I've been sick, so there is precious little brain power I currently have at the moment for any grand unifying theory. The upshot of that is the fact that there really is no theme with today's piece. I just looked at the news of the day and pulled out a bunch of bits that caught my eye. A $125 million player stinks. A set of rookies are off to strong starts. Will one or both be able to sustain that? An all-star catcher returns to the fold down south. A handful of outfielders, with varying pedigrees and levels of success, will also be discussed. I told you there was no plan this week.
Alex Gordon has gone deep just three times and has just one steal this season, not what anyone wanted to see. However, let's give the guy credit for what he has done well. He's hitting .303. He's drive in 20 runs. He's scored 19 times. All of that is impressive given that he's appeared in just 27 games this season. Gordon might be one of those guys that people expect more from than they should. Will he ever be a 25 homer bat? He may not be. He might end up being a 15 homer, 45 double bat year after year. Who cares if he's hitting .300 as he has since the start of the 2011 season I say. The only thing I'm concerned with right now with Gordon is that he's walked only five times in 27 games. That's a terrible mark and it's the main reason that after years of a .376 and .368 OBP that his current mark is languishing a bit at .331. Figure on the walks picking up as we move forward.
Didi Gregorius continues to hit, and people continue to be hoodwinked into thinking that he's going to be a dominating offensive force this season. Didi is batting .433 with three homers and six runs scored through eight games. My advice – trade him now. Didi hit .243 last year in 48 games at Triple-A. He hit .278 at Double-A last year in 81 games. In those 129 games last season he had seven homers and stole three bases. Wow, how exciting. He's also had more than 2,000 at-bats during his minor league career and his slash line is a rather pathetic .267/.319/.375. Dude just isn't a good hitter. Toss in 23 homers and 45 steals in those 486 games and you have yourself one boring offensive weapon that is simply locked in at the moment, nothing more.
Jedd Gyorko has six hits in his last three games as he's finally starting to look comfortable at the big league level. Still, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves with the uber-prospect. In 32 at-bats against left handed pitching he has one RBI. He's hitting a mere .203 on the road though he sure seems comfortable at home where he is batting .340. He's also struck out 25 times in 30 games while walking only 10 times (he was billed as a player who would control the strike zone better than that). He's also gone deep only twice in 112 at-bats, though he has slapped nine doubles. All in all it's been a solid start to his big league career, even if that doesn't mean the majority of people that own Jedd are happy with the early returns. The game just isn't that easy folks.
Josh Hamilton is a mess right now. He's hitting .208. He has a .255 OBP. His SLG is even more emberassing at .296. His walk rate of 5.1 percent is substantially below his 8.2 percent career mark. His 27.7 percent K-rate is a career worst (career 20.0). His BABIP is .273. A career worst (He's never had a mark below .315). His HR/F ratio is 5.6 percent. Shocker. A career low. It's less than a third of his normal 18.8 percent. His 80.8 percent mark at swings on pitches inside the strike zone is a three year low. His 59.9 percent overall swing rate would also be a career worst. His 53.3 percent mark on making contact on pitches that are outside of the strike zone – another career worst. Pitchers know he is a total mess. Check out his first pitch strike rate of 70.8 percent, a career-high (his career rate is under 61 percent). Pitchers just don't have to be afraid of him right now so they are trying to get ahead 0-1.
Brian McCann is active as he returns from the DL Monday. The Braves' catcher has missed the first five weeks of the season with a shoulder issue but he's finally ready to rock. The Braves have gotten excellent offensive production from Evan Gattis, the dude has bashed eight homers with 18 RBIs over 25 games, but it's now McCann's time to shine. I've been saying this for weeks now. The Braves will find a spot for Gattis in the lineup as much as possible, but the guy is about to become nothing more than an NL-only option. The Braves has Freddie Freeman at first, Upton-Upton-Heyward in the OF (when healthy), and McCann at catcher. Where does Gattis play, especially since McCann is a vastly superior defensive option behind the plate? Brian M. is also a wee bit of a hitter in his own right as he's hit 20 homers in each of the past five seasons and has at least 18 big flies each of the past seven years.
David Murphy has long been one of, if not the, best 4th outfielders in baseball. This year, he's getting a chance to play on a more consistent basis. Of course he has failed miserably (isn't that always the way?). The owner of a solid .281 batting average in his career, Murphy has seen his average drop down to .177. He's also gone from a career best OBP (.380) in a season of 400 at-bats to a .233 mark this season. What's been the problem? Bad luck? Such a lame excuse I know, but let's look at it. His 16.5 percent K-rate is just above his 16.1 percent career mark. His 22.8 percent line drive rate would be a six year high. Given those two facts it's pretty odd that his BABIP is .195. That's more than .100 points below his career mark. It's even more odd to find that .195 mark given that the past six years that his BABIP has been at least .295 every one of those years. Remember, he's sporting a career best line drive rate and that's still happening. Oddness reigns. Bottom line for me is that I would be adding Murphy on the cheap in any league that his current owner is ready to bail.
Hunter Pence hit a mere .253 last season, a terrible mark for a guy who owns a career rate of .285, and it somehow caused nearly everyone to overlook the fact that Pence hit 24 homers and drove in a career best 104 runs. This season he's on pace for, you guessed it (in case you didn't know he is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball), to hit 25 homers, knock in about 100 runs and bat .280. He's not elite, but he's very, very good, and extremely consistent which should hold more weight than it does with most. Pence has also swiped five bases thus far, matching his mark from all of last season. The last time he stole double-digit bags was 2010, but he did swipe 18 bags that season. If he returns to that level of success on the base paths his fantasy value will skyrocket this season.
Ryan Sweeney, he of the great baseball body and beautiful swing, is on the cusp of returning to the big leagues. The Cubs have decided to call him up for depth purposes after he hit .337 with a whipping six bombs in 23 games. I say 'whopping' because Sweeney has hit a total of 14 homers in 1,719 big league at bats. Despite an athletic 6'4”, 225 lbs build, and that smooth stroke, he's simply never learned how to lift the ball causing all those that thought he would one day be a 20 homer bat to have to admit failure. He's only worth taking a look at in NL-only leagues.
Dayan Viciedo will begin a rehab assignment Monday as he works his way back from an oblique issue. If everything goes well, he should be active by this weekend. Viciedo is off to a slow start this year hitting .229 with a .646 OPS through 48 at-bats. Shockingly, or perhaps it shouldn't be any longer, Viciedo still isn't doing anything to help himself out offensively other than swinging the bat. He has appeared in 13 games has doesn't have a single walk this season. Not one. You just can't be successful if you never take a walk.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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