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In this piece we'll explore plenty. Is Jose Altuve emerging as the best second sacker in baseball? Should James Jones on the offensive side, and Jesse Hahn on the pitching side, be getting more love? Is it possible that A.J. Burnett will turn things around in the second half? When Nolan Arenado returns, what type of production should be expected? Finally, why does no one talk about Huston Street when they are discussing the best closers in baseball?
JOSE ALTUVE, BEST 2B IN BASEBALL?
The month of June will go down as the best month of baseball that Jose Altuve will ever have. Ever. For the month Altuve hit .411. Yes, over .400. What's more amazing, the .411 batting average or the 17-for-17 in steals? I honestly don't know how to answer that. Either number is stupendous. In conjunction it boggles the mind. Seriously, who does that? Let's pull back from this historic nature of the month and analyze the player.
Altuve is batting .344 this season. Come on, that's coming down. The .362 BABIP he's sporting surpasses his previous three year high substantially (.321). His 22.9 percent line drive rate would be a career best, though it's possible he could sustain that level thanks in part to his speed. Still, there's not much that has changed in the overall approach of Altuve yet his average is .050 points in excess of his career mark. As for the power – it's never gonna be there (16 career homers). Run production? Nope. Even with all his success he's only on pace to match his RBI total from last season (52). Runs scored? For all his success Altuve is on pace for just 82 runs scored. That's a strong mark, but it's nowhere near elite. Part of the issue is that he's only walked 21 times thus far. Finally, Altuve stole 33 and 35 bases the past two years. This season he's already swiped 37. Logic would tell you he's not likely to more than double his previous career best. I'd also add this thought. Borrowing a measure from Baseball HQ called Stolen Base Opportunity...
SBO is calculated by the following formula: (SB+CS) / (singles+BB)
SBO is a rough guess as to how often a player attempts a stolen base. Let's look at Altuve's career marks.
2011: 21 percent
2012: 27 percent
2013: 28 percent
Pretty much an established baseline, including two full seasons of work the past two years. So what has happened this year?
2014: 37 percent
Is it possible he can sustain that rate? Certainly. Is it likely? I doubt it.
Where does Altuve rank among second sackers for me? The Updated PLAYER RANKINGS are available, nearly 500 players in all.
MOOKIE BETTS CALLED UP
JAMES JONES, A BUDDING STAR?
James Jones had four hits and three steals Monday night. People are getting pretty darn excited about the athletic outfielder of the Mariners. Why? The guy is hitting .289 with 17 steals in just 55 games, so it's time to get excited as the dude can motor. However, he's also failed to go deep even one time. He's also driven in a mere six runs, that's just terrible. He's walked nine times. Terrible as well. So what we have in Jones is a deficient player in power and a deficient run producer. On the plus side there is the speed and that should continue to play though being a bit nervous about a guy with a .320 OBP is warranted. That's especially accurate when it's noted that Jones has a BABIP of .350. It will likely regress. His 23.5 percent line drive rate will also likely regress. I don't like guys that don't walk, especially when they need to get on base to truly flash their fantasy skills, but given what we've seen from Jones to this point expecting a Ben Revere like second half isn't as crazy as it would have seemed three months ago.
AN UNDERCOVER ACE?
Jesse Hahn has only five starts at the big league level, but we need to take notice. In those five outings for the Padres he's gone 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and more than 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Toss in the 47 percent ground ball rate and the 1.71 GB/FB ratio and what you have is as dominating a pitching line as you could ever hope for. Hell, if Felix Hernandez were to pitch that well for a month you would be doing cartwheels. Some causes for pause. (1) He's had an off/on love affair with the doctor's office. (2) As a results of #1, he threw 52 innings in 2012 and just 69 in 2013. He's already up to 66 innings this season. How many more bullets does he have to throw? (3) He didn't throw a pitch in Triple-A, and in fact it wasn't until 2014 that he pitched above A-ball. (4) In 159.1 minor league innings Hahn did have a 2.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, but he also failed to record a K per innings (8.8) which casts doubt on his current success in that category.
Let me be clear. Hahn is talented, gets strikeouts, and keeps the ball down in the zone while pitching in a good home park. It's a wee bit of a stretch to expect him to be an ace in the second half, but it's certainly possible that he will be a very effective hurler for the Padres. He's certainly worth adding in 12/15 team mixed leagues.
A.J. BURNETT ROUNDING INTO FORM?
Rumors are circulating that Burnett could be dealt back to the Pirates, but whomever he pitches for in the second half should he be on your fantasy roster in a mixed league?
Burnett is 5-7 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Those are league average numbers. His K/9 rate is down to 6.89, the lowest it has been since 2011, and his 3.81 BB/9 mark is a three year high as well. Bad news all around huh? Maybe not. Burnett has started to turn things around over his last four starts. In those 31.1 innings A.J. has a 3.00 K/BB ratio as he dropped his walk rate by more than 50 percent (1.72 per nine). If he keeps throwing strikes he will have success. Oh yeah, he's also sporting a 2.59 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over those four starts. The only negative is the 5.17 K/9 mark. He's not going to offer a full turnaround, at least it's not likely, but there's a good chance his second half is a bit better than his first half, of that there is little doubt.
NOLAN ARENADO CLOSE
Nolan Arenado played in his third rehab game Monday as he works his way back from a fractured middle finger. If he doesn't end up with a setback, it's possible he could be activated this weekend. What will he bring to the party? Arenado was hitting .305 through 49 games before going down. At the same time he was on pace for 18 homers and his .333 OBP is far from ideal. A young hitter with a bright future, Arenado is far from a complete hitter at this point. He should be able to produce a solid batting average and knock in/score a good deal of runs, but a fantasy savior he is not, at least at this point of his career.
WHY DOESN'T ANYONE TALK ABOUT...
Huston Street is 22-for-22 in save conversions this year. He was 33-for-35 last season. In 2012 he was 23-for-24. Let me break that down. Over the last three seasons Street has blown three saves while converting 78 chances. That's a conversion rate of 96.2 percent. Ideally, someone is expected to produce an 80 percent mark, so Street is dusting that. More context. Street has three blown saves in 2.5 seasons. This year the following men already have three blown saves: Francisco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel just to name a few. Greg Holland is the only other man in baseball with 20 saves who has blown only one chance in 2014 (he's got 23 saves and one blown save). The only thing that seem capable of slowing Street is the injury monster.
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