MLB fantasy mailbag: Fenway has not proved a good fit for Gonzalez
Hosmer is hitting .204 with a .617 OPS, disappointing everyone who drafted him this year. At the same time he has hits in eight of his last nine games and finally seems to have found his bearings. Another good sign, his walk rate is up while his strikeout rate is down from his rookie season (his BB/K has gone from 0.41 to 0.62), while his GB/FB ratio is also similar (1.57 to 1.75). Hosmer's line drive rate has also crept back up to 17 percent, within shouting distance of his 18.7 percent mark from last season. Given all of that, there really is no way to explain how his .314 BABIP as a rookie has dipped to .208 this year, so there would seem to be a fair amount of room for growth here. Even with all his struggles this year, Hosmer is still on pace for 19 homers and 82 RBIs, similar to the 19 and 78 marks he posted last season, albeit in 90 more at-bats.
Morrow has been dynamic this year. Through 11 starts, he has a 6-3 record with 3.28 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He's also dominated batters at times with 62 Ks in 68.2 innings and has seen a significant reduction in his walk rate (last four years: 5.68 per nine, 4.06, 3.46 and 2.88 this year). Unfortunately, he took a ball off his shin Wednesday night. Reports suggest that he has a good chance to make his next start, so perhaps he escaped a significant injury, but there is at least some uncertainty at the moment.
Gonzalez was not worth a first-round pick this year. His .338 average last year was .034 points higher than it had ever been and .046 points above his career batting average (that's akin to Adam Dunn hitting .289). As I also pointed out many times, despite the perception, Fenway is a tough park for left-handed power hitters to go deep, and Adrian's performance backs me up: in 106 career games at Fenway, A-Gone has hit a mere 12 homers (he has slapped 31 doubles around the barn). Still, Gonzalez has woefully underperformed, hitting less than Yonder Alonso (..279 to .274) with fewer homers than Ike Davis (five to four) and the same amount of RBIs as Justin Smoak (27), and that isn't likely to continue.
I'd take a shot on the two players. Morrow's health situation makes me a bit nervous, but if he's healthy he should be able to push the duo above the value you will get from Gonzalez the rest of the way since Hosmer finally looks to be figuring it out.
Haren has been up and down this year, but over his last two starts he has allowed just one run, struck out 21 batters, issued not a single walk and won both outings. As a result, his season numbers look elite again: 8.29 K/9 (a three-year high), 1.76 BB/9 (just below his career 1.88 mark), 1.15 GB/FB (career 1.19), 0.88 HR/9 (career 1.01). Face it, Haren is back to being the Top-15 option on the hill that he was drafted to be. Amazingly consistent is this righty.
Duda has gone deep three times in his last six games, nearly doubling his total of four homers in 43 games. He's also hitting a mere .257 with 26 RBI and 20 runs scored while sporting a decent .346 OBP. To this point, he has been the definition of blah. Still, what he is currently doing would lead to a season of 20 homers and 80-plus RBI, so if he can just get a few more balls to fall for hits, maybe get that average up to the .270 range, he wouldn't be that bad a corner infield option in mixed leagues now would he?
Encarnacion is on pace for an epic season of .274-54-130-95-19 with a .920 OPS. Realize I used the word "pace." Here are the facts. (1) EE has never hit 30 homers in a season. (2) EE has never had 80 RBI. (3) EE has never had 80 runs scored. (4) EE has never stolen 10 bases in a season. (5) EE has never had an OPS of .835. That's a whole lot of "never" for a guy who has played seven seasons in the big leagues. It's also worth mentioning that EE has appeared in less than 100 games in two of the past three seasons because of injures, and his current batting average (.274) and OBP (.336) are basically career average numbers (.265 and .334). There is no chance that he keeps up the current pace -- none -- the question is how much will he slow down?
I'd take the duo. Haren is a rock of epic proportions. Duda is no Encarnacion, though his pace this season would equate to what everyone would have expected from Encarnacion this season, but he should be an effective offensive player this season for the Mets. Don't mistake me, I'm about as big an Encarnacion fan as there is out there, but what he has done to this point of the season just boggles the mind and portends a significant slow down the rest of the way.
Lowrie seems to always have a three-week stretch in which he looks like the second coming of Cal Ripken. Then he follows it up with a three-week stretch where he's Johnnie LeMaster-like. In the end, what we end up with is a slightly better than average hitter. Take his career slash line. In 969 at-bats it's .256/.328/.419. What is the league average since his career started? How about .262/.329/.414. If we prorate his career work over 500 at-bats we end up with a season of .256-14-71-68-3. That's a solid season for a guy who qualifies at third and shortstop, but it's nothing to get excited about (Alexei Ramirez hit .269-15-70-81-7 last year and no one was falling all over themselves to draft him this year).
Furcal is hitting .333. The last time he hit .300 in a season of 100 games was 2006. Furcal has a .391 OBP. The last time he posted a mark that high in a season of 100 games was his rookie season of '00. Furcal has a .460 SLG. The last time he posted a mark that high in a season of 100 games was --- never. Why do I keep mentioning 100 games? That is the game total that Furcal has failed to reach in three of the previous four seasons due to injury. Is it reasonable to think that the 36-year-old shortstop will be able to blow past that total with ease this year, not to mention doing so while performing at the highest levels of his career? There's no disputing that there is significant talent with Furcal, and if he were to stay healthy an appear in 140-plus games his production would be impressive given his hot start, but there is just so much here that sends up a yellow cautionary flag with the Cardinals' shortstop. Still, give me Furcal. I know there are a myriad legitimate concerns with him, but he possesses more fantasy worthy skills than Lowrie at this point.
In one of the most inexplicable situations in recent years, Goldschmidt simply annihilates Tim Lincecum. In 13 at-bats, he has seven hits, which include a double and four home runs (in '12 he is merely 2-for-4 with two homers). Against the rest of the league he has hit .245 with eight homers in 283 career at-bats, pretty dreadful numbers for an "offensive force" that plays first base. We're talking less than 100 games of big league experience, though, so this story clearly hasn't been written yet. What is extremely heartening is that Goldschmidt has hits in nine-straight games as his average has gone up from .219 to .266 while his OPS has climbed nearly a .150 points as well (. 630 to .775).
Young, when he isn't getting in trouble with the law, has been a disappointment on the field, hitting .245 with a sickly .657 OPS. He still never walks (just seven free passes this year) and he continues to show nothing on the base paths (he has one steal in his last 167 games). There really is nothing to recommend Young at this point other than his pedigree and the fact that he owns a career .286 average and has hit worse than .284 only one time (though it was last year at .245).
I'd take Goldschmidt who has more power potential and has been the hotter hitter of late.