Fantasy baseball Hitting Report: White Sox hitting up a storm
We're only two weeks into the season, so the sample size is small, but so far, it's the White Sox that are setting the scoring pace in the American League. They lead the majors in scoring with 80 runs scored (14 percent more runs than Colorado, the second-highest scoring team). Chicago has the highest team batting average in the AL (.284), with the most home runs (18) and total bases (211). And all of this is coming as a huge surprise, after last season, when the Pale Hose were one of the worst offenses, despite playing in one of the most favorable hitting parks in the majors. Chicago was the lowest scoring team in the AL and their .680 OPS ranked 27th in the majors.
Obviously, the big question for fantasy baseball owners is whether this pace can be maintained, or at least, will it decline slightly or greatly?
Some of the major factors to their hot start are all new to the White Sox this season, including three of their first four batters in the lineup: Adam Eaton, Marcus Semien and Jose Abreu. Eaton's hitting .327 and has knocked in 14 runs already this season, but after hitting .259 and .252 in 2012 and '13 respectively (in 88 total games with Arizona), it's more than likely he'll even out. Semien, who's filling in for an injured Gordon Beckham, has actually struggled a bit, and the imminent return of Jeff Keppinger (shoulder) could push Semien back to the bench. Abreu has already knocked in 14 RBI, usually hitting either third or fourth in the White Sox's lineup -- we'll discuss him more below.
Also off to a strong start is Conor Gillaspie, who came over from San Francisco a couple years ago. He has the full-time job at third base (as a result losing his second-base eligibility), and he's batting third in the lineup. While he has power, it's difficult seeing him keep up his .341/.396/.439 pace.
Part of Chicago's success can also be credited toward their early schedule. The first four series included sets against Minnesota, at Kansas City, at Colorado and then home again versus Cleveland. (The Royals are the only staff with an ERA that ranks higher than 24th in the majors right now.)
All statistics are up-to-date through April 13, unless otherwise mentioned.
Hitters of the week
Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves -- This week: .591 AVG, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 8 runs scored
Great Aprils in Atlanta aren't anything new for Upton, now in his second year in the Dirty South. His 16 over the past two Aprils tied the franchise record for homers in consecutive Aprils, held by Hank Aaron. (Upton does have 15 more games to break that record.)
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox -- .393 AVG, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 7 runs, 1 SB
Ramirez has a base hit in all 13 games this season, including a walk-off home run Sunday afternoon. He's just two games away from tying Frank Thomas' franchise hitting streak record. He leads the AL in hitting (.420) after the first two weeks. But even the White Sox aren't buying it, as they haven't hit him above the sixth spot in the lineup yet this season.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers -- .409 AVG, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 6 runs
Gonzalez hit a home run in four consecutive games over the weekend, and finished his series against Arizona with 10 RBI. Nobody hits against the Diamondbacks better -- Gonzalez leads all active players with 27 career homers and 87 RBI against them. Amazingly, 10 of Gonzalez's 14 hits this season have been for extra bases.
Hitters of the weak
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers -- Stats this week: .100 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 runs scored
With just two hits in his past two series, Cabrera is making those that took Mike Trout over him feel good. But the back-to-back MVP winner just left Dodger Stadium and Petco Park, and is now coming home for series against the Indians, Angels and White Sox -- three teams that have staff ERAs in the bottom third of the majors.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners -- .133 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 runs
Things don't look good for Seager's owners, as the fourth-year veteran has just four hits this season. Thankfully, he's battling at the plate and he has nearly as many walks (eight) as strikeouts (nine). Robinson Cano's presence hasn't resurrected this offense just yet, as they rank 21st in the majors with 46 runs scored.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox -- .111 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 runs
Pedroia injured his wrist colliding with Carlos Gomez at second base last week, and he just hasn't been the same at the plate. The Red Sox sent him back to Boston in the middle of their road trip for more tests. Hand and wrist injuries sap a hitter's strength more than anything else, so we'll see how fast he can bounce back.
Buy, sell or hold?
Buy: Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Before the season started, I had mentioned Lind as a sleeper this season, and after Sunday, when he hit 3-for-3, he's averaging .313, with one home run and six RBI this year. His .450 on-base percentage has him on pace for nearly 100 walks this season, and his improved patience is making a difference. While Edwin Encarnacion is struggling, Lind has been moved around in the lineup to help the first baseman. Once Encarnacion starts hitting (remember, he's coming off wrist surgery), Lind should see even more success. He's a good option as your corner infielder in mixed leagues right now.
Sell: Yangervis Solarte, 3B/OF, New York Yankees
No doubt you've raised an eyebrow to the start of the season by Solarte in the Bronx. He's batting .357 with no homers, seven RBI and four runs scored. His ownership percentages on CBSSports.com shot up from one percent on Opening Day to 55 percent this week. He's not going to be an All-Star, but if you acquired him, he would make a nice trading chip to upgrade a position. He won't continue this start, however -- he bats ninth and plays a power-necessary position like third base. Also, his hype as a Yankee rookie will continue to soar above his true fantasy value. Consider doing a 2-for-1 deal with a team that owns a struggling third baseman, like Seager or Mike Moustakas.
Hold: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
The fleet-footed rookie has been a major disappointment in his first April with the Reds. But before you trade him away, understand that this was to be expected. After all the hype this past winter and spring, he was bound to try too hard, as most youngsters who see a taste of success the previous season do. The Reds allowed OF Shin-Soo Choo to sign with the Rangers in order to install Hamilton as the new center fielder and leadoff hitter. The Reds team as a whole is struggling (27th in runs scored this season), so let's wait until they got on track. He's still batting leadoff, in spite of his .091 batting average and .130 on-base percentage. While he'll never learn how to steal first base, he will learn patience and start making enough contact to beat out infield hits. And then it's off to the races!
Rookie hitter spotlight
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox: There's no doubt, Abreu is the top rookie hitter in this young season, as he's already being discussed as taking the torch as the next super-slugging White Sox first baseman in the lineage of Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas and Ron Kittle. There are a couple things to keep in mind, though. First, he's 27 years old, which is considered a prime power age for most hitters -- and he's being compared to 23- and 24-year-old hitters. Secondly, the season is young, and after striking out just four times in his first nine games, he struck out seven times in his past four games. He'll have to make adjustments as pitchers adjust to him.
By the numbers
Some interesting numbers I've come across over the past week.
174 -- Number of RBI that Jose Abreu is on pace for this season. The Cuban import is taking the league by storm, but let's remember that A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes had four home runs and 12 RBI in his first 13 games back in 2012.
44 -- Number of pitchers that have registered at least one save since the start of the baseball season two weeks ago. Eighteen of those pitchers likely weren't drafted in most 12-team Rotisserie leagues this March.
30 -- The Reds' ranking in team hitting this season before posting a season-high 12 runs and 13 hits against the Rays Sunday.
19 -- FAAB dollars spent on Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica in the 15-team Tout Wars Mixed league Monday, with closer Koji Uehara dealing with a shoulder injury.
7.6 -- Percent of the fantasy baseball season that is now behind us. Remember -- it's a marathon, not a sprint.
5 -- Number of stolen bases Padres SP Tyson Ross has allowed this season to lead the majors.
3 --Rays starters currently on the disabled list, including Jeremy Hellickson (elbow), Matt Moore (elbow), and now, Alex Cobb (oblique). After starting the season as one of the best starting rotations, it's time to start thinking about starting more hitters against the Rays in the coming weeks. They don't have the pitching arsenal in their minor-league system like they once had.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.