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Power is sexy. We all know chicks dig the long ball. It's the same way in fantasy baseball, especially now that power is down around the league. However, I'm going to posit in this piece that some folks allow the draw of the big fly to cloud their judgment with players, so much so that people ignore faults or deficiencies in players and merely say a player is great cause he takes pitchers offerings deep into the seats on a regular basis.
THE WHITE SOX SLUGGER
Jose Abreu was back at it Monday as he avoided an early scare in batting practice when he was hit by an errant ball (it's pretty amazing more guys aren't hurt during BP with about 18 different things going on at one time). Abreu mashed a homer once the game began, his 16th of the year, and that is the most ever for a White Sox player in the first 45 games of his big league career. All is right with the world. Or is it? Given the lead in to this piece you know I'm gonna say – maybe not. Here's the deal.
Abreu is a zero in steals. Nothing is gonna happen there, so best case scenario he's like a starting pitcher – he's only going to help in four of the five traditional fantasy categories... at best.
I write “at best” because the truth is that Abreu really is going to only help in three categories. Anyone notice that his batting average is .260? At this point the major league average is a cool .250. That means Abreu, as of June 3rd, is just barely league average in the batting average category. Will he improve there? He may not. He's only, and forgive me for harping on this over and over, taking seven non-intentional walks in 45 games. That's just awful. He never takes a walk and that limits batting average upside in nearly every case. He also strikes out a lot with 51 punchouts in 45 games. The resulting 0.20 BB/K ratio is exactly half of the 0.40 big league average this season. How many players had 502 plate appearances last year with a BB/K ratio under 0.30 and hit .280? There were 19 men who qualified and only eight of them hit .280: Starling Marte (.280), Adam Jones (.285), Marlon Byrd (.291), Torii Hunter (.304), Chris Johnson (.321), Carlos Gomez (.284), Manny Machado (.283) and Howie Kendrick (.297). It's just not easy to hit well with such a poor BB/K ratio.
So now we're down to Abreu being a strong three category performer. However, I think we might be looking at a guy who should be considered even a bit less than that. Blasphemy? You tell me what you think about the following data points.
(1) Since Abreu never walks he has a .311 OBP. The results is that he's scored 16 times on homers and only 14 times in his other 161 at-bats. That's right, he's only scored 14 times in 45 games when he didn't know himself home. How many batters scored 80 runs last season with an OBP under .315? The answer is just four: Mark Trumbo (85 and .294), Alfonso Soriano (84 and .302), Brandon Phillips (80 and .310) and Manny Machado (88 and .314). Unless Abreu picks up his overall game his run total will be solid but fall short of being strong/impressive, especially since he's already missed time on the DL.
(2) Abreu's home run power is prodigious. However, let's pump those breaks. First, he doesn't hit that many fly balls. In fact his 32 percent fly ball rate is two percentage points below the league average. To reiterate he hits fewer fly balls than the average. Second, and this should be obvious after the first point, but he's completely living off his HR/F ratio. Right now it's immense at 39 percent. As I've previously pointed out, that simply is nowhere near being a sustainable pace. No one in baseball was even at 30 percent last year (Chris Davis led the way at 29.6 percent). That also means that in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010... no player reached 30 percent. Abreu's homer pace is going to slow, just the way it is. Finally, and I also brought this up earlier this up about a month ago in Batter Banter, no play in baseball last year hit 35 home runs with a 47 ground ball rate, the rate that Abreu is sporting right now.
I'm not saying he will fail. I'm not saying he stinks. I'm not saying he won't end up being one of the best fantasy bargains in 2014 given his draft day cost. I'm merely trying to point out that he's not nearly as impressive as some people make him out to be in the fantasy game.
Take a look at the June Rankings Update!
THE ASTROS SLUGGER
George Springer has 10 homers, 29 RBIs and 24 runs scored in 41 games played. Give him that rate of production over 150 games and he'd hit 35 homers, drive in more than 100 and score about 90. That's a tremendous rate of production, and one that his talents have always suggested was possible. However, as in the case of Abreu, there are holes in Springer's game that people aren't addressing – something I pointed out on Twitter Monday and got quite a bit of backlash for.
First off, be it because of a groin issue or a strategical decision, Springer isn't running. He could start running at any moment, this guy stole 45 bases last year between Double and Triple-A, and he certainly projects as at least a 20 steal threat in the big leagues. Potential to contribute without a doubt, but for now he has one steal and has been caught twice. That gives him a 150 game pace of four steals. He's been a nothing in that category thus far.
Second, his batting average is nearly identical to Abreu's at .259. As mentioned above, that's just a couple of hits better than the league average (.250). He's doing nothing in this category. This was always a danger with Springer, something I pointed out in his Player Profile. Springer has poor plate discipline, he tries to pull everything, and he can certainly be pitched too. Springer has a 31 percent K rate that has led to 57 Ks in 41 games. Let's assume Springer played 150 games and kept up his current K rate. Do you know how many strikeouts he would have? Try on 211 for size. Two hundred plus folks. You can't hit any better than he is right now if you're striking out that much.
Again, I'm not saying Springer stinks or that he's a huge disappointment. I'm merely pointing out that folks need to make sure they are honest about who they players are and what they have to offer. Don't let the hype blind you to facts, and the facts are that Springer is currently merely a three category performer who even in a best case scenario isn't likely to be better than a four category guy.
Two final words of warning to file away on Springer... Domonic Brown.
Don't forget to check out my Player Profile on Jon Singleton.