (16 percent owned, +8 percent)

It was expected Conger would be sent down when Erick Aybar came off of the DL, but instead he remains on the roster and will pick up the bulk of playing time against right-handers. Hitting .286/.375/.536 to start the season—and showing more defensive chops than the departed Mike Napoli—may enable Conger to do what no one else has been able to: remove Jeff Mathis from the throne, ending his reign of terror and awful plate appearances.

Given the state of catchers, Conger is worth a flyer—expect him to fly off the shelves quickly as people notice that he is both still in the majors and hitting well.

Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs (10 percent owned, +7 percent)

Barney is quickly approaching his total playing time for 2010 in the first month of the season, after surprisingly making the team out of spring training as the Cubs’ starting second baseman. He hasn’t disappointed whoever made that call just yet, hitting .309/.350/.400 to start the year.

That is a line that requires batting average to stay in the realm of useful, but his BABIP is just high, not absurd, at .333, and he has not struck out very often (14 percent). Barney hit .286/.334/.374 over four seasons in the minors, whiffing 11.6 percent of the time and finishing up that portion of his career with a .299/.333/.378 showing at Triple-A Iowa. Those are reasonable expectations for him in the majors, making him non-essential in mixed leagues, but more than worth a look in NL-only leagues.

Related Content:  The Who,  Darwin Barney

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly P... (04/22)
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Fantasy Article Don't Believe the Hype... (04/15)
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Fantasy Article Don't Believe the Hype... (04/29)
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